The Star Trek Episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

“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.

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3 Responses to The Star Trek Episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

  1. “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.”

    Thank you so much for this! This quote summed up nicely one of (if not “the”) major differences between the two franchises and for that I am grateful. I enjoy both of them as well but when I think about distinct differences between the two I come up short. This was nicely put.

    I appreciated your specific dialogue call-outs as well, and yes, we love us some good turbo lift moments don’t we?

    Again I really enjoyed the post and thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. DilDev says:

    Thank you! (Oops… I just essayed a reply to you :\)

    I had actually just recently watched what I consider to be the “Star Wars episode” of Star Trek: “Valiant” from the 6th Season of Deep Space 9, and it felt like a cynical take on the Death Star attack in A New Hope, putting into perspective the stress that such responsibility would do to kids who are 19 years old at BEST. Thus the equivalent of the “trench run” was again about that exaserbation of the internal drama of the characters.

    But I think Star Wars gets away with having a lot of external threats is because it MAKES the internal external in it’s use of spirituality.

    It took Star Trek a while to really engage with the notion of spirituality in a manner that didn’t poo-poo it (at least as a show, that is. Thank you movies for the Vulcan katra!), and – correct me if I’m wrong – it wasn’t until Deep Space 9 that spirituality/faith became a significant part of a show. As such, the external threats don’t necessarily tie in directly with the internal drama.

    Take the TOS episode “The Changeling” in which a man-made machine, lost to the stars, returns with a corrupted directive that threatens to destroy all imperfect (read: organic) life. This is a purely external threat and, unlike the best of Star Trek, there is no internal dilemma to exacerbate.

    Compare that to Star Trek the Motion Picture, in which a man-made machine, lost to the stars, returns with a corrupted directive that threatens to destroy all imperfect (read: organic) life. Here, there IS internal conflict: this feeling of loneliness and displacement that both Kirk and Spock feel, which is reflected by V-GER’s threat.

    Star Trek has to make the extra effort to connect the external threat to the internal, and therein do we get the masterpieces of Star Trek.

    With Star Wars, however, the external threats are almost ALWAYS about the internal.

    Because I picked on the Rebels episode “Secret Cargo” in my essay, only fair that I bring good ol’ Hera Syndulla and Thrawn back in here too. Hera and Thrawn first match wits when he is taking up residence in her very home. In the Season 3 finale, with the immense space and ground battles, the external threats aren’t just reflections, they are manifestations of the internal conflicts. The cinematography frequently juxtaposes Hera and Thrawn, the two leaders of the battle. Kanan’s and Bendu’s disagreement literally erupts.

    With Star Wars, we can assume the external threats ARE the internal threats because of how ingrained the Force is in everything, from beliefs through to words and actions.

    Now, of course, Star Wars, like Star Trek, is at its best when it puts the extra effort in to have the external threat give us a further understanding of the internal, even if they are inherently connected. That’s when we get masterpieces (gestures in a sobbing fashion at “Twin Suns”).

    And I know that you weren’t taking a knock on Star Wars by that initial Star Trek comparison any more than I was, but they’re such two different beasts that when we do get to compare then, side-by-side, depending on where we focus, we can easily make the other one look shallow. And I just sort of felt like I should give Star Wars its due too :P

    Like

  3. So thrilled you pointed this out! Indeed, “Voyage” does feel so much like Star Trek down to the politics and “whodunit” mystery of the person planning to sabotage negotiations. I’ve read that Star Trek was a “wagon train to the stars” whereas Star Wars is “a Shakespeare opera in space”.

    As time continues and both universes continue to expand and reinvent themselves, I’m not surprised to realize their storytelling styles and character roles will eventually swirl into each other. More and more often on Star Wars podcasts I’ve been listening to the creators who mention certain scenarios are resonating with their Star Trek perspectives. It makes me eager to know they can learn from each other and enrich their stories.

    Like

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