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Tag: Trekkie

Feeling Burned by Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 3?

After watching the season finale, this Trekkie’s got some thoughts to share about the latest season of “Discovery.” Here’s my review:

You can’t blame “Star Trek: Discovery” for not trying. Season 3 attempted to envision a universe 930 years into the future, tackled big social themes and finally decided to give a little more screen time to its supporting cast of regulars.

This CBS All Access series originally insisted that is was not your parent’s “Star Trek.” It tried to be darker, edgier and bolder. Characters used four letter words, though not very convincingly (and far more awkwardly than in “Star Trek: Picard”).

The writers spent much of season 3 trying to return into the fold. There were multiple references and story devices from the old “Star Trek” manual. And in the end, we found ourselves right back where we started, with the same closing music as the original series.

This return continues a long overdue course correction. It was so obvious that there was no real need to separate itself from its heritage when we saw how the best episodes from season 2 focused on Captain Pike from the original Enterprise.

And you can’t say “Discovery’s” season 3 wasn’t earnest. No way. There was so much hugging and crying. Crying and hugging. I lost track how many times “I love you” was in the script. The writers were clearly working hard to finally evolve this crew into a “Star Trek” family.

And “Star Trek” at its core has always been about family. I just don’t know that I needed the “Discovery” writers constantly telling me that.

Warning Signs
As the credits rolled at the end of season 3’s finale, I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t pumped. But I didn’t feel burned either. Season 3 was… fine. For me, “Star Trek” is always better than no “Star Trek.” But I can’t deny I’m still a wee disappointed.

It’s not that season 3 was bad. It just couldn’t quite elevate itself beyond its own unremarkable storytelling.

The writers put a huge effort into building a diverse and inclusive set of relationships. In fact, in many ways, that’s really what season 3 was about. The Burn and (minor spoiler) rebuilding the Federation was just something for this group of Trek characters to focus on. And that’s all great.

But then, the writers ran out of steam (Dilithium?) when it came time to come up with some cutting-edge science fiction storytelling worthy of the “Star Trek” universe.

Why So Far?
Moving the story 930 years forward is a huge leap. Unfortunately, this future doesn’t look all that different. Sure, personal transporters are cool and organic tech is nice, but I would expect something more dramatic a millennia out. And that requires more writing muscle… not special effects.

Yes, I understand that the writers needed to warp Discovery into a new era that was not burdened by existing Trek canon where the Discovery doesn’t exist. (A downside of creating a prequel series.) But a hundred years forward past Picard is all they really needed to do.

Back to the Future
And it’s ironic that the writers ultimately created a new “Star Trek” future that in many ways had gone back in time.

They were pulling on the same storytelling threads as the creators of “Star Trek: Enterprise” when space was truly the final frontier… again.

Missed Opportunities
I’m happy to allow a series some leeway in plot development as long as the writers stick their landing by the end. Over the course of 13 episodes, I feel that season 3 was not entirely successful. (Spoilers ahead.)

Tilly
“Discovery” has painfully stuck with this character and promised some future payoff. I understand that Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is evolving, but after three seasons, it’s not fast enough. When Tilly finally got her big chance and sat in the captain’s chair, she essentially blew it. Later, her moment of redemption wasn’t all that satisfying.

The Mirror Universe
You know there’s a problem when “Discovery’s” best episodes focus around the linked alternate universe. But by now, this Trek storytelling device is feeling a bit tired. Even though it was the main reason that Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) had anything to do in season 3, watching the alternate versions of our other characters as two-dimensional opposites grew boring. Sure, Georgiou evolved, but her own universe wasn’t able to.

The Source of the Burn
Really? I expect we’ll see some therapy sessions in season 4 for someone.

The Discovery’s Big Brain
Remember when Discovery’s computer acquired 100,000 years of data from the alien sphere in season 2? The only influence from that upgrade was when the computer pointed Discovery to meet up with Carl. There’s a lot of untapped plot potential that the writers ignored.

Carl
Again… Really? You can’t recycle a classic Trek plot device like that and simply rewrite it as Carl. A ‘Q’ character would have been better.

The Bad Guys
A 1960’s biker gang with a really big ship. Is that what capitalism eventually evolved into? Osyraa (Janet Kidder) needed more screen time to develop beyond her two-dimensional antagonist.

Saru
Captain Saru (Doug Jones) sits at the center of the heart of “Star Trek: Discovery.” His humanity, even in Kelpien form, shines bright. He’s the perfect Federation captain on paper.

But his evolved and balanced perspective isn’t ultimately suited for this future frontier. Not as captain of the Discovery. It’s a bittersweet conclusion.

The Good News
So, I wouldn’t be a Trekkie if I didn’t prove how geeky I am by nitpicking. Sure, season 3 could have been better, but it still had a lot going for it. The special effects were great, although I would have appreciated a few more closeups of the new starships.

It benefited from a generally strong cast. (I really liked the addition of Book’s character played by David Ajala.)

Of course, Sonequa Martin-Green is the star of the ensemble. Her Michael Burnham has often created more problems than she’s solved, but her passion and sense of purpose and drive to do what’s right has continued to power this entire series forward. Martin-Green provides almost limitless emotional and physical energy in this regard.

As it turns out, breaking the rules in the 31st century is seemingly okay as our new Prime Directive. It’s an odd conclusion that doesn’t quite fit with what the writers have otherwise been trying to accomplish. But it continues to fuel Burnham’s success. So, in what has become a season-ending Discovery ritual, it’s time to switch up the captain’s chair again.

Let’s Fly?
I’m happy that “Discovery” is embracing his own heritage.

And I’m always pleased to be watching more “Star Trek” after all of these decades. It hasn’t gotten old. In fact, its familiarity is more comforting than ever, especially in today’s unstable reality.

There’s also something to be said for watching science fiction and not feeling depressed as a result. You can count on “Star Trek: Discovery” for maintaining its sense of Trek-infused optimism.

I don’t think season 3 is the best of the series. (I prefer season 2.) It’s certainly not the boldest. But “Discovery’s” imperfections ultimately didn’t prevent me from still enjoying the ride.

Oh… and that last line in the season finale…
“Let’s fly.”

Really?
(Just go with it.)

One Science Fiction Fan’s Bucket List

“Star Trek: Discovery” has created so many questions as it wraps its first season that you may need a 23rd century display panel to keep track of its complex plot. But that’s not entirely unique in the world of sci-fi storytelling…

So, I must admit I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first season of “Star Trek: Discovery.” I know I had my doubts early on. But the CBS All Access streaming series came out of the gate strong, with its own fresh style, superior special effects, really interesting characters, and great acting (Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp). It’s also displayed a whole bunch of plot twists and a compelling, gritty pace.
(And I’ve loved the extended stay in the Mirror Universe.)

“Discovery” has firmly established itself as a new and different Star Trek while not ignoring its own heritage.

Sure, the young series is not perfect, and all of our heroes aren’t exactly shining examples of the Federation’s finest. But that’s what makes the show all the more interesting.
(I still question the choice to drop the F-bomb.)

More Questions are Piling Up
As for what has sometimes been a confusing extended plotline and a threat to Star Trek canon, it’s evident that what doesn’t make total sense early on has been better explained in later episodes. That said, there are still lots of questions that need answering…
(What good TV series with ongoing mystery isn’t chock full of question marks?)

My one suggestion to the writers is to just be sure not to create too many loose ends. Because it can be difficult tying them all up. Now, I don’t expect everything onboard the Discovery to be all nice and tidy anytime soon, because season 2 has already been announced.

But plenty of other science fiction TV series and even some with extended runs have had difficulty wrapping up their major storylines.

So we don’t want history repeating itself.
(Unless it’s part of the space-time continuum)

No Conclusion
With all of the storytelling flexibility that sci-fi allows for, it’s amazing how much unfinished business remains.

Usually this frustrating problem for viewers crops up, because a TV series gets unexpectedly cancelled. Similarly, a movie may come out with important cliffhangers that don’t get resolved by a sequel that’s never made.

Now, I get that the economics often require the sudden end to a series that’s not cutting it in the ratings. But without a conclusion to the underlying story, that’s clearly an extremely unsatisfying situation for any fan.

So if there are any Hollywood producers out there trolling for reboot ideas…
Here’s my bucket list of marooned science fiction stories I’d love to see resolved. And I don’t mind that that we’d likely need to reimagine some of the content and hire new acting talent.

Maybe it’s not a whole new series. Perhaps, it’s just a one-off.
But just finish the story!

“Lost in Space” (1965-1968)
Do the Robinsons and Dr. Smith ever find their way back to Earth or to Alpha Centauri?
(Even the writers of the 1998 movie with William Hurt and Gary Oldman, hoping for a sequel… never answered that question!)

“The Starlost” (1973)
(This is the one with Keir Dullea from “2001: A Space Odyssey”)
What happens to the giant space station ark? Do they save it? Does it burn up?
(I think Seth MacFarlane may have already presented his own answer in “The Orville” episode “If the Stars Should Appear.”)

“Space: 1999” (1975-1977)
Do the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha ever find another planet to live on?
Or do they just putter about their Moonbase Alpha forever or until their resources run out?

“Sliders” (1995-2000)
Does the team ever get back to their universe and their own version of Earth?
(I know by the time the series was cancelled, no viewers in any universe cared anymore… The cast had almost completely been replaced by then, but come on… Getting back home was the whole point!)

“Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002)
Yeah, we lost Data in this final “Next Generation” movie, but there’s a big cliffhanger we’ll apparently never get to see resolved: Does B-4, Data’s earlier (and less evolved) android cousin ever grow to essentially become Data?
(Data shared his neural engrams with B-4.)

“Tron: Legacy” (2010)
What happens after Sam and Quorra escape the Grid and get back to the real world?
Now, this is a sequel the producers could easily do, because “Legacy” is so recent… if Disney decides to finally green-light it.

Any more to add to the list?

Those That Stuck the Landing
If it’s beginning to look like major loose ends are a natural byproduct of sci-fi storytelling, that’s not always true. Here are a few TV series that successfully finished their major narrative arcs…

And yes, except for the original “Star Trek,” all of the subsequent Trek series had their finales.
(But what really did happen to Deep Space Nine’s Captain Sisko?)

And I regard “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country” (1991) as the original crew’s wrap party.

So, with the exception of the TNG Data storyline… “Star Trek” as a whole has done just fine.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so concerned about “Discovery?”

Infinite Possibilities
But the irony about “Star Trek: Discovery” is every narrative door that closes appears to reveal the existence of a new one. We’ve been introduced to the idea of parallel universes (in the plural) and (Spoiler Alert) time travel with the spore drive via the mycelium network. That opens up so much!

Now, since there are (Spoiler Alert) Mirror Universe character crossovers in this series, I want to go find Prime Lorca!

Make it so…

Just please keep track of it all.

#HappyTrekkie

Star Trek: Discovery Has Dropped the F-Bomb

I’m sure Kirk and Spock would be a bit more than a tad surprised if they heard some of the bad language coming out of the latest “Trek” iteration.

“Star Trek” has always been about breaking down barriers.

Remember that ‘first’ interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura in the 1968 “Star Trek” episode “Plato’s Stepchildren?” And the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” kiss between two women (Dax and Lenara) from 1995’s “Rejoined” episode.

Now, “Star Trek: Discovery” has one of those barrier-breaking scenes that Trekkies will talk about for generations to come. It’s from the “Choose Your Pain” episode.

No, there’s no kiss in this fifth episode of the young series, but we see Lt. Stamets and Dr. Culber brushing their teeth together in their quarters and articulating some clearly intimate feelings. We have our first openly gay crew members. It’s a gentle and charming scene in a show that’s bombarded with harsh uncertainty. It’s well written and another important “Star Trek” moment that supports and builds on its universe of inclusion.

Bravo.

That, in itself distinguishes this episode as one to remember.
And it’s all I should be writing about.
(Other than we are introduced to a young Harry Mudd.)

But unfortunately, that’s not all that differentiates it.

Star Trek and the Four-Letter Word
In what actually felt pretty awkward to me, the writers also decided to throw some bad language into the script.

Variants of the four-letter ‘F’ and ‘S’ words, to be precise.

What???
(I had read this would be coming, but dropping the F-bomb still felt a little shocking.)

Look, I know that “Discovery” is a more gritty and edgy series, and there’s clearly a lot of violence.
So, what’s the problem with a few four-letter words?

We’ll, first off… it just seemed gratuitous. It didn’t feel any more significant except to inform viewers that the universal translator for this “Trek” doesn’t restrict *uck and *hit.

There are no CBS broadcast censors to worry about here.
(Hurray?)

So, I guess anything goes.
I feel it was clearly a message more than anything else.

Message received.

Daddy, What’s that Word Mean?
Suddenly, “Star Trek: Discovery” just became off limits to some younger viewers who aren’t allowed to consume R-rated content.

How inclusive is that?

Are the producers so desperate to distinguish their pay TV niche to attract only adults who enjoy their “Game of Thrones?”

I get the value proposition that if you’re going to pay for your “Star Trek,” the producers have got to give viewers more than what’s available on broadcast television.

But R-rated profanity? Really??

What’s interesting is the writers waited until the fifth episode to sprinkle in the three words at issue.

Hmmm… Actually, how bold is that?
If there’s going to be bad language here…. it should be present… front and center from the beginning of the series.

The Orville Surges Ahead
Speaking of trying to boldly go where no one has gone before, “Discovery” has another challenge to deal with. It continues to be scooped by the spoof over at Fox.

“The Orville” established its own onboard male couple (Bortus and Klyden) in its second episode. Sure, it’s a little different, because there are no females in their alien species.
(Well, not exactly)

And I’ve got to give some kudos to this “Star Trek” wannabe, which is rocking with some big-time guest stars – Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron.

I’m also really tickled how Seth MacFarlane is weaving in references (or boldly borrowing) story elements from some science fiction I grew up with… like “The Starlost” TV series from 1973 with Keir Dullea and 1989’s “Millennium” movie with Cheryl Ladd and Kris Kristofferson.

All of this is to say that “The Orville” in all of its silliness is showing lots of promise.

For Adults Only?
“Star Trek: Discovery” has promise too.

On a lark, I decided to take a look again at the first episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”
(CBS All Access gives you instant access to all “Trek” episodes.)

Whoa!!
Those first awkward minutes from “Encounter at Farpoint” have not aged well at all. We Trekkies really gave that series a lot of leeway until it found its footing.

But it was a series that everyone could watch.

All I’m saying here is I hope “Discovery” doesn’t continue too far down its path of targeting adult viewers only.

A Child of Star Trek
There has always been a younger generation of fans who were inspired by each version of “Star Trek.”

I was among the first wave, and honestly, I can’t imagine being told by my parents that I couldn’t watch “Star Trek,” because it wasn’t appropriate for kids.

Now, it’s true you can make the argument that “Discovery” is already too violent for children, but you wouldn’t find universal agreement on that point.

But you just can’t get around the F-bomb.

Right?

Retain the Universe of Inclusion
I just don’t think “Discovery” viewers need the naughty language.
(One Trekkie’s opinion)

That particular barrier doesn’t have to be broken.
It will just put up another one for younger viewers.

Message to “Discovery” writers:
Please clean up your potty mouth!

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