Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Remembering the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas

Posted in amusements, entertainment by commorancy on November 9, 2019

las-vegas-sign.jpgBack in the late 90s and into the early 00s, the Las Vegas Hilton had a Star Trek attraction called The Star Trek Experience. This attraction morphed some over the years and added new features, but its first attraction remained its most impressive. It closed in 2008. Let’s explore and remember this amazing attraction.

Star Trek at the Las Vegas Hilton

The Las Vegas Hilton was a casino and hotel not far off the strip at the south end. Down at this end of the strip and at the time you’d find hotels like the Stratosphere, the Sahara and Circus Circus. Though the Las Vegas Hilton wasn’t on the strip directly, it was not far off of it across from the Las Vegas Convention center.

To combat its off-the-strip location, it employed various marketing practices to entice would-be gamblers to head to this hotel and casino. In that effort, in 1997, it enticed Paramount to build its Star Trek Experience attraction at the hotel where it remained in operation until 2008. I actually liked this casino, not strictly because of its Star Trek area. Today, this hotel is no longer named the Las Vegas Hilton and the Star Trek Experience no longer operates there having lost its lease. The hotel was later briefly renamed the LVH and is today known as the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino and received this rename in 2014. It no longer bears the Hilton name.

However, back in the early 2000s, The Star Trek Experience was something to behold.

Star Trek Experience

This experience was like none other that I’ve visited. When you first entered the hotel where the attraction lived, the Star Trek Experience was to the left. The hotel was to the right. There was also a bar to the immediate right. In fact, the entire casino portion of the hotel around the entry way was entirely space and futuristic themed. This included everything from the carpeting, to the beams to the lighting and even the slot machines had a futuristic theme. The Hilton did up this area right and it entirely looked appropriate with its space theme.

As you entered the Star Trek Experience, the entry way consisted of basically a museum of Star Trek props, video screens running, large starships were suspended from the ceiling, including the Enterprise. As you made your way into the area, you came upon a desk. This is where you bought tickets to enter the show. When it was just the Star Trek Experience alone, you had two ticket choices: the museum alone or the museum and the experience together.

Whichever ticket you bought gave you admission to mill around the museum and look at the props and use the interactive exhibits. The museum encompassed mostly the entry way and ran up into the upper level. The Star Trek Experience had two levels. The upper level, which the museum had ramps and/or stairs to lead you to the queue line. The downstairs included various gift shops and Quark’s restaurant and bar. We’ll talk about the downstairs a bit later.

In the museum, one of the interactive exhibits was a pseudo functional replicator. Of course, it didn’t replicate anything, but the screen in the well area simulated the replication of food and drink items. It was interesting, but it was also a little bit cheesy in quality… as were many of the interactive exhibits. They really weren’t cutting edge when this museum was in operation. The museum portion of the Star Trek Experience wasn’t really the reason to go there. In fact, I found the museum portion to be of such average quality that it kind of set off warning bells that the actual experience itself might not fare much better (at least when you’re a first timer). In this case, it is very much a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover situation. The Star Trek Experience show part was well worth every cent of that ticket price… at least to me. The museum, on the other hand, was a rip-off that I wish that I could have skipped. Unfortunately, you were locked into buying both with one ticket if you wanted admission to the “show”. To me, it was just a way to boost the ticket admission price.

The Experience Itself

After you made your way to the back of the museum, there was a queue line where you would queue up for the next show. The shows ran about every 15 minutes or so. This meant you could stand in line for up to 15 minutes for the next show, assuming you were in line at less than the number they admit per show. The show itself could only house maybe 15-20 people. I don’t recall the exact number, but once they counted enough heads into the show, the line closed off to wait for the next show.

I visited the show maybe 3 or 4 times while it was open over the years and I think I had to wait one time for the next show because of the head count situation. If you had intended to visit the show at certain times of the day or on certain days, you could encounter larger crowds. If you went on some weekdays, you could breeze through the line into the next show.

All the while you’re standing in line, there are TV displays talking about various Star Trek stuff, sometimes showing excerpts from the TV show or the movies. As you move to the head of the line, there’s a monitor that talks about the safety requirements of the show itself. The museum extended down the queue line hallway which housed props and costumes from characters such as Lursa and B’ator and various Spock outfits from the then recent movies. While the museum portion was interesting enough for the first time visitor, it was simply wallpaper on subsequent visits. It wasn’t even very impressive. I can’t recall the museum updating its contents or remodeling during the entire run of The Star Trek Experience. I could be wrong about that, but that was entirely my impression of the museum area. I personally would have been just as happy to skip the museum cost entirely and jump right into line.

Once you were let into the Experience, you were led down the hall into a small blue room with an interesting lighting concept. You were asked to stand on a line. I believe there were 5 yellow stripes down the center of this rectangular blue room. This meant there would be 5 groups of people each standing on a line. Everyone was situated so that you were standing in the center of the room not touching any of the walls. If you inadvertently leaned on a wall or were touching it, one of the staff would loudly request not to do this.

Once everyone was situated on their line, we were directed to look up and forward to a screen which ran a video that began the entire Experience. Mostly, it discussed safety protocols and not leaning against walls and blah, blah, blah. It was a mostly cheesy video that really was nothing more than what the staff had already told us about standing on the lines. In the middle of the video, the lights begin to flash and there’s a bunch of audio noise as if the power is going out and the whole room plunges into darkness. And… pitch black it was. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. There was no light anywhere.

Suddenly, there’s a huge whoosh of air flow all around. It wasn’t gale force or anything, but it was a startling cold breeze that didn’t seem to come from any specific direction. Then, the floor and ceiling lights come on and… we’re now standing in the center of a transporter room. A literal round, brownish transporter room. The circular room with a circular ceiling, light in the center and all of the paint job of a Next Generation transporter room. It was uncanny. Gone was that small blue room with its yellow lines and in its place was an honest-to-goodness transporter room.

The effect was uncanny and astounding. It was the single thing that made the entire Star Trek Experience worth its price tag. I could have walked out of the Star Trek Experience right at that point and I would have felt satisfied.

But no, the show had only just begun. Two people dressed in Next Generation jumpsuits walk in and one explains that we were transported and intercepted on the Enterprise. The show proceeds on the premise that one in the crowd is related to someone on the Enterprise and that gave the whole show its “story”. As we are led from the transporter room, we are led onto the bridge. This is where the whole story derails a bit. Randoms transporting onto the Enterprise are not likely to be lead to the bridge due to the possibility of takeovers. That’s a breach of protocol. Instead, we likely would have been led to a cargo bay large enough for a crowd of our size or perhaps some place like Ten Forward. I digress.

Anyway, we are led to the bridge… and, a marvel that bridge was. This TNG Enterprise bridge set reconstruction was amazing and entirely spot on. From the wooden arch in the back to the seating just below to the helm control seats in front of the screen. The lighting was spot on, the paneling, the paint job, the leather on the seats… everything was as spot on as I could have ever imagined. It was simply an amazing bridge replica.

Because the story needs to progress, we are again lined up either around the back of the bridge or around areas where the ‘actors’ could do their thing without obstructions. The view screen begins showing a ‘transmission’ about the “heir” being transported aboard for safety and a bunch of blathering ensues between the screen and the actors. The hired actors ranged from decent to downright bad. It all depended on the show. Most of the ‘actors’ were hired due to their height and weight proportions… not so much for their acting abilities. I can guarantee you every single person wearing those TNG jumpsuits looked immaculate in them. They could have easily been an extra in any TNG episode. Everything about this part of the show was high quality. From the costumes to the communicator on their outfits to the pips. Everything was nailed perfectly. In fact, it was so perfectly designed, the show could have used one of these bridges in a pinch had they needed to film there.

The concept of the show itself was really its weak point. The story was designed to enthrall the audience, having them become active (sort of) and unwitting participants. It worked to rope the audience in, but the story was just not that great… and the next part bears this out.

As the whole bridge scene ends, we are led out of the bridge into a oversized turbolift. Once we’re suitably situated into the “turbolift”, the whole thing rocks a bit, the lights flash, there’s some sound and an announcement during the commotion and then it all subsides and the door opens. Not a terribly convincing effect here, admittedly. We’re told while all of the commotion ensues that something is firing upon the Enterprise. At this point, this is where the magic kind of dwindles a bit. As we’re led out of the turbolift, we walk down a hallway that looks more like a hallway on DS9 than the Enterprise and then into an open area, presumably a Shuttle Bay where there’s a shuttle craft parked waiting with the door open. There are also visible EXIT signs along the walk which completely break the magic and which were presumably required by law. As I said, the magic kind of ends here. The shuttle bay area wasn’t that well designed and the shuttle interior looks like a cheesy motion simulator, which it in fact is.

At this point and once we’re in the motion simulator, the “experience” concludes with a ride in a movie based motion simulator that sways, rocks and jerks in time to a movie. The difficulty with the “movie” is that I always found it to be blurry and not a great experience. It was filmed and I believe it actually used many from the TNG cast, but the overall story just wasn’t that great. Additionally, the simulator’s movements were overly herky jerky. If you were one with back or neck problems, you’d want to skip this last part of the ‘ride’ entirely. This part was extremely hard on even people with healthy backs. Again, Shuttle Crafts would have been designed with inertial dampeners and, in fact, you probably wouldn’t have felt much movement at all with the inertial dampeners operating, even when diving and banking and whatever other screen movements were going on. In reality, the entire rocking, swaying and jerking motions were entirely unnecessary and pointless. As I said, the magic dies pretty quickly once you get into this cheesy motion simulator ride.

If the show had ended on being transported back out at the end, that would have been something I could have found to be a befitting ending. At the end, when we exit the shuttle craft, we’re back on Earth and the room looks like a standard building interior. We are led to an elevator and are deposited to the gift shop and restaurant area below the attraction.

The entire show experience lasted perhaps 15 minutes all told, most of it being the movie at the end. The sets built and costumes used were all spot on. The actors were of average quality, many of them you could tell had been doing it for far too long. Though, the actors all being height and weight proportionate certainly made the costumes look all the better. There was certainly not a single overweight actor there.

Gift Shop and Restaurants

After the final elevator deposited us into the gift shop area, we were left to shop from various stores. I believe there may have been 3 or 4 different gift shops with Quark’s bar and restaurant being the primary food place there.

While I did eat at Quark’s once and the food was typical for a mid-high-priced American Bistro like TGI Friday’s or Chili’s, the reason to go there was simply for the ambiance. The bar itself did resemble Quark’s bar on DS9. Though, I think it would have been more appropriate to build Ten Forward than Quark’s. While the area downstairs was themed DS9, the shops themselves looked more like a mall shop than it resembled being on a futuristic ship. The wares being peddled ranged from cheap crap to middle of the road to high end props. It depended on the shop.

I didn’t buy much from these stores because everything was way overpriced. Even Quark’s was overpriced for the type of food quality you get. As I said, the only reason to eat there was its atmosphere and its unique bar drinks. I always liked to look at everything in the shops, but look only, don’t buy.

Costumed Actors

In the shop area, you’d also find additional actors in various dress. Some were dressed like Klingons, some dressed like Ferengi and some dressed like TNG officers, male and female.

As I understood it, the people working these “roles” were actually hired as actors by Paramount. In the Experience itself, these people actually had speaking roles. Downstairs it was all free form. You asked questions and they would ad-lib answers. Mostly it was for photo purposes. I believe you could only take pictures in the shop area, but I could be wrong about photography.

Photographs were entirely off limits throughout the attraction and the museum, from what I recall. Though, many did sneak pictures here and there.

Behind the Scenes

Later during the run of the Star Trek Experience (toward the end of its life), the show began offering a Behind the Scenes ticket purchase. This was separate from and unique to the original show. Instead of going through the show like normal, in between the shows, you would take a tour of the set behind the scenes. You would get photo opportunities on the Bridge itself that you don’t get during the Experience show.

The behind the scenes showed how the gimbal setup worked for the transporter. Basically, the entire blue room was on a gimbal / fulcrum of sorts along with creative lighting, sound and set movement. In about 10 to 15 seconds, the entire room sans floor moved swiftly upwards. The round ceiling and walls quickly moved into place just below the now raised room. When the lights are brought up, it’s as though you’re now standing in the transporter room. The effect is uncanny and astounding. It’s even more astounding when you realize the engineering involved in getting this to work so seamlessly, quickly and noiselessly. The behind the scenes showed a much slowed down version of it to show how the effect was achieved.

The breeze was an unintended side effect of the room being raised up so rapidly. It wasn’t designed as part of the effect. When something that large moves that rapidly, air is displaced. Because the air movement heightened the transporter effect, no effort was employed to get rid of it. Even after knowing how the effect was achieved, subsequent visits, at least for me, were just as mesmerizing. In fact, the entire transporter effect was the entire reason to visit the Star Trek Experience. The rest of it was all gravy. The transporter effect was worth the price of admission alone… which is why I wished they had utilized it twice. Once to start. Once to end it. The cheesy motion simulator was a big letdown after all that had come before.

The Borg Invasion

Around the time the Behind The Scenes began (maybe a little before), the Star Trek Experience introduced a new show called the Borg Invasion. This show was even more of a letdown than the final motion simulator. In this one, you enter a room and you sit in a standard movie theater type seat. A 3D movie begins playing and the only thing that happens with this is a light motion to the seat itself. The seat cushion piece also goes up and down.

The experience was, in fact, so bad compared to the original Experience that I find it hard anyone could have greenlit the idea. It was an average experience that was more akin to seeing a movie than having an experience. Even when the Borg Invasion began, the original Star Trek Experience continued to operate. You could still experience the transporter effect and visit the bridge.

The Overall Experience

The best part of the Star Trek Experience was definitely its transporter effect. It was so well done and so convincing that everything else around it pales in comparison. I do wish that they had given more thought to the story line around the show. The “being an heir to Picard” (or whomever) idea was such a stretch that it felt clumsy. Though, the sets, costumes and the primary effect were top notch. Even the downstairs shop area was convincing as being set inside of DS9.

I do wish the original Star Trek Experience was still in operation somewhere. The show would need to be retooled a bit and perhaps updated for Discovery, but that transporter effect boggles the mind as to how impressive it is (or was).

If you have visited the Star Trek Experience in the past, please recall your experience below in the comments. If you formerly worked at the Star Trek Experience, I’d like to hear from you as well. Please comment below. To avoid any copyright complications with Paramount or CBS, I am avoiding the use of any Star Trek imagery in this post. Please enjoy this post without Star Trek images.

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Why Star Trek Discovery is not canon

Posted in botch, business, entertainment, TV Shows by commorancy on November 2, 2018

A lot of “fans” of the latest Star Trek TV series installment of Star Trek Discovery claim to love the show. They also claim that because the show runners have claimed Discovery is official canon, that the show is canon. But, is it? Let’s explore.

What is Canon?

Canon is previous story and characters that a show must follow so as not to contradict something that has come before. Yet, Discovery has contradicted established canon all along the way. The first contradiction was the Klingons with their … well, let me show a picture:

Star-Trek-Discovery-TKuvma-Klingon-Leader

This is a Discovery Klingon. This Klingon above looks nothing like these 3:

NextGeneration Klingon

or even this Klingon from a TOS episode:

Classic-klingon

The latter two having been Klingons in The Next Generation and in the Original Series, respectively. The “bonehead” Klingons became the norm from 1979 onward. It was the bonehead Klingon design that Gene Roddenberry himself approved.

With Star Trek Discovery, that all changed and now we have the Klingon pictured in the top most image. The difficulty is, “Where did this Klingon come from?”. It doesn’t match the canon approved and used throughout the 80s and 90s and even into the 00s with Star Trek Enterprise.

Now, Discovery appears and gives us this odd designed Klingon that has never been used in any previous series ever. It doesn’t much resemble a Klingon, even though they’re speaking Klingon and have a kind of “bonehead”. The question remains, what happened? Is this design canon or not? Before I answer that question, let’s talk about how this Intellectual Property has been fractured between studios.

Paramount versus CBS

When Roddenberry was alive and even up until not too long ago, Paramount was the sole rights holder of Star Trek. However, when Viacom bought and then split Paramount and CBS, this all changed who owned what and it fractured the Star Trek franchise in unnecessary and inexplicable ways.

A little history. In 1994, Paramount was purchased by Viacom. In 1999, Viacom agreed to purchase CBS. This means that from 1999 to 2005, Viacom owned both Paramount and CBS. In 2005, Viacom’s then board of directors voted to split Paramount and CBS into separate companies for better “shareholder value”.

When the companies split, CBS was given the rights to the Star Trek TV series universe and Paramount was given the rights to the Star Trek motion picture universe. Ultimately, this now gives two separate entertainment companies the rights to create and make up canon in their respective universes. This is ultimately where the fracturing of the intellectual property comes into play and why Discovery is such a mess when it comes to producing its series based on canon.

This split also means that the canon is now split between two separate companies. A franchise disaster, to be honest.

Motion Pictures versus TV series

The TV series includes Star Trek The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. These properties up to Enterprise existed at the time of the split. Discovery did not exist then.

The original cast motion pictures include Star Trek The Motion Picture, II, III, IV, V and VI. The Next Generation cast pictures include Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. The Kelvin time line pictures (i.e., J.J. Abrams) include Star Trek (2009 Reboot), Into Darkness, Beyond and there is a possibility of a fourth film which is in limbo as of this article.

This means that CBS owns the rights to the above TV series properties (in addition to Discovery) and Paramount owns the rights to the above Motion Picture properties. It also means that CBS can now ignore motion picture canon and Paramount can ignore TV series canon when producing future works.

Clearly, this is how CBS is proceeding with its latest TV series, Star Trek Discovery. One can argue, the “bonehead” Klingons appear in the TV series. They do. And, to a degree, the design above does appear somewhat like a bonehead Klingon, except without hair, much darker skin, odd shaped facial features and odd shaped outfits. However, no Klingon has ever appeared on screen in any way (TV or Movie) that looks like this Discovery Klingon. This Klingon type is actually the first of its kind… which means, it is NOT Roddenberry canon.

The Trouble with Tribbles

Or, more specifically, the trouble with double ownership of the Star Trek franchise means there is no effective steward maintaining canon. There can’t be. There are two separate companies competing for your almighty Star Trek dollar. One company can make shit up and the other company doesn’t have to use it. This is effectively what CBS is doing… making shit up as they go along because they don’t have to answer to canon placed into the motion pictures. Even then, they’re not following canon established by previous Star Trek TV series either. After all, Star Trek Discovery is clearly set at the same time as The Original Series.

The TV series timeline goes something like (timeline courtesy of Memory Alpha):

2151-2155 -- Star Trek Enterprise (Season 1 thru 4)
2254-2254 -- Star Trek The Original Series: "The Cage" (Episode)
2256-2257 -- Star Trek Discovery (Season 1)
2265-2269 -- Star Trek The Original Series (Seasons 1, 2 and 3)
2269-2270 -- Star Trek The Animated Series (Seasons 1 and 2)
2364-2370 -- Star Trek The Next Generation (Seasons 1 thru 7)
2369-2375 -- Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Season 1 thru 7)
2369-2370 -- Star Trek Enterprise: "These are the Voyages" (Episode)
2371-2378 -- Star Trek Voyager (Seasons 1 thru 7)

As you can see, Star Trek Discovery is actually set BEFORE Star Trek The Original Series, before The Animated Series and before any other series with the exception of one Star Trek TOS episode and Star Trek Enterprise which come before Discovery.

STMP-KlingonBasically, the canon that Star Trek Discovery must adhere to is what is seen in Star Trek Enterprise and in one episode of The Original Series (and, of course, anything in later TV series that corroborate Enterprise and TOS). Enterprise and this one episode of Star Trek TOS are both enough to set canon as to how Discovery should run. Discovery also occurs 9 years prior to The Original Series. However, The Original Series only showed the non-bonehead Klingons while Enterprise showed us both styles of Klingons. This means that both Klingon types already existed in the Roddenberry universe when Star Trek TOS existed. This also means that both Klingon types exist at the time when Discovery is operating. One could argue that Enterprise broke canon by showing us the bonehead Klingons that we wouldn’t see until Star Trek The Motion Picture in 1979 (picture to the left). However, Discovery’s Klingon type comes out of nowhere and goes back into nowhere because this Klingon type won’t exist after Discovery ends.

AfflictionHowever, in the Enterprise episode “Affliction” in the 4th season, I guess this episode is supposed to explain the difference between the bonehead and non-bonehead Klingons and the reasons why the non-bonehead Klingons appear in The Original Series. I think it was a cheap cop-out episode, but hey, at least they held true to the TMP and TOS Klingon designs… which is more than I can say for Discovery.

Discovery, on the other hand, doesn’t hold true to either design. They made their own Klingon canon. They made a Klingon design that has never exited before or after… not in ENT, TOS, TNG, DS9, TAS or Voyager. They’re clearly, “making shit up”.

Additionally, there’s the Spore Drive. Yet again, Discovery is found “making shit up”. This drive type has never been discussed either before or since, yet Discovery has introduced this propulsion system as some experimental thing that only existed during Discovery’s existence. I’m sorry, if the spore drive were a real thing in the Roddenberry universe, there would have been talks of it both in Star Trek TOS and likely Star Trek Enterprise and even in TNG, DS9 and Voyager (it would have at least come up, particularly in Voyager when looking for a way home). That no information was ever discussed regarding this drive system, Discovery is simply creating things out of thin air to make their series more watchable (and make more money). However, there may be another reason… so, keep reading.

Because “The Cage” episode shows us that the Federation chain of command already exists in a formalized and hierarchical command structured way, having Discovery show its characters as chaotic, insubordinate and outright informal makes me believe that the Discovery creators had no intention of following established Roddenberry “Federation” canon. In fact, I will go so far as to say that Star Trek Discovery is actually operating in its own universe. Perhaps it exists in the Kelvin universe along side the reboot Star Trek motion pictures, but I believe it lives in its own new CBS universe. But, Discovery does not live in the same universe as the Roddenberry universe TV shows do.

CBS Universe

Because Star Trek Discovery lives in its own universe, the creators of Discovery can literally make up anything they wish and it will be canon. It’s canon because the show isn’t set in the Roddenberry universe. It’s set in a CBS offshoot universe where everything can and does exist if the creators want it to. In this universe, weird shaped Klingons, spore drives and insubordination are all accepted because in this universe it’s all there.

In the Roddenberry universe, Discovery never existed and couldn’t exist. The spore drive doesn’t exist. The weird Discovery Klingons don’t exist. The F-bombs don’t exist. The nonsensical highly sophisticated NCC-1031 starship doesn’t exist with its operating panel designs that don’t exist on the Federation’s flagship Enterprise NCC-1701 just 9 years later.Star Trek Discovery BridgeDiscovery living in a CBS Universe is the only explanation that can possibly work for this TV show. When a show runner says it’s canon, well it is. But, it’s only canon if you consider that Discovery is a show created in an offshoot CBS universe that has never before existed. It is not canon were it to exist in the Roddenberry universe. Obviously, the show creators aren’t going to make this distinction because they don’t want viewers to understand the difference between the CBS universe and the Roddenberry universe. They just want the viewer to believe it somehow magically exists in the Roddenberry universe when this show clearly cannot.

It’s clear, Discovery does not exist in the Roddenberry universe. It can’t. That universe ended with the close of Star Trek Enterprise. It remains to be seen if the new Patrick Stewart series will be set in Discovery’s CBS universe or if CBS will try to set that series in the Roddenberry universe. My guess is that CBS may want to attempt some type of crossover episodes between Discovery and the as yet unnamed Patrick Stewart series. However, that would be a feat considering that Discovery occurs 98 years earlier from the original TNG series (see timeline). Considering Patrick Stewart’s age now, they’ll have to age forward the new series to have it make sense with Stewart’s current age… which means this new series must occur over 100 years in Discovery’s future. It will then be difficult to have a crossover without time travel. However, they can engineer dual episodes which causes something to happen in Discovery that impacts the Picard series 100 years later. This is akin to a crossover and would establish both series being in the same universe; the CBS universe.

Personally, I’d rather the two series remain entirely independent. No crossovers. No incidental references to prior events in Discovery. This means that Discovery can officially be announced as operating in its own CBS universe and that the Picard series will be set in the Roddenberry universe and no crossovers will be possible.

Kelvin Universe

When J.J. Abrams became part of Paramount’s efforts to reboot the Star Trek movie franchise, he decided to create an entirely new and separate universe. In that effort, he had elder Spock (from the Roddenberry universe) fall through a time hole and land in an alternate universe much earlier in its unfolding life. Elder Spock then meets up with his much younger alternate version of Spock along with younger versions of Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, Bones and so on. Basically, these alternate versions of these main characters set the tone of this alternate universe’s ‘Five Year Mission’, set in an alternate Enterprise, set in an alternate timeline known as Kelvin. It’s named after the USS Kelvin, the ship which fell through the time hole with elder Spock. Why is this important?

It’s important to understand this Kelvin alternate universe idea because it appears CBS has done the same exact thing with the Discovery TV series. Instead of trying to disturb and hold true to the Roddenberry universe canon, it’s far easier to create a brand new offshoot universe set in its own time line. This then means the writers can write anything they wish, on any ship they wish, with any technology they wish. Because Paramount has already established their own playground universe for the movies to live in, it appears CBS is also running with this idea and has done the exact same thing with Discovery. Even the name ‘Discovery’ hints at the existence of this alternate universe.

In fact, I believe that this alternate universe will reveal itself and will likely become a big part of Discovery’s future stories. I’m assuming that the writers are holding this point back until just the exact moment when they can reveal a character like Picar… er Spock falling through a time distortion and we can clearly see that Discovery is not set in the Roddenberry universe. It makes for a good plot twist, don’t you think? Holding this point back allows the Discovery writers to craft and unfold an entire season long story arc about this new CBS universe (or whatever name they decide to give it). For now, I’m calling it the CBS universe, but it will likely be named differently after someone from the Roddenberry universe falls into it.

I’d suspect it might be a TNG character who falls through this time. Perhaps Q created this universe? I’d steer clear of Q as using this character always feels like a cop-out. Because Wesley had become a kind of universe traveler, I’d like to see him return a bit older so we can finish out his story arc that never really closed properly in TNG. I might also like to see Kess show up as she also didn’t get proper closure in Voyager. Seeing a new Dax might also be a good way to handle this reveal also. Dax’s immense knowledge and age would allow for some very good stories. Even Guinan might be a good choice to land in Discovery’s alternate universe.

For this reason, I believe that Discovery’s writers and creators are holding back on this idea, but will eventually reveal it. For this reason, the show runners can say that Discovery is canon, because it is, in its own universe. They just haven’t revealed this alternate universe point in the TV series yet. They can string the fans along making them think it’s in the Roddenberry universe when they haven’t yet unveiled the story. It’s still too early in this TV series to reveal a story point this big.

Canon or not?

Because I surmise that Discovery is set in its own CBS universe, which is entirely separate from the Roddenberry and the Kelvin universes, Discovery can be its own bubble show and do whatever it wants with its stories. It doesn’t need to follow any Trek lore or, indeed, anything to do with Trek. It can feel free to “make shit up” however it wishes. I’m fine with that as long as the show runners finally fess up to this. As it is now, trying to shoehorn Discovery into the Roddenberry universe where it doesn’t belong is just stupid.

To answer this Blog’s ultimate question, Discovery is not canon for Roddenberry’s universe. It is canon for its newly created CBS universe. It’s possible that Discovery exists in the Kelvin universe (doubtful) where it may or may not be canon. The difficulty is that, as I said above, the motion picture canon is operated by Paramount. The TV series canon is operated by CBS. This means that never the twain shall meet. This fracturing of intellectual property rights was a horribly bad idea for Star Trek. It has now left this franchise with a fracture right down the middle of its canon. Show producers for Discovery can now claim canon when what they’re doing clearly isn’t canon and cannot possibly be unless the show is set in its own CBS universe (which the CBS universe ultimately has no canon except for what Discovery has created so far).

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Star Trek Voyager: Inconsistencies Abound

Posted in entertainment, writing by commorancy on April 2, 2015

I’ve recently decided to rewatch all of the seasons of Star Trek Voyager again. I missed many of the later episodes and decided now is the time to watch them. One thing I have noticed is that time has not been kind to this series, neither have the writers. Let’s explore.

Seasons 1, 2 and 3

The first thing you’ll notice about season one is the dire predicament in which Voyager is placed. After attempting rescue of a Maquis ship, the Voyager gets pulled into an unknown anomaly and is sent hurtling into the delta quadrant. After the two ship crews merge, because they need the Maquis ship as an explosive, they ‘assimilate’ both crews onto the Voyager. This is where the fun begins.

The first season sees a lot of resistance and animosity from the Maquis crew towards Star Fleet. Captain Janeway makes some questionable decisions, like blowing up the caretaker array instead of trying to salvage it, thus stranding everyone in the delta quadrant. From here, we see many a shuttle accident in among holodeck romps. It seems that every time a shuttle tries to land somewhere (for whatever reason), it ends up crashing and Voyager has to come to the rescue. If we’re not seeing rescued downed shuttles, we’re playing with stupid characters on the holodeck or beaming critical staff (sometimes the Captain herself) into inexcusably dangerous situations.

The second and third seasons keep expanding what was started in the first. But, one thing you’ll notice is that while Janeway keeps close tabs on stock depletion in the first season, all that subtext is dropped by the second season. By the third season, it became a monster of the week series where Voyager was ‘reset’ at the beginning of each episode to have a full crew, full armament of torpedoes and a full complement of shuttle craft. Additionally, any damage sustained in a previous episode was non-existent in the next episode. The only continuity that was pulled forward was the replicator rations. And, that plot device was only pulled forward to give the Neelix character some work to do as a makeshift chef in the Captain’s private dining room.

Unfortunately, dropping the limited stock, rations, crew complement and limited shuttle craft supply was a singly bad move for the writers and this series. Seeing Voyager become increasingly more and more damaged throughout the series would have added to the realism and cemented the dire predicament in which this ship was placed. In fact, in the episode Equinox (straddling seasons 5 and 6), the Equinox ship is likely similar to how Voyager’s ship and crew should have looked by that point in their journey. Also, at some point in the journey through the delta quadrant, Janeway would have had to drop the entire Star Fleet pretext to survive. If, like the Equinox, half of the crew had been killed in a battle, Janeway would have been forced to reconsider the Prime Directive and Star Fleet protocol. In fact, this entire story premise could have started a much more compelling story arc at a time when Voyager’s relevance as a series was seriously waning and viewership dropping. Taking Voyager out of its sterile happy-go-lucky situation and placing it into more dire realistic circumstance could have led to an entirely new viewership audience. Situations not unlike this would ultimately be played out in later series like BSG where this type of realism would become the norm and a breath of fresh air in the previously tired formulaic series.

Star Trek, up to Voyager, had always been a sterile yet friendly series where each episode arc always closed with a happy-ending. Each episode was always tied up far too neatly in a pretty little bow, possibly also wrapped in a morality play. While that worked in the 60s and seemed to work in the 80s for TNG, during the 90s that premise wore extremely thin. By the 2000s, gritty realism was the way of series like Stargate, 24, Lost, BSG and Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, by comparison, the new influx of gritty realism in other series made Voyager, DS9 and TNG seem quaint and naïve by comparison. Instead of perfectly coiffed hair and immaculately cleaned and pressed uniforms, we would now see dirty costumes, hair that is unmanaged, very little makeup and character scenarios where everything doesn’t work out perfectly at the end.

While Brannon Braga, Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor should get a few kudos for attempting to keep Star Trek alive, they did so at the cost of not keeping up with the times and sacrificing the franchise entirely as a result. Even when Voyager was introduced, the episodic formula that Voyager provided was already wearing thin. Even during its initial run, it was somewhat quaint and naïve already. Like attempting to recreate the Brady Bunch series exactly as it was in the 70s in the 2000s, Voyager was a throwback to the past. All of this is mostly the reason I stopped watching it during its original airing. Like an old comfort toy from childhood, eventually you have to leave it behind and grow more mature. Star Trek Voyager just didn’t grow up and mature with the prevailing winds of change, its audience age demographic and the prevailing TV series landscape. It’s ironic, Star Trek is about growth, maturity and learning, yet while the producers and writers were churning out weekly stories about these very topics, they couldn’t manage to keep up with the growth trends in their own industry. In short, Voyager needed a drastic mid-series makeover (after season 3) to keep up with the changing times.

Inconsistencies

In the first season specifically, Janeway institutes replicator rations, power saving measures, yet fully allows the crew to use the holodeck at will. Seriously, the holodeck is probably one of the top energy drains on that ship, and you’re going to let the crew use this power hungry thing willy-nilly? Yet, you force the crew to limited replicator rations? Why not disable the holodeck except for emergency use and let the crew have all the replicator rations they want? It’s seems fair to me.

Again, in the first season, Janeway identifies that the ship has limited shuttle and torpedo complements. Yet, in 3rd and later seasons, Voyager is popping off photon torpedos like candy. I also have no idea just how many shuttles have been destroyed, disabled or otherwise left as junk on planets. Yet, Voyager seems to have an infinite supply of them. It also seems that Voyager has an infinite supply of crew and torpedoes. I believe it was counted that Voyager shot off somewhere close to 98 torpedoes the entire 7 season run. And, considering that 7 seasons was actually only 7 of Voyager’s 23 years in the delta quadrant, extrapolating that out means Voyager would have shot over 320 torpedoes in the 23 years they were in the delta quadrant when they only had 38 on board.

On top of all of this, Janeway is a completely reckless captain. She continually puts her crew in harm’s way intentionally looking for resources, scouring through junk, investigating, exploring, trying to salvage Borg cubes. You name it, Janeway has had her crew recklessly do it, instead of the obvious… trying to find a way home. How that crew managed not to actually mutiny and kick her butt out of the captain’s chair is beyond me. Janeway is seriously the most reckless captain in Star Fleet. Far and above Kirk in recklessness.

Episode Writing Continuity Carelessness

In Season 4 Episode 23 entitled Living Witness, the Doctor is reactivated 700 years in the future on the Kyrian home planet in the Delta quadrant. There was never any discussion that this episode was built from any kind of temporal anomaly. The Doctor finds he is part of a museum exhibit and is called upon to clear Voyager’s name for being part of the ship that started their war. Ignoring the stupid war premise which really makes no difference one way or another, what this episode states is that the Doctor’s holo matrix is downloaded during an attack on Voyager and left on the planet for 700 years.

Let me pause here for a moment to catch everyone up since there have been some questions about this specific episode’s setup (which was, by the way, also inconsistent). Pretty much the entire series before and after the Living Witness episode drilled the point home time and time again that due to the doctor’s expanded holomatrix, ‘he’ was ‘unique’ and ‘uncopyable’. Because this point was driven home time and time again and because it was used as a plot device to ensure both the audience and the Voyager crew understood just how much the doctor was like a human, we are told the doctor is unique, individual, indispensable, irreplaceable and can die. There was even a Kes episode about this whole idea, but not the only one. When the rest of the crew was ready to reboot the doctor because his holomatrix had been degraded so badly, Kes stood by the doctor and vouched for his uniqueness, individuality and stood up for the doctor (when he couldn’t) to continue trying to keep him intact. If it had been as easy as making a backup copy and restoring a doctor copy, the ship could have used a backup doctor several times when the ‘real’ doctor goes on away missions, instead of leaving Kes and Paris to run Sickbay. They could have even used a backup copy to overlay his later degraded version on top and clean his matrix up. Yet, this never manifests not once in any episode. In fact, as I said, the writers did everything they could to ensure we understood that he was uncopyable, not even with the mobile emitter. So, what does this all mean? It means that the mobile emitter that was found contained the actual doctor, not a copy as was theorized.

What this story flaw also says is that there should no longer be an EMH on Voyager after the doctor has been left on this planet for over 700 years. It also means that no other episodes after this event should ever see this EMH program again. In another episode, Harry Kim tries to recreate the EMH after the doctor was thought to be lost during that episode, but after Kim fails, he leaves Paris to fend for himself in Sickbay. This means that there is exactly one doctor and he was left on Kyrian planet. The Doctor serves the Kyrians for a period of time, but eventually finds his way home to Earth 700-800 years after Voyager. Yet, in episodes after Living Witness, the Doctor is happily helping folks in Sickbay once again, including appearing in the final episode entitled Endgame.

Now, one could argue that Living Witness happened sometime later at the end of Voyager’s run, but then why is it in season 4? It also means that for at least some duration of Voyager’s trip, the Doctor EMH program was not available. Though, B’lana might have created a new rudimentary EMH, we never saw it. Yet, in Season 7, Episode 23 — Endgame, we see the Doctor come strolling through the Voyager party 23 years later. Assuming the episode Living Witness to be true, then this is a major continuity error. The doctor should not be in Endgame at all. He should still be deactivated on the Kyrian homeworld.

Let’s consider how it’s even possible that the mobile emitter was left (or was stolen) in Living Witness. Since there was only and ever one mobile emitter, that logically means the doctor should not have had the mobile emitter for any episode after that Living Witness (assuming we accept the ‘backup’ idea, which I don’t). Yet, we continue to see the mobile emitter used on episodes all the way to the very end when Voyager returns. This episode contains far too many consistency problems and should not have aired.

Lack of Season-wide Story Arc

Star Trek The Next Generation attempted to create a few longer story arcs. But, the writers never really embraced such arcs beyond the borders of an episode (or multi-part episodes). Though, some character relationship arcs did reach beyond the borders (i.e., love relationships, children, cultural rituals, marriages, etc), arcs related to alien races, ship resources, ship damage or astral phenomena (with the exception of the Q) were almost never carried forward. So, for example, in TNG, during season 7, the Force of Nature episode forced Star Fleet to institute a warp speed limited due to warp drive destruction of subspace. That speed limit arc carried through a few episodes, but was ultimately dropped and ignored during Voyager. It was dropped primarily because it didn’t help the writers produce better episodes. By forcing starships to travel at slower warp speed, nothing good came from this plot device. In fact, this speed limit would have only served to hinder Voyager in getting home. Clearly, the writers had not yet conceived of Voyager when TNG’s Force of Nature aired. Otherwise, the producers might have reconsidered airing this episode.

Also, because warp speed is a fairly hard to imagine concept in general, artificially limiting speeds in a series where fantasy and space travel is the end goal actually served to undermine the series. There were many ideas that could have created larger more compelling story arcs besides setting an unnecessary speed limit. The sole purpose for the speed limit, I might also add, was only to make Star Trek appear eco-friendly towards the inhabitants of the Milky Way… as if it even needed that moniker. I digress.

Even at the time when TNG was ending, other non-Trek series were beginning to use very large and complex story arcs. Yet, Star Trek TNG, DS9 and Voyager clung tightly to story arcs that fit neatly within a 42 minute episode border. This 42 minute closed border ultimately limited what appeared in subsequent episodes. Very rarely did something from a previous episode appear in a later episode unless it was relationship driven or the writers were hard-up for stories and wanted to revisit a specific plot element from a previous episode. In general, that was rare. In Voyager, it happens in the season 5 episode Course: Oblivion (which this entire episode was not even about Voyager’s crew) and which is a sequel to the season 4 episode Demon (where the crew lands on a Class Y planet and is cloned by a bio-mimetic gel). These types of story sequels are rare in the Star Trek universe, especially across season boundaries, but they did occasionally happen. Even though such stories might appear occasionally, Star Trek stayed away from season-wide or multi-season wide story arcs, with the exception of character relationship arcs.

Janeway’s Inconsistencies

The writers were not kind to the Janeway character. One minute she’s spouting the prime directive and the next she’s violating it. There is no consistency at all here. Whatever the story requires forces Janeway’s ethics out the airlock. The writers take no care to keep her character consistent, forthright, honest and fair. No, she will do whatever it takes to make the story end up the way the writers want. It’s too bad too because in the beginning, the Janeway character started out quite forthright. By the time Seska leaves the ship, I’m almost rooting for a mutiny to get Janeway out of the way. In fact, I actually agreed with Seska to a certain extent. Janeway’s number one priority was to protect the crew and make it safely back to the Alpha quadrant as timely as possible. Instead, Janeway feels needlessly compelled to galavant for 23 years all over the Delta quadrant making more enemies than friends, killing her crew one-by-one, destroying shuttles, using up torpedos, using up ship resources and generally being a nuisance.

Worse, Janeway’s diplomatic skills with alien races is about as graceful as a hammer hitting your thumb. She just didn’t get it. The Sisko character in DS9 got it. The Seska character got it. Janeway, definitely not. While she may have been trained to Captain the tiny Voyager ship, she had absolutely zero diplomatic skills. I’m guessing that’s why Star Fleet never tapped her to helm a Galaxy class ship and, instead, forced her into the tiny Intrepid class for scientific exploration.

I’m not even sure why Star Fleet tapped Voyager to go find the Maquis ship. While Voyager may be somewhat more maneuverable than a Galaxy class ship, a Galaxy class ship would have been better suited to find and bring back the Maquis ship in the first episode, not Voyager. So, even the series started out wrong.

Commentary

Time has also not been kind to the Voyager episodes themselves. Both the Next Generation and Voyager relied on the weekly episodic nature of the series. The 7 day span between airing of episodes gave viewers time to forget all about the last episode before the next one aired. This time gap helped the series.. a lot! But, in the age of DVD sets and Netflix where commercials are devoid and there’s no need to wait any length of time to watch the next episode, watching Voyager in rapid succession shows just how glaring the continuity flaws are. No, this format is definitely not kind to Voyager. It’s not even just the continuity errors. It’s stupid decisions. Like arbitrarily deciding that it’s perfectly okay to leave Holodeck simulations running even when the ship is running out of power with no way to replenish. Like firing yet another large volley of photon torpedoes at a Borg ship when you only have 38 on board. Like continually and intentionally sending shuttle crafts into known atmospheric disturbances only for them to be disabled and downed. Janeway is the very definition of reckless with her ship, with her command, with her crew and with their lives. Yet, no one on board saw it, commented or mentioned this. Seska came close, but she left the ship before she got that far with Janeway.

Overall, when it was originally on, it was more enjoyable. Today it’s a quaint series with many glaring flaws, no overall story progression and a silly ending. Frankly, I’m surprised this series actually ran for 7 years. It should have ended at about the fifth season. Basically, after Kes (Jennifer Lien) left and the series picked up Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), it all went downhill.

If anything is responsible for killing off the Star Trek franchise, it’s Voyager. Yes, Enterprise came after, but Enterprise was just too foreign to really make it as a full fledged Star Trek. It was really a casualty of Voyager instead of being to blame for the demise of Star Trek.

J.J. Abrams Star Trek: Pure Fantasy

Posted in movies by commorancy on May 10, 2009

While I could start this blog off by discussing how the acting was excellent, how the characters worked well, or even how the origins of the characters worked, I won’t.  I could also discuss the amazing special effects, the tense moments that keep you on the edge of your seat or the thrill ride pacing of this J.J. Abrams romp.  Again, I won’t. Clearly, Abrams has made all of that (and more) work in this film. But, there is still one major flaw that nags at me. What is that, you ask?  I’m so glad you asked.

Starting a new Trek era

Crafting stories around temporal anomalies that change future events and unfold the entire Star Trek universe differently from the way all of the other franchises have unfolded the Star Trek universe is just not proper. Is rewriting the entire franchise in Star Trek’s best interest? Does putting forth alternate timelines as ‘the’ new Star Trek timeline make sense for this franchise? Clearly, it needs invigoration, yes. Using temporal anomalies? No. For me, this type of story is a complete cop-out. It is not creative, it is only a way to make it appear creative when its sole goal is just a way for Abram’s to take creative liberties with the characters, universe, series and, yes, even the franchise itself.  So, now Abrams can rewrite the Star Trek universe in any way he sees fit.  This one anomaly lets Abrams write whatever he wants.  For this reason alone, this goes against the grain of everything Gene Roddenberry had inspired in Star Trek.

By rewriting the timeline (and, arguably, the very franchise itself), J.J. Abrams could put an end to the ‘Prime Directive’, rewrite rules, change events, kill characters off at will, etc.  He could take the series in a more militaristic direction and entirely do away with what originally insipired Gene Roddenberry.  This storyline opens the door to making a lot of changes to the Star Trek universe by giving Abrans complete liberty over the entire series and, indeed, the entire franchise.

At a fundamental level, this movie works as a standalone.  As a basis for the beginning of a new Star Trek series and, in fact, franchise is just wrong on so many levels.  Temporal anomalies have no place in the creation, let alone re-creation, of the series.  As of now, the entire timeline is left hanging at the end of this movie with no resolution.  So, it is up to Abrams and Paramount at this point.  Clearly, the success of this film will guide Star Trek’s future.  If the success of this film is high, then Paramount may actually let Abrams continue down this pretentious road creating more Fantasy Trek.

Gene Roddenberry created this series in a certain way.  Unfortnately, Abrams’ vision does not hold true to that ideal.  There are plenty of ways to craft creative, thoughtful, evocotive story lines to make a film work.  

Unfortunately, there are two story writing techniques that are always considered trite and even  ‘ex deus machina’  and should be avoided at all costs (one was used in this film):

  • The main character wakes up at the end revealing the entire film as a dream sequence 
  • Temporal anomalies that allow the writer to take liberties by altering a character’s timeline or by rewriting the underlying story itself

End of Roddenbery Trek Era

As of the recent passing of Majel Barret Roddenberry, this signals the end of Trek as we knew it.  Rod Roddenberry (Gene’s Son) is still around, yes.  However, it certainly appears that he either has no creative control over Trek or he is letting Abrams take these liberties with Star Trek.  Either way, this film signals the end to the Roddenberry created Trek universe and a new non-Roddenberry beginning that has no basis in Roddenberry’s original vision.

All films, video games, events, series or any other creative derivatives from Abram’s Trek has nothing to do with Gene’s Trek.  It is a ‘Fantasy Trek’, if you will.  A ‘what if’ approach to Trek.  This Abrams Trek is a derivative work and is not and should not be considered part of the Gene Star Trek Canon.  In fact, this new Trek never existed.  Abram’s Trek didn’t (and doesn’t) exist because this film’s anomaly created an entirely new timeline for Kirk, Spock, Uhura and the rest.   A timeline that never existed before Abrams took the helm.  Yes, Abrams has clearly created a timeline that isn’t Trek.

On the one hand, it’s a brilliant idea for Canon.  Meaning, it marks the perfect delineation between Roddenberry’s works and Abrams’ works.  So, Abrams has made it extremely easy to mark anything based on Abrams ‘rethink’ as fantasy (never existed).

Fantasy Trek

So, Abrams Star Trek universe never existed.   It existed only because of the temporal anomaly.  And now, Ambassador Spock (Roddenberry’s Spock) is trapped in that timeline….in a timeline that never existed or that never should have existed.  So, technically, the only person who really makes a difference in Abrams’ universe is Ambassador Spock.  And the only goal in Abrams’ Fantasy Trek should be at getting Ambassador Spock back to the ‘real’ Trek universe’s present and correct the timeline.

The series can take one of two approaches at this point.  1) To continue on with this Fantasy Trek universe exploring Abrams’ fake Trek universe.  Granted, this might be fun to explore for a while. but ultimately… 2) To focus on getting Ambassador Spock back to the Roddenberry created universe and get the timelines corrected.

So, I would be fine with an approach where Abrams’ actually acknowledges his newly created Trek timeline as false and then later unfolds events such that the sole goal is to get Ambassador Spock back to Roddenberry’s universe.  That, for me, should be the only goal in this new fantasy romp.  There is really no other direction that this can take.  If Abrams and, indeed, Paramount actually try to foist this Fantasy Trek off on the Star Trek fans as the ‘new’ canon would be insulting on so many levels.  It would also be insulting to the original Trek series, to Gene and Majel Roddenberry and to everything of previous Trek lore.

To actually consider foisting Abrams’ Fantasy Trek on the fans as the ‘new’ canon invalidates Gene’s Star Trek entirely.  It nullifies previous Trek series and canon by saying that it never existed in that way.  It says that the Abrams’ Trek is the way things are and it says that Roddenberry’s Trek was fantasy.  How can anyone possibly be that pretentious with storytelling?  No.  The only direction is to acknowledge this Trek as pure fantasy and move forward from there.  Otherwise, this alternate time line could completely change events that lead up to the creation of Star Trek: TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager… let alone the previous films.  No, Abrams must acknowledge this timeline is incorrect and set out to correct it and get Ambassador Spock back to his present.

Both Abrams and Paramount need to be extremely careful at the handling of this series from this point so as to not insult Trek (or the fans’ intelligence or knowledge of Trek).

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