Thursday, October 5, 2017

Trek Thursday: Discovery

On Friday, JV and I sat down with our weekly pizza to watch the first episode of the new Star Trek series. I went in with cautious optimism: it had received a lot of good reviews (when they finally lifted the ban on reviews?), but all of my friends who are actual Trek fans (including Diana of Redskirts) were ambivalent at best about it.

Despite the caution in my optimism, I left the episode DISAPPOINTED.

I say this as someone who liked the J. J. Abrams reboot—initially. Rewatching it after mainlining TOS over the course of a few months, though, it loses a lot of the shine. (Or maybe I just paid better attention to the plot the second time around.) I didn't even bother with the second one. We've hit peak Cabbagepatch.

Discovery takes its cue from the Abrams' reboot more than something like TOS or Next Generation, both in terms of aesthetics and also in story style. It's a lot of whiz-bang visual effects, Dutch angles, lens flare, etc. The story is more about what will look good on screen and not what would be interesting to think about.

Also, minor point, but when you make a prequel fifty-odd years after the original material, first of all: why? (Do they want that Klingon–Federation war backdrop?) Second of all: if you're going to do that, why are you blowing the budget on these fantastic hyper-future sets that are so clearly more advanced than the tech that's supposed to be, in-story, ten? fifteen? years later? Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, but the visual continuity between the prequels and the original trilogy (I can't speak for the new movies, haven't seen them and have no interest in there) is pretty solid.

There are also plenty of Star Trek episodes where the conflict is based on someone in Starfleet making a terrible decision that errs on the side of optimism and naivete. But the point always seemed to be that even if it ends up being a mistake once in a while, that's the Starfleet standard operating procedure and it's based on (what I think is) a pretty noble ideal. (Like, we just watched the Next Generation episode "The Samaritan Snare," where La Forge gets kidnapped when they stop to repair a broken-down ship right after we watched the first episode of Discovery.)

A Starfleet where striking first—and violently—is framed as "the thing that should be done" and the officer who promotes it is being framed as being unjustly punished is not a Star Trek I find particularly inspiring or entertaining. I don't have hopes for future stories: Kurtzman's previous writing is much more in the action-oriented line (Transformers, Cowboys vs Aliens) and one random, stilted-sounding drama (People Like Us). Of course, Fuller has worked on other Star Trek incarnations: he's also written stuff that's more nuanced than giant fighting robot cars (Pushing Daisies, American Gods, Dead Like Me).

Good thing I have so many more episodes of Next Generation left to go!

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