Last week saw Anson Mount’s Captain Pike exit Star Trek: Discovery, to many a viewer’s chagrin. I have been a tremendous fan of Mount’s portrayal of Pike and will miss his presence in the show. I feel that Discovery has done a wonderful job expanding Pike’s character and has successfully elevated him to the same legendary level of other Star Trek captains.
Indeed, this season’s revelation that Pike was shown his eventual fate, disfigured, unable to move, and trapped in a mechanical chair only able to transmit simple yes-and-no responses, and that he embraced it was perhaps one of the most emotionally satisfying moments of the show thus far. All at once, the character’s sense of right action, of honor, and of the love he feels for those under his command become his defining traits.
I always wondered at the depth of loyalty that Spock felt for his old captain in the Star Trek episode “The Menagerie,” a bond so powerful that he would risk the ire of Captain Kirk and his crew, the end of his Starfleet career, and likely even death for visiting a forbidden planet. But it makes sense now. Spock risked everything for Captain Pike because Captain Pike once did the same for him. Let us also appreciate that Captain Pike was Gene Roddenberry’s first draft of his idealized heroic captain character, making Pike the intellectual ancestor of every other Star Trek captain we have come to love.
(And don’t forget to sign the petition asking CBS to consider a spin-off series about the adventures of Captain Pike and the Enterprise here!)
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Five Reasons You are Wrong for Not Liking Star Trek: Discovery
Good day, everyone! Today, I want to discuss one of my current favorite television series: Star Trek: Discovery. I was a skeptic while it was in development, and it took a couple of episodes to win me over last year, but I have given it its due chance and thoroughly enjoy it. With the second season of the show going strong, and a third season recently confirmed, there is no better time to give it a chance and get on board! Below, you’ll find my five reasons why.
You need to try it for yourself. This one may be a soft reason, but I want to speak to the masses of negativity about the show floating around out there. If you hate the show, but haven’t even seen it, you may want to reevaluate which groups you’re apt to label “sheeple.” This is likely merely a symptom of a larger disease of cultural tampering in the United States by pre-programmed bots in social media designed to spout inflammatory nonsense and ruin American cultural artifacts (a longer post for another time), and you need to recognize this. You should always give something a chance before judging it. That is the evolved Federation method, after all.
Discovery isn’t The Next Generation (TNG), and that’s all right. When TNG came out, it was derided as being too different from The Original Series (TOS) and its movies to be true Star Trek. Does the inkling of that sound familiar? But do you know what Discovery IS like? It’s very much like TOS, to which it is, after all, directly tied. In fact, Discovery is what Gene Roddenberry would have flirted with if the effects and budgets for a show of this size had existed in the 1960s. It’s a swashbuckling adventure series about explorers in an on-again/off-again cold war with the Klingons, rife with new technologies we haven’t seen before, as well as crazy techno-babble solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. That basically describes at least 75% of Star Trek.
Issues become non-issues. Further, whereas TOS famously turned the issues of the 1960s into non-issues (namely, having a black woman, Japanese man, and pretend Russian man right there in plain sight on the Enterprise bridge), Discovery bravely continues to carry that flag into the 21st century. We see this in the relationship between Commander Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber, a gay couple who are so far no more dysfunctional than Worf and Jadzia (though we will see how that continues to play out). The fact that they are gay is largely treated as a non-issue, save for that one really awkward scene with Georgiou in engineering. Even this isn’t entirely new to the franchise. Most fans remember “Rejoined” from Deep Space Nine, but were you aware there were attempts to work openly gay characters into Star Trek as far back as TNG? Check out this link that details that little odyssey.
We are encouraged to see ourselves, and often the best of ourselves, in non-human characters in Star Trek. Whether it be Spock’s high-minded reasoning and fierce loyalty to his friends, Data’s unending search for what it means to truly be human, or even Jadzia Dax’s open-mindedness and ability to befriend nearly anyone, we have all glimpsed a higher nobility in the aliens and artificial lifeforms of Star Trek. They are not merely storytelling gimmicks, they are paragons to deeply consider and perhaps even emulate. Discovery also continues this tradition with Commander Saru, a member of the previously unknown Kelpian race who is masterfully portrayed by Doug Jones of Hellboy and The Shape of Water fame. Saru embodies contemporary struggles with fear and anxiety; as he says, his entire race is ruled by these feelings. We have the privilege of witnessing him overcome his genetically embedded fears again and again, and to succeed because of it. I truly believe that is an example worth following for many of us in the Star Trek fan community.
It isn’t perfect, but Star Trek never has been. I will admit that at times the aesthetic of the series and determining the exact tech level of the Federation at this point can be off-putting, but let’s look at that. This is not the first time (or even the second) that the Klingons have changed appearance, and it probably won’t be the last. The greater continuity of Star Trek grew to develop explanations for these issues, and I anticipate we will see more in the future. There are also complaints at the demonstrated technological capabilities of a 23rd Century Starfleet that seems more advanced in ways than what we saw in 24th Century Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The simplest explanation there is that we are already catching up to some of those advances we once marveled at. Long-distance projected holographic communication is not so far off, and modern cell phones are already far ahead of handheld Star Trek communicators in many ways. They can even act as translators, with the correct apps installed. Star Trek has always been about OUR future, after all, and it must be updated occasionally to remain so. Ultimately, much of this falls under the umbrella of suspension of disbelief—if you’re open to enjoying a story, you’ll forgive small faults.
Still not convinced? I can understand; for a few years now I feel that mainstream American comic books are no longer targeted at me as their primary audience, and I have made peace with that. But, consider that the ability to adapt, evolve, and maintain an open mind should be the learned hallmark of a true Trekkie, traits many of us developed growing up watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard. On that note, recognize that the upcoming Picard streaming series will likely also be pretty different from what past iterations of Star Trek have shown us, in keeping with recent trends reimagining our older heroes. The thing to remember, though, is that it will still be Star Trek, even if it is intended more for another generation, as it always has been.
An addendum and concession: The only gripe I have with Star Trek: Discovery is (admittedly) a somewhat major one: the handling of secondary characters. Very little development is carried on outside of Michael, Tilly, and Saru, so that every time someone else does experience some character development, you hang onto it. Perhaps this is the writers’ strategy, but I do feel that the cohesive structure of Star Trek of alternating the show’s focus among all the bridge crew has been lost, somewhat to the detriment of the show. The biggest and most recent example of the problems this can cause is with poor Lieutenant Commander Airiam, the cybernetic bridge officer that I have been curious about since the series began. We get the merest taste of her past in order to understand that she is indeed human, but the victim of a terrible accident that left her confined to a robotic body and with severely limited memory capacity due to the injuries she sustained. Gaining this and losing her all in one episode was a one-two series of punches to the gut, I feel. Though this was also likely intentional on the part of the writers, I would still have liked to have seen Airiam’s experiences incorporated into the show’s narrative than all at once as we were given.
Final thoughts: To actually be a Trekkie (which I prefer to Trekker), you have to actually like Star Trek. And it would help to actually enjoy something that has come out in the past 20 years. If you boycott Discovery for one reason or another, you are not only boycotting one show. You are risking the entire franchise on contemporary business strategy; poor performance on one show might mean we don’t get anymore. It might even mean the execs rethinking the projects already in development (such as that new Picard series). You hurt all of Star Trek when you refuse to consume what the property owners put out. Think on this. Storytelling is not a democracy.