Braga and the Kitchen Fetish

I’m quite a Star Trek fan, and this post is about an interesting pattern I have seen emerge in Star Trek shows (and a spin-off by one of the producers, Brannon Braga).

Next Generation was discontinued at the peak of its popularity (for reasons unknown to me). For a while the only Trek on the airwaves was Deep Space Nine, which took place on a space station, and often criticized for the lack of exploration. Voyager returned to the exploration theme – and also was the debut of what I call “the kitchen fetish“.

A regular character on Voyager, considered by most to be highly annoying, was Neelix. Neelix was a strange little creature but he did spend a lot of time in the kitchen. A lot of boiling pots, bubbling mixtures, pans with burning oil, near-miss fires, and delicacies which turned out to be not so well-aligned with the taste buds of the unexpecting explorers from the Alpha Quadrant were a staple of the show. Often times, Neelix‘s taste in food was horrible for the crew of Voyager – except when he was temporarily merged with Tuvok, the resident Vulcan, and seasoned his recipes with Vulcan logic for one short episode. Sadly, the need to conserve power made replicator usage a luxury on Voyager, and the crew had to deal with the Talaxian, and the viewers got to see lots of the kitchen.

Enterprise, the ill-fated show, perhaps to avoid criticisms like those against Neelix, had a completely off-screen chef. The chef was never visible in any episode (but viewers still complained that Phlox, the doctor, was too much like Neelix and equally annoying). Enter the series finale of Enterprise. Nearly the entire episode took place in the till-then inaccessible kitchen of Enterprise. The chef was actually substituted in by Riker from the Next Generation, chatting with the Enterprise crew thanks to the blessings of holodeck technology. Riker was listening to what the crew had to say about Archer and everything else that’s going on, whilst giving them instructions on how to knead pizza dough (and getting a bit curt with his instructions every now and then). It was the return of the kitchen – and with a vengeance.

After Enterprise was over, Braga started a new show, Threshold. I very much enjoyed Threshold, just like the Star Trek series. Threshold even featured Brent Spiner, more commonly known as “Data“. Threshold dealt with a very interesting alien invasion scenario – where the aliens don’t actually send any particular member of their species to Earth, but instead a probe that manipulates all DNA on the planet, and starts converting everyone into their own species. In the very first episode of this new, and also ill-fated show that saw only one half season, the probe makes its first contact with humans on board a ship out in the Pacific Ocean. The very first scene of this very first episode takes place in…well, you guessed it, the kitchen! Pots and pans ablaze, broth bubbling, once again we start off with an extensive kitchen panorama.

Don’t get me wrong – I love kitchens. A kitchen has always felt to me like the coziest place in any home, and is full of savory anticipation of taste bud nirvana. I just find it very interesting that the kitchen theme has emerged so frequently in shows produced by Braga.

There is also another recurring Braga theme…which I will talk about in my next post, so stay tuned!