HomeTelevisionI Came For the Strange New Worlds, Not the Same Old Tropes

I Came For the Strange New Worlds, Not the Same Old Tropes

“The naming of cats is a difficult matter,” TS Eliot wrote, “…not just one of your holiday games” and I would make the argument that the nature/nurture argument goes away because it’s obviously both and if you name… well, anything, really, it does a lot of the heavy lifting for your little furball to announce its manner and intention by name although of course that’s chicken-and-the-egg so where did that nature/nurture argument go, really? Anyway, I bring that up to mention this: when we were having a baby, I swear I didn’t care what sex the baby was or what we were going to call it; I just wanted it to be healthy, and Mimi not die in childbirth, and that the name we chose was going to be rugged and awesome and adventurous and put everybody on notice when that toddler toddled into the room.

I shorthanded that for everybody as “you should name your kid like he’s going to grow up to be a starship captain,” so every name had to pass the hailing-frequencies-open test: “This is Captain Gideon Young of the starship CHICKEN GUMBO.” “This is Captain Travis Young of the starship CHICKEN GUMBO.” “This is Captain Walker Young of the starship CHICKEN GUMBO.” Let’s go with that, and it seems to have worked out pretty well for everyone so far.

Biggest head-start I could give a kid, right? So “Captain Christopher Pike” is great, at least one hard consonant in title, given name, and surname as it flows and just screams NUMBER ONE ON THE CALL SHEET. So that’s “nature” taken care of, I guess, but “nurture” is out the window because they’re writing US Grade A manly-man Anson Mount some wishy-ass -washy dialogue. This thing is more Star Trek-y on a good day than most Voyager episodes, so I’m not belly-aching, not exactly, but they are taking the starch out of the lead’s shorts by not letting him lead. Who’s the star of this show? Who’s the motive power? Who and what are we rooting for, exactly? This weird-ass approach they’ve got betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about what people want out of their TV. It’s not “a reflection of life around us, but how we want it to be” because the end of that is different for everybody. What TV fans want is to veg away from the life around us, and Star Trek fans want some uncut military-grade industrial-strength scifi escapism. They want veggie extreme! And that means putting on the uniform and getting up and the doctor says we’re all dead men anyway so if it’s all the same to you, sir, I’ll be manning my post until I’m relieved, you know? Yes, we’re all Olive Garden fry cooks IRL but we want to believe the guy in the big chair has got something up his sleeve instead of a wistful look on his face when his assistant manager gets in to the Trans Am with her boyfriend in the parking lot.

And that’s why this rickety-ass roller coaster of a season gets a solid C from me because that’s what happens when the As and the Fs line up equally.

And for not letting the captain be a captain.

Larry Young
Larry Young
Larry Young is a writer: non-fiction, graphic novels, and pop culture criticism. His work has appeared in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, VARIETY, and THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION. A frequent guest on the video podcasts MILLION DOLLAR MAILBOX and WORD BALLOONS, he’s also co-host of SERIOUS STAR TREK and the sister YouTube channel of this website.


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