Monday, 6 March 2017

Passing the Torch in a Good Way


It's been over 20 years since the brilliant Trials and Tribbleations crossover which in turn celebrated 30 years of Star Trek back in 1996.

It's a conversation that naturally spilled onto Twitter as we reminisced over its brilliance and appeal and got a few people wondering a couple of things about 2017. Will be 30 years of The Next Generation and therefore a potential excuse for a crossover/homage in a certain new Star Trek show plus could there be a way of "handing off" old to new?

Bryan Fuller has publicly said that Discovery will be very different to anything we've seen before so might we actually miss out on this event because he wanted it to forge a very specific identity? 

Being objective it would be logical for the handover to be from Captain Archer or T'Pol for instance since that would be the earlier series in the timeline. I recall that there were suggestions of an Admiral Archer appearance back when it came out that the show would be set 30 years before the five year mission of the USS Enterprise as commanded by Captain Kirk. It would be very fitting too since Enterprise was the last Star Trek show to be on screens eleven years ago and when is seeing Scott Bakula on TV a bad thing anyway (although Archer would be over 100)?!

However, is this really essential to the show? Do we need to have a homage to 30 years of The Next Generation or even an appearance from a character from one of the older series to welcome in this new era of the 50 year strong Star Trek franchise? Might it in fact just be a cheap stunt that would look like the new show seeking out approval for its existence from its predecessor? 

If we look back to The Next Generation, Roddenberry was loathe to link back to The Original Series avoiding any major character connections until Sarek in season three. It's well recorded that Worf was a late addition to the crew as he even wanted to avoid the inclusion of any races featured in the 1960's show. We now know that this character will be turning up in Discovery but is it too soon? Is it right that we should be linking the show in to its illustrious predecessor so soon and with such a well-known Vulcan at that? 

DeForest Kelley of course made an appearance in Encounter at Farpoint but the role was not specified (at the time) as McCoy and The Naked Now mined a season one episode, Heart of Glory did bring back the Klingons with a bit more force but does Discovery actually need this kind of link to the past? The reference of the Klingon War (or whatever the event the season will focus on) should surely be enough to tie it into the franchise's rich history and plotted timeline. I don't think a nod to The Next Generation is necessary and given that it will be 100 years in the future of the new show it might be a little shoehorned. In that respect it's time for Picard and crew to celebrate their 30th in some other way and let Discovery get on with its own thing. Those early links didn't damage the show in this instance but rather linked it firmly into the same universe and reassured fans that they were still in the same place just a few years later. 

What other little links in could there be if we remove this necessity to honour 30 years of The Next Generation? How about a younger Number One in the earlier years of her career perhaps? Maybe Commander Robert April could turn up or what about us seeing the ship that crashed on Talos IV be launched on its mission? These could all be well woven into the story or even in a quick insert scene but are we, the fans, just too wrapped up in Star Trek's history and what HAS to happen that we're not actually giving Discovery the space it needs to grow and develop? Cameos and crossovers are all good but we don't want to only be talking about those aspects of the show the night after its May 2017 premiere. We want to be discussing the new characters, if the ship is better than the previews, was the story suitable - did it push the boundaries that The Original Series dared to push? 

I think that a passing of the torch might well be the worst thing that could happen to Discovery and already the "different" approach is worrying some fans because there's the fear it will stray too far from the established Star Trek concept. I don't believe that Discovery is going to be terrible and I'm taking all the conspiracy vids with a pinch of salt and a spade of scepticism but I would feel more comfortable if it went it's own way before chucking in the familiars (maybe) just to get some viewing figures from long-time fans whoa re wanting to see how f**ked up Fuller and his successors have managed to make it.

That's definitely going to happen if we take the inclusion of a Klingon captain and two admirals in the cast that injects the point that there will be multiple base locations for the show which is a break from the single starship or starbase proposition of previous series.  Oh and that's nothing to say about the resistance to the intimated new/revised look of the Klingons from that sneaky on-set pic.  Just one additional note it says Klingon captain but does not say that its a Klingon captain of a Starfleet ship so I think Worf's position as the first of his race in the ranks is safe. Calm down people, there's clearly gonna be more than one ship in the picture on this new show.

Previous Star Trek series have handled these nods to the past with varying levels of success - Relics was the ultimate in character-worship homage episodes with Scotty returning from the confines of the transport buffer and regaling the crew with stories from the five year mission. Deep Space Nine's Blood Oath immortalised the Klingons from The Original Series, Flashback wobbled precariously between celebration and a bit over hammy while Unification was all build-up and then lacked the punch that we all hoped Spock would bring. Ultimately the 30th anniversary Tribbles installment is pure love in every frame and is the best tip of the hat to the franchise's history ever. 

I think a guest appearance is something that will make fans happy but might rub against Fuller's concept that Discovery is going to be radically different. Enterprise's inclusion of Zephram Cochrane and the homage to The Motion Picture through the departure of the NX-01 were smart moves and the new series needs to offer that subtlety if it is going to honour its past.  Discovery can and I believe will intelligently hint at its five decades of history in a way that it will not detract from the flow of the story, not alienate new viewers and yet please long term fans. Not a lot to ask of the producers and writers then huh?

I don't think so and let's give it a couple of years at least before Captain Worf travels back  in time from the 24th Century for that commemorative episode. 

Who would you like to see turn up in Discovery for a cameo? For a recurring role perhaps or maybe you don't want to see any familiar faces?


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