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Robin Bland

Discovery: a Star Trek For Our Times

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I thought this article was pretty good:

http://www.gamesradar.com/star-trek-discovery-is-still-star-trek-its-just-swapped-idealism-for-realism-because-thats-what-we-need-right-now/

I like the way it situates Discovery as a thematic rethink of the old shows, and that it remains essentially optimistic - but not before you've got used to its radical new storytelling style.

I've seen both a lot of positive and a lot of continuing negative reaction to Discovery out there in internetland. I'm not 100% convinced of some of the creative or stylistic directions the new show has gone in myself (hi, 'new' Klingons!) but mostly, I'm over the moon that we have Star Trek back on TV, where it truly belongs. Please use this as a general thread to discuss the themes, philosophies, allegories, characters, moral and political directions and creative forward momentum of the show.

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I think it's coming down to idealism in the face of realism. You will never get Utopia and you will never get close in one grand epiphany..whether that be warp drive...or the replicator, the latter being, I think, the single greatest lynchpin of Federation morality.

And I think that's what DSC hopes to illustrate: that it's always a fight against opposing forces and there will be setbacks, whether you get pushed back a few steps or take one backwards on your own to preserve the peace or for the potential of two steps forward later.

We are no longer in a time where we think there's just going to be one brilliant dawn where an army of unicorns gallops across the world with rainbow banners behind them.

Edited by prometheus59650

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3 hours ago, prometheus59650 said:

I think it's coming down to idealism in the face of realism. You will never get Utopia and you will never get close in one grand epiphany..whether that be warp drive...or the replicator, the latter being, I think, the single greatest lynchpin of Federation morality.

And I think that's what DSC hopes to illustrate: that it's always a fight against opposing forces and there will be setbacks, whether you get pushed back a few steps or take one backwards on your own to preserve the peace or for the potential of two steps forward later.

We are no longer in a time where we think there's just going to be one brilliant dawn where an army of unicorns gallops across the world with rainbow banners behind them.

I think that's actually the most interesting Star Trek story that's never been told... the dawn of the replicator age and universal plenty. (I would quite like to see this represented by a vast herd of rainbow-colored unicorns flying the flag of IDIC as they gallop across sun-dappled meadows of long grass, but you know me.) It is also utterly fantastical in a way that removes Roddenberry's future from more "realistic" takes on same, because such a device is inconceivable right now. It's interesting that ep 4 The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For The Lamb's Cry began with a close up of the replicator process, as if to underscore that theme. By our standards, replicator tech is magic. 3D printers are a long way off changing the actual understructure of matter into something edible; making a rock into a uniform or a three-course dinner or whatever.

Which is to say, i quite agree. And even if we had that tech, what would we do with it? Solve problems? Solve poverty and hunger? It's nice to think that, but someone would try to get rich off it, without realizing there'd no longer be any point in being rich as now everyone could be. But those old patterns of behavior wouldn't just immediately vanish.

TOS was always a storytelling vehicle as well as the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise - a vessel by which to hold up a mirror to current society as well as explore cool SF concepts. To my mind, Discovery certainly holds true to that so far.

If Discovery is a step back from the naïveté of previous Treks, it's possibly also a step forward in terms of realism, certainly in terms of characters. They're closer to how real human beings behave. I like that this crew are flawed, more akin to us lot in the present day. Flawed, but still wanting to do the right thing, and perhaps taking steps backwards to find new directions forward.

If we're going to imagine a future, and some of the solutions to current problems, this is a good place to start. To my mind, that is still essentially optimistic, or at least finding a path back to positive thinking.

Edited by Robin Bland

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3 minutes ago, Robin Bland said:

I think that's actually the most interesting Star Trek story that's never been told... the dawn of the replicator age and universal plenty. (I would quite like to see this represented by a vast herd of rainbow-colored unicorns flying the flag of IDIC as the gallop across sun-dappled meadows of long grass, but you know me.) It is also utterly fantastical in a way that removes Roddenberry's future from more "realistic" takes on same, because such a device is inconceivable right now. It's interesting that ep 4 The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For The Lamb's Cry began with a close up of the replicator process, as if to underscore that theme. By our standards, replicator tech is magic. 3D printers are a long way off changing the actual munderstructure of matter into something edible; making a rock into a uniform or a three-course dinner or whatever.

Which is to say, i quite agree. And even if we had that tech, what would we do with it? Solve problems? Solve poverty and hunger? It's nice to think that, but someone would try to get rich off it, without realizing there'd no longer be any point in being rich as now everyone could be. But those old patterns of behavior wouldn't just immediately vanish.

TOS was always a storytelling vehicle as well as the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise - a vessel by which to hold up a mirror to current society as well as explore cool SF concepts. To my mind, Discovery certainly holds true to that so far.

If Discovery is a step back from the naivite of previous Treks, it's possibly also a step forward in terms of realism, certainly in terms of characters. They're closer to how real human beings behave. I like that this crew are flawed, more akin to us lot in the present day. Flawed, but still wanting to do the right thing, and perhaps taking steps backwards to find new directions forward.

If we're going to imagine a future, and some of the solutions to current problems, this is a good place to start. To my mind, that is sill essentially optimistic, or at least finding a path back to positive thinking.

I agree, particularly about the crew. These people are flawed. The galaxy is dangerous. That's very TOS. Those characters were flawed and the galaxy was a nasty place with famines and plagues and aliens ready to chew them up and spit them out just because.

To the replicator: we would eventually use it to solve those problems, and that would allow us to develop our moral superiority; your ability to stick your nose in the air and, "Look at you primitives. We would never..."

Of course you wouldn't, you wouldn't need to. You want clothes? Tell the computer. You want a Turkey dinner with all the fixings to fill your belly, tell the machine. Want a wedding gift for friends? Scroll through the catalog and tell the machine and it all really costs you nothing. 

It's easy to have morals then.

History books wouldn't mention and Philosophy classes wouldn't debate the Donner Party if one of them had a replicator in the wagon.

 

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42 minutes ago, prometheus59650 said:

I agree, particularly about the crew. These people are flawed. The galaxy is dangerous. That's very TOS. Those characters were flawed and the galaxy was a nasty place with famines and plagues and aliens ready to chew them up and spit them out just because.

To the replicator: we would eventually use it to solve those problems, and that would allow us to develop our moral superiority; your ability to stick your nose in the air and, "Look at you primitives. We would never..."

Of course you wouldn't, you wouldn't need to. You want clothes? Tell the computer. You want a Turkey dinner with all the fixings to fill your belly, tell the machine. Want a wedding gift for friends? Scroll through the catalog and tell the machine and it all really costs you nothing. 

It's easy to have morals then.

History books wouldn't mention and Philosophy classes wouldn't debate the Donner Party if one of them had a replicator in the wagon.

 

Yeah, it would certainly render a situ like that moot!

DS9 did a good job of taking that aspect of the Federation's idyll on... I always liked it when Quark had a go at Federation morals and the idea that, without even realising it, just by being explorers, just with the very fact of their contact with other species and galactic societies, the citizens of the Federation, via Starfleet, imposed their morals and value system on others. I enjoyed how he disliked being 'judged' and misunderstood by Sisko and company. I liked it when Quark became an unexpected philosopher.

To an extent, Discovery sidesteps any issues like that by being set in the 23rd century when human society was less ideal. When people like Kirk or Lorca could be around. (Even if they had replicators.)

I think maybe I'm beginning to see a real reason why the showrunners decided to make Discovery a prequel, although i still hold it could take place later in the timeline in a crumbled Federation, thus avoiding any major continuity glitches. But maybe info will come to light in later episodes why they chose not to do that. I'm still not convinced that some major mirrorverse/canon reshuffling explanation for all the spore drive stuff isn't going to come to light... like this is third timeline that actually somehow segues into or initiates the prime timeline by show's end. That's total speculation on my part.

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Great article.

Articulates exactly what I feel about this new ST.   There is still optimism (the fact that humans make it to a 23rd century with galaxy-exploring starships is carrot enough), but it’s tinged with reality and perhaps minus some of the original's naivete.  

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2 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

Great article.

Articulates exactly what I feel about this new ST.   There is still optimism (the fact that humans make it to a 23rd century with galaxy-exploring starships is carrot enough), but it’s tinged with reality and perhaps minus some of the original's naivete.  

Right. Trek's not like Doctor Who (in which time and perceptions can be rewritten and therefore the core concepts of the show easily updated and added to) or Star Wars, which is a fantasy universe "a long time ago and far, far away." Sure, it employed fantastical gimmickry like the transporter as a budget/storytelling device, but it was predictive and so became a retro vision of the future pretty quickly. I guess some aspects of it can seem hokey now, especially as mainstream SF gets ever more dystopian. 

Which is a long way around of saying that if the Discovery team really pull this off, they'll make Trek relevant again in a way it hasn't been since its 60s and 90s heydays. 

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On 10/13/2017 at 0:13 PM, prometheus59650 said:

I think it's coming down to idealism in the face of realism. You will never get Utopia and you will never get close in one grand epiphany..whether that be warp drive...or the replicator, the latter being, I think, the single greatest lynchpin of Federation morality.

And I think that's what DSC hopes to illustrate: that it's always a fight against opposing forces and there will be setbacks, whether you get pushed back a few steps or take one backwards on your own to preserve the peace or for the potential of two steps forward later.

We are no longer in a time where we think there's just going to be one brilliant dawn where an army of unicorns gallops across the world with rainbow banners behind them.

Agreed. That's why I like these series so far. The humans are are human. We've had thousands of years of development and our basic nature is still the same. That's not going to change in a couple of hundred years with the invention of (insert name of technological doohickey). 

It is the continued struggle to do the right thing despite our nature that makes storytelling interesting. 

I also loved that they made Klingons alien again and not angry versions of humans with long hair. 

They've done a lot of good things with this series...or at least....done the things that I wanted to see from a next Star Trek series. 

Edited by Nombrecomun

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8 minutes ago, Nombrecomun said:

 

It is the continued struggle to do the right thing despite our nature that makes storytelling interesting. 

Couldn't agree more. Stripping it away from TNG was perhaps Roddenberry's biggest dramatic mistake, albeit borne from an optimistic outlook.

8 minutes ago, Nombrecomun said:

I also loved that they made Klingons alien again and not angry versions of humans with long hair. 

The Klingons on DS9 got pretty tedious, to be sure. The whole "Honor" code became more of a daft behavioral straitjacket than a convincing depiction of an alien culture. I liked that the different "main" aliens on Trek were mirrors of humankind, though, especially the Vulcans, Klingons and Romulans. The new Klingons' behavior feels more realistic to me, but to my mind the actual performances feel reduced simply because of the OTT make-up design.

8 minutes ago, Nombrecomun said:

They've done a lot of good things with this series...or at least....done the things that I wanted to see from a next Star Trek series. 

I think it's early days, too. I don't think we've seen anywhere close to their best, yet.

I'm really happy to see Star Trek back on TV, and testing the boundaries of what Star Trek is, or can be.

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15 minutes ago, Nombrecomun said:

Agreed. That's why I like these series so far. The humans are are human. We've had thousands of years of development and our basic nature is still the same. That's not going to change in a couple of hundred years with the invention of (insert name of technological doohickey). 

It is the continued struggle to do the right thing despite our nature that makes storytelling interesting. 

A human will sometimes rage. Humans will make mistakes. There's always going to be a Lorca in any human that's willing to at least entertain ending the fight by wiping everyone out. "We're not going to kill...today."

That's where we are in the 23rd century and that's where we will always be. And, you know, sometimes you and the Chief Engineer are going to be too different and not near-familial buddies.

That's just how we work and I like that DSC has a good handle on that and how to integrate it with the Roddenberry ideals.

 

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2 hours ago, prometheus59650 said:

A human will sometimes rage. Humans will make mistakes. There's always going to be a Lorca in any human that's willing to at least entertain ending the fight by wiping everyone out. "We're not going to kill...today."

That's where we are in the 23rd century and that's where we will always be. And, you know, sometimes you and the Chief Engineer are going to be too different and not near-familial buddies.

That's just how we work and I like that DSC has a good handle on that and how to integrate it with the Roddenberry ideals.

 

Maybe this is one of the reasons that they set DSC in the 23rd century of Bones and Spock; humans and their behaviors were still recognizable at this point.  Spock and Bones bickered, as did Kirk and the others.  They weren't the 'perfected' humans of the 24th century (in the days when Roddenberry may have started to believe his own press on human perfectability).  I'm not knocking TNG (as I happen to love TNG), but they were supposed to be on a slightly higher tier of social standards than we.  The writers (fortunately) didn't always adhere to Roddenberry's edicts (esp after his death) but there were some episodes where the characters' reactions felt a little artificial now and then. 

Personally, I like the flawed humans of DSC; they are a breath of fresh air.  

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