Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.10 (End of Season Report)

“A Quality of Mercy” was a curious finale in what’s been a conflicted first season of Strange New Worlds. It showcased the flawed and dissonant thinking that’s characterised the series thus far – namely its desire to appropriate and remake versus the imperative that springs from any set of writers, to chart one’s own course. This is a Trek that’s desperate to be liked by its core fan base, so has tried to put bad habits to one side, but doesn’t yet have the confidence or ideas to forge its own identity. The audience will wait for inspiring, original stories featuring these characters. In the meantime, in the tenth episode, we were treated to the writers’ room psychodrama writ large.

Strange New Worlds owes its existence to a mistake – namely Discovery’s decision to end its first season by introducing Pike’s Enterprise as a fan-baiting stunt. This was a tacit acknowledgement that the show had failed to establish its own characters or generate interest in its storytelling on its merits.

The troubled TNG did not succumb to this instinct in its first year – there was no Captain Kirk found floating in statis in “The Neutral Zone” to entice viewers to return for season two. Spock didn’t guest star in TNG until its fifth season, by which time it was a pop culture phenomenon in its own right.

Whenever a burgeoning prequel or sequel series reaches for its parent for support, it shows a dependency on that series for ideas and attention. Substance is imported from a readymade source. “A Quality of Mercy” could have been a show about SNW’s characters in a new situation. Instead, it used an alternate timeline conceit to revisit TOS’s “Balance of Terror” (which is dangerously close to Enterprise’s finale being locked inside a TNG episode). Only it in final moments did it reconnect with its story.

SNW is a show desperate to re-write TOS canon. Here, it flirted with the idea, though with the reassuring promise of an end-of-episode reset. We’re stuck with Pike’s cruel fate and it was reasonable that the finale would address this as its been part of the character’s makeup since the first episode. “A Quality of Mercy” ostensibly wanted to explore the consequences of Pike altering the timeline to save himself and reached the fan-friendly conclusion that he could not. But that will to overwrite TOS had to be dealt with somehow – one could feel the tension – so here was an inconsequential fan fic reprisal. The problem? It wasn’t strictly the same set of events.

Pike from the TOS Movie-era – the 2280s, showed up to tell Young Pike that if he changed the future there would be consequences. Well, of course there would, but the one that seemed to matter in the grand scheme of things was it would mean Pike, not Kirk, would face the Romulans attacking the Federation’s neutral zone outposts years later, and despite enlisting the help of a shark jumping and somewhat cavalier James T. Kirk, the encounter would end not in mutual respect and understanding (and safe demise of the Romulans) but a declaration of war on the Federation from a successfully summoned Romulan fleet. Pike, it seems, paid the price for his more cautious approach; a non-aggressive strategy that gave the uninjured Romulan ship enough time to bring many more warbirds into the fight, thereby causing matters to escalate. Kirk had been bold and was lucky. Pike wasn’t. Story of the Pike’s life.

But everything was weird about this alternate timeline. Why did Ortegas have the same hatred of Romulans as the Enterprise’s original navigator? Does everyone who sits in that chair have family issues relating to the pointy eared bastards? Why was the Romulan ship implicitly a different one to that which Kirk chased? These were different kinds of Romulans – the ridged variety, and there was no sense that the Roluman commander was the thoughtful spacefarer played so memorably by Mark Lenard in the original episode. His performance established Romulans as thinkers and tacticians, just as Leonard Nimoy was so instrumental in framing our notion of Vulcans as dispassionate logicians. The commander Pike faced was less impressive. SNW’s writers will say, “alternate timeline!” but why cherry pick in this way? Why retain some story elements and characters and substitute others?

The new Kirk – another stunt, whose introduction is far too early in run of this series, was also curiously cavalier – more of a caricature of the Kirk we know. Paul Wesley deserves credit for not imitating William Shatner but there wasn’t enough of the character’s essence in his portrayal to make Kirk identifiable. Had the script not done so, we would have been none the wiser.

Wesley is set to return as a younger version of the character in season two. If the point is to add urgency to Pike’s ongoing predicament – his would-be replacement shadowing him as the inevitably of his accident becomes apparent, then it’s an interesting choice by the writers. But Kirk’s presence always keeps the threat of canon ruination in the mix – the original series just a little too close for comfort. It might be different if we had a cast iron assurance from SNW that their show would seamlessly link up with TOS – but that promise has been curiously unforthcoming.

“A Quality of Mercy” was in some ways typical of SNW’s first season. It was a riff on a pre-existing episode or story, which was true for much of the season’s output, and its focus on pillaging Star Trek lore meant that original elements were neglected.

Pike would have a lot more scope for development if he wasn’t saddled with foreknowledge of the future. La’an, problematic heritage notwithstanding, exists as a pipeline for retconned Gorn stories. Hemmer, who had limitless potential as an original character unencumbered by canon, was prematurely killed off to introduce jeopardy to a crew that can endure few shocks given their timelocked status. And Una, poor underused Una, was employed as a cliffhanger in this episode – her Illyrian status having been somehow discovered by Pike’s girlfriend (perhaps the Captain talks in his sleep) when she’d been absent for the same offence throughout this alt-timeline story. How much greater would the impact have been if Una had been pivotal to “A Quality of Mercy’s” story, showcasing her importance to Pike.

Ultimately, the first season of SNW ended on a bum note. The series has promising characters who are rightly the focus of its episodic storytelling. But to differentiate itself from fan fiction, season two will need to produce original stories that advance these characters and carve out a space for them that isn’t just a waiting area for the Star Trek we know and love. That’s a tough gig for a direct prequel (and the reason why none but the most creatively assured should do one) but, and I’m sorry to keep going on about it, it can be done as Better Call Saul  proves. That show, with deftness, patience and awareness of its own unique qualities and potentialities, has taken an often surprising (and leisurely) route to known territory. SNW writers take note.

Anomalous Readings

  • Did Pike’s alt-timeline experience convince him the bleep chair was inevitable? I’m not counting on it and neither should you.
  • Let’s hope Una is liberated in season two and this, like the removal of Hemmer, isn’t just an accelerated clear out to facilitate a more familiar bridge crew configuration.
  • Conspicuous by the their absence in season one: the Klingons. They will surely return but what will they look like? I don’t envy the producers on this one – they’ve made such a headache of continuity, despite DS9 once fixing it for them, that it will create problems whatever they do. I’d go with the “many sub-species” line and show the post-1979 Klingons. But then I have common sense.
  • This brings to an end an exhausting year of live action new Trek. I’m very happy to take a break, though I’m not yet broken, on account of SNW’s sliver of potential. New Trek will return of course and so will you for more Critic’s Log. With SNW already in the can, we can but hope that a season produced with no external critical reflection on season one yields improvements, particularly in the storytelling and intellectual dexterity departments. We crave less filler (not in an ten episode season please) and more substance. Picard S3 also awaits – make or break for TNG and its legacy. Lots to fear and anticipate then, but let’s just try to enjoy life in the meantime. Take care and thanks as ever for reading.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on July 11, 2022 at 11:19  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.10 (End of Season Report)  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.9

Last week, when ruminating on the backdated adventures of Logicman and Bleep, we lamented the rigidity of the SNW’s writers room – that very un-Better Call Saul-like trait of failing to recognise the good stuff they’ve inadvertently seeded and change course accordingly. Then we were talking about the premature conclusion of M’Benga’s sick daughter arc. The hacks set up the intriguing sub-plot to facilitate a late season payoff and the stuck to the plan. But had Vince Gillian been in the room he might have said, “this has more storytelling potential than we realised – there’s a change to really explore M’Benga here – find out what a man will do to save a dying child” and kicked the cure into long grass.

This week, SNW killed chief engineer Hemmer. At first this seemed like an incomprehensible waste of a likeable character with bags of potential – imagine DS9’s Odo getting the chop in that show’s first season. But “All Those Who Wander” was a story concerned with Uhura and her place on the Enterprise. And it was only after Hemmer had needlessly died that we realised that he had existed only to inspire the bountiful belle on cadet rotation, and instil in her a sense of belonging. His death was but the final push for the wavering would-be communications officer. In other words, Hemmer died to bolster a character less interesting than himself.

When writing a show like SNW, surely it’s important to have a degree of intellectual dexterity – a nimbleness that allows the hacks to reflect on what’s working well on the show and change and respond when breaking new stories and revising long-term characters arcs. How much of an arsehole do you have to be not to recognise that in Bruce Horak’s Hemmer you had a classic Star Trek oddball – a loner with a rich cultural background to explore and an intellect worth poking. Did we really just lose that character so Uhura could say, “they’re not responding to hails, Captain” on the original series?

It didn’t help that the death was a tacked on bit of pathos at the tail end of a highly derivative episode which aped the Alien series to a Disney lawyer-triggering degree. This was SNW making the same mistakes that bedevilled Discovery’s early seasons – turning in an episode that was patterned on un-Trek-like franchise material, bleak, gratuitously violent, ugly and ultimately, embittering. Killing Hemmer, whom we’d only just started to get to know, was the kind of imbecilic choice Discovery would have made. Wasn’t this supposed to be a more enlightened show?

Hemmer died because he’d been hit by an inseminating blast of Gorn cum – venom that had embedded eggs under his skin. We knew what awaited him thanks to the death of a guest alien, in the John Hurt role, whose lack of humanoid appearance was designed to make the birth of the Gorn hatchlings more family friendly. But the Gorn’s animal-like aggression and monstrous bent instilled a different kind of fear to that intended by the hacks – the fear the show’s writers are stupid.

The Gorn may be reptilian but they’re also an advanced, warp-capable species. One imagines that a race that can build starships, so has a grasp of physics at least equal to our own, is also, temperament notwithstanding, a sophisticated civilisation. When we met the Alien xenomorph we understood it was nature unbound – a creature that instilled fear because it was driven by instinct. An advanced predator, yes, but not the kind one can imagine maintaining its own ship yards, or delivering papers at Universities, or forming institutes, or debating philosophy in local libraries. The Alien was a smart monster but a monster nonetheless – one that reproduced and travelled parasitically. The Gorn, we’re asked to believe, are also parasitic monsters who kill on sight as infants, but once mature become a space-faring species with territorial ambitions.

La’an, our human guide to the new Gorn, tried to square this circle on the writers’ behalf by talking about rapid maturation and all the rest of it, but it was almost impossible to reconcile the threat these creatures represented to ordered intelligence with the misunderstood Gorn captain of “Arena”. We also learned that Gorn can have a myriad of appearances as they can be born from anything, which may allow for some canon-friendly appearances from non-humanoid Gorn, but does not explain how a creature with cold blooded predatory instincts put them aside to engineering starships and warp engines and transporters, and all the other shit we only managed to build once we were separated from a state of nature by a margin of 750,000 years.

Ah, Strange New Worlds. You were doing so well…

Anomalous Readings

  • Lost in this ugly affair was Spock wrestling with his human side – chiefly rage born of impotence. This was the show signalling that we’ll be getting a lot more of this in episodes to come, as the hacks see this aspect of Spock’s character as one way to differentiate him from the man we know in Kirk’s era. One assumes Sybok will complicate things when he finally debuts.
  • Let’s hope the SNW hacks realise they’ve made a mistake with Hemmer and contrive to bring him back. It would be the height of laziness for S2 to begin with a certain young Scotsman assuming the fallen chief’s position.
  • La’an was so traumatised by this terrible episode that she’s taken a long leave of absence. If her presence means a swathe of Gorn episodes, she need not hurry back.
  • Introducing characters just to kill them is bad redshirting. Never again please, SNW.
  • Next week: we cast an eye over the Pike-centred, bleep chair avoiding finale “A Quality of Mercy” and assess Strange New Worlds’ first season. Five star, folly or somewhere in-between? You will return to find out.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on July 2, 2022 at 14:00  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.9  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.8

We’ve waited eight long weeks for a M’Benga episode and finally, here it is – the good Doctor in the spotlight at last. What would it be about? An ethical dilemma, a fight for life, a character study? In the end, “The Elysian Kingdom” focused on the only thing we know about Joseph, namely that he has a terminally ill daughter trapped in the Enterprise’s pattern buffer, awaiting a miracle cure. And just like that we realised the only reason this seed had been planted was to pay off in this story. As Johnny Rotten once said, “do you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

Look, this was a perfectly nice and big-hearted conclusion to Rukiya’s story, that saw the stricken girl leave her corporeal body and join an alien named after her dead mother in a nebula where she had as much freedom and longevity as imagination allowed, but given the dramatic potential of the situation, and the window if offered into Dr M’Benga’s soul, a jaunty and silly medieval fantasy episode felt like a slight and hurried conclusion to what might have been a long and barbed story thread.

Ignoring that we’d seen something like “Kingdom” numerous times – TNG’s “Imaginary Friend, DS9’s “If Wishes Were Horses” and “Dramatis Personae” – you’ll have your own mind blowers, the crew transformed into story book characters as a manifestation of Rukiya’s imagination was just too inconsequential a scenario to carry any emotional or psychological weight. Yes, it was a child’s fantasy but we hadn’t got to know the child so it was difficult to care.

We didn’t learn the significance of the mannered shenanigans, and why we’d been subjected to all this broad comedy, until the final act, when Hemmer – thankfully remembered by the production and returned to prominence, channelled the nebula alien and told M’Benga that all this dicking around had been an attempt to emancipate Rukiya from her limbotic, diseased existence.

The Doc could hardly argue with the principle, and ultimately agreed his daughter was better off as a space-bound lifeform, effectively immortal and immune to the diseases of the flesh, than stuck and reliant on him to find a cure. There was a touching kiss off, followed immediately by a sense of anti-climax; an intriguing set up tied off ahead of the season finale.

What could Strange New Worlds have done with Rukiya? Perhaps shown less impatience – an ugly trait inherited from Discovery, and built her up a bit before letting her go. But there were surely M’Benga stories to be told about his relentless hunt for a cure, some of which may have been intellectually nourishing.

How far would he compromise his oath to save his daughter, what kind of people might he encounter while searching for the right treatment? The answers to these questions would tell us more about who M’Benga was. But Strange New Worlds didn’t want to go there – or indeed anywhere. And now, we have a character who’s lost the only developmental potential the writers have so far endowed him with.

Still, at least we got to spend some frivolous time with a quietly incredulous M’Benga as he tried not to notice La’an’s dog licking her cleavage and how bountiful Uhura looked as the story’s antagonist. Babs Olusanmokun is well cast as M’Benga – he brings a dignity and reserve to the character, which naturally piques audience interest. Let’s hope that having closed one window on the character the hacks promptly uncover a few more. If not, “The Elysian Kingdom” will be remembered as a joke that fell flat.

Anomalous Readings

  • Conceptually, “The Elysian Kingdom” didn’t make much sense. Why was the kingdom in question, budget reasons notwithstanding, a dress up of the fully functioning Enterprise? This helped M’Benga and Hemmer work out what was going on, because they conveniently had access to the ship’s computer and medical equipment, but it felt a little strange. Perhaps Rukiya fused the two as the story and the ship were the only two imaginative environments she knew, or perhaps the writers couldn’t think of a better way for M’Benga to break the illusion and uncover the truth.
  • La’an looked great as Princess Thalia. As previously noted, her dog thought so too.
  • “Do I have to go back into the buffer, Daddy?” Ah, the question every parent dreads.
  • It’s a pity Rukiya’s favourite book wasn’t Guy N. Smith’s Sabat: The Graveyard Vultures.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on June 25, 2022 at 13:26  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.8  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.7

Some aspects of Star Trek’s Original Series have aged better than others. When riffing on said series, one has to consider what plays well with a modern audience and what might seem kitsch. And whereas I don’t see Strange New Worlds doing an episode anytime soon in which retro space hippies redolent of Earth’s 1960s come on board (though let’s not write it off), it was a little strange, though not very new world, to see them do a space pirate episode featuring a camp takeover of the Enterprise.

In fairness to those behind “The Serene Squall”, there was an attempt here to do what Strange New Worlds has been attempting, with moderate success, all season, namely pegging a boilerplate Trek premise to an exploration of character. This, it turned out, was a Spock episode, in which his (doomed) relationship with T’Pring was manipulated to free a dissident Vulcan who’d managed get the pirate captain, Angel, on the pay roll.

In her fake guise as a colonial medical officer, the non-gender conforming actor playing Angel used Spock’s half-human/half-Vulcan lineage as a heavy-handed metaphor for the schism afflicting those struggling with their gender identity. Well, you thought, better to tackle it this way, in what amounted to a legitimate and well-observed excavation of Spock’s character, than literalising an early 21st century ideological/philosophical question.

Again, SNW’s writers have learned from Discovery that these topics have far greater poignancy and weight divested from contemporary identity politics. But this fleeting didactism, just a wisp away from Wesley and Yar’s “just say no” conversation in TNG’s “Symbiosis”, fortunately gave way to the serious business of plot. Unfortunately,  said plot never felt too serious on account of the episode’s wild shift in tone.

We’ll never know precisely what was going through guest star Jesse James Keitel’s mind at the point they were required to pivot from sober and interrogative Spock acquaintance, who recognised the duality and therefore tension in his character, to flamboyant and silly villain of the week, but the shift scuttled “The Serene Squall”. Thereafter the villainy was so camp, so dastardly, that it could not be taken seriously. Some will love the character of Captain Angel: non-binary, exuberant, scene chewing. But some people used to love Harry Mudd.  Star Trek tends to do better when it gives us an antagonist we can believe in, rather one we believe should be beamed into space.

The ultimate point of all this shit was to reveal that the imprisoned Vulcan the pirate captain hoped to free, was none other than Sybok – Spock’s hitherto neglected, logic denying, rogue half-brother; a walking threat to both Vulcan society and William Shatner’s ambitions as a movie director.  

It was great to see this character, if only from behind, because up to now it seemed New Trek had forgotten he existed. Discovery never referenced him – he was absent in all those flashbacks to Spock’s childhood, yet now, as if someone who saw The Final Frontier on its third and final weekend in 1989 (because they couldn’t get into Lethal Weapon 2) had finally joined the writing staff, here he was – a seditious, troublesome, crime boss, hauled up in T’Pring’s clink. The exciting prospect of seeing him again was only undercut by the idea that his lieutenant, Captain Angel, still presumably on the hook for liberating him following this failed attempt, will show up alongside him.

Recognising how interesting a character Sybok is and how uninteresting his non-binary henchmen is, and tailoring their next appearances accordingly, would be a sign the Strange New Worlds’ writers room understands what quality control looks like. We await their next move.

Anomalous Readings

  • If this episode had a victim – our grounded sensibilities aside, it was Nurse Chapel. Poor Chapel, who obviously holds a space candle for Mr Spock, was coerced into pretending to be his lover as the Vulcan tried to break Angel’s leverage over him and T’Pring by staging their breakup and introducing Chapel as the other woman. Of course, we know that canonically, because yes, we’re still watching with that very much in mind, Spock will end up with neither woman, but the tease of a love triangle is all good sport. Close your eyes, forget that the further voyages of the Starship Enterprise exist, and you can almost buy into it. But this, like many elements of Strange New Worlds, speaks to the direct prequel problem it represents. The scope to shape the destiny of legacy characters is highly limited. Better then, to concentrate on the long-term prospects of the newbies, perhaps?
  • Pike didn’t seem too concerned about the threat to his life from the Orion in command of the Squall, but then why should he be? He knows nothing will happen to him until that radiation accident. Does SNW have the guts to take this issue straight on, sooner, rather than later?
  • There’s work ahead for La’an – the Enterprise was overwhelmed by a group who looked as if they’d been rough sleeping for a year.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on June 21, 2022 at 15:43  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.7  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.6

Is it unfair to rename Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Magpie? Every Trek has drawn inspiration from other sources – classical literature, poetry, old movies, plays. Of late we’ve lamented that New Trek seems to refer to nothing but old Trek and wholly incompatible franchise flicks, but in recent weeks the well of inspiration seems to have deepened. First, Strange New Worlds built its world by asset striping the Original Series. Then it dipped into Original Series novels – a perfectly respectable and rich resource to plunder. Now, with “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”, the writers have paid homage to, that is to say shamelessly stolen from, classic sci-fi literature, namely the Ursula Le Guin short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.

If you know Le Guin’s story, you know the shocking twist that closes this episode, namely a seemingly enlightened and peaceful society has struck a Faustian pact to maintain its serenity, keeping a child imprisoned and miserable. Trek’s version has said child plugged into a device, resembling an electric chair, that saps its energy until it’s a burnt-out husk, at which point the victim is ceremoniously replaced. It remains a horrific idea, one designed to bait philosophers everywhere, and it does for Strange New Worlds what it did for Le Guin’s readers, namely adding a sinister coda to a depiction of an idealised society.

As we said a few weeks ago, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. The intellect behind “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach” may be borrowed, but if contemporary Trek writers struggle to produce original morality plays then let’s see one of the classics dramatized instead. Annoyingly, considering the outright plagiarism, the adaptation (let’s be generous) ties well to our characters. Providing evidence that character arcs have actually been considered when breaking individual stories, “Lift Us…” centred on two men with a vested interest in a xenophobic society with highly advanced medical technology, namely Pike and M’Benga.

Pike, you could hardly forget, is still thinking ahead to the bleep chair years. M’Benga, sick daughter effectively held in stasis using the pattern buffer, longs for advanced medicine. The tragedy of the episode – sacrificial child notwithstanding, was it denied both men their dream solution. Pike had one foot on the planet Majalis in the form of Alora – former squeeze and planetary dignitary, who able-body teased him with talk of joining her society with its astonishing restorative technology. One could see Pike’s cogs turning – he could fulfil his destiny, have his accident, and be shipped to his old girlfriend’s bedside where the aliens would fix the damage. The price? Pike renouncing his Starfleet duties for life in a closed society.

But once the truth was out the fantasy was over. Maybe Strange New Worlds has already found an out for Pike – after all, a society can reform can’t it? The child killers already had a rebel colony – maybe one day they’ll take over, recall Pike from Talos IV and restore him to real world health. But for now Pike had to renounce this non-Federation world and with it, their miracle cure. Poor M’Benga had to settle for an overview of the research that lead to tech that was now tantalisingly out of reach. A glint of hope for both men, then, and hope for this series if it continues to produce (or reproduce) stories of quality like this.

Anomalous Readings

  • Every Trek produces its own specific sub-genre of episode, for example TNG’s Geordi can’t forge a relationship with a woman stories, or DS9’s battle of wits between Odo and Quark. Will Pike being irradiation accident cure adjacent be SNW’s recurring story? I could live with the tease if the solution by some miracle was canon compliant, namely, picked up where “The Menagerie” left off.  What hope?
  • If M’Benga can simply build on the research provided to him in this episode and science up a cure for his daughter, there’s little drama, so what complication awaits the good doctor? Something morally challenging, we hope.
  • La’an spent the episode training Uhura in the security fundamentals for reasons I didn’t understand.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on June 13, 2022 at 17:29  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.6  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.5

“Spock Amok” was the kind of Star Trek episode we used to call a breather; an opportunity for the characters to let their space hair down. Similar styled episodes might by TNG’s “Family” or “Data’s Day” in which plot takes a back seat to a character’s existential angst. Here, the man we’re now calling Spock was concerned his betrothed, T’Pring, was an innate bigot like most Vulcans, who saw his human side and duty to Starfleet as a barrier to their burgeoning relationship.

The solution, a soul-sharing ritual gone wrong that resulted in a body swap, was very silly indeed, but the ambition here was to make Spock feel more comfortable in his own skin and dispel his partner’s insufferable neediness. This was achieved using the device of a delicate negotiation with a would-be Federation ally, with T’Pring forced to sub for Spock, and an inspirational speech from Pike in which the Vulcan was cited an example of how different cultures coming together enriched the Federation.

Look, this was a perfectly nice episode that worked on its own terms. Strange New Worlds at the half-way mark of its first season, is showing us that it understands the rhetoric of Star Trek but also the crucial part missing from Discovery, Picard et al, namely Hamlet’s advice to the players – match the word to the action. “Spock Amok” was at one with its sentiments and consequently Roddenberry-esque. Pike in particularly was given the chance to shine as a diplomat as well as a man of action, giving him a well-rounded sheen.

Elsewhere, the episode concentrated on two other couples – Una and La’an, Chapel and Ortegas. The former, realising they were the stiff, workaholic crewmembers whom others saw as officious and humourless, experimented with enjoying themselves – playing the ‘Enterprise Bingo’ game of illegal ship-wide activities beloved by cadets (this includes signing the hull’s oldest exterior panel). The latter talked relationships and the impossibility of making connections when you’re guarded and gormless.

Curiously, both sub-plots worked rather well. It was nice to see Una and La’an work on their human credentials, and a little vulnerability never hurts when fleshing out a background character like Chapel who’s hitherto been the sassy nurse standing behind Doctor M’Benga.

All in all “Spock Amok” worked as a light-hearted excavation of the Vulcan and a little shading for some of the Enterprise’s less accessible personalities. A warm bath of an episode.

Anomalous Readings

  • The only problem with “Spock Amok” as the title implies is that it’s yet another riff on a classic episode, obviously “Amok Time”. It seems this is the starting point for the SNW’s writers room – backfilling. And whereas that’s understandable, as this is a direct prequel to TOS – it surely can’t be a strategy for plotting the series entire. In order for SNW to chart its own course, in as much as this is possible, it has to find its own path through Trek mythology and take us to places and scenarios we’ve not seen, as per the derivative Captain’s oath that opens each episode. In other words, SNW can bait us with TOS adjacent stuff like this, but ultimately it has to find – to invoke the best TV prequel yet made, Better Call Saul – its own Kim, Chuck and Howard. SNW and TOS must tie together but not in the sense that if one were to watch the stories chronologically the original series would play as an echo of Strange New Worlds.
  • One wonders how much time the SNW writers are going to invest in the Spock/T’Pring relationship when we know it’s doomed. The danger of a prequel story like this is it makes T’Pring’s decision to ultimately reject Spock slightly harder to understand.
  • I enjoyed the joke that such is the stilted, emotionless way Vulcan’s speak, Pike didn’t notice any difference in Spock or T’Pring once they’d mind swapped.
  • I know I joked about seeing La’an having fun last week, but now I’ve seen it, maybe it’s not such a good idea.
  • Five episodes down and Strange New Worlds is still a fan friendly show. But we’ve seen the danger areas. Keep an eye on the family silver. This show still has the keys to the cabinet.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on June 6, 2022 at 12:21  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.5  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.4

This week on Strange New Wounds we felt the Wrath of La’an as she grappled with her hatred of the Gorn – the inhuman, cold blooded, animal-like monsters who’d once turned her elder brother into a breeding sack but left her alive so she could bear witness to the species’ savage brutality; a warning to its mammalian enemies.

The Gorn, we knew, could not be seen in “Momento Mori” – not by anyone bar La’an that is, lest canon be resoundingly violated, much like the security chief’s fellow colonists. Instead the show opted for a Das Boot-style game of cat and mouse with the enemy, a battle that for the most part took part inside a nebula to create parity between hunter and hunted. This was an idea La’an gifted to Spock who one day will recycle it against her augmented ancestor – a universe eating itself and creating the perfect self-referential cycle. But tense though the conflict was, it left us with some profound questions about the character the battle was designed to flesh out, though not in the Gorn’s preferred way.

La’an’s presence on the Enterprise is problematic for the obvious reason that it makes her a conspicuously retrospective creation whose time on board makes the ship’s encounter with Khan more improbable and the failure of Spock to recall his encounter with the superman’s lineage more unlikely still. But “Momento Mori” – imagined as a reflection on La’an’s tragic past, reminded us the English middle-class misanthrope is a creation pegged to two pre-existing elements of the Star Trek universe, that her position in the time line does not allow to be explored in any depth, namely a species we can never see and an ancestor we can never meet.

A satisfying arc for La’an would be a transition from Gorn hater to woman who finds the common good in a difficult antagonist. But Strange New Worlds, if it’s to stay on the right side of TOS continuity, can’t show the Gorn, or have any other Enterprise crew member meet them and therefore present La’an with a different perspective. Kirk will one day fight them in “Arena” and realise they’re not the crude lizards we once feared, but that’s ten years and a full crew rotation away.

La’an learned little in “Momento Mori” other than it was okay to remember those you’ve lost and begin the process of mourning (not to be confused with Gorning) them. ‘We survived,’ she pronounced at the close, but one was tempted to say, so what? What did you learn? How did this experience change your perspective? The line was supposed to act like an intake of breath after a gruelling sling shot around a black hole, a belch after a big meal, but we’d learned nothing about the Gorn other than how threatening and primally savage they were (their warp-capable ships not withstanding). And La’an was still a buttoned up, miserable, humourless cynic who’d joined an organisation committed to seeking out new life and understanding it, but hated those scaly bastards.

La’an is also, lest we forget, a hater of augments due to her uncomfortable link to the man who once ruled a third of the Earth and who became so hated he had to flee into deep space. Again, if this character were constituted fresh and not from the stories of yesteryear, we might expect such a revelation to result in a meeting between her and her lost ancestor, or perhaps a story in which her genetic links land her in hot political and judicial waters – perhaps a twenty-third century civilian who demands reparations for Khan’s crimes.

Maybe that story will be told, but the explicit link with Khan makes too much emphasis problematic. The more the writers make of it, the harder it is to suspend one’s disbelief when it comes to fellow crew members Spock and Uhura’s inability to join the dots during “Space Seed”. So La’an’s an interesting character but one who can’t be developed easily without complicating the canon enormously. That’s the problem with her, not to mention the hazard of writing a story backwards.

Anomalous Readings

  • This episode took place on stardate 3177.3. Is it me or are the stardates in this show all over the place? Is anyone keeping track of them or can the writers use any four digit number they choose?
  • “Somethings in this universe are just plain evil.” Yes, La’an – like the tendency to asset strip IP, for example.
  • The Gorn will surely return but hopefully not with La’an having to face off against one of them on a lonely planet.
  • Idea for season two: an episode about the things La’an loves.
  • La’an discovered Spock had a sister when the two mind melded. Curiously, she did not learn of a brother. It’s as if the Vulcan had forgotten all about him.
  • Thus far SNW appears to be riffing on TOS episodes. Ontological permanent and fatal error or early show timidity? Time will tell.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on May 27, 2022 at 17:42  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.4  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.3

Sensing it was all getting a little heavy very quickly with the whole “how can Pike avoid irradiation and quadriplegia and still be the character who appeared in the Menagerie?” thing, Strange New Worlds held the issue in the pattern buffer and explored Una’s origins, in the Enterprise’s third voyage.

I say explored, “Ghosts of Illyria” repurposed the backstory established by Star Trek luminary D.C. Fontana in her novel “Vulcan’s Glory”. What’s that? If you’re going to steal, steal from the best you say? Well, why not, particularly if that genetically modified, member of a pariah species banned from entering the Federation because of its understandable discomfort over the whole eugenics war thing, was more interesting that anything Akiva Goldsman could have come up with.

I tried to imagine what a version of the character not lifted from beta canon might look like (beta canon referring to novels, comics and other apocrypha) but it drove me crazy, as if I’d been infected by a light virus that gave me a moth-like suicidal tendency. No doubt Una would have been Riker’s great grandmother or some shit. So yes, Fontana was neither credited or referenced in-episode, but her good work ensured the episode had a solid foundation and (and I can hardly believe I’m writing this) a character-focused pretext for that most generic of Star Trek plots – the space virus that fells the crew and gets them acting all weird. Usually we get this early in a Trek series with people prematurely out of character before we’ve got to know them well. Here we got to know a couple of characters because of it.

Perhaps I’m so anaesthetised by Discovery that I’m no longer alert to an episode signalling its mystery credentials, or maybe the direction was too laid back, but each twist in “Ghosts of Illyria” caught me unawares. Knowing it was a virus story prepared the mind for something rote and inconsequential, but to Strange New Worlds’ credit this 45 minuter added depth and background to Una and La’an’s relationship, as well as explaining Una’s interest in Khan’s unlikely on-board ancestor. It even found time to add shade to Dr M’ Benga whom we learned has his terminally afflicted daughter improbably hidden in a medical transporter – the Scotty method of preservation, used here to delay the spoiling of the Doctor’s loin fruit until a cure could be found.

Heaven help us, there was even some dramatic irony to chew on, namely that the Illyrians, in their bid to conform to Federation principles, had forsaken their genetic modifications; a decision that made them vulnerable to the viral ion storm creatures who attacked the colonists and absorbed them.

The idea of being compromised in some way by sticking rigidly to Federation doctrine was the kind of intelligent rumination on authority, particularly moral authority, that’s so lacking on Discovery. The Federation was found to be flawed in this episode, but Pike was there at the close to reassure Una (and us) that it had the heart and head to compassionately reassess some of its more punitive ideas. Mind you, he wouldn’t be telling them just yet. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you’re going to question Starfleet’s idealism, offering up character scenarios that suggest the Federation isn’t quite yet liberal and inclusive enough, rather than critiquing its cultural expansionist credentials, is the way to do it.

Una’s impassioned defence of her people and their complementary philosophy (adapting to worlds not changing them) left us in no doubt that the Illyrians had been excluded because of the crimes of others (Khan et al) rather than their own actions. Hearing La’an spit out the word “augment” in disgust had a certain power because it signalled both her self-loathing and suspicion of those who toyed with what the space Gods gave ‘em. M’Benga’s predicament, which inadvertently imperilled the crew when his use of the ship’s transporters compromised the bio filters, was rooted in the oldest instinct there is – preserving one’s genes in a modified form.

We could hardly begrudge either for flouting regulations under the circumstances so it was no surprise that Pike took the same view. Mind you, the revelation that different pairs of characters were covering each other’s rule breaks did make you wonder how many members of the Enterprise crew have regulation defying secrets and whether Pike will one day learn he’s helming a ship of criminals. Is this what prompted the clear out that lead to Kirk, McCoy et al taking over? Well, at least we know Spock, Chapel and Uhura were clean. Or never caught.

Anomalous Readings

  • It’s a small thing but I still can’t believe that Khan’s ancestor has a name that rhymes with his. I mean, any name could have been chosen.
  • It’s no secret that La’an and Khan are related so how will Strange New Worlds explain Spock forgetting as much by the time of “Space Seed”? Perhaps he mentioned it off-camera.
  • This week’s teaser was just 3 minutes. That’s more like it, and possible when the story allows you to cut to the quick because there’s not a serialised element to be explored first.
  • I like that the Enterprise computer, despite its TNG level of sophistication, still says “working”.
    The character focused approach works for the show, as it did in the Treks of old. Now if the writers can just invent some compelling, original stories…
  • Hemmer’s arrogance – “I’m a genius” – will hopefully be tempered by self-doubt in a forthcoming episode.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on May 21, 2022 at 13:17  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.3  
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Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.2

Last week we used the clunking, meteor-sized metaphor of a drug addict in the family to explain our apprehension at the arrival of Strange New Worlds – the Star Trek that professes to a reformed character, who’s going to do right by the fans, but in truth comes with world destroying potential in Captain Pike’s foreknowledge of the future. We’ve let this beloved relative into our home, and because they represent something we love we want to trust them. But grandpa’s war medal has already disappeared and this week we noticed scratch marks on grandma’s jewellery box. How long will it be before our good faith and liberal optimism is crushed by experience?

“Children of the Comet” suggested it may be sooner than we think. It’s only episode two of the TOS prequel series but already the promise of episodic storytelling looks to be narrative camouflage to hide the writers’ chief concern, namely liberating their charismatic leading man from the character’s pre-ordained fate. Having spent fifty minutes tackling a metaphor for his predicament, namely a prophesied comet that would destroy someone’s world if not course corrected, the course of which could not be changed according to the aliens that revered the sentient rock as a God and insisted its trajectory was fated, but was ultimately redirected in a way that respected interpretation of scripture, delivering the same world changing consequences in a different way, Pike was intrusively delving into the records of those Federation citizens he’d ultimately save at the expense of his bodily autonomy. “Just because you’ve seen the future, doesn’t mean you understand it,” Una told the Captain, underlining the episode’s message for any audience members who’d been content to enjoy it as a mere adventure of the week, so missed the memo, and with that Pike focused on changing the future – nine years ahead of time.

I confess, I thought that lumbered with this Discovery plot thread, Strange New Worlds would kick the spectre of Pike’s bleep chair into the long grass. After all, one could, in theory, have several seasons of unburdened adventures before the elephant in the room had to be addressed. But, perhaps recklessly rather than bravely, Akiva Goldsman et al have decided that a burdened Pike could not simply compartmentalise and would have to confront his foreshadowed fate, even if the consequences are canon wrecking for the original series. Pike isn’t content to spend the second half his life answering questions with one bleep for yes and two for no. He’s a bon viveur, a gadabout – the kind of Captain who cooks for his crew and holds weekly socials – not a sedentary, joyless man who can easily adapt to a life in a mobile floatation tank. Something must be done. Something stupid.

For a moment let’s pause to reflect how bad an idea it was to give Pike a glimpse of the future. Discovery saddled the Captain because it imagined it had this legacy character on loan and was free to add some backstory to an archetype, in the interests of generating a little cheap pathos. Poor Pike, a tragic figure cursed with knowledge of his tragic fate. But Anson Mount proved popular enough to spin-off as the lead for a whole new series and consequently we have a weekly adventure show that, thanks to this self-indulgent and nonsensical choice, is bereft of tension.

There’s no real jeopardy for Captain Pike, because he knows he’ll be alive and well ten years hence. He can therefore assume that as long as he’s on the bridge of the Enterprise the ship is safe and whatever threat they’re fighting to overcome will be overcome. If I were a member of the bridge crew I’d stick to the Captain like glue because as long as I was in his orbit I’d have a better than average chance of living.

So, while “Children of the Comet” went through the motions of threatening the ship, putting it in harm’s way, etc, we knew Pike was affecting to be concerned rather than actually worried about the threat posed by the space shepherds guarding their celestial arbiter. Safety was written in the stars.

Yes, you say, but we know the Enterprise will be okay because a) this is Star Trek and b) it’s a prequel to another show where both ship and crew are in-tact and thriving. This, you can argue, is the prequel problem and the reason you don’t do them. The future is the undiscovered country, the past is well-charted. But it’s hard to suspend our disbelief and buy into the crew’s weekly attempts to beat the cosmos and stay alive when our lead character is a walking, talking symbol of invincibility; the problem on two legs. No wonder the hacks who run this ship are keen to unfix the future as soon as possible.

Still, let’s be clear, this is Star Trek’s version of the Godfather scene in which Michael Corleone asks, “why can’t you kill a cop?” Why can’t you, Michael? Because it crosses a line. It changes the game. Convention says no, and convention keeps order and prevents chaos. If Strange New Worlds follows through and changes Pike’s fate, it will change TOS and once and for all mark New Trek as the inconsequential alternate history of the future we know it to be – a show that exists in an altogether different timeline to its pre-2009 predecessors. Perhaps the workaround will be brilliant (the entire series a Talosian illusion, maybe?) and we’ll applaud the deftness with which one of Trek’s most iconic character arcs is changed without sacrificing the integrity of “The Menagerie”, but this is the least literate, least dynamic writing staff ever assembled to dream up a Star Trek show and consequently we should fear their timeline tampering the way Pike fears his bleep chair.

Anomalous Readings

  • Serialised portents of doom aside, this was an Uhura episode. Yes, the strange new hacks have decided to adopt the tried and tested Michael Piller method of character-centred stories, rather than plot driven adventures. I once saw Nichelle Nichols at the British Film Institute and her description of her character, oft repeated due to cognitive impairment, was “communications officer”. That’s pretty much all she was on the original show – a job. Lots to bulk out then, and this first attempt gave us a glimpse at her origins – a past littered with dead relatives and the need to adapt to a multi-lingual culture. The hacks made the only other thing we know about Uhura, that she can sing, into a plot point, which could be construed as lazy but is all the writers have to work with upfront. Still, Uhura’s first away mission gave her some agency, even if the whole conundrum was a proxy for Pike’s existential crisis.
  • These strange new hacks need to master the art of the concise teaser and five act-structure. The pre-credits sequence in this one was 14 minutes. 14 minutes! I’m not usually one to ask for less up front but here it seems reasonable.
  • The lesson of the week’s as clunky here as it was in TNG’s first season. Will subtlety come with experience? We have to hope so.
  • Ortegas is an irritant. Let’s hope the hacks can add some layers to the witless helmsman.
  • Grouchy Aenarian Chief Engineer Hemmer told Uhura that the loss of sight had heightened his other senses. Evolution had blessed him, apparently, but didn’t Deanna Troi in “The Loss” tell us that this commonly held conception was a myth? Maybe only for Betazoids who’ve lost a sense. If we get to know Hemmer over many years it’s going to make Troi sound pretty stupid when chronological viewers catch up to her predicament.

The Backdated Adventures of Logicman and Bleep

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.1

Once Star Trek looked forward. And with each leap forward it thought about how to develop its ideas, push its boundaries. “New stars, new stories, new worlds to explore” was the promise strapped to VHS covers of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. But since 2009, under the stewardship of Alex Kurtzman and those who share his hackwork ethic, Trek looks backwards. It’s a franchise cannibalising itself. A franchise that’s been asset stripped for streaming content. The stars may be new but the stories? The worlds? Not for many years now and with the latest throwback the wait continues.

Strange New Worlds, run by Akiva Goldsman, the visionary who wrote Batman Forever and the Lost in Space movie with Mat LeBlanc, is the creative overlord behind this second attempt at prequelising the original series in the post-2009 era. The first, Discovery, was an unmitigated disaster, but the space folks responsible for it aren’t going to let you have Captain Pike’s Enterprise-bound adventures without a reminder that it was their creative timidity and attempt to infuse the faltering Disco with fan-friendly elements that made this new series possible. Mick et al are either namechecked or reminisced over in this series opener. If that were all it’d be an irritation but it’s not all; it’s a mission statement, a veiled threat to Trek-literate fandom who are being masturbated here with one hand while stabbed with the other.

Strange New Worlds is a reaction to the criticism levelled at Discovery. It’s both an acknowledgement of it and an evasion. In tone, structure and production design it’s a conscious rethink – a sop to fans who found Disco to be ruinously cynical, meandering and anchored by dislikeable characters whose outlook seemed antithetical to Gene Roddenberry’s ethos.

But this is mere window dressing. Superficial changes, designed to reassure a fragile fandom, cannot belie the pilot’s implicit threat of canon ruination – a very Discovery-like obsession which the parent show (ugh, parent show) introduced into the franchise’s life blood. Discovery’s imbecilic contribution to Pike’s backstory was to give him foreknowledge of his radiation accident and future infirmity. That might have seemed an interesting avenue to explore when the character featured in an extended cameo – a chance to flesh him out a little, but it saddles the spin-off with a fucking huge problem; a problem “Strange New Worlds” the episode suggests is going to preoccupy the Captain for many seasons to come.

Should we be concerned that Pike’s already seeing his irradiated face wherever he cares to look, and that Spock’s talking about the future not been set? It’s a reminder that for all the pre-premiere hype that SNW was a Trek you could trust – a Trek mindful of the fundamentals – this is a show written and plotted by the same vandals who’ve been smashing the place up for years.

The colours are bright, the characters are, for the most part, likeable and wide-eyed, the rhetoric is lofty and high-minded, though it’s written by those with a reading age of 14, but beneath the veneer the Discovery imperative remains – a threat repackaged; this is a show minded to overwrite TOS rather than dock with it smoothly. Compare how carefully Better Call Saul lays the ground for Breaking Bad while telling its own story in its own way, and contrast with SNW’s early relationship with TOS; an obstacle to be overcome.

Strange New Worlds’ first episode therefore engenders a sense of uneasiness. Watching it is like welcoming home a reformed drug addict who swears they’ve learned their lesson and will work hard to rebuild their life. You want to trust them, because you love them, but you’re also conscious that you’ve locked away the family silver and are now in the habit of counting the change in your purse. Is grandpa’s war medal mislaid or missing? Has anyone seen it? You’re sure you had that priceless family heirloom locked away.

Akiva Goldsman’s show looks clean. It’s got a civil tongue. But Pike’s future can’t be changed without intruding on the mythos of the classic series, and confusion over the use of Stardate conventions (the prime universe’s at the start, the Kelvin universe’s at the close) adds to the sense of encroaching dread.

Discovery’s first season was a huge tease; a show trying to decide whether it appended to established continuity or was a retcon of the same. In the end the hacks decided to introduce the Enterprise and turn their back on the naysayers, without addressing the space-elephant in the room. Well now we’re on the retconned Enterprise – that great floating symbol of Discovery’s failure, and the questions remain. Let’s hope Goldsman et al have the guts to answer them this time.

SNW would lose its essential status for some if it was out and proud as an alternate history of the future. But knowing Gene Roddenberry’s shows and their canonical spin-offs were safe (reviled sequels notwithstanding) would make it easier to embrace this fan fic backfilling while giving it the freedom to chart its own course.

The concern after episode one must be that Kurtzman et al have insisted on piggybacking their show on a beloved original; affection borrowed rather than earned; without having enough respect for the original five year mission to preserve its integrity.

As Jean-Luc Picard once said, villains who twirl their moustaches are  easy to spot. Those that hide behind virtue less so. The audience must remain vigilant, because this friendly series may have been set up to deliver a fatal blow to the body of work that made it possible.

Anomalous readings 

  • Star Trek pilots from TNG onwards gave us big, feature length adventures that introduced all the main characters and gave a sense of the new show’s ambition and distinctive features. Goldsman’s intro, banking on audience familiarity with “The Cage” and Discovery, introduced the new Enterprise crew effectively in-situ. It was a low key first adventure then, which lacked the curtain raiser excitement of old.
  • The episode’s plot was a riff on TNG’s “First Contact”. This raised alarm bells, namely stoking the suspicion that Goldsman’s writers room don’t have the nous to create original plots. Remember when we used to think of Voyager as Star Trek-light because it had the look and feel of its predecessors but lacked the weight, and a compelling impetus of its own? Well, if every episode of SNW is an old Trek plot revisited then that label will soon be transferred.
  • The return of individual episodes with self-contained plots is welcome. The omission of titles on screen is not. Is it really so passé? I for one loved been introduced to a new story on screen each week – title and credits included. Can we get back to that please? I mean, imagine a novel without a title page.
  • La’an Noonien-Singh – ice cold relative of Khan and the Enterprise’s security officer, was another troubling inclusion to this first episode. Very much a Kurtzmanesque creature – angsty, bad tempered and humourless, she has an interesting back story; a survivor of capture by the Gorn; but her presence is another passive aggressive signal that this show’s gonna fuck with the future. Essentially, she’s Kurtzman’s proxy.
  • Red Alert – it’s Kirk’s brother Samuel on the bridge, years before his death in “Operation: Annihilate”. Again, should we be worried that these links are being forged so early?
  • New show, same difficulty for the writers in understanding that 23rd century folk don’t talk the way we do. Nurse Chapel’s “whole bunch of internal organs” or new Uhura’s “cool” should have been excised from the script, but their inclusion is a reminder that we’re still in the hands of people who don’t instinctively intuit what separates the world of Star Trek from our own.
  • Robert April’s inclusion as a person of colour and beard was interesting as it reinforced the tendency of modern Trek to cherry pick elements from old shows unbound by any sense of reverence. When The Animated Series has been plundered before it’s been in an attempt to canonise the show. It seems to me that if you wish to do that you must be consistent and either adopt it wholesale or not at all. April’s inclusion in this guise is another warning sign for serious Trekkies.
  • The change in stardate conventions: error or provocation? You decide.
  • Why do all Enterprise captains like to cook and fuck in wood cabins? Does anyone know?
  • Spock spoke of his missing sister but not of his estranged brother Sybok. Can someone screen The Final Frontier for Akiva Goldsman please?
  • Jeff Russo’s theme had no memorable notes of its own. It was a conscious riff on Alexander Courage’s original. The perfect musical metaphor for the new show, then?
  • Pike began the show by violating general order one, AKA the prime directive and using the threat of force to pacify a less well-developed civilisation. Start as you mean to go on.
  • And so we go again, space folks – the angel on a demon’s shoulders. Stay vigilant.

A horrifying vision of the future

The Wistful Musings of a Mandroid

Picard Portents

Michael Burnham in the 32nd Century

Mick’s Calamitous 23rd Century

Station Keeping

Teen Fan Fic

Published in: on May 7, 2022 at 14:01  Comments Off on Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.1  
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