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Archive for August, 2020

The sorrowful state of Star Trek

by on Aug.11, 2020, under SciFi

I like Star Trek. I really do. It entertains. It explores interesting moral issues within the framework of science fiction. The main characters are, almost exclusively, respectable and admirable. It has an optimistic vision of the future.

The current generation of Star Trek, starting with Star Trek 2009, meets very little of that rubric. It is, in every way that is important, not Star Trek.

Let’s just go through it. I may update this from time to time as I think through it more and endure more New Trek.

Common Themes in New Trek

  • We are the Enemy. Most of the villains are within the Federation or Starfleet, rather than external forces. While Real Trek is no stranger to exploring (some) problems from within, for the most part conflicts arise from outsiders.
  • Over the top action sequences. While Real Trek has its share of absurd hand-to-hand conflict and space battles, New Trek feels the need for nauseating visual extravaganzas that try to mimic what you might see from an Avengers movie. It’s not necessary, and ultimately takes away from its realism.
  • Absurd camera work. The camera has to start upside down and twist to align with the orientation of the ship. Or even characters in the ship. Or excessive “camera circling the conversation” shots. It’s just about unwatchable at times. Yes, I know, it’s trying to be clever with “no gravity” and whatnot, but again, it’s taking away. The use of quick pans and zooms in the Battlestar Galactica reboot was great. This goes way too far and again, takes you out of the story.
  • Lens flares. Seriously. Let’s just pretend whatever future visual scanners are used in the future do not experience this annoying artifact. Get rid of them.
  • Quoting regulations. Yes, quoting regulations is a theme in Real Trek. But New Trek seems to go even further with it, using it ever more as a throw-away, and it gets grating.
  • Swearing. In particular with Picard, the use of the F-bomb is unwelcome. Star Trek is best when it leaves behind profanity, sex, and gore. The fact that streaming services are not bound to decency rules for broadcast television is no reason to abandon them. This is not South Park, it should not be going for shock value or pushing the envelope in this area.

Star Trek 2009

It was a fun watch, and good to see familiar characters with new portrayals. The enemy was essentially a terrorist who is trying to avenge a failed attempt at averting an extinction-level natural event. The scenario to get all of the original crew together in very different circumstances is not believable. The notion of using a different timeline for the reboot is very Star Trek though, and they get some credit for trying to make the origin of this reboot in-universe.

Star Trek Into Darkness

The enemy is Section 31, an off-the-books organization within Starfleet, who co-opts Khan. I don’t think they should have gone there. Then when I realized they were using Kirk to mimic Spock’s self-sacrifice from Star Trek II, it started to feel more like a parody, and that was hard to shake.

Star Trek Beyond

The enemy is an ancient Starfleet captain that has mutated into someone else with an extremely xenophobic perspective. Ugh. It was a fun romp with the ship and crew though.

Star Trek Discovery

It’s really quite bad. In so very many ways.

  • Mirror universe as part of the main plot. No. Don’t do that please.
  • Spore drive. Please. It would be fine as a throw-away SciFi concept in an episode or two from some other civilization or experimental project, but not something that can be taken seriously as part of a series bible.
  • Unlikable characters. The only one that at all resembles Real Trek is Captain Pike, but the cast of characters is essentially intolerable or in the case of some, just unremarkable.
  • Injecting into Spock’s past. This was unnecessary and goes beyond what suspension of disbelieve will buy you. Also, his portrayal in the series just does not jive with the character we know.
  • Section 31. Why is this secret organization so well known and have such a huge footprint? The power of Section 31 from Real Trek is how far in the shadows it is. It should not be a major overt component.

Star Trek Picard

Star Trek Picard does some unforgivable things, but it is perhaps the best of the New Trek TV series. A lot of effort is given to try to weave past TNG-era plots into the new story with varying degrees of success, which ends up coming off as forced. The behavior of Starfleet seems to not be consistent with in-universe precedent. I did not find any of the new characters to be compelling. What they did to some of the existing characters was unwelcome. The best part was likely an afterthought – the reunion of Picard with Riker and Troi. Why are the Romulans now portrayed like elves? As is usual with the modern serial mystery-drama (think Lost), too much time is spent in avoidance of advancing the plot. Star Trek is far better when episodic.

Star Trek Lower Decks

Only one episode so far, but they do a lot of damage. The characters do not, for the most part, be the upstanding respectable and admirable folks I want to watch. It’s very Rick and Morty… and there is a reason for that. But Star Trek it is not.

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August 2020


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