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.