"We Aren't All Starfleet"
"We Aren't All Starfleet"
— From Picayune Purloining to Profane Proselytizing
It's easy to slag against something nowadays —particularly if it is new and shiny. And, really, the Internet is predictable in that regard. After all, whole cottage industries and click-bait farms have cropped up like hotspots, acting as microcosms of conspiracy theory and rumor-mill havens that proliferate the Internet like bad gorches defacing Klingon high-school yearbooks.
With that having grabbed your attention, I personally declare—to anyone who shouldn't truly care—after 3 years of wading through meandering and flash-bang dysfunction, that I’ve decided to hit the eject button on Discovery.
Space Karen would like to speak to your Manager now.
If there is a positive to my self-inflicted torture, it is that Discovery has made me yearn for the days of intelligent science fiction story telling with compelling and memorable characters. Shows that knew what they were and what they wanted to say. Stories that made me re-examine my own beliefs and feelings at times.
Babylon 5. Farscape. Classic Trek. Battlestar Galactica. Blake's 7.
To name a few reference points. Sure, each of those have their ups and downs, and were certainly products of their time—but they were memorable. They meant something to me and stuck with me. They made you look at things a different way, as good stories should.
They were a “Starfleet,” too. (Federation Troopers in action from Blake’s 7.)
This “We are Starfleet”—the ram-rodded verbal tick that pretends to be either a rallying cry or a justification for some visceral and polarizing action...
Like "God Save the Queen", "Make America Great Again", or "Live Long and Prosper"—proselytizing just isn’t for me.
And I’m fine with that. Its just my opinion. I don’t believe it to be well-written. It has nothing of depth to say, and is best forgotten with the likes of The Starlost or Galactica 1980 (except "The Return of Starbuck'' episode). At least Lost in Space and other Irwin Allen Productions had their charms, even if Harlan Ellison would say they were "kiddie fare." Yes, Uncle Harlan, I know it's cheese and camp—it says so on the label. Truth in advertising.
But this glitzy Medusa with more producers than one can shake a stick at makes Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict look like Shakespeare at the Apollo. Never thought I’d say that in reference to a Star Trek series.
Even when Voyager gave us hams like “Threshold,” or when DS9 gave us episodes like “Move Along Home,” or TNG gave us Brent Spiner hamming it up in “Masks” as a veritable one-man show...
Everything has their ups and downs.
Kevin Sorbo stars as Captain Dylan “Space Hercules” Hunt in Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda.
Also, I understand the belief that "there aren’t any new ideas.”
Apparently, this is both justification and code for "we shall be inherently lazy and try to seize the cultural zeitgeist by ripping things from the front page of Buzzfeed."
In this season of DSC, a dysfunctional societal gestalt masquerading as Discovery's second conceptual “reboot” is compared to — rather superficially — a reskin of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, with the same incongruent production approach that befuddled and scuttled seaQuest DSV in the 1990s.
Remember that one, kids? It was the darling of NBC and Amblin Entertainment. Had Roy Schider, teen heart-throb Jonathan Brandis, and a talking animatronic dolphin? Did ya know that the dolphin even had a rank, "Ensign"?
Now, a few other questions for you: What the hell was seaQuest? Was that an exploration show, monster-of-the-week show, or a wartime show? Like most genre groupies, I have since forgotten. There's a reason for that, surely.
Beneath the surface lies... Charlton Heston and Taco Bell
Thus, like the lumbering seaQuest of yore, this junior year offering manifested into Discovery's answer to seaQuest 2032.
Retooled, its crew displaced into a future after protecting all life as the audience knew it, they were "fish out of water" with a ship that had a unique technological advantage in a world where the UEO has fallen... I mean, the United Federation of Planets. And they need to save the world from a megalomaniac who operated an economic and political syndicate, believing that the previous "United" organization was a halcyon thing of yesteryear.
We’re a new show... again. We’ve even changed the name, see? seaQuest 2032.
Anyway, I've seen it all before... and I would rather re-watch seaQuest 2032. Looks like its even streaming on Peacock for free. Go watch it and tell me I'm wrong.
Even if CBS All Access were free... There is little rewatch value in Discovery. It adds little to the mythological tapestry of the Trek universe and frankly, has minimal redeeming characteristics in terms of characters or morality play storytelling. I am hard pressed to find an “Inner Light,” “The Visitor,” or “City on the Edge of Forever” thus far.
Then again, it is clear to me that perhaps Discovery was never meant to appeal to critical thinkers or students of literature, but instead, solely to play to nostalgic audiences who are socially reactive. Discovery rides the rapids of emotionality, playing with the dangerous currents and sub-eddies of a reactive audience—all the while attempting to energize the Trek brand, and catalyze Trek into a greater multi-channel franchise a la Star Wars.
I mean, Star Wars was able to do it with a baby Yoda: Release the Grogu.
Now let me be clear, this isn't a bad thing. It can be argued that Discovery is a gateway drug, allowing people to try the “old stuff”; the same argument was made with the Kelvin-universe Trek over a decade ago, resulting in a blitzkrieg streaming of the Star Trek library via Netflix.
Another good thing from the wake of Discovery: it has allowed for the creation of shows that would have never materialized in any other environment. The unconventional Lower Decks has far more likable and memorable characters than Discovery. It even has some great storytelling moments in the guise of comedy, thus making LDS a genuine surprise.
Mike McMahan actually groks Spock... and Star Trek! Who woulda thunk it?
Listen. If you like this begotten beast of a thousand heads, that’s perfectly fine. I'm pleased that many people seem to find value in it. And normally I try to avoid writing things like this, because this is simple puerile, picayune vanity.
And if 2020 (now 2020: Take Two) has demonstrated a damn thing it is this: everyone has their thing, and people are allowed to “like what they like.” I'm not here to shame people for enjoying the show. I just felt there was an alternative opinion that deserved its own voice as well.
I guess what I'm saying is I would just like better stories.
Characters that I give a damn about. Narratives that have consistent logic to them (and not the "consistently inconsistent'' paradoxical way, either). I'm not a fan of this nonsense masquerading as science awash in memberberry wine.
Oooh, the Voyager-J.
Ooh, a fat cat with a bad disposition...
No thanks. I'll pass.
Didn’t Gary Seven have a cat, too?
Instead, I’d like to see something from a writer that isn’t hamstrung by attention and work ethic deficiencies, the temperamental politics de jure, or memes de jure.
That's all. Tell me a story that I can't get anywhere else that can make me think like nothing else. Is that too much to ask?
What if we eschewed the Disney prefix whilst purloining the only symbiology and color scheme that Disney hasn’t trademarked yet? Brilliant!
Joe Beaudoin Jr
Joe is a freelance fandom documentarian and business consultant for ANOVOS.