Not Voyager or DS9 relate but I really hope Discovery is dark and gritty and actually lives up to some potential something we didn't get from Previous Trek shows. If it does I just may give it a chance.
This isn’t DS9 / VOY in specific, but I still want to address this, because I have some passionate feelings about it.
It sounds like you want A Song of Ice and Star Trek, but that would be as incorrect an approach to the series as it would be if HBO made Game of Thrones without the betrayals, blood, pointless cruelty, and injustice. One of the reasons for the tone of that franchise is because George R. R. Martin is trying to knock down the rose-colored view of medieval times in fantasy. Likewise, one of the reasons for the tone of Star Trek is to oppose the relentless pessimism you find in science fiction.
There are a lot of shows and films with a dark, gritty tone about the future. Half the trailers you see in theaters now are for a world taken over by an oppressive regime, or a world in flames because of what we did to it, or a world in flames and under an oppressive regime, in which kindness and morality are as rare as diamonds and fleeting as desert frost. This is not to say that they are bad, just if you want gritty sci-fi, there is no lacking for options. Star Trek sets itself apart from these stories. Instead of assuming that we will continue being the worst of ourselves, Star Trek dares to propose that we can be the best of ourselves–that we can embrace curiosity, compassion, and knowlege, rather than fear and prejudice and greed. It says that the future can be different if we work for it. It speaks to people who are marginalized and shut out and different and says that they have the right to strive and dream. It speaks to people who are not and says “be better.”
The name of the new ship and the new series is Discovery. Does that sound gritty to you? Doesn’t sound like it to me, and I would be severely disappointed if they went along with the general trend and made a grimdark series.
Here are some things about Star Trek if you believe it has failed to live up to “some potential something,” and maybe you will think twice about giving it a chance.
- When NASA decided they needed to recruit a more diverse corps of astronauts, they turned to the cast of the Original Series. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, points to Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura as her inspiration. (Jemison later guest-starred in an episode of TNG, and Star Trek has never stopped inspiring the kids who grow up to be astronauts.)
- Janeway was the first female captain to lead the show, but there was also B'Elanna, the first female chief engineer who was part of the main cast. Both characters were not only intellectually brilliant but often took the lead when it came time to fight dudes who were between them and the Alpha Quadrant.
- In the height of the Cold War and its paranoia, Star Trek put a Russian character front and center on the bridge, and that’s why you have fans creating beautiful designs for uniforms with hijabs today.
- Avery Brooks signed onto Deep Space 9 because he wanted to portray a loving, supportive relationship between a black father and son. He even got them to change the ending of the series over it.
- Patrick Stewart insisted on not flinching away from the brutal, dehumanizing portrayal of torture in “Chain of Command,” and the writers consulted Amnesty International to make it as harsh and realistic as possible.
- Aron Eisenberg (Nog) got numerous calls from veterans praising his portrayal of PTSD.
- And then there is this confession. It is far and away the most liked and reblogged confession on the blog.
I would say that is potential realized.
Star Trek doesn’t just inspire, though. Star Trek confronts. From the very beginning it has held up a mirror to society, and through either allegory or visits to “history” – in other words, the present – calls us out. “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” with the black-and-white cookie people has their leader shocked that anyone could fail to see the ‘obvious’ point that his counterpart is inferior becuase of his coloration (black… on the left side) and pointedly has diverse actors in the foreground and background, something which they had to fight for. The whole of the Bajoran Occupation arc is about the hideous toll of colonialism and facism. Janeway confronts the question of euthanasia with Quinn, Enterprise has an AIDS allegory, Picard deals with demagogues and religious fantaticism and Kirk advocates respect for life even if it is not as we know it. Deep Space 9 warns of a time when we might shut away the homeless in internment camps not from malice but apathy.
Has Star Trek failed to live up to potential? Oh, you bet. There’s no excuse for the fact that it’s taken until 2016 to have an openly gay character. It has sometimes stood tiptoe on the line of something important and then drawn back. It’s tried to be a future without sexism but also wouldn’t let Mariana Sirtis and Gates McFadden use swords in the Robin Hood episode even though they’re the only ones who actually knew stage fencing. The “cultural expert” on Chakotay turned out to be a white guy who got all his information from Hollywood westerns, a real-life version of the “Apache Tracker” from Night Vale. The times when it does not love up, in other words, is when its bright future is hampered by present-day prejudice… not when it declines to be “gritty.”
Now it’s true that alongside this you have Janeway turning into a lizard and “NO MORE BLAH-BLAHS” and Miles O'Brien versus the shaving cream monster. And quite frankly, those are also an essential part of Star Trek, and I’m pretty sure there are episodes of everyone’s favorite dark and gritty franchises which are relentlessly dumb.
But if you think the point of Star Trek is just the visuals, just the space travel, just the fun of watching Shakespearian actors fling themselves over their leather seats as the camera shakes… you have missed the point of it. It has never been about just what’s on the screen.