Monday, September 25, 2017

Discovery is not Star Trek

First, if this was a new science fiction property I'd say that it was fantastic, and worth watching but I would have said that it "reminded me" of Star Trek yet I'd probably chastise the creators for making the good-guy ships and ray-guns look like Starfleet ships and phasers, (oh and and ripping off the idea of the Vulcan mind-meld) - yet overlook them as being minor rip-offs in contrast to the full-blown Star Trek homage that is Seth McFarlane's "The Orville". If this was the case I'd watch every episode with no apprehension or concern whatsoever.

But no, because this is actually Star Trek and Discovery is carrying the IP name with millions of devotees and a 50+ year legacy that both need and deserve to be respected, especially if intending to frame it within the prime universe (as opposed to the Kelvin timeline of J.J. Abrams creation) and if the first two episodes are anything to go by - that hasn't happened.

The plot here seems to centre on a single character, Commander Micheal Burnham who I'm branding the worst Starfleet Officer, second only to Lon Suder and even gives pre-redemption Tom Paris a run for his money. The idea of giving the spotlight to only a single character, especially one whom is not the captain is a fresh one but fails due to the characterisation, not due to Sonequa Martin-Green's splendid performance.

There was another two characters who appeared that had equally dubious motivations, Doug Jones' Science Officer Saru is a Kelpien, apparently a race with a reputation for cowardice in the Federation. While this justifies why we don't see them in later set series, it doesn't address what the fuck such an obvious coward is doing on the bridge of a Federation starship where he's third in command! It would be akin to making Reg Barclay the chief of security! There was another character, Ensign Nobody who gave a war lament in the middle of a battle "Why are we fighting? We're explorers not soldiers" demonstrating that the criteria for the Starfleet psychological tests slipped somewhat between Archer and Kirk's time.

I did make only one verbal reaction to what was on screen. Remember in one episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine when they install a holographic communicator allowing Captain Sisko speak with Captain Sanders and Michael Eddington on the bridge of the Defiant? Remember how distractingly shit it was and they used it once more before never mentioning it again? Well remember how it was considered "new technology" then, so it couldn't exist 120 years earlier, especially without the huge holographic ring to power the image and it would be ridiculous to have it as an apparently "normal" feature in standard crew quarters? Well now you can guess why I verbally reacted to the screen. My other non-verbal, but face scrunching reaction was to the obtuse opening titles with a complete failure on Jeff Russo's part to deliver a coherent theme with a line drawing "artistic" montage, something that would be far more appropriate to a documentary on the making of Discovery as opposed to the series itself.

Two elements I was counting on for this Star Trek incarnation to work was (1) a plausible or implausible social, Geo-political or even quasi-biological explanation for the Klingons, why they and their technology look like that and not in keeping with the established canon, and (2) a scientific (in Star Trek terms of the word) explanation for why Starfleet tech and designs on display here in some cases make the Enterprise E seem as advanced as the Searcher from Buck Rogers. But no. There isn't any, no mirror/alternate universes, chronometric distortion, godlike being influencing the natural order - feck it, I'd even settle it for being all someone's "dream" - I'm fine with all changes to canon so long as there's an in-universe reason! But nothing, nada, zilch and the series will suffer because of it because it's just too distracting the way it is. It is possible we'll get some explanation for either before the end but I won't hold out hope.

I believe any other problems delve into spoiler territory so enough now. Overall I think it's pretty solid and works as a show where things explode in space; something that's always welcome on TV. But this is not really Star Trek, it doesn't even feel like Star Trek let alone look like Star Trek. I reckon now they'll only be one season here and that's it. It won't save the franchise. It's too difficult not to draw comparisons to The Orville, which has aired three episodes already, better characterisation, better music (veteran composers) and opening titles (homage to ST: Voyager), better commentary on the human condition and the infusion of optimism at a time when we need it more than ever in our lifetimes - just with the occasional fart jokes! It looks and feels more Star Trek than Star Trek Discovery does and you can quote me on that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part IX

After some tense negotiations, the National Defense Authorization Act cleared the Senate in a 89-8 vote on Monday evening, pacing the way for the collaborative conference with the House Armed Services leaders on the final bill. The $700 billion defense policy bill for FY2018 aims to bolster depleted military forces and includes $640 billion in base funding and nuclear readiness as well as $60 billion for overseas combat operations. The military would get more Navy ships, fighter jets, surveillance aircraft, and troops than requested in POTUS45's budget request and also provides for increasing missile defense to shield South Korea.

However the Senate's NDAA also includes a measure that sets up a debate with the House over the creation of a Space Corps. The Senate legislation sponsored by Sens. Bill Nelson and Tom Cotton prohibits the creation of any separate command to oversee space operations within the Air Force and instead approved the creation of a new chief information warfare office with some authority over space and cyber issues. It is certain to set up a fight with the House during negotiations over a final version of the bill.

Source: Washington Examiner / Washington Post / World Bulletin / News Desk / USA Today

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

J.J. returns to save Star Wars

Well it's not like it needed saving really; The Force Awakens is rated at 90% and made over two billion dollars while Rogue One is considered one of the greatest stand-alone movies ever made and in about 90 days from now we'll have another entry into the franchise but J.J. Abrams is coming back nonetheless.

What he's saving us from is Colin Trevorrow. It had been "concerning" that Jurassic World's director Trevorrow's latest movie The Book of Henry was critically panned and sank harder than the Titanic at the box office because he was slated to co-write and direct Star Wars IX for a Summer 2019 release.

Following the disaster, Lucasfilm enlisted Jack Thorne to "doctor" Trevorrow and Derek Connolly's script of which they had expressed dissatisfaction but possibly stemming from this Trevorrow was becoming difficult to work with and Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy decided to part ways with him as the director. 

Yesterday Lucasfilm confirmed Abrams will replace Trevorrow as director and will co-write a new script the script with Chris Terrio allowing them an additional 5 months with a December 2019 release.

Previously Abrams has told the press that he was kicking himself he didn't opt to direct The Last Jedi, but at least he will be able to bookend the story he began, cementing his position in Jedi religious doctrine forever.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The United States Space Corps - Part VIII

The U.S. Senate plans to begin to discuss it's version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act this week. Its provisions include the creation of a Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) reporting to the SecDef with responsibility for DOD space, cyber and information programs. This contrasts the House-passed plan to create a Space Corps. Should the Senate proposal survive debate, then the debate between chambers will be one to watch.

Sen Bill Nelson, then NASA Payload Specialist
Sen. Bill Nelson, has filed an amendment to scuttle any attempts by the House to create a Space Corps by prohibiting that or any other type of new corps in the services.

Last week Maj. Gen. Earl Matthews U.S.A.F. (Ret.), vice president of DXC Technology‘s U.S. public sector enterprise security solutions group, has said other priority areas for the U.S.A.F. and DoD are at risk of being sidelined due to discussions on the creation a Space Corps. He wrote that developing U.S. space capability should concentrate on situational awareness as the current budget calls for the Air Force to spread its resources across several mission areas.

Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the creation of a Space Corps would lead to “enormous upheaval” without solving the key problems faced by the national security space enterprise today. While she admitted that the U.S.A.F. still has “a long way to go” with regards to efforts to adapt the space mission to current threats, she insisted the formation of a Space Corps would not help any of those efforts.

Meanwhile Rep. Mike Rogers continued to argue that he time is now to create a Space Corps, or something akin to it. “The Air Force is as fast as a herd of turtles as far as space is concerned,” he said, adding that a Space Corps would be a better steward of space matters than the Air Force, because there would be no competing interests as there are now with space falling under the Air Force’s aviation-focused structural umbrella. The Air Force’s inability to put space first has created acquisition and operational problems, he said. “I don’t think the Air Force can fix this. You can’t have two No. 1 priorities. The Air Force is focused on air dominance, as it should be.”

Sources: Air Force magazine / The Washington Examiner / Space Policy / / / Breaking Defense