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Wrap up thoughts
In Star Trek
Greg
May 06, 2019
@G.L. McDorman It's scary for sure. In a world where everyone who doesn't embrace your thinking is equated to Hitler, it's a very easy leap to "by any means necessary" type of thinking. It's the same way in war. If you're able to dehumanize your opponent, suddenly any sort of atrocity seems reasonable. I'm not sure if Orville is an allowed topic here, but I'm giving them some kudos on this. There is a long running plot point about an alien race that is in an alliance with the human good guys. Over the course of the show, the hero characters begin to understand their alien allies have regressive social beliefs that are completely incompatible with what they view as enlightened and evolved. As our characters figure this out, they take a minute to ask how they can coexist in an alliance with allies whose beliefs they see as repressive and deplorable. It's a weighty question and one they approach with respectful (albeit brief) consideration. I took their conclusion to be that there is no easy answer on this one. You can't demand that someone conform to what you consider social norms without placing yourself above them as their judge. Tolerance isn't just for people and beliefs we like. If we're being consistent, it has to be applied even to people whose beliefs we abhor. Where we draw the line on what is too far is the trick and I appreciated the show making me think about that. It prompted me to wonder what I might have said if I had been in on that conversation. I wish Discovery would embrace this approach a bit more. When Orville does better than Trek at nailing a subtle social commentary, that's a shame. With Discovery, the writers can't resist the impulse to tell you what the right answer is, so as a result it all seems a bit force-fed. There's rarely any tension between ideas with both parties making good points. I miss that.
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Wrap up thoughts
In Star Trek
Greg
May 03, 2019
I finally finished the podcast and I want to thank Glenn and Valerie for their insightful and entertaining show. The wrap-up got me thinking weighty thoughts about Discovery, some of which may be controversial. Nevertheless, it's on my heart to comment, so I'll do so in full knowledge it isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. "Yum yum" doesn't happen in a vacuum. It wasn't an isolated goof or overreach by the writers. I'm gonna take this all the way back to the first episode of the season. I'm a victim of reading too much internet junk and I'm the first one to admit it, but I try to subscribe to a spectrum of ideas and follow the conventional wisdom in various sectors, even if I don't agree with what they have to say. I was surprised when I found a certain sector of the 'net was highly interested in the takedown of barely known and not mourned science officer Connolly. He, they informed me, was an avatar of white maleness - complete with the associated arrogance and "mansplaining." I would never have made that connection on my own (I try not to group people into buckets of expected characteristics depending on race or gender), but it wasn't an uncommon conclusion among viewers. As I considered this, a few things fell into place for me. If the writers did write the character to be intentionally unlikable and to look a certain way, what's wrong with that? It's done all the time, for better or worse. Where they lose me is if they write the character to be unlikable and to look a certain way - and expect us to enjoy the bad things that ultimately happen to them. I do think that's the case in this episode. Linus notably blew snot on the guy and drew no apologetic reaction from his crewmates. In fact, it was played for yuks. Did that strike anyone else as weird? Then, of course, they smash him to atoms mid-tirade and as far as we can tell, nobody ever misses him. Hey, he wasn't walking around espousing "love" and "math" like our hero characters do, but who knows. Maybe he has highly functional Asperger's or something else. Maybe he had an inferiority complex and overcompensated as a result. We've seen characters of all kinds who had similar social difficulties in other Treks and they were never depicted as a joke or thematic punching bag . Yet, due purely to his less than enlightened behavior and his appearance, a subset of viewers *enjoyed* his demise. Seriously, I gotta let that sink in for a second. Those people are out there, it happened and it's not good. As another data point, we could look at the New Eden stuff that was discussed so brilliantly on Lower Decks. Here, we find out that the writers want us to understand that there is a dividing line between rational people who believe in science and crazy weirdos who do not. They're driving a wedge here and making a point, with Burnham as their avatar this time. They seem to be saying, "Our side owns science." If you're not with us, you're against us. I thought such binary thinking was eschewed by folks who espouse open-mindedness, but apparently not. No, instead of embracing IDIC, the show and Burnham go down the path of political groups who claim if you don't share their version of science, you're a scientific heretic and a "denier." Isn't that exactly the kind of dogmatic thinking Trek used to be against? Discovery seems to embrace diversity in identity groups, but to be downright hostile to it in the arena of ideas. That's a major fail and a significant break from other Treks. In no way do I believe they intended an arc of eventual understanding for Burnham here. She shot their faith down and we were supposed to enjoy the dressing down of the science non-believers. Given these examples, "yum yum" isn't that surprising. It's in keeping with the show's philosophy of taking the enemy down a peg and feeling glee in their humiliation. That was the approach of both Georgiou and Naan during the entire confrontation. It's telling that we never find out, apart from speculation, what makes Georgiou hate human Leland. It's supposed to be good enough for us that Leland is Leland. So, being a jerky boss and employing dastardly methods (that are pretty much included in his job description) make him a good candidate for mockery as he dies. Both Georgiou and Naan apparently thought so. This indicates to me the writers thought we would agree and I speculate it's partly because Leland is who he is - that torture is bad, unless it's used against certain people. Okay, maybe it's a stretch. However, when I ask myself if the writers would have written "yum yum" if Leland was played by (the excellent) Sonja Sohn, my gut tells me no. So, again, somebody's identity mattered more than the content of their character. As far as aspirations go, this approach is a far cry from the egalitarian ideals of past Treks. It's hypocritical and hateful. These and other reasons are why I say that Discovery is less about embracing differences and more about settling scores. This contemporary approach I often hear has given up on stressing our commonality. The focus is now on what sets us apart, tallying points to right past wrongs and mocking anyone who doesn't believe. If that's the path embraced by Discovery and other future Trek shows, it flies in the face of actually seeking out the "other" and learning to appreciate their unique perspective, no matter how strange it may seem.
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Such sweet sorrow it is .
In Star Trek
Greg
Apr 22, 2019
@kev may I think back to Janeway setting the tone for her united crew early on. She said that it didn't matter where they were, they still carried Federation values. She pledged they'd try to represent the best of Starfleet service and do their duty even if they never saw home again. Not an exact recollection, I'm sure, but the gist always stuck with me. I thought it was genuine leadership in a tough situation. Not everybody onboard was going to agree with that plan, but she intended on leading by example and showing them it was the right thing to do. I just don't know if I have the same expectation from Discovery. Will the writers continue to create trap doors for our heroes, so that their actions always seem either pre-destined or without consequence? (The former because we're always lurching toward the next hastily cobbled together plan without taking a moment to ask why and the latter because seemingly dire plot and character changes are abandoned as quickly as they're set up) Worse still, I guess in my grumpy brain, I question whether we're wasting our time wondering what the "new" Discovery show will be about. They could easily return Discovery to the Pike era in a couple of episodes and forget the finale's secrecy debriefing if they feel like it. They could whip up a completely different reset that abandons any or all of the relationships we currently know. If they can base L'Rell's very survival on hiding Ash Tyler in a not so secret space espionage fleet and then let him openly return to Qo'nos later in the season with no explanation whatsoever, they can do anything. My point is, whether by intent or habitual laziness, they're really not committed to anything. Heck, they even left vague the question of Saru's captaincy, so they could keep their options open on that. Ugh.
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Such sweet sorrow it is .
In Star Trek
Such Sweet Sorrow
In Star Trek
Greg
Apr 16, 2019
@Karen Chuplis Guess I'm really asking for a stern and lengthy rebuke here, but which previous iterations of Trek offered inauthentic diversity or failed to feature strong women? I know TOS heavily featured a couple of "buddies," as you put it, but I think viewers in the 60's got the point that this was a future where anyone could do anything and identity groups had been long ago abandoned as a metric. In my humble opinion, that's a goal even Dr. King would have been proud to endorse. Later iterations of Trek did progressively better at this, and I don't remember Trek fans protesting against it. If you go places where people are ragging on Burnham because of how she looks or who she is, maybe you're going to the wrong forums. I've read a metric ton of Trek commentary on the Internet over the last couple of years and don't remember that ever being an objection that's being discussed. Maybe I avoid toxic places. Anyway, from the first scene of DSC, I remember starting out with Georgiou and Burnham on a planet, just the two of them. It is with absolute candor, I will admit to thinking to myself at that moment, "Okay... This feels different and I'm not sure about it." Almost immediately, I processed how silly of a thought that was and I quickly had a rush of, "Actually, this feels great! What a cool relationship this will be to build on. Just think of not only how cool this will be to follow the career of a junior officer and her experienced mentor as they travel around and have adventures, but having two women at the top is statistically long overdue." So, yeah. I was totally bought in. It was only later I figured out that Discovery gives all other previous Treks the side-eye look for not being "woke" enough. It's the only way I can explain why the crew producing the show and many of its supporters will tell you there's something "groundbreaking" in the casting here. I don't see anything that hasn't been done before, except, in this iteration, we pay great attention to the identity groups people come from and are always sure to throw in subtle and not so subtle attempts at "score settling" to try and balance the perceived imbalance of the scales. It sounds like your mileage varies from my point of view a lot, though, and I wholly respect that. However, to me, Roddenberry had a philosophy which, though diluted by the studios paying for his show, was more likely to unify us than divide us. He wanted to de-emphasize the differences and highlight the similarities in the human condition. I would hope no viewer would feel alienated by that vision, nor do I see any reason to cast doubt on its authenticity.
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Greg

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