very Short Treks’ “Holiday Party” in Review
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek: The Animated Series this year, episodes of very Short Treks have been created. “Holiday Party” is the second of these to be released, and at four minutes, it meets the definition of being very short and “anything but canon.”
In the style of 1970s’ The Animated Series, this episode opens on the original NCC-1701 during First Contact Day. Assembled are several Strange New Worlds crew. Hemmer, an Aenar, points out that — while the captain (obviously Pike) asked him to lead this event — he will quickly bow out, realizing he is neither human nor Vulcan.
Immediately, the viewer gets reminded of the tone of very Short Treks. This will be both an homage to the style of The Animated Series while laying down a satirical carpet through a comedic and farcical path to anything Trek.
First Contact Day, a celebration established in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Homestead”, gets roasted first, as being very narrow — pointing to Zephram Cochrane breaking warp and getting the attention of the Vulcans. I wonder if all species celebrate “their” days. With four minutes, there’s no time to dwell on this point.
Taking over the “masters of ceremony” duties, Spock — obviously voiced by Ethan Peck, though no on-screen credits memorialize this — has come prepared. He has a blooper reel and knows it will make the party light and jovial.
Spock desires to show his work of comedy to his colleagues. The first clip shows a transporter accident — graphic and tragic, not funny at all. Only the top half of a crewman beams successfully, but without legs, his bowels spill onto the transporter pad.
Commander Una, Cadet Uhura, Nurse Chapel, along with Chief Engineer Hemmer listen to Spock’s comedy explanation. He shares that the unexpected is a comedy rule, and transporting without one’s legs is certainly unexpected. Of course, Spock hasn’t processed this comedy rule effectively. The animated Uhura, as portrayed by Cecilia Rose Gooding, sums it up: “Uh, no.”
Rather than share more similar moments, Spock fast-forwards to clip seven, ready for his next comedy clip. He shows T’Pring off-center, perhaps implying a candid filming, or even an improperly framed image (another blooper). She dumps Spock for another man. Both Spocks — the MC and the one on the video — are in tears.
Again not getting laughs, Spock explains that this is self-deprecating humor. He mistakenly thought that this blooper checked off the self-deprecating box, thus should be funny. Animated Jess Bush, as Nurse Chapel, sheds a tear out of empathy. Spock mentions he has multiple examples of T’Pring dumping him for other men.
Instead, Spock pushes onto clip fifteen, where we see Captain Georgiou with Saru, apparently aboard the Shenzou during the Battle of the Binary Stars. Saru is decked out in his 32nd-century uniform (another blooper?).
They watch, on the viewscreen, as a massive Klingon ship plows into a Starfleet vessel, destroying it completely. Doug Jones’ voice asks for “a moment of silence for six thousand Federation souls lost.” An “In Memoriam” scroll of names begins to fill up the screen.
Again, Uhura shares advice as a teacher-friend, telling Spock, “A blooper reel shouldn’t include an ‘In Memoriam’.” A crier and a relative of one of the deceased add evidence for Spock that this isn’t humorous. He posits that, if small mishaps are funny, then huge mishaps must logically be even funnier.
Uhura continues to explain that the small and insignificant mistakes, like walking into a door or mispronouncing “Spock” as “Spork”, are the right type of material to explore. Hemmer chuckles at “Spork” and continues to enjoy his drink. (I imagine every live-action cast member has had that experience of walking into a door on set.)
Spock finally seems to get it and shows a slip-and-fall clip with a groin injury on the hard end of a mop, punctuated with a fart. The gathered laugh and applaud.
The encouraged Spock lifts his own mop and threatens to re-enact this minor mishap at the party. A freeze-frame shows Spock targeting Hemmer with the captioned wish for a “Happy First Contact Day from the USS Enterprise!”
With Spock showing his blooper reels, the viewer gets ripped out of the scene, because blooper reels are the domain of Star Trek fan enjoyment, not really property of Starfleet. It’s basically as if the characters start talking about the make-up they wear. We are taken out of the episode, made aware of the artifice of a sci-fi production and premise.
If a blooper reel is a collection of humorous mistakes, then the blooper reel inside this episode is a collection of poor blooper moments because they are not humorous. Are they evidence that this episode is itself a blooper (by being unfunny)? I think these meta questions are part of the very Short Treks milieu, although two episodes are a “very short” sample size.
So far, these very Short Treks give us more Trek and poke fun at Trek fandom. We see our characters true to themselves, but in absurd situations. The nostalgia of the animation style is warm, but the lowbrow humor is off-putting. Yet, the layer of intelligent satire, especially breaking down how humor works, gives this episode a thoughtful flavor. Of course, its climax is a wounded genitals/flatulence couplet. I do find it funny, however, that the mopped hallway in the final blooper has a very 20th-century, two-sided “Caution! Wet floor!” sign.
I am not sure if I am rooting for Spock or rooting against him to make “first contact” with Hemmer. I am not sure an episode ofvery Short Treks could score higher than a mid-level rating. That’s what this nugget earns.
Frank Kennedy writes and performs original material for thoughtful audiences including a once, sold out off-Broadway stage in the pre-pandemic days. He blends his skills as a storyteller and sleight-of-hand magician, telling poignant stories of fatherhood with sons living on the Autism Spectrum. Watching Star Trek almost daily with his Mom as a teen – during the post-cancelation syndicated-rerun days of The Original Series – he is proud that he was part of the fan enthusiasm that turned Trek into a continuum of shows and films, rather than a forgotten canceled show with poor ratings. Along with devouring new Trek content, he has filled his life with adventures to over sixty countries, boldly going and learning about cultures on the planet Earth.