The online conversation about Star Trek: Discovery is as polarized as the original Enterprise's hull plating. There only seem to be two opinions: Discovery is the worst decision CBS ever made and its troubled production has doomed the show, or it's an important step forward for a landmark scifi franchise. Unfortunately, the naysayers are considerably louder than the hopeful would-be fans, so I'm reluctant to add to the pre-emptive criticisms. However, as out-of-my-mind excited as I am about Discovery, I also have some concerns — especially in regards to the latest production stills.
Beam Me Back To The Enterprise, Please
I mean, just take a look at that header image. Without context, it looks fine, if Captain Georgiou and Commander Burnham were exploring an alien ship. There's just one problem: This is the USS Shenzou's transporter room. In case you've forgotten, this is what Starfleet's transporter rooms typically look like:
They're iconic, a staple of the franchise. Star Trek: Discovery's, on the other hand, is something entirely new — and it just doesn't look right. Where's the silver-rainbow box? Where's the little stage? Where are the circular lights that look like they were ripped straight out of the TARDIS or, alternatively, your granny's living room because she just won't get rid of her '60s decor?
The problem is, this isn't just a matter of taste, but of continuity. Star Trek: Discovery is set 10 years before The Original Series, which makes it 90 years after Enterprise — and both of these shows used the traditional transporter room design. The USS Shenzou's transporters make absolutely no chronological sense... unless, of course, they're experimental.
In their exclusive article, Entertainment Weekly commented that "yes, there are more than one" transporter rooms, which makes me wonder whether the USS Shenzou's transporters are different. Maybe they're designed to beam people across lightyears (though that would also contradict canon), or through dimensions. Or heck, maybe the Shenzou's designer just had a thing for satellite dishes and wind turbines and seized his chance to finally combine the two in this unholy, metallic mess of a transporter room.
In case it wasn't clear, I think it looks pretty awful. But I have faith (of the heart) that the show will make it work. Here's hoping the USS Discovery's transporter rooms are more traditional. And after all, this isn't the only change that Discovery is making to the canon.
Throwing Out Gene Roddenberry's Rule Book
Yes, you read that right. Gene Roddenberry famously had a "bible" of show rules, ones which the later Star Trek writers were desperate to flout. In fact, once Roddenberry died, The Next Generation finally came into its own — and most experts attribute that to the fact that the new writers could stretch their creative wings. However, there is one rule that has always been followed by spinoff shows — and this is the one that Discovery can't wait to break.
First off the bat (Niners, let's hear some chatter!), Discovery will finally do away with the episodic structure that Star Trek followed fairly religiously. I say fairly, because Deep Space Nine featured a fantastic serialized arc during the Dominion War storyline, and the seasons followed overarching plots in a way that other Trek shows never quite achieved. Deep Space Nine has aged really well.
But serialized storytelling isn't the only change. In another report, Entertainment Weekly revealed that Discovery will discard one of Roddenberry's primary rules: That no Starfleet officer should ever come into conflict with another.
In Roddenberry's utopian vision of the future, humanity has moved beyond petty disputes, instead choosing diplomacy above all else. Or at least, that's what he espoused later on in life, when writing the guidelines for The Next Generation and other spinoffs. If you're familiar with The Original Series, you'll remember many arguments between Starfleet officers.
Needless to say, the other Trek writers hated this rule, dubbing it "Roddenberry's Box". The Discovery showrunners explained why they chose to break this rule — because drama means conflict and even in the Federation's idyllic future, "nobody's perfect." And don't worry, Roddenberry's vision is still very much in place.
"The thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts. So we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems."
So despite my misgivings at some of the aesthetic changes the Discovery creative team have made (I didn't mention before, but transparent glass computer terminals? Heck no! Give me back the LCARS!), it's seems like they've made the best call by breaking Roddenberry's golden rules. Not to mention, there are definitely times in Trek's past when the writers should have been bolder in establishing their own style — I am thinking particularly of the shortlived Enterprise, which would have benefited from striking out from tradition by incorporating serialized plots and breaking more of Roddenberry's rules.
Also, if you're interested, here's a bunch of times that The Next Generation and many other Star Trek shows broke every single one of Roddenberry's rules. Father doesn't always know best.
Tell us in the comments: What do you think Roddenberry would think of the Trek spinoff shows?