Throughout its first season, ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ developed a somewhat contentious relationship with the franchise’s canon. At least, that’s been the perception among some segments of the fanbase, and one that the show’s cast and crew have been keen to combat at every opportunity.
That tendency has only increased in the leadup to the show’s second season – which recently began filming. As originally reported on TrekMovie, while speaking on a ‘Discovery’ panel at Vulture Fest, co-showrunner Gretchen Berg spoke about the show’s place in canon and the benefits of the franchise’s famously expansive lore:
“I love the box that we are in, because it can be so overwhelming when you look at the entire universe of ‘Star Trek’… but we were able to focus on somewhere on the timeline and we know that this happened before and this happened after. They say boundaries and restrictions can be good and for us it was good. It also gave us an opportunity to lay in some Easter eggs and we feel very, very, very strongly about making sure that we fit into canon, making sure that there are not any loose ends that may be the story that is being told right now, but we are going to fit into that timeline. A lot of consideration has been put into it.”
Not for the first time, the fundamental disconnect seems to be one of continuity versus consistency. When Berg and others talk about “fit[ting] into canon,” they often seem to be thinking in narrative terms. “This happens before that, and we’re set right in between the two events.” Or questions of why it took fifty years to find out that Spock had a human foster sister (which is hardly even a question if you’re the sort of fan who remembers that Spock typically went to great lengths to avoid talking about his family, avoiding telling even his closest friends that “Ambassador Sarek and his wife are my parents” until after the two had come aboard the Enterprise). That sort of thing. But when fans question the show’s relationship to established ‘Trek’ canon, they’re often talking in terms of consistency. The two biggest examples on that end would likely be the series’ handling of the Klingons (both in terms of culture/characterization and their radically revamped makeup) and the level of technology.
The example of technology has proven a particular sticking point, and Berg acknowledged as much. On the same panel, she remarked:
“As far as shooting a show starting in 2017, we have to also realize we have caught up with the original series, like everyone talks about iPads and PADDs and stuff like that. We just have to make sure that it makes sense. We have our art director and prop designer and everyone who is madly in love with our show and also all the shows, and so they are paying attention to that.”
The fact that the show takes place a mere ten years before the original series makes this a bit tricky, as it can’t help but “look” more advanced than that show. This in and of itself isn’t unreasonable. After all, what looked futuristic in 1966 isn’t necessarily going to fly fifty years later and on a much less restrictive budget. Of course, as ‘Enterprise’ showed nearly two decades ago that you can update the look while still designing tech that could believably evolve into what we saw on the original ‘Trek’ (and over a much longer timescale no less).
So again we again come back to consistency. It would be one thing if it simply looked “too advanced.” Styles change over time. For example, the ships and sets in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels often look more advanced than those in the original trilogy, but over the course of three films believable evolved into a more utilitarian, less “advanced” aesthetic that better fit the iconic ‘Star Wars’ look. But ‘Discovery’ routinely features technology that simply shouldn’t be in use based on what we’ve seen (or not seen) in shows set more than a century later. From the word go, the spore drive was a particular sticking point for this writer, less because of the concept itself (although…) than because the show needed to present a damned good reason why this thing was mothballed, something they seemed to resist at every turn. As I said, “consistency.”
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ begins production of its second season in April. The new season will feature returning stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary Wiseman, and Anthony Rapp alongside newcomers Anson Mount and Tig Notaro. Though no premiere date for the second season has been announced yet, it is expected to begin airing on CBS All Access in late 2018 or early 2019.