Nerd Log, Stardate 59326 point...uhm...Tuesday, June 6.
It has been several weeks since the trailer for Star Trek: Discovery was released. I'm still not completely sure what to think. That first week I downloaded it and watched it repeatedly, then frame by frame. I read the hype machine, or a fair bit of it. All the while I burned through the five stages of fanboi reaction: indifference, manic happiness, suicidal pessimism and spent confusion. (I know, that is only four. I was a philosophy major. You do the math — or whatever.)
The second week, my head swam. I worried that this was CBS making a hurried attempt to capitalize on the franchise bandwagon, chasing Marvel's financial success — but then again, this is Star Trek; it's been 12 years since it was on television (the medium that does it best). How can I not be excited? I was all over the place as my thoughts tossed round and round.
Now I think I have finally wrestled myself down to cautious optimism, though the pendulum is still swinging. Here's what I know:
A woman is the lead, First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). I would put this in the good column. Moreover, there are two women in leading positions, the other being Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). So, double awesome.
Thing is, this is a bit misleading. Burnham won't be serving under Georgiou for the whole show. Georgiou is captain of the U.S.S. Shenzhou, and this show is about the Discovery. This raised some flags and got me wondering what was going on — as did the lack of the U.S.S. Discovery in the trailer. The ship coming through the clouds, and the shots on the bridge, are the Shenzhou. Space treachery was definitely afoot. So much for the good feelz from the female leads.
I took to the Internet in search of an answer, if one was to be discovered. Naturally, I found something on CBS's site, specifically from showrunner Bryan Fuller: The Discovery is captained by a man, Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs), yet the story will focus on Burnham.
Well played, marketing team. My original hypothesis was that Burnham was doing a Riker, passing up her own command, and Georgiou was going to kick her "out of the nest," so to speak. Now I haven't a clue what is going on, but I am intrigued.
Then there are the visuals — cinematic! They are much like in the Kelvin Timeline (the one in the rebooted movie franchise), even though it's set in the Prime Universe (the one from TV). This is not surprising, considering Alex Kurtzman is executive producer; he co-wrote and produced Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013). Also, this is a tent pole for CBS's streaming service, CBS All Access, and as such, the cinematic look makes sense. They're going to make Star Trek: Discovery as incredible as they can to help bring in viewers. But...
(There's always a but, isn't there?)
Fuller commented that there will be "more aliens than you normally [get] in a Star Trek show...new, exciting aliens and also re-imaginings of existing aliens." While that is great eye candy, all this "new" makes it very hard to reconcile with what happens ten years later (in the show's timeline) — namely Kirk, Spock and the U.S.S. Enterprise of Star Trek.
This raises bothersome questions. Like, how do they have all this amazing-looking stuff, as well as all these aliens and technology, and then ten years later they don't?
Case in point: the Klingons. This is the third iteration of their look, which might be explained away as some kind of evolutionary thing if this were set after Voyager/Deep Space Nine, but we're going back in time, not forward. So, what, they devolved and evolved? I know, Mr. Worf answered this question in Trials and Tribble-ations with the line "It is a long story...we do not discuss it with outsiders."
That worked at the time. Now, though? Come on! Are they just going to ignore this glaring difference in a kind of "never mind all that, look at what's over here" distraction tactic? This feels reminiscent of the Star Wars prequels. George Lucas made some beautiful-looking films in which special effects were all they had going for them, and the nerd backlash was rightfully nasty.
Which brings up another vexing question: Why did the creators need to go back in time, to just before the original series? Do they think viewers are unwilling to come along for something new? Is this a symptom of all the rebooting/remakes coming out of Hollywood? Are they incapable of anything new, or just too concerned with money?
Ugh. This is worse than a midlife, existential crisis.
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Bottom line, though, it's Star Trek. It's worth giving Discovery a shot on that alone. If the stories are good enough, I am sure us nerds can forgive the worrisome bits. Who knows, they might even bring in a new generation of viewers the way Doctor Who did back in 2005. Although Doctor Who was moving forward in time — mostly.
Sigh. So, yeah, cautiously optimistic.
This is Aeryk Pierson's first article for the Houston Press.