The Shuttle Pod Crew Looks At How Nostalgia Shapes Star Trek

In this episode of the Shuttle Pod, we discuss the retro-fixation of modern media, exploring the differences among nostalgia, references, continuity, and the divisive concept of fan service.

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Shuttle Pod 50: That Nostalgia Show

Brian, Jared, and Kayla take a deep dive into the nostalgic themes and content of 21st century Trek: Enterprise, the Kelvin-verse, fan films, and of course Discovery.

What’s the right way to do nostalgia? Why does all Trek-stalgia seem to be focused on The Original Series and not the Berman-era shows? Could Discovery please bring Clint Howard back for DSC season 2?

Clint Howard in Star Trek: Discovery

All this and more in this, our milestone 50th episode of The Shuttle Pod!

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Though the show itself is ostensibly set in the future, Trek fandom–the part that’s worthwhile, at least–is largely nostalgia for a time in the past when many of us really believed that a better world was possible, perhaps even in our lifetimes. That now seems like a very, very long time ago.

Don’t lose hope yet. In the 60’s and 70’s they had the Vietnam War. And even in Trek lore, things had to get far worse before they got better.

I hear you, but I’m increasingly coming to believe that even Trek itself isn’t “set in the future” anymore, and that might be part of the problem. Its not a vision of the future so much as a nostalgic look back to past futures, that applies to the Trek movies and DISC. For Trek to advocate for a “better future” still, I’d argue it needs to start taking really radical chances again.

I’d argue that “Discovery” is a show emotionally grounded in the year 2017. Nothing about it looks forward in any way, except maybe a little of the technology; and none of that in an interesting way. There’s not a whiff of “Here’s what our awesome future might be like.” Instead, we’re getting “Boy, things sure do suck; if we slog through them and endure, maybe someday they won’t.” Not a bad message, but…

That ain’t Star Trek. Title it whatever you want, but it isn’t.

It is seemingly being written by people who have only the most marginal ability to look beyond their own time and place. That’s fine if you’re writing for some shows (MOST shows, really), but it ought to be disqualifying when you are writing Star Trek.

What does this show stand for? About $5.99 a month, and not much more than that.

A shame.

For all their similarities, in many ways 1968 was fundamentally different than 2018. And all art, including popular entertainments, reflects the time when it was made. This is known.

It IS known, and true.

But all Star Treks that came before this one also made significant efforts to simultaneously step outside of their own time. Discovery, so far, makes none. The mix is entirely out of balance.

@Bryant Burnette — is that why in TOS the Enterprise kept time traveling back to the late 1960s?

It…might be?

@Bryant Burnette — my point is they spent a lot of time referencing the late 1960s. The Way to Eden, Miri, Bread and Circuses, The Omega Glory … all episodes that were literally set in a parallel late 1960s time period, or explicitly referenced events occurring in that time period. Now perhaps some were due to budget constraints, but others clearly were intentional. Add to that set designs, props and costumes, all heavily influenced by late 1960s style, and there’s no question TOS was a direct reflection of the era it was presented in, both in its look and story, to say nothing of it’s social attitudes, in particular toward women. There are moments in TOS that are laughable by today’s standards.

The real reason is likely because audiences would enjoy seeing our future people standing around in our time. It’s the exact same reason Voyager went back to mid 1990’s Los Angeles or why TVH went to 1980’s San Francisco. It’s more fun to seem them in our current environment. The audience is very familiar with where they are. (And it’s cheaper)

Not sure two visits out of 79 adventures constitutes repeated visits, as your post might imply. But certainly the era, from which it was filmed, served its purpose as cheap and easy scenery for those time travel stories.


Re: …served its purpose as cheap and easy scenery for those time travel stories.

As did the era of the 1930s in THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER, which never explored the possibility of where the Guardian might have banished the Enterprise when its rules of time travel vacationing were violated.

I never believed in a better world. The human race is going to crash and burn. No great lost.

The best expression of a
nostalgic quasi-Trek fan who never understood Trek in the first place? “I never believed in a better world.”

I will be happier than a tribble in a grain bin when Trek finally moves ahead to the 25th century or beyond. Prequels of any sort are ultimately unsatisfying because we know how they end already. Seeing the journey really doesn’t help.

Agree. Instead of making something new, it feels like we are just fleshing out throwaway lines from other shows.

@GQMF — and yet, I thoroughly enjoyed learning how they made their puzzle pieces fit with canon. Of the two Trek inspired shows, ORVILLE is the show I feel that’s fleshing out throwaway lines from other shows. But to each his own. I’m enjoying DISC, especially because it’s set in this era which is far from being explored.

I guess for me I prefer these things to remain mysteries. Often they are just something the writer threw in to make a point or a joke without thinking of how it might become canon or fit into the established world. If you really want these things fleshed out there is bound to be a book or fanfic which covers it.

I wouldn’t say that The Orville is fleshing thing out so much as recycling plot lines completely. It’s enjoyable but needs to find its own feet.

@GQMF — I don’t disagree. WHat I noticed about the ORVILLE, was that some of the recycled TNG era episodes, were fleshed out better, which made me consciously think in the middle of the episode, that Braga, or whomever, were fixing issues they had with the original story for Trek, or were prevented from doing by committee, or time.

“and yet, I thoroughly enjoyed learning how they made their puzzle pieces fit with canon.”

You got a sneak peak at what they are doing in season two? You mean they actually follow through on their pledge fit things together? That’s good to know. I can’t wait to see how they manage. It looks like it will be quite the job. Is it Burnham wakes up on the Shenzhou and we see a more mid 23rd century look is appropriate and realizes that season one was all a dream?

I think peoples desire to explain everything in a way has a negative effect on imagination. Every person has a different explanation or thought for the things that might have happen, we don’t need to be explained everything. I always thing a little mystery is good for the imagination and creativity of people. I partly blame George Lucas for starting this in modern entertainment. Having everything explained to us seems like the easy way out for me.

Agree. I’m not big on my Star Wars canon but wasn’t the clone wars just a throwaway line in Star Wars IV? Then when doing prequels they had to have a whole movie (and later animated series) about it.

Agreed, even Han Solo’s 12 parsec line was throwaway, and they made a movie about that too.

You want open endings? Check out the open ending of The Americans. I feel like there is a lot more story to tell but the writers have insisted they left things open on purpose to let viewers come up with their own guesses on what happens.

@Roger S — and yet, watching SOLO this past weekend, I was riveted to my seat pondering how Han Solo was going to get out of his cinematic predicaments, even as I knew he must. I loved every minute of it.

But I bet you didn’t need to know the answer to every question about Han Solo that you may or may not even have asked. His name, how he met Chewie, how he met Lando, how he got the Millennium Falcon…one reviewer I read pointed out that the nostalgia factor and references all give the impression that “everything interesting about Han Solo seems to have happened in the span of about two weeks,” which if anything sounds like a perfect way to ruin a character’s backstory.

I also find these things make characters seem too fakey. Instead of us seeing the interesting chunk of their lives, now their whole lives are made of near death experiences. It just weakens the other plotlines in my opinion and makes the characters less relatable.

While I did enjoy watching Solo, it was not as good as Rogue One. And it was a back story that quite frankly we never really needed in my opinion. I think we knew enough about Han when we first met him in A New Hope. What I saw in Solo didn’t flesh him out in any way. That said, it was still a decent (if not great) time at the movies. Which I guess is the real point…

If anything I think Han Solo as a character works more with the mystique of his backstory intact. Like by spelling everything out the way they did [and I haven’t even seen the film, just have been reading about it], I feel it really does hollow out the character a lot. I’m content to never watch Solo and keep those things we’ve only heard about the way they are in my head. I don’t need some cash-grab nostalgia-sploitation film to paint the details for me.

It was just crazy how it answered practically EVERYTHING. Some things, sure, but they even showed how the guy got his blaster.

I can literally imagine them writing a list about everything people knew about the character and then writing the story around that list to fit everything into the plot.

Movie wasn’t awful but it felt less like a movie and more of a very expensive fan film.

@albatrosity — I didn’t care for the very un-inspired way they explained his name. I didn’t really start to enjoy the movie until we met the wookies. But everything else I loved seeing. Did I need these explanations? No. Did I enjoy seeing them? Sure. I don’t consider these explanations as interesting as the Michael/Sarek/Spock revelations in DISC. but they were fun. I did get the feeling this was happening way too fast, but then so do the Bad Robot movies. We’ll see if we get another movie after Han gets to Tatooine. But I will see it if they do.

Yeah that was the problem for Solo for me and my annoyance with prequels. Its just a lot of fan servicing and filling in stuff to things we didn’t even WANT to know like how the guy got the name Solo. That was an eye rolling moment like I never felt. Can’t the guy just have the name???

And yes it pretty bizarre how every major character moment from meeting Chewbaca to the 12 parsecs thing all happened within a week. They crammed everything they could into that movie. I’m actually shocked we didn’t see how he met Greedo but my guess is that nugget will be thrown in the sequel. You have to have something to bring the kids back.

Because it was showing hope for a better tomorrow. Because the writing and acting gave you charismatic characters that you enjoyed hanging with for an hour. Because there was imagination and because it was fun.
Too much realism ruins my escapism. And, sadly, we need escapism more than ever. Too bad Trek doesn’t deliver it anymore.

As a fan since watching TOS re-runs in their first syndication in the early 1970’s, I have one heck of a lot of nostalgic feelings about Trek. Both the television shows and films over the years have literally made the journey of my life with me to this day. I am personally invested in it. That said, I don’t see any reason the franchise can’t progress past the Voyager era, into the 25th century, and Still maintain that sense of nostalgia and respect for what came before. It just takes originality and good, compelling, creative writing. So far, in my opinion, all Discovery is ‘discovering’ is how to divide a loyal fanbase, muddy the waters of an existing timeline, and recycle characters and ideas already (and better) explored. Let’s fire up the Spore Drive and jump forward a hundred years or so. Boldly go.

Every time they showed tribbles in any production, including TSFS was overkill IMHO. They might have been able to get away with a tribble cameo in TNG. Perhaps all those years later their natural reproduction issues could have been dealt with. But certainly not in the TOS era and for sure not in STD era. The entire Lorca menagerie was worthless as well. It played no part except for fans to pause and try and identify the items. Which takes away from the show.

I agree. The only time tribbles worked beyond TOS was in the DS9 tribbles episode, other than that they were a dumb distraction. The one on Lorca’s desk was stupid, but not as dumb as the one McCoy has in Into Darkness. UGH that sucked!

Is it ironic that I find even that photo of Quinto and Pine somewhat nostalgic now? Look how young they were!

I too am nostalgic for 2009 when Trek burst back into the pop culture. That year after the movie came out, it felt like everyone was suddenly a Trek fan, and for the first time in my life I felt like I could geek out with my peers in school about it, whereas before I wouldn’t even have felt comfortable mentioning it. Now I’m kinda like that again. 2009 was a long time ago indeed.

Just wanted to say I really enjoy what you folks do with this show. I had to paint a house for this entire past week and listening to you all discuss such a variety of trek topics as I worked was a real pleasure.

nostalgia for the OS era definitely played a part in dropping the TNG era and rebooting the movies back to that iconic period of the franchise.

Simple answer to the question of why TOS is the focus on nostalgia and TNG, VOY AND DS9 aren’t is because it’s timelessly cool while the others are aging very badly. TOS’s visual appeal is timeless (original special effects which have been replaced anyway notwithstanding) and holds up quite nicely. The newer series are 80’s – 90’s stylistically which is a style that will likely never attract much of a revival in popularity. Examples of this style preference are everywhere in today’s arcetcture, look at modern buildings which have seen a return to this style, homes from this era are being preserved and restored and the fashion from the 60’s is pretty timeless as well. Vehicles from this era are sought after and collectible too. Now lets get to the 80’s and 90’s homes, if you buy one the first thing you do is rip it to the studs and modernize it with straight edges, frosted glass, ceramic tile, etc… as for the fashion, let’s just say I haven’t seen a pair of Z Cavarichi’s or LA Gear’s lately. For vehicles, the ‘88 Cadillac isn’t much of a collectible either. TOS was a timeless classic that from a timeless era. The newer shows are an expansion of the original story from an era that stylistically wasn’t very imaginative even when new.

I love Discovery and Im really looking forward to season two. I know a lot of you guys hate that in many ways (especially the look of the universe), the show is going against canon. I hear you, but what are they meant to do? Use filming and effects technology from over fifty years ago? TOS was a great show that I love personally, but things move on. If any of you guys can come up with a way to make the show look great and rigidly stick to the the look of TOS, please share your ideas.

The trouble is the timeline they chose. The producers basically painted themselves in a corner. Discovery would have worked splendidly as a Trek show taking place in the future. This way they could have updated the existing aliens and designs and believe me I really believe that the backlash would have been minimal compared to the current iteration of Discovery. My personal feeling is that while you need to update your filming techniques and perhaps some of your designs for the modern sensibilities if you have opened the can of worms of setting your story in a specific time period of a specific universe, you have to at least adhere to some of the designs of that specific period too.

@alphantrion — right, but that’s your opinion. They wanted to tell a story about Burnam being the foster child of Sarek and explore an actual human raised within that family environment. It’s an interesting prospect, and I’ve enjoyed letting them explore it. I love some of the added depth theyve given to Spock and his backstory. You don’t have to like it. But I, and clearly others do. Given that I’m in favor of the story they wished to tell, I’m thrilled they have chosen to update the look given advances in modern technology, and projected a future as it might actually be, rather than what they thought it might look like in the 1960s, in order to also sell color television sets.

OK, CC. Fair enough. But then for consistency sake ALL the Star Fleet vessels much adhere to the same look as Discovery. That means if they try to modernize Pike’s Enterprise while still reflecting the feel of the 1960’s version (as the released photos are suggesting they are doing) they will be making a HUGE faux pas. Pike and crew should all be wearing Discovery type uniforms, too. Why would the Constitution Class ships or even specifically the Enterprise NOT follow the same formula as all the others? It just suggests strongly to me that these producers really are kites blowing in the wind. They do not really know what they want with this show. You want to do a “visual” reboot? Then do it for everything. Not everything except the times you want to placate the fans. Besides, you’ve alienated many of them already.

I think it’s interesting how much nostalgia is sought after nowadays, even though we complain when it is used. Star Wars the Force Awakens was loaded with nostalgic Easter eggs, but it was the highest grossing Star Wars movie ever. And now the new Transformers movie, Bumblebee, trailer came out with designs that are VERY G1, and fans are stoked about it (of course, the Michael Bay designs just sucked, and the originals rocked.)

Then there’s the whole “80s are cool” movement going on with the success of Stranger Things and Ready Player One. It’s like we always yearn for a time we remember of our childhood, but maybe it’s always been that way? In the 1970s, people enjoyed Happy Days and Grease which were based in the 1950s, and in the 1990s people liked That 70s Show. And now, we still see the popularity of movies based on 80s properties. Nostalgia is powerful, but also can be used too much.

In Star Trek 2009, JJ used nostalgia pretty well, IMHO. Good examples: Pike is the TMP uniform at the end and in a wheel chair like Pike from the Menagerie episode from TOS. Bad example: whenever there is a tribble.