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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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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Star Trek: Discovery Update

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A surprising amount of information has dropped recently about Star Trek: Discovery, with more news due to hit in October – though there has been a suggestion we could learn a tiny bit more in early September.

For international viewers, like myself, we recently learned that Netflix has secured the international airing rights for the series – which has upset our American friends, and understandably so, but as someone who has spent his entire Star Trek loving life having to wait months for episodes, it’s nice to not be facing that particular barrier with this incarnation of my favourite series.

As well as word on how the rest of the world will be able to watch the new series, the following exciting teasers were delivered by the man himself, Bryan Fuller:

  • The new lead character won’t be the Captain, it will be the First Officer of the Discovery.  The First Officer, called simply “Number One” (in fine Star Trek tradition) for now, will get a name eventually;
  • Number One will be female and she will hold the rank of Lieutenant Commander;
  • The show is definitely in the Prime timeline, and will be set ten years before James T. Kirk takes command of the Enterprise;
  • The ship we saw in the preview shown a few weeks ago is still being tweaked and that design is not the final design;
  • The show will ‘bounce off’ of an event that was spoken about in the original series, but never explored.  That event isn’t the Kobyashi Maru, nor is is the Battle of Axanar or the Earth-Romulan War… guesses anyone?
  • There will be robots and more aliens that we’ve ever seen before… whether those aliens and robots are on the ship or just appearing throughout the series we don’t know right now;
  • The first season will have a 13 episode order, with Bryan’s preference for following seasons to be 10 episodes in length;
  • Section 31 might make an appearance;
  • Each episode will run about 48 minutes – slightly longer than the 44 minutes most modern versions of Star Trek have run;
  • There will be an openly gay character;
  • Traditional aliens from the original series will get a bit of a revamp;
  • The uniforms will be different to those seen in “The Cage”, but no word on how similar they will be to the uniforms worn by Kirk and crew in the Original Series;
  • The music is still being figured out with a good chance some of it will be reminiscent of the Original Series scores.

A really interesting theory from Joseph Baxter, a writer for SciFi news site Blastr, had me really excited recently – because I love it, and I so want it to be true!  Okay, I’m still excited about it!

He theorises we might already know the lead character.  He wonders, in a very well reasoned argument, if this mysterious Lieutenant Commander is none other than Majel Barrett Roddenberry’s character from “The Cage”, known only to us fans as Number One.

That would be AWESOME!

Despite only appearing in “The Cage” and the re-edited version of that episode called “The Menagerie” parts one and two, Number One has a huge fan following.  That character sparked something in fans that has not faded in 50 years.

Bryan has said that this Number One is an homage to the original character created by Gene and his wife, but he hasn’t confirmed whether or not it is that character.

I hope so.  That would be poetic.

Bryan has said that the next main “info dump” will come in October, but Nicholas Meyer and Kirsten Beyer are holding a discussion panel at the upcoming Mission: New York convention in a few days time and they might be authorised to drop a few more details.

Otherwise, we’re going to have to wait about a month for more news.

This is all pretty exciting stuff!  The pilot starts filming any day now (sometime in September) so there’s a chance we’ll get tantalising stills from the sets as January draws closer.

What information will come out next?  The best guess most of us who are monitoring Trek news can come up with, is that the next news items will be focused on casting.

We might get to learn who the new lead is, or if not, at the very least we might hear about some of her shipmates.  I think we’ll also get another look at the ship soon, probably not the final design, but another evolution.

As more news comes to light, I’ll be sure to post it here.

There are a couple of really good articles covering Bryan’s announcements over at the wonderful TrekCore.  To read them, click here and here.

Keep an eye out on Twitter.  Bryan sometimes drops teasers from his Twitter account, and if we see one we’ll repost it on our Twitter @SciFiSitesAus.  If it’s a big teaser, we’ll post it here on Star Trek: Sentinel.

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