• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

Prequel Problems: Star Trek and the Sixties Aesthetic

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
God I hate the holograms-with-touchscreen thing in modern sci-fi. I'm sure it's handier for some of the filming but I can't not think "they can see through the data they're looking at". Add that to the dim lighting and how do they read anything???

The Discovery flip from a dingier, grimmer Abrams take to "actually the 1960s was going on at the same time" is really, really weird, and they had to know this would be an issue because they set it during the bloody Cage! It's another thing that has me thinking that it would've made much more sense for Discovery to not be a prequel at all. What would we lose? Someone else playing young Spock? (Mount isn't really acting like Pike was in his one story, so he could easily be someone else) There's no plot or character that screams "this has to be set in the past"
 

Thande

Bündnis für Freizeit, Garagetigkeit und Nachmittag
Published by SLP
I hate the holograms-with-touchscreen thing in modern sci-fi. I'm sure it's handier for some of the filming but I can't not think "they can see through the data they're looking at". Add that to the dim lighting and how do they read anything???
Absolutely. On holograms, I'm reminded of those Star Wars Corellian Trilogy books in which an advanced droid spots someone spying on Han Solo, and rather than projecting a blurry hologram recording like he expects, it just prints out a nice clear physical photo.

When I write science fiction I reserve holograms for things you would actually want to look at in 3D, like spatial positions/air traffic control.

The Discovery flip from a dingier, grimmer Abrams take to "actually the 1960s was going on at the same time" is really, really weird, and they had to know this would be an issue because they set it during the bloody Cage! It's another thing that has me thinking that it would've made much more sense for Discovery to not be a prequel at all. What would we lose? Someone else playing young Spock? (Mount isn't really acting like Pike was in his one story, so he could easily be someone else) There's no plot or character that screams "this has to be set in the past"
I personally think Mount's Pike and Spock are the best part of Discovery - but otherwise I quite agree with you and I have had the same thought myself. It's confusingly unclear why they decided to make this a prequel.

What's particularly weird is how the person who does the bridge sound effects on Discovery clearly does want to do the TOS aesthetic, but not the people who do the visual effects. It's a mess.
 

Ciclavex

Baron Ciclavex of Grittsysborough in New Sweden
Moderator
Patreon supporter
Location
Grittysborough
Pronouns
he/him
You did an excellent job with this article, @Thande . You put good words to the aesthetic problems of many science fiction prequels in general and to Star Trek in particular in refusing to commit to the aesthetics that people both are used to and want based on some abstract idea that the future should look futurey in some way that likely doesn't actually bear any more serious resemblance to "the future" than the one they're casting aside.
 

M_Kresal

I am nerd, hear me bore.
Published by SLP
Location
North Alabama
Solid work as always @Thande. One thing that came to mind reading the article in regards to making the sixties aesthetic work in modern productions was the various Trek fan film efforts, specifically Star Trek Continues and the recent First Frontier. The latter in particular is a pre-Pike Enterprise under Robert April, and it looks pretty damn good (even with it having been shot so cheaply). And the Enterprise "Mirror" two-parter proved you can make those sets work, which just adds to my frustrations with the bits of Discovery that I've seen.
 

Thande

Bündnis für Freizeit, Garagetigkeit und Nachmittag
Published by SLP
You did an excellent job with this article, @Thande . You put good words to the aesthetic problems of many science fiction prequels in general and to Star Trek in particular in refusing to commit to the aesthetics that people both are used to and want based on some abstract idea that the future should look futurey in some way that likely doesn't actually bear any more serious resemblance to "the future" than the one they're casting aside.
Solid work as always @Thande. One thing that came to mind reading the article in regards to making the sixties aesthetic work in modern productions was the various Trek fan film efforts, specifically Star Trek Continues and the recent First Frontier. The latter in particular is a pre-Pike Enterprise under Robert April, and it looks pretty damn good (even with it having been shot so cheaply). And the Enterprise "Mirror" two-parter proved you can make those sets work, which just adds to my frustrations with the bits of Discovery that I've seen.
Exactly (and thank you).

Just realised I should really have also written about "Trials and Tribble-ations", which is a bit of a halfway house example of presenting the aesthetic but also calling attention to some campier aspects of TOS in a way I don't think has aged well in itself - it's a great episode but indecisive about how serious it is.

Anyway, a point I realised recently (which I asked Gary to put in the addendum) is that Star Trek has a real advantage, if people choose to use it, in that a different era is immediately recognisable - which allows time-travel episodes to put a chill down people's spines without having to try. Compare that to how any new science fiction series would struggle to say "this is the year 2364 but now we're going back, not to a recognisable era of Earth history you know, but to 2264" and keep the viewer grounded in what is new and impressive to people from different eras and what isn't.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
That's a good point. I saw people going "WOW THAT'S FROM ENTERPRISE!!" about some costume and prop glimpses in the Beyond trailer, something you can rarely pull off in other sci-fi things.

You sometimes see this with comic flashbacks, where they'll go "it must be the past because this costume is drawn like the old days!" or replicating an old art/writing style so it looks like 'the past'
 

Thande

Bündnis für Freizeit, Garagetigkeit und Nachmittag
Published by SLP
That's a good point. I saw people going "WOW THAT'S FROM ENTERPRISE!!" about some costume and prop glimpses in the Beyond trailer, something you can rarely pull off in other sci-fi things.
Also a really good point - people complained about Enterprise's aesthetic at the time, but it was made distinctive enough that that worked. (And to be fair, the same would be true of the uniforms in Discovery if glimpsed in the future, they just don't make much sense in context).
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
The uniforms in Discovery make sense as a thing that follows the Enterprise uniforms and is on the way to the TOS style - but not when there's entire ships with the 'new' uniform! Did the events of S1 disrupt the new uniform switchover???
 

Avian Overlord

Mystical American Freedom Bird
hat would we lose? Someone else playing young Spock? (Mount isn't really acting like Pike was in his one story, so he could easily be someone else) There's no plot or character that screams "this has to be set in the past"
But if we don't set it around TOS, our protagonist can't be Spock's human sister, and since Discovery seems to have be written on a dare to make the most Mary Sue protagonist imaginable, that's unacceptable.
 

Thande

Bündnis für Freizeit, Garagetigkeit und Nachmittag
Published by SLP
The uniforms in Discovery make sense as a thing that follows the Enterprise uniforms and is on the way to the TOS style - but not when there's entire ships with the 'new' uniform! Did the events of S1 disrupt the new uniform switchover???
Yes, a while ago I thought a lot about Discovery would've made more sense if it was set 50 years after Enterprise...so the same thing I said about how TNG would make more sense if it was set 50 rather than 100 years after TOS, given all the stuff shown in flashbacks from only 20 or so years earlier is taken from the TOS films.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Yes, a while ago I thought a lot about Discovery would've made more sense if it was set 50 years after Enterprise...so the same thing I said about how TNG would make more sense if it was set 50 rather than 100 years after TOS, given all the stuff shown in flashbacks from only 20 or so years earlier is taken from the TOS films.
I like how massively long lived the Vulcans and Klingons become - not to mention some humans! - so the show can explain why any recurring character has turned up. "Oh yeah did we not mention Spock's dad is three times older than any human could be?"
 

Thande

Bündnis für Freizeit, Garagetigkeit und Nachmittag
Published by SLP
I like how massively long lived the Vulcans and Klingons become - not to mention some humans! - so the show can explain why any recurring character has turned up. "Oh yeah did we not mention Spock's dad is three times older than any human could be?"
As I said in the article, there was a tug of war between Roddenberry being all "you know the show I made that everyone likes, well I want no references to it in this one" vs everyone else - but even then, considering they already had ancient McCoy in Farpoint, you'd think the problems would already have become clear.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
A good article as always, Tom! I was positively surprised when I did some googling to find out that, indeed, the bridge of a modern warship is suspiciously similar to how the original Enterprise's bridge looked.

That being said, on the topic of the bridge of the 2009 movie's Enterprise looking like everything's an iPhone, like I am happy to bring up again and again, the whole idea of omnipresent touchscreens and the sleek designs of things, that is something that very much came about in the popular conception of what the future looked like as a direct consequence of Star Trek adopting such ideas (ironically because they were on a tight budget, and touchscreens were cheaper to make mockups of), and obviously when Apple and other companies design new hardware, it makes sense from business point of view that they look futuristic.

Consequently, I feel that if you are going to discuss the extent to which Star Trek looks dated, one needs to really acknowledge the massive impact that Star Trek has actually had on shaping our ideas of what is modern-looking and what isn't.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
As I said in the article, there was a tug of war between Roddenberry being all "you know the show I made that everyone likes, well I want no references to it in this one" vs everyone else - but even then, considering they already had ancient McCoy in Farpoint, you'd think the problems would already have become clear.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. On basically every brilliant decision ever taken on the direction of Star Trek that gave us some of the shows' and movies' best moments and storylines, you can invariably always find that in the background there was Gene Roddenberry, fighting tooth and nail to prevent it from happening.
 

Thande

Bündnis für Freizeit, Garagetigkeit und Nachmittag
Published by SLP
A good article as always, Tom! I was positively surprised when I did some googling to find out that, indeed, the bridge of a modern warship is suspiciously similar to how the original Enterprise's bridge looked.

That being said, on the topic of the bridge of the 2009 movie's Enterprise looking like everything's an iPhone, like I am happy to bring up again and again, the whole idea of omnipresent touchscreens and the sleek designs of things, that is something that very much came about in the popular conception of what the future looked like as a direct consequence of Star Trek adopting such ideas (ironically because they were on a tight budget, and touchscreens were cheaper to make mockups of), and obviously when Apple and other companies design new hardware, it makes sense from business point of view that they look futuristic.

Consequently, I feel that if you are going to discuss the extent to which Star Trek looks dated, one needs to really acknowledge the massive impact that Star Trek has actually had on shaping our ideas of what is modern-looking and what isn't.
That's an interesting point, I may discuss that in future. It's a bit like the Garibaldi Problem I wrote about in the past, where an attempted tribute actually undermines the original thing - or in this case, the very success of something ultimately harms itself. I could also discuss how Andromeda was explicitly designed as "How can we be as different as possible to Star Trek" in terms of concepts and aesthetics just because its creators knew everything would be compared to it.
 

Ncw8

Not awful enough for neo-nazis
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Baselland
The uniforms in Discovery make sense as a thing that follows the Enterprise uniforms and is on the way to the TOS style - but not when there's entire ships with the 'new' uniform! Did the events of S1 disrupt the new uniform switchover???
DS9 did manage a subtle effect with uniforms. In season 5, the uniforms were changed to match the more military grey and black style of the movie First Contact. Then they introduced a story line that Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling. They showed him being held captive, wearing the old style uniform (In Purgatory’s Shadow). This gave an indication that the Bashir we’d seen in the previous few episodes was the Changeling all along. In particular, it was the Changeling that recommended Sisko undergo an operation to stop him seeing visions in the episode Rapture.
 
Last edited:
Top