Tuesday, January 23, 2018

They BLEEPED Up Star Trek! (Literally)

And now they've f-ed up Star Trek. Literally.

I've been a fan of Star Trek my whole life. From Spock and Bones, to Data and Troi, to Bashir and Dax (Jadzia, of course!), to Seven and Chakotay, and even Trip and Phlox. So, I was pretty excited when I heard that a new show, Star Trek: Discovery, was coming to CBS All Access.

May the force be with you, Voldemort.
And then, I wasn't.

Why did I get a little less excited? Because I found out they were cable-izing Star Trek. You see, my wife and I signed up for CBS All Access mostly because of the promise of Star Trek: Discovery, and The Good Fight, a sequel to the show The Good Wife. The Good Wife was widely regarded as one of the best shows on network television, and we enjoyed watching it. Unfortunately, it didn't take long to see that they f'ed up the show with the sequel The Good Fight. You see, because they were now on a subscribe channel instead of over-the-air, the creators of the lawyer show decided they needed to lace the dialogue with the "F" word. 

Since they had the "freedom" of no longer being a broadcast show, they chose to use more coarse language, because, you know, there aren't enough other "quality" shows on HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, AMC, FX, and so forth that use profanities! (Dagnabbit!!!) (If they truly wanted their show to stand out in today's television environment, they should try keeping it clean.) And so the creators of Star Trek: Discovery wanted to use that "freedom," too. 

Because of this eagerness to include more profanity, violence, and sex, I was a bit trepidatious. It didn't take long to see I was right to be concerned. The show is dark and "gritty." (I hate gritty.) They did use the "F" word, although with much less frequency than I feared. There are other problems with the show, as well. It is supposedly set ten years before Kirk and Spock, yet they have technology far more advanced than anything from The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. The captain of the ship is a warmongering, rule-breaking jerk. (Kirk or Picard would outsmart this cretin in a flash, then have him brought up for a court martial.)

It's as if in their attempt to emulate other "prestige" shows, the creators of Star Trek: Discovery have totally missed what makes the Star Trek universe so special: the hopefulness, optimism, and joy of discovery.

Surprisingly, fans longing for those things aren't necessarily out of luck. Premiering around the same time as Star Trek: Discovery was another show about a starship: The Orville, created by and starring Seth MacFarlane. The trailer for The Orville made me laugh several times, but since MacFarlane is best known for the puerile animated show Family Guy, I had my reservations. 

Promoted as a comedy, The Orville doesn't go for the laughs as often as I expected. (Which is probably for the best, because about half the jokes work and the other half are seventh-grade level quips about male anatomy.) What I didn't expect was how earnest the space adventure storylines would be. There have been several interesting sci-fi/morality play plots that would feel right at home on Star Trek: The Next Generation or even the original Shatner/Nimoy series.

When it's all said and done, The Orville plays out like a companion series to The Next Generation, but with a slightly less competent and slightly more amusing crew. And for those of us who like the optimism and hope of Gene Roddenberry's universe, it's been a pretty wonderful discovery.

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