Archive for the ‘Star Trek: Discovery (2017-)’ Category

Continuity and Canon   Leave a comment

Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

–Judge Judy

The overlords of Star Trek have been marketing urine as rain since 2009.  Paramount Pictures has been doing it since 2009, when, in Star Trek (2009), the sold the first moment or so of that action movie has occurring in the same universe as and about three decades prior to Star Trek (1966-1969).  Visual evidence belied that claim.  Paramount said the superficial differences were due to a “visual reboot.”  Suits at CBS have been selling the same line of dung regarding Star Trek:  Discovery (properly abbreviated as STD) since 2017.  They have also hired people who have rewritten and contradicted continuity and committed character assassination in an alleged prequel series.

Visual reboots are at least as offensive as the bad story-telling and disregard for continuity in STD.  I make a distinction between an alleged visual reboot and a remaster.  I own a blu-ray set of the original series, so I have the option of watching any episode in its original form or with the shiny new special effects.  The remastered episodes are only superficially different from the originals, for better and for worse, though.  The remastered version of Spock’s Brain looks much nicer, but it has the same script as the unaltered episode, unfortunately.  Furthermore, those who remastered the original series obviously knew it well and held it in awe.

Likewise, the remastering and alteration of Starhunter (2000-2001) and Starhunter 2300 (2003-2004) into Starhunter Redux is a labor of love and respect, with some of the original guiding hands still behind the scenes.  Starhunter Redux is a television equivalent of a director’s cut of a movie.  That is fine.  Nobody is producing a terrible and alleged prequel series to Starhunter and disrespecting continuity.

Some creators (who will remain unnamed here) of YouTube series have said that the only people who have any legitimate right to define canon are the licensed creators/owners–in this case, CBS.  Balderdash!  Or, as General McAuliffe replied to a German demand for surrender during World War II,

NUTS!

Unlike the people responsible for writing STD, I understand and respect nearly all of the previous series.  (I heap scorn upon Star Trek:  Voyager and Star Trek:  Enterprise, however.  Enterprise broke me of my habit of watching and recording every new episode.)

At least I have I my copies of actual Star Trek movies and actual Star Trek series to enjoy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

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Flagrant Disregard for Continuity   2 comments

I am an old-school Trekkie.  I remember a time when available Star Trek consisted of the 1966-1969 episodes in reruns on local stations, a handful of movies in VHS format, and, when the gods smiles, reruns of the 1973-1975 animated series on cable television.  I recall possessing a large library of VHS cassettes full of episodes I recorded.  My earliest memory of Star Trek is the classic episode Metamorphosis, which originally aired in 1967.  I can recite Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982) word-for-word and, when I listen to the soundtrack, know exactly what is happening.  I know that Prime timeline stories ended with the lamentable Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), and that, regardless of what anyone says, the events of the equally lamentable Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) exist in a parallel universe created in Star Trek:  First Contact (1996) and do not precede the original series in universe.

I also know that Star Trek‘s Prime Timeline is a sequence of period pieces.  Each incarnation of the Enterprise is a given size and looks a certain way.  The level of technology is what it is.  The uniforms are what they are.  The bridge design is what it is.  Continuity matters.  Maintaining it is a matter of respect for the franchise.

I have no use for the open contempt for human dignity that many critics of Star Trek:  Discovery and other series (notably Series 11 of Doctor Who) spew.  The misogyny, sexism, and homophobia of these individuals is wrong.  These critics also seem not to grasp that socially progressive politics have been part of Doctor Who since 1963 and Star Trek since 1964.  Do these critics forget A Private Little War, classic Star Trek‘s critique of the Vietnam War?  The Daleks, who debuted in one the earliest First Doctor serials, are an unveiled allegory of fascism in general and of Nazism in particular.  I also remember Patterns of Force, a classic Star Trek episode that used reproductions of Nazi uniforms.  In a related matter, I remember that, when news of the recasting of Starbuck (renamed Kara Thrace) in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica broke in 2003, many people complained about political correctness.  I also recall that Katee Sackhoff played that role brilliantly.

My main critique of Star Trek:  Discovery is that it openly shows disregard for continuity in both visual style and story content.  If one is going to film a prequel series to the original series, one should reproduce the look of the technology and uniforms, and mind the chronology meticulously.

My comment to all those is responsible for this abomination of a series is,

I hope your series fails miserably and ends as soon as possible.  Stop insulting those of us who care about our franchises. Don’t let the door hit you where the dog should have bit you.  If you want to take such liberties with details, create your own fictional universe in which to set your stories.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2019 COMMON ERA

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The Return of Jean-Luc Picard   Leave a comment

Above:  Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Q in True Q (1992)

A Screen Capture

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Mustering excitement about recent developments in Star Trek has been difficult for me.  Stories of an upcoming movie with Quentin Tarentino directing have not inspired me to want to watch that film.  The parallel universe of Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and Star Trek Beyond (2016) has proven less interesting than the Prime Universe.  And Star Trek:  Discovery (STD, for short, appropriately) has proven to be a shameful mess devoid of continuity in every respect, an unforgivable sin in what is officially a prequel yet really not one.

One piece of news does excite me, though.  Patrick Stewart is on track to return to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in a new series, a continuation of Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994).  We will apparently see Picard about 20 years after the events of Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002).  If I can believe the early news, the new series will actually respect canon–a miracle, considering the fiasco of STD.

For years I have thought that Star Trek on screen should move forward in time from Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), and even the woeful Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001), where continuity and character development went to die by neglect.  Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005), a prequel series, was, like STD, a major error replete with discontinuity.  It was the series that proved to be a bridge too far for me; after suffering through the first two seasons, I stopped watching early in the third season.  This recent announcement from Patrick Stewart has restored a degree of my enthusiasm for some of new Star Trek.  I have decided to reserve judgment for later, when the series will be available for viewing, though.  CBS/Paramount has disappointed me too many times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2018 COMMON ERA

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The Multiverse of Star Trek   1 comment

Above:  The Parallel Terok Nor in Through the Looking Glass (1995), an Episode of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine

A Screen Capture

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With Kvetching about Star Trek:  Discovery

The multiverse internal to Star Trek has been an established fact since the original series (1966-1969).  Aside from the Prime Timeline, in which the series and movies (except perhaps Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier, 1989) existed through Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001) and Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), visual Star Trek has offered parallel universes also.  In the original series viewers saw an antimatter universe in The Alternative Factor (1967) and an evil universe in Mirror, Mirror (1967).  Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) included occasional sequels to Mirror, Mirror.  The multiverse was essential to the plot of Parallels (1993), an episode of Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994).  Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) must have played out in a parallel universe, given the problems of reckless discontinuity with all the Star Trek series produced prior to it.  And all the Star Trek movies since 2009 have occurred in a parallel universe, probably the same one that includes Star Trek:  Enterprise.  Beyond that, there is no way the opening minute or so of Star Trek (2009) played out in the Prime Timeline.

Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-) allegedly occurs in the Prime Timeline–to be precise, between The Cage (1964) and Where No Man Has Gone Before (1965), the two pilot episodes of the original series.  That official claim is malarkey.  The starships in Star Trek:  Discovery (STD is an appropriate abbreviation.) are too large.  The technology is inconsistent with the original series.  The uniforms are wrong.  The U.S.S. Enterprise in STD is much too big, as well as visually inconsistent with the original series.

As Doug Drexler argues, Star Trek is a period piece.  One can respect the look of the original series, as Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek:  Enterprise did.  One need not reinvent the wheel, as STD does.

There is a simple way to avoid pretending that discontinuity between STD and the rest of Star Trek does not exist:  acknowledge the obvious, which is that STD occurs in a parallel universe, perhaps its own.

I despise STD for its own demerits.  I would despise STD for its own demerits, even if pretending to be in the Prime Timeline were not one of them.  The sturn und drang behind the scenes creates an identity crisis for the series.  The political progressiveness is fine; I am a liberal, and toleration is an inherent element of Star Trek.  Nevertheless, is STD about exploration or war?  I ponder the trailer for the second season and wonder if STD is trying to ape The Orville while becoming about exploration and continuing to make a mockery of the Prime Timeline.  STD reminds me of SeaQuest, a series NBC aired under two titles for three seasons in the 1990s.  I remember the identity crisis of that series, each season of which might as well as have been a separate series.

At least The Orville respects Star Trek.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Star Trek: Discovery Does Not Occur in the Prime Timeline.   2 comments

As the great Doug Drexler has argued, Star Trek, in all its manifestations, is a period piece; each era has its look.  Technology is at a certain level.  The uniforms are what they are, for better and worse.  For all the inconsistencies in Star Trek series and movies since the 1960s, visual continuity within a particular period in a certain universe is essential.

Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-), supposedly set in the prime timeline, contemporary with The Cage (1964), the first Star Trek pilot, is so visually different from the Star Trek of the 1960s as to play out in what is obviously one of many parallel universes, which have been recognized parts of the Star Trek franchise since The Alternative Factor (1967).  That is fine with me; truth in advertising is not too much to ask.  Star Trek:  Discovery no more takes place in the prime timeline than does the first minute (before Nero breaks through into the past) of Star Trek (2009)–for the same reason.  The appearance of Captain Christopher Pike’s Enterprise  in the season finale of Discovery confirms my theory.  That incarnation of the NCC-1701 is, in some ways, more advanced than the refitted NCC-1701 in Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982), and Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (1984), as well as the outwardly identical NCC-1701-A we saw for the first time at the end of Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home (1986).

Perhaps my age, which shapes my experiences, defines my perspective.  I recall life before Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994) and subsequent series and TNG movies.  I remember watching the original series in reruns on local television stations before and after the debut of The Next Generation, which debuted when I was in high school and ended when I was an undergraduate.  Older-style (relative to 2017 and 2018) visual styles do not bother me, not that I object to watching digitally remastered versions of episodes on blu-ray.  Yet, in those remastered episodes, technology and uniforms remain unchanged.  After all, each period has its own aesthetic.  Honoring that is vital within the franchise.

Creators of new canonical Star Trek material should thusly honor the franchise.  Talk of visual reboots is ridiculous.  Creators of new material should reserve visual reboots for parallel universes–and say so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Brief Reviews: Star Trek Movies VII-X   2 comments

Above:  The U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-E, from Star Trek:  First Contact (1996)

A Screen Capture

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Preliminary Statements

A few preliminary statements will prove helpful before I get into the meat of this post:

  1. I have been a fan of Star Trek for a long time.  I used to watch the original series in reruns–sometimes on weekends and, when possible, weekdays–and record episodes.  I remember stumbling upon an occasional episode of the animated series (1973-1975) on cable television in the early 1990s.  I recall when I could count the number of movies on one hand and have fingers left over.  I remember watching The Next Generation (1987-1994) in first run.  I have watched every Star Trek movie and most episodes.  I watched every episode all the way through Voyager (1995-2001).  I abandoned Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) early in the third season, for I was tired of subjecting myself to that series after two years.
  2. Certain Star Trek fans are fanatical to the point of leaving vicious comments online.  I have no use for such behavior.  This is entertainment, not a matter of life and death.  William Shatner’s “Get a life” sketch from Saturday Night Live (1986) rings true for many people.
  3. One can find many podcasts and videos regarding Star Trek episodes and movies.  Unfortunately, many of the creators of these media (A) swear enough to embarrass even the most profane sailors, (B) are hyper-critical, to the point of pettiness, and/or (C) speak out of their ignorance.  All of this irritates me.  I respond by ceasing to watch such videos and listen to such podcasts.
  4. On the other hand, many reviewers, working in written, audio, and audio-visual media, do speak and write out of their knowledge.  I am especially fond of the reviews at tor.com, for example.
  5. My intention in this post is neither to write all that I know regarding four Star Trek:  The Next Generation movies nor to replicate the work of others.  (I know far more about these movies than I have written here.)  No, I plan to be concise and to contextualize these films according to each other.  My most basic standard regarding any of the Star Trek movies is whether I want to place the disc in my Blu-ray player, press the “play” button on the remote control, and watch the movie from beginning to end without skipping any scenes.
  6. No work of human beings is perfect, of course, but it can be enjoyable and well-crafted.  I seek to find the good and praise it, imperfect as it might be.

Star Trek:  Generations (1994)

A screen capture

I recall reading Federation (1994), a novel by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, in which two Enterprises–those of Kirk and Picard–encounter each other.  I acknowledge that this was years ago, so my memories of the plot are sketchy, but I assert without a shadow of a doubt that a movie closer to that novel would have been superior to Star Trek:  Generations.

Next Generation writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga wrote the screenplay for Generations over a period of a year and a half.  Toward the end of that time they also wrote All Good Things… (1994), the series finale of The Next Generation, in a handful of weeks.  The latter work, they have admitted on their commentary track for Generations, was superior to the former.  Moore and Braga had a difficult assignment, one which came with a studio-issued list of plot elements to include.  Paramount Pictures contributed to the lackluster nature of this movie.  The Nexus, for example, never worked well.  Neither did the death of Captain Kirk.  Furthermore, Kirk and Picard scrambling eggs was an anticlimax.

My main complaint, however, pertains to the destruction of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, a capital ship.  The Enterprise-D being vulnerable to an antiquated Klingon Bird of Prey is beyond ridiculous.  But at least we have the scene in which Data, with his emotion chip installed, swears once as the saucer section falls toward Veridian III.  That is entertaining, but the previous scene in which he sings a ditty about scanning for lifeforms is better.

In Dr. Soran we have a villain whose plans do not make sense.  What is to stop him from flying a ship into the Nexus?  Instead he destroys stars and, by extension, solar systems, to alter the course of the Nexus.  I do not emphasize the irrationality of Dr. Soran too much, for I know from history and current events that people are frequently irrational.  I know what has happened, but cannot make logical sense of those events because they are illogical.

All things considered, I have no desire to watch this movie from beginning to end, without skipping scenes.

Star Trek:  First Contact (1996)

A screen capture

Star Trek:  First Contact, the best of the Next Generation movies, according to conventional wisdom, is a film I have difficulty watching.  The movie is too intense for my comfort, due to the Borg, in their silver screen budget incarnation.  They creep me out.  I tend to skip scenes in First Contact, therefore.

First Contact does have its great merits, however.  The black-and-gray uniforms are superior to the immediately preceding uniforms.  Also, the Sovereign Class Enterprise-E is gorgeous.  The characters are in fine form, with Picard having his Captain Ahab phase and Worf being a full Klingon, as when he tells Picard,

If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand.

I do, however, have a quibble regarding the Borg Queen.  She exists because of a directive from someone at Paramount Pictures.  The Borg are better without a queen, for putting a face on the Collective raises certain difficult questions in universe.  Does she follow the will of the Collective or does she direct it?  And how is it possible that she was on the Borg cube that blew up in The Best of Both Worlds, Part II?

Star Trek:  Insurrection (1998)

A screen capture

I have listened to podcasts and watched video reviews about Star Trek:  Insurrection.  The creators of some of these media have erupted in frustration and frequent profanity.  These have been overreactions.  I have never objected to the fact that some people do not like the film, but I have always insisted that one should express oneself in the style of an adult whose vocabulary is considerably larger than a collection of curse words.

This is my favorite Next Generation movie.  Yes, it feels like a two-parter from the Next Generation series, but it feels like a good two-parter, specifically what Journey’s End (1994), in which Picard presides over the forced relocation of Native Americans, should have been.  In Insurrection Picard occupies what screen writer Michael Piller called “the moral center of the universe.”  Besides, why is the Federation in league with the Son’a, allies of the Dominion (which is trying to conquer the Federation) in the Dominion War?  The answer comes from an earlier draft of the script:  Admiral Dougherty is affiliated with Section 31.

Of all the Next Generation movies, this is the only one I choose to watch from beginning to end, without skipping scenes.

Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002)

A screen capture

Star Trek:  Nemesis, to quote Marina Sirtis, “sucks.”  The best Star Trek stories are character-focused.  In this movie, however, the best character moments are absent from the theatrical cut and are available in the deleted scenes section of the second disc of the set.  Those facts contribute to the poor critical reception of the movie at the time and the disappointing box office results.  This is the movie that, along with Star Trek:  Enterprise, killed the prime universe of Star Trek on screen.

Above:  The Enterprise-E and the Scimitar, after the Enterprise-E rammed the Scimitar

A screen capture

This was, according to the trailer, the final voyage of the Next Generation crew.  Data died, Riker and Troi married and transferred to the U.S.S. Titan, and Crusher left to lead Starfleet Medical.  However, the downloaded memories of Data began to surface in the primitive android B-4 by the end of the movie.  According to Countdown, the comic book prequel to Star Trek (2009), B-4 became Data (Mark II) and the Captain of the Enterprise-E in time.  There might have been subsequent prime universe movies with characters from various series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager), but the failure of Nemesis prevented that.

The plot of the movie depends too much on coincidence.  What is the probability that Romulan agents would plot to clone Picard?  What are the odds that the Enterprise-E would detect the disassembled B-4?  And what is the likelihood that Starfleet would send the Enterprise-E to Romulus?

The script of Nemesis, like that of Generations, tackles ponderous themes ambitiously and fails.  The fault does not reside in the purview of the main Next Generation cast.  Patrick Stewart, for example, is so great an actor that he elevates subpar material.  The fault falls upon the writer, John Logan, whose script does not give the characters a proper send off.  Maybe he should take lessons from Nicholas Meyer, co-author of The Undiscovered Country (1991).

I choose not to dwell too much on the illogical plans of Shinzon, the clone of Picard.  Shinzon, for a man who is dying, wastes plenty of time.  Furthermore, why would the destruction of Earth cripple the Federation?  For an explanation of why I am not making more of the irrationality of Shinzon, consult my remarks about Dr. Soran in Generations.

Above:  The Enterprise-E, Undergoing Repairs

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Nemesis gives me no satisfaction; I watch only parts of the movie.

Rankings

Ranking these four movies is relatively easy for me:

  1. Star Trek:  Insurrection
  2. Star Trek:  First Contact
  3. Star Trek:  Generations
  4. Star Trek:  Nemesis

The original series movies, taken together, are superior to the Next Generation movies, taken together.

My overall rankings of movies I-X are here.

Special Note:  Abramsverse Movies and Contemporary Star Trek 

Nevertheless, the Next Generation movies, taken together, are superior to the Abramsverse reboot movies #1-3, taken together.  (Movie #4 is in development as I write this.)  Of the three Abramsverse films so far, Star Trek Beyond (2016) is the best and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) is the worst.

Furthermore, the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-A, from the end of Star Trek Beyond, is ugly.  I like the Constitution Class refit from the first six Star Trek movies.

I agree with Simon Pegg that prime Spock and Nero entered the past of another parallel universe, not that of the prime universe.  This is obvious to me due to the technology and uniforms.  Besides, the existence of a multiverse in Star Trek has been part of canon since Mirror, Mirror, in the original series.  One might even argue convincingly that Star Trek:  Enterprise occurs in a parallel universe.

Regardless of what CBS/Paramount says, the trailer for Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-) makes the setting of that series look like the Abramsverse.  As Doug Drexler, who knows more about Star Trek than most people, says, Star Trek is a period drama.  A particular era of Star Trek has a certain look.  Why not, therefore, just state plainly that this is an Abramsverse series?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA