Right if this article seems a bit off to any of you, it’s because it’s not the one I have been planning to write for the last several weeks. Initially I was going to to deliver a piece on a weird Scooby-Doo AU comic that takes place in a post zombie apocalypse where the gang are trying to survive and fix everything. Told you it was weird. However after spending several days trying to put something together it just wasn’t happening so instead you’ll be getting this lovely last minute piece on a subject that I have a much more solid knowledge base to work off and will, I’m sure, be no cause of violently opposing opinions. So let’s all beam aboard and get Tuning Into… Star Trek: Discovery.
I told myself that this piece didn’t really need my typical history lesson I like to lead my articles off with, but then I realised I’m old. There hasn’t been a broadcast television series of Star Trek set in the original time line – i.e. not the new lore created by the Abram’s movies – for fifteen years. Yeah let that sink in all my fellow oldies. So let’s do a quick recap of this universe shall we? (You might want to jump two paragraphs if you know the history).
The world of Star Trek was born from the mind of Gene Roddenberry in the 1960’s with the first version of the show simply titled Star Trek – later known as The Original Series or Star Trek: TOS as subtitles became necessary – and charted the adventures of the crew of a 23rd century spaceship called the Enterprise. The show was mould breaking for its time depicting a utopian future for humanity where all people regardless of gender or colour or even societal origin all came together to work as one for the betterment of humankind as a whole. While the show only ran for three seasons it changed the face of science fiction as it stood at the time. Over the following twenty-ish years there were several motion picture versions of the show released featuring the original cast until in 1987 Star Trek returned to the small screen with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Set 78 years after the original, this show also followed the crew of an Enterprise as they endeavoured to continue the ideals of the the original series albeit with more diplomacy and less sleeping with every alien race they find. It was with TNG that Star Trek really exploded in the public consciousness, running for a full seven seasons on TV and generating four movie adaptations of its own. Building on this legacy came two more versions of Trek following sequentially in the established timeline, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Star Trek: Voyager. These were the first versions of Trek to take place in the established universe but to not be on a Starship named Enterprise, DS9 taking place on the fixed location of a space station and Voyager on, shockingly, a ship named Voyager lost on the far side of our galaxy.
At the turn of the century, TV execs decided people were growing bored of the deep stories and established canon that had been crafted over the last thirty years and for the next series of Trek decided to set it 100 years before The Original Series. Thus was born Star Trek: Enterprise. Seen as possibly the least successful of the new generation of Trek shows, Enterprise ran for only four seasons and was greeted with only minor love from the fanbase as it took away a lot of the things they had grown to love about the show. Reduced to a lower level of technology and ideology the show was never truly accepted by fans until it’s final season where many felt it had finally found it’s stride before being unceremoniously axed by the studio leading to one of the most unsatisfactory endings to a show fans of Star Trek had ever experienced.
And that was it. After nearly twenty years of there being a Star Trek series being produced for television we were suddenly left with nothing, an entire generation that had grown up with Trek as a constant were cast adrift. While many were worried that this was the death of a beloved franchise, others knew that it could never be truly the end and they were proven right with the return of Star Trek to the big screen, however, in a greatly altered form. The three most recent movie incarnations have taken the original story from TOS and created a whole new timeline where they don’t have to worry about continuity errors with the source material and while this was probably the right move to rebirth the franchise some fans were disappointed that the stories that they loved as children seemed to be being cast away and made non-canonical for this new incarnation.
However, we were there, always in the background our love for the old canon never fading and those of us who believed knew that one day it would return and now that time has come with Star Trek: Discovery.
Out of the gate, Discovery does send up some warning flags. Once again the producers seem afraid to advance the story of the Star Trek universe and have chosen to set this new series not after the events of Voyager – which is the farthest along in the shows’ timeline – but have done as they did with Enterprise and taken us back into the past; ten years before The Original Series to be precise. In a lot of ways this limits the show in what it can become and its use of established characters in the canon, we know what the future holds for them and as such unless they are planning to splinter this series off into yet another separate timeline, there is no real threat to said characters or events.
Another issue is the overall aesthetic of the show. While it is possible to see how they have arrived at this look with Enterprise as its forerunner – both in lore and in real life – it is quite difficult to imagine what will lead to the huge change in style that would end up with Federation starships looking as they do in TOS. What we have here appears to be a case of the show not wanting to limit its special effects in order to bring the show into line with the look that was present fifty years ago and while I can accept this as a stylistic choice there are just one or two things that really bug me as they just don’t seem sensible. First is the design of the Klingon race, a well established species who it appears are going to be a major part of the story in Discovery. Instead of using the well established and beloved look from previous series, even taking into account the super weird TOS versions ret-conned in Enterprise, they have chosen a completely new design and aesthetic. Honestly, these new Klingons look more like space-orcs than they ever have and it’s kind of a hard thing to get over.
My second design choice I have with Discovery is the use of holograms. Every single communication is done with holograms. They just pop up in the middle of rooms with no real reason or explanation of why, it just comes across as an unnecessary abuse of the available special effect tech we have now over previous series but those are just my personal niggles with the show.
Now how does Discovery hold up as a successor to the mantle of Trek? I have been hearing a lot of outcry from fans and the community in general that Discovery breaks continuity and the characters aren’t behaving like members of Starfleet should. The one thing all these naysayers have in common is that as far as I can tell, they haven’t actually watched the show. They are basing their dislike off of the purely aesthetic dislike of the show from the trailer or from screenshots they have seen, or in some cases from what they have read about the shows story online that they have taken out of context with the rest of the show as a whole. Everyone who has actually watched the show seems to be enjoying it, myself included. Yes I have some elements that jar with what I think the show should look like but the characters act and behave in a way that I would absolutely expect from Federation officers at a time of war. Yes they aren’t the high moral grounders of TNG because they aren’t from that time, if you moved the crew from TOS to the events of Discovery I believe they would have behaved this way. Heck, look how the Federation acted in DS9 when war broke out, the actions taken in the new series are definitely not out of place.
Well I can feel my editor getting more and more vexed with the length of this article so to wrap things up: Discovery holds the spirit of Trek well in my opinion, don’t judge it before you give it a chance. I mean something must be good about it, it has already been picked up for a second season after breaking all sorts of records for new subscribers on its distribution platform in America. So do yourself a favour and dive into Star Trek: Discovery, if you give it a chance I think you’ll love this new crew as much as any of the others.