Star Trek: Discovery And Why It Fails.

The Backstory

I came to be a Trekkie in my early teens. Star Trek: The Original Series was in heavy syndication and it was aired on a local TV station right at about the time I would get home from school. I watched enough of it over a 3 year period that I knew just about every episode by heart. I had all The Original Series recorded on VHS. I watched the movies on rented tapes and copied them for my “collection”. I was hooked. The interaction between the characters was great. The lore and the hopefulness of the future were very appealing to me.

In 1987 I saw my first glimpse of Star Trek: The Next Generation from promo commercials. I was very excited about the new show and a little worried that the characters would not live up to The Original Series.

I remember buying a SciFi magazine called Starlog just to get more info on the new series.

When Star Trek: The Next Generation aired its premiere I was delighted. I really loved the cameo from DeForest Kelley. My worries about the characters were gone. I liked all the characters and their backstories. As the seasons went on I grew to love it.

At some point when talking about Star Trek someone came up with a sort of shorthand when talking about the different series, Star Trek: The Original Series became ST:TOS and Star Trek: The Next Generation became ST:TNG.

In 1993 Deep Space Nine premiered and immediately became ST:DS9 and DS9 for short. Again I was delighted with the cast but I had some issues with it being a space station and not a starship. But as the episodes came out the strong character writing removed any issues I had with the station.

In 1995 another Star Trek series came called Star Trek: Voyager which became ST:V or ST:VOY for short. I was delighted by the strong characters.  It came out after ST:TNG had ended its run so there was a kind of vacuum it filled for me.

To this day I can see just a few seconds of any ST:TOS , ST:TNG , ST:DS9 or ST:V episode and tell you the plot synopsis and in most cases the episode title.

At this point, it is fair to say that Star Trek was a futuristic ensemble character-driven franchise. The character interaction was a key component of Star Trek.

In 2001, shortly after ST:V had ended and a couple years after DS9 ended, Enterprise debuted and I made it a point to catch the premiere episode and I was perplexed at why they decided to go back before ST:TOS time while dropping “Star Trek:” from the title. I tried watching more episodes but it kinda bugged me that the NX-01 Enterprise “seemed” more advanced than the NCC-1701 Enterprise. It was like watching a WW2 era movie with all the Sherman tanks replaced with M1A1 Abrams tanks. I only watched a dozen or so episodes and just didn’t make time to catch every episode.

Then the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot came out I went to see the first one in theaters and was disappointed with the whole thing. I paid no attention to the next 2 JJ Star Trek movies. I was glad to hear it was placed in its own alternate timeline called the Kelvin timeline leaving ST:TOS intact in the Prime timeline.

Discovering What Went Wrong

In 2016 I starting to hear rumors of a new star Star Trek series. And then the name was released, Star Trek: Discovery, and my very first thought was how in the world did they not know it would be shortened to ST:D.

Then they released a promo showing the Discovery in an asteroid drydock of some sort and I immediately recognized it as a concept design from a Star Trek Phase 2 series that never took off.

Again they were going for a pre-ST:TOS timeline and was supposed to be in the Prime timeline. Again I thought “Why go back?”

We were told that the captain and crew model was not going to be used and instead would focus on someone other than the captain. I thought “As long as the characters were well written it should be ok”. Seemed odd to abandon the model the worked for 5 series and hundreds of episodes. I heard the lead would be named Michael Berman and I thought that was a nice nod to Michael Okuda and Rick Berman, two prominent people who helped bring the previous Star Trek shows to us. Nope turns out I heard it wrong and the name was actually Michael Burnham, no nod just a coincidence.

I watched the first two episodes and was dumbfounded by how much they got wrong. The Shenzhou was not a Prime timeline TOS era ship period. It was way more advanced than the NCC-1701 Enterprise. The “Klingons” were ridiculous rubber masked actors with teeth prosthetics so large it sounded like they were reading there lines with marbles in their mouths. Holographic communications was barely a thing in DS9. Booby trapping bodies. Georgiou is dead set against firing first on the “Klingons” but booby trapping the dead is ok?

One problem was the way the writers wrote Michael Burnham. I feel they wanted people to not like her. I liked Saru. I liked captain Georgiou.  Burnham made every possible wrong decision a first office could make. Burnham decided to mutiny, Burnham decided to attack her captain, Burnham decided to fire first, Burnham decided to kill T’Kuvma when her objective was to capture him and potentially stop the war before it starts, a plan she came up with. What is it about Burnham I am supposed to like? The fact she’s Spock’s adopted sister?

Look at it this way if Michael Burnham was not the lead and she never appeared in STD past the second episode, would you say she was a well-written character? I say no. Because I have no interest in following this character’s journey.

This brings us to the main problem. ST:D isn’t about a group of characters on board a starship in the future. It’s about Michael Burnham’s personal journey through life who happens to be on a starship in the future.

I haven’t watched past the first 2 episodes but I have watched reviews of every episode on Youtube from both people who like/love it to people who dislike/hate it. Do you know what nearly everyone says why they like/love or dislike/hate it? Michael Burnham.

What does that tell you? It tells you that Michael Burnham is a divisive character.

Another problem is CBS decided to lock everything past the first 2 episodes behind a paywall. Who in their right mind was going to pay for more of a show that failed to deliver a good Star Trek show in the first 2 episodes? Not me.

The Timeline Problem

Now ST:TOS, ST:TNG, ST:DS9 and ST:V are all decidedly in the Roddenberry timeline. I say Roddenberry timeline because Gene Roddenberry had a direct guiding hand in TOS and TNG while DS9 and VOY were made from the Roddenberry “Bible” as it were. Enterprise is hard to pin down as a direct Roddenberry Star Trek because of how far removed it was from his influence.

The people at CBS decided to make a Star Trek series set before TOS. But what they failed to realize is that it limited them to pre TOS technology. You have to limit your visual style to TOS or at the most the visual style of the TOS movies. No holodecks, no holo-communications, no bridges that are bigger than most people’s houses, no tech that post-dates your era.

It’s really simple. You can not make a movie or series about the past with tech from the future. For instance, you can’t make a WW2 era movie about the landing on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 with elite navy seals using LCAC transports supported by Nimitz class carries launching F14 Tomcats for air support and claim that it is an authentic representation of that era.

I am not saying you can’t make a movie like that. I am saying that you can’t make that movie AND claim it is historically accurate. People will look at you like you lost your mind.

Canon matters. Even if it is a made-up history. What happens when you mess with canon in a way that rewrites the history is people get upset, plain and simple. It sends a message to fans of TOS that your TOS doesn’t matter, only our reinterpretation of it does.

ST:TNG, ST:DSP, ST:V and even Enterprise had episodes that had them interact with TOS and they all handled the visuals absolutely perfectly. ST:V, in particular, did an outstanding job of recreating events from Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country and went so far as to use the original actors from the movie in Season 3 Episode 2: “Flashback”.

ST:TNG did an outstanding episode that included Scotty and the bridge of the original Enterprise in ‎Season 6 Episode 4 “Relics”.

DS9 Season 5 Episode 6: “Trials and Tribble-ations” literally inserted some cast members into footage of TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” and it was handled with great care and was a joy to watch.

I don’t know why the part of the human psyche that deals with established history gets all upset at the notion of changing that history, but it is an extremely powerful force in most people. Our memories mean something to us. It could be said that we are our memories. When someone comes along and says “Hey all that stuff you remember about that thing is all wrong and here is my interpretation of how it really happened and you must accept it.” That is a nonstarter. People don’t work that way. This is the reason why most if not all reboots fail.

CBS simply doesn’t care about continuity because as it turns out all of the rebooted movies are suppose to be from the “Prime” timeline. As Midnight’s Edge explains in Star Trek Discovery: The Prime Deception – CBS and Paramount Viacom Rights Explained the Prime and Kelvin timelines are both not the Roddenberry timeline.

This appears to be the reason CBS keeps saying that ST:D will converge back into the “Prime” timeline. Remember the Prime timeline is not the Roddenberry timeline. They know they can’t legally make ST:D look or feel like the Star Trek we know because of the license deal CBS and Paramount worked out.

No Foundation To Stand On

ST:D’s foundation was supposed to be four decades worth of Trekkies.

ST:D relies on characters from ST:TOS to even exist. Spock, Sarek, Sarek’s wife Amanda, Mudd, Klingons, and now captain Pike. But CBS says this isn’t your Sarek, this is our re-envisioned  Sarek. This isn’t your  Mudd, this is our re-envisioned Mudd. This isn’t your Klingons, this is our re-envisioned Klingons. And at the very end of the season we get, this isn’t your Enterprise, this is our re-envisioned Enterprise. Then season 2 starts with this isn’t your Pike, this is our re-envisioned Pike. This isn’t your Spock, this is our re-envisioned Spock and so on.

So many fans say “If this isn’t my Star Trek then why should I care?”. So far CBS has no answer to this.

The Fall Of The Kelvin Timeline

It appears the Kelvin timeline has officially been canceled. There are no future plans for any JJ Star Trek movies. Not enough people are interested in the Kelvin timeline to make it a viable money-making project.

To put it simply, there are not enough fans willing to pay to see a Kelvin-based Star Trek movie.

If You Don’t Have A Good Defense, Use A Bad One

So apparently if you don’t like ST:D it’s not because you genuinely don’t like the characters, story, or continuity problems, it’s because you are a sexist and a racist.

I have been told that I don’t like ST:D because I hate that a female was in charge. My response was I loved ST:V and Janeway as captain because they were well written from the start. I also point out that I liked captain Georgiou and feel like she would have been a better lead than Burnham.  That was till they turned Georgiou into space Hitler in their mirror universe.

I have been told that I hate ST:D because I hate that a person of color was in charge. My response was I loved DS9 and Sisko was one of the best leads for a Star Trek show you could have. Sisko was written with depth and the character had a passion that resonated with me.

Then I was told I hate ST:D because I hate that a person of color who is a female was in charge. My response was to point out that Burnham isn’t “in charge” and I also point out that Uhura was a way better character with actual depth.

It is really simple. It is possible to write a bad character even if that character is black and female. If Burnham was white and male he would still be a bad character and I wouldn’t like him for the same reasons.

The Animated Series

I didn’t mention Star Trek: The Animated Series because it has had little effect on my perception of Star Trek. I didn’t see it when it first aired in the ’70s and I never saw it in reruns, if it was ever in reruns. I wasn’t even aware of its existence till about 2001. I can watch it anytime I want now but have only seen about 3 episodes. And as Roddenberry himself has said he didn’t consider TAS canon.

Final Thoughts

To me, ST:D can be summed up like this, it simply G.N.D.N.

I will always have the Roddenberry Star Trek and no amount of retconning will ever change that.