World-Building in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

So, recently I hit the highlight in my writing career – one of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s writers actually responded to me trash-talking their show.

This is huge. Partially because it’s the closest to show-business I’ve ever been, and partially because, if I’m being honest, it feels like validation. After six weeks of dedicating entire minutes of my spare time to pointing out all of the flaws in ‘Discovery’, having one of its writers directly insult me over Twitter is like… it’s like seeing an ex post a vague facebook status about you. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know you’ve gotten to someone.

Anyway, he hasn’t continued our brief four-tweet spat, sadly, but that’s for the best. As much as I like to whinge about the writing on ‘Discovery’, it’s obviously a tough and demanding job, trying to balance the need to produce new, exciting stories without betraying the source material, and I don’t want to berate a fellow creative just because I disagree with how they’ve done things.

No, what I really want to talk about is the world-building in ‘Discovery’, and how it shapes the show’s narrative. Setting’s really important, especially in a serialised narrative such as ‘Discovery’, and this is a topic I’ve wanted to cover for a while.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I could continue the twitter argument with Mr Sullivan. It would hardly be difficult to address the fact that he used the phrase “big budget” to make himself seem more important. And it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that maybe a little more of that budget should’ve been spent on the writing staff.

But I don’t want to make comments like that. I want to take the high road, and keep this civil. I want to talk about high-brow things, like how a show’s setting informs the decisions of its characters. I don’t want to get into a petty tit-for-tat, where I sarcastically thank him for sarcastically praising my knowledge of television writing, and then suggest that we have so much in common and that we truly are brothers in creative arms.

Exchanges like that are petty, and beneath me. I mean, I COULD point out the delicious beauty of the fact that his profile picture is him sat in front of a pair of two-dimensional characters, and ask him if he intentionally wrote ‘Discovery’s characters with the same level of depth. I’m just saying, that’s a thing I COULD do, but I won’t. ‘Cause I’m classy.

And the temptation is there. It’s there in force. Oh! how I crave to sink to the level of pointless rebuttals and insult-slinging. But that isn’t me. That’s not something I’d do. I feel the urge to ask if substituting “clueless” for “crude” is the kind of wordplay that qualifies a person to write for a Star Trek show. I pine to request a job on the writing staff, based on the fact that I once rhymed “Lorca” with “Orca“, and must therefore be in the running for a top-tier script job. But that’s an awfully pedestrian way to conduct myself.

No, I won’t make fun of him. Maybe he was just sticking up for his colleagues when he lashed out. No, I won’t make fun of him! Do you hear? You’ll have to get your entertainment someplace else! I’m not about to sully my own website with some tawdry, crass and adolescent smack-talking session, I’m not that… ah… crude. Oh.

And let’s just be honest with ourselves, the insult tree is ripe for picking when it comes to the writers of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. Hell, I wouldn’t even need to reach beyond the confines of the Star Trek universe itself to let them know what I really think of them. Sure, I could quote Mr Sullivan on his ‘After Trek’ experience, when he claimed that the next episode will be on par with ‘Balance of Terror’. I could ask him if he actually meant ‘Spock’s Brain’, or ‘The Outrageous Okona’. I could suggest that I’m glad to see such diversity in modern Star Trek shows, and congratulate him on being the first Pakled to hold a regular writing position on a major TV series.

And sure, I could question how he has time to respond to a two-bit twitter troll like me when there are still episodes of ‘The Expanse’ that remain unplagiarised. Or maybe I could just send him a link to the Merriam-Webster definition of subtext and suggest he instead devote his time to understanding it. Hell, I could have just sent him the Amazon link to ‘Children of Dune’ with the tagline “Hey, I just found a great documentary about Discovery’s spore drive!” but I wouldn’t do something like that.

These are such trivial, quotidian matters, when there are much grander themes to discuss! Wouldn’t you rather me engage in a more academic exploration of why the political and social background of a story gives it the structure it needs to truly resonate with an audience? Would you not prefer me to detail why the nature of a fictional civilisation adds context and meaning to the actions of its inhabitants?

Surely you’d prefer that to me throwing playground insults at a poor, overworked writer? Insults like “Well the big budget might buy special effects but it clearly can’t buy a compelling narrative,” or “If you’re so worried about adhering to canon, try not writing for a franchise with almost 800 previous instalments,” or “Don’t worry, nobody thinks this is a real Trek show anyway.” Aren’t we all above that? Are we not all better than that?

No, let me focus on the real matters, let me write about the important subjects, the subjects which matter to me, as a writer. Let me enthuse about my craft, and in so doing shed light upon the manner in which careful, considered world-building can lay the foundation for a truly fantastic story.

Because, you see, there’s hardly any world-building in ‘Discovery’, and there really should be more. It’s such a shame.

3 thoughts on “World-Building in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

  1. And we’re now at the point where I’m getting more enjoyment from your posts than episodes of Discovery.
    I like how it’s the budget that’s holding them back going off their tweet. Like if this was a low budget indie sci-fi show they would be pushing all sorts of boundaries in plot, character and writing but they have too much money for that so the higher ups have ordered they make a bland, copy and paste grim, dark, action show. Like the more I think about that the less sense it makes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re getting something out of the show, however indirectly. And yes, it’s a bit strange, isn’t it? If only someone would come along and take their money away from them! Then we might see a good story or two.

      Liked by 1 person

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