Star Trek: Discovery and Trash Talk

Anyone that doubts that words have power should listen to election speeches. Consider how “burning the flag” and “gun control, or “pro-life” and “pro-choice” elicits strong imagery and reactions. Yet people use words, key trigger words, without any thought of their real and complete content. The biggest abuse comes in the form of obscenity, which used to be in the realm of the shock treatment and poorly educated. My parents used to say those that curse too much are simply too stupid or uneducated to express themselves clearly. I now amend that to say “or the person is going to an extreme for the emphasis.” After all, “the damn dog” implies more ire than simply “the dog.”Cuss words

Unfortunately, some words, mostly curses, have become so mainstream and abused that they fail to really shock anymore. They create emphasis and have some offensiveness but the true value of those words is diluted down from over and inappropriate use.

An example of this shows up in Star Trek: Discovery’s the “Choose Your Pain” episode when Tilly, Burnham, and Stamets are discussing the organic drive. Tilly pops off “Oh, that’s so f*cking cool!” and Stamets agrees with the same profanity.

Really, Trek writer guys? By the twenty-fourth century (or whatever), we can’t express ourselves any clearer than that? We can’t move on beyond the use of expletive words as we evolve enough to course through space? After all this is a ship of scientists, military people, and explorers. Some of humanity’s finest.

Did this add anything to Tilly’s character? We already know that she is socially awkward and easily excitable but “That’s so cool!” would have been just as strong and a lot less offensive.  The language jarred me and tainted the whole episode as poor writing.

Do you know what the f-bomb actually means? It is from old English, an abbreviation for a saying that appeared on a type of wedding license stating the couple has permission to “fornicate under the consent of the King.” Think about this definition the next time you use it to describe something like coffee, a video game, or a shout of anger. It doesn’t make sense as “it was a fornicating under the consent of King good video game!” Or “Fornicate under the consent of King you!” It doesn’t even make sense when you focus on the modern definition of ” to have sexual intercourse with”. You can’t do that to the video game or the coffee (as in “this is sexual intercourse good coffee!”). Well you could, I suppose, but it would burn a lot.

Now you may be saying, “Come on, Carla. Everyone cusses.” That’s true. I’ve dropped a number of inappropriate f-bombs in my talking and writing and probably will do so again. But it’s still sloppy speech that demeans me as an intelligent person. In my writing, I use it specifically to show the character is 1) furious, 2) uneducated and base, or 3) out of control. Curse words have a power and a cloud of emotional intent that I try to wield like a fine sword. After all, if a smart character drops a rare “well, shit!” comment, then you know they are either in a great deal of trouble or extremely mad. The well-placed curse can convey a lot of emotional tension when used with finesse. When I find the use of expletives too often in books or movies without any nuances or good reason, the cussing becomes just poor writing.

So Star Trek: Discovery writers, wise up! Write well and avoid the trash talk. Intelligent audiences don’t need it.

 

Star Trek for the Grandkids

ST DiscoveryI’ve been a Trekker ever since the original show aired in 1966, even though I was only four. Years of reruns followed and helped keep the dream of space travel alive. Then Star Trek: Next Generation came out when my own kids were young. The US space travel had become blasé by that time but interstellar travel still rocked. I introduced my children to the universe and together we loved and hated the movies as they came out.

Now a new show has premiered for the grandkids (which I don’t have any yet but still the thought is there). I know the ST owners put out Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise, but somehow they always seemed like alternative side stories rather than mainline Trek. In truth, I never watched Voyager or Enterprise that much.  Even the most recent reboot movies lacked something, usually an intelligent plot. After all, what commander in their right mind would promote a cadet to captain status? No wonder the dude constantly loses his ship.

However, Star Trek: Discovery felt different. The previews featured heart-beating action and stunning space scenes and the first three episodes really delivered. The pilot episodes seemed like true Trek, lots of action, a great captain, and good interaction with the crew. Then the captain died. Yet by the end of episode three, “Context is King”, I’m beginning to feel like the show is not crew-oriented but focused on a single individual, Michael Burnham. I hope not because those stories are not nearly as interesting or diverse as crew-centric ones. Yet Discovery‘s captain Lorca stirs some interest. He is mysterious, yet questionable in morality. A true ends-justifies-the-means kind of guy. Burnham’s immediate superior, Paul Stamets is a snobbish ass. Neither of these are likeable characters yet.

Yet the show rocks in the beauty of the ships and the space scenes. A lot of money poured into this show’s make-up, sets and CGI. The visuals are reminiscent of the breathtaking beauty delivered to Earth through the Hubble telescope. Even Michael Burnham, the first human to attend the Vulcan Science Academy, talks about the awesome nature of space

Space isn’t the only attractive feature. The producers created gorgeous technology as well. The Discovery is an amazing ship compared to the old shows. The bridges of the ships in this version use a play of light and darkness along with shadowing to offset the people and create an electric grim yet modern look. Even the Klingons have an elegant pageantry to their clothes and sets that is captivating.

T'Kuvma Draws A Line In The Sand Against Starfleet

The Klingons (From the CBS Star Trek Discovery website)

However, one word of warning. This is not the Kirk Star Trek Universe no matter how hard the producers try to tell us this is “near the same time.” Kirk’s timeframe did not have technically sexy looking ships, nor did they have “organic propulsion.” Yes, the episodes clearly point out that some technology, like the transporters, are still in their infancy, but everything else is new. This includes sleeker uniforms, complex tools, phasers (similar but different), and updated ships. Trying to force them into the dull, underfunded 1966 show style and history will just hurts the brain. And the producers were wise on this because audiences would not accept old, clunky-looking sets that decorated the original episodes. Watch the 1960s Star Trek on Blu-ray and everything looks just a bit tackier than they did on the low definition TVs. With hi-res viewing, audiences expect to be wowed, particularly in space operas. Therefore, the setting of this show would never make equate to the 1960s one.

Everything Star Trek Fans Will Love About Star Trek: Discovery

The character of Michael Burnham on the bridge. (From the CBS Star Trek Discovery website)

Although wary, Star Trek: Discovery has caught my attention enough so I’ll be watching for the next few weeks. It is great high-brow science fiction, which TV sorely lacks right now. If you didn’t catch the first episode, the shows are on CBS’s streaming service, CBS All-Access which unfortunately is not free. However, Star Trek: Discovery is one of the few shows worth the money.