Let’s Talk About Consistency in Fiction

Just the other day I watched the fall finale of “Star Trek: Discovery” season one.  I thought it was a good end for the mid-season and does a great job of bringing things to an epic climax while also teasing what’s to come.  And “Discovery” itself I feel is a great modern take on the “Star Trek” franchise: with more nuanced characters, a darker tone, and updated special effects.


I mean DAMN…that’s a nice view.


But not everyone on the internet is happy with the show.  A decent amount of long-time “Star Trek” fans (or “Trekkies”, if you will) have been complaining about the show since day one.  In all fairness, “Discovery” has a lot to live up to.  It’s the first “Star Trek” show since “Enterprise” wrapped up back in 2005.  But I noticed something about a lot of the complaints I saw: they seemed downright nitpicky.

After I watched the two-part pilot episode, I noticed a lot of people complaining about things like the technology the ship was using, the look of the Klingons in the show, and other things like that.  There was even someone who complained about the fact that the ship had a ready room (basically the captain’s office).  Apparently it was a problem because ready rooms weren’t introduced until “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (“Discovery” takes place roughly a decade before the original series).

All of this got me thinking about the idea of consistency in fiction.  My internal rule for this has been that a show or book or whatever should be consistent with itself.  It should follow its own rules that it sets or makes up.  I don’t really care about whether or not something is scientifically accurate (fiction is called “fiction” for a reason after all).  But it has to be within reason.   And this is where, in my opinion, the complaints about “Discovery” go too far.  I mean think about it…this is a franchise that has been around since the 1960’s.  Something had to change in all that time.  “Discovery” shouldn’t be bound by a sixty-year-old television show that was subsequently bound by the special effects of its day.  Sure, some things look different now, but do we really want to go back to the way things looked in the ’60s?


I mean this guy looks totally believable and not at all cheesy, right?



But if, for example, “Discovery” suddenly decided to say that the transporter can now beam people through time, I’d be crying foul with the rest of the Trekkies because that literally makes no sense and fundamentally changes the established rules of “Star Trek”.  A ship having a ready room or hologram communicators doesn’t really change the nature of the show.  It’s just a minor detail that got caught up in overzealous continuity policing.  It’s similar to when people complained about the film “Gravity” and how paper doesn’t float in space the way it did in the movie.

It’s like yeah great…thanks for pointing out that important detail.  You must be fun at parties.

I think what it comes down to is that, while consistency is nice, as time passes things eventually need to change.  Another big complaint I heard when “Discovery” first debuted had to do with the captain of the ship, Lorca.  People complained that he wasn’t like a regular Starfleet captain.  Most likely, they were comparing him to Kirk and Picard, the two fan favorites.  But much like the special effects, these characters were a product of their time.  Especially in the case of Kirk, who existed in a time when television was full of larger-than-life heroes who were impossibly good at everything they did.  Sure, those characters were great.  Kirk and Picard were great.  But in an era post “Game of Thrones”, “Breaking Bad”, and “House of Cards”…shows which were full of flawed, nuanced, and often downright evil characters…men like Kirk and Picard don’t fit in.  Lorca, with all his ambiguity, still manages to come across as a well-meaning guy.  But he does has his flaws, and I think that’s what “Star Trek” needs in a modern television landscape: flawed characters with occasionally ambiguous intentions.

Besides, I’m glad we’ve moved on from having a first officer who looks like he wants to sex everything that moves.


Yeah I’m looking at YOU, Riker.


Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

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