📚 fifty-four of 2020: Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Inside the Art and Special Effects by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A gorgeous look at the visuals of Trek’s ambitious first film, and a great companion to Return to Tomorrow. Highly recommended for TMP fans. 🖖

So in last week’s Star Trek: Discovery, the ship got a major upgrade (in just three weeks). What we’ve seen so far includes programmable matter bridge and spore drive interfaces, detached nacelles, and even (though not yet seen on screen) holodecks.

Discovery 1031-A

Today I noticed one thing in the new promo pic (embedded above) that I hadn’t noticed while watching the episode: apparently the four corridors connecting the saucer’s inner section to its outer ring have been removed. Here’s a top view of the original design for comparison.

Discovery 1031

This seems like a really odd design decision to me. Before, while getting from the inner to outer sections may not have been super convenient if on foot and not using a turbolift (especially given the size difference between the Disco and any non-Abramsverse version of the Enterprise…and geez, I hadn’t realized just how huge all the Disco ships were), at least if it needed to be done they wouldn’t have had to go more than a quarter of the way around the gap. And there must be times when a turbolift isn’t practical — for instance, moving material, supplies, machinery, or other such things too large to fit in a turbolift around the ship.

I guess it all relies on everyone using those fancy new site-to-site personal transporters embedded in the new badges. But what if they’re not wearing a badge (taken off, fallen off, forcibly removed, etc.)? What if something goes wrong and the transporter system isn’t working properly (which, I know, never happens in Star Trek, but allow it for the sake of argument)? Now the only way to get from the inner ring to the outer ring is to take the primary corridor at the back of the inner ring towards the body of the ship, and then go around the outer ring to your destination. I just hope they don’t have to go from a point on the front of the inner ring to the front of the outer ring! Heck, now I wonder how hard it would be to estimate just how far that distance actually is….

Anyway. It looks cool, sure. But there are practicality considerations.

In a similar vein, how is maintenance done on those fancy new detached nacelles? In our first glimpse, it looked like they can be attached to the body of the ship, and were in the process of detaching in the shot, but what if something goes wrong while they’re detached?

One of the things I absolutely loved about Star Trek when I was a kid, and part of what has always fascinated me about it, was how real everything felt. Even fantastical elements, like the warp drive or transporters, always felt like there could be real, logical science behind them. And obviously, I’m not the only one who was drawn to this part of Trek, as I wouldn’t have all these Star Trek technical manuals and blueprints on my shelves if there weren’t enough of a market for them to get them published in the first place.

Trek Manuals and Blueprints

But so much of modern Trek (both Abramsverse and Discovery) seems to fall into the hand-wavey, might as well be magic, “because it looks cool” school of thought that breaks my suspension of disbelief.

Programmable matter I’m fine with — I want to know more about it, sure, but so far, I’m cool with how they’ve presented it. Detached nacelles (and other ship parts) could really use some serious work on defining what makes them desirable, possible, and accounting for practical considerations. We’ve seen lots of equipment, from space suits to prisoner anonymity hoods to asteroid-catching gravity platforms that just seem to fold open and create matter out of nothing — how is that explained? Where are all these fold-away pieces being stored when they’re not in use? Specifically regarding the asteroid-catching gravity platform, how do you get that much matter and mass into a suitcase that a human can carry around when it’s not in use?

And sure, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“, and sure, we’ve jumped another 900-some years into the future, and yes, we’ve just been introduced to these things, so there’s still plenty of time to develop the technobabble to justify them (or write scenes and scripts that deal with the situations outlined above). And, of course, these are modern shows, and I in no way expect them to be slavishly beholden to the set designs and special effects of the 1960s or 1980s.

But for me, at least, they’re really dancing on the line of believable technology vs. magic. And going too far towards magic is very likely to break a fundamental part of what has defined Trek for me for my entire life.

Including Short Treks episodes in a chronological rewatch means that the very recently produced Short Treks episode “Q&A”, dealing with Spock’s first day on the Enterprise, comes just before the original pilot for TOS, “The Cage” (and then the first two seasons of DIS before going into TOS proper).

Interestingly, I didn’t find this nearly as jarring as one might think, and while there are absolutely aspects I have problems with (like the external shots of the turbolifts that look like roller coasters surrounded by an absolutely ludicrous amount of open space), I do think it says good things about the care that the modern crew is taking with bringing TOS-era stories into the modern age.

Turbolifts aside, while the DIS version of the Enterprise is absolutely a modern interpretation, it is such a respectful interpretation that it works well for me, even when going from that to the very early ‘60s set from The Cage.

Part of Peck’s DIS interpretation of Spock, of course, was intended to act as a bridge between the more emotional version seen in The Cage and the more reserved version seen in the rest of TOS, and the events of Q&A tie directly into this. Romijn’s Number One is enjoyable, brining a little more warmth to Barret’s, and Mount’s Pike is quite simply an incredible match for Hunter, and it’s even more striking when watching them back-to-back like this.

So yes, as expected, there are differences. How could one expect otherwise, with five decades between the two productions? But even so, it’s quite impressive how well they mesh — at least, in my opinion. I may not agree with every choice the current stewards of Trek are making, but I think it’s clear that they have a lot of love and respect for the universe.

On Tuesday evening, I finally finished watching Star Trek: Enterprise (the finale of which is, well, a rather impressive number of bad decisions for a series finale). This was a bit of a personal milestone for me, as it was the first time where I had watched all of Star Trek’s canon at least once. Some, of course, I’ve watched many times, but ENT was the last series I’d never gotten around to watching.

Of course, that milestone only lasted for roughly 36 hours, since as of midnight this morning, the latest episode of Lower Decks went live, and I won’t get to see it until tonight. But I’m not about to complain that my milestone didn’t last long because we’re in the midst of almost six months straight of new Star Trek coming out each week!

So what now? Well, keep going, of course!

As long as I’ve just finished ENT, which is chronologically the first series, it just makes sense to continue on with a chronological re-watch. Using the list from the Star Trek Chronology Project as my guide, I’m rolling right in to the first two seasons of DIS (which, admittedly, will be a little weird for a bit once S3 of DIS starts broadcasting, but crossing time streams is pretty normal for Trek, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to cope), and then it’s on to TOS, TAS, TNG, LDS, DS9, VOY, PIC…and then we start all over again, right? ;)

Right now, I’m particularly looking forward to the TOS/TAS/TNG re-watches, both because they’re the ones I’ve last watched least recently, and because for each of them, though I picked up the remastered sets on Blu-ray for my personal collection, I’ve not actually taken the time to do more than sample a few bits here and there. It’ll be nice to finally see the restorations that have been patiently waiting for me to get around to them.