SDCC 2017: What We Learned From The STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Panel

Awesome trailer included!

Of all the things I’ve been excited to see at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, the Star Trek: Discovery panel was always at the top of that list. It turns out that I take Star Trek very seriously, and this new show is surprisingly important to me.

But things have been rotten in Denmark. Just have a look at the prop and costume display I wrote about recently.

Today was an opportunity for those in charge of the show to state their mission and alleviate worries fans have had about the show in the last year. I hate to be negative, but they didn’t achieve that. On the other hand, this trailer they showed us is kind of awesome, just in terms of new televised (sort of) science fiction:

Intensity! Action!  And this:

“You’re mad.”

“I’m Mudd.”

I can’t figure out of that’s lame or awesome.

In either case, I think this looks like a decent show. I also think it looks nothing like Star Trek.

Once the trailer ended and everyone got onstage, it was finally time to hear all these people speak up for their Star Trek show. From the first question (how do you square the fact that this is a prequel but looks so much more advanced than TOS?), things didn’t go well. The answer to that one boiled down to lip service about how you can’t make a show today on ‘60s aesthetics. I agree. So why make a prequel? A lot of energy was spent ensuring us that the canon would be respected, but who cares if you can’t believe on a fundamental level that this took place before TOS?

We heard over and over again how Discovery was going to dig deeper into things than Trek has in the past. Klingon culture, Sarek struggling with emotions, going for serialized, emotional story, dynamic relationships between characters… I got a very distinct impression that the context going into this show totally ignores any of the post-TOS shows.

This is a problem, if true, and indicates a willingness to leave big-time Trek fans behind in favor of a new audience. I totally understand the desire to do that. But this is Star Trek. That’s going to sting some people. JJ Abrams was able to sidestep this by including legit Spock and a believable alternative timeline. Discovery doesn’t have those benefits.

This is going to be Jock Trek, the first Star Trek show that bends itself to meet the need of modern television ahead of honoring what Star Trek is. There were some good lines at the panel: Anthony Rapp praised the scripts and added “I I promise you that we passionately believe what we’re doing and will honor what came before” while Alex Kurtzman immediately tried to salve the news that Spock apparently grew up with an adopted human sister (yep) with the pledge “Just be patient with us. We’re aware.”

But it’s not enough for me. And it all comes down to this being a prequel. All the aesthetic differences and weird new takes on Klingons or whatever else would be totally acceptable if this took place in whichever post-Voyager Stardate they chose to go with. I don’t get nerdy about things very often (Statham is in the Furious crew after killing Han? Who cares! It’s fun!), but this is seriously rubbing me the wrong way.

It wasn’t all bad. I do think they’re trying to make a good show. Anthony Rapp revealed that My So-Called Life’s Wilson Crewes will play his love interest, giving Star Trek TV its first gay pairing. Fargo’s Jeff Russo will do the show’s score. There was good talk about maintaining the series’ vision of a utopia (though given that trailer, I don’t really believe it). Douglas Jones displayed his weird alien walk for his character Saru and told a funny story about being fitted for a costume and escaping padding for his flat ass by describing it as more alien than a regular butt (also, my dude has hooves). And there was a super great bit where Jason Isaacs compared his character to previous captains by saying “He’s more fucked up than any of them.”

So there’s all that. I really do think Star Trek: Discovery will be interesting to watch but also get the idea that enjoying it will require a complete removal of New Star Trek! from my expectations. That’s a bummer because if this fails, we’ll have to wait another eternity for more. I walked away from the panel wiht a horrible feeling that this show will piss off folks on both sides of the aisle.