Poverty, Pronouns And The Pathetic Nihilism Of Picard: Whose Starfleet? – Part Two

Part One of this analysis piece can be found here.


In the opening episode of ‘Star Trek: Picard’, or PIC, Jean Luc Picard angrily declares that he left Starfleet “because it was no longer Starfleet!”

He makes clear that, after suffering a calamitous tragedy on Mars, Starfleet’s decision to turn inwards, to turn its back on the rest of the galaxy, was unacceptable to him. That it had drifted so far from his values, from Starfleet values, as to be unrecognisable.

You can probably already tell where I’m going with this.

So, what is Starfleet to Jean Luc Picard? Which values does he hold dear, based on his behaviour in the series so far?

Let’s take a look at Picard himself, and the two former Starfleet officers that he still respects:


Upon suffering a calamitous tragedy after Mars, Picard chooses to turn inwards, to turn his back on the rest of the galaxy, to live peacefully and quietly on his enormous estate, in the luxury of his huge mansion in the French countryside, with all the modern conveniences and a full-time staff to care for him.

Fourteen years later, he is still angry at Starfleet’s decision to do the same.

He doesn’t speak to Raffi Musiker, apparently his closest confidante at the time of the incident, at any point during those fourteen years, despite her descent into poverty and drug abuse. He never returns to the Romulan refugees he abandoned on Vashti, despite their descent into poverty and violence at the hands of pirates. He claims he is “passionate” about work to “raise awareness” of the effects of the supernova, and yet he doesn’t make any public appearances (according to the FNN interviewer) to sway the minds of the people of the Federation, despite their descent into xenophobia and bigotry.

neveragreedtoaninterview

Following his failure with the Romulan rescue effort, by all counts Picard decides to do nothing more with his time despite all of his connections and his reputation and his experience.

This is understandable. Personal failure can be wounding, and when a consequence of that failure is the death of others, maybe hundreds or thousands or, in Picard’s case, millions of others, the weight of failure can be crushing.


Upon suffering a calamitous tragedy when she is discharged from Starfleet, Raffi Musiker chooses to turn inwards, to turn her back on the galaxy, to live a humiliating life of poverty and drug abuse in a trailer in the desert.

Fourteen years later, she is still angry at Picard for doing the same.

She doesn’t speak to Picard, apparently a mentor figure to whom she was devoted, at any point during those fourteen years, despite his apparent availability. She never makes any further attempt to help rescue Romulans, despite their continued peril. Neither does she engage in any other pursuit besides rage and snakeleaf, despite having fourteen years to seek help or counselling.

Following her discharge from Starfleet, by all counts Raffi decideds to do nothing more with her time, despite having “concrete evidence” of a Romulan plot to cause the Mars attack and apparently the connections to gain transport via independent ship operators such as Rios.

This is understandable. Personal failure can be wounding, and when a consequence of that failure is the end of a promising career, particularly in Raffi’s case where she has done nothing to warrant that end, the weight of failure can be crushing.


Upon suffering a calamitous tragedy when his captain is brutally killed, Cristóbal Rios chooses to turn inwards, to turn his back upon the galaxy to live a dangerous life as an independent ship captain, all by himself with only holograms modeled after his own image for company.

Ten years later, he still struggles to sleep at night without being haunted by images of his captain’s remains.

He doesn’t keep any other crew on board, despite the apparent comfort in which he lives and which would be beneficial to the poverty-stricken lower class of the Federation. He operates soley for money, despite having all his needs catered for by his ship’s technology. And he has no ideological imperative, despite possessing a powerful ship and the ability to warp around the galaxy freely.

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Following his departure from Starfleet, by all counts Rios has done nothing of ideological note with his time, merely chasing jobs and the money they bring, despite being an introspective and erudite individual with experience and Starfleet training.

This is understandable. Personal loss can be wounding, and when that loss is witnessed directly, particularly in Rios’s case where he has watched someone die in gruesome detail, the weight of grief can be crushing.


The concept of the defeated, depressed, self-isolating former hero isn’t new, and it can be interesting to explore. We’ve never seen Jean Luc Picard so dejected and nihilistic, and it’s an interesting direction to take the character.

It becomes less interesting when every character we meet has followed the same path.

Picard, Raffi and Rios all followed the same path after personal defeats. They all withdrew, gave up on their morals and lived in isolation for more than a decade.

Of the three, it seems Rios at least remained active, running his own ship, but doing so on his own with only his self-modeled emercency holoprograms for company. And, as his Emergency Navigational Holoprogram points out, it has been a long, long time since Rios has helped anyone like Picard, who is “on the side of the angels.”

Picard expresses his respect and admiration for Rios when they first meet, noticing Rios’ impeccably-maintained starship, kept in “regulation Starfleet order.” Rios is “Starfleet to the core.” Picard can even “smell it on him.”

(Presumably, Starfleet smells like root beer.)

So, despite the fact that Rios has turned his back on Starfleet values, and now apparently works exclusively for money, even doubling his fee on entering Romulan space, Picard still seems to view him as some kind of true expression of Starfleet, because he keeps his ship tidy.

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Likewise for Raffi. Picard turns to her when he needs help finding a ship and a pilot. Apparently somebody with Picard’s historic career is now so disconnected from the outside world that he has no remaining contacts of his own. So presumably, Raffi is someone he still trusts and holds in high regard, particularly given their closeness at the time of the Romulan rescue effort.

But Raffi, too, has turned her back on any kind of proactive engagement with life beyond her trailer. She hasn’t, by any counts, made any attempts to help the Romulans she cared so passionately about prior to her discharge, nor was she able to keep her family together as we learn in Episode 5.

Three characters, all former Starfleet officers, all faced personal failures and tragedies, and all responded to those failures with passivity and nihilism.


We all face difficulties in life, and we all feel a defeated at times. And often, our responses to such defeats are to shut down for a while, to retreat into ourselves, hoping to find safety in distance from others.

I have struggled with depression my whole life. Even when things are going well, I can’t escape depression’s grip on my mind. And that depression makes certain parts of life difficult. It can especially make it difficult to recover from failure, or embarrassment, or humiliation. I will probably never be free of it.

But people change, and adapt, and heal. I have changed, and adapted to cope with my emotional difficulties, and I have healed from past wounds, because I’m a human being and that’s what humans do.

Some of us don’t. Some of us fall into bad habits, self-destructive patterns, and end up worse off. Usually this happens because we lack support structures – absent friends, neglectful families, uncaring societies. And even then, even with all the love and support in the world, a person can still end up defeated by life.

But plenty of other people do not end up defeated. There are countless examples of people who have suffered grievous wounds in life, but have gone on to spread kindness and compassion to others. Many people are motivated by their own pain, allowing their empathy to compel them to offer the same kind of help that they needed at their lowest moment.

The point is that there is a spectrum of responses to trauma. Sometimes it’s sheer wilful survival, sometimes it’s a fall from grace, and other times it’s a renewed dedication to activism and compassion.


The issue I take with the characters of ‘Star Trek: Picard’, particularly the main three of Picard, Raffi and Rios, is that all three had a near-identical response to their personal traumas, and I just don’t buy that.

I see no good reason why, as Picard retreated to his mansion, Raffi could not instead have dedicated herself to aid efforts for the Romulans who escaped the supernova. I see no reason why Rios could not have used his ship for humanitarian efforts, to use the Starfleet values that Picard smells so strongly on him to attempt to do good in the galaxy.

Indeed, for all his talk of not wishing to be a “spectator” to Starfleet’s descent into isolationism, that’s exactly what Picard became, living his luxurious life in the French countryside. The FNN reporter states that Picard has never agreed to an interview before, suggesting that he has kept himself out of public life altogether.

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But would it be such a stretch for us to be introduced to Picard not as an old man on a country estate, but as an active, vocal participant in Federation politics? Maybe an activist, or a conference speaker, fighting the rise of xenophobia with inspiring speeches and compelling rhetoric?

And if this story is going to be about Picard Defeated, about a man broken by his own failures, can we at least give him some more altruistic companions to serve as foils?

Because otherwise our protagonist, who is a defeated, isolated, nihilistic, former Starfleet officer is joined on his journey by:

  • An isolated, nihilistic, defeated former Starfleet officer.
  • A nihilistic, defeated, isolated former Starfleet officer.
  • The world’s most fucking annoying cybernetics scientist.

(As an aside, I was ready to like Agnes, right up until she deliberately interrupted Rios as he was reading, and then rolled her eyes and got passive aggressive with him when he wasn’t interesting enough for her. Which, just, fuck you Agnes. He didn’t ask you to interrupt his reading session you rude arsehole.)

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Yeah, no shit, you contemptuous gobshite. Oh, and our galaxy has A LOT MORE than 3 billion stars, you ignorant, arrogant, treacherous human-shaped turd.

The fact that the writers of this show had three characters who all chose to give up as their response to tragedy is sad, but what makes it pathetic is that all of these characters apparently stayed that way for MORE THAN A DECADE.

Picard and Raffi have been wallowing in self-pity for FOURTEEN YEARS since the attack on Mars, and Rios has been doing the same for a decade since his captain died. And yes, a period of dejection might be expected, but for all three of these characters, three Starfleet officers with values and drive and ambition (all of them at least Commander-rank when they left Starfleet) to give up for so, so long is pathetically lazy on the part of the writers.

And again, to be clear, I don’t object to this characterisation for one of these characters. Maybe even two – to see both Raffi and Picard fallen might, might, have been thematically interesting, had it been handled a lot better. But with Rios as well, it just suggests that to the writers, the only natural response to trauma is surrender and materialism.

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In fact, “materialism” is pretty much the operative word. All three of these people replaced their former Starfleet principles with things. Picard lived like a king in a castle. Raffi seemingly deliberately chose poverty and drugs. Rios works for money.

And these are, apparently, the people that Picard belives are too good for what Starfleet has become. Xenophobia and nationalism? That’s bad. According to Picard, the correct response is apathy and a pursuit of (or self-pitying rejection of) wealth.

I’d like to point out here, if I may, that if you go back through the last two thousand words, I haven’t referenced any previous part of the Star Trek franchise once. Everything I’ve discussed is from the PIC series itself. I’m not here to lambast how Star Trek as a franchise has changed. This is all just from this series.

The naked, shameful hypocrisy of Picard as a character is the same brutally apathetic hypocrisy of ‘Picard’ as a series.

The message of this series seems to be “Choosing not to help people is bad, unless you shout about how enlightened you are, in which case choosing not to help people is acceptable.”

Picard calls Rios “true Starfleet” because he keeps his ship tidy. But wouldn’t “true Starfleet” have been to remain within the organisation, and change it from within?

And, to tie this into the stated themes of the show itself, isn’t that weirdly similar to one of the main arguments against Brexit? That we can exert more influence within a flawed institution like the EU and change it from the inside, rather than removing ourselves from it completely?

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In that regard, although Picard is posed as an anti-Brexit figure, he himself has chosen the Brexit path, recognising the flaws in an otherwise progressive organisation and cutting all ties rather than trying to improve the situation. And the same goes for the two Starfleet officers for whom he holds so much respect.

And he still has the gall to call out poverty-stricken refugees on their low-level xenophobia.

‘Star Trek: Picard’ is not a story about fighting the regressiveness of Trump and Brexit. It is a story about how the only human response to failure is absolute defeat, and that wealth is always an acceptable substitue for activism.


And now for something a little different.

At the end of Episode 4, ‘Absolute Candor’, Picard and company are saved from an attacking Romulan bird of prey by an unseen pilot in a strange vessel.

This unseen pilot is, according to Rios, remarkably talented, and is evidently skilled in combat flying.

Naturally, all of our “heroes” assume by default that, because this pilot is good at combat, they must be male, and pointedly use masculine pronouns to refer to somebody about whom they know nothing else.

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This, of course, is so that we, the audience, can all be surprised when the pilot isn’t a MAN but is in fact a GIRL! Can you imagine? A top combat pilot, being a FEMALE? It certainly shocked me.

To quote Jenny Nicholson:

“The fighter being a girl was the twist when ‘Metroid’ did it in 1986 – is that really a thing we can play straight anymore?”

Well, according to the writers of ‘Star Trek: Picard’, yes it is, because that’s exactly what we get.

Apparently the fact that Seven Of Nine is a Woman Who Fights is a significant surprise.

I know this feels like a minor point, but it actually highlights a bit of an issue with PIC, which is mirroring ‘Discovery’ in its handling of women.

Episode One sees the fridging of Dahj.

Under attack by Romulan assassins (on their second attempt), Dahj is brutally burned by acid before a gun she is holding slowly builds up to detonation, presumably obliterating her.

This serves as the impetus of Picard’s journey away from Earth. She is identified as Data’s daughter, which has special significance for Picard, and her tragic, violent death is his motivation.

A classic fridging. Violently kill off the young woman so that your (white) male protagonist has a reason to do things with some urgency.

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“I’ve known her for ten minutes but she’s related to Data so she must be important to the audience.”

Then the showrunners introduce the weird concept of Dahj having a twin sister, which I think is best presented by the Memory Alpha plot summary:

“… He asks her if it is possible to make a sentient android out of flesh and blood, and she laughs. She realizes he is serious and says it is impossible, a thousand years away…

“… Nobody had since been able to redevelop the science to create a Soong-type android…

“… Jurati says it would be possible to create a female android from Data’s positronic neuron, using the plural “they.” Picard asks, “twins?” Jurati concurs: they were created in pairs.”

That’s right, something that is impossible apparently always happens in pairs. The dialogue itself is gloriously absurd:

PICARD: “Data’s daughter. He always wanted a daughter. I believe that Maddox modeled her after an old painting of Data’s.”

AGNES: “Female. Yes. I suppose you can make them that way.”
(What the fuck does this mean? They’re androids, couldn’t you make them any way?)

PICARD: “I’m sorry, ‘them’?”

AGNES: “They’re created in pairs.”

PICARD: “Twins?”

AGNES: “Twins.”

Sadly, the use of women as plot devices rather than characters in their own right is nothing new to science fiction. But in 2020, with a story allegedly pertaining to the rise of regressive politics, you might expect a more modern approach to characterisation.

Dahj has a twin sister, then, named Soji. Soji lives and works on a relic Borg Cube, an “ancient” starship capable of “mass destruction”. Soji is being seduced by a Romulan agent, because she is his target. He is part of the same organisation as the assassins who killed Dahj in Episode 1.

This entire plotline delivers roughly one piece of story-relevant information per hour of screentime, and is mostly inane. We watch them gliding on their socks over a slippy floor in Episode 4, after having already seen them in bed together multiple times since Episode 2, making it a strange kind of “romance in reverse”. Soji immediately trusts Narek, and then begins to not trust him, and then they fall out when he begins to interrogate her immediately after the floor-gliding scene.

Most of this exists to remind us that another android daughter exists for Picard to save.

There are multiple scenes in which Narek’s incestuous sister repeatedly grants him additional time to compromise Soji, simultaneously reminding him of the apparent urgency. This allows Picard the time he needs to faff around the galaxy, picking up Romulan sword elves and delivering appalling French caricatures whilst wearing an eyepatch.

This leaves us in an awkward situation where both Picard and the Romulan spies are racing against each other to take custody of Soji, but neither party seems to be in any particular rush to do so. It’s apparently a meandering race of apathy.

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“Who knows how much time is left? But I’d better stop by Vashti first to pick up an elf with a sword for all of these gunfights we’ll surely end up in.”

This also further objectifies the character of Soji. We are given glimpses of a personality – she seems to be empathetic, based on the few occasions we’ve seen her independently of Narek. But she is nontheless the object of other characters’ motivations – a princess to be saved by Picard, a target to be seduced and captured by Narek and his sister.

As of Episode 5, she is not even aware that she is at the heart of a great cosmic adventure. She is merely continuing her life as she normally would, albeit with a sinister new boyfriend and a brief encounter with a traumatised Romulan mythologist.

This means she is an entity with no agency, as she has no ability to interact meaningfully with a narrative she doesn’t realise she is part of.

(And yes, she can still make decisions about her relationship with Narek, but that’s the narrative equivalent of a metronome so let’s not get carried away.)


Another aspect of Soji (and Dahj) brings us all the way back around to our nihilist-in-chief, Jean Luc Picard.

Soji and Dahj are twin “daughters” of Data, in as much as they are neural clones of one of his neurones, or something.

This has worrying echoes of Michael Burnham, the protagonist of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. As I’ve covered before, Michael Burnham suffered from being written as the daughter of Sarek (what is it with “-areks” in this new era of Trek?) and the sister of Spock. She suffered because it meant she was never allowed to find herself as a character in her own right, but was instead always in the shadow those characters that had come before her.

This isn’t just from a meta, franchise perspective either. Season 2 of Discovery saw Michael Burnham’s character growth grind to a halt as the narrative instead devoted itself to Spock. The most interesting episode of Season 1 was all about Sarek’s relationship with his daughter, rather than Burnham’s relationship with her foster father, a subtle but important distinction.

 

So when we come to Soji and Dahj, it’s disappointing to see the same error being made. They are the daughters of Data. In one conversation with Dahj, we learn more about Data than we do about Dahj.

Picard even has this strange and possessive exchange with Dahj in the first episode:

DAHJ – “I was born in Seattle. My dad was a xenobotanist, and our house was full of orchids. He spliced two genuses and he named the offspring after me: Orchidaceae Dahj oncidium. Yellow and pink.”

PICARD – “That’s a beautiful memory, and it’s yours. No one can touch it or take it away. But you must look inside deeply and honestly. Have you ever considered the possibility-”

DAHJ – “That I’m a soulless murder machine?”

PICARD – “That you are something lovingly and deliberately created, like Dahj oncidium.”

DAHJ – “You’re telling me that I’m not real.”

PICARD – “No, I’m not. If you are who I think you are… You are dear to me in ways that you can’t understand.”

On the surface, that looks like a charming attempt by Picard to reassure this young woman. But the language itself is troubling, to say the least:

  • “You are something lovingly and deliberately created…”
  • If you are who I think you are… You are dear to me…”

Picard is speaking about her as an object. He isn’t acknowledging her as a vital and sapient being, but recognising her value only as a creation. And then he states the conditionality of her worth to him – if, IF, she is Data’s daughter, then she is very dear to him. And if she isn’t?

something
Subtitles by Amazon. Don’t blame me.

It may seem flippant to suggest that Picard would care less about Dahj if she were not related to Data, but that brings into question – what is, then, the narrative value of making her Data’s daughter? Could she not have been an android in her own right? A special and unique creation separate from the legacy of Data? If Picard is the noble, enlightened being we know him to be, what purpose is served by Dahj’s relationship to Data?

We find ourselves retreading ground already worn bare by ‘Discovery’. Dahj, or rather Soji, is Data’s daughter, is Picard’s motivation, and is Narek’s target. She is defined more by what she is to three men than by what she is in her own right.

This is also a good opportunity to question the intention behind there being twins. It’s possible that this is somehow necessary to a greater theme of the story, but it seems more likely, to me at least, that the writers wanted to have their cake and eat it – to brutally fridge a young female character in Episode 1 to give Picard emotional stakes, and then keep her identical counterpart alive to give him motivation to go on a journey to save her. But this is all just cynical supposition on my part.


Language matters, and the way we use it, the specificity of the words we choose, has great effect on the way others see us, and the way we make others feel.

This is even picked up in Episde 1, ‘Remembrance’. The Fox News interviewer refers to “Romulan lives,” and Picard corrects her – “No, lives.”

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The meaning is clear – specifying the Romulan element of a life implies something about that life’s value, and given the tone and the context of the discussion, we know that the implication is that Romulan lives are worth less than Federation lives.

But this follows through. When Picard calls Dahj “something lovingly and deliberately created,” the words he is not using are “someone lovingly and deliberately brought to life.” And given that Dahj is a young adult who is currently terrified that she might have been living a false existence, the cold objectification of her can hardly be comforting.

This is why there is so much emphasis placed on pronouns in many parts of life. As gender divsersity becomes more commonly understood, the language we use to refer to one another becomes more important. Regressive internet trolls will often mock the growing trend of pronoun clarity, despite the fact that misgendering, referring to a boy as a girl or to a girl as a boy, has been a classic element of schoolyard bullying for centuries, used by children to hurt other children, often leaving lasting psychological wounds.

We have seen the same demands for linguistic clarity in other areas of life. The ability for women to use a title that is agnostic of their marital status, for instance, resulting in “Ms.” becoming more common. And this isn’t a shallow consideration – your career can be affected by your marital status, which makes choosing whether you present yourself as single, married or “prefer not to say” a very meaningful tool.

This also adds extra significance to every character’s decision to refer to an unseen, talented combat pilot as “him”. If that is the default assumption, it tells us that this is a universe where men are still assumed to be the default warriors, soldiers, pilots, jocks and heroes, and the writer’s decision to play the “female fighter” as a twist reveal only confirms that.

Much of the rest of the story reinforces this notion. The most privileged of our characters is Jean Luc Picard, a man. The next most privileged is Captain Rios, also a man. The most under-privileged is Raffi, a woman. The best fighter is Elnor, a man. The worst fighter is Agnes Jurati, a woman. The two objects of the plot are a pair of women who are twin sisters. One of them is being seduced by a more powerful man for his own ends, whilst another man “races” to rescue her.

The same “female fighter” twist is even pulled AGAIN in Episode 5, when Raffi assumes by default that a crime boss must be a man, and this once again is “revealed” to be incorrect, as though this is just as surprising a revelation as it was barely ten minutes of screentime earlier.

 

The language and the coding all seems to point towards a universe where women are about as independent and proactive as they were in the Original Series, which is now more than fifty years old. Watching old episodes of Kirk and the gang making snide remarks about a woman’s role on a starship is a little painful, but watching a current series pull the same shit is just embarrassing.

There are exceptions, and we do get to see a couple of female authority figures, which is good. But the actual main characters all seem to be falling into gender roles that feel more at home in the 1960s than in 2020.

And, to harken back to another old article, this is yet another show where we do not see women talking to each other very often, and certainly not main characters. Admittedly, with Picard as the main character, the bulk of dialogue is going to feature at least one man, so it’s is a little more understandable in PIC, but this is one to keep an eye on going forwards. I do not believe the show passed the Bechdel Test in the first four episodes.


Female representation aside, this is yet another example of the intrinsic nihilism of both Jean Luc Picard and of ‘Star Trek: Picard’. Picard himself seems more spurred by Dahj’s and Soji’s relationship to Data than he does to the fact that these are two young people in danger.

It seems inherently selfish of Picard to leave the comfort of his mansion only once he has a personal, familial stake in an issue. People across the galaxy are suffering already. People Picard knows personally, like the Romulan refugees on Vashti, and yet Picard does nothing to help any of these people, presumably because they are not related to any of his dear friends.

As I have already covered, Picard has done nothing to help the larger Federation, or its citizens who are being driven to xenophobia, or any of the thousands of Romulans left homeless after the supernova. He has not even spoken to Raffi, his former aide and confidante, who waited for fourteen years to hear from him, and who chastises him for not making contact until he needs help.

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(Sorry, not done with female representation yet, because on the subject of Raffi I wanted to ask – did we really need the only black female main character on the show to be a drug-addicted trailer-dwelling washout who has lost touch with her family? After ‘Discovery’ gave us Star Trek’s first black female protagonist who was also a colossal screw-up and convict? Can black women please just be as competent and successful as anyone else in the Federation without angsty backstories? Please?)

So we’re left in a situation where it seems that Jean Luc Picard’s only motivation for venturing out on one last adventure is the fact that he feels a familial bond to someone he’s yet to actually meet. It may also be because he has been told that he does not have long left to live, but that’s not exactly a more noble motivation.

Joining Picard on this quest is Raffi, who states a lack of interest in the cause and only decides to go when she realises that Picard will be going to Freecloud, where her own estranged family live. Also on the quest is Rios; who is being paid to do so; Elnor, who has effectively been “hired” through cultural obligation; and Jurati, who we later learn is an undercover assassin participating in a coverup and who was also in a relationship with one of the people Picard is trying to find.

None of these people is taking any action out of compassion or altruism. Not one.

You could perhaps argue that Elnor is at least motivated by a higher purpose, but it’s indirect at best, and it feels more like Picard guilted him into it.

And my issue is not that one of our characters is being selfish – it’s that ALL of our characters are being selfish. When we do meet Seven Of Nine, and learn that she is a “Fenris Ranger”, apparently one of the few people actually committed to doing good in the galaxy, she is completely bound up in a quest for vengeance, to the point that she gets a moralistic lecture from Picard. Hell, he even has the gall to call her out on acting outside of the law:

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Oh, sorry Jean Luc, would you respect her more if she was sitting around doing nothing, like you and the rest of your buddies?

But even if we can at least admire Seven for being a little more proactive, she also turns to the empty pursuit of vengeance.

Apparently, this is a future in which nobody acts out of the goodness of compassion, even the heroes.

Now, not all protagonists need to be moralising martyrs. The crew of the Rocinante, for example, from ‘The Expanse’, begin their journey together just trying to survive. Eventually they end up at the centre of some pivotal events, and end up making moral choices, but they started out as space truckers trying to make their way in an unforgiving solar system, caught up in a deadly conspiracy – they never needed a moralistic reason to be involved.

But a little altruism helps us, the audience, root for our protagonists. Frodo Baggins makes two selfless decisions in ‘The Fellowship Of The Ring’: first, to get the Ring out of the Shire, to save his homeland; and second, to take the Ring to Mordor, knowing full well that it might be a one-way trip, in order to rid Middle Earth of evil. Having your protagonist understand the danger, but commit to doing good anyway, and not for personal gain but for the good of all, that’s a fantastic way to make your audience get on board with their quest.

The same is true of Luke Skywalker, or Rey (Skywalker), or even John McClane. Sure, McClane is trying to survive and save his wife, but he also puts himself at risk to save others, to stop Gruber and his villains from murdering dozens of strangers.

But the only thing capable of shifting Picard from his heirloom armchair is a connection to somebody that he already cares about.

In Episode 5, he claims that he’s “rushing” to save Soji because nobody else will help her. And yet, as established, nobody else was helping Raffi, but he didn’t seem to give a shit about her. Nobody else was helping the Romulans on Vashti, and yet he was happy to leave them to their poverty.

nooneelsetohelpher
At least he’s started referring to her as “someone” rather than “something.”

This may seem like I’m setting unfair standards for PIC, but honestly, these are just the standards it sets for itself. Picard has his lovely little rant in the first episode about the xenophobia of Starfleet, he chastises Elnor for unnecessary killing, Seven Of Nine for her vigilantism and her vengeful nature. And yet he fails to live up to his own standards, and seems only to admire those who are as apathetic as he is.

John McClane doesn’t give a speech about the need for gun control before he smokes up Nakatomi Plaza. Luke Skywalker doesn’t preach about pacifism before takes his lightsaber to a bunch of Storm Troopers, and Samwise Gamgee doesn’t condemn animal cruelty before he stabs Shelob in the thorax.

And yet Jean Luc Picard, and by extension ‘Star Trek: Picard’, seems perfectly happy to give moralistic speeches whilst accomplishing nothing, either through direct action, or simply by spreading an understanding of the issues he claims to care about. And the same goes for every other character we meet.


The greatest sin of all is that this just doesn’t make for a very good story. We have three main characters (plus Elnor, who gets to stand near them, and Jurati, who should stand in an airlock) who ALL have an identical perspective on life, and that’s just… boring.

In the 21-minute episode ‘Reynolds vs. Reynolds: The Cereal Defense’, the last episode of Season 8 of ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’, five characters approach a “trial” over the matter of property damage. We have:

  • Dennis, who believes that Frank is to blame for driving despite his physical impairments
  • Frank, who belives that Dennis is to blame for eating cereal whilst driving
  • Charlie, who is personally loyal to Frank and wants to test his mettle as a lawyer (specialising in Bird Law)
  • Mac, who has no stake in the matter but who is eager to prove his intellectual superiority
  • Sweet Dee, who believes that people must be held accountable for damaging the property of others after all of her previous cars have been demolished by the rest of the gang

sweetdee

In 21 minutes, a single episode of a sitcom based almost entirely in a dive bar in Philadelphia manages to establish a greater diversity of opinion and perspective than in over four hours and five epiosdes of ‘Star Trek: Picard’.

A short episode of a sitcom should never be a better example of dramatic storytelling than a high-budget full-length narrative series. And yet somehow, ‘Reynolds vs. Reynolds: The Cereal Defense’ has more compelling character interactions and a greater exploration of the topic it sets out to discuss.

(The solution, by the way, is for Sweet Dee to be blamed by the other four. Apologies for the spoiler.)


‘Star Trek: Picard’ is simply disappointing. For all of the excitement of seeing Patrick Stewart back, for all of the budget (or lack thereof, given the reliance on location shoots and the limited number of sets, most of which are fairly claustrophobic) its handling of theme and narrative feels so anaemic.

Worse still, its fumbling of issues around responsibility, and inclusivity, and poverty, and the rise of right wing politics, and its inability to perceive a world where women are fighters too and where there is a trauma response that goes beyond “absolute defeatism” is simply depressing.

And don’t get me started on the dumbing-down of the language in this series.

Believe it or not, I’m actually rooting for PIC. I would like it to be a good show, a strong narrative with memorable characters. I would like to see it further the Trek legacy.

One of the wonders of a truly great story is that it will give its audience cause to consider an idea they’ve never had to think about before. The best stories breed discussion, not just of the stories themselves but of the ideas within them, and I just don’t think PIC has enough ideas to do that.

There is nothing in PIC but empty bluster and vacuous paddling towards some kind of mediocre twist ending. I genuinely believe that, where previous editions of Star Trek have given us more to think about, ‘Picard’ might actually give us less. And that just makes me sad.

Poverty, Pronouns And The Pathetic Nihilism Of Picard: A Star Trek Story – Part One

Part Two of this analysis piece can be found here.


‘Star Trek: Picard’ is a story about how a modern, technologically advanced civilisation can succumb to hatred and bigotry.

Well, that’s not entirely true, as we never see the descent of that civilisation. ‘Star Trek: Picard’ is actually a story about a modern, technologically advanced civilisation that has succumbed to hatred and bigotry.

Well, okay, that’s not precisely accurate either, as we don’t actually explore that civilisation or its various societies. So, really, ‘Star Trek: Picard’ is a story about…

… An arrogant, straight, cisgendered old white man who berates others for their intolerance as he lives in an opulent mansion surrounded by huge swathes of land, cared for by unpaid full-time servants.

There’s also some stuff to do with conspiracies and robots and the Borg.

This is a bit of a deep-dive, so please settle in.


chateaupicard

‘Star Trek: Picard’, or “PIC” from now on, opens with Jean Luc Picard dreaming about Data as he sleeps in a gorgeously furnished bedroom in his French mansion. Outside, automated hover-fertilisers glide over his family vines, whilst people in workclothes carrying farm tools wander around doing their duties.

A little later, Picard sits in a luxurious study in front of TV cameras as he answers questions in an interview for ‘FNN’ (presumably ‘Federation News Network’). The interviewer chooses her words carefully to imply that Romulan lives are not equivalent to Federation lives, and states that, as historical enemies, Picard’s decision to try to save the Romulans from their exploding star was controversial. She further explains that, as the rescue armada was assembled, rogue “synthetics” attacked and destroyed the fleet. This led to Picard leaving Starfleet, outraged that it was “no longer Starfleet”, after giving up on the Romulan rescue effort.

Later, Picard has more dreams of Data, wanders around his expansive estate with his pet dog as his two Romulan house servants cook and clean for him and more vinyard works go about their work. Picard orders his decaffeinated Earl Grey tea from replicators in the kitchen and falls asleep on his enormous antique wooden bureau. By all indications, he has spent the last fourteen years since the synthetic attack and the supernova in quiet rest.

In Episode 2, ‘Maps And Legends’, Picard again resting in his mansion and drinking tea when he is informed that he has a brain disease by his long time friend and doctor, Bever- sorry, Moritz Benayoun, who was apparently on the Stargazer with Picard many years ago. Whilst the disease is not yet identified, there is nontheless no apparent doubt as to what will happen to Picard.

Throughout all of this, Picard has also met a young woman who is also an android, has been attacked twice by highly skilled assassins, been caught in a devastating explosion, found out that Data had a daughter (aforementioned young woman), been insulted by the commander of Starfleet, and learned about a super-super-duper-super-secret Romulan cabal which has existed for “thousands upon thousands of years” and which has the sole purpose of hating artificial lifeforms.


hovel

Picard then gets a taxi to the Arizona desert (which is apparently more efficient than simply beaming there with the prolific transporter technology) to see his old friend and colleague Raffi. Raffi was a Lieutenant-Commander working under Picard prior to the Romulan supernova. After the synthetic attack, Picard resigned in protest at Starfleet’s apathy, and Raffi was discharged along with him, presumably out of spite.

Raffi lives in a trailer in the desert and hefts a pump-action phaser rifle at any visitors to her run-down “hovel”, as she describes it. She explains how humiliating her life is, especially compared to Picard’s château, and bemoans the unfairness of how differently their lives have turned out.

Just to tie this bit off, I would like to point out that Earth is a technological utopia, with limitless power generation, advanced education which teaches children warp theory in high school, and the ability to convert energy into any form of matter in an instant. Transporter technology permits transit across enormous distances in an instant, and holoprograms exist which possess their own intelligence and ability to solve complex problems, even serving as doctors.


Through Raffi, Picard acquires the services of Rios, an independent captain of his own vessel. He lives on his ship alone, with advanced “Emergency Holoprograms” (all modeled after himself) who act as his crew. He can replicate whisky seemingly anywhere within the ship, and gets free medical attention from his Emergency Medical Holoprogram. Rios insists that he is expensive to hire, he makes clear that he is finished with Starfleet, the same as Picard and Raffi.

A short while later, Raffi appears on Rios’ ship, and states that she is tagging along to reach somewhere called “Freecloud”. This means she is now able to enjoy the luxuries of Rios’ ship whilst she is aboard, such as replicated foodstuffs, elaborate holodecks, and skilled, free labour from the Emergency Holoprograms.


We also spend some time away from Picard aboard a ruined Borg cube, in what I can only describe as the most vapid television I have witnessed in some time, as a Romulan spy and another of Data’s android daughters flirt and sleep with each other, and also some other stuff related to a “prophecy” gets talked about. It’s exceptionally slow and dull.


brownstickyshit

In the opening teaser of Episode 2, ‘Maps And Legends’, we get to see a brief segment of the lives of Starfleet workers on Mars, as they make snide remarks about their robot colleagues and complain about the food they have just replicated, which they call “brown, sticky shit.” They do a lot of complaining about their food, in fact, referring to “space pineapples again” and bemoaning the downgrading of their replicators.

Just to tie this bit off, I would like to point out that Mars is an historic part of the Federation, in the same system as Earth, and has functioned as Starfleet’s main shipyards for at least several decades. Starfleet’s finest engineers and designers spend their time at the shipyards, advancing starship technology further with every new draft. And that replicators capable of recreating any foodstuff from pure energy have been standard equipment on every Starfleet ship for decades. Riker was even able to replicate (dead) Gagh, and other Klingon delicacies, waaaay back in Season 2 of TNG, exactly twenty years before the synths on Mars went rogue.


In Episode 4, ‘Absolute Candour’, Picard travels to a Romulan refugee village, one which he had previously visited before the Mars attack. Whilst there, he witnesses the poverty in which the refugees live, such as a former senator reduced to a brawling drunk in a run-down bar. Picard disdainfully casts aside a xenophobic “Romulans Only” sign hanging outside the bar, before making a point of sitting down and demanding service from the impoverished Romulans around him.

Just to tie this bit off, I would like to point out that the planet the Romulans are barely surviving on, Vashti, is entirely surrounded by a powerful defence network capable of destroying any unauthorised ship which approaches the settlement.


A lot of criticism has already been leveled at PIC, such as the use of swearing (about which I don’t personally give a shit) or the generally poor quality of dialogue:

  • Pro tip for future reference…”
  • “What do you mean, ‘Synths have attacked Mars’?”

PROTIP

I could be nitpicky about a scientist on the show stating that there are “more than 3 billion stars in our Galaxy” when there are in fact over a 100 billion, but that is not what I want to write about.

What I actually want to write about is the themes of the show, and how poorly understood those themes seem to be by the show’s own writers.

The problem is that the writers do not demonstrate an understanding what poverty is, or why it exists, or the connection between inequality and bigotry.

Patrick Stewart, a life-long left-winger and supporter of the British Labour Party, is on record as stating that PIC is a response to both Trump and Brexit, and that this is some sort of attempt to address two separate issues that seem inextricably linked by their specific populism: the rise and seeming political invulnerability of Trump, who has created concentration camps on U.S. soil, and the Brexit movement, which is seeing Britain sabotage its own economic future for the sake of limiting immigration.

Both issues are anti-immigration. Whilst Brexit lacked an iconic catchphrase, were Britain not an island it might certainly have been “Build that wall!” And this ties into the issue at the centre of PIC’s narrative – the rehoming of refugee Romulans. Just as Britons and Americans voted in line with their apprehensions about immigration, so too the Federation seems to have ruled in line with accepting Romulans across its own border.

romulanlives

The parallels run deeper. ‘FNN’, the news agency interviewing Picard in the first episode whilst making implications about the value of Romulan lives, is a clear equivalent of Fox News, the private news agency in America which has presented so many right-wing, nationalistic and xenophobic talking points. Picard’s reference in that same interview to the Dunkirk rescue effort alludes to Britain’s former role in supporting its European neighbours, and the stark contrast with Britain’s now-prevailing anti-European national sentiment.

But there’s a few fairly significant pieces of the puzzle still missing.


Fox News was founded by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes in October 1996 – almost exactly five years before the World Trader Center attack on September 11, 2001. And whilst Fox News was well-funded by billionaire investors from the get-go, it is doubtless that the first major attack on the American mainland by a foreign power would have heavily increased interest in the kind of nationalistic, isolationist opinions that were being pushed by Fox News’ array of presenters and guests at the time.

Fox News was owned by News Corporation, also a Murdoch company, which owned UK-based newspapers The Times, The Sun and now-extinct The News Of The World. Murdoch himself has exercised editorial control over The Sun and The News Of The World since he took ownership of them in 1969 (yes, more than fifty years ago), and whilst he did not have similar editorial freedom with The Times, he nontheless had a lot of influence over the publication. Murdoch also founded Sky News in 1989, a British news channel which is nowhere near as outwardly biased as Fox News, but which certainly leans right on the political spectrum.

Most people reading this will already understand the role that Fox News has played in modern US politics. Fox News supported President Bush during his two terms from 2001 to 2009, was incredibly critical of President Obama during his two terms from 2009 to 2017, and has been a staunch defender of President Trump so far through his first term. Most political historians recognise the key significance of Fox News on the American public psyche – not merely because of the commentary it provides, but because of its massive reach, being voted the “most trusted” news network in America on multiple occasions, reaching 90 million households and being the top-rated cable network as late as 2019.

To understand the significance of The Sun in the UK is perhaps a little harder, but here’s some anecdotal evidence: following the Sun’s abhorrent coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, a popular movement grew in my home city of Liverpool to boycott the Sun newspaper, a boycott which has persisted ever since. A possible consequence? In the 2016 referendum, Liverpool was one of the more staunchly pro-European regions, and in 2019, Liverpool constituencies were some of the best-performing for the left-wing Labour Party, which faced disaster across the rest of the UK.

The point being, our consumption of media plays a huge role in how our societies progress.

Another point being, these are operations that have been ongoing for decades – since before I was born, in some cases. And the consequences of these media operations are proportional to their duration. Fox News did not immediately change the landscape of politics in 1996. But 24 years later, it has certainly had its part to play in one of the most dramatic and controversial periods of U.S. political history.

Nothing happens in isolation. The World Trade Center attacks certainly did a lot to shift American foreign policy, but even events as evil as that can have different effects on public opinion based on the media response. Had Fox News and other outlets focused less on the role of Islamicism in those attacks, and more on the role of prior White House administrations in arming and empowering the very same militant groups that committed those atrocities, the political landscape over the following years might have been quite different.


There’s another element to all of this.

eatthiscrap

It’s very easy for someone like me – an employed, middle class, educated white dude – to view the recent shift towards bigotry as the fault of a biased media and the people stupid enough to believe in it.

I’m lucky enough that most of my friends are not poor. Not many are wealthy by British standards, but most are not struggling to put food on the table. Most of my friends are white and middle class, just like me, and benefitted from a university education, just as I did. Most of these friends do not read the Sun or watch Sky News. Most of these friends are anti-Brexit, anti-Tory, diehard Leftists, which makes me proud.

A lot of people in the UK, and in the US, are not so fortunate. Many have been made redundant within the last five years, or struggled to find an adequate job to begin with. Many have come from much poorer backgrounds, without middle class families to support them through rough times. Many are living in poverty as a result of these factors.

By poverty, I mean simply “a lack of access to the services, products and amenities that are considered necessary for a healthy, happy life.” I mean the ability to travel around the country, to buy food, afford shelter, and power, and healthcare and, in recent times, an internet connection – which is now absolutely a necessary part of our social infrastrucutre.

In our world, poverty is caused by a lack of wealth, which itself is caused by a lack of income. A lack of income means a lack of a job for most people. This is why governments will often use welfare programs, or social security, to provide a supplementary or replacement income to those who cannot work or who have lost their jobs, to try and prevent them from becoming impoverished.

You need income in our modern world because we have what is called “scarcity“. Food has to be grown, building materials have to be manufactured, clothes have to be sewn by exploited sweatshop workers and movies have to be made by overworked CGI artists who will be laid off after production is finished. Because all of these things are “scarce”, i.e. finite, and require effort to create, they have a value. That value is paid for with money, which you earn by having an income, which you get by having a job.

earlgreyreplicator

Even if goods and materials and food are all plentiful and therefore cheap, land is not. We have finite usable land, and by “usable” I mean land that is solid enough to build on, close to existing infrastructure, accessible, temperate enough to live in, and not already in use for some other purpose. This means that even if you have everything you need to build a house and live in it sustainably forever, you need somewhere to build it to begin with. Sadly, our society is not yet technologically advanced enough to create “land” elsewhere, such as in the ocean, or in space.

And if you think I’m overexplaining all of this, there’s a reason for that.

Right-wing media organisations such as those owned by Rupert Murdoch do not automatically convince people of their messages. They will exploit inherent human weaknesses, such as fear following a terrorist attack, or that inherent crumb of intolerance that we all possess, and which some of us do a better job of keeping under control.

A big weakness is financial anxiety. The closer you are to being in poverty, the easier it is to feel like a victim. And the more you feel like a victim, the more you need something or someone to blame.

The reality is that a lot of jobs are lost as a result of decisions that were made years before. The wrong CEO was chosen, or new and more efficient technologies were introduced, or the market began to shift and the company never adjusted to meet new demands. Sometimes a company decides to relocate to a more cost-efficient location, and those employees who can’t move with it are left behind.

But losing your job is often a very sudden and immediate thing. One month, you’re working and earning a comfortable wage, and the next, you’re being shown your limited options and a redundancy package if you’re lucky. Even though the causes of you losing your job are gradual and long-term, the act itself is rapid and surprising.

trailer

And this is just the binary of having or not having a job. I’ve not even touched upon the concept of situations where employment is high, and everyone has a job, but salaries have risen more slowly than inflation. It’s incredibly difficult to explain to someone who is working forty hours a week that the reason they still feel poor is because of nebulous macroeconomic issues that they have no ability to affect.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that, when you’re talking to someone who is trying to understand why they’ve worked hard all their life but still can’t afford basic necessities, simple answers will be more readily accepted. Something like, “Well, it never used to be this bad, before they let all those immigrants in…” is just an easier concept to grapple with than “Well, you see, in the lead-up to the 1929 Wall Street Crash, speculative markets overvalued stock prices, which led to…”

Indeed, it is especially hard to convince someone of the real, highly complex and long-term causes of their poverty when they see so many people around them protected from that same poverty. If the system in which we live is malfunctioning, then surely it must be malfunctioning for everybody? And if so, how can there still be people going on expensive holidays, buying sports cars, living in fancy homes?

mansion

When faced with that contradiction, you’re more vulnerable to a simple answer that is quickly delivered, and that simple answer will often conveniently shift the blame from the people who are actually responsible.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an aristocratic millionaire who makes money from investments in companies that lay people off and underpay their workers to drive profits. He is benefitting from your redundancy, but he is telling you that your poverty is the fault of EU immigration laws.

Donald Trump has spent his entire life breaking agreements with contractors and refusing to pay them agreed sums, and he deliberately emlpoys the cheapest staff he can find in his various enterprises. But he is telling you that the reason your boss had to fire you is because of Mexicans.

Fox News was founded by a literal billionaire who also owned The News Of The World, until that British paper was forced to close down after it was found to be illegally hacking into childrens’ mobile phones. And yet these media outlets will claim to care deeply about your rights and your security as they share opinion pieces on the threats posed by immigration.


Pulling these issues together, what we’re left with is that the kind of societies that will elect Trump, the kind of societies that will vote for Brexit, are socieities that are suffering from inequality, from a visible gap between the rich and the poor, and often with no good or comprehensible reason being presented.

In fact, every major shift on a national political compass, typically from progressive to conservative, in modern history has followed increases in wealth inequality.

As a really good example, consider the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which saw the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini. You may be familiar with the contrast of pre-revolution Iran and its more progressive attitudes towards women, as highlighted in this BBC article displaying images of the state as it once was.

What you may not realise is that (and I am condensing A LOT of Iranian political history here) the precursor to the Iranian Revolution and the rise of conservative Islamism in Iran was not some hatred-driven religious movement that sprang from nowhere, but was in fact massively increased wealth inequality under an unelected monarch:

“The White Revolution’s economic “trickle-down” strategy also did not work as intended. In theory, oil money funneled to the elite was supposed to be used to create jobs and factories, eventually distributing the money, but instead the wealth tended to get stuck at the top and concentrated in the hands of the very few.”

That monach was Shah Mohammad Pahlavi, an unlected aristocrat who was restored to power by a combined UK- and US-backed coup d’état which arose from the loss of British control over Iranian oil.

(By the way, Shah Pahlavi had already been installed as a replacement for his father by a joint UK-Soviet invasion during the Second World War in order to secure oil supplies for the Soviet Army. Thanks to the scarcity of oil, Iran has essentially never been allowed to choose its own destiny, and it’s little wonder they’re pursuing the most extreme means to secure their own autonomy.)

Iran did not suddenly swing to hardline conservative Islamism for no reason. The people of Iran were the victims of wealth inequality, and just as has happened in Russia, France, China, Germany, Korea, the United Kingdom AND the United States, they chose revolution. And as a result, their political compasses shifted, either Left or Right, Democratic or Authoritarian.

The Nazis didn’t rise to power because everybody in Germany was a white supremacist. They rose to power because they offered a simple, wrong answer to Germany’s wealth inequality. Trump wasn’t elected because half of America idolises him, he was elected because he offered a simple, wrong answer to America’s wealth inequality. And Brexit did not happen because the UK hates the EU, it happened because rich white men offered a simple, wrong answer to Britain’s wealth inequality.


So, how does this tie in to ‘Star Trek: Picard’?

Well, let’s start off by repeating that Brexit didn’t happen because “everybody is a little bit racist.” Trump was not elected because “we naturally evolved to be untrusting of foreigners.”

Both Trump and the architects of Brexit preyed upon a poor working class that was getting poorer. Trump wasn’t wrong to target his rhetoric at coal mining communities where the mines have shut down – but he was wrong to pretend that those lost mining jobs would ever come back. Boris Johnson was not wrong to use possible economic prosperity as a carrot to dangle in front of impoverished towns in Northern England, but he was wrong to suggest that Brexit would ever result in a greater income for the people in those towns.

MAGA-hat-wearers and Brexiters alike were predominantly people who have been on the harder end of increasing wealth disparity in the US and the UK. The great irony is that they allowed themselves to believe in millionaires living lives of privilege – millionaires who were smart enough to provide a simple answer to the economic issues of the day. “There are too many immigrants,” has a brutal simplicity to it that does not require an understanding of inflation, or industrialisation, or marginal tax rates. And it’s an answer that fits neatly on the front page of The Sun, or in a rolling text box on Fox News.

Which is what brings us back to PIC, and a couple of big questions:

  1. In a world where any kind of material or food can be spontaneously created out of freely-available energy, and there is a well-established ability to construct habitats in space, how can there be any scarcity, and hence poverty and economic inequality?
  2. If there is no poverty, and hence no financial anxiety, how is a Trumpian, Brexity anti-immigration platform able to gain traction?

We see Jean Luc Picard ordering a decaffeinated Earl Grey tea from a replicator in the well-equipped kitchen in his French mansion whilst his live-in, full-time servants prepare food. Outside, in fields that stretch out to the horizon, automated farm equipment floats by farm workers who tend vines used to make wine. To the best of our knowledge based on events portrayed in the series so far, this has been the status quo for Jean Luc Picard for the last fourteen years, since he resigned from Starfleet.

vines


We see Rios aboard his ship, a roomy vessel with its own holodeck, bedrooms, presumably other living amenities. His every need is tended to by an apparent army of Emergency Holoprograms. Whisky is replicated out of thin air directly in front of him. He smokes cigars.


We see Raffi, sitting on the porch of her trailer in the Arizona desert, a small wind turbine on the roof. She grows her own “snakeleaf” which she inhales from a vaporiser. She keeps a pump-action rifle on hand; presumably the area in which she lives is dangerous enough to warrant it. She chastises Picard for his privileged lifestyle in his château, and calls her own home a “hovel”, which would be too “humiliating” to show to him.


We see a group of Starfleet workers on Mars, on the day of the synthetic attack. They swear and joke and complain about their jobs, their robotic colleagues, their awful food the selection of which they apparently have no say in.


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We see a township of Romulan refugees, angry at the Federation and at Picard for abandoning them, for leaving them on a dusty planet for fourteen years. We watch Picard angrily tear down their “Romulans Only”, pointedly step on it, only to smirk at the onlooking Romulans, enter their bar and demand service.


How can all of these things be simultaneously be true?

How can the same society provide one old man with tracts of land and a mansion to live in with freely-replicating tea, whilst depriving a younger woman of any amenities and condemn her to live in a hovel in the desert with a drug addiction?

How can the same society force a woman to live in a hovel in the desert, while a man of the same age lives on an advanced spaceship with freely-replicating whisky and holograms to provide for his every need?

How can the same society provide unlimited replication of foodstuffs for two men who once worked for Starfleet, but deny those same freedoms to people currently working for Starfleet?

replicateflies

The writers of PIC have clearly demonstrated that wealth inequality exists, so they at least have gotten that part right. But they have failed to explain how that wealth inequality could ever arise when people like Raffi could seemingly just move out of their hovels and live on a spaceship, as she chooses to do at the end of Episode 3.

The Mars workers complain about the food they are provided in their office, but if it’s so bad, could they not replicate their own food at home and bring it with them? Or are we to believe that these workers are denied access to the same food recipes as Picard and Rios? If so, why? The food is replicated according to a computer program, it does not exist in any form before it is made by the replicator.

Where today’s wealth inequality is caused by a scarcity of materials, a limited supply of the goods we need to survive, in ‘Star Trek: Picard’, they have demonstrated a complete lack of scarcity. What social mechanism is it that allows Picard himself to run automated fertiliser machines over his acres upon acres of luxury crop fields, whilst simultaneously denying the Mars workers any variety in their lunch? I can get more variety in my lunch routines from a cafe that runs off of three ovens and two cooks, and yet an advanced replicator, a device which turns stored energy into any kind of matter, somehow has limits imposed upon it for some members of society, but not all.

In such a scenario, where wealth inequality exists despite the prevalence of technology capable of solving it, I think even I would start feeling a little Trumpian. If I’m watching Picard being interviewed on FNN from his own personal vinyard whilst I put up with yet another portion of brown, sticky protein for lunch in my trailer in the desert, when I know that the means to solve my problems exist but are being denied to me, then I would absolutely be feeling like a victim and be looking for someone, or some group of people, to blame.

machines

But PIC is not addressing these systemic issues. In fact the lead character, Jean Luc Picard himself, seems oblivious to the economic problems facing the Federation, and only addresses the moral concerns of bigotry and hatred.

If Picard were truly bothered by the rise of isolationism in Starfleet and the wider Federation, you might think that someone as demonstrably intelligent as him would seek to understand the root cause of the issue. And to do so, all he really needs to do is walk through his own vinyard.


Jean Luc Picard lives his life wanting for nothing. We do not even see him working on his own vines, because he has enormous robots and a staff of workers to do that for him. He’s elderly, but he has two full-time live-in Romulan carers who take care of him. And yet he considers himself better than the rest of Starfleet because He Is Not A Racist.

Which raises a question: does it actually matter if Picard is a racist? Would it make any difference if he was? He castigates the Federation for turning its back on the Romulans, and yet Picard himself has turned his back on billions of Federation citizens by enjoying the enormous privilege in which he lives.

spectator

I think this was crytallised for me by his interactions on Vashti with the Romulan refugees who live there. Fourteen years ago, he was visiting them and making promises to bring Starfleet to the aid of the Romulans, whose sun was about to explode. He then learns that the Synths have attacked Mars, at which point he rushes back to Earth to lobby for a renewed rescue effort.

After Picard resigned from Starfleet, he never returned to Vashti, nor did he make any other attempts to rescue more Romulans. The refugees there, apparently with no means of leaving for a better home, fell into poverty, living in a dusty town made up of worn-down huts and drinking their woes away.

This is addressed in the episode. Picard says of himself “I made the perfect the enemy of the good.” He acknowledges that his inability to save every Romulan led to him abandoning all Romulans, and sees his flaws in doing so.

Except that a couple of scenes later, we see him walking back through the Romulan town. He sees the “Romulans Only” sign, angrily tears it down, triumphantly steps on it, and enters the bar. He demands service from the waiter. Clearly, he disapproves of the Romulans’ xenophobia, and he is here to show them the error of their ways. A Romulan senator chastises Picard, and then attempts to fight him. Picard refuses, the Senator is beheaded as he attempts to kill Picard by a dark-haired Legolas, and Picard escapes with this katana-wielding elf-Romulan to safety aboard Rios’ advanced starship.

Here’s an interesting point: the first time we see Picard this episode, he is being shown around a perfect holographic recreation of his study in Château Picard by Rios’ Emergency Hospitality Holoprogram. Even when travelling, Picard still gets to enjoy the luxury of his beautiful French mansion in exacting detail. Picard even comments on how realistic it all is.

holographicstudy

And this is where we get to that description of Picard as a “an arrogant, straight, cisgendered old white man who berates others for their intolerance.”

Yes, xenophobia is wrong. Any kind of intolerance is wrong. Absolutely.

But what did Picard expect, exactly? What did he think the result would be when a group of people were taken from their home by aliens in a bid to “save them”, only for those same aliens to then abandon the rest of the Romulan civilisation and leave these refugees here to starve, separated from their culture, their families and from the basic amenities that they had previously enjoyed?

Moreover, how fucking arrogant and distasteful is it for Picard to leave these people for fourteen years, FOURTEEN YEARS, never to return, never to bring help, never to do anything but watch the vines grow on his enormous estate, drink tea and be grumpy about the rise of isolationism? And for him to still be framed as the “enlightened hero” of the story by the writers?

Admiral Clancy calls Picard out for his arrogance in thinking he can return to Starfleet and request a ship out of the blue to go and save a random woman who may, or may not, be the daughter of Data. But what about the coldhearted misanthropy of Picard spending fourteen years doing nothing about the apparent inequality within the Federation? Why is it that Jean Luc Picard, enlightened humanitarian, allows himself to live like a king whilst people like Raffi live in poverty just a transporter beam away?

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Maybe the story is meant to be about how Picard has succumbed to nihilism and apathy. But if so, why does he care about the Romulans being xenophobic at all? Why does he chastise Legulus The Sword Elf for unnecessarily taking a life, even when that person was about to kill Picard? Why does he shout at the Fox News interviewer about Starfleet having lost its way, when he himself has done nothing, nothing, to address the issues that may have actually led to Starfleet losing its way?

If we accept that a post-scarcity society such as the Federation is still somehow beset with wealth inequality, if we accept that there is somehow enough room for Picard’s vinyards but not enough room for Romulan refugees, if we accept that there is somehow no restriction on how much decaffeinated Earl Grey Picard can replicate but workers on Mars have to make do with flavourless protein, then we MUST accept that Picard himself is a heartless, hypocritical capitalist who refuses to help those in need.

If there is wealth inequality in the Federation, then Picard must be activiely complicit with it. If there is no wealth inequality in the Federation, then how on Earth did billions of people become nationalistic and isolationist?

If PIC is truly about the shift of the US and the UK towards right-wing political beliefs, then why is it not exploring the causes of such changes? Why is is oblivious to the actual root cause of these issues? If PIC is simply about pointing out that anti-immigration platforms and nationalism are bad, then it’s not actually doing anything to help its audience understand those issues, and neither is it shining a light on the causes to allow us to take action against them.

In fact, PIC seems to revel in the artificial inequality of its universe. It uses that inequality to create “edgy” and “dramatic” characters, but so far has failed to address the inequality itself.

And if the show is not going to critically assess the causes of rising right-wing ideology, or the societal, systemic failures at the very heart of it, then the show and its creators are guilty of the same hypocrisy as the protagonist. Clouding the narrative about why people turn to xenophobia and nationalism is harmful, even if the text of the story is critical of those ideologies in their own right.

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Wine does not feed the masses. And the hero of your anti-Brexit story cannot be a Jacob Rees-Mogg-like millionaire, living the life of a wealthy aristocrat and looking down on “backwards foreigners” who have the audacity to feel resentment towards a nation that abandoned them.

Because the fact is, Trump rose to power because of the backing of other wealthy white men, who used instruments like Fox News to drive a wedge into America’s wealth divide, whilst other wealthy white Americans wrung their hands about how awful Trump was, and yet did nothing to solve the inequality that led to his election.

And Brexit came to be because of the backing of those same wealthy white men, who used instruments like The Sun to drive a wedge into Britain’s wealth divide, whilst other wealthy white Britons wrung their hands about how awful Brexit was, and yet did nothing to solve the inequality that led to it.

And so now, the hero of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ is a wealthy white man, who wrings his hands and gives speeches about how awful isolationism is, how awful it is to turn our backs upon another community, and all the while he has done nothing but benefit from the inequality that has led to it.

Which puts the writers in a tricky spot. Because now, PIC will have to end with Picard acknowledging his privilege, abandoning his vinyard and chastising the Federation for allowing its people to needlessly live in poverty. Otherwise, life-long Labour member Patrick Stewart will be playing the role of one of those anti-Brexit Tory MPs, or anti-Trump Republicans, who decry the fall of decency within modern politics, but continue to vote for policies that ultimately lead to it.


This is already a long article, and I have a lot more to write, so this is Part One. There is a Part Two, where I address some of the other issues with the show, specifically social issues, as well as problems with the characterisation and overall narrative laziness on display so far.

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).

sarek2
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.

sarekklingon1
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.

sarekklingon4
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.

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“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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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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