My earliest memory of Star Trek was sitting on the cold linoleum floor of a family friends farmhouse, nestled amongst acres and acres of tall lush green sugar cane, in regional central Queensland. This was in the early ’80s and I think I would have been 7 or 8, We had 2 channels, the national public broadcaster, and the local commercial station. Which was (I assume to fill a scheduling gap) playing Star Trek: The Original Series at about 6:30 in the morning. Sitting crossed legged with a bowl in cereal in my lap in front of the TV. I was totally enthralled; I had never seen anything like it. A crew that comprised of people from many different cultures and aliens, all working together for the common good. It was mesmerizing and not just the array of blinking lights and screens. I was completely engaged and started what was a lifelong love of not just Trek, but all science fiction. The episode was No Truth in Beauty (TOS:S3
In my middle age, in a world of intersectionality, political correctness, #metoo, Antifa, Trumpian politics, LGBTQ, culture wars, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, the rise of ultra-nationalism, and the megaphone social media gives all these different points of beliefs and ideas, it is getting harder and harder to be tolerant of ideas which I fundamentally disagree with. (Except Nazis… it’s really hard to be tolerant of Nazis!) I could talk at length about the philosophy of Trek and its place in the modern world and indeed one day I might. But for the moment, the thing which I have been thinking a lot about, as new seasons of both Star Trek: Discovery and Seth MacFarlane’s “Orville” have dropped and the flood of different ideas, comments, criticisms flood my feed. I need to ask a simple question, why is change bad? Why does a reinterpretation of an established universe cause people to become completely apoplectic?
When the synopsis of Star Trek: Discovery was released and we were introduced to Michael Burhan, the adopted sister of Spock and the daughter of Sarek fans all the world over lost their minds. “Why have we never heard of her before?” and when the first episode aired, the list of things people complained about seemed never ending….the aesthetic of the Klingons, the aesthetic of the ships, the uniforms, (I’m still undecided on the uniforms, but how can you not love a sweatshirt that says “DISCO”, as part of your kit) and the technology not aligning with that original TOS. “This is terrible, is this isn’t Star Trek and if you like then your not a real fan” was one of the comments thrust in my general direction. Self-appointed gatekeepers of any fandom drive me nuts, I don’t decide what level of knowledge or commitment makes you a fan. If you’re a fan you’re a fan, and we can enjoy it together, but when I have to try to justify my enjoyment of Trek to someone, it makes me want to introvert at a professional level, to me at least contradicts the very idea of the IDIC.
Look I don’t know how an internal combustion engine works, but I can explain the operation of a warp drive and I understand that we all get different things from the series.
What I don’t enjoy is being told that I’m wrong to like Michael Burnham’s back story, or that M
I think is that when a new series or movie comes along and it expands on, or changes an established universe, it’s an assault on your memories and the feelings those memories engender. You want the familiar, comfortable, the good, the upright, the just, the kind, empathetic, and most importantly you want there to continuity and to have it make sense, in the context of the universe you understand to be true.
For a lot of fans Michael being inserted into an existing timeline and relationships which for a lot of people was clearly defined, was a change that they didn’t enjoy. To be honest the writers of discovery could have really made a hash of it but in my opinion, they have threaded that needle particularly well. Episode 6, Lethe goes deeper into the relationship between Sarek and Michael, and as a result, you discover the reason that Sarek disapproved of Spock joining Starfleet, and season 2 is clearly set on exploring Michael’s relationship with Spock.
This is why I think Orville has been met with much fondness by the Star Trek community. Don’t get me wrong I think it stands up as good sci-fi in its own right, but you have to admit it very much foster a sense of the familiar, the known, the comfortable. Let’s face it’s…Star Trek: lite, but with a sense of humor based on the wonderful and yet flawed cast of characters that crew the EVC-197, as they deal with allegories of important social issues of today, which is at its core, is what Star Trek, has always been about. The original series push boundaries and broke ground in ways that I don’t think the CBS executive of the time really understood. Orville is not free of detractors, either. I saw a recent post that claimed it was just an excuse for Seth MacFarlane to be self-indulgent. Frankly, why shouldn’t he be? The man has been responsible for the creation of some of the funniest and most memorable TV characters of my generation and if he couldn’t get onto a series a Trek, then damn it why not make his own. I would if I were in his position.
We should just remember the IDIC. Just because it’s not the Trek you remember, doesn’t make it wrong, or the people that enjoy it any less of a fan than you. If you disagree then just disagree and talk about it, maybe you will find something your both like or both dislike, but be respectful and embrace change. Talk about how great cadet Tilly is or if there might be more to the Spock, Michael, Sarek relationship that deepens the rift between father and son, or how the uniforms have
“Come, come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.” – Jim Kirk