Sunday, 24 July 2016

Flight of Discovery

At about 11pm UK time the nail biting wait to find out the title of the upcoming Star Trek TV series was over.

Star Trek: Discovery was officially subtitled at the very end of the Star Trek panel at San Diego Comic Con.  Not only did we learn the name of the show but also that it will take place in the Prime Universe with each season as a novel and each episode as a chapter. 

Series producer Bryan Fuller had been hosting the Star Trek panel which included cast from all series - William Shatner, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Jeri Ryan and Scott Bakula with seemingly the whole of fandom waiting for him to drop some series nuggets at a packed event.

As for when in the timeline Discovery will take place we still don't know exactly but surely the registry of NCC-1031 is a clue that it'll be pre-The Original Series? But then it could be that the ship is dropped through time and the show is post-Voyager as one comment on Twitter postulated. I loved one online suggestion that there could be potential to get Federation President Jonathan Archer to christen the new ship and therefore provide a solid link to the franchise's past. God bless the internet and its theories. One theory I'd like to chuck in here is that the registry they're using here could be a red herring and just there to throw us off the scent - we know this isn't the final finished and polished article! 1031 could be the time it was decided this would be the design to be used, it could even be a covert way of telling us the first ep will be aired on the 31st January. 

Fuller also gave attendees the first look at the new ship which he noted is very apt given the nature of Star Trek - the mission to seek out new life and new civilisations and to go boldy.

Discovery is a big name if you take a second to look back and one very much associated with space flight in respect to 2001's spacecraft and also the US space shuttle which was swapped for the Enterprise at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I seem to recall that one of the NX class in the expanded universe also carried the name.

Now what we do know is that the CG and in fact the ship itself are not 100% finalised (confirmed by Heather Kasdan after the Star Trek panel) but the homage to the unmade Planet of Titans from the 1970's and by proxy Ralph McQuarrie's designs are unmistakable. That's not a bad thing and remember that bits of those designs have turned up in Unification's ship graveyard and also hidden in plain sight in spacedock when the Enterprise arrived home in The Search for Spock - so they are definitely canon now?!

The sequence opens on an asteroid containing a spacedock containing the new starship, leading to our first glimpse of her. There is the familiar saucer/engineering hull/nacelles configuration and we even have red bussard collectors akin to the series rather than the blue of the reboot Enterprise. Note that the collectors are in a triple cluster rather than a single dome. The impulse engines sit to the rear of the secondary hull rather than the back of the saucer and contain four hexagonal "thrusters" which is distinctly different to the single units we've seen on previous ships.

Even the spacedock itself has echoes of the McQuarrie design with its blue circular portals as well as its internal structure. Even the paint tone on the ship reflects those images we're so familiar with but the deflector is a much more 24th Century blue than a 23rd Century gold. Anyone else feel that the trip out was similar to that taken by the refit Enterprise in The Motion Picture which was itself hat-tipped in Broken Bow, the Enterprise pilot.

Looking at the saucer of the Discovery the edge trim lines are similar to those on the reboot Enterprise and the ridged upper surface has hallmarks of the Franklin from the recent Beyond. The lettering also seems to be more reboot than The Original Series in its simple, unbordered nature. It's a feature that would have been a glaring error in judgement had they gone for something utterly radical. 

The bridge module doesn't have the single window we've seen in the Kelvin Timeline and instead there are visible ports around the edge.Taking this and the double deck around the saucer into consideration - and a bit of counting we're looking at around 10 to 12 decks for this new ship putting her twice the size of Archer's NX Class vessel and maybe half the size of the Constitution Class. Purely guesswork on that one from the pics!

There have to be recognisable elements and the saucer is unquestionably important. The saucer underside has the registry twinned on port and starboard a la the classic USS Enterprise which helps place the ship more firmly in the post-Enterprise pre-The Original Series timeframe. Also the central dome sits in a recessed section but still drops just below the plane to retain a rather familiar profile.

To the rear it seems that the McQuarrie shuttle bay still exists but has been shaved back and narrowed on that rear edge - a flatter shape than the curved rear we've seen on the Enterprise or Voyager for instance and a more industrial door style - might even be a cargo bay?

The design and the name of the series have already taken a pounding on social media (surprise) but I think it's a good choice to go for something that is so intrinsically linked to the franchise history and was sadly consigned to some big vault of lost ideas. See below for some more closeups on the new ship as she makes her way out of the dock for that first flight.

One other thing to note and something I stupidly missed but was redirected to by Captain Revo on Twitter who is always good to help get my brain thinking of the larger picture I might add (credit where due!!!) is the music behind this teaser. It's got an incredibly Klingon feel to it. Might the Discovery herself have certain Klingon traits in her design not dissimilar to a D7 (back end) or a Bird of Prey? (again credit to Captain Revo for his thoughts). It's certainly inspiring, driven and reminiscent of the score from The Undiscovered Country in particular (court scene). Is that a hint at a Klingon/Federation team up? Are we really looking at something half-finished that will take place post-Nemesis and the destruction of Romulus and therefore tie all the universes in together?

Set to debut on CBS All Access in the US and Netflix in 188 countries around the world, it was also announced on Friday that the pilot episode will be directed by David Semel. Semel's work includes production work on The Man in the High Castle, plus directorial duties on shows including Hannibal, American Horror Story, CSI and Heroes. Certainly has the credentials for the job and the links into the Kurtzman-verse.

The top boss at CBS, John Van Citters also got online to confirm that Discovery will be shortened to DSC as with TOS, TAS, TNG et al. That was most definitely in response to the wildfire speculation it would become STD. Chuckle.

Series overlord Bryan Fuller added in his address at Comic-Con that the show would "...celebrate a progression of our species.." which is much more in keeping with Roddenberry's original vision rather than the more action-orientated cinematic adventures of the last seven years. Later Heather Kasdan said that the show will importantly represent the LGBQT community both in front of and behind the camera.

The producers seem to be saying - and showing - all the right signals at the moment but we've still be have any cast announcements or see any set pictures. The shots of the Discovery are a nice payoff for the nine months we've been waiting since the first announcement in November last year but this is merely a fraction of the tip of a very, very big galactic iceberg.

McQuarrie space dock
Forward view of the blue deflector
McQuarrie Enterprise from the rear - note shuttlebay and "straight" rear edge

rear view - note shuttlebay and kinked rear edge in comparison to the McQuarrie design

Ridged saucer topside and registry

What are you thinking to the new announcements around Discovery?

All images of the new ship and logo from the CBS teaser trailer.

You can also check out the news so far by clicking on our new DSC link in the topics list!

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