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Yesterday, I whined a bit, and I’m going to keep this going. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really annoyed by Star Trek Discovery. It’s probably still better than The Animated Series, but The Animated Series shouldn’t be taken seriously by adults, so it’s got an out. Discovery, on the other hand, should be taken seriously, and it’s finally gotten so bad that I simply don’t like it.
As an old guy, I don’t like the way modern storytelling has proceeded. This is meaningless, as I’m no longer the target audience, but I’m going to share why that’s the case. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy represented the ethos, logos, and pathos of Starfleet, all wrapped up neatly in three characters. Focusing on only three characters has the advantage of developing those characters so thoroughly that the viewers’ appreciation of them is maximized. Modern writing focuses on far too many characters, which means there’s less plot and more minutiae. For example, we know that Chief O’Brien’s wife’s mother was born in 2269; we didn’t know Sulu was born in San Francisco until the fourth movie.
I experienced a similar issue with the TV show, The Flash. Among several issues with the show, one that drove me nuts was that over half the show’s runtime (I’m not exaggerating) had nothing to do with the main storyline. Instead, presumably because the writers weren’t talented enough to produce a complex story, over half of each episode had the characters 1) saying how much they loved each other; and 2) saying why they had to leave and never come back. As for number one, I’m all for character development — that’s the strength of the Triumvirate — but as Kirk once told Uhura, “Too much of anything, Lieutenant, even love, isn’t necessarily a good thing.” In this case, the “too much” isn’t character development itself, but rather how much of the runtime is dedicated to it. As for number two (huh-huh), there were a couple of characters that kept leaving “forever” but returning as soon as an actor needed another paycheck. It was maddening. (Note: The final straw for the Flash was a different issue altogether: A woman with no superpowers deflecting automatic gunfire with a sword. Even Deadpool couldn’t do that, and he’s utter deus ex bullshitina.)
This is what Discovery does. It spreads its development around the personal storylines of so many characters that the plot takes up almost none of the episode. This is easier writing, of course, which is probably why they write it that way. Most modern shows are like this, as have been past seasons of Discovery, but Discovery keeps adding characters, and it’s now unbearable.
I know that Mary Wiseman, the actress playing Tilly, has caught a ton of grief for her continued weight gain. A lot of it has been mean-spirited, and I don’t like that. However, there’s something to be said for placing your trust in someone who’s clearly not physically fit to rise to the challenges Starfleet personnel typically face. In the real world, the US Army has engineers, doctors, and other specialized soldiers, and while they’re not all Ranger qualified, they must do PT and maintain a certain minimum level of fitness. There’s good reason for that. How does Tilly get around that? In season 3, they have her “jogging” around the ship and running laps around the physically fit characters. Is this because Mary Wiseman is in better shape than they? Nope. It’s because, well, the script says she does. Who cares if it makes sense? They want her to be one of the stars of the show, so . . . she just is despite everything cutting against it.
Her physical fitness isn’t her only issue. While I don’t like unqualified viewers flippantly diagnosing on-screen (i.e., make-believe) characters with conditions the scriptwriters don’t understand and probably don’t care to understand, it’s clear that the Discovery scriptwriters intend for Tilly to suffer from some mental disability, probably something along the lines of autism. This has been made exceptionally clear in the current season, where her condition has caused her to break inside. Rather than immediately remove her from duties, the script instead had David Cronenberg tell her that the mission she led showed how great she was. He completely ignored the fact that she created the situation in the first place, getting someone killed and almost costing the entire crew their lives. The scriptwriters could have written whatever unrealistic story of heroism they wanted, but they wrote that, and thought they were writing a success story.
The mission was a disaster, though at least the outcome was close to logical: Tilly’s incompetence led at least to one death. So, that particular scene was the worst of both worlds: It had Tilly “win” even though she shouldn’t have, yet their definition of “win” was laughable. There’s no good in there. None.
This is nothing new. For many stories on TV today, many characters succeed not because they employ the most effective and/or skillful path to success, but merely because the script says so. The writers want these incompetent and/or idealistic characters to succeed, so they just do. There’s no rhyme or reason to the success. They get what they want despite themselves, and that poor writing grates on me (as I’m sure mine does on you).
Obviously, some of my concerns are generational, so they may not apply to you, but some of it is logical, and if there’s anything a Star Trek fan should demand of a Star Trek series, it’s adherence to logic. As good as its season-opening episodes have been, I think I’m tapping out on Discovery. I’d like to see how the actual main storyline plays out, but it’s not worth sitting through 40 minutes of drivel. Besides, it’ll probably be a cheap ending relying entirely on deus ex machina.
I hope Strange New Worlds turns things around. I haven’t anticipated a Star Trek series this much since The Next Generation.
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