La'an: Missed Opportunity?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' started by Death Ray, Aug 3, 2023.

  1. Serveaux

    Serveaux Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    In the 23rd century, Earth and the Federation are simply a more humane and successful imaginary version of what Americans of the 1960s held out as our own supposed virtues and ideals. That future wasn't yet the mush of utopian platitudes that it became when the revised 24th century version debited in 1987.
     
  2. Death Ray

    Death Ray Commander Red Shirt

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    I’m with you on that. It is necessary to show the serpents in paradise, and Trek has done it well many times. But I do think that these NuTreks are, unfortunately, too “drama forward”. Memorable dialogue and inventive sci-fi are taking a back seat to emotional intensity and CGI glitz.

    To bring it back to “Ad Astra”, I think this is the weakest of the “Federation Values on Trial” episodes from across the multiple series. They didn’t effectively knit the sci-fi hook (genetic engineering) into the moral question of… well, what was the trial REALLY about? Immigrants? Gays? They threw everything at the wall and trusted in emotion to make it stick. In “The Measure of a Man”, we knew that what was at stake was whether humanity had learned the lessons of slavery, and there was even a patina of religiosity: Does Data have a soul?

    I don’t think the writers of “Ad Astra” cared that much about the specific complicating questions of what genetic engineering could mean for society. The logic of this Federation policy needed to be interrogated a bit more, but the writers just couldn’t wait to drag in every kind of historical bigotry in order to make the point that bigotry is bad… something we already agree with. The consequence is that the story had no nuance and raised no profound questions for us to mull over IRL.
     
  3. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This has always been the case. In the TOS era the Federation is not utopian. It's idealism is couched in warning language that humanity has a savage past and requires vigilance and cooperation.

    SNW is reflecting that. It won't tell us what to think.
     
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  4. CrockAlley

    CrockAlley Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I've always sensed a anti-utoptian bias on these boards, ha ha. I guess what really struck a chord with me, back in the 80s when I started watching TNG, was this imagined future where humanity was finally able to acknowledge some pretty basic flaws and face them head-on. The willingness to change and become better, to move past destructive behaviors, was enthralling to me. I look around and see all of these threats to our civilization, rooted in pettiness, and I feel hopeless. I like that there is some version of the future that acknowledges these problems, and says humanity was able to overcome them. The future that Star Trek presents isn't a perfect utopia. The people are still flawed. But they are better people than a hundred years previous. And will be better in the future. It's a humanity that yearns for growth.

    Unless you believe that all the "evolved sensibilities" talk is just them pulling the wool over their own eyes and these future people are really no better that we are today. But that's pretty bleak.
     
  5. Death Ray

    Death Ray Commander Red Shirt

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    " There are many who are... uncomfortable with what we have created. It is almost a biological rebellion, a profound revulsion against the planned communities, the programming, the sterilized, artfully balanced atmospheres. They... hunger for an Eden where spring comes"- Señor Spock

    My favorite, completely imaginary moment in Trek would be a callback to The Voyage Home, and the scenes where Scotty and McCoy introduce the 20th Century humans to a touch of the future.

    There is a moment is Picard, Season 2 where Picard is incognito at some cocktail party (methinks?). I would have liked Picard to begin talking about the Federation economic system with a guest. Then, cut to some other scene, and when we return to the party we see that the guy Picard is talking to is having his mind blown. We don't know what Picard said, but we know that he has just set the stage for the Utopian economics of the future.

    Right now we have a serious, serious crisis in the form of Global Warming. This summer has basically heralded terrible years to come. We could really use some Star Trek that addresses the real and pressing issues of our age, and maybe even suggests the need for radical solutions that are not all that lovey-dovey. I know they tackled this once on TNG, with the warp engines damaging subspace, but now would be a great time to resurrect these sorts of stories. The hopeful Utopia of Star Trek is seeming farther and farther away, and there is no time to waste.
     
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  6. CrockAlley

    CrockAlley Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    This is, I think, where we are supposed to step in and do the real work of fixing the world, instead of getting lost in the fantasy worlds. I'm very guilty of burying my head in the sand along with everyone else, but TV can only do so much. I believe TV is a huge part of the problem. We've been trained over the past several generations to sit back and disengage from the system (going back to the advent of TV, then turned up into overdrive with cable TV, and eventually the internet and social media), that I'm afraid it's just baked in now.

    Anyway. Blah. Now I'm sad.
     
  7. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We still do. Engage with people in the real world and you'll find that.

    I work with teens, youths and teachers. What I see is s generation wanting to work and find value outside of what is always presented media. Media is sensational, in the moment.

    Humans are yearning for more. I don't want optimism with no work. Show it its worth it, Trek, and how I get there, not already there.

    "We are killers. Blood of a 1000 years but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes. Not killing today."
     
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  8. Death Ray

    Death Ray Commander Red Shirt

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    Oh, absolutely. TV can't actually do anything. I guess that's why I am cool towards most of the Kurtzman Treks-- I just don't find them inspirational. More mawkish, really.

    But then again, ideally, inspiration in stories is supposed to lead to perspiration in real life. One of the things I like about Trek is that it forecasts a world where the problems we have today were solved. Obviously, the route to those solutions is something they can't actually prescribe.

    After a fashion, however, I feel like the vision that Star Trek is advancing is contributing to our problems. Trek started in an era of wide-eyed optimism, post-war confidence, Kennedy's "New Frontier" (which became Roddenberry's "Final Frontier") . But our fascination with science has become the fetishization of technology, and feeding that monster is what is killing us. This means that, in its way, Star Trek is now pointing us in the wrong direction.
     
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  9. JHarper

    JHarper Commander Red Shirt

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    I mean I could say the same thing about the Measure of a Man - it's about slavery which is something we should all already know is bad, and everyone should already think Data is a person so what's the point of this episode? "Ad Astra" is a good argument that SNW is everything you think new Star Trek shows aren't - it's extremely light on action or CGI glitz, and is a story with numerable dialogue all over the place, and is about as "emotion forward" as any other Trek whatever that means. The theme is bigotry, which is something every other Trek has also done at times where "everyone" should think it's bad, although a cursory look at the response to representation in Discovery clearly shows that bigotry isn't actually something that everyone thinks is bad to this day. The whole point is that genetic engineering doesn't actually make people evil, and maaaaaaaaybe Earth blaming everything on it when there were clearly problems deeper and forcing everyone else to agree is messed up and antithetical to what the Federation is supposed to be. I'm really not sure where you got the stuff about immigrants or LGBT rights from, aside from the speech Ketoul makes pointing out that laws have always existed to defend bigotry which ties back into the theme of the episode just fine in my opinion.

    It really sounds like you're just not satisfied that this doesn't match up with fanfic made preconceptions of what the character and the episode should be about, which is fine, but most people clearly don't agree and it doesn't mean the writers have broken some rule of storytelling 101.
     
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  10. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This is more my frustration. Disagreeing with a writing choice does not mean rules were broken.
     
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  11. Sketcher

    Sketcher Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The point of La'an is that her last name shouldn't matter, after centuries, in a utopian Federation. But it does. It shows the scars of a centuries-old apocalyptic war and bigotry still need to be worked on by humanity. This comes up with Una, it comes up again and again with Ortegas and her views on the Klingons and Romulans, and it'll come up again with Stiles and Spock a few years down the road.
     
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  12. Death Ray

    Death Ray Commander Red Shirt

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    In "The Measure of a Man", the question is whether or not Data is actually sentient, or simply mimics human qualities. His mechanical nature is not just a hook, it is also the locus of the story. In "Ad Astra", the genetic engineering question is simply window dressing. There isn't enough exploration of what genetic engineering really means in the context of a future where humans and non-humans co-operate all the time. How is it that Una's particular unorthodox quality is so threatening when marrying a Vulcan, which can lead to a superhumanly strong Spock who DOES have volatile emotions as well as telepathic powers, is perfectly acceptable?

    It has always been a contradiction in Trek that genetic engineering is so feared when breeding with aliens is not. The real history and nature of the Augments needed to be explored, and since Una's people are not like Augments in any way, then it needed to be proven just why the Federation laws still exist.

    Instead, the trial just became about bigotry writ large. The actual futuristic issues, which are more interesting, get swept under the carpet.

    Yep, that speech and numerous other portions of the trial simply shotgun the viewer with everything we already hate, ending with "See? This case is just like that!" It was on the nose and a little smug.
     
  13. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Sooo...Star Trek.

    "Loki is black on the left side."

    "After some time with our guests it's a wonder we got out of the 20th century."
     
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  14. Death Ray

    Death Ray Commander Red Shirt

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    But that episode is iconic. It wears it's message on its sleeve, and is beloved for how obvious its gimmick was. There's nothing that clever in "Ad Astra".
     
  15. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'm not looking for cleverness though. It fits in to the overall milieu of Star Trek that I find workable. If it's on the nose then it's on the nose.
     
  16. Phoenix219

    Phoenix219 Commodore Commodore

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    I should probably post this in the episode thread, but I'm reading this one, so I will write it here.

    What changed since the S01 finale, that altered Una's path, where in one timeline she was still in jail, and in another, she won the trial?
     
  17. Nyotarules

    Nyotarules Vice Admiral Moderator

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    The Starfleet lawyer lost the case
     
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  18. Sketcher

    Sketcher Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Maybe nothing. Since the finale took place years in the future, Una could've been imprisoned for some other event that may still happen in the prime timeline.
     
  19. Phoenix219

    Phoenix219 Commodore Commodore

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    But what possible event caused the difference? What was the butterfly?
     
  20. Serveaux

    Serveaux Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    A stray butterfly?

    The only answer is that no one knows, because it didn't really happen and the writers did not make up and provide an explanation in-story for it. So, one is free to invent whatever events one likes.
     
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