Visual continuity/Same future, different eyes

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by King Daniel Beyond, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Star Trek not only recast the famous characters from The Original Series, but it essentially recast the look of Trek's 23rd century as well. The uniforms, the ships, the control consoles, phasers and other props, even the San Fransisco skyline, have been changed.

    This isn't the first time Star Trek has done this - The Motion Picture handwaved an Enterprise refit while changing everything, and Star Trek: Enterprise was set a century prior to TOS. STXI's handwave is "alternate reality branching off in 2233", and although that covers changes in the story and some details, it's no more an excuse for the scope of visual changes than TMP's refit (an Enterprise refit of course explains the difference in Klingons between TOS and TMP!:lol:)

    In my opinion, if a Gorn is "really" a fearsome and intelligent lizard monster when it's blatantly a man in a bad rubber suit, and if Chris Pine and William Shatner can both be James T. Kirk, then the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 is an advanced futuristic starship, whether it looks to us as it did in 1966 or 1979 or 2009. The exactitudes of it's design are irrelevent.

    In other words, Trek's visual/technical continuity is mallable, and can be changed as easily as an actor is replaced. "It looks different/too advanced/It's all wrong" and similar arguments are as meaningless as complaints about the colour of Saavik's or Kirk's eyes. As long as the basics remain the same, the details doesn't matter.

    Anyone agree?
     
  2. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Not really. Go the comic book route with the multiple universes. TOS already established at least three universes where at least one of them you can alter the timeline without forcing a quantum-universe type branch. TNG adds even more alternate universes so with XI it's kinda old hat.

    Now as Homer Simpson and Jack O'Neil would say, "Close enough." :D
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I agree completely with KingDaniel. It's silly to pretend that what we're seeing on the TV or movie screen is an exact, literal depiction of an actual future. All Trek productions are simulations of a hypothetical future made with present-day technology, executed by different creators and designers, etc. And so they're all going to differ in how they interpret that imaginary reality. Differences in set and technology design are no more "real" in universe than the change in Saavik's or Tora Ziyal's appearance and personality in consecutive appearances. They're just different artists' interpretations of the same conjectural thing.

    Gene Roddenberry himself would have been the first to agree with this. In his preface to his ST:TMP novelization, he took on the voice of a 23rd-century producer who'd dramatized the "real" adventures of Kirk and crew, and he apologized for the exaggerations and inaccuracies in his fictionalized account. When Trek fans asked him why the Klingons had changed appearance in TMP, he told them that the Klingons had always looked that way, and TOS simply hadn't been able to depict them accurately. He never would've wanted the fans to take every last detail as immutable gospel. He wanted them to accept that what was onscreen was just the best approximation the producers had been able to manage, and was glad for the opportunity to replace an earlier, cruder approximation with a more sophisticated one.

    If Roddenberry himself were still alive, if he had been the one in charge of rebooting TOS, he would've been just as open to a wholesale redesign of the sets, costumes, technology, etc. as J. J. Abrams was -- and he wouldn't have bothered to try to rationalize it as an alternate timeline, but would've just straight up changed things and told the fans "This is a truer version than what you saw before, so deal with it." In fact, that's essentially what he did in TMP -- made wholesale design changes without explanation and didn't feel he needed to justify why a big-budget tentpole motion picture had more elaborate sets, costumes, and makeup designs than a low-budget '60s TV series. As a producer, he was no doubt constantly frustrated by the budgetary, technological, and logistical limitations that forced him to make compromises in his depiction of the future in TOS. He didn't worship every button and light as immutable truth the way many modern Trek-tech fans do; he settled for them as the best he could manage with the limited time and money and technology at his disposal. And when he had better resources, he gladly started from scratch and came up with something that he felt came closer to what he'd wanted in the first place.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2012
  4. marksound

    marksound Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That's the way I've always looked at it.
     
  5. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Sure, that is one way to view it from the technical side.

    OTOH, I just like to know Kirk's fate, whether he died in "Generations", or lived to an old age in "Relics" or got resurrected in the novels or whatever new fate has in store for him in Abrams-verse.

    Huh, that was pretty easy to use a new universe. Cool :)

    Then again, I just treat them as different Kirks. If Roddenberry were alive, I suspect he'd monetize it as alternate universe and one-shot stories like how they do Superman. The Golden, Silver ages, All Star Superman, DCAU Superman, Live Action Superman....
     
  6. Patrickivan

    Patrickivan Fleet Captain Newbie

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    TMP was a soft restart to the series- not a re-imagining as JJ put his version. TMP and after continued an existing story line while making visual changes, explaining some, ignoring the reason in others (in the story- not reality).

    To actually compare new trek to the rest is really not realistic. It is new. Elements taken from what JJ wanted, good and bad, plus adding new stuff, both good and bad. But they aren't the same. All he's done is rip off ideas, and characters.

    NOW- before some of you go ape shit on me here, I am a fan of both the original universe and NEW. I really love it (except for the shit new enterprise design- just a horrible mash of crap) but I can seperate the two universes comfortably and not try to compare one to the other in order to JUSTIFY the changes. It's just what it is.

    Plus this thread should be under general Trek discussion since it isn't tech and it transcends both new and old Trek.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's true -- but TNG, as Roddenberry saw it, was somewhere in between. Later producers married the TNG era more tightly to TOS/TAS continuity, but if Roddenberry had stayed in charge, it probably would've continued to disregard or diverge from TOS canon. And if, somehow, he were alive and fit today and asked to reinvent the original series with new actors and a new continuity, I really don't think he'd have a problem with that.

    I think that as a rule, the creator of a given fictional universe will be less reluctant to see it changed or reimagined than its fans will. After all, the fans look back on the shows and movies they love and don't want to change a thing -- but when creators look back on our older creations, all we see are the flaws and the things we think we could do better now.
     
  8. Patrickivan

    Patrickivan Fleet Captain Newbie

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    Maybe he would have- or just created a new batch of characters in the same period- who knows? Changes would have been there without doubt. Continuity- maybe- maybe not. Again- who knows?

    I don't disagree with creators of artistic works seeing ways to improve or add on to things as times and technologies change, but don't you find it interesting that it's more typical of a writer to make changes to past works (eg add things like King), while visual artists who use static mediums like paintings, while typically never satisfied, rarely will go back and change something? That and painters are finicky... I'm not saying that is an absolute, but it just seems to be more prominant.

    Is it just easier as a writer to make those changes, or is there that thing in your head that is never truly happy with something? And I don't mean that as a negative, or an attack to writers. It's just more of an observation and a thought.

    On the other hand, maybe it's the medium that makes it easier.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Are you sure that's the case, though? I don't follow art much, but I have the impression there are at least some instances of an artist doing multiple versions of a given painting or sculpture, or making replicas of an earlier work. I imagine an art historian or expert could speak to whether they modified their brushstrokes, the details of the work, and so on.

    After all, when writers go back and rewrite a novel or story, they're creating a new edition of the work, just like a painter or sculptor who creates a replica of the original. So it wouldn't be analogous to going back to the original portrait and painting over it, say. Even what George Lucas did with the Star Wars films is making a new, distinct edition, although he's tried to suppress the earlier editions.
     
  10. Anduril

    Anduril Nose down. Throttle up. Premium Member

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    I can understand where KingDaniel is coming from. I think of it in terms of "focus" for a lack of a better word. What did it for me was the long shot of the Narada and the Kelvin right before the battle starts. From that distance, it easily looks like a ship from the prime universe. We just get to see more detail than before; it was always there.
     
  11. Utopianvista

    Utopianvista Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    TNG's second episode was a direct reference to TOS. The first episode featured a direct cameo from TOS! TNG, when Roddenberry was at the helm, didn't diverge from TOS canon. (Unless you count the fan works and TAS.) If anything that just showed Roddenberry was more controlling about his work. You're projecting your own beliefs onto what you want to believe at this point.

    For example, I don't know how you can say "I really don't think he'd have a problem" considering Roddenberry had a problem with a lot of modern Trek. He had major issues with Star Trek VI which was probably the last Trek thing he saw. You think he is going to enjoy seeing James Kirk the disrespectful annoying frat boy? There was absolutely nothing Utopian about the Abrams farce.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, I'm repeating what's been reported by someone who actually knew Roddenberry at the time -- I believe it was Paula Block, formerly the Paramount licensing executive in charge of tie-ins. She revealed a few years back that Roddenberry considered much of TOS itself to be apocryphal. And that's the key word: much. I never said he rejected all of it. My whole point is that there are more ways of approaching continuity than absolute consistency or a wholesale restart. The tendency of fans these days to reduce it to those two extremes is ignoring a lot of alternatives. There are countless works of series fiction that selectively ignore or reinterpret aspects of their earlier continuity -- like the way it was explicitly 1962 when the 15-year-old Peter Parker got spider powers, yet he was in college when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979, and is still presented as being in his mid-20s today in 2012. Marvel and DC have routinely kept parts of their history while ignoring others. Many other works of series fiction have done the same. We know for a fact that Roddenberry wanted fans to accept that TOS had been an imperfect approximation of the Trek universe and that TMP superseded it on matters like the Klingons' appearance.

    And that's the point. Fidelity to a fictional universe's continuity isn't about treating every last detail as unalterable gospel. The details are a matter of interpretation and they can be changed. What really matters is the core of the story and the characters. You can acknowledge that a previous event happened, but change the details or depiction of how it happened.


    You didn't read what I actually wrote. Roddenberry had a problem with the Trek that he didn't make, sure. But what I actually said was that if Roddenberry himself were the one to do it, if he were alive and well and personally given the task of producing a new Trek movie with a new cast, he would've been just as willing as Abrams to redesign the sets and costumes and special effects and props, just as willing to alter details of continuity to suit the new story, just as willing to recast the characters. Because those are just things that filmmakers do. He didn't consider every detail of ST as holy writ the way some obsessive fans do. They were just the best his team could cobble together with the time, budget, and resources they had. Given the chance to replace them with fancier, more modern designs, he wouldn't hesitate. And he wouldn't have felt the need to explain the "continuity change," because the only continuity that actually mattered was the stories, not the set design.
     
  13. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Commodore Commodore

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    It always amazes me how a significant segment of fandom expects a huge level of consistency in details. Visual details, facts, etc. They notice the perceived inconsistencies in new productions. Which shows they have an eye or ear for details. But if that is true, why are they so dismissive or ignoring of older inconsistencies?

    As its been pointed out there have always been changes in design and detail with no explanation at all. I think for some people there is a point when they go from just excepting what is happening warts and all. Than change to really analyzing everything new that they would not have in the past. Most likely its age. Like how as kid there is a certain magic and wonder to things. But as we get older we become more aware of how things happen and that leads to cynicism. But often we see the past through rose colored glasses.
     
  14. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    You may want to read Wikipedia's page on Star Trek canon, with revealing quotes from Gene Rodenberry, Richard Arnold and the ones Christopher mentioned by Paula Block: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_canon
    Rodenberry disiked the racism displayed in STVI, believing his future-humans were evolved beyond such things (more revisionism, since we saw racism quite blatantly in "Balance of Terror"). The only racism in STXI was from the Vulcans - and stems from scenarios described or shown in TOS/TAS.

    Gene Rodenberry summed up his utopian Trek future to Jonathan Frakes as "a world where there is no hunger, no poverty and every child knows how to read" - which sounds perfectly consistant with JJ Abrams' version of Trek to me.
     
  15. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Which Marvel and DC spun off and expanded as Multiverses acknowledging and making money off of the differences.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Because that's the way the human mind works. Over time, as we review our memories over and over, they're subtly rewritten every time we think of them, and they merge together into a fairly uniform model of how we perceive the past. The brain is adapted to extrapolate patterns from data, and to an extent that includes ignoring data that don't fit the patterns we're building. So over time we create a unified view of the fictional canon that glosses over the inconsistencies. But when a new installment comes along, we notice the inconsistencies more because they're more immediate, and because we haven't yet had time to rationalize them into our overall construct of the canon as we have with older inconsistencies.

    It's the same neurological mechanism that produces the nostalgia illusion, the false perception that the past was better than the present. Our memories gloss over the bad things, the cognitive dissonances, the speed bumps, and smooth out the past into a constructed narrative of what we believe it to have been. But in the present, the things that don't work or don't fit are right there in front of us so they stand out more.
     
  17. jayrath

    jayrath Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I don't mind change and new generations having their own take. As the Reeves-Stevenses have pointed out, GR was even open to having an opera based on TOS.

    However, I want whatever change there is to be thoughtful change. Once the various series decided they no longer needed scientific advisors, I started to get the willies more and more.

    Not that the TOS movies were slaves to science after TMP. If you love new Trek, great. As for myself, it's very difficult to respect a new Enterprise that was explicitly redesigned to suggest a "hot rod." Oh, and the best way to drill on a planet is to dangle the thing all the way from orbit? And so on, and so on.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Nothing to scoff at there. Orbital tethers are an idea that many scientists and engineers take very seriously. Things dangling from orbit may one day be of immense value to human achievement in space.

    Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are actually quite science-savvy; they do their homework, and it's clear from interviews with Orci that he knows what he's talking about science-wise. But it's Abrams's prerogative as director to choose to disregard the science if he thinks it serves the story, just as Roddenberry himself often disregarded the advice of the technical advisors he consulted for TOS if he felt something less scientific would be more dramatic or reach the audience better. Because Roddenberry knew that he was making a work of fiction, not a dissertation. The appearance of credibility could help sell the drama, but the science should never be allowed to undermine the drama.

    And how is Abrams's decision to make the Enterprise look like a hot rod any less valid than the TMP production designers' decision to make it look Art Deco? Or ILM's decision to base the Klingon Bird of Prey's forward silhouette on a football linebacker? None of those are practical engineering decisions; they're just different aesthetic choices.
     
  19. jayrath

    jayrath Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Puh-LEASE! Hey, I'm all for orbital tethers. It's a great possible way to gather energy. But to drill on an exactly specific site? Heck, we saw it swing wildly. Give me two 49ers with pick axes and a mule any old day, rather than drilling a vertical shaft from space. And do think that veins of valuable ore run perpendicular to a planet's surface? Apologists aside, that seems to defy everything I learned in geology 101. I welcome your new theory of plate tectonics.

    Sure, GR disregarded science fact when it got in the way of good storytelling. Problem is, the recent wildness gets very much in the way of good storytelling -- for me, at least.

    As for the "art deco" look of the previous Enterprise, there is nothing art deco about it at all, unless you count the original curves (which vanished from the nacelles). I assume you mean art moderne, and even then I think you mean the "Aztecing" of the hull plates. I chalk that up to a higher resolution view of what must have been there all along. If we had gotten a better view of the TOS Enterprise, we would have seen the same hull finish. Anyway, there's nothing about the plate finish that is art deco or moderne in any way at all. You seriously want to argue surface niceties of design art as a very necessary element of storytelling? If so, let's talk about the Budweiser engine room.

    The point is: gather the science. Listen to the advice. Then if, as a filmmaker, you choose to ignore it? Fine by me! But first maybe go out of your way to take advantage of all the real-world rocket scientists who are fans and who want to help.

    I kind of think that the advice previously gathered from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory might still have been worthwhile in the new effort. Or do you think that the contributions of Harvey Lynn of the Rand Corporation were so worthless to TOS? He essentially invented the fictitious transporter. He changed "laser" to "phaser." He replaced impossible star systems with real ones. And he had a tremendous grasp of, and appreciation of, the necessities of drama.

    Yeah, Orci and Kurtzman are "quite science-savvy." Giant robots that defy gravity, mass and impetus, and become cars. Red matter. Vulcan gyro ships. Vulcan now mere minutes away (gee, that sure increases suspense). And let's not even get into their grasp of characterization.

    Why is it so wrong to ask for the help of real-world science advisers? Who have helped so much before?
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Come on. Star Trek has always been full of science holes and other continuity errors. Consider all the TOS episodes where ships' orbits decayed when they lost power. Or Psi 2000 somehow changing its mass as it disintegrated in "The Naked Time." You want to object to scientific inaccuracies in Star Trek, you're nearly half a century too late.


    An irrelevant nitpick. The point is that they're all stylistic decisions by the art directors of different works of fiction. Objecting to the stylistic choices of the latest version is just an excuse you're making up to justify your hostility toward its novelty. Fans like you have been condemning the newest incarnation of Trek as a corruption and a betrayal for the past three or four decades. Sadly, even though Star Trek is about approaching the new and different with openness and fascination, there are always fans like you who face it with hatred and condemnation.


    See above about TOS's humongous science errors. What you need to understand about science advisors is that they're advisors. As I already told you, the producers aren't required to listen to their advice. You're deluded if you think that this is anything new for Trek.