Thursday, May 11, 2017

William T. Riker Will You Please Go Now?

Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered when I was nine years old, and its final season aired during my sophmore year of high school. Since I kind of grew up with the show, I wasn't really capable of noticing some of its most basic flaws. Like how the character of Will Riker is mostly useless and terrible. 


Pictured: Will Riker, doing what he does.
"But Dave," I hear you saying. "This is blasphemy! Commander Riker is a dear and beloved character with millions of fans! You'd better be ready to explain yourself, mister!"

Why yes, imaginary person I invented as a literary device to justify the existence of this article. Allow me to list all the ways that Captain Picard's Number One is Number Two:

(Get it? "Number Two"? Because he stinks? I know, just start the article already.)

The "Dual Lead Characters" Concept Didn't Pan Out
An early version of the TNG series bible referred to Captain Picard and Commander Riker as "dual lead characters". The idea was that the older, experienced Picard would stay on the ship and handle the weighty, dramatic loneliness-of-command decision-making stuff while the younger Riker would lead Away Teams into danger and engage in the requisite running, jumping, fisticuffs and romancing of attractive guest actresses on planets where the hairstyles of the 1980s remained the height of fashion.

This turned out to be one of those ideas that works better on paper than in practice. No disrespect to Jonathan Frakes, but Patrick Stewart is a far superior actor. Stewart and Frakes are less like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and more like LeBron and Daniel "Boobie" Gibson. (Don't know who Daniel "Boobie" Gibson is? Exactly my point.) Stewart eventually got bored and started wanting more action  and romance for his character--the stuff that had previously been Riker's purview. And he turned out to be way better at it. As Picard became the action lead as well as the dramatic lead, Riker's character became more of a third wheel.

His Character Arc Was Finished Less Than Halfway Through The Show
In the first season, it’s established that more than anything, Riker wants to command a starship. And yet he turns down every command that’s offered to him in the early seasons. This was finally addressed in the “The Best of Both Worlds”. After turning down yet another starship, Riker has command thrust upon him when Picard is kidnapped by the Borg, and he acquits himself splendidly, proving that he's matured into the captain he always wanted to be. But in the very next episode, Picard is back and Riker is a Commander again. After "The Best of Both Worlds", Riker had no reason to still be on the Enterprise, except that Jonathan Frakes was a series regular. The character was pretty much frozen in amber for the last four of TNG's seven seasons, never growing or developing, just playing the same tired beats over and over again. Imagine if the Andy Griffith show had continued until Ron Howard was a teenager, but Opie was still getting into the same childish scrapes as when he was a second-grader. That's basically what happened with Riker. And it might've been okay if Riker was likable, but unfortunately . . .

He Was Kind of a Creepy Perv
So in the first-season episode "110010111011111100001100011111110010101" (or whatever it's called) Riker visits the holodeck, which has been enhanced by the computer-dependent Bynars, and conjures up what is basically a holo-hooker named "Minuet". Minuet is essentially a blow-up doll with a sophisticated AI; she's programmed to pick up on a person's nonverbal cues and become whatever they want her to be. She has no real personality, wants, or needs of her own, she only exists to please whatever man happens to be sitting in front of her. Riker is super turned-on by this, but before things can get heated enough to show us something we could never unsee without years of therapy and powerful medications the show remembers it's rated PG, and they're interrupted by Picard barging in like a sitcom neighbor. This whole embarrassing episode could easily be written off as just another weird interlude in TNG's chaotic first season, except that Minuet resurfaces in the fourth season episode "Future Imperfect".

In that story, Riker blacks out on an away mission and seemingly awakens in the future, where Dr. Crusher explains that an alien disease has erased his memories of the last 15 years. He's now Captain of the Enterprise and has a young son, and his wife died tragically not long before he lost his memory. The whole thing comes unraveled when Riker looks up some home movies in the computer and realizes that his dead wife is Minuet. Eventually he finds out that he's really in a mind-reading alien holodeck, and his "son" is actually a lonely alien orphan who just wanted some non-holographic company. But here's the interesting thing: the kid didn't create every aspect of the simulation. He tells Riker that the "neural scanners" tried to give him what he wanted. Now, lots of people have someone in their past who they wish they'd ended up with. Since Riker is the "ladies' man" character on a TV series, his Rolodex of past loves is way bigger than yours or mine. And yet the great lost love of his whole life is not a real person, it's a futuristic Siri-equipped blow-up doll! That's really messed up! We all rag on Geordi (and rightly so) for falling in love with the holographic Leah Brahms, but at least there was a real Leah Brahms out there.

Then there's the exchange Riker and Troi have in the episode "Captain's Holiday" before Picard leaves on his vacation to Risa. Risa, by the way, is either a kind of Space Vegas with no slot machines where everything is free (and I do mean everything), or a futuristic reimagining of the racist old South Seas island trope, where said island is full of barely-clothed native women whose only purpose in life is to have commitment-free sex with any white man who happens to wash up on their shores. It's safe to say there's no Disney resort on Risa. Anyway, as Picard is headed to the transporter room, Riker and Troi have this conversation which I copied and pasted from the script:

RIKER
Did I ever mention how imaginative
Risian women are?
TROI
Too often, Commander.

A few things here: Troi is Riker's ex-girlfriend, his co-worker, and technically his subordinate. If a guy has a habit of coming back from vacation and telling his ex-girlfriend about all the wild sex stuff he did, that's creepy and disturbing. If he does that to a co-worker, it's creepy, disturbing, and also constitutes sexual harassment. And if he does it to a subordinate, now you're in Bill O'Reilly territory. That's a very bad place to be for a hero character who the audience is supposed to like. Oh, and one more thing:


Riker Is An Emotionally-Unstable Jerk

In the first two seasons, Riker is a more genial, laid-back guy. He's a nice contrast to Picard, who in those early seasons was frequently uptight and short-tempered. But in the later seasons the two characters switch places. For example, in the episode "Hollow Pursuits", he joins in with Wesley and Geordi in bullying the nervous and dorky Lt. Barclay. Now, as the XO it's his job to make sure the ship runs well, and someone like Barclay who isn't giving 100% can expect the XO to be hard on him. In fact, if this story took place in a contemporary military setting there probably wouldn't be anything unusual about Riker's behavior. But this is supposed to be the 24th century Starfleet, full of morally-evolved Roddenberrians. So why does Picard have to be the one to tell Riker and Geordi to quit the bullying and name-calling and actually help the guy become a good officer?

Another thing Riker does a lot is get all shouty and petulant whenever someone disagrees with him. He threatens Lt. Commander Shelby when she goes around him to try and sell Picard on her anti-Borg plan he's rejected. He gets into loud arguments with Ensign Ro when she does stuff without following established protocols. And then we have his relationship with Captain Jellico.

We've all had bosses we didn't like, right? Bosses that made us do stuff we didn't want to do and thought was stupid? Most of us handled it like adults; we either gritted our teeth and did as we were told, or if we could afford to maybe we resigned from the job. But when Jellico comes aboard and orders a change in the Enterprise's shift schedule that Riker doesn't like, he complains and drags his feet like a teenager whose mom told him to pause his Nintendo game and take out the trash. And then when he doesn't like the way Jellico is handling things with the Cardassians, he loses his temper and shouts at him. This is unprofessional behavior for a Burger King employee; it's even worse when it's a dude who's second-in-command of a giant starship with an arsenal that can turn an Earthlike planet into the lava world of Mustafar. I'd ask how this guy got to be the XO of the flagship, but since Starfleet is an organization where most of the  Admirals we see are incompetent or corrupt I think we know the answer.

Imagine this: what if Riker had been written out of the show after "The Best of Both Worlds" and Commander Shelby had become the new first officer? Can you think of any Riker-centric episode from the final four seasons that wouldn't have been as good or better if reworked as a Shelby story? In fact, Shelby locking horns with Ensign Ro or Captain Jellico might've been more believable, since she was a younger, more impetuous character.

You may disagree with everything I've said here. And that's cool, I don't all mean and shouty when people don't agree with me.

Unlike someone else I could name.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Ryman Refinement

I saw my first Herb Ryman painting when I was six years old:


It appeared as a beautiful two-page spread in the definitive EPCOT Center bible, Richard Beard's Walt Disney's EPCOT-Creating The New World of Tomorrow. The book was a present from my grandfather, one of the best he ever gave me. While the gorgeous Robert McCall paintings from the Horizons chapter more strongly stirred my imagination, something about the Ryman painting compelled me. It wasn't until I saw more of his work a couple decades later that I realized what it was.



It was the people. In most theme park concept art, the people are hastily-sketched smiling figures excitedly pointing at or running towards the attraction that's being depicted, sometimes while clutching a piece of tie-in merchandise. Their only function is to provide a sense of scale while communicating the idea that the proposed attraction will be a fun (and profitable) place.

But in Herb Ryman's pictures, the people communicate something more. They convey the idea of EPCOT Center as a place where people from around the world don their finest clothes to learn about the future and immerse themselves in the cultures of the planet we share. It reminds me of how my grandfather used to wear a suit whenever he took a plane trip. He came from the era where flying was a special occasion. And for special occasions, you dressed up.

In the alternate universe Herb Ryman painted, a visit to EPCOT Center was very much a special occasion. And Florida somehow had no heat or humidity, so a man could stroll its unshaded expanses in a three-piece suit without breaking a sweat, and a woman could walk the entire park in a dress and high heels with zero discomfort. But more importantly, it was an alternate reality where people would actually come from all over the world to partake of the feast for the mind that EPCOT Center offered. I've said before that the main reason EPCOT Center failed to do as well as the pre-Michael Eisner Disney hoped was that it eschewed thrill rides and engaged your brain on a higher level, whereas the average theme park visitor doesn't want their brain engaged on any higher level, they want it engaged on the level that makes them sorry they had lunch at Pizza Planet.

I think a big reason why the world Herb Ryman depicted is so alluring to we EPCOT Center nostalgists is that it's a place where science, learning, and the appreciation of cultures other than one's own are highly valued. It's a more refined place, one that we feel a keen homesickness for even though it never really existed. But when we look into those paintings and imagine ourselves there, we hope that someday, somehow, it will.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Mary Sue Misapplication

Mary Sue (n): An idealized, practically perfect character in fan fiction, almost always created as a way for the author to insert themselves into their favorite fictional universe. Mary Sues often upstage the universe's established characters, winning their respect and sometimes even their romantic interest.

Believe it or not, in the early years of Star Trek fandom the fanbase was predominately female. In fact, without the passion of the mainly-female fans who organized conventions and published fanzines during those years when Star Trek was nothing more than a cancelled TV show, we never would've gotten 13 feature films and five spinoff television series. Kind of makes those dudes who accuse female fans of being "fake geek girls" look like even more voluminous douchebags, doesn't it?

Anyway, fanzines were fan-published magazines that contained fanfic, poetry, and essays--the kind of things you see on the Internet today. In the second issue of the Menagerie fanzine published in December 1973, author Paula Smith coined the term "Mary Sue" to describe the type of Star Trek fanfic featuring the youngest officer in Starfleet history who comes aboard the Enterprise and instantly wins the admiration (and possibly romantic affections) of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, even as she upstages them all by effortlessly saving the day with her brilliant genius. It goes without saying that a "Mary Sue" character could also be male, it's just that the vast majority of fanfic authors in that first decade of Trek fandom were female and therefore the nickname that was coined for any wish-fulfillment author-stand-in character was a female one. At least it should go without saying. In actual practice, female fanfic authors quickly found that any female character they created, no matter how well-drawn and realistic, was dismissed by male readers as a "Mary Sue". But it gets worse:

Until pretty recently, I never heard the term applied to any characters outside of fan fiction. The only exception I can think of was Star Trek: The Next Generation's Wesley Crusher, (a youthful super genius who often improbably saved the day and who Gene Roddenberry admitted was somewhat based on himself). But then a funny thing happened. Female protagonists started to show up with increasing frequency in sci-fi and fantasy, and suddenly male fans were loudly denouncing every one of them as a "Mary Sue".

Case in point: Rey from The Force Awakens. Google "rey mary sue" and the number of results is depressingly more than zero. But why? The main reason the (always male) proponents of this argument give is that she has "unrealistic abilities". Well duh. Most every story you love features a character with superpowers or super awesome fighting skills or genius-level intelligence that helps them solve complex mysteries or invent incredible things that defy the laws of physics. News flash: those are all unrealistic abilities. Here are some other reasons why Rey cannot by definition be a Mary Sue:
  1. The Force Awakens is not a fanfic. Maybe it's not exactly the Star Wars Episode 7 you imagined in your head after the disappointing prequels, but the fact is that The Force Awakens is an official entry in the Star Wars canon. and one of the things it's designed to do is introduce a new generation of characters like Poe, Finn and especially Rey. 
  2. Rey is not an author stand-in. The Force Awakens was written by Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams. I'm 99% sure neither of those guys is a young woman, and I can't prove it, but I'm fairly certain none of them fantasizes about being one. At least it's never come up in their other work.
Since basically forever the entertainment industry has been catering to white guys like me by giving us heroes who look like ourselves. But now Hollywood is slowly starting to realize that women have money, too, and they're more likely to spend it on movies where are the characters who look like them are treated like real people and not just a talking prop or a trophy given to a male hero for saving the day. Only an idiot would feel threatened by this. Or Max Landis. But I repeat myself.

So knock it off, guys. Stop trying to disguise your sexism as thoughtful artistic criticism. Your genitals aren't going to fall off just because traditionally male-dominated franchises are starting to get more female heroes.



Monday, August 8, 2016

The Axanar Meltdown II: The Moltening

I generally don't get involved in Internet controversies. I just don't have the time. But, for years I've enjoyed some of the Star Trek fan productions out there, especially New Voyages/Phase II and Star Trek Continues. And I was initially excited about Star Trek Axanar. I even donated $25 to one of their crowdfunding campaigns. And then everything went straight to heck.

First, Axanar managed to get itself sued by CBS and Paramount. You'd think that producer Alec Peters and his followers would immediately do whatever was necessary to keep this huge multimedia conglomerate from crushing them like a Fudgesicle under a steamroller, but throughout all of this they've remained defiant, even launching a countersuit against CBS/Paramount. And after months of waiting for the other shoe to drop, in June CBS and Paramount released a list of Star Trek fan film guidelines that close the door, not just on productions like Axanar, but also on my two favorite fan productions New Voyages and Continues.

While the official Axanar Twitter account was retweeting anyone who pledged to boycott official Star Trek productions because of the lawsuit or the guidelines, Vic Mignogna of Star Trek Continues published a very classy statement shooting down calls for any such boycott and reminding fans of CBS and Paramount's intellectual property rights. I was annoyed that Axanar's recklessness and profiteering was going to bring an end to fan films as we've know them, so I fired off this tweet:

I was just venting. I never expected any kind of reply. But my tweet must've touched a raw nerve with Alec, because he initiated a conversation with me via direct message. What follows are screenshots of the full conversation, with only one redaction (which will be obvious when you see it). I've debated posting this, but some folks have expressed interest. And I think it's important to see how Alec behaves when he's backed into a corner by logic. Make of it what you will.


One bit of clarification: my statement that I don't disbelieve the allegations made about Vic Mignogna means that I have no evidence that they're true or false. They are, however, utterly irrelevant to the topic of Star Trek and intellectual property rights.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Batman v Superman: Happy Funtime

So recently I saw this movie from a director who many believe has made more bad films than good ones. It's a visually-rich, strangely-paced film that was almost universally panned by critics; one especially famous one called it "a stunningly interesting visual achievement, but a failure as a story." I'm talking, of course, about Blade Runner.

Today, of course, Blade Runner is widely regarded as a classic, and as director Ridley's Scott's best film. But back in 1982 most critics (including Roger Ebert, whose review I quoted above) said the same kinds of things they're now saying about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I finally got to see BvS this weekend, and I have to say it was much better than I expected considering the shellacking it's received from critics both professional and amateur.

Am I saying that Batman v Superman: Could This Title Be More Cumbersome? is as good as Blade Runner? No. I'm saying that although it's not a perfect film, I still enjoyed it.

Are there any perfect movies? Name one if you can, and I guarantee I can point out one giant story-derailing plot hole in it, or a bunch of little plot holes and imperfections that will completely take you out of the movie every time you see it from now on. Movies and TV shows are designed to entertain us during their running time. But somewhere along the way the Internet decided that in order for something to be good, you have to be able to watch it again and again and again and again and again and again and again into infinity without noticing any imperfection. Otherwise, that movie or TV episode sucks.

Of course, the most fanatical proponents of the Infinite Rewatchability Standard have their own personal lists of things they believe should be excluded from it, things that they love even though they're flawed. But that is not the point. The point is that the Internet often arbitrarily decides that things are bad, even if they share many common characteristics with other things that the Internet loves.

For example, early on in BvS there's a scene where an African terrorist warlord is holding a gun to Lois Lane's head, using her as a human shield to get Superman to back down. I was instantly reminded of a similar scene in the first Iron Man movie, when a bunch of Afghan terrorists hold guns on women and children to get Iron Man to back down. You remember what happens: Tony Stark uses the technology in his suit to target the terrorists and shoot them all at once, and not with tranquilizer darts, either. The outcome in BvS is similar; Kal-El uses his super speed to knock the warlord through several walls. We don't see the guy after that, but it's pretty safe to assume he's dead. I've seen lots of complaints about this, and oddly enough they all come from people who think the DC films should be more like Marvel's.

Do I thrill to the sight of superheroes killing bad guys? No. I'm just pointing out that the people who make the loudest noise about Superman or Batman killing villains have absolutely no problem with Iron Man or Captain America doing the same thing. They're just grasping for reasons to validate the decision they made to hate the movie way back when it was first announced.

So, what did I like about Batman v Superman: How Many Focus Groups Did It Take To Come Up With This Title? Well, as a Superman fan I really liked how the movie treated him. Look, the first Christopher Reeve film is one of my favorite movies ever, but it's almost 40 years old. This Superman can't go to the Fortress of Solitude and have the giant floating head of Jor-El tell him what to do whenever he has a problem. The people of Earth don't instantly accept him. And a lot of the time his efforts to save people spawn unintended consequences, some of which are engineered by Lex Luthor in a deliberate effort to discredit him. In light of all that, is it reasonable to expect him to be the smiling Superman that Christopher Reeve portrayed? Of course not.

In the final act of the film, Lex Luthor did something that he's done many times in the comics but never in the movies: give Superman in a genuine moral dilemma--does he kill Batman or allow his mother to die? When he leaves Lois to confront Batman, he seems resigned to killing Batman. But he doesn't. Even when Batman reveals he can hurt him with his Kryptonite gas, Superman continues to try and get him to stop, rather than just heat-visioning his face off. And in death, this Superman does something that we never really saw in the Donner/Reeve films: inspire people. He inspires Bruce Wayne to be a better man. He inspires Wonder Woman to come out of retirement. And he inspires the people of Earth to come together. The scene of the multiethnic crowd holding a candlelight vigil at his monument was maybe the most inspiring Superman-related scene we've ever seen in live action. All of these are good things. I've seen people complain that DC did the Death of Superman too soon, but in this universe Superman needed to die heroically for the world to embrace him.

Of course, there's stuff I didn't enjoy so much, like Jesse Eisenberg's over-the-top performance. And the killing. Let's talk about that again. Near the end of the movie when Batman is firing the Batplane's machine guns at Luthor's henchmen on his way to rescue Martha Kent, I realized that this is the world we live in now. Batman has been killing his enemies on the movie screen since 1989, and the world is an even grimmer place today. A majority of Americans favor the torture of captured terrorists, even though the facts are that torture is not a good way to extract reliable intelligence. Politicians running for office get big cheers from their supporters when they promise to massacre the families of suspected terrorists. Back in the early 1950s when the Comics Code Authority forbade comic book heroes from killing their enemies, these kinds of things would have provoked outrage. But to modern audiences, someone who identifies as a "good guy" taking the Judge Dredd approach to crimefighting seems justified, if not praiseworthy. I don't like that at all, but it's not an issue that's restricted to this movie; it's part of the cultural soup we're all cooking in.

Another thing that a lot of people didn't like/were confused by were the strange dream sequences that were never explained, and mostly seemed to be shoehorned in there to set up the upcoming Justice League movies. I don't mind a movie having weird stuff that's not explained, and since I read the spoilers ahead of time I mostly understood what I was seeing. Still, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the writers threw those scenes in there just because they seemed cool, without any firm idea how they would fit in with the Justice League films. You know, kind of like what the Battlestar Galactica writers did with the Opera House visions. If that's the case, I foresee many Internet tantrums in the future.

Overall, Batman v Superman: I Can't Believe They Actually Went With That Title was a solid, interesting movie that tried to explore the implications of someone like Superman in our world. I wouldn't call it fun, and I'm not sure if I'll buy the Blu-Ray when it comes out (if I do, it definitely won't be the R-rated extended cut) but it didn't provoke the vitriol in me that it did in so many amateur critics.

I guess I'm getting soft in my middle age.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Star Trek 2017 Wish List

For a while now, I've been trying to write something about my hopes for the new Star Trek series that premieres in 2017. Lots of fans have their wish lists, full of stuff like what timeline the show should be set in (Prime or JJverse) what the characters should be like, and so forth.

I really don't care about any of that minutiae.

What I want more than anything is for Star Trek to return to its roots by grounding itself in reality once again. Now I know what you're thinking: how can a show about people who zip around at faster-than-light speeds and teleport back and forth to alien planets were the natives always speak perfect English possibly be grounded in reality? Well, back in the late Sixties the only other "space show" on the air was Lost In Space, a program that did not take itself or its audience seriously:

Yes, that's a carrot-man

Meanwhile, the Gene Roddenberry-penned Star Trek writers and directors guide contained this important paragraph:

AND SO, IN EVERY SCENE OF OUR STAR TREK STORY...
... translate it into a real life situation. Or, sometimes as useful, try it in your mind as a scene in GUNSMOKE, NAKED CITY, or some similar show. Would you believe the people and the scene if it happened there?
IF YOU'RE ONE OF THOSE WHO ANSWERS: "THE CHARACTER ACTS THAT WAY BECAUSE IT'S SCIENCE FICTION", DON'T CALL US, WE'LL CALL YOU.
Those words are the most important single guideline for good Star Trek storytelling that has ever been given. Sadly, future iterations of the show pretty much ignored them.

A huge chunk of the blame goes to Gene Roddenberry. By the time The Next Generation went into production he had almost totally lost his marbles, and he decreed that 24th century humans had none of the flaws and foibles that every storyteller in human history has used to craft dramatic tales. As I wrote in an earlier article, this led  The Next Generation and its spinoffs (especially Voyager) to lean way too heavily on technobabble to tell stories. Instead of the Man vs. Man or Man vs. Himself plots that drive a lot of dramatic stories to this day, TNG-era Star Trek gave us the Holodeck Malfunction story, the Weird Space Anomaly story, and the Time Travel/Time Paradox story. Any of these stories are fine as one-offs, but towards the end of its run TNG was going back to them more and more frequently.

Fortunately, TNG went off the air before it could really start embarrassing itself (it waited until the movies to do that) but Voyager picked up right where TNG left off. The first episode after the two-hour pilot was a Weird Space Anomaly story. The very next episode was a Time Travel/Time Paradox story. And so it went, for 170 more episodes. Ronald D. Moore worked on Voyager very briefly before leaving in disgust, and in an interview afterwards he had this to say about how technobabble-based storytelling had damaged Star Trek:
"It’s a lot easier to tech your way out of a situation than to really think your way out of a situation, or make it dramatic, or make the characters go through some kind of decision or crisis. It’s a lot easier if you can just plant one of them at a console and start banging on the thing, and flash some Okudagrams, and then come up with the magic solution that is going to make all this week’s problems go away." source
The first season of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica reboot ran concurrently with the final season of the last Rick Berman-era Trek spinoff, Enterprise, and it's very instructive to compare the two. Although Enterprise's fourth season is its best, it still feels rooted in that 1990s brand of TV storytelling that Rick Berman-produced Trek could never break away from. And while BSG was doing what Star Trek used to do in the '60s--use science fiction to tell stories about current events and the human condition--Enterprise was just checking off items on Trekkie wishlists while awaiting its inevitable cancellation.

The problem was that Enterprise was a spinoff of a spinoff of a spinoff. It never did anything original because Star Trek wasn't based on reality anymore, it was based on previously-existing Star Trek. The franchise was caught in a self-referential Irrelevance Loop.

So what are my hopes for the new Star Trek? A clean start. No compulsive references to previous Star Treks, no trips to the Well of Tired Plot Devices. You want to do a show about a group of  space explorers? Then have them actually explore space. Real space is vast and mysterious, lonely and inhospitable. Show that. If you're way out on the edge of explored space, you can't be zipping back and forth to Earth whenever you want. You can't have instantaneous Skype sessions with Starfleet Command. We know so much more about our universe and the phenomena it contains that we did in the '90s when the last iteration of Star Trek was at its peak. Use those discoveries. Show us spaceships that are bound by Newtonian physics, not swooping, diving, and banking like the ships in Star Wars. Use the show to comment intelligently on current events and the human condition with Star Trek's trademark optimism.

Of course the new show will have to take shortcuts for dramatic convenience. Every TV show and movie does that. But that doesn't mean that Star Trek can't reclaim its mantle as sci-fi for thinking people, as the show that inspires kids to become astronauts, scientists, doctors, and engineers.

I hope this is what Bryan Fuller, Nicholas Meyer, and the rest of the Star Trek 2017 team will do. Because if they bow to the wishes of the most vocal members of the fan community, then the new Star Trek will be a tired retread of previous Treks, a spinoff of a spinoff of a spinoff of a spinoff.

And it'll remain trapped in the Irrelevance Loop.