The Star Trek: Discovery Debacle
Or: When "inclusive" isn't the same as "equal."
The above trailer has sparked such a controversy among its viewer base that it would be nigh-impossible to fairly describe the whole affair in any short time. I'll try nevertheless, concentrating on my own thoughts concerning the subject.
You see, after watching this trailer from start to finish for the first time, the first thing that came into my mind was something along the lines of, "Well, that looks awful. Let's hope they don't screw up the actual show."I would soon find out that the majority of viewers, especially Star Trek fans like myself, had many bones to pick with the soon-to-be Discovery series, specifically with what it seems to be based on in the trailer alone.That's nothing special. It's not unusual at all for sneak peeks or short trailers like this one to evoke a rather lukewarm reception among critics and fans alike, regardless of the quality of the actual, finished product.This effect is only amplified should the trailer be part of a 50+ year-old franchise that many people love and cherish all over the world.When the expectations are that high, it's just that simple to disappoint.But this trailer was different. It was not like I particularly liked it; as you can see above, I, too, found it to be less than desirable, at least as a fair representation of a future Star Trek series, the first in, what, twelve years?The critical issue here, though, and the question that I've got to ask is: What exactly made everyone so angry?
Let's find out, shall we?I guess it wouldn't be a bad idea to analyze the trailer itself step by step, picking out the most important and controversial scenes along the way.
The First Problem
Ouch.Barely 11 seconds into the video and we're already crossing the border between La-La-Land and the Controversial Republic. In fact, scratch that, we're sitting right on it. Not good.
"Wait," you may ask, "What could possibly be controversial about this innocuous little scene?"Oh boy, where do I even start?Let's look at the big elephant in the room first: The two women.What about them?Well, to kick things off: They are women.You may not realize how this could even pose an issue at this point, but bear with me. You'll begin to see this more clearly as we analyze the trailer more deeply. Just memorize the phrase "forced diversity."Apart from their sex, there's also the other big talking point in this controversy: Race.Specifically, how certain races seem to be favored above others in the show, or at least the way the trailer presents it. Let's see, here we have the very first live-action shot of the new Star Trek series in the very first trailer and the very first two characters they show us are "Number One" Michael Burnham, the black woman on the left, played by Sonequa Martin-Green, whom some may recognize from The Walking Dead, and Captain Philippa Georgiu, the Asian woman on the right, played by none other than Michelle Yeoh, whom I personally am quite fond of thanks to her (if slightly typecast) role in Tomorrow Never Dies.The problem? These two are confirmed to be major characters.Whilst Burnham will be the protagonist of the show (When's the last time Star Trek had a 'proper' protagonist?), Captain Georgiu will definitely be a part of the main cast.The fact that both of these women are so, um, diverse couldn't possibly be, say, deliberate, now, could it?And that is the whole idea this debacle is based on.No, really, that's the fundamentals. That's the gist of it. Keep that in mind.When a Star Trek series gives you such an in-your-face-message that "White men should just shut up!", people tend to get worried, you see?In all seriousness, though, this is pure speculation at best in my opinion. There's no way of knowing right now how the show will treat the actresses' ethnicities. And that is exactly what's worrying people.
Let's skip to the next important scene, shall we?
The Second Problem
Ah, yes. The Vulcan. I say that in the singular as there's only one Vulcan character that has been so far confirmed to appear in Discovery, and it's this one. Sarek. Now what is the problem with him?Well, first of all, he seems to be one of the only confirmed characters with a light skin tone. What a freak coincidence! as some opponents of this trailer would sarcastically declare. So what kinds of Vulcan wisdom does he share with us? A small speech, actually. It goes like this:
"Great unifiers are few and far between, but they do come. Often, such leaders will need a profound cause for their followers to rally around."
My, my, what a speech. Puts the twelfth Doctor right in shame.In all seriousness, though, what the heck is the above supposed to mean?Well, as the face of our dear Number One is prominently shown throughout the speech, it would be fairly reasonable to assume that the "Great unifier" is her. Fine, then.But what is the "profound cause"?Many people have interpreted the Vulcan's address to be a sort of paraphrase for the "token black protagonist" character overcoming some form of institutionalized racism. While that is not beyond the realm of possibility, I sincerely doubt that this is what the Vulcan—or the creators of the show—meant. In fact, I hope that it isn't what they meant.If my intuition and hope both turn out to be wrong, well, let's just say CBS has made one heck of a mistake. Not only would it be in stark conflict with established canon, not only would it be cliché as all hell, but just the sheer idea of making a Star Trek show that concerns itself with a black female starfleet officer fighting racism among her own ranks? That would almost be like making a Das Boot sequel whose entire storyline revolves around the daily lives of the people working at the factory that built U-96. In other words, it would be pretty stupid.
This one is not a problem. Or is it?
Here, we see a good view of the new bridge, with Michelle Yeoh's character in the captain's chair, our heroine Burnham in the background along with a funny-looking alien who seems to be part of the main cast and, in the foreground, white person #2 so far! Yay!In fact, you might recognize the guy. He played the short-lived part of Kirk's father in the terrible 2009 JJ Abrams Reboot movie.But that abomination is a story for another time.
So, is there anything else wrong with this?Apart from the lack of Caucasian skin, there is but one thing worth mentioning. The bridge. Look at it.Remember, this series takes place some ten years before TOS, and, according to its producers, is set in the prime timeline.So, why is it, then, that this looks awfully Abrams-like?Mr. Kirk's cameo appearance really doesn't help here at all.What's worse, look at the exterior of the ship:
Who screwed up here?
Yes, unfortunately, it seems they have gone with what the leaks a few months ago told us: A rejected design for the never-produced "Star Trek: Phase II" from the 70s. Oh boy. Well, they've changed it a bit, it seems.At least the ship doesn't look too much like a Vor'cha anymore. Right?Seriously, though, whatever you may personally think of this design, I think that we can all agree that the idea of the above having been conceived in the Star Trek universe ten years prior to the following requires way too much suspension of disbelief:
The actual Enterprise. For comparison's sake.
So, in short, the people in charge of coordinating Discovery's art style really need to get a grip on what the 2250s are supposed to look like in the Star Trek lore. Moving on to the next big thing...
The Third Problem
I don't think I need to comment on this one.I really don't.All I need to tell you about this piece of modern art is this:The vaguely humanoid character depicted here is supposed to be a Klingon. Figure the rest out for yourself.Or, actually, don't and listen to me instead as I try to explain all this.
Well, my current working theory is that the Klingons were, uh, changed because a:Discovery targets an audience so young that they won't recognize a proper Klingon when they see one anyway, and b: As we already hear phrases like "We have engaged the Klingons" throughout the course of the trailer, it is likely that a Human-Klingon war scenario might be part of Discovery's story line. As such, the producers might have felt redesigning the Klingons to be necessary as making them less Human-like on the outside could perhaps make room for a less Human-like psyche as well. But that's just a theory. Take it all with a pretty large grain of salt.
The Fourth Problem
Here's a familiar face. Yes, kids, it's Mister Vulcan again! Yay!This time, he once more gives us some of his wisdom:
"You will never learn Vulcan; your tongue is too human."
Wait a second, I think I misplaced that quote and mistook it for something it's not. Could it be my collection of KKK pamphlets? No, that sentence is not in there...figures, I wouldn't have expected the Klan to be huge fans of Trek...maybe something else?Fine, I'll stop fooling around. Yes, he did really say that; if you're not convinced, watch the trailer.
Okay, boys and girls, when will you finally learn?I'll explain it in very straight-forward terms, would that be okay?Fine.Here we go.
FOR THE LAST TIME CBS, VULCANS ARE NOT SPACE-RACISTS!
I really don't know where this idea originated from. All I know is the first time I've heard of it, and that was during the aforementioned Reboot movie of '09. I found it to be just as stupid then as I perceive it now. Hm, Star Trek '09. Has got quite the ring to it. Almost like Sonic '06.Anyway, moving back to the topic at hand.What were they thinking, I wonder?I thought this was supposed to be the Prime Timeline.You know, the one where Vulcans ARE NOT SPACE-RACISTS!I think you get my point.
Furthermore, during this, um, statement made by Mr.Vulcan, we see the face of a young child which slowly fades into the visage of none other than...Number One herself. What a shocker.Which means our heroine is not just a person of color and a woman, but also a mixed-species person! I guess that's what you call those, right?
And that's it. Of course, I left a few action scenes and annoying little phrases that, considering how much we know about the series, don't mean anything (yet), out, but that just was the most important section of the official Star Trek: Discovery trailer. Now, the real controversy begins.
So far, you've mainly heard about my own primary criticisms against this trailer and the series associated with it. They are, summed up:
1. Lack of connection with (and regard for) established canon
2. VULCAN SPACE-RACISTS
3. Whatever happened to the Klingons
4. Forced diversity. We'll speak about this in a minute.
Additionally, I'd like to introduce a few new ones, because why not:
5. Why a reboot? Who asked for this? Why don't you just make a show about what happened after Nemesis? Why do we keep going back in time?
6. The whole premise of a Klingon-Human war. A Star Trek show centered around conflict has only worked once; even though it worked brilliantly back then, that's no reason to try it once more. Star Trek is about peace and exploration first and foremost, other issues or topics are secondary.
Okay. Now, the time has come. The meat of this issue. The one part that literally everyone is freaking out about. The 'Forced diversity' part. This is something that I also mentioned in the very beginning of this article. What I mean by forced diversity is the Star Trek: Discovery fan base's apparent lack of understanding for what Gene Roddenberry meant when he spoke of the Federation of Planets being an 'inclusive' society and the resulting direction the show seems to be taking at the behest of its proponents.
He didn't speak of it in the modern sense, I'll tell you that straight away.How about I give you a few examples, okay?What's Chekov's religion? Anyone? Was this ever mentioned in the series?Nope.How about Travis Mayweather's ancestry? Was there ever an episode where he went on about how his great-great-great-grandparents were sold off into slavery and how proud he is to be black and serving on a Human space vessel? Of course not.
Unfortunately, that is the current standard for 'diversity' and 'inclusiveness': Accepting that you're different, publicly promoting your differences, being proud to be different from others and constantly talk about nothing but the above. This is what many people want Discovery to promote, and what I fear would completely destroy the philosophical idea of diversity behind Star Trek as a whole.
The Roddenberrian (is that a word?) view of diversity is a completely different one, as shown in earlier Star Trek productions. Here, differences are not embraced. They are ignored. There is this very famous incident that occurred some time before the airing of the first TNG episode where a reporter went up to Gene Roddenberry, interviewed him and asked the question, "Don't you think it's irrational to make the captain of a 24th century star ship bald? Won't they have cured baldness by then?"Gene's reply has been deeply engrained into my mind forever:
"In the 24th century, they wouldn't care."
And that about sums it up. I think the approach most of Discovery's proponents are taking—that of 'promoting diversity among the cast members', that of 'Giving young [insert minority here] children proper role models', that of 'Talking about race/gender/sex/religion/etc. more on the show'—is not just against what Roddenberry wanted for the franchise, it's plain wrong and counterproductive.
And at this point, we can go full circle to our initial question:What exactly made everyone so angry?The answer is: A combination of all of the above, pretty much.It is easy to see, at least when looking at Discovery in this manner, that the show will have to face a lot of problems even before airing its second episode. No doubt about it. How will it actually end up, though? Will it become an 'SJW cringefest'? Will it become a worthy heir to past Trek series?Something in between?
We'll just have to wait and see.