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New Escapist Column! On the Uncanny Valley that “Star Trek: Picard” Occupies Between “Star Trek” and Prestige Television…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The seventh episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

One of the big problems with modern Star Trek has been the extent to which the franchise finds itself caught between the past and the future, between a nostalgic impluse that pulls it back to the plotting that defined the franchise’s long history and something more ambitious that pushes it towards prestige television. The recent shows have never quite managed to square that particular circle, and this problem comes to the fore as Picard tries to delve inside the head of its protagonist.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Chris Chibnall’s “Doctor Who” Aspiring to Prestige Television…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With Doctor Who: Flux launching this weekend, it seemed like a good excuse to take a look back at Chris Chibnall’s tenure as showrunner.

One of the more interesting recurring aspects of Chris Chibnall’s tenure as showrunner of Doctor Who has been the way in which he has embraced a lot of the narrative and visual language associated with “prestige television” – the anamorphic lenses, the muted colour scheme, the serialisation, the minimalism, the self-seriousness. It’s an approach that is an awkward fit for the show, particularly when the era around it seems so lacking in substance. It feels like an unconvincing attempt to argue that Doctor Who is “serious business.”

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Star Trek: Discovery – The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry (Review)

The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry represents another attempt to reconcile one of the central tensions of Star Trek: Discovery, the conflict that exists between the expectations of a Star Trek series and the demands of a piece of prestige television. It frequently feels like there is a tug of war between these two competing impulses within the series, and the production team are trying desperately to find the right balance between these two very different storytelling models.

Much like Context is for Kings, the basic story at the heart of The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry is quintessential Star Trek plotting. The contours of the plot will be recognisable to any viewer with even a passing familiarity with the narrative structures and templates of the larger Star Trek franchise. At the same time, a lot of the episode’s finer details are more recognisable as the hallmarks of contemporary prestige television. The result is a piece of television that tells a very simplistic Star Trek in a manner that feels somewhat dissonant.

Hanging out with the Kol kids.

There is an awkwardness to The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry, a sense that the creative team are still working out the proverbial kinks. Much like the engineering and science staff on the Discovery itself, the production team are creating something new and exciting, but something without a clear precedent or blueprint. Discovery often struggles to properly mix its constituent elements, some of its narrative choices feeling clumsy and others struggling to mesh with the story being told.

At the same time, like Context is for Kings before it, The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry is an episode that exists primarily to reassure viewers that Discovery is still fundamentally Star Trek, no matter the production design or the prestige trappings. However, Discovery is investing so much time in proving that it is Star Trek, that it is still searching for its own clear voice.

Resting uneasy.

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