Did this Trekkie actually enjoy Star Wars more than Star Trek this year?
Belated Merry Xmas all and a Happy New Year in advance!
2020 was a topsy turvy year and this was no different in my Trek geekdom
This year from the Star Trek stable we were promised great things in Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks and the third season of Star Trek: Discovery.
It was going to be the most TV Star Trek ever released in a single year by my accounts, did this mean that we are about to embark on a great Star Trek Renaissance or was CBS simply flogging the Star Trek horse to death in a cynical attempt to get people to sign up to their streaming service with their arguably most popular franchise?
On the other hand the perennial “rival’ of Trek, that fantasy franchise masquerading as a SciFi one, Star Wars also had a couple of shows this year, we got the second season of Mandalarion and the concluding episodes of the Clone Wars series.
That is three shows from Trek and two from War, surely there could only be one winner, right… right?
Insert facepalm emoji.
Picard Review: 4/10
Picard started off 2020’s new Trek and should have been an indicator of what a disappointment this year was going to be for this franchise.
Trekkies will point to various series or movies even as to why they become a trekkie and it tends to inform what they consider good trek vs bad trek when it comes to new shows.
Star Trek Next Generation was the hook for me, I knew and had watched a lot of Star Trek before Next Gen came out but more as a generalist Sci-Fi fan, Next Gen made me a Trekkie.
So a show that featured at least two of the main characters from Next Gen was always going to get me excited personally and I know that generally across board there was a lot of excitement for this show.
What was this show about?
This show is set a around 30 years after the end of Next Gen and at least 20 years after any pervious show or film has been set previously. Yes this was new territory to explore.
In this period Picard has resigned from Starfleet in anger because they abandoned the Romulans when their star went nova causing the greatest disaster in the history of Romulus. The Federation was stretched thin trying to help their former enemies and then suffered a massive blow themselves when the androids being used to create all Starfleet ships including the ships being used in the relief effort went mad and killed everyone on Mars and blew up the shipyard and set Mars atmosphere on fire. The Federation placed a ban on use of androids and any actual android research and with the additional pressure that brought to the Federation as a whole they abandoned the Romulans.
The show picks up from here with an embittered Picard and he sons becomes embroiled in a wife conspiracy when he discovers that Commander Data had two daughters and someone or somebody was hunting them down for extinction.
The most disappointing thing about this show is that is started like a house on fire with a great starting premise and some great looking action set pieces and for most of the season my score was hovering around the 7.5 region but as the season got closer to the last few episodes it was clear that it had too many balls in the air and that it would take some almost god tier writing and direction to land all those balls safely in the last few episodes. Sadly they did not stick the landing at all and actually in my view proceeded to basically face plant badly.
They opened so many plot lines along the line and did not resolve almost any of them to a proper conclusion, they resorted to using coincidence, deus ex machina and all sorts of other writing shortcuts to get to the end of the season and tie up all the loose ends. The last episode actually left me very angry at this wasted opportunity.
For the first Star Trek show in a along while to give us a peek into the further future of the Trek universe and to be so lame and disappointing was triggering to me.
Having said that there were some great episodes in this show epically with the appearance of other characters from the Next Generation and even Start Trek Voyager and it did introduce some new interesting concepts to the Trek universe but this could not overcome the bad writing that became more and more apparent towards the end.
Lower Decks Review: 7/10
I am always excited for new Trek despite me being disappointed many times in the past but when I saw the trailer for animated show Star Trek: Lower Decks for once I was NOT excited at all and was actually dreading it. It looked like it would be a very silly and disrespectful take, one that I would be unable to reconcile with the Trek I know and love.
Surprise surprise it turned out to be the most enjoyable version of TV Trek for a long while!
The central conceit of this show is that we follow a set of junior officers on a Federation ship and we get to see life through the view of these officers instead of the normal senior bridge officers.
I had some reservations about the behaviours of some of the crew but sadly even the live action shows had officers behaving equally stupid so can’t really take an animated show to task for that.
While Lower Decks is ostensibly about the junior officers we do get to see some of the senior bridge crew as well. The characters at first seemed very broad stroke type of caricatures past Trek characters but as it went on we got to see a lot more nuance.
The show started slow but grew on me with each episode and got to the point I was now excited for each new episode.
In the end I felt 10 episodes was too little and now I can’t wait for the next season to return
I found that my initial reluctance to give this show a chance was due a lot to the reverence with which I hold Trek in my mind but watching the show I quickly realised this was written by people with a deep love for Trek and more importantly Trek canon and this helped a lot.
The show is not as good as Rick and Morty but very few shows can be honest but it is a very good show in its own right from the same creators and to be got better with every episode as the writers found their groove.
In my online bubble it was generally well received by the wider trek community despite the initial backlash about a Rick and Morty style Star Trek animated show.
Discovery season 3 is still on at the time of me writing this and has two episodes left to go, so my views will pertain to the first 11 episodes. This is a beautiful looking series and a great cast but scratch beneath the surface and this show is simply a glossy CW show. The writing on this show is subpar and I suspect that the one place they skimped on the budget was in the writing department. This show is outright melodramatic where all they try to do is tug at your heart strings every other 10 mins. This constant reliance on emotion over logic in pushing the plot has lead them to leaning too hard on Martin-Greens ability to emote and in turn has led to many online discussions around her constant crying which now occurs in almost every single episode, that is not an exaggeration. There is even a debate abut sexism to be had here as would they feel so comfortable making a male character cry so often? But that is for another article.
Despite all what I said before every now and the show still manages to show us some great moments that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of Trek, making it even more of a shame that it is not more consistent in doing this. The Vulcan ceremony of T’Kal-in-Ket in episode seven is great example of this, it was a great exercise in the use of candour and logic to cut through the blinders emotions put n us and I absolutely loved it but it was bookended by once again some of the most silly scenes involving Tilly and her becoming first officer. Yeah you heard me right an ensign is the first officer, facepalm.
There is a lot of hate and love for this show online I will try and list what I personally believe is wrong with the show and you can judge if this is something that you would also hate or maybe it might actually draw you to the show.
Firstly the show relies on Michael Burnham too much almost to the exclusion of everyone else, every situation needs Burnham to resolve it or be at the centre of it. The worst example of this was episode two of this season which did not star Burnham in it at all until the very last 2 minuets and yet she ended up rescuing the crew! This episode took great pains to show the rest of the crew working hard to resolve the situation they were in and the writers couldn’t even let them have that win.
Even how they handled the main season long mystery of what caused the ‘Burn’ is evidence of how they try to make Burnham hero of all the moments without any consideration how incompetent this makes everyone else in this universe seem?
Starfleet and all the other planets in the universe had like 150 years to investigate the ‘Burn’ that killed millions and destroyed the Federation but they could not do it or even be bothered to even investigate until she comes along and in one year does more than the whole universe did in 150 years.
The show needs to start showcasing more and more of the other crew and giving us some of their back history.
Secondly the show places emotion way too much at the centre of all decisions, this is why they constantly get Burnham to tear up. This a big issue for me and I am guessing many people who grew up with Trek like I did and were attracted to the use and merits of Logic vs Emotion and the balance found between the two. In this show there is no such balance. Feelings are all in this show and it is embarrassing but I am acutely aware that this is what some actually love about this show. It is the aspect of the show that is driving the biggest schism between the Trek fans I talk to.
If you have ever watched a CW show like Arrow or Batwoman you will have an idea of what I am talking about here. The way they made the farewell to Georgiou so emotional and sad was in my mind one of the worst examples, this was a genocidal maniac who had no respect for anyone beyond Michael really and yet we are made to believe they are all fond of her and sad at her alleged passing? This was almost comical by itself and speaks to the desperate need to have these redemption arcs which are not written well at all and are NOT earned.
Now we come to Star Wars and this year Clone Wars concluded with a great last few episodes which showcased Ashoka and Bo Katan, fan faves but it was Mandalorian that brought the fire with season 2
Mandalorian Season 2: 8.5/10
As I stated earlier I am not a die hard Star Wars fan despite seeing almost all of the TV and movies stuff but I have always had a fondness for certain elements of Star Wars like Boba Fett and the original Clone Wars run.
So from the very start this show was playing in the one corner of the Star Wars universe I was the most invested in. The fact that the show adopted a western / samurai style helped a lot with endearing it to me as I am a big fan of those genres. In addition the show runners were very canny with their casting by bringing in geek fan faves like Ming Na, Gina Carano, Rosario Dawson, Katee Sackhoff and quite a few more.
All of these are well known actors and great at playing kick ass characters but where they excelled this season was them taking it a step further and giving us a lot more fan service by bringing to live action for the first time certain characters we have only ever seen in animation.
Bo Katan’s appearance had me really excited and happy especially as they were depicted as bad ass in live action as we had seen in the animated series. I felt this was the peak of the show and then about two episodes later: Ashoka!
I honestly let out a yelp of excitement at seeing this character in live action, a reaction no Trek show made me do this year. That opening sequence of Ashoka was all I could have asked for, Rosario Dawson marry me! If there is anyone out there who does not know what I am talking about Ashoka was a character introduced in the animated show Clone wars and she was Darth Vaders student when he was still Anakin. We now get to see a grown up version of this character played by Rosario Dawson and her initial appearance was also the first of any Jedi in this show and it was also a very epic introduction.
The last episode had an even bigger surprise for War fans but it was one that was not that much of a wow moment for me as I have always been lukewarm towards the character at the centre of the surprise but I understand that for millions it had an even bigger wow factor than Ashoka’s appearance and is the highlight of the season for many.
The whole thrust of this season was very straightforward, Mando had to get Baby Yoda or Gorgu into the hands of a Jedi. We follow him as he tries to track down any Jedi willing to train him and has adventures along the line. The simplicity of the plot helps this show to avoid a lot of the potholes, inconsistencies and sheer incredulity that more intricate plots tend to lead to, put this alongside a great cast, great sets and you have a winning formula, one I hope lasts for a long time.
The moment I realised that I was more eager to watch Mandalorian than Star Trek Discovery I felt a deep pain in my soul, what a state of affairs! This show was great and clearly better than any of the Trek shows throughout this year.
Damn you 2020 for this, you have been such a painful year on so many fronts and when I thought you could do me no more harm I now find myself praising Star Wars as being better than Star Trek.
I need to go and lie down in a dark corner and whimper.
Live Long and Prosper!