Picard


I watched the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, and I have mixed feelings.

On the positive side, the humanism is just drooling out of the side of the box. He argues for saving all lives after the enemy’s star went nova, pushes for rescuing even the enemies of the federation, the Romulans, and there’s even some bit about synthetic humans (like Data) and their rights. I like the idea of a show that digs deep into ethical concerns.

On the negative side, there was the usual pointless Trekkie pseudoscience contrived on the spot. Data had a daughter? Who was synthetic, but biological? And the process always creates twins? And Data’s knowledge can be reconstructed from a single neuron? There are teleporting Romulans who want to kill one daughter, but there’s another on a Borg ship? It was too much. Now Picard is somehow getting back on a ship and soaring off to right some wrongs or something, or contrive excuses to bring back old Star Trek actors for guest spots. It’s the first episode, and it’s already too artificial and complicated.

I’ll probably check out a future episode to see how it shakes out, but it looks to me like the stuff I like about Star Trek is going to be overwhelmed by the stuff I detest about Star Trek.

Comments

  1. garnetstar says

    Pushing past the bad parts of shows is never good: I had to hold my nose for the entire last two seasons of Game of Thrones.

    But, since I would pay money to watch Patrick Stewart so much as read a telephone directory, I think I’ll be able to bear the badness of this one better.

  2. says

    Yeah, they could have handled the whole “single positronic neuron or whatever” thing differently. It’s not like they didn’t have a copy of Data’s memory banks that was directly referenced in the very episode or anything. Also the necklace wasn’t really all that unusual. It vaguely reminds me of Prometheus where five dots on a cave wall are magically a “star map.” And the archive scene was way too contrived. But those are fairly minor quibbles for a pilot episode. The opening scene felt like a dream I’ve had many times about continuing Star Trek TNG. For some reason I can only see it happening on the Enterprise D, so that was a nice touch. Just turn down the dumb sci-fi gobbledygook and a few less sappy love letters to us long time fans and I think it’ll be good.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    Yeah, the “entire memory from a single neuron” was pretty dumb, but I loved everything else. The young actress seemed effective, the settings were cool, and the baddies were suitably bad and mysterious. I also like the idea of exploring how the Federation may have betrayed its origins — quite timely!

  4. brucegee1962 says

    Oh, I’d need to go back and watch it, but wouldn’t it be likely that the smashed Borg cube might be left over from the battle in First Contact?

  5. jojodancingbear says

    I can overlook that since I, like garnetstar could watch Picard read a phone book.. I actually thought it was pretty good other than the 5% of nonsense, but still we overlook transporting too…..

  6. Porivil Sorrens says

    Tbh, I don’t really understand how one can enjoy Star Trek without also liking the soft/pseudo-science. It’s never had the pretenses of being hard sci-fi, and I always figured that’s part of the core concept of it.

    It’d be like if I was like “Oh yeah I love Breaking Bad but I hate plots about drug dealers.”

  7. jasonfailes says

    Data’s equivalent of neurons don’t have to work anything like ours. Perhaps the entire Holographic Principle-exploiting technology is why he wasn’t like other androids in the series, and why you simply can’t back him up in an earlier model like B4.

    Time will tell how well they walk the storytelling/techbabble tightrope. It’s not like a review from 25 years ago, where unanswered questions after “Executive Producer” could reasonably be considered plotholes.

  8. microraptor says

    My issue with psuedoscience in Star Trek isn’t that it’s there or even that it’s so prevalent. It’s that it’s completely inconsistent.

    Rather like Star Trek’s timeline.

  9. says

    @7&8: It’s about being clever, -ie just physics yet to be solved rather than magic. That requires a decent amount of consistency.
    I hope I’m wrong, but it sounds like some sloppy retconning going on here. That’s always a bad sign.

  10. tacitus says

    My litmus test was whether it was better than Discovery, and thus far, while it’s early days, I would suggest it’s going to surpass that admittedly low bar by some distance.

    I believe they have promised a more character-driven show this time around, and if they stick to their guns, Picard could be an much more enjoyable Star Trek show than the last three efforts.

  11. says

    @8 I think that most people are more interested in a good story rather than scientific accuracy. Watching weightless astronauts on a treadmill for three hours may be more realistic but it’s boring as hell. Just repeat to yourself: “It’s just a show…” ;)

  12. waydude says

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, it’s Star Trek so it will come with some less than stellar science and techno babble. But this is the beginning of a series that will have an ongoing plot that is just being set up. Not going to be the old ‘Alien of the week’ episodes, which, good. So far, has potential. My only fear is they will set up a grand idea and then fail to follow through (ahem, Game of Thrones, BSG, Lost, etc…)

  13. Stuart Smith says

    Don’t worry, all of the problems with the show can probably be fixed at the last second by reversing the polarity on your deflector array to generate a quantum neutrino field.

  14. John Morales says

    Heh. I recall [quick google] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Similitude_(Star_Trek:_Enterprise)

    Star Trek was never SF, it was always fantasy. But it was upbeat, at least.

    (TLDR; there’s a magic bug that creates clones from a DNA sample, and that sample provides not just the physical entity, but also all the memories and personality of that entity. Same conceit as Frank Herbert in Dune)

    Susan @16, Discovery. Since I don’t ever watch stuff cold, I read up on it even as Netflix spruiked it. It ain’t canon, that’s for sure, and I’ve spared myself the frustration of enduring it.

    (Thing is, it was never meant to be grimdark — just doesn’t work)

  15. says

    @18 If you just want more TNG, check out Seth McFarlane’s “The Orville”. Given how much I loathe his other work, I found TO surprisingly enjoyable.

    Dark and gritty can work if it plausibly flows from the premise, which is why DS9 remains my all-time favorite Trek, Being dark and gritty for it’s own sake ruins an otherwise good work and makes an already bad one look desperate.

  16. says

    I really enjoyed the show and it was like going back to visit old friends. Agreed that the explanation of Data’s memory being kept on a single neuron is a stretch, but it’s future technology so it could work differently. I’m reminded about the theme song from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” where it says “If you’re wondering how he eats & breathes, And other science facts…(la! la! la!)
    Then repeat to yourself its just a show,I should really just relax…For Mystery Science Theater3000…….” Just relax and enjoy the show Professor it’s entertainment after all!

  17. John Morales says

    Chris L.:

    I’m reminded about the theme song from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” where it says “If you’re wondering how he eats & breathes, And other science facts…(la! la! la!)
    Then repeat to yourself its just a show,I should really just relax…For Mystery Science Theater3000…….”

    But then it’s not science fiction, is it? It’s just fiction.

  18. says

    The comment about inconsistency struck a chord with me. I’m a layperson with regard to fanboyism, but I have my own priorities about balancing scientific believability vs the fun of imagination. One thing that has been mentioned before: couldn’t transporter technology as represented in past shows solve many problems that occur later? Let’s consider it as magic … but even as that, I would appreciate some consistency. Perhaps what we get as viewers is just the result of different writers doing a job without needing to pander to picky people (like me).

  19. AlexanderZ says

    Gp Gp #23

    couldn’t transporter technology as represented in past shows solve many problems that occur later? Let’s consider it as magic … but even as that, I would appreciate some consistency.

    The teleporters are perfectly consistent: you can beam anywhere, except through your own shields.
    Unless you have the frequency codes. Or the plot demands it.
    Simple!

  20. consciousness razor says

    The teleporters are perfectly consistent: you can beam anywhere, except through your own shields.

    Not anywhere. The range was fairly limited, around 10,000-40,000 km, until later on the subspace transporters could do a few light years. Not to be confused with early claims about “sub-quantum transporters,” also with a supposedly much larger range than ordinary transporters — those were just an elaborate hoax by the inventor of the real, original (non-hoax) transporters, not the subspace ones, who lost his son in (surprise!) a transporter accident. Or something like that.
    Well, what I said at least appears (on-screen) to be sort of true for the most part, up to the 24th century or so. I had nearly forgotten it, but the memory alpha article mentioned that, by the 29th century, they had “temporal transporters” too, or at least Star Fleet’s temporal operatives had them. There’s no telling whether those were limited in that regard at all. But presumably, they didn’t merely allow time travel (speaking of problems in Star Trek…) if you were in “the same location” (whatever that means), since they were able to put you wherever you needed to be in that other time — wherever the plot needed you to be, that is.

  21. says

    Wow, people dislike ST:Discovery?

    That was the best ST show I’ve ever seen. The continuous plot and the depth of characterization were improvements on most of the other ST shows, and the particular characters (and actors) they chose then took it over the top.

    Compare the depth of characterization after 29 episodes to the depth of characterization available in Voyager, DS9, TOS or TNG after 29 episodes of each of those series. Then think about how much world building they’ve done, how much of what they’ve done will have important and interesting ripple effects through the rest of the ST setting. They’ve simply done greater world-building and character growth in 29 episodes than any other series to date.

    Add to all that bring back Harcourt Fenton Mudd (and casting Rainn Wilson for the role) and you’ve got the best Trek to date.

  22. says

    @Porivil Sorrens:

    It’d be like if I was like “Oh yeah I love Breaking Bad but I hate plots about drug dealers.”

    Oh, it’s worse. People keep saying things like, “Oh, I love TOS/TNG/Whatever Trek, but I can’t stand this brand new sequel because the science in the sequel doesn’t make any sense.”

    Puh-leeeezzz. If you’re nostalgic for TNG, that’s fine. But a tardigrade/fungus sub-universe is no more wacky than the Q continuum. There’s no objective reason to be upset with New Trek that doesn’t apply equally to Old Trek (whatever your particular “Old Trek” might be). Combined with better and better special effects which in turn enable more interesting interactions between humans (and their tech, like space ships) and non-humans (and their tech). Space battles are more interesting and complex, and inter-species interactions also become more interesting and complex.

    Honestly, the shows have been on an uneven but generally positive trajectory throughout the existence of the ST universe.

  23. consciousness razor says

    The continuous plot and the depth of characterization were improvements on most of the other ST shows, and the particular characters (and actors) they chose then took it over the top.

    Well, I appreciate their attempts in that regard, and I was hoping it would go somewhere. But it left me feeling cold. Where it went doesn’t make any sense, how they got there doesn’t make any sense, and very little of it was especially interesting. Maybe if you’re really interested in ridiculous CGI action scenes, but otherwise, not so much.
    Part of it for me is about the plot, even when we’re talking about characterization. They may seem “deep” but characters are paper-thin when they do things which are so brazenly unmotivated or unreasonable. You can’t patch that up with some hammy acting and melodrama.
    And look, I don’t care how many scenes you show me of Michael staring into distance with some kind of serious look on her face — there has to be some actual dialogue/behavior, which doesn’t feel at all forced or out of place, which actually says something about what that character is supposed to be thinking at that time. Otherwise, what you have is just a photo shoot of Sonequa Martin-Green; I may enjoy that, but it’s not characterization.
    And i don’t want to do spoilers here, but one example of many that you should easily understand with minimal commentary: Ash/Voq. What the hell is going on with that dude? ‘Nuff said, i think.
    Okay, another easy one: Spock. They should have never made her a relative of his in the first place — lots of other bad choices flow directly from that one — but the whole conceit of a Spock who’s not really the Spock we all already knew is just the writers trying to get away with highway robbery, characterization-wise. You could do a whole new series, with entirely new places and characters and so forth — then do whatever you want with that, because you can. But you shouldn’t take a huge amount of existing material and simply violate it like that.
    It’s pretty much the same shit with the Star Wars sequels…. I go into it as a person who’s seen all of the Star Wars and Star Trek stuff; so it’s mostly comprehensible and familiar. It has vague and sloppy rules/relationships/etc., but they still define what that fictional world is. But it’s like the writers just took a dump on all of that, like they didn’t know anything about it. So, when a person like me watches the same thing, they might see the characterization of Luke (or Spock) as utterly wrong for that character, in that time and place. But when somebody else watches it and they’re not bringing all of that baggage with them, they may think very differently about it. Should I not carry that kind of baggage? I think I should, and I would say that people who aren’t carrying any should not go around praising the airline for how wonderfully it handles the customer’s bags. They aren’t the sort of people who would notice when bags are lost, misplaced, damaged, etc.

  24. John Morales says

    CD:

    Wow, people dislike ST:Discovery?

    That was the best ST show I’ve ever seen.

    My wife, an inveterate trekky (who before age 16 could verbatim quote the dialogue of most of the original series’ episodes and did fanzines and whatnot) tried to watch it. She gave up pretty damn quick.

    But then, as I recall, you have no prob with changes to canon, as with (for example) a female James Bond — it might vitiate or even repudiate the original characters and setting, but it’s very new and very exciting for you. For others, not-so-much.

    I’m pretty sure it is utterly antagonistic to Gene Roddenberry’s vision, but then, I will likely never truly know, since I will only ever deign to watch it if I’m sufficiently rewarded with $$$, or sufficiently pressured. As I noted, I don’t watch stuff cold, I’ve been burnt too often for that. And spoilers aren’t a thing for me.

    (So: Wow! about your Wow — I mean, de gustibus and all that, but to call it ST is an insult to TOS)

  25. says

    @CR and John:

    They may seem “deep” but characters are paper-thin when they do things which are so brazenly unmotivated or unreasonable. You can’t patch that up with some hammy acting and melodrama.

    Okay… but wasn’t there a lot of brazenly unmotivated or unreasonable stuff in like, every Trek ever? My problem in understanding what’s going on for other Trekkies is with Trekkies calling the new stuff bad for sins that were present in spades in the old stuff.

    I’m perfectly happy to hear people say that they don’t LIKE the new stuff, that it’s not their style or whatever. But by building each episode off the last, the characterizations are necessarily deeper than they were in any other Trek series 29 episodes in. Ash/Voq is confusing and unpredictable, but would a character with that history be predictable?

    So again, “likable” is different from “good”. If the sins that were present in the old and the new both failed to make the old “bad”, then why should anyone believe that they make the new “bad”.

    “Unlikable” maybe (as John says, de gustibus…) I can understand. But I don’t understand why people call it “bad” when it’s only failings are failings that are omnipresent in every Trek ever.

    as I recall, you have no prob with changes to canon, as with (for example) a female James Bond

    and

    Should I not carry that kind of baggage? I think I should, and I would say that people who aren’t carrying any should not go around praising the airline for how wonderfully it handles the customer’s bags.

    I think this gets mostly to the heart of it. I’ve watched it and think it’s a good show. It’s nothing like TOS or TNG, but a large part of that is the choice to have a continuous plot rather than disconnected episodes. Many people also think it’s darker, and maybe if you’re a Trek fan you don’t want anything “dark”. I saw it much the way I saw Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies: there are dark parts, but I wouldn’t call it “dark” since I’ve seen it through to the (current) end and it ends on hopeful notes.

    Of course, that means that the ends of individual episodes can be dark. And again, I think it’s perfectly fair not to like that. But I don’t think that’s bad, just different and catering to different tastes.

    Honestly, I think that much of James Bond illustrates the same thing (and thus how weird I think that people would be upset at a woman 007). James Bond movies have been middling-serious (“Dr. No”) and off-the-wall ridiculous (“Moonraker”) with plenty in-between. But none were gritty and intense the way Daniel Craig’s Bonds have been in at least two of them (first and third, the second, which I think was “Quantum of Solace” was not quite so quasi-realistic, gritty-intense in nature). I think the shift in mood from the more light-hearted Bonds to the most gritty-intense Bonds was no greater or lesser than the mood shift from TOS to Discovery.

    And again, if it’s not your cup of tea, great, but i don’t understand how that makes Discovery “bad”.

    So I guess part of this is my own problem, since I, too, said that I was surprised that people “dislike ST:Discovery” when I really should have said I’m surprised people call ST:Discovery “bad”.

    But yeah, I do tend to take new series as their own things, which makes it easier to dis/like things based on whether they’re good, rather than based on whether they’re true to X tradition. (This doesn’t mean that I only dis/like things based on “quality” – obviously I have my own tastes as well, and a very well done daytime soap opera still isn’t going to interest me much.)

    My biggest problem then – since I’m clearly also guilty of mixing questions of taste and questions of quality – is just that I’m confounded when someone attributes the reason for disliking something like Discovery as bad characterization when what they’re comparing it to is something like TOS or TNG which had wildly ridiculous characters and characterization combined with far worse acting than you’ll see in Discovery.

    On an absolute scale, sure, critique Discovery’s characters (or even acting) to your hearts’ content. On a “Star Trek” scale, I simply see no reason to complain about either science or characters in Discovery. It seems to be to be tops or near-tops at characterization and I don’t have any reason to call any Trek distinguished in terms of comprehensible science.

    Criticisms of twisting canon (for instance modifying Spock’s backstory) I’ll just agree are matters of taste that don’t bother me in the way that they bother some.

  26. says

    Oh, and BTW: If you’re into light/optimistic and episodic? Sylvia Tilly is your character representative on Discovery and she fucking NAILS IT in one of the between-seasons short stories (called “Short Treks”).

    It’s called “Runaway” and includes one of the top 10 lines in any trek ever: “Hormonal space rabbits.” That episode was pure awesome, and even if you have no interest in ever watching Discovery as a show, you might just try watching that one episode (I think it’s about 15 minutes long, maybe 20). John, your wife would probably really enjoy it as well.

    Tilly is the bomb anyway, in every episode she appears, but if what you’re missing is hopeful/episodic (and no assaults on previous canon), then “Runaway” should have everything you love and nothing you dislike — in particular, Spock and his parents are nowhere to be seen.

  27. John Morales says

    CR:

    Okay… but wasn’t there a lot of brazenly unmotivated or unreasonable stuff in like, every Trek ever?

    Most certainly. Particularly with one-off magical plot devices (for me, an outstanding example was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato%27s_Stepchildren ).

    And yes, it was episodic (Babylon 5 was a pioneer of series arcs, many years later), but still. Plot devices once mentioned, never again used were definitely a thing.

    (Like Scotty being stored in the “pattern buffer” for many years, or editing the buffer to remove toxins — cf. Gp Gp’s comment)

    It’s nothing like TOS or TNG, but a large part of that is the choice to have a continuous plot rather than disconnected episodes.

    It’s nothing like Star Trek, either, and that is the problem.
    Other series actually set in the canonical ST universe did have series arcs, once that became the norm, and I’ve no such problems with them.

    But I don’t understand why people call it “bad” when it’s only failings are failings that are omnipresent in every Trek ever.

    Star Trek was about how the future could be better (for its day, it was woke).

    And again, if it’s not your cup of tea, great, but i don’t understand how that makes Discovery “bad”.

    I don’t know whether or not it’s bad on its own merits (apparently, there are many explosions, so hey), but it most certainly ain’t Star Trek. I mean, you can call a bacon and cheese sandwich a vegetarian salad, if you want, but calling it that doesn’t make it so.

    But yeah, I do tend to take new series as their own things …

    Well, it is a new series alright, but Star Trek it ain’t.
    Call it Store Truk, perhaps, and then no worries — it’s its own thing.

    Criticisms of twisting canon (for instance modifying Spock’s backstory) I’ll just agree are matters of taste that don’t bother me in the way that they bother some.

    Well, for example, it was firmly established that Zefram Cochrane discovered the “space warp” tech in 2063, leading to contact with Vulcan (excuse the geekery). Now, there’s a “spore drive” just ten years prior to the original Enterprise?

    That ain’t twisting canon, that’s utterly ignoring it.

    Dunno, perhaps I care because I actually watched all the series to that point when they were originally aired, old fart that I am.

  28. John Morales says

    Hm. Gotta add, my main objection is still the violation of Roddenberry’s legacy.

    His future was more kinder, more egalitarian, less xenophobic, nicer all around.
    A better place, with better people and a more enlightened society.
    Kinda like Pinker’s thesis validated.
    That was the vision, the core of Star Trek.

    Ah well. Why not shit all over that, and call it a good thing?

  29. consciousness razor says

    Okay… but wasn’t there a lot of brazenly unmotivated or unreasonable stuff in like, every Trek ever?

    You were saying it’s much improved over earlier series. This implies that it’s not. I don’t know if you really expect me to agree with a contradiction, but I certainly don’t need to.

    My problem in understanding what’s going on for other Trekkies is with Trekkies calling the new stuff bad for sins that were present in spades in the old stuff.

    Like what, “bad science,” which is one of PZ’s (now very typical) complaints about nearly every piece of sci-fi ever? I don’t consider him a “Trekkie,” first of all, and I bet he doesn’t either.
    Secondly, there are sometimes other redeeming qualities that can help to alleviate certain issues, which doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t criticize its bad qualities as being bad. You could show me any piece of music whatsoever (where I can definitely give an expert opinion/diagnosis), and I could find issues of one kind or another. Sometimes, though, if it’s really just crappy, there’s not much good to say about it.

    I’m perfectly happy to hear people say that they don’t LIKE the new stuff, that it’s not their style or whatever. But by building each episode off the last, the characterizations are necessarily deeper than they were in any other Trek series 29 episodes in.

    No, not necessarily. You’re apparently talking about the plot being less episodic than some previous Star Trek shows. However, Voyager, DS9, and Enterprise all had fairly well-developed long-term plotlines, in comparison to TOS and TNG where the bigger picture was much more aimless. So I’m not too sure I should buy this premise to begin with.
    Anyway, before Discovery started, I did have some kind of hope/expectation that a less-episodic form of storytelling (which seemed to be part of the concept) would allow for more character-driven drama, more opportunity for depicting them in depth, more room for growth and so on. But I don’t think that’s actually what we got. The rug was pulled out from under us, with Captain Bad-Guy from the Bad-Guy-Universe, and it happened two or three times with Ash/Voq. Those are definitely noteworthy changes involving characters. However, that sort of stuff is mainly about manipulating the audience, trolling them more or less, not presenting a meaningful arc that we can experience along with the character.
    What else is there? The gay guys start to have trouble in their relationship, which sort of evaporates quickly anyway and doesn’t seem to lead anywhere? Okay, if you want to include too, fine. But that doesn’t help me with the rest of the plot or the other characters or the themes (whatever those might be) or with much of anything really. It’s something, I’ll grant that, but it’s not enough to sink my teeth in and really get something out of it. Compare it to the Doctor or Seven of Nine from Voyager, in terms of character development/growth, and tell me something that I must be missing. Because I don’t see it.

    Ash/Voq is confusing and unpredictable, but would a character with that history be predictable?

    Who says we needed a character with that history? Maybe the writers said so, after they wrote it and got tired of writing, but not me.

    So again, “likable” is different from “good”. If the sins that were present in the old and the new both failed to make the old “bad”, then why should anyone believe that they make the new “bad”.

    I explained this above, but let me put it differently. You’re taking a single (and perfectly legitimate) criticism as if it could be understood in isolation and outside of context, and then you’re not considering how that may interact with other (possibly redeeming, possibly not redeeming) features which are also part of the experience. The fact that there are other features of a work that go into how people think about an artwork as a whole doesn’t de-legitimize the criticisms that they have about parts of it.

    I think this gets mostly to the heart of it. I’ve watched it and think it’s a good show. It’s nothing like TOS or TNG, but a large part of that is the choice to have a continuous plot rather than disconnected episodes. Many people also think it’s darker, and maybe if you’re a Trek fan you don’t want anything “dark”. I saw it much the way I saw Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies: there are dark parts, but I wouldn’t call it “dark” since I’ve seen it through to the (current) end and it ends on hopeful notes.

    I wouldn’t put it in those terms at all. It simply represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Federation/Starfleet and that entire fictional world are all about, if we are to take anything seriously from TOS and its movies, TNG and its movies, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise. Discovery paints a different picture, and I seriously don’t care how “dark” that picture happens to be. DS9 for example was pretty grim a lot of the time, as were many other more isolated examples in every series. And that’s fine with me as far as it goes. I like dark and depressing stuff. The difference is that DS9 wasn’t showing you a very different fictional world while pretending to be the same one. The core elements were still there.
    I don’t think I should have to suspend my meta-disbelief about which show I’m allegedly watching. When I start thinking like that, I get distracted and wonder whether I’m really a butterfly dreaming it’s a Boltzmann brain living in the Matrix. And then I can’t have a very enjoyable time watching a sci-fi/fantasy show.
    Think of it this way. If they had dressed it up in some other superficial garb, they could’ve called it “Battlestar Galactica 2: Electric Boogaloo.” But why do that shit? You should think that’s just as wrong as dressing this up like Star Trek, because the non-superficial parts would be so mind-bogglingly inconsistent with what had been established in Battlestar Galactica. (That’s much “darker,” in case you haven’t seen it, which again is really not the point here).
    I meant it when I said they could just a make a different show, then do whatever the hell they want with it. That would’ve been my best advice, if they insist on telling that specific story, because you have to fuck around with too much of the Star Trek world in order to tell it. (And prequels in general? Also usually a bad idea, which coincidentally is one of the overarching problems with Enterprise.)

  30. stroppy says

    Meh. I think most of the juice has been sucked out of Star Trek by now. DS9 has more or less stood the test of time for me, though I could do without all that hokey Prophet/Pa Wraith stuff — the exception being the Far Beyond the Stars episode (I’m a sucker for meta). And there will always be a nostalgic, retro place in my heart for TOS.

    Maybe I’m jaded but I’m ready for a whole new… everything.

    Sci-fi author William Gibson: how ‘future fatigue’ is putting people off the 22nd century
    https://theconversation.com/sci-fi-author-william-gibson-how-future-fatigue-is-putting-people-off-the-22nd-century-130335
    The last line may be a little too pat, but I think he’s on to something.

  31. Anselm Lingnau says

    As far as I’m concerned there isn’t a lot of room for manure like “Star Trek: Discovery” in a world that has “Firefly” (all 14 episodes of it!) and “The Expanse”. I haven’t seen “Picard” but I’m not hanging my hopes too high.

  32. says

    @consciousness razor:

    I hope this comes across as discussion – if this ever gets to the point where it seems like I’m being antagonistic rather than just sharing a point of view, I’d rather just quit the conversation b/c it’s not worth it if I’m making people feel bad or putting people in a position where they feel defensive.

    That said, I’ll assume we’re good until I hear otherwise, so let me add a couple things:

    Okay… but wasn’t there a lot of brazenly unmotivated or unreasonable stuff in like, every Trek ever?

    You were saying it’s much improved over earlier series. This implies that it’s not. I don’t know if you really expect me to agree with a contradiction, but I certainly don’t need to.

    I do think that characterization is improved over earlier series. I believe that the problems you’re talking about exist, but I think they exist as less-severe versions of problems that have existed throughout the existence of Trek and all its incarnations. So when someone says that the characterizations are bad, I am prompted to ask, “Bad compared to what?” I am confused by how someone turned off by flat characterizations with little understandable growth could ever have been drawn to Trek in the first place.

    Thus I feel like I have seen some “grandparenting” in of the flaws of earlier series amongst my friends (who are the only critics I know well enough to guess at these dynamics), effectively creating a double standard for shows a critic liked before becoming an adult with more sophisticated expectations. Having seen (I think) this dynamic among my friends, I wonder if (but do not conclude that) other critics are also experiencing some similar two-level tolerance for flaws in characterization in earlier series vs. the same flaws in Discovery.

    And again, I do this because many people have said not just that they didn’t like the series, but that the series was bad. If a critic (not you obviously) wants to call Discovery “bad” but TNG “good” and uses characterization as evidence against Discovery, I have to wonder why that critic isn’t downgrading TNG heavily for that as well.

    I’m asking questions of people here NOT because they’ve made the same mistakes about asserting that Discovery is a lower quality show than some other Trek while using evidence that (at worst) shouldn’t distinguish the two series being compared and (at best) seems to me like it would tend to favor a judgement of Discovery over that earlier series. I’m asking questions of people here because you and John and other people here are people I respect and maybe at the end of our conversation I will better understand what is causing severely anti-discovery reactions in some people.

    Compare it to the Doctor or Seven of Nine from Voyager, in terms of character development/growth, and tell me something that I must be missing. Because I don’t see it.

    I really liked the Doctor’s development, but please remember that I limited things to the first 29 episodes, since we’ve only had 29 from Discovery. That’s barely more than the first season of Voyager. I honestly think that not much character development had happened by then – a bit with B’Elanna, a bit with the doctor, but other characters had been featured in episodes more about revealing backstories than providing opportunities for actual growth/change. Neelix was particularly bad as he appeared to learn various lessons but then his character really didn’t act as if he’d learned those lessons going forward in future episodes (at least during the first season and a half). To the extent that there was character growth at all, it seemed mostly to be people overcoming prejudices against other people. The Maquis and original Voyager crew trust each other more and there’s less internal fighting after the first season… but is that growth? The Maquis weren’t fighting the Maquis before (and likewise the original Voyager crew), so it doesn’t seem like any characters actually gained a new ability to participate in groups (with the possible exception of Paris). Rather they just added a few more names to their personal “in group” lists.

    Also, how can you even talk about the Seven-of-Nine arc? She didn’t even get introduced to the series until halfway through the show’s run, FAR more than 30 episodes in. I don’t think it’s fair at all to include her. (Though I will also concede that I never finished Voyager and probably didn’t see more than 20-30 episodes after she joined Voyager’s crew, maybe even less, I’m not sure. Also, I got completely turned off by her Barbie-doll figure. So if Discovery continues for enough episodes that how they handled her becomes relevant, I’ll defer to you on her characterization. I didn’t witness enough of it to judge, and my judgement would be compromised anyway.)

    Comparing apples to apples – 29 episodes to 29 episodes – I’ve seen significant but not exceptional growth in Tilly, change, but not what I’d call “growth” in Stamets, and large amounts of growth in both Saru and Michael. Ash/Voq we’ve discussed. Certainly the character changes over time, though I can appreciate that the manner of those changes seems chaotic, unjustified, and I completely agree that it’s not a journey that the viewer takes with the character. Taken together, I see a great deal more character development in Discovery than in either DS9 or Voyager, and MOUNTAINS more than TOS or TNG.

    If you’re looking for one, specific example, however, of a character who changes quite a bit and whose changes affect the show and its universe, I would nominate Saru. Saru’s second puberty is a bit of a shock-change, but they do give the viewer some insight into what Saru is feeling that is different now than before, and though certain things about how his perceptions change are immediate, how his thinking changes plays out over multiple episodes. As a result, his relationship with his homeworld and the two peoples who live their also changes, and that relationship creates new ethical dilemmas that did not exist before Saru’s changes take hold. There may be something like that with 7-of-9 a hundred or more episodes into Voyager, but there’s nothing remotely close to that in TOS or TNG at all, ever. Even the Locutus experience of Picard doesn’t compare. There’s no new conflict with the Borg or new ethical dilemma concerning the Borg that arises from Picard’s perceptions. To the extent that Picard changes, he just has more insight into the Borg and thus becomes an opponent of the Borg who is better educated as to their goals and tactics than he was previously.

    So, if you’re not seeing differences in the level of characterization and character-building/world-building interactions, perhaps start with Saru.

    [Discovery] simply represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Federation/Starfleet and that entire fictional world are all about …. The difference is that DS9 wasn’t showing you a very different fictional world while pretending to be the same one. The core elements were still there.

    I’m sympathetic to this as a reason to dislike the show (and i’ve heard you loud and clear that you wouldn’t mind so much if they had produced the same show with no assumption it took place in the same universe as other Trek shows and didn’t use the Trek name). Just as education for me, would you be willing to share what you feel those “core elements” are that the TNG/DS9/Voyager arc preserves from TOS that are not preserved in Discovery? (I’ve heard John say that a kinder and gentler outlook are important, but I’m not sure if you would echo those same statements, would add to them, or would advance entirely different ones.)

    I honestly don’t feel like I have a handle on what those elements are. I mean, I can list some things that I think of as core to Trek, but I’m obviously perceiving different things as constituting the “core” since I would have put “exploration” as “core” and DS9 dispenses with exploration while Discovery preserves it. I’m sure I have other ideas about what constitutes the “core” of Trek that differ from others’ notions, but I don’t really know where to start and TBH it doesn’t matter that much to me. I really do judge the shows largely independently. (I’m not saying that’s the right way to judge the shows, just that I think that’s differently from how you are judging them based on your statements that I interpret to mean you would judge the show differently if it didn’t carry the Trek name.)

    Finally:

    You’re taking a single (and perfectly legitimate) criticism as if it could be understood in isolation and outside of context, and then you’re not considering how that may interact with other (possibly redeeming, possibly not redeeming) features which are also part of the experience. The fact that there are other features of a work that go into how people think about an artwork as a whole doesn’t de-legitimize the criticisms that they have about parts of it.

    I completely agree. My struggle with criticisms of Discovery don’t actually stem from comments on Pharyngula, but rather from what I’ve heard others say off-line and from articles written elsewhere on-line and from critical youtube videos. In those criticisms, I don’t hear people expressing the completely reasonable point of view, “All Trek has bullshit science, but I find the bullshit, made-up science annoys me more in Discovery because it doesn’t have good thing X that has, in other Trek shows, distracted me from the bullshit science.” Rather, I have frequently heard people use “bullshit science” or “unbelievable characterizations” as criticisms in themselves, not relative to other shows and not as things with interact constructively/destructively with other elements of the experience.

    In short, I’m treating them as isolated criticisms in themselves because the critics have presented them as isolated criticisms in themselves, and I’m trying to understand why the fuck anyone would do that.

    Again, I’m not the god of what-people-should-like, but when someone criticizes

  33. John Morales says

    Perhaps an analogy will help convey the sense of dismay some old fans feel.

    There was the old Scooby-Doo (the villains were always people perpetrating scams), then there was the new Scooby-Doo (with actual ghoulies and monsters).

    Similar thing, here.

  34. says

    @John — And you’re allowed to like one, both, or neither.

    Discovery is a metaphor. It’s not just about finding new places and people, it’s about the growth of the characters. A journey of personal discovery. Like all Trek, it should make you stop and look at yourself.

  35. John Morales says

    No worries, WMDKitty.

    I certainly don’t want to diss your (or others’) appreciation of it.

    (I guess I’m trying to express my own perspective, but in my usual combative, vehement fashion :| )

    PS CD, your last comment somehow became truncated.

  36. consciousness razor says

    I really liked the Doctor’s development, but please remember that I limited things to the first 29 episodes, since we’ve only had 29 from Discovery. That’s barely more than the first season of Voyager.

    Season 1 only had 16 episodes, and 13 more is halfway into the 26-episode second season. Right from the first episode, the crew treats him like dirt, with the child-like alien Kes (also an outsider) being the only exception I can remember. At any rate, right away, the writers give him an enormous range to grow into the character he became, along with the entire main cast who gradually learned to appreciate him.

    I honestly think that not much character development had happened by then

    You may honestly think that, but you’re not correct in thinking that.

    Neelix was particularly bad as he appeared to learn various lessons but then his character really didn’t act as if he’d learned those lessons going forward in future episodes (at least during the first season and a half).

    The writing for his character was the worst among the main cast, all the way to the end. That I will not dispute.

    To the extent that there was character growth at all, it seemed mostly to be people overcoming prejudices against other people. The Maquis and original Voyager crew trust each other more and there’s less internal fighting after the first season… but is that growth?

    Yes, it obviously is. It’s silly to ask that question.

    The Maquis weren’t fighting the Maquis before (and likewise the original Voyager crew), so it doesn’t seem like any characters actually gained a new ability to participate in groups (with the possible exception of Paris). Rather they just added a few more names to their personal “in group” lists.

    How is this relevant? Maybe you want to say that you don’t approve of the particular ways that those characters grew. This, even though expanding one’s in-group is often discussed (in real life) as if it were a positive form of personal growth. That’s a common way of talking about cooperation and compassion and empathy and lots of goodies like that. But even if you don’t think of it like this, it certainly doesn’t mean that they didn’t grow. They did.

    Also, how can you even talk about the Seven-of-Nine arc? She didn’t even get introduced to the series until halfway through the show’s run, FAR more than 30 episodes in.

    I don’t care about the 29-episodes-from-the-pilot cutoff that you think is important. I’m perfectly fine with starting from the first episode which includes Seven, when understanding what happens to Seven. From there, it didn’t take 29 episodes to get lots of interesting developments, for her as well as (once again) most of the cast – the main crew, guests, friends and enemies and frenemies, you name it. Pretty much everybody had patently obvious reasons to care about the fucking Borg, and the characters acted accordingly, because it would be extremely silly if they hadn’t. Her presence very clearly had consequences: many different people had to make many different choices related to her (including Seven herself).

    Comparing apples to apples – 29 episodes to 29 episodes

    So we’re clear, that is what I was just doing above. You can count 29 more of something, starting from any number. There’s no reason to start at episode 1 (out of 168), when talking about events in much later episodes…. Of course, you didn’t watch the later parts, and maybe you’d rather not talk about them. But I can, and you shouldn’t be too surprised when I do.

    Taken together, I see a great deal more character development in Discovery than in either DS9 or Voyager, and MOUNTAINS more than TOS or TNG.

    Well, I don’t see what you see. You could do more to describe it, or don’t bother. That’s your choice.

    There may be something like that with 7-of-9 a hundred or more episodes into Voyager,

    There sure is, only better. It was actually not long after Seven was introduced, with better writing for all parties involved, compared to any of the slop written on Discovery.

    but there’s nothing remotely close to that in TOS or TNG at all, ever.

    What about Data? He kind of goes in fits and starts, seeming to have trouble with learning some things you might expect him to know. But anyway, that’s tied in directly to being an android, much like the Doctor as a hologram or Seven as a former Borg drone. I’d say Dax is a good example too: she has to struggle with her identity a fair amount as a Trill, and many others don’t have such an easy time with it either (including Sisko, one of her oldest friends, even after I don’t know how many years).
    Also, in TOS, I’d say Bones and Spock don’t change a whole lot, but you do get a better and more detailed depiction of them as characters, over the course of the show and the movies. That’s an important form of characterization too. I know I haven’t changed much over the years, yet I still have a personality, memories, interests, skills, etc., that you wouldn’t immediately know anything about, in the first moments that you met me. So I wouldn’t actually have to change, in order for you to learn more things about me and have more meaningful experiences in that respect.

    So, if you’re not seeing differences in the level of characterization and character-building/world-building interactions, perhaps start with Saru.

    I don’t know what “differences” you’re seeing, because you have told me any. Compare/contrast one thing and another, then explain these supposed differences. So, you start with any of the characters I just listed, and don’t gerrymander several seasons of a show out of the conversation.

    I honestly don’t feel like I have a handle on what those elements are. I mean, I can list some things that I think of as core to Trek, but I’m obviously perceiving different things as constituting the “core” since I would have put “exploration” as “core” and DS9 dispenses with exploration while Discovery preserves it.

    No. Among other things, DS9 explores a whole new quarter of the galaxy, the Gamma Quadrant. As a result, the Jem’Hadar and others in the Dominion, the wormhole and its weird god-aliens, and so forth, are explored in various ways. The mirror universe is also a pretty big deal for that matter. And lots of other random shit — Ferengis and Cardassians and Bajorans, lions and tigers and bears, and the list keeps going the more I think about it. They don’t need to leave the station to do it, but they’re not always there either.
    I did also have in mind what John Morales said: it’s a utopian future space-faring society. Discovery is presenting … something else.
    Also, Michael is more of an action hero than anything – it really doesn’t need heroes. You have a whole crew, a whole space station, a whole interstellar society, etc., doing all kinds of important stuff, to whom all kinds of important stuff happens. They come, do their part, and they go, because everyone’s generally treated like an equal — the main exception being the command structure of Starfleet, which is nonetheless extremely egalitarian. Anyway, in Star Trek, you don’t just have a single hero character who solves all of the crazy problems you conjure up for them.
    There are a lot of other things, but I don’t know how much time you expect me to spend here…. The writers just don’t seem to have the right mindset, the right attitude, the right picture in their heads.
    And then there are the more blatant inconsistencies, like upgrading the tech (for a pre-TOS timeline) to an absurd level, which is clearly only motivated by the idea that “modern audiences” want that. This is maybe just code for teens and 20-somethings, but no matter. I’m still here in modern times, and a story that makes some kind of sense is one of the main things I definitely want. I will take smaller and/or fewer absurd CGI spectacles any day of the week, if that’s what I have to trade for it.

  37. wzrd1 says

    Now Picard is somehow getting back on a ship and soaring off to right some wrongs or something,

    At the end of the day, if I could have a magical time machine, I’d right many, many wrongs that lead to death.

    But here, the planners designed a way to potentially recover the permanent death of Data, from a neuron programmed by her father.
    If you couldn’t figure out the plot line, seriously, give up film and program criticism, save when it goes into magic.
    That said, I have zero reason to accept a positronic brain shits itself out as a human brain, with brain damage or potentially, false memories.
    But, this is Picard’s redemption, after failing to rescue Romulans and likely, Remans.

    Inside of that universe, I’d use Remans to accomplish advancement goals.

    Still, as you said, we’ll see.

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