Is It Star Trek? Fandom and Gatekeeping

But, Is It Star Trek?

Is discounting a piece of the Trek franchise for not following in the direct footsteps of TOS tantamount to gatekeeping?

That’s a question that immediately popped into my head when I saw a podcast title from Mission Log, “But, Is It Star Trek?”.  I find Mission Log (and similar podcasts) extremely entertaining to listen to, but sometimes I wonder about their mission.  On the surface, it’s a good one: 

Mission Log is a Roddenberry Entertainment podcast with the sole purpose of exploring the Star Trek universe one episode at a time. That’s right, this podcast will cover six different series and 30 seasons of television by journeying into every one of the 726 episodes with a single mission: to explore, debate and discuss one of the largest science fiction phenomena of all time, Star Trek.

http://www.missionlogpodcast.com/

For the most part I’m totally on board with them.  They are able to look at even some of the most terrible Star Trek episodes (Code of Honor, Move Along Home) and take something away from the episode.  But often, ever since they moved on from TOS, they ask the question: “But, is it Star Trek?”

What they mean with this question is to discover whether the story being told has a deeper meaning or message behind it other than just a fun SciFi story.  Can a story set in the Star Trek universe be considered Star Trek if it doesn’t address a social issue of some sort?  That is essentially what they’re asking.  

This is a big problem for Star Trek in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.

I think that if it says Star Trek and it’s an officially licensed property, then yes, it’s Star Trek.  Because if you’re arguing otherwise, you start getting into gatekeeping.  This is a big problem for Star Trek (and to a greater extent, Star Wars) in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.  

I think it’s fine to dislike a show.  Where it becomes a problem is if you try to prevent new people from discovering it.  That’s how it becomes gatekeeping.  It’s not up to the fans to determine what is or isn’t part of the franchise; while it is entertainment directed at a certain group of people, we have to accept that the fans aren’t in charge.  If they were, there would be a lot more problems with the story telling in general.  Let’s face it – fans are not the best group of people to write stories.  That’s why we have fan fiction.  

I will admit to not having listened to that particular podcast from Mission Log (“But, Is It Star Trek?”).  I have some faith that their conclusion is going to be in line with mine.  I just hope that people realize that there is an inherent danger in even asking the question, “Is It Star Trek?”  

Star Trek Discovery Opening Titles

I think this is probably the best opening sequence of any Star Trek show.  It would be cool if they made versions for all of the other shows that look like this.  My current desktop wallpaper is a screenshot of the Discovery from this sequence.  It looks really great.

Star Trek: Discovery Review

I finally finished watching the final bits of “The Battle at the Binary Stars”, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery.  Here’s my quick review of the show!

Overall impressions

I thought the premiere episodes were great.  In Canada, Discovery is being released on Space, the Canadian version of the SyFy channel.  I’m incredibly thankful that I don’t need to subscribe to CraveTV, which is where you can stream the show in Canada.

If I were to give it an arbitrary rating, I’d say 3.5/5.  The show was visually impressive, and had a story that was somewhat straightforward to follow.  There were some bits I didn’t like (I’ll get to that), but overall I found enough that will keep me coming back weekly.

What I didn’t like 

The Klingons – but not for the reason you’d think.  I’m not hung up on the design choices for the show; in fact I think I’d find it distracting if the technology looked dated compared to what we have available to us today.  Similarly for the Kilngons, the updated look didn’t phase me a bit.

What bothered me was the way they spoke, and the slow subtitles.  I found it very hard to follow along, because they spoke so slowly and the subtitles used such short sentence fragments.  Let me correct my phrasing a bit; it wasn’t that they spoke slowly at all, it was actually just the subtitles.  I think their speech patterns were the most “realistic” of all Klingon depictions.  Their scenes just felt extremely slow and took me out of the episode because of it.

I also found it confusing that we started with a crew that had already been together 7 years, and we’re most likely never seeing them again.  Why couldn’t we start with the Discovery, if that’s where we’re going?  That’s a minor beef though, and I’m willing to see what they’ve got for the rest of the season.

What I did like

Yep, the list of what I didn’t like was pretty short.  While introducing the Shenzhou was a negative, it was also somewhat of a positive for me.  It really did feel like we were seeing a crew that had spent 7 years together – there was no awkward “nice to meet you” moments we might usually get in a Star Trek pilot.  Especially the relationship between Saru and Burnham was really well done.

I mentioned the impressive visuals earlier; like I said, I wasn’t caught up with the fact that these sets look even more advanced than the Enterprise sets did at the time.  They do look like a natural progression from the Enterprise sets, which I thought made sense for 100 years’ difference.  From the technical standpoint, I thought it was great that this didn’t “look” like a TV show (whereas you can tell the original Trek series are filmed on sets, no matter how alive they tried to make them).

I thought Commander Burnham was portrayed excellently – you could tell she was a different character from when she first joined the Shenzhou to her moment of defiance 7 years later.  You can feel that there is a lot of character development that happened in between, and you can trust that it happened without having to see it.

Final Words

When I first saw the trailer for this, I wasn’t initially interested in the show.  I would watch the first episode, and try to catch it if I could.  But as the premiere date came, I realized I was legitimately excited for a new Trek show.

And now, after seeing the first two episodes, I can’t wait to have a weekly Sunday night TV date.  Everybody is talking about it – it’s great.

If you haven’t seen the episodes yet, go and watch them.  Judge for yourself whether it has a “Star Trek” message or not (I think the jury is still out on that).