"The Voyage of the Mimi" was one of those video rites de passage they everyone had to endure, right up there with the sex education cartoon with the guy getting aroused on the diving board upon seeing comely young ladies in the pool and the infamous "Are you choking? Are you choking? Help!" video, which I believe was vaguely related to first aid.
The show, was, of course, shown in front of a captive audience of bored students. Whales seemed to be a major issue in the 1980's. By the time we were watching it in the early 90's, "Voyage of the Mimi" was already ridiculously outdated. Additionally, the show was extremely unentertaining. I mean, what sixth grader cares about balleen-bearing whales versus Odontoceti? The answer: Not a one.
Still, it was hilarious, if you knew where look. There were little gems buried deep in the minidramas that were funny as hell. Not on purpose, of course. Funny in the same way "The Last Dragon" and "Troll 2" were funny.
The drama aspect of the show mainly focused around C.T. Granville, an annoying little kid whose parents were getting divorced, and to take his mind off things, his grandfather Captain Granville offered to take him on board the good ship Mimi for the summer. This gives us, the disinterested viewer, the alien perspective we so very need. The Mimi's mission: To ferry the most boring people ever to sail the Seven Seas on a glorified whale watch. As mentioned in the previous writeup, the second "educational" part of the show had the actors talking about some tangental issue. Like the time C.T. and the good Captain went to MIT to talk about nuclear fusion. From whales to Tokamak reactors a subtle connection must exist.
The Mimi was indeed a diverse ship. Let's go over its crew:
- C.T. Granville: The hero of the show. Our perspective is his. He's a troubled lad, since at the time of the show Mommy and Daddy didn't love each other anymore. The Captain is his grandfather. Not above saying pretty inane exclamations (see below). Played by Ben Affleck, the first entry on a list of bad career choices.
- Captain Granville: Every good ship must have its captain. Granville is a salty old dog and a bit of a bastard-indeed he's kind of a nautical Archie Bunker, which lends itself to many "learning" situations, especially given the UN-like diversity of the rest of the crew.
- Ramon Rojas: A professor of some sort. He's Latino. How do we know this? Because of 1) his name and 2) his brief flitration with Spanish in the dogfish episode. Sally Ruth is his student.
- Anne Abrams: Another professor/Cetacean fanatic. She's the one that's very into whales, talking about the umbra on the flukes. Her student: Arthur.
- Sally Ruth Cochran: She's deaf. Unfortunately, that's what show's writers made her one overriding personality trait, "Yeah, she's, uh, deaf. That's about all there is to her." I remember her "real world" part of the show concerned education for deaf students, focusing on Gallaudet University, where an alarm clock was shown waking up a student by flashing a light rather than sound. I remember seeing that and thinking: "I never would have thought of that."
- Arthur Spencer: Much like Sally Ruth, Arthur's got one personality trait. In his case it's his being black. I dimly recall that this caused some tension between him and the reactionary Captain. But that changed with Arthur saved the Captain from hypothermia in the infamous shipwreck episode. Disturbingly, I remember C.T. crying because he couldn't strip down to snuggle next to the Captain. Sorry, buddy, you'll just have to settle for Jennifer Garner instead. You lucky bastard.
- Rachel Fairbanks: An enigmatic character. The typical troubled teen. I think that she was a stowaway or something on the Mimi. Anyway, her life is miraculously turned around by-you guessed it-intense study of whales.
- And, of course, the whales.
Here are some snippets from the show, though my memory is hazy. It's been twelve years.
Arthur's Got it Locked Down
Arthur's jamming to some music, it sounds vaguely like Afrikaa Bambataa or the Sugar Hill Gang.
Ramon: Hey, Arthur, you better turn it down. The Captain doesn't like that "rap" music. (N.B.: Scare quotes Ramon's)
Arthur plugs in earphones. He winks at Ramon
Arthur: No problem. I'm wired for silence.
That Damn Sally Ruth
Captain Granville leans over the side of the ship, looking at Sally Ruth.
Captain Granville: Hey.
Sally Ruth doesn't respond.
Captain Granville, growing irate: Hey!
Anne comes over.
Anne: She can't hear you. She's deaf.
Captain Granville: She's what?
Anne: She's deaf. She can't hear anything.
Captain Granville: What? I don't want no goddamn deaf mute on my ship.
Anne: She's not mute. She can read lips, too. If you want her attention, just bang this hammer on the rail.
She does and Sally Ruth straightens up, looking over.
Captain Granville: Still, grrr.. He wanders off, grumbling.
Anne: It's OK, Sally Ruth. The Captain will just have to learn.
And, of course
C.T.: Holy chickens! Look at all that peanut butter!
We went on a field trip to see Peter Marston, the actor who plays Captain Granville, at the Peabody Museum. Apparently, he's some kind of physicist/folk singer. He sang some sea chanties. In retrospect, he was a dead ringer for Robert Jordan.