Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Path of Discovery - Round Up and Opinion

Holy mother of God (which is word we can't say in Star Trek so let me correct that). Oh my.

San Diego Comic Con and now Star Trek Las Vegas are helping in the media campaign which is building us towards September 24th (25th for us in the UK) when Discovery will finally arrive. 
The Comic Con was a great chance to take in production design shots, sketches as well as a ton of Klingon and Starfleet uniforms (including the medicals whites shown below); Las Vegas - and the time between the two has unveiled some new character shots, background details, posters and photo shoots which have allowed the cast - for the first time to tell us more about their roles within the show. So, rather than just show a ton of photos from the events, let's try and work out what it tells us about the show and what we might expect. 
The Entertainment Weekly photoshoot with its three distinct covers gave us some nice shots of the whole main cast with, unusually, two captains in shot with both Lorca and Georgiou in frame together. There were some corridor shots which included Michelle Yeoh wielding that phaser rifle plus one of the whole main cast on the Discovery transporter pad which has a very, very familiar look to it and is certainly more in keeping with the look of a generic Starfleet transporter room than the Shenzhou.

It also linked in nicely to a chance for the cast to share their favourite episodes of the franchise with Sonequa Martin-Green choosing Amok Time and Anthony Rapp (Stamets) choosing The Devil in the Dark as his. Some of the other choices were a little hazy but these two seem to have their reading and watching well up to date. Rapp in particular has been all over Twitter with some hefty Star Trek re-watching which has recently seen him diving into early Deep Space Nine

Folks in the UK can now get their hands on the SFX magazine which is carrying some new material on the show and includes a 1000 question Star Trek quiz book and a Juan Ortiz The Next Generation print as two freebies. Cost of the mag - £5.99.

San Diego Comic Con highlighted just how much detailing has gone into the costumes especially the Klingon armour. It's exquisite with figures moulded into the design and script etched into the weaponry. It all seems a lot more organic and raw than we've seen before and it was revealed that Bryan Fuller has expressed that the Klingons be bald as one of his caveats for the show. 

Fuller's departure has also been covered in more detail last month explaining that his original thoughts for Discovery were to do an anthology series with each season being a different Star Trek time period. Eventually this would have seen us pass Nemesis and into the future but CBS wanted something with a standard cast over multiple seasons hence it has become the show we now expect in September. The disagreements between Fuller and CBS over the choice of David Semel for director of the pilot episode as well as issues surrounding the announcement of Sonequa Martin-Green as the lead AND the need to do some serious universe building all contributed to the delays which have seen Discovery out back by nine months.

So what have we learned about some of the cast/characters?

Well, we now know that Burnham is raised by Vulcans, specifically Sarek whom I would guess will be the one giving her off the record advice during the show as a father figure. I would think she will also allow for some exploration of the "human condition" that each of the five previous series has unwrapped but from a slightly different angle being human herself. We also saw at Vegas that the first Discovery novel - Desperate Hours - will be set a year before the pilot episode and is therefore set a year after the original pilot, The Cage

It will focus on Burnham aboard the Shenzhou as a newly promoted first officer when a Federation colony is under attack. Written by David Mack it's due to be released around the time of the pilot airing in September. The second novel will be set ten years before the pilot episode and will be penned by show writer Kirsten Beyer. No news on a title as yet for this one but the news is that they will be tying the novels, comics and generally everything that is not on screen into the show to create an all round media experience with the show. Now, that makes me believe that you'll be able to find out things about the show by paying attention to the other materials available - possible clues and hints off screen...?

What has also been banded around is that Burnham is actually an experienced officer who specialises in first contact situations which again nicely dovetails into the situation with the Klingons - which will only be the focus of the first season. Each year it seems will be a self-contained arc.

One of my favourite things about all this Discovery news is that Lieutenant Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) has finally been given a bit more breathing space to let us get to know the character. Aside from being one of the 11 posters covering Klingons, the crew and a lone Vulcan, Stamets being the first gay character in the show's TV history (not counting the Sulu nod in Beyond) is certainly a big talking point. There have also been four animated promos featuring Lorca, Burnham, Saru and Georgiou providing a one-shot of each character to announce the upcoming show.

Burnham is also narrating the slightly longer trailer for the show which again stays very generic and avoids any series clips. It does have a new monologue from the Discovery officer and while there are murmurings it could be an opening speech a la "Space, the final frontier..." I'm more inclined to say it's just for this promo;

As we stand at the edge of an unknown universe, we know our greatest challenges lie before us – that our future is not bound by fear, and that our mission is not to conquer, but to discover. That is our destiny; a destiny written in the stars and so we boldly go where we have never gone before.

Nice speech and certainly echoing the lines of a certain Kirk and Picard from their shows. Oh and talking of those two gents I see Jason Isaacs on Twitter was rampng up the ante saying how Discovery is going to nark off fans of the earlier shows. Hate to say it but I actually agree it probably will to some degree. Not all fans but there will be those that will take a dislike to this new angle on Star Trek. I think Isaacs is intelligent enough to realise that Star Trek has had to change with the times and that might be one reason so many good names are attaching themselves to the project - it's perhaps not seen as the geeky issue it might have been when Enterprise finished and its appeal is to be more mainstream. 

Isaacs did come back on Twitter to addendum the interview comments noting that he hadn't attempted to knock Shatner or Stewart for their roles but he wasn't concerned about attracting the hardcore Trekkies.

I'm convinced this is going to be handled well and without a stupid amount of fanfaring. It's a normal way of the world and relationships and good to see Star Trek finally catching up and from what I can see and hear, Rapp is loving the role and the opportunities. Now when I heard that he was a science officer who would be mainly focusing on funguses and the like I wasn't overly excited but having listened to some of the interviews I think we are greatly underestimating the importance of Stamets' role in the show. He could be a key figure in the storyline and I don't see why they would have chosen such a curveball occupation if it wasn't

Watching an IGN interview with Mary Wiseman who plays Cadet Tilly in the show, she explained that the fourth year trainee will be working closely with Stamets around this major plot point. Tilly, explained Wiseman, is also a bunkmate to Burnham which also suggests that this is going to be one cramped up show if we have people sharing quarters - not something we even saw on Enterprise!

Cadet Tilly's uniform also drew attention with it's slightly different Starfleet delta. Rather than being just the arrowhead shape it's enclosed in a black rectangle which I guess indicates her academy status.

Shazid Latif has also managed to slip under the radar since his sideways casting from a Klingon to a Starfleet lieutenant (Ash Tyler). Now I seem to have missed this point virtually everywhere but this guy starts out the show (according to an interview with Latif) as a prisoner of war and is reintegrated into the crew of the Discovery when the show starts. This is another very different take on a Starfleet officer and might well throw in a lot of the conflict we are hearing so much about in the series. Having a very shaken viewpoint from someone who has most likely suffered a great deal at the hands of the Klingons will make for some shocking and maybe uncomfortable viewing.

Talking of Klingons, let's divert away to these guys.

Among the character posters that appeared were three for T'Kumva (Chris Obi), L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Voq - as yet we don't know who is playing this part. It seems that we have so far "only seen one Klingon house" in the show and there are, apparently, 24 in total. What I'm loving about this is the attention to the storytelling detail. It looks like Kirsten Beyer has been keeping the writers on their toes ensuring accuracy within the realms of the facts of the franchise. I totally get that aesthetically it's not going to look like The Original Series or Enterprise because of production values and the way in which it is filmed but the in-universe background has to be correct for it all to sync perfectly. We were told too exactly why the Klingons look like they do and exactly why they have the ridges. Apparently it's all down to skeletal structure and airflow don't you know...!

We got some new shots of the Klingon armour close up plus their array of armaments which are in keeping with the franchise and include bat'leths, d'k'taghs and mekleths. We've even had some new closeups of Battle Commander L'Rell to tease more of the distinctive Discovery Klingon look and T'Kumva will also be adorning the cover of the first comic to come from the new series. Just check out the detail on the clasps, the inscriptions on the blades and the clever involvement of the Klingon logo in all the designs. 

PLUS we had a first look at Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) from the House of Kor - and yes, it seems from all the hints that it is the same house as the Klingon played by John Colicos in Errand of Mercy plus the Deep Space Nine episode Blood Oath, The Sword of Kahless and Once More Unto the Breach. Nice link through again showing attention to the bigger picture and this guy looks very hardcore Klingon. The one thing that has been noticed with Kirk is that his armour bears a Starfleet captain's badge and rank pips. Certainly no love lost there and tells us a lot about the aggressive nature of the Klingons in the show.

This Klingon armour is something of a sensation and is one of the things a lot of people seem to be talking about whether it's the differences between each character or the distinctive Torchbearer suit that we saw at San Diego and briefly in the trailer. The finishing touches are just unbelievable (I know, second mention but it is super impressive) and we've never seen precision and vision in the costumes like this before on a TV show. I think the most detailed item I recall before this was perhaps the symbols added to the screws on General Chang's eye-patch in The Undiscovered Country.

Among all the designs we saw there were some ship ones in there including a new Bird of Prey which has hallmarks from the D5 of Enterprise as well as the trademark vessel first seen in The Search for Spock. I'd actually go as far to say that there are a few touches of Romulan design in there too but you can clearly see the lines of the 22nd Century ships from the prequel show in the form of the new craft. Here's a nice addition too - they're Mar'Tok Class. 

As for merchandise it's all good news with MacFarlane Toys being handed the official licence for the franchise and all it's past iterations. Unveiled at Vegas was their $39.99 Discovery screen-accurate phaser which will be launched soon. It looks like a beauty and no fan will want to be without one (definitely this one!!!!) plus there is more to come from the company including their new range of figures which has been seen to include a Picard screen-accurate to the third season of The Next Generation. 

Ping over to our friends at FanSets and the news around Discovery from them is that there will be a set of pins for the show and they announced four of them ahead of the convention. Georgiou, Saru and T'Kumva were the first characters revealed plus the ship pin for the USS Shenzhou. This last one caused fan meltdown with the note that the badge announced it to be a Walker Class ship. Spurious rumour suggested this was a homage to The Walking Dead from which Martin-Green has recently departed however designer and starship extraordinare John Eaves levelled that by informing us that it's named after X-15 test pilot John Walker. So there.

The Official Starships Collection also broke silence over Discovery and you can read that news here but the final bit of excitement for me was that the Timelines game will be adding Discovery characters and ships in the near future.

Las Vegas has been a real eye opener for Discovery and has revealed a lot of little bits of background information to show how much care and attention has gone into the universe building and the bigger picture. My confidence in the series grows each time I see something else revealed and I'm really liking the comraderie that is apparent between the cast be they in Starfleet uniforms or under Klingon ridges. Discovery could well be a huge landmark for the franchise and a jump off point for a lot of other works as The Next Generation proved to be in the 1990's. 

A lot has happened since the first announcement in November of 2015 and September is just a glimmer away. I'd suspect the news is just gonna keep on coming thick and fast.#

What's your favourite bit of Discovery news from the last few weeks?

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