Star Trek: Discovery first thoughts

The pilot is out in the wild at last, and it’s time to tell you what I think. There be spoilers below.

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This was very much a mixed bag for me, and it’s really too early to tell what I really think of the show. What was executed was executed well, but is it Star Trek or ActionTrek?  I hate a lot of things because they are different than what had been rather firmly established. Luckily for me, I knew about pretty much all of it going in, so there were only a couple unpleasant surprises. However, I do really hate the things I knew I would really hate, so to get that all out of my system first I’m going to go into deep spoiler territory and do lots of complaining, so this is your last chance to turn back. Basically everything from a visual design standpoint that’s different from the original series and Enterprise without looking like an evolutionary link between the two bothers me. (The hand phasers look fine.)

The Klingons are the biggest problem. Their ship designs and physical appearance are vastly different in every way from what we’re used to. Everything looks wrong, and supposedly this was going to be because these Klingons were isolated and on their own following ancient customs and whatnot, but the rest of the Klingons barely look any different. They’re all bald, and absolutely none of them wear the style of clothing that we’re used to from other shows. And the prosthetics are so thick and covering that it makes the actors’ jobs harder.

OH AND LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT CLOAKING DEVICE. I was really annoyed when I saw it. For those that are unaware, during the run of the original series, Romulans traded the Klingons cloaking technology for their D7 Battlecruiser design. The first time we see a Klingon ship use a cloak is during the Animated Series. Sure, Enterprise played fast and loose with cloaking technology thanks to time travel, showing that Romulans had at least primitive cloaking tech a century before Starfleet was supposed to encounter it. Since most of this is only conjecture from Spock, they’re probably retconning it because it’s a more loose fact and I’m sure helps them tell the story they want to tell or there’d be no point. This could easily be an old Suliban or Romulan cloak scavenged and eventually spread amongst other ships. Here we’re really not messing with anything Enterprise didn’t.

Now that I’m done dumping on the Klingons problems, it’s time to switch to Starfleet. Their ship designs start out close to the norm and quickly deviate heavily into unfamiliar territory in ways that don’t make sense for objects in space. Lots of hard angles, busying up the hull, and oh yes Discovery having instead of a saucer, a sphere within a saucer, within a saucer, with at most 4 narrow hallways connecting one section to the next. This GREATLY increases the surface area of the outer hull in ways that reduce the volume of the ship. Any attempt to make sense of that is bound to be extremely convoluted. Unless it’s a prison ship… which makes no sense in Starfleet….

Next up is a quick stop to the uniforms. I get why you’d want something flashier than the velour shirts of the original series, but to make something so vastly different than anything we’ve seen is frustrating. I know I can’t tell gold from bronze on that outfit. Now while that is what it is, the thing that really annoys me about them are the tiny rank pins on the chest insignia. They’re almost impossible to see, AND they’re a rank style used first in TNG (and then also for Enterprise because it was just so much clearer than the cuff bands). Not only does this deviate from cuff-band ranks we know are used before and after these uniforms, but the pips on the insignia are even HARDER to make out than the cuff bands had been.

My last real gripe with the show is that Sarek of Vulcan is in it at all. The premise is that the main character lost her family in a Klingon raid many years ago, and for some reason instead of returning the orphan to Earth, Sarek decided to raise this emotional and traumatized human himself. The big continuity problem here so far (they claim they’ll take care of this) is not that Spock never mentions she exists. It’s been well established that Spock, like many Vulcans, does not divulge pretty much any personal information unless it’s necessary. The problem here is that when we first met Sarek fifty years ago, he and Spock were not on speaking terms because he was in Starfleet. Now, would a father so unhappy with his son’s choice of vocation adopt a human & then throw her at Starfleet as an adult?

MIND MELD TIME. Okay, Vulcans tend to greatly distaste using mind melds with emotional races. Now if her life were on the line it would make sense, and I believe it’s what they were going for when they depicted it, but I don’t buy it. That wouldn’t be the FIRST THING Sarek tried unless we knew everyone else was dead and there was nobody to provide basic medical attention. BUT THEN USING THIS CONNECTION TO HAVE A TELEPATHIC CONVERSATION ACROSS LIGHTYEARS?! REALLY?! This must be something they’re going to use repeatedly in the show because the one instance we’ve seen of it so far would have just been as easily done with the fragment of his katra left behind from the initial meld, with her meditating to reach it. I trust them to have done their homework enough to know not to make stuff up just because they feel like it, but instead because there’s a story purpose behind it.

Okay. I don’t feel any better getting all that out, but it’s out in the open and now I can focus on the rest of the show. Ignoring everything I think about the Klingons, this could easily be the strongest Star Trek pilot ever. Encounter at Farpoint has the best argument, but once you go there you have to deal with “PAIN. SUFFERING.” Farpoint did have a more “Star Trek” versus “Action Trek” story though. And again if I think about the Klingon stuff it probably loses solidly to TNG. Michelle Yeoh is an amazing captain and I’m not surprised they killed her off because she would’ve stolen the show. The cast is great, they do a great job, and even though you can feel the show careening into ActionTrek territory, it did a great job of being about the exploration of the unknown where ever it fit. The Klingons were all well acted and their story was absolutely fine. I just hate their outward redesign, but it’s nice to see there are actually still Klingons under the hood.

I’m not gonna lie that seeing the lead black woman at the end get court-martialed and imprisoned for shit Kirk & other guys would do ALL THE DAMN TIME kinda pissed me off. Granted, her captain wasn’t around to offer any defense on her behalf, but still… Discovery may be a world where that doesn’t happen unjustly anymore, but today was full of reminders in the real world of how much a problem that is for far too many people.

I’m very curious to see where Discovery goes from here. This is one of those things that I really can’t judge properly until I’ve seen more of the show, and where it goes from here could be handled very well or very poorly. And since it’s 100% relevant, here’s Axanar’s review of Discovery.

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In lieu of something of substance, here’s a bunch of Star Trek Online screenshots. Meara is teething/not sleeping so I really can’t handle anything requiring more thought.

Also, since their 30-year history of events between Star Trek Nemesis and the beginning of the game is no longer in an easy-to-digest format, here’s a PDF of History 102 – The Path to 2409, stylized as an in-universe Starfleet Academy file. It’s LARGE.

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President-Elect Fuckface von Clownstick

I’ve started trying to write this post many times, and each time the fullness of the insanity of it all floors me. It’s been five days and I still can’t wrap my head around this. The problem is so complex that it defies proper analysis. I said very early on Wednesday that the country just put a loaded gun to its head and pulled the trigger. Whether it turns out the chamber was empty or not remains to be seen, but we were told it was loaded and shot anyway. May the gods have mercy on us all.

“Faith of the Heart”

vlcsnap-2016-08-14-23h07m18s398.pngMany people either love or hate Star Trek Enterprise, and the same can be said of its theme song. I definitely fall into the latter category on its theme. The only Star Trek theme (so far) to have lyrics, being an outright pop song felt wrong on many levels. It fit with what they were trying to do, but it just didn’t feel right. As is often the case with things like that, you can get used to it and move on, but halfway through the show they felt the need to jazz it up, and made it that much worse in the process.

To make matters worse, around the same time that they changed this, they released THIS VIDEO on StarTrek.com…

The majority of the comments at the time were “WHY ISN’T THIS THE OPENING CREDITS?!?” and I definitely include myself in that. Now that I was adding my own fan edits to my Plex server, I decided to undergo the massive undertaking of recreating this in HD and then replacing the opening credits with it in every episode. I don’t currently have an online copy of the final product, but here’s the second draft. I’d made some slight changes (and used shots from fewer episodes for simplicity).

I left the Mirror episodes with their altered opening sequence intact since those were wonderful. But I turned my attention to “These Are The Voyages…” and gave it the opening sequence it deserved…

The Motionless Picture

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Since it first came out, the first Star Trek film has had a reputation. It’s very shiny with incredible visual effects for its time, back when all effects were still practical. But it drags, and drags, and drags. Behind schedule and over budget, the first draft of the film was the one that made it to theatres, with several effects shots never finished. The plot wouldn’t really even be enough for a 2-part episode in the series, so you end up with lots of visual padding that does nothing to move the plot forward. After discovering fan edits, I thought for sure someone had cut The Motionless Picture down to size, but no dice. I would have to do it myself.

For the DVD release a special Director’s Edition of the film was constructed, finally completing the film after 20 years. Many slight tweaks were made as incomplete shots were realized as they had been envisioned but overall the film was barely changed. However since these changes were made at DVD resolution, they weren’t used for the Blu Ray. For the most part, these were minor changes, and it was worth it not to include them at the poorer resolution. However two of them I felt were rather essential, and upscaled them from the DVD release. After that, it was time to start editing.

One of the first things changed in the Director’s Edition was the opening credits, as the titles are instantly replaced with the next in sequence with no transitions. Instead they had a more conventional fade in and out (slightly stylized), as well as both changing the credits from white to a more orange color and putting a star field behind it. I did the best I could to restore these changes, and went one further; while the original film listed most of the original series actors at once, I changed the speed of the entire sequence to give them all their names standing alone. It made no sense to me that actors from the original show got smaller credits than characters added for this film.

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With this complete, my goal was to improve the pacing as much as possible without completely modernizing it; cutting shots that served no real purpose and reducing many of the absurdly long effects shots to a few seconds in length. Most notably, I cut two of the three passes Kirk and Scotty make around the Enterprise. We’re going to see it again in a few minutes anyway, and the faster I could get the Enterprise into V’Ger the better. Throughout the first part of the film I cut extra time between dialogue to make things feel more like real conversations. With JUST these cuts I removed HALF AN HOUR of the film. I lost maybe three or four words of dialogue, and each instance it was Shatner repeating himself at least once.

With the pacing changes complete, I focused on the upscaled Director’s Edition shots I was putting in. These shots were so important because they were the ONLY actual shots of V’Ger’s ship, which they had run out of time and money to build properly the first time around. And seeing this for the first time blew my mind, as did seeing this ship again in Star Trek Online.

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While there were a handful of other VFX tweaks it would’ve been nice to include, I’m happy with saving these two. I’m still amazed that cutting next to no dialogue let me remove an entire half hour of the film. The edit is available to view on my Plex server.

Write your elected officials

After this weekend’s violence I can’t stand the thought that we’ll continue to do nothing to address this issue. And while my elected officials have proven time and again to be on the same page as me on this issue, I felt compelled to contact them anyway, and I urge you to do the same. I’ll even make it easy for you. Below are the links to contact your representatives in the House and Senate, as well as the letter I sent this morning to all three of my elected officials in Congress. Change it as appropriate or just copy-paste it if you want.

House of Representatives

United States Senate

Representative and Senators,

After what happened yesterday I need to talk to you about gun violence despite your records on it. I need to make sure I’ve done what I’m asking others to do when their elected officials would think differently. I can’t process what occurred early Sunday morning, and it’s impairing my ability to function normally. I can’t understand why so very many of these events have happened without Anything being accomplished to deal with them. And I can’t handle the thought that nothing still will be done after this massacre.

The road from where we are now and where we need to be is long, and I’m sure we all  want to get there, but we need to START DRIVING no matter what gear we can get the car into for now. We know the majority of Americans want universal background checks. From what we know now it sounds like that alone wouldn’t have helped specifically this time, but it’s a start we can all agree on.

Next there are three things we SHOULD do that there will be more debate on. The fact that the most lethal gun in the world was an 18th century musket when the Bill of Rights was written should be taken into account, and an assault weapons ban implemented. There is no good reason for any citizen to have an AR-15 that functions when it can do so much harm. We also need to make sure DOMESTIC VIOLENCE offenders cannot purchase guns. With either of these laws in place yesterday’s shooter wouldn’t have had legal access to one or both firearms he had on Sunday.

And finally we need to permit the CDC to study gun violence and supply them with adequate funding to do so. I know the counter argument is that the CDC has nothing to do with guns, which is why the ban was implemented to begin with. But gun violence IS a disease in this country, and it’s claiming half of my town’s population (25,000) nationwide each year. If all those deaths happened in one place we would be horrified, and we should be no less horrified when it happens spread out by distance and time.

Thank you for your time.

“Why didn’t anyone stop Hitler?”

I’ll try to make this brief. Nobody wants me to talk about this but it needs to be said and you need to hear me out even if you don’t agree.

If you’re not white, Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign has put your life in actual fucking danger. And somehow, he’s probably going to be the nominee of a major political party. How we got here is important but isn’t what I’m here to talk about. If you care at all for the lives of your fellow citizens, you owe it to them to vote for whomever is on the top of the Democratic ticket in November, even if that is Hillary Clinton.

I don’t like Hillary Clinton and I haven’t for years. I’m not going to list why, but she’s never my first choice for anything. I know many voters can’t stand her or outright hate her, but this election you need to do your duty for your country and do whatever it takes to stop Trump. Even if that means voting for Clinton, and even if that goes against everything you would normally believe. The hate and violence being spawned by Trump has led to beating and murders already. Neighborhoods with no recent issues of racism are having problems, and there is a very, very real likelihood that it will get worse before it gets better.

If you’re having problems with the thought of voting for Clinton, call up any non-white (or Muslim) friend and ask them how they feel about Trump’s campaign. And then ask yourself if their safety is less important than voting for the “lesser evil.”