Op-ed – Is it safe to be critical of Star Trek?

First and foremost, let’s get one thing out of the way: I am a #Trekkie. A #Trekker. A fan of Star Trek. My passion and commitment to enjoying this franchise is no more or less substantial than yours. Sure, it has touched us in personal ways but, unless your surname is “Roddenberry” then all we can do is try to enjoy what we’re presented with….

…. Or not.

I’m not going to muddle this up with “Gene Roddenberry would be turning in his grave” rhetoric. After his death (and arguably prior to), Star Trek gatekeepers (the writers and producers) had already begun to deviate from his strict rules regarding how stories should or shouldn’t be told in his universe. However, there are certain principles on which this franchise was established. These principles and concepts have been well documented and publicly praised by the creative minds that had known and directly worked with Gene Roddenberry – even those that hadn’t but, hold the torch.

My interpretation of the principle: Star Trek stories should be forward thinking. It should make you question socio-political problems of the time. It should question faith (or enforce it). It should shed light on radical thought and challenge it. It should be a narrative that holds a mirror at humanity and questions some of its darkest characteristics while providing possible solutions towards overcoming them.

They should endeavor to be morality plays.

To do that, however, you do not have to sacrifice spectacle. Everyone loves a good space battle with great CGI. Conflict. Resolution. Pew Pew. However, one should inform the other and propel the narrative forward.

So. Yes. I am a Star Trek fan.

I’m a Star Trek fan that reaaaaally didn’t enjoy Season 2 of Star Trek Discovery.  And yet, that doesn’t make me a “hater” or a “troll” or someone that just can’t enjoy what we’re given. Disliking Discovery doesn’t make me less of a fan. What it does is make me a consumer that – instead of just quitting and moving on – stuck with it for several reasons. None of which are more important than fact that, “It has ‘Star Trek’ in its title… I must watch!”

But, if this show didn’t have “Star Trek” in its title would I have continued watching the series? Absolutely, unequivocally, NOT. From its muddled plot lines; to poor writing that was rarely consistent between episodes; to cheapening characters; to “Where’s Spock?”; to #Disappointed4Tilly; to wasted time on exposition; to terrible pacing; to lack of themes or insightful commentary… This show was not my cup of tea (earl grey… hot). But, I’ll dive into those criticisms on the podcast.

So why did I keep watching it (aside from my responsibility as a podcaster)? Because I’m a fan of Star Trek. (Have I made that clear?) 😀

Criticism is not the enemy of fandom. Toxic rhetoric is. Gatekeeping is. Snark is. Dismissing someone’s opinion as “just wrong” or “stupid” is the enemy. Attempts at legitimate and well-thought out criticism, however, is what has driven our cultural appreciation of art, music, literature, and film since the dawn of those forms of expression.

Who gets to decide that the Mona Lisa belongs in the Louvre but, your child’s finger painting doesn’t? Why isn’t Jar Jar Binks just as important as Han Solo? Why don’t we get a stand-alone Jar Jar film in the Star Wars franchise? Well, because someone, somewhere, somehow, made a critique. Ultimately, criticism is the driving force of improvement and innovation. Therefore, I would argue that, as fans we have an obligation to voice our concerns in a respectful and constructive manner.

So what makes me qualified to share my opinions on a podcast about Star Trek? Absolutely nothing. I don’t get paid to podcast. I don’t get paid to share these opinions. I didn’t go to school for journalism. My day job is in technology.

I feel compelled to write this because it really stings being labeled as a “hater” or someone that can’t “just enjoy” what we’ve been given when I voice my criticisms on the podcast. As if having any form Star Trek should be strictly respected as a blessed sacrament from the Great Bird of the Galaxy. “Defiance is heresy!” …. It is not; and, personally, I won’t “just be grateful” that we have Trek (especially when it’s pay-gated).

What I will do is try to use is my education in theatre and performing arts to help inform my opinions regarding the plot, themes, pacing, character development, and spectacle. My goal on the podcast is to break down my concerns and offer my personal criticism on this season of Discovery and future productions. Additionally, I believe that words matter – so I will continue to avoid using inciting words or phrasing.

My goal is not to rob you of your enjoyment of Discovery. My goal is to only to say: It’s 2019 and we deserve better, more cohesive, and more meaningful storytelling; and, it’s appropriate to ask for it. More importantly, fair and honest criticism is not the enemy of fandom but, an ally.

Stay tuned to Priority One: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast for my ongoing opinions and reviews of Star Trek Discovery (and any future productions coming our way).

Live Long & Prosper.

-Elijah

Disclaimer: Elijah contributed to this article in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Priority One: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

 

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