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Canjobear
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry

I have a strong desire to like this show and to welcome it enthusiastically to the Star Trek canon. It's getting hard. For me it was the Landry character that signaled something was wrong: her mean, cynical, violent perspective was something I'm used to seeing in other sci-fi shows and seemed really out of place. So I was glad to see her go, but the way she went underlined my point!

What I like the most in Star Trek is scenes like at the end of Undiscovered Country where Kirk says "second star to the right" with a twinkle in his eye. And the best Star Trek makes moments like that earned by putting the characters through tough times, like in DS9. I'm not getting that vibe at all from this show: it's basically snarky and sometimes downright mean characters fighting monsters in space. The snarkiness and forced quirkiness (like Captain Lorca's fortune cookies) reminds me of Firefly but not written by people witty enough to pull it off; the result is that I just don't care about basically any of the characters. I'd like to see more Burnham + Saru: they're the only characters who seem intelligent.

This episode tried for a Trekkian ethical angle by having Michael Burnham care about the tardigrade and discover that it's true desire wasn't violence, but peace. There's a potentially interesting contrast with the Klingons, who seem to emphatically *not* desire peace, and would consider peace to be a dilution of their identity. Unfortunately I found the writing here very very heavy handed. Michael asks, "You're going to judge a species based on one past action?" --- the connection to modern stereotype problems is not subtle at all.

In fact, as a bit of a side bar, the whole fact that Star Trek uses alien species as a metaphor for stereotypes and race/gender relations is pretty weird. The point of being anti-racist is that people are all fundamentally human despite superficial differences. But when it comes to aliens, there's no reason to believe that: these are *not* humans and they may very well have deep-seated and irreconcilable differences. The fact that humans want to think of all other species as just humans with weird foreheads---in an interesting version of this series, that would be the Klingon complaint against the Federation.

I still think the series has a lot of promise and interesting avenues but I'm just disappointed with the quality of the characters and writing so far.
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Canjobear
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 7:18pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Context Is for Kings

The most serious complaint about this episode and Star Trek: Discovery more generally is a lack of joy. While Star Trek has dealt with dark themes and we've seen bad and grim times before, there has always been a sense of adventure and fun, even if it's adventure put on hold. Think of the moments at the end of various original-series movies when they ask Kirk where to fly to next, and he says something like "second star to the right and straight on 'till morning" with a twinkle in his eye. Or think of the emotion evoked by the TNG opening music. It's hard not to see moments and feelings like these as core to Star Trek.

I am a big fan of Discovery, but I'm not sure I see the joy yet. We saw a bit of it in the interaction of Georgiou and Burnham. Captain Lorca tries to evoke it in order to convince Burnham that the spores can enable new voyages. But mostly it's pretty dark and serious.

I think when people complain this "isn't Trek", this is what they're getting at. It's not the same as hopefulness and not the same as characters having ethics. It's a basic sense of underlying joy, even if that joy has to be put on hold in order to fight a war or save the world. There's lots of sci fi where people are in tough situations, in wars, fighting monsters in dark corridors, but Star Trek has always had a strong element of fun exploration that has set it apart (though it isn't unique in this regard).

Discovery may have these qualities: we're only 3 episodes in. I haven't seen a lot of evidence for them yet, but I trust that the writers know what they are doing.
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Canjobear
Tue, Sep 26, 2017, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

There’s been a lot of talk that this series is devoid of intellectual content and that it’s just JJ Abrams lens flares and pew pew shooting action. I think that’s totally wrong and short-sighted. Just because this doesn’t look like Trek from before, and just because its intellectual content has a different flavor, doesn’t mean it’s dumb and has no content. What is the content?

Look no farther than the title “The Vulcan Hello”: when I read about the title I thought it was a silly reference to the hand gesture or something. The hand gesture is old Trek. It turns out the Vulcan Hello itself is something we would not have expected given previous Vulcan stuff: the Vulcan hello is violence. It’s a pre-emptive and unprovoked attack against the Klingons. On one hand, we haven’t seen Vulcans attacking pre-emptively, but the truth is that Sarek’s point is totally logical. If you think being logical implies being nonviolent then all I can say is you haven’t thought this through very carefully. If you’re facing people who only respect violence, you have to speak the language of violence. Being logical doesn’t mean you won’t be violent and it doesn’t mean you’ll always follow the Federation ethics code. Being violent in this case is definitely logical and deeply in keeping with Vulcan behavior, but superficially different since we haven’t seen a lot of Vulcan violence before. It adds intellectual sophistication and depth to the Vulcans, and above all, what I like the most, is it’s a fresh take, and one that deeply respects the underlying ideas. “Violence brought respect, respect brought peace.”

Just that was enough intellectual depth for me in one episode but this one has more. The Klingons are fascinating. We’ve never seen a Klingon prophet before, a real mystical religious movement with a charismatic leader. The visuals of the Klingons and their ornate ship are gorgeous. The idea that their ship is encrusted in sarcophaguses of their fallen dead is awesome and heavy-metal. T’Kuvma is putting forward a straightforward anti-Federation ideology, something I was hoping for from Star Trek Beyond but didn’t get. The Federation is multicultural and T’Kuvma is anti-multicultural, which is a very very relevant distinction for today’s world. T’Kuvma’s whole idea is that under the guide of multiculturalism, or “we come in peace”, the Federation will actually destroy Klingon culture. That the Federation’s supposed diversity and equality are actually death for everything he loves. It seems like the big political question today is globalism vs. nationalism, and this show appears to be addressing that question right on the nose, and not in an explicitly moralistic way either. You can see T’Kuvma’s point. When Admiral Whatsisname shows up on T’Kuvma’s ship in the holoemitter or whatever and says “When we’re fighting, we’re not talking”—then you understand T’Kuvma’s beef with the Federation, and in my mind when I saw him saying that condescending garbage, I was ready to sign up with T’Kuvma and ram that ship to smithereens.

I think T’Kuvma’s idea isn’t fully fleshed out yet. How does the Federation pose a threat to Klingons under the guise of “we come in peace”—exactly how? I can think of some arguments how, and I’m sure we’ll see them fleshed out. The people that think this isn’t addressing contemporary humanistic issues are either nuts or they’ve had their heads in the ground and can’t recognize interesting intellectual content unless it’s completely identical to 90s Trek.

Another question which I think is really interesting is Michael Burnham’s behavior during her mutiny. It’s true Sarek gave her advice which I think is totally logical, and she was following it. And you could see her adopting the Vulcan set of behaviors when she was trying to push her idea. But when she knocked out the captain and was getting people to fire torpedos, she seemed quite emotional. The question is whether her behavior is really purely logical or if it is true that she is being emotional. And I just don’t know, and I think that’s a good thing. Sonequa Martin Green’s performance left me in a state of tension about it and I want to know more. I thought that part was great.
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Canjobear
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

I mean from the trailers. Whoops!
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Canjobear
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

The thing I like the most is that almost all the scenes and lines from the credits were in this and the next episode. So the rest will be new!
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Canjobear
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 4:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: General Discussion

Sounds like the long dramatic episode names are a throwback to TOS. A good sign.
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