Spoilers Discovery and the Novelverse - TV show discussion thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by King Daniel Beyond, May 18, 2017.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yeah, but that's exactly it. When it's an ongoing series, tie-ins tend to get contradicted pretty quickly, because an ongoing series is a creation in flux. There are no guarantees.


    The direct quote was approximately "It's canon until it isn't." That didn't mean they were committed to keeping consistent with it -- just the opposite. It meant, explicitly, that we should expect them to contradict it the moment they had a reason to.

    And that was just one producer in an interview. If anything, that one interview was the outlier. As I recall, everything else that was said about the books was that the only attempt at consistency was from the show to the books, not the other way around. It sounds like fans cherrypicked the one statement that confirmed what they wanted to be true and ignored everything else -- classic confirmation bias. Your own desire is always the thing that will mislead you the most, so it's the thing you should always be the most skeptical toward. If you want something to be true, doubt the hell out of it.


    J. Michael Straczynski intended the Dell novels to be canonical, but he was too busy working on the show to supervise them as closely as he liked, and so most of them had continuity issues or differences of interpretation that rendered them non-canonical. The only two that remained in canon were the ones by the authors most directly connected to JMS, including his own wife. The DC comics were canonical, because all but two issues were written or plotted by JMS himself, and the other two were by David Gerrold, who freelanced for the show. The later Del Rey novels were able to be fully canonical because the show was over by then and so JMS had the time to devote the full attention needed to keep them consistent.


    Solo references the animated shows, which are canonical spinoffs, not tie-ins. I don't recall the film depending on ideas from the novels or comics or games, aside from the occasional passing reference to a species or organization name. I remember there were speculations that Thandie Newton's character would be Han's "wife" from the comics, but that was totally untrue.


    Yup. The problem with "canon" is that people focus on the metaphor and overlook what it's meant to describe, which is the work of the original creator or their direct successors. No two creators will interpret a given creation the same way, so tie-ins can rarely succeed at being consistent with a series unless the creator of the series has hands-on involvement with them, which is rarely doable until the main series ends, because making a TV series is incredibly time-consuming.
     
  2. WebLurker

    WebLurker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Must've been something that happened down the line, since I seem to recall seeing stuff about the franchise from around the time indicating that the novels were in continuity (course I may be misremembering). Never was able to find the original sources for the claims that only some stuff counted, so I was never quite sure how accurate it was.

    Same difference? (Sure, the CGI cartoons probably have higher canon status then the books and comics, but all them are side material to the movies.)

    I will concede that, on thinking it over, that there are relatively few connections to the canon materials. It did borrow heavily from the Legends/EU tie-ins to the point that it would be easier to list stuff that wasn't derived from another source, but, yeah. Still the biggest example of how all the pieces go together for a greater whole in the franchise yet.

    Yeah, not true.

    Eh, I just like knowing which drawer of the franchise's toolbox the thing in question goes to. Besides, the word does have two different meanings ("works in a certain category" and "works that are 'real' within the franchise's fictional reality"). :shrug:

    TV shows are usually the work of a committee, not one person (B5 aside). :shrug:
     
  3. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, I get that to an extent. Still, even that was pretty earth shattering for Star Trek. In the past tie-ins were largely ignored. There wasn't even the hint that they were just given some consideration. They didn't matter all that much to show runners. This time it seemed they were going to take that into account a bit. Even the nu-TNG showrunners have hinted that some elements of the tie-ins might be considered in the new show (we certainly don't know how much, but it seems at least some small part might survive).

    But part of my argument is also could they have kept Discovery internally consistent with itself? I mean, I'm not talking about other series and their tie ins, just speaking of Discovery and it's own internal continuity. And I was making an argument that maybe instead of hampering the show runners maybe it could have helped them. The novels and comics could have filled in the back story, the show could have referenced the tie-ins and vice versa.

    In a sense that would mean the authors and comic book writers would be part of a larger show running team to varying degrees so everyone kept things straight. I mean, the show already has to keep itself consistent to a degree, so this would have just been a progression of what was already being done anyway. It might be something like having someone on the team that's an advisor of sorts that keeps track of what the tie-ins are doing so the showrunners have a source to go to for info when they needed (not to mention there are tons of resources already, including even the writers themselves--I mean, if Alex Kurtzman called David Mack with a question about his book I'm sure he'd be happy to oblige ;) ).

    I just kind of thought they had an opportunity with Discovery to be different from previous Star Trek. To create a show where the tie-ins and the show are part of the same continuity team that keeps it all internally consistent. It would have been an interesting experiment.
     
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  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm speaking from my experience reading the books when they came out and seeing their continuity errors relative to the show, as well as the show's later contradictions of them. Only Kathryn Drennan's and Jeanne Cavelos's novels ended up not being inconsistent with the show, and only they ended up getting reprinted in the Del Rey line and referenced in the canonical Del Rey trilogies. I do recall a later statement from JMS saying that all of the novels had some "canon value" to a greater or lesser extent, that some of their ideas and story elements may have still been "true" in-universe, but that's not the same as saying that the whole books "actually" happened as shown.


    That's not how canon works. It's not about medium, it's about ownership and creatorship. It's like the difference between building your own house (canon) and hiring a contractor to build it for you (tie-ins). The animated shows are produced by Disney and Lucasfilm, just as the movies are, which makes them canon. The novels are published by Del Rey under license from Disney/Lucasfilm, which makes them tie-ins, albeit tie-ins supervised by the Lucasfilm Story Group in an attempt to keep them canon-consistent. I'm not sure which category the comics fall into, since Disney owns Marvel, but it's probably closer to the latter.


    A lot of Star Wars canon has borrowed ideas and characters from the EU while still being incompatible with the EU's version of those characters and their context. Same ideas, different reality, like when Batman comics integrated Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya while still being a separate reality from Batman: The Animated Series.


    Yeah, but people take the latter one of those too literally, expecting fictional "reality" to be just as permanent and consistent as real reality. It's still just a big game of pretend, and sometimes it changes what it pretends is real. And some franchises try harder to maintain a consistent "reality" than others. Some canons are extremely loose about consistency between stories in the same putative reality. And some canons try to be as consistent as they can but still come across contingencies that force a change in plans. (I always wanted my own original fiction to be perfectly self-consistent within each universe, but I've had to heavily revise my first published story due to scientific and conceptual errors, and I've written a novel that expands upon it, changes it heavily, and will replace it in the continuity when and if it's published. I also had to revise my first two stories in the Hub series when I collected them, in order to fix mistakes that got into print uncorrected the first time.)


    Yeah, but the buck stops with the current showrunner, who has final approval on every step of the creative process and does the final rewrite of everyone else's scripts. That's why showrunners exist -- to be a single creative vision that unifies all the different creators' input and give the show a consistent reality and tone. So nothing gets onscreen that doesn't fit the showrunner's interpretation of the reality (at least, not unless it slips through by accident or oversight). Tie-in authors usually aren't working under the showrunner's direct, personal supervision, which is why tie-ins can't really work as canon, except in those few cases (usually post-series) where the showrunner is able to oversee them as personally as they would oversee the show's own scripts.

    Of course, a long-running franchise can change showrunners and thereby change the interpretation of its reality. That's happened many times with Trek (although in the case of most of the shows, Rick Berman's supervision above the showrunners helped maintain a higher level of consistency). But still, the canon is in the hands of whoever the showrunner is at the time, and it's their interpretation that shapes the current portrayal of the universe.


    Only if you read too much into it and had unrealistic expectations. It was just about quality control for merchandise, making sure the tie-ins reflected the show accurately. The producers saying "The books are canon until they're not" didn't mean "We will constrain ourselves to obey the books' version of events unless we're forced not to" -- it just meant "You can trust that the books accurately reflect the canon universe as it's currently conceived, but that might change as the canon evolves." Canon is that which comes from the top down, not the bottom up.


    Yes, but as with the Star Wars examples, there is a huge difference between drawing on the tie-ins as a source of ideas and treating the tie-ins' specific stories as things that actually happened. As we've seen with Section 31 and Control, it's not that they want to canonize the novels, it's that they're willing to cherrypick ideas from the novels and do their own separate versions of them.


    I've explained why that's hard to do. That kind of consistency requires a showrunner maintaining direct control over every step of the creative process. That's easiest to do when everyone's in the same writers' room working together. Stuff done by outside contractors is harder to keep fully integrated with the rest. Lucasfilm/Disney has made an attempt to do that with the Story Group, but they're a huge megacorporation with limitless resources and ambition. It's unrealistic to expect that to be routinely attainable by everyone else.

    Not to mention that Discovery has already gone through two unplanned showrunner changes in its first two years. Even if the original plan was to try to keep everything consistent, that wouldn't have compelled the replacement showrunners to follow that plan.

    Anyway, it's unrealistic to expect that the makers of a TV show would just come in and say "All right, we're going to constrain ourselves to stay consistent with the past 20 years' worth of novels, so everyone put your lives on hold while we read a couple of hundred books and take meticulous notes to make sure we don't contradict them, and don't ask why we're only doing that with the novels and not the games or comics which have their own separate continuities." If they'd wanted to do canonical tie-ins, they would've done it the way Disney did with Star Wars, by tossing out everything that came before and starting over. There were reports that that was what Abrams wanted to do with Star Trek and that CBS said no.
     
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  5. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I was only talking about Discovery and it's own tie ins. I'm just curious would it be possible for Discovery and it's tie ins (not just novels but comics as well) to stay internally consistent with itself? I wouldn't expect them to take into account other series tie-ins. The boats sailed on that long ago. If Star Trek as a whole wanted an internal consistency that would have had to have been done from the very beginning. I agree, that's not something you could try to do years later, after all, the novels have contradicted even each other, as I'm sure have the comics, not to mention being contradicted by canon many times over.

    But why not just with Discovery? So far there are only 4 novels (I'm not sure how many Discovery comic books there are, I'm not a comic reader--Hell, I didn't even know Superman was a, er, never mind :whistle:). But when they started Discovery they could have decided that they didn't want all these separate continuities like the past, that they wanted the tie-ins closely linked to the show and wanted a reasonable continuity for the entire Discovery universe. Since it was in the process of being created it could have been done. That would require more collaboration, yes, but I don't think it would have had to have been terribly complicated since it would only involve the current show and it's own tie-ins. And I wouldn't expect every last detail to be consistent (even the shows can't be that perfect). Just an overall continuity.

    That would only include the show and Discovery novels and Discovery comics though (and games too I guess).
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Only with direct showrunner supervision, which is hard to do, because the showrunner is really, really busy running the show. That's more than a full-time job by itself, which is why such things generally only happen after the show is over and the showrunner has the time. It also doesn't help when the showrunners keep getting fired.


    Babylon 5 only involved one show and its tie-ins, and it still failed in its attempt to keep the novels consistent during the series run.
     
  7. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I was just wondering could they have someone on staff who's job is to keep track on that for the showrunner. An advisor of sorts. I mean, the showrunner has all kinds of producers and assistants already to take care of different details. This would be like a tie-in advisor, or producer. And like I said, I wouldn't expect every last detail to be consistent.

    Now, yeah, changing the showrunner in mid stream probably doesn't help.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's exactly what they do have with Kirsten Beyer. But it's no guarantee, because advisors can only advise, not dictate. It's still the showrunner's prerogative whether to follow or ignore the advisors' suggestions.

    Look at it this way: The showrunner is the captain. The writing staff is the command crew. Tie-in writers are civilian specialists along for the mission. If, say, McCoy recommended to Kirk that he should take Miranda Jones's or Janet Wallace's advice, it's still Kirk's decision whether to take that advice or do something different.

    And again, even having a single creator in charge doesn't guarantee consistency. Creativity is a process. Sometimes creators change our minds or get better ideas than we started with (at least we hope they're better).
     
  9. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I initially thought of Kirsten Beyer, but then I thought she has a lot on her plate too. I mean that is just one of her jobs. I was thinking of one dedicated person who's job is just tie-in continuity.

    But yeah, it's certainly something the showrunner would have to decide on. They would have to make a conscious decision that Discovery would be one internally consistent universe and stick to that.

    Changing showrunners complicates that immensely. I think they are on what, their 3rd group of showrunners? And the new group would have to basically adopt the philosophy of the prior regimes to make that work. Now I still think they'd have a lot of freedom going forward, but they'd still be beholden to the prior regimes a bit more than they are now.

    But that also leads me to my other question about "Desperate Hours" in particular. Was it necessary for the show to disregard the novel to do what they wanted to do? I don't necessarily expect an answer to that as I have not seen season 2 yet to form an opinion on that. But I'd sort of hate to see that book disregarded if it wasn't necessary to tell their story.
     
  10. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Yeah, I'd say it was necessary.
     
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  11. Yistaan

    Yistaan Captain Captain

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    Burnham's secret that was so awful that she couldn't even tell Amanda was a big letdown. She called him a weird little half breed? At least Burnham was sorry about it. I've had people call me worse and were openly unrepentant about it, and are still considered "nice" and "friendly" by the cool people they associate with.

    We have grown adults and people in power calling each other worse on twitter every day. To the point many have openly called out the harassment and intimidation, yet little is actually done about it.

    My own brother told me when I first got life-altering tinnitus, and I mentioned that William Shatner and others who struggled with it contemplated suicide, said mockingly "Why don't you just kill yourself?" And he said this in his twenties, not as a kid. He's currently a successful medical doctor, and to this day he hasn't apologized for this specific statement.

    It even puzzles me that Burnham thought Amanda would be so concerned because my own mother doesn't seem to care that my brother said this. I guess having a high paying medical career counts for a lot (although I'm also a well paid engineer myself).

    I guess given all the secrecy, I expected Burnham to do something really irreparably horrifying to Spock. What we actually got didn't match the buildup.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2019
  12. David cgc

    David cgc Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    The Lurker's Guide has JMS mention that he proof-read the novels, mostly in the context of details that slipped through in the first two batches, like the Narn having artificial gravity, Lyta being deaf and using telepathy to compensate, and so on. After the first six books never quite fit with the series, he was more hands on with the last three Dell novels from the beginning. Well, with books 7 and 9, at least. Book 8 was a weird farce that apparently slipped past him entirely until it was too late to do anything but cancel the book and start over, which the publisher was unwilling to do (there was some earlier penny-pinching in the line, as well, where the first three book covers were the "auditions" the artist submitted that weren't based on anything specific, so the characters featured don't necessarily match the plots of the novels).

    On the other hand, aside from the weird "Laser-Mirror-Starweb" arc and a very confusing typo on the last page of "In Valen's Name," the comics were an exemplary case of keeping things consistent between the tie-ins and the main show, to the point where it was intended that the comics and the show would both reveal Talia's secret the same week, though the timing didn't quite work out.

    I do suspect it'd be possible to have Spock and Michael have a tense relationship that requires lots of dramatic capital-a Acting without steamrolling DH entirely. I mean, the show was willing to put in the work to completely reconceptualize Saru's backstory for the second season, conforming to the letter of what was said and totally ignoring the spirit, and that was a way bigger retcon than "Michael isn't actually weird about her adoptive family because her biological parents were murdered and Vulcans are emotionally repressed, but has a dark secret that has a perfectly reasonable and consistent character-based explanation we'll totally avoid talking about until episode nine so it just seems like unmotivated melodrama for two thirds of the season."
     
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  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't remember anything particular about Book 8, Personal Agendas. The one I remember as a "weird farce" was Book 5, The Touch of Your Shadow, The Whisper of Your Name. That was a bizarrely bad book that featured things like the crew on the command deck looking out the window and seeing things happening parsecs away, instantaneously with their naked eyes.

    But yeah, Books 7 & 9 were the only two that were kept in canon and reprinted by Del Rey.


    It's probably easier to keep comics consistent with screen canon, because they're shorter and take less time to vet.
     
  14. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, spoil it for the people who haven't seen it yet.

    Also, Spock was raised on Vulcan. Different cultural norms.
     
  15. Yistaan

    Yistaan Captain Captain

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    sorry post has been edited. I understand a mistake was made but you could have asked nicely and I would have edited it.
    Ironically your comment confirms that people are cruel without remorse in real life, which is why it's puzzling it's made a big deal of in Disc.
    Also, I'm fairly certain the thread itself was marked as spoilers. It's marked that way now, unless I'm mistaken and it wasn't before.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2019
  16. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It wasn't intended as harshly as it sounds in retrospect. I apologise if I caused offence.
     
  17. Yistaan

    Yistaan Captain Captain

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    Oh ok, let's just put this behind and move on.

    I feel it's possible John Jackson Miller may smooth over the 'Desperate Hours' issues in his new Enterprise War novel. While we can't expect tv/film people to worry about novel messes, the novel writers themselves can work up a fix.
     
  18. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, the thread is marked as such so I guess that's 'reader beware'.

    I always am alert for spoilers so after I read the first 2 or 3 words I knew there were show plot points so I skipped over it so not a big deal for me.

    I've gotten pretty good at avoiding major spoilers here.
     
  19. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    BTW, you have your quote from Damian's post attributed to me.
    Not really. "Canon until it's not" is just a fancy way of saying "not canon."
    The writers had a specific story they wanted to tell in season 2, and if that meant disregarding Desperate Hours, then that's what happened. Tie-ins are confirmed to only be read by 1% of fandom anyway. If it's a choice by adhering to something only 1% of the audience is familiar with or creating something that's accessible to everyone, that's not a hard choice to make at all.
    That's as wrong as calling Star Trek movies side material to the TV shows.
    It may be possible, but it's certainly not going to be a priority. JJM is writing The Enterprise War to be a story he wants to tell, he's not writing it as a means of smoothing over continuity issues between Desperate Hours and the show.
     
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  20. David cgc

    David cgc Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Garibaldi, Franklin, and Ivanova pose as Centauri traveling diamond merchants to break into Cartagia's palace to free G'Kar from the dungeon, complete with Franklin getting whiteface and Ivanova shaving her head and wearing a wig for the rest of the show. Sheridan and Delenn, fresh off having assassinated the Vorlon ambassador, play detective and uncover a toy-smuggling ring to unwind a little while all those planets are being blown up and end up locked inside a packing crate of stuffed animals with explosives hidden in them bound for Mars. Vir's homicidal fiancée constantly paws at him while he's trying to facilitate G'Kar and Londo's assassination scheme.

    Oh, give me something as prosaic and grounded as an unimaginably large green light beam that makes everybody angry and then leaves. But, seriously, as insane as Personal Agendas was, it is also incredibly short and so breezy as to be completely unmemorable. You almost have to be focusing on how bad it is to retain anything after you've read it.