Risa. Say the word, and you instantly find yourself transported to an idyllic setting: bright sandy beaches kissed by azure waves, lush greenery, beautiful waterfalls. In a nutshell, Tahiti on steroids. It’s the epitome of a tropical vacation replete with beautiful people, cocktails flowing like water, aliens commingling on some kind of galactic spring break. Throughout Star Trek, Risa has been the one location that’s universally hinted at fun, relaxation, and pleasure. Similar to our own exotically located vacations, it’s somewhere to let loose, have a few umbrella drinks, and throw the stress of daily life aside. Or so we think.
In Star Trek: Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights,” the crew finally arrive at Risa after a few detours. We learn that by drawing lots, only some of the crew are able to go down and party. For those going, the excitement is tangible. It reminds me of the pre-travel excitement I’ve felt over the years when it was time for a trip. The nervous knots in your belly as you drag your suitcase through the airport terminal. It’s a different kind of nervous, nothing akin to a job interview or taking a test —it’s more like that Christmas morning feeling as a kid. I’m guessing that’s what the Enterprise crew felt before heading down to the planet. Up until now, the crew had only heard about Risa from word of mouth. Hopes were high — perhaps a little too high?
Everyone partaking of the trip to Risa had certain expectations. Captain Archer was looking for some bonding time with Porthos and a little peace & quiet. He notably booked a private villa away from the rest of the crew. Trip and Malcolm rather excitedly discuss broadening their “cultural horizons,” which meant looking for beautiful women. Mayweather has an ambitious plan to go rock climbing, while Hoshi plans to learn the language of Risa, sans universal translator. Everyone had some goal, some sort of expectation in mind for their particular adventure on the pleasure planet.
Without a play-by-play, let’s just say everything goes completely awry. Captain Archer meets a beautiful woman staying in the nearby villa, only to find out that she’s a Tandaran spy, sent there to procure information from him on the Suliban. Mayweather has an accident and has to be rushed back to Enterprise. My absolute favorite duo this episode, Trip and Malcolm, suavely check out the ladies at the local club, and do, in fact, end up meeting two beautiful women. Turns out, appearances aren’t what they seem: both end up tied up in a basement, sans clothing, the victims of a Risean-mugging. Of all the characters, Hoshi is the only one whose plans end up changing for the better. She hits it off with an attractive alien, finding a little romance in addition to language mastery.
I, too, remember going on a trip to New York city (a modern-day Risa?) a few years back. I also had ambitious expectations in the back of my mind: revisit every major museum, go to one of the most popular restaurants, see a Broadway show, etc. Like the crew, I was eager and excited for some time off and adventure.
Yet, like the crew, my trip also didn’t turn out quite as planned. I went to the Met, but found it crowded beyond belief. Not only was I nudged and elbowed by tourists, I also managed to get lost. Anyone who knows me is aware that I’d rather stay lost than ask for help, but at some point, I put my pride away and asked a docent for a way out, which as it happens, was only twenty or so feet away. Since the museum plan was a bust, I figured maybe I’d have better luck at one of the critically acclaimed restaurants I wanted to check out. Let’s just say, at the end of the night, I was writhing in pain, hunched on the floor. I ordered something I had never heard of before, in fact, it might as well have been in Klingon. Again, I didn’t want to show my ignorance by asking the waiter what it was, so I ordered pretending I’d been a lifelong regular of the establishment and routinely ate “Oooosooobuuulticaaaa” (I couldn’t pronounce it, let alone remember exactly what it was). Since I paid $45 for said dish, I ate it despite the fact that it was made with some kind of heavy cream.
OK, another fail. For sure the Broadway show I was going to go see next would make everything that went wrong seem trivial. And you know what? It was a great show. And if you ask the six-foot-seven guy who sat directly in my line of sight, he’d totally confirm. As for me, I had a rather boring view of his head.
Vacations in real life, and in Star Trek (in particular those that take place on Risa), always seem to go awry. Let’s not forget Picard’s ill-fated trip in “Captain’s Holiday.” Like the crew of Archer’s Enterprise, Picard was looking for a nice, relaxing break. Little does he know he gets embroiled with Vash, the Ferengi, and the quest for the Tox Uthat. His much-needed vacation goes a little topsy-turvy, although at the end of the episode, we get the notion that everything that transpired was right up his alley. Like Archer’s crew, he’s not super eager to chat about it afterwards. Likewise in Deep Space Nine’s “Let He Who Is Without Sin…” Jadzia plans a romantic getaway with Worf, only he gets embroiled with fanatic zealots and becomes the embodiment of the ultimate party-pooper. Staying indoors in the rain because the planet’s weather grid had been sabotaged, was not what Jadzia had planned. In the end, they reconcile, but I’m pretty sure that’s now how either wanted to spend their trip to Risa.
Expectations surrounding vacations can sometimes set us up for failure if things don’t go our way. Life has a way of sabotaging our best-laid plans. It’s particularly difficult when it’s something we’ve planned in advance and really look forward to. Of everyone on the crew, only Hoshi comes through her Risean adventure happy and fulfilled. Her main goal was a modest one (for her that is — for us, picking up another language in two days would be impossible). She went to Risa with an open mind and went with the flow. Everyone else had preconceived notions that didn’t quite pan out. At the end, the crew figured it was best not to talk about what transpired, which I completely empathize with after my ill-fated trip to the Big Apple.
Maybe the one thing we can take away from “Two Days and Two Nights” is to embrace the fact that sometimes things don’t always go as planned, especially during vacation. We put enough pressure on ourselves on a daily basis. Maybe the real goal of vacation is to actually let loose. No plans, no expectations—just try to enjoy and embrace the moment. Especially when you’re on Risa.
Hrisoula Gatzogiannis (she/her) has a B.A. & M.A. in Classics and now works in digital strategy. She loves writing and has authored a few books on various subjects. She currently resides in Boston. You can find her on Twitter @MissHrisoula.