A Star Trek Update

Star Trek Update April 2018

A lot has been happening in the Star Trek universe of late – including the start of production on Star Trek: Discovery season two, and news on not one but two Kelvin-universe films in development.

Let’s start with Star Trek: Discovery!

In episode three of the first season, when the first half aired last year, we were all suddenly captivated by one tiny, fleeting little moment on screen – a moment that inspired a passionate and excited debate online.

The appearance of the mysterious “black delta.”

Section 31 Black Badge

For a long time, the leading theory was that it and the USS Discovery itself were somehow connected to the enigmatic and paranoid Section 31.

Finally, after months of speculation, one half of that leading fan theory was confirmed by actor Alan Van Sprang.

Alan appeared in the last episode of season one of Star Trek: Discovery, in a scene that was ultimately cut.  That scene appeared online as both a “bonus scene” and a teaser for season two.  The video has disappeared from a few places, but is still available on YouTube.  You can find it here.  Check it out, it is well worth a look.

The scene in question had Alan appearing as a “fake” Trill.  His character, Leland, recruits Mirror Universe Georgiou at a Klingon bar she now seems to be running, and hands her the black badge.  He tells her he is from Section 31 and that they could use someone like her.  So… someone megalomaniacal, devoid of compassion, morally bankrupt and vicious to the core?  Gotta love Section 31!

According to Van Sprang at an appearance he made at WonderCon earlier this year, his character will be featuring prominently in season two, alongside Section 31 and, we can only presume, former Emperor Philippa Georgiou.

So excited by that.  Any opportunity to get Michelle Yeoh back makes me very happy.

The only other piece of information Alan offered was via a later Instagram post where he stated that Leland “heads up” Section 31.

Alan Van Sprang Instagram Post

That’s not all.

With Star Trek: Discovery now about a month into production on season two, more news has come out and it is exciting.

Not one but two casting announcements have been made.

The first, and the one I’ve been waiting for, is that Anson Mount has been cast as Captain Christopher Pike, commanding officer of the original USS Enterprise.

To the joy of many a fan (myself included), Anson took to social media to share his feelings.  Using clips from “The Cage” and even an image of a Pike action figure, Anson showed the world that he is a fan of Trek and super excited to be a part of the family.

You may know Anson from Marvel’s Inhumans and the AMC series Hell on Wheels.

And yes, that is a version of the original series uniform that Anson is wearing in a shot I’ve screen capped from a “production has started” video that CBS released.  Is that Spock in blue off to the side?  Not a clue, we don’t get a good enough look at that character.

Before we get to that video though, click here to visit TrekMovie for more information on Anson’s casting.

The second casting announcement was that Tig Notaro, primarily known for her comedy work, has been cast as Chief Engineer Denise Reno of the USS Hiawatha.

Tig Notaro

Chief Engineer?  Does that mean Discovery gets an engineer?

We don’t know – we still don’t know who her captain will be!  I suspect, however, that something will happen to make Denise Reno board the Discovery and stay there.

In other news, Jonathan Frakes, our very own Commander William T. Riker, will return to direct two episodes this season, and he has let slip on social media that the scripts he has read so far are AMAZING!

Jonathan also had a visit from his former onscreen wife, Marina Sirtis, while on the set of Star Trek: Discovery where he was directing episode two of the second season.

Jonathan and Marina

As you would expect, this set the internet on fire.

Is Marina appearing in Star Trek: Discovery?  Is it just a coincidence?  No one knows, and that’s casting information the production team behind the show would keep close to their chests.

In some of Marina’s social media she called out to Mary Wiseman, which made some fans wonder if she might be following in Majel Barrett-Roddenberry’s footsteps and playing the mother of a major character (Tilly).  Tilly has mentioned her curly-hair-hating mother on more than one occasion, and both Mary and Marina’s comedy-chops are pretty damn good (watch Star Trek: First Contact to see just how hilarious Marina is).  Star Trek: Discovery could get a lot of play out of Mary and Marina on screen together.

My take?  We have a new ship popping up – the USS Hiawatha.  I would love for Marina to be playing that ship’s captain, and for that captain to be Tilly’s mum.  Alternatively, she could be a prominent member of the Enterprise crew who is Tilly’s mum. She could beam over for some quality time with her daughter while the Discovery and Enterprise are hanging around together.

Staying with Star Trek Discovery for the moment, the last thing I want to mention is a recent video treat courtesy of CBS All Access showing us some of what’s going on with the production.

Season 2 First Look 1

One thing, in particular, that was in that video should thrill every fan.  The appearance of the traditional gold, red and blue uniforms.

They have been modernised, but to me they appear to be quite faithful.  Still with a Star Trek: Discovery flair, but familiar and pleasantly so.

You’ll also notice that the rank braids are back, as is the solid badge.

The video also adds in to what Alan Van Sprang has said about Section 31 playing a prominent role in the second season.

The video briefly shows a shot of a sheaf of production drawings labelled “Section 31.”

Section 31 bridge, lab.  At least two designs for that.  An upper floor plan for something that may or may not be Section 31 related.

Season 2 First Look 3

Interesting.

Will we see a Section 31 starship?

The final takeaway from that video is what appears to be a computer interface from the much loved, fan favourite vessel the USS Enterprise.

It’s a graphic, and the style seems to draw a lot from the movie period of Star Trek V, Star Trek VI and Star Trek: Generations (the Kirk, Chekov and Scotty part of that film).

Season 2 First Look 4

There is a very gentle colour nod (one orange and one red touch button) to the original series in the display, but otherwise it is very Star Trek: Discovery with a hint of earlier films.

Last but not least, for some time now Quentin Tarantino’s name has been attached to the fourth Kelvin-verse film.

Quentin Tarantino, you say?  Yes.  He is a big Trek fan and would love a shot at directing one of the films.

Quentin Tarantino

As this story has played out, it appears more likely he wouldn’t be able to do the fourth Kelvin-verse film, but would instead be ready for a fifth were it to be green-lit.

No matter when, I am really excited to see what Tarantino would do with a Trek movie.  Hopefully nothing too bat-shit crazy, but he is a creative and visionary director with a gritty and stylistic approach that is engaging. And sometimes polarising.

The CEO of Paramount Pictures, Jim Gianopulos, has confirmed that not one but TWO Star Trek films are currently in development.

We have absolutely no information on what those two films are about, and to the best of our knowledge neither does anyone else – except for those people actually developing the two ideas.

What we do know is that the Tarantino idea is being written by Mark L. Smith, and the other is being written by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay and is most likely the much-rumoured return of George Kirk movie.

Mark L. Smith wrote The Revenant, and J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay were apparently uncredited writers on Star Trek: Beyond and did some work on the original Roberto Orci idea that was eventually scrapped in favour of Doug Jung and Simon Pegg’s script.

If you want more information on any of these stories, you can track down a variety of articles through Variety and Deadline, or head on over to TrekMovie or TrekCore – both fan sites have had some excellent coverage on all of the exciting events happening in Star Trek news!

We’ve got some amazing things to look forward to as fans.  Still no news on when season two of Star Trek: Discovery will air, but it looks like it could be later this year.

No news on the release date for the next movies either.

As news unfolds, we’ll chat about it right here.

Live long, and prosper.

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Trip Down Memory Lane

Star Trek with Starfleet Delta

Thanks to one of my favourite Trek sites, TrekNews, I stumbled across a wonderful trailer the other day that was created by JoBlo Movie Trailers back when Star Trek: Into Darkness was about to be released.

It brought a huge smile to my face, and I thought it was well worth sharing, particularly with the stress of the Christmas season driving us all a little crazy as we race to get everything done that needs to be done before that big dude in red hit our houses this Friday.

If you would also like to take a trip down memory lane, and see a beautifully put together trailer that features clips from every major Star Trek film from The Motion Picture to Into Darkness, click the TrekNews link above or click here and scroll down to the embedded video.

Star Trek Movies Through the Years

We might see a few more of these before the release of Star Trek Beyond in exactly seven months time… and if half of them are as good as this one, we’ll have a nice dose of nostalgia for the 50th Anniversary of one of the most amazing and diverse science fiction franchises in the world.

204 days until the 13th Star Trek movie hits our screen.

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Star Trek: The War Movie?

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A reasonable comment made by Marc Evans, the President of the Paramount Motion Picture Group, has sparked a little bit of debate in Star Trek land…

Evans said “I often think about the areas of the Star Trek universe that haven’t been taken advantage of, like… I’ll be ridiculous with you, but what would Star Trek: Zero Dark Thirty look like?  Where is the SEAL Team Six of the Star Trek universe?  That fascinates me.”

A few fans and one or two websites have, for want of a better term, had a ‘go’ at Marc, with some comments suggesting that Paramount doesn’t seem to have much of a clue about what Star Trek is, if they want to go and make a war movie in that universe.

That’s an interesting reflection.  It’s true that Star Trek has often pushed the “war is bad” message, and it’s true that exploration has been at the heart of Star Trek for a long time, not land or space battles – but when Gene created Star Trek, was his focus only on the exploration of imaginary strange new worlds?

I don’t think so.

With both the original series and the next generation, Gene really wanted to explore the human condition, and comment on the sometimes insane things we do to each other as human beings – and war was most certainly something he wanted us to have a conversation about.  At that time, it was the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Gene believed human beings had the ability to rise above their differences and overcome adversity, to unite as one for the betterment of each other, the planet, and – if we were ever to meet other intelligent beings – the betterment of the galaxy.

Gene knew that it would take human beings a while to get there, so he set his show in the future and gave us something to aspire to.

Gene was also a writer, and knew that conflict was at the heart of drama – so he made the conflict external, and postulated an almost utopic Federation that was at times besieged by external (and internal) enemies.

Gene wanted to reflect us, and our world, and the issues we were struggling with, back at us through allegory – all while showing a united Earth and a united Federation that had overcome some pretty bad stuff to become a shining light in the galaxy.

Sometimes, he wrote a good old fashioned war story to achieve that.

It’s really important to note that some of the most emotionally intense and thought provoking movies have been war films: Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan… and the list goes on.  Armed conflict served as the backdrop, while the writers and directors of those films sought to show us the horror and tragedy of war, and the people who rose above and sank beneath those pressures.

Interestingly, some of the most thought provoking episodes of Star Trek have had war or combat as their backdrop.  One entire series, Deep Space 9, had a devastating, galaxy changing war as a major arc that kicked off in season two with the introduction of the Dominion, and escalated through seasons three, four, five, six and seven!

Gene and those who succeeded him, didn’t shy away from war as a tool to tell a good story and impart a message or two.

Here’s a list of only a few episodes from each live action series of Star Trek that had war as an obvious or subtle focus:

The Original Series
“A Taste of Armageddon”, “A Private Little War”, “Balance of Terror”.
The Next Generation
“Yesterday’s Enterprise”, “The Best of Both Worlds”, “Chain of Command”.
Deep Space Nine
“The Way of the Warrior”, “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”, “In the Pale Moonlight”, “The Siege of AR-558”, “What You Leave Behind”.
Voyager
“Scorpion”, “Year of Hell”.
Enterprise
“Demons” and “Terra Prime”.

I don’t believe a possible new direction for the Star Trek films that might have war as their backdrop would diminish Gene’s legacy, so long as those films kept Gene’s vision and rationale at the heart of their stories – and aimed to challenge and educate an audience.  A new direction for the films might actually save Star Trek, and like a Trojan horse attract more fans to Trek on television, exposing them to that wonderful vision of a more enlightened humanity.

The multifaceted and sometimes philosophical Star Trek that we all know and love works best on television.  It’s wonderful to watch at the cinema, but it works best in the more intimate environment of our lounge rooms, telling a story that can unfold over a number of weeks if need be, while inviting us to become involved in the lives of its characters.

Does that style of story telling translate well to science fiction blockbusters?

No.

Did Star Trek almost die because it couldn’t reach a bigger audience?  Probably.

When we look at the Trek films critically, the original series films did better than the next gen films.  Those that did really well (The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home) were accessible to a mainstream audience.

The second Star Trek feature film had minimal technobabble, and there wasn’t any need for an audience to be versed in the history of Star Trek.  The only real technobabble in Trek II was Carol Marcus’s very simple explanation of the Genesis torpedo, and the Voyage Home had minor technobabble in it to briefly explain the time travel element.  In both films, the scientific talk wasn’t superfluous and it always pushed the story forward.

A number of the other Trek films are great movies – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection – but only if you’re a Trekker.   The Search for Spock works if you’re invested in Spock.  Undiscovered Country works if you’re invested in the relationship between the Klingon Empire, the United Federation of Planets, and the Enterprise crew.  The next gen movies are their own worst enemy.  They work if you don’t mind a lot of technobbable: “Captain!  The flux-flow capacitor is interfering with the bipolar-moxi-flip ray gamma-pulse excavator… I need to realign the ODN network but I can only do it with a multi-pulsing vibrational hypermodule…”  Who wants to pay money to listen to words that are essentially nonsense, when we all know that in the 12 minutes it took the character to say all that, the ship should have blown up.  Shouldn’t the guy have just fixed the damn ship if it really was a crisis?

Critics and fans alike hold Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan up as the gold standard for Trek films, and for good reason.  Not only was it accessible to a mainstream audience, it was just a really good action movie.  It was two submarine captain’s hammering it out.  It had great performances (William Shatner’s best ever), a beautiful soundtrack, incredible special effects, and a simple but meaningful story.  You didn’t have to love Star Trek to enjoy it.

Khan on the Reliant

Plus, it was raw and it was honest.  It didn’t try to hide the fact that every main actor in the cast was in their mid to late 40’s or 50’s.

It didn’t do a Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or a Star Trek: Nemesis, and show us two aged men acting like they were suffering from the most extreme midlife crises ever by scaling a mountain like a twenty-something, or screaming around a desert in a souped up dune buggy laughing like a teenager.

The Wrath of Khan reflected on age with grace, and that was beautiful, and it showed how when we hit our 40’s or our 50’s (or older) we have a little something called wisdom born from hard won experience that we can use to make things better.  It also showed us something vitally important – you don’t lose your worth with age.  Stuff changes, but stuff always changes, and it all depends on how we roll with it.

Star Trek works on film, but it doesn’t get to do a lot of the stuff we love it for – because modern audiences aren’t going to fork out the price of admission just to be philosophised at.

So despite the fact Star Trek movies are all, without exception, beautiful to look at on the big screen, they are rarely able to attract a new audience, and without a new audience and a good return on investment, why make sequels?

Star Trek, the Star Trek we have come to know, deserves more than two hours every few years to tell a story.  TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise had between 22 and 24 hours every year to explore the future, and these days shows get between 10 and 13 hours a year to tell a story, which is still a pretty decent amount of time to go deep on complex issues and concepts.

So, as we look to Star Trek Beyond and the lack of hoopla surrounding it, is it time we took a new look at how we present Star Trek to the world on the big screen?  Is it time we decided to take a bit of a risk?

Blockbusters need spectacle, and lots of phasers firing all over of the place alongside heaps of explosions is pretty cool spectacle – and despite all of that mayhem, a movie like that can still deliver a message without devolving into a Transformers sized pile of crap.

There’s room in the Star Trek universe for a few really big, really wonderful, really meaningful set piece action movies, with new characters doing exciting things – without them being trapped in a space ship… because Star Trek is so much more than that.

In 49 years we have barely scratched the surface of Star Trek, and that’s a little sad.  We’ve barely looked at the other areas of that universe that we know exist, because they have been hinted at – mercenaries, Section 31, an entire corps of diplomats, the government of the Federation, Starfleet Marines… there’s so much in that universe that is every shade of black and white and grey which would make for fantastic viewing.

If Paramount were going to reinvent the film franchise, the first film would have to be Earth-centric, to give the audience something to relate to and invest in right off the mark.  Earth has been threatened so often it’s almost trite to do that, but a good writer can find a way to create compelling characters that will make the tired old “Earth is under threat again” feel fresh.  It would be exciting, and pulse-pounding, to watch a team of Starfleet Marines running through the streets of San Francisco, trying to reach the Federation President, or whomever, while Defiant class starships sail through the skies overhead strafing at enemy drop ships.

Through all of that tense action, we could explore the impact on the marines, the impact on the starship captains who are forced to shoot ships down over populated areas, and the impact on Federation citizens.

There is so much happening in our world right now that is frightening and confusing and overwhelming, and story-telling (film, television and novels) can be cathartic.  Good stories, that are thoughtful and challenging can help all of us process difficult issues.

We all hate terrorism and what it’s doing to our world, and we’re all deeply moved by the shocking tragedies that have occurred over the years, including the most recent tragedy in Paris.  These are issues worth exploring as we all try to hold our heads up high and not demonise the many for the actions of a tiny few.

Star Trek has an important voice in all of that, like it had an important voice in the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Shouldn’t it be saying something about these things?

I’d love to watch Star Trek: Seal Team Six.  I think it would work as a film and it would walk all over most sci-fi action movies, because Star Trek has something most of them don’t… a “lived in” universe that has a rich history that can’t help but translate to a viewing audience subliminally, without the need for any of them to know the difference between a tricorder and a PADD.  And, Star Trek has something to say that comes with the weight of almost 50 years of commenting on the issues confronting our world.

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With incredible independent productions like Star Trek: Renegades and a new official television show in the works, we can have the best of both worlds (pun intended) – thought-provoking Star Trek on television, and spectacle with meaning in a new action/drama film series that doesn’t have to be about a bunch of guys in spandex on a space ship.

So, is Marc Evans foolish for throwing around Star Trek: Seal Team Six?

I don’t believe so.

I’d watch that movie.

If you’d like to check out what a couple of other Star Trek sites are saying about Marc’s statement, check the links below.

TrekCore

TrekMovie

TrekNews

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