Monday, November 27, 2017

Discovery Episode Reviews, or Why I Have Been Largely Silent on Discussing Discovery

Hello friends. I thought I would take a moment and address the episode reviews, or should I say lack of, for the newest incarnation of our beloved franchise, Discovery. This article is going to be part explanation, and part getting something off of my chest that has been building over the last few weeks, so bear with me.


In the last few months we fans have finally received what we have been asking for, and that is new Trek on TV. As I have written a lot of episode reviews of all the different series (I am quickly zeroing in on my 100th episode review), there are some who are wondering why I have yet to do an official review for anything from Discovery's first season. Incidentally, I will refer to Discovery from here on as DIS as it follows the short-hand I have used for the other series. I am fine with DSC and DISC, but find STD to normally be used as a derogatory abbreviation that often implies a distaste and even hatred for the new show.

Discovery episode reviews are coming, just not soon.

I have a few reasons for holding off on my reviews for DIS. One is logistics. One of my scoring criteria is for the reviews is how relevant the episode is with respect to other episodes. For example, there are several stand-alone episodes that if you miss will not leave the viewer feeling confused about things later on. This includes relevance between the different series. Seeing Mirror Tuvok in a DS9 episode, for example, connects the two different series. With DIS it is far too early for me to include its relevance with other series. Some things may not be so obvious now, but will become very relevant later on. I already have to go back and update preexisting reviews to accommodate DIS plot lines, so I figured to save myself some time and wait until either the season or a few seasons are done. With all of the other series I have the benefit of hindsight in looking at the whole big picture, and I just don't have that with DIS at this time. I truly want to do my reviews justice by not rushing through them until I can also look at DIS with the big picture in mind. There are a lot of fan theories out there (the Ash Tyler-Voq connection being one of my favourites) and I don't want to get caught up in those in my reviews. I also respect that the producers have stated that there will be explanations as to why certain elements of canon have appeared to have been ignored. Continuity is another category that I have in my reviews, and if they can produce a good explanation later on as to why the Klingons look so different, why there are holodecks in TOS era that were only first seen in TNG, and why nobody else has ever heard of a spore drive, then I want to give them that chance without having to rewrite that section of my reviews.


Second reason is that there is already a plethora of episode reviews out there, and many of them I have enjoyed. Writing the reviews for me is a labour of love for me, but it is not my career choice. In addition to this blog I have a full-time job (teacher) and a full-time family. While there are others who may have a similar situation as myself, I frankly don't have the time or energy to be the "first on the scene" with my reviews. Since there are so many reviews out there already, I am content to let those voices be heard. 


Finally, I would like to address incorrect reasons as to why I have not written reviews on DIS. It has nothing to do with my opinion of the show. I am not intentionally ignoring Discovery because I do not like it, nor do I consider it to be "not true Trek". I will be honest, Discovery is something I am struggling with. This show is nothing like what has come before (much like DS9 was, which is my favourite of the series). There have been elements of it which I have been disappointed with. Let me reveal my cards here and now. I am not a fan of the look of the new Klingons, their ships, and their weapons. I wish they had kept more of it the same. I also am disappointed that this show has used profanity and nudity at levels that I do not like. For me (and I emphasize, this is for me only), those elements were things that I was happy were usually not included in Star Trek and felt that they are out of place. I think the level of violence has been ramped up a bit outside my preferences as well. For me, I wish that the tone was lighter.

Well, maybe not quite this "light".

Having said that, let me make something perfectly clear (and this is the "getting things off of my chest" portion truly begins). These are my thoughts and opinions. These are my disappointments. I am glad that there are many fans that are OK and even happy with those changes. I do not think we need the cardboard sets from TOS or that everything has to be exactly the way it was from an aesthetics point of view. I am even OK if the Klingons looked like TNG era and not TOS. I love many other things about the new show. I love the character of Saru. He is unique and refreshing. I enjoy the fact that Lorca breaks the mold of traditional starship captains. I love the darker, edgier Harry Mudd. Michael Burnham's character intrigues me as well. Sure, there are things I would have changed, but that is true of every series within the franchise. I find many episodes in TNG and TOS to be slow and cumbersome. I hated Bashir in the first two seasons of DS9, and found Avery Brooks to be a poor actor at times early on in the series. With Voyager I thought that the Doctor was going to be a horrible character, and I grimaced at the "gel scene" with T'Pol and Tucker in the pilot episode of Enterprise. With each of those disappointments in the other series, I stuck with it and grew to love the series. TOS and TNG ended up having great episodes. Bashir grew on me and Avery's acting improved as he became more familiar with his character. The Doctor became my favourite Voyager crew member, and the envelope that Enterprise pushed with the gel scene was not pushed much beyond that throughout the series.

Not all Trek was good

My point is, with the disappointments I have had with Discovery, I know that many people do not share them. Some think it's about time for the F-word to be used in Star Trek, and the darker tone is just an indication of the darker society we now live in. That's perfectly acceptable. What I love about Discovery is that it is attracting a new group of fans to all the shows I grew up watching. I get that shows evolve, and that it is OK for me to not be blissfully enamored with every generation's Star Trek series. As much as fans have been responsible for the success of Star Trek, we often make the mistake of feeling entitled to define what is Star Trek for everyone. On the social media circuits I hear over and over "This is not Star Trek" in variations too numerous to track. As always, those who have disliked something make their voices loud and clear. I feel that we collectively need to be reminded that Star Trek does not belong to us fans and us fans alone. As much as we would love to have a say in every step of development, we have to understand that right now the people that are allowed the privilege of deciding what is and isn't Star Trek are either the Powers That Be that work for Paramount (the current movie series) and that work for CBS (Discovery and any future television series). As the franchise grows more fans will find themselves not liking more aspects of the growth. This does not mean that Star Trek is dying, but that it is evolving. Some of the changes will be for the better, some will not, but there will be change.

Some changes are good, some not. You decide for yourself.

A concept tossed around a lot these days, and I am just as guilty of it as any, is the concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination, or IDIC. It is not a perfect concept, but it does bear some weight in these discussions. A significant portion of the fan base need to take a good look at what IDIC is about and decide where they will stand on it. For those, like myself, who find disappointments and faults with DIS, we need to respect that many of our fellow fans are enjoying the changes. Just because we think Klingons should look like some sort of space Mongol for continuity or canon sake does not make those who embrace the new look as anything less than a true fan. Perhaps we need to check our egos at the door more. Perhaps when in out Facebook group we find a thread on how great Discovery is, we need to stop spamming the comment sections as if we are members of the Order of the Bat'leth whose honor has just been challenged. On the flip side, if a person, like me, who enjoys Discovery is tired of the negativity being shown towards the show, perhaps we too should just keep scrolling past the negative posts. We, too, need to more fully embrace IDIC by accepting that not everyone is going to love the show. If someone says that they are disappointed with the use of stronger profanity than Trek has ever seen, can't we just let them have their voice without flooding them with even more vulgar comments? Some of our fellow fans are heart-broken that their own individual interpretation of what Trek is to them is not being followed with the new show. Maybe they are like me and are waiting to see the whole story unfold, but have some reservations. I have talked to fans who, with every incarnation of this franchise, just could not buy into what was being sold. Do we have to berate them for having an opinion that is not shared by the rest of us? Why are we so offended about people being offended? Why are we disappointed when others are disappointed?

Why, WHY, this again?!?

So for the time being I am holding off on Discovery. I can't wait to see the big picture unfold, and when I do start the episode reviews of this polarizing show, I will do my best to keep my own disappointments in check and be fair. I am still hopeful that DIS will worm its way more fully into my heart, but if it doesn't, then that's OK. There is no rule that states one must rank the current product at the top of their list in order to be a fan.







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