Jay's General Review of Discovery

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Jay's General Review of Discovery

Post by jayphailey » Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:43 am

Star Trek Discovery

Jay's General Review of Discovery

Okay, fair warning here. I am the third worst Trekkie I know of. This is not a dispassionate, objective or fair look at Discovery.

I am a complete Star Trek Fanboy. So when someone slaps the name "Star Trek" on to something, I am going to take a look.

I am also weird. Many moons ago (And planets and stations) I realized I was filtering Star Trek for the good bits and excluding the parts that were dumb (Spock's Brain, fer instance)

Understanding this freed me. All Star Trek episodes are, to me, built out of mental Lego pieces. I can look at a horrible episode of Star Trek (VOY Threshold, for instance) and pick pieces of mental Lego I'd keep. I can look at wonderful episodes (The Inner Light) and think about pieces I'd exclude.

So bad episodes or movies, or things I find objectionable in any given piece of Star Trek Media (The Destruction of Vulcan in Star Trek 09) - they don't cause me to reject the whole piece. I just say "That's not how I'd choose to do it" and move on.

Since I love Star Trek, I genuinely want to love the characters in it, and generally I do. To me, Nu-Kirk, Nu-Spock, Nu-McCoy et al, are just new members of the team, of the tribe. Mentally I hug and squeeze these characters and call them George.

And I dream about how, maybe I'd give them interesting things to and flesh out back stories that were less well developed.


Now. In order for you to appreciate light, there has to be darkness. Contrast is what makes the difference.

I remember getting into with Dennis Washburn, my long time friend, RPG partner and co-author.

He set up a piece in his Star Trek Game which had the Federation acting badly. This was entirely consistent with human politics. I said to him that the most fantastic part of Star Trek, the most improbable and wonderous part is not warp drives or transporters or replicators.

Its the notion that the Federation can be the Good Guy. Generally the Federation acts from good motives. When they discover someone using Federation political power for less than good ends, they put a stop to it. Somehow, Starship Captains are entitled to square off against the High and Mighty and call them out if they are off base.

Garry Stahl and I extended this - anyone can call out the powerful - this is how the Federation polices itself and keeps power from corrupting. Lots of sunlight and open doors and that stuff.

This is pure fantasy. But someone who lovingly maps out King Arthur's Court is not advocating monarchy.

I can play with imaginary good-guy techno-socialism as a fictional setting, and not wind up a techno-socialist.

But the fantasy is that, at it's core. Somehow, humans and their friends have found a way to be a Federation that works, is not cruel or insane. Some members get out of line, but the larger pull is towards doing things the right way.

Dennis made up an interesting long term plot. Ironically, aboard a fictional USS Discovery (We started the game in 1992) The Discovery was a Starfleet ship, but she'd been... commandeered by dark forces inside the Federation Hierarchy. Her mission was to go do a wrong thing in order to try and save the Federation.

Many of the characters in that story were from the USS Harrier, where an Every man Captain pulled together a group of talented weirdoes to form a really good crew. So we had Orville covered there, too.

So the underlying plot of the Discovery was when would the every man captain look up from doing the job and ask "Why am I doing this?"

If given bad orders does he follow them through, or does he apply the brakes and try to undo this mess?


Okay, back to the CBS Discovery.

It's a dark show. It really comes off as dark when compared to Orville. I think the two shows make a nice contrast.

Discovery puts the characters in a dark place.

My hope is that as it challenges them, they'll discover what they're really made of, if you'll forgive the pun.

I hope these characters discover their inner Federation, if you will.

The 5th episode really lends me grounds for hope, here. They have an interesting iteration of the classic Star Trek trope of "Taking the third option"

In some ways the story telling reminds me of Dark Matter. This is intentional. Discovery is meant to be one 16 episode story. It's very arc heavy. So surprises come along as we go.

There are some characters I find questionable. Not because I think they are bad as characters, but because I think they are examples of people who go into dark places and lose track of their inner Federation.

So, where will this wind up? It's a great conflict. When it's a crisis, do principles take a back seat to survival? Do they have to? What if you're going into survival mode too soon? What does that cost you?

A character who says "Survive now. We can have principles when we're not on the menu."

is naturally in conflict with a character who says "The Principles have to come first."

I know what my preference is, as a person, as a writer and as a Star Trek Fan.

But that means if I am going to tell you a story, I really have to bend over backwards to be fair to the point of view I don't agree with. I have to be able to tell it to you, I have to have a character I believe in act according to that point of view in believable ways.

I believe this is good exercise. Someone called it the "Ethical Turing Test"

I think Discovery is on a good track here, to have characters with different points of view, and to be honest with these characters in their situation.


Although many have arguments with the dark tone of Discovery, I think it may pay off. If the writers and producers are in touch with their own "inner Federations" - I think the darkness now, might serve as a contrast to the candle they light as they go along.

This 5th episode showed me a spark of that candle. It showed me that some of these characters are still in touch with their inner Federation.

We'll see how they follow through with it as they go along.

So far I am intrigued.

As for the uniforms, the ships and the sets.

Mostly I like them. I think the new Uniforms look like track suits.

The sets and props are totally believable to me. The Discovery herself.... well. I wouldn't have made her bigger than a Connie. And I think the way things move is... well, unnecessary.


The new Klingons. Let's veer off into this one.

The new Klingons are much much more lumpy.

But, in many ways the characterization, the way they behave and think is entirely consistent with the way we've seen them since TNG.

So I am stuck in a weird position. They make great antagonists. And I am really enjoying how the various Klingons we see are not cardboard cutouts, but actual Klingon Karacters doing Klingon things for Klingon reasons.

So I am enjoying having Klingons as Antagonists for this series. I am enjoying how they are done.

I would not have made them so lumpy. I would have stuck with a look consistent with the TNG-ENT line of Klingons. Or maybe the Ent style smooth headed Klingons.

BUT, they didn't ask me.

So mentally I am grabbing the new Klingons and calling them a client race of the Empire. In the Jay Trek Klingon Empire you'll see all sorts of people looking all sorts of different flavors of lumpy.

So it's weird, there's people I enjoy as antagonists in a huge pile of make up I would not have done.


Although this is supposed to be a prequel series, set 10 years before TOS....

it is, like all Star Treks, a creature of it's times.

This is why I really hoping to see a candle lit against the darkness in this show. I hope we can still see ourselves that way. I hope this show can reflect back to us our own "inner Federation"

I kinda think we need that.

BTW, I think Orville does this very well, too. Well I guess it's talking to us about our "Inner Planetary Union"

But we all know what it is. Off-brand Star Trek. And I am enjoying it, quite a bit too.

It's too soon to know if Star Trek Discovery will find it's best self.

But already for me, these people are part of the tribe. Both the characters and the actors.

and I will be in the seat to see where Discovery goes, for good or ill.

Jay ~Meow!~
"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" - Leonard Nimoy

"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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