Star Trek: Discovery Poster & Trailers

A whole slew of tidbits and sneak peeks for the upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery were unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con, including this GORGEOUS poster:

Tor com SDCC star-trek-discovery-poster

The official trailer was also released at the con:

Star Trek: Discovery – Official Trailer by Star Trek

It adds nicely to the first teaser trailer:

Star Trek: Discovery – First Look Trailer by Star Trek

I am getting chills every time I see either—definitely looking forward to Discovery! Who knows, it may even replace Deep Space Nine as my favorite Star Trek franchise.

Image: CBS via Tor.com

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Star Trek and Conflict

The word went out last week that Star Trek: Discovery will be ditching one of the long-standing rules of the franchise: that the main crew must not have conflicts with each other.

Good!

This rule has not only been an impediment to Star Trek‘s story-telling but represents a misunderstanding of Gene Roddenberry’s original hopeful vision for the future. Unfortunately, it is a misunderstanding perpetrated by Roddenberry himself, in his later years.

Star Trek has always been at its best when it embraced conflict among the crew. What is important is that those conflicts arise because different members of the crew honestly represent different points of view, not because they are driven by pettiness, jealousy, spite, greed, or other base instincts. The vision of Star Trek is that human conflicts driven by these basic flaws are unimportant distractions that we can overcome. When we achieve that, it doesn’t mean that we stop having conflicts, it just means that we can get down to the ones that actually mean something. We can argue passionately for our own points of view without devolving into petty sniping and backstabbing. We can disagree with someone else’s ideas and still respect and work with them.

This is why Deep Space Nine has always been my favorite version of Star Trek. It shows us characters who strongly disagree with each other, even to the point of yelling and storming out of rooms, but who still respect one another and work as a team. Their conflicts don’t get resolved at the end of the episode with one side proven right and the other wrong, because the conflicts that really matter are the ones that have no simple resolution. Exploring those kinds of conflicts is what Star Trek is about. It is why we have Star Trek. It is what Star Trek does.

If Discovery is going to give us more of that, then I couldn’t be happier. In these days of internet flame wars and political absolutism, the idea that we can argue about things that matter and still work together as a crew to escape the mysterious space energy field of the week is utopian enough for me.

Images: “Damn it, Spock” via Imgur. “No, but it is interesting” via Giphy. Sisko and Kira via Star Trek Gifs.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Quotes: Today’s Young People Are Proud to Be Smart and Curious

“What’s remarkable is the way ‘nerd’ is such a badge of honor now. Growing up, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who read Spider-Man comics and learned how to do the Vulcan salute, but it wasn’t like it is today. I get the sense that today’s young people are proud to be smart and curious, to design new things, and tackle big problems in unexpected ways. I think America’s a nerdier country than it was when I was a kid—and that’s a good thing!”

– President Barack Obama

Smart and curious people designing new things and tackling big problems is exactly what’s needed at the moment. Proud of my fellow geeks and nerds!

Ransom, Cliff. “President Barack Obama on How to Win the Future: Questions and Answers with Popular Science.” Popular Science

Crossposted from the Playfully Grownup Home blog.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Klingons, Homer, Falstaff, and the Dread Pirate Roberts: Understanding Honor

161024klingonsIf you grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation like me, you’re probably most used to hearing the word “honor” come out of the mouths of Klingons, especially our beloved Lt. Worf. Star Trek offers one of the most brilliant portrayals of honor in fiction. As you watch Worf’s story unfold over the seasons of TNG and Deep Space Nine, it seems like, for all that Klingons like to talk about honor, Worf is the only one who actually cares about it. Worf always makes the honorable choice, even when it’s not the smart one. Other Klingons are cynical and self-serving. They pay lip service to the idea of honor, but they don’t follow it.

But what is honor? It seems like such a simple word, but what does it really mean? When we say that a person, either someone in the real world or a fictional character, is driven by a sense of honor, what actually motivates them? I often put this question to my students when we read the the quarrel of Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad. They usually answer something like: “Pride,” or “Following a code.” Those are ideas related to honor. They are honor-adjacent. But at its core, honor is something else: honor is reputation.

Agamemnon and Achilles are warrior kings in a world where there is no one to enforce rules. There are no police, no courts, barely anything we would recognize as law. What is it that stops people from being constantly at war with one another? How can Achilles or Agamemnon have a single moment’s rest from every other warrior in the world trying to take away their homes, families, and treasures? Because of their reputation. Because everyone knows that if you hurt them, they will come after you and they will not stop until they have destroyed you. That’s what honor is. It’s the first line of defense.

161024achillesHonor is not an emotion, a code, or an abstract concept. It is a practical tool that Homer’s warrior kings and people in similarly lawless societies use to keep control of their homes and property. When Agamemnon and Achilles break into a fight at the beginning of the Iliad, it’s not because they’re being petty or overly sensitive about wounded feelings. It’s because neither one of them can afford to look weak. A warrior who gets a reputation for giving up easily or not standing up to defend his property is a warrior who will soon be dead.

Honor is what people believe about you. Honor is why, when the Trojans had almost routed the Greeks, Achilles was able to turn the tide of battle just by showing up—unarmed—on the battlefield and yelling his warcry. In other words, honor is like the dread pirate Roberts.

161024robertsWhich also means that there is something artificial about honor. It’s sort of a bluff. The greater a warrior’s reputation as an unbeatable fighter, the less actual fighting they have to do. At the same time, anyone who lets slip that they may not live up to their reputation is just inviting attack, which is why, like in the Iliad, warriors often fight hardest not for the things they want but for the reputation itself.

Honor only matters if it is seen, and it is only what is seen that matters. What makes honor is not what kind of person you are but what kind of person people think you are. What happens in the darkness does not matter to honor. It’s easy to get cynical about honor and call it out as a kind of bullshit. Falstaff, in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, does just that:

Can honor set to a leg? no. Or an arm? no. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honor hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is honor? A word. What is in that word “honor”? What is that “honor”? Air. A trim reckoning. Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. ‘Tis insensible, then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore, I’ll none of it. Honor is a mere scutcheon.

– Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1, act 5, scene 1

Falstaff isn’t wrong. Neither are Achilles and Agamemnon. Honor is a kind of game that everyone plays along with. The wise understand that it’s a game and what seems like cynicism is really just practicality. Only the naive think that honor is real.

This is what makes Star Trek‘s take on honor so brilliant. It seems at first that Worf is the only Klingon who understands honor, but really it’s the other way around: Worf is the only Klingon who doesn’t understand honor. Worf thinks that honor is real. Other Klingons know it’s a game—a game with the highest of stakes that they play for all they’re worth, but a game nonetheless.

Images: Worf and Martok via Memory Alpha. Achilles battling Memnon, photograph by Bibi Saint-Pol via Wikimedia (Vulci, currently Staatliche Antiknesammlungen, Munich; c. 510 BCE; black-figure pottery). Dread Pirate Roberts via History Mine.

Metal Cover of Star Trek: Voyager Theme

YouTuber Captain Meatshield arranged a heavy metal cover of the Star Trek: Voyager theme, and it’s fantastic:

Star Trek: Voyager Theme – Metal Cover by Captain_Meatshield

How do I know it’s great? Like the original, Captain Meatshield’s arrangement passed the goosebump test. Good job, sir!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Legal Brief Partly in Klingon to Counter a Big Movie Studio

The copyright infringement case filed by Paramount Pictures Corporation against the Star Trek fan production Axanar has been in the news a bit this spring. I have a mild interest in it, but I don’t spend much time following the reports—with one marvellous, excellent, and hilarious exception.

Attorney Marc Randazza wrote an amicus curiae brief for Language Creation Society (i.e., for the defendant’s benefit) to counter a copyright claim by Paramount “over the entire Klingon language, not any particular words or portions of dialogue from any episodes of Star Trek, but in the entire vocabulary, graphemes, and grammar rules of Klingon.”

His friend and co-blogger Ken White at Popehat shared the story and the brief itself (as a .pdf file). (The full docket for the case is also available via the U.S. Courts Archive.)

Mr. Randazza not only argues that one cannot copyright an entire language, invented or not; he also briefly summarizes the history and some current uses of Klingon. (Did you know, for example, that the Klingon Language Institute has overseen Klingon wordplay contests? I didn’t. Check them out; the palindromes are especially awesome.)

The best thing about the brief, however, is how Mr. Randazza uses Klingon—complete with the Klingon font, transliterations to the Latin alphabet, and translations—to illustrate his arguments.

I’ve copied three examples below without the Klingon font, using the Latin transliterations instead and adding the English translations Mr. Randazza provides. It’s worthwhile to visit the .pdf brief available online (here or here) for the full effect, though.

“Plaintiff Paramount Pictures Corporation (“Paramount”) has claimed this copyright interest for many years, but has not actually asserted it in court before now – most likely because the notion of it is [meq Hutlh / it lacks reasons].”

[p. 9 of 26]

“Just as poker jargon is unprotectable, so is Klingon. To grant such protection would be to attempt to leash that which Plaintiffs have no right to control. Plaintiffs will learn that [Suvlu’taHvIS yapbe’ HoS neH / brute strength is not the most important asset in a fight].”

[pp. 16-17 of 26]

“Plaintiffs attempt to downplay the significance of their claim of ownership over the Klingon language by arguing that ‘a language is only useful if it can be used to communication [sic] with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate.’ […]

“A language is not constrained to a given ethnic or racial group. By their logic, Ancient Greek is not ‘useful’ because the Ancient Greeks are no longer with us, and the language has no native speakers, despite it being the original language of some of the seminal literary and philosophical works of the western world. Plaintiffs’ logic would seem to dictate that French is not ‘useful’ if spoken by a native German. [qoH vuvbe’ SuS / The wind does not respect a fool.]”

[pp. 23-24 of 26]

At the very least, do yourself a favor and check out how the first line of the Sesame Street theme song translates into Klingon (pp. 23-24). Ha!

Randazza Amicus Curiae Paramount v Axanar

Mr. Randazza’s straightforward and humorous writing not only counters stereotypes about legal language, but it’s also very informative. (And he did it pro bono!) Qapla’, sir!

Image: Screencap from Brief of Amicus Curiae by Marc J. Randazza for Paramount v. Axanar (case no. 2:15-cv-09938-RGK-E) filed April 26, 2016

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

A Star Trek Spin Pumps It Up

I seem to be in a Star Trek frame of mind. Having just finished (re)watching all of TNG, I guess that’s to be expected. Here’s a new spin on “Pump Up the Volume” by MARRS á la every Star Trek franchise:

Star Trek Pump up the Volume MARRS by Vernon Wilmer Video. Found via Tor.com.

I’ve certainly been bobbing my head and tapping my foot to this!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

World’s First Android Phone

According to the fount of all human knowledge, the Wikipedia, the world’s first android phone was the HTC Dream, released on October 22, 2008.

I beg to differ. Undoubtedly, the first android phone appeared exactly 15 years prior, on October 23, 1993 in a tv broadcast:

Screencap from Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 7, episode 6: “Phantasms”.
Screencap from Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 7, episode 6: “Phantasms”.

The screencap above is from Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 7, episode 6: “Phantasms” where the android Data has to adjust to suddenly being capable of experiencing nightmares.

P.S. Yes, the joke is really, really, REALLY dumb. Sleep deprived brain is sleep deprived. 🙂

P.P.S. Incidentally, The HTC Dream would make a great name for a spaceship, don’t you think? If I ever got to name one, it would be an iteration of the northern lights – aurora borealis, nordlys (Danish), goleuadau gogleddol (Welsh – wow, looks so fun), or something in that vein. You?

Some things are just too silly not to share!