BREAKING: New STAR TREK Series Announced – SIMON PEGG To Helm The RETURN Of The ENTERPRISE C

A surprise announcement was made at yesterday’s Course Heading: Star Trek convention held in Nuneaton, UK, where Star Trek actor and writer Simon Pegg made a surprise appearance alongside current franchise runner Alex Kurtzman to announce the next Star Trek television project: ‘Ambassador’.

Hijacking the main stage immediately after the afternoon panel discussion, Pegg excitedly described the new show at this early conceptual stage:

PEGG: “It’s so brilliant to be here in front of all of you, really, and to have this amazing opportunity to talk about the new show, ‘Ambassador’. I think you’re all going to love it, I know some of you will be dubious at first, but as it comes together I think you’ll be really, really pleasantly surprised.

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Pegg on-stage at Course Heading: Star Trek, at the Nuneaton Exhibition Centre.

Pegg went into further details about the show’s setting and its main character:

PEGG: “It’s called ‘Ambassador’, and we’ll be going back in time a little, to the Enterprise C, that’s where we’re taking the name from, for the Ambassador-class ship. I honestly love ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’, it’s one of my favourite episodes, and for me it’s the perfect jumping-off point for a new show.

“The reality of creating new material for a historical franchise like Star Trek is that, commercially, we really have to deliver something recognisable and familiar to the fans, you just can’t escape that if you want to compete against so many other brilliant, original shows. What’s perfect about this setting is that it allows us to lift something familiar but that’s not really been explored before, and run with it, do our own thing with it without breaking canon.”

Alex Kurtzman was alongside Pegg for the announcement, but passed very few comments. Asked on his involvement with the project, he responded:

KURTZMAN [laughing]: “No, no, I’m not in on this one, this is all Simon’s baby, I’m just writing the cheques.”

PEGG [to Kurtzman]: “Keep them coming! [laughs] Honestly, though, this is actually going to be a scaled-back production. It’s easy to over-spend with these sorts of shows, and focus on big actiony set pieces, but we actually want to scale it back, keep it more narrative-driven.

“From a business perspective, the studio wants a more modest, more affordable show, but for me, that just means we focus more on dialogue and story and character development. We really want to get to know the characters, see them at work and at play, y’know, see them tackling issues and problem-solving with each other, proper back-and-forth between them.

“It keeps the pressure of Alex’s chequebook, and gives the fans more of what they want, more of that classic Trek problem-solving, especially around negotiation and diplomacy – ‘Ambassador’ means more than just the ship, y’know?”

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The Enterprise NCC-1701-C, as we saw it in TNG’s ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’.

On the subject of characters, Pegg described some of the show, but specified that many details are yet to be confirmed, and may roles have been outlined but not yet filled. He did, however, identify the show’s star:

PEGG: “I’ve literally, just yesterday had confirmed from her agent that Jessica Chastain’s agreed to come on board as Captain Garrett. This is amazing, Jessica’s a proper A-List talent, she’s amazing, and she’d done so many amazing roles already. Honestly I couldn’t believe it when I was told we might be getting her, and when I heard I was floored.

“Rachel Garrett’s only on screen for a bit but she’s this amazing character, with this cool, steady authority but, like, real grit, real tenacity and courage, Jessica’s perfect for that.

“She was amazing in ‘The Martian’, where Matt Damon’s stranded on an alien world, and incredible in ‘Interstellar’, where Matt Damon’s stranded on an alien world. [laughs] I don’t think we’re getting Matt Damon in though, are we, Alex?”

KURTZMAN [laughing]: “No, I don’t think so! You kidding? We just blew our budget on Jessica!”

PEGG: “Maybe we’ll get him in for an episode… maybe he’ll guest as another captain, this time he’ll rescue her from a planet for a change. [laughs] Maybe that’ll convince him, a chance to turn the tables.”

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Jessica Chastain, left, who will be playing Captain Rachel Garret, previously played by Tricia O’Neill, right.

Pegg went further to discuss this new version of Garrett in the show:

PEGG: “We’re setting it a few years before Narendra, before the Romulan attack, which means we know where their story ends up, but that’s actually kind of liberating, in a way. It means we don’t have to work in “will they live, will they die?” action scenes all the time, because we know what happens to them, so instead, we’re going to go back to episodic stories. Each episode will be its own story, and we get to focus the tension on the current problem.

“So, y’know, one of our early stories, we’re setting it on this war-torn planet where a Federation ship has crashed, and it’s up to Garrett and the Enterprise to force a ceasefire so they can rescue the survivors. It’s not, like, end-of-the-universe stuff, it’s a bit more simple, but it means we can set the stakes at a more basic level: do they rescue the survivors? Do they help create peace? How do they negotiate between these two factions, what sort of compromises are they willing to make? Is one side more righteous than the other?

“Part of that is developing Garrett’s backstory. This’ll be a reboot of sorts, because we’ll be really fleshing her out as a character, because we know so little about her. So she’ll have a background as a lawyer, in fact, still Starfleet, but she trained as a lawyer for the JAG office. But early in her career she gets forced into duty aboard a starship, and starts rising through the ranks from there.

“So she’s bringing this very measured, very analytical approach to command, to how she does things, very controlled and reasoned. I think it’s going to be really interesting, because she’s not, like, a romantic hero like Kirk, or a statesman like Picard, she’s more of an advocate, very driven, very quick to point out holes in other peoples’ arguments and spot gaps in reasoning – y’know, precise but witty, and sharp. She still sees herself as a lawyer as much as an officer, so she’s always looking at the evidence, she builds a case, builds an airtight argument so she always knows that what she’s doing is justified.”

Other casting decisions were announced, including Garrett’s first officer, along with a few other crew members and a high-ranking Starfleet admiral:

KURTZMAN: “We’re so excited to have Jessica on board to play Geralt -”

PEGG: “Garrett. Rachel Garrett.”

KURTZMAN: “Sure, yeah, Garret, right. So, we’ve got Jessica Chastain with us, which is amazing, but we’ve also got a few other big names. You want to tell them, Simon?”

PEGG: “Don’t mind if I do, thank you Alex. So, we’ve cast Grace Park as a new character, Commander Valerii. Grace was absolutely amazing as Boomer in ‘Battlestar’, so it’s great to get her back into sci-fi for ‘Ambassador’. She’s Garrett’s first officer, and she’s going to be much more old-school Starfleet, really headstrong, very motivated and heroic. We think it’ll be great, she’ll be this ambitious young officer butting heads with her captain. Garrett will be looking at the measured approach, building the case, whilst Valerii will be pushing to just charge in, do the right thing but leap before looking. It’ll make for a lot of friction, a lot of debate.”

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Grace Park, who will be taking on the role of Commander Valerii, the Enterprise C’s heretofore unseen first officer.

PEGG: “And then we’ve got Archie Panjabi in as the tactical officer Lieutenant Sharma. Archie’s got this fierce energy to her, this intensity that’s really compelling, and we really want to make the most of that. And we’ve got Nesta Cooper, she’s fresh out of ‘Travelers’, we’ve got her as the science officer, she’s wonderful, really is. And then to round off the main crew we’ve got Malcolm Barrett as the ship’s doctor, the chief medical officer. Malcolm’s another wonderful actor, he’s got a great range on him, but we really want to tap into that, that slightly insecure, fairly nerdy sort of performance that he did so well in ‘Better Off Ted’ and ‘Timeless’.”

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From left to right: Archie Panjabi, Nesta Cooper and Malcolm Barrett, who will be playing bridge officers in the new series.

PEGG: “Finally, we have, and this is amazing, but we’re finalising talks with Viola Davis to guest-star in a few episodes as an Admiral, as Garrett’s commanding officer. We all love Viola’s sheer, raw talent, and she’ll be an absolutely fantastic element of the show, as the contact point with Starfleet and the Federation. We’re just in the final stages of negotiation, so I don’t want to jinx it too much, but yeah, that’s the real joy for me, is getting to work with incredible skilled performers like her.”

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Viola Davis, currently finalising her involvement in the series as a Starfleet Admiral.

Pegg rounded off the announcement with a few mundane details – the show is scheduled for release on CBS All Access in two years’ time, giving the new Picard show and the ‘Lower Decks’ animated show time to bed in and develop their own audiences.

Crowd reactions were positive, with plenty of cheering and applause. No time was given for questions and answers, but Pegg did offer an impromptu “FAQ” section at the very end:

PEGG: “Okay, I know this is a lot to take in, and I’ve been – ooh – I’ve been going on for a bit now, but just to get some stuff out the way:

“Yes, we’re going to be keeping those classic red woollen tunics. They’re gorgeous we all love them, and – look, I know it’s not era-appropriate, but we’re going to bring back the woollen turtleneck. It’s so iconic, and honestly, I always thought it just looked weird without it.

“And yeah, I hate to say it, but we’re updating the sets and the computers. It’s such a hard decision to make, but we need the show to appeal to new audiences as well as old, and part of that is making it look like a modern show. We’re going to try and keep the technology the same, and the ship’s going to be identical, we’re working really hard to really authentically reproduce the original design with CGI. But yeah, the computers, the consoles, the screens, they’re all going to be a little snazzier than they were. Just the realities of commercial TV, it has to look good in the trailers.

“And finally, no, there won’t be any cameos, I’m afraid. I won’t even be in it – no Scotty in this one! We really want this to be its own show, we’re using the Enterprise C and ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ as a jumping-off point, but we don’t want to be tying ourselves down with links to existing characters. I dunno, maybe we’ll see a young Nechayev as an ensign or something, or Admiral Satie in her heyday, that could be good fun for an episode, but in general, no, we want this to stand on the strength of its stories.”

With that, the announcement drew to a close, with just a few passing remarks from Pegg and Kurtzman before departing:

PEGG: “Thanks all, it’s been wonderful to speak to you all today, and to share our news with you! It means so much that you’re all here. Y’know, we live in such an amazing time, both for Star Trek, and for the world, really, and we want to reflect that positivity and celebrate it with this new show.”

KURTZMAN: “We do, we really do. Which is why I’m so happy to hand the franchise over to these other amazing creative people like Simon, to take it forward into a bright future. This is a job that he was made for, and I’m glad to have him with us.”

PEGG: “Absolutely, and thank you, Alex. I mean, can you imagine if I wasn’t here? If you had to run this all by yourself?”

KURTZMAN: “I know! [laughs] Who knows what that would be like? Knowing me, there’d be a lot of fight scenes!”

PEGG: “Yeah, lots of fight scenes! You love them! You’d probably be bringing Spock back, but with, like, long hair and a beard, and have him running around and smiling at everyone.”

KURTZMAN [laughing]: “I might, I might! I mean, I’d probably never have come up with anything like ‘Ambassador’, I’d probably be doing, I dunno, a dark nasty spy show, like Section 31 or something.”

PEGG: “Yeah! Something awful like that, about a bunch of black ops spies led by, I dunno, some kind of fascist as the hero or something. Can you imagine?”

KURTZMAN: “Nah, I’d never… well, maybe. But that sort of thing just wouldn’t fly these days. Not since Hillary won by a landslide, and after Trump’s imprisonment for treason, people don’t want that nasty stuff anymore, they want optimistic, thoughtful stories that reflect the real world.”

PEGG: “Yeah, exactly. Y’know, I’m British, and I was so glad when the Brexit referendum failed 82-18. Waking up that morning and seeing that Remain had won by such a margin, and I thought ‘Wow, can you imagine if you lived in a world where your own country was sabotaging its entire future due to a bunch of privileged politicians and businessmen, and the only thing you had to look forward to was some kind of pessimistic, miserable take on Star Trek about war and religion and evil robots?”

KURTZMAN: “It’d be so grim, Simon, so grim. Every day I’m grateful, grateful to have amazing Star Wars spin-offs like that Boba Fett movie directed by the guy who did ‘Dredd’, and not some pointless and un-asked-for Han Solo origin story. Grateful to see anti-monopoly laws being so effective at preventing Disney from absorbing every single popular creative copyright in existence.”

PEGG: “Right! And, y’know, and speaking of that, we’ve seen all those sensible copyright laws come into effect, protecting content creators all across the internet and taking power away from these monolithic corporations. I think it’s really all down to the sweeping electoral reform we’ve seen across the globe, replacing first-past-the-post systems with true proportional representation that allows every vote to count and restores public faith in democracy.”

KURTZMAN: “That’s one of my favourite things about this reality! That, and also the time we took all the anti-vaxxers and put them in a big rocket and fired that rocket into the sun, before vaccinating everyone in the world who can be safely vaccinated and eradicating preventable diseases once and for all.”

PEGG: “That was such a good day. Such a good day. I mean, can you imagine a world without all of these incredible developments? Where we didn’t even have a progressive take on Star Trek? Where minority representation was just used as a marketing tool by corporations to push their product rather than being seriously utilised as a means of democratising the entertainment industry and stripping away prejudice and inequality? Where you ended up with completely abstinent, loveless gay couples, or non-white female lead actors who needed close ties to existing white male characters out of fear of alienating the core audience base?”

KURTZMAN: “Yeah, I mean, it’s so great being able to see you write strong, charismatic black female protagonists who stand on their own merits, and don’t need tying into the existing lore or given fate-of-the-universe backstories to justify their inclusion in the franchise. And it’s great that, although the realities of commercial TV come with certain attachments, they don’t serve as handcuffs on your creativity, and that you’re still able to exercise creative freedom to write compelling narratives that don’t have to pander to the drooling masses who need a six-minute punch-up in every episode to be entertained.”

PEGG: “Yeah, that sure would suck.”

The ULTIMATE Crossover: The Hogwarts Houses Of Your Favourite Star Trek Characters!

The results are in! The Sorting Hat has spoken! Starfleet’s best have been Sorted!

In the world of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, students at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry get sorted into one of four houses – brave Gryffindor, cunning Ravenclaw, caring Hufflepuff or ambitious Slytherin.

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If you’re a Harry Potter super-fan, you probably already know which house you’d be in – but what about some of your favourite fictional characters?

For all of you Star Trek-lovers out there, we decided to try and figure out just which Hogwarts House some of the most iconic Trek characters would be sorted into. Will they Gryffindor-ly go where no Wizard has gone before?

Let’s find out!


Sylvia Tilly

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Tilly has been a big hit with Star Trek fans since her introduction in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, and has established herself as a firm fan favourite! But how would she get on in Hogwarts?

Well, we think Tilly is a classic Hufflepuff! She’s warm, kind, and she loves to look out for her friends. She’s always optimistic and thoughtful, and she always works hard and treats everyone she meets fairly.

The Sorting Hate Says: Hufflepuff!


Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

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Bones has been a grumbling, grouchy, lovable icon of Star Trek since the very beginning, and almost everyone is familiar with his forthright demeanour and his oft-recalled catchphrase “I’m a doctor, not a…”

McCoy’s medical credentials make him a firm fit for Ravenclaw. But his devotion to healing, his unswerving loyalty to Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise, and his fondness for just sitting down with a good bottle of something strong and shooting the breeze with and old friend make him the perfect candidate for one house in particular.

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Benjamin Sisko

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Ben Sisko is the third captain (or should we say commander?) to get his own series, and he’s one of the more popular captains owing to his complexity and the strong values he represents.

On the one hand, Sisko’s incredibly brave, like a Gryffindor, but he also has an intellectual side, and a degree of cunning. But ultimately, his most defining traits were his love of his family and his friends, his passion for cooking, and a tireless work ethic coupled with generosity and a firm belief in playing fair and being honest. Which leads to only one real choice…

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Kathryn Janeway

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Captain Janeway was Trek’s first female captain to get her own series, and she made quite the impression. Her cool head, focused intellect and ingenious solutions to complicated problems made her stand out as one of Starfleet’s finest.

Janeway was fearless under fire, and never afraid to confront an injustice. That said, we often see her enjoying her homely comforts – a good pot of coffee, a nice hot bath, an intriguing period holonovel. She always made sure to take care of all of her crew, even going so far as to personally take time out to help three lower decks officers who were struggling to fit in. It’s these kinds of traits that really left a mark, and that defined her most as a character.

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Jean Luc Picard

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With his fine, clipped accent, assertive leadership style and unwavering determination, there is no equal to the likes of Jean Luc Picard. Captain of the Enterprise through all of The Next Generation (and now getting his own show!) Picard is one of the most recognisable and widely-loved characters from all of Star Trek.

Picard really could go to any House- he’s bold and courageous like any good Gryffindor, but also ambitious, and calculating when necessary, as would be expected of a Slytherin. He’s academic, studious and focused. But at heart, he’s a noble gentleman with refined tastes. From classical music to his favourite drink – tea, Earl Grey, hot! From his dedication to archaeology to his tireless diligence, from his speeches on honesty and fairness to his absolute and flawless loyalty to his crew, there can only really be one House where Picard would truly find his potential.

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Spock

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If there is one character that is synonymous with Star Trek, it’s got to be Mr. Spock. Every aspect of his appearance, from his ears to his hair to his eyebrows, is woven into the legacy of Star Trek. His philosophies and his Logic are part of Star Trek’s soul, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

A being of logic, learning, ingenuity and rationality, it’s pretty clear straight away where Spock belongs in Hogwarts. Whether he’s playing his Vulcan lute to entertain his shipmates, decorating his quarters with beautiful artwork, or just sitting around a campfire and singing old songs with old friends, you probably don’t need us to tell you to which House Spock belongs…

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Quark

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Arguably one of Trek’s most successful break-out characters, Quark is a bit of an oddball. A Ferengi to the core, Quark is defined best by his bar aboard Deep Space Nine, and by his family – Nog, Rom and Ishka (or “Moogie”) who frequently drive him up the wall – but whom he nevertheless remains loyal to.

Quark’s a bit devious at times, and ambitious to a fault. But he works hard, and is dedicated to the comfort and enjoyment of his customers.

But with all that said, at his core, Quark is bold, and ready to stand up for what he truly believe is right. Time and again he overcomes his fears, sticking his neck out to save the Ferengi economy, fighting for his Klingon bride, even taking on the brutal Jem’Hadar when he needs to. For all of these reasons, we think there’s only one place for Quark.

The Sorting Hat Says: Gryffindor!


That’s all we’ve got time for today! We hope you enjoyed our take on Star Trek Hogwarts Houses!

Didn’t see your favourite character here? Think a different House would suit one of the characters above? Let us know in the comments section! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Great Big Crude Star Trek Survey

The Great Big Crude Star Trek Survey can be found here! All responses are valued and appreciated!

The Star Trek fandom is a diverse and divisive bunch. We all love Star Trek, but none of us can quite agree on which bits of it we love.

Some of us grew up on the Original Series and Kirk’s adventures aboard the Enterprise. Some of us only got into the show recently, and are bingeing our way through the entire back catalogue.

Some of us are more casual fans, dipping into the franchise only occasionally, whilst others are hardcore Trekkies, attending conventions and getting into arguments on the internet with other hardcore Trekkies because how can somebody not understand that Rachael Garrett is actually the best captain?

To try and get a little clarity out of a chaotic subject, I’ve turned to The Scientific Method. It’s the only Logical way.

I have put together the Great Big Crude Star Trek Survey – a collection of 26 questions (most of them serious) querying your views not just on Star Trek, but on broader topics in the world of TV and movies.

There’s no judgement attached to any of the questions – if your favourite series is the Animated series and your favourite character is Okona, nobody’s going to judge you. I mean, I’ll judge you, silently, as I read through the results. But I won’t know who you are, so it’s fine.

This data is completely anonymous and is being used solely for research purposes. CrudeReviews (i.e. me) has no connection or affiliation with any corporation or organisation of any kind – this is a one-person operation, run in my spare time, and completely non-monetised. I get nothing out of this survey beyond a sense of smugness as I see everyone’s terrible choices.

Once I’ve gathered enough responses, I’ll share all results – including spreadsheets with the raw data – on this website, and may carry out further analysis as more results come in.

I won’t be getting any personal data about anyone who answers, and I’ll be carefully filtering all data prior to release to absolutely 100% ensure anonymity.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, or on the CrudeReviews twitter, or on the CrudeReviews Facebook page, both linked below, and I’ll happily answer.

CrudeReviews on Facebook

CrudeReviews on Twitter

One final note – a handful of the questions are intentionally provocative, relating to social / political issues. All of these bar the first are intentionally left optional, and all are intended to be as open to all viewpoints as possible within the limits of a multiple-choice survey question. If answering these questions would make you uncomfortable, or if you think they don’t sufficiently describe your opinion, please feel free to skip them – that said, responses to these questions are of particular interest, so if you can answer them honestly, please do.

Spock, Chewbacca and The Prequel Paradox

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ brought us Han Solo’s origins as a young scoundrel. As I covered in my earlier review, it was kind of alright, if you overlook the odd bits about race and feminism.

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?

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“This is my friend Chewie. It’s cool, he hasn’t eaten anybody in, like, three days.”

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:

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).

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Sheer poise and sophistication.

Sarek, a famously logical, ethical Vulcan renowned for having spent his life as a diplomat 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.

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Ooh, awkward.

(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.

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Awkwaaaaard.

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’.

palpatine

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.

rogueoneending

‘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.

Ethan Peck cast as Spock in Star Trek: Discovery

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.

ethanpeck
Mr Spock, if The Original Series had been written by Stephenie Meyer.

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.

Christopher_Pike,_2267
Well, I guess he’ll be sort-of fine.

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

Burnham has two main problems as a character:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

sarek1

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.

lethe

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?

errandofmercy1
One of these two is the representative of an empire which uses weapons of mass destruction to coerce submission from its enemies. SPOILER ALERT IT’S NOT THE KLINGON.

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.

hanchewie1

‘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.

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked Script from the Pilot Episode of ‘Star Trek: Picard’

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


STAR TREK: PICARD

SEASON 1, EPISODE 1
PROVISIONAL TITLE: “As the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
ALTERNATIVE TITLE: “Let Them Bleed”

WRITTEN BY ALEX KURTZMAN, AGE 44 AND 2/3rds

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.

PICARD
Enter.

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.

NUMBER ONE
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.

PICARD
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.

NUMBER ONE
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.

PICARD
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.

NUMBER ONE
Captain, aren’t we taking the shuttles?

PICARD
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.

COMPUTER
Ship in position. Diplomacy team ready to deploy.

PICARD
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.

SOME ROMULAN
Weyoun, it’s the Enterprise, she’s in orbit!

WEYOUN
The Enterprise? She’s an Ethics-class consular gunship! And she can only be captained by one person…

SOME ROMULAN
(gasping)
Picard! Quickly, we must hide the children!

WEYOUN
(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.

NUMBER ONE
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.

PICARD
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.

TEAM MEMBER
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.

PICARD
Any other questions?

There are none.

EXT. MILITARY BARRACKS, DAY
A ROMULAN OFFICER leads twenty soldiers in combat training.

ROMULAN OFFICER
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.

ROMULAN SOLDIER
But I’m fighting for the security of my empire and for the freedom of my loved ones!

ROMULAN OFFICER
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!

ROMULAN SOLDIER
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.

PICARD
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.

PICARD
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.

WEYOUN
He’s made planet fall! We should send three brigades of our best troops to slow him down!

SOME ROMULAN
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?

WEYOUN
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.

WEYOUN
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!

PICARD
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.

PICARD
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.

PICARD
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.

PICARD
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.

OPS OFFICER
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”.

OPS OFFICER
Sir! It’s the Cheney!

PICARD
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!

Star Trek: Discovery, Section 31, and the Death of Creativity

A cold, blustery day. Dark clouds turbulate overhead. Throughout the city, people look up the definition of “turbulate” and discover it’s being used incorrectly, but their lives continue unhindered.

Atop the city’s tallest building, at the very edge of the roof, stands a man. A writer. Lacking purpose or place in the world, he gazes down at the streets below and imagines his long descent and his messy, pavement-strewn end at the hands of gravity.

“Jon, don’t do it!” a woman’s voice calls. “I love you!”

“I know, Emily Blunt, and I’m so grateful to you for giving up your family and your life in Hollywood to come and live with me as a full-time ‘Roll for the Galaxy’ player,” he says, expositionally, “but it’s just not enough anymore. Besides, it’s weird that I never got past the point of calling you by your full name. You’d think that’d be step one, really.”

Hans Zimmer’s ‘Elysium’ from the ‘Gladiator’ Original Soundtrack can be heard non-diagetically. Jon stands, motionless, his arms outstretched, the cool breeze dancing across his open palms. It’s really dramatic and emotional.

Jon continues. “It’s just too much. All of it. Brexit. The #ihave hashtag. Trump. My literal emasculation. ‘Altered Carbon’s Saturn award. Matt Smith getting paid more than Claire Foy. My parents still being alive – the actuarial tables really fucked me over on that one.”

“But Jon!” Emily Blunt shouts, “it’s been confirmed! Season 2 of Discovery! They say Section 31 is going to be a major plot line!”

Jon sighs, closes his eyes, and steps backwards, away from the ledge. His arms drop. “Fine, then. I guess I’m still needed for a little while longer.”

Emily exhales deeply, her relief audible, her hand resting at her throat.

Jon wrings his hands to stop them from shaking. “Get me my keyboard and a shitload of codeine. It’s going to be another tough year.”


I loved ‘Deep Space Nine’. I really did. But Section 31 wasn’t half a mistake.

Within the series itself, it’s fine. Section 31 is a fringe group, maybe even just one man, the implication being that they operate well beneath Starfleet’s radar. And they only feature as part of Bashir’s arc – a direct reflection of his life lived undercover by necessity, and his desire for life of more overt subterfuge.

ourmanbashir
“Don’t worry about her, this is a James Bond holoprogram, she’s not a real person.” “You mean because she’s a holographic simulation?” “No, I mean because she’s a woman.”

Bashir idolises Garak’s life of secrets and deceit. He craves the excitement and the drama that it offers. That we learn that Bashir is something of his own secret agent, a product of genetic engineering that’s been illegal for centuries in the Federation, is a dark revelation. Bashir has spent his life undercover, hiding who he really is, unable to use the full extent of his abilities for fear of discovery. But this is a mundane deception, born out of necessity and survival rather than duty and intrigue.

Then one day, we meet Section 31. A shadowy, sinister organisation, allegedly part of Starfleet Intelligence, offering Bashir the chance to realise his full potential whilst living out his greatest fantasy. He refuses, because he finds their methods abominable. They melt back into the shadows, reappearing infrequently to do more dastardly deeds in the name of protecting the Federation.

There’s an implication that Starfleet Command is aware of Section 31 – maybe even some sort of agreement in place, especially in the latter stages of the Dominion War. Which to me, made sense. The Federation, on the brink of annihilation with an unrelenting enemy, starts making deals with the Devil himself. I mean, they’d brokered an alliance with the Romulan Empire, and they were just as culpable of state-ordered murder and oppression as anyone else.

The thing is, Section 31 were ambiguous, and nebulous, and unknown. This remained the case when they were revisited in ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ a few years later, acting as an independent organisation beyond Federation oversight.


A decade later, fucking Damon Lindelof shat out another of his movie scripts, this one called ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’. In it, we get a brief mention of Section 31, except this time they’re apparently part of the fucking infrastructure. They’re no longer some small, discrete fringe group. Now they’ve got a cavernous subterranean base beneath London, their head is a Starfleet Admiral, and they produce battleships on a whim.

Kelvin_Memorial_Archive

This is the worst interpretation of Section 31. This is why it was a mistake.

Y’see, the Federation really ought to represent a higher form of government, a better society than the one we have now. A post-scarcity Utopian state of freedom, discovery and responsibility. And I’m fine with the darker necessities of such a society being explored. I like seeing what happens when a society like that is taken to the very edge. For me, that’s what DS9 did so well – it took all of these fucking future-hippies in uniforms and pushed them to their very limit – and showed them (mostly) keeping it together and staying loyal to the cause.

Section 31 can’t be a legitimate part of that society. You can’t have a secret organisation of genocidal assassins in a culture based around peaceful exploration – not without completely compromising everything that such a bright view of the future stands for.

Obviously the Federation will still have its spies. Starfleet will have its own intelligence service. Enlightened liberty doesn’t mean reckless naivety. There will always be some call for espionage, even if only to counter the espionage attempts of your enemies.

But ‘Into Darkness’ legitimised 31 in a way that just annoys me. It brings them front and centre, makes them something bigger than what they should be. They ought to be a minor part of the Star Trek tableau, a part-time boogeyman brought on when you need to strain Starfleet’s purity a little. They shouldn’t be major players in galactic affairs – they should be off on the sidelines, at the corner of your eye, never quite in focus.


So, let’s talk about this dumb scene, that was cut from ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s finale. And for good reason:

Let’s get all the obvious stuff out the way:

  • Fuck off with your lapdance comments.
  • Seriously, Emperor Georgiou gets given a free pass by Starfleet down in the caverns, and the best she can come up with is wandering upstairs to the brothel and settling down as a small business owner?
  • That bloke claims Section 31 was able to find Georgiou “because they’re more resourceful than Starfleet.” Gee, you really must be, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to track down the only human on Qo’Nos, who happens to wander around in plain sight in a public business. It must have taken at least half a dozen Google searches. Maybe even some Google Maps to find the right place.
  • Section 31 is so secretive that nobody’s heard of them. Hence they have their own badges, and they decide to hire, as their next agent, a woman who looks exactly like one of Starfleet’s Top Five most decorated officers.

Starfleet_database,_decorated_captains (1)

  • Also, what is the point, exactly, in giving her a black badge? What, is she supposed to wear it? Does she use it to identify herself to other agents? Are there no better ways to keep track of an espionage network in the future than to flash a really, ridiculously distinctive emblem at each other?
  • Also, we already saw Section 31 on board the Discovery way back in ‘Context is for Kings’. Were they not Section 31? Is the black badge actually just a Starfleet Intelligence emblem? If so, why does Emperor Georgiou need one? Won’t Starfleet Intelligence notice pretty quickly if one of the most famous captains ever is suddenly wandering around dressed as one of their own?

Okay, it’s pretty fucking dumb. Then, there’s the below quote, from this interview with the Neo Nazi Trill bloke from that clip:

Like I can’t say anything about this Section 31, but I don’t even know anything! Like, I’m going into Season 2, and I know it’s a massive part of Season 2…

My chief concern with this is how ‘Discovery’ is going to handle a subject matter that really ought to be handled with subtlety and nuance. Let’s just say they haven’t earned my confidence quite yet.

The thing is, Section 31 just isn’t that interesting. They work for an episode, or two, when they drop in, and the audience’s response is “Wait, who are these arseholes all of a sudden?” and then they’re gone.

It’s a bit like the Mirror Universe. Except that, where the Mirror Universe becomes more ridiculous the more you explore it, Section 31 becomes more mundane: “Oh, cool, it’s a super-secret cadre of badass spies. Oh, neat, they’re questioning the compromise between principles and survival, how original. Oh, is it a CIA allegory? Some Cold War stuff in there too? Oh, well I sure hope this doesn’t get too predictable too quickly.”

It just seems like the standard go-to whenever you want to make your Trek dark and edgy. Which is basically what Section 31 is. Sloan himself is essentially an edgelord, a power fantasy of pubescent white boys with anger issues. He comes across as all suave and cool – and yet his final appearance in DS9 is, very deliberately, a deconstruction of his entire persona. He’s revealed to be a small, suspicious man – vindictive and insecure.

sloan1

Somehow, I suspect that we will see little new from a ‘Discovery’ sub-plot about Section 31. Obviously, they’ve not even finished writing the next season yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that, by the end of it, we will have seen the standard “but what are you willing to do to save paradise?” conundrum, rejected by the crew who will hold to their principles via some stupid plan that will send 31 scampering, and will inevitably make no sense on reflection.

It feels cheap to bring Section 31 back into the show, re-treading old concepts that we’ve already dealt with.

Especially when there’s a much bigger, much more interesting concept ripe for exploration, and which is spawned from the same origins as Section 31: namely, genetic manipulation.

Right now, in the modern world, we’re starting to hit upon a genetic revolution. Tools like CRISPR may be putting us on the cusp of exploring our own genetic destiny. And Star Trek happens to feature the Federation, a culture in which genetic modification, or eugenics, is strictly forbidden.

Khan_Noonien_Singh,_2285

This thread has even been alluded to in the first bloody season of ‘Discovery’ itself. Stamets genetically modifies himself with space bear DNA to allow him to interface with the bullshit drive. Admiral Cornwell chews Lorca out for allowing it. And in the final scene we even get Stamets explaining that Starfleet is ditching the spore drive because of the eugenic implications.

A series that focused on genetic manipulation of humans would be really interesting, and really relevant to stuff that’s just on our own horizon. It would make the show modern, provocative, even. Especially because of the moral issues around eugenics as a concept.

Eugenics is one of those things that unreasonably gets a bad rap because of its association with the Nazis, rather than very reasonably getting a bad rap because of all the other horrible aspects to it. After all, the Nazis were also fans of Volkswagen, and it’s not as though that association informs on VW’s moral standing.

I’m super, super disappointed that Section 31 is apparently the most creative, original story that ‘Discovery’ could pick for its second season, when so much other material is out there, waiting to be explored. A Section 31 storyline is going to be difficult to keep from feeling stale and redundant and old fashioned. And it’s not like this writing team has risen to such challenges in the past.

I simply can’t help but think that this is less about there being a natural vacuum for an original story which compliments Section 31, but rather another low-hanging fruit on the path to making Star Trek the dark, edgy show that nobody really wants it to be.

Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 3

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.

Link to Frontier Academy – Part 2


She could taste metal. The air was tangy, and prickly in her throat. She coughed. It took her eyes a few moments to adjust to the bright light of the sun above. Brighter, and maybe just a fraction more blue than on Earth. Maybe even a little purple. The gravity was a little lighter, too. Not by much, she just felt a bit… springier. She coughed again.

She was stood in a paved street, tall buildings on either side, people walking past her on either side. It felt very much like San Francisco, except she had left in the Autumn, and here it felt like a cool spring day.

The buildings were different, too. Even the most modern, experimental Earth architecture seemed old-fashioned compared to the smooth, organic lines of the structures around her. Tall spires and apartment towers seemed to have sprouted, plant-like, out of the ground, with all sorts of overhangs and curves that would have left them structurally unsound had they been built in the traditional fashion.

The sun was high overhead, and the pale sky had a green tinge – which made sense, Nav realised, a green sky scattering the green light and leaving only the red and blue spectrums to-

“When you are ready to proceed, we will ensure your safe arrival at your destination,” the old monk said from behind her. She turned to face him, breaking from her reverie. “I understand that it is only a short distance,” he qualified.

She smiled. “You don’t need to escort me,” she said, “though I am grateful for the offer.”

The monk raised an eyebrow. “I made a promise to your parents that we would. It would be remiss of me to renege on that promise.”

Nav thought for a moment. “Well, would you promise me that you won’t escort me?”

“As it pleases you,” he answered, bowing his head.

Nav bowed hers in turn. “I’m Nav, by the way. Or Nawisah, or whatever. Nawisah Dacres.”

“So I gathered. I am S’Prel. You are fortunate, Nawisah, to have parents so dedicated to your wellbeing.”

“Yeah,” Nav answered. “I should go,” she said, changing the topic. “I need to register. Thank you for talking to me.”

“I am grateful that we have met,” S’Prel said. He glanced back to the other Vulcans, who were standing silently, watching him. They weren’t impatient – they couldn’t be. But neither were they hiding the fact that they were waiting for him. “We, too, need to proceed to our destination. Remain in good health, Nawisah,” he said, raising his hand in the Vulcan salute, “and excel in all things.”

Nawisah gave the Starfleet salute. “Take care,” she said but her throat was tickling again, and she coughed, managing to splutter “and do a great day.” She winced at her abject failure to express even a simple sentiment. “Erm, goodbye, is what I meant.”

Having ended the conversation catastrophically, she turned on her heel and quickly walked off down the street. The Academy and the Vulcan enclave backed onto one another, but the Academy was huge, and their entrances were separated by half a kilometre. She was walking at a good pace, but not enough to tire her, and yet she could feel her breath getting short. She coughed, once again, but it didn’t help. Her lungs felt a little ragged, like her windpipe was made of crinkly paper.

She arrived at the Academy entrance panting as though she’d sprinted the two-hundred metres. She took a few moments to catch her breath before she went inside.

On the outside, the Academy building had the same organic look as the rest of the city – a tall spire, with sweeping curves along its height, and additional structure branching off, impossibly spindly and complex in shape. It was impressive from the ground, and must have been startlingly beautiful from above.

Inside, the foyer was tall and airy, light pouring in through elongated windows onto huge botanical installations, full of terrestrial and vulcanian flora, and some that were completely unfamiliar. Nav walked through the main doorway as confidently as she could given her compromised breathing.

As she got to the middle of foyer, the front desk clerk called her over by name. “Nawisah Dacres? You’re here to register?” Nav approached, and was handed a PADD. “That’s your map, enrolment papers, class schedule, your halls assignment…”

“I’m meant to-” she had to cough again, badly. He throat was already tender, and likely inflamed. “I’m supposed to meet-”

“Commander Akemji? Yes, she’s down to see you at fifteen-hundred.” The clerk put a small container on the counter top. “This is for your breathing.”

Nav opened the container, revealing a small plastic tube. “I thought-” she had to cough again, “- I thought the treatment was in a pill.”

The clerk shook her head. “The tablet provides long-term alleviation, the vaporiser is for immediate relief. You’ll need to take it for the next few days until the tablet takes effect.”

Nav took a deep drag on the vaporiser, or at least tried to. As she inhaled the cough caught her out and the medicine never made it down her throat. The clerk politely didn’t notice as Nav wheezed and gasped. She tried again and managed a clean dose.

“So this will fix it? My breathing, I mean?”

“You should feel normal most of the time, but you’ll still struggle under exertion.”

“Until the tablet kicks in?”

“Oh no,” the clerk said, “even the tablets will only have a limited effect.”

Nav’s heart sank. “Oh.” She looked at the vaporiser in her hands. “I thought, I had been told-”

“Nawisah?”

Nav turned to see a Commander striding towards her. “Commander Akemji?”

Akemji held out her hand. “Nice to meet you, cadet. Follow me to my office, and we can get started.”


Akemji sat down behind her desk with a thud. She was broad and heavy set, and incredibly expressive in her mannerisms.

“Right then, Cadet Dacres, let’s have a look at your record. You settling on okay?”

“I’ve only been on the surface for twenty minutes, so-”

“Top scores in Physics, O-chem,” Akemji seemed to switch focus without warning. “Bit shakey on Pure Math,” she said, looking up from the PADD at Nav.

Nav wasn’t sure if it was worth her continuing. “Oh, on my entrance exams, yeah, I struggled with matrices.”

Akemji kept reading. “Good on Mechanics, good on Statistics, Astrophys was through the roof! Bit of a stargazer?”

“It was my favourite in high school. Along with Warp Theory and Temporal.”

“Fantastic! You have the makings of a chief engineer!” Nav didn’t respond to that. “You were only a month in the Academy proper, but let’s have a quick look…” She scanned through Nav’s written record and her lecturers’ references. “Good, good, excellent… this must be a mistake, your flight instructor just wrote ‘Bloody awful’. Have you tampered with-”

“No, that’s accurate,” Nav confirmed. She sighed. “She said I was the worst pilot she’d ever seen. I crashed the simulator.”

Akemji scoffed. “That’s ridiculous! Everyone crashes a few times in the simulator, that’s how you learn!”

“No,” Nav said, “I mean I crashed the actual simulator itself. The holodeck froze and then shut down. The error log said it had encountered a fatal exception error trying to process my inputs into its physics model.”

Akemji stared at her across the desk in silence. A silence Nav eventually broke by explaining “I found it difficult adjusting the craft’s orientation to adjust for momentum and thrust.”

“That’s literally the definition of piloting a spacecraft,” Akemji said in the flat tones of a Vulcan.

“Yep,” Nav replied. “Hence the rating.”

The silence resumed for a few more moments. Nav shifted her weight in her seat and examined the far wall in detail.

After a few more moments, Akemji began reading again, before finally putting the PADD down. “Well, of course we’re thrilled to have you with us. Even if you hadn’t already been admitted to San Francisco I’m sure you would have been accepted here with no issues!” She leant forwards. “So, have you had any thoughts about your major?”

“Oh,” Nav said, surprised. “We don’t pick our Major until third year, do we?”

“No, the final choice is made then, but here we push our cadets to pick early, try a few classes, and see how they get on. You can pick and choose and see what fits!”

“Oh. I hadn’t- that is to say, it’s not something I expected to be thinking about.” She already knew her answer, however. “I would like to try the law classes, I think.”

“No pun intended!” Akemji cried, with a wink. Nav stared in shocked confusion. “To try the law classes. Y’know.” Nav processed this for a moment, then nodded and smiled. “But of course,” Akemji continued, “we can have a look at getting you enrolled on them. Bit of an odd choice for a fresher, but nothing wrong with that!”

Nav kept smiling.

“You’ll be living in the Constitution Wing. Off-worlders would normally be in the Miranda Wing but as we’re already part-way through the semester we just had to find a space. Constitution’s great, it’s got a lovely view of the athletics grounds and the best shared bathrooms on campus. Not en suite, sadly, but there’s no Kyrelans in your block so you ought to be alright. Oh!” she said, seeing Nav’s look of confusion. “Kyrelans shed their epidermis and outer mucus layer every three days. It gets… messy.” Her gaze drifted off to the side in silent recollection.

Nav’s throat had been easing progressively, and she realised she hadn’t needed to cough since she took the vaporiser. Nontheless, she cleared her throat. Akemji looked back at her. “I’ll have another cadet show you to your quarters, but for now, Cadet Dacres,” she said, standing and offering her hand, which Nav shook, “welcome to Academy Gamma.”


On to Part 4

Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 1

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.


Five years after the end of the Dominion War, Starfleet sent six ships into the Wormhole. They emerged into the Gamma Quadrant, travelling thousands of lightyears in a heartbeat, but that was only the beginning of their journey.

Their destination was a region of space far beyond even the Dominion’s reach: a group of star systems filled with habitable planets. This journey, under the speed of their own warp engines, took them years, and took them further from home than anyone had ever been before.

The colony ship U.S.S. Eleanor Dare reached orbit of the first and only stop on its journey: Zhenxun. Like Earth in many respects, and different in many more, this planet would be a new home, a new start for those aboard the Eleanor Dare.

Life was hard for a while. The comfort and convenience of life aboard a starship gave way to hard work, environmental challenges and a need for a new way of thinking. The task now was not of exploration or discovery, but of expansion and development.

Buildings were slowly assembled, power grids and generators connected together, and the colony of Maathai began to grow, quite literally. Without Federation building codes and regulations, Maathai’s architects experimented with organically grown structures of living metal and polymer. Strong, tall shelters emerged from bare rock, swaying with the wind and healing themselves when harmed.

After only a decade Maathai was a flourishing city, with thousands making the long journey across the Gamma Quadrant to settle there, as well as on the other planets around Zhenxun. It was the dawn of a new age – the Federation was now an intragalactic organisation, with frontiers across every spiral of the galaxy.

“Sixty years later, and here we are,” Johnson finished, “Maathai is now the jewel of the Gamma Quadrant. A centre for trade, production, and, yes, for learning.” He left an image of the city rotating on the holoprojector. “Still months from Earth and Vulcan and Andoria and Tellar, but still very much a part of the Federation.”

Aisha raised her hand. “Is it true they all have gills, sir?”

Johnson raised an eyebrow. “Gills? No, no I don’t believe any of them have gills. At least, not gills that they didn’t already start with. Yes, Aisha?”

“Why don’t we have organic ships and houses, like them?”

He shrugged. “We never needed them. Alpha Quadrant shipyards build good, strong ships the old fashioned way, and we get by just fine. Yes, Aisha?”

“How did the water turn into acid?”

“Well,” Johnson answered, running a hand through his hair, “the lakes and oceans aren’t actually acid, they just contain an unusual polymer-like secretion from much of the submarine life, and it causes irritation and blistering to most types of skin. In fact, it’s slightly alkali. Yes, Ai- Oh, Nawisah, you have a question?”

Nawisah lowered her arm. “How did the colonists prevent radical alteration to the environment into which they were settling? Wouldn’t their very presence produce unpredictable results and inhibit the natural evolution of indigenous species?”

Nawisah, as always, was keen to maintain her image. Her uniform was still smooth and its seams stiff. Her hair was tied back and her eyes were still buzzing from a caffeine rush.

Coffee was one of the few things she’d learned about during her month in San Francisco, and was a habit she’d brought with her through the wormhole and all the way here, to just a few hours out from Zhenxun. Her mother hated her drinking it, which was part of – hell, probably most of – the appeal. And now, she was glad of the extra alertness. She wanted to learn as much as possible about Maathai and Zhenxun, because she was determined not to be caught out by a hamlet full of mutants and deviants.

Aisha, the younger girl, looked at Nawisah with adoring eyes. Between Federation envoys, Vulcan missionaries, Bajoran pilgrims, Klingon hunters and Romulan “surveyors”, there wasn’t much room aboard the Nicholls for children, and whilst Nawisah hardly considered her a peer, she felt sorry for Aisha, stuck for months on a cramped starship with no other kids and no idea of what her future held in store for her.

Nawisah herself was a little uncertain of her own future. It was easy enough for her parents to tell her that the campus at Maathai was the equal of the real Academy, but when they had graduated from San Francisco Maathai didn’t even have a recruitment office. Nawisah wanted to wander the same halls that her heroes had wandered. She wanted to sit in the same lecture theatres that had hosted legends like Norah Satie and Tryla Scott and Admiral Saavik.

So, despite being separated by ten years, Nawisah and Aisha had been united by their frustrations, and now took turns torturing Lieutenant Johnson, the on-board anthropologist who was eagerly trying to prepare them for their new home. Aisha would bombard the young man with a barrage of simplistic questions, before Nawisah would precisely fire off an in-depth query of layered complexity, and they would watch his face twist as his brain struggled to change gears.

But, in the best traditions of Starfleet, he never ran out of patience. Or enthusiasm. And as much as Nawisah respected him for that, skewering him like this was one of the few enjoyable pastimes she and Aisha could share.

As Johnson stammered his way towards an answer, hitting buzzwords like “ecological footprint” and “sympathetic terraforming” along the way, he was saved by the chime of the ship’s comm system.

“Attention all decks, we are about to slow to impulse. Landing parties Alpha through Delta, please assemble in your designated transporter bays and prepare for disembarkation.”

Aisha rushed to the window, and Nawisah followed close behind her. They would be rendezvousing with the Tereshkova, a Margulis-class cruiser, built in the Gamma Quadrant and, therefore, built organically. Nawisah had seen diagrams of the organic ships, but had been told that they didn’t compare with the real thing.

Johnson struggled to see out the window from behind them as the Nicholls dropped out of warp. After a few moments, Nav spotted the other vessel and pointed it out to Aisha, who gasped with excitement.

The Tereshkova looked conventional from a distance. Decently proportioned saucer and engineering sections, nacelles in all the right places. But as she drew closer, her distinctions became more apparent. She was smooth, entirely smooth. There wasn’t a straight edge on her, and as far as Nav could tell there wasn’t a single joint or attachment point either. Every part of her structure just flowed into the other; there weren’t even any hull panels, just a featureless metallic skin, dotted with windows and the occasional sensor cluster.

But it was the colour that really made her stand out. She was pearlescent, every colour in the spectrum reflecting off her hull. She was like a mirage, or something out of a dream, and Nawisah’s mind was rushing to figure out what kind of engineering techniques had produced such a finish.

The call went out again for the first four landing parties to assemble. Nawisah was in the sixth group, so she had a little time yet. She and Aisha sat huddled together, staring out at an unfamiliar starscape and a ship as alien as it was beautiful.


On to Part 2

Star Trek: Quotidian – “Muses of our Fates”

What follows is the third part of my Star Trek fan-fiction following the unadventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Quotidian. The stories speak for themselves, so I’ll offer no further introduction.

The first part, “An Unavoidable Encounter”, can be found here.

The second installment, “Dignified Relations”, can be found here.


Security Chief’s Log, stardate 43539.1,

I’m just a few minutes away from docking with the U.S.S. Quotidian, to start as her new Security Chief. I will admit that I have not yet quelled my doubts about accepting the position – I still haven’t been told why Captain Miller chose me for the role, despite lacking any prior experience in Security or Tactical and only being a Junior-grade Lieutenant who’s spent most of my time since the academy on Earth.

But I would be a fool to pass up an opportunity like this.


Lieutenant Tailor followed Lt. Commander Sarr into the captain’s ready-room. She had been told her tour of the ship could wait, and in any case she was excited to meet her new commanding officer.

Captain Miller was tall – very tall. She was stood by a floor-to-ceiling window, looking out at the stars, and cut an impressive figure. Tailor was reminded of paintings of historical naval officers, for Miller was all cheekbones and jawline and steely gaze.

“Lieutenant Tailor has arrived, captain,” Sarr said.

The captain moved over to Tailor and shook her hand. “Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. It’s a pleasure to have you join us.”

“The pleasure, and the privilege, is all mine, captain,” Tailor said. “It’s an honour to be here, and to be offered this opportunity.”

Miller seemed nonplussed. “You make it sound like you’re not going to accept, Lieutenant, which would make this a terrible waste of a journey.” She moved to behind her desk and took a seat. “Sit down, please,” she asked, gesturing to the seats in front of her desk.

Tailor and Sarr both sat, and Tailor answered the captain’s query. “It’s not that I won’t accept, captain, but I have to ask, why? Why me? I’m Starfleet’s Creative Arts attaché to the Globe Theatre Company, I haven’t been through any tactical training since I left the Academy three years ago.”

Miller clasped her hands in front of her. “It’s an unusual appointment, I’ll grant you, given your field. But I believe a starship can only function at its best with a crew drawn from many different professional backgrounds.” She glanced at her Second Officer. “For what it’s worth, Commander Sarr here agrees with you. I want you to change her mind.”

Tailor had already weighed Sarr up as being a frosty character at best. She was brusque nearly to the point of rudeness, a trait common with a lot of Bajorans who had escaped the Cardassian occupation. She didn’t respond to Miller’s comment, she just met her gaze with an incredibly neutral look on her face.

Tailor tried to ignore the muted tension in the room. “Captain, I’ll gladly try to change her mind, but how?”

Miller passed a PADD across the desk. “With this.”

Tailor took the PADD and scrolled through the text on it. She looked back to Miller in confusion. “Are these lines from a play?”

Miller smiled. “Not exactly.” She leaned back in her chair. “Tailor, are you aware of our current mission?”

“To transport industrial replicators to the Alesto system?”

“Correct,” Miller said. “And it takes us through a… problematic region of space. I need you to understand what’s on that PADD and act upon it when the time comes. We’ll be setting off in the next thirty minutes, and I want you on the bridge for the whole journey. Once we’ve completed the mission, I’ll let you decide for certain if you want to join the crew as Chief of Security. Until then, your orders are to do exactly as instructed.”

Tailor nodded slowly. “That’s very clear, captain, thank you. But it raises more questions than it answers.”

Miller stood up, straightened her uniform. “It does, I’m aware. Save them for now, and I’ll explain everything later. Until then, attend your post. Dismissed.”


Three hours into their journey, the helm officer announced that the Quotidian had just entered the Jereso Nebula, and Tailor noticed that the entire bridge seemed to… “tighten” with apprehension. All except the ship’s executive officer, the striking Commander Aufrecard, who remained silent, stationary and, apparently, two dimensional. He also bore an uncanny resemblance to Commander Aufregend, the Hero of the Kiken Cluster, whose classic good looks had graced many an Earth newsfeed following his daring rescue of the Atreidan Royal Family, and subsequent engagement to Princess Kel’Kerrax.

Captain Miller ordered the helm to maintain their course and speed. Tailor noted that Lieutenant Commander Sarr, sat at the Ops Station, seemed to operate as the ship’s actual executive officer, despite being listed as second mate on the crew manifest. Which made sense, Tailor thought, when she regarded Commander Aufrecard.

Without warning, the ship rocked, and Tailor could hear the warp engines shut down. Sarr called a red alert, and orders and reports began flying about the bridge, although everyone acted with practiced purpose, as though they had done this all before, or even rehearsed it.

The lights suddenly went out, even all the LCARS displays. Only the viewscreen remained active, its images of the swirling nebula clouds casting a dim, ghostly light over the bridge.

The crew remained silent. Captain Miller spoke clearly, “maintain your posts, everyone. And stand ready.”

A blinding point of light appeared between the viewscreen and the helm and ops stations. Out of it stepped a bizarre figure – a hugely muscled, bare-chested man, equal in height to Captain Miller, but twice as broad, with a rectangular jaw and with a gold chain hanging around his neck. Tailor rather thought he looked like an old plastic action figure, or one of the superheroes of old stories, proportioned in such extremes.

The light faded, and the systems displays came back on. Miller was pinching the bridge of her nose. The new figure was glancing around with a smirk on his face, legs akimbo, in a classic power pose. Miller addressed him directly. “Alfa, I see you have returned. I’ve told you before, we want nothing to do with the Omega Collective. Leave us in peace.”

Alfa tossed his head and laughed. “Captain Miller! I’m so glad you have returned to my little corner of the universe with your gentle and lovely demeanour! Have you reconsidered my offer, pray?”

Miller’s eyes narrowed. “I would have, but I couldn’t find a more definite way of saying ‘never’ so my previous answer stands. I will not be joining you as your… spouse.”

“Such a shame! And there’s no way I could convince you?” He laughed again. “Maybe the beautiful Keela here might accept?” he suggested, staring at Commander Sarr. She stared back at him, grinding her teeth.

Miller stood up, straight-backed. “What is it, Alfa? I assume you didn’t hold us here just to make everyone feel uncomfortable?”

He turned. “Captain Miller, Alexandra, if I really were holding you, I’m sure you would feel differently. Alas, I am merely here to remind you of your place in this universe. Humanity has come far with its technological advancements, but it is we, the Omega Collective, and others like us, who wield true power over life and death. Your fate is in our hands, and it would be remiss of me to let you forget it. Mayhap I should arrange some kind of lesson for you all, maybe a game! Yes! We could have a game, in which I will teach you that now matter how ingenious you think you are, you still have a long way to go before becoming masters of the galaxy.”

“I have no time for games, Alfa. We know our place well enough, thank you. Now leave. Your presence here is a danger to the safety of this ship, one that I’ll not permit to continue.”

Tailor was watching the exchange with her mouth agape. She had read reports of Starfleet encounters with god-like beings, but experiencing one directly was a different matter.

Alfa responded with irritation. “It is not your place to permit or prohibit anything, frail human! The Collective are the true masters of this realm, and your decision to once again pass through our hallowed tournament fields of the Jereso Nebula force me to teach you that lesson again!”

Miller clenched her fists. She turned her head slightly towards Tailor, and repeated her earlier statement. “I already told you, Alfa, your presence here is a threat, and one that I will not permit to continue.”

Tailor blinked, recognising her cue. She stormed down the side of the bridge in protest. “Captain, this intruder must be dealt with!” She drew her phaser and pointed it at Alfa, doing her best to keep her hand from shaking.

Alfa looked furious. “You dare threaten me, child?” He reached out his hand, and Tailor sank to her knees, screaming. She dropped the phaser, pressing her hands to her head, crying out in agony. Her body convulsed and writhed, until she fell limp to the floor. The bridge crew looked on, stunned, at her limp body.

Alfa lowered his hand and looked around, triumphant. “Do you see the cost of insolence? The price of hubris? Ants cannot challenge Gods and live, Captain Miller!”

Doctor Wainwright rushed from a turbolift to Tailor’s side and checked her vitals. She looked up at the captain, aghast. “She’s dead, Alex.”

Miller’s eyes fell. “Why, Alfa? She was no threat to you. Why did she have to die?”

Alfa puffed out his chest. “She’s of no import, but her fate was necessary so that you may all learn an important lesson.” He surveyed the forlorn faces of the officers around him, then sighed. “It doesn’t look as though any of you are in a very playful mood today. We shall postpone our little game, I think you all understand now what needs to be understood.”

Miller squared her shoulders. “Get off my bridge, Alfa, and leave us alone.”

He bowed expressively. “As you wish, my love, as you wish. I shall leave you to your more primitive, simple existence.” He vanished with a flash, but his disembodied voice echoed through the bridge. “At least, until next time, Captain Miller.”

Miller sat down in her chair and gave the order to resume their course. Nobody else moved – Wainwright remained next to Tailor for the next half hour.

Once they were clear of the Jereso Nebula, Wainwright stood up, as did Miller, and they both helped Tailor to her feet. “Comfy, Tailor?” the captain asked.

Tailor stretched. “Not particularly.”

Miller smiled. “Beggars can’t be choosers. Thank you, doctor.”

Wainwright gave a reserved, Vulcan nod and left the bridge. Tailor looked around. “What now, captain?”

“Now? Now, we continue to Alesto, and deliver those replicators on time. Meanwhile, you and Commander Sarr can join me in my ready room, for debriefing.”

As she followed the captain, Tailor got a few approving nods from other officers. Despite not really knowing what had happened, she still felt proud, though she couldn’t exactly explain why.


Miller moved straight to the replicator. “Coffee?”

Sarr shook her head, but Tailor requested a herbal tea. Once they were all sat, Tailor couldn’t hold herself any longer. “Captain, with respect, what the hell was that back there”

Miller took a sip of her coffee before answering. “Two years ago, on another mission to this sector, that entity you just saw, Alfa, stopped us dead in our tracks and subjected us to a series of games and pantomimes under the guise of gaining my hand in marriage in return for letting us pass freely. There were deaths, or would have been, but fortunately we were able to devise a countermeasure.”

Sarr stepped in. “The phased inhibitor field neutralises his powers. We switch it on when he arrives and he can’t do anything to harm us.”

“Well, why not just leave it on and stop him from interfering at all?” Tailor asked.

“He’s a trouble-maker,” Miller answered. “You saw him back there, all about power and assertion. The inhibitor field stops him manifesting his powers in their current form – if he realises he can’t actually use them, he may try something different. He genuinely is quite powerful. The second time we encountered him we managed to talk our way out, but only just.”

Tailor nodded. “Hence the deception.”

“Hence you,” Miller said, gesturing towards Tailor.

“I know you have the inhibitor field, but it sounds to me like I really could have been killed,” Tailor said. “I mean, I’m a Starfleet officer first and an actor second, but even still.”

Miller shook her head. “We monitor the field and Alfa closely – if there was any doubt, I wouldn’t have given you the cue,” she said. “Regardless, you performed excellently, I was genuinely concerned for a moment that he really was getting to you.”

“Thank you, captain. So, what now? What do we do on our way back? I can’t die twice.”

Miller shrugged. “It’s possible he will ignore us on the way back, he has a… limited attention span. But just in case, can I assume that your theatrical training has prepared you for wearing a wig?”

Tailor’s eyes widened. “A wig? Don’t you think he’ll see through that? Isn’t he an all-powerful being?”

“He tends to see the world in terms of blonde, brunette, redhead,” Sarr said, in her subdued tone. “He’s a total shitwit.”

“Language, commander!” Miller warned.

“Apologies.” Sarr turned to Tailor. “I meant a total shitbird,” she clarified.

Tailor snorted, and Miller ignored them both. “So, Tailor, what do you say? Willing to stick with us for a while?”

Tailor pondered for a few moments, clasping her mug tightly in both hands, whilst Miller finished hers. Eventually, Tailor looked up. “Alright, captain, I will consider it, but I need to know something first.”

“What?”

“Well, your first officer is a cardboard cut-out. When I first arrived, I’m sure I saw a sophisticated and likely unique android in the corridor-”

“Robot.” Sarr interjected.

“Well, she looked like an android.”

“Robot,” Sarr repeated, “totally unremarkable.”

“Android, robot, whatever. I also just had to act my way out of an encounter with a space god which seems like a big deal but you treat as an annoyance, and then I come face to face with your chief medical officer who happens to be a renowned peddler of smut.”

“Erotic romance,” Sarr interjected, again.

Tailor turned to her. “I’m an actor, a playwright and a founding member of the Jupiter Literary Association; it’s smut.”

“What’s your question, lieutenant?” Miller asked.

Tailor put her mug down. “What the hell kind of ship is this, captain? With respect?”

Miller didn’t answer right away, but stood and moved to look out of her window. She took a breath. “This is an ordinary Starfleet ship, lieutenant, full of extraordinary people, all of whom have far too many vital things to do to be able to spend time getting into trouble. We don’t care about pushing boundaries; we care about getting where we need to be on time. We care about efficiency, and effectiveness, and safety, and we care about getting done the things that need to be done so we can spend time doing the things that we need to do.”

She turned around. “Did you know that there isn’t a single manual task on this ship that’s done more than once a week? Our chief engineer is an expert in automation – anything that’s repeatable, we do it with computers and machines. Everyone on this ship works for, probably, forty hours a month. That’s actual work, you understand, ticking boxes, filing reports, attending meetings. The rest of the time, they do what they want to do. Most of us love what we do anyway, so we just do more of it, just the more interesting bits. Others branch out – our stellar cartographer is currently apprenticing in hydroponics, for example. Others still just use the extra time for their hobbies, like Doctor Wainwright and her Vulcan smut.”

She moved round to the front of the desk and leaned back on it, facing Tailor. “So, here’s the deal. We don’t really need a chief of security, we have algorithms to sort out shift rotas and training sessions and targeting parameters. What we need is someone who can be convincing in different situations, who can put on a good show to help us get out of trouble when we need to. The rest of the time is yours. If you really want to be chief of security, then Keela and I will help you learn how, and by the end you’ll be the best tactical officer in the fleet. Or you can focus on something else. So long as you’re ready to step up and be creative when we need you to be creative, you get to use the conveniences of being aboard a starship to your own personal advantage.”

Captain Miller held out her hand. “Well?”

Tailor took another few moments. Then she took Miller’s hand and shook it firmly. “I think I would be a fool to pass up an opportunity like this, captain.”


Following a tour of the ship, Tailor was led back to her new quarters by Sarr. At the door, Sarr paused.

“The captain probably made this sound like a pleasure cruise,” she said. “And it is a great ship to be part of. But you need to realise, we may not chase frontiers or seek out new civilisations, but those industrial replicators we delivered today are going to form the backbone of Alesto’s future economy. We transport professors to technical conferences, and carry out customs inspections, and we never, ever save the galaxy. Starfleet’s mission is to bring the Federation to those who need its ideals, but our mission is to keep the Federation in the business of Paradise. And it’s really damn important.”

“I appreciate that,” Tailor said. “And I appreciate the chance you’ve given me. I won’t let you down.”

Sarr began walking away. “It’s not me you’ll be letting down,” she said.

Tailor stepped up to her door, which slid open, revealing a modest lodging. It was undecorated and spartan – she got the impression it was a blank canvas.

Just before she entered, Lieutenant Mendacia, the so-called robot, walked past her. Tailor nodded to her. “Good afternoon.”

Mendacia nodded back, her movements awkward and mechanical. She wasn’t aware that Tailor could spot a performance from the genuine article. “Good after-noon, lieu-tenant,” she replied in synthesised tones. “Whirr. Whirr. Whirr. Whirr.”

Star Trek: Quotidian – “Dignified Relations”

What follows is the first part of my Star Trek fan-fiction following the unadventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Quotidian. The stories speak for themselves, so I’ll offer no further introduction.

However, I do want to point out that this story was originally written on the 1st December, 2016, and has only just been published here. I point this out because the first segment includes a minor plot with someone being held up due to overly thorough medical tests, which is also a plot in the ninth episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. So I just wanted to make it clear that I had the idea first, and am therefore presumably qualified to write for big-budget sci-fi shows. My job application is pending.

The first part, “An Unavoidable Encounter”, can be found here.

The third story, “Muses of our Fates”, can be found here.


Captain’s Log, stardate 42976.1.

Whilst on a routine sensor sweep we have picked up a strange energy burst coming from the Periculum system. Despite its surprising similarity to some forms of interstellar communication, our sensors indicate that it is nothing more than the gravity-lensed emissions of a distant neutron star. Consequently I have convened the senior staff to confirm, resolutely, that it is indeed the gravity-lensed emissions of a neutron star, and absolutely not any form of communication from some strange, new, potentially dangerous lifeform.


“Counsellor N’rz, where does that leave us?”

N’rz’s mottled green head faintly glowed in pulses as he thought carefully. “Captain, Starfleet regulations require us to investigate any unrecognised sign of life in the likelihood that first contact could be established. Given that we’ve calculated -”

“And can show our calculations,” Lieutenant Baker added.

“- and can show, indeed, that there is no likelihood of this even being a signal from an intelligent life form, and subsequently absolutely no feasible scenario in which we might make contact with a new species, we are not bound by regulation to take any action.”

Miller nodded. “Ideal.” She turned to the rest of the officers. “Okay, that’s been settled then. Thank you all for your insight, you’re dis-”

Commander Aufregend, first officer, a tall, lean human with swept-back blonde hair and chiseled features, strode into the room with purpose. “Captain! I’m sorry I’m late, Doctor Wainwright insisted on carrying out a full physical, said it was vital to confirm that I hadn’t been subjected to unsafe levels of neutrino radiation. She was incredibly thorough, I thought I would be in there for the whole day!”

Miller’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, indeed, I… had thought that too. I will, ah, discuss it with Wainwright. We were just finishing up here, nothing with which to concern yourself.”

Aufregend looked around. “This looks like a staff meeting, is this… Wait, is this to do with the supposed neutron star emissions?”

“No, of course – well, yes, actually, but we’ve just confirmed, there’s barely a point-two -”

“Point-one,” Baker corrected.

Miller continued. “Yes, point-one percent chance of it being anything other than a Neutron star, whose emissions are being gravitationally… lensed… Commander, what are you doing?”

Aufregend had taken a PADD from Lieutenant Baker and was furiously tapping away on it, running complex calculations and algorithms. “Captain, this is incredible. Apologies, Lieutenant, I respect your position as head of Science, but your basic assumptions didn’t take into account the recursive feedback theorems of Doctor Enochlesi’s work on transphasic communication patterns…”

Miller’s eyes settled on Baker with the intensity of a proton beam. The Lieutenant kept his own eyes firmly pointed at some presumably fascinating distant star out of the window at the opposite end of the conference room.

Aufregend was still going. “… By running it through a fourth-order integration function, I’ve isolated a key repeating waveform. Captain, this is some sort of interplexing beacon! I’m afraid I can’t accurately identify its message, I would have to recalibrate the Universal Translator, but the origin point is barely three parsecs away! Would you like me to set a course?”

Miller stood, straightened her tunic and quickly shook her head at Commander Sarr, who was slowly releasing her phaser from its belt clip. The captain cleared her throat, then walked swiftly out of the conference room.


Captain’s Log, stardate 43125.8.

It has been three weeks since my former mentor, Admiral Taylor, urgently reassigned Commander Aufregend to the Muthir system, to help negotiate an historic peace treaty between twelve warring factions locked in a bitter conflict. The ship’s new executive officer is settling in well, however. In the meantime, we are about to start a new mission – conveying a Federation diplomat to an interstellar conference on replicator legislation.


The form of the ambassador materialised on the transporter pad, along with that of his aide. Both were Isilduns – tall, flat-chested, with lilac-tinted skin and prominent cheek protrusions.

As the whine of the transporter faded and the materialisation completed the captain stepped forward, pristinely turned out in her dress uniform. “Ambassador, I’m Captain Miller, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Quotidian. I’d like to welcome you aboard, and to express our pleasure to be escorting you to the conference on Naukarasaha.”

The ambassador bowed deeply. “Captain! I am Bitxia, of Isildu. This is my assistant, Laguntzaile. We are both honoured to have you as our escort. Is this your staff?” Bitxia gestured at the line of senior officers at the captain’s side.

Miller nodded, then introduced each officer in turn. “Ambassador, this is Commander Sarr from the planet Bajor, my head of operations.” Sarr lowered her head respectfully. “Chief Shmeh, head of engineering, from the Beij Cluster. Lieutenant Baker, science officer, from Earth -”

“Mars, captain.”

“Apologies Baker, of course, Mars. This is our chief medical officer Doctor Wainwright, of Vulcan.”

Bitxia regarded the vulcan carefully. “Forgive me, but ‘Wainwright’ doesn’t seem like much of a Vulcan name.”

“There is nothing to forgive, ambassador,” Wainwright explained in her careful elocution. “I was fostered by humans until early adolescence. It seemed important to them that I retain their name into adulthood.”

Bitxia nodded thoughtfully, and Miller continued. “This is Lieutenant Smith, my tactical officer. He’s too modest to admit it, but Smith has a tremendous dedication to duty, you’ve been killed, what, eight times protecting the ship?”

Smith was bashful. “Eight, captain, yes.”

The ambassador sounded astonished. “You have, ah, died. Eight times? Tell me, do you have any insight into the afterlife?”

“Not really, ambassador. I’m never there for very long.”

Miller gestured to the final member of her command crew. “And this is Counsellor N’rz, of the planet Causidicus.”

“Counsellor? Why would you need a counsellor as part of your staff, captain?” Bitxia’s face was stricken with confusion.

Miller cleared her throat. “Well, ambassador, Causidicans possess near-flawless recollection powers. On Earth, we would call it ‘eidetic memory’. It makes them incredibly effective legal consultants.”

“Legal… you mean he’s a legal counsellor?”

“Correct, ambassador,” N’rz said. “I advise the captain in all matters of Stafleet regulation, Federation law, interstellar law and foreign treaties.”

“Specifically,” Miller added, “N’rz allows me to ensure that at all times I am adhering very precisely to my responsibilities.”

“I… I see. I wouldn’t have thought that would often be, ah, be much of an issue.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised at the number of times I find myself unable to respond to dangerous situations due to some obscure law or regulation. Aboard this ship, we take legal matters very seriously, ambassador.” The senior staff were all nodding in agreement. “Now that you’ve met all of my officers – my first officer is currently on the bridge, apologies for his absence – I’d like to offer you a tour of the ship. Shmeh, maybe you could show the ambassador engineering first?”


Shmeh stood at the head of the MSD table with his engineering staff gathered around. Bitxia watched as a tardy junior lieutenant hurried into place. Shmeh began the meeting. “Alright, let’s get this started. Jones, general systems update.”

“News on the transporter, chief. We’ve identified a fault in the secondary heisenberg bypass circuit – it seems that a power surge in the buffer coupling could shut the materialisation array down altogether, completely preventing beaming.”

Shmeh looked thoughtful, stroking his bifurcated chin. “And the fix?”

Jones glanced sidelong at Bitxia before continuing. “We believe a phased molecular weld of the circuit’s quantum fixture should do it, but we’re following Spock’s Axiom, sir.”

“‘Spock’s Axiom’, chief?” Bitxia asked.

Shmeh’s cloudy yellow eyes turned to the ambassador. “Indeed. Starships are incredibly complex machines, with near-unfathomable interactions between seemingly unrelated systems. As such, in this engineering room we follow Spock’s Axiom: ‘Once we eliminate all other possibilities, whatever answer remains must be the truth.’ As such, we’ll systematically examine each system, run tests on them all one by one, and make sure they’re not the root cause of the problem. Then we can implement the fix and resolve the issue.”

Bitxia’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But that sounds like it could take an awfully long time, chief. Surely this molecular weld could be done now?”

Shmeh leaned back in horror. “Fix it now? Do you have any idea of how dangerous a notion that is? We could cause all manner of unforeseen complications.”

“But if you don’t apply the fix, your entire transporter system could shut down!” Bitxia pressed the point. “You’d be unable to beam anywhere!”

“Indeed, we could be left unable to beam down an away team into a hazardous environment,” Shmeh agreed, “or participate in a rescue operation at a catastrophic disaster site. Indeed, the transporters could fail at any given, and extremely untimely, moment, and we’d be left unable to beam aboard any kind of experimental technology or mysterious lifeform. But we can’t risk causing a destructive chain reaction by just applying molecular welds on a whim, ambassador. Modern-day engineering has much more in common with advanced applied science than with the iron mongers of a former age.” Shmeh addressed Jones again. “Lieutenant, in line with the Axiom, start with the material repurposing processor on deck twelve, and proceed from there. We’ll find the cause eventually.”

Bitxia remained nonplussed. “Chief Shmeh, how, in any capacity, might a transporter fault be related to a sewage processor?”

Shmeh stared at the ambassador. “Sadly, we’ve run out of time, and that concludes the tour of engineering. Ambassador, if you would follow Ensign Roberts here, he will guide you to sickbay for the next part of the tour.”

The ensign took Bitxia by the arm and began leading him out of main engineering. Bitxia turned his head to protest. “No, but, chief, I have additional questions!”

Shmeh turned to a status display, unfazed.


Bitxia sat in the CMO’s office opposite Doctor Wainwright, with her neatly trimmed short hair and loose blue labcoat. Wainwright was listing the ship’s inventory of advanced medical equipment, careful not to leave out even the smallest, most insignificant item. Bitxia’s posture was gradually relaxing as he moved closer towards unconsciousness. He noticed a small picture on the wall, what looked to be an illustrated book cover.

“Doctor, I’m sorry to break your flow, but what is that?”

Wainwright turned to look at the picture and raised an eyebrow. “That, ambassador, is the cover from my twelfth work of fiction, ‘Shadows of Vrentys’, one of the most widely read novels in modern Vulcan literature. I keep it as a reminder of my accomplishments as a writer.”

“Twelfth? How many books have you written?”

“Twenty-two novels in the last four years, all pieces of fiction in the style of ancient Vulcan epics, generally acting as analogies of various aspects of modern Vulcan society.”

“I thought you were raised by humans?”

“Correct, although only for the first few years of my life. As I grew, my emotional responses became increasingly problematic and it was decided that the best course of action was for me to be schooled on Vulcan, to learn the skills I would need to master my emotions.”

“And was it on Vulcan that you discovered your talent for writing?”

“Sadly, Ambassador, many conservative Vulcan literary critics would argue that I am indeed still yet to discover any talent for writing.”

It took Bitxia a moment to parse what he had just heard. “Doctor, did, did you just make a joke?”

Wainwright smiled. “I grew up around humans, ambassador, and consequently I possess an insight into humour that is rare amongst Vulcans.”

“Do you ever laugh? At jokes? At humourous scenarios?”

Wainwright pondered the question for a moment. “It is more closely related to an academic insight. Similarly to music or art, I am able to appreciate the structure and style of a well-crafted joke without being induced to an emotional reaction.”

Bitxia seemed to understand, but something else concerned him. “You said twenty-two novels, in four years? How do you find the time? Surely you must be busy as the ship’s surgeon?”

“In actuality, I find my occupation here relatively peaceable. We have the lowest medical incident rate of any vessel in Starfleet – this really is the safest ship in the fleet. As such, I have surplus time which I may devote to my writing.”

“And Captain Miller accepts this?”

“The captain actively encourages it. As long as her crew are healthy and well, she has little concern for ‘keeping me busy’. Indeed, she has allowed me to host several author talks aboard the Quotidian, inviting some of my readers to meet me in person. She’s very supportive in that regard.”

The main door to sickbay opened, and a metallic-skinned human figure strode in, wearing a blue Science uniform. “Doctor, I’ve finished my analysis of the cellular fluid samples, I’m confident that -” The silver-eyed figure looked at the ambassador and fell silent.

Bitxia was astonished. “Doctor, I had no idea you had an android aboard! I thought there was only one android in all of Starfleet! In the whole galaxy, in fact!”

Wainwright chose her words carefully. “Ambassador, this is Mendacia, our… robotic servant. She could be considered a rudimentary automaton.”

Mendacia stood rigidly straight. “Affirmative. Ambassador. I’m A. Primitive. Robot.” she said, in stilted, synthetic tones.

Bitxia studied the machine carefully. “She didn’t sound like that a second ago.”

Mendacia paused for a moment. “I Was Merely. Playing. A Recording. From Another. Crew. Member.”

“If she’s just a machine, why is she wearing a uniform?”

Wainwright maintained her Vulcan composure. “That could have been a decision made to aid interaction with other – I mean to say, ‘living’, crew members.”

“Affirmative.”

“And the rank pips?”

“I Must Return. To My Other Duties. Good. Bye. Ambassador.” Mendacia turned away stiffly and walked out of the room with an awkward, mechanical gait. “Whir. Whir. Whir.”

Bitxia’s mouth hung open. “Was she just saying ‘whir, whir, whir’?”

Wainwright remained silent.

“Doctor, you do realise the scientific and cultural significance of another sentient android, one that is a member of Starfleet, no less?”

“I am sure such a scenario would indeed be noteworthy to scientists across the Federation and beyond. But as I said, it is important to note that Mendacia is nothing but a mindless machine.”

“She was using contractions.”

“A well-programmed mindless machine, ambassador.”

Bitxia leant towards Wainwright and stared intently. “Doctor, as a Vulcan, you’re unable to lie to me, correct? And so if I ask you a direct question, you must answer with the truth, correct?”

Wainwright raised an eyebrow.

Bitxia continued. “Doctor, was that a sentient android?”

“Was what a sentient android?”

“The being that was just in this room!”

“Which being?”

“Mendacia!” Violet veins in the ambassador’s neck were beginning to pulse.

“What about Mendacia?”

“Is Mendacia an android?”

“Well, yes, of course, as a robot designed to resemble a human being, she exactly matches that definition.” Wainwright’s tone was as flat and calm as ever.

“And is she sentient?”

“Is who sentient?”

“Mendacia!”

“What about Mendacia?”

“Is she SENTIENT?” Bitxia roared. “IS MENDACIA SENTIENT? IT’S A SIMPLE QUESTION, DOCTOR!”

Wainwright leant back in her chair and steepled her fingers. “In actuality, ambassador, the question of sentience is rather a complex and difficult subject to -” She was interrupted by Bitxia crying out in frustration before leaping to his feet and storming out of the room.

“THIS ENTIRE SHIP IS INSANE!” he shouted as he stomped into the corridor.


“Captain Miller!” Bitxia announced as he entered the bridge. “I must demand an explanation for the actions of your staff!”

“Not now, ambassador,” Miller said from her seat in the centre of the bridge, “we’re currently a little busy.”

“Captain,” Lieutenant Smith called, “response from the Lenibus, Captain Hebetes says that they’re having issues with their main inversion coil, and will be unable to assist.”

“And there’re no other ships in range?”

“Confirmed, captain, it’s just us.”

Miller frowned. “Very well, duty calls. Set course for the Ligneolae Navem, maximum warp. Red Alert! Raise shields and prepare for combat.”

Bitxia was suddenly worried. “Captain, what’s going on?”

“Distress call, ambassador, large passenger liner under attack from Orion pirates. We’re the only vessel in range to respond. Engage!”

The Quotidian lept to warp speed, stars whipping by as streaks of white light. Lieutenant Baker was at the science station, monitoring the sensors. “Captain,” he said, “the Orion vessel appears to be Dreadnought configuration. They have use outgunned by, let’s see, approximately three-hundred-and-seventy percent.”

“Damn.” Miller bit dowm on the knuckle of her left index finger, pondering the situation. “This calls for extreme measures. Sarr, ready a probe.”

Bitxia gasped. “Captain! They have us completely outmatched! We have no chance of winning that fight! What good will a probe do us?”

Miller kept her eyes forward on the main viewer. “Ambassador, we are bound by our duty to protect the passengers aboard that transport. And it’s doubtful we can defeat the Orions, but there are, ah, always possibilities.”

“But you’re taking us to our deaths!”

“Ambassador, you are beginning to interfere with the operation of this vessel,” Miller stated flatly.

Commander Sarr turned steadily in her chair to face the ambassador, with a very Pointed Look. She mouthed something silently at him – the universal translator was no help, but they all seemed to be very short words. Bitxia was suddenly quiet.

“Sarr,” Miller said, “just ready a probe.”

“Aye captain.” Sarr sounded resolute and unaffected by the impending danger. “Are we implementing the Pandora Protocol?”

Miller turned to her second-in-command, a handsome officer with swept-back blonde hair, stood to her right with a straight back, broad shoulders, folded arms. “Objections, number one?”

The commander stared unwaveringly at the main viewer, silent and stern.

Miller nodded. “Outstanding. Bridge to engineering, we’ll be-”

“Captain,” Bitxia interjected, “your first officer, he’s… He’s two-dimensional.”

Miller looked again at the silent, unblinking form beside her. “That’s, ah, inaccurate, ambassador, he’s at least three or four millimetres thick.”

“But, he’s not even… he’s made of -”

Miller looked Bitxia straight in the eye. “Ambassador, Commander Aufrecard is an outstanding officer with a flawless record. His physical characteristics have no bearing on his ability to fulfil the role of executive officer.”

Bitxia looked at the unmoving commander, then at Miller, and back and forth between the two of them, before silently sitting down on the floor with his back against the wall.

Miller continued. “Bridge to engineering. Shmeh, Commander Sarr is preparing a probe for deployment. Please use Lieutenant Baker’s Periculum telemetry to set up Pandora Protocol two-six-three, and inform Sarr when it’s ready.”

Shmeh acknowledged. The red lights of the alert system continued to pulse whilst the warp engines thrummed in the background. Bitxia watched the crew frenziedly prepare for battle, immobilised in equal measure by anxiety over the coming conflict and by sheer confusion at all he had witnessed that day.

Lieutenant Smith addressed the captain again from his post at tactical. “Ten seconds to arrival. Shields and weapon systems ready, captain.”

Sarr finished a last few calculations on her console. “Probe ready, captain. Minimum safe distance, three hundred kilometres.”

“Understood,” Miller said. “Stand by for launch. All hands, prepare for combat!”

The ship dropped out of warp in front of the ugly bulk of an Orion cruiser. The pirate vessel’s crude, broad structure dwarfed the sleek curves of the Quotidian, but the Federation ship squared up to the beast nonetheless.

Bitxia watched with eyes as empty as the first officer’s as the Orion ship on the main viewer turned to face them. The bridge crew were busy giving instructions over the comms and coordinating their teams throughout the ship. Miller’s voice cut through the chatter. “Distance to target?”

Smith answered promptly. “Four-hundred-eighty kilometres, sir; they have locked weapons and are ignoring our hails. The Navem is at three-fifty kilometres from the target.”

“Damn,” Miller cursed again. “We’ll have to risk it. Launch probe, commander.”

“Probe away,” Sarr said, tapping a few buttons. The sound of the probe launching was a short, high-pitched whistle. On screen, the small projectile sped towards the pirates unerringly.

“The enemy ship is about to fire, captain,” Smith said.

Miller gripped her seat tightly. “All hands, brace for impact!”

The ship rocked violently as the Orion disruptors struck the deflectors. Sparks flew from a few consoles as the shield projectors overloaded. Commander Aufrecard fell forwards face-first onto the floor and lay there as motionless as ever. Bitxia carefully crept forwards and lifted the commander upright again, leaning him against the tactical console as he had been before.

Miller looked around as the rocking subsided. “Damage report!”

“Shields holding,” Sarr answered. “No damage sustained as yet.”

“Time to probe activation?”

“Six seconds, captain.” Sarr looked up at the main viewer, her lips moving silently as she counted down. “… Now!”

Nothing happened. For an age it seemed like nothing was happening. The Orion cruiser still pointed towards them, its guns just seconds away from another volley. Then, without warning, the pirate vessel fell away backwards, as though launching to warp. It disappeared into the distance with an orange flash, and was gone.

“Report?” Miller hesitantly asked.

Baker studied his scopes carefully. “They appear to be gone, captain, as exp-” He glanced at Bitxia. “Ah, as unexpected as that may be.”

Miller nodded. “Good. We will assume that they mistook our probe for a powerful new weapon and chose to turn tail and flee. Counsellor?”

N’rz was sat to her left, and seemed as collected and calm as all the other officers, in spite of the battle moments ago. “That is a perfectly sensible assumption, captain, and offers sufficient explanation for the enemy ship’s departure. No further investigation would be required of us in a matter such as this.”

Miller stood. “Very well. Damn good job, all of you. Sarr, dispatch repair crews to the Ligneolae Navem and offer them any other assistance they require, but the priority is to have them up to warp speed and well on their way within the hour.” Sarr began working straight away. “Miller to sickbay, Doctor Wainwright, there could be people hurt over there, can you spare anyone?”

“I can spare myself, captain,” Wainwright answered, “I’ll join the repair crews in the transporter room.”

The officers around the bridge worked at their consoles, busy but unhurried. Bitxia looked around at what now seemed like a very day-to-day scene of normality. For him, the terrifying combat less than a minute ago was still very fresh in his mind. He pushed himself to his feet, clenched his fists to steady the shake of his hands, and addressed the captain directly. “You, Captain Miller, I – I need you to tell me the truth. I’m a Federation ambassador, your Starfleet oath means you have to tell me the truth.”

“He’s incorrect, captain,” N’rz stated, “no such regulation exists.”

Bitxia was barely preventing his speech from stammering. “Y-You cannot lie to me about what just happened!”

“Incorrect again, captain, you can lie to him about any subject.”

Bitxia glared phaser beams at N’rz, who returned his gaze impassively. Miller regarded Bitxia for a moment, then turned to the science station. “Baker? Your analysis? For the benefit of the ambassador.”

Baker screwed his face up, as though considering the situation in some depth. “I suppose,” he began, tentatively, “it’s possible that there exists, in some interstitial area of subspace, some powerful faction or species, capable of pulling objects of varying characteristics – ships, for instance – into subspace itself. Possible, but highly improbable, of course.”

Bitxia stared at Baker in confusion and disbelief.

“But were that the case,” Baker continued,  “it stands to reason that such a species might, ah, pick up the ships of  realspace species, based on those ships emitting some specific signal or waveform. Perhaps inadvertently so, for instance when conducting an Alpha-Level subspace sensor sweep.” He stared calmly at Bitxia, as if ready for whatever challenge may be presented.

Bitxia’s stammer was now well out of control. “H- h- how…”

“How would such a species communicate with realspace?” Baker prompted. “Well, I dare say it would be unfamiliar to us. Probably some kind of transphasic communication. Maybe a repeating transphasic waveform, or even an interplexing beacon. Of course, such a phenomenon would hardly look like any form of message we would recognise – it would most likely resemble the emissions of a neutron star or some other stellar body, potentially focused around a powerful gravity well.”

“Wh- Why… Just, why?”

“Why pull ships into subspace? Impossible to answer without being subjected to the process itself. Of course, it would be an act of great carelessness to trigger such an event with a starship. It would be much more sensible to perform scans with an external device, such as a probe. That way, when any unusual event did occur, it would occur to the probe itself, and could be observed from a safe distance, and the relevant conclusions made from the observable data.” Baker looked at Miller. “This is all highly, highly unlikely, captain, extremely hypothetical. The far more realistic interpretation is that the Orion vessel simply departed the battle out of sheer fright.” He leant back in his chair, looking rather pleased with himself.

“Thank you, lieutenant,” Miller said. “Naturally, ambassador, the discovery of an intelligent species based entirely in subspace would be the discovery of the century, and would of course warrant further investigation. Sadly, Baker’s hypothesis has as much grounding in reality as those novels of Wainwright’s, and as such we have no cause to investigate the matter further.” She looked around. “Can someone get me a coffee, please?”

Throughout this all, the executive officer had remained silent and stationary, staring without blinking directly ahead, handsome and confident. Bitxia looked at him now, and let his shoulders drop and his arms hang loose, the opposite in every way to the commander’s resolute, heroic posture. “I… I don’t understand any of this,” he admitted, his voice hollow.

Miller shrugged. “We couldn’t abandon three hundred souls to pirates and slavers. We couldn’t defeat the pirates in combat.” A yeoman moved to her side and offered her a cup of strong-smelling black coffee, which the captain accepted. She took a sip. “So, we… changed the conditions of the engagement. All it takes is a little original thinking.” She turned to the yeoman. “Could you get a cup for the ambassador as well, please?”


Aboard the shuttle to Starbase 362, the venue for the conference, Bitxia and his aide, Laguntzaile, sat in silence. Laguntzaile was intently reading from a PADD in his hand, fully enraptured by the text on the small screen. Bitxia just stared out the window at the stars beyond. His voice lacked texture, almost as though he was speaking from behind a closed door, as he asked his aide, “How was your time aboard the Quotidian?”

Laguntzaile barely dragged his eyes from the PADD. “Oh, fascinating! The battle was scary, of course, but I met several of the crew members, saw some of the amazing technology they have aboard. I always enjoy my time aboard Starfleet vessels. And yours, sir?”

It took Bitxia a few moments to respond in his empty voice. “I met a robot, Laguntzaile. I met a robot, and I met a Vulcan author, and I even learned about starship repair and maintenance.” He sighed. “My husband was talking about the lakehouse again, you know, before we left. I think he’s right, it’s getting time we settled down for the quiet life.”

Laguntzaile pondered. “I think you’ve earned it, sir. You’ve had a long career, you deserve a decent retirement.” Bitxia didn’t respond, but kept staring at the stars. Laguntzaile read for a few more moments before restarting the conversation. “That Vulcan author you mentioned, she gave me a copy of one of her books. It’s really rather fascinating! Very beautifully written. Though, the characters all spend a lot of time, ah, mating. In quite some detail. I feel that if they spent less time in bed and more time dealing with their problems, the book would be a lot shorter.” He looked at the ambassador. “Did you get a chance to read any of her work, sir?”

The shuttle cruised on towards the station. Behind it, the Quotidian turned about and headed out of the system. As she finished her turn her engines flared brightly, and she disappeared into the distance with a blinding white flash. In another system far away, the Ligneolae Navem pulled into dock to drop off its shaken passengers and begin its repairs.

No one ever heard from the Orion ship or its crew.