“Tellarites do not argue for reasons. They simply argue.”
I thought about that Sarek quote from the TOS episode “Journey to Babel” as I pondered what I like to call TREKKIE GRIEVANCE SYNDROME. Those who suffer from TGS (or make the rest of us have to suffer THEM having it) say things like:
- Star Trek is dead! CBS/Alex Kurtzman killed it!
- The crap that CBS is putting out is NOT Star Trek!
- I’d rather there be NO Star Trek than what’s on Paramount+!
- Alex Kurtzman/CBS/JJ Abrams/Bad Robot doesn’t care about us longtime fans; they just want to destroy real Star Trek and replace it with Star Wars!
- Anyone who likes these new shows is living in denial and not a true fan!
- The ratings/viewership for Star Trek is way down, which is why Alex Kurtzman was/is about to be/has been/is being fired!
- We fans have been loyal to Star Trek through these many decades, and we deserve better than this drivel they have the gall to make us pay for!
It’s that last item that led me to dub this Trekkie GRIEVANCE, as the fans complaining seem to take it quite personally that new Star Trek isn’t living up to their expectations. Fan “deserve” better! And maybe we do—but I gotta say, some of us are not acting very deserving!!!
Y’see, there’s a difference between critiquing, criticizing, and just plain bashing. Critiquing is what I do in many of my blog review editorials. There are things I don’t personally like in some Trek series and certain episodes, and so I analyze why something isn’t working—whether it’s STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s storytelling pace being too fast and not giving the characters a chance to breathe and develop or PICARD’s plot dealing with the suicide of Jean-Luc’s mother not feeling particularly compelling to me. I critique in a mature, measured way…nothing wrong with that.
I also criticize. Discovery‘s new Klingon make-up was a total misfire, and even the show’s creators realized it by season two. The last two episodes of STAR TREK: PICARD‘s first season were a rushed mess with a Federation fleet made up forty of the same class of starship and Romulan bad guys who would have twirled their mustaches with an evil cackle if they actually had mustaches to twirl. Some creative choices are atrocious enough that you don’t need to “analyze” in a mature and measured way. If there’s something you don’t like, you can certainly gripe about it. That’s fine, too. Fans have been doing that since TOS was first airing in the 1960s.
But there’s a difference between griping/criticizing and outright bashing. Bashing looks like this…
Edward and Chris were responding to a Facebook post linking to my blog from a few weeks ago listing 10 reasons why I think STRANGE NEW WORLDS feels more like “real” Star Trek than either Discovery or Picard. And it wasn’t just them. Every episode review I post draws its fair share of “grievance commenters” who seek not to discuss these new shows in a mature and measured way but to blindly bash and lash out at both Star Trek and those who dare to say enjoy it.
But since I have Edward and Chris’ comments readily available, let me point out the ways that what they are doing differs from simply critiquing or criticizing….
- They aren’t simply bashing the shows themselves but also the FANS who like the shows. Edward claims fans who are fawning over SNW are “desperate.” Why? Just because they like something that you don’t like?
- Their judgements are stated as absolute facts, not opinion. “They are all crap,” says Chris, rather than, “I really think these shows are all crap.” There’s a significant difference. In this way, Chris is echoing Edward’s disdain for any fan who dares to enjoy SNW or any of the new CBS-produced Star Trek because that person likes “crap.”
- Not only is there a seemingly total absence of respect for anyone who doesn’t agree with them., they have no respect for the many individuals at CBS Studios who work so hard to produce these shows. I have no idea what Chris and Edward do for a living, but I’d imagine that they wouldn’t appreciate filmmakers from CBS bashing the work that Chris and Edward do all day (or used to do…maybe they’re retired). Anyway, “judge not lest ye too be judged” doesn’t appear to be a part of Trekkie Grievance.
I actually wasn’t going to write this blog, but shortly after reading those two comments (and a few others), I saw the following Facebook post from my friend Brian Holloway that got me thinking…
And indeed, that’s what folks like Edward and Chris are doing: pissing on Star Trek. Now, I know they will immediately say something knee-jerk like, “It’s CBS that is pissing on Star Trek!” But is it? Is it really? CBS doesn’t seek to insult anyone or anything. CBS doesn’t BASH. They just make shows for us to watch.
No, I think it’s Edward and Chris—and others like them—doing the pissing.
After all, there are actually fans out there who do like some, or even all, of the new shows…even Discovery! What have they done to earn the scorn and disdain of the grievance commenters other than not agreeing with them and, possibly, make them doubt yourselves…maybe just a teensy bit? After all, if these shows really are as bad as as Edward, Chris, and their fellow bashers believe them to be, then shouldn’t everyone hate them, too?
The assault to their deeply-held belief that all CBS-produced Star Trek is “crap” becomes most acute to the grievance comments when it comes to SNW, which has been so widely embraced by fans across the spectrum (Spocktrum?) that positive fan reaction has even been reported by major news outlets like Variety. To resist the obvious conclusion that SNW might actually be decent, Edward concludes that fans who like SNW must be “desperate” while other grievance-holders simply challenge the conclusion that most fans (or even many fans) actually like the new show. Who needs facts when you have grievance!?!
Of course, in addition to being rude and self-deluding, Trekkie Grievance Syndrome is just plain dumb—and self-sabotaging. And here are five reasons why…
5. JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN SAY SOMETHING DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD
When confronted about pissing in the punch bowl and killing the buzz for the rest of us, most of the grievance-commenters will proudly retort, “I have a right to speak my opinion!” Of course, most times they’re not bothering to say, “In my opinion…” before stating their opinion(s), but that’s kind of beside the point. The real question isn’t so much CAN they say what they want to say but SHOULD they?
Let’s imagine that my best friend has just gotten married and posts photos of the wedding on Facebook. Now, I CAN say, “Dude, your new wife looks really fat in that dress, and her hair is awful!” I could even phrase it, “Dude, in my opinion, your new wife looks really fat in that dress…” But seriously, is that comment really welcome? Or maybe I decide to post something factual on their wedding announcement that no one can argue with: “Did you know that almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation?” Or maybe I just try to be funny in a negative way, “Hey, does your new wife know that you’re banging one of the interns at work?”
Newlyweds wouldn’t welcome any of these comments, and especially not on the Facebook post with all the beautiful wedding photos. In the same way, people who are saying positive things about the new Star Trek shows aren’t inviting resentful fans to pop onto their thread(s) and tell them how wrong (or “desperate”) they are.
In this way, grievance-posting isn’t so much dumb as rude and unwelcome. What makes it dumb, though (and I’ll get to this again below) is that, if these negative-nellies are trying to win over friends and influence people’s opinions, they are doing it in completely the wrong place in completely the wrong way. That’s dumb.
4. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE RAKTAJINO (PART I): ALEX KURTZMAN IS STILL VERY MUCH EMPLOYED
Speaking of dumb, do you remember back in early 2021 how the QAnon conspiracy theorists were predicting that Donald Trump would be “reinstated” as President on August 13, 2021? And it wasn’t just the fringe! Even as late as last December, nearly 1 in 5 Republicans polled by The Economist and YouGov said that Trump was either somewhat likely or even VERY likely to be reinstated as president before the end of the year. Of course, it’s mid-2022, and Joe Biden is still president (and the Constitution doesn’t even allow for a president to be “reinstated”).
Just as delusional are the grievance-posters who keep claiming that Alex Kurtzman is out at CBS because Star Trek has performed so badly. Of course, that totally ignores the record-breaking five-year $160 million development development deal inked with Kurtzman last August to lead the Star Trek franchise through at least 2026.
You don’t give $160 million to a guy whom you don’t believe in and want to fire. So if you believe that Alex Kurtzman has been booted, sidelined, is on the way out, or in any way walks on thin ice with CBS/Paramount, well, I won’t say you’re dumb so much as living in some kind of alternate universe. Or maybe, just maybe, you are dumb.
3. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE RAKTAJINO (PART 2): STAR TREK IS THE OPPOSITE OF DEAD
If you’re one of those people trying to argue that “Star Trek is dead!” then you really need to buy a better dictionary…or just look up “dead” online. And if you’re gonna try to claim that, “No, what I mean is that REAL Star Trek is dead, it’s completely gone…” then let me tell you what else is gone: VCRs, fax machines, and TiVo. Oh, sure, you can still find people who kept their old records and some vintage music shops that will sell these cherished antiques. Some folks out there might still have their VHS tapes and a VCR to play them on, and many doctors offices still use fax machines. But in general, you won’t find these items in modern stores because they’ve been replaced by new and improved versions of things that do what these items used to do!
Now, maybe “old” Star Trek really was better than “new” Star Trek. But that doesn’t mean mean Star Trek is “dead” any more than the functionality that TiVo offered is dead. We now have DVRs and streaming television. The world moves on.
So let me tell you what it looks like when Star Trek really IS dead…
It looks like mid-2005 to early 2017 when there was no new Star Trek on television and only a rebooted movie every 3-4 years. Okay, maybe that was only mostly dead and not completely dead, but back then, if you wanted to see “new” Star Trek, you had to wait years! Now, in 2022, we’ve already had SIX MONTHS of uninterrupted new Star Trek episodes weekly…sometimes two a week!! Heck, it feels so weird to me writing this on a Thursday knowing it’ll be another few weeks before I can watch another new Star Trek when season three of LOWER DECKS premieres in August!
There are currently FIVE different Star Trek series in active production (with another two series in early development), all of fine production quality and each, likely, with much higher per-episode budgets than their five predecessors. Granted, these new series consist of only 10-13 episodes per season, but that’s the new normal for streaming. And honestly, I’m not sure I have enough time to watch more Star Trek than that! That’s a “problem” none of us could have imagined back in 2005-2017.
So even if you don’t like any of the new Star Trek shows, saying “Star Trek is dead” is just—say it with me—dumb.
4. SERIOUSLY, NO ONE WHO MAKES STAR TREK IS READING YOUR FACEBOOK POSTS…NO ONE!
Look, everyone wants to feel special, everyone wants to be heard, and more importantly, everyone wants to feel like they have some kind of influence in the world.
Sorry, but most of us don’t.
Oh, sure, there’s the “strength in numbers”/”speak with the voice of unity” argument, but this is a 56-year-old, billion dollar science fiction franchise owned by a multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 company (the 116th largest company in the world with over $29 billion in gross revenue last year). Trust me: they aren’t reading angry Facebook posts or paying attention to irate podcasters or bloggers. Even if they wanted to, there just isn’t time.
I’m certain some fans imagine a low-level staffer (or department of low-level staffers) tasked with monitoring social media to see what the fans are saying and then compiling some kind of “report” to show to management. But think about how ridiculous that is in reality. There are MILLIONS of Star Trek fans around the world posting BILLIONS of comments to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and a slew of others. And despite grievance-commenters’ belief that everyone in the world thinks the exact same way they do, they don’t. Believe it or not, some fans LOVE Michael Burnham and think she’s as powerful a role model for women of color as Uhura ever was…maybe more so. Many fans love Strange New Worlds, think Lower Decks is brilliant and hilarious, and can’t wait for more Picard and Prodigy. Others, of course, disagree. The world is like that sometimes.
But the point is that there’s no single “unified” voice of fandom, no agreed-upon opinion that can be “reported” to the higher-ups. So instead, a handful of producers and writers and other creatives take their best guess at what viewers will want to watch, and they try their hardest to make decent shows. And rather than using some mythical “report” compiled by equally-mythical low-level social media “monitors,” these producers use data generated from the number of requested media streams through Paramount+ to see which shows are doing the best and getting viewed most often and for the longest period of time. Compared to that hard, measurable data, a lone Facebook post kvetching about how bad Star Trek is right now is laughingly meaningless and irrelevant…a complete waste of time.
So if it’s a waste of time for them, then isn’t it also a waste of time for whoever wrote the grievance comment in the first place? Dumb.
5. THE DOG WHO CAUGHT THE CAR…
There’s that old adage of the dog who chases the car, barking loudly, running after it as fast as he can. Then the car stops, the dog stops, and…now what?
Whatever endgame the grievance-commenters imagine in their minds, it’s based in total fantasy (and not the good kind of fantasy!). Let’s look at each of their possible goals and how “realistic” it is…
CANCEL STAR TREK – “Better no Star Trek than this crap they’re producing now!” say many of these keyboard agitators. But of course, CBS/Paramount is never going to do that. Star Trek is a tentpole property, along with the NFL on CBS, it is the central foundation around which Paramount+ is able to operate and expand its audience. Without Star Trek (and exclusive access to new episodes), Paramount+ becomes almost as irrelevant and uninteresting as NBC’s Peacock streaming service. So if canceling Star Trek is the endgame, it certainly won’t happen because of snarky Facebook posts…dumb!
Of course, if a grievance-commenter really wants there to be no new Star Trek, there’s an easy solution: JUST DON’T WATCH IT! That way, for them, it’ll feel exactly like CBS has stopped making Star Trek. And for the rest of us, we can still enjoy the new shows…AND we don’t have to read the idiotic grievance comments. Everybody wins!
GET BETTER WRITERS – It’s easy to criticize, a little harder to make suggestions on how to fix things, and super-hard to make suggestions that are realistic and actionable. For example: “Get better writers! That’ll fix nearly everything about these shows!” Sounds easy enough, except…
How does a show actually go about finding “better” writers? I mean, it’s not like they tried to find “awful” writers to begin with! I can’t imagine the producers reached out to industry agents across the industry and said, “Who’s your worst writer? Send ’em up to Toronto!” And indeed, to write for Discovery and Strange New Worlds, a writer needs to relocate to Mississauga, Canada and work for several straight months at CBS Stages Canada (nice tax credits there!). Not every writer is willing to do that. For those that do, it takes time to get a work visa if the writer in question isn’t a Canadian citizen, eh? And of course, the writers who are already working on these two shows aren’t exactly expecting to lose their jobs just because of some griping fans. In fact, a number of these writers have multi-year contracts because CBS/Paramount doesn’t want to lose a writer who is familiar with a show, its characters, story arcs, and processes for developing and breaking down scripts.
In other words, expecting to simply jettison the current writing staffs, bring on “better” writers en masse, and start over is beyond naive and unrealistic. It’s (say it with me) DUMB!
CHANGE PEOPLE’S MINDS – Let’s face it, the real reason that Edward and Chris (and others like them) post their comments isn’t because of some grand dream of “saving” Star Trek. They were pissed that someone not only disagreed with them but was actually willing to write an entire 6,000-word 2-part blog about it!
I mean, that’s gotta be generating serious cognitive dissonance, right?
Of course, the best way to relieve the pain and torture of cognitive dissonance is to try to convince the people who don’t agree with you that you are right and they are wrong. It happens all the time with religion and politics…and definitely with Star Trek and other sci-fi! You see it all the time on Facebook and elsewhere. And you know what?
It never works!!!
Okay, maybe it works sometimes, but not with just one or two snarky and insulting sentences! This is where dumb is actually superseded by LAZY. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction: someone likes Star Trek, so the grievance-commenter must respond with something negative. After all, no positive comment about new Star Trek should ever go unchallenged, right?
But if you want to change someone’s mind, minimal small-minded effort ain’t gonna cut it. I spent three days writing two 3,000-word blogs. Do you really think you’re gonna change my mind with two or three sentences??? Get real!
And it’s the same for those others who might happen to see the grievance comment. Unless they already agree with the negativity, in which case you’re not changing anyone’s mind but simply preaching to an already-singing choir, then one little drive-by snarking isn’t going to do much to overcome a well-reasoned and solidly-supported argument. All you’re doing is trying to make people who disagree with you feel bad about disagreeing with you. But pretty much every time, you end up achieving the opposite. Congratulations.
Look, if you don’t like spinach, don’t eat it. There’s no need for you to walk up to someone in a restaurant who is eating a spinach salad and start insulting their menu choice just because you don’t like the way it tastes.
And the same goes for new Star Trek.
UPDATE: Well, look who was the first person to comment on Facebook…!
I guess some people will never learn. Sigh.