Tomorrow IDW releases their second Star Trek: Discovery annual. This year’s Discovery annual focuses on the character of Saru and takes place after the events of the first season but before the arrival of the USS Enterprise. Like all Discovery comics, it was written by comics veteran Mike Johnson and Star Trek: Discovery writer Kirsten Beyer, with art by Angel Hernandez.
I don’t know about you, but I keep forgetting to watch Star Trek: Discovery.
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t wait for each episode of Star Trek Continues.
As I’m sure you know, CBS, through the complicated Hollywood system of it’s mine, it’s mine!, owns the television rights to Trek and in its infinite wisdom stupidity decided to launch Discovery on their streaming network. Which you have to pay for.
Star Trek Continues, a continuation of the five-year mission of the Constellation class starship USS Enterprise NCC-1701, captained by James Tiberius Kirk, is a love-fast to the original series. It is available for free on YouTube and its own website.
STC was co-produced by the non-profit charity Trek Continues, Inc., Dracogen, Far From Home LLC and Farragut Films, and was partially funded by Kickstarter, in an incredibly successful campaign of crowd sourcing. Nobody got a salary, and all the money went into the production itself. And it showed; everything, down to the buttons on the bridge consoles, was exactly the same as we remembered –
It was, im-not-so-ho, a spectacular and amazing series, with great acting by show runner Vic Mignogna as Kirk (totally separated at birth from William Shatner), Todd Haberkorn as Spock, Chuck Huber and Larry Nemecek as Dr. McCoy, Grant Imahara as Sulu, Kim Stinger as Uhura, Wyatt Lenhart as Chekov, and Chris Doohan (yes, James Doohan’s son) as Scotty. It also introduced Lt. Elise McKennah, PhD. (Michelle Specht) as the first ship’s counselor in Star Fleet, and Lt. William C. Drake (Steven Dengler), Chief of Security, and Kipleigh Brown as Lt. j.g. Barbara Smith.
Star Trek Continues also featured many alumni of the original series, notably Michael Forest reprising his role as Apollo in the very first episode. Bobby Clark, who played the Gorn in TOS’s “Arena” appeared in the third episode. Marina Sirtis was the voice of the Enterprise computer, while over in the Mirror Universe the computer was voiced by Michael Dorn. John de Lancie, the irrepressible “Q” on The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager, guest-starred in episode nine. And in a “timey-winey wibbly-wobbly” twist, Rekha Sharma, the court-martialed Commander Landry in Star Trek: Discovery, acted in episode eight. Many more veterans of Star Trek, both in front of and behind the camera, and of the movies and web games, also appeared in the series.
The stories encapsulated the heart of Star Trek, that magic something that has kept the series flourishing, in all its many forms, over the decades.
Until, that is, Discovery. Though I’m positive that everyone working on that series is in it with all their heart, soul, and mind, I just keep thinking that, for CBS, it’s a nothing more than a cash-grab.
And so, CBS, in its infinite wisdom stupidity, forced Star Trek Continues to shut down. Jealous, much?
Star Trek Continues crossed the “galactic barrier” between the television series’ horrifying and insulting season three conclusion, “Turnabout Intruder” and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And show runner Vic Mignogna somehow was able to negotiate a fitting, heart-warming, and tear-inducing finale to the five-year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 that encompasses everything that made us love Star Trek.
And I know, one way or another, the adventure will continue.
Much to my surprise, I really enjoy both Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. I’ll wax on the latter first.
It’s hard to explain why I’m a Seth MacFarlane fan. Usually, I can only watch about 10 minutes of Family Guy — I like it, but after that my mind wanders in search of “plot.” That’s more than I can say for American Dad!, which bores me to tears, and The Cleveland Show, which I found to be insipid. Ted was hilarious, and I’m one of only two people I know who liked A Million Ways To Die in the West, the other being ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases with whom I saw the movie. And I’m certain I enjoyed it more than she did. MacFarlane executive produced Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which was so good I offered to throw Seth’s bail, should that become necessary.
I thought he was fine as host of the 2013 Academy Awards, but that show is so overwrought that most of the hosts look better by comparison. An aside: I doubt I will live long enough to see my Oscar host-of-choice get the gig, but I think Henry Rollins really could pull it off.
I realize The Orville confuses those viewers who thought the show was supposed to be a satire of Star Trek. This is understandable, as that’s how Fox promoted it. But what do you expect? Fox has had a problem with science-fiction ever since Firefly. In fact, The Orville is much more of a tribute to Trek, particularly the original series. Coincidentally, lots of Star Trek people are involved in Seth’s show.
Yes, the show is humorous, but it’s neither parody nor satire. Most of the humor comes from the characters, particularly the two bridge lieutenants who drive the ship. The captain, Mr. MacFarlane, used to be married to she-who-is-now-first-mate, played by Adrianne Palicki, which is why you won’t be seeing her on S.H.I.E.L.D. this season. Some one-liners are tossed between the two, but in no case do any of the gags get in the way of the story.
Speaking about the story, I think The Orville is closest to the spirit and the tenor of Star Trek The Original Series more than any of the hundreds of Trek shows that follows, updated to contemporary times and shorn of some of the more tedious Trek clichés. And with much better special effects.
A quick note about one of the cast members. It’s about time Penny Johnson Jerald got a part that was worthy of her exceptional talent. She has a résumé that would impress the most jaded critic, but I haven’t seen her have such a vital and impressive role since The Larry Sanders Show. And, yes, she did voice Amanda Waller in one of the DC/WB animated features… and she did a fine job playing Kasidy Yates Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
As for Star Trek: Discovery… it’s hard for me to think of a new teevee show that got off to such a rotten start. It was supposed to be the crown jewel of the new tollivison service “CBS All-Access.” I’m not sure why they thought they’d make a ton of money bringing Trekkers into their fold, but I’ll give that a pass as there are lots of ways to define “deficit financing.” However, the behind-the-scenes traumas getting Star Trek: Discovery out of dry-dock were so massive the program’s debut was delayed about nine months.
Worse still, the first two episodes were aired on the CBS network in order to seduce potential All-Access customers… and they sucked. The show doesn’t really become Star Trek: Discovery until the third episode when – minor spoiler alert – the star of the show Sonequa Martin-Green, playing Science Officer Michael Burnham, actually boards the U.S.S. Discovery. She’s been properly branded a traitor, so when Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) offers her a job that would keep her out of prison she seizes the opportunity. Burnham keeps on growing and getting more interesting with each passing episode – as does Captain Lorca. In fact, within the first half-dozen episodes Lorca, to me, has become the most interesting Starfleet captain in five of our decades.
Well written and well-acted, if you saw the first two episodes and walked away shaking your head, Star Trek: Discovery deserves a second chance. I’ll bet you think better of the show within two more episodes – and if you stick around to #7, you likely will be hooked.
I watch The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery back-to-back. I have yet to get a feeling of redundancy, and quite frankly the humorous asides in the former helps take some of the weight off of the latter, which, like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, can get very dark.
As for the contradictions with the hallowed Star Trek canon, I strongly recommend against fundamentalism so that you can enjoy a very good show.
Or, as William Shatner famously said, “Get a life.”
This week fandom was set on its ear by the announcement of the newest person to play the Doctor on BBC’s venerable sci/fi TV show, Doctor Who. (If you don’t already know, the Doctor is a time-traveling alien with the ability to regenerate himself into an entirely new body and persona when his current body is on the point of dying.) There have been 12 such regenerations so far; Jodie Whittaker will be the 13th and the first woman to play the part. Joanna Lumley was a female Doctor for a sketch some years back – written by Steven Moffet, no less – but that is not considered canon.
Predictably, there has been some negative fan reaction, although the bulk that I have seen has been overwhelmingly positive. This kind of change often provokes this kind of reaction. When it was announced that the captain on the next Star Trek series coming out (Star Trek: Discovery) was going to be a woman, there was similar booing and hooing.
I can sort of understand. Fans can be conservative; they want what they like to be the same but different only not too different. There have been times when, as a fan, I was somewhat resistant to change. A prime complaint has been that young boys are losing a role model and there aren’t that many heroes who depend on their wits and smarts rather than their fists. Even one of the actors who played an earlier Doctor, Peter Davison, has voiced this objection. However, my feeling is that these young boys have 12 other incarnations to use as a role model. Young girls have been expected to use the male Doctor as a role model; giving them one who looks like them after fifty years of the show being broadcast doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable.
My late wife, Kim Yale, was a huge Doctor Who fan (as am I) and she used to dress as Tom Baker’s Doctor to cosplay at conventions before cosplay was a big thing. She would have been over the moon about this. My partner, Mary Mitchell, certainly is and has pointed out that having the 13th Doctor be a female is very appropriate since 13 is a “female number” as there are 13 moon cycles in a year.
To me, what ultimately matters is what character do they create and how good are the stories that they tell. When you’ve worked for a long time on a given project, as a writer you look for ways to shake things up and make them fresh. On my book GrimJack, I once killed off the main character and then brought him back and later on, replaced him with an entirely different incarnation (yes, I was a big Doctor Who fan at the time and, yes, that influenced the change a lot). I intended to keep doing that from time to time. And one of the later incarnations I had planned was a female GrimJack. That probably would have incited some comment as well. We just never got to it.
So I’m very pleased with the selection of the new Doctor and hopefully the stories that will come of it. I hope the new showrunner will explore the change and what it means.
One last interesting note: I read that Ms. Whittaker will be paid the same salary as the actor who preceded her, Peter Capaldi. No wage disparity in the time vortex.
This past weekend I attended Star Trek Mission in New York City. Despite my Trekkie status, this was actually my very first Star Trek convention. It was a great experience to finally have and it was nice to see a whole group of people that share my love and passion for Star Trek. I got stopped on my way to and from there, with other attendees sharing the Vulcan hand symbol or asking questions. It was a great community convention, with a community all our own.
A big theme of the convention was diversity. It was echoed and praised at every panel I was in. Fans referred to it as a major point of the show in their Q&A. The writers for Star Trek Discovery made a point of mentioning it in their very vague show plans. (Seriously, they gave up nothing!) Every panelist made a point to speak about how important that legacy of diversity is to Star Trek. Even the technology panels I attended made a point to speak about it.
That is why this exchange during the Deep Space Nine cast panel on the first day was so impactful. The cast was asked about different ways that Star Trek has been described by fans. Armin Shimerman, a.k.a. Quark, explained a recurring experience he has with fans. He explained that in America, he often gets asked “Do the Ferengi represent the Jews?” But in England he gets asked, “Do the Ferengi represent the Irish?” and in Australia he gets asked “Do the Ferengi represent Chinese?” Hearing these questions helped him see the hate in Star Trek. Shimerman says he believes that the Ferengi represent the outcast culture, the people around you who you don’t really understand or know.
After hearing that, it made every single diversity statement during the convention that much more important but at the same time, I could not forget what he said. It made me wonder if Star Trek had impacted as much as we think that it had. If fans could ask these questions, did they really understand the show? But by the end of the weekend, I was reminded why I love this show so much.
I do truly believe that Star Trek held forth diversity when people kept minorities from any recognition. When Roddenberry put a Russian on the bridge during the Cold War, he signaled that one day we would make peace. When he put an African American woman on the bridge, he signaled that one day we would have equality. And when the producers put a woman in the captain’s chair, they showed that one day we could actually move past gender preconceptions.
As we remember everything that Star Trek has given us over the past fifty years, the best truth is that Roddenberry’s vision has only showed us the way. Entertainment can open up all of these possibilities but only in reality can changes be made. We need to take these lessons to heart if we want to evolve past hate, greed, and violence.
Tomorrow, September 8th, is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek premiere. Take a moment to see how far we have come, and how much farther we can go if we embrace the ideals of the future.