As a Star Trek fan, I too have heard the reports of ongoing friction and difficulty in producing the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. There is a great deal on the line for the franchise with their return to television after 13 years, and expectations are not high based on the stories coming out of the Trek camp. Before the fans prematurely throw Discovery to the popular culture abattoir, let’s think about how they might get it right. Here are ten helpful suggestions – directives, as it were – to ensure that the show avoids screwing the pooch.
1 – Fitting Seamlessly into Continuity
Wherever the story is taken, it must feel as if it fits within the continuity of the traditional canon. Given most fans’ knowledge of the show, the only way Star Trek: Discovery’s creators can allow viewers to suspend their disbelief and accept this newest addition is if it feels right. That is no small task, as it is far more emotional than logical – a statement that bristles with Trek irony to be sure.
There is also nothing worse than a prequel spending a whole season of the crew dealing with folks we have never heard of, when they should rightly be constituting their place within an important era of the Federation that has been established, but prior has not been greatly expounded upon (see the Xindi arc for reference).
Fortunately, such a situation seems extremely unlikely as Chief Co-Writer Nicholas Mayer has stated previously that Discovery is a lead-up towards the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Of course that entails Klingons, as well as interloping and intriguing from any number of the other household alpha-quadrant species.
Star Trek: Discovery is Trek’s big return to the small screen, and if the show is to succeed the writers must create a connection that resonates with the audience. Specifically, Discovery must connect to what the audience already knows and do it damn well to begin their journey toward legitimacy.
2 – Federation World Building
Some new world building would go a very long way. The idea of learning more about life in the Federation at this juncture, which has never been adequately explored, is something worth anticipation. While the alternate universe Trek from the JJ Abrams films does this to some degree, television allows for a great deal more to this end due to the comparative abundance of time.
It is also an ideal series for expanding upon the core founding species of the Federation. Yes, that did happen to a previously unrealized degree during the four season run of Enterprise. Still, Discovery presents a new opportunity to see these erstwhile blood enemies turned Alliance operate within the great cultural melting pot that is the Federation.
Rumors speculate that the bridge crew will include an Andorian, a first for a Trek series, and one excellent way to explore a Federation founding species which, until Enterprise, remained vaguely defined. Also, what do viewers know about those argumentative Tellarites? They love verbal sparring, and hanging out in mud… or something. These are the holes that need to be filled! And Discovery may be the show to fill them.
If we have learned anything, if you place an alien that piques the audiences interest into the heart of the show, and they’re portrayed well, a legend you might create. Encore, Elim Garak.
3 – Keep Nicholas Mayer in Perpetuity
Keep Nicholas Mayer involved! How lucky are Star Trek fans to have one of the most influential writers and directors in Star Trek? Next to Gene Roddenberry and Ira Steven Behr, Nick Mayer has done more to influence the legacy of Star Trek than almost anyone else – excluding on screen talent, of course.
Putting aside the obvious that he was largely responsible for two of the best Star Trek movies in its history, he understands as well as anyone what is required to make this work properly. For all that has gone wrong in the production of Star Trek: Discovery’s first season, Nicholas Mayer is the ONE blue chip stock in this entire process. Let’s hope these folks have the wisdom to draw him in as close to the creation of the show as possible, for as long as possible.
4 – Avoid the Lowest Common Denominator
For the love of God, please refrain from dumbing down the show and it’s story line. Star Trek is not Star Trek when operating on the lowest common denominator. It is a heady show that requires the individual to embrace their intellect for most of the scheduled hour. Despite CBS’s demonic marketing instincts whilst promoting their new streaming service, they must respect the legacy and universe they have inherited.
I see no reason not to be fair when I say, Star Trek is not for everyone, and that’s just fine. In this day and age, folks have plenty else they can do from windsurfing to PornHub. Choices are abound. What a world.
5 – Let Us Escape From Reality For an Hour
Part of the Trek formula always includes a proverbial outsider that provides cutting, often funny, critiques of humanity. Spock, Data, Odo, Seven of Nine, T’Pol, these are excellent characters who have filled this role.
With Star Trek’s tradition of tackling major issues of its time, there is no doubt that it will continue to do so and that’s a good thing. Though given the current state of affairs, please start out going a little easy on the accelerator. If I can have 50 minutes a week to forget the news cycle and the clock face reading 11:57, I would consider it a personal favor.
6 – Do Not Reinvent The Theme Music Score
In Star Trek there are certain mortal sins that are only committed through true hubris, one of which is toying with the theme music. After the soft modern country rock/revival disaster that was the Enterprise opening score, it was the one and only strike allowed ever again on this matter. Unless you have Willie Nelson and The Family lined up and lit up, you better get your act together. A full orchestra that is heavy on the brass is how Starfleet boldly explores the final frontier.
7 – Meaningful Cameos
Don’t get too cute with cameos from established characters. It is standard operating procedure to have a known character appear in a new series to sanctify its existence. However, far better still is when the legacy character becomes involved and helps move the plot forward with their presence. It may be a lot to ask, but it is far from impossible. Picard did it for Deep Space Nine’s “Emissary,” and it can happen again. Fun and functional would go a long way off the bat, and I nominate Harry Mudd for the job.
8 – Time Travel Lightly
This idea has been addressed by Star Trek: Discovery creators, however I echo their sentiment – easy on time travel. Now, I love these characters messing with the timeline as much as anyone, but it really was getting out of hand in the TNG era of shows.
Time travel is a story line that must be used with the greatest care and only the lightest touch. Running into some forsaken anomaly every other week, with character’s receiving formal Starfleet reprimands for becoming their own grandfather gets tiresome. It also raises questions about the writers and their possible lack of original concepts. There is plenty happening in the shows present to avoid the necessity of frequent time travel.
9 – Can Somebody Finally Provide Helpful Information on the Earth/Romulan War?
Perhaps it’s just me, but I would really like some meaningful information about the Earth-Romulan War. I know Star Trek: Discovery takes place 100 years after the conflict ended, but that doesn’t dim my curiosity. Enterprise did not last long enough to engage this incredibly important, but never explored on-screen portion of Human-Vulcan-Andorian-Tellarite history. As it was a critical conflict that directly lead to the formation of the UFP, I believe fans deserve answers. When Picard makes reference to “Pearl Harbor or Station Salem-1,” I want to be able to confirm or dismiss my suspicion that this is where that war began.
While we are on the subject of more information, I want to know more about how exactly the Federation works. Is it like the European Union with squabbling member planets? Constantly debating the nature of closer integration, and figuring out the Deltan debt crisis? Or is it like the UN, with many member planets agreeing to abide by certain member criteria as part of a loose confederation, with their greatest responsibility being that of maintaining Starfleet? These are the burning questions one creates after 13 years of Star Trek’s absence on television.
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10 – Listen to the Fans!
While this is always good advice, listen to your fan base! This is made even more important in light of the extremely cynical move by CBS to make every episode after the premier exclusively available on their premium CBS All-Access streaming service, and squeezing every penny from the fan base by only releasing episodes on a weekly basis.
I am the first to say that nobody hates on Star Trek more than Star Trek fans. Though on the occasion we chime in unison – only a fool would not heed to the wisdom of that war cry. If you thought the letter writing campaign to save the show in the 60’s was impressive, or the one that brought back Doctor Crusher for season 3 of TNG exceptional, now we have the Internet. Nobody does grassroots like Trek fans, just ask Ira Behr who is currently completing a now fan-fueled DS9 documentary.
Star Trek: Discovery – In Short
In the end, all I can say to the creative team that is responsible for developing Star Trek: Discovery is this: You have the keys to the Aston Martin of science fiction franchises, and whatever you do don’t go joy riding or scratch the paint job. We will know, and a forgiving audience Star Trek is not. With Discovery there is a genuine opportunity to do something amazing that adds to the immense Star Trek universe.
Don’t screw it up.
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The death of Filmstruck is the latest symptom of our rapidly devolving film culture: This is a look at what we’ve lost, and what lies ahead.
The demise of Filmstruck is a major loss to the world of cinema. If you were to log on to film Twittertm – that specialist ghetto of cinephiles (“or what you’d call film buffs” as Matthew remarks early in the late Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers) you would realize that many of us are in mourning for a rapidly depleting film culture.
Across the country, most Americans do not have access to an art house theater, and it’s even less likely that they would have access to a repertory theater. Those in New York City can pick their poison between the Metrograph and Film Forum and Village Quad Cinema. Heck they’ve even got the NiteHawk in Williamsburg. Those in LA have the New Beverly. Most of us, however, are just plain out of luck.
Two years ago Filmstruck seemed like the solution. A collaboration between Warner Brothers and the Criterion Collection, Filmstruck was a hand-curated outfit that seemed like film school on a Roku. From Rohmer to Ozu, Sembene to Akerman – world cinema was at your fingertips. You want to spend 83 minutes with Alma from Persona? Sure can. You could check in with Guido Anselmi or Sam Spade or Mabel Longhetti or any of several versions of Orpheus by just pressing a button…and now it’s gone.
A Half Remembered Dream Factory
Every day we seem to forget more of our history. Hollywood is no exception. Often they seem to be leading the way. Hollywood has always been America’s dream factory, and there are some real talented and nice people out there – people who care desperately about movies.
Yet, because of the vagaries of corporate America, and the rush to the all-mighty dollar that capitalism surely compels, Hollywood has become a system that is ruled by puffed-up Harvard MBA’s in slick two-button suits looking for ten percent profit on the next remake.
Now, I don’t really have anything against these people, it’s just that many of them don’t really know or give a lick about the classic days of the industry, the history of world cinema, or even current world cinema beyond their own distribution pacts. They only worry whether their new one hundred million dollar piece of content is going to be allowed to play in China, and whether it will allay some its substantial budget with international pre-sales.
In turn, we have the creation of these monster conglomerates through very big mergers such as Disney buying Fox, or in our case AT&T buying Time Warner, which has led directly to AT&T shutting down Filmstruck.
See, they want to invest only in core businesses that will generate substantial return. This makes complete sense from a business perspective. Except, in the olden days of Hollywood the guys that ran the place, like Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, saw the picture business as more than just a profit machine. They understood they were creating a product that was intangible – a motion picture, not a widget.
Sure, they were interested in making money, they damn well weren’t commies, but at the same time they were making something near Art and they were passionate about it.
There was a time when it felt like cinema could change the world. In his review of The Dreamers (to circle back), Roger Ebert reminisces that back in ’68, Chicagoans were lined up on the sidewalk in the rain to see Godard’s Weekend. Imagine that now? Wouldn’t happen.
AT&T closed Filmstruck because they believed it was niche. Great cinema like Casablanca and King Kong, The Seven Samurai and Weekend, which all those people lined up for all those years ago, is now just niche content.
What’s the use of going to a movie theater if movies are just content no different from a YouTube video? Hollywood has forgotten its heroes. Cinema seems to have forgotten what cinema is all about – stories that move us or elucidate the world around us – or even sometimes elucidate feelings or emotions so deep-seated they would never stir without that silver-screen mirror.
The last three movies I watched on Filmstruck were the creepy Japanese ghost story Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (1959), the vibrantly alive magical realist bossa nova-driven romance Black Orpheus (1959), and Mikio Naruse’s masterful Floating Clouds (1955). Maybe my feeling towards Filmstruck and cinema itself is like Naruse’s lovers’ warmer brighter past in French Indochina – a deeply romantic paradise to which we can never return.
I certainly hope that’s not the case. I hope the future of cinema and the future of repertory streaming services spreads out before us like a mighty bounty.
To ensure this, we all have do our part. Watch movies. Buy movies. All movies. Become cine-literate in everything. Especially the classics.
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Preservation in the Post-Filmstruck Era
What’s next? The terrific physical media company The Criterion Collection is starting their own streaming channel. Will it succeed? Only if enough of us are interested in preserving our globe’s sometimes shared, sometimes divergent cultural heritage.
Films are doorways into past and future worlds. These stories have shaped us, and allowed a plethora of fascinating cultures to share their preoccupations, hopes, and fears with other, sometimes very different people, in every far-flung nook and cranny of this astonishing world. These dreams, stories, and feelings are too important to be allowed to just fade away.
Please preserve them.
Write to David B. Sporn at email@example.com
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The Man in the High Castle Universe: How the Axis Won WW2
Exactly what the hell went so wrong to create the High Castle dystopia? Second World War historian Paul K. DiCostanzo examines the possibilities.
With the interminable wait for season three of Amazon Prime’s portrayal of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle concluding on October 5th, we pose the singular question underlying the series thus far: How could the Axis powers have defeated the United States and its Allies in The Man in the High Castle Universe? The following interpretation is one possible “universe” of Man in the High Castle. One in which we explore the biggest question for most viewers: How the Axis won WW2, or more specifically, “How did the US lose World War II?”
As the show straddles the genres of Alternate History and Science Fiction, the world of High Castle is based on counter-factual history. That being said, the scenario below is projected from historical events that could explain the tragic collapse of the Allies and ultimate rise of the Axis powers.
The Man in the High Castle Universe: What went wrong?
(A stark contrast in the two above maps that mark the conclusion of the historical and fictional WW2)
For an American living in the 21st Century, the victory in the Second World War is even more fundamental to their worldview than even the American Revolution of 1776. It is, after all, the founding story of the modern United States and the rest of the world as we know it.
The concept of the Allies losing to the satanic enemy of Nazi Germany and its Axis collaborators hits home in primordial fashion. It is a concept so deeply disturbing that the dystopia such a defeat would create is generally unthinkable. Yet in the High Castle universe, that is exactly what happened. So, what exactly went wrong in the High Castle timeline?
How the Axis won WW2: The Man in the High Castle Universe Historical Contradiction
In the High Castle universe, many well known events of the Second World War have outcomes clearly contrary to the viewer’s universe. In both the series and the classic novel, details are scarce as to exactly how the Axis managed victory over the Allies.
Putting aside the little information divulged by the show so far – including Nazi Germany’s clear development of the first strategic nuclear weapon – what happened to the Allied nations that allowed this disaster to occur? While there are several distinct possibilities, one must start with the life of one Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.
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10 Things Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Must Do to Avoid Epic Failure
Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery is the swing season for the series. These are several directives to ensure this newest season gets it just right.
Over the past two months new information about the greater Star Trek franchise have hit fans at warp speed. Between the announcement of a new series featuring Patrick Stewart and the contractual standstill leading perhaps to the fourth film in the Kelvin timeline’s demise – there has been no lack of blockbluster headlines. However, the project which will shortly eclipse all the rest is the upcoming sophomore season of Star Trek: Discovery with viewers paying particular attention to where the showrunners wish to take the series. Not to be left out, the following are ten guidelines – directives as it were – to ensure Star Trek: Discovery season 2 will not fall on its face. We begin with the introduction of a new-familiar face: Mr. Spock.
1. A Tale of Two Spock’s: The Delicate Introduction of Ethan Peck in Discovery Season 2
I fully concede the pragmatic reality of the entertainment industry, and that Zachery Quinto was very unlikely to assume the role of the prime universe Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 – but I cannot help stopping and thinking, “What the crap?”
With the announcement that Ethan Peck will play Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, there are now two actors, in the prime of their career, portraying effectively the same character at the same time: Quinto on the big screen and Peck on my iPhone. Lets all be honest with ourselves, that’s really friggin’ weird.
Though Alex Kurtzman and the current Star Trek braintrust were nothing less than effusive in praise for the talented Peck, there are greater factors at play by having more than one Spock.
“We searched for months for an actor who would, like them, bring his own interpretation to the role. An actor who would, like them, effortlessly embody Spock’s greatest qualities, beyond obvious logic: empathy, intuition, compassion, confusion and yearning. Ethan Peck walked into the room inhabiting all of these qualities, aware of his daunting responsibility to Leonard, Zack and the fans, and ready to confront the challenge in the service of protecting and expanding on Spock’s legacy. In that spirit, we’re thrilled to welcome him to the family.” – Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek: Discovery Executive Producer
The Reality of Dueling Spock’s
To be fair there has been a Spock duo before, however those were very different circumstances. It was clear for those who have eyes to see that it was a passing of the torch. The beloved Leonard Nimoy, in the best of Star Trek tradition, played the role of a venerated character sanctifying the newest Trek foray with his saintly presence. What Trek fans are dealing with now, whether they yet realize it or not, is a competition that is at best irksome.
Depending on their performance, as well as their dictated place in the narratives they inherit, one of them will ultimately be accepted as THE Spock while the other will be relegated to “Other Spock,” a second class citizen in Trek canon. Not only will this be unfair to the actors who portray him, it is a profound disservice to the character himself to assume this baggage.
The best one can hope for under these circumstances is that Peck will knock this role in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 out of the park. In the end that is always what will matter most and that each “Spock” can be appreciated in there respective spheres.
Speaking of troublesome duplicates…
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