Star Trek has helped me through the major transitions of my life. Next Generation brought me through some difficult moves, Deep Space Nine through my teens, Voyager through college, and Enterprise through my first jobs. When I entered formation to become a Dominican Sister, naturally I gravitated to Star Trek in a new transition. The Vocation Director gave me the idea of thinking of what episode represented how I experience formation. Moving into the second semester of being a novice, I realized my perspective has changed since first entering.
Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 1 “Fight or Flight”
Hoshi is having difficulty having given up a teaching job she loved to join a ship filled with crewmates she does not know going into situations that make her uncomfortable. Her anxiety peaks when she walks into an alien vessel where the crew has been murdered and are having their blood drained into tubes. She questions whether she can do any good on board the ship, and whether she is in the right place and is terrified. When the aliens who murdered the original crew catch up with them, she tries to call for help to another ship in a language she does not feel she knows well enough. Frightened and about to cry, Hoshi manages to communicate through broken bits of their language and convince them to save the Enterprise and its crew. When she realizes that even without being a perfect officer, she can help the crew and fit in, Hoshi decides to stay. It isn’t an environment she is comfortable in yet, but it is one she knows she can belong in.
For me, there was a lot of culture shock going into the candidacy year and giving up of things I loved such as hundreds of my paintings / drawings, beloved books, and of course much of my independence. It is amazing how having control over your schedule can cause such a sense of fear and venerability! I definitely felt scared and like I was an outsider looking in, much as Hoshi did. That doesn’t mean the “crew” wasn’t kind and helpful, it was more that I didn’t really feel part of it yet. The ending of the episode really felt authentic to how I felt during initial formation—uncomfortable, a bit scared, but also that I could someday fit into the crew and be happy.
Star Trek: Voyager – Season 5 “Someone to Watch Over Me”
Voyager makes contact with a race that has an extreme set of social guidelines, so when their ambassador comes aboard they try their best to do it correctly. It turns out the ambassador is tired of the endless rules and goes about having fun the whole time instead, leaving the crew at a loss with what to do about it. Should they enforce his own culture’s rules, or just let him have the moment and possibly get in trouble later? Meanwhile, Seven of Nine wants to learn how to date, and the Doctor tries to teach her how to make small talk and have a relationship. At first she doesn’t understand the point. “What are your likes and dislikes?” he asks. “I dislike irrelevant conversation,” she fires back. Eventually, after much trial and error, she finally starts to get it, only to have the Doctor let her down badly. He realizes that he too isn’t perfect, and the episode ends with him quietly playing piano on the holodeck.
The first year of novitiate for me has been quite the challenge. It is a wonderful rewarding experience I would not give up for anything, but it is also a time of feeling venerable and very much imperfect. There is a lot of self reflection and any flaws are not only exposed, but constantly talked about. It is a good thing to have intense times like that, but it also makes me feel like the people in this episode. I am like Seven, trying to find my way in a world I don’t necessarily agree with all the time but still want to understand and try out (I agree on the socialization and small talk, for example). Like her at the end of the episode, I also feel like the time so far has helped me make great progress, however challenging it has been so far, and I look forward to continuing it next semester. Like the Doctor, I also feel as if I’ve disappointed some people through careless acts, even though I meant well. Also like him in future episodes, I know those relationships will go on to be stronger than before, and it is only a sign of (ironically in his case) humanity. The alien going about breaking all the rules is a sort of representation to me of loosening up a bit and not trying to match expectations perfectly all the time. I need to be less like Seven and more like him occasionally, rather than obsessing about conforming to standards all the time. That is also something I’ve learned at the novitiate, and with the help of my community there, I am able to occasionally be spontaneously fun sometimes. That has really taught me the value of having different people in close relationship with each other—we each have tendencies that others can help temper or encourage. In the end, however challenging what we are going through, it is our “crew” that helps us through it, even if we are all messing up together, like in this episode!