Thursday 28 September 2017

Two ways to be wrong about Star Trek: Discovery

I loved the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery (which is what British Netflix has right now, I believe more was made instantly available in the US) and I have so many thoughts that its taking me a whole to hammer them into something publishable even by my low, low standards.

(I mean, what was yesterday's post even about?)

That having been said, there's something I want to pick apart on its own because it has wider implications. Be warned, we're getting into “people are wrong on the internet” territory so enjoy me screaming into the void.

There are two ways in which people in comment sections are getting angry about Discovery. The first, and most obvious, is the anger that Star Trek has gone all SJW and is pandering to liberals with its casting of not one but two women of colour as the U.S.S. Shenzhou (take note, Star Wars, there are more women in the world than white ones with brown hair) as if the series hasn't been a utopian liberal power fantasy since 1966.

Now that's just dicks being dicks, this is the world we live in now. The right wing have become so immune to subtext that they can look at the original Star Trek with its female black officer (an engineering officer, no less), two Jewish leads, Russian and Japanese characters, constant civil rights allegories and end of episode homilies about the message of the week and still think “This is on our side, there's guns!”.

So that's how people who aren't that engaged with Star Trek are being Wrong On The Internet. But what about people who are engaged with Star Trek? Is there a way for them to be Wrong On The Internet?

Why, yes there is, I'm glad you asked.

For the dedicated Star Trek fan who wants to be Wrong On The Internet there is the very simple method of obsessing over the ways in which Discovery “breaks” the continuity of the overall franchise. The main point that seems to keep coming up (and I've only read a couple of comment threads, I'm not dedicated enough to this post to put myself through that) is the use of the holographic communicator.

You see, in previous canon the holographic communicator was invented during Deep Space Nine and quickly forgotten because the production team realised it just looked like two people standing in a room together because that was exactly what it was. So, in a way, its a bit odd to see the technology in use over a century previous in the canon.

Except, here's the thing, the future isn't what it used to be. I am writing this post on a laptop smaller, thinner and with a higher definition screen than the one that sat on the desk of Captain Janeway's ridiculously spacious ready room. My phone has so many more functions than the Starfleet communicators that inspired it that I don't even know most of them.

So the 2250s now have interstellar full 3D holographic communicators for calling up Thomas Cromwell and the Klingons are not just guys in yellow face and reflective green shirts, they've even moved beyond the whole “smushed Mars Bar on the forehead” look to a more complicated full-face prosthetic. Your mileage may vary on how effective the design is (personally, I like the facial look but I'm not too sold on the ribbed battle corsets) but hating them because they contradict the canon explanation from Enterprise about how the Klingons started off with crests and then lost them and then got them back in time for the movies is, to be frank, rather nitpicky.

Maybe its just because my favourite show is Doctor Who, where the canon's made up and the plot points don't matter, but I've always been more interested in the details of the individual story than the overarching continuity.

To be honest, if we're talking about inconsistencies with the Klingons never mind their foreheads because somewhere between the original series and The Next Generations the entire species carries out some sort of personality swap with the Romulans. In the original series you'd never, ever turn your back on a Klingon but the Romulans had an honour code that could be relied upon even if it wasn't terribly nice. Fast forward eighty-odd years and suddenly Romulans are the sneakiest, most backstabby dicks in the entire Alpha Quadrant whereas Klingon honour is at least culturally consistent even if individual dickery persists (looking at you, the House of Duras).

And its just sad, guys. Its the sort of argument that stereotype nerds in bad comedy sketches make and perhaps that's why I react so strongly against it. 

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