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

img_0711

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

img_0857

(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.

img_0886-1

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.

img_0895

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

klingon-star-trek-discovery-from-trailer

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.

img_0710

It’s finally here – the latest chapter in the Star Trek saga beamed to our screens over the past couple of days, marking a return to television for the first time since Enterprise ended in 2005. Star Trek Discovery is, like its predecessor, a prequel show – it is set ten years prior to the events of the original 1960s series. Bearing that in mind, Discovery is visually very different to TOS and this has not gone unnoticed – a number of fans took to Twitter and to message boards to criticise this approach. After all, we’re not talking minor changes; the controls and displays on the Federation ships are as up-to-date as you can get, reflecting more of what we would conjure up now than the aesthetic of the original show. Given that Discovery is meant to be set in the ‘Prime’ universe and given it has been declared canon by the powers that be, we can either accept this very different set of visuals, or we can complain – but A: complaining won’t undo anything and B: we have had only two episodes – who can say how the show might progress, on all fronts, as the story progresses?

Perhaps the biggest redesign (and one certainly noticed in the trailers) was with the Klingons. Their ships look different, their dress code is different and the Klingons themselves look different. Whilst they are immediately recognisable as Klingons, it’s also very clear that they are not only visually altered, but there are cultural differences as well. Case in point is how they treat their dead, among other details. Once again there are complaints from  certain elements of the fanbase – but this isn’t the first time the Klingons have undergone physical and cultural changes. Recall the sudden (and unexplained for decades) change the Klingons underwent visually between TOS and the first movie. Recall the cultural changes between TOS and TNG, when the Klingons went from scheming political maneuverers to Vikings in space. The suggestion that Klingon society should be presented as static and unchanging is no more realistic than suggesting human societies and cultures have remained static.

Finally, before delving into the episodes themselves, a few words on the canon matter. ‘Canon’ in this context refers to an established continuity, a set timeline and set of events that is fixed into Star Trek lore. The ‘Prime’ timeline refers to the one established back in TOS, whereas the ‘Kelvin’ timeline refers to the new, divergent timeline established in the 2009 Star Trek film. Executive Producer Bryan Fuller said at the San Diego Comic Con in 2016 that the show was set in the Prime timeline. That is, frankly, all the information we need, and sets the rules we have to work by. That being said, Discovery does feel like a reboot, in terms of style, with so far, very little to connect it to the rest of the Star Trek franchise. It cannot work with the Kelvin timeline at all, despite early hints that it could in theory slot into either timeline. Nonetheless, the official statements are the ones we live by.

On to the show, so to speak. Was it any good (beyond this point, there be spoilers)

 

 

 

(you have been warned)

 

 

 

The short answer is – maybe. The long answer – it was interesting without being overly tremendous. Although a lot happened in the opening episode, not a lot happened (if that makes sense), and whilst the second episode (hidden beyond a pay wall, something I’ve griped about already) involved a lot of action, it still didn’t really feel like a lot happened. The first two episodes have been entirely about setting up the rest of the episodes, rather than standing on their own right.

We don’t even see the starship Discovery herself – the titular vehicle isn’t even hinted at. Instead, virtually all the action takes place on the Shenzhou, and this ship – which got a lot of airtime in the trailers – is short-lived.

Of the characters… well, only two appear to be moving from the Shenzhou to Discovery, and of those, we only really get to know one, Commander Michael Burnham, who we learn was learning the ways of the Vulcans before an attack by the Klingons. Her story will be the main thrust of the series, but beyond establishing a firm dislike of the Klingons and having her confidence in herself badly shaken, we don’t yet know much. This is not surprising – a pilot episode is hardly going to reveal all the show’s secrets – so we can’t really jump to many conclusions. All in all, there is enough there to lure me back, though I am thankful I have family/friends with Netflix, as there isn’t enough there to convince me to subscribe.


It won’t be long now before the sixth series of Star Trek hits the TV screens. Annoyingly, the plan is to air Star Trek Discovery behind a ‘pay wall’, namely by sticking on the streaming service Netflix. To be, this goes against the ideals of inclusiveness and openness that Star Trek is all about. Yes, studios want to make money and I get that streaming is big business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. I’ll not be paying out still more money for the sake of one show, even if Star Trek is wired into my DNA. 


That aside, this post isn’t really a rant about that, but rather, it’s about the ferocious criticisms of a show that hasn’t even aired yet. I’ve seen posts on Twitter that complain this show ‘is made for social justice warriors’ and that they won’t be watching it – for those of you wondering what’s meant by that, their issue is with a black female lead, a Chinese woman as a captain and the inclusion of at least one homosexual character. 


Guys, this is Star Trek, a franchise built upon challenging misconceptions and giving social issues a platform. Anyone who’s seen the original 1960s show will be fully aware of the social commentary on offer, to say nothing of the controversy it generated. Subsequent shows have continued to offer up this sort of thing. It’s what Star Trek does. Besides, the tantrums being thrown on the web at the idea of women in charge only go to show why putting them in charge in necessary. Something needs to push back against this sort of misogyny, and it’s not just misogyny.

Racism plays a part in the objections too. I don’t recall the idea of Captain Janeway – a woman – in Voyager creating nearly as much of a backlash as the casting of Michelle Yeoh as Captain Han Bo and Sonequa Martin as Commander Rainsford. Might it be because Yeoh is Chinese and Martin is black? Are we not only as a fanbase hung up on female leads, but on race as well? 


Come on people. Star Trek was placing black women on the bridge of a starship in the 1960s. Have we made no progress since then? Are we not a fanbase of inclusion? Where are the principles of diversity and equality that the show itself has long practiced? Let’s not shame ourselves by rejecting the core message at the heart of the franchise. We are not sexist, or racist, or homophobic. Let’s be better than that.

Since we first discovered that the pinpricks of light in the night sky were in fact, other stars, humankind has been gripped by the desire to travel to those stars and see for ourselves what they are like. The discovery of the first exo-planets only heightened this need, and as we found more and more earth-like rocks orbiting numerous stars in our local region alone, it soon became imperative that we voyage to those stars, to see if humanity could finally leave earth’s cradle and remove the possibility of extinction from our equation. The biggest hurdle were the laws of physics – nothing could travel faster than light, and even at the speed of light, journeys of forty years, in some cases even longer, would be virtually unsustainable, save for multi-generational crews and long spells in cryogenic sleep.

So the aim of many scientists was to somehow defy, or redevelop our understanding of physics and the laws of the universe that forbade faster-than-light travel. Science fiction had presented fanciful ideas of warp space, subspace, hyperspace and all kinds of means of ‘cheating’, but the reality of these methods, once examined with any critical detail, suggested the energy requirements were going to be beyond us for a very long time – perhaps forever. Either a new source of power was needed – or the laws of the universe would have to be broken.

It was in the early 21st century when Luca Martinez, an experimental physicist living in Idaho, USA, made his unexpected breakthrough. The idea had been to generate energy through atomic friction, and to that end, he had been making hydrogen atoms resonate with one another. The introduction of dense matter (degenerate matter, in very small quantities, intended to match the density of a neutron star) led to a highly controlled resonation that for a very brief period, moved the atoms from one area of the carbon tube to the other in less time than was possible under the speed of light.

Such was Martinez’ excitement that he dropped his coffee over his lap and had to put up with the suggestion from his colleagues that he had actually wet himself. Decades later, he would laugh about it – at the time, he was said to actually be quite angry. Nevertheless, the development would lead to further study, and refinement, and this led to the production of the first small-scale probes, to test if the Res-Drive (or R-Drive if you’re lazy) was actually viable. The probes were sent under highly controlled conditions from the earth to the Moon, then from the earth to Mars, and from Mars to Jupiter, to see if they were exceeding the speed of light without being subject to relativity. When the results confirmed that the light barrier had been broken, champagne corks were popped and raucous celebrations held. We had done it – but one final test remains. Human pilots will soon take to the first ships fitted with the R-Drive to see if it is safe for people.’

Roxanne closed the textbook and ran a hand through her strawberry blonde hair. It felt unnaturally short, but having it cut had been a requirement of the United Western Alliance Space Agency. ‘We don’t want any entanglements, literally or otherwise’, the committee had said.

It felt like a lifetime ago that she’d been chosen for this. Somehow, she’d beaten hundreds of other candidates to be the first human to go faster than light. The prospect made her dizzy with excitement and sick with fear, all at once.

There was no turning back now though. In the crisp orange jumpsuit (that was turn covering the thinner body-monitoring grey jumpsuit), Roxanne was suited up and sitting in front of the controls that would, at her command, launch her at unprecedented speeds toward Mars. A short hop was all that was needed today.

One of the engineers who’d help build the Magellan had explained to her about the power source and the technical details of the R-Drive, but she’d barely listened. She wasn’t a physicist – chemistry and biology were her fields – so talk of quarks and Fermi principles had been lost on her. All she’d wanted to know – and had been assured of several times – was that the drive itself was perfectly stable and the power source perfectly safe. Nothing about that aspect of the mission could go wrong.

T-minus five minutes. Final systems check.” Came a male voice over the comm link that Roxanne recognised as Director Campbell. It wasn’t too much of a surprise that he was taking a personal interest in this. “Fuel line?”

“Check.” She replied.

“Life support?”

“Check.” The oxygen filter was keeping her breathing. Air circulated around the cabin in a never-ending loop, filtered repeatedly by the sophisticated equipment. A backup generator would kick it if the primary failed, and her engineers had scoffed at her request for a helmet with an independent oxygen supply, but said helmet sat behind her in the small space available in the cabin. Roxanne wasn’t minded to take any chances.

“Sublight engines?”

“Check.” Roxanne tapped a couple of buttons on the grid in front of her. The ion propulsion drive was all set to give her a decent kick away from earth once the clock stopped ticking.

“Sublight navigational controls?”

“Check.”

“R-Drive navigational controls?”

“Check.” In theory, Roxanne could override the controls and set a new destination, but she didn’t dare. Everything had been pre-programmed and that was fine with her.

“FTL comm system?”

“Check.” Roxanne would have to trigger the beacon to confirm the success of the mission – and it was a convenient test of the R-Drive’s long-range communication principle.

“We look good down here in Control. Four minutes and counting.”

“Roger that.” Roxanne gulped. The butterflies in her stomach had morphed into mini dragons that were belching flame. “Deep breaths girl, deep breaths…” She recalled her Yoga and her training, though more and more she wished the mission was over already.

The Yoga was kicking in. She could feel the edginess in her subside. A gentle hum of instruments distracted her from what was about to happen, and the march of time was briefly forgotten.

“This is Control, hey Rox, just wanted to wish you luck.” Roxanne smiled. Her jovial boyfriend lifted her spirits.

“Thanks Fred. Don’t forget to have dinner ready.” She chuckled.

“Oh, well, I was thinking we should go out for dinner when you get back. Celebrate the mission, our engagement…”

Roxanne had to check her comm link. “En… engagement?!”

“Yeah, oh crap, I meant to do the other bit first – you know, ask you and everything…”

“Oh God… the answer is yes, a million times yes!” In the midst of the impending mission, a different kind of excitement overtook Roxanne. “Yes!”

“So as if you didn’t already have a reason to come back, that’s another one.” She could hear the smile in his voice – and it wouldn’t at all surprise her if Director Campbell was pissed at the sudden interruption to his orderly proceedings.

“One minute. Disengage the umbilicals.” Came the deliberately stern voice of the Director. Roxanne complied, and Magellan floated freely in space, no longer berthed to the station where she had been constructed. The craft’s independent systems kicked in.

Autopilot took the ship slowly away from earth, at a relatively sedate 2 km/s. As the R-Drive fired up, the ship seemed to hum with power. This is really happening…

“From everyone down here, good luck. We’ll see you on the other side.” The Director’s voice was softer.”

“Roger that Control, here we go…”

The Magellan seemed to oscillate for several seconds, and then vanished.