Thursday, May 18, 2017

“The Orville” and "Star Trek: Discovery" -- A Tale of Two Trailers

Back in October of 2011, Seth MacFarlane told the Hollywood Reporter that one thing he wanted to do Star Trek, and see it “revived for television in the way that it was in the 1990s: very thoughtful, smartly written stories that transcend the science fiction audience.”   Well, since nobody’s given him the keys to that franchise, he’s done what any insanely talented show creator would do, and he made his own. In “The Orville” we have a not-quite top-of-the-line starship, with a crew that’s not likely to see a lot of Good Conduct medals any time soon, led by a captain who is, in the words of the admiral who gives him the job, “nobody’s first choice.”  But with over 3,000 ships and a need for captains, even shmucks can catch a break in this fleet. 

The dialogue is snappy, the characters clearly aren’t the perfect specimens of TNG (which already makes them more interesting right from the get-go), the ship looks plausible, and was clearly designed with the same premise as the Protector in “Galaxy Quest”, don’t look like the Enterprise.  The interplay between the captain and his first officer/ex-wife is clearly a comedy gold mine that MacFarlane and his writers are going to mine for all its worth.  In short, for those disaffected Star Trek fans who have been feeling neglected of late, the USS Orville is coming to the rescue.

Because the USS Discovery doesn’t appear to be up for the job.

After watching the long-delayed trailer for the latest attempt at a Star Trek series, while it looks very pretty and the visuals are rather stunning in places, I still come back with the feeling of, just what in the name of the Holy Rings of Betazed did I just watch? 

With an opening title card of “Ten years before Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise”, we’re already into foul territory.  Ten years before TOS was set, we’ve still got the Enterprise, about ten years old by this point, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, with his half-Vulcan science officer named Spock, right around the time they’re receiving a distress call from the SS Columbia in the vicinity of the Talos Star Group.  Keep that in mind when watching that trailer, kids, because for all the spectacular visuals, not one blessed frame of that footage comes even close to fitting in with that time period, especially from the moment Michelle Yeoh flips open her non-appropriate communicator and she and her first officer disappear in a transporter effect that doesn’t match ANY era of Star Trek, especially not the 2250’s.  We are then presented with the USS Shenzhou, a ship that would be right at home alongside the Enterprise-E or Voyager, but again, this is the 2250, when the original Enterprise is sailing around, still sporting spikes on her Bussard domes.  The producers are clearly taking their design cues from the JJverse, despite swearing up and down that this show would take place in the “Prime timeline”.  Take a look at that underside mounted bridge, with the safety hazard low lighting and support beams and the crew in their blue marching band uniforms, then saunter on over to and check out any screencap of the bridge from “The Cage”, and honestly ask yourself how these two ships could possibly exist in the same Starfleet in the same era.  Ain’t happening, kids.

Ironically enough, the least distressing part of this whole thing is the appearance of the Klingons, despite these guys not looking like any Klingons we’ve ever seen before, outside of the JJverse, that is, because, like the guys over on Trekyards said, all they have to do is show us a time appropriate Klingon, with no ridges and evil goatee, and that controversy pretty much goes away, since we can now shuffle these guys over to the side as “not your normal Klingons”.  However, in  view of all the other unforced errors this trailer presents us with, I’m growing less hopeful that they’ll take that save and we’ll be presented as just plain old, everyday Klingons, and the final nail in the continuity coffin will be nailed in.

Did anyone at CBS get the memo that, domestically, “Star Trek Beyond” was a colossal flop?  That the movie that they’re so slavishly trying to emulate, was soundly rejected by the American audience, which is usually where the core support for any Star Trek project begins and ends?  Instead of sucking up to the JJverse following, dwindling as we speak, they should’ve taken a page from one3 of Enterprise’s most popular offerings, “In A Mirror, Darkly…” and reproduce the look of “The Cage”, right down to the embroidered insignia patches on the velour uniforms and the silver painted ammo belts.  Castigate Alec Peters all you want  for single-handedly screwing up the fan film industry, the one thing Axanar was clearly getting right was the look of that time period.

Bottom line, it looks like the good Star Trek series we’ll be getting this fall will be from Seth MacFarlane over on Fox, for free.  The one over on CBS All Access, not so much, unless we start getting some reshoots on the order of Suicide Squad.  Otherwise, this one’s DOA.

April out.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Small Demonstration...

Let's clarify.

Here's a nice rendering of the eleven footer...

Click on that pic and you'll note it's 947 pixels long, so comparisons will be a snap (1 pixel = 1 foot).

Here's a drawing of the venerable AMT model, circa 1966, and screen accurate to the USS Constellation NCC-1017 (I've put the Discovery's registry on the nacelle for effect)...

Look what happens when we match up the two according to the bridge domes and thickness of the primary hulls...

I think that fits with concept of a similar, older, slightly smaller class of starship, and makes a helluva lot more sense for a ship that a) has a registry in the same range as the established Constellation, and b) is only ten years earlier than the original series.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Here There Be Trek Dragons...

"[Uniform design will be] something completely different [from ‘The Cage’]. I think when you see the design, it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We were having a wardrobe test the other day and it was interesting to think, ‘Now we need to take these colors and put them up against the [ship set colors],’ to see what is going to be the best-looking aesthetic for the show, taking in the sets and wardrobe and lighting style."

Bryan Fuller, 27 Aug 2016, KERN-FM interview

Ooooooooooookay, I think it's time to come to Jesus on this matter.

By now, we all know that the new Star Trek show, "Star Trek: Discovery" will be set roughly ten years before the time of the original series.

In other words, around the time of "The Cage"

In other words, in a time period with which we're already familiar.

In short, they're doing a period piece.  And just like a show set during any other historical period, like Tudor England, Colonial America, or Tombstone, Arizona in 1885, if the show is to maintain any credibility and integrity, they need to hew as close as they can to what we know of the era.

So, unless they've got one helluva tap dance routine in mind, someone needs to remind these guys that we already know what Starfleet uniforms looks like from the 2250's up until the early 2260's, i.e., "Where No Man Has Gone Before", what the technology looks like (why they went from phase pistols "back" to hand lasers may be off-putting, but that could be a story all on its own), and thanks to the late, lamented USS Constellation NCC-1017, we've got a pretty good idea what a ship in that registry range should look like...

...and, sorry, Bryan, but that reworked Ralph McQuarrie "Planet of the Titans" concept design ain't it.  If Discovery was set, say, another fifty years earlier, maybe, but ten?  Not enough time for that wide of a shift in technology.

You want a consistent design with that setting, here you are:

And no, I am not arguing for the Discovery to be a Constitution class ship.  There are enough differences between the 18" AMT model (the Constellation) and the big eleven-foot filming model (the Enterprise) that the case can be made that the two ships are separate starship classes, a stance which goes a long ways towards reconciling the long standing issue of those registry numbers, 1017 vs. 1701.

After all the questionable choices made by the folks who made "Enterprise" (or "Star Trek: Enterprise", depending on when you jump in), now is not the time for cavalier disregarding of canon.

Friday, June 24, 2016

And the Hammer Falls....

Okay, CBS, your point has been made, you own Star Trek, and we only get to play in the sandbox according to your rules.  We get that, and most of us understand who it is that ruined the party for the rest of us.

Now, let's get back to reality and dial these guidelines back to something that doesn't eviscerate the entire fan film genre.

"1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes."

This is idiotic and serves no purpose.  Lose it.

"2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production."

The first sentence is just petty and should be struck.  The second sentence is better, but substituting "title must contain a subtitle" with "credits must contain the phrase" would be more appropriate.  No argument with the third sentence.

"3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing."

This needs clarification.  I presume this is a prohibition on the use of footage from actual Star Trek productions, like flyby shots of the Enterprise.

"4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products."

This is somewhat ridiculous since there simply isn't enough licensed products available to properly stock a production of any worth.  Unless CBS is prepared to open up a prop rental operation, this one is pointless and should be dropped.

"5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees."

Isn't this a bit of an overreach?  If George Takei wants to spend a weekend making a fan film, who are you to say he can't?  Dump this one.

"6. The fan production must be non-commercial:

    CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.

    The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.

    The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.

    The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.

    No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.

    The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes."

No Argument here.

"7. The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy."

Okay, while I think it's safe to say that porn versions of Star Trek should be left to the professionals, blanket prohibitions on mature, thought provoking material is an overreach; in fact, several actual Star Trek episodes would fail this guideline.  More constructive would be restrictions on how such concepts are depicted, positively or negatively, rather than a blanket prohibition.

"8. The fan production must display the following disclaimer in the on-screen credits of the fan productions and on any marketing material including the fan production website or page hosting the fan production:

    “Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use.  No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”

The vast majority of fan productions already do.

"9. Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law."

Sounds fair enough.

"10. Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures."

No problem.

"CBS and Paramount Pictures reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion. These guidelines are not a license and do not constitute approval or authorization of any fan productions or a waiver of any rights that CBS or Paramount Pictures may have with respect to fan fiction created outside of these guidelines."

So let's get revising, kids!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Once More Into the Breach....

I keep going back to a complaint Harlan Ellison had about TOS, that fits like a freakin' glove to this movie.

Not only was it mediocre, it was deliberately intended to be mediocre.

They didn't strive to make something great and fail (that's the saving grace of some of the worst episodes, at least they tried something different and it didn't work). They targeted this film to hit that lowest common denominator and get the biggest bang for the buck. From the ubiquitous lens flares to the shaky cam to the MTV rapid edits to the pandering to every Star Trek stereotype in the book, both real and imagined, this film was plotted and made solely to suck in as many people as possible and separate them from their money (nothing wrong with that, in and of itself), and (here's the real crime) BE AS UTTERLY NONCHALLENGING AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE!

And for Star Trek, any incarnation of Star Trek, that is completely unforgivable. Star Trek is supposed to make you think. That this film not only doesn't make you think, but actually requires you to not think, lest the whole house of cards falls apart, is far worse than just another bad installment in the franchise, but a fundamental betrayal of the very idea behind Star Trek that Roddenberry tried to instill in the production and the writing, summed up by his favorite saying on the subject, "There is an intelligent life form on the other side of that television tube!" Eye candy is not enough, you have to appeal to the mind, to the intelligence of the viewer. Short change that, and you sell out the whole thing and reduce Star Trek to "just a movie."

Understand why I'm so angry over this thing now?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Pardonable Sin

Once again, a rant started elsewhere has become fodder for a more detailed rant here.

To wit, the core reason why JJ Abram's attempted Star Trek movie is so intolerable.

To boil it down to brass tacks, though, the unforgivable sin of JJ's movie is it was, not just stupid, but deliberately stupid.

Remember, the whole reason for Star Trek's existence was to elevate filmed science fiction out of the kidvid ghetto it had been relegated to for so many years and above such slop as "Lost in Space" and "Land of the Giants" and do real, grown up stories, address the big issues of the day that other television shows couldn't come within ten miles of, and, above all, make people think...


Fun, exciting, thrilling, humorous, absolutely, but never at the cost of intelligent, thoughtful storytelling. To do so risks undermining the whole thing.

And it is for that one basic reason that I am convinced that Gene Roddenberry would not only have hated this film, but done everything in his power to keep it from being made.

I can just picture him in his office, leafing through the script, scratching through the scene where young Jim Kirk comes riding up on his motorbike to look at the Enterprise under construction, with the margin note "Starships are built in orbit", scribbling through that first scene with Spock and Uhura ("Uhura didn't sleep her way to the top & Spock wouldn't be a part of it"), then hitting on the destruction of Vulcan, at which point he'd call studio security and have JJ and his staff removed from the lot while GR sets fire to the script in the wastebasket and calls up the studio front office to see if they have any other bright ideas for who should write the new movie.

"Yeah, and can you send someone over this time who isn't hellbent on destroying everything I've spent the last forty-five years building up?"