Boldly going … Again!

Star Trek Discovery and The Orville have amassed a loyal following of fans during their respective premiere seasons.

For Star Trek fans, it has been quite a spell, close to eleven years to be precise, and for those card carrying trekkers, that is more than a life time!

As ‘Disco’ (Star Trek Discovery) commenced its final run to the starting gate, and premiering to — for the first time in Star Trek’s history — a pay per view audience, there was much trepidation being displayed by one sector of fans ‘post premiere’, due to its overall presentation.

Fans were disappointed with the design of the craft being used in the show, the style of the uniforms being worn by the crew, and of the aliens, particularly the Klingons.

If there is a sub-culture of fan base in pop culture that have an eye for detail, particularly when it comes to continuity and the following of canon, it’s the Star Trek fan.

Star Trek: Enterprise, the sixth Star Trek TV series (if you include the animated series Post Star Trek: Original Series) wore the brunt of the fans’ distaste, possibly by a similar sector of fans that viewing ‘Disco’ are now being officially labelled as “Haters”, when Star Trek: Enterprise began its TV run.

Enterprise and Disco are both prequel shows and both are set before the reign of Captain Kirk and Co (100 years and 10 years before, respectively).

Both shows have received criticism for looking too modern for the era in which the show is set, and for straying from the official Star Trek timeline. Politics, gender, and homosexual crew-members in Disco seem to be an issue with fans of the new series, and this is surprising as Star Trek has always been known for pushing the boundaries and sending a message. Star Trek: the Original Series is a great example of this when it included the first interracial Kiss that was conducted between Kirk and Uhura in “Plato’s Stepchildren”, and with its theme of racial tension and racism, the episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”.

On matters of engineered languages and the Klingons!

There is a strong Klingon presence in the first season of Disco, and if you are a fan of engineered languages, you will appreciate the Klingon subtitles that have been featured during the first season.

Disco Klingons are out there… to say the least!

We’ve seen an evolution of the Klingon during the past fifty two years. They have resembled humans with a suntan in the 1960s, and they’ve had all sorts of bumps and ridges, scars, even hair length to separate one’s appearance from another with each presentation of a new series.

Disco Klingons though, have taken it to another level. One could describe them as looking more Demonic than Klingon. The quality of the makeup artist for Disco is incredible, but the mighty alien race that we have come to enjoy, even laugh at, has taken a step backward with regard to individuality.

The statement “they all look the same” is a perfect description of Disco’s Klingons, and this is disappointing when you look back at past prominent Klingon characters: Worf, Chang, Gowron, and Martok to name but a few.

The Klingon language, when it is spoke, is a dull monotone that is not easy to understand, even if you do not speak Klingon!

The Klingons in the show are not displaying the same emotion that we have come to enjoy when they pronounce their language in a classic, overly animated fashion so that an entire city can hear them. In Disco, the Klingons are relatively passive in their linguistic tone.

Overall ranking for a first season

Disco receives a pass as does every Star Trek series. Star Trek first seasons have been notorious in being clunkers. The series is only as good as its writers, and I would like to see  more focus on thought provoking issues that have featured in the series. Unfortunately special effects, rocket ships and rayguns have clouded the overall presentation.

 

From the Wright Brothers to the Orville!

It’s campy, it’s cosplay cabaret, it’s comedy, and if you are looking for a show that allows you to relax and view without applying too much thought, then The Orville is for you.

The Orville is fun and does not take itself too seriously, that said…

The Orville is a show that has drawn its inspiration from Star trek. Which series? you may ask.

Good question, as The Orville blends classic Star Trek, and Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Family Guy, but unfortunately they fall short in their overall delivery. It tries to be light and comedic, except when it’s a morality play or an action hour or a hangout comedy set in space. It doesn’t help that most of the jokes don’t display the liveliness of a batch of Tribbles.

A most definite tribute to Orville Wright is present in the show, not only with the name of the craft, but there is also a model of the Kitty Hawk proudly displayed on the captain’s desk in The Orville.

On an aesthetic level, The Orville doesn’t make any notable attempts to update the pastel, black and blue palette that various Star Treks were addicted to back in the day, which feels like a missed opportunity.

 
All in all, the echoes of other journeys from past eras make for a superficial and undistinguished voyage. There’s a robotic character, scenes set in shuttle bays, clashes with warlike races, among other standard sci-fi elements. Most of the aliens have bumpy foreheads and otherwise resemble dozens of Star Trek alien races through the ages.
The Orville can be compared to Star Trek in tackling issues of gender and identity, but it fails to resolve or connect with the audience.
Will the Orville continue to boldly go…?
That’s another good question. Best wishes!

Stuart Blair is one of the founders of Starship Mawson, the local Adelaide ST fan club. Recently he gave a talk on pop culture at Lexicon, the retro pop culture exhibition at Unley Museum.