The thing that drew a global audience to Star Trek in the first place was its… well, if not rosy view of the future, certainly an attainable one, with a little clarity of purpose and good ol’ fashioned elbow grease. One where the human adventure is just beginning, where all of human history has culminated in Jim Kirk and his boys looking up and going out there. Thataway. Confidently having mostly figured their shit out and leaving the home and hearth and seeing what they can learn and discover and walk the walk of the three most important words… even more important that “I love you.” Anybody who’s ever watched the show knows that’s “Let me help.”
But part of being able to confidently offer help is to be confident you’re able to. That you’re coming from a bedrock place of philosophically sound foundation. And that’s what this iteration of the IP is missing. Compared to Lower Decks, which knows exactly what it is and turns it up to eleven and blows the doors off, Discovery has robots in the hallway and CGI badge displays and plug-in tech on everybody’s foreheads and it’s all there to remind you that humans are fragile creatures and we’re all alone in the universe and instead of a hand up to better things we all should just cling to each other in hopelessness. Which is why everybody is always crying and sad when you can figure out whatever they’re all on about in the first place.
There is nothing more illustrative of this point than playing for comedy Captain Saru’s self-conscious talk with Acting First Officer Ensign Tilly about some kind of action-oriented catchphrase to use as motivation for the bridge crew. You can tell that whoever is ultimately in charge of what gets on the screen over there has never been in a leadership position of any kind in the real world, because they think small character moments of indecision should be large moments of import. And if you can’t sell it with dialogue, just cover it up with an orchestral swell and the audience will be fooled into going along with it.
There is no world where a military commander, the head of a law firm, the supervisor of a four-man granite cutting crew, an owner of a small business with a couple of employees, or even a den mother of a Cub Scout group would workshop a catchphrase in front of those whose command is predicated on their people’s belief in the righteousness of their leadership. It undermines Saru’s authority and is everything wrong with this show in the first place. Philosophically, this Starfleet comes from a place of weakness if not outright villainy. At this rate, the mirror universe version of these guys should be fifth season TNG where every episode is a classic, week after week.
In a show where everyone is sporting Google Glass and wearable computing or whatever, you need to give the Andorian some cool-ass bionic antennae or have a bit of dialogue why he doesn’t want them. This incessant wishy-washy-ness of the premise, filled with timid and hesitant and downright scared little children as main characters is just the anti-Star Trek. The sooner this failed experiment in format goes away and they get back to producing confident characters sure of what they’re doing and why, the better. Oh, yeah, sure; Star Trek has always reflected the time in which it has been produced, and now is pretty shitty. But the thing Kurtzman and his people miss is that the reflection Star Trek has always shown off was humans and their friends at their best in an uncertain world. We’re not going to kill… today. The present iteration of the concept has humans and their friends being uncertain in an uncertain world, and that is absolutely not the point of escapist entertainment. These guys are writing The Joker in a world that desperately needs Superman.
And I liked that cosmically pervasive musical repetition the first time I heard it when it was “All Along the Watchtower.” Come on.