Monday, 11 May 2020

Star Trek: In Lockdown

I tend to steer away from a lot of Star Trek forums these days, instead sticking to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Why? Simple and I'm not going to go into a long tirade about it; Star Trek fandom on a lot of them absolutely sucks. Horrifically, unquestionably and without prejudice. Then there are the sites and pages just regurgitating other people's articles, videos and photos, slapping a watermark on it and therefore claiming it as their own material. Ok, so it's a way to show your appreciation but stinks of plain theft and a lack of originality (this has probably just classed me in the same group as the negative "haters"). 

Sorry, just my own opinion but just go to the source rather than getting a third hand story or a Midnight's Edge sensationalist non-exclusive. No, Discovery isn't cancelled, no, the Pike series has not been confirmed, no, Picard hasn't said the EMH will be in season two... go to the right places, the reliable sites. I go there and then write my thoughts off the back of them and do my own reviewing. Sorry, that's one grumble I've been holding onto for the last few weeks ticked off. much for IDIC because if you like Discovery or Picard then God help you regardless of the forum you decide to air your views - newbies beware, some of these guys are ruthless and you'll be switching to Star Wars by the weekend. If JJ's films or the finale of Discovery's first season drew you in, then welcome - it's a pleasure to have you along. As long as you can justify a discussion and not sledgehammer home a point then all is well.

However, a lot of the responses in regards to those two latest incarnations are "Because it's shit" or "It's not Star Trek" but are we really having to live out lockdown reading this? Do we need to have this trite full stop? Do we then need to have people (and this sounds hypocritical having written the last two sentences) commenting on how rubbish fandom is? No.

What did I do? Left. There we go.  We can all live side by side in harmony. I think Once Upon a Time is a terrible episode for example but after a discussion on Facebook I get there are people who love it for a completely different set of reasons to the ones that make me judge it in one aspect.

Guess what? From ditching off the pages and sites that only reshare and the torrid forums my enjoyment of the franchise in its multiple forms has returned properly and I can focus on Star Trek in a more positive light. I don't have to try and listen to or justify myself in a negative environment anymore, there's more out there than this.

So what have I been Trekking during the last eight weeks of lockdown? 

Lots of reading through a backlog of Star Trek books of course - The Antares Maelstrom, Dead Endless, The Motion Picture novelisation and now The Return from William Shatner plus pottering through a chunk of reference material but I've also had the chance to trek out with people in a different way.

On Twitter especially it's been great to chat to other fans, drop a comment here or there, stay positive and be involved, unpressured, within what can be a great, energising community. Right now the last thing we all need is to be derided for our likes. If I wanted that I'd go and spend ten minutes on the Trek BBS or Reddit but even in this elongated isolation I don't have the will, the time or the breath to even entertain such a notion.

One regret I'm trying to fix at the moment is to talk to more people out there in the community and appreciate what they do that provides a unique viewpoint on our beloved franchise. It might be a still from an episode they're watching, a question about a piece of show history or it could be the chance to get involved with a rather excellent 40 question quiz on a Saturday via Zoom - I'm trying to be there more but there's the important factor of time balancing against all the other things going on.

I've kept up playing Timelines on the ol' mobile, picking up Picard crew, some well-received freebies to extend missions, energy boosts and more - there's been good support from the backroom team at Disruptor Beam to ensure we've been entertained while playing especially when for many money to buy additional items in a game is getting very tight.

I'm the first to admit that this blog probably isn't going to set the fan community alight nor will it be the Number One Star Trek site in the world ever but for those who do drop by I hope it's a positive and welcoming space with interesting and original content.

As part of Star Trek Club Stoke, we've moved our monthly meetings online and oddly now meet up on there more often than before. We're now holding a weekly role play game based out of our USS Reginald Mitchell starship set in The Original Series era. It's two hours of escapism and thinking - how will we solve this week's dilemma sticking to the principles of the Federation? Did we bring a pilot this week? Who did the scans? 

It's a lot of fun although I'm playing as the worst science officer ever who can't roll a D100 die to save his life and might be running Windows Vista on his tricorder. 

We've set up our own newsletter to reach out to those followers who don't necessarily spend their time glued to the club chat or Facebook page and it's allowed the club to expand and talk about more topics than ever before - in fact leading into this month's meeting with a discussion on Deep Space Nine's pilot, Emissary. For a club that's only been around for a couple of years, the numbers are growing, the drive is there and each month brings something new to us - a quiz, a conversation, a film night, model making...but of course a lot of those more one-to-one activities are, at the moment, curtailed.

The regular Eaglemoss ship deliveries, the arrival of a package from FanSets or just dropping that bookmark into the next chapter have become large parts of my day when I'm not playing with the kids, painting a fence or attempting the dangers of supermarket shopping. However, sticking on a Star Trek tee, hoodie or pin-badge has led to a few probing conversations at the self-service tills - seen Picard? Which series is your favourite? There's a club in Stoke?!

It's amazing how the most unlikely places can raise Star Trek as a topic and equally raise a smile or that reminder of an evening watching Kirk and Spock dressed as Chicago mobsters for the first time. We all need a little hope at this time and I'm proud to be a fan of a franchise that can manage that.

It's also incredible how many people are now discovering new elements of Star Trek during these testing times - a nuance they didn't notice, a background titbit we never knew or choosing to watch Enterprise for the first time (so brilliant a second time around). even my dad smashed through season two of Discovery giving me a daily update on his progress while I waited for him to reach Talos IV and have his mind completely blown apart.

Mentally this time can be very straining - there's very little variation to the daily routine, you see the same, small group of people in the flesh and there's only so much homeschooling you can take. 

The larger fan community, the club; they offer a chance to Zoom, Hangout or Skype - just imagine if we'd been isolated in the late 1980's or even up to the mid-90's for example - but now we can utilise these to help us interact more and keep our relationships alive as well as our love for Star Trek. For me the chance to discuss the universe of Kirk and Picard keeps those little grey cells firing. Star Trek is now, perhaps the biggest escapism we can have be it in rewatching and discussing an episode or chatting about whether Sisko will ever come back, it can be a big help in keeping you on the level and your brain working!

But this brings me back to the beginning - it's how we do this and while I'm still not battering on continuously about it, I feel more than ever that we have to be aware how there is an element - perhaps now it should be termed as something bigger - that threatens the greater enjoyment of Star Trek.

People online should not have to be ridiculed by other fans, this isn't the time to segregate the community. The Kelvin Timeline serves a purpose, Discovery serves a purpose and god, the Roddenberry vision hasn't really been around since season two of The Next Generation. Can you imagine his dislike for Deep Space Nine - remember as well he didn't like the thought of The Undiscovered Country.

Star Trek is a big old franchise. It's influenced a lot and has now been equally influenced back to drive it into this new Alec Kurtzman era. It's a time of difference, each show has an identity, something unique so there will be something in the franchise for everyone - whether it's an episode from 1967 or a character from Lower Decks, there's space for everyone.

Now in the UK we're awaiting expanded news on the next steps of lockdown and what it means but it's good to know that as a community Trekkies are banding together to help each other through - and these are the ones you want to be following on Twitter, friending on Facebook and watching on YouTube.

So to the remainder of lockdown now. Hope I'll get to meet more of you out there...

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  1. Hey Clive!

    I hear you my friend. It can get ugly out there on the interwebs. One interesting point I've noticed, is that at the conventions I rarely if ever encounter the kind of negative foamimg that's so common online...
    I probably have as many opinions as most do about the this and that of the shows, but it's mostly all good haha. I'm so easy, and there's so much GREAT ST content, it should be simple to stay positive and a fan. But as you point out, there's a lot of stuff online that can drag you down, and I avoid it too.

    Like you, I've been doing a good amount of trek reading, and you know me lol. I'm still as into the Eaglemoss collection(s) as when we first met. I'd be going a little stir crazy if it wasn't for them I'll admit.

    So much about the franchise I'm grateful for, especially now quite frankly :-)

  2. Gullible Jones3 June 2020 at 02:34

    You know, at this point, the only good news for Trek would be redoing it entirely. Sooo....

    How about a series taking place in the future time period that occasionally popped up in Voyager? Make the Borg the bizarrely changed descendents of members of a colony ship, sent into the Delta Quadrant through an artificial wormhole. Get rid of the Borg Queen and the Borg habit of assimilating people. Show corruption in the Federation, and revolution brewing among the Borg.

    Have characters, for once, who wouldn't be all goodie-goodie or completely evil - somewhere in the gray areas in between. Sometimes the Federation would be the good guys; sometimes the Borg; sometimes no one would have what's right and just in their mind, and sometimes the choices would all look bad, no matter how well-meaning one was.

    Perhaps bring back a few old characters. Picard, more machine than man, letting his Borg side creep back to ward off death; a disgraced hero, a coward in his own eyes, regretting his decision every hour of every day, and forced to live with it. Janeway, a withered corpse barely kept alive by the machines tending her, telling her story to her children and grandchildren and wishing for the light of better days. Worf: Klingon ex-admiral, white-haired and world-weary, no longer able to deal with the Federation's web of lies, disenchanted with his life and his race. Seven of Nine, machine once more, a lonely aging starship with a human brain, roving the vast empty spaces in search of some answer and unable to decide which side she's on, which path to choose. Spock, another brain in a tank, unwilling prophet to a people who have at long last, and against all hope, abandoned all pretense of reason.

    Redo the ships. No more smooth-ugly hulls and crazy Christmas-tree lights; smooth dull metal now, vast ominous dark shapes that slide through space like silent birds, sensors turning, sifting the emptiness.

    Try to hire Greg Egan and Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds for writing the scripts, perhaps. Get some serious science consultation. Do time-travel stories without the damn reset button. No more noise in space, no more stupid technobabble. Have new characters that people actually care about, new alien races that are scientifically pluasible without having to resort to hokey genetic seeding hypotheses, genuinely interesting and innovative plots.

    But then it wouldn't be Trek, would it? The essence of Trek, after all, is and always has been pure and unadulterated cheese. If you make it worthy of serious viewing, it's not Trek any more.

    1. I get ya - but aren't you describing BSG or The Expanse? Trek stll has its toes in "old style" scifi but I have to agree that the time-travel reset button annoys me every time. They offer so much in every series and then rip it away. The only time I felt there was any continuation of battles etc was Enterprise's Xindi arc from Azati Prime onwards.
      At least with Picard they have spun out the characters in new ways. Am I bothered that Seven isn't Seven from 20 years ago? No - and why would she be? Same with Picard, Riker...everyone. I'm sure if we see Janeway the same will be true.

      Picard and Disco have both been tweaked for the post-Game of Thrones age and are, to a degree, that touch darker and more grounded but there's still a long way to go

      And who doesn't need a bit of cheese every do often...?