Star Trek Discovery – Rip-offs and silliness

For the past few months I’ve been watching, with my sister, an episode a week of Star Trek Discovery. As expected it has been largely fun and entertaining, but I have formed a list of gripes and observations along the way.

I shall begin with our view of the introduction animation; it’s very… James Bond.

In episode seven, called Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad, we witness a time loop of thirty minutes, of which only one member of the crew is aware of this. To me it seemed like a blatant ripoff of the plot of the film Edge of Tomorrow / Live, Die, Repeat starring Tom Cruise, which itself is based on a Japanese novel, and likely not totally original either. I thought nothing more of this; I enjoyed this episode of Star Trek – anything with a hint of time travel generally gets my ears pricked up.

Then roll on the next episode and a blatant ripoff of Avatar. I mean, come on, a glowing tree in the middle of a planet with strange underlying energy life-form. This episode ended with a “to be continued” cliff-hanger, but in episode nine we weren’t to see any more of the Avatar tree.

Instead, we were blessed with a ripoff of the film Jumper. Discovery with its Avatar-like spore drive (okay I’m seeing the Avatar theme throughout now even though I didn’t previously) needed to make 100-odd jumps around the Klingon “death ship” or whatever it was called (there has been something else with such a ship, other than Pirates of the Caribbean, but that is all that comes to mind right now), so you end up with this star ship jumping in and out of the space, just like how the Tomorrow-people-like jumpers could teleport themselves to somewhere else; the really good ones able to do it crazy-style, just like the albino gay guy with the super powers in Star Trek.

Speaking of gay, that whole gay stuff made me cringe… why the black one gotta talk to him in the voice I use to talk to my cat, Mr Snuggles? *shudders*

Further episodes were without obvious ripoffness, although the whole “jumping to another reality” was just like Farscape’s pilot, and they did that whole dressing up thing too for a silly episode, but those three episodes of Discovery in particular made me wonder how “they” can get away with this. A multi-million dollar show. If I’d written a novel featuring obvious rip-offs from popular films then I’d risk being hounded for this, if not worse.

These cases aside, I found issues with two other episodes, the first of these was with episode 13 – there was basically some dodgy camera work; quite often these days hand-held cameras will be use for close-up dialogue work – this can allow cameras to keep up and close with the characters even if they are moving around a little, it can also give some “movement” to a shot; it’s more fluid. However, on this occasion it was too much to the point I was snapped back to reality (as I’ve learned from listening to DVD commentary) but on this occasion I actually called out “keep the camera still!” There might have even been an expletive in there, this reaction caused my sister to notice the camera work too and question “what was that all about?!” Shoddy I thought. Still pondering this some time later I also accepted that perhaps that particular shot had been re-shot later; sometimes this can happen if the original footage isn’t up to scratch and they need to re-record certain dialogue, but can’t justify restaging the whole scene, so they will get up extra close to hide the fact. Just a thought.

In the next, episode 14, there was a scene in the cafeteria with a lot of the crew there, the next scene was on the bridge… and featured some of the same crew. What should have happened is a some kind of shot to illustrate a passage of time, like an external shot of the ship, but without this I was snapped back to reality. There was also another point in this episode where there was a poor cut followed by an extra long pause between scenes as if there should have been a commercial break at this point… except this was Netflix (no breaks)!

The final episode was a little silly like the one where they dressed up to pretend they’re the crew from that other universe. It was like they were letting their hair down a little for the end of the season, in particular there was some Klingon onscreen translation which virtually translated into “You puny human!” but not quite. The part where Michael told [naughty lady from alternative universe/can’t remember her name] to “be good!” had be chuckling, and I think it was a scene on the bridge that had me adding dialogue in such a way as to make the crew seem like school children.

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