Trying the Mantle of Star Trek On For Size

The previews for this Fall season’s new television shows have left me wondering if I’ll find enough shows to watch.  It’s no surprise that the networks are doing their best to relaunch old shows that really could have stayed locked up in the vault of tv past.  Even worse, the networks seem determined to neatly clone shows that have been middling successes in the past few years, and I’m already done with even trying to watch more unnecessary remakes and redos.  Not even Young Sheldon looks very interesting, but I’ll give it a few shows to find its footing.

Two shows are trying out for the newest version of Wagon Train in Space, swooping into space on the wings of giant metallic ships filled with the usual assortment of captains and shipmates.  The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery are the two new shows that are on missions to boldly go where James T. Kirk has gone before.

The Orville is mostly written by and stars Seth MacFarlane, the man responsible for Family Guy.  He plays the captain of a starship, but a captain who is at best inept and clearly only chosen to command a ship because there is nobody else.  His first officer is a woman who turns out to be the wife he recently divorced.  The rest of the crew is similar to almost any show set on a starship, but only similar: the dialog and actions of the crew (made up of an amazing supporting cast) are largely comedic in nature.  Watching the first episode was almost like watching an episode of the Family Guy as we got some drop-in antics separated by some plot.  The special effects were top-notch, and I thought the show had promise if it could figure out how to walk the line between serious science fiction and madcap humor.

The second episode gave me more hope for the show.  We still got some humor, including a number of quiet background pieces on the sets and throwaway lines full of inside jokes, but we actually got a semi-serious plot.  There was better character development.  There were more aliens.  The crew repeatedly disobeyed orders from on high (something Kirk was very consistently doing).  There was a problem that had to be solved, and it was solved by including a snarky kick at what I see as the worst type of shows television has ever created.  But as good as it was, it did not prepare us for the third episode.

One of the features of the original Star Trek that endeared us to it was the show’s ability to address contemporary problems that normally wouldn’t be allowed on network television by masking the problems in science fiction settings.  Episodes that dealt with racism and war and other political debates during the Viet Nam War and the Cultural upheaval of the late sixties snuck on the air and went mostly unnoticed by the folks who eventually shut down the Smothers Brothers for dealing with the same problems more directly.

In the third episode of The Orville, the crew deals with the problem of a crew member that insists on surgery for a sex change for a newborn infant.  While the episode continued to have some humorous banter from time to time, it went completely serious when dealing with whether the reassignment of sex should take place shortly after birth or only after the baby grew old enough to make the decision for itself.  Eventually, there is a trial and a surprise witness, but the show avoids the easy ending that we would expect from a comedy.  And along the way, we get stop-motion Rudolph and the episode ends with the best use of a stuffed animal in years.  Yes, there is still humor, but the episode also tosses some serious arguments into the mix.  The show is on Fox at first, but you can also watch it on Hulu, and it’s worth chasing down the first three episodes if you missed them for any reason.

Star Trek: Discovery?  Normally I would be there to watch the show, but after reading about it I changed my mind.  The show has had numerous problems; the original date for the show was January 2017, but problems pushed that back to September.  Sure, that’s annoying, but it’s an annoyance of a pinprick compared to the stunt CBS has pulled: the first show is on regular network television, but after that, the show will be locked behind a paywall!  If you want to watch the show you have to sign up for CBS All Access (which requires the internet) and pay either $6 a month for the opportunity to watch commercials or $10 a month if you want the show without commercials.  Since you must use the internet to watch the channel, you either have to buy and install extra equipment to view the internet on your television set or watch the show on your computer or (choke!) your phone.  Since I already watched nearly every show available on CBS Access back when they were first broadcast (including Star Trek on our magnificent 19-inch black and white television fifty years ago), I’m not interested in paying several dollars an episode to watch ST:D (wow, there’s a frightening abbreviation for the show!)  Sight unseen, the show gets zero stars.

While numerous musicians were involved in recording music for the Beatles (you didn’t really think they played all those string instruments on Yesterday, did you?), there was a lot of surprise around the radio station when the single Get Back came out and was credited to “The Beatles With Billy Preston.”  Nobody really knew if Billy was joining the group or simply sitting in for the single.  Eventually, Billy released a few records on the Beatles’ Apple Records label.  His most successful release was arguably an instrumental, Outta-Space, which nearly got to number 1 in the US and eventually won a Grammy Award.  He later did get to the top of the charts with Will It Go Round In Circles and Nothing From Nothing.  This video for Outta-Space has been synced with some pretty comedic dancing.

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