Spoilers for Star Trek Discovery lurk here.

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So, in the latest episode of Discovery, this happened:

What caused this rather bleak scene of destruction? A single Terran Empire ship. Since ships from the mirror universe are meant to, err, mirror their main counterparts, it’s therefore not unreasonable to assert that Federation ships of the era (ten years prior to the events of TOS) sport similar firepower. The exact mechanism here was a dozen or so photon torpedoes – no chain reactions or technobabble in sight, just the raw firepower from a single ship.

The planet’s surface is visibly cracked and scorched, with huge ejecta and massive fireballs. We’re looking at a significant portion of said surface, which now resembles what we might expect the earth to look like if we were hit by a large asteroid. This is thousands of gigatons of destructive power.

How does this affect anything you might ask? Well, for those of us who participated in Star Trek vs Star Wars circles, this opens up a new angle. For me, I have always held that the evidence had previously indicated a comfortable victory for the Empire from Star Wars, over the Federation from Star Trek. I might still hold to that view, in terms of the Empire’s industrial capacity, sheer numbers and FTL advantage, but now it appears (even more so when we look at the firepower of the dreadnought from The Last Jedi) that what was once a devastating victory is now a bitter and bloody war of attrition.

There are some caveats. The first question, I hear you ask, is that the Terran Empire is not the Federation. The capabilities of their ships might be different to their Federation counterparts. True, but then again, it’s been seen through various episodes of the franchise that the two universes are remarkably similar. There is no reason to assume the Terran Empire massively outperforms the Federation in terms of combat.

Next up, is the question of philosophy. The Terran Empire is a xenophobic entity, bent on subjegating and destroying alien species. They are a tyrannical regime, built on power and dominance. Might they have developed weapons that the Federation would never contemplate making? Perhaps, but then, this doesn’t preclude the Federation from making them, if they were truly compelled to.

What about the Dominion War? Yes, this was a desperate time for the Federation, but bear in mind that we never saw orbital bombardments. The only time we caught the aftermath of one was when the Breen attacked Starfleet HQ, which at the time showed very poor levels of firepower, from a power that was meant to rival the Federation. I have in the past held up this as an example (one of several) of poor firepower from the Federation and their equivalents. Might it be worth revisiting now, in the context of what we saw on Discovery?

This isn’t the only example that might need reconsidering. There is an episode of Deep Space Nine, The Die is Cast, which is used by both sides of the Trek vs Wars debate as either tremendous firepower or chain reactions, depending upon your interpretation. The answer might not be as simple as ‘choose a side’.

Consider for a moment that the Romulans and Cardassians (who in the episode attack the Founder home world, in a bid to wipe them out) were on a clandestine mission that, certainly in the case of the Cardassians, wasn’t sanctioned by their government, so it’s possible they didn’t have access to their full arsenal. It might be that they deliberately used some form of chain reaction effect, as, for whatever reason, they felt this was a better option than raw firepower.

Alternatively, what we saw on Discovery might have been torpedoes specifically modified to strike secure ground targets, or to cause extinction level events. Again, non-standard weapons, but ones that are certainly available. It could be that these are difficult to produce, or simply that the Federation is well aware they have the capacity to make them, only they consider it distasteful to produce such destructive weapons. Maybe these weapons would one-shot kill other Federation ships or even entire fleets. Bottom line, we don’t know. The fact remains, Discovery has given us one of the clearest, unambigious examples of firepower we could have asked for.

Two years on from the triumphant return of Star Wars in the form of The Force Awakens, we have finally been graced with the continuation of the saga, with the hotly anticipated The Last Jedi following on almost immediately where The Force Awakens ended. People have been theorising about this film from the moment the previous one finished, with countless ideas as to what would be revealed. Would we learn of Rey’s true parentage? Would she turn to the Dark Side? What would become of Finn? How would the film handle the return of Luke and would he and Leia be reunited?

I dare say this film did not play out in the way I expected and it was ultimately a smaller film in scope than The Force Awakens. It’s very intense, what with the Resistance fleeing a large, aggressive First Order Force and being constantly under threat. From the moment the movie starts the Resistance is under attack by vengeful First Order warships that seek to avenge the loss of Starkiller Base.

Rey and Luke play out their own story, with Rey desperate to understand the Force and Luke, bitter from his past experiences, reluctant to help her. Eventually circumstances lead Rey back to the Resistance, just as their light is about to be snuffed out for good.

Rey and Kylo Ren have quite a few ‘one-on-one’ conversations via the Force, which reveal the anguish both characters are going through. They are both yearning to belong, with Rey seeking to learn of her parents and discover who she really is, and Ren trying to throw off the shackles of his family.

What’s quite fascinating is that, whereas the original and prequel trilogies span several years, this new trilogy spans, from the beginning of The Force Awakens to the end of The Last Jedi, no more than a week by my reckoning. It remains to be seen if Episode IX will follow this trend, however so far, the scope of the sequel trilogy could best be described as ‘intimate’. This is certainly a theme present in the relationships, with Finn and Rose partnered up to try and take care a tricky mission, Luke attempting to teach Rey and Rey and Ren emotionally sparring. What with the limited setting (the film feels quite claustrophobic at times), this all sets up a story that is full of heart.

There are plenty of surprises. Leia reveals the extent of her own Force abilities in spectacular fashion, Ren unveils a ruthless side and more than one character dies rather unexpectedly.

The Last Jedi is not perfect. There are several scenes on a casino planet that feel somewhat shoehorned into the movie, as though the writers weren’t sure what to do with Finn and Rose. Gwendoline Christie steals every scene she’s in as the villainous Captain Phasma, but she is criminally underused. In respect of both these elements, I would have loved to have seen things done differently. Despite this, The Last Jedi manages to be somehow small and yet dramatic at the same time, demonstrating a very different nature to The Force Awakens. There are some incredible battle sequences, that I am keen to see again, whilst the film’s ending leaves all sorts of possibilities open for how Episode IX will go.

8/10

 

I’m on a long train ride and I need to occupy my mind, so here goes with some more thoughts on Star Trek Discovery and the attitude towards the show of some elements of the fandom.

I recently started stumbled upon an article written by a Twitter user by the name of Skrishna. https://twitter.com/skrishna/status/937793666093023232

Now, the article in question does a great job of drawing attention to the false dilemma idea of ‘true Trek’, in particular along the lines of racist and homophobic stances. It is painful and frankly pathetic that there are fans out there who seriously resent the presence of a black woman as the lead character, and the existence of a same-sex relationship. Star Trek has always been about the message of bettering humanity and one’s self, of working together and understanding our differences. It’s the core principle of the show. If you’re going to rally against Discovery for doing exactly the same thing that every Star Trek show has tried to do, then Star Trek isn’t for you.

There’s also a very interesting little segment regarding ‘gatekeepers’. Self-anointed champions of the franchise, guardians of the ‘true Trek’ mantle, people who place a greater emphasis on canon than stories and ideas and ideals. The article infers (and I dare say it is true in some instances, albeit it not all) that this activity – the noise about canon and continuity – is a cover for the resentment and bitterness over the positive racial and same-sex relationship messages in the show. It is used as an excuse to get fans to turn off Discovery and to create doubt over whether fans of Discovery are even fans of Star Trek. There are some fans that seek to create this divide regardless, purely over the continuity issues – that in my view is petty; the ones doing it to support their racist, homophobic, misogynist agendas are just horrible.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that this article met with a bit of backlash. It’s worth highlighting the tweet (you may need to click on it to see the (now deleted) comment, but it’s a telling insight into the (in my view) over-the-top attitudes of some fans who feel they can dictate to other fans what Star Trek is, and who are proving just as good at creating a divide as anyone else, through the obviously obnoxious and divisive ‘true Trek’ rhetoric.

In one sense I get it. People do invest a lot of time and energy into the things they love and they want those things to have meaning. However, emotional and philosophical connections to a show are, to me at least, more important than the design of the Klingons or the presence of the weird technology on the USS Discovery. I don’t find it reasonable to tell other fans they’re not really fans of Star Trek if they like Discovery. I don’t think harbouring a divisive attitude then fighting tooth and nail to lay all the blame at the feet of Discovery fans, even going as far as to use a term intended to imply links between Discovery defenders and the radical ideology of the Taliban, is fair or reasonable. That’s just gifting the racists and homophobes ammunition.

Following on from conversations mentioned here and here, comes a slightly more revealing look at the animosity that’s on display toward not only Star Trek Discovery, but also its fans. The tweet above is a classic example of the ‘Poisoning of the Well’ fallacy.

What is the Poisoning of the Well fallacy? It’s where you attempt to make large swathes of a group or party appear bad, or pre-emptively try to deter people from taking someone seriously (don’t look at what they have to say, they’re <insert various remarks here>, you can’t trust them!). In this instance, I refer in particular to the further divisive stance of the #TrueTrek hash tag, as well as the leading statement regarding Discovery’s status as a reboot (it isn’t, and you can see this statement for the reality on the subject, as well as this one), and finally, the use of the term ‘Tardifan’, which is related to another term, ‘Talifan’. Patience – all will be explained!

Some background. The tweeter ‘ST-v-SW.Net’ is well known in ‘versus’ circles and has developed two sites, st-v-sw.net and canonwars.com. It’s worth pointing out that the main sites in both instances don’t appear to have been updated for some time, with their creator moving on to discuss things on Starfleet Jedi. I have sparred with him on a few occasions, though by far and away his biggest opponent was Michael Wong, the author of Stardestroyer.net. The pair had a pretty long-winded debate on the subject of what is considered canon in Star Wars (alongside a fascinating argument regarding the Death Star’s manner of planetary destruction), and there were plenty of accusations and attempts of poisoning the well back then. It is, it would seem, the modus operandi of this guy.

The ‘Talifan’ reference is a link between overzealous fans of a franchise and the Taliban. With an interesting degree of irony, given the behaviour on display, Starfleet Jedi’s Wiki page has this to say:

Talifan are fans who insists upon having the only right approach to the object of his fandom. Often followed by ferocious outrage when the authors or creators let others contribute in the further development of the fictional universe, particularly when those others write something which goes completely against the talifan’s view of how powerful the magic, or technology of said franchise should be. The term itself came into being as a contraction of “taliban fan”, though the exact origins of the term are sketchy, and various persons have been credited with the term’s creation. It was used initially by professional writers and others in the industry, but it has since found it’s way into general useage in various fandoms.

The Dark Moose on StarWars.com Blogs defines the distinctive characteristics of talifan further:

  • Harassing demeanor – they seek out the author or artist to attack them verbally on the same point over and over and over. Even if its a point they had nothing to do with in creating. Even if its a point they can do nothing about to change. Harrassment flows quickly into a kind of “e-stalking” in that wherever that artist/author may go on the Internet, they go, too. Even more ominously, they may send letters or make phone calls.
  • Personal attacks – A Talifan doesn’t criticize a book, or a game, or a poster or a model or collector’s item. A Talifan attacks people. Personally. Often times, profanely. Instead of making a suggestion or offering a point for debate, they purposefully attempt to make the author or artist feel besieged. They will attack their professional abilities. They will attack their level of competence. They will attack gender, race, creed, any detail they can glean, they will attack the person simply for being what they are. These are not valid fan opinions, these are malicious, abusive, antagonistic and in many cases some would consider libelous affronts.
  • Intense negativity – Talifans seek out negativity. They hunt it with myopic intent. They’ll draw you into an argument, sometimes over something innocuous, even something you don’t really care about. What they want is to abuse, malign, extort, insult..and oddly, be abused, maligned, extorted and insulted in return. It’s something akin to sadomasochism.

This approach is of course exactly what ST-v-SW.net does on Twitter. Whilst he has not, to my knowledge, taken this to the extreme of death threats (which, sadly, some Star Wars fans are alleged to have done regarding certain pieces of information about that franchise, and some Star Trek fans have done as well), much of the very behaviour he critiques and accuses others of, is attributable to him. He has then taken the hard-line approach of labelling anyone who disagrees with him as a ‘Talifan’ or ‘Tardifan’, seeking to tar by association, or ‘poison the well’ to discredit his opponents.

But don’t simply take my word for it regarding his ‘only my way is the right way’ attitude. The previous discussions I had with him on Twitter highlighted that point quite nicely, along with the continued use of the divisive and misleading #TrueTrek hash tag. His tweet above immediately implies anyone who disagrees with him on Discovery being a reboot is A: wrong and B: a fanatic for disagreeing. There is of course, a lot more…

When it comes to attacking an author/artist, or in this case professionals dealing with the subject of consistency/continuity as part of their daily jobs, ST-v-SW.net made it clear he had no regard (and indeed displayed contempt) for those who dared to present facts that contradicted his opinions. If you look here, you will see the ‘courtesy’ he displayed Star Trek writers and his disdain for those who worked for Lucasfilm can be seen here. He even tried to tell Mike Sussman, the author of Enterprise episode ‘The Augments’, that he had a better understanding of the episode and some of its consequences, than Sussman did! I reproduce the exchange below, with ST-v-SW’s comments in pink and Sussman’s in blue:

Hmmm, guess I’m not seeing where I “goofed”. I have to say I take issue with the new “background” info under the new Klach D’kel Brakt entry. You added:

When writing ENT: “The Augments”, episode writer Mike Sussman based Arik Soong’s “Briar Patch” on cut descriptions of the Briar Patch from an early script of Star Trek: Insurrection. However, the details of the two are quite distinct in the finished works.

You may feel they’re quite distinct, I happen to disagree. Strongly. Personally, I think the original Briar Patch entry was more accurate (although it did contain the inaccurate statement that the cloud was in Klingon space in the 22nd Century).

I mean no disrespect, but I believe you made a lot of specious points in your various arguments. You wrote:

The Insurrection Briar Patch is a system-size phenomenon”

Gotta say I disagree. There is no on-screen evidence that the Briar Patch (in Insurrection or “The Augments”) is restricted to one star system. Piller apparently intended it to be larger in his final draft script, and I remained consistent with that in my script. I don’t believe that the fact you can “see stars” through the cloud in the final film means the Patch must be no larger than one solar system.You further state:

It seems improbable that an area controlled by the Klingons for over a century, fought for in glorious battle by Kor himself, would end up in Federation hands a century later.”

The Briar Patch was never a part of Klingon space in “The Augments” — it was specifically stated to be on the far side of their territory. Soong’s line at the beginning of scene 28:

“Once we’re safely through Klingon space, we’ll set a course for these coordinates. The Klingons call it Klach D’kel Brakt… I call it the Briar Patch.”

I made this clear in dialogue to deliberately avoid any conflicts — actually, the Patch could’ve been very far beyond Klingon space. To me, there’s no conflict with the Federation controlling the region two hundred years later as it was never the Klingons’ to begin with. Moreover, Kor never said his battle was for control of Klach D’kel Brakt, he simply indicated the battle was fought there. Was the Battle of the Bassen Rift in Nemesis fought for control of that rift? Of course not.

• I agree it might seem “unlikely” for the Briar Patch to have been named by a criminal like Soong. For all we know, his name stuck and its origin was lost over the centuries. And maybe it wasn’t the “official” designation after all. In Insurrection, the Admiral says, “They’re calling this whole area the Briar Patch,” which to me sounds like it may be an unofficial moniker. If a little girl can suggest the name for Pluto, I think Soong can suggest the name of a gas cloud.

• There are plenty of good reasons why 22nd Century Klingons hadn’t mapped the gas cloud: 1) as already stated, it wasn’t in their territory and was quite possibly many light-years away. 2) It’s a big dangerous cloud, perhaps the Klingons assumed there was nothing useful inside of it. I think it’s likely Soong’s map came from the Orions or some other enterprising species.

Just some thoughts. I never have a problem if someone simply doesn’t like my work, but if I’m accused of making a “goof”… well, that warms up my Irish blood.

For my next magic trick, I’ll show how to reach Kronos in four days at low warp. Oh wait, I haven’t figured that one out yet. Mike Sussman – VOY/ENT Writer-Producer 21:15, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

Mr. Sussman, I have the utmost respect for your work, most especially with “Twilight” et al. And further, your comments on your talk page about enjoying these sorts of discussions so long as nastiness is avoided were grand. However, I must take issue with your somewhat less than non-nasty tone and “warm[ing] of my Irish blood”. You yourself used the term “goof” and when you brought up the other Trek “astronomical goofs” when responding to the issue at hand. Perhaps it was not your intent to imply that your link of the Insurrection Briar Patch with Klach D’Kel Brakt was such a goof . . . but then even the best writers and producers don’t always have things turn out the way they intend. Which is, of course, the matter at hand.

I have already discussed the many reasons why the two cannot be the same in an in-universe sense, and the only answers which have been given by other users have been wildly implausible, inconsistent, and/or required us to believe all sorts of extra wars that never happened. Others simply attempt to apply a slippery-slope idea to a very specific and well-reasoned point. (Regarding the in-universe perspective, to reply to Highwind in a similar tone, the discussion was over, and indeed the matter was settled as soon as I took the field.)
Regarding the first of my points, I have even uploaded a new picture of the Enterprise-E approaching the phenomenon at impulse power, a journey which would take decades according to the view that both are one. Unlike the view of the Delphic Expanse we get in “The Expanse” of the same name wherein we’re told a distance from the phenomenon, a speed, and how big it is, there is no cause to try to rationalize the Insurrection Briar Patch view except to support a view contrary to what the image clearly shows. Piller may have thought it larger in early scripts, but in the end that isn’t what we, the audience, get to see or hear about.
Further, I note that you reply to arguments of mine which I did not make and never supported. I was the one who pointed out that Klach D’Kel Brakt was not in Klingon space in 2154, for instance . . . it was integral to my point of where it lay . . . and yet you respond as if this will come as a surprise to me. I can only assume either that I was not carefully read or else that my own author intent didn’t shine through. C’est la vie.
I do find your use of the Battle of Bassen Rift curious, since that battle supports what I’m saying. That was a battle which occurred along the border regions between the two involved powers. Similarly, the 2271 battle would’ve logically occurred near a border region between the Klingons and Romulans, and … given the Klingon victory, canonically-known Klingon expansionism in the 23rd Century, and the very name of the thing as referenced even in DS9 … it follows that Klach D’Kel Brakt was controlled by the Klingons around the time of the battle, and presumably long afterward. Sure battles between powers don’t always occur in neat little border zones . . . witness the skirmish for Gomtuu in ill-defined territory . . . but that is the most likely occurrence. Combine that with the fact that it was beyond Klingon space from Earth-explored regions in the 2150’s, and it makes no canonical sense to conclude that the Federation would possess it (or that the Son’a would risk running a ketracel white trade when surrounded by Dominion enemies). The Klingon Empire wasn’t carved up like Nazi Germany and Klach D’Kel Brakt isn’t West Berlin. While wild and crazy territory-swapping might seem an ideal solution to this flimsy dilemma, the fact is that the only known instances of territory-swapping have been on border regions . . . refer to the Federation-Cardassian treaty and colonies like Dorvan V, or the Klingon/Federation trade of the Archanis sector. That’s because that’s the sort of territory-swap that makes sense. Israel didn’t take the outskirts of Tehran as their security zone … they took border regions.
In short, the only two ways to derive the conclusion that the two are the same is to (a) do so without bothering to think about it, or (b) start with that conclusion in the first place and start making rationalizations to try to support that conclusion. With the exception of your say-so, we have no need to try to shoehorn the two into the same definition. The pleasure of this sort of thing is applying critical thinking to a silly subject . . . your joke about the four day trip to the Klingon homeworld is just such an instance where we have cause to apply critical thinking. (And I have. It’s what I do.)
Now, since the idea of the two being one is what you had in mind when you wrote it, you’re certainly at liberty to jump through the required hoops when the hoops are identified as they have been, and anyone who prefers author intent over canon can do the same. And I’m sure that with the weight you bring to the table, canon policies such as Memory Alpha’s will crumble and the unwise, counter-MA revision Shran/From Andoria with Love mentions below will occur and be maintained even if I undo his revision. Sure you’re a “restricted validity resource” and don’t override the canon we all see and hear by the local rules, but that’s not important. (Of course in my rulebook you could probably simply declare contradictory elements non-canon and be done with it, a la your “soft canon” comments, but that’s neither here nor there.)
But canon policies, whether my site’s or MA’s, are based on the episodes as aired. It’s great to have you around to know what you were thinking … oh if we could’ve had Coon around … but just as Ira Behr and company knew (especially after the last shot of DS9’s fifth season), writers and producers don’t work alone. Each episode is the product of many talents, and sometimes what the writers want and intend just doesn’t appear on screen. Sometimes it doesn’t even appear in their own final draft. We can lament the loss, but in the end it’s gone, and only what we have on screen remains. It’s a bit more complicated than the old saying Spiner quotes of “if it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage”, but the idea is similar.

So, do with it what you will. But the simple fact is that there’s no reason to conclude the two are the same in-universe, many reasons to conclude they aren’t, and even the local rules for determining Trek “reality” side with my position. But as the saying goes, “if the facts are against you, argue the law … if the law is against you, argue the facts … if the facts and the law are against you, yell like hell.”

I invite you, the reader, to decide if Sussman was unreasonable and apparently hostile in his reply. Unfortunately, this sort of ‘baiting’ is yet another form of poisoning the well. ‘You disagreed, therefore you are nasty’, is what’s effectively happening here.

Back to Sci-Fi Analysis

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(A scene from Star Trek Discovery, the latest televised Star Trek)

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(a clip from the trailer for The Last Jedi)

In TV/movie franchise circles, there is a buzz word for what is and isn’t considered a part of the story. That word is ‘canon‘. If something is canon, it ‘counts’ toward the story and be considered a valid source of information for reference. If it’s not canon, it doesn’t count, and might end being considered as a point of interest but nothing more. That’s a rather simplistic take on a subject that, to some fans of some franchises, can become a huge, major issue.

Canon is something that the producers and writers of any given show don’t actually put a great deal of stock in. They will aim to be internally consistent with their material (because glaring contradictions can mess up the stories), but there is no ‘Bible’ that they have to stick to. The fans tend to turn this into a particularly messy topic, with arguments raging back and forth over what is and is not canon. Star Trek and Star Wars are two major cases in point.

Star Trek

According to Star Trek fan database site Memory Alpha, all on screen material (the TV shows and films) is considered canon. This gets a little more complicated with the addition of alternate timeline material (aka the Kelvin timeline, consisting of the 2009 movie, Into Darkness and Beyond). The link includes statements from some of the powers that be, who are involved in the process for deciding what is part of the official continuity, and what isn’t. Not everyone will agree with the official statements, but they represent the final authority on what is and isn’t ‘canon’, not that they even care for the term. Whilst some fans would like Star Trek Discovery treated as part of a reboot, it has been declared canon by the powers that be.

Star Wars

With Star Wars, the situation has historically been more complicated. The movies were always ‘canon’, beyond question. However, Star Wars has produced a large volume of books, comics and games, some of which tell the story of what happened prior to the movies, some of which seek to fill in the gaps, and some of which told the tales of what happened after Return of the Jedi. These stories became known as the ‘Expanded Universe’ or EU. To many fans, these represented the continuation of the saga, furthering the adventures of Luke Skywalker and co after the films had finished.

This didn’t stop an exhaustive effort by some parties to suggest that the Expanded Universe bore no relevance to the movies, existing in an entirely different timeline, and therefore inadmissible as a reference in discussion (and particularly, in Star Trek vs Star Wars debates). This effort ultimately didn’t amount to anything more than an incredibly long-winded way of saying ‘my opinion is somehow superior to yours’, and wasn’t backed up by the powers that be who oversaw these matters.

Up until the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm a few years ago, the EU was part of the continuity, but Disney, wanting to make new films without feeling bound to existing material, relegated the EU, declaring it to fit into under the heading of ‘Legends’. Disney also set about commissioning new novels to fill in the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, as well as creating the Rebels cartoon series, which filled in some of the timeline between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. In the meantime, Disney did take elements from the EU to use as they saw fit, including bringing in the character of Admiral Thrawn (a very popular character from the novels) to the Rebels show. It remains to be seen what else might make it from the Legends EU into Disney’s new continuity.

So there you have it – a brief run down of what’s what with the Trek and Wars universes.

Back to Sci-fi Analysis

In the course of my interweb travels, I find myself encountering a number of interesting subjects. This next one is directly connected to this blog post and concerns what constitutes ‘true Star Trek‘.

If you click on the tweets you’ll be able to see the entire thread. I’ll offer up my take on it – and I want to stress this is only my personal take on it.

I dare say that the blog post missed the mark a little, as during the course of a discussion on Twitter with the original ‘tweeter’ it became clear just what his position was. Exhibit A, this tweet:

The derision of someone else’s opinion on what Star Trek is and what it means is pure arrogance. It’s not far off outright saying ‘it’s not Trek unless I say so’.

Exhibit B…

This is in relation, regardless of claims to the contrary, to ‘who started it’. It’s pretty much a childish blame game, whilst denying it to be a blame game (see Exhibit C as well). It’s apparently more important to apportion blame than to resolve the issue.

Exhbit C…

Linked to Exhibit B. I can just as easily argue any division is the result of people implying their vision of what Star Trek is should somehow override other peoples’ opinions. This idea that one opinion should be treated as near enough objective fact, whilst baiting/trolling people who disagree, is no different from the very attitudes being criticised in the tweet!

In short, I can easily argue, based on what I’ve observed, that people were so prepared to hate Discovery, even before it had aired, that they were ridiculing fans for being prepared to give the show a chance. Now the show is underway, that rhetoric has only increased.

And for the record, if one of the fans of the show who has been going as far as to issue death threats to people criticising Discovery, you are as bad, if not worse. People are allowed to criticise and dislike Discovery. You can like the show and still criticise elements of it. There’s zero excuse for threatening people who hold different opinions.

Exhibit D…

The nuts and bolts of the ‘#TrueTrek’ hashtag. It seems for Trek to be ‘true’ it must adhere to a particular timeline. Hence the distinction between the ‘Prime’ universe (DSC, TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT) and the Kelvin timeline (the 2009 movie, Into Darkness and Beyond). It also bears noting that the tweeter here regards and treats Discovery as a reboot, but that flies in the face of official statements on the subject, which, despite pronouncements to the contrary, carry more weight than his opinion.

Of course, the timeline or universe any given part of the franchise is set in has no bearing on whether or not the particular film or show is ‘true’. It’s part of Star Trek lore. It carries and conveys the messages of the franchise. Despite the implication (and despite the attempt to turn it around) that ‘Prime’ = better (Prime can simply mean one or first), Prime does not mean ‘more true’.

And Exhbit E.

I’ll stick by my tweet here, very happily.

Back to Sci-Fi Analysis

I regard myself as a second-generation Trekkie (my Mum is a first-generation Trekkie, and she got me into the franchise when I was a kid). I’ve seen pretty much every bit of Star Trek TV and film material, I’ve read several of the books, I’ve owned models, uniforms and toys. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a couple of conventions (thanks Mum!). My love of Star Trek runs deep. Being a part of this fandom makes me feel like I’m part of a truly special, warm and diverse community.

This is, in a way, what the Star Trek shows and movies are. They are a diverse mix, stretching across more than fifty years, all meaning different things to different people. It therefore pains me when I see some fans playing a divisive game on social media.

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Out of courtesy I’ve refrained from revealing the tweeter’s identity, but this sort of thing annoys me. It is anathema to what Star Trek is all about. It is not for me, or anyone else, to decide what is ‘true Trek’. The above tweet represents the desire to take a personal opinion and have it regarded as objective fact. It represents the wish to have one’s personal views override everyone else’s.

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This tweet is in itself an act of trolling. It’s deliberately creating an ‘us versus them’ culture. It’s telling fans of Discovery the show they like isn’t really Star Trek, and there’s the implication that they’re not really Star Trek fans. Such an attitude is incredibly arrogant, and deeply ironic too.

I’m sure there are fans of Discovery who take their defence of the show too far. For the record, they’re just as bad (though I’ve not actually observed any such behaviour directly). If you’re a fan of Discovery and someone else isn’t, just shrug and move on. If you’re not a fan of Discovery, don’t watch it, shrug and move on. Labelling certain things ‘true Trek’ certainly isn’t a sensible or mature approach, and the implication of it isn’t going to accomplish anything. To some, Discovery will be their first taste of Star Trek. To others, including lifelong Trekkies, Discovery will feel every bit as relevant and important to the franchise as TOS or TNG.

See, here’s the thing. As I mentioned earlier, Star Trek fans are a diverse bunch, and the shows and movies reflect that. To some, TOS and only TOS will do. Others might have never seen TOS and their first experience of Star Trek will have been through JJ Abram’s films. Some fans will love TNG and hate DS9 and some will hate ENT but love DS9. There is no ‘true Trek’, there is only different Trek that means different things to different people.

Back to Sci-Fi Analysis

 

img_0710We are now five episodes in to the sixth TV incarnation of Star Trek. I don’t think it wise to judge a show on so few episodes (if we judged TNG by the first few episodes, or indeed the first season, what would we make of it?), however there’s enough material for me to put pen to paper, and offer up my early thoughts on this show.

I’d describe it as something of a slow-burner. The first two episodes don’t involve the main setting (the ship Discovery) and instead forge the backdrop to the show – a war with the Klingon Empire. With each episode, I feel the show has gotten stronger, as we begin to establish the characters. Of particular fascination is Captain Lorca, whose methods are quite different to previous Starfleet captains, whilst lead character Michael Burnham is outwardly methodical, almost to the point of being ruthless in pursuit of what she believes to be the best outcome, but internally conflicted. Tilly is quite a nervous young woman who is trying to overcome anxiety and her character is subtly raising awareness of this issue.

Stamets is a science officer and Star Trek’s first openly gay character in a TV series. So far, his character has not been defined by being gay (always a danger by a well-meaning yet ignorant production), and instead he has cut a frustrated figure, as an arrogant scientist who nonetheless wants his ideas to benefit humanity, yet seems them co-opted by Starfleet to aid in their war with the Klingons.

Saru is second-in-command of the Discovery and this character served alongside Burnham on the Shenzhou, and therefore was present as Burnham committed mutiny and arguably started the war. He is therefore not exactly enamoured with Burnham and their relationship is a tense one.

Burnham (played by former Walking Dead actor Sonequa Martin-Green) is a complex character. Her parents appear to have been killed in a Klingon raid on a joint human/Vulcan facility and she was raised by Sarek (Spock’s father). As a result she has incorporated elements of Vulcan philosophy, such as adherence to logic, however this is overridden – or tempered – by – human emotion and instinct. Burnham is quite prepared to circumvent authority if she believes she is justified, even though this has caused her tremendous problems in the past.

On the Klingons

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They’ve undergone a major visual change, both in terms of their appearance and also their outfits, as well as the décor of their ships (mind you, Federation ships are notably different to the TOS era). Given that the show is set just ten years prior to the events of the original series, this creates a bit of a stylistic issue. I have no problem with modernising the overall aesthetic of the show, but some of the changes have been quite drastic, and I’ve wondered a few times during the course of the show so far, if it might have been better off marketing itself as a reboot.

The F Bomb

The Star Trek TV shows don’t tend to feature swearing, and least of all ‘fuck’. That’s not to say that swearing is completely absent, and the movies (especially the Kelvin-verse films) have featured swears on a few occasions. That said, the F-word on Star Trek was unexpected, but it’s hardly the huge deal (at least, in this meerkat’s humble opinion) that some quarters are making it out to be. There is a perception that Star Trek is and always has been a family show, yet large chunks of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise moved away from being aimed at a family audience – they might have been about families, this doesn’t mean they were for families. The Kelvin-verse films are not, in my view, appropriate for younger children and it’s an individual judgement call as to whether you let older kids watch them.

I’m also not sure of the action sequences. The space battles have been a touch too disorganised for me, in that I’ve found them a little hard to follow. This isn’t to say they’ve been bad, but I can’t call them great either.

Final Thoughts

I’m warming to Discovery. I’ve read a lot of things elsewhere from people who are determined to hate the show, but then, a lot of these people were determined to hate the show before it had even aired. Not everyone can handle change, yet if Star Trek remained static, it would fade away. Just look at what happened with Enterprise (which was basically an second attempt at recreating TNG, following on from Voyager). Star Trek cannot stubbornly stick to the same approach and expect to remain relevant; nor can it expect to maintain or expand its appeal by sticking to a tired formula. Discovery isn’t perfect, but it is trying to be different, which is no bad thing. So far, 7.5/10.

 

The final trailer for The Last Jedi has dropped, and after a few days of deliberation and thought, it’s time to offer my impressions of the trailer and what it might mean.

The First Order is going to bring the big guns. They’re pissed at the loss of Starkiller Base and want revenge. Their walkers are said to be much bigger than the AT-ATs that terrorised the Rebellion in The Empire Strikes Back, and it looks like we’re going to get a substantial ground combat sequence as a result.

Snoke is speaking at the start, to someone, about finding them and their power – and how they are truly special. During this scene we see Kylo Ren, but right at the end the scene cuts to Rey igniting a lightsaber, leading to a lot of speculation that Snoke is talking to her. I wonder though, if he is talking to Ren, about finding Rey, or at least, about learning of a pivotal point in the Force, that Ren would lead Snoke to – in this case, that point being Rey. This also implies a connection between Ren and Rey.

Luke is afraid, and with good reason, from his point of view. He didn’t respect Ben Solo’s raw power and in the end, that mistake led to the destruction of his new Jedi Order. It seems like he starts to train Rey, but upon learning of her natural strength in the Force he changes his mind. Will he compound his original mistake, or resolve to correct it?

Will he or won’t he?! The most… intense moment from the new trailer features Kylo Ren blasting away at enemy ships in his TIE Silencer, then lining up the shot that would kill General Leia (who is, of course, his mother). The scene cuts back and forth between Ren and Leia, representing the internalised struggle Ren faces, between who he thinks he wants to be, and his family ties/history. His finger hovers over the trigger…

Tense!

Emotions will run high when The Last Jedi is released. This is Carrie Fisher’s final film, the final chance to see General Leia, and the trailer poignantly sees her remain silent throughout.

‘We are the spark, that will light the fire, that will burn the First Order down.’ Poe is a fighter and from his brief appearance in the trailer, he is taking the fight to the bad guys. 

Finn is seen in First Order garb, heavily implying he’ll be going undercover. Finn has a score to settle with the First Order, and this is dramatically personified in the next image…

Finn faces off against Captain Phasma as a base or facility goes up in smoke. This is easily one of the most exciting moments from the trailer.

Supreme Leader Snoke didn’t really do a lot in The Force Awakens and we never saw him up close. Is he powerful in the Force or just astute as a leader? He’s clearly a disciple of the Dark Side, but didn’t cut an intimidating figure last time. Here, he might well be more dangerous, judging from the next picture, but will we learn anything more about him?!


It appears from the way the trailer flows that Snoke is torturing Rey. Quite how Rey ends up in Snoke’s presence is anyone’s guess.


A frenetic space battle will grace the screen (something we’re shown a number of times), which makes sense as this is Star Wars


Finally, Rey asks, ‘I need someone to show me my place in all this’, and the trailer cuts to Ren, holding out his hand. Is this clever editing, or do they end up on the same side (whatever side that might be!)? 

All in all, the trailer does a great job of teasing a tremendous amount of drama and  a raw, tense film. If The Force Awakens was the new trilogy’s A New Hope, The Last Jedi is shaping up to have a lot of the tone of The Empire Strikes Back. The film looks astounding, amazing and utterly brilliant.

What with the arrival of Star Trek Discovery, there has been something of a renewed focus on Star Trek, but another show – a non-Star Trek show – had already beaten Discovery to the punch, if only a little bit. The Orville is from the mind of Seth MacFarlane, usually associated with the crass humour of Family Guy and the Ted movies. Yet, after three episodes, it’s fair to say The Orville is not crass or crude, and what’s more, it’s not a spoof of Star Trek, nor a series version of Galaxy Quest. It’s not serious like Star Trek tends to be, but whilst there are comedic themes, there have also been (bearing in mind I’ve only seen three episodes!) some typically Star Trek takes on issues of the day – such as transgender and parental rights, respect for other cultures and how we treat animals.

There is a kind of gentle humour here, a style that’s quite light and fluffy, yet it’s not trivialising important issues. The writing is quite clever, and it’s worth noting that Brannon Braga, executive producer on several Star Trek shows, is on board as a producer here too, which would help to explain the Star Trek feel of this show. I can’t say for sure how the series will fare as it continues, but so far, it has been very entertaining, quite funny, and it does what Star Trek is supposed to do – it makes you think.