Why the "look” of Star Trek: Discovery was never going to please everyone and why you should get over it
debuted on September 8th, 1966 and was widely held as a
controversial and progressive series… for its time. I could spend hours
dissecting just how racist and sexist The
Original Series is, but that’s really not the point of this article.
The point of this story is that trying to keep a fandom going after more than 50 years is bound to get problematic in terms of aesthetics and continuity. Technology, fashion, makeup, and special effects have come a long way since 1966. A chief complaint of Star Trek: Discovery is that it’s supposed to be set 10 years before The Original Series, and therefore, it looks too “edgy” or “out of place” to fit in with the timeline.
I for one would have preferred a series that picked up after the events of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but that’s not what we’re getting. And as I’m a diehard Trek fan through and through, I approach Star Trek a bit like marriage: I love the good, accept the bad, and understand that no matter how much I wish I could, there’s no changing what is. So here we go… another prequel. I’m keeping an open mind. In regards to what I think it should look like, I’m forced to ask myself: do I want something that looks like it seamlessly fits in with a “historical” account of a made up future, or do I want something that looks good and looks like it was produced in 2017 for an audience in 2017?
Star Trek has always served as a lens for the time in which it was created in terms of fashion and aesthetic. The Original Series looks like it belongs in the late 1960s. That’s because it does.
Space hippies. ‘Nuff said.
Star Trek: The Next Generation looks like a snapshot of the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’m surprised they didn’t have beige carpeting on the ceiling.
Neoprene body suits. Oh, and those leotards. Teeheehee.
Star Trek: Voyager was right at home in the late 1990s. Remember that time Captain Janeway and the gang traveled back to the year 1996 to prevent a temporal explosion in the 29th century that would destroy the entire solar system in the episode “Future’s End?” In commenting on the fashion worn by late 20th century inhabitants of Los Angeles, Tuvok even remarked, “We could’ve worn our Starfleet uniforms. I doubt if anyone would’ve noticed.”
Seriously, it looks like there was a fire sale over in the Seinfeld wardrobe department.
And so where does that leave Star Trek: Discovery? If we were going to follow the route of fitting in with the actual period it airs, it looks like it very much belongs in 2017.
You know, 2017, where the thought of an Asian woman running shit with a black female sidekick isn’t “silly talk” and the best makeup they can come up with for an alien goes beyond pointy ears.
But if we’re so hell bent on making it look like it could have been ten years before the beehive hairdos, miniskirts, and Beatles mania we see in The Original Series, it would probably have to look something more like this:
Hey, at least I still left room for two female leads, right? It’s so progressive! [And white]
And to follow the rabbit hole to completion, Star Trek: Enterprise, the other prequel which was set in the middle of the 22nd century, probably should have just looked like this all the time:
Archer and T’Pol: robbing stagecoaches and school marming since 2152.
I’m 31 years old. I grew up watching The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, and I loved each of them because they spoke to real issues of the day. Each incarnation of the series almost serves as a mile marker, a perfect little time capsule to remind us of what life was like when it aired.
I watch The Original Series and can see a world that looks like it’s on the verge of being torn apart by racial strife, fears of Communism, and nuclear armageddon. Part of what makes that series so special to me is being able to watch it with a modern eye and know that things got better. I look at The Next Generation and see themes relating to everything from the AIDS crisis to the end of the Cold War, and I think “Hell yeah world! We got through it!” Sort of. We have a long way to go, but the show reminds us how far we’ve come. Star Trek: Enterprise has 9/11 and the Global War on Terror written all over it. How things will end from that fiasco is still sadly yet to be determined.
So as a fan, I want a series that highlights life as we know it and is progressive for our time, not life as we think it should look according to a canonical pretend sci-fi timeline. If we’re really set on the idea that Discovery should literally fit a time just before The Original Series, there would be no female starship captains. In the TOS episode, “Turnabout Intruder,” Janice Lester tells Captain Kirk, "Your world of starship captains doesn’t admit women.“ There probably wouldn’t be women on the bridge at all, given that Captain Pike actually says, “I can’t get used to having a woman on the bridge” in the TOS episode, “The Cage.” It would be nice if we could have a show that both perfectly weaves itself into canon and speaks for the current generation, but if given the choice between the two, I’d take the second one every time.
Given that there are already so many inconsistencies with canon as it is - the Klingon and Romulan foreheads look a little different with each telling and don’t even get me started on the stardates in The Original Series - can we just try to appreciate Discovery for what it is without dismissing it before it even airs just because it doesn’t fit into an ideal mold of what the year 2255 should theoretically look like according to canon?
None of us have seen it. It might well end up being terrible. There are horrendous episodes in each series (anyone remember “Spock’s Brain” from TOS or “Angel One” from TNG?), and some series were definitely better than others. But I still appreciate each series for what it tried to accomplish, and good, bad, or ugly, I’ll appreciate Star Trek: Discovery too. I would never say you should automatically love something just because it’s Star Trek, but if you’re truly a fan, you’ll at least give it a chance.