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Is Star Trek undergoing an identity crisis with Star Trek: Discovery?

Star Trek: Discovery group shot
Star Trek: Discovery is finally here, but how it goes down with fans remains to be seen

Today sees the launch of CBS All Access’s new Trek series Star Trek: Discovery, which there is no safety from with condoms or magic pills.

Once you watch, you’re infected. I’m referring to the initials of the new series, which break down as STD.

But that is pretty much a small problem when compared to the litany of issues that the new series has brought up with the fanbase at large.

As we all know, there is an element of Star Trek fandom that can be very nit-picky.

As a fan who remembers the original series and all the incarnations that followed on, I can see their point of view.

But being somewhat of a pragmatist I can also see the point of view of the makers of the show.

They have to do a series which can compete with other genre television projects that are out there.

Star Trek no longer has the monopoly on being the only science fiction and fantasy series on television. It has to stand out from the crowd.

It is this point where I think CBS has a problem, and it is also this point where I am inclined to agree with some of the points fans are making about the new show.

But at the same time, I want to keep an open mind and see a few episodes to decide if I like it or not.

Star Trek as a series in all its incarnations has always been progressive with a message of hope for our future.

It was a show that gave us a vision of what our future could look like if we chose to put aside petty prejudices such as race, religion, and politics and just pulled together for the benefit of all.

It was a vision that showed a somewhat liberal future in which humanity had evolved beyond the acquisition of wealth and material things but instead set out in the pursuit of knowledge.

Granted, the United Federation of Planets as featured in the series had some issues with Klingons and Romulans and had to battle the Borg along the way.

But throughout it all, they continue to look ahead and strive for a better future, which included better relations with other alien races.

This new series, Star Trek: Discovery, from the little fans have seen and heard, looks like moving a little away from that vision and trying to do a Game of Thrones-style show set in space.

Which is an approach very much against what Star Trek is to a lot of people.

Ever since it was announced that Executive Producer Bryan Fuller had left the series due to alleged creative differences, everything we have seen has been a huge change from what a Star Trek show should look and feel like in the prime universe, which is when this show is supposedly set.

For those not in the know, the prime universe is everything to do with Star Trek up until the J.J. Abrams movie in 2009, which essentially rebooted the original series characters with limited success.

I say limited because it only lasted for three movies and it never had the fan base fully onside. It had always divided fans because it relied more on the Star Trek memes that we had seen in Family Guy or in Beer commercials.

Things like “beam me up Scotty” and the like. In a nutshell J.J. Abrams’ three Star Trek movies was Star Trek for the mass audience and as such it was very much dumbed down and took a more Star Wars approach. A case of style over substance.

I’m in the school of thought that Star Trek has always been more at home on television, where you can really get under the skin of the characters and really look at issues of the day.

In a movie, you only have about two hours to tell a story. Which means you lose things like good character beats and character arcs and plots.

Star Trek: Discovery has pretty much divided fans with things like changes to the Klingons and changes to the uniforms.

The series claims to be set ten years before Kirk and Spock and their adventures on board the U.S.S. Enterprise.

We know that in this timeline, the Enterprise 1701 is around and is probably commanded by Captain Christopher Pike who is on his first 5-year mission.

According to Star Trek canon, Pike served two five-year tours as Captain and he was the second man to command the ship before Kirk took it over.

As you can see below, the contrast between that era’s uniforms and those worn in Discovery are quite extreme.

A picture of the pre-Captain Kirk Star Trek
This is what Star Trek uniforms looked like 10 years before Kirk took command of the Enterprise. Is Discovery really set in this timeline?
The Star Trek: Discovery cast
This is a big deviation from uniforms worn in the Prime Universe. So they even have pockets?

Another issue with Discovery is the revelation that Lt Michael Burnham, the main character, is Spock’s human adopted sister.

We think they have done this in order to sex the story up a little for newer fans, but it doesn’t really gel given that Spock never ever mentioned the fact that he had a sister.

Funnily enough though, Spock is rather famous for not mentioning his familial relationships. He has form. In the original series episode Amok Time, we learnt that Spock has a wife, T’Pring.

In Star Trek: The Final Frontier we learnt that Spock has a half-brother named Sybok.

Neither of these people was mentioned until they materialized. So it’s not too much of a reach that he has a human adopted sister.

Spock and his wife
Spock sprung a wife on us in the original series episode Amok Time. Prior to that, he never mentioned that he had a wife. He’s such a devil!

The big issue for many is the new Klingons. The show’s producers have defended this change by saying that these new Klingons are from an ancient house.

If that is truly the case, then they better have the crew encounter Klingons from the prime timeline so that fans can have an easier time of swallowing the Kool-Aid. It only makes sense right?

A Klingon from the prime timeline
This is what a Klingon should look like if this show is in the prime timeline. Enterprise established that a virus caused Klingons to lose their brow ridges in this particular point in time
A Klingon from Star Trek: Discovery
A Klingon as seen in Star Trek: Discovery. He seemingly contracted an STD and got his ridges back.

So I end by asking, is Star Trek undergoing an identity crisis?

Is this potentially Star Trek’s final frontier?

At the end of the day, I will watch with an open mind. But if it is bad, then I will not likely watch beyond a couple of episodes — especially if it tries to take a Game of Thrones approach.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Game of Thrones. But I also love Star Trek. The two shows, when at their best, do their own thing.

I know one thing — it will be interesting viewing.

I guess we’ll have to watch and hope that the writers are able to justify their changes in such a way that they fit in with what has come before and what is supposed to happen at this point in the prime time line.

I know that some fans will keep on hating regardless, but there are also fans with cooler heads that want to give a new Star Trek series a chance.

It is generally the latter that find a way to work around the changes so they can enjoy the shows based on their own merits.

If they use time travel or some sort of temporal reason for these changes, you’ll hear a collective groan from the fans as if to say “not again”.

Time travel is something that Star Trek has been guilty of using a bit too much in recent years.

The Star Trek: Discovery world premiere is at 8:30/7:30c on CBS and CBS All Access. The rest of the season airs on CBS All Access only.

Ian Cullen is a TV journalist and when not writing for monstersandcritics.com runs his own website SciFiPulse. He has also written for Star Trek Magazine.... read more

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