Fulfilling their promise of a show that will smash our expectations, Discovery really is going where no Trek has gone before and will officially be rated TV-MA. This rating is the highest that television has to offer, far beyond the TV-PG rating that most Star Trek episodes have received. Yet, for all the mature themes and violent action that a TV-MA rating allows, the tone of #StarTrekDiscovery seems to retain the optimism that the franchise has become famous for — or so it would seem in the new promo that accompanied the TV-MA announcement.
The trailer invokes the ultimate philosophy of the Federation, the idea that all life can and should progress towards a future wherein they all live in peace and harmony. However, if #StarTrek's many shows have taught us anything, it's that this is a difficult dream to achieve — and it's one worth fighting for:
"We strive towards this dream of peace, where all species can share a common ground. Yet no dream can protect us from you."
Teasing us with more glimpses of the primal, ancient Klingons that are the show's main antagonists, this promo drops hints about the war that Michael Burnham may have started, as she and Captain Lorca discuss the importance of winning this fight. So it's easy to see why Discovery has earned a TV-MA rating, but we're left wondering if this is the right direction for the show.
Is A TV-MA Rating Right For Star Trek: Discovery?
Exploring the Klingon-Federation war was never going to be a fluffy, family friendly affair. This is the brutal conflict that lead to many children being orphaned (Burnham and Worf, to name just two), a bloody skirmish that ensured the Klingons and the Federation would not become allies until over a hundred years later.
To do this period of history justice, Discovery shouldn't be hampered by strict censorship. And yet, we shouldn't expect a lot of visceral violence — showrunner Aaron Harberts previously told Entertainment Weekly that Discovery won't be a gratuitous fight-fest:
"I’m not saying we’re not doing some violent things or doing a tiny bit of language. But what’s important to the creative team is the legacy of the show. We want to make sure we’re creating a show that fans can share with their families. You have to honor what the franchise is."
Discovery was always intended to be an updated form of Star Trek that would appeal to modern viewers, a story that retained the spirit and philosophy of the original while delving deeper into the emotional consequences and shades of grey that exist within this fictional universe.
And it's not like Star Trek has never dabbled in higher ratings before — The Next Generation episode "Conspiracy," and the Deep Space Nine episodes "The Way Of The Warrior" and "Rejoined" all received a TV-14 rating. With the exception of "Rejoined," this was thanks to the level of violence and mature themes explored in the episode. That episode also just received a higher rating because it depicted two women kissing, a bold and risqué move for '90s TV.
While many fans are concerned that the TV-MA rating means Discovery will be on a par with shows like Game Of Thrones, this is not necessarily the case. Other modern shows with this rating include Black Mirror, Westworld, Twin Peaks, Atypical, American Gods, and all #Netflix's Defenders shows. TV-MA is a blanket rating that encompasses everything from strong language, to sex scenes and violence. However, not all TV-MA rated shows depict all of the above, and in fact many of them use these mature moments sparingly — this is especially true of Twin Peaks and The Defenders shows.
It's also worth remembering that not all episodes of a show necessarily receive the same rating. It could be that some episodes of Discovery are TV-MA, while others are TV-14 (or maybe even TV-PG). And although we like to think that we've moved beyond censorship when it comes to the depiction of #LGBT life on TV, the TV-MA rating could well have been earned by some romantic scenes between Anthony Rapp's Lt Stamets, and his boyfriend, who will be played by Wilson Cruz.
Before the show airs it's impossible to know whether or not this rating is the right fit for Star Trek: Discovery. So far though, the writers have taken pains to stress how much they love the old shows, with the staff made up of fans of each different series. They seem dedicated to creating a story that is simultaneously a continuation of the franchise's tradition, and a modernization that will fit the audience. With any luck, this approach is the perfect way to tell a story from Trek's history that is just a little darker than the ones we're used to — or maybe Discovery earned the rating simply because, when confronted with a dire situation, those upstanding Federation officers finally said "fuck."
Do you think a TV-MA rating is right for 'Discovery?'
(Source: Entertainment Weekly)