Just when you thought it was safe to venture back into the galaxy …
Star Trek: Discovery dropped their season 4 trailer.
It features an anomaly threatening the universe!
What? you might ask yourself. That’s novel!
Because that’s all that happens in these stories: there are constant cataclysmic threats. We never know why. There’s no causal pathway for how these things occur. They just are, and the characters must address the situation, or face obliteration.
But what piqued my interest in the Discovery trailer is one of the visuals.
What’re we seeing here?
Discovery has always been visually gorgeous. Every episode is a movie aesthetically. Even this trailer will wow you with sweet, sweet visuals. So it’s interesting that they chose this design here.
At 1.17, we also see Discovery facing a remarkably familiar energy cloud.
Could it be the writers are resurrecting V’Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture?
(Beware: spoilers if you haven’t seen The Motion Picture.)
In TMP, James Kirk is now an admiral. But an anomaly appears, heading to Earth, destroying everything in its path. The refitted Enterprise, under the command of Will Decker, is about to be dispatched to investigate. But Kirk finagles command of the mission.
They intercept the anomaly, and eventually discover that it’s the home of an old NASA Voyager probe, which crash-landed on a planet, was repaired by the inhabitants, and on its way back to Earth amassed so much knowledge it achieved consciousness.
After the Borg had been introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, fans speculated that perhaps Voyager had crashed on the Borg home world. The Borg, of course, were TNG’s prime antagonists (and then became Star Trek: Voyager’s primary antagonist when Star Trek: Voyager floundered with their own attempts).
Interestingly, if you look at the ten Trek movies, existence as we know it was never threatened. Earth was. But not the universe.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture: V’ger is obliterating anything in its path on its journey back to Earth. You can speculate what would’ve happened had Kirk and co not saved Earth, but that’s all it will be: speculation.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Khan carries out a personal vendetta against Kirk.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Kirk and his crew go rogue to save Spock.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: A probe arrives at Earth, unwittingly wreaking havoc.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: A Vulcan revolutionary captures the Enterprise so he can search for God.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: The Federation seek to sign a peace treaty with the Klingon Empire.
- Star Trek: Generations: Picard and co try to stop a madman, Soran, from destroying a planet so he can enter the anomaly, the Nexus. While the Nexus does obliterate anything it encounters, it’s not directly threatening the universe. Technically, it’s still floating around out there.
- Star Trek: First Contact: The Borg go back in time to stop humans from making first contact with the Vulcans, which sews the seeds for the Federation. You can argue that if the Federation never emerged, the Borg would take the quadrant, but it’s not a direct threat.
- Star Trek: Insurrection: Something about a planet that has regenerative powers on people.
- Star Trek: Nemesis: Picard and company encounter a Romulan plot. And stuff.
Star Trek has always been about exploration – if not geographical exploration, then the exploration of human potential.
In most science fiction, the future is dystopian.
Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, opted for a future where humanity grew up, where they explored the galaxy and tried to make peaceful contact with other species, and where humans were always trying to better themselves.
JJ Abrams’s and Alex Kurtzman’s Star Trek is about blowing shit up.
Discovery’s trailer doesn’t offer much that we haven’t already seen in the Kurtzmanverse: anomaly, universe under threat, the characters must stop it from happening.
The only curiosity would be if they’ve tapped in V’Ger, although in The Motion Picture, V’Ger merged with Decker and evolved into a new form of consciousness.
But Kurtzman doesn’t care too much about canon, outside of how a particular event can be exploited for some shoestring plot.
The other query is if they’ll somehow rope in the Borg. The Borg have marquee, and it’s much easier to use somebody else’s hard work and good writing, than build something of your own.
Now that’s not to say you can’t revisit characters, plots, and stories from other incarnations of Star Trek. In fact, Star Trek has posed numerous questions that would be worth revisiting and exploring.
Nicholas Meyer did it. His Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is set about fifteen years after Khan’s first appearance in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Space Seed”. Meyer wondered what had become of Khan and his people. We found out.
The brilliant thing about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is it does so much in the confines of its revenge plot. We meet an older Kirk, questioning his role in the universe and trying to rediscover his self-worth. Kirk has a son. There’s a nifty MacGuffin in the Genesis device. Khan is a brilliant antagonist who’s vengeance is driven by loss. There’s so much happening before you get to the action sequences.
Exploring what had become of the V’ger entity has so many interesting possibilities. However, you’d think such a story would be cerebral. Given the action we see in the trailer, that’s definitely not the route we’re taking.
The trailer also features some hilariously bad dialogue.
It opens with Tilly saying, “Life is just a blink. It is one heartbeat in the entire lifespan of the universe.”
Well, outside of mixing the metaphors, is a life one heartbeat in the entire lifespan of the universe? According to Google, the universe has been around for 13.8 billion years. Does an average life equate to a one heartbeat? I would think we’re much more insignificant than that. But it sounds poetic.
Then at 0.47 an alien with some ridges on her face tells Michael Burnham, “Leadership is about balance. Your acts of bravery are huge swings of the pendulum. And there is a very fine line between a pendulum and a wrecking ball.”
I’m unsure why wrecking balls still exist in the 32nd century. You’d think they have much more effective demolition technology. But accepting that the characters know what a wrecking ball is, it’s nothing like a pendulum. A pendulum swings back and forth. In the history of pendulums (even dating up to the 32nd century), I don’t think one has ever turned into a wrecking ball. Equally, I don’t think a wrecking ball has ever been used as a pendulum. But, hey, both swing. So, cool!
Well, maybe not. You can’t just draw parallels between two things that have a similar motion to construct a metaphor. It’d be like saying, “Michael Burnham, your perseverance is as dogged as an electric toothbrush. But there’s a fine line between an electric toothbrush and a jackhammer.”
It’s typically nonsensical shit that somebody will cite as genius, but is actually gibberish.
About the only thing I can appreciate in Discovery (besides the sweet visuals) is the arc of its protagonist, Michael Burnham.
She went from a mutineer who started a war with the Klingons and got thousands killed, to a consultant, to a First Officer, to a captain.
It’s inexplicable how that could possibly happen. Most mutineers are shot. Even in Roddenberry’s universe, you’d imagine mutineers would be discharged from Starfleet. Here, apparently, it’s a viable career pathway and incurs no penalty or demotion. It’s like in Star Trek Into Darkness, James Kirk is demoted for a decision he made, then reinstated five minutes later. Things happen for effect, but have no bearing ultimately, and apply no context.
Compare that to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan where Kirk’s choice to accept promotion to admiral has ramifications on his identity and how he sees himself.
Intellectually and the emotionally, Burnham hasn’t changed at all. She hasn’t grown or matured or learned from experience. She was always doing her own thing, so making her captain doesn’t empower her. (It also looks like Tilly’s farcical promotion to First Officer remains.)
But materially, at least Burnham’s character’s gone somewhere.
However, come the new season, I expect she’ll constantly be providing breakthrough answers to impossible situations and saving the universe, yet again, at the very last minute, just like she has every other time.
Wow. Can’t wait.