“Voyage of Temptation” is the most Star Trek I’ve seen in Star Wars.
Granted, Trek and Wars are always going to be borrowing from each other; they’re the two biggest science fiction franchises out there, and there are plenty of other moments and stories in both that I can notice similar themes and do some comparing and contrasting. But with “Voyage of Temptation,” it’s not just the subject matter but also the execution of it that makes it feel like an episode right out of the Original Series.
For one, it’s a rare ship-in-a-bottle episode for Star Wars, a term created by and a style popularized by the Original Star Trek, in which the action takes place entirely aboard the Enterprise with no travel to any other planet or ship.
An exceptionally direct reference to Star Trek is the way Senator Merrik is revealed as a traitor. In the beloved episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” the undercover Klingon is revealed by Kirk holding up a tribble to a multitude of people until he gets the reaction he needs. In “Voyage,” Obi-Wan does the same with the assassin droid to root out the Senator. One of Obi-Wan’s lines even becomes a direct call-out to the Trek episode:
Kirk: “Mr. Baris, they like you! Well, there’s no accounting for taste… They don’t like you Mr. Darvin! I wonder why?”
Obi-Wan: “It seems to like you, Senator Merrick.”
Another aspect of Kirk is channeled by Obi-Wan in this episode, and that’s getting a love interest. That’s not a “Kirk is a womanizer” joke, but consider: many of the women that Kirk encounters romantically in the first two seasons were old flames. These women and Kirk mutually decided to go separate ways due to their career choices and duty, and when they reconnect, there’s still a sense of mutual respect.
Now Satine may have been introduced in the previous episode, but “Voyage” was when the previous romantic attachment was established. Again, Obi-Wan and Satine’s relationship mirror’s that of many old flames of Kirk’s. However, it does admittedly take these two almost the entire episode before they re-establish that respect that defined so many of Kirk’s past relationships.
So what do we get in the meantime? Why, two people bickering about extremes on a moral concept. And where oh where could we find that in the Original Seri-
MCCOY MY BOY AND MR. SPOCK TOO!
I’m going to resist making a joke about Obi-Wan being the Vulcan because he tries to suppress his emotions for the sake of following the Jedi Order, but no matter how much he tries to deny them, he still has them, and great, the joke I wasn’t going to make is giving me emotions.
Anyways, jokes about the Jedi and Vulcans aside, McCoy’s and Spock’s arguments can be very loosely regarded as “idealism vs. rationalism.” McCoy is frequently arguing about how the world should work; Spock is frequently arguing about how the world does (or at least appears to) work.
Granted, the primary demonstration about this same dichotomy between Satin and Obi-Wan is shown in the previous episode –
Obi-Wan: “A peacekeeper belongs on the front lines of conflict. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to do his job.”
Satine: “The work of a peacekeeper is to make sure that conflict does not arise.”
Obi-Wan: “Yes, a noble description, but not a realistic one.”
Satine: “Is reality what makes a Jedi abandon his ideals? Or is it simply a response to political convenience?”
– but the thread shows up again in “Voyage,” which also showcases a descent into name-calling, which was also a frequent characteristic of McCoy’s and Spock’s arguments.
Satine: “Even extremists can be reasoned with.”
Obi-Wan: “Perhaps, if one can be heard over the clanking of their battle droids.”
Satine: “The sarcasm of a soldier.”
Obi-Wan: “The delusion of a dreamer.”
This isn’t the only time Obi-Wan gets to play Spock either.
McCoy isn’t the only one who keeps prodding Spock to show or at least admit to emotions; Kirk does it too, though generally in a less antagonistic way than McCoy. As such, Anakin constantly prodding Obi-Wan about his feelings for Satine, particularly in the elevator scenes (because Star Trek does love its turbo lift scenes too), feels a lot like Kirk trying to weasel out some hint of Spock’s personal life.
Bringing the comparison back to broader strokes, the plot of the episode – escorting a political delegation – is a very common one to Star Trek, but I cannot say it’s uncommon to Star Wars. Again, what makes “Voyage” feel more like Trek than say “Secret Cargo” of Star Wars Rebels is where the focus of the plot lies.
In “Cargo,” there’s no debate about whether or not the crew agrees with Mon Mothma or her morals, therefore the action is fairly straightforward, and the primary issue is getting her from point A to point B. And for that episode, it works. This is not a discussion of whether or not The Clone Wars or Rebels is better. I love them both. In “Voyage,” Obi-Wan and Satine do not agree and therefore the primary issue is how they are to address the threats based on their respective worldviews.
This brings to mind another beloved episode of Star Trek, “Journey to Babel.” This is one of the episodes with the plot of escorting a political delegation, but, like “Voyage,” one of the delegates is someone from the protagonist’s past. For Obi-Wan, it was an old flame. For Spock, it’s his parents. Later in the episode, a threat to the delegation attacks the ship, first from within, disguised as one of the delegates, and then from without. In the midst of all this, Spock/Obi-Wan finds it difficult to perform his duty as he usually can to because of a moral conflict that arises as a result of individual(s) from his past.
Essentially, the reason that this political escort episode feels more like Star Trek than the other political escort episodes of Star Wars is because Wars will frequently use the outside threat as the primary threat, as opposed to Trek, in which the outside threat exacerbates the moral dilemma that is at the heart of the episode.
There are still the trappings of Star Wars here, of course, and not just in the aesthetics. This episode dedicates a lot more time, proportionally, to the fight scenes than Trek usually would on these types of episodes. Also, no one person is proven right, unlike in Trek, where Kirk would frequently (though not always) come out on the moral high ground. Nevertheless, the themes and execution of “Voyage of Temptation” feels like a deliberate nod to its fellow science fiction franchise, and I, for one, find it a fine tribute.