Square-Pegs

Adding to canon is not the same thing as destroying canon

At San Diego Comic Con, we learned that Sonequa Martin-Green’s character, Michael Burnham, is Sarek’s adoptive daughter. The second I heard the news, all I could think was, “Let the hate begin.” And boy, did it ever.

I understand the disappointment, particularly with fan fic writers who invested a lot of time and effort into crafting stories that fit neatly into canon. Amazing how one sound bite can bulldoze right through decades of widely accepted fanon, huh? 

Let’s be real, those little behind the scenes moments are almost the entire point of fan fiction: some of us like something so much, we like to imagine all the things the writers didn’t tell us, but now Michael Burnham has come along like a square peg in a round hole, rendering countless stories AU that previously adhered perfectly to canon. Some of mine included.

But fanon isn’t canon. One might say, “How come we’re just hearing about this now?” Surely Spock would have mentioned having an adoptive sister? But would he? Would he though? 

No one had any idea he was engaged to T’Pring until the Enterprise showed up to Vulcan on Spock’s impromptu wedding day in the TOS episode, “Amok Time.” What was it he said when Lieutenant Uhura asked who the lovely woman on the viewscreen was?

If you watch closely enough and get creative with your interpretation, I swear Christine Chapel mouths the word, “bullshit.”

And no one knew that Spock had a strained relationship with his father until that time dear old Sarek hopped on Enterprise for the Coridan admission debate in the TOS episode, “Journey to Babel.” Kirk urged Spock to go down to the planet and visit his family before they left orbit, and what was Spock’s reply?

I can’t think of a better example of where Spock made Kirk look like a total asshole.

And then there’s the fact that Kirk had known Spock for decades before finding out he had a half-brother named Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

You would think Kirk would be used to Spock family bombshells by now.

So if anything, the idea that Spock had a secret adoptive sister actually feels more in keeping with canon than going against it. Given the weight of the evidence, I wouldn’t be all that shocked to discover he had three step mothers and a whole nest of secret love children drifting around out there.

The other thing is, as viewers, we tend to get into the habit of thinking that if a character doesn’t specifically address something on screen in front of other characters, other characters are in the dark along with the viewers. Like if a character didn’t explicitly announce some detail about their personal life to the world, not only did it never happen, it never could have happened. And that’s just silly. Think about this: Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew spent five years together on that mission, and we only got to view a little less than 66 hours of it. So imagine all the conversations in the mess hall we as viewers missed out on. Not only that, many of those details would be fairly trivial anyway. 

Going back and adding to canon is not the same thing as destroying canon. Star Trek, particularly The Original Series, was always more focused on exploring the galaxy and meeting new civilizations – its primary purpose wasn’t to flesh out complicated life stories for each of the main characters. When you think about it, there’s so much we don’t know about Sarek, Amanda, or Spock’s upbringing. Almost everything we do know about this family comes from two episodes – “Journey to Babel” in The Original Series and “Yesteryear” in The Animated Series.

I think because we spent more than five decades without any concrete ideas of how Sarek and Amanda met, what Spock’s formative years were really like, or how their family dynamics worked, we just filled in the blanks for ourselves. But fifty years is a long time for the lines between canon and fanon to start getting blurred.

So I’m actually tickled pink at the thought that Spock had an adoptive sister, not furious that they’re corrupting more than fifty years of canon. It would be tampering with canon to claim that Starship Troopers is actually some kind of prequel to Kirk and the starship Enterprise. That would be destroying canon, but writing in a sister for Spock where one previously didn’t exist isn’t quite the same thing. 

Would you like to know more?

The writers of the show are just doing what we as fan fic writers do all the time – filling in the gaps. You’re definitely allowed to feel however you want to feel about it. And I do understand a lot of the dismay and shock. It really sucks to pour your heart and soul into something, polishing it for months or even years until it’s perfect, and then have Michael Burnham thrown into the mix and it almost feels like a bad Photoshop job over your favorite family portrait, ruining your origins fics for Sarek/Amanda or Spuhura or Spirk or Spones or Spotty? (Is that actually what the Spock/Scotty ship is called?). It’s perfectly acceptable to say that Michael Burnham’s existence has ruined your perception of canon, but I don’t think it should be confused with ruining actual canon.  

During the Comic Con panel, producer Alex Kurtzman insisted they have a good canon explanation for why Spock never mentions Michael. He was quoted as saying, “We’re aware [of the situation]. You’ll see where it’s going, but we are staying consistent with canon.” So I’m inclined to keep an open mind and see where they take it before dismissing it outright for being “too ludicrous.” Weirder things have actually happened within the Trek universe, so try not to let this revelation get you down. 

I really wish Dragon Age fans would understand that “Moral Greyness” can be JUST as contrived and convoluted as regular “Black and White” and “Happy Ending.”

Just look at the Mage/Templar Conflict. The devs have tried their darnedest across three and a half games to present the conflict as 100% balanced with both sides equally sympathetic, and they’ve failed each time. The devs have said they felt they made the mages look “too sympathetic” in the first game. For the second game they realized too late that making the player character come from a family of apostates and have two mage companions but no Templars made Templars look bad; and they fully admitted that Leandra getting killed by a crazy blood mage serial killer was an attempt to vindicate a pro-Templar playthrough. DAI? Well, we all know about THAT… (Retconning the Dalish to have a “three mages max” rule just to make Circles look better by comparison?) All to make a flimsy, “See? Both sides are equally flawed” argument that’s as sturdy as cardboard; blow on it, and it falls over.

Just look at The Masked Empire verses Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts. In the book, the human nobles are all completely despicable, racist, genocidal asses, while Briala (and Felassan to a lesser extent) is the most sympathetic and likable character. Briala is a straight-up hero who struggles to help her people despite knowing they won’t thank her for it, and being shit on by everyone she meets right and left.

In DAI, the devs flat-out hid the many crimes and character flaws of Celene and Gaspard, and hid many of the virtues and character strengths of Briala. Why? To create a flimsy and false “All three choices are equally morally gray!” so-called “choice.”

Just look at the Qunari. You can tell the devs have been trying their damnedest from game one to depict Qunari culture as rather alien and incomprehensible to outsiders and vice-versa, but still a good system with its balances of virtues and flaws like any other. And it never works.

And any time players complain about an aspect of their culture, they try to fix it next game. Sten said “women don’t fight”? In DA2 they’re like, “JK! Since the Priesthood allows both genders, we just made up this secret spy division of the Ben’Hassrath that allows female assassins. Please love our Qunari.“ When that didn’t work, in DAI they went overtime trying to make Iron Bull THE most likable character they could, then had him lend his charisma to explain away Qunari societal faults. Plus the whole “transgender acceptance” and “free love” and “Tamassran are still like family” thing, and the sudden, “Oh, the Qunari don’t REALLY keep women from fighting. If a woman is discovered to be good in combat, they just decide he’s a man who happens to look like a woman and let “him” fight. Please love our Qunari!”

And it’s NEVER WORKED. I mean, some small minority of weirdos like Qunari despite their flaws (myself included), but MOST players just find these flimsy attempts at “MORAL GREYNESS!!!” to be just that: flimsy.

So whenever I talk about a plot hole or character failing in the series, I’m so sick to death of seeing that go-to, knee-jerk, catch-all “moral grayness” excuse.

Yes. Sometimes, when written well, a morally grey conflict can be very engaging. But sometimes some characters or divisions naturally come across as more sympathetic than another. I’m not saying “one side is innocent and perfect and other other guilty and evil,” but sometimes one side comes across as a lighter shade of grey than another; it happens. If the devs would just embrace that and run with it and tell emotionally engaging stories, instead of spending so much time and energy trying to constantly backpedal or force a square peg in a round hole just for the sake of that original vision that just isn’t coming through.

- You can’t make a conflict where one heavily tyrannical and abusive faction holds complete power over another as a perfectly 50/50 “morally grey conflict” where “both sides are equally at fault.”

- You can’t take the freedom-fighting victim of horrific systematic abuse by two perpetrators of that horrific system and try to act like she’s “just as bad” or “on the same footing” as those abusers.

You can’t take a culture that thrives on robbing individuality, stripping free will, brainwashing resisters, and severely limiting the roles of its citizens based on their gender, magical ability, etc. and expect our modern freedom- and individuality-loving society to find them anything but restrictive and tyrannical.

“Moral Grey” can be just as CONTRIVED as any attempt at “black and white” or “happily-ever-after.” Because they’re still trying to force something that doesn’t fit.

I think part of what I love about Knock Out and Breakdown is that they’re such utter square pegs.

You’ve got a heavy duty mech with a cannon on his shoulder and hammers for  hands working as a physician’s assistant, delicately buffing Megatron’s inert corpse. And then Knock Out, with his dubious medical record and ambivalent regard for authority, who seems to have voluntarily rejected the advantage of flight because he prefers life on the streets. Where the cuss did Starscream find these two?

IDW’s backstory is charming but bland. Vain Knock Out, cosmetic surgeon to the stars, wedded to his slow but powerful grounder. No, there’s more here. Give me difficulty and ambiguity. I want to know more about these two oddballs who went so strong against the grain, who are trying so obviously to survive and stay together in a climate of hostility and contempt. Because there is more. A lot more.

honestly starscream is one of my favorite characters in the post-war IDW stories because he’s a fun twist on the fanfictiony old trope of “oh but he’s REALLY a good guy at heart”

see, Starscream got proclaimed to be “The Chosen One” by what is essentially a gigantic city-sized Transformer Apostle and all of the super-religious non-combatant cybertronians elected him to be President of Cybertron

so Starscream, the one Decepticon that loved being a conniving murderer more than any other Decepticon, is suddenly thrust in to a position of power where he has to straighten up and do what’s good for his people

except he fucking sucks at it

he’s trying to be a good person but it’s like fitting a square peg in to a round hole. he is so thoroughly an asshole that he struggles at making even the most basic of “right” decisions.

so basically he goes about his usual Starcreamy business doing shit like hiring robot brain doctors to modify the minds of people that want to cause civil unrest and being like “haha, well, it’s for the greater good, so it’s okay” and then he goes back to his office alone and immediately starts shitting his robot pants like “OH GOD THAT WAS THE WRONG THING TO DO WASN’T IT. FUCK FUCK I AM SO BAD AT BEING A GOOD PERSON. GOD CHRIST I AM SO BAD AT BEING A LEADER WHY DID I WANT THIS SO BAD”

it’s a lot of fun

Are you kidding me about Trump?

He fires the FBI Director who is the lead investigator in the Trump Russia scandal, WITHOUT a sufficient explanation (is this even legal while hes being investigated?).

He fires a US attorney while he was in the process of investigating both people in Trump’s cabinet AND a bank for money laundering that is closely related to Trump.  

He fires the acting attorney general just DAYS after warning them that the national security adviser could potentially be blackmailed by another country. 

Are you kidding me?? To non- Americans like myself, your country is trying to put a square peg in a round hole by acting that this isn’t extremely suspicious! 

“Holtzbert Wicked AU” just flitted through my synapses and I had so many conflicting emotions about it thAT I HAD TO SIT DOWN 💦