T’Pol’s Book Club #2: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Welcome, readers, to the second edition of T’Pol’s Book Club! For this meeting we will be discussing the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and comparing it to Star Trek episodes with similar storylines.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865 and tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a strange world where nothing makes sense. The book is part of the literary nonsense genre, which Thomas Hale describes as literature that “presents language and situations which are not normal.”  In the TAS episode “Once Upon A Planet” Spock describes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as relaxing, light reading, which I think is an excellent description for many of Star Trek’s nonsensical episodes. Here are two Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland-like episodes that are relaxing and light, and one that is a little more serious but entertaining nonetheless.

The Original Series “Shore Leave”

Alice in "Shore Leave"

“Shore Leave” is about the Enterprise crew visiting a shore leave planet for some rest and relaxation, only to discover that the unusual planet is not as restful and relaxing as they thought. When Dr. McCoy first visits the idyllic planet he observes that the planet is like Alice In Wonderland, and suddenly Alice and the White Rabbit appear. McCoy contacts the Enterprise to report what happened, but Kirk assumes that he is joking. It becomes clear it wasn’t a joke when other random people and things start appearing, like Kirk’s old Starfleet nemesis and a knight who impales Dr. McCoy and seems to have killed him. Nothing makes sense on this planet, much like nothing made sense in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the crew continues having weird experiences until they meet the caretaker of the planet and he explains what’s been happening. The crew then begins to have fun and appreciates most of the zany experiences they had, the same way Alice does when she wakes up from her wonderland dream.

Deep Space Nine “Move Along Home”

Kira approaches a Wadi woman holding a glass in the game

Many fans would agree that this is one of the most nonsensical episodes of the entire Star Trek franchise. In this episode the crew meets the Wadi, a race from the Gamma Quadrant who love to play games. They introduce Quark to a game called Chula, and suddenly Sisko, Dax, Kira, and Bashir wake up in a bizarre world where they are part of the game. To get out of the game they go through a series of ridiculous scenarios, like playing a hopscotch-like game with a little girl and reciting this infamous rhyme:

“Allamaraine, count to four,

Allamaraine, then three more,

Allamaraine, if you can see,

Allamaraine, you’ll come with me…”

Although Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is not directly referenced in this episode, the episode script describes the poison chamber scene as a “cocktail party out of Alice in Wonderland. The ending of this episode is especially Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-like, with the characters realizing that their strange and somewhat dangerous adventure was not real.

Discovery “Context Is For Kings”

Tilly holds a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in "Context is for Kings"

If you have seen Star Trek: Discovery then you know how important Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is to Michael Burnham’s storyline. Her adopted mother Amanda Grayson read it to her and her brother Spock to teach them how to survive in the world “when up is down and left is right.” (quoted from the episode “Shadows and Light.”) Michael refers to the book throughout the series whenever she needs to make sense of unexplainable situations. “Context Is For Kings” is the first episode in which she references the book. Michael finds herself in an unusual circumstance when she and an away team go to the USS Glenn to retrieve project materials and start being chased through the ship by an unknown creature. Michael escapes into a Jefferies tube and as she crawls through she begins reciting passages from the book to help her stay focused during the chaotic situation. Michael’s crawling through the Jefferies tube is very similar to when Alice falls down the rabbit hole, with both of them speaking aloud to themselves and trying to make sense of what they are experiencing.

Discussion Questions

Like we had in last book group, here are some fun questions to ponder:

  • What are some other nonsense episodes in Star Trek? How are they similar to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?
  • Spock & Michael Burnham were both outsiders in their world, and Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland helped them make sense of situations they did not understand. Who else from Star Trek might relate to the book?
  • Do you enjoy the ‘lighter’ nonsense episodes like “Shore Leave” and “Move Along Home,” or do you enjoy the more serious ones like “Context Is For Kings?”
  • Describe the role Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland played in Spock’s life in The Animated Series vs. in Discovery. Why do you think his mother read it to him in each series?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or on social media using the hashtag #TPolsBookClub.

Read long and prosper, all!

Additional reading:

Additional watching:

 The Animated Series “Once Upon A Planet,” The Next Generation “Where No One Has Gone Before,” Voyager  “The Thaw,” Discovery “Brother,” Discovery “Shadows and Light.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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