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Topic: STAR TREK: DISCOVERY - New TV Series Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Ted Downum
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 9:27am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Greg: "I'd also go so far as to say that the diversity angle is the only leg they have to stand on because it's the leg they deliberately chose to stand on."

*****

That's a fair point. It's possible that the Discovery showrunners set out to produce New and Different Star Trek for the Prestige TV Era, with an antiheroic lead and serialized storytelling and New and Different Klingons, etc., and cast a diverse group of actors either as a box-checking afterthought, or as camouflage: something to point at, when old fans complained about how far they had taken the franchise off-model.

What really gnaws at me about Discovery is that so many aspects of its premise have so much merit, when you look at them in isolation. The concept of an antiheroic lead in Star Trek is not necessarily a bad idea; a redemption arc is powerful stuff, if done correctly. I think that the concept of a morally ambiguous, potentially unstable Starfleet captain who's a series regular is a fantastic idea--but, again, only if handled in a dramatically interesting way (if, for instance, he were an antagonistic force in the story, someone for the lead to work against). Meanwhile, the Trek universe has plenty of room to tell war stories, serialized stories, and dark stories. But they can't be Star Trek stories without optimism, thoughtfulness, logic (story logic, not the Vulcan kind), and humor, and those are all areas in which Discovery has come up woefully short, at least for me.

I can't shake the thought that other producers, with a better writers' room, might have taken the very same premise and given us a pretty damned good Star Trek show. Maybe Bryan Fuller would have done it, if he hadn't left the project. In the words of the old Tootsie Pop commercial: The world may never know.





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Bill Collins
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 11:41am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Here`s a thing that popped into my head,what if they
were in a/the mirror universe all along and now they are
actually in the `real` Trek universe now? No Spore
Drive,Sarek didn`t adopt Burnham etc.
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Luke Styer
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 2:14pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

 Greg Kirkman wrote:
Here's the thing, though: I can't help but question everything. I suppose that comes from world-weary cynicism mixed with healthy skepticism. I always find myself wondering what the motives behind these creative decisions are. I can't quite bring myself to think that it's all rainbows and puppies and love, behind the writers' room doors.


But do you question everything? When you run into a white, male "writer's pet" character, do you wonder what the writer's motivations were for making that character white and male?
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 5:40pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Bill, we’ve been speculating on just that point for a few pages. We think what’s his name has been jumping between universes and we have been seeing different versions of him.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 7:51pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

But do you question everything? When you run into a white, male "writer's pet" character, do you wonder what the writer's motivations were for making that character white and male?
------
Yes, sometimes.

While the character isn't a "writer's pet" (actually sort of the opposite) they do seem to be going out of their way to make Gabriel Lorca (a white male) a nasty repugnant character who continually bends the rules and abuses his position.  Can you imagine Kirk or Picard with his 'trophy room'?  Not to mention the eyes/eyedrops thing, while interesting, his mannerisms when using the eyedrops at inopportune times makes it seem like he's taking a hit of some drug.  It actually resembles Gary Oldman's cop/narc character in LEON/THE PROFESSIONAL in some ways, though not quite as over the top.  

Maybe that's the intentional arc for this character (or as some have postulated he's a Mirror doppelganger).  However, Starfleet captains who (mis)behave in the ways that Lorca has overtly been acting have been shown in previous series to have pretty short careers -- or they slime their way upward into the Admiralty.  It is a pretty common STAR TREK trope to show Admirals -- particularly those white and male -- to be either corrupt or ineffectual bureaucrats (sometimes both).  If so, then showing how some of these higher-ups started out actually is a new and innovative thing for STAR TREK.  Usually they create an Admiral-of-the-week to be the foil for the episode and they don't dwell much on the hows and whys they got so high in the ranks.

I'm trying hard to keep Jason Issacs' off-screen social media behavior separate from the character he's playing but he and the show's PR people seem determined to mix these two.   It's not entirely unusual for actors to 'be' their characters both on and off camera to keep people's reactions to them more authentic -- but IMO, Jason Issacs is no Jim Carrey (MAN ON THE MOON) or Tom Noonan (MANHUNTER).

So yes, I do wonder about the motivations for creating such a character.  As a contrast to Michael to make her redemption arc more clear and justified?   As a statement about white males in power?  As STAR TREK's first 'badass' Captain?


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 20 November 2017 at 8:02pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 9:35pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

What Rob said (and far more eloquently than I could).

Setting aside the systemic racism and sexism of the TV industry of decades past (which still lingers), I would like to think that every casting choice has some thought put into it with respect to realism/demographics/locale, including the stereotypical White male leads.

When it comes to STAR TREK, I think that "colorblind casting" should come much more naturally, since Earth is supposed to be peaceful, united, and embracing of diversity.

As noted, I've not seen Lorca in action, but, like Rob, I can't help but wonder if his casting and characterization aren't some sort of coded, anti-White-Patriarchy message.

While the Starfleet Command of TOS was a Good 'ol Boys' Club, due to the era the show was produced in, you'd think that DISCOVERY would broaden the casting choices for the Command officers. But, in the pilot, we have a White male Admiral making negative comments about Burnham's race, and making major tactical mistakes that get him killed. And, there's the aforementioned Lorca, who sounds like a skeezy and negative character, and a contrast to writer's pet (and female and minority) Burnham.

Of course, race and gender shouldn't matter. Just the characters' actions and personalities. However, I can't help but wonder if STD's writers feel the same way.

I'm not trying to fling out accusations at the show and its creators. Just providing food for thought. I know this is all touchy and topical stuff, but I think it merits serious and genuine discussion, and I'd like to thank those who have participated for doing so in a calm and reasonable manner.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 9:53pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

I have found the depiction of Lorca to be deliberately ambiguous. There is evidence there that appears to support both sides of an argument about how morally sound he is. He may be a master manipulator just out to keep himself in command, or he may genuinely be driven by something a bit more idealistic than that. I don't know at this point, with his portrayal seeming more positive in the most recent episode.

Yes, he has been shown to bend the rules. That doesn't seem out of keeping at all with what we've seen in Star Trek before. The eyedrops I take as face value; his eyes are damaged and if he wants to look at anything bright, he needs to treat them.

What I don't see is a character that is overtly and clearcut a 'baddie'. He has been shown to be brave and loyal at times, and in the most recent episode his bending of his orders was to save a planet of innocents. Furthermore, the way he dealt with Stamets in that episode was more carrot than stick, even though he was asking him to risk his health.

I'm not saying Lorca won't turn out to be bad egg, but I think you can't say for sure at this point and --perhaps just as importantly -- there are layers there.


Edited by Peter Martin on 20 November 2017 at 9:57pm
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 10:25pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

But, in the pilot, we have a White male Admiral making negative comments about Burnham's race.

Greg I'm going to rewatch the pilot again because either I misread or completely missed that scene.  My take on the Admiral's "Given your background..." line was referring to her being raised in Vulcan society -- and preconceptions of behavior based on her species would be what she had to endure on a daily basis. 

IMO, it's actually a pretty sly commentary on how supposedly socially advanced the STAR TREK future is -- yet it actually isn't.  One of the metrics used to determine if a society is worthy of first contact is the elimination of things like intraspecies racism and infighting, yet it's pretty clear that interspecies racism and even planetary jingoism exist within the Federation.

On the other hand, the viewers who fixate on Michael's race and gender and see her as an avatar for the social justice movement might read that as a veiled reference to slavery, and not a particularly flattering one.  Whether the Admiral died because of a stupid miscalculation or because he needed to be 'punished' to balance the narrative depends on the biases the viewer brings to the table.




Edited by Rob Ocelot on 20 November 2017 at 10:25pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 10:49pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

What really gnaws at me about Discovery is that so many aspects of its premise have so much merit, when you look at them in isolation. The concept of an antiheroic lead in Star Trek is not necessarily a bad idea; a redemption arc is powerful stuff, if done correctly. I think that the concept of a morally ambiguous, potentially unstable Starfleet captain who's a series regular is a fantastic idea--but, again, only if handled in a dramatically interesting way (if, for instance, he were an antagonistic force in the story, someone for the lead to work against). Meanwhile, the Trek universe has plenty of room to tell war stories, serialized stories, and dark stories. But they can't be Star Trek stories without optimism, thoughtfulness, logic (story logic, not the Vulcan kind), and humor, and those are all areas in which Discovery has come up woefully short, at least for me.
++++++++

This is friggin' AbramsTREK all over again, man. The people in charge aren't as smart or respectful as they want us to think they are. Trying too hard to be dark and serialized and progressive and whatnot is...well, trying too hard. 


Stories and characters. That's what it all comes down to. A good foundation at the writing stage, not a checklist of tropes to include, or Burger King Kids' Club casting to seem progressive and cutting-edge. You can throw the best actors and special effects in the world at poorly written stories and characters, and they still won't work. 

Taken in isolation, some of the ideas are indeed interesting, like an experimental new drive system and an unhinged Captain. But, without the thoughtfulness, optimism, and basis in science (real and/or theoretical), it ain't gonna be STAR TREK.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 10:57pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

The line is:

"Considering your background, I would think you the last person to make assumptions based on race."

At the time, I took it as a veiled reference to slavery and whatnot, but it's been many weeks since I saw the pilot, and I have no urge to rewatch it! Lemme know what you think about it after your rewatch, Rob.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 10:59pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

As STAR TREK's first 'badass' Captain?
++++++++

See: James Kirk and/or Ben Sisko.
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Richard Stevens
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 11:31pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

How is Lorca unsympathetic? He's great! I feel for the guy. He's lost a lot and refuses to quit.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 12:20am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Trying too hard to be dark and serialized and progressive and whatnot is...well, trying too hard. 

Indeed.   

Compare the dark turn that DS9 took in "The Pale Moonlight".  It's made all the more effective and chilling because Sisko as a character had been built and established for almost six years and the writers just went and tore up the rulebook on just what lines this character can and cannot cross.   It also brings the character of Garak into sharp focus.   It rewards the viewers who stuck around for six years.

With DISCOVERY I sense a lack of patience on the writing staff's part.  They want so bad to get to the 'good stuff' they end up missing the point of why the characters need to do morally ambiguous things in the first place.  They are very good at dragging out the drama of situations (like most soap opera writing) but are sloppy at the slow thematic burns and eventual payoffs, both overt and subtle.  I doubt DISCOVERY will ever have the equivalent of a 'bottle' episode -- the type where they don't use any new sets, costumes, or characters in an effort to keep their budget down so they can spend more lavishly on the scripts that need it.  It's these episodes that traditionally helped round out the characters and endear them to the audience.  Instead it's fist-bumping and f-bombs with the effects dictating the narrative rather than the other way around.   Nine episodes in and they've not only beaten the Klingon cloaking technology they've also got a super weapon ship that can go anywhere.  Where's the Pike-era Enterprise fit in all this convoluted mess as the fleet flagship?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 1:36am | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Compare the dark turn that DS9 took in "The Pale Moonlight".  It's made all the more effective and chilling because Sisko as a character had been built and established for almost six years and the writers just went and tore up the rulebook on just what lines this character can and cannot cross.   It also brings the character of Garak into sharp focus.   It rewards the viewers who stuck around for six years.
+++++++

Sisko's just a wonderful and complex character. He could skew dark without ever quite going too far or becoming totally unlikable. He was unquestionably a hero fighting for the right reasons, but he found himself using less-than-heroic methods for the greater good. "In The Pale Moonlight" basically says that he's willing to sacrifice his own soul if it will mean saving the Federation.

I really do need to rewatch DS9, after I finish with TNG!


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 21 November 2017 at 1:37am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 1:42am | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Instead it's fist-bumping and f-bombs with the effects dictating the narrative rather than the other way around.  
+++++++

Fist-bumping? Really? Sigh.

++++++++

Where's the Pike-era Enterprise fit in all this convoluted mess as the fleet flagship?
+++++++++

Pet Peeve: The whole "flagship of the fleet" thing was a TNG invention, which unfortunately tends to be retroactively applied to TOS. The TOS Enterprise was just another ship. And, unfortunately, having NX-01 named "Enterprise" really codified the deification of ships with that name.

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Bill Collins
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 1:45am | IP Logged | 16 post reply

James,i will have to go back and take a look!
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 6:44am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Bill, it starts on page 19 with the odd reference here and there on subsequent pages

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Bill Collins
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 7:34am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Thank's!
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Luke Styer
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 11:46am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

 Rob Ocelot wrote:
they do seem to be going out of their way to make Gabriel Lorca (a white male) a nasty repugnant character

So you question the motive when when female, minority characters are noble, and when white male characters are ignoble.



Edited by Luke Styer on 21 November 2017 at 11:50am
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 11:22pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

So you question the motive when when female, minority characters are noble, and when white male characters are ignoble.

You're reaching.

I question the motive when a characterization is slanted towards either end of the nobility spectrum.  I'm talking about obvious holier-than-thou or irredeemably evil characters inserted into a story for the express purpose of contrasting the main protagonist.   

A hypothetical example would be a repugnant character who serves to make a morally ambiguous "writer's pet" type of protagonist seem more heroic in comparison.  I'm not saying Lorca is completely this type of character but there are some aspects of his persona that serve to make Michael appear more by-the-books Starfleet than she actually is. 

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Paul Kimball
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 11:58pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Rob if you "question the motive when a characterization is slanted towards
either end of the nobility spectrum" then you must've been questioning the
original series non-stop. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sarek, Sulu, Uhura, the whole
freakin cast were pretty darn noble.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 1:58am | IP Logged | 22 post reply

<Greg Kirkman> The line is:

"Considering your background, I would think you the last person to make assumptions based on race."

At the time, I took it as a veiled reference to slavery and whatnot, but it's been many weeks since I saw the pilot, and I have no urge to rewatch it! Lemme know what you think about it after your rewatch, Rob.

I've rewatched the pilot and I'm finding it hard to argue one way or the other.   My first viewing certainly didn't strike me as having slavery or racist overtones.  The pilot episodes make more noise about Michael's Vulcan upbringing and subsequent fast-tracking in Starfleet.  She's a Human who thinks and acts more like a Vulcan -- she doesn't fit well with either culture or their expectations of how members of their species are supposed to look or act.   

(I'm hesitant to bring up how modern-depicted Vulcans don't seem to follow the IDIC principles as I think that's a different discussion)

The other side of the coin is the Admiral doesn't seem to make a distinction between "race" and "species" when he's talking about the Klingons.  A century later the Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians all react with disgust when they learn of the common genetic origin of all humanoids in TNG "The Chase".

Michael's race (as defined within humanity) is never mentioned overtly but that's not entirely unusual for STAR TREK.  No VOYAGER characters mention Tuvok's darker skin or that he is in any way atypical for a Vulcan.  I believe the only time Ben Sisko confronted any sort of racism on DS9 was when he was accidentally in a past time period where his race would have potentially been an issue.  Same for Geordi.

Can I see how two different viewers might take home two different messages about that "Considering your background..." line?  

Definitely.

I'd love to know what the script writers actual intention was though.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 10:20am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

The other side of the coin is the Admiral doesn't seem to make a distinction between "race" and "species" when he's talking about the Klingons.
+++++++++

Maybe it's just good 'ol bad writing, a la AbramsTREK, where NuPike tells NuKirk to "enlist" in Starfleet instead of enrolling in Starfleet Academy. Of course, if NuKirk were just an enlisted crewman instead of being on the officer track, he'd probably still have made Captain within a few days.

You'd think a writer would know that different words mean different things!
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