I hope Discovery places "plot" first, avoids melodrama

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Discovery' started by INACTIVEUSS Einstein, Aug 27, 2017.

  1. INACTIVEUSS Einstein

    INACTIVEUSS Einstein Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I came across an interesting article in which someone argued that Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Aristotle:

    I wonder if studios have forgotten that summer films used to feel summery: Jaws was released on 20 June 1975, and the central tension of the early part of the movie is between those who want to keep the whole killer shark thing quiet in case it upsets the tourists at the start of the summer season, and those who think that the tourists will be pretty upset anyway when they see a disembodied head bob out of a boat.

    Would the film have been as successful if Steven Spielberg had been able to use more footage of the mechanically temperamental shark? Probably not: it’s the fact that we scarcely see it that gives it such a terrible menace. If we can’t see it, it could be anywhere. Worse, it feels like it’s everywhere.

    It’s hard to dispute the wisdom of Aristotle. In The Poetics, he lists the elements a drama requires in order of importance. Plot is first, then character, then dialogue, right the way through to the least important element: spectacle. This is the opposite way round to the priorities of film production studios, who routinely specify the action sequences they require (for merchandising purposes) before the script is even begun. In other words, spectacle dictates plot. No wonder the blockbuster needs a reboot.

    Note that he isn't rejecting characterization or dialogue; just arguing that if they aren't in service to something that makes sense, nobody is perhaps going to care anyway. So, Aristotle's prescription for good drama was, in order:

    1). Plot first
    2). Characters
    3). Dialogue
    4). Spectacle last

    Consider how much more satisfying it is when a character struggles for tangible reasons (like uniting the galaxy through persuasion and consent in Mass Effect), rather than moving through a cyclical melodrama of things going wrong, and reacting repetitively/aimlessly, as in some modern shows.

    In some drama plot has been thrown out of the window in favor of just placing the characters in the most melodramatic situations. Take a show like Lost, which had no ongoing plot, revealing it had no logical direction all along and was just stringing the viewer along with emotionalism and soap opera dynamics. This leaves a bad taste with the viewer, and certainly does not provoke the kind of awe that, say, Babylon 5 did.

    Perhaps melodrama is the wrong term, but basically I feel some dramas have gone in the direction of "soap opera" in order to hook viewers, but it ultimately does not satisfy the realist part of the mind - unplanned twists just for the sake of melodramatically revealing secret identities and the like. Take the reveal of the final five Cylons in BSG - a show that is a good drama in other respects, never had 'a plan' - it was clear that five random characters were picked just to fuel a bit of soap opera about them revealing/not revealing their identities; it occurred in a completely contrived manner which might as well have been Merlin popping into the room and telling them. Or a superhero show like Smallville where there is endless soap opera flip flopping over whether to enter a relationship and reveal a secret.

    I hope Discovery avoids this (we have enough of it on TV) and tends toward the more realist structure of the plot devices being grounded in the reality of the setting - i.e. realistic dangers, natural disaster, biological problems, political crises, scientific crises, military crises, etc, what do you think? I would not want to have a Klingon on the crew in disguise and have them stretch it out for seasons upon seasons like some shows do.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2017
  2. Serveaux

    Serveaux The Wind Premium Member

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    Story and characters first; plot is relatively unimportant. Most of my favorite TV and movies abound in what nitpickers call "plot holes." That includes Star Trek.
     
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  3. CorporalClegg

    CorporalClegg Admiral Admiral

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    It's like making a sandwich.

    The plot is the bread. It is the vessel. It's the first thing anyone tastes. It is important to choose the right type, hopefully made by a good quality baker. But ultimately the flavor should be subtle and not overpower the rest of the ingredients.

    The spectacle is the spread, be it mayo, mustard, or a good relish. The flavor enhances the bread and keeps it from tasting too dry, but too much and you've got a mess.

    The characters and their dialog are the filling and come last. This is where the creator can go wild with any mix of meats, cheeses, salads or veggies s/he chooses. It's important to have the best quality ingredients in well thought out distribution. But only in as much as the bread can support. Too much filling, and the sandwich falls apart.

    .A good sandwich makes for a memorable lunch experience. One you'll tell your friends about. But a bad sandwich with stale bread or too much mayo in the tuna, and you'll forget about by your afternoon trip to the vending machine.
     
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  4. tomalak301

    tomalak301 Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm hoping character comes first, actually. Yes plot is important, but I want to care about these people and their strife. I hope they come across as likable.
     
  5. BillJ

    BillJ History’s Greatest Monster Premium Member

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    All four are incredibly important for a credible, entertaining production.

    If you don't care about the characters, nothing else is going to matter. If the dialogue is shit, you're going to spend the entire story rolling your eyes. So those two actually should be first in importance.
     
  6. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Give me engaging characters, make me care about what happens to them and I'm watching. The most clever story in the world is worthless if nobody cares what happens to the people in it.
     
  7. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

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    Aristotle?

    It's a pop culture scifi show, just..watch the damn thing and leave the 3000 year old corpse out of it.
     
  8. CorporalClegg

    CorporalClegg Admiral Admiral

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    Kem is right. What is this, Stargate? :shifty:
     
  9. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

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    Hey, at least they can still walk and talk. So there's the whole 'take over the galaxy' thing but they can still weigh in on a topic.
     
  10. cultcross

    cultcross We truly were a song of ice and fire Moderator

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    What I'm hoping for is more early Game of Thrones, when the stories had twists and turns and surprises but they felt earned, organic, and brilliantly presented, and less recent Game of Thrones where the point of the show seems to be shock value and cliffhanger fake out deaths.

    Tightly plotted, character focused story please, with minimal convoluted 'events'. Don't break characters for the joke or the plot, don't have silly recurring plots (I'm looking at you, 'Data goes evil/psychotic for some reason') and don't have character development episodes that don't then carry through or affect the rest of the show. It's a waste of time.
     
  11. Longinus

    Longinus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Aristotle knew his shit.

    I have often complained about the pointless amount of 'spectacle' in many modern film and TV shows (no doubt brought by advances in technology), but this post hits nail on the head on the other topic too, the pointless melodrama. This was well articulated.
     
  12. johnjm22

    johnjm22 Captain Captain

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    I've always considered plot to be the story or part of the story.

    But yes I agree story/plot and characters first.
     
  13. johnjm22

    johnjm22 Captain Captain

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    I hope they don't have too much action. Focus on story and characters. That's my main issue with the Kelvinverse movies. Too much action leaves you with less character time.

    I like how in Game of Thrones it's mostly dialog/drama (people standing around talking), then you have occasional big action sequences that were setup by the dialog and character stuff. It feels like there's a lot of anticipation building up to those action scenes.
     
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  14. INACTIVEUSS Einstein

    INACTIVEUSS Einstein Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think Aristotle might put plot first for a good reason.

    In the image above, Plato is pointing up, to the lofty world of ideologies. Aristotle however has his hand at ground level as if to say nature, here and now, is more important. The so called great divide in western thought.

    Plot is kinda like that, isn't it? There are people who write formless stories about talking animals having a philosophical conversation round a table and stuff happening randomly - they argue I guess that material circumstance is unimportant and only the world of ideas; that they are unshackling metaphor from the constraints of plot. But material circumstance in reality is all important, isn't it? We are constantly influenced by it in reality, irrelevant of our dogmas, so just focusing on character at the expense of material reality (realist plot), seems to be like accepting something you know isn't true, out of fear/attachment.

    Basically, I think a dogma is what happens when an ideology is accepted in spite of critical realist evidence that might disfavor it; hence even in common ideologies like capitalism and communism, dogmas exist where the complex fabric of reality does not align perfectly with the ideology, and people don't want to abandon that aspect reasonably, out of attachment.

    I have been thinking a little bit recently about something scholars tend to argue: that Plato was the ancestor of idealistic movements like Communism, and Aristotle was the ancestor of Democracy. Bit over simplified maybe, since for example most democracies have elements of Plato's Republic in their education system... But, the argument goes that by rejecting ideology and focusing on reality, the here and now, accepting human nature, looking at the world as it is, Aristotle is the ancestor of constitutional democracy, since the life of the human is accepted as an end in itself. Plato however by arguing that society should be shaped at every level by ideology is the ancestor of totalitarianism, where we become a resource in in eyes of the state.

    It's notable I think, that the Federation isn't born out of an idealistic revolution, and isn't a utopia in the Platonic sense - it's a better world that was born heuristically, improving over time, through democracy - Kirk isn't a dogmatist, but knows that rights expand when rational actors are given the power of choice.



    If this is true, perhaps it's important for drama to be realist, and put plot first, because it reflects reality better than if a character is an island unto themselves.

    Dunno, just my thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2017
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  15. Refuge

    Refuge Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Just in that link to Poetics you read an apparent flaw levelled at Aristotle "He reduces the drama to its language, people say, and the language itself to its least poetic element, the story, and then he encourages insensitive readers like himself to subject stories to crudely moralistic readings, that reduce tragedies to the childish proportions of Aesop-fables."

    Not every written piece translates well to a visual medium and although I wouldn't call it reducing, language in its written form has its own worth. However, scripted language for a 'show' is what Discovery is about. It uses its spectacle to attract us and then it DOES offer us: "moralistic readings, that reduce tragedies to the childish proportions of Aesop-fables."

    I would say for visual entertainment the order is different.
    Spectacle
    Character
    Plot
    Dialogue
     
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  16. Serveaux

    Serveaux The Wind Premium Member

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    Honestly, plot is trivial.
     
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  17. Myko

    Myko Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    What's the difference between "story" and "plot"?
     
  18. Vger23

    Vger23 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    They are both different words?

    :shrug:
     
  19. INACTIVEUSS Einstein

    INACTIVEUSS Einstein Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, but, you would say that, being philosophically different in world view :)

    It's a tough one, but here is one internet definition:

    A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order. A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.
    One show that had absiolutely astounding plot under this definition is Babylon 5:



    Honestly, it has never been equaled.

    I think I have heard other definitions of plot, but I see it as the events that transpire which serve as the motive or circumstances which drive characters; say, in The Hunt for the Red October, the plot is "a disillusioned Soviet submarine captain decides to defect to the United States, taking a cutting edge weapon with him - the Soviet Union puts it's entire surface fleet on high alert, sending the Americans into panic mode - Jack Ryan concludes the approaching sub is a defector, and the CIA attempts to aid his defection, amidst fear he is a madman plotting nuclear attack".

    Then characters get to show their individuality in dealing with it.
     
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  20. Mad Jack Wolfe

    Mad Jack Wolfe Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Because a tale with no arc, no direction, and no resolution is somehow better than a story with those elements? Rubbish. Naked Lunch was a steaming donkey cart of crap and so would be a plotless Trek.