Curious how well the Discovery novels tie in with what's been canonically depicted onscreen!

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Quinton, Mar 6, 2021.

  1. thribs

    thribs Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2017
    Well the first one doesn’t tie in at all. :)
     
  2. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2001
    Location:
    The Wormhole
    IIRC, the novel and comic writers don't have a choice in the matter, the Story Group does have full authority over the tie-ins to change and implement as they see fit. The movies and TV shows do have freedom to ignore the Story Group but, yeah, it does seem Abrams is the only one who has exercised that right.
     
    TheAlmanac likes this.
  3. Hades Temperature Checker

    Hades Temperature Checker Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2014
    Location:
    fireproof78
    I think many would benefit from not worrying about canon. Canon does not equal a more enjoyable story.
     
    Reanok and mastadge like this.
  4. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    And canon is really only something tie-in authors have to worry about, and mainly because as a general rule they have to stay consistent with it. Show runners have a choice and in Star Trek, generally, they've chosen to respect prior canon in their own works (from a story perspective, not necessarily from a production design standpoint).

    I think fans confuse continuity with canon. They are not the same thing. I've tried to get into the habit of using the word 'continuity' instead of 'canon.' And a huge part of the reason for that in my case is I've followed the ongoing continuity of the relaunch novels--which are not canon at all. So in my case, canon is meaningless.

    And really, for most fans canon is meaningless. For example, Enterprise is part of the Star Trek canon, but some Star Trek fan out there might hate it and decided never to watch it or ignore it completely. It's still 'canon' but the fan that hated it doesn't really care about that.

    I personally would prefer a tighter continuity, including where it comes to production design, which I've debated here ad nauseum. But that's continuity, not canon. I mean, you could say the Giger-Klingons aren't consistent with how they appeared in prior canon, I suppose that's a correct statement, but issue wise it's still continuity. The Klingons in TSFS still exist.

    Regarding Discovery books though, as others have noted Desperate Hours is probably the book that was most affected by what's on the show. That's the danger, I suppose, of being first in line, esp. when there were some significant changes at the top affecting the story. The Enterprise War did attempt to bring it more in line with the show. I mean, there was only so much that could be done. That was probably my favorite Discovery book thus far, with Drastic Measures a close second. In fact, I'd highly recommend The Enterprise War because it really adds some depth to the 2nd season, esp. as it pertains to Captain Pike and Spock. It was definitely a case where a novel added to the series. The Way to the Stars was a good read as well. From what I can remember about them, I think most of the other books work pretty well with the existing Discovery continuity (not 100% of course, but for the most part).
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Visual continuity is not narrative continuity. I mean, there's a major discontinuity in how Kirk and Spock look between TOS and TAS, or how Riker and Troi look between TNG and Lower Decks, because in the former they're live action and in the latter they're cartoons. But in that case, or in a case where an actor is recast as with Saavik or Number One, we understand that the visual change is not supposed to represent an in-story change, just a change in how the story is presented to us. It should be possible to understand that the same applies to changes in alien makeup design or set design or VFX design. They're all artistic interpretations, and their differences aren't part of the story unless they're addressed within the story.


    I've pretty much come to expect that of the first tie-in novel to any series. TNG: Ghost Ship was based on a writers' bible whose assumptions fell quickly by the wayside and is thus a weirdly alternate take. DS9: The Siege holds up surprisingly well in retrospect, but has some continuity groaners like Odo encountering another shapeshifter (although it was left ambiguous whether it was really of his own species or just a similar one) and the Rio Grande being destroyed at the end. VGR: The Escape also holds up relatively well, but has "Doctor Zimmerman" and a few other bits of early weirdness. And so on.

    Heck, my cancelled Kelvin-timeline novel was the first one commissioned (though it would've been the second one released), and it pretty much got superseded by STID in that STID retold some of the same character threads in a different way. So it wouldn't have held up either.
     
  6. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2006
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    With one exception (I don't think I'm alone in differentiating animation intended to be as naturalistic as the budget permits from animated cartoons that are outright caricatures no matter what the budget permits*), I am in complete agreement with everything you said, Mr. Bennett.

    All who are reading this: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    _____
    *Yes, I am quite well aware that Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast all have a mix of naturalistic and cartoon characters, and even the naturalistic characters are slightly caricatured; what of it? I would also nominate Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings [Part 1; thank God there wasn't a part 2!] as having the absolute worst rotoscoping ever to appear in a theatrically-released film (the crowd and battle scenes, as I recall, looked like they'd xerographed the reference footage directly onto the cels!).
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    While Filmation's design style was relatively naturalistic in things like human proportions, it was still highly stylized and cartoonish in its way -- for instance, the characters' eyes had no lower edges (except for Uhura) and were flesh-colored, and their hair was a solid field of color with no texture. And of course, they hardly moved, and tended to strike only a handful of stock poses. So I wouldn't really say TAS's look was any more likely to be confused with live action than LD's is.

    And there is still an obvious difference between a photograph and a drawing, notwithstanding how realistic the style of the drawing may be. The point is that it's a change in visual presentation that we know better than to mistake for a change in the reality being depicted. Ditto for, say, the change from black-and-white to color; we know better than to assume that people actually lived in a grayscale world before color film was invented. We know in those cases that the visual change is not a change in the reality, just in its presentation. Those are obvious, elementary examples, but I'm saying that the same principle applies to other visual changes, like actor recasting, makeup redesign, VFX replacement as in TOS Remastered, or the like. It's only part of the story if it specifically comes up as part of the story. (E.g. the characters in Voyager actually do experience Captain Proton holodeck adventures in black-and-white, because the story says they do, but the characters in the first season of Lost in Space or Gilligan's Island presumably did not perceive their worlds in monochrome.)


    That's pretty much what they did -- it was solarized live action footage, not rotoscoping at all. But even the rotoscoped parts were too slavishly traced and looked wrong.
     
  8. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    Well, yeah. I guess I kind of look at it 2 different ways, story continuity and visual continuity. I prefer both personally, for whatever that's worth. Certainly differences between live action and animation are to be expected. And I'm flexible enough to allow for differences when there's a change of actor/actress. It's certainly not Robin Curtis' fault that she's not Kirstie Alley's identical twin. And if Alley didn't want to return for TSFS, that's not really the filmmaker's fault. It was either recast or remove the character from the script. And recasting Pike and Number 1 is the same thing. If they want those characters in the show they have to be recast. I mean, even if Jeffery Hunter and Majel Barrett were still alive obviously they couldn't use them. So those sorts of things are to be expected. All I like to see from new actors is that they reflect the original characters to some extent. Not in every nuance, and certainly they can make them their own in some ways, but that they are recognizable as those characters. And for the most part I think those actors have done that, at least to my personal satisfaction.

    Production design is mainly where Discovery loses me, as I've noted in the past. That's probably my biggest complaint. And when it comes to production design and the balance I look for I always cite Enterprise. In that case I thought they did a good job of making it look futuristic from today and yet less advanced than the original series.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    So do I, of course. But continuity does not mean absolute rigidity and inflexibility. It's unrealistic to expect a fictional or artistic creation worked on by hundreds of different hands to be as perfectly consistent as reality. The various creators can try to maintain the overall appearance of consistency, but there will inevitably be variations in detail and nuance as they filter it through their own styles and approaches. The variations in detail and style do not negate the cohesiveness of the big picture; they merely add texture to it.


    I'm not a fan of Discovery's production design, and I hate their visual effects design. But I am not so misguided as to think that makes them objectively wrong to try something new. Different artists have every right to interpret a subject in their own voice and style. No one person will like every artist's style, but that's exactly why it's good that different styles are experimented with, because different people have different preferences. I can deeply dislike what a creative person does while still defending their right to do it their own way.
     
  10. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    That's where I'd like to think I'm a bit flexible. My oft cited example of Enterprise being one of them. I knew they were going to have to take some 'liberties' (for lack of a better word) and I thought they did a good job there.

    Frankly it's one reason I prefer to continue moving forward in the future. Like TNG did when it started, since it was 78 years post TVH any production design changes could easily be explained away as it being, well, 78 years later. It really didnt' even require much explanation. And the aliens were usually pretty consistent, more or less. I mean, Romulans had forehead ridges but I consider that pretty minor, they still 'looked' like familiar Romulans otherwise. I liked much of the design of Picard, for example. It's not as far in the future from Nemesis as TNG was from TVH, but still, I thought it pretty well fit the bill and it had a post-TNG feel to it, IMO.

    That goes without saying. It's not really right or wrong. It's just a matter of individual preferences. And I find when it comes to production design there really is no consensus among fans. Our preferences tend to vary a great deal, and nobody's really wrong. You could probably make good arguments for any position.
     
  11. WebLurker

    WebLurker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    I follow, but am not sure that's quite the same thing; you alluded to later in the thread about how the live action franchise has been converted into animation before, with the resulting stylization to the look (e.g. TAS Kirk having flesh-colored eyes, LDS Riker's eyes suddenly having no space between them like he did in the live action stuff, etc.). However, in those cases, it's pretty clear from the animation style that it's supposed to be the same "designs," with the artistic license just being concessions to the medium. The Disc-prise is not only in the same medium as the original incarnation, but isn't a "conversion" but a complete reimagining (I have gathered from interviews that the people in charge of the exterior look did make a point of designing something that would look like it could be refitted into the TOS Enterprise -- which still leaves the problem of the "Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" configurations, but that's another topic -- but, based on how the interior sets turned out, the conclusion seems to be that the Powers That Be see it as an all-out replacement).

    At the end of the day, it is what it is, but can you at least follow why some people would find the DSC team's looser approach to canon, continuity, or whatever you want to call it in regards to the visuals annoying? (Kinda ironic, but while I wish that DSC had stuck closer to the past, I actually wish that LDS hadn't been so slavish to recreating TNG. I did like the pilot -- haven't had a chance to see the rest of the show yet -- but I guess I would've rather seen more new stuff here.)

    (Would it also be fair to say that certain kinds of changes seem to be important to people in different ways? You seem find visual reimaginings a non-issue, I wish they'd kept closer to the original look -- even if I still do like the show and will agree that the show has the best production values to date of the TV installments), and I know of people online who hate the show just because it doesn't look like it was made in '60s and so cannot be canon.

    Conversely, I know of a fan site -- which incidentally is in the "DSC is bad because they break canon with stuff looking different" camp -- that also despises the show because the narrative tone and themes are different -- to the point that commentary on the show judges episodes are "real" Star Trek or not. Personally, while I do like the idea of the franchise ultimately maintaining a generally positive and moral outlook, I'm a-okay with them doing more serious storytelling and experimenting with the format in that regards. Heck, I kinda think that DSC and PIC's themes of Starfleet and the Federation not being the moral beacons that we used to see them as and failing to live up to the principles and values that they claim to stand for is not only timely, but the sort of message we need now.)
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    The difference is only one of degree, not principle. That's my point. If a smaller change like live action to animation can be understood as a difference in artistic interpretation rather than a change in the in-story reality, then a larger change like a redesigned starship or alien makeup can also be understood as a difference in artistic interpretation. It doesn't have to be taken literally as a real in-story change.


    Okay, you're completely misunderstanding me here, because that is my whole point. I find DSC's visuals extremely annoying, and that is why I choose to interpret them as figurative, as mere changes in artistic interpretation, rather than taking them literally as in-universe "reality." For instance, there is no way in hell I am ever going to believe that Discovery's turbolifts operate in some gigantic techno-warehouse hammerspace bigger than the whole ship. As far as I'm concerned, they still travel in normal lift shafts and the CGI overindulgence in the show is an artistic interpretation that got way out of hand. By the same token, I take other things like differences in alien makeup design and set design as differences of how the artists portray the reality rather than in-story changes.

    Conversely, I'm happy to believe that the "real" technology of 23rd-century Starfleet is closer to the Kelvin or DSC stuff with its big fancy video screens and holograms than the TOS stuff with its light bulbs and rocker switches -- that the TOS version was just a rough approximation rather than a literal, exact depiction of what 23rd-century tech looks like. All of this is just an artistic representation of an abstract world with no actual existence except in our imaginations; so we don't have to take any of the visuals we see literally. They're just meant to suggest the idea of the thing being depicted. And if we find their version of that idea too implausible, we don't have to take it literally.
     
  13. Hades Temperature Checker

    Hades Temperature Checker Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2014
    Location:
    fireproof78
    Exactly so. As much as I would love perfect coherence within a world building it simply is highly implausible, for many of the reasons already cited. But also because this is art, not history. I understand frustration with changes in DSC and don't agree with all of the artistic interpretations taken. But, it doesn't break canon because canon in of itself is highly mutable.
     
  14. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2006
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    You got that right. And in over four decades, solarization had never occurred to me, even though I'd been aware of the process (and had at least a theoretical understanding of the mechanics) three years before the picture came out.

    You want to see what animation-by-manipulated-photography looks like when done right, go see Tron. The original Tron, not Tron Legacy.

    As to Filmation, I did say, "as naturalistic as the budget permits." And Saturday morning TV doesn't even have a Simpson's budget (that is a cartoon), much less the budget of, say, a Disney animated feature.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Not entirely done right. The filmmakers have admitted to certain mistakes they were dissatisfied with, such as not taking more care to ensure a consistent film stock from frame to frame, so that there's a certain flickering effect they didn't want. And it was an experiment with a novel technique, so like any first try, it was imperfect. I respect the innovation and ambition, and it's certainly tons better than Bakshi's LOTR, but I think it's disingenuous to hold it up as an ideal.


    I don't agree that the stylization was a matter of budget, though. More modern animated shows with higher budgets (e.g. Batman: TAS) still use fairly simplified, cartoony character designs as an aesthetic choice, and because character models with fewer, simpler lines are easier to animate fluidly and expressively (though that obviously wasn't an issue for TAS).

    After all, Filmation shows used the same cels for character poses over and over and over again, so they only had to draw them once. So they could have made them a lot more detailed if they'd wanted to (as is often done in anime productions with similarly limited animation). Instead, they chose to keep it simple. That was an aesthetic decision, not purely a budgetary limitation.
     
  16. WebLurker

    WebLurker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    @Christopher If nothing else, I think I understand what you're saying better now.

    Okay, although I would make the case that there's a difference between a faithful recreation in a new medium vs. something that's designed on purpose to be a new take on it. I guess, to use a bad analogy, I see TAS/LSD and like projects as being like a Jules Verne novel translated into English, while some of the DSC changes in comparison to the stuff they're recreating is like comparing Kipling's original Jungle book with the classic Disney movie.

    Okay then. I guess I had no problems with the DSC tech designs outside of how it did or did not fit into the rest of the franchise (some of the alien makeup is a bit of a stretch, but racial variation within species and the like); I wish that the Abrams movies had been more like this then the '60 Trek/Apple store look they went with. Never really had a problem with TOS's '60s look, since I guess I assumed that the dated look was just in the aesthetics of the equipment (kind of like that revival Doctor Who episode where they brought back his robotic dog from the original series and it's mentioned that the retro look of it was just cosmetic, but it's actually an extremely advanced piece of tech). Course, I would've loved to see the modern day Discovery ship and '60s-era Enterprise together onscreen; the crossover between the two visuals, a la the ENT mirror universe episode; I find that sort of thing cool.

    Kinda feels like we're almost having two different conversations and different objectives in what we expect and how we process what we get. Would be fair to way that you value the experience of verisimilitude (seeing sensible turbolifts and bridges without switches) while I prefer internal consistency even if its not realistic? (Probably poor wording, but that's the best I can articulate.)
     
    TheAlmanac likes this.
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Yes, there's a difference. But being different doesn't make something wrong or invalid. Like I said, differences are not impassable walls or excuses to reject things, they're opportunities to look at things from new perspectives.


    The question is not about whether you approve or not. The question is how you deal with something that falls short of your expectations. Just complaining about it won't change anything. It's useless to say "I wish they hadn't done this," because they did do it already and nothing can undo that. It's the way things are now. It's part of the Trek universe now. We have no power to change what's already been done. The only thing we have control over is how we choose to deal with it going forward.

    And I've chosen to deal with it by remembering that even Gene Roddenberry considered Star Trek more a dramatization of a conjectural future than a literal, perfect representation of that future. He was never entirely satisfied with the practical limits on his ability to depict what he imagined, so he was happy to change the depiction as the budget and technology allowed, and he encouraged audiences to accept those changes as a better approximation of his original intent (e.g. that the Klingons had "always" had ridges and TOS just hadn't been able to get that right). I've realized that I can apply that same Doylist thinking to newer productions and consider some things to be merely artifacts of the dramatization rather than "actual" parts of the universe being dramatized.
     
  18. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    I would have liked a more faithful adaptation as well. I figured overall they were going to update the aesthetics, I didn't necessarily expect them to make it consistent with "The Cage", but I felt they went a bit overboard with the production design. Almost nothing about the Discovery reminded me of 23rd century Star Trek--I always thought it looked more advanced than 24th century Star Trek. Even the Enterprise didn't remind me much of the original ship, though I did note some attempts to bring it in line (the consoles on the bridge for example).

    But as Christopher noted, it's their ball of wax. They can do what they want. It's a nitpick of mine, but other than griping about it here I've sort of just got over it.

    One thing that was interesting is that I read The Enterprise War before seeing the 2nd season. So since I had no visual basis for reading the story I mostly read it envisioning the Enterprise and the characters as we saw them in "The Cage." I mostly saw Jeffrey Hunter, Majel Barrett, Leonard Nimoy and so forth. The only exceptions were when it mentioned something specific related to Discovery, or the Admiral, which was not featured in the original series. And honestly, other than the overall story arc that the Enterprise was being kept out of the ongoing Klingon war as seen on Discovery, that book could have worked just fine as an original series novel as well as a Discovery novel. For the most part Jackson did a good job I thought of balancing the two together so it could work in either series.
     
  19. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2008
    Location:
    King Daniel Beyond
    For whatever it's worth, the recent teaser for Trek on Paramount+ kind of acknowledges the change by saying they "brought the look and feel of our Star Trek movies to television"
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    That's the same thing TNG did in the '80s, though -- even more directly, by reusing a lot of the movie sets and miniatures and hiring movie art staffers Andrew Probert, Rick Sternbach, and Mike Okuda to do the show. So there's nothing new or surprising about that. I mean, of course they were going to update the look for modern sensibilities, and it's the big blockbuster movies that typically define the look and feel of a franchise for an audience. (We even see this with Superman and Lois deliberately copying Man of Steel's aesthetic and tone.)
     
    ATimson likes this.