Sunday, October 01, 2017

A Few More Thoughts on The Orville/Trek

There are a number of thoughts and observations I didn't get into my reviews of The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery, so I'm just going to put them here, in no real structure. I may add to it from time to time.

The Orville
  • The Moclan race, of which Lt. Commander Bortus is a member, self-identifies as "all-male". However, genetically, that can't be true, as these "males" lay eggs, which is definitive of female biology. Nevertheless, however they are classified, they are certainly homosexual. This makes their complete lack of a sense of humor ironic. As the most decidedly gay member of the crew, Bortus nevertheless plays "the straight man" in any joke in which he's involved. I hope they meant to do that.
  • The bright and spacious interior of Union ships, complete with house plants, are not a mere matter of aesthetics. The intent is to avoid the risks of psychological stress that come from long exposure to cramped environments that lack personal space. Because of these risks, submarine crews are given regular psychological screening. In other words, it's a logical design feature.
  • Episode 4, If the Stars Should Appear, was as good as any episode of classic Trek. The surprise appearance of uncredited guest star Liam Neeson was a treat, and the appearance of the stars, accompanied by the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, was genuinely awe-inspiring. "If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!" 
  • Again, from Episode 4: "BOOM, BITCH!" is just perfect. Bortus' reaction is as well.
  • The Orville is episodic TV. It is a series, not a serial.  As such, story arcs are not continuous. You will be dropped hints until a story is ripe for the telling, but that story is not developed over many episodes. Nevertheless, when you receive that hint, it does not follow that it was a missed opportunity, or that they dropped the topic. Rather, it's a teaser that you will be visiting the topic later in the season. An episode of a series stands alone; and episode of a serial does not. To illustrate... go watch a mid-third-season episode of Lost and you'll know what the title actually means. It is the difference between an anthology of short stories and a novel. This is a major difference in kind that appears to be throwing off critics who seem to expect topics to drag on and on. 

Star Trek: Discovery
  • I dislike the tendency of writers (both here and in classic Trek) to have Vulcans and those trained by Vulcans give answers with excessive specificity. That's why when Michael predicts the arrival of the storm down to the second, it's a more egregious failure than had she said, "about one and a quarter hours".  For instance, I've seen Spock give an estimate of ship disappearances which, when calculated, indicates a period of every 27 years, 126 days, 6 hours, 57 minutes, and 10 seconds, though it's nigh impossible that ships even approached the area with such exacting regularity. Such specificity is impossible to verify, and is both illusory and meaningless. 
  • It is The Orville that is produced by Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, which is noted for its formulaic overabundance of "cut to flashback" scenes. However, The Orville is devoid of such scenes, while ST:D is filled with them. Now that's funny.
  • The producers of ST:D have declared that the Klingons are allegorical of the Trump administration. Yet it is the Federation officer Michael Burnham that displays more of the characteristics popularly attributed to him. She is fearful of alien incursions and highly aggressive in her reaction to the mere possibility of such a thing. She believes that displays of aggression are necessary to maintain Federation security.
  • The Klingons, on the other hand, are strict isolationists who fear the incursions of the Federation. These are fears that are fully justified by the actions of Michael Burnham. If the Federation were to strictly adhere to its principles of non-interference, then they would leave the Klingons to themselves. They might stop to consider that the presence of an ancient and important Klingon artifact in "Federation space" gives great weight to the Klingon claim of priority in this star system. This brings to mind the questions, "Who is the bad guy here? Why is the Federation intent on imposing its values on another civilization? Is this really an optimistic vision of the future?" See the next section.
  • Though in the two-part pilot, Burnham swears that emotions do not factor into her decisions, her face and body language betray her. Who does she think she's kidding?
  • Major kudos to actress Sonequa Martin-Green for portraying Burnham's overconfidence and arrogance in the pilot. She brought a positive swagger to her body language that persisted until her incarceration. 
  • The writers missed an amazing opportunity in the pilot. They should have named the white Klingon "Chang", and simply had Burnham successfully put his eye out, thus setting the stage for the eye-patched character we met in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He would be about the right age.
  • I've heard some say that they think the show is setting up for an appearance by Spock. That may be the case; however, in the original timeline, Spock and Sarek had not spoken for 18 years. In 50 years of Star Trek, we never heard so much as a whisper of Michael's existence. It logically follows, then, that their paths may simply never cross. There is no evidence whatsoever that they have.
  • The USS Enterprise and other Constitution class vessels are already in service by this time. It is possible that we will catch cameos of other known characters, such as Robert April or Christopher Pike, or Captain Stephen Garrovick of the USS Farragut. Again, we have no evidence of it, but there is nothing to preclude it, and some good fan service reasons to do so.
Yeah, that's him, all right!
ST:Discovery EPISODE 3: 
  • I think the "varmint" is the Galaxy's biggest Tardigrade. In fact, I'm very close to 100% certain of it.
  • The Top Secret Project reveal is mid-1970s Doctor Who-level ludicrous. Instant travel across interstellar distances using fungal spores that permeate the Universe? Seriously? Perhaps we could scare up some midichlorians while we're at it.
SPECULATION (Star Trek: Discovery)

I don't think this isn't the Prime Universe at all. I'm not saying it's the Mirror Universe, but it appears to be an alternate universe that has the potential to evolve in very similar fashion. Observe:
  • The aforementioned protectionist stance of the Klingons, and the fact that of the races mentioned as having been diminished by the Federation, humanity is not mentioned.
  • The fact that Klingons gather their dead; something they don't typically do in the Prime Universe.
  • The Klingon ships don't resemble those of the Prime Universe. HOWEVER, the Klingon sarcophagus ship does look as though it could have inspired the design of the Mirror Universe Klingon ships.
  • The what-the-fuckedness of Captain Lorca in both attitude and outlook, as well as the aggressive say-hello-by-opening-fire attitude of the Vulcans. Vulcans.
  • The metallic fabric in the uniforms; a hallmark of the Mirror Universe, but of no variant previously seen in the Prime Universe or the Kelvin Universe.
  • Technology not previously seen in the Prime Universe. 
A fondness for metallic accents
Now, keep in mind that I don't think that the writers or producers in any way intend for this to resemble the Mirror Universe, and they'd probably be offended by the suggestion. I'm just saying it does. And this is sort of an inevitable thing when you get folks in charge of production that have a burning need to be "different". Toss out what came before, and there are really only a few ways to go. So in Captain Lorca they've gone dark, gritty, creepy, aggressive, authoritarian, and lacking in respect for law or common sense judgement. In Burnham they have the most untrustworthy graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy in its history.

At this point there's no hope of reconciling ST:D with Prime Universe canon. Period. It must take place in an alternate universe. And at this point it looks as though it could easily lead to a nascent Terran Empire. All that's necessary is a bloody war (already seen), a slight turn to aggressiveness (already seen) a few misplaced quarks (already seen), and the Butterfly Effect. All the elements are there.

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