Following an action-packed mid-season finale on November 12th, Star Trek: Discovery is on break until January 7th, 2018. The show’s first nine episodes introduced longtime Trek fans and newcomers alike to a number of developments within the franchise. Featuring Star Trek’s first kiss between two gay male characters, the introduction of spore drive technology, a new look for the Klingons, and the introduction of Spock’s adopted human sister, the creative team had a lot on the go. Some of these new elements are interesting, but the lack of respect for established Star Trek canon has many longtime fans at red alert. Mutability may be a cornerstone of development, but too many changes happening too quickly often alienates fans, especially those who have been watching for decades.
Star Trek: Discovery – Don’t Leap to Conclusions
According to an interview that Discovery producer and writer Aaron Harberts had with Metro though, at least some of the discrepancies between Discovery and Star Trek’s established canon will be addressed in the show’s already announced second season. This is potentially good news for die-hard Trekkies, like me, who enjoy Discovery’s dazzling special effects and cinematography but can’t get behind the Klingons’ radically different new look or other aspects of the new show.
I say that addressing these discrepancies is potentially good news because a lot depends on how Discovery’s creative team approaches these discrepancies with established Trek canon. Trekkie reactions to Star Trek: Enterprise were mixed. Although I found the series corny at times, I gave it a broad pass, probably because I was a big Quantum Leap fan. However, many Trekkies took serious issue with the two-part story-line that comprised the episodes “Affliction” and “Divergence.”
In this story arc, it’s established that Dr. Phlox, CMO of the Enterprise NX-01, is broadly responsible for the way Klingons look in Star Trek, i.e. they look like dark-skinned humans with bushy eyebrows rather than having pronounced forehead ridges. Although this story arc addressed a key discrepancy in canon continuity, it all seemed, to this Trekkie anyway, like unnecessary pandering. I far preferred Cmdr. Worf’s abrupt assessment of the issue in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Trials and Tribble-ations”: “It is a long story … We do not discuss it with outsiders.”
Star Trek: Discovery – “We Didn’t Start the Fire…”
The key to addressing these continuity errors, beyond simply avoiding changes to established canon, is to find a balance between Worf’s non-answer in Deep Space Nine and the drawn-out and poorly conceived pandering answer given in Enterprise. Sadly, this balance is hard to find, and this recurring problem routinely affects show-runners and directors bent on producing prequels — think Star Wars. It’s great to fill in the gaps, but unless these gaps are filled in well there’s no point in trying to fill them in the first place.
Unfortunately, because Discovery has suffered from poor execution since it started airing in September, this Trekkie has concerns about how continuity discrepancies will be addressed. “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” in which Discovery’s crew were set against a temporal loop, was a logistical dumpster fire regardless of how good its ratings were. It was as if the creative team forgot the parameters of their own idea and just started improvising. I may sound like a broken record, but execution is everything. Good ideas executed poorly become bad ones, so let’s hope the creative team improves on its ability to carry their ideas off well. If not, I worry that Discovery will lose old and new fans alike.
Of course before we get to the second season, we need to make it through the first, so engage your spore drive and meet me back here in January for my thoughts on Discovery’s next episode, “Despite Yourself.”