Here’s another off-the-cuff video for all you fine folks, and as such, I don’t have a transcript of the video to share. So instead I’ll just be adding a few comments here and there in case you’re curious to hear some additional thoughts about Lower Decks.
Fandoms are generally awful, and that’s something I’d like to talk about in more detail in a completely different piece that I may or may not be working on right now.
But when it comes to Star Trek in particular, as a franchise, I tend to side more with the old-timers who feel like all the new material somehow insults or discounts the value of the old/good stuff.
So this isn’t always the case, and I do think there’s a tendency for “hardcore” fans to dislike just about any new iteration of an IP that they’ve grown to love over time and have invested their heart and soul into.
A lot of the time, this closed-minded perspective is just plain negative and sometimes even harmful, and it creates a horrible us vs. them mentality around th people who like the old stuff and the people who like the new stuff.
We’ve seen a lot of this with the newer Trek series like Discovery and Picard. So much has been written about these shows, especially on YouTube, and I tend to see a new video pop up on the subject just about every week, each one posing as if it is the final and definitive word on the topic.
But what upsets me a bit about these kinds of discussions, and specifically about the discussion surrounding Picard, is that many seem to assume that people who enjoy the old content much more only don’t like the new content because it’s different. Full stop.
I think this viewpoint is extremely dismissive and demonstrates a tendency for oversimplification.
As usual, this dynamic has already been covered more skillfully by other online media critics. Specifically, good old Arlo talked about this dynamic in a somewhat recent video about the kerfuffle surrounding the new Paper Mario game.
Long story short, actually understanding someone’s argument is really important, especially if you’re going to try to enter into some sort of a debate or Twitter screaming match.
When it comes to the original Trek fanbase, I think I actually do understand their distaste for the new Trek content we’ve been seeing since Kurtzman and CBS have really dug in their heels.
No, Trek doesn’t need to be squeaky clean. Not at all. And it doesn’t even need to always feature overwhelmingly positive messaging (although I think we could use some of that right now anyway).
But what the old Trek fanbase has been communicating is that there is indeed a market for sci-fi shows and movies that take a different view of humanity’s future, of our collective future, even if only because it’s starkly different from the dozens or maybe even hundreds of sci-fi stories that go in the complete opposite direction.
Discovery, Picard, and now even Lower Decks, have all worked towards proving that actually you can’t idolize anyone. Everyone is probably a jerk deep down, or trying to take advantage of their position, or just a few years away from a total mental collapse.
And you know what? That’s fine. Stories can be about all of these themes if you really want them to be.
But there was so much potential for exploring those darker subjects in the Trek universe without souring the milk. You didn’t need to reset absolutely everything.
It would have been more than doable to just make a show about a wayward ship that has given in to the most base and vile human urges and emotions. You could have made it about a colony planet where things have gone south. Or you even could have just done it with some bad egg characters who don’t make up 100% of the cast.
And I do understand the complaints that so much modern Trek content really doesn’t just blend in with other contemporary media. Discovery really doesn’t look that different, visually or tonally, from any other nameless action series out there today.
Trying to inject some positivity into modern-day Trek isn’t about being creatively limiting at all. It’s not about audience tastes that have already been set in stone. It’s about the large degree to which all this new content is just missing out on what so many people want right now, and I think that missed opportunity is a real shame.
I really enjoy dark storytelling, and sometimes I even enjoy terrible animated comedies, but not leaving any room for what made this franchise so valuable both artistically and financially, just seems like a blunder that’s pretty hard to forgive.
I guess we shouldn’t expect any better from a dying TV network, but I like to stay hopeful. Sometimes I like to look at the world and pretend there’s some good news somewhere out there. And, ya know, that also happens to be why I like the old brand of Star Trek shows so much more.