Continuing a series of essays about Star Trek in honor of Discovery’s return this month.
“I think of myself as something of a Star Trek purist, assuming there can be such a thing. I consider only the Original Series, the Animated Series, and the brilliant ST:TMP Director’s Edition to be pure canon, along with a very few publications such as the wonderful Star Trek Maps. For me, it is these properties that most purely constitute Star Trek. Concerning Paramount… Why the effort to forget or supplant the Original Series, the show that prompted the entire Star Trek phenomenon? I’m a great fan of the original, and I have not been happy with the way the current “powers that be” have taken such a revisionist stance with the universe the classic series created.”
—Shane Johnson, Author of the reference books ‘the Starfleet Uniform Recognition Manual’ (1985), ‘Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise’ (1986) and ‘Worlds of the Federation’ (1987)
From an interview in 2001.
Not about Star Trek: Enterprise. Not about Discovery.
About the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager era of Trek. The same evocation of emotion the current crop of Canonites feel about Discovery right now.
Many Discovery naysayers are not remembering (or their grandfathers were still in diapers for) the backlash Star Trek: The Next Generation got for its vast differences to the original Trek—differences that included tone, look, and continuity (Yes, continuity. And Enterprise isn’t the only culprit here. there are many instances where the series in the 1987-2005 Trek era referenced things that happened “100 years ago” or “200 years ago” that not only contradict events mentioned in The Original Series but in each other as well).
“Watered down Trek,” older fans called it. And there is documented proof of this in the form of newspapers and magazines from the era.
Star Trek has even tried to warn us about holding on to the past before, in countless episodes and in the films. Even just looking at Star Trek II, III, VI and VIII, they touched upon Khan’s vengeance, Kirk dwelling in the past, Scotty’s bitterness over new technologies, the reluctance of members of the Federation and Klingons to let go of hatred, Picard’s obsession with the Borg, and more.
Star Trek: The Original Series purists felt the series from The Next Generation onward violated canon—that same canon that is now being touted as one cohesive all-inclusive piece until the arrival of Discovery.
While I disagree with Shane Johnson’s sentiments, his books are admittedly all fantastic and were a formative part of my teen Trek years. I’m sure some of today’s fans will use Mr. Johnson’s quote as justification for their continued Discovery bashing, but that argument only really holds water if they also dismiss everything post Star Trek: The Original Series—where the real deviations began. Otherwise, what’s happening here isn’t all that dissimilar to the past.
The only difference?
Gone are the days of complaining via letter campaigns and convention get-togethers. Now fans can grouse in real time.
Welcome to the same dawn of any new production era of Trek. All this has happened before, and it will all happen again.
Like the Borg before them, today’s fans will adapt.