Spoilers Yeah... I give up - Star Trek has abandoned philosophical naturalism - it's depressing/juvenile

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Discovery' started by INACTIVEUSS Einstein, Jan 22, 2018.

  1. Mechanoid1

    Mechanoid1 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Thank you for that reply. I replied to this thread because I am in agreeance with this posts topic.
    I'm not trying to convert people's opinions nor dis people who disagree with me.
    I am just agreeing with this I GIVE UP thread. This show is also not for me.
    For those who like this new sci fi show, I'm happy for you.
    Live long and prosper.
     
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  2. Gepard

    Gepard Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It depends on who's doing the complaining. And, in some cases, what mood the complainer is in.
     
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  3. ralfy

    ralfy Commander Red Shirt

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    There are good points raised in the AV Club feature.

    In addition to the topic thread, there are other problems involving bad writing for the series, and they are more prominent now in the latest episode, e.g., the scenes with Saru, Stamets, etc.
     
  4. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Admiral Admiral

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    I really always come back to Sisko's line of "It's easy to be a saint in paradise" and Spock's "here 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." The idea that the Federation is perfect comes at a price, and that idealism has to endure in some way to continue on.

    I may agree that Superman is an idealized hero, and deconstructing him makes little sense, but Star Trek? I think a vision of challenging the optimism, can it endure difficult times is profound and timely.

    I'm going to be really blunt-no you don't. My dad has not watched a frame of Trek past the TOS films and the Kelvin films. He has zero interest in TNG Trek. Not every new Trek is for every stripe of fan, and the idea that because I am a fan of one Trek, I must want every Trek to succeed is a rather broad brush stroke.

    I'm not "ignoring the investment" I am desiring that individuals spend that time on things that are enjoyable for them. If DISCO isn't, then why watch it and be miserable? :shrug::shrug::sigh:
     
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  5. Refuge

    Refuge Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I agree. I suspect it's to try and stop people from providing a different perspective which is short sighted. I remember Isaacs saying he would rather people talk about the show then not. When one comes to the apathetic view point (which some are getting to) surely that is sad for the franchise.
     
  6. unimatrix7

    unimatrix7 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek more than once and I have no idea what ‘philosophical naturalism’ is so I’m fine with Disco abandoning it, to be completely honest.

    But, would I be correct in saying that Trek’s last two MU attempts - In A Mirror, Darkly and The Emperor’s New Cloak - were somewhat lacking in this ‘philosophical naturalism’ bizzo?

    Disco is a good show, in my opinion. It’s good Star Trek. It doesn’t follow the template of the other Trek shows in producing entirely tedious first seasons, or the template of other top-tier genre dramas GoT and TWD where interesting things only happen after half a dozen episodes of sad grumpy people being sad and grumpy. These are good things.
     
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  7. Takeru

    Takeru Space Police Premium Member

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    Right, like the prophets on DS9 always appearing as main cast members or the guest star of the week on differently lit standing sets or both Data's dreams and Lwaxana's dark place both being the TNG sets. It didn't bother me at all.


    I don't think it's to stop other opinions, it's just that sometimes if someone doesn't seem to like the show at all yet keeps posting all the time in various threads about how bad it is the question "Why don't you stop?“ naturally comes up and is actually valid.

    Of course negative opinions and constructive criticism are welcome but I don't see the point in doing this for 13 episodes straight and hating everything doesn't fall under constructive criticism anyway.
     
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  8. Refuge

    Refuge Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's a message forum about the show that is the point.
     
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  9. Takeru

    Takeru Space Police Premium Member

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    Sure and like I said, negative opinions are welcome and definitely belong here. But so does questioning why people watch a show they clearly don't enjoy week after week, that doesn't mean they're not allowed to keep watching and complaining about it, if people want to torture themselves watching a show they hate go for it. I just don't get it, I'd rather watch something I like.
     
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  10. lawman

    lawman Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's a balancing act, of course, one that I'm sure the show's creators wrestle with. The trouble is, those two conditions are not mutually exclusive, nor is it even a case of one being good and the other bad. Something can be "like the rest of Trek" in a way that upholds and embraces its core concepts, or in a way that perpetuates its most worn-out tropes; something can be "not Trek-like" in a way that explores exciting and innovative new storytelling possibilities, or in a way that merely indulges in change for change's sake and chases after lowest-common-denominator ways of grabbing an audience. IOW, either condition can be praised or criticized... at the same time... in a way that's perfectly valid.

    It's not "scientism." it's not dogmatic. It's not reductive. It's not trying to apply the scientific method where it doesn't fit, or placing blind faith in it as a substitute for religion. It's merely a matter of saying that the Trek universe in general, and the mycelial network in particular as an aspect thereof, is a natural one at a conceptual level. It's not supernatural; it's not religious; it's not even Star Wars, where you can't get away from "the Force" pervading everything. If the mycelial network is a natural phenomenon (and that's certainly how it's been presented), then anything that happens in it can and should be susceptible of a natural explanation, and any supposedly "spiritual or mystical" phenomena are out of place.

    If there's any "belief system" involved here, IOW, it's merely philosophical naturalism... and there's nothing wrong with that.

    On which note...
    If you're not clear on the topic from the thread title, well, Google is your friend. Here's a handy link and an excerpt:

    It's a perspective that's baked into the very conceptual foundation of Star Trek — the perspective that we can best pursue our highest ideals by striving cooperatively to make rational sense of the natural world. It's a vision of progress and peace, of exploration and discovery. That's something worth hanging on to. Without that, Trek is indistinguishable from any number of other examples of generic space opera.

    It has the potential to be a good show, and (more specifically) good Star Trek. Sometimes, and this week's episode was a glaring example, it fails to live up to that potential. (And obviously, tedious stretches of previous Trek shows, or of any other series, are examples to avoid, not to emulate. But nobody's arguing otherwise.)

    In the abstract, I agree. Trek is fundamentally about utopian idealism, but that idealism is shallow if it can't stand up to challenges, and (of course) challenges are what generate drama.

    The thing is — and I think Man of Steel and BvS are still relevant parallels here — you have to establish those core principles before you can challenge them. You can't wring any meaningful emotional resonance from a story about Superman or Batman deviating from their heroic ideals if you haven't already established those ideals as a norm (and Zack Snyder never did).

    So where Star Trek is concerned, you have to ask... when was the last time those ideals were really presented clearly on screen, in their own right, as a norm? It certainly wasn't in the Abrams films. On TV, Trek hasn't been on the air at all for a dozen years, and the last three series before that were all about their own efforts at creative deviations from the norm. Arguably, it hasn't been presented in that context at least since TNG left the air, which was (gaak) an entire generation ago. Of the three abovementioned series, I'd say DS9 was the only one that really succeeded at challenging Trek's core sense of idealism without undermining or abandoning it, but it had the advantage of a slow build, and (of course) of TNG on the air when it started as a natural counterpoint.

    DSC doesn't have those advantages. Everyone in these discussion forums is presumably a fan, but it's being made for much broader audiences, many of whom are legitimately new audiences. You can't assume that they have a built-in understanding of what Trek is about at the conceptual level. To deconstruct something, you first have to have a clear construct to work with. So when it comes to putting Trek's idealism to the test, I think the show could do a better job of that if it spent a little more time establishing that idealism first, with more than lip service. So far this season, the only episode that genuinely (re)captured that for me was the fourth one, "The Butcher's Knife," the one where Michael freed the tardigrade, although others have come close. Conversely the most recent episode, the end of the Mirror Universe arc, fell far, far short of that, reducing a complex character to a cardboard villain (and cobbling up a technobabble threat for the ship to face) just for the sake of some tedious action scenes.
     
  11. cultcross

    cultcross We truly were a song of ice and fire Moderator

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    Star Trek acts like it is a natural universe, but even the quickest of analyses shows that it is not. Even in the very first season of TOS, pangalactic superbeings were frequent, and this continued throughout - each series bar ENT had at least one Q or Q equivalent being who could manipulate reality as they saw fit and existed outside spacetime as we know it. Or, to use another word, gods. Not ruled by any noticeable physical laws, and in direct contrast to the setup of the natural universe as we know it, with the ability to create, destroy and alter at will. As others have said, Trek has always subscribed to the idea that the essence of a person, their 'soul' if you will is distinct from the body and can be transferred or treated separately. It has fetishised the idea that humans or human like creatures can 'evolve' beyond the laws of physics and beyond physical form. It has telepathy, mysticism, rituals to summon the dead, resurrection, and, to give McCoy his word in edgeways, literal Genesis. All the trappings of a supernatural universe, just played straight as though that's all just fine and rational. Discovery is doing the same thing. Spore network? supernatural nonsense, but play it straight and give it some technobabble, and it is no worse than non linear superbeings and omega particles.
     
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  12. RedAlert

    RedAlert Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    There are son many opinions in the world as stars in the skies. But I don't get people that get angry because others having different opinions. I don't get it.

    I watch Discovery. I like Discovery. And I enjoy Discovery.
    But I don't think that is Star Trek.

    To me, It doesn't fit within the saga.
    Where has go the Trek optimistic philosophy of a better future???

    I like Discovery, but I find hard to believe is a precuel of the bright (and maybe naif) TOS.
    To me, DSC works as a post Nemesis years series, not as a precuel. Too many things has changed.
     
  13. lawman

    lawman Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I fundamentally disagree. Star Trek has always had advanced "superbeings," yes, but it's not remotely legitimate to call them gods. The characters themselves certainly never do. The most egregious example would probably be Q, and I'm not particularly a fan of his, but even there he's clearly a part of the natural universe. There's no actual religion or spirituality involved. Anything in Trek that seems supernatural can be (and most often is, explicitly) handwaved away by Clarke's Third Law.

    I will not — accept the use of the word "soul," that is. "Consciousness" would be more appropriate, and in that context, Trek has always stuck within the familiar tradition of mind-body dualism. You can call that scientifically debatable, but you can't claim it's supernatural. It's certainly never trucked in "souls" as things that are immortal or divine or in need of salvation.

    No, that would be Star Wars you're thinking of.
     
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  14. cultcross

    cultcross We truly were a song of ice and fire Moderator

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    Actually I would say it doesn't apply to Star Wars - that franchise's stock in trade is mysticism and destiny, especially in the post OT era. It's all presented as some kind of plan or fate, in which the characters are mere pieces to be moved, and the supernatural elements are explicitly portrayed as spiritual in nature. They don't 'play it straight' or claim rational explanations at all.

    Kirk explicitly uses the word 'soul' so I chose to, and there is definitely more than one's 'consciousness' at work. Personality, memories, values and beliefs, can all be transferred from vessel to vessel, or stored while the physical body is regenerated. And the law about 'advanced technology' hardly applies in the Vulcans' case - they are presented as entirely naturally occurring abilities. As for immortality, Sarek says they 'denied him his future' by not returning the katra to Vulcan before they even knew about the Genesis regeneration, implying some form of afterlife or ongoing existence of his soul.

    They do for the Prophets and Pah Wraiths, and Kirk (albeit somewhat facetiously) suggests classifying Trelane as a God. But then, to dissect the use of the term, what is a god if not a being of supernatural powers with the ability to create, destroy and alter at will, immortality, omnipotence, or whatever other powers you care to throw at them? Q certainly has nearly all the abilities attributed to the Christian God, for example, if not the values. We may refuse the term, but we are really just renaming the same thing. The Prophets demonstrate great powers of creation and destruction, a simultaneous awareness of all of time (raising huge issues about free will and interpretation of randomness), and the ability to manipulate events in one time (by impregnating a woman with a saviour, no less) to bring about a result they desire in another. They take an active interest in the fortunes of a chosen people, and the show is very open about the uncomfortable distinction between gods and wormhole aliens that Starfleet is trying to draw. The show's lead character definitely falls on the 'believer' side of the equation by series end. Now you may not like that, but it is Star Trek, so the assertion that Star Trek has been entirely rational and natural on these matters simply doesn't wash. Trek is a universe of gods and magic, it just pretends they are scientific.
     
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  15. Myko

    Myko Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Isn't that enough though? Sci-fi pretends to be science and naturalism, fantasy is explicitly on the supernatural side.
     
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  16. cultcross

    cultcross We truly were a song of ice and fire Moderator

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    Sure, I'm not criticising it, I'm describing it. Discovery pretends they are scientific too, though, and the premise of the thread is that isn't enough.
     
  17. Myko

    Myko Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well I think you and @lawman are not in disagreement then. And I agree with you that Discovery also pretends like the others, I get the impression from the OP not that it isn't enough, but that Discovery is in fact NOT pretending.
     
  18. Romulan_spy

    Romulan_spy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I really beg to differ. The Judeo-Christian God is much more than just omniscient and omnipotent like Q. God is also described as inherently Good, and full of Grace and Mercy. I would not really attribute those qualities to Q. In fact, I would associate Q much more with Greek gods than with the Judeo-Christian God. The Greek gods were described as extremely powerful but also very capricious which describes Q perfectly.
     
  19. cultcross

    cultcross We truly were a song of ice and fire Moderator

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    I think the OP is somewhat lost in the common belief among Trekkies that Star Trek is somehow scientifically legitimate for real, as opposed to pretending, and that Discovery is ruining that by going off piste. My main point is that Star Trek has never been scientifically legitimate in that manner, right from year one, episode one. So either we accept as you do and I do that science fiction is just about how the 'magic' is presented, or we accept that Star Trek has always been fantasy. Discovery has gone out of its way to present the mycelial network as a scientific concept. It's ludicrous, and we all know that. But it still presents it as a natural phenomenon to be studied and harnessed, as a sci-fi show does, not a mystical or religious concept. If anything, it has put more effort into that than DS9 ever did.

    I said abilities, but not values. The Judeo-Christian God is presented as having the ability to create, destroy, and manipulate, as Q does, to act outside the rules of the physical world, know near-enough-everything and manipulate time and space. Q could be graceful and merciful if he wanted to be - he sometimes was, just as God was sometimes not. Although I don't fall out with the Greek god comparison either. The point is, Q as presented is a god by any other name.
     
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  20. lawman

    lawman Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Okay, when you come right down to it, I basically agree with you on this (except that SW does mostly "play it straight" in dramatic terms, even when it offers no rational explanations), and moreover I'd say it's been that way right from the beginning of the OT. I mean, after all, it's a franchise that trucks in princesses and emperors and knights and swordfights. It has magic powers passed down by heredity, and a mystical Force that unites all reality, and cosmic archetypes of Light and Dark/Good and Evil. It's set in an ambiguous legendary past (long ago, far away), and the whole story is built around an isolated farmboy who has to discover his destiny by undergoing a Campbellian heroic journey. It's out-and-out fantasy, in other words, with only the most superficial trappings of SF (spaceships, ray guns, and robots, basically).

    Still, in the popular consciousness, it's thought of as "sci-fi" and often compared to (or even confused with) Trek, even if only because of the word "star" in both names. So it's worth emphasizing the contrast. Trek is nothing like that.

    I'll grant you, even though STIII lampshaded what it was doing (with dialogue explicitly mentioning "Vulcan mysticism"), a lot of that film diverged pretty widely from the naturalistic traditions we're talking about here. (And arguably the film — and indeed Trek's whole concept of Vulcan culture — suffered for it.) I would never claim (nor does the OP) that past Trek has always lived up to those traditions flawlessly and without exception. However, I think it's fair to say that Trek at its best has consistently tried to do so.

    Trek has always presented the Federation as a free society where people can hold whatever beliefs they like, but that's different from saying anyone on DS9 ever took Bajoran religion at face value. (Except for Kira, and it always seemed to me like an inexplicable deviation from everything else we knew about her character.) The Prophets and Pah-Wraiths were clearly just powerful inscrutable aliens, like many others. An actual god (at least in the Western conception) would have to be at least omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, and even Q, arguably the most powerful entity in Trek canon, never met those criteria (frankly never even tried for the third). Q can have his powers taken away; we've seen it happen. We just don't understand the mechanisms involved.

    Again, I wouldn't claim that Trek has ever been "entirely" rational about everything. But when it's true to its philosophical foundations, it at least tries to hold rationality up as a worthy ideal.

    Semantics matter here. "Just renaming" things makes a difference. Powerful aliens, disembodied consciousnesses, and amazing powers are conceptually different from gods, souls, and magic. It's an important distinction within the fictional universe, and it's also important in terms of how that fiction encourages people to think about the actual reality we live in.

    (How much of what we do every day would be completely inexplicable to people of just three hundred years ago, for instance, and explained by them as "magic"? Yet we know it's not so, and they wouldn't be justified in calling it that.)

    I think you're framing things in terms of a false dichotomy here. Fallacy of the excluded middle. I wouldn't claim (nor does the OP, nor anybody at all, really) that Trek is "hard SF" in any rigid sense. It's not "The Cold Equations" or The Martian, not by a long shot. The Trek universe has certainly got more than its fair share of handwavium, unobtanium, and applied phlebotinum. But despite all that, it's still definitely not fantasy in the sense that Star Wars is. How things are presented matters. As the OP put it, when Trek was being true to its principles,

    Finally...
    Maybe you should take a fresh look at the OP. USS Einstein wasn't objecting to the mycelial network per se (although, I'll grant, others have). He(?) was objecting to the way it was used in that week's episode — as a mystical dreamlike reality in which Stamets could have a conversation with his dead boyfriend, without any pretense of a scientific explanation. That's noticeably out of keeping with its core function in the plot as a hyper-dimensional network connecting points in space.

    The sequence is, perhaps, not enough by itself to set DSC apart categorically from past Trek series, not even TOS or TNG, never mind DS9. But it's an example of doing things wrong instead of doing them right when it comes to philosophical naturalism... of taking the show (at least a step or two) down a road it has no need to travel, one that leads away from what Trek at its best stands for. As such, it detracted from the story at least as much as it added to it. That's legitimately worth criticizing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
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