Tag: sf

What Star Trek: Discovery should have been

Star Trek DiscoveryMy opinion of Star Trek: Discovery is positive, but there’s still something that annoys me and since it’s a bit of a spoiler, you should stop reading here until you watched season 1.

Star Trek: Discovery shouldn’t have been a prequel. STD (oops, unfortunate acronym) should have been a sequel to all the other Star Treks we had. I don’t understand why they made it a prequel. It’s not trying to explain an origin story; if anything, it’s destroying Star Trek cannon.

If it was a sequel, in the 25th century:

  • the uniforms wouldn’t be an issue
  • the introduction of new races wouldn’t be an issue
  • the introduction of a human that went through Vulcan academy wouldn’t be an issue (she could be Spock’s protege, instead of Spock’s father’s protege)
  • the Klingons looking different wouldn’t be an issue
  • flat screens and holograms wouldn’t be an issue
  • the use of a sort of holodeck wouldn’t be an issue
  • discovering a way to teleport through the galaxy without needing warp drives wouldn’t be an issue
  • we could have Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space 9 cameos.

The BorgWhy make it a prequel then? There’s no advantage to having it be a prequel. You could still have a war with the Klingons if they wanted to bank on their fame (although a war with the Borg is much more frightening in my opinion, specially since peace with the Borg is impossible).

They couldn’t have the flip phones, I mean, the communicators, which apparently are iconic enough to put on one of the posters, but aren’t the badge communicators also iconic? And if not, it feels like a small lose.

I don’t understand this obsession with needles prequels, are people afraid of the future? of moving forward and seeing what happens next?

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Read this before watching Star Trek: Discovery

I just finished watching Star Trek: Discover and although I’m not blown away, I did enjoy it and I’m looking forward to how the story continues.

There were three points that felt wrong about the series but if you approach them with the right mind-frame you can minimize their impact on your enjoyment because they are more subjective that they look.

Star Trek Discovery

  1. The Star Trek universe: this TV show just doesn’t fit. The uniforms don’t fit, the look of the Klingons don’t fit, the level of technology doesn’t fit, the design of the Starfleet ships doesn’t fit. Just think of it as a reboot and stop trying to make it fit, it’ll hurt. This is what happens when you do a prequel and you are original.
  2. The bullshit: there’s plenty of space bullshit in Star Trek: Discovery and you might feel insulted by it, but if you try to be objective you’ll see that all of Star Trek had a lot of bullshit in it. This one smells slightly different but it’s neither better nor worse.
  3. It’s an exception in Starfleet: the events depicted in the TV show are exceptional in the Starfleet organization and thus it’s not the attempt and success at clean solutions that we come to love and respect with Captain Picard; but if you think about it, it’s not that different from some of the Deep Space 9 episodes.

If you can get past those three points, the TV show can be very enjoyable. It’s not full of politics and morality like Star Trek: The Next Generation; but this is only the first season (go and re-watch TNG season 1 again, it might not be what you remember) and there’s plenty of talk about what’s right and wrong and when the ends justify the means and whether the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see clean-tech sci-fi produced with state of the art graphics. It looks astounding, even better than J.J. Abrams’ movies (mostly because, I believe, it tries to be even less canon than those). The design of the Klingons, their culture, their spaceships, their armor and space suits, their language and the fact that they speak it constantly is amazing and gives a deep experience of the difference in cultures. I just hope those sets and costumes are not too expensive, I want this TV show to go on.

The importance of context

Since I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time when I was 15 years old, I’ve been wanting to watch it on the big screen. Last Sunday I realized that dream.

A little story about why that movie was so important to me. There’s a before and an after 2001 in my life. I think it was the first movie that really challenged my brain. The first movie that when the credits rolled up I asked myself “What the fuck just happened?”.

It was recommended to me by a teacher, so I went and asked him… without the “fuck” I suppose. He told me that if I wanted to understand it, I’d have to read the book. I read the book and I understood more, but I had even more questions. So I read the next book, and the next, and the next. And by the time I had finished I was hooked into reading science fiction for the rest of my life.

Back to the topic, context. It’s not an entertaining movie. It’s slow, it’s abstract, it’s art. But hey, even if you watch Alien it doesn’t look like entertainment, it’s slow and looks artistic. Honestly, go and watch it, you’ll see. 2001 was released before Armstrong put a foot on the moon, in 1968.

Let me put that in context for you. Star Wars wouldn’t come out for another 9 years. Star Trek was on it’s second season and not many people were paying attention, yet. I bet for most people, 2001 was the first time in their lives when they saw outer space in the big screen.

But 2001 isn’t just another silly space opera (of which the space age was probably full of). In 2001, space is silent, like it really is. How important is that? I watched Firefly just because space was silent. That important.

2001 doesn’t have some magic solution for artificial gravity, like almost all other movies and TV shows. We have huge revolving space stations as well as spaceships with revolving sections. We see amazing shots of people walking on this curved floors. Or using sticky shoes. We not only see space… we see ourselves, for real, in space. I don’t think I’d seen anything that treated outer space as realistically as 2001, ever. And it happened in 1968.

Put that movie in context, ignore the long psychedelic scenes (hey! it was the 60s!), and it’ll blow your mind. Context is important.

I also recently read Snow Crash. When the book started describing a kind of physical virtual reality, with people walking on virtual streets, companies putting buildings on those streets, etc. I was honestly disgusted. I couldn’t stop feeling that the author somehow missed the last 10 years of history when we realised that VRML (remember VRML? Virtual Reality Markup Language) was not the way to go. And then I saw the book was released on 1992 and all made sense to me. Reading it in context was awesome and I enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks to Daniel Magliola and Romina Roca for reading drafts of this.

Is it Science Fiction?

I go to a book store and after looking around I’m forced to ask.

– Excuse me, where’s the science fiction section?

The woman points to the back of the book store, to a poorly lit section, next to the book for kids sector full of toys and little chairs. Well, at least they have a section. From where I’m standing it look like a whole section, it probably has around 500 books. There must be something that I haven’t read.

When I arrive I notice that a whole shelf consist of Lord of the Rings books. I continue scanning and I see a lot of stuff about dragons and vampires. There’s even a copy of Harry Potter left over when it wasn’t popular enough and didn’t deserve the huge tower of books in the middle of the bookstore.

Where is the science in wizards, dragons and magic rings? You know, Science Fiction is called that way for a reason. If I wanted to read fantasy I would have gone to the fantasy section, thank you very much.

This is not the worst. I’ve seen countless top ten science fiction TV shows list that included Buffy and Angel. “Science Fiction” is not a label for weird. I was throwing a huge tantrum about it and my wife, in her infinite understanding said:

– Maybe they don’t know it isn’t science fiction.

How could they not know? It says “science” in the name. But apparently people are not very logical and never think what a name means (and keep calling the United Kingdom England, The Netherlands Holland, and United States of America, well, America, which is a continent, not a country).

I’ve decided to solve this problem once and for all in the geek-programmer way, which is of course, a web site with voting. I created:

Is it Science Fiction?

Of course, if everybody voted we would end up with a mess the world is today, but I hope only geeks will put up with my bad graphical design skills and actually vote and comment so we’ll end up with pretty good results. So far Star Wars is 4th from the bottom, heavily on the not-sci-fi side of things, so I’m pretty sure it’s working. You have to be very hard core to believe Star Wars is not Science Fiction.

My goal is to build the canonical place to point to when the discussion about whether something is or isn’t science fiction starts. You won’t have to explain it yet again why Lord of The Rings is fantasy, not science fiction, just point to http://isitsciencefiction.com/items/the-lord-of-the-rings. If your favorite pet peeve is not there, feel free to add it.

Of course we are only judging whether something is or isn’t science fiction, not whether something is good or bad. Batman is great, but it’s not Science Fiction. Plan 9 From Outer Space sucks, but it is Science Fiction (well, I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet).