Captain’s Blog: Episode 323, 2017.06.26

Greetings, captains! The floodgates are beginning to open on news about Discovery, so let’s do our best to stay afloat! Engines to full; here we go!

Before we dive into these deep and murky waters, here, once again, is the planned US release schedule for Star Trek: Discovery episodes.

Star Trek: Discovery US Release Schedule
CBS All-Access Broadcast TV
September 24 Episode 1
Episode 2*
Episode 1
October 1 Episode 3
October 8 Episode 4
October 15 Episode 5
October 22 Episode 6
October 29 Episode 7
November 5 Episode 8
November 13 Hiatus until January 2018
* To be released immediately after the broadcast of Episode 1.

In Canada, Episode 1 will air September 24th on CTV. Subsequent episodes will air on Space and Z before becoming available on Crave TV. Worldwide, the series will stream on Netflix, with episodes becoming available “within 24 hours” of their US release.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s talk Discovery. I have to admit, I reacted to the EW interview with Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg in much the same way as our crew in this week’s show. Now, I love practical effects, and I completely understand wanting the show to look spectacular. But you can also get carried away with these things, and I think it does a disservice to fans to assume that if the production isn’t perfect, we won’t love the show. It’s true that if you watch TNG or other episodes in high definition, you can see the seams. But I personally didn’t love TNG for its flawless world-building. I loved the characters and forgave the cardboard sets. For Gene’s sake, the entire tradition of theater is based on audiences being able to believe in characters and situations without depending on props or sets. Ancient Greeks could believe a man in a mask was a young woman, but we won’t be able to put our faith in Discovery unless the perfect fabric gets handpicked in Switzerland? (No offense, Switzerland.) The show’s producers and show runners seem to subscribe to the idea “complex is always better,” and I don’t think that’s true.

For much the same reason, I’m torn on the announcement of a long-standing Trek writing guideline being lifted. Both Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman subscribed to the policy of not having Starfleet crew members in conflict with each other and not showing them as subject to basic human foibles. Obviously, these rules were broken in one way or another almost every episode, because otherwise it would be extraordinarily difficult to write for the show. But generally speaking, Starfleet was never depicted as divided, and none of the major characters ever said anything prejudiced. (This very point was a major source of tension between Nicholas Meyer and Gene Roddenberry during the production of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Roddenberry was extremely unhappy about Starfleet officers, especially Kirk, being prejudiced against Klingons.) Harberts explained, “We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions…. People have to make mistakes — mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future.” He went on to say, “So we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems.”

Kirk and Spock fight in the TOS episode 'Amok Time'

Classic Star Trek conflict resolution

On the one hand, I fully sympathize with writers feeling constricted because of writing guidelines. I also understand that by introducing more moral complexity into Star Trek, Harberts and Berg are hoping perhaps to show us our evolution towards that more perfect future. But I’m uncomfortable with the easy dismissal of Roddenberry’s “Utopian vision,” because the basis of Star Trek is that utopia. For me, it’s not enough to simply say, “We’re still going to argue in the future, but we’ll work it out.” In order for the show to be Trek for me, I want that sense of human perfectibility. I want the show to say, “We’ll learn not to argue in the future.”

Sonequa Martin-Green, I am pleased to say, gets it. As you may know, when the Discovery trailer dropped, some fans were loudly displeased. I won’t repeat any of their criticisms here because they’re not worth mentioning: in short, they were sad because Star Trek believes in basic human equality. The only good thing to come out of all that clamorous whining was the overwhelming flood of responses saying, basically, “What show have you been watching?” Leading the counter-charge was Ms. Martin-Green herself, who told EW, “I would encourage them to key into the essence and spirit of Star Trek that has made it the legacy it is — and that’s looking across the way to the person sitting in front of you and realizing you are the same, that they are not separate from you, and we are all one…. That’s something Star Trek has always upheld and I completely believe that is why it’s been a mainstay in society in the hearts of so many people for so many decades.” I have nothing to add to that but “Brava!”

Michelle Yeoh in the movie 'Supercop,' 1992

Michelle Yeoh had a more hands-on response to critics
Picture from Supercop, 1992

On a lighter note, if you haven’t checked out TrekMovie‘s breakdown of the Discovery uniforms, I highly recommend it. The amount of detailing in those uniforms is absurd. It’s like the costuming department threw down a gauntlet at the feet of cosplayers and said, “Bring it.” But, knowing cosplayers, I’m willing to bet we see near-perfect recreations by Christmas.

Detail from TrekMovie's breakdown of the Discovery uniforms

Remember, 20° angles mean it’s the future
Detail from TrekMovie‘s infographic

While The Next Generation uniforms from seasons three through seven remain my favorite, I do like this design. I think integrating the rank insignia with the delta looks very sharp. I have to agree with Tony, though, that it’s really impractical from an identification point of view. Plus, you have to rivet a new badge to your shirt every time you get promoted. I also think it’s much harder to distinguish between the three metallic colors than between the classic red/blue/yellow scheme. Silver’s not so bad, but I dare you to tell bronze from gold at a glance in the dim lighting of the Shenzhou bridge. I also wish they’d gone with a straight leg for the uniform bottom, but that’s because not even Starfleet can convince me that leggings are pants. (Now I’m wondering: are the men wearing leggings too? I hope so.) But overall, my main problem with this uniform is that I can’t figure out a logical transition from this uniform to the ones used in the original series. In fact, if you compare Discovery‘s uniforms to the uniforms from Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming spoof/homage, The Orville, I think The Orville wins for being a new twist on the classic Trek look. (I also love that The Orville introduced a fourth color for the Medical division. Take note, Starfleet Command!)

I’m working on something I’m hoping to get to you by Saturday at the latest. As for what it is, well, I think it’s about time I started catching up on my backlog.

Whitby, out.

Hello to Jason Isaacs

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