Far Beyond the Stars
“Full stop! Red alert! Shields! All power to engines! Back us up, ensign, back us up!” That is what I would scream on the set of the new Star Trek Discovery before it is too late, and the entire production crashes against their audience’s yawns. There was magic, fun, excitement — a profound sense of wonder for the unknown in the original series. No one had ever seen something like it on the screens before Star Trek series arrived, and it wasn’t just because of the special effects and its originality that it became a cult hit, no. It was because it turned into a compass for a whole generation! It told us who we were and where to go!
And for many, that’s where it began. On their trip to adulthood, some of these viewers became astrophysicists. Some turned to the sea, becoming naval engineers. Others looked up and became pilots, astronauts, others looked inside and became actors, scientists, artists! The original series and the light it guarded gave us a window into a future that could be, that might be, that should be. It taught us the integrity that was within mankind the same way Shakespeare taught us every drop of blood is red. It told us that all dreamers who dare to dream eventually reach for the stars.
Part of that wonderful magic dripped from the original series onto the cast and production crew of the Next Generation, then on those involved in Deep Space Nine. Some of that magic even managed to make its way through the corners of the studios and into the production crew of Voyager, even with all its troubles. Again it splashed the screens of movie theaters all over the world for some of the franchise films when Bill Shatner and Patrick Stewart rode their horses into the morning sun for one last flight.
Sadly, none of that can be found in the bridge of the new Enterprise — it is simply not there. Characters, while heartily played in some cases, are bland at best. Plain and dull, most of the time. Action is lacking or way too distracting of the central concept. The direction is amateurish in its strongest moments, and better writing can be found in fan fiction.
That said, I must defend Star Trek Discovery, its producers, writers, and cast members with all my might. There will be hard times ahead for the cast and crew on their voyage to the unknown, and I will make it my life’s mission to stand in front of every bullet coming their way.
And so should you. Because they dare to dream again.
Not all is lost — the first year of Star Trek The Next Generation was, in many ways, as difficult as this first season the crew of Discovery must be prepared to face. Still, there is time to make things right. We must help them figure out the puzzle, and for that, this production crew needs time and, why not, some advice.
Producers, take note: contact Mark Scott Zicree, writer of one of the best episodes of the entire series, which, incidentally, shares its title with this Essay. Don’t have his number? Ask Doug Jones, he’s been doing some excellent work with him in the upcoming series Space Command (giving the current state of your show, you might want to get his aired as well, for what better way to stir the blood of a true producer than to go up in the ring with the best?)
Still taking notes? Next, you want to phone is Harlan Ellison. Harlan is the writer of the most celebrated episode of the original series; it won awards and was regarded by TV Guide as one of the top 100 best moments in television’s history: The City At the Edge of Forever. Be warned, though, Harlan is known for having strong opinions presented in even stronger manners. He is also responsible for the inspiration behind James Cameron’s Terminator franchise (now, the kind of money that one made should be enough to consider making a call, isn’t it?). He is also 83 years old and takes crap from no one, so be smart enough to leave a door open during the meeting for the lion to get out, or you might find yourself using the window instead.
Pick up that phone and start dialing! There’s a starship to save!
One last note to make; the cast of Discovery is not to blame for this bumpy start. Hamlet comes off easily compared to playing a role in a show like Star Trek. Actors don’t need to go too far to make us believe they are the hunched Richard the third begging for a horse in some ancient battlefield with an army about to show up the hill while, in contrast, making an audience believe that the characters on the screen are the best version of ourselves — what we will become as race, as people, when every day each and one of us see how little and small we are to ourselves, to others, to our planet; well, that one takes some doing. Only a few exceptional men and women, through the history of entertainment, managed to accomplish such a feat. Perhaps a consultation with them should be explored.
Because that’s what all these weird, funny looking people wearing pointy ears and wicks applauds at the conventions — not that the actor stepped on his or her mark and said the lines. We applaud that they made us believe. That for a moment, they showed us that everything will eventually go all right. That it doesn’t end here, that it goes on, despite our own stupidity. That we can be more and will be more, someday.
There is a meteor shower ahead for the Discovery, and while their path might not be true so far, at least its an honest one. Let’s all go down to engineering and lend a hand!
In the spirit of saving the producers reading this essay some time (because boy oh do they have some work to do, rigth?), here is a video from Mark Scott Zicree where he discusses the third episode of Star Trek Discovery and a small Harlan Ellison recap about his experience writing his award winning Star Trek episode.