So this latest tweet by showrunner M’Talas Prime shows that he really doesn’t get why Trekkies like Star Trek, and it’s a philosophy that goes from Kurtzman down, ever since Kurtzman said in the first season to stunned fanboys everywhere, “Star Trek is not aspirational.” I mean, leaving aside that it clearly is, these guys just don’t get what TV show they are doing.
“Can I tell you all how much I loathe when people, who are very clearly not fans, describe Star Trek as a ‘Utopian vision of the future.’ That’s not what it fucking is. The world of Star Trek is the world after a nuclear world war where humanity gave in to its very worst impulses, indulged its very worst instincts. But from the ashes of death and destruction came the warp drive and a second chance. That’s what fucking Star Trek is: the struggle of humans to not fuck it up, to not blow their second chance. Yeah yeah they made Earth a Utopia in TNG/DS9 but it was always as a warning that too much of anything can’t be trusted.
“Kirk isn’t out there preaching Utopian ideology; he’s fighting and clawing to keep the progress moving forward. And even then, he fails. Because humans are not perfect, humanity is not perfect, and imperfect beings cannot create perfection. Did these fucking ‘professional critics’ miss the thirty episodes explicitly talking about this? How about the movies where Kirk has to come to terms with the march of history changing the goalposts for what progress means? For fuck’s sake, people. Stop pretending to care about anything and watch some real fucking television.”
That John Price really can put a fine point on it, can’t he? I always think of this, his refutation of the utopian thing he once wrote and my more fortune cookie-like “Star Trek is the future where JFK got two terms” pithiness when people call us “haters.” One of the things I find interesting from an audience engagement and community management standpoint is this “haters” thing that gets thrown around. Calling whole swaths of people “haters” or “toxic whatevers” really puts the kibosh on reasoned discussion, not just because it’s reductive if not actually full-on dismissive, but because folks who tend to take umbrage while extrapolating a specific from a general are going to get “triggered.”
Parenthetically, I hate using that to describe knee-jerk emotional responses in folks, mainly because it’s a metaphor of violence applied to a call for equanimity, and who needs that sink drain of a response amongst folks of good intent chewing over issues of the day?
New nerds call me a Star Trek hater when I autopsy the latest Star Trek: Discovery episode/murder victim atrocities, or point out how atonal and off-brand the latest nonsense in Picard is, but I always point out I’m the opposite of a hater. I’m a lover of Star Trek, and that’s why I’m so pointedly and specifically disappointed when they don’t produce work that actually does what it says on the tin…
But anyway, to the bullet points:
• Starships used to move in stately grandeur; now they pop around like a methhead playing a video game. What was once a measured game of Subhunters versus U-Boats is now a flatscreen version of Mario Kart in space. “Lose them in the nebula” used to be a WWII movie call-out; a reminder of Up Periscope or Destination Tokyo in a world where the only submarine movie Gen Z knows is Hunt for Red October and that’s because their moms like that one. “Lose them in the nebula” used to mean retire gracefully from the field, the better to plan strategy-and-tactics against a worthy foe while dropping some small character bits of the bridge crew and just generally making a dense and well-drawn world to talk about human-condition matters. Now it’s just an excuse to pew-pew-pew. I mean, I’m sure Vadic has her reasons for all of this but I was told the first six episodes were great and life-changing and whatnot and we’re on episode three and of course there are no clearly spelled out stakes or what any of the leads want. It’s like Paramount is hiring TV people that learned how storytelling works from watching FOX adventure shows from the 90s.
• Man, a royalty-free 20th century rock guitar riff opens this ep, too? Boy, I bet James Gunn is mad about alll the times people tell him that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I has a lot to answer for. I mean it’s not his fault he came up with a useful and immediately-recognizable shorthand to give the audience their foreplay quickly while getting to the adventure they paid to see as soon as possible. And other cats who don’t get how it works just do needle drops without understanding of why they work. James Gunn obviously listened to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and realized how and why QT was making that work; Terry Matalas and his boys listened to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and thought it would be cool if Amanda Plummer played Boris Badenov and those existing radio tracks will fit fine in our space show because it works so well in Ayer’s Suicide Squad and Jack Reacher’s Lazer Team flicks. I bet Gunn gets it as bad as Hans Zimmer does for dropping that BWOONNNNGGGGG in Inception. Jeez, that was everywhere for a while, and still is in trailers fifteen years later.
• Riker is in science teal in the Ten Forward-LA flashback even though Picard calls him Captain and he’s in command of the first Titan? Just so we get that 17 second turbo lift ride to sick bay is always rough no matter when you take it when all it did for me was make me think, “What is Riker doing in science teal?” and not pay any attention to the scene. Which is about how these guys handle reference and Easter eggs, come to think of it. Was this in Star Trek at some point? Well, put it in the shot!
• I don’t want any more of this soap opera stuff. This entire episode was burned on everybody being sad with each other and not being able to make informed decisions because of it. Take a look outside the window you guys all have in Santa Monica or whatever and see how shitty the world is going right now. We need some uplifting aspirational entertainment to escape from our common worries, right? Stop having everybody cry into each other’s beer. It’s Star Trek, for God’s sake. Let’s have some human adventure, instead of this moving old action figures around and pretending that’s good TV.
• That said, I did love how they wrote Worf with some on-brand Star Trek hilarity that comes from character instead of taped on temporarily by production interns or something. “I am Worf; son of Mogh, House of Martok. Son of Sergey, of House Rozhenko. Bane of the Duras family, slayer of Gowron. I have made some chamomile tea. Do you take sugar?” I mean, it’s great when you can revisit a character whose main appeal is that he was 100% self-aware, but couldn’t get past even his friends’ pre-conceived notions about him. So he leans into it and just ramps up the Worf until people have to deal with him as a fully realized, quipping badass. At least Worf is interesting, showing growth as a character by embracing how he was a written this whole time. But this is episode three, guys. Why are you making us wait for it all?
I just wish this was Season One and not Season Three.