Roland Emmerich (‘Independence Day’, ‘2012’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’) today announced his next big blockbuster project, titled ‘Now’. and due to release every year for the next fifty-to-one-hundred years. Starring Jake Gyllenhal, Judd Hirsch, Vivica Fox and every other living human on the planet, this new project looks set to be a big hit.
Emmerich: “We were working hard coming up with ideas for some kind of horrifying, climactic end for humanity. Then I saw one of the writers gazing out of the window , and suddenly I realised, ‘Hey, that’s it! That’s the scariest disaster we could possibly show!”
Pushing the boundaries of contemporary film-making, ‘Now’ is set to have an indefinite run-time, although it’s likely to end sometime before any of us get chance to die from old age. Emmerich was also excited to talk about the film’s unique presentation style, following in the footsteps of other directors such as Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino.
Emmerich: “A lot of people are going to call it a gimmick or a fad, like Peter’s 48fps thing or Tarantino’s 72mm schtick for ‘Hateful Eight’, but what we’re doing with this one is really part of the whole experience, it shapes it, really uniquely. What we’re doing is allowing the audience to watch the calamity unfold, in ultra-high-def, fully-immersive 3D, and at 100% real-time, with the eye’s natural framerate of up to 60fps.”
Emmerich explained further, covering the radical alterations that most movie theatres will need to make to accommodate his new film.
Emmerich: “It’s just gonna be a big window. One massive hole in the wall. We’re considering putting glass in, but there’s also plenty of opportunity for the full 4D experience, where audiences can actually feel the global temperatures getting higher for themselves, and smell the decay of society as it wafts into the auditorium. I want everyone to be able to feel the increased intensity of each successive hurricane, and watch as arable soil turns to dusty wasteland – I want them to taste the ashes of global conflict as they fall from the sky.”
Concerns have been raised by the studio over whether audiences will be willing to endure a possibly endless show, running for years and years as the inevitable collapse of society approaches. Emmerich was untroubled by these concerns, stating flatly “The audience will have no choice but to sit through it.”
So keep an eye out for ‘Now’, the exciting new cinema experience, as it hits your nearest cinema. Critics are already giving it rave reviews, having unwittingly experienced it already for at least the last decade.
“You may as well pay to see another fucking Emmerich indulge-athon,” said one movie reviewer, “it’s not as though money’s going to mean anything in a few years’ time anyway. I don’t even give a shit if it’s any good or not, I’m going to use my savings to buy as much cocaine as possible and spend whatever time I have left smashed off my tits, rolling from one sweaty orgy to another until my heart gives out. It’ll be better than waiting for the lakes to dry, or for that nutter in the White House to fuck us all with an endless trade war. Or an actual war.”
Shock and surprise for sci-fi fans today as Warner Bros announced that they will soon be starting production on a brand new ‘Babylon 5’ TV series, under the direction and creative control of Zack Snyder (‘Man of Steel’, ‘300’, ‘The Justice League’) and starring Mark Wahlberg and Melissa McCarthy, to be released in Fall next year.
Also confirmed to be on board with the project so far are Damon Lindelof, who will be leading the writing team, J.J. Abrams as Executive Producer, and Aubrey Plaza playing an as-yet unnamed character.
At a Warner Bros-hosted press conference, showrunner Zack Snyder confirmed his excitement to be working on this new series, which he confirmed will be a reboot of the cult-classic sci-fi show which first aired in 1994.
Zack Snyder: “This is such a great project to be involved in. This will be my first television project, my first series, and I’m really looking forward to it. I love anything to do with space, and science fiction, and I can’t wait to get started filming on what’s going to be a fantastic, mind-blowing show.”
Questioned about what plans had already been made for the new, rebooted Babylon 5 series, Snyder revealed a few interesting details.
Snyder: “We really want to capture what made the original Babylon 5 so special, and so loved by fans, so Damon [Lindelof] and I, we sat down and really tried to distill the core themes. Obviously, war is a huge one, this big military conflict, so we want to bring those big, iconic space battles to life, with modern day special effects and CGI.”
On the exact nature of the reboot, and what sort of themes might emerge, Damon Lindelof had some insight.
Damon Lindelof: “Obviously we want to stay loyal to the original show, and all the incredible drama and tension that it was so well known for. A lot of the original show focused heavily on political intrigue and that sort of thing, but we think the fans really want a more action-packed, emotionally intense story, with more direct conflict between the characters.”
One of the biggest surprises was the casting of Mark Wahlberg (‘Planet of the Apes’, ‘Pain & Gain’, ‘Transformers 5’) as the show’s lead, replacing Bruce Boxleitner as Commander John Sheridan. Snyder was enthusiastic about this casting choice.
Snyder: “This is a big, big stamp of approval for the show, getting such a massive star like Mark involved. Like me, Mark is new to TV drama, but he’s the kind of big-screen actor who will bring a really cinematic feel to everything. […] John Sheridan is a great character, and Bruce [Boxleitner] did a fantastic performance, and we think Mark has the right kind of frenetic, macho energy to live up to that great legacy.”
This will be Wahlberg’s first role in a TV drama series after a lengthy and very successful career in movies. Best known for serious, hard-hitting action roles, his casting as Sheridan gives a strong hint at the direction the new series will go in. Leaked images of costume tests also give us an idea of the aesthetic of the new show, and the cleaner, more modern view of the future it will be presenting.
The other confirmed casting choice is Melissa McCarthy (‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Gilmore Girls’, ‘Saturday Night Live’), who was confirmed to be playing not one, but two of the characters from the original series.
Snyder: “We had real difficulty deciding on what direction to take some of the characters in, like Londo, and G’Kar. These were two really funny, really light-hearted comic relief characters and we didn’t just want to re-tread the same ground. We already had McCarthy on board to play Londo. Then – and this was suggested by Warner Bros – then there was this great idea of why not get her playing G’Kar as well?
“The friendship between these two aliens is such an integral part of the story, why not have them played by the same person? There’s really no better way to build that kind of comedic, buddy-cop chemistry between two characters than if they’re played by the same person. And Melissa, she’s so talented, so so talented, she’s going to make these two roles really stand out, she’s an absolute star.”
The Babylon 5 reboot will mark McCarthy’s first major return to serialised TV since ‘Mike & Molly’. Early concept art for her Londo make-up was leaked at the press conference, to give an idea of some of the aesthetic changes that we’ll see in the 2019 series, along with a pre-production rendering of the CGI makeover that G’Kar and the other Narn will receive.
Snyder: “Of course, once we had Londo and G’Kar cast, then we had to think about the other classic pairing from the old show, Vir and Lennier. And then the guys at Warner Bros had another completely out-of-the-box idea: if you already have Melissa playing Londo and G’Kar, why not have her also playing the other odd couple, Vir and Lennier?”
Lindelof: “Right, right. So then Zack and I, we just looked at each other, and, yeah, it made perfect sense. Melissa is just so wonderful in any role she plays, and we figured, it can’t hurt to have more opportunities to feature such an amazing talent on the show.”
Other roles are yet to be confirmed. No mention was made of who was on board to play the likes of Delenn, Garibaldi, Doctor Franklin, or Ivanova. The only other cast member mentioned by name to be confirmed is Aubrey Plaza, although Snyder was cagey on her role, suggesting only that she is likely to be involved with Commander Sheridan.
Snyder: “We’re thrilled to have Aubrey on board. She’s already a TV veteran, and we have some really interesting stuff planned for her character. I can’t give too much away right now, but she’s going to have a big part to play in all this. Her and Mark [Wahlberg] have a fantastic, intense chemistry together, and the relationship between the two of them is going to be a highlight of the series.”
Whilst details on the story are still being kept strictly behind closed doors, at least until production begins, fans are obviously eager to hear what’s in store for the revamped Babylon 5 and its diverse cast of characters. The invited press leaned heavily on Damon Lindelof to lift the veil a little on what he had in store from a narrative perspective.
Lindelof: “Look, I can’t get into too much right now… Zack, are you… Will you stop me if I go too far…? Okay, alright, I’ll be careful.
“There’s so much mythology that the original series built up, but we really want to use this as an opportunity to tread new ground with this universe. Right at the forefront of the original story was this big, epic war between the Vorlons and the Shadows, and it had these really clearly delineated lines between good and evil. Y’know, angels on one side, demons on the other, really classic ‘war in heaven’ stuff, where we all knew who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.
“We want to break that down a bit, muddy the waters. Modern-day audiences demand a mystery, y’know, secrets, hidden identities and so on, so we’re going to explore that path a little more, move away from the Lord of the Rings-style ‘good and evil’ and really break down those borders, y’know?
“So, the story’s going to start with Commander Sheridan, as I think it should, and he’s… am I okay to talk about this? Alright, so he’s commanding Babylon 5. Now, originally, Babylon 5 was a station, this weird kind of hodge-podge living space to keep peace or whatever. But modern audiences really want things more defined, so we’ve redesigned Babylon 5 to be this awesome new ship, a big battleship, that they use to enforce peace and protect humanity.”
Lindelof: “So this big ship, it’s really badass, and what we’re trying to do is shift the focus away from all of that big mythology stuff and get into the real grittiness of this universe. So Sheridan, he’s not the Sheridan we’re used to, he’s this inquisitor-style character, and he’s using the Babylon 5 to track down these evil rebels, terrorists, basically, breaking away from government rule.
“So that’s the theme we really want to play with, the idea that anyone could be one of these terrorists, even on board his ship, and he never knows who might turn on him. We’re drawing a lot of inspiration from, like, how we feel today, y’know, where there’s terrorists everywhere, and how does the government, like, how does the military, like Sheridan, protect people from them, from those terrorists, what kind of moral compromises do they need to make?
“So we’ve still got some of those great alien characters, like Mondo and Jekkar, but we’re keeping them more as sidekicks, really, as the comic relief they always used to be, kind of just in the background, and the real drama, that’s all going to be human-based. Like, it’s an allegory, metaphorical, y’know? We think fans are going to love it.”
[Zack Snyder nods in agreement]
It seems as though everything’s been thought out well ahead of time, and it looks like there’s a clear direction for the series to go down. But for now, it will presumably be a waiting game until more details are released closer to the first air date.
There wasn’t much more information shared at the press conference, but rumours are already circulating in industry circles about some aspects of the show. Danny Elfman is on record to be in discussion with Warner Bros for a television soundtrack, and many are assuming that he will be composing for the rebooted B5.
And whilst most of the main characters from the old show are yet to be cast, there are already suggestions that the role of the sinister Bester, previously played by Star Trek’s Walter Koenig, may be offered to Snyder-collab Ben Affleck in what would be his first major TV role.
Production is to start soon on the new series with the pilot episode, ‘Do You Bleed?’, set to begin filming early in the new year. All sorts of news may come out between now and then, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Neither J. Michael Straczynski nor any of the original Babylon 5 crew or cast were available for comment at the time of writing.
These days, many women walk around scavenging parts or fixing droids, and they are often carrying big sticks and beating up aggressive thugs at the same time.
Yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them.
Even Captain Phasma who tells you that she would punch a guy for stepping out of formation, will pretty much instantly melt and be nice when a confident guy walks up and compliments her on the glimmering shine of her electrothermic armour.
So, don’t believe the insane rants from Captain Phasma during daily training drills.
Women are way nicer in real life than they are on Starkiller Base or in the indoctrinal hypnovids in basic training.
Here’s the truth…
If a woman with a big stick is a scavenger and hoping to meet a cool Resistance agent, she will usually be happy to help you escape pursuit by TIE Fighters and Storm Troopers so you can get off planet and escape the First Order.
Even if a woman isn’t a scavenger, she will almost always be nice and say hello if a confident, normal guy comes up and says he is a Resistance agent on a secret mission.
She’s not going to react in a crazy, insane way like Captain Phasma would during PT, or some stuck-up power systems technician who accuses you of splashing mop bucket water on her diagnostic tools.
She will be nice and friendly, or at least not hit you too hard if she thinks you stole a jacket.
If the guy is a cool Resistance agent, she will naturally feel some attraction for him and open up further to see where the interaction goes – potentially even helping him to steal a ship get out of the system before being slaughtered by Storm Troopers.
If the guys is a weirdo or a sleaze or a First Order defector, she won’t feel attracted and will naturally close up and want to leave the interaction.
Yet, here’s the thing…
Pretty much every guy out there is not a weirdo or a sleaze or a First Order defector.
Most guys are normal, good Resistance agents and most women are normal, good scavengers with big sticks.
So, when a guy walks up to talk to a woman with a big stick, it’s usually a positive and friendly interaction that can lead to a new romance (e.g. they exchange stories, talk about Luke Skywalker or steal an old freighter and and take it into orbit) or a, “Nice to meet you” as he signs up with an outer rim smuggling ship to escape persecution by his former oppressive masters.
Approaching and Talking to a Woman Who is Carrying a Big Stick
Stand in front of her from quite a distance and watch as she fends off three or four thugs trying to steal her droid.
Have a concerned, worried look, as well as an expression of confusion as you recognise the droid she’s protecting, and start running immediately as she shouts at you and starts chasing you. If you can, head for cover in a large tent.
Most women are polite and friendly but if she does knock you to the ground with her stick, just respond to her interrogation as honestly as you can (but not too honestly, of course).
If she hasn’t smiled at you yet, tell her you’re a Resistance agent and pretend you’re on a secret mission to find Luke Skywalker.
Around this point, you might find that First Order Storm Troopers start looking for you. If they see you, grab the woman by the hand and start running away from the Storm Troopers.
She most likely won’t like it when you grab her hand, but it’s just a way of showing her that you’re trying to save her from Storm Troopers.
She will most likely be grateful for saving her life, but if she isn’t, and she blames you for getting her involved in a deadly pursuit by Storm Troopers, just blame her back for hitting you with a stick in the first place.
Try to get to more cover, to catch your breath. If the Storm Troopers keep chasing you, grab her hand again and start running. If she protests, you should let go, as its important to respect her space.
Then, go ahead and flee towards the nearest spacecraft.
There’s nothing wrong with a man and a woman meeting, having an interrogation, feeling a spark of desperation to survive, exchanging escape plans, fleeing for their lives and getting into a spaceship.
It’s completely normal and happens every day, all over the galaxy.
For example, in a backwater scavenging station, or on a desert planet:
Man: [Smile and say in a friendly, easy-going manner manner] Hey – how you doing? I was walking along and saw you with your droid and thought – wow, that’s the droid I’m looking for, I have to return it to the Resistance as part of the secret mission that I’m definitely on. I’m FN-21-uhhh, I mean, I’m Finn, what’s your name?
Man: [Add in some light humor to get her smiling and create a spark between you] Rey…let me guess. You were going to sell the droid to the First Order, right?
Woman: [Most likely laughing and saying] No, I just refused to sell it to [most likely the nearest junk dealer] 🙂
Man: Oh, that’s cool. You had me worried there. I thought you were like a First Order girl who likes banging heads in villages.
Woman: [Possibly smiling or laughing].
Man: [If you’re in a junk outpost or desert planet, you might let her know that you has something else to do besides talk to her, so she understands that you’re not going to stand there talking to her for 30 minutes] Anyway, I’m just out escaping pursuit by the First Order at the moment. How about you?
If it’s clear that a woman is interested in escaping the First Order with you, keep the conversation going and if she’s not busy at that moment, grab her by the hand before exchanging escape plans and stealing the nearest spaceworthy vessel.
Man: Anyway, so it’s been good chatting to you, but we’re now being pursued by First Order soldiers. Would you like to flee the scene and avoid capture and probable execution?
Woman: Sure, that would be nice.
Man: Okay, cool. [Start running]. Which is the nearest ship we could use to escape? We should steal it before being killed.
Common Mistakes That Guys Make When Approaching Women Who Are Carrying Big Sticks
1. Approaching in a suspicious manner
If you want the interaction to go smoothly and not feel awkward for either of you, make sure that you approach and talk to her in a relaxed, confident, Resistance-agenty manner.
Women are attracted to the moral fortitude of men (e.g. fighting the First Order, secret missions) and turned off by the evil (e.g. being a Storm Trooper, oppressing villagers), so if you are a Storm Trooper or oppressing locals, she probably won’t be interested in talking to you.
For example: If a guy asks a girl to help him escape the First Order and the first words out of his mouth are, “Hi, ummm… I was, ummm… wondering, ummm… sorry to interrupt…how, ummm… are you?” you can guess what will happen next.
Big stick in hand and she’ll likely hit him a few times to get her droid’s owner’s jacket back.
So, be confident for the following reasons:
Understand that it’s perfectly normal for people to escape the First Order together.
Understand that if a woman is a scavenger, she will usually be flattered and excited that a cool, confident Resistance agent like you is approaching her.
Understand that most women are friendly and are not the nasty, crazy psychos that halved your rations for failing to properly clean your weapon like Captain Phasma.
Understand that if you are on a secret mission, she will automatically feel some attraction for you, which will make her start to like you.
Understand that if things go well, you might have yourself a new pilot and if it doesn’t end up that way, you will have been killed by the First Order anyway, which will give you fewer things to worry about in general.
Understand that most women are way easier to escape with than they make themselves out to be. All it usually takes is confidence, a bit of humor a bit of conversation to get an escape plan and get yourself off-planet in a ship.
2. Giving up too easily
Some women carry big sticks because they don’t want anyone (not just the First Order) to kill them.
So, if you try to talk to a woman and she clearly shows that she’s not interested in escaping with you, don’t take it personally.
Sometimes, a woman suffers from abandonment issues, isn’t feeling confident, is waiting for her family and would rather be on Jakku waiting for them to return and so on.
It’s not always your fault.
That said, most women, regardless of what mood they were in before the First Order begain chasing you, will almost always listen and help you find a ship if you are being confident and friendly while running for your lives.
Most of humans are not bad people.
We are inherently good natured, loving, caring people.
There are a few nasty eggs out there, like Captain Phasma, but they are minuscule (metaphorically) in comparison to the good eggs.
Most of the women you will meet in life will be nice, friendly and open to escaping the First Order.
However, here’s what you need to keep in mind to avoid being killed…
Sometimes a woman will be interested in escaping with a guy, but she won’t immediately not hit him with a stick and start running.
Some women like to test to see how much of a Resistance agent a guy is by hitting him with a stick and then seeing what he does next.
Does he become nervous and awkward? Does he run away in desperation, or does he remain calm and grab her by the hand in a confident, man-on-a-secret-mission manner?
If a guy gives up at the first sign of being hit with a stick, a woman like her will begin to lose interest because he seems to lack the type of secret mission that she looks for in a guy.
So, if you are going to talk to a woman with a big stick, just keep in mind that some women will immediately take off with you to escape the First Order, some will make it obvious that they don’t want to be bothered and others might want to talk to you, but first hit you to see if you will remain confident if she doesn’t immediately begin running away with you.
It’s up to you as the man to remain confident and relaxed, regardless of how many Storm Troopers are trying to kill you.
Remember: Sometimes a woman will react in an awkward way because she is social anxious, sometimes she’s not in a good mood and sometimes, she just wants to not get dragged into your desperate life-or-death flight from the First Order.
If you can handle her confidence test and she has been finding it difficult to not get shot in the face by Storm Troopers, then she is going to open up to you and hope that the next ship you encounter isn’t filled to the brim with enemy soldiers forming a boarding party.
3. Not leading the conversation
You have approached her, so you can’t expect her to be the one making all the decisions when she takes off in the nearest freighter.
You’ve got to lead the way and create a simple, easy-to-execute plan to evade the pursuing TIE Fighters and make it to orbit.
4. Sticking to polite or reserved conversation
If a guy gets a woman to take off in a stolen freighter with him and then engages her in a very polite, reserved conversation, she’s probably not going to be confident about her chances of survival.
So, make sure that you have the confidence to man the defense turret, rather than putting on an act of being Mr. Polite or Mr. Nice Guy.
Just let your natural marksmanship and knowledge of TIE Fighter attack patterns come through as you take out the enemy fighters, rather than trying to be too polite or reserved.
5. Not including any flirting
Flirting is the most discreet way for a man and a woman to communicate sexual interest in each other, without actually having to say, “Hey, I’m interested in you in a sexual way and also the defence turret is jammed in position, I need you to give me a clear shot on that last TIE Fighter.”
If a guy doesn’t include any flirting after getting a woman to take off in a stolen freighter with him, she will most likely begin to wonder why he is talking to her if he isn’t interested in her in that way and there are still TIE Fighters in pursuit.
She might then say, “Nice talking to you. Now please shoot the TIE Fighters”, activate the rear shields and zone him out.
So, if your intention is to get off-world so you can possibly unite with the Resistance and escape death, make sure that you attempt to flirt with her and see if she flirts back. Or just shoot the TIE Fighters that are trying to destroy your ship.
If she flirts back, it usually means that she is interested and is open to getting to know you further, once you have escaped the pursuing vessels and can plot a hyperspace jump to safety.
As you may have noticed, women usually don’t go around actively evading Storm Troopers in scavenger outposts or even in bars or cantinas.
Women know that is the man’s role to escape the First Order, and also the woman’s if she, too, is being chased by Storm Troopers.
If a man doesn’t escape execution by the First Order, a woman will rarely escape either if they are captured together.
Of course, some women do escape (e.g. when they have access to a ship, or when suddenly developing an affinity with the Force), but most women are killed as easily as a guy who has the misfortune to be hunted by the First Order.
So, don’t ever think that you’re doing a bad thing by helping a woman escape the First Order, especially if she has skills that will help you escape too, such as innate piloting ability.
Most scavenger women are open to being escaping death, so that they can have a chance to not die.
The key to talking to a woman who is carrying a big stick (or who has her face buried into her job endlessly cleaning scavenged ship parts) is to be confident, relaxed and a Resistance agent as you talk to her.
She might be your Force-sensitive and you and her might together help to destroy an enormous First Order Superweapon, fight a Sith apprentice and complete the map to Luke Skywalker.
If she’s carrying a big stick, the only way to find out is to grab her by the hand and drag her behind you as you flee strafing runs by First Order TIE Fighters.
If you don’t, you might not ever see her again or, she might be blasted into a smoking carcass, along with yourself, as the inexorable First Order lays waste to the entire outpost.
So, don’t worry about the insane commanding officers who think that men and women should not be allowed to reject the First Order’s indoctrination.
Walk over, say hi and get something going between you and her.
But one thing that stood out was the scene where two Storm Troopers talk about Chewbacca eating people. Sure, technically it’s not cannibalism, but we don’t have a word for one sentient being eating another sentient being from a different species, so to satisfy all you bloody pedants out there, and for the sake of brevity, I’m going to call it “Shmannibalism”.
There’s also a scene where Chewie literally dismembers a person. He physically, actually pulls their arms from their body.
Chewbacca is a violent sociopath.
So, you watch ‘Solo’, and then you go and watch ‘A New Hope’ and you’re like… Oh. Han Solo kept the shmannibal as his co-pilot. His co-pilot eats people. And that comment he makes to C-3PO, about Chewie pulling people’s arms out of their sockets when he loses… that wasn’t a joke. Han was talking literally.
Wait, Han Solo’s ship’s computer is a former civil rights activist, who was literally stripped of her bodily autonomy and forced into servitude as the Millennium Falcon‘s satnav?
And suddenly, that lighthearted space adventure with laser swords and magic and starfighters duelling over an enormous space station – it all has a bit of a different tone. Because one of our heroes – our heroes – eats people, and violently dismembers them. He’s as violent and gruesome as Hannibal Lecter.
And also the most famous ship in the franchise is run on slave labour.
And this is the problem with prequels. Prequels change the way we see existing characters, such as:
Turning lovable Wookiees into deranged shmannibals in ‘Solo’.
Turning badass space tyrants into whiny, annoying teenagers played by Hayden Christensen.
A lot of the time, a known (and often popular) character from a franchise will appear in that franchise’s prequel, and a lot of the time it kinda works, either because the character is kept consistent with their original appearance, or because the prequel is divorced enough from the original that it doesn’t quite feel like “canon”. For example:
Obi Wan Kenobi feels like a consistent-enough character from ‘The Phantom Menace’ all the way through to ‘Return of the Jedi’.
Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’ is completely compatible with, even complimentary to, Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
‘Prometheus’, as much as I like to whinge, doesn’t really affect your experience of ‘Alien’, because the films are so radically different in tone and structure.
The 2009 remake of ‘Star Trek’ was drastic enough of a reboot, stylistically and otherwise, that it very effectively walls itself off from the rest of the franchise in its own little continuity.
For me, the Ur-Example of recent times is that of Sarek in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ (because of course it is, it wouldn’t be a Crude Review if I didn’t whinge about DISCO).
Sarek, a famously logical, ethical Vulcan renowned for having spent his life as adiplomat and advocate of peace, is revealed, in the finale of DISCO’s first season, to have been an active participant in a plot to destroy a planet with billions of people on it, before being publicly revealed as a conspirator.
Which makes it weeeeeeiiiird when we then see him in ‘The Original Series’, the movies and ‘The Next Generation’ being revered as a diplomat, even sat next to the president during fraught negotiations with the Klingons, the same race he tried to commit genocide against. It puts a bizarre spin on everything, with this weird, horrible genocide plot now hanging over every scene that Sarek is in.
(By the way, destroying a planet in a surprise attack to “bring peace to the Galaxy” was exactly the plot of the original Star Wars, and, SPOILER ALERT, it wasn’t the good guys.
…It was Space-Fascists.)
Now, you may be thinking “But what about sequels? Don’t they have the same issues?” And to an extent, they may, when a familiar character is diminished or warped to fit the narrative of a commercially-driven sequel (*cough* Gimili *cough*). But the difference with sequels is that they, by definition, follow after what has come before.
When we see Luke choke Gamorrean Guards in Jabba’s Palace, that doesn’t overwrite the innocent farmboy we first saw on Tatooine – it just shows a different path for the character. If they ever made an origin story for Luke Skywalker, and we found out that a couple of days before ‘A New Hope’ he ethnically cleansed a village of Jawas in the Dune Sea, then we’d have a situation where all of his boyish enthusiasm takes on a different tone.
Similarly, Darth Vader’s redemption in ‘Return of the Jedi’ doesn’t change the nature of his terrifying authoritarianism in ‘Hope’ and ‘Empire’. However, finding out that Vader’s initial fall to the Dark Side was because he was pretty lamely duped into it by the Emperor does diminish a lot of his power and agency in the Original Trilogy, and the drama between him and Obi Wan.
It doesn’t, though. None of these prequels actually ruined anyone’s childhood. Any rational adult can divorce their mental association between a crappy cash-in prequel and an old classic. When I watch the Original Star Wars Trilogy now, I broadly don’t even think about the Prequel Trilogy. When I watch ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, the trash of the Hobbit trilogy doesn’t even enter my mind.
But, that brings us around to the self-defeating nature of these prequels. What do I mean by that?
Well, most media intended for mass consumption these days is motivated almost entirely by commercial concerns. Sure, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ genuinely feels like a passion project for just about everybody involved, but that’s a rare exception, and for every furious road there are five tired Melissa McCarthy vehicles rehashing a bunch of ideas that have already gone before. (I love Melissa McCarthy, by the way, I just wish we could see her doing something a little different for a change. Don’t even get me started on Will bloody Ferrell.)
Besides the bottom line, though, there’s always going to be a glimmer of artistry in almost any production. There will always be, you would hope, some desire by the cast and crew to entertain and intrigue their audience – to tell a story. At its very worst, you get the likes of ‘Transformers’ and ‘Into Darkness’, where commercialism completely dominates any creative imperative, but there would hopefully be a balance in most productions. The Marvel Universe films are all strong examples of commercially-driven movies that retain some artistic essence, if for no other reason than the fact they’re genuinely quite entertaining.
Let’s take another look at the Star Wars Prequels, this time focusing in on ‘The Phantom Menace’. As great a misstep as the plot contrivances may have been, Lucas was clearly intent on spinning some kind of politically intriguing tale set in the Star Wars universe. He failed. Badly. But there’s that little spark of the storyteller still shining through. You can at least see what Lucas was going for, no matter how wide he fell from the mark. He gets points for at least kind-of giving a shit, even if only for ‘The Phantom Menace’.
Part of that artistic intent, with a prequel or a sequel, is to make this instalment a part of the larger series, or franchise or whatever. Put simply, most of the time the creators of these sorts of films want to add their creation to the existing canon, to contribute to a greater whole. The Prequel Trilogy was genuinely intended to be a canonical part of the Star Wars saga. ‘Enterprise’ really wanted to show us life before Starfleet. The Hobbit trilogy was designed to fit snugly into the Lord of the Rings movie-canon.
So then you create your new addition to the canon, where Darth Vader is a stupid whiny teenager or where Chewbacca actually eats people and then… it gets discounted. Because to maintain the image of Chewie as the lovable walking carpet, you have to keep the events of ‘Solo’ out of your head when you watch ‘A New Hope’. So now, ‘Solo’, which was meant to inform on the origins of the iconic Han Solo and Chewbacca duo… doesn’t. Because nobody* wants to think about it. Nobody* wants to see Darth Vader as a miserable Hayden Christensen, so they just… won’t.
And so, you hit the Prequel Paradox. You’ve pushed your own artistic creation out of the canon to which it was meant to contribute. It makes itself irrelevant in the minds of the fans*.
* By “nobody” and “fans” I am, of course, assuming that all audiences are identical to myself: angry fat men on the internet. In truth the majority of the audience likely don’t give a shit, and rightly so.
But how relevant do you even want it to be? How loyal do you need your new creation to be to the existing source material? Which leads into the ULTIMATE problem with prequels.
‘Rogue One’ was unique. For all of its flaws, at the very least it subverted our expectations. As we progress through the final act, we gradually come to realise that everybody is going to die. And it’s a great subversion. It’s the depressing, brutal ending that nobody really expected from a Star Wars movie.
‘Solo’ gives us the opposite. We see Han and Chewie and Lando and the Falcon in all of these dangerous situations that we already know they will survive. The filmmakers do their best to use the supporting cast creatively, with double-crosses and casualties throughout. And tension doesn’t rely on not knowing what’s going to happen – you can still feel tense when re-watching a scene you’ve seen thirty times before. But from a story perspective, we already know that Han ends up with Chewie, and they both end up with the Falcon, and Lando lives through it all, and so we know that every scene in the movie will contrive to allow them to live.
The existing canon acts as a restraint on the narrative.
Now, let’s address the real reason I wanted to write this article.
So, as I’ve previously covered, ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ has a new Spock in town. We knew it was coming. From the first time we saw Sarek in the show, we knew Spock would be dragged into this mess.
And I want to make clear, right out of the gate, that I don’t give a shit about Klingon creature designs or the revamp of the Enterprise or the uniforms or any of that crap. Klingons have changed their appearance and culture so many times that there is no consistent version of the Klingon Empire anymore. Hell, the Klingons in ‘Deep Space Nine’ aren’t even the same Klingons we see in ‘The Next Generation’. The “Refit” Enterprise made no logical sense except as a way to make a nicer model for the big screen. And we’ve seen so many bloody uniform variations that I really don’t give a shit anymore (and besides, shouldn’t Pike’s uniform feature a polar neck? Jus’ sayin’).
But I do give a crap about Spock. Specifically, I give a crap about what will be at stake in the adventure to save him. Because ‘Discovery’ is part of the canon, right? And we know, canonically, that he’s going to be back with Captain Pike before long, and not long after that he’s going to team up with Kirk and McCoy, and then he’s going to try and re-unify Romulus and Vulcan, and THEN he’s going to fly a jellyfish-ship into a black hole and then travel back to an alternate reality where his younger self will beat up Benedict Cumberbatch with a lump of metal.
So we already know that Spock will probably be fine. But that’s okay, because we knew that all the way through the Original Series, too.
But we also know that Pike’s going to be fine, and that they will end up back on the Enterprise, which will also be fine, so the story’s going to have to contrive that particular conclusion, too.
We also know that we’re probably not going to get too many huge shake-ups to the wider world of Star Trek, because we know everything will still be there in a few years’ time once we get to ‘The Original Series’.
So it already seems as though this huge universal theory of bullshit that Burnham’s really, really cringey voice-over alludes to in the awful trailer is probably not going to amount to much, long-term.
And despite all of that, they could probably still make a decent-ish story with enough tension about Captain Pike commandeering the Discovery to save Spock and unravel the mystery of the Red Bursts.
And that is the main issue I have. Because isn’t this show meant to be about the crew of Discovery?
Lets talk about Burnham.
Burnham has two main problems as a character:
She has no motivations throughout the first season. She refuses Lorca’s offer of redemption, only to be forced into it, and then just wanders around, bored. There’s even a scene where she tells Tilly directly just how unengaged she is. And that never changes. Burnham never makes any decision to engage with events and drive her life forwards – things just happen, and she responds to them.
She is introduced as Spock’s foster-sister.
So, the first one is just a general complaint that I wanted to get off my chest, but the second is what I want to talk about.
And no, it doesn’t matter that Spock never mentioned her. There was literally an entire film about Spock suddenly having a brother that he’d never spoken about before and that he has never mentioned since. Hell, Kirk had a brother that he mentions in a single episode, who again never features outside of that episode. Data had Lore, and then B4. Burnham can still be canonically Spock’s sister and it really doesn’t change much.
But, what does matter is that it becomes part of Burnham’s identity. Burnham is now Spock’s sister. She’s Sarek’s daughter. Everything that happens is now connected to those two existing characters inextricably, and it also means Burnham’s pretty much stuck in their respective shadows. She’s not her own character – she’s just a relative of these other (male) characters that the fans will recognise.
And it’s also pointless. Burnham is an interesting character in her own right. An orphaned human raised by Vulcans – cool. A traitor to Starfleet who “starts a war” (but doesn’t really) – also cool. She doesn’t need to be connected to Sarek and Spock, and arguably she shouldn’t be, because it ties her fate into that of those other two characters whose futures are already set in stone by previous installments.
Particularly when the plot of the second season (or at least part of it) is going to be Burnham searching for Spock. Specifically, Burnham’s investment in the plot, based on the trailer, seems to be to find her foster brother, and it was Spock who took a leave of absence to investigate the mysterious phenomena across the Galaxy. If this turns out to be true, then notice that Burnham won’t be motivated by her own curiousity or desire for discovery – the actual drive and ambition is all Spock’s.
Not to mention that there was already a Star Trek story about searching for Spock, called ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.’ Hell, TNG had it’s own Spock-hunt, called ‘Reunification’ (parts 1 & 2). In fact, this isn’t even ‘Discovery’s first search for Spock – they did one in the first season, called ‘Lethe’, where Spock was played by Sarek, his father.
And let’s take a look at ‘Lethe’ for a second, because it’s exactly what I’m talking about – Burnham tries to track down the dying Sarek, and she learns about his inner conflicts through the medium of dream-karate (the most Vulcan metaphor I can possibly think of, I mean, of course the rational, highly cultured and scientific Vulcans would characterise everything in the form of physical combat). But what you’ll notice is that all of the revelation and self-discovery is Sarek’s, not Burnham’s. Sure, her relationship with her foster father develops, but it develops through Sarek’s character growth, rather than Burnham’s.
And the main reason this happens is because Sarek is the already-established character that the fans will recognise. If we imagine that James Frain was playing, I dunno, Sarevok (in this continuity Faerûn is in the Alpha Quadrant), some hitherto unknown Vulcan who fostered Burnham, then there might be less perceived need to make the story about him, and instead it might be Burnham who learns new things about herself as she struggles to save him.
This change would also have absolutely allowed the writers to have Sarevok participate in any kind of awful, genocidal atrocity, and therefore have him face more severe consequences for it, without violating the canon. Hell, they would have all the freedom they needed to flesh him out beyond the constraints set by Sarek in previous Treks.
All of this stems from the decision to make ‘Discovery’ a prequel, rather than a sequel. I should refer to this tweet, by on of the show’s writers, Ted Sullivan:
Writing for a franchise with as long and twisted a continuity as Star Trek is understandably daunting. Disney binned all of the Star Wars Expanded Universe stuff when they bought that franchise specifically for this reason (and also because a lot of it is garbage and they probably didn’t want to pay out royalties every time they mentioned Mara Jade). Continuing a series without breaking continuity is really fucking difficult, and most of the old Trek writers didn’t even bother to do it themselves a lot of the time.
But that is multiplied tenfold when you do a prequel. With a sequel, you’re creating new canon, and you can move away from established universe norms through the actions of your characters. Want to ditch the Prime Directive? Have a scene where two crew members discuss it being abandoned for political reasons. Want to make the Klingons a race of peaceful scientists? Explain the cultural shift, using a montage, or flashbacks, or even just basic exposition.
You can’t do that with a prequel, because every change has to be carefully explained and later on corrected to remain within canon. How is it that a war with the Klingons took the Federation to the brink of collapse, but that war is never mentioned in all of the dealings with the Klingons just ten years later? How is it that the Federation handed the means to destroy the Klingon homeworld to a renegade and yet the Klingons don’t constantly bring that up every time Kirk starts preaching about peace and co-operation?
And these things can be explained, there is no doubt about that, but you’re then forced to dedicate screen time to explaining them, rather than telling the story you actually want to tell. Sullivan accurately describes Trek canon as a set of “handcuffs,” but by writing a prequel, he’s really put himself in a straitjacket.
And all of this is at the expense of the show itself. This isn’t just me complaining about DISCO again*. As mentioned, I want the show to succeed – but I want it to succeed on its own merits, by telling original stories with interesting characters that bring something new to Trek, rather than just revisiting the same icons and cultural references like ‘Funkopops: The Series’.
* I mean, it’s mostly just me complaining about DISCO again.
Prequels can be fantastic. They can be a great way to learn more about a character or event in an established universe. ‘Rogue One’ succeeded because it took something we knew nothing about, the “daring raid” to seize the Death Star plans, and made a fun, clunky character piece out of it, with big spaceship battles and pointless cameos by R2-D2 and C-3PO. ‘Rogue One’ worked because of how little we knew about the subject at hand – a passing reference in the opening crawl of the first ever Star Wars film. And consequently, it could be its own entity, and tell the story it wanted to tell.
‘Solo’ failed because of how much we knew about the subject at hand – specifically, two of the most famous sci-fi characters in modern times. And because we knew so much about where Han and Chewie were going, there was very little room to explore where they had come from. The film struggled to tell its own story, and where it deviated from what the fans knew, it ended up making itself obsolete (unless you’re a diehard Chewie-is-a-cannibal theorist).
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ failed for… well, for lots of reasons, but I think the main one was that it handcuffed itself to pre-ordained fates not just of its characters, but of its various nations and species and factions and technologies. They get a cool new mode of transportation, that we know won’t exist in the future. They go to war – a war whose consequences we know will be forgotten within a decade. Like with ‘Solo’, this isn’t just about narrative tension, it’s about having room to develop a story beyond rigid confines established by different writers half a century ago.
It’s about being able to tell the story that you want to tell, rather than the story that you are forced to tell.
If I were a writer stuck with the commercial decision to create a prequel to a much-loved, long-running franchised, I’d just get on with it and try to do my best, and I can only assume that’s exactly what all the writers of all the terrible prequels that have ever been made have done. Ultimately, when you have a job to do, you just do it.
Last night, the below script was accidentally uploaded by a CBS staffer to the Internet Movie Script Database. It was removed just a few minutes later once the mistake was realised, but fortunately, we here at CrudeReviews.net were able to download it in the short time it was live, and we decided to share it with you here.
Are you all super excited for the Alex Kurtzman-led return of Captain Jean Luc Picard, starring the legendary Patrick Stewart? We certainly all are! #PicardisBack #StarTrekRocks #WeLoveStarTrek #ProgressiveSciFi
INT. PICARD’S READY ROOM
The camera pans across a table of Picard’s treasured memories. First we see his tin whistle, from that one where he lived the entire life of someone in a dying civilisation. Do you remember that one? It was really famous, everyone remembers that episode. The camera keeps panning, over to the ancient stone artefact, the Curly Rascal. Then a Polaroid photograph of Picard and Q, hanging out at the beach. Finally, four lights in a line. Do you remember that one? The one where he shouted “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!”? Do you remember that? You remember that, don’t you?
The camera zooms out to show the whole ready room at a dutch angle. All the lights are blue, and everything’s dark. Behind his desk, PICARD sits in silence, grizzled, a rough scar down one side of his face, lifting a dumbbell in one arm. He stares at a screen in front of him, with the words “WAR REPORT” in large font at the top. There are red icons and lines on one half of the screen, and blue icons and lines on the other half of the screen.
The door chimes. Picard doesn’t look up.
In walks NUMBER ONE. She’s tall, of West Asian descent, and identified in all the show’s press releases as “Star Trek’s first Indian Muslim Lesbian!” She’s also half-Andorian, or something, with all of the personal drama that presumably entails.
We’re almost ready to begin negotiations, Captain-Ambassador. As Starfleet’s top diplomat, it will be your job to bring peace to this sector. Before the entire Federation falls.
Well, Number One, this war with [distant sound of dice rolling] THE ROMULANS and [sound of a dart thumping into a dartboard] THE JEM’HADAR, led by [sound of coin flip] THE BORG is taking its toll. The entire Alpha Quadrant could be wiped out soon if we don’t find a way to stop this dreadful war.
Yes, wars are terrible. And thank you for so succinctly expositing the peril we currently face. It sounds like this awful, awful war could take nine, maybe even ten episodes to resolve.
Agreed. Let’s get moving.
They walk out of the ready room together.
INT. THE SHUTTLE BAY
Picard, Number One and a Tactical Diplomacy Team enter the shuttle bay. They are all dressed in armoured space suits, carrying flashy new phaser rifles. They march past the shuttles straight to the rear door.
Captain, aren’t we taking the shuttles?
Not today, Number One. Today we need to be a little more direct. Ready?
The rear door opens, revealing a planet below them. The camera flies out of the door and pans back to an exterior shot of the ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-XXX. A heavy metal remix of the ‘Next Generation’ theme plays. The Enterprise is a sleek, futuristic ship with nacelles and everything. She’s Starfleet’s newest consular ship, armed with fifty billion photon torpedoes and the newly-designed “Peacebringer” anti-planet array.
Inside the shuttle bay, an automated voice addresses the team.
Ship in position. Diplomacy team ready to deploy.
I love this part.
(he cocks his pump-action laser gun)
Let’s begin negotiations. Engage!
Picard, Number One and team run and leap out of the shuttle bay whilst Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ plays non-diegetically.
EXT. THE PLANET’S SURFACE, DAY
WEYOUN (Do you remember him???) and SOME ROMULAN stare in horror at a holographic tactical display.
Weyoun, it’s the Enterprise, she’s in orbit!
The Enterprise? She’s an Ethics-class consular gunship! And she can only be captained by one person…
Picard! Quickly, we must hide the children!
(to a Jem’Hadar soldier)
Get the troops ready and prepare our defenses for an orbital diplomatic assault!
EXT. THE SKY, DAY
Picard, Number One and the Tactical Diplomacy Team plummet through the air, the front of their spacesuits glowing red hot because that’s what happens when you enter a planet’s atmosphere, so this is still technically science-fiction.
Suddenly, powerful LASER BLASTS fire up at them from the surface! Arcs of deadly green energy bolts fill the air. Two of Picard’s diplomatic staff are vaporised as soon as they are hit.
Captain, we can’t withstand this amount of firepower! We have to ab-
She screams, an energy bolt striking her and covering her in green, coruscating energy ribbons. Why she doesn’t get vaporised like the other two is unknown. She howls in agony as her body gets twisted and contorted by the energy, breaking her bones and searing her skin. This goes on for at least six minutes. Eventually, her eyes explode and then her entire body explodes inside her spacesuit, filling it with a goopy, bloody mess.
Number One! Well, she died doing what she loved – convincing people on the internet that this was still a progressive show with new ideas. It’s just up to us men now, boys!
The assault team cheers, unfazed by their losses or the unyielding anti-air fire that still fills the sky. They continue their descent to the enemy position. One of them speaks up.
Say, captain, did we ever find out why the enemy wanted to go to war with us? It seems like the Romulans would be hesitant to ally with such a destructive force as the Jem’Hadar, and in any case, wouldn’t the cost of a war with the Federation and occupation of planets outweigh any strategic benefit in the long term?
He immediately gets hit with a laser blast and incinerated.
Any other questions?
There are none.
EXT. MILITARY BARRACKS, DAY
A ROMULAN OFFICER leads twenty soldiers in combat training.
Remember, as you fight, be brutal, and only communicate in grunts and growls. We’re the baddies in this war, so we can’t do anything that will in any way humanise us or allow the audience to develop any sympathy for us.
But I’m fighting for the security of my empire and for the freedom of my loved ones!
No you are not, maggot! You are a nameless grunt! You will throw yourself in the way of phaser blasts and if you are lucky, you may hit a Federation soldier, thereby increasing the level of peril!
Sir yes sir!
Just then, Picard smashes into the soldier from above, his armoured space suit crushing the green-blooded Romulan into a cloud of red mist and gore. AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ blares over the soundtrack.
Picard taps a button on the side of his helmet, and the whole helmet folds back and into nothing, revealing Picard’s face and bald head.
We’re here to negotiate terms.
He shoots the Romulan officer in the face. The rest of the squad land behind him, and begin shooting and/or stabbing the rest of the Romulans. Picard kneels over the fallen body of the Romulan officer.
Alas, the cost of war. It is so terrible a thing that we ruin and slaughter when peace might otherwise prevail. Oh! How I long for the days of peaceful exploration, where we can uphold Starfleet’s true ideals of mercy and discov-
His voice is drowned out by the screams of the Romulans around him.
INT. A COMMAND CENTRE
Weyoun and Some Romulan are now in a dingy, poorly-lit command centre, filled with Jem’Hadar and Romulan soldiers.
He’s made planet fall! We should send three brigades of our best troops to slow him down!
Don’t be insane! He’s the Federation’s top diplomat! We don’t stand a chance in a fight against him. Do you think he would let us live if we surrender?
It doesn’t look like we have much choice.
Picard kicks down the door and strides in, rifle in hand. He shoots all of the other Romulans and Jem’Hadar before they have chance to react. Weyoun yelps, and drops to his knees, his hands clasped together.
Captain-Ambassador Picard, please! We surrender! Unconditionally! Spare our lives, and we will work with you to bring this war to an end! We see now that we were at fault, and we want to learn from Starfleet’s ways of peace and equality, so that we can be better ourselves!
Up yours, dickhead.
Picard punches Weyoun in the head, so hard that his head spins around completely, and we hear the sound of his neck snapping. Picard points his rifle at Some Romulan.
There are now sixty Starfleet Abdul Hamid-class gunships in orbit of this planet. Surrender this sector, or we will be forced to wipe out every living organism and turn this world into a barren tomb.
Some Romulan nods nervously, then carefully shuffles to a console at one side of the room. He presses a button, and on the display a large, red icon appears: “SURRENDER SECTOR”. He pushes it. On the other side of the room, a display labelled “WAR MAP” turns from red to blue. Little Starfleet badge symbols replace all of the Romulan symbols.
Picard nods. He taps his commbadge.
This is Picard. Diplomacy accomplished. One to beam up.
He is consumed by the sparkly transporter effect and disappears.
INT. THE BRIDGE OF THE ENTERPRISE
Picard strides onto the bridge in full dress uniform. He addresses the crew.
Today, a great victory was won for peace. Through careful negotiation, we were able to end the war in this sector. Although we still have the rest of the Alpha Quadrant to pacify, today proves that we can restore order to the Galaxy by embodying Starfleet’s ideals of ethics, co-operation, discovery and science. This is what it means to be Starfleet, and we have shown that diplomacy, not violence, is always the way to resolve our differences.
The crew applaud, some with tears in their eyes. An Admiral gets up from their weapons station and hangs six medals around Picard’s neck. Inspiring music plays. The audience screams in joy about how Star Trek has returned to its moralistic roots.
Then, an alarm sounds. The OPS OFFICER gasps.
Captain! There’s another ship on an intercept course! I’m not sure who it is, but I’m getting some data coming through now.
On his screen, in large font, are the words “COMMANDING OFFICER:” and below that, four empty spaces. Slowly, one by one, the empty spaces are filled with a letter each. “D”. Then “A”. Then “T”.
Sir! It’s the Cheney!
That’s… Commander Data’s ship!
That’s right, Commander Data! Do you remember him? The robot guy? He’s in this too! COMMANDER DATA! HE’S IN THIS SHOW AND YOU RECOGNISE HIM! TUNE IN NEXT WEEK AND YOU MIGHT SEE HIM! COMMANDER DATA! WATCH THE NEXT EPISODE, ASSHOLES!
Well, that looks exciting! We really like the bit where Picard shot all those people, that looks really good. And what about Number One? Could she be the new progressive face of Star Trek? Is this show leading the way for representation of minorities in sci-fi? Probably! The only thing that was really missing from this script was some kind of mystery plot or hidden identity, but who knows what crazy twists and turns they have in store for us in the other episodes? We can’t wait!
Why am I even still writing about this stupid fucking show?
Nevermind. Let’s just get this over with.
There’s a part of me that really, really hopes they made a point of putting that “Right, ladies?” line in the trailer because of this article I wrote last year. Like, I really, really doubt it. But I know that at least some of the writers saw it. So I can hope.
“We have always looked to the stars – to discover who we are. And hidden there was a message, made of space and time. Visible only to those open enough to receive it.”
Well gosh golly gee, that’s all very deep and provocative. And it’s accompanied by the image of what looks like some kind of sexy space spider lady in high heals. Is she delivering the message? Is she some kind of space courier? Cosmic FedEx?
“I’m here to take command of the Discovery under Regulation 19, Section C.”
But at the end of Season 1 of ‘Discovery’, wasn’t the Enterprise broadcasting a “Priority One Distress Call”? Then the Enterprise appears and she doesn’t look distressed. And this trailer doesn’t make it look like Pike was leaving a distressed ship, he only brings two or three people with him. Can you really put out a distress call and then as soon as someone drops by to pick you up, just take command of their ship?
Pike invokes regulation 19, section C. And then Saru says “Your directive is only instituted when an imminent threat is detected.” So, wait, so Pike knew he was taking command of the Discovery? Then why was the Enterprise broadcasting a distress call? It’s almost as though the writers needed a cliffhanger and some Enterprise fan service at the end of the first season, so just wrote a scene with no idea of what was going on and then just picked up where they left off for the second season. But I’m sure the writers are smarter than that.
“Federation sensors picked up seven red bursts, spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.”
Hey, remember how in the 2009 J. J. Abrams reboot movie, they had “red matter”, and everyone thought it was the dumbest thing ever? I bring that up now for no reason.
Also, in space, I know they have “red shift” and that stars are classified by colour, but don’t scientists usually talk about stuff by its defining feature? Like, gamma-ray bursts, or neutron stars? When I’m ordering an ice slushy at the cinema I’ll ask for “the red one”, but if I was talking about a potentially life-threatening explosion in space I like to think a bunch of scientists in the future would be a bit more specific than just describing it by its colour.
“Sir, there’s an anomaly off the starboard bow!”
“Well, what is it, Data?”
“It’s red, sir! It’s red!”
Also, he mentions that these bursts are “spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.” Which is between one third and one sixth the diameter of the Milky Way. Except that the CGI seems to show them across the whole Milky Way. Unless that’s not the Milky Way, but if it’s some kind of nebula or star system, it’d be way too big – an area of space with a diameter of thirty thousand light-years could contain as many as 30 billion stars. Ah, whatever.
“These mysterious signals are beyond anything we understand (except for colour theory). Is it a greeting? A declaration of malice? Let’s find out.”
Oh, okay, so that’s the mystery – what’s behind these weird signals? Except I’m guessing it’s whatever message Burnham was talking about in the opening of the trailer. So I guess that’s that mystery solved.
“Trust us. Discovery has you. Right, ladies?”
There’s more dialogue between Burnham, Detmer and Owosekun in this two-minute trailer than there was in the first twelve episodes of Season One put together.
“This is the power of math, people!”
I am completely fine with everyone getting a bit more scientific and rational on this show. But god damn it if that line and its delivery and the little high five doesn’t make me want to murder literally every single person on this wretched fucking planet.
Also, Commander Airiam doesn’t appear in the trailer at all except for this shot. Until I spotted her here, I honestly thought she’d just been dropped from the series and that nobody would mention her ever again. Also note how she’s the third-highest ranking officer on the ship (maybe fourth now that Burnham’s reinstated) but she’s still being bossed around by a lieutenant and a cadet.
Sara Mitich, if you’re reading this, you did a great job on ‘The Expanse’, nobody thinks any less of you because of ‘Discovery’.
“My foster-brother, Mister Spock.”
“He took leave. It’s as if he’d run into a question he couldn’t answer.”
“Spock is linked to these signals. And he needs help.”
Jesus, where to start.
First off, I never had a “canon” problem with Burnham being written as Spock’s foster-sister. After all, it’s not the first time Spock had a family member ret-conned into his backstory. The main issue with it is that it acts as a weight around Burnham’s narrative that just wasn’t required. You can have a human character with a Vulcan upbringing without making her a relative of the only Vulcan that anyone recognises from the franchise.
Now they’re bringing Spock in as a major plot point, and you just know it’s going to suck. He’ll be doing something stupid or out of character and unless they get Zachary Quinto in to revive his role, the whole thing will probably be garbage.
Fortunately, abusing an existing character doesn’t retroactively ruin that character. Watching Spock scream and roar as he beats Khan with a metal box in ‘Into Darkness’ doesn’t change how I view the character when I re-watch ‘Wrath of Khan’ for the ninetieth time – it’s possible to retain detachment.
The real problem, and the catastrophic misstep that ‘Discovery’ seems to be making, is of taking familiar, brand-reinforcing characters like Spock and putting them firmly in the centre of a story that ought to be about Discovery and its crew.
Trek has always had crossovers – from minor guest appearances in one-off episodes like TNG’s ‘Relics’ and Voyager’s ‘Life Line’, to full-on cast insertion with Worf joining the Deep Space Nine crew from season 4 onwards. But when it’s a single episode in a season of more than twenty, it’s relatively non-intrusive. And in the case of Worf, it was actually a boon, giving an existing character some much needed growth and adding an extra element to an ensemble cast of strong, compelling characters (and Jake).
And for all of ‘Discovery’s woes, its characters were arguably its strongest point. Tilly was a new take on the bumbling rookie. Saru had an interesting background, as poorly explored as it was. Tyler was a great vehicle for Shazad Latif, and even Stamets ended up rounding out nicely to be a thoughtful, tragic personality, quite distinct from the high-energy enthusiasm of the likes of Scotty, La Forge and Torres.
And the show should be about them. They’re the cast. It’s their stories that we want to care about. But now, in this season, we have Christopher Pike as the (white, male) captain – Christopher Pike, the man who was originally deeply uncomfortable with having women on his bridge, and who later became Bruce Greenwood, the fire alarm of contemporary actors – functional, but only remarkable if something’s going wrong. (I mean, he’s great and all, but try describing Christopher Pike based on his performance in the reboot movies. Do it. Tell me what his character is. Tell me what was distinct about his personality. I’ll wait.)
Then, we get to Burnham. Burnham suffered from a bad case of Gimmick Personality. Burnham is essentially an armature, onto which was layered the various hashtaggable statements that the writers thought were necessary to make the show interesting. She’s a human who was raised by Vulcans. She’s an orphan. She’s Spock’s sister. She’s Starfleet’s first traitor. Everything distinctive about Burnham comes from things that happened to her, or things that are incidental to her character. She began the first season with a series of actions that were baffling to the audience, and after that point all she really did was respond to stuff that happened to her.
Stamets strives for scientific understanding of the fabric of the universe. Tilly is driven by her command ambitions. Saru tries to correct his past failures. But Burnham? Burnham gets coerced into serving on the Discovery, responds to threats as they arrive, and by the end we are told she has redeemed herself. She never sets out to seek redemption. She never pushes to make herself better, or discover new things about herself. When she takes the captain’s chair of the I.S.S. Discovery in the Mirror Universe, she doesn’t have that moment of “Alright, this is it, this is where I prove what I’m capable of.” She just sort of wanders over to it in confusion. The one decision we ever see her make is to save Mirror Georgiou.
Now, it looks like she’s just going to be on a mission to rescue Spock. Or as she calls him, “Mister Spock”, which is neither his name nor his rank. Also she’s older than he is. Which leads to the hilarious scenario that she grew up with a younger foster-brother who she called “Mister Spock.”
But let’s put this in the perspective of people who might be watching this show with absolutely no prior knowledge of Star Trek (i.e. nobody). Are they suddenly supposed to care deeply about the fate of some rando who’s been mentioned by name twice in the first season? ‘Stranger Things’ made us care about the fate of Will by having us invest in his mother and her frantic, desperate need to find him. But Burnham doesn’t really seem to be very close to Spock at all, and Sarek is an emotionless Vulcan. So basically, the threat to Spock is palpable only to people who are already familiar with the franchise and who, therefore, already know that he’s probably going to be fine.
Just let these dweebs be the centre of their own story, for Christ’s sakes.
We also need to talk about the fact that Captain Pike takes over. This’ll be brief, but my points are thusly:
There is no compulsion to have Pike in charge to fit Trek’s history or canon. As far as we knew he only ever captained the Enterprise.
You could totally have had a badass woman in charge, like that one who appears in the wreckage in the trailer with the really stupid line about the pulsar thingy.
Why did they need to put another white man in charge of the ship?
It’s just really annoying, because it’s not even like Pike is some iconic part of Trek, he was in the first of two pilot episodes that nobody really remembers, and he was also in the reboot movies as a bland mentor character. And they’re not even using the same actor. So what’s the point? Could they not think of anything else in terms of storyline? Or anyone else to take command of the ship? Dullllll.
The rest of the trailer is pretty standard teaser-trailer fair. You get a few dramatic / amusing one-liners, some plug-in pop-rock (depending on which version of the trailer you watch, you’ll either get Lenny Kravitz for the CBS All-Access one or some painfully generic thumpy beats for the Netflix one).
We also get a BONE-HURTINGLY FUNNY SCENE ABOUT SNOT at the very end, I think to try and convince the audience that this season won’t just be about torture, genocide and shouting, but honestly it comes across as cheap and dull. IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE THE SPACE PERSON HAS A COLD, HAHAHA, HUMANS GET COLDS TOO, HAHAHA, SUCH FUN.
What we’re left with is a lot of explosions and action, a lot of shots of white, male Christopher Pike in the captain’s chair (because what, do you expect a woman to do it? It’s the captain, of course he has to be white, and a man), and an overall feeling that this season will probably be less grim and dark than the first season, but not necessarily much smarter. I mean, the opening shots imply the secret to the universe will be delivered by a sexy space woman in high heals.
The really positive thing to come out of all of this is that there’s no mention of or reference to bloody Section 31. That being said, I wouldn’t put it past this collection of bumbling fuckwads to introduce it in some “SHOCKING CLIFFHANGER” at some point to surprise everyone. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
As an aside, try watching the Netflix version of the trailer and then watching the initial trailer for Justice League. The similarities in tone are disquieting, to say the least. Although that could just be because every trailer is the same these days.
A little while ago, I wrote an article about how ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is just a show about people in rooms, talking. Needless to say, even people who didn’t like the show were not convinced by my arguments. But I stand by them, and the latest episode of ‘The Expanse’ is the reason why.
Spoilers for Season 3 of ‘The Expanse’ from her on out, along with gratuitous comparisons to ‘Discovery’. You Have Been Warned.
Last week’s episode, ‘Dandelion Sky’, was pretty explosive from a narrative perspective. We got a pretty huge, if vague, infodump on the origins of the Protomolecule; Holden made it to the centre of the mysterious station; we got to see Gunny again; we had a lot of backstory for Melba, the tacky rich bitch who needs to get some respect for herself; every ship in the region got frozen in place; and in general the whole storyline advanced significantly.
This episode, ‘The Fallen World’, is nearly the exact opposite. We learn virtually nothing new, most side plots stand still, and very little of the story develops in a significant way.
And it was my favourite episode so far.
Of the entire run.
To explain why, we need to look at probably the story that takes up the bulk of this episode: Drummer and Ashford, the captain and first officer, respectively, of the Belta battleship Behemoth.
First off, you’ve got great performances by Cara Gee and David Strathairn. Strathairn is almost unrecognisable with his sheriff’s moustache, burn scars and thin, scruffy hair – roughly 22 astronomical units from his appearance in ‘Good Night and Good Luck’. Strathairn is also typically brilliant, and as much as I love Gee’s tough, uncompromising performance as Drummer, the august Strathairn steals most of the scenes in which they appear together.
Immediately following their confrontation at the end of last episode and then the sudden deceleration of all ships in the area, in this episode Drummer and Ashford are pinned at opposite ends of a farming… machine… thing, and are both suffering from painful and potentially lethal injuries. The machine is mag-locked in place, so even though there’s no gravity they can’t move it to free themselves.
Cue some wonderful hateful cooperation between the two as they work together to save themselves. It’s almost entirely just the two of them talking (and occasionally singing), and this is where the first comparison to ‘Discovery’ comes in.
Because Ashford and Drummer aren’t just talking – there’s a mountain of context to what’s going on between them. For the last half of the series, since Ashford’s introduction he and Drummer have been circling and snapping at each other like dogs competing to be the Alpha of the pack. And that tension shapes every exchange between them as they’re stuck here, slowly dying, attempting to escape a painful death. The physical peril is more of a framework from which the real drama between the characters is hung.
In contrast, most of the scenes in ‘Discovery’ lack that tension, and the drama usually comes from the situation rather than from the characters. And I hate to say it, but that is a Star Trek trend that started way, way back in the days of ‘The Next Generation’ and, later, ‘Voyager’. It’s unfortunate that so much of the plot progression occurred in those shows, around a conference room table, where a group of people who are all friends discuss some made-up problem, and what drama there is is squeezed out of the imaginary peril in which our crew finds themselves.
Here, aboard the Behemoth, not much even happens, but we learn so much about these two characters as nothing happens. They tell us about their pasts, their motivations, hell, they spend five minutes just talking about clothes, and we still discover more about them than we did about Beverly Crusher by the end of ‘All Good Things’. We also get to see how resourceful these two Belta leaders really are, as they try a whole variety of jury-rigged and desperate solutions to their situation, and that leads me onto the next comparison to ‘Discovery’.
Do you remember in the first season of ‘Discovery’, when the crew are faced with a really, really difficult task that they’ve never done before, and they spend a few minutes talking about how dangerous it is beforehand, and then they try it and it works first time with no problems? You should, because it happens on at least six separate occasions.
Early on, Lorca has a plan to jump into combat with the Klingon ships bombing the dilithium planet, bait them into attacking Discovery and then jump away, leaving a load of bombs which completely destroy every Klingon ship. They try it once and it works flawlessly without them taking any damage or casualties.
Shortly after, Burnham is given the task to save the Tardigrade, so as her first resort she launches it out of the airlock. This works flawlessly and the tardigrade immediately rejuvenates itself before fucking off.
Later, the crew needs to get the cloaking calibrations off of the Klingon Ship of the Dead, which they do without getting hit or damaged.
Then, they need to fly a perfectly-timed manoeuvre through the middle of the Mirror Universe’s Emperor’s flagship, which they manage flawlessly without getting hit or damaged.
Then, they need to instantly terraform a planet into a spore-plant farm, something never done before, and they manage it flawlessly with a five-minute special effect.
And finally, they need to end the war with the Klingons by having an low-ranked Klingon torturer threaten Qo’Nos with a super-bomb, and this plan works flawlessly and with no resistance from anyone, resulting in an immediate end to the war.
This is absolutely Not a Trek trope, where the usual scenario involves the first solution failing horribly and resulting in LaForge shouting excitedly with his head tilted up by thirty degrees ; Riker putting his foot up on the side of Data’s console to get maximum camera coverage of his crotch; Picard denying Worf’s request to fire the torpedoes and Troi gasping a few times for good measure.
The point is, it’s more exciting when something doesn’t work than when it does. In ‘The Expanse’, everything is on the European Extreme difficulty setting. Need to move a space farm tractor thing? Someone’s going to have to die. Forget to lock your toolbox properly? You’re going to end up with a power drill as a permanent part of your anatomy. Want to bone some rich racer chick that you’ve never met? Well I hope you like Venus, my friend, as well as crashing into Venus at relativistic speeds.
And that’s what I love about this show – the writers are not afraid to draw from the enormous pile of deadly situations that can occur at literally any moment in space. In point of fact, every single problem encountered by our heroes in this episode is a result of a very simple, very basic principle of physics – that things in motion like to stay in motion, and making them stop means applying a force. A very large force, if the things are moving very fast.
A few episodes ago I wrote this article, covering how well ‘The Expanse’ nails its storytelling, and in it I predicted that the events in that episode were setting up a dramatic event for a character later in the series. Well, I was nearly right – I just didn’t anticipate it being a setup for large chunks of the Earth, Mars and Belt navies getting their crews pancaked to death all at once.
But it’s true that thanks to the second episode of this season setting up momentum and Newtonian physics as major antagonists early on, we now get to see what happens when alien magic-tech gets involved. The alien station brought every fast-moving object to a halt at the end of last episode, and the results are not pretty. Not only do we see scenes of first-law carnage in the corridors of the U.N.N. Thomas Price, but we learn that the M.C.R.N. Xuesen lost a third of its crew instantly due to the near-instant deceleration, with another third badly injured. Alex is left napping in a cloud of his own lasagne, and Amos is finally revealed to be a mere mortal when Naomi finds him with a gorgeous shiner and a concussion in the Rocinante‘s engine room.
What’s worse is that now that none of these ships can use their engines to accelerate, the clean-up has just become that much harder. A U.N.N. doctor tells Anna that without gravity, artificial or otherwise, blood can’t drain from wounds and all sorts of things that usually happen when a body heals stop happening, and whilst I’m not a space doctor, I assume that this is a realistic medical concern in zero-g. This kind of attention to detail is charming and grisly, and again emphasises just how horrific space travel can be.
We get a tragic example of just what weightlessness means when Anna attends the wounded Tilly. As Tilly cries in pain and anguish, the tears cling to her eyes instead of falling. It’s a beautiful, very subtle visual effect, and a mark of the real love that goes into even the smallest detail when making this series.
(I also feel the need to bring up the character Tilly, here, and the fact that the same name is used in ‘Discovery’. It seems like the sort of thing that might just be a coincidence, but it’s such an unusual name, and she first appeared in the book ‘Abaddon’s Gate’, which was released in 2013, which leaves me thinking this is just another example of the latest Trek series “paying homage to” and definitely NOT “plagiarising” ‘The Expanse’.)
And speaking of Anna, we again get more scenes of her just wandering around being a generally decent person. And this feeds back into my earlier point, because a lot of what Anna does is be in a room, talking with someone, and yet there’s always more to it than that. She offers her assistance as a nurse to the above-mentioned U.N.N. doctor, who promptly tells her to bog off before explaining the gruesome fate awaiting casualties in zero-g. It’s an expository conversation wrapped in a grim and hopeless medley of suffering.
We then follow Anna on her pursuit of Melba, the manifest avatar of wealthy privelege. Melba murders people just so she can murder other people, and whilst her ultimate target is James Holden, that doesn’t allow me to forgive her for going on a violent crusade of sabotage just to impress her war-criminal father. She’s a goddamn uptight sack of tasteless trash and whilst I’ve greatly enjoyed her story so far, if I met her at a barbecue at a mutual friends’ house I’d secretly wipe every burger bun on my smelly arse just in the hope that she might eat one of them.
Anyway, Melba “Shithead” Mao (that entire family is a train wreck, by the way) EVAs her way to the Roci just so’s she can ruin more things for everybody, thinking that Holden might actually be there, and she runs into Naomi (the real hero of the show when Gunny isn’t on-screen) and we get the one action scene for this episode, and it’s very quick and it’s very brutal.
Melba attacks Naomi with her ‘Aliens’-esque powerloader spacesuit, and it’s a very one-sided fight between a walking crane and an unarmed Belta. Naomi barely manages to evade Melba’s attacks, using the lack of gravity to attempt an escape, but Melba catches her and begins choking her to death. She gets interrupted by Electric Anna, but this whole scene is another great example of the superior action sequences of ‘The Expanse’.
First off, it’s dynamic. Every action changes the nature of the fight. Melba launches herself at Naomi. Naomi dodges, and uses a mag-lock to pin Melba in place. Melba rips herself free as Naomi deactivates her mag-shoes to leap across the room and up to the exit hatch. Melba grabs her, and drags her back down to the floor, and that’s it, the fight is now over, and Naomi’s nearly killed. Now compare that to this trash:
In the above, Lorca, Burnham and Georgiou all fight in what is a very technically impressive bit of choreography, except that they spend nearly three full minutes beating, punching and stabbing each other and at the end, they’re all still just standing there, seemingly on full hitpoints, and nothing about their situation is radically different from when they started. Lorca even gets a knife thrown in his back at one point – he takes a moment to pull it out, then goes right back to fighting at full effectiveness. There are explosions, swinging swords, knives, phasers, and the scene is ultimately resolved by Lorca getting stabbed in the back whilst standing still.
Then we look back to ‘The Expanse’, and the fact that Holden has a bloodied nose for, like, three episodes after getting in one brief fistfight. Every action in ‘The Expanse’ has consequences, and as such every action in ‘The Expanse’ has weight.
In ‘Discovery’, if you scroll back up to that bullet list I made of the impossible tasks that they achieve flawlessly, you’ll notice something odd – not one of those tasks is relevant in any subsequent episode. The dilithium planet is saved and never seen again; the tardigrade is healed and vanishes for the rest of the season; the crew get the cloaking calibrations, then return at a point where the data is irrelevant anyway; the Emperor’s ship is destroyed, and we never revisit the Mirror Universe; a planet is terraformed, and then never mentioned; a new dictator is installed in the Klingon Empire, and that’s at the end of the season, so we’ll have to wait and see if that one gets any further look-in.
And if you think it’s petty of me to keep bringing up ‘Discovery’ in my reviews of ‘The Expanse’, then I need to explain that first, ‘Discovery’ invites the comparison through all the “homages” it pays to ‘The Expanse’. And secondly, the two shows are like mirrors of one another. They’re both futuristic, serialised sci-fi adventures following small crews in larger universes, both to the background of cosmic war with unknown technologies.
But every stumble ‘Discovery’ makes highlights every triumph that ‘The Expanse’ achieves. The crew of the Rocinante follow a richly compelling narrative that is propelled not by numerous secret identities and shocking plot twists, but by simple character-driven decisions and interactions, and by the unflinching application of long-term consequences to short-term actions.
My fascination with ‘Discovery’ was driven by how succinctly it captures so many pitfalls and shortcomings of modern storytelling – a microcosm of “narrative by hashtag”. My fascination with ‘The Expanse’ is driven by how expertly it tells a story without resorting to cheap tricks and flashy effects – in fact, it’s very, very difficult to highlight any small part of ‘The Expanse’ because so much of it is layered and built off of what has come before.
My absolutely favourite single moment of this entire season was shortly after Amos spaced the reporter and her creepy camera guy, and he says to Holden quite casually “I’m sorry I put them out the airlock, I should have told you first,” and Holden responds with a very off-hand “That’s alright.” That exchange had me in stitches, just because of all the disagreements Amos and Holden have had in the past, and all the weird shit they’ve been through now means that Amos apologising for spacing two people is handled as though he’s apologising for leaving the kitchen light on all night. And I absolutely cannot explain to anyone how much joy those two lines of dialogue brought me because NOBODY WOULD UNDERSTAND.
There’s a load more I could talk about in episode, and the season so far, such as Gunny remaining the best character, or the continued beautiful visuals, or the fact that this episode is nearly entirely female-led, or just the fact that Alex listens to country music because OF COURSE Alex listens to country music. But I’ve gone on enough. Now I just want to wait patiently for the next episode, which I have no doubt will somehow be even better than this one.
But here’s the thing with ‘Star Trek: Discovery’: it was a deeply flawed finished product that grew from a seed of warmth and greatness. If it had stayed true to its conceptual heart, it could’ve been magnificent, but it was a victim of either its writers’ ambitions or, more likely, the meddling of arrogant executives.
Take Captain Lorca, the Mirror Universe interloper. That is a fantastic and fun storyline that could very easily be a classic episode of Star Trek. It’s a great subversion; normally, we follow our heroes trying to blend into the brutal Mirror Universe, and seeing the twisted mirror of a Prime Universe captain trying to do the same would have been wonderful – for one episode, or a two-parter at best.
But any writer worth their salt should have known that it lacked the substance for a series-long subplot. If you have to do it that way, at least show the aftermath. Show Admiral Cornwell dealing with the betrayal, or Saru questioning all of his loyalties and the lessons he had learned. Don’t just ditch it and move onto the next GRIPPING PLOT TWIST.
Or have a look at the series as a whole, and the casting of a black woman as the main character, and a Malaysian woman as her mentor. That would have been fantastic, if they had not then literally cannibalised Michelle Yeoh and given Sonequa Martin-Green an unsympathetic character with no personal goals or motivations. And then made conversations between women a rare treat for the audience.
The show even gave us Trek’s first on-screen gay couple – and then kept them celibate for nine episodes before treating a kiss between them as a mid-season emotional climax. Almost as though two men in love kissing each other should be a strategic missile deployed for maximum twitter hashtags rather than a normal, everyday occurrence.
Which brings me around, rather circuitously, to my main point:
Alex Kurtzman, one of the writers of ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’, has just taken over ‘Discovery’ as its show-runner, and I have never been more worried about the franchise.
If ‘Discovery’ was a failure born with a spark of good intentions, ‘Into Darkness’ was a nightmare destined to malice from its very conception. ‘Into Darkness’ possessed no virtuous intent nor hidden beauty, neither from its beginning nor through to its very end.
Constructed a two-minute scene to end with Alice Eve undressing, so that a shot of her in lingerie could be included in the trailer.
Cured death by having Dr. McCoy inject a tribble with human blood (and then, obviously, never revisited that concept or its repercussions).
Had a Sikh character with an Indian name, originally portrayed by a Mexican, played by a British white man (the cultural distaste of which can be understood by typing “British Empire” into Google).
Featured Spock, a character famous for remaining in control of his emotions, ragefully beating a man with a lump of metal.
Established James Kirk as someone who sexually harassed a member of his own crew into relocating to a distant part of the galaxy.
Followed the most mind-numbingly stupid plot that has ever been written, featuring six dozen torpedoes which either are or are not deadly weapons depending on which scene you’re watching.
Turns both Uhura and Spock into a bickering teenage couple willing to jeapordise a mission for the sake of having an argument.
Refers to the iconic, expository speech “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise,” as an “oath”. Like when a U.S. President gets sworn in with the oath that goes “America: the big country. These are the times of the United States.”
Is generally just so painfully stupid that thinking about it again has me burning with a hot anger that I usually only feel when I stub my toe or when I watch scenes featuring Captain Holt from the first half of the second season of ‘Brooklyn 99’. HE WAS A THREE-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTER, DAMN IT, AND THEY TRIED TO FLANDERISE HIM, THE BASTARDS.
(As a side note, I once had someone tell me that ‘Into Darkness’ is a great film, but you need to read the accompanying comicbook to appreciate it. Which was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard, until the same person said in the next sentence that the comic book was amazing because it also featured a crossover storyline with DC’s Green Lantern.)
One thing to bear in mind is that Alex Kurtzman has written for some well-loved projects, including many JJ Abrams collaborations such as the first Trek Reboot film, ‘Fringe’, ‘Alias’, and even ‘Xena’.
He has also written for such classics as ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ (the second Andrew Garfield one), ‘Transformers’, ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’, ‘The Island’ (“You’re a v-v-v-v–virgin?”) and the Star Trek video game.
It’s also important to remember that he’s been involved with ‘Discovery’ since the very beginning with both “Creator” and “Executive Producer” credits, but crucially not involved in the day-to-day creative elements except for the pilot, and now as a director of the first episode of the second season.
Now, however, he’s apparently heading up both the show itself as well as the writing team. And I genuinely, and with the greatest of sympathy, hope he creates a much more positive atmosphere for the people of ‘Discovery’. But it’s still a scary development for a fan, such as myself, who wants to see Trek shift away from ten-minute long fight sequences and back towards a marginally more intellectual pursuit.
Because the Star Trek that Kurtzman seems to insist on creating is a creature with no soul. The 2009 reboot film just about managed to get away with it by keeping its ambitions grounded – it was created to be a lightweight action adventure film, and it broadly succeeded. It didn’t need to be meaningful or deep, it just needed to be inoffensive.
Then ‘Into Darkness’ comes along, and decides against finding any kind of meaning in the rebooted franchise, but instead goes for the “Shocking Plot Twist Every Minute” trope that would be picked up by ‘Discovery’ (but curiously not by ‘Beyond’, its cinematic successor). John Harrison is secretly Khan; Dr Wallace is secretly Dr Marcus; Admiral Marcus is secretly evil; the torpedoes are secretly people; McCoy is very obviously an evil Nazi scientist.
And it was this kind of storytelling that really torpedoed ‘Discovery’s first season. We could never have an episode without a shocking cliffhanger or a surprising reveal. We could never sit back and enjoy the universe, watch the characters really grow and develop, without shaking everything up every five minutes with a shocking and ultimately predictable “surprise”.
And that was a real shame, because the cast of ‘Discovery’ is fucking on-point. None of the performances are lacking and the characters are all solid foundations for development. And, despite my clear reservations about what we know of Season 2 so far, I was genuinely, and very deep down, hopeful that the show would somehow move on from its crass and ill-made beginnings and find something positive to do with itself.
But Kurtzman’s track record destroys that hope. He is not a master of nuanced storytelling, and has demonstrated that repeatedly in the projects he has worked on. And that’s alright, that can work for a two-hour movie or the odd episode. But an entire season of high-octane emotional shouting and fistfights is absolutely the last thing ‘Discovery’ needs to become.
A character like Saru, for instance, is never going to grow past being “the guy who is scared all the time until he isn’t” until we get a more sedate, thoughtful story that can show us a more rounded character in less intense situations.
A character like Tilly is never going to be able to grow fully into a capable and responsible officer if she only has experience at dealing with betrayal and explosions.
And Burnham is never going to turn into the compelling protagonist we need her to be if all she can do is get outraged at and then solve every new devastating problem the crew faces before getting thrown into the next exciting action climax.
We didn’t fall in love with Spock because he once fought Kirk with big fancy blades. We fell in love with Spock because he finally cracked into a broad smile when he realised his best friend was still alive before immediately regaining his composure.
We didn’t fall in love with Sisko because he could punch Jem’Hedar. We fell in love with Sisko because he loved baseball nearly as much as he loved his son, and because when we first meet him he resents his posting to a backwater like Bajor, and by the time he leaves us he’s planning the house he’s going to build there.
We didn’t fall in love with Harry Kim. And that’s okay, because as soon as he opened his mouth we could just tune him out and think about The Doctor instead.
And this is it. Right now, I don’t really care about any of the crew of the Discovery. But I think I could, if they were to get a few decent stories under their belt with plenty of time to wander around and simply be. It was great to see Burnham and Tilly chatting shit whilst on a run through the corridors – it was a simple scene that didn’t need to go anywhere or be plot relevant. But it was nearly unique in that regard, because you can’t leave room for scenes like that when you’ve got so many “secret identity” plotlines and brutal killings to squeeze into a limited number of episodes.
It would be great if we could get an episode in Season 2 where, I dunno, where they’ve got to transport some sound-sensitive alien ambassador to a summit or something. And everyone has to go around the ship unable to shout or scream, they just have to have normal conversations with one another and emote at a reasonable volume. And nothing much really happens, but Saru meets the ambassador and they talk about their shared sensitivity, and Stamets tries to teach Tilly how to calibrate the engine but Tilly starts teaching him because she clearly knows more about it than he does, and Burnham and Detmer sit down to finally reminisce over a bottle of whisky about their time on the Shenzhou whilst getting steadily more drunk, toasting fallen shipmates and singing ‘Jerusalem’, and then they get carried away and end up getting shouted at for being too loud.
But with Kurtzman now firmly at the creative helm, I doubt we’d even get a quiet scene in a turbolift. I doubt a character could even pour themselves a hot earl grey without something bursting into flames or a war being declared or the earl grey revealing that it was evil mirror-universe fruit tea ALL ALONG.
‘Solo’ was a solidly enjoyable adventure film. In fact, ‘Solo’ is basically what the original ‘Star Wars’ would have been if it was made today. There are some issues, though, most of which come from my nerdy background. There’s also a lot of great moments. Let’s dig through. Spoilers from here on out.
Han is Good, and that’s bad. This story starts with Han being a relatively reckless young man devoted to a young woman, and ends with him being a relatively altruistic and sentimental hero. Which is fine from a “making a movie” perspective, but problematic because it’s very difficult to go from Han Solo at the end of ‘Solo’ to Han Solo at the beginning of ‘A New Hope’.
But admittedly, that doesn’t harm this film in its own right – it just makes it sit awkwardly in the franchise.
The final scene should have ended with Han sitting down at the card table. We already know he’s going to win the game and hence the Falcon, we don’t need to see it happen at that point, especially when it’s as exciting as watching two people play a card game that we don’t understand.
The film also didn’t sell me on the connection between Han and the Falcon. Specifically, I couldn’t understand why Han would chase down Lando at the very end just to gamble for the Falcon, when he could instead just buy a ship that he knows isn’t ripped to shreds. Put simply, it doesn’t feel like an organic character motivation, and if this wasn’t an origin story for Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon, that scene wouldn’t even exist.
The constant heel-face-turns of almost every character at the end was dizzying. Everybody was up to something, leaving it all feeling a bit ‘Where Eagles Dare’. Qi’Ra’s seeming betrayal of Han, then her actual betrayal of Paul Bettany, then her betrayal of Han again all seemed a bit ropey, and didn’t make much sense except to wind the finale out a bit more and force in a little extra tension.
Specifically, her knocking the gun out of Han’s hand as he’s about to shoot Paul, then getting into a fight with Paul and killing him, just to then turn on Han for real – it was all a bit weird. If she needs to kill Paul, do it whilst he’s fighting with Han, right?
Darth Maul’s presence bugged me, mostly because it further validates the Prequels. Admittedly, he was one of the few memorable parts of the Prequels that isn’t painful to think about, but still.
I really, really, really wish we could put this whole Parsec thing behind us as a species. It’s become the low-hanging fruit of wannabe cosmic intellectuals to point out that, yes, a parsec is a distance not a time, despite the fact that not only is Han’s intentional attempt at misinformationpointed out in the original script, it’s even made clear by the sceptical “Cut the Crap” expression that Obi Wan pulls when Han tries it on. We did not need to devote a significant part of the plot of this film just to try and paper over the imagined narrative cracks caused by a single throwaway line of dialogue from forty years ago that was intended as bullshit in the first place. Jesus.
I had originally written in the first draft of this review:
‘Solo’ teases passing Bechdel, but falls short. However, it has got some decent representation, with a moralistic masked mercenary, a self-sufficient and suave gang lieutenant, a radical civil rights activist droid and a seasoned, ruthless scoundrel who sadly dies too early in the film – all played by women. Also a weird water-centipede thing who’s a crime boss, if that counts.
HOWEVER, this article was shared to me by a friend and it provides a pretty key insight that I had missed, which is that two of those cool female characters get fridged, i.e. brutally killed off just to further the character development of the men in the story. This is uncool (and, admittedly, a sign that my privileged perspective meant I didn’t even notice at first, which is shitty of me.)
Names have always been a bit weird and inconsistent in Star Wars, and I think ‘Solo’ amplifies that to a new level. Alongside Qi’ra, Dryden Vos and Enfys Nest, we have Val and Toby Beckett. That’s his actual name. Tobias Beckett. And it’s fairly distracting in the context of a fantastical space opera. Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi – they work as names because they’re a mix of generic and outlandish. “Ben Kenobi” could be a space wizard – “Toby Beckett” is never doing anything except selling used cars on the outskirts of Coventry. Or maybe playing Rugby for Macclesfield or something.
Chewbacca now canonically eats people. That is a thing that is true. He also literally pulls people’s arms from their bodies. He is very literally a people-eating murderer. Remember when Han jokes in ‘A New Hope’ about Chewie dismembering people for losing a game? That’s not a joke anymore, that’s true. Do you love re-watching the old movies? Every time you do, you will now do so knowing that our heroes are wandering around with Chewbacca, WHO EATS PEOPLE. Fun times. Fun Times.
All the performances were solid. I had read that the two directors (who were later fired) claimed that Alden Ehrenreich was terrible as Han, but he seemed pretty good to me. Emilia Clarke was great, and Donald Glover was fucking on-point as Lando, as I’m sure we all knew he would be.
The action was exciting, and mostly not overdone. There was a fight on top of a speeding train and it felt like a fight on top of a speeding train, rather than some massively choreographed flip-and-spin fest. Getting shot seemed to matter. Chewie literally pulls a man’s arms out of his sockets. People get brutally tased. Droids revolt. Spaceships fly.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that it all got a bit martial-artsy towards the end with a the dagger fighting.
It’s shallow, I know, but seeing the Falcon in its fancy, clean state was nice. Also nice was Lando’s cape closet. Literally a room dedicated to holding capes. So absolutely Lando.
L3 was brilliant, and it’s a great shame that she was killed off half-way through the film. Her characterisation and her motivations were excellent, as was her animation. However, the context around her motivations – that of civil rights – brings us onto the next section.
Speaking of L3, her response “Good luck finding it,” to Clint Howard’s “I’m going to flip your switch,” easily constitutes the first clitoris joke in Star Wars. What an age we live in.
Star Wars has always, always had issues with race. And Gender. And sexuality. Let’s just be frank, here, in a Galaxy full of different species, planets and cultures, it took:
Two films to get an on-screen black actor (Billy Dee Williams as Lando).
Four films to get a total of four named female characters (Beru, Leia, Shmi and Padme, not counting the unnamed Mon Mothma).
Four films to get a second and third on-screen black actor (Hugh Quarshie and Samuel L. Jackson as Panaka and Mace Windu, respectively, not counting Jar Jar Binks).
Seven films to get a fourth on-screen black actor (John Boyega as Finn), and still no on-screen black women (Lupita Nyong’o played the CGI Maz Kanata).
Seven films to get the total named female characters up to eight (Maz, Rey and Phasma, plus the assassin Zam Wessel in ‘Attack of the Clones’) – I think I missed a couple of Padme’s handmaidens but they got about six lines between them so whatever.
EIGHT FILMS to get the second, third and fourth on-screen named Asian characters (Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, both Chinese, as Chirrut and Baze, plus Riz Ahmed as Bodhi, in ‘Rogue One’). The first named Asian character is “Tasu Leech” in ‘The Force Awakens’, who, as this article points out, hardly plays a major role and is definitely not an example of positive representation.
‘Solo’, the TENTH film, is the first time we meet an on-screen, named black woman.
In a Galaxy full of all sorts of weird aliens and strange creatures, we have roughly nineteen hours of screentime before we meet a black woman with a name.
Star Wars has still not passed the Bechdel Test.
Star Wars has still not featured any LGBT+ characters.
The finale of ‘Solo’ features the heroes travelling to a desert planet to refine their magical space fuel. This planet is inhabited solely by humans. We learn that these humans all had their tongues cut out by a bunch of off-world gangsters working with the Empire. They were brutally punished for attempting to resist colonialist oppression and exploitation.
And they’re all black.
Specifically, we see more black people on screen in this scene than we have in every other Star Wars movie combined.
And none of them can talk.
And they live in a desert.
And they’re all dressed in stereotypes of African clothing.
And they get saved by the handsome white dude.
Meanwhile, the one named black character who’s still alive, Lando, leaves as soon as the situation gets dicey. Lando, played by Childish Gambino, flies off to leave Han Solo and his white girlfriend to save the desert planet of mute black people from his white former mentor and a white gang boss.
And I’m not saying that all of this is inherently bad. But the context of it all makes it feel like a film that would be made in the ’60s. It couldn’t be more socially troubling if Sean Connery appeared in a wig and fake eyebrows pretending to be Japanese.
‘Solo’ tries to raise the issue of droids in Star Wars being sentient but being essentially treated like slaves. Which I’m fine with. Except that this charge is led by L3, a droid voiced by a white woman, who at one point in the film demands equal rites from her owner – a black man, played by Childish Gambino. And that’s just weird.
It’s weird because, as we all know, Star Wars has a near-infinite number of weird and wonderful aliens to draw from when populating scenes. In ‘A New Hope’, when we first enter the Mos Eisley cantina, humans make up about 3% of the clientele. And yet on the desert planet at the end of ‘Solo’, they’re all human, and they’re all black.
And the point is, that had to have been a decision. At some point when making this movie, somebody decided that that was how they were going to cast this scene. Somebody put together the list of extras, and somebody, somewhere, made sure they were almost all black. And that is so weird.
I’m not trying to make the argument that ‘Solo’ is an inherently racist movie. I don’t think it is. But it does feel bizarrely tone-deaf for a movie released in 2018. Starring Childish Gambino. Especially given that it actively chooses to address issues of slavery and civil liberties.
Ultimately, ‘Solo’ is a movie that will probably be broadly forgotten years from now. Where ‘Rogue One’ is beautifully tragic, ‘Solo’ is adequately middle-of-the-road. There’s nothing to inherently dislike about it, but neither is there anything particularly exciting either.
Please note, this article contains a lot of NSFW (not safe for work) content. Please proceed with caution.
One of my best-performing articles is my review of ‘Altered Carbon’, which gets as many as a dozen new views every day. Most of the time, I can’t see exactly what brought people to that article, since most search results are listed as “unknown”. But I get occasional glimpses at the search results, and you’d be amazed by what they reveal.
It turns out that an awful lot of you want to know who the “Put Your Wife In Me” actor is in the second episode, and so I’ve decided to go with the flow of public interest and provide the answer you all so desperately seek.
After studious and determined research (involving going to the episode’s IMDB page and scrolling down) I discovered that the creative talent behind “Advert Spokeswoman #2” is Nalani Wakita.
That’s her name, but what else do we know about this unique individual? Why do so many of you find her so captivating, so compelling, that you scour the internet searching for her identity? What is it about her that makes her special?
Are you eager to find out her story, the tale of how she got into acting? Did she always dream as a child of one day being a star, a big name in Hollywood? Or did she stumble into it, as an off-shoot from a modelling career? Is it just a sideline, something she enjoys part-time whilst she pursues her true calling elsewhere? Or was she merely talent-spotted one day, given an offer to be in a TV show that she felt obliged to accept?
If stardom is a dream of hers, what spark lit the fire of that dream? Did her parents instill in her a keen ambition from an early age? Does she even have a close relationship with her parents? Are they disappointed in her life choices, and as such emotionally distant and unavailable? Or have they always been dedicated, supportive and proud to see their daughter work hard and advance her career? Or maybe it’s more complex than that: maybe her parents fret that they didn’t do enough to teach her how to find happiness in herself, and maybe each night she goes to bed worrying that her choices disappoint her family. Maybe both parties continue in this anxious state, equally unaware of the other party’s neuroses.
What about her personal life? Does her career keep her busy, so busy that she struggles to build deep connections with others? Or does she possess a demeanour that makes it easy for her to quickly build a strong, intimate understanding of the people in her life? Does she live and love with a carefree attitude, happy to share her vulnerabilities with many different people? Or does she cleave to a traditional, singular dedication to just one person?
How did her role in ‘Altered Carbon’ affect her? Does she regret exposing herself so explicitly, reinforcing the objectification of women in the media? Or does she feel that as society moves closer to equality, the feminist cause becomes less immediate and less relevant? Does she even think about it in these terms, or was this just a job for her, a paid role which she can add to her portfolio to help advance her career? Maybe she’s simply comfortable with her own body, and feels that adding to the taboo of female nudity by concealing it is itself an act of objectification?
But you don’t care. You don’t want to know the answers to these questions, because you don’t really want to know who the “Put your wife in me” woman is. You want to know what she is. You don’t want a picture of Nalani Wakita, you want images of her. For a few seconds you were able to see her at her most exposed, and now you want more. You want to to expose her further, get a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of her body, break her down to nothing more than a construct of skin and flesh and bone.
Nothing is ever enough for people like you. The goal that ought to sate your desires only fuels them, mutates them, until you yourself become an abstract caricature – a grotesque, slovenly creature, dick in hand, women with lives and stories reduced to nought but disposable stimulation on an endless conveyor belt of lust and depravity. If any capacity for human connection remained within you, you might pause to question not just your own life but that of the woman at the heart of your fantasy. Your interest might be piqued not by her nude flesh but by her naked soul, a delicate structure of unfathomable complexity hiding a spiritual bounty of untold value.
But such a thing is waste product in your eyes – needless baggage laid upon a pure and sexual body. Why burden an object of sex with emotions and ambitions? Why muddy the waters of carnal desires with the mess that comes from truly knowing a person?
Well, I’m not going to help you. I’ll not provide you with the images you seek. I’ll neither aid nor abet your descent into inhuman, id-driven base behaviour. If you want to see more of Ms. Wakita, you’ll have to find it yourself. Go looking through the scraps of the internet like the dog you are. Maybe somewhere along the way you’ll find rock bottom – if you even possess the wherewithal to recognise it before you continue plummeting into the depths of sexual despair.
However, quite a few of you come to my site looking for pictures of James Purefoy’s penis, and I’d be happy to oblige. These are the best I could find from a quick Google search, as well as some screencaps from ‘Altered Carbon’. Now, please! Enjoy this collection of James Purefoy hanging dong:
Please note that if the one thing I have accomplished in my life is adding James Purefoy’s dick to image search results for Nalani Wakita nude, I’ll be so, so happy with myself.