The venerable Star Trek universe is really the only major pop culture property that can be claimed as certifiably leftist. But how do the newest batch of shows hold up? In a special crossover episode, Lyta Gold of Art for the End Times teams up with a lively panel of fellow podcasters and Trekkies—David Banks and Britney Gil (Iron Weeds), Leslie Lee III (Struggle Session), and Aaron Thorpe (Trillbilly Workers Party, Struggle Session, and Everybody Loves Communism)—to discuss the most recent Star Trek show to hit the airwaves, Strange New Worlds. Drawing on decades of collective Trekkie experience, they debate Paramount’s increasingly cynical approach to making Trek, and how the whole series succeeds (or fails) in imagining fully automated luxury space communism while still being created by capitalists.
Pre-Production/Studio/Post-Production: Dwayne Gladden
Lyta Gold: Hello and welcome to a very, very special crossover Star Trek episode. I’m Lyta Gold, host of Art for the End Times. With me today, we have…
Aaron Thorpe: I’m Aaron, Aaron Thorpe, from the Trillbillies. Also, from Struggle Session and Everybody Loves Communism. Yeah, I’m here to talk about Trek with you all.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, what’s up you all. I’m Leslie Lee III. I am the host of Struggle Session along with Aaron and my homie Jack Allison. I like to consider myself the Commander Sisko of podcasts. I’m so glad I made that claim before Aaron got a chance to get at it.
Aaron Thorpe: I didn’t even think of it. I didn’t think of it. Damn.
David Banks: Oh, no.
Britney Gil: I’m Britney. I am the producer of the Ironweeds podcast, as well as the audio edition of REALLIFE Magazine and Reaction, which is my pet project. A show about the history of right-wing movements in the United States.
David Banks: I am David Banks. I am also a co-host of Ironweeds, along with Britney and our third, Chris Scully, who’s never watched Star Trek so he didn’t come.
Lyta Gold: How can you even be friends with somebody who hasn’t seen Star Trek?
Aaron Thorpe: He doesn’t like Star Wars, does he?
David Banks: I don’t think so.
Aaron Thorpe: Okay, good.
David Banks: No. No, he’s really into anime. I think –
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, that’s fine.
David Banks: I think that makes up for all of it, I’m told.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. We are doing this very special crossover episode, hopefully the first of many. We’re going to talk about Star Trek. To start off, since that’s a very big topic and we could literally be here for weeks in a bunker just talking about Star Trek, we are going to start with the newest one, which I guess is reverse order, but also not reverse order in a way. The newest show is called Strange New Worlds. It’s a prequel of a sort. It’s set 10 years before The Original Series. Yeah, it’s the new one. It’s unlike some of nu-Trek, which is… There’s old Trek, the classic series of which there are four or five depending on how you count, and then there’s nu-Trek, which are the new ones, often spelled N-U, nu-Trek, because it’s, I don’t know, I think, funky. Of them, I think, probably of the new ones, I think we would probably agree that Strange New Worlds is the best, although I put in a plug for the animated series, Lower Decks.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Absolutely.
Aaron Thorpe: Absolutely. I was telling you guys in DMs, I tried to watch some of nu-Trek and U-Trek. I tried to watch Discovery, I tried to watch Picard. Hated it. I don’t even consider Strange New Worlds as a part of that thing. Although, it still has some of the same problems, which we’ll talk about. This is almost like a reboot.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: In a way.
Lyta Gold: Especially because it’s trying to pick up the imagery and the vibe and the storytelling structure of The Original Series.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. This was actually soft booted in Discovery, I think, season two. The reason these characters are back: Pike, Spock, and I think Rebecca Romijn’s character all premiered in Star Trek: Discovery, and then they spun it off of this. Basically, Paramount+ has a Star Trek show going at all times. That’s how they keep you subscribed.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, because –
Aaron Thorpe: They’re like, y’all keep drinking that garbage. I’m like yes, I will keep drinking it.
Lyta Gold: Yes, I will, thank you. I will.
David Banks: Sir, yes sir.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: I am not subscribed and have to resort to means that I better not talk about. It’s hard. It is very difficult.
Aaron Thorpe: Well let me know after the recording, because I pay for that shit. $15 a month. The only thing I watch is Star Trek. I’ve seen basically all of them. I pay for that shit.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, they’ve really got a vice grip around our nuts on this one. It’s really unfair, because it used to be on Netflix. Some of the shows were on Netflix. Yeah. No, everything is on Paramount. If you want Star Trek you are now stuck with fucking Paramount+, which has nothing else. Just [inaudible].
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Nothing else.
Britney Gil: It has Bar Rescue, so I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one.
Lyta Gold: Oh, that’s fair. That’s fair.
Leslie Lee III: Evil [inaudible] late night TV shows.
Britney Gil: Speaking of just trash right down the gullet.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, Evil and Yellowstone. The Yellowstone universe is coming as well. That’s pretty good.
David Banks: We’ve been told to watch that. We’ve heard really good things about it.
Leslie Lee III: Hold up. Hold up. Hold up. See, this is the problem with the left. Yellowstone is the most popular goddamn show on TV and also one of the shows with the best, I don’t know if I would say best politics, but he spends a lot of time highlighting Indigenous issues. It is about some good old boy right-wingers and cops, but it makes them all look absolutely horrible. The worst sort of gangsters in the world. It’s actually an interesting show that all your mamas and your papas are watching and cheering them [inaudible] and all the shoot them up. There actually are some decent political message agendas. People got to get into Yellowstone. You gotta know what’s going on with the Duttons, otherwise you just are not in touch with real America.
Aaron Thorpe: You’re not in touch with real middle America. Exactly. Now I got to check that show out. I’ve heard very good things about it.
David Banks: Aye, aye, commander.
Aaron Thorpe: Aye, commander. Only one aye, we’re not pirates here.
David Banks: Yeah. Right.
Lyta Gold: Oh, man. That’s a good way to get into it, because the reason we love Star Trek isn’t just because we love Star Trek because we’re big nerds, it’s because the politics of it are super interesting. And as leftists, that’s an interesting thing for us to explore as much as we also like it for other qualities that aren’t related to its politics. That might be the place to start. Let’s maybe get into why Trek has had such an impact, such an influence, and where it fits into a leftist ethos.
Aaron Thorpe: I mean, I’ll just say, because I think out of you guys, I think I’m the novice Trekkie. I was recording an episode with Leslie, Trek Session, and he mentioned, I think you’ve watched condensed six years of TV in a couple months, which is pretty much true. I’m a novice. It’s weird, because I’ve always liked space, I’ve always liked the future. Once I became radicalized, it was obvious that I should check out Trek, but it wasn’t until a couple months ago. For me as leftist, the only way we’ll get to space or be a space faring species, if that’s ever going to happen, is if we collectivize the means of production.
We have to escape this exploitative, expansionist political economic system, so that we can harness the productive capacities of our society to get there. Trek, even though I guess, I’ve never seen The Original Series, but even at the time, I’m pretty sure it was revolutionary – Pun intended – For people. As a leftist, I mean, it’s space communism. It’s a post-scarcity… The first interracial kiss. ’90s Trek also broke barriers – Could have done a little bit better, but broke barriers with LGBTQ issues. It’s like, if you’re a leftist and you like these themes and you want to see them presented in a utopian way that’s different from a lot of sci-fi, Trek is where it’s at.
David Banks: I’ve always been into the future. I go there constantly. I’m constantly going into the future. I think if you haven’t watched Star Trek before, I think that the basic premise for enjoying the hour of audio that we’re about to record is just the idea that Star Trek is a world where energy is limitless, which powers everything from interstellar starships to matter replicators and hologram projections that basically make everything free. Then what ends up happening is that humans end up connecting with other races, make the Federation, and then go explore the universe and each other, which is the premise of every holodeck episode. Yeah. That’s just, usually I think, pretty beautiful.
Britney Gil: Yeah. There’s the overused quote by Mark Fisher, that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Star Trek, it is one of the only truly mainstream popular TV shows in the ’90s and aughts that did that. I think that’s given it a lot of staying power, and it’s also one of those things that, anything that can sneak socialism into people’s minds must be protected. I think that is where some of the failures of nu-Trek, that if we start to switch to that, we might talk about. There are a lot of successes and failures in nu-Trek that, I think, get further from the socialism and more towards issues of identity and representation, which are of course important, but also, at least for myself, having come to Star Trek from a very… I was a kid. I was 10, I think, the first time I started watching Star Trek. It shaped my worldview in a really important way.
Lyta Gold: It really is our only major pop culture franchise that’s leftist. For those reasons, I think we tend to be a little bit protective of its leftist qualities, because what else do we have? It’s this. Once in a while something will happen in another show or another movie, it’ll be like, oh, that’s nice. This is it. This is our space utopia. This is our communist space utopia. We don’t get another one.
Aaron Thorpe: Absolutely.
There’s also [very little] utopian fiction in general, or utopian storytelling in general. This has been the big one for so long.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. I wanted to mention too, maybe Leslie could back me up on this, tell me if it’s bullshit or not, but I saw this in a Reddit post, couldn’t find a source, the original source, but apparently Gene Roddenberry, one of his ex-wives said that he was a fan of communism of the Chinese variety. He liked Maoism. That’s what I heard. Which is like, dude, if that’s the case… I mean, I have no doubts that this guy was a comrade, but if that’s the case that it’s not just about the ideas, but he was also interested in a stringent political program to materialize this worldview, I think that’s pretty tight. I think that’s pretty cool.
David Banks: Yeah. What would that be? A space surrounds the planets, right?
Britney Gil: Yeah, I can’t think of a single landlord in Star Trek, so it does [inaudible].
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, but they’re not part of the Federation. See, all the aliens that aren’t part of the Federation are representations of human aspects, right? You got the Klingons, even though the Klingons are pretty tight, because they’re honorable, but I guess they’re supposed to be war-like. The war-like aspect of humanity. Then you got the Romulans, who use cold science and logic to fuck people over. Then you got the Ferengi, which… I mean, I should explain, because if you guys don’t watch, the Ferengi, problematic in a lot of ways. I mean, the Ferengi are basically a hyper-capitalist civilization.
All three of those, and more alien races, I guess, they all reflect aspects of humanity. That’s one thing I like about Trek is we have overcome these societal issues, but they’re reflected back to us in alien species. Whereas a show like Babylon 5 – And I don’t want to get into it because that’s another show – But Babylon 5 is like, we take those problems with us into the 23rd century. Star Trek is a lot more optimistic in its view of humanity, which, I mean, if you’re a communist or socialist or leftist of any type, you think that the world can get better. Just gels with our politics.
David Banks: Yeah. There are those moments, usually it’s put in the mouth of Jean-Luc Picard, of when he starts talking about how humans used to be, and now we are perfected. Money is no longer the driving force of our society, kind of thing. When he says that, he’s like, wow, we can do that. Especially when he says it to people who are freeze dried in space or whatever and get rehydrated and whatever.
Lyta Gold: Like you do.
Aaron Thorpe: I will say that, you’re talking about – Just for the audience – You’re talking about the last, I think, the last episode of the first season of Next Generation.
David Banks: Yeah, the [inaudible].
Aaron Thorpe: Cryogenically frozen group from the 21st century. One of the guys is a country singer or something. He’s the best one, though. Then there are these bankers. In my opinion, honestly, when I watched it, I was like, he should just shove them out of the airlock. Once this guy starts talking about, oh, I need to get on the phone so I could call my bank. Dude, it’s been 300 years. What the fuck are you talking about? Yeah. That was –
David Banks: Irredeemable. To a penal colony.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Just airlock them, man.
David Banks: That’s also interesting canon in Star Trek, is that New Zealand is a penal colony.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Also, something, too, that Australia and somebody said [inaudible] that Australia was the last country to join the Federation, or the United Earth. I was like, yeah, it probably makes sense. Yeah.
David Banks: Yeah. That tracks. That tracks, only because the United States destroyed itself in the Third World War.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, we’re not even a country anymore. Exactly.
Lyta Gold: It’s actually very disturbing to look at the Star Trek timeline, because we’re matching it really well. Because it’s supposed to be major riots in 2024, so it’s a good [inaudible] for that.
David Banks: We’re almost there.
Lyta Gold: We’re almost there.
Aaron Thorpe: For anybody who has… Nothing to do with Trek. Lay that out. Yes, utopian, but it doesn’t start off that way. I mean, we go through 100 years or so, a series of wars. Then there’s a eugenics war. There’s mass starvation and violence, and then you get the cool shit. Then you get the replicators and stuff like that.
David Banks: The one bit of bigotry that remains in the Star Trek universe… Well, there is some towards other aliens, which you see mostly in The Original Series that they’ll do that a lot, but then also against people who are genetically altered. It is the leftover cultural memory of a great war against genetically modified humans. In fact, in Strange New Worlds, we have, I think she’s a distant relative of the big one, Khan, the antagonist of the second Star Trek movie, Wrath of Khan.
Leslie Lee III: I don’t agree with how the Khans were treated entirely, but there were some points made by the people, by the Federation. The Federation had some points. Strange New Worlds is trying to make us very accepting of the genetically engineered. I don’t know. I have my doubts about this. I’ll see where it goes, but we’re basically… We have Khan, and all his friends were assholes, so it’s like 50 assholes. Then we have Rebecca Romijn and Dr. Bashir. These are our only examples of these advanced, genetically modified humans. I think certainly Bashir was engineered by his rich parents so that he could get in some prominent position and lord over us. Actually, I do agree with the pogroms. Yes, they should have gotten rid of all of them. I’m coming on [inaudible].
Aaron Thorpe: You heard it here first folks, Leslie agrees with [inaudible]. Just genetically modified humans, that is.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. That was a clumsy moment I thought, too, in the episode about it. I think this was the third episode, and it was interesting. They stumbled on a colony where the genetically modified people used to live. Then you find out that Rebecca Romijn’s character, who I guess is number one, is we’re calling. I think her name is Una?
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Una, number one. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. You find out that she’s a descendant of these genetically modified people. They try to make a very… Compare it to racism in a way. But it’s really not a workable analogy because it’s based on the fact that there was this terrible war because these people tried to… If anything, these people were the white supremacist of [crosstalk].
Leslie Lee III: They were the master race. They were the master race.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what they were going for.
Leslie Lee III: Exactly.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, shit.
Leslie Lee III: Aren’t we being intolerant by not tolerating intolerance?
Britney Gil: Yeah, who’s the minority now? Geez. What’s with the –
Leslie Lee III: I got to say…
Britney Gil: She saved her whole fucking crew, though, with her blood or whatever. Then, I don’t know how spoilery we’re getting, I guess, right…
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Okay. Stop. If you really want to watch the whole show and not get spoiled, here is where you stop. Here’s a spot.
Britney Gil: Yeah. She saves the whole fucking crew with her blood, her special blood, and in the last… They take her to jail. It’s a penal colony. I don’t even know what these places are like. How much work is there? I mean, has she at least got comfortable quarters? I need to know, because this is not acceptable.
Aaron Thorpe: Apparently for seven years, because in the season finale of Strange New Worlds when Pike goes into the future, seven years into the future, and he asks LAN, who is, I guess, the descendant of Khan, he asked her, where is Una? Where’s number one? She’s been at this penal colony for seven years. This is the thing, we’re talking about the politics, and this is a show created by human beings who live under capitalism, so obviously it’s going to have some fucked up shit. Sometimes I look at the show, and I look at Trek and I’m like, is the Federation, are they good guys? Are they not imperialist expansionist motherfuckers? So what if the Ferengi or the Klingons – Which, they do end up joining – But so what if the Romulans don’t want to join the Federation? That should be fine. I mean, I would want to live in the Federation.
Lyta Gold: It’s funny, I thought it was one of the really cool things about the season, we got a real look at the Vulcan penal system, which is whenever a Vulcan becomes a murderer or behaves illogically and becomes a murderer and does something terrible, they’re rehabilitated, there are rehabilitation centers.
Britney Gil: Yeah. We bring them back to logic.
David Banks: They’re challenged to chess in the park.
Lyta Gold: It’s unclear if that’s how the rest of the Federation does it. I guess they don’t. I was like, okay, we’re looking at what another species, another approach could be to when, even in a utopian society, some people choose to behave badly and do terrible things, which would happen.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Britney Gil: Yeah. I mean, the question of, is the Federation the good guys? I remember as a kid, TNG all the way, and DS9 would come on afterwards. I was already supposed to be in bed by now. Honestly, DS9, it was just meaner. Everybody wasn’t friends the whole time. It wasn’t until I got into, maybe in my 20s and returned to DS9, which I hadn’t liked as a child, and realized that this was the dark side of Trek, that this was the opportunity to ask those questions of, who really are the good guys in this universe? It turns out that nobody is. There aren’t good guys, because everybody is complicated. Well, not everybody’s complicated humans, everybody’s complicated beings. I’m hoping that the way that season one of Strange New Worlds ends, will open up some of that for season two, looking at how Pike moves forward in this system that he’s obviously a little bit of a renegade and whatnot. But now that his closest friend has been imprisoned, I’m curious to see how critical of that systemic injustice – Is it injustice? We don’t know yet.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. If he’s going to take the Sisko route, where in DS9, Sisko basically… I mean, he did the right thing. But he basically commits war crimes for the goal of protecting the gains of the Federation. Is Pike going to do some black ops kind of thing and break number one out of this prison or something? We were talking about Pots too. I want to mention that this episode, I just watched it, what’s it called? “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”, which is the sixth episode of Strange New World. That one I found interesting, because that one is basically an adaptation of, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Where you have this child who is the source of all the wealth and prosperity of this planet, or this city, I guess, but this child suffers in a dark prison-like room, and is fed under a door. Strange New Worlds picks that up, but there’s this line where one of the characters says to Pike, do not children in your Federation suffer for the prosperity of all? I guess this is also a criticism about nu-Trek. I feel like the writers, whether it’s in Strange New Worlds or Discovery or Picard, are placing 21st century – And I know Trek has always done this, it’s always been allegorical of the 21st century, of our time – But when she says to him, do not children of your Federation suffer? It’s like, no, because the Federation’s post-scarcity.
I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes the writing in nu-Trek, including Strange New Worlds, feels a little clunky, because it really feels like the writers do not have the imagination of the 23rd century. It feels a little bit like… Even in the first episode of Strange New Worlds where Pike is explaining how the Federation was formed and how the conflict on Earth eventually got resolved, and you see fucking videos of January 6. It was like, dude, okay, I get it, [political] turmoil. Come on, you’re being very partisan here. You could have used an example from anything else, but to make it like, oh, January 6. Remember these fascist guys? The people that prevented us from fucking creating Star Fleet in the Federation? I’m talking a little bit too much now, but it’s a little bit clunky sometimes, I think.
Leslie Lee III: Well, Aaron, you didn’t finish Discovery. That means you didn’t get to the…
David Banks: Oh my God, yeah.
Leslie Lee III: …Episode where it’s revealed that Stacy Abrams is the president of the Earth, but a far future post-Federation Earth after the Federation has fallen. So even in their wildest imaginations, they imagine that they will only rule over a fallen galaxy. One where the best thing that ever happened to humanity has already been destroyed and gone away. [inaudible].
David Banks: The only thing worse than that is when your liberal friend shows that to you and they’re like, isn’t this cool? Stacy?
Britney Gil: Yeah, it’s painful.
David Banks: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Or Elon Musk being referenced with Zefram Cochrane, which is the guy who invented the warp drive and shit.
Britney Gil: Oh, that was…
David Banks: That was fucking terrible.
Britney Gil: That’s fucking fighting words, man. Holy…
David Banks: Yeah. The only way I can rationalize that in my head is that Lorca was actually from the mirror universe.
Lyta Gold: Doesn’t make sense, though.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s what everybody says. That’s what everybody says to make themselves…
David Banks: That’s the only thing I can do.
Aaron Thorpe: …Feel comfortable, but no.
David Banks: That’s all I can do.
Lyta Gold: No, no.
Aaron Thorpe: These people really revere Elon Musk. They really like him.
David Banks: I’m not saying it’s a good explanation, it’s just what I need to keep going.
Aaron Thorpe: I get that. I get that.
Lyta Gold: Oh my God. The un-creativity goes to the point of… I swear to God, Captain Pike is wearing a North Face jacket at one point. A lot of the regular costumes… I like –
Leslie Lee III: I mean, I got to be honest, I watched a bit of Strange New Worlds, I didn’t watch every minute of it, and I wasn’t glued to the TV. It was on in the background. A lot of the problem I had with it was most of the dialogues, interactions, and characters felt very modern. It felt like this show could have been set today. It was written as if it was today. Even the comedy and the humor. I had the same problem with Orville, but that was obviously deliberate because it started off as a satirical set, and they had a lot of modern joke and joke writing in it. This show feels like it is afraid to have that stoic Shakespearean tone that was the signature of Star Trek. That was how you were able to take all these silly costumes and aliens and set and really believe in them and really feel like they were real, because the actors were taking them seriously. They took their fictional jobs seriously. It seems like they are like goofballs, and they have the vibe of Joss Whedon’s Star Trek.
David Banks: Yes.
Lyta Gold: It was very Joss Whedon. The dialogue is so… People often say it’s like Marvel. I’m like, we have to be specific out patient zero, because it’s Joss Whedon as filtered through Marvel.
Britney Gil: Right.
Aaron Thorpe: You’re right. It’s very Whedon, Sorkinesque. It’s very quippy. Strange New Worlds, that’s why I could not watch Discovery. I didn’t watch Picard, fuck Picard. I watched the first episode, and like, nah. Discovery, at least, I would watch an episode of each season and try to get into it. But it’s like, dude, this feels like you guys are supposed to be fucking operating on a starship. You’re supposed to be military officers. You’re supposed to be stoic. Why are you bantering as if it’s a high school lunchroom?
I came in here to be like, you know what? I like Strange New Worlds, and I’m going to give it a shot. But it’s just all of nu-Trek. I really do think that it’s a lack of character development, as Leslie was saying. I don’t want to get at the actors. I feel like if they were given better material… It’s just a different time. I mean, you had Patrick Stewart, who’s a Shakespearean actor. You had Shakespearean actors in alien makeup that would make… I would cry.
Then I’m watching Strange New Worlds, and the music starts playing, because they’re trying to elicit emotion out of you. Whereas in Next Generation, you would just hear the hum of the warp core while a really intense conversation is going on. This one, there’s no substance to it. [inaudible].
David Banks: Yeah, I think there’s two things. One, as leftists we got to do the materialist analysis. That is that, in the classic Treks, one, they would have an open writer’s room. You could send them scripts.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, okay.
David Banks: You had a very wide range of writing, and the writing could also be fairly amateurish, but then you also strike gold sometimes. There’s that. There were also so many of them. The seasons are triple, almost, what these nu-Treks offer. And so you could have really bad episodes and you’re just like, okay, well, let’s move past…
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, because there are like 20 episodes in the season.
David Banks: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Britney Gil: Or you’d even just tell people like, oh, don’t bother with season one of Next Generation. Just skip it. You can’t do that anymore.
David Banks: Yep, the entire…
Aaron Thorpe: Or even DS9, you could… No. Actually, you shouldn’t, because DS9 gets into serialization. But still, you could skip over a lot of episodes in the first season of DS9 if you wanted to.
David Banks: Yeah, yeah. I mean there is an… Right after “Encounter at Farpoint”, the episode right after the two-parter of Next Generation, is an episode where people from what I can only describe as Africa Planet, show up…
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, hell, yeah. That episode.
David Banks: Yeah. They show up and steal a white woman to add it to his haram, and then they have to fight with poison-tipped, [inaudible] things. It’s awful.
Aaron Thorpe: No, I can’t believe that episode. I’m not saying they should take it down off of Paramount. I’m not saying that. Keep it up there in its historical context, but it’s just crazy that that shit came out.
David Banks: Yeah. So that stuff can happen. So there’s that. But then the second thing I think is also, because now you have these really professionalized writers that have a system and a formula that they churn out stuff that… Of course, it’s going to sound like everything else because they have to be able to write for nine different shows. That’s all they do, and it’s a very small group of people that get to do this stuff.
I will say, though, that Strange New Worlds – I’m trying to keep positive here – Is that they do elicit some serious emotional moments, at least from me. One was definitely the episode where they’re all in a fairy-tale book. That one’s wonderful.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. I liked that one a lot.
Lyta Gold: I loved that, yeah.
David Banks: But then also when – And again, spoilers, we warned you – When Hemmer dies in the ninth episode…
Lyta Gold: It was genuinely funny. I laughed.
Aaron Thorpe: Man, I didn’t feel anything
Britney Gil: I sobbed. I sobbed when Hemmer died.
David Banks: Oh, I felt it, felt it hard, felt it hard.
Aaron Thorpe: Really? You know why I didn’t feel anything? Because I just thought about it. You were just talking about it, David. Because I had 20 episodes a season to get to know these characters, to get to see them in their best moments and their worst moments, I actually developed a love and a relationship with these characters. How the fuck am I supposed to feel bad for Hemmer? Which is really tight, actually, that they went back to Star Trek: Enterprise to bring up this other sub-race, or whatever, of the Andorians. I thought that was really cool because I also like Enterprise a lot.
But he dies in the season finale, and they make it the scene where he falls out of the aircraft or whatever. He’s caught suspended in the sunbeam as he’s falling to the Earth, and you’re supposed to be sad about it. But it’s like, collectively over that first season you had maybe 20 minutes of speaking time. You seem like a cool character, but give me 20 episodes and, over time, maybe then I’ll sob. No, no.
Britney Gil: I think it helps that Hemmer plays a huge role in the episode before, “The Elysian Kingdom”, and he’s a really important part of another very emotional moment at the end of that episode when his daughter joins the Nebula, and it’s all very… It’s silly when you describe it. And it is kind of… Speaking of funky writing, I’ve just got to get this off my chest, the fact that Rukiya, his daughter, is taken away and then almost instantly brought back as an adult, so I guess she can comfort her father that he made the right decision. It’s instant gratification. You have no patience for ambiguity or for him to have to move through the world and wonder if that was the right thing to do or not.
But anyway, Hemmer’s performance in that moment is really, I thought, very evocative. And I wonder if that’s maybe what primed me to feel very, very sad. Discovery and Picard, there are a lot of deaths in those shows that are not deserved. You do not deserve my emotions from that, especially Picard.
Lyta Gold: Oh, God.
Britney Gil: But I did feel Hemmer was dealt with really well. And yeah, I felt something.
Lyta Gold: I just think it was quiet.
Aaron Thorpe: Actually, can I ask… Go on. Sorry, [inaudible].
Lyta Gold: Well, doing the whole episode was kind of bogus, because in that particular episode where Hemmer dies, they were doing Alien poorly. Yeah, we had chest-burster aliens from the movie Alien. I’ve seen Alien. Ripley, none of you are. And he’s suddenly been infected with the aliens from Alien, and then he’s like, no, no, no. They’re like, we can help you because we have super technology because it’s Star Trek. And then he’s like, no, there’s no time. And I’m like, I don’t think so. I don’t buy that.
Britney Gil: I totally bought that because the premise is that the Gorn… They reproduce extremely rapidly, and it depends on what alien species is their host –
Aaron Thorpe: Okay. Okay, Yeah.
Britney Gil: – So they didn’t know how much time they had.
Lyta Gold: But they have technology. They could do something. It was very like, no, no, no. There’s no time. I’m sorry. Your contract’s up.
Aaron Thorpe: Well, because the Gorn had… Their biological system was evolved to the point where you could not detect them with any instruments or anything like that. So I guess, I will also say, too, I’m kind of like Picard. It’s not that I hate kids. I don’t really like kids in shows. Unless you’re a good kid actor. The kids from Stranger Things, whatever you feel about that show, those kids are awesome.
Okay, so the doctors, right. Everyone has their favorite doctor. Strange New Worlds… I don’t know the actor’s name. Black guy, I’m assuming he’s from somewhere in Africa. I think he’s a good actor. Well, he’s all right in the show. But possibly, if he’d gotten better material, he could be great. I just did not like the whole daughter thing. First of all, again, I don’t like kids in shows like that. But also, too, it was another thing where it’s like, I’m supposed to feel bad for his daughter because she has a terminal illness. She has to be kept in a transporter or whatever like that before she gets…
Lyta Gold: How could they not keep Hemmer in the transporter? You’ve got the technology! That’s what I’m saying.
Aaron Thorpe: But it was also just, I don’t really feel bad for this little girl or her father because you haven’t given me enough time to care about these characters. She’s just a little girl. So that’s why I’m supposed to care, because she’s a little girl. She’s cute, which she is. She’s adorable. But again, I think a lot of this could be mitigated, not even just with the writing. I think just give it 20 episodes. It’s on Paramount+. You have billions of dollars. There’s no reason why you can’t just make even a 15-episode season of this thing. But I digress.
Lyta Gold: It’s funny, because the show isn’t… And sometimes it can be really good, and other times they seem very afraid to try things that are new. The Ursula Le Guin episode – I mean, I loved it because it was an Ursula Le Guin episode – But it’s interesting that they didn’t credit her at all. It was very obviously based on her ideas. And then they did Aliens, Ridley Scott’s Aliens. And then the final episode is a retread of a classic TOS episode. And it’s an interesting interpretation. At a certain point, if they did more episodes, they’d also have to do more new things instead of just stealing all their older ideas. And I bet the writers could handle it because… Again, the things I liked about the fairy-tale episode is it’s thematically consistent. And even the kid showing up at the end as a grown woman is itself a fairy-tale. It’s a fantasy about being able to save your child, which is not possible.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s true. That’s true. I didn’t think of that.
Lyta Gold: So there’s room for them to do some actual good writing, but will they be allowed to, given the constraints, given that Paramount is here to have a Star Trek show on all the time so that you will subscribe?
Aaron Thorpe: I mean, I’m interested, too, to see where… I know we’re talking about the show. But the season finale where apparently it’s alluded to that there’s going to be a war with the Romulans, but I guess that’s in like seven years. And Una gets taken. And I hope they stick with the episodic format because that was another difference with Strange New Worlds. So all of the other nu-Trek was serialized. So it was all this plot that went throughout the seasons and episodes, which isn’t really new to Trek. DS9 did it. But DS9 did it better, I think. Because I think DS9… I’m not sure. Maybe you guys can correct me, but I think DS9, at least they had some episodes planned out ahead of time.
I would hear in Strange New Worlds that the writers basically didn’t know what the fuck they were doing, which is why there are some plots that don’t really close, and things aren’t resolved. So I’m just worried that Strange New Worlds… I want them to keep doing it episodically. If they can have the thread, I guess, a narrative thread throughout without beating you over the head with it, that’d be nice. So with the season finale, you can have some resolution of whatever was going on behind the scenes throughout the season. So hopefully they do that.
David Banks: You know what really grinds my self-sealing stem bolts is…
Lyta Gold: That’s such a good episode.
David Banks: That was a good one, right?
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, that was a good one.
David Banks: If you don’t know what I’m saying, you just have to keep watching Star Trek until that joke makes sense.
Britney Gil: A fate worse than death.
David Banks: Yeah, yeah. One thing that I like that Strange New Worlds is doing that all the other nu-Treks except for Lower Decks keep making this mistake that I’m about to describe, is that they have this obsession with trauma, with personal trauma in these nu-Treks. In Strange New Worlds, they have traumas. Families are dead. And they’re like, yeah, I ran to Star Fleet because… Uhura’s parents are dead, and Pike knows the exact moment and when and how he dies, and he’s fucked up because of that. But then they put that aside, or they talk about it for a while, and then it drives other character development or other plots. But you don’t have Michael Burnham just face-up crying for like five minutes.
Aaron Thorpe: While the music is soaring for no reason.
Lyta Gold: Oh my God.
Britney Gil: Yeah, for no reason.
Aaron Thorpe: Incongruous, it’s just like…
David Banks: And she’s just spiraling in space, and she’s crying and laughing or… I mean, obviously, Sonequa Martin-Green’s an incredible actress. She can sell it. But I’m like, why? Why are you sad right now? [crosstalk]
Aaron Thorpe: You’re in space.
Lyta Gold: Exactly. Space is cool. They’re there because they want to be there.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. I actually don’t think she’s that good of an actress. I actually think she’s quite bad in this and The Walking Dead, quite bad, unfortunately. She seems like she could be good with the right material, but not the material she’s given. But actually, one of the things I disliked about Strange New Worlds, I thought there was way, way, way too much trauma. I guess there’s more in Discovery.
Britney Gil: Far, far more.
Leslie Lee III: I was sick of hearing about Pike’s shit after the first episode. I was like, all right, you got your backstory [in the] first episode. We’ll pick this up in the next season or maybe in the season finale. I didn’t know that the very next episode he was going to be giving a PowerPoint presentation about his future death. He literally does this the first meeting, the first people he’s in front of, he says, I had a vision of my own death. It’s happening in 10 years. I’m going to die in pain and suffering. And today, that’s why I wanted to talk to you about whatever… It was so strange they kept coming back to it. I thought it was just going to be the premise of the show.
And in old TV shows, a lot of times, dope premises would just get dropped because it was the pilot episode. So you wouldn’t even pick it up until next season or maybe never at all. But this show is not like a traditional TV show. It’s not made like the old Treks are. And the form limits its ability to be a proper Star Trek show because, as we’ve been saying, you need 20 episodes of the season, it can’t be just the 10. You need to spend more time on it. You need to put out episodes, hear the fan reactions, and then adjust the characters, their interactions. I could tell, with the modern streaming shows, if something is bad in the first episode, it’s going to be bad in every single episode –
David Banks: That’s true.
Leslie Lee III: …That season because there’s no time for feedback. They just shoot them straight through, all written by the same person, a lot of time directed by the same people, no variety, no diversity. They can try to mix it up, but at the end of the day, the streaming wars have twisted what TV was into something completely different. And it’s hard for a show like Star Trek to really live and breathe in this modern world of TV.
Certainly, Strange New Worlds is the best attempt at that by far. But as you said, one of the episodes, and one of the best episodes, is just a rip off of a short story from Ursula Le Guin. If that’s the level of creativity they have with 10 episodes, why are they making this show? You should have a little bit more to do, to say with Star Trek. Even the idea that it’s a backdoor pilot for something, for a spinoff character, prequel character who died ages ago in Star Trek.
It’s like, what are you doing that’s new? Why are you making this show other than Paramount+ needs content? No matter what creativity you put into it. But frankly, when I see The Orville, which is a show I have a lot of issues with, it is a lot closer to a Star Trek show than even Strange New Worlds. It’s certainly much closer than Discovery or Picard. And I don’t even like that show, but they hire those Star Trek writers.
David Banks: And some of those actors, too.
Leslie Lee III: They do episodic stories. Even though they have all of this goofy humor, there’s some approximation of the tone of Star Trek that you don’t really get in the nu-Trek. Strangely, they all have an aesthetic of the video games that were inspired by Star Trek as opposed to Star Trek, especially Discovery. It just looks like Mass Effect, almost.
Lyta Gold: Oh my God. Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Actually, that’s a really good point. I mean, everything you said, but especially the streaming. And maybe this is a problem, too, where I feel like when everything is trying to be prestige TV now, everything is trying to have this glossy veneer of this…
Leslie Lee III: Gloss, yes.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, a glossiness of this high-value, high-quality, value production, whatever. I think that ’90s Trek, not only did it have 20 episodes a season, but it also didn’t take itself too seriously. That’s why you’d have episodes where… I’m thinking of Voyager, not “Distant Origin”. There’s another one where Janeway and one of the lieutenants turn into amphibian-like creatures.
Britney Gil: Paris, yes.
Aaron Thorpe: I mean, I haven’t watched the original, so I know there are terrible episodes, too. I’m just thinking of the ’90 shows. I mean, even the Next Generation, the episode where Tasha Yar dies. And she inexplicably dies after getting hit with this fucking sentient black goo. I mean, it’s just terrible.
But then the episode after that would be a fucking banger, where Picard is serving as Data’s fucking lawyer to explain how he’s a human, sentient being. And I can’t imagine that Strange New Worlds, with streaming in mind and with this prestige TV in mind, that they would try to do something like that. And also, too, Leslie brought up Michael Burnham and Pike, in this one, you immediately get a trauma dump. They trauma dump you immediately, within the first couple episodes.
David Banks: Red flag.
Aaron Thorpe: I had no idea about Picard, his background. Picard’s history was never even fucking explained, right?
David Banks: No, it wasn’t. No.
Aaron Thorpe: It was never explained. It’s just like, oh dude, this is the fucking captain of the starship. Okay, word, I’m on board. He doesn’t like kids. Okay, cool. And that’s all you know about him.
Britney Gil: I mean, he had weird mysterious shit, he was clearly not a jolly fellow, and it was hinted that maybe he had a rough childhood, but no, but nothing on the order of what is unveiled in Picard.
Lyta Gold: You do get things in his heart. He had a fight when he was a teenager, young adult, and he got into a fight with a Nausicaan and the artificial heart. But there are things that happened to him, but he’s not defined by his trauma.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: Which is something that Picard does in Picard. The show goes in a completely different direction, defines him entirely by this childhood trauma.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. And the thing about Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry – And everybody’s talked about this before – He thought that humans had gotten past interpersonal conflict, and he did not want interpersonal conflicts on the show. And this was a big fight in the early seasons of Next Generation because how do you make a TV show without that? Well, you have to think. You have to come up with stories and scenarios and have them ponder moral questions instead of just, what is my trauma? Why am I upset with you about this? Now, there’s plenty of that in Next Generation, in Star Trek, but it’s rarely the focus, and whatever problems they have, they are able to deal with and get over fairly quickly, like the episode where Data tries to murder… Was it Beverly? He tries to stab her in the eye.
Aaron Thorpe: Beverly, yeah. He stabs her in the shoulder or something.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. He tries to stab her in the eye, and they have a work meeting about it in the next scene. That’s not how they would do it in this episode, in the nu-Trek. They would handle it a lot differently. And also you mentioned gloss, Aaron. I have a theory, and I think it’s never failed. Good sci-fi is matte. Bad sci-fi is gloss.
Aaron Thorpe: Bro, Battlestar Galactica; matte. Babylon 5; matte. What else? Get out there. I mean, The Expanse…
Leslie Lee III: Force Awakens; gloss.
Aaron Thorpe: The Expanse; started out matte, then also went to Amazon; lot of gloss now. It’s just kind of…
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The gloss parts are bad, yes. But it had some matte, too, yeah.
David Banks: This is an interesting theory. The Enterprise-D looks like a library, whereas Discovery looks like a fuck pad. I don’t know how anyone gets work done. They have fires. They have fireplaces all over the place.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. There’s a fire pit in his captain’s chambers.
David Banks: Yeah, yeah. It’s like, are you doing work here, or are you just…
Aaron Thorpe: You’re on a starship, dawg.
David Banks: Yeah, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Why you got fire? It’s a fire hazard.
David Banks: I do, though, want to… We have something in our document here about what works. What works in this show? One thing that I think works pretty well, and this is purely aesthetic, and I can’t believe I’m saying this. It was introduced in those 2009 JJ Abrams movies, I think.
Aaron Thorpe: The Kelvin universe?
David Banks: Yeah. That has now been held on in these new ones, I just like the aesthetic of it. When they have a ship come out of warp and then stop, it’s just this streak of light and then [sound effect], and then it’s a bap sound, and then the ship’s just there. There’s something aesthetic about it and I’m glad they kept it. And I like it. And you’re talking about not taking yourself seriously. Star Trek should take itself seriously.
The first thing I noticed about Strange New Worlds that I thought was good was the self-deprecation. It would take moments to make fun of Captain Pike’s hair. First, they set up the fact that Captain Pike has a perfect coif that’s like five feet tall. And then they make fun of it. I feel like that was definitely missing from Discovery, where it felt like if you laughed at any part of that show, someone would be like, why are you laughing at my trauma?
Aaron Thorpe: Really, really? Yo, really? I think in Discovery… Actually, I agree with you in one way where, yes, everybody seemed to get way too upset about… I mean, the conflict and drama stuff. But I feel they were cracking jokes all the time. And again, I don’t mean to compare, but I have to. In Next Generation, if you made fun of Picard’s bald-ass head or some shit like that, he would throw your ass in the brig. Again, you work on a starship, dawg.
Britney Gil: I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know. I mean, I think that there is a lot of, not chiding, but poking at each other. And there’s a friendship among, especially the bridge crew, where everybody’s constantly making fun of each other. I mean, shut up, Wesley was… Actually, apparently [inaudible].
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, that wasn’t making fun. He was mad.
Britney Gil: Yeah, no. No, and he still has a bone to pick about it. I mean, I think that there was a bit…
David Banks: Dude, what about Picard going to Risa in a Speedo? Come on.
Aaron Thorpe: But when he went to Risa, all he wanted to do was read the whole time. He didn’t want to do anything.
Britney Gil: But if you think, And I think that this goes back to the problem of the number of episodes, is that Next Generation and other Trek series, they have enough episodes where they can do both. And it’s easy for us looking back at it to say, no, they were more serious, or, no, there were a lot of antics. But it’s actually just because there was more of it. And so there was both.
David Banks: That’s true.
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
David Banks: That’s true.
Britney Gil: In the Spock episode when he says, this is getting dangerously close to antics, and Nurse Chapel replies, who doesn’t love antics? That is something from, especially Original Series Trek, that is just these goofy, funny things, these antics. And it brought some of that back, which I think is probably my favorite thing about Strange New Worlds, is that it is very playful.
Lyta Gold: I think the difference might be professionalism. Because DS9 is really witty. That’s a really good show for characters ragging on each other.
David Banks: Very witty.
Aaron Thorpe: There was actually a lot of humor in that show. It was very funny.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, yeah. It’s a really good show.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. It’s the style of humor and the quality of humor and how natural it feels, maybe, to reality, how close it feels to the genre conventions. Because I think the humor in Deep Space Nine, there’s no joke in there that takes you out of the show and makes you think, would they really say that? Would they really do that? Would they really act like that on the bridge? It’s like, no. They’re jokes that the characters would make if they lived in the real world, they’re not just a riff, which I think is most of the humor we see in almost anything is trying to make a joke about the situation that disregards the actual characters involved.
David Banks: It’s like a podcast.
Leslie Lee III: Yes, just like a podcast.
David Banks: Oh, no. Oh, no. We’re the problem.
Leslie Lee III: Podcast dialogue is probably the number one thing… I actually realized this, I forget who, but it was one comedian I was watching his standup special for. And his pace was entirely off. It was Paul F Tompkins. I’m not knocking him as a guy. He’s a funny guy, very funny guy, but his new special, it wasn’t that funny. It didn’t work because he has spent the past 10 years doing podcasts, and you talk a lot slower and tell jokes a lot slower on podcasts, so his cadence was all off. And I feel like the tone of a lot of these things is the jokes you would make on a podcast because when you’re on a podcast, you’re just trying to be funny and not trying to show your real personality. You may not feel like you’re really at work.
David Banks: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: I will say, though, in that regard, you’ve been talking about DS9 and the wittiness in DS9, and I was thinking about the crew. And I will say that when I watched Discovery, I was telling you, Lyta, in the chat and the DMs, I didn’t know any of the crew members’ names. I didn’t know. It was just the Michael Burnham show. That was it. I didn’t know anybody else’s name. It was also the chick with the robot thing and the short hair, whatever.
Leslie Lee III: Penis alien.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, exactly. I liked that. I liked that. I liked the character style a lot of that… Sulu, I guess, was his name.
Britney Gil: Saru, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: No, no, that’s not Sulu. That’s Saru. I’m thinking of the original, yeah. But one thing I did like with Strange New Worlds, I liked the crew a lot more. I knew their names, I felt like they got along better. I mean, it felt more organic. And I guess this is the Joss Whedon-ish, Firefly-type of shit, but Erica, I forget the actress’s name, but the helmsman, I love her. I loved her little quips.
Britney Gil: She’s awesome.
Aaron Thorpe: I thought she was funny. She was awesome. So I did like the characters and their dynamic a lot more than nu-Trek. And also, this probably goes without saying, but, dude, I mean, if you’re watching a space show, it just looks fucking cool. Yes, it was glossy, not going to lie. But that opening where they’re flying through strange anomalies and shit like that, and a lot of the show, it just looks cool.
And I guess we get that because we’re living in 2022 where you get those high-dynamic special effects, where you’re watching The Original Series, it’s a little toy floating in black space. So this show, even though it had gloss which, Like you said, Leslie, gloss is always an indicator that this is going to be shit. It was gloss in a way where I was like, okay, this looks cool. And to be fair, the Enterprise did have some dings on it. It wasn’t perfect. It was a little fucked up. So visually, character-wise, I did like Strange New Worlds for those reasons.
Lyta Gold: Actually, I think a key thing about contemporary sci-fi versus previous sci-fi, which actually, Strange New Worlds did a really good job with, is that older sci-fi technology doesn’t work a lot of the time. It breaks. The Millennium Falcon is a piece of shit, and that’s part of the charm. And the old Enterprises used to break down a lot. But what’s something I’ve noticed in Discovery, Picard, and a lot of the newer Treks, they really don’t have technical problems too much. That’s not a major driving factor of the plot. And yeah, in Strange New Worlds, the ship didn’t work sometimes, and it was a big fucking problem because they’re in space. And when things don’t work, that’s a big old problem. It’s actually dangerous out there. Which is part of why they have to be calm and professional, too, because they know where they are.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Yeah.
David Banks: If we had the space for it, if we had the 30 episodes we keep asking for, you could have an entire episode where they try to do a meeting, but the Zoom doesn’t work, the video conferencing doesn’t work. You could do it. I mean, a whole episode…
Aaron Thorpe: Literally, holodeck… Those are holodeck episodes.
David Banks: Yeah. It’s a holodeck.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s literally what it is.
David Banks: What if the background that you choose becomes real?
Britney Gil: Oh, no. I’m on a beach.
David Banks: No, yeah. That would be just awful.
Aaron Thorpe: One thing I did like about this too… I didn’t really like, I gotta stop. Because I’m talking to y’all and I’m like, y’all are saying things, there are things I like. But then I watch by myself, I’m like, yo, I kind of hate this shit. It’s like being a Catholic, bro. It’s like being a Catholic. It’s like self-flagellation. I’m like, why am I watching this? I’ll say this. It’s like… How can I put it? How can I put it in a way that… Like I saw Will Menaker said something where it was like, if you are used to mistreatment, horrible mistreatment – I don’t want to get too serious about it – But just mistreatment. When it’s mild mistreatment, it’s actually welcome. Which is what Strange New Worlds is.
It’s like, you’ve been beating me over the head since Enterprise, which, I liked Enterprise, but you’ve been beating me over the head. Kelvin universe, but then nu-Trek, terrible. And then finally it’s like, okay, Anson Mount as Pike. Okay, I fuck with that. Versus Michael Burnham, sure. Then you have all these little throwbacks. I’m like, all right, this is not where it should be yet. And it’ll never get there, but at least I can watch an episode… And I do look away and I’m on my phone, but okay. I like these episodes a lot more than I like anything else from nu-Trek. And also I wanted to mention, too, I like the costumes. I like the technology. I like the fact that it’s supposed to be 10 years before The Original Series.
So a lot of the tech, I mean, it’s an updated version of the ’60s. Instead of Discovery where they fucked off and went to a thousand years in the future where everything just looks, again, like you said, Leslie, gloss, it’s like, nah, bring it back to basics. I want this thing to look like a retro futuristic… Something that would come out in the ’70s, the way they thought the future would look like by now.
Britney Gil: Yeah, they kept some cool, obviously analog tech, like holding onto the thing in the lift and having to say where you want to go. And the scanners. Because when I saw that they were coming out with a reboot of The Original Series, I was like, well, how are they/are they even going to deal with the fact that the technology is incredibly different from what else nu-Trek has been doing? And I thought that they actually struck a pretty good balance between not looking absurd and also trying to remember that this is based on a TV show where they were holding cardboard boxes at each other to try to indicate something.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. And not introducing bullshit like the spore drive from [inaudible]. I know we’re about Strange New Worlds, but I just have to bring this up.
Britney Gil: Fuck that spore drive.
Aaron Thorpe: Dawg, if the store is called Star Trek, bro, you’re supposed to be trekking through the galaxy. If you can get there instantly, instantaneously, anywhere you want, that just takes the fun and the journey out of the fucking show. It’s Discovery.
David Banks: It’s not Star Fast Travel.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Britney Gil: It’s also just an absurdly sophisticated technology to retcon into the fucking beginning of the series. That doesn’t make any sense.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, because then what happened to Janeway, bro? Why Janeway didn’t get the spore drive? Instead of running red lights to get back to the alpha quadrant? Like, come on, dude. That shit didn’t make any sense at all. It didn’t make any fucking sense. Which is why, again, Strange New Worlds, I got to say, it seems like the writers have a little bit more respect, a little bit more, in some ways. In a lot of ways, again, it’s not going to go back to Next Generation. It’s not going to be like the ’90s shows. I’ve never watched The Original Series, but at least they respect the lore. They’re not doing some shit like the Discovery writers where they’re like, oh, you love this franchise? We’re going to fuck up everything that you loved about it for a new audience or generation, which is like, I wouldn’t go back and watch The Original Series, but I’m 31.
So when the ’90s shows came out, it makes sense that I would watch them. But dude, I still love those shows. They’re still enjoyable to me. I think a new generation can enjoy those shows. You don’t have to try to reinvent the wheel because everyone’s into Marvel movies now. Everyone’s into this quippy dialogue. You can hearken back to what made the shit great. But we’ll see if they do that in the second season. I doubt it. But I also watch that garbage though.
Britney Gil: Oh, I will watch that trash.
Aaron Thorpe: Hey, it is trash. It’s just getting there. It’s all right.
Lyta Gold: That line about it being like Catholicism is so true. We love it. So this is punishment we put ourselves through. It remains interesting, though, that the one thing Trek really hasn’t… Technically Picard is set after Deep Space Nine, set after Voyager, but it’s so stupid that it barely counts. Star Trek [inaudible] will not go forward. They have rebooted with the JJ Abrams movies in the Kelvin timeline, then Discovery was technically set in the past, and then they zoomed a thousand years in the future. They didn’t have to deal with any of the world that’s laid out. Because I think Deep Space Nine and Voyager threw down a gauntlet about where the Federation could go next. Making it darker, making it more difficult, and what does it mean to have a utopia and preserve it? And every other Star Trek show is running away screaming from having to actually deal with that.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s such a good point. Because nobody can imagine – Maybe it’s a deeper point – But there’s futurelessness. Like nobody can imagine a future. So it’s like, that’s such a good point. Because I’ve always wondered that. Enterprise was the first to do it, because Enterprise goes back. But I was okay with that because prequels weren’t really… I mean, I guess they’ve always been a thing, but it seemed fresh and novel at the time. And I was fine with that, even though Enterprise had its problems being 9/11 Star Trek, whatever. Bush Trek. But you’re absolutely right. It’s like you –
Lyta Gold: Bush Trek sounds like something else. I just gotta say it.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. But you laid out this entire world for 60 years, but motherfuckers never seem to get beyond the 23rd century, and then when they do, it’s a gimmick. Like in Discovery, because the writers literally can’t come up with anything new. That’s such a good point, man. That’s actually really depressing, too, actually.
Leslie Lee III: I mean, ultimately Gene Roddenberry came up with Star Trek 50, 60 years ago. What do these new writers have to say? Is it actually their dream to write a dead property for Paramount? If it is, they’re not very good writers, and they should not be given millions of dollars to make it. They should be trying to come up with what their version of Star Trek is. Or even if they are going to do Star Trek, push it forward.
Even Gene Roddenberry tried to. Have you heard of the show Andromeda starring [crosstalk]?
Aaron Thorpe: I remember that show. [inaudible]. I remember.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. Based on Gene Roddenberry’s notes, apparently. And the premise of it is that the Federation falls. Captain Kirk gets sent into the future with the Enterprise, basically by himself, the stand in as Kevin Sorbo, the Klingons and the Vulcans have betrayed the Federation. Everything’s gone to shit. It’s been 300 years, and it’s just him and this one ship trying to bring together this universe. And at least the first [part of] the season is about how he has to work with these criminals and these pirates. And one by one, he wins people over to this vision of the future one more time. And that’s the premise of the show.
It didn’t quite get there because Kevin Sorbo took over the show himself eventually. I don’t know if it was him personally, but more like the character took off, so people wanted to make him more like Hercules, more like Xena, more like a hero show as opposed to an exploration of what it would mean for their Federation to fall and how fucked up things could get. And it’s very interesting, but as you say, that could be a Star Trek show in and of itself. But Discovery, I guess, tries to do it, but it’s a one season arc. It’s not the actual premise for really exploring Star Trek. It’s just the next twist for Michael and friends. At least that’s how I felt about it.
It didn’t really have anything to say. It’s like they’re just coming up with the next season of whatever Star Trek thing is going on. Like as soon as Strange New Worlds just finished, Lower Decks is coming back in a few weeks. I like the show, but at a certain point, it is just content. It’s a staff of writers who just come to LA because they want a job and they’re writing. And one of the jobs is writing cartoons, and you write Star Trek because that Star Trek adult cartoon is open on streaming. It’s not the product of a group of creatives who really want to be making this content. Even if they’re fans of the lore and know all this stuff – And they really do, they dive in – But it’s not really truly what I would call a truly creative, artistic endeavor.
It is just content at this point, Star Trek is. And obviously it’s silly to even have to explain this because it was given to JJ Abrams, who has never made anything artistic in his life.
Aaron Thorpe: When I watched the Kelvin universe – And I watched them again recently – When I first saw them, I liked them when I first saw them. But I had never watched Trek before that. I went back and watched them after watching the ’90s series, and it was fucking brutal, dawg. And I was like, this makes so much sense. I mean literally, like I said before, like prestige TV, not only prestige TV, but nu-Trek is trying to be Abram’s Trek.
It’s trying to be the Kelvin universe. And it’s like, dude, you can’t really do… I mean, I guess you can do that, but I don’t know. I would watch a show like Battlestar Galactica. I’d watch a show like that. And if we’re talking about good things, because I’m trying to be dialectical here. Because I could be like, I fucking don’t really like the show, but again, keep drinking that garbage. But I did like the fairy-tale episode because that felt more like, not even like a T&G episode, more like a weird Voyager episode, probably, or something like that. But I liked that because it was like, we’re just going to do something insane.
But then they did fuck it up at the end by making his daughter taken away by some cosmic entity and then coming back to this [inaudible]. It was like, you could have cut the last 15 minutes off and made it 30 minutes with them just walking around in the ship as a castle and I would’ve loved it. But you’re right, Leslie. At least in Lower Decks, I feel like the writers are paying homage to Trek, and they respect it a little bit. It’s like a love letter. with Discovery, with well, Picard‘s ending, but Discovery, which I hope that ends soon, too. I think it will. But it’s like, there’s no vision. There’s no, what happens after? We keep going back 10 years before The Original Series, 100 years before The Original Series. The next thing they’re going to do is the fucking Bell Riots and the Eugenics Wars. [crosstalk] Which, I ain’t going to lie, that would be cool. I would watch the shit. But, see, this is the problem, y’all, is that we need to put our foot down and be like, I’m not watching. No, that’s never going to happen.
David Banks: No, it’s not going to happen. We’re the problem.
Britney Gil: There’s some half-formed thought about nostalgia and why people in our generation are so fucked up that mostly what we want is to remember things the way that they were when we were kids and we felt safe and everything was nice. And I do think that is a problem with nu-Trek, is that it is trying to both appeal to that audience, the audience that remembers Trek, that grew up with it, that will watch anything, because when I watch the new Picard trailer and fucking Dr. Beverly Crusher showed up.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, I’m watching that shit, dawg.
Britney Gil: Oh yeah.
Lyta Gold: God damnit, is she really?
Britney Gil: Yes. I’m watching it.
Aaron Thorpe: …Never seen any Picard, but I will watch that.
Lyta Gold: Picard is, for real, the worst show I’ve ever seen.
Britney Gil: – I hated Discovery more.
Lyta Gold: It’s a tossup, to be fair.
Britney Gil: They don’t have to give us anything good. They can just give us the slop, because look, biggies, you want it don’t you? And I do. And I’m sorry.
Aaron Thorpe: I do want it. I’ll eat from the trough gladly, bro. Like, Beverly’s back. Fucking Warf is back. And they’re all [inaudible] and shit like that.
Britney Gil: [inaudible]
Aaron Thorpe: And Jordy doesn’t have the visor anymore and shit. Honestly, they should have just been like, hey, even though technology has advanced, even in our universe, he still has the visor because he likes it old school. But you’re absolutely right. You’re right. I feel like Discovery try to do – I hate that I keep going back to Discovery – But I think aside from, in comparison with Strange New Worlds, Discovery tried to do that, where you find out that Michael Burnham is actually fucking Spock’s sister. So they tried to throw these easter eggs –
Britney Gil: [inaudible]
Aaron Thorpe: Because they want you to watch this shit. Because they’re like, oh you know this shit. But at least Strange New Worlds, they’re doing it lightly. Like teasing. They’re not just throwing you this carrot and dangling. It’s like, oh you’re going to like this shit because that Burnham Spock thing made no sense.
Leslie Lee III: Oh, well they did say that Kirk’s cousin was on the Enterprise. And they do actually break a few rules in order to update the show, because when Pike’s on the Enterprise and the TOS, I think, he says at some point, oh, I’ll never get used to women on the bridge, and the majority of people in Strange New Worlds are women.
So there are a few little things they had to change and update. But again, that is only a problem when you insist on doing prequels. That’s only a problem when you insist on doing the prequel. When you move it forward, when you explore things, I swear to God. I bet the reason that they’re so limited in scope is because, of course, Akiva and JJ have worked together and JJ might be the guy to say… And the same thing with Star Wars, it’s like his Star Wars version. It’s always about going back to the original, but not really understanding it. Just putting moving objects on screen that you recognize. And that’s what I think the new season of Picard is going to be.
And it annoys me, because think of what we lost. We used to get Next Generation characters on the big screen, in actual big screen movies. We have now settled for not even television, but streaming web series. And season two of Picard, especially, has a lot of budgetary seeming and time limitations. It’s obviously very COVID shot. It does not live up to the scale of the story he’s trying to tell, which is like a repeat of… Which Star Trek, where the Star Trek where they go in the past, when they go to San Francisco?
David Banks: Oh yeah, the whales one.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, and they do callbacks, explicit callbacks to it, which aren’t bad or anything. But it just looks a lot cheaper than what the original movie looks like. And now we’re seeing all these characters that we’ve seen on the big screen in a beautiful vision. Now they’re back, not even on TV, but on streaming shows that, in a lot of ways, look worse than the old shows they were on. And I don’t like it because it feels like they moved up an ontological level from TV and now they’re being brought down. I just don’t like it. It just doesn’t seem right.
David Banks: Bright spot in everything we’ve been talking about, though, the end of “The Serene Squall”, episode seven of Strange New Worlds, [inaudible].
Aaron Thorpe: Wait, that was the one with Jesse James Keitel, right? The actress, the trans actress? That episode was fucking – I liked that episode.
Britney Gil: That was cool, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Also like the fact that, again, they could have done a lot better in the ’90s given LGBTQ issues. I think even Jonathan Frank says the episode where he falls in love with this androgynous species, he says that they could have just casted a man instead of casting a woman. But I mean, one thing I will say about Strange New Worlds –
David Banks: He insisted on it actually, and they wouldn’t let him do it. He’s like, I’ll be uncomfortable, and I’m supposed to be uncomfortable in this. And they wouldn’t do it.
Aaron Thorpe: I mean, I will say though, because you had mentioned this before, one of you guys had mentioned this before. I think it was you, Britney, you had mentioned before the identity politics aspect of it and stuff like that. And when conservatives complain about Trek being woke, it’s like, shut up. It’s always been woke. Damn, I’m really talking about nu-Trek. I will say this. I think that, again, they substitute liberal identity politics and hollow representation for actual stories. But I will say, though, that the representation is pretty tight, because I think Jesse James Keitel being in that episode, and I think they’re going to cast a few trans actors in the next season. That’s really cool, and that’s tight.
Britney Gil: It’s very cool.
Aaron Thorpe: If you can do it in a way that also has that and tells good stories, then we’d be talking.
Britney Gil: If you can have a character who’s trans and then also has a personality other than the fact that they’re trans, that, I think, is really important. Discovery does a real disservice to the representation that it’s essentially winking at, or saying, look what we’re doing. Don’t you want to watch it? It’s so shallow. There’s no substance to it. There’s a scene in Strange New Worlds where they casually reference the fact that nurse Chapel is bisexual, and you wouldn’t even know unless you were really listening to the dialogue, you wouldn’t even know that it happened.
And I feel like that type of representation is a lot more honest, to be frank, because we’re talking about a world in which all of these bigotries have supposedly been overcome. I loved the fact that Discovery, especially, has I think two trans actors in it who are actually playing trans characters, which is very, very cool. But what else is there? Like the non-binary character in Discovery‘s name I don’t even remember, they’re anxious and they’re non-binary. That’s it. That’s their whole personality.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Literally.
Britney Gil: And I think that sucks. We can do better than that.
Aaron Thorpe: You’re so absolutely right, because I was thinking about it too. I think I mentioned earlier the characters in Discovery – And this is why, again, there’s a comparison. It’s Strange New Worlds does a little bit better – But the characters in Discovery are basically 21st century people living in the 23rd century. So these little winks that they do about identity politics, it’s like, dude, nobody in the 23rd century would be like, oh, this person’s non-binary? This person is trans? Like what are you talking about, dawg?
Britney Gil: Yeah. How do I do with that?
Aaron Thorpe: [inaudible]. I remember – Actually that was after this. But this would be not even normalized, because normalized makes it sound as if it would just be normal. It would be a thing. It wouldn’t be something where you’d be like, oh, look at that wink, wink, nod, nod. It’d be this passive acknowledgement, but passive in such a way you’re like, oh shit, I didn’t even catch that. And that’s pretty dope the way they did that.
David Banks: Yeah. It’s like when… I forgot the Klingon character, but he remembers the last host, and then she’s like, I’m Jadzia now. And he’s like, Jadzia, my old friend.
Aaron Thorpe: He’s like Kirzon, my old friend. Yeah, exactly. That was tight.
David Banks: Yeah. And then they just move the fuck on. And it’s not like I don’t want to dwell on those topics. They spend a whole episode on Jadzia’s different past selves. You can obviously dwell on that in a really productive way. But every single time, it’s like what Britney said. It really does a disservice to that representation when it’s like, no, that really is everything about you is that you’re anxious and non-binary. It’s like, really?
Aaron Thorpe: It’s actually pretty reactionary.
Britney Gil: It is.
David Banks: It sounds like a terrible stereotype, really. Yeah. It sounds bad.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. And that’s also in the way that the obvious political moments, like in the very first episode of Strange New Worlds and the shot of January 6. When conservatives say it’s woke, obviously, as Aaron was saying, that’s crap. But if they mean wokeness in terms of the signaling thing, the signal that you have a certain politics, it is annoying in that way. And it is doing that in a way that previous Trek iterations didn’t do as much of. They did occasionally, but really didn’t. And as much as we love Trek, older Trek has its weaknesses. And it’s okay to be like, well, old Trek did some stupid, bad thing. That wouldn’t be a good argument for continuing to do it in the future.
Britney Gil: Yeah. The fan dance? Come on, nobody’s blameless here.
Aaron Thorpe: What I was thinking about too is like, I mean, William Shatner, for example, it feels like if William Shatner was in the progressive, doesn’t necessarily have progressive politics. And maybe this is problematic, maybe it’s not, but I feel like everybody… It sounds unfair. Now I sound like a right-winger. It feels like the hollowness of the politics, the progressive politics, is first and foremost. It almost seems like everybody as a part of that show has this very specific kind of politics, which is fine. Especially if you love Trek. I’d rather that than not. But also it doesn’t really fucking matter. Like, William Shatner is a reactionary. I don’t really give a shit. I’m pretty sure actors in the ’90s shows had problematic views and shit, but it doesn’t really fucking matter.
I feel like in this nu-Trek, it’s like oh, everybody has to be a latte sipping – And I sound like a right-winger. I really do sound like a fucking hating ass right-winger right now. But it’s fucking annoying. It’s super annoying. For example, this is not in Trek. Go ahead.
Leslie Lee III: It’s annoying, of course, Aaron – I’ll try to save you here – Because it doesn’t mean anything. Because they don’t actually have strong politics and they won’t take any stands or anything like that. Yes.
Aaron Thorpe: Thank you. Exactly. Thank you. Before people were like, this motherfucker is a right-wing asshole. [inaudible] some crazy shit. Thank you, Leslie. Exactly.
David Banks: Yeah. This isn’t my joke to tell, but I think it was, and I actually don’t even remember who told it, but it’s so right on, is that old Trek was like weird acting school queers to people. But then Strange New Worlds is like elite gay –
Aaron Thorpe: Like theater kids.
David Banks: Yeah, like theater kids.
Aaron Thorpe: But elite theater kids, though.
David Banks: Yeah. And they’re both gay, but one I want to watch and one I don’t.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s such a perfect… Dude. You know what? You know what I’ll say? I’ll close it out this way and say this. The guy who plays Michael Garibaldi in Babylon 5, I forget the actor’s name. I think his name is something Doyle. I forget. But he’s James Doyle, something like that. Doyle’s his last name. He was a right-wing radio talk whatever guy. He was fucking insane. Also played a cop on the fucking show. But it didn’t matter. I knew that prior to watching the show and I still loved his character and enjoyed it very much. Would I ever listen to his fucking radio show? Well, he’s dead now, but no I wouldn’t. But it didn’t fucking matter. I don’t want to go on for too much. But I think this hints more to not even that their politics are fucked up about the show, but just the writing. It’s just not good fucking writing.
David Banks: [crosstalk] Rachel Barkley has horrifying politics, also, when we’re thinking about…
Leslie Lee III: Aaron, if I hear what you’re saying correctly, what you’re saying is that we need to bring back Gina Corono to science fiction. Get her into Star Trek after she was unfairly canceled. Obviously not, but yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: No, she needs to be the new number one. Now that Una is in a penal colony, they just need to bring her back and make her the new number one. Then the left and the right, they can have a mutual agreement or love for Star Trek.
David Banks: Star Trek horseshoe theory.
Leslie Lee III: For real though, the new reboot of Law and Order essentially does this. It’s like one of the cops is a woke Black cop who’s disgruntled and is like, Black Lives Matter. The other cop played by the [inaudible], know this guy, great actor, but I forget his name. But he plays not just a Republican, not just a right-winger, but a Q guy. Like straight up far right. And he’s like, well, what’s wrong with running over Black protesters if they’re in the street? Not quite that explicit, but every single argument you see between a right-winger and a Democrat on Twitter, they put on Law and Order, and they have all the cops embody this. One of the prosecutors is trying to come up with ways to put them in jail.
And the other prosecutor, I swear to God, she’s AOC. She is straight up AOC. Every episode is just like, yes, I know he committed a double murder, but he suffered through so much trauma. Do we really have to put them in jail? And she is the [inaudible] district attorney. It’s completely ridiculous and baffling, but this is amazing TV. It’s what TV should be. It’s literally the right and the left battling it out with these characters. Who’s right? The show doesn’t fucking care. It just wants you to watch.
Aaron Thorpe: Dude, that’s why I love Battlestar Galactica, because it is literally, yeah. It’s the fucking low-key authoritarian military versus the civilians, which are vaguely humanist and progressive, and nothing ever gets solved, but you get to see them butt heads all the time, and it’s fucking awesome.
Conflict is good. Gene Roddenberry definitely wanted his characters to get along. And I think DS9, in a lot of ways, subverted common Trek tropes, and that was one of them. But if we’re going to go back to Strange New Worlds, what it did better – I don’t want to say right – But better over Discovery, is that, Discovery, it was just like an angry high school. These people seemed to like each other, but really, when they were making jokes, it seemed ironic and sardonic. It was like they were just shitposting all the time to each other. At least in Strange New Worlds, it’s cute when Anson Mount takes off his apron and gives it to Spock and says, now you wash dishes. And he says, I’m going to pack up, what he said, the car, the station wagon?
Lyta Gold: The station wagon, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: And he says, everybody make sure to use the bathroom before you go. I was like, okay, that’s a little bit cute and funny.
Britney Gil: It’s very cute.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s okay. And that’s fine. That’s okay.
David Banks: But it’s also, when we’re thinking about 21st century people in the 23rd century, it’s also like an ancient [crosstalk].
Britney Gil: How do you have any [crosstalk] reference for that?
Aaron Thorpe: I guess that’d be like a chariot. We still know what chariots are. We still use them, I guess.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, but with his character especially, he is a great casting and I see him as being a good captain, but I feel like everybody has the same tone he does. Except for Spock. And even Spock tells a lot of jokes, too. I feel like if he was the funnier captain and more of the other people were a little bit more straight laced, I feel like there could have been a little bit more distinction to his character for why he’s making these old references. Because they do try to do that in the nu-Treks, where Kirk is into Beastie Boys. And even the original Captain Kirk, I’m from Iowa. I work in space. If there’s actually a character reason why he’s making these old references and you see more of the modern world that the other characters live in, like what music do they listen to? What [inaudible] their lives like?
Now, this is stuff that the other Star Treks didn’t get into, but this show is a little bit more personal. Show us some more of that. Show them going to a club or something like that. Maybe they did do that scene, because I didn’t watch every minute of every episode. But if you are going to make it more about the people and more like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you didn’t. All of the Buffy episodes weren’t just about them at work. The quips, a lot of time, came when they were just hanging out recreationally. So that’s one thing that –
Aaron Thorpe: Playing poker.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah. Joss Whedon gets knocked a lot for his dialogue, but it is situational. In certain situations that does work.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s like when they play poker in TNG. That’s all they would do. And also you got me thinking, every Trek captain always speaks in a funny way. I didn’t watch the original, so I don’t know [crosstalk] –
Original funny way. Janeway, of course, almost is doing a Picard sort of thing. But also I think, what’s her name, the actress’s name, I forget, Kathryn –
David Banks: Kate Mulgrew.
Britney Gil: Kate Mulgrew.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, Kate Mulgrew. Kate Mulgrew. I mean, she’s, I think, also European, British, whatever. So she speaks in a funny way. Even Sisko, Captain Sisko, Avery Brooks, main authority, amazing.
Britney Gil: Ridiculous. He sounds ridiculous.
Aaron Thorpe: Anson Mount, he needs to have some affectation to his voice in order to be a unique captain. He don’t got it yet. He don’t got it. You’re not bad, but…
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, he’ll get there. I hate to say it. He feels almost like Michael Scott if he was a Star Trek captain in some ways, and maybe lean into that where –
Aaron Thorpe: [crosstalk] Scott’s space.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, where people are annoyed more by his jokes than just playfully playing along.
Aaron Thorpe: Like rolling their eyes and shit?
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, because he knows what the fate is. I mean, if he knows that nothing bad is going to happen to him in the next 10 years, that could be a thing that affects him and his behavior and how he talks to people and treats people. I mean, if this were a movie and we had 90 minutes to tell this story about a guy who knew that he was going to die in 10 years, the story would be about how he would behave differently in every situation with that knowledge. And it wouldn’t be about even the trauma of that, it would just be about, what would you do if you knew you had this freedom? And they do get into it a little bit at times, but I think they could do a little bit more.
Britney Gil: Yeah. When they’re hiding from the Illyrians who tried to un-eugenics themselves or whatever and there’s the lightning storms outside and Spock is worried that they’re going to die and he’s like, not today. So there is a little bit of it where it peeks through, this useful plot device that is the recognition that he’s not going to die for another like seven years.
Aaron Thorpe: Seven years, yeah. Something like that, yeah. At first, I got a little bit confused because I was stoned when I was watching the season finale. So I thought it ended with the Romulan war. I was like, oh no, that’s seven years from now. At first I was worried. I was like, Goddamn. It’s just going to be like Discovery again, where it just starts off the season with the war. Not in a DS9 way where they set it up, but it’s just going to be immediate.
But yeah, I have no idea. Since I’m wrong about that, I just have no idea where they would go again. Like I said, I hope they keep it episodic but have a narrative or through line throughout the season. If I could say anything about the trauma thing, you guys made me realize that. One of the things, the holdovers, vestiges from nu-Trek that this show still has is the trauma dumping. If you’re going to do trauma, you gotta do more than 10 episodes because you got to make the trauma actually hit and make me care about the characters. But also, too, you could spice it up. You could have an episode where they play baseball or some shit like in DS9.
David Banks: Baseball.
Leslie Lee III: Or I mean, DS9 does start with trauma, but it’s a very engaging, cinematic tale of Sisko losing his wife because of Picard. And then the next scene is him having to sit with Picard as he talks down to him. That is great, dramatic tension. And it’s not even about the trauma. He’s fucking pissed.
David Banks: You’re right.
Aaron Thorpe: He mad as fuck.
Leslie Lee III: He’s not sad about it, he’s mad.
David Banks: If I have any hopes for Strange New Worlds, it is that they introduced Sybok in episode seven, and that Sybok comes back, hugs everyone, gets their trauma out, then we just never talk about it again.
Aaron Thorpe: Never talk about it ever again. That’d be it, yo. That’d be it.
David Banks: I would take a whole series just on Sybok. That guy’s nuts. I love Sy.
Lyta Gold: So Sybok is Spock’s brother, for anybody listening.
David Banks: His half-brother.
Lyta Gold: Half-brother, yes.
Aaron Thorpe: Half-brother [inaudible].
Britney Gil: And very weird, yeah.
David Banks: Yeah. And the subject of Star Trek V, the Star Trek movie directed by William Shatner. That is definitely the worst. Definitely the worst.
Lyta Gold: It’s terrible.
Aaron Thorpe: Man, I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve only watched First Contact. So I haven’t seen Wrath of Khan, which I know is the best one.
Lyta Gold: Oh my God.
Aaron Thorpe: Listen. The Original Series, this is what it is. The Original Series for me, I’m concerned that it’s going to be too dated. So I’ve been really holding off. Actually, Lyta, the episode that you referenced last night that was a mirror – Or this episode, the season finale of Strange New Worlds is a mirror of that episode, of the original. That’s the first one I was going to watch. But I’m just like, am I going to be sitting there for an hour trying to enjoy the show because I love the franchise and this is how the franchise started? The corniness is fine. I could deal with the hokiness, it’s just, I hope it’s good.
Leslie Lee III: Well, Aaron, I actually think especially that era of television has really good storytelling a lot of times. There’s an episode written by Harlan Ellison, one of my favorite sci-fi writing people. Love it. It’s definitely worth checking out. With The Original Series, actually, I want to evangelize about the movies. I’ve watched a lot of the movies recently. They’re good. They’re straight up good movies. You would enjoy them even if you didn’t like most of it, even if you didn’t like Star Trek.
Some of them are weaker than others, but I feel like all of them have a bit of character, interesting plots, fine acting. And they are really jokey, too, but it’s earned because these are people who’ve known each other, and that we’ve known, for 20 years. And so they have that intimacy, real intimacy that’s missing from the Whedon style where nobody is really close to one another, I think, is in that style of humor.
So I highly recommend starting with the movies. And they actually connect and there’re a couple of trilogies in it where the story’s ongoing. They’re very, very good and actually make me upset that we didn’t get Deep Space Nine movies or Voyager movies, which they could be doing right now if they really wanted to. I mean, even if they’re doing Picard, they could have made Picard a movie movie if they wanted to.
Aaron Thorpe: It would’ve been better as a movie than a series. That’s such a good point.
Leslie Lee III: Not even series. We have to be clear. It’s a streaming series. It’s a completely different beast than the old Star Treks. It’s not the same form of content. It’s not the same. It’s the difference between an album and an EP, maybe, and even one of those EPs that they would send to the radio station that was just four songs randomly, as opposed to, we’re going to sit down in our basement and make an EP.
David Banks: One recommendation if you’re going to watch The Original Series movies, the very first one, the motion picture, you have to find the biggest screen you can find. It has to be as loud as possible and you have to be as high as possible.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, absolutely.
Leslie Lee III: It felt like they got pissed that Stanley Kubrick [crosstalk] a lot of stuff and they tried to like, all right, motherfucker.
David Banks: Well, at the time Star Wars hadn’t come out yet. So science fiction in movies was 2001. So, we have to do a 2001 movie. I think that’s at least the lore, I think, of why you spend like 15 minutes of Captain Kirk eye-banging the Enterprise.
Britney Gil: It’s pornographic. I feel uncomfortable watching it.
David Banks: Yeah, there’s a little runabout thing and it is just him going, oh, looking at it and then the panning of the ship and he’s like, oh, wow. It’s incredible.
Aaron Thorpe: Maybe this is a hot take too, but I think within acceptable degrees, Strange New Worlds should be a little bit more horny. It’s very sexless.
Leslie Lee III: Oh yes.
Aaron Thorpe: Not like Enterprise horny, because Enterprise horny was literally the first episode where they’re fucking massaging each other with some fucking gel or something like that, and it makes no fucking sense. And I was like, this is weird. There needs to be –
David Banks: It’s to help get rid of the space germs.
Leslie Lee III: Star Trek is horny. Always has been horny. Always will be a horny. And in the modern sexless Hollywood, that just doesn’t work, and you don’t even have the time or episodes for it. You don’t have the –
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, you don’t even have – You got 50 minutes and you only got 10 episodes. You can’t have a little, even two minutes of sexiness.
Lyta Gold: Well, they tried.
Britney Gil: There’s Spock and T’Pring. They’re literally in bed together.
Lyta Gold: But the thing that’s kind of strange about that is they established Vulcan mating rituals. Vulcan mating rituals are crazy and really kinky and actually much weirder than having them just go on a date and then go to bed.
Britney Gil: Yeah, but that comes after her saying that she was exploring human mating practices. So I think they’re supposed to be having human sex at that point.
Lyta Gold: Even from that very first episode, though, because they get engaged. Again, this was annoying because it was very human. They get engaged at a restaurant and then they go to bed together. That’s how humans do things. But Vulcans are aliens and they do things in a different way and [crosstalk] and kinky. Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Well maybe in season two we’ll see Spock go through a pon farr. Maybe we have a pon farr episode.
David Banks: They should do the episode with the space disease where everyone literally gets horny. That’s in two different series. It’s time to bring that back.
Aaron Thorpe: You have the Trek time travel episode. You got the mirror universe episode.
David Banks: Everyone’s horny episode.
Aaron Thorpe: You need to bring back the everyone’s horny episode.
Britney Gil: And it is my opinion that this is –
Leslie Lee III: DS9 infamously combined the mirror universe episode with the horny episode [crosstalk] goes to the of mirror universe and has sex with Dax.
Aaron Thorpe: Mirror Kira –
Lyta Gold: Mirror Kira can get it any day, twice on Sunday.
Aaron Thorpe: Yo, she can get it. Goddamn, she’s evil but bad. Evil but bad.
Britney Gil: I think that Strange New Worlds is the hottest Trek cast ever.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh yeah, they’re gorgeous.
David Banks: They are pretty gorgeous.
Britney Gil: I think they’re by far the hottest cast. So yeah, let’s hope for a horny space disease next season.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah.
David Banks: But it is like Starship Troopers in that everyone is perfectly hot and wants to have sex with nothing. Yeah.
Leslie Lee III: Hey, the movie Starship Troopers is pretty horny.
David Banks: Yeah, but the individual characters, it’s like these co-ed locker rooms and showers. Everyone’s full frontal nude just talking about who they want to kill next.
Leslie Lee III: So what you’re saying, we need full frontal nudity? I mean, we are on streaming. This could be the first Star Trek show with full frontal nudity, full frontal.
Britney Gil: If I don’t see Spock’s dick by the end of 2023 –
Aaron Thorpe: Spock’s Vulcan dick, bro.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh no. Like his ears? No! What if his dick has ears like… No!
Leslie Lee III: Okay. Can I talk a little bit about nude Spock, okay? So I’m not going to knock this actor. Apparently he’s been embraced by the family. Seems like a great guy, a really nice guy. But did it bother anybody the way he sat? His back was very curved for some reason, and he was trying to sit like an alien, but it was just very strange. It was just –
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, like he had perfect posture.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah, but too perfect. It was like all the way back. But they were shooting him at the side, so all you see is just this big curve. I’m like, this dude is out here turning it out at work.
Aaron Thorpe: Like an adverse hunchback or some shit like that?
Leslie Lee III: Spock, you are too much out here throwing that ass out in the fucking chair. What’s wrong with you?
Aaron Thorpe: Relax, dawg.
Leslie Lee III: I guess Spock was horny a little bit, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Spock is always horny. He has to suppress that. And mad. I like also, besides Anson Mount, and I also like La’an’s character. I think her name’s Christina Chong and whoever plays Uhura, too. I like them. But I really do like Spock’s character. Again, I never watched the original, so I never got… what’s his name, Leonard Nimoy, his cadence. I’ve never watched it to hear it, but even hearing this actor that plays Spock, wherever he’s from, whatever he’s doing with his voice, I’m like, okay.
If I watch The Original Series I’d probably be like, okay, this is good just based on the voice alone. At least in my opinion. I don’t know. I like his character. I like the actor a lot. I think he’s pretty good.
Britney Gil: Think he does great. I love nu-Spock.
Leslie Lee III: I guess the problem is why we need a third Spock. That’s no knock on him. Why isn’t there just a new show with him as a Vulcan and Anson Mount as a captain, it takes place a little bit after DS9, and we’re seeing something new? Because this one character, Christina Chong, that she plays, she’s basically a character from The Expanse. She is straight up like Drummer from The Expanse plucked into a Star Trek show and it’s very obvious. And it’s like, okay, you could come up with an interesting way to have a rough and tumble character there, an interesting way to have a genetically modified character there in a Star Trek-related show, but instead you just go back to we are on the Enterprise before. We have Uhura here. We have Spock here. You could have a new Star Trek show with a new scenario with new reasons for these different people, these different actors, to meet, but instead we’re just going back to the tried and true formula.
But again, not going through the same creative process, so we get a very different show that is like half the Trek we like but has a lot of new stuff and nu-Trek stuff that we don’t like.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, it’s very confused. I’m not going to lie. It’s very confused. Because of course, like you said, Leslie, Paramount needs more Trek shows. So they’re coming out with, I think, Comic Con. No, I don’t think Comic Con said anything, but I’ve seen talk online that they’re coming out with two new Star Trek series, or at least one.
Lyta Gold: No.
Aaron Thorpe: I swear to God, bro.
Lyta Gold: There’s so many.
Aaron Thorpe: Dude. I would… Yeah, there’s so many. But if you’re going to do that, like you said, Leslie, don’t throw it a thousand years into the future like Discovery, just after DS9. I want to know what happens to Sisko. And Avery Brooks probably will not come back to Trek, which I wouldn’t blame him. But I mean, that’d be nice if we found out what happened with the TNG DS9 universe. Shit, man. They brought back Janeway for a new Trek kid’s show, but she’s like the AI or something like that.
David Banks: Yeah, that was bullshit.
Aaron Thorpe: So just do that in live action. Bring back the [crosstalk].
Leslie Lee III: Oh, Aaron, let me update you on what happens to the Picard universe. So what happens is that the Federation decides to make robot slaves and use them to colonize Mars, and the robot slaves rebel. So the Federation decides to commit, I don’t know, would you call it genocide on all –
Lyta Gold: I’d call it genocide.
David Banks: Genocide.
Aaron Thorpe: – Genocide on all the AI that exists. And they are also dismantling the Borg and shit. They’re doing some weird experimentation like Unit 751 stuff on the remaining Borg cubes. It’s very strange and dark. And I can understand that is trying to push it forward, but it’s ultimately in service of a story that’s basically like Mass Effect, the plot of Mass Effect. There’s these alien AIs, they’re coming, and we gotta find the right laser to shoot at them, and some AI friends to help us make that laser.
And it’s 10 episodes of that. I enjoyed it a lot. I enjoyed this first season of Picard. I couldn’t get through the second season. But it was not Star Trek. It was just a science fiction story with some Star Trek characters in it that moved around and did cool stuff, but it had nothing to do with Star Trek. It had nothing really to say. It was just kind of an action-adventure sci-fi show with 10 episodes, which is fine, but it could be so much more.
David Banks: It basically had the Rocinante from The Expanse, like that was the main ship of Picard.
Leslie Lee III: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s a really good point. I think, full circle, we were talking about what makes Trek Trek aside from any other sci-fi show, and it really does feel like they’re just trying to make another… It feels like Trek is having the Star Warsification moment, where it’s just another science fiction piece of entertainment. It doesn’t have the classic characteristics and tropes of Trek that make it not just a sci-fi show, but Star Trek. Even shows like Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica deconstruct. They start out by deconstructing Star Trek.
Leslie Lee III: Oh yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: I mean even DS9 was sort of a deconstruction. But the new shows, they don’t really deconstruct. They try to reconstruct, but it’s uncanny in a way. It’s weird. [crosstalk]
Leslie Lee III: Oh gee, that’s a perfect point. Oh my God. Yeah. Even the people who were making the original Star Trek series, at the time, took more chances than these people making it 20 years later. That’s so strange. 30 years later.
David Banks: And it is also, I think, this open-door policy to the writer’s room. We wouldn’t have Ronald D. Moore if it weren’t for that. He was a Naval officer that sent a script for a TNG episode that they picked out of the slush pile, and that’s how we got Ronald D Moore.
Lyta Gold: That is wild.
Aaron Thorpe: That makes so much sense watching Battlestar Galactica, because if you think that the military professionalism is in Trek… Sometimes I forget when they pan out and they go to the star port, the viewport and I see stars and shit. I’m like, oh yeah, they’re on a spaceship. They’re not on aircraft carriers or some shit like that. Okay. All right.
Leslie Lee III: And he has a new show, it’s called For All Mankind, Apple TV, which nobody gets, but my partner swears by this show. Says it’s very good. It actually has a bit of politics to it. So the basis of the show is what would happen if communist Russia got to the moon first? How would the United States try to catch up with them? And one of the things they proposed we would do is, oh, we would allow Black people and women in high levels of NASA for a PR push, and because of that, technology advances much faster in their reality than our reality.
Some things run parallel, like Bill Clinton still runs for president, but he loses to this Republican woman astronaut. It’s an interesting show, and they do a lot of time jumps each season. So it gets to sci-fi, sci-fi shit.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s like the ’80s right now, the new season, right?
Leslie Lee III: Oh no, it’s the ’90s now. The new season is the ’90s. I think Bill Clinton just lost, and they’re doing the space race, but we’re much further. And they do have an Elon Musk-type figure trying to get to Mars first versus NASA. There’s a race to it. It’s an interesting show. It still is a sci-fi, sci-fi show as opposed to closer to a hard sci-fi or near-space sci-fi. It does a mixture of both.
Aaron Thorpe: I like, again, a collectivist society that’s sort of… I mean, not that that show is post-capitalism, obviously, but even for the PR, hey, we’re just going to hire Black people and women for representation to make it look good. But then that material change in access, paradigm shift, actually advances technology a couple decades, even. That’s why Star Trek is dope. And that’s why space communism is dope.
I was reading today, it’s saying that Russia said that they’re going to stop participating with the ISS, the International Space Station, by 2024.
David Banks: Oh yeah. I saw. That bummed me out so much.
Aaron Thorpe: Apparently the Wolf Amendment in 2011 prohibits any space cooperation with China. I also saw a study that talked about the effects of bone density, of anti-gravity and shit. So reading all this shit, I’m like, dawg, we’re never going to space. This shit ain’t never going to happen. But we watch Trek and I’m like, all right, this takes me back to a time when I was a kid and I didn’t really have any concerns or worries about the future and it really seemed like the sky was the limit.
So it’s a little bit depressing when nu-Trek feels like, again, the writers are writing 21st century characters in the 23rd century because they have no vision of the future. It’s pretty depressing.
David Banks: If I can offer a bit of optimism, it’s that the Soviet Union went from the most backwards, unindustrialized European nation to the first spacefaring nation in 40 years.
Aaron Thorpe: Hell yeah, hell yeah.
David Banks: And won World War II in the middle.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, without a eugenics war, without World War II and III, without the Bell Riots. Well, there were Bell Riots. [crosstalk]
Lyta Gold: [crosstalk] be real.
David Banks: Yeah. But they beat us at everything to space, except for the moon landing.
Aaron Thorpe: I don’t want to get too away, but For all Mankind, somebody was telling me to watch them in the mentions, and they were saying that also the only reason why the United States goes so hard is because after the Soviets land on the moon first, they push the goal post. Which is kind of what they did, we got to the moon first and we set the standard for what that would be. And if the Soviets got there first, we’d probably be on Mars by now. But I digress.
Lyta Gold: I was afraid of this.
Aaron Thorpe: See, I knew that it was going to go on for more than an hour. I was like, y’all went to this house. Make sure I eat beforehand, get my mind right, because this is going to go on way longer than an hour. But it was good, though.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Well, we will have to do this again. We covered a lot of ground, but we could put an episode at the center next time. We could put a whole series at the center. We could put one on the movies. Wrath of Khan, by the way, is a great birthday movie, if anybody’s birthday is coming up. I watched it on my birthday this year and I’m like, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: I got to see Wrath of Khan. I don’t know why. I feel like I gotta watch all of The Original Series first. Because I’ve been trying to do this in a very completionist way where I’m like, I’m going to watch all… Leslie, I think you were telling me that I could watch DS9 and TNG at the same time?
David Banks: Yeah, at certain point they –
Aaron Thorpe: At certain points you can, but I was like I’ll watch all TNG, then DS9, and then Voyager, then Enterprise. I’m hoping to watch all The Original Series, and then the movies, and then the animated series, which I really can’t wait for, because I’m going to get so high and watch that shit.
David Banks: The animated series, there’s an episode where they meet Satan in Salem, Massachusetts, in the past.
Aaron Thorpe: Dawg. That sounds so dope.
David Banks: It’s so cool.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s so cool.
David Banks: Also the third season of The Original Series, they were not expecting to be… That’s the season that the fans win, and they weren’t expecting it. And so the first two episodes of the third season, the budget is literally like 20 bucks. Spock’s brain controls all. It’s such a good line. Such a perfect line.
Aaron Thorpe: All right. I’ll have to check out the original.
Lyta Gold: All right. Well, thanks for joining us, and we will see all of you lovely listeners across all of our lovely podcasts the next time we do this.