Episode 8 Recap and Review

Episode 8 Recap and Review

Episode 8 is a welcome return to form, and is the most Star Trek episode of Star Trek: Discovery to date in story and theme.

It feels nice saying that, because I’ve said it almost every review now, which means (to me, anyway) that the writers are on the right track and the show is growing stronger every week.

It needs to be said, Kirsten Beyer wrote the crap out of this episode.  Kirsten is a Star Trek novelist, and this is her first television writing credit.

You couldn’t tell.

If this episode has a flaw, it’s in its run time.  There was so much story and not enough time was given to some aspects of it, but, more on that later.

The Facts
Episode Number:
108
Episode Title: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”
Written By: Kirsten Beyer
Directed By: John S. Scott

Quotable
Lorca to Rhys
: “Mr Rhys, could I trouble you to fire at something?

Stamets to Tilly: “What are you doing down here, captain?

Michael to Ash and Saru: “We can’t touch that transmitter now.
Ash to Michael: “General Order One?
Michael, in response: “No, Order One restricts us from revealing ourselves to sentient beings that aren’t warp capable.  We’re well beyond that.  Now our duty is to follow First Contact Protocol, and we can’t borrow or alter their property without them understanding our objective, and agreeing to it.

Michael to Ash: “The needs of the many…
Ash to Michael: “Are worth fighting for… are worth dying for… but so are the needs of the few.
Michael, in response: “Or the one?

Tilly to Stamets: “Okay.  What is going on with you?
Stamets, in response: “Excuse me?
Tilly back to Stamets: “At first, the tardigrade DNA booster seemed like a good thing, but now you’re back to your old persnickety, grumpy self.  So what’s the deal?

L’Rell to Cornwell: “What happens to those who Starfleet captures?
Cornwell, in response: “In war?  They’re imprisoned.  Interrogated – humanely.  Eventually, they’re returned to their people as part of any final peace settlement.
L’Rell, in response: “So, you do not… execute them?
Cornwell: “The Federation has no death penalty.
L’Rell: “I wish to defect.

L’Rell: “First, I am ensuring the end of Kol’s days.  He neglected T’Kuvma’s message.  He desecrated this vessel with his fetid presence.  Before we depart, I will set the ship’s warp core to overload.
Cornwell: “He really disappointed you!
L’Rell: “He disgusts me.  My only regret is that I will not be able to see his pretty painted face as he takes his final breath.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
– “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was originally slated to be the last episode of the first half of the first season.  Episode 9 was made the last episode for the first half a few episodes into the current run.
– The USS Gagarin, we assume, is named for the Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.
– Kelpiens can run at up to 80 kilometres per hour!
– This was Kirsten Beyer’s first professional television or film credit, as mentioned above.  Prior to being recruited by Bryan Fuller to work on Star Trek: Discovery, she was (and still is) the author of 10 Star Trek novels, with two more on the way.  Eight of those novels are based on Star Trek: Voyager.  For information on Kirsten, see her Memory Alpha page here.
– We get some insight into what is happening to Lieutenant Paul Stamets via an exchange in the mess hall with Tilly:
Okay.  I’ll admit that something has been happening to me.  One minute I know where I am, who you are, what I’m doing, and then, all of a sudden, what I know… changes… it gets jumbled…

The Recap and Review
We kick off with a bang after another cold open (no teaser before the credits), with a brand new Starfleet vessel, the USS Gagarin, in a fierce battle with the Klingons.

Sadly, the Gagarin is getting its warp nacelles kicked.

The USS Gagarin

The Discovery drops in to save the day… but can’t, and the Gagarin is blown to pieces.

It’s a demoralising moment for the crew as they engage the spore drive and jump out of the battle to safety, with Lorca (almost showing a drop of compassion) telling them there will be a time to grieve, but later.

Star Trek: Discovery throws together a nice battle sequence.  The effects are always top notch, though at times there are some unusual direction choices that are made that don’t quite allow the scenes to ‘pop’ as much as they could.

I do miss the more traditional phaser fire of past series – sustained beams of light rather than the more Star Wars like bolts of energy, but that’s a small thing.

This entire opening shows Lorca in his element.  He’s a dynamic captain who looks like he wants to jump through the viewer into the midst of the battle, and physically beat the Klingon ships into oblivion.  This is no Kirk or Picard, calmly or with restrained intensity, commanding an engagement from the captain’s chair.  Lorca paces like a caged animal, unleashing the fury of his ship on the enemy.  Jason Isaacs makes you believe it’s personal and he is convincing as a man who has lost a lot to the Klingons and wants to deal them a decisive blow.  He is such an excellent choice for this new Starfleet captain.

Even though Lorca doesn’t get a lot to do in this episode, every shot he’s in adds to his character – and that’s all thanks to Jason’s acting ability.  Last episode he was the fall guy for Mudd’s craziness, but every line delivery imbued Lorca with personality.  I love watching this very talented man work.

If Ash is Voq, Lorca is going to lose it and watching Jason Isaacs chew the scenery over that one will be an Emmy-winning moment.

Stamets Connected to the Spore Drive

After the destruction of the Gargarin, we visit with Stamets and Tilly and quickly learn that the spore-drive has more of an effect on Stamets than we were initially led to believe.  He staggers out of the reaction chamber like a man waking from sleep.  He’s confused, disoriented and says to Tilly “what are you doing here, captain?

Is he jumping timelines?

Tilly has stated that she intends to be a captain.  Has becoming “unstuck” in time thanks to the tardigrade DNA allowed Stamets to see or even actually visit future or alternate timelines?  He’s in a chamber infused with spores… is he actually IN that chamber?  Is something else mysterious going on while he’s hooked up to the machine?  This brief scene was very nicely set up last episode, and you can bet this one is also planting a seed or two that will bear fruit in episodes to come.

As Paul pulls himself together, he goes from confused to snappy in a heart beat.  Shroom-happy, huggy Stamets is gone.  Not-so-happy and eternally grumpy Stamets is back.

We leave Tilly and Stamets to visit with Lorca and a Vulcan admiral, where Lorca once again shows his disdain for the chain of command, walking through the hologram image and speaking abruptly, even dismissively, to the Vulcan (sometimes he’s more respectful with his subordinates).

The Vulcan admiral tells Lorca that they need to find a way to defeat the Klingon cloaking technology, or all might be lost.

We quickly leave the ship and FINALLY visit a planet, Pahvo, where a Landing Party of Saru, Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham are trekking through a forest that gives a slight nod to the very first episode of Star Trek ever, “The Cage”, with blue tinted foliage and an eerie, ethereal, ever-present background musical noise that sounds like it incorporates old school Trek sound effects.

Ash, Michael and Saru on Pahvo

This is the first planet a Landing Party has visited since the Shenzhou Landing Party in the very first episode… and it is beautiful.  Everything about Pahvo is interesting and thought provoking.  I had a really visceral reaction, and was swept away and engaged on every level by the scenes on the mystical world.

The team are trekking through the wilderness in search of a giant crystal spire that ‘sings’ in the hope it can help them detect cloaked Klingon vessels.  Saru is a bit annoyed, because, compared to a Kelpien, human’s are physically quite slow – also, the constant hum and vibration of the planet is doing Saru’s head in.  His senses are more refined than a human’s and he’s struggling through the background ‘noise’ of Pahvo.

We eventually learn that the whole planet may be sentient, as that sentience manifests itself as a beautiful, slowly undulating and swirling cloud of blue/white energy.  The manifestations/emanations choose to communicate with Saru and end up having quite an effect on the Kelpien First Officer.

Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham on Pahvo

More on that later!

Alongside this main plot, we have a secondary plot that involves the Klingons (with the odd visit back to the Discovery).

Yes.  When I saw the Klingons I groaned and looked away, wondering if I should just hit pause and come back to the episode later or go grab a coffee while they growled and pontificated at each other, but thankfully the stilted dialogue and posturing ended quickly and we got to see Admiral Katrina Cornwell again, a character I’ve really come to enjoy.

The Klingon scenes start with L’Rell convincing Kol she can be of use to him as an interrogator, and he sets her the task of getting information out of the Admiral.  She pays a visit to Katrina with a collection of nasty looking weapons in tow, and after getting the Admiral to scream, quite quickly asks to defect.

L'Rell and Cornwell Face Off

L’Rell and Admiral Katrina Cornwell need their own spin-off.  Both Mary Chieffo and Jayne Brook are excellent together.  The scenes between both women sparkle.

In the first exchange between L’Rell and Cornwell, we learn L’Rell hates Kol.

I mean really HATES Kol.

I believe her.  I believe the character’s contempt is genuine.

Does she want to defect though?  That, I’m not so certain of.  I want her to.  I’d love to see more of her and I’d love her to hate Kol so much she works with the Federation to destroy him, then double-crosses our heroes in an attempt to rebuild the Empire.

L'Rell and Cornwell Bond

I don’t know if that could ever happen… but it’s a tiny little fanboy fantasy I have!

Sadly, the exchanges between these two powerful women are too brief, and eventually end with the apparent death of Admiral Cornwell.  In the last half of the episode, L’Rell is taking the Admiral to her ship when they’re discovered by Kol.  In that moment, there’s yet another nice exchange between both as they confirm neither is what the other expected, and then Katrina grabs a weapon from L’Rell’s belt, attacks her, and L’Rell pushes her into a power conduit after some nifty hand-to-hand combat.  Being held against the conduit as it sparks and flashes seems to kill the Admiral.

I’m hoping, desperately, that Cornwell isn’t dead, but I’m honestly not sure.  L’Rell’s statement to her when Kol sees them together in the corridor suggests otherwise – “At least you won’t die in a cage, Admiral.”  So either she killed her, or she’s alluding to their eventual escape that is yet to come.

It is telling that L’Rell offers to get rid of the body… so, who knows?

The scenes between L’Rell, Kol and Cornwell are the best scenes to feature Klingons to date.

Back on the planet Saru gets high on sparkly happy dust and, we eventually learn, loses all fear.  Sort of.  He seems to maintain the fear of losing his loss of fear – if that confusing sentence makes sense?

Saru is Given a Gift From the Pahvo

I don’t know if Saru goes native or not, but he definitely changes.  He crushes communicators, deceives his colleagues, and donkey-kicks Burnham in an attempt to stay on the planet.

Very un-Saru behaviour, and definitely not behaviour that is becoming of an officer.

Before that craziness though, we see Burnham and Tyler take a step closer in their relationship in what is ultimately an awkward scene.  This was a perfect example of how this episode needed more time.  A few scenes needed just one more minute each to make this entire episode something outstanding.

With Ash and Michael, one minute they’re talking about trout, the next Burnham is saying she’s probably going back to prison, and then there’s a touching exchange that evokes Suraks’ teachings (and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), that turns into a kiss.

The scene works, and our head-canon can say that stuff has been building off-screen, but it would have been so much better to see that build.  As it was presented, the scene seems wedged in because the writers thought we needed to have these characters kiss because their last kiss got wiped out of existence.

Thanks, Harry!

Ash and Michael Kiss

So, nice moment, then craziness.  It all ends in Saru once again expressing his frustration and anger at Burnham for, in his opinion, ruining his life.

It’s a powerful moment, but not as powerful as it could have been.

This episode was touted as an immensely emotional outing, and wasn’t.  While it was emotional it didn’t live up to the hype – which made me certain I’d shed a tear or two.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t quite rise to the occasion.

The episode starts to wrap up with a beautiful scene between Saru and Michael that continues the theme of healing that’s been subtle but present in most of their interactions since Burnham’s invitation to join Discovery.  It takes place in Sickbay and goes a little something like this:
Saru.  Please look at me.  Are you alright?
I lied to you… and Lieutenant Tyler.  I attacked you.  I could have killed you.”
“You weren’t yourself.
But I was.”  Beat.  “We are born afraid, we Kelpiens.  It’s how we survive.  As such, my whole life I have never known a moment without fear.  The freedom of it.  Not one moment… until Pahvo.

This is what I meant when I mentioned earlier that Saru found himself devoid of fear, but ultimately still acted out of fear.

This scene also makes me wonder about Saru’s suitability for command.

The last scene is an exchange on the bridge where they learn that the Pahvo have invited the Klingons to come chat… and they take up the invitation, warping in.  The Pahvo are dedicated to harmony, and want to make Starfleet and the Klingons play nice together.  I think we know that that isn’t going to end well!

Saru in Sickbay

So… all in all, a really satisfying episode.

Next week’s episode is “Into The Forest I Go.”

Predictions
I don’t think Lorca and Stamets are going to make it out of the series alive.  A few weeks ago I said I didn’t think Lorca would be alive by the end of the season, and now I’m no longer sure about Stamets.  He’s “unstuck” in time.  His story feels like it’s going to end in tragedy.  He might make it into the next season, and possibly others, but we know the spore-drive doesn’t work and no doubt Paul’s fate will be tied to it.

I am now almost completely convinced Ash is Voq.  Listening to Ash’s voice, listening to Voq’s.  The vague similarity in facial features.  The simple fact that this would really hurt Michael and writers like to torture their main characters!  There would be no more cruel or shocking way to torment Michael than to have her fall in love with a representative of the race that killed her parents – AND her surrogate mother (Georgiou).

Saru will step down as First Officer.  Ash will succeed him (because Lorca makes non-traditional choices, as we’ve seen).  Ash will be revealed as Voq, Burnham will receive a battlefield promotion and her sentence will be commuted, and she’ll become the new First Officer.

In the wishful fanboy category… Cornwell is alive.

Scorecard

4 Deltas

This was an exceptional episode, whose only weakness was in its length – it needed to be longer, and not just because I loved it.

It loses a delta for how “crammed” the story felt.  The story was excellent, and by and large the pacing was good – we just needed more in some scenes because really big things happened in this episode… the possible death of Admiral Cornwell, the kiss between Michael and Ash, L’Rell wanting to defect, the exploration of Saru and the healing journey he and Burnham are on… these are all huge, and just as important, the dynamic between all of these characters, like Michael and Ash, Cornwell and L’Rell and Michael and Saru, deserved more time.

The episode was only 41 minutes long.  That might be the shortest live-action Star Trek episode in history?  They could have included more.  I don’t know if they thought they’d bore us if they extended those scenes, but if so – hear us, oh writers room, you wouldn’t have!  Trek fans love that stuff.  We’re not paying to see this show to watch special effects, we’re paying to be a part of these characters’ journeys.  What’s more, modern viewing audiences love character and story too.  Excellent production values are important, but we want to know and walk side by side with these characters.  Don’t rob us of the opportunity.

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes available Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix with new episodes dropping in the UK at 8:00am BST Monday mornings, and in Australia at 6:00pm AEDT, Monday evenings.

One more episode left before the mid-season break.

By the way, what torturous, horrible person thought up mid-season breaks?  Not a fan.

Join us in a few days time for another review, the last one for a few months.  Until then (and always), Live Long, and Prosper.

LCARS Interface

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CBS Delivers the Goods

Star Trek Discovery Banner May Update

CBS All Access has finally delivered a brand new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, giving the world it’s first significant glimpse at the highly anticipated new Star Trek series.

It’s beautiful… surprising… and a little jarring in places, and has me thinking CBS might be up to something completely unexpected.  More on that a little later.

First, an important question was answered by the trailer.  Swimming amongst all of the incredibly beautiful visuals was an announcement from CBS.  The series will air in Autumn (in the United States, which is some time in Spring here in Australia).  The latest word since the trailer went live is that the pilot will be on our screens in September.

Fan reaction to the trailer has been mixed.  Some love it, some don’t, and some were underwhelmed but intrigued.

Why is this trailer dividing fandom so?

I guess because it is unexpected.  We’re often told that it’s never wise to have expectations, but we’re human and whether we consciously realise it or not, we often have them.  I think a lot of us were expecting the new Trek series to look more familiar, and for things to resemble (in a modernised way) what we saw in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie”, which fall in the specified time period.  FYI, “The Cage” was set in 2254 and the year 2255 has often been bandied about when discussing when this new show takes place.

That’s not what we got.  There are slight similarities in the overall design of the sets, and there is an echo of Star Trek: EnterpriseStar Trek: The Original Series and even the first six films in the look of the ships, but everything (except for the uniforms) is a little more ‘Kelvinesque’ than I think any of us expected.  Looking at this trailer, you wouldn’t automatically place the new series between the first prequel and the original 1960s show.

As much as I hate to admit it, that’s probably a wise choice because modern audiences are more familiar with the Kelvin-universe Trek.  To survive, our beloved Star Trek needs to keep attracting new fans (and younger fans) and to do so it needs to appeal to a 21st Century aesthetic.  The uniforms and starship sets we saw in “The Cage” or even Kirk’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” don’t cut it.

The good news is, the sets do look like they belong in the Star Trek universe.

The uniforms?  I don’t know.  They echo, slightly (very slightly), those from Star Trek: Enterprise, but in no way resemble Pike or Kirk’s era.  I have to admit, I love them.  I think they look incredible and are my favourite uniform design to date, but they are very different.  I think many of us were expecting an approach similar to the one taken by J.J. Abrams and his design team when they updated the original uniforms for the 2009 reboot, but… no.

All of these adjustments have me wondering “is CBS planning to reboot Star Trek entirely?”

Lieutenant Commander Burnham - Environment Suit in Deep Space

Those of us who have been fans of Star Trek for a long time love the original 1960s series, and we accept without issue that it’s dated.  We forgive, for example, the sexism, knowing Gene wasn’t a sexist, and we understand that the series was a product of its time.  New viewers not steeped in Star Trek history would find some episodes of TOS quaint at best and mildly offensive at worst, and they would find the ‘look’ of the series silly.  Even Star Trek: The Next Generation and it’s spin-offs are dated now.  Some of the episodes are a little on the sexist side and their desk top computers, for example, are bigger than our current iPads and tablets, and the graphics we see every day on our smartphones are better than the graphics presented in TNG, DS9 and VOY.

Sadly, sometimes science fiction just ages poorly.  One of the few exceptions to that rule is 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Kubrick went to extreme lengths to project forward into the future, and he and his design team did an incredible job.

What I’m about to suggest is pure speculation and I have no evidence or inside information to suggest my theory holds water, but what if they were thinking of rebooting everything?

What if they wanted to modernise Trek in its entirety to ensure it remained relevant well into the future?

Star Trek: Discovery could be the first step.  We’ve just heard that the show’s first season has been extended to 15 episodes (from 13), so if it gets seven seasons (which was once the average for a Star Trek series), that’s a total of 105 episodes if each season is granted 15 episodes.  The creative team could then jump forward to the TOS era, recast Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, Chapel and Rand (again), select 15 of the best episodes from each of the three seasons, update everything in alignment with this new design aesthetic, and make the original crew’s stories more relevant or at least more palatable to a 21st Century audience.

I know, heresy, but bear with me.  Next, they could do another 30 episodes (two seasons) so Kirk and Co. could finish their historic five-year mission.  That’s not seven seasons, but if the creative team wanted to, they could take a look at what happened to the crew in the years between the end of that mission and the crew confronting V’Ger.  There’s another 30 episodes equalling a unique two seasons of Trek, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Then the creative team could jump the series ahead to the USS Enterprise B and look at the adventures of Captain John Harriman, First Officer Janice Rand, and Demora Sulu.  I’d watch that and I’d love it.  Next up, we could finally spend some time with Captain Rachel Garrett and the USS Enterprise C, a captain and a ship that has captured the imaginations of Trek fans since they both first appeared in the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.

By then, we might be ready for a new look at TNG era Trek.  The creative team could select 15 of the best episodes from each season of TNG, DS9 and VOY with new actors playing our favourite characters, and give us something intense and mind-blowing.  Could you imagine DS9 starting out with the necessary world-building required of a series that is still unique when compared with its companion shows, and in those first 15 episodes introduce us to the station and the tragedy of the Bajoran occupation (which is still timely and relevant in today’s terrorism affected world) before shifting into the arrival of the Dominion and that eventual war?  Watching that war build over 90 episodes would be amazing.  Can you imagine correcting some of the mistakes of Star Trek: Voyager?  We could have more conflict with the Maquis as they try to unite the crews, we could redo the Kazon and make them a decent nemesis (with better hair), and we could even dedicate an entire 15 episode season to some of the stronger stories like the “The Year of Hell”.  Finally, just imagine for a moment what the writers could do with Picard, Beverly, Riker, Deanna, Worf, Data, Geordi, Wesley and Guinan in a more condensed and focused set of episodes season after season?  That’s exciting.  Such iconic characters, who often weren’t given the best treatment or the best stories.

Star Trek: Enterprise?  I don’t think they’d need to touch that.  I think it still stands the test of time and fits in with this new vision that is being presented to us.

After that?

As Jean-Luc Picard says in Star Trek: First Contact, “plenty of letters left in the alphabet.”

It’s an intriguing idea.  At the risk of having multiple Trekkies boycott Star Trek: Sentinel forever, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

However… I digress.

Back to Star Trek: Discovery.

First Impressions?
I seem to be one of the few fans who out and out loved the two trailers I saw.  Two?  Yep.  The first trailer I was able to watch was the CBS All Access version.  I went back to watch it a second time and grab some screencaps only to discover it had been region-blocked.

Just as an aside, region-blocking really pisses me off.  This is the 21st Century.  I should be able to access the content I want to access, regardless of where I am in the world.

In its place, international audiences could watch the Netflix version which came with subtitles.  At least the one I saw did.

That’s the trailer I’ll primarily be reflecting on, because it’s the one I’ve been able to watch multiple times (and grab screencaps from).

With both trailers I was blown away by the cinematic visuals.  They are beautiful and this show looks like a lot of money has been spent on it.  As grumpy as I got with CBS in my last post, I can now see that the extra time has been well spent.

The big thing that grabbed me with both trailers was Sonequa Martin-Green.  Holy %#*@!  She is incredible.  She can and will carry this series and make it something special.  I watched the second trailer multiple times because of her.  Yes, I loved a lot of what I saw, but every time she was on screen I was captivated.

So, having disclosed that I loved the trailer, I do need to say that it was… jarring.

STDSC Screenshot 1

We don’t see the Discovery, but we do get to see a few exterior shots of the Shenzhou and a corridor and the bridge of that ship.  There are, as I mention above, some design elements that place it in the prime timeline, but graphics wise it evokes the Kelvin timeline more than Pike’s era.

In what I think is a clever move, they’ve grounded these changes with a few old school Trek elements – the original communicators are back, we have a jazzed-up original series transporter effect, and desert robes reminiscent of those worn by Sisko and Dax in season seven of DS9.  That’s not original series, but it is Star Trek.

Some critics are saying the desert robes are a bit Star Wars, and they do have a point, but when I first saw the trailer and the below image, I immediately went to season seven of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in my head.

IMG_5539

The new Statfleet uniforms are beautiful, but instead of the familiar gold, red and blue/teal that we’ve seen in every incarnation of Star Trek, it appears a more metallic theme will delineate the various departments in Starfleet, with gold, silver and bronze shoulder stripes, shirt side panels and pant stripes all the rage ten years before Kirk.

That’s quite a change!

The uniforms and vessel design choices aren’t the most jarring thing though.  They didn’t ‘break’ me out of the trailer.  The Klingons did, and Lieutenant Saru did.

Discovery 27

Lieutenant Saru and Lieutenant Commander Burnham

The Klingons are familiar, but far more bestial than we’re used to.  They look mean and I loved this deepening of their look. Their outfits/uniforms/ceremonial wear(?) is far more elaborate than what we have ever seen before and I didn’t like them.  I hope that what they are wearing is ceremonial only, and that we get to see something appropriately vicious and lethal for their regular uniforms.

Lieutenant Saru?

He looks amazing.  My first thought was “poor Doug”, because that makeup looks like it would take hours.

My second thought, thanks to the dialogue spoken by Saru, was… WTF?!

The dialogue I remember was from the first trailer.  My memory may be a bit off, but Saru tells us that his race was genetically engineered for one purpose, to sense the coming of death.

Why?  Seriously, why??  There is no point to that.

It’s the only part of the trailer that really disappointed me.  Why would someone engineer a race to detect the coming of death?  How limiting is this going to be for the character?  I love Deanna Troi, but is this going to be another case of “Captain… I sense… (cue ominous music) the coming of death!” episode after episode?

I hope they reloop that dialogue to be “one of the things my species was designed to detect is the coming of death…” which still sucks, but sucks way less than the almost nonsensical “we were made to sense death, dude.”

How is that even possible?

Anyway.  I think you get that I don’t like that!  I actually can’t believe that slipped through, considering the quality of the creative team involved.

The Story?

Not a clue.

It seems like it will be epic.  There’s a big Klingon sarcophagus thing, Klingon ships attacking, Sarek training or mentoring our heroine, and the insinuation something big is happening out on the edge of known space.

The only thing we can guess at is that the Shenzhou awakens something that I assume Discovery will have to deal with.  I am worried that whatever the Shenzhou awakens will kill Captain Georgiou.  I hope not.  That would be a waste of such an incredible actor.  Watch the trailer, you’ll see why I’m concerned.  Think about what and who we don’t see.

It looks like it’s the Klingons that have been ‘awakened’ out on the fringe, so I’m wondering if this is a special type of Klingon… perhaps a genetic experiment gone wrong?  Or maybe it’s an exiled colony?  That might explain the different look and the unusual costumes.

The Effects?

Outstanding.  I don’t need to say anything else.  They are feature film quality.  Bravo CBS.  There’s nothing like that on TV right now.

The Characters?

We don’t get to see a lot of them.  We see Captain Philippa Georgiou, Saru, Connor, Burnham and Sarek, and a few of the Klingons, but that’s it.

The only character we get any insight into is Burnham, and then there are only insinuations.

I was left wondering is she Vulcan?  Is she a human adopted by Vulcans?  She seems to have a very close relationship with Sarek.

She also seems a lot more impulsive than your standard Starfleet officer.

Is it True to Star Trek?

I think it is.

There are design choices that are a little disorienting, but overall it ‘feels’ right.  From the tiny bit of dialogue we get, it seems like the writers and producers have tried very hard to honour Gene Roddenberry’s legacy.  You’d expect nothing less with Rod Roddenberry involved.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, watch it.  You’re in for a treat.  Try to let go of your expectations, and once you do, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

One more little note, CBS All Access has announced an “aftershow” special that will air after every episode of the series.  It’s called “Talking Trek“.

Now… screencaps.

In the screencaps below, it’s implied that the child Sarek is talking to is Burnham.  The child has a Vulcan haircut, but I don’t know if she’s Vulcan.  We never really get a good look at her ears.

As you can see below, the bridge looks a little Star Trek: Enterprise and a little USS Kelvin too.  The graphics?  Very Kelvin timeline.

Check out how awesome Saru looks!  In the CBS All Access trailer Saru says the thing about his species being designed to sense the coming of death.  Then he pauses for a bit and says “I sense the coming of death.  I sense it coming now.”

The first image below is a Klingon hand.  Nice and savage looking.  Check out the Klingon uniforms… really ornate and unusual.  They look super uncomfortable and not something you’d wear into battle.

That’s it.

It ends with the logo we’ve come to know and love.

In addition to the trailer, CBS have released an official poster for the series.  If you look closely, you’ll see the Discovery.

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If you haven’t seen the trailer or want to watch it again, you can check it out on YouTube here.

It’s so exciting to be getting something concrete from this production.  We should be in for an interesting next few months.

One last thought.  If you look at the poster, it indicates the Vulcans are going to play a big part in this series.  I don’t think Burnham doing the Vulcan salute is without meaning.  Is it a clue to her heritage?  Is it an indication this new series will pick up on some elements from around Archer’s time?

There is still so much to learn about this show, and the trailer has definitely got me primed for more.

As news breaks, we’ll post about it.

Now do what I’m doing and heave a big sigh of relief.  Star Trek: Discovery is really happening.

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A Future To Believe In

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Now that Star Trek is officially 50 years old (having celebrated its actual birthday a few days ago), it’s a good time for a die hard Trekker to reflect on his or her love of that particular universe – and why it continues to mean something to them years after their first exposure to it.

I’ve been in the middle of that process for a few months now, ever since the announcement of Star Trek: Discovery.  The recent release of Star Trek Beyond intensified it for me, and I decided to start talking to other Trekkers to see if I could find a common theme around what makes so many of us love Star Trek and keep loving it.

What I learned was Star Trek does two things really well, and both of those things resonate strongly with long-term fans:

  1. Star Trek shows us a future that’s worth fighting for, that’s worth dreaming about, and that’s worth wanting to help shape, and;
  2. Star Trek is a really intimate and personal experience for every single person who loves it, and that, possibly, is it’s greatest magic.

That second point is a frustrating one if you’re a show runner.  Star Trek does have a formula of sorts, but it’s a really hard one to get right.  Without exception, fans want challenging storylines that are provocative and insightful – which is scary for a show that needs to make money because, as Gene Roddenberry learned the hard way, you’re bound to piss someone off and risk alienating a segment of your audience.  Fans want a meaningful relationship with the characters which means you must get two things right straight off the bat – the writers room and the casting process.  Fans want it a little dark without losing the hopeful future Star Trek promises us… and despite craving intelligent science fiction we want that science fiction all wrapped up with pretty action set pieces that are full of amazing (and expensive) visual effects.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about Star Trek these last few months, and for every single person there was always a deeply personal story attached to their love… “Star Trek was my ‘safe space’ when I broke up with my husband…” “Star Trek got me through bullying when I was a kid…” “Star Trek is what got me into the military…” “Star Trek was the thing that helped me set my moral compass…”

Those often amazing conversations showed me that while all of the above about challenging storylines and great VFX is true, the actual core ingredients are the characters and their dynamic.

Star Trek has a ‘secret sauce’, and that ‘sauce’ is its characters who are our conduit into that universe and it’s vision for tomorrow.

What I loved most, while talking to fellow fans, was that the characters who resonated with them weren’t always the obvious ones.  Yes, I heard a lot of Kirk love, Spock love, McCoy love, Picard love, Data love, Siski, Kira, Janeway, Seven, Archer, T’Pol and Trip love, but I also heard a lot of Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, Geordi, Beverly, Deanna, Wesley, Quark, Jake, Odo, Dax, Chakotay, the Doctor, B’Elanna, Kes, Neelix, Harry, Hoshi, Malcolm, Phlox and Mayweather love.

In the original series, some of those characters never got the chance to say more than “Aye sir,” and “Hailing frequencies open, Captain,” yet they still effected people – and more often than not, deeply.  Why?  Because they were representative.  Sometimes in obvious ways – Uhura was a woman in a position of power and a black woman at that, Sulu was an Asian who wasn’t a normal 1960s stereotype, and Chekov was a Russian at a time when the US and Russia didn’t have a lot of love for each other… but they weren’t just representative in that way.  Uhura was an expert and a woman in command who could come out and honestly say “Captain, I’m frightened.”  Chekov was a whiz kid whose emotions were always written clearly on his face.  Sulu had a cheeky and sometimes sardonic sense of humour that now and again seemed to say “you’re a complete dick, Captain.”  Watch some of the original episodes and listen to Sulu’s responses to Kirk or Scotty when they give a command that seems to defy common sense.  Both Uhura and Chekov do that at times also.  These characters were representative of real emotion, sometimes overtly expressed, sometimes subtlety conveyed, and we fell in love with them because of that.

Those human moments in a show that was so different to anything else on television, delivered by personalities we could relate to, gave us an ‘in’ to Gene Roddenberry’s universe.

For me, it was McCoy, Uhura and Spock.  They were my pathway into the original Star Trek.  Beverly, Deanna, Wesley and Geordi my conduits into Next Gen.  Jadzia and Bashir my way into DS9.  Janeway, Kes, Chakotay and the Doctor my door into Voyager, and T’Pol, Phlox and Malcolm my way into Enterprise.  Each of those characters had qualities I possessed or aspired to possess and they resonated with me and still do today.

I grew up in the sort of neighbourhood where every week someone was stabbed, bashed, and in someway victimised, and as a child I needed something that showed me a future full of intelligent, compassionate people who fought to get rid of those horrific things from people’s lives.

When I was bullied at school, Star Trek was my retreat.  I could lose myself in that world and dream of a future that was brighter than the one I saw for myself.

As I hit my teenage years and then adult years, Star Trek started to shape my morals as a person and many of the idealistic concepts in Star Trek still guide me today – particularly IDIC and the idea that we are stronger together.

I became an actor in my late teens because I wanted to go to Los Angeles and get cast in Star Trek.  I did make it to Los Angeles, but never got the chance to be in Star Trek because I made it there a year or two after Enterprise went off the air.

I became a professional Counsellor because of Deanna Troi.  Even though I’m a guy, Deanna and her profession spoke to me and though we barely ever got to see her do any real work as a psychologist, I still invoke her preternatural calm and warmth when working with clients.

I’ve always known that Star Trek was one of the most important influences in my life, but I’d never really spent a great deal of time wondering why.

This year seemed to demand it, and I’m glad I spent a little time exploring and reflecting on what Star Trek means to me and why it’s still the world I retreat into when I need to recharge.

There are so many quotes and examples I could provide to illustrate all the ways in which Star Trek has affected me, too many actually, so instead I’ll just choose a few…

Kirk’s statement in The Final Frontier, that he needs his pain.  That speech still effects me to this day.  Our pain, our failures, and how we deal with them all, defines us.  There are so many experiences in my life that I wish had never happened to me, but I cannot deny their impact and how they have strengthened and shaped me.

Kira’s dedication to her spiritual life mirrored my own journey to understand some of the indefinable but poignant experiences we all encounter in life.

It was something similar with Chakotay.  His spiritual life and journey, though often mired in stereotype, was beautiful and I loved that it was included, but the fact he was a physically strong and imposing, but deeply spiritual and sensitive man was what hit me like a sledgehammer.  It hit me deeply, in the same way the startlingly beautiful and noble Uhura did and in the same way the generous, calm and gracious Deanna did.  As a 6’2″ guy who’s been described as physically intimidating, but who is softly spoken and by nature a pretty caring bloke, it was fantastic to see a man on TV who was also all of those things, and who chose to use his presence not to constantly threaten and intimidate but to nurture and support.  It was what I needed to see and it came at a time in my life where I was in danger of going off the rails.

You might be thinking… “hold on, what about Riker?”

Will was always a little too ‘big’ a personality for me to connect with.

Star Trek is unique in its ability to craft characters that are universal but speak to each individual viewer.  If there’s one thing the creative teams behind each show and movie did really well, it was creating characters we can relate to.  I don’t know if they consciously tried to do that, but that’s what they did.

Each series and each film had its ups and downs story wise, but the characters were always exceptional.  Yes, Kes didn’t have a lot of room to grow and Neelix had the odd issue and could be pretty damn annoying, but by and large the characters are the thing that makes Star Trek shine.  At least in my opinion.

As we look forward to Star Trek: Discovery, with each of us no doubt carrying a small wish list around in our minds, I personally hope that the creative team behind the new series get the fact that no matter what, the characters are our way into this new version of the universe, and that Star Trek really is an important and intimate experience for each of us and that needs to be respected.

Yes, we want great stories and we want allegory and we want brilliant special effects, but if Star Trek is to succeed it needs incredible characters and it needs a way to inspire hope in us and allow us to link with the show in a way that is meaningful.  It needs to be something that mirrors all of us, in some way, and tries hard to be relevant to this generation of young people as they look around for heroes to aspire to be like.

Star Trek is important.  It’s important to me, it’s no doubt important to you if you’re reading this, and it’s important to the world.

What do we have on television now?  Zombie hunters who are now borderline sociopaths, families warring over a stupid iron throne and committing atrocious acts in their quest for power, families backstabbing each other over musical empires or political ambitions… there’s not a lot of hope, and there aren’t many shows demonstrating a different, better way to be.

Star Trek did that, and it can do it again.

I hope Bryan and Alex and everyone else involved with Star Trek: Discovery truly appreciate just how important Star Trek is at both that personal, intimate level, and that much bigger, aspirational level.

Bryan has said the world needs Star Trek now more than it ever has, so I think he does get it.  I hope he is able to realise his vision with the amazing creative team he’s assembled.

So thank you, Star Trek.  Thank you for shaping me, and for shaping so many amazing people I’ve met, and thank you for not being frightened of shining a light in the darkness – even when shining that light hasn’t been popular.

I’ve had enough of the depressing, sarcastic, angst-filled shows on television these days.  So many are so devoid of hope it’s depressing.  I need and I want something that challenges me intellectually, and I need and I want something that reminds me of just how amazing we are as a species.

The bright future Star Trek describes is the future I want, and it’s a future worth believing in.

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Series VI Update

Star Trek Series VI

The creative team behind the new Star Trek live action series is continuing to grow.

As we all wait anxiously for casting news, information on the time period the series will take place in, and some hint as to whether or not the show will be based on a starship, starbase, or somewhere entirely different, Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman have added another talented individual to their writing staff.

For me, this is pretty exciting, because I’ve been a fan of this person for a few years now, and have loved every one of her excellent Star Trek: Voyager relaunch novels.

Kirsten Beyer has a well deserved reputation for being one of the major driving forces behind the success of the Voyager relaunch series, along with Christie Golden who left the series 12 years ago.

Kirsten is known for her ability to seamlessly weave authentic character action and intention in with random bits of Voyager history, and brand new concepts to create a compelling and often challenging novel that is never less than entertaining.

Kirsten knows Voyager and it’s characters like, I would hazard to guess, no one else.  When you read her books, you hear the voices of Janeway and the series regulars as if you were listening to an actual episode, and she paints images with words worthy of any major motion picture’s visuals.

To read more about Kirsten’s appointment to the new series, click here to visit the TrekCore article.

We know that Kirsten will be writing episodes for the new series, but we still don’t know anything substantial about the show.

Kirsten’s inclusion could be seen to be an indication that the new series (or at least part of the new series) might take place after Star Trek: Voyager and in the prime timeline.  However, she could have been hired solely for her true to character dialogue, her world-building ability, and her overall knowledge of Star Trek.

While we all wait for more news on Series VI, consider picking up some of Kirsten’s works and giving them a read.  Hopefully you’ll agree with me and see she is an exceptional author who the Trek novel series is very lucky to have.

Bryan Fuller keeps impressing with the team he is collecting around him.

I can’t wait until January 2017.

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Bryan Fuller Becomes Co-Creator of New Trek Series

Bryan Fuller Produces Star Trek

A couple of weeks ago, The Official Star Trek website let us know who would be co-creating the new Star Trek series alongside Alex Kurtzman.

Bryan Fuller.

Bryan is a Trek veteran, having launched his career writing episodes of both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.

Bryan has been attempting to convince CBS to let him have a go at a new Trek show for years – and finally, his persistence (and enthusiasm) has paid off!

The sixth live action Star Trek television series will follow in the footsteps of the original Star TrekStar Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise – we just don’t know where in Trek’s timeline the new series will take place, or whether or not it will even be in the same prime reality as those shows, or the alternate reality launched in 2009 with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film.

When you give a bit of thought to this announcement, you can’t help but think it’s an interesting mix.  Bryan’s history is in the prime universe, and Alex’s is in the alternate universe, so can we risk a guess as to which reality this new live series will take place in?  Chances are, this mix is the answer we’ve been looking for.

One of the predominate rumours floating around the internet is that the sixth live series will be an alternate universe version of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Bryan Fuller definitely understands that time period, having worked on two shows that took place in the 24th Century.

Could bringing Bryan on board mean there’s some merit to that rumour?

I held off on reporting Bryan’s addition to the creative team in the hopes more information on the series would be forthcoming – but it wasn’t, so it looks like CBS will continue drip-feeding us bits and pieces as they see fit.

No matter what, this is a positive move on the part of the production.  Brian’s list of creative credits is impressive, and he has been behind some of the more exciting TV offerings that have shown up on our screens in recent years.

To read the official announcement from CBS click here.

To check out Bryan’s credits as a writer and producer, go to his Wikipedia page here and his IMDb page here.

The best thing about this announcement is that Bryan is a fan.  I feel like his involvement guarantees the material will be treated with the respect we all feel it deserves.

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Star Trek: Renegades Update

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There was a wonderful little surprise awaiting me in my inbox this morning, as I checked my e-mails after staggering out of bed and fortifying myself with some coffee:

Nichelle Joins Renegades

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve probably caught onto the fact that Uhura (alongside Doctor McCoy and Sulu) is one of my favourite Star Trek characters, and that Nichelle, in particular, is a personal hero.

Finding that e-mail this morning was like having someone drop a beautiful early Christmas present in my lap.  Having the first lady of science fiction join the cast of Star Trek: Renegades just feels right – and it’s wonderful to see that every Trekker’s favourite Communications Officer is now an Admiral.

If you would like to read the official announcement, visit the Renegades Kickstarter page here, and as well as that announcement, you’ll also see that the Renegades team have surpassed their funding goal of $350,000 and are sitting pretty on $378,181.

Nichelle’s return to the Star Trek universe is something to be excited about, though I admit I am also a little worried.  The e-mail suggests (it doesn’t clearly say) that the next two episodes won’t just be Chekov’s swan song, but Uhura’s as well.

I can (just barely) deal with losing one beloved TOS character, but two?

All I can say, is that the Renegades guys had better send me tissues along with my reward for helping to fund episode two if they kill off both characters, because there will be tears if we lose both Admiral Chekov and Admiral Uhura!

If you haven’t yet become an investor in Renegades, I encourage you to do so.

Why?  Well… apart from it being Star Trek that actually takes place in the prime universe, and apart from the fact it’s REALLY good, there are 16 words, or eight names, that should convince you:

Terry Farrell
Robert Beltran
Nichelle Nichols
Cirroc Lofton
Aron Eisenberg
Hana Hatae
Tim Russ
Walter Koenig.

Not since Star Trek: Of Gods and Men have we had such a stellar cast of Trek characters all appearing on screen together.

It’s phenomenal.

If that’s not worth a few dollars, then I do not know what is.

My heartfelt thanks to the Renegades team for bringing such an outstanding cast together.  I do not know how they’re going to give all of these amazing characters the screen time they deserve, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Here’s to “Requiem” parts 1 and 2.  THESE episodes will be a 50th Anniversary gift worth celebrating.

As much as I’m looking forward to Star Trek Beyond, I’m looking forward to Star Trek: Renegades “Requiem” more.

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Happy 20th Anniversary Voyager

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It’s been a decade since any new, official Star Trek television series has aired on television.

Thanks to the various conventions that happen around the world year to year, fans of Star Trek get to maintain their relationships with the characters and actors they love from the various series’ that have, for many of us, defined certain periods of our lives.

At a recent con (Star Trek Vegas 2015 Convention) to celebrate 20 years of Star Trek: Voyager among other things Trek, all of the actors except for Jennifer Lien (Kes) were on hand to thrill the crowds.

So… what have they been up to, and how have the last two decades been treating them?

Very well!  The actors of Star Trek: Voyager have been busy.

Star Trek has a sometimes unjust reputation for being a bit hard on it’s lead actors, with a few not being able to find roles capable of overshadowing their time in the final frontier.

George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Grace Lee Whitney and Majel Barrett Roddenberry certainly had a rough time, and some of the NextGen crew also had difficulties, but that isn’t so much the case anymore.  At least for our favourite Voyager actors.

If you take a look at IMDb and run a search for the main actors from Voyager, you’ll see that some of them have been doing quite well.  The links to their IMDb profiles are below… and I’m happy to say that if the rumours of a rift between Kate and Jeri were true, they don’t seem to be anymore.  Our evidence?  A post from Jeri’s Instagram, and a couple of photos from the August Vegas Con (below the links) that show both women appearing to genuinely enjoy each others company.

Kate Mulgrew, Captain Kathryn Janeway

Robert Beltran, Commander Chakotay

Tim Russ, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok

Robert Picardo, The Doctor

Roxann Dawson, Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres

Robert Duncan McNeill, Lieutenant Tom Paris

Jeri Ryan, Seven of Nine

Ethan Phillips, Neelix

Jennifer Lien, Kes.

Jeri Ryan Instagram

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