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.

The Thirteenth Dr. Who

The powers that be in the BBC universe announced that Jodie Whittaker would take over the role of Doctor Who from Peter Capaldi. This caused some fervor because the new Doctor is a (Gasp! Shock! Horror!) woman. The media seems to be whipping this up into a controversial frenzy but I don’t see why. With any major changes to a longstanding series, the audience should consider a few questions before making a judgement on whether it is terrible or not.

Related image

The Doctors (trend.mynet.com)

Does it fit the established universe?

Many articles have pointed out that the Dr. Who universe included gender switching before, with the most notable example being the Master becoming Missy. I love Missy and find her much more chaotically evil than any other Master portrayal. She also adds a flirtatious aspect to the role that the men did not supply.

What will the companions be like?

Why does it matter? Male doctors over the decades took on companions of both genders, some likeable, some not. It’s true that the guys tended towards female friends, but the reason is simple. TV audiences love hints of deeper feelings and love, even when those emotions are unrequited. Most of the audience identifies more readily to a strong male getting emotionally attached to a female, but nothing says it can’t go the other way.

Many (but not all) of the companions featured young, extremely pretty woman. Another no brainer. Beautiful women make for better TV ratings. The same is true for handsome males. If you doubt that, then consider shows like the 2015 Poldark and how often the lead man, delicious Aidan Turner, takes his shirt off in a society where any show of skin, even bare arms, was rare. Similarly, think about how much Wolverine goes around shirtless in the X-Men and Wolverine movies.

So, does that mean the Whittaker Doctor should have hot, young male companions? I hope not, at least not much. First of all, women can travel together without getting all weird and falling in love. I assume men can too, but you don’t see it as often in television. Secondly the companions should be chosen on basis of intelligence, adaptability, and charm, not sex appeal. None of the pretty companions, to my knowledge, actually dressed up in sexy gear and strutted around like models. They weren’t there for the sex game. Having a woman at the helm should not change that. Therefore, male companions should definitely keep their shirts on.

Can the TV Audience take a strong female Doctor?

Even asking this question seems like an insult to viewers. I know Dr. Who is a British product gone global, but I’m concerned with what’s going on in the US. Under a president that devalues and denigrates women and a political party that thinks women can’t make choices about their own bodies, progress for humanity is taking a giant back step into stupidity. Women, who have fought for decades for equality in voting rights, the workplace, and the battlefield, are never going back to being only housewives and baby makers. We demand control of our bodies and our destinies. Cinema reflects that fact in movies such as Wonder Woman and strong female characters such as Alien‘s Ripley, Star Trek‘s Janeway, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck, and Star War’s Rey and Leia. Dr. Who by these standards is dragging behind the times. If you can’t handle a strong female doctor, then stop watching the show and crawl back into your man cave. The time for a doctor revolution is now.

On that note, I’m also delighted that Ms. Whittaker, although attractive, does not have the super model body or a make-up enhanced face that could launch a thousand ships. She is an experienced woman with a no-nonsense appearance. As she travels through Earth’s time, she’ll have to fight harder to be taken seriously in those decades where women are told to shut up and sit down. That adds twists and turns. The plot turns open up and can evolve from the normal get-into-trouble-then-save-the-day routine.

And that is what makes good television. I for one can’t wait to see what she will do.

For more information and discussion, I recommend checking out “A Female ‘Doctor Who’ Is Exactly What the Franchise Needed by Ross Ruediger.