Star Trek Discovery “The Wolf Inside” Review 

All hail the Empire

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Discovery brings us an episode in which stuff happens and Reddit looks down at the unwashed masses like us with an upturned nose and a sense of superiority. In other words: Monday.

A few weeks ago I read a Reddit post that, for once, didn’t analyze a weekly show that was written and plotted in one go, essentially telegraphing certain elements of story that won’t be as noticeable during a binge. In that post, a fan complained about Discovery airing on CBS All Access, essentially removing it from the cultural discussion entirely outside of a few people. What I have to say to that is: hahaha, now you know how we feel, American pleb!

In all fairness though, it is a valid concern, yet one that, for once, I cannot share. Discovery has been the first time ever that I am able to experience a Trek show as it airs and talk about it with friends and other “people” from around the globe. As a viewing experience it’s second to none and most definitely an experience that would have been lost on us by dumping an entire season on us three months ago. Our feelings on Discovery change and evolve as the first season is still airing, while the people behind the show prepare for season 2, and while events outside of nerddom influence our opinions.

In regards to Discovery, this most recent Mirror Universe episode has proven one thing to me if nothing else: Discovery doesn’t follow very much in the footsteps of DS9. DS9’s storytelling was very deliberate (that’s a nice word for slow), it’s a couple of episodes that advance the ongoing story, then a bunch of stand-alones that build on the premise and build character to influence the next series of events. That is not the storytelling of Discovery at all. This show does very much feel like a continuing serial. It takes a lot of the high concept storylines from the TOS era and gives them some time to breath. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this series of episodes. There is a consistent theme and we are given time to appreciate it. In many ways it’s an approach to storytelling that Enterprise showrunner Manny Coto pioneered. And like with most new approaches it took a while to get it right. Discovery has. Continue reading “Star Trek Discovery “The Wolf Inside” Review “

Star Trek Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” Review

Discovery’s first ‘classic’ stand-alone.

Discovery has finally done it. They’ve managed to make their first ‘I want to revisit this multiple times’-episode.

Okay, that doesn’t sound as grandiose as saying they made their first classic, but here’s the thing: an episode, a movie, a book, they  can be utterly brilliant and yet I might not want to revisit it. “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” meanwhile is just 45 minutes of high concept fun and character bouncing off each other.

Let’s go to the obvious complaint people will have: this has been in Trek episodes before. Time loop that one of the crew remembers and then they slowly have to piece together what’s going on. Yes. It’s also never been done quite right. A time loop story can only work with great direction and enough material to substitute for already seen bits and pieces from previous loops. I love my Star Trek, but good pacing has never been a strong suit of it. Previous shows, when doing this concept, have always suffered under the talk-heavy nature of something like TNG or Voyager, grinding the pacing to a hold. This episode with the long title (I know, Ctrl+V…) plays it more like a chess game between Mudd and the crew, while in TNG’s example of “Cause and Effect” it’s a natural(ish) occurrence they need to tech-tech their way out of. This is much better.

Rewatching TOS from the beginning, I cannot believe how much I ignored Harry Mudd. Outside of Khan he’s the only enemy to face Kirk more than once, and for the love of Spock, he’s such a delight here in this reimagined, younger and more ruthless form. The fact that nobody died in this, at least permanently, and his large ham personality makes his presence such a delight. He’s essentially playing a game by reloading the save file. Giving the crew a person to play off of instead of technobabble makes the conclusion of sending Harry off with Stella so much more satisfying.   Continue reading “Star Trek Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” Review”

Star Trek Discovery: “Lethe” Review

An episode is recapped and The Angriest Fangirl rants about something long overdue

By Jessica Stone and Alexander Reineke

This time on Star Trek Discovery: everybody was kung fu fighting. Also Sarek’s officially the worst dad ever.

This week, I completely enjoyed myself and didn’t notice until I was 30 minutes in that only a couple of minutes were left. I never really noticed I was “missing” the theatrical nature of old Star Trek, the way words had to compensate for a lack of visuals and cinematic storytelling. For a visual medium, Trek has always been rather wordy, and so is this episode. But is a sort of hybrid creature of the approaches. It’s a personal episode focusing on the relationships between Sarek and Burnham and Lorca and Cornwall respectively. And yet, the visual and serialized nature of the show imbues Trek’s tired storytelling with new life. Characters like Tilly and Ash Tyler, Saru, Stamets, they blend into the background a bit, they get their moments to shine, they add to the material. And because we see this growth in the relationships over the course of several episodes, it is much more organic. The crew of Discovery is already more comfortable with each other than the Enterprise-D or Voyager crews were after 7 seasons, or at least I buy it much more easily so. Point is, the show isn’t forcing itself to speechifying relationships. When we see Lorca get the news of Cornwall’s abduction, he doesn’t say anything, we don’t get an evil smile. We see the phaser tugged inside his trousers, non-verbally calling back to earlier in the episode, to Cornwall saying “I don’t know you anymore”. It is left ambiguous what his motives are. And that’s good. That’s called good storytelling. It is what television is evolving into and has done so for the last two decades. We are better off for it.

So much for me. This week though, I shall give the rest of the review over to Jessica “The Angriest Fangirl There Is” and her take on Discovery and fandom:

 

So I really enjoyed this episode. I am not 100% sure I am on board with the way Michael’s past has been retconned into Spock’s family, but it does make logical sense – it always struck me as odd that a Vulcan who married a human and served as an ambassador for Starfleet was so pissed off his son chose Starfleet over the Vulcan expeditionary force. But I can’t shake the feeling it seems like something I would read in a fanfic – though I suppose at this point all of Star Trek is basically fanfic, like all longrunning franchises.

Also I’ve completely gotten over my hatred for James Frain left over from when he played Theo Gallavan on Gotham. He does a wonderful job as Sarek, though not quite clearing the very high bar set by the magnificent Mark Leonard. Vulcan acting is very difficult and I’m impressed that he’s done it so well.

Tilly continues to grow on me. She irritated me at first but now I like her quite a bit, and by the end of the season I expect I’ll be ready to fight anyone that messes with her.

I am very onboard with the Ash Tyler = Voq fan theory. It’s too weird that Voq has just disappeared from the story, and that we’ve established more than once that Lorca has a pet tribble. I’m almost worried the set-up is too obvious.

I would like to say more about the episode, but something else has been weighing on my mind for a while, and today it was really boiling up in me.

I am … insanely disappointed in my fellow Trekkies. To put it very mildly.

In the extraordinarily unlikely event any cast members read this post, I am so sorry. I am enjoying Discovery so far, and even if I weren’t it wouldn’t be your fault. You’re all doing a wonderful job. Sonequa Martin-Green, thank you for your wonderfully nuanced portrayal of Michael, and I’m sorry that assholes, utter assholes, have heaped racist and sexist abuse on you, or at “best” hated you because your character had the audacity to start off making a big mistake that set her on a redemption arc and because your performance is subtle. Like, how dare you convey the character’s internal conflicts through facial reactions instead of long speeches? Even though that’s probably also down to how it was written? I don’t understand people. Jason Isaacs, God bless you sir for not only doing a wonderful job as the enigmatic and probably evil, at the very least very underhanded Lorca but daring to engage with the Twitter trolls most of us would understandably ignore and being absolutely hilarious about doing this. I gather from these Tweets that Trek has been important to you since you were smol (like many of us) and you are just as exhausted and fed up with these people as I am, probably moreso since I’m just a fan and you actually worked on it. I am so sorry that you have to deal with assholes saying you’re just in it for the money and calling you ugly names constantly.

Joe Menosky, sir, I am so sorry that a bunch of Trekkies are splooging over Brannon Bragga and other Trek writers contributing to Orville but ignoring your contributions to this show. Your episodes of nineties-era Trek were some of the most interesting, thought-provoking, and wonderfully weird, and your hand is very evident in this show. I’m fascinated to see where it’s going and have enjoyed the ride so far.

Eugene Roddenberry, I am so sorry that a bunch of entitled, myopic idiots think that they knew what your dad would have wanted more than you.

And now that I’m done being nice and starting with the apologies to all the innocent parties involved in this, I am just going to say I am mad as fuck. And yeah I’m going to say “fuck” a lot, and some other choice swears. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Get over it. It is simply mind blowing to see the same people who gleefully announced they were watching a show that opened with an alien ejaculating on a woman with their children clutching their pearls over two soft f-bombs. I have heard of Americans having weird priorities about what is offensive before, but this takes the fucking cake.

I take back everything nice I have ever said about Trekkies as a fandom. I have seen the most mind-bogglingly hateful behavior over this show. Not just on the part of those who hate it, but it sure seems skewed in that direction (then again I’m not an unbiased observer of this conflict). We are making the collective Star Wars fan bawl fest over how George Lucas raped their childhood look good.

To be clear I am not saying you have to like the show. If you know anything about me, you know I am the last person to ever say you have to like something just because it has an official stamp on it. Sometimes the official product is crap. It’s fine to say that. Criticism is good. Even though I am enjoying Discovery my contributions to these recaps, you will notice, are not entirely positive.

But for the love of God. Stop being a jerk about it.

I’ve been told I don’t really like Star Trek if I like this show. Well shit, guess I should just delete the two novel-length Star Trek fanfics I’ve already written almost a hundred pages for combined and throw out the cute Star Trek plushies my mom got me for Christmas then. I got banned from a Star Trek discussion group … well I deserved it because I was an ass, but in my defense I was standing up for a guy who was going to be banned just because he shared links indicating that Discovery is doing well in streaming numbers. The admin called him a liar when he said that it was, then threatened to ban him when he posted a link proving it and asked for counter-proof if the admin had it. Incidentally, this admin got really mad at me for saying “fuck” while pushing Orville on us (the guy who he was arguing with likes both shows but that didn’t even sink in for this dingus), in case you thought I was making it up about people’s weird hypocrisy about those shows. A previously popular Trek reviewer had people unsubscribe from him and call him an asshole just because he likes Discovery, and probably the most famous Trek reviewer of all, Chuck Sonnenburg, hasn’t stated anything about Discovery on his Twitter or anywhere else probably for fear of a similar backlash whether he loves it, hates it, or probably especially if he finds it “okay.” That is sad as fuck that probably the biggest Trekkie ever can’t state his opinions on a show for fear of backlash.

If this was just happening in neutral spaces, like general discussion groups and channels, that would be fine, but the people who dislike it are actively seeking out any mention of the show online to complain about it. The pro-Discovery fan groups on Facebook are harder to get into than Yale presumably in response to trolling. Even at my most virulent hatred of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I didn’t do that. That’s insane, and I haven’t seen that level of stupidity and hate boner-having since Twilight was out, and at least Twilight actually was omnipresent and being pushed at teens by their peers and sometimes even by teachers. It was in the school library and teachers would play the movies in class. Discovery is as easy to avoid as not subscribing to CBS All-Access and not pirating it – I haven’t even seen it advertised that much and I’m someone who’s actively watching it. Then again I use ad-blocker, maybe it’s on a lot of rolling ads? Even if it is, Jesus Christ this is so much. And it’s not just the location and the volume of the complaints, it’s the tone and the virulence. If you like it, you’re a fake fan and never loved Star Trek. It’s ruining the franchise that was dormant for twenty years. It’s “SJW bullshit” (because the fact the main character is a black woman has been important all of zero times, but she exists therefore SJW bullshit). It’s shitting on the actors who didn’t even take part in the direction of the script and anyone who likes it.

I wonder how lifelong Trekkie and more specifically Niner Seth MacFarlane feels about so many of his fans using his show to shit on actual Star Trek? I have no idea, as I’ve never been a fan, but I know I would feel really shitty about that. Especially since a lot of these complaints echo the bitching people did about DS9 (it’s too dark, it’s too cynical, it goes against Gene’s vision that we apparently know better than his own flesh and blood) and since Seth likes DS9 I doubt very seriously he shares those complaints. Idk, maybe he hates  Discovery and this is an amazing ego boost. I do know that constantly having Orville shoved in my face by assholes has killed any meager interest I might have ever had in it. Pro tip: Nothing makes someone want to watch a thing less than having it forced down their throat until they have to gag it out to avoid choking to death.

And I don’t want to spend too much time on this because it’s not the opinions themselves that bother me but the aggression with which they are expressed, but a lot of the complaints are incredibly unfounded. “Weak characters?” We’ve already had more character development than TNG did in its first two seasons. “It’s too dark.” They said that about DS9, dark =/= bad or even cynical. I do not believe Discovery is cynical – I believe it is very optimistic despite the tone. Michael and other Starfleet officers except Lorca are very principled, compassionate, and ingenuitive. They just have the misfortune of serving under one of the asshole captains we ran into all the damn time on the other shows but were never a challenge to Gene’s vision until they were a regular cast member, even if nothing about how he is portrayed indicates he’s anything else.. A lot of people are saying they’ll give up on the show if Lorca isn’t Section 31, and there’s a strong possibility he is but I’m gonna just bastardize a Harry Potter quote (that’s what it’s come to) here: The galaxy isn’t divided into good people and Section 31.  “It’s against Gene’s vision.” Again, they said that about DS9, and his son is an executive producer, and Gene was not solely responsible for everything we love about Star Trek as much as we try to boil the franchise’s legacy down to one man. But if you think I’m full of shit and the show still sucks, that’s fucking fine. But don’t you dare pull this gate keeping bullying shit.

I just … am so tired. I am exhausted. I am disappointed. And I am angry. I finally have something geeky to be excited about and the open hostility and divisiveness around it has put such a damper on it. If I have ever been rude to you about something you like, if I ever rained on your parade, and I know that I have, and I haven’t already apologized, just tell me, and I will personally. Because I am – I am sorry if I have ever been a tenth of the asshole these people are.

I am tired of the entitlement and bullying and the gatekeeping and close-mindedness. I am very tired of geek culture in general.Just because we were bullied as kids doesn’t mean we have the right to turn around and be hateful to each other. We don’t get to decide who’s a “real fan” and I hate that term whether it’s someone saying only true fans like Discovery or only fake fans would like it. And for the love of God, we have to acknowledge that these franchises need to breathe, they need to change and grow or else they will die. That doesn’t mean you have to like everything that is done with a franchise, sometimes it really will be an awful decision, but there’s no use crying over the very fact it’s changing!

Sometimes, I wish I was like my dad and didn’t know a Millennium Falcon from an Enterprise, because I’d probably be happier that way. Which I’m pretty sure is the opposite of the way fiction is supposed to make you feel, but it’s where I am today and I can’t put into words how much that saddens me. Especially since, once upon a time, Trek was what made me remember how much I loved being a geek. Man, fuck me for believing in this fandom, I ought to know better by now.      

Star Trek Discovery: “Choose Your Pain” Review – An Ode to the F-Bomb

To Boldly Fucking Go

It is official: Trek has entered the age of the modern tv show. F-Bombs and all.

This is not to be meant disparagingly. Quite the opposite. It just occurred to me why Discovery continues to feel slightly off to me: the character feel tangible. They feel human. Alive. It’s something the best of Trek has in common: the TOS characters and DS9 crew (and latter day Enterprise, but we apparently aren’t allowed to mention them…). There is an easiness through which the actors can slip into their characters, how much they are at ease with living in the future. The original crew did it really well, as did DS9. They were relatable. They got angry, they loved, they mourned, they laughed. And now they curse. I’m not saying the F-Bombs were absolutely necessary to the dialogue, but as anyone who knows me, I can swear like a fucking sailor. People love to swear and the fact that Trek has never gotten away with it so far made the universe so sanitized. Though at least that’s better than coming up with ersatz-curses like ‘drell’, ‘frak’ and ‘kree’.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Discovery. I still like the show. Lorca continues to impress me as a character, as does Saru, who form an effective triumvirate with Burnham. Stamets is also growing on me, clearly written as a jerk with a heart of gold and, dare I say it, Sheldon Cooper done right. Also Robert April is now canon. Yippie! …That’s pretty much it for this week.. Is there more to say?

Okay, yeah: The episodes have now established a routine: issue of the week and driving the main story arc forward. Much like pretty much every serialized show out there, there is the issue that we won’t see what is going to happen until all the episodes have aired. Some might argue that this is why Netflix should have insisted on airing everything at the same time. And while that would have been nice to shut up a lot of the detractors, since I’m now pretty sure where the series will be heading, it would have also ruined the viewing experience.

Ever since Netflix brought out its first originals, binging has become the norm for television viewing. I’ve argued in a past article that it has ruined many a good show for me. For the next few months I will be able to watch an episode Monday morning and then go on Facebook and talk to friends and acquaintances about how the show will turn out. This is television for me. It’s a communal serialized adventure we can all engage with, speculate with. Binging kinda ruined that for all of us. I am glad that we can rediscover this now, no pun intended.  

And now for word or two from Jessica “The Angriest Fangirl” and Chris “The American”.

Jessica’s thoughts:

Well we finally had onscreen confirmation of our first gay couple – and got slammed with the But Not Too Gays, darn. Would have really loved it if they had given each other just a quick peck on the cheek or something.

I actually cried in happiness when they set free the tardigrade. And earlier out of sadness when it lost all it’s water and curled up in a ball. Okay, Acting Ensign Water Bear, join tiny non-anthropomorphic robots, non sentient holograms, amorphous blobs of goo and murderous lava monsters in the ever growing list of esoteric things Star Trek has made me weep over. Continue reading “Star Trek Discovery: “Choose Your Pain” Review – An Ode to the F-Bomb”

Star Trek: Discovery Trailer And Thoughts On The Franchise

Somewhat optimistic thoughts on Discovery but mostly hating on the classic show again.

Last week a trailer was released for Star Trek: Discovery that actually showed us some footage that wasn’t spaceship porn. Weird, right?

Much has since been written about the new Star Trek series. If it will take off, if it will be a good TOS prequel, what kind of stories they can actually tell, and whether or not it will actually be good. Neither of these questions can be answered by a simple trailer. All we know about is that our new main character is called Number One, who will be the first officer of the Discovery, which wasn’t shown in this trailer but instead we got Michelle Yeoh and her ship, which totally doesn’t mean that she will bite the dust two episodes in so we can transfer all the characters over to the Discovery, no sir, totally not going to happen.

And aside from the trailer showing glimpses into Number One’s past where Sarek tells her that as a human she will never fit into Vulcan society, and some Klingon stuff, because isn’t there always, that is pretty much it. I’m actually okay with that. I don’t need to know that much about the project going in, I just need to know what it will be about in order to be a valid piece of advertisement. This is a compelling trailer in that regard, it shows us that we will get some classic Star Trek adventures on a ship on the edge of space with some Klingon shenanigans. That’s the classic formula that pretty much every series has conformed to, even DS9. Many other elements, however, are different: the POV being on a first officer instead of a captain, who is also a human expat living on Vulcan from what I can tell, multiple ships being the focus of the series with a much bigger cast, a grander scope that will probably include arcs, it gives the show a feeling that you don’t often get from Star Trek: the fact that they might know what they are doing.  Continue reading “Star Trek: Discovery Trailer And Thoughts On The Franchise”

A Look At Star Trek’s Kira Nerys – Or: How A Terrorist Could Be Sympathetic in the 1990s

Desperate for clicks. Might as well talk Star Trek again… but not the new trailer that hit. I’ll write about that sometime next week when I had time to think about it more.

Star Trek has been many things over the years, but ever since the 1960s it has never been anything other than safe and samey and conforming to social norms at the time. Heck, the 60s included in that when we look at all the sexism on display…

That is except for one character: Kira Nerys, the female lead of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. A former freedom fighter, terrorist, and now somewhat-supportive member of the provisional government of her homeworld of Bajor.

I don’t think I ever really appreciated the character that much when I first viewed the series, but when I did my English degree in university and combined it with a history topic on the use of terrorism in the media, I was quite startled to realize that Kira is, for lack of a better word, still unique in current day media. Finishing its run in the late 90s, DS9 still feels like the most modern installment of the franchise. Later movies and shows had better cinematography and effects, but being a pre-9/11 show, DS9 was almost prophetic in the way it handled subject matters of terrorism and terrorism. While it handled many other topics with much more maturity than the last 16 years of pop culture entertainment, its most revolutionary storytelling remains the character of Kira.  Continue reading “A Look At Star Trek’s Kira Nerys – Or: How A Terrorist Could Be Sympathetic in the 1990s”

How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated

How will you handle the fact that all of your predictions will fail to come true?

We might as well deal with the fact now that every blog post I will be writing within the next however many months it will take something from the writing I do on the side for the final stages of the novel. Everyone good? Great. Let’s talk about science fiction becoming outdated.

Science fiction has always been near and dear to my heart, but when you’re dealing with something long-running like Star Trek, still on the air after 50 years, or are reading an older book like 2001: A Space Odyssey, you are immediately presented with two immediately outdated concepts: a Eugenics War by 1996 and an interstellar humanity with an existing cold war by 2001. What’s the science fiction in that you might ask? If it’s not in the future, then what’s the point, it immediately breaks the immersion. Why would we watch something, read something, that has already gone past the expiration date?  Continue reading “How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated”