When we planned this episode, we thought we were just going to talk about the newly announced Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. But real events took over, and so we encourage our listeners to donate to the ACLU, Black Lives Matters groups, FreeHer and other organisations raising money to fight systematic racism, injustice and police brutality.
It’s very difficult to pivot from that important business to something as frivolous as Star Trek! But we also discuss:
- the extremely unfortunate optics of announcing a new series with an all-white (so far) cast
- we are still not over Katrina Cornwell’s death
- SNW as an opportunity to revisit the characters Discovery left behind
- optimism versus idealism, and how avoiding conflict only serves to protect the status quo
- pandering to fans (and which voices are heard)
- episodic storytelling as an opportunity to open the writers room to more diverse voices
- Jeffrey Combs as Dr Boyce: we’re into it
- concept: John Boyega. Star Trek. Make it so.
This week’s pitch for a series that will never happen: Alexander Rozhenko: Attorney at Law.
Liz: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. Today we’re discussing the newly announced Strange New Worlds.
Anika: But before we get into that, a brief word about the ongoing protests and the Trekkies Together campaign. We are recording on the 5th of June 2020, and the protests that were initially sparked by George Floyd’s death have been going on for almost a week now. They’re continuing. There are protests in my tiny, tiny New England state all the way through June 19th.
Anika: So it’s not something that’s going to calm down any time soon, I don’t think. So I think that this will still be relevant in a couple of days. And basically, Star Trek fansites and podcasts are coming together to stand against racial discrimination and police brutality, because we think that those things go against Star Trek ideals.
Anika: The suggested donation is $47. I don’t really understand why 47 is an important number, but there’s a recurrence — many recurrences of the number 47 in all of the Trek since, I think, Next Generation? I think is when it started?
Anika: So for that reason, the $47 — and it’s low enough that people who — like me — look at their bank account, “I also have to pay my mortgage!” feel like they can make that contribution and have it stand for something. So the suggested donation is $47, or however much you are able to give, made to the ACLU, a Black Lives Matter organisation, or a bail fund or outreach program in your local community.
Liz: We don’t have an ACLU in Australia — we kind of need one — but there are lots and lots of organisation supporting Australian Black Lives Matter and justice for Indigenous people and African Australians, who are also not treated very well by our police and justice system. I will tweet out a list of possible organisations and fundraisers.
My favourite is the GoFundMe for #FreeHer, which is run through the organisation Sisters Inside. Basically, Western Australia has a law which says, if you cannot pay a fine, you have to serve time in prison. And this disproportionately affects Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women.
Liz: So FreeHer raises money to pay those fines and get women out of jail.
Anika: The Bail Project is similar. No one should be stuck in jail for months at a time just because they’re poor and can’t pay the bail. That’s just ridiculous.
Liz: Yeah. It’s terrible. If you’re in Australia, or anywhere in the world, really, have a google around and find out what your local legal organisations are. The various Indigenous legal services often rely on donations from the public, and there are a lot of other groups, too, including, in Australia, individual communities and families raising money to investigate the deaths of their loved ones in police custody.
Anika: All right! Now let’s talk about Star Trek.
Liz: It’s so hard to pivot from this serious and terrible matter to … Star Trek!
Anika: Because [Strange New Worlds] is being very, very much sold as a return to the bright, shiny, happy people version of Star Trek that certain portions of the fandom have been clamouring for.
Liz: You know, when it was first announced, I looked at it and thought, “It is 2020 and you are announcing a brand new Star Trek with an all-white cast.” Like, the three characters we know who are in it are all white. And honestly, that feeling hasn’t gone away. I was very negative about the concept when it first appeared, and I’m less negative now, but I still have a lot of reservations. And even if it turns out to be a great show, I think, right now, the optics are very bad.
Anika: Yes, this announcement came out before the protests started. I think that it would have been even more problematic if it came out in the middle of this. And that almost makes it more problematic that it — looking backwards, it’s like, ooooh, we thought it was problematic before, and now?
I just feel really — I understand that these are the three actors they have under contract. That’s my theory, that’s my assumption, is that this is in the very beginning stages, it’s in production, those are the three actors that they have a contract for, you know, lead actors. Like, I get that from a corporate standpoint. As someone who’s strictly anti-capitalist? I don’t care.
Liz: Right. I understand there are logistics involved here, and even there was a fabulously diverse cast — well, no, we would still know who they were. I just–
Anika: I think they should have waited until they had more than just those three white people.
Anika: If they even just included, like, Lieutenant Amin, and Sira Thindu from the Short Trek, at least they are not white. At least there’s that tiny bit of maybe we have some diversity here.
Liz: Yeah, but three main white characters and a diverse background cast is still an issue.
Anika: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’m a little scared, because it really, really feels like they are pushing this, “this is your father’s Star Trek” idea.
Liz: Yeah. And, for the record, my father’s Star Trek was Doctor Who. My mother’s Star Trek was Star Trek.
Anika: I guess you can sort of look at it like, well, original Star Trek was three white men. Now they have two white men and a white woman! And it’s like, you know what? That is not the gotcha you thought it was.
Liz: It really is not.
Anika: That is not progress, guys!
Anika: Especially when you think that Number One was kicked off — like, she was a part of the Original Series, and maybe it’s progress that now she can actually be a part of it? But that’s only progress for white women.
Anika: It’s not actual progress. There’s a difference.
Liz: And I love seeing women in roles, and I love many, many white female characters — hello, Katrina Cornwell — but there is room for more women of colour, and people of colour, to be the heroes of their own stories in Star Trek. And this — it just feels like such a retrograde step.
Anika: In The Original Series, there were three main characters. In the first season, there were only two who got in the credits. And McCoy was added for the last two seasons. So the way it’s being marketed, with these three people being announced, it really feels like this is the main cast. And yeah, anyone added will be secondary. And it should be that there are at least seven people in the “main cast”, quote-unquote. That’s how it has been since Next Generation.
Liz: Yeah. Certainly one of the complaints about Discovery is that there isn’t that big ensemble story, and so if they’re trying to recapture the people moaning that Discovery is doing something different, then they need an ensemble cast. So maybe we’ll get that, I just — I could not get excited about this whole concept.
Anika: I could only get excited from a shipping standpoint. That’s literally the only thing I got excited about. You and I, we’ve both said on this podcast, we don’t actually need a Captain Pike show. We’re the two lone voices saying, “I don’t really care about that.” So it’s fine. I’m not opposed to more Star Trek. But it needs to be more than just a Captain Pike show, it needs to be more than just, this is your father’s Star Trek. It really feels like they’re going backwards.
Liz: I have to confess that I am a massive hypocrite. Because if Kat was alive, I would be overjoyed at the possibility of another show that she could make appearances in. And I would still be — all of my objections to the retrogradeness — that’s a word, I’ve decided it’s a word — all my objections to the concept and the casting and everything else would stand, but I would be far, far more positive. And I just want to confess that I am hypocritical in that respect.
Anika: What I need to confess is that I’m still unable to reconcile my feelings about Kat. I want to delete my playlists for her from Spotify. I haven’t posted about her, or said anything about her, in — I haven’t written any fic about her — in months. Since season 2, I’ve done nothing for or about Kat. I just … I can’t. I’m so cut off. It’s like I cut that out of my life, or something. So I have no feelings whatsoever. I can’t imagine that — I don’t know what I would feel if Kat were still alive, because I have just completely — I don’t know how to feel that anymore.
Liz: There is a song that I have not listened to since she died, because it was so closely linked with my feelings about that character. And I tried, and I almost started crying on the bus, and I was like, I am having too many emotions, it is unacceptable, I don’t like it. And then, you know, the other week, I watched the interview with Jayne Brook from the guy —
Anika: Which I loved!
Liz: It was great!
Anika: It was so cute and fun. It was not polished in any way, and I liked that.
Liz: Yeah. And she’s not the type of actor who really gets to go in-depth about her work and career. She has a long career of supporting roles, basically. And I always find it really interesting to see people with that kind of career talk about their work, and their professionalism, and the stuff she was saying about, you know, acting is a unionised job, and it’s work. That was really enjoyable.
And then they got talking about Kat’s death, and she’s saying, you know, she’s not going back. And I almost started crying again, because apparently, it’s almost a year — over a year later, and I’m still — it’s still a fresh wound. And I’m like, should I go to therapy? Is this a normal amount of feelings to have about a fictional character?
Anika: [laughing] I think that everyone knows — I’ll be straight with you — I’m not over all of 2019 in terms of fictional characters who died. I don’t know how I’m going to ever heal from all of this. Because it’s still — it’s all over my walls. I just don’t know what to — yeah, maybe I would be much more into it if Kat was alive and we could have more stories about her, even with Discovery leaving and going into a different time. I can imagine the alternate universe where that would happen, and I would be excited.
But I — you know, some people have suggested that she could come back as mirror!Kat, or it could be a prequel, and none of that excites me.
Liz: I don’t mind the idea of mirror!Kat, except that I have such firm ideas of who mirror!Kat could be that it would be really hard to get go of them.
Anika: I would be happy for Jayne Brook, but I wouldn’t be happy for me.
Anika: If that makes sense.
Liz: If it helps, I read an article which said that it is not uncommon for people to become — to be deeply affected by the death of a fictional character, and it tends to happen to people who have a great deal of empathy. So we’re not completely losers, we’re just deeply empathetic! And I always swore I wouldn’t be the type of woman who tells you first up how deeply empathetic she is, because wow, what a wank. But! [laughs]
Anika: We’re just Betazoids!
Anika: Or half-Betazoids, I guess.
Liz: Also my aunt died not long after Kat was killed, so that’s — anyway. I’m just gonna… [sound of a tissue being pulled from the box, but I edited out the LOUD HONK as I blew my nose]
Anika: Yeah. So yeah, so that was just my — my side trip to “I don’t know when I will start feeling normally about Kat Cornwell again”. I hope it’s sometime.
Liz: It would be nice to feel normal.
Anika: I don’t know, I don’t think it’s going to be this year. That’s where I’m at. Based on how this year has gone so far? It’s not gonna– [laughs]
Liz: There is so much 2020 that it’s almost like we don’t have space to process anything else that we were processing? Like, so much of my bandwidth is just … yeah. Honestly, getting together with you and talking about Star Trek for an hour a fortnight is really good for my mental health.
Anika: Right! It gives me something to focus on that is–
Liz: Not life or death!
Anika: –hopeful. Yes, exactly. Maybe you need a little bit of frivolity in order to stay sane.
Anika: And I’m not saying that Star Trek is frivolous, don’t yell at me, people. I’m saying that it’s not on par with everything else that’s going on.
Liz: I really hope that’s not a controversial statement.
Liz: I will say — because I check Twitter first thing when I wake up, which is a very bad idea, and I strongly recommend not forming that habit. But this was in the good old days, when I rolled out of bed and looked at Twitter, and the first thing I saw was the announcement of a new Star Trek. Instead of a new human rights violation, which is great. And because I had different standards three weeks ago, I was like, THIS IS TERRIBLE, I HATE IT. I believe I tweeted a picture of a loaf of bread and said something about Star Trek: White Bread.
And then I realised that I was spiralling, so I went out and did some angry gardening for a couple of hours. Which is how I sprained my wrist. But that really did make me feel better, and I strongly recommend pulling weeds when you’re spiralling. But it occurred to me as I came in that this is an opportunity to revisit characters like Ash and L’Rell, and even Sarek and Amanda, and all the people who were left behind when Discovery jumped into the future. Which was a loss that I was really, really feeling!
Liz: That’s when I felt my first flicker of positivity towards Strange New Worlds.
Anika: Until I started making the list for our notes for this episode, I was — I sort of thought of Sarek and Amanda. I was like, okay, they’re related to Spock, so they should be in the show, right? That makes sense.
But I put Ash on the list, and I was like, I forgot that Ash might get to show up! I was really upset, because his character was mishandled so much that in the end, I loved him. In the end, I was like, you know what? He is such a terrible character that they twisted into a pretzel of what he should have been that I love him, and I want to see him succeed, and I want to see more of him. It was like, he was mistreated, and so therefore I need more. I need him to be — not Ash to be redeemed, because I don’t think that Ash needs to be redeemed. I think that the characterisation of Ash needs to be redeemed, if the difference is clear.
We need to know when he was a Klingon, and when he was not a Klingon, and what all of that means, and how he feels about it. And we didn’t get that. Which is — I’m okay with it having been about Michael and, to an extent, about L’Rell. I’m okay with them taking centre stage in that story. I’m good with that, I think that they should be centred.
But Ash was sort of — you know, he was pulled this way, and then he was pulled that way, and there was a lot of misdirection that I still, to this day, feel is really kind of cruel and unnecessary. And to the detriment of the character. So I would like to see more of Ash just being Ash, and coming to grips with his own personality and his own identity.
Liz: Right. And if he’s now running section 31, that means his loyalties are no longer being pulled in a million different directions, and he can sort of sit down with himself and come to terms with his identity.
And also he’s running a really sketchy organisation, now, and I have not forgotten that he’s one of the people responsible for declaring Michael and Discovery secret forever. But as much as I’m still mad about that, maybe I’m not so mad at the characters anymore? I think, also, because Ash and Spock are so clearly grieving when they make that the decision that the real people I side-eye are Pike and Number One for going along with it, when — you know, these guys should not be allowed to make decisions right now.
Anika: Right. I agree.
Liz: But Pike and Number One were also grieving, so everyone’s a mess. This is the positive and optimistic Star Trek!
Anika: The idea that, in order to be positive and optimistic, you can’t have — like, there’s this whole myth of … which may not be a myth, I dunno, that Gene Roddenberry was against conflict?
Liz: It was certainly true by the time he got into Next Generation, but he was also experiencing cognitive decline by then! So, you know. Do we really want the elderly man with messianic delusions to set the rules?
Anika: Just the idea that conflict, in and of itself, is bad, is — like, look at the world!
Liz: I know!
Anika: You need conflict in order to take a stand and make change!
Liz: I know, and I hate that it takes protests and riots to make the world better, but … nothing else was working! People tried to do it quietly and peacefully.
Liz: And they were dismissed.
Anika: And they were told that wasn’t acceptable, either. That’s the thing, if conflict is not — protecting the status quo is always going to be racist and sexist, and a lot of other horrible things, because the status quo is — something that has been around for centuries is, by definition, out of touch with current reality.
Liz: Right. And the thing about Roddenberry’s so-called optimism, like, when Star Trek started, the optimism came in the concept that humanity would not destroy itself in the Cold War. And I am very into the optimistic idea that humanity is not going to destroy itself.
But, certainly in The Original Series, Roddenberry wasn’t going, “and that means nothing bad happens, and that means humanity does nothing bad, ever.” There are episodes of the Original Series about using primitive planets as the grounds for a proxy war with the Klingons. It’s all through it. And a lot of that came from DC Fontana and Gene Coon, rather than Roddenberry himself. They were the ones who really got into the nitty gritty of his utopia.
But I think fandom has an idea of what Roddenberry’s optimism was, and what Star Trek was, and it’s quite separate from the reality.
Anika: Yes. So I’m concerned that this series is trying to, you know, grasp for the golden ring of the carousel that is “Gene Roddenberry’s Vision”.
Anika: I don’t want that. I want off that carousel.
Liz: Roddenberry’s vision was all very well, but the work was done by other people. Give me a series about DC Fontana’s vision. I would enjoy that very much.
Anika: Oh my goodness.
Liz: I think the other thing is that it feels like they’re pandering to the section of the audience that hated Discovery season 1, and liked it when Discovery season 2 was knocking off Next Generation episodes, and is mad that Picard had as much social justice content as it did. And why would you pander to those fans?
Liz: It’s The Rise of Skywalker all over again. It’s the Snyder cut! Which is apparently a thing that’s going to come out!
Anika: Gross. Stop letting those people win. Because, at the end of the day, they’re still not happy, and all the people who liked what you were doing are also unhappy.
Anika: So it’s like, when you try to appease people who are angry, it doesn’t work!
Liz: No, and particularly — I’m going to call them the alt-right fans. Every appeasement just tells them that they can ask for more next time. And they will, until there’s nothing left. You can’t pander to these people. It’s like when Voyager was constantly bending over backwards to get that mythical men-18-to-24-year-old demographic. It was rating really, really well — with women. But that wasn’t the audience that UPN wanted.
Anika: Yeah. So as someone who used to read comic books, and doesn’t anymore because they made it very clear that they didn’t want me in their audience. It gets tiring. It’s like, I am the biggest nerd in my family. I have three brothers. Three brothers! No sisters! Just brothers! And I am easily the biggest nerd of them all, because I have a Star Trek podcast!
Liz: [laughs] You know, I was going to say my brother is much nerdier than me, but on those grounds, I definitely win. Sorry, Jules.
Anika: So this idea that women aren’t fans, that minorities aren’t fans, that queer people aren’t fans? It’s just ridiculous! First of all, those people are just people, and so the idea that they can’t like Star Trek is just — it doesn’t make sense to me. Anyone can like anything, right?
Anika: They’re people! So that’s just crazy. And that writing a story that happens to include a woman, or a black person, or a queer person, is somehow pandering to that audience, and yet creating an entire series or changing the series that you have, or changing the movie that you have, to be more like what that vocal minority wants is not pandering? It’s like, what is wrong with you people? You’re just all crazy are wrong.
Liz: The loudest voices are the ones that get heard, and these days the loudest voices are the negative ones. And I even see it with our episodes. I look at the stats, and episodes where we talk about stuff we dislike get many more downloads than episodes where, you know, my description in the show notes is very positive. And I don’t like that! Because it sort of encourages me to go harder on the negativity.
Anika: Right, that’s the thing. It’s the YouTube effect, where the people on YouTube that are complaining about something are the ones that get the most hits, and then therefore those are the videos that show up in your feed the most often. So they’re just automatically clicked on because they’re shown more often, and then they get more popular. And it just feeds on itself, and at the end of the day, they’re creating a bunch of negativity out in the world.
Liz: Yeah, it’s a feedback loop.
Anika: And sometimes truly horrible negativity, they’re radicalising people. So it’s just all — it’s all bad. And the positive voices get drowned out because people don’t want to hear that. I don’t understand. I don’t know why liking something is less popular than not liking something.
Liz: It’s also a question of who and where the positive voices are. Because, for example, the big science fiction link blog, File770, was linking to blog posts about Discovery in its first season — but they were only linking to the negative ones. Like, YouTubers and — basically the bloggers that the editors of the site already knew.
And I was going, okay, but here I am with my little blog — and I’m certainly not uncritical of Discovery at any point, but I was very enthusiastic about it! And there were essays on Tumblr about what the series is doing well, and people were saying, “For the first time, I feel like there is a Star Trek that’s for me, and I’m not just part of the audience by accident.” None of that was getting picked up. Whereas the negativity on Reddit was getting upvoted, increasing its visibility, and — yeah.
Anika: Yeah, because that doesn’t serve their thesis. Their thesis is ‘Discovery is bad for X, Y and Z reasons’, and so you saying, “What about T?” doesn’t help them. So they’d just rather say, “Oh, well, we didn’t see that, and we’re not going to amplify it.”
Liz: Right. And so when you have the existing problem of male bloggers being very negative, and also having a higher profile than the female bloggers, the problem is amplified. And it’s really frustrating. Not just because I think people should read my blog, and whatever, because … no, you should read my blog.
But it’s not just about me, it’s about whose voices are being amplified. And one of the things that I was trying to do was link to Tumblr posts and Dreamwidth posts, and the sorts of people whose thoughts were not being shared as widely as Joe Negativity on YouTube.
Anika: It’s rough out there. And for every fandom and for every circle. They’re all just — this is a problem in every fandom I’m in, is where I’m at. I am in huge fandoms, I am in tiny fandoms, and all of them have this same problem of the very angry vocal minority getting all the attention.
Liz: And then, you know, there are times when things do need to be criticised, and it’s hard because you don’t want to sound like one of those people who hate everything.
Anika: Right, and the people who are on your side start downvoting you, because you’re criticising. And there’s a difference between criticism and “I never watched this show but I hate it because it has a black lead”.
Anika: There’s a line here that is being — I just [sigh] I’m sorry.
Liz: And you don’t have to like–
Anika: I get very worked up! Because I get upset.
Liz: No, no. But also, we don’t have to like something just because it fits certain demographic boxes. Like, I stopped watching Doctor Who when Chibnall took over, because I watched the first three episodes with Thirteen, and — I really love Jodie Whittaker, I think she’s fantastic in the role, [but] I remembered that I hate Chris Chibnall’s writing. So, you know, I’m really sad that I am not consuming the first female Doctor with everyone else, but I also know that media’s not going anywhere, and one day I will find it streaming, or pick up the DVDs, and I will watch it, and I’ll … probably like it okay. But right now, when it’s the current thing, I kind of just don’t want to.
Anika: And that’s fine. If everyone was just like that, and was like, “I don’t like this and so I’m not gonna watch it, but I’m not gonna get on YouTube and say it shouldn’t exist?”
Anika: I would like everyone to be like that.
Anika: But the thing is that these people know — like, they make money off of it. It’s like, their outrage is not even real. There is a kernel of outrage, and they explode it in order to get all those views, in order to get all of those voices, in order to make a splash, and make a name, and get money.
Liz: Right! Right.
Anika: And this is why I’m anti-capitalist.
Anika: I mean, one of the many reasons, to be clear.
Liz: And also, we don’t have a Patreon. We’re not making money off this podcast.
Anika: I know! By the way…
Liz: I did look into it, because I pay US$14 a month for hosting. But we average about a hundred listeners an episode, so it could be cool if everyone chucked in a dollar, but I don’t really think it’s worth it. And it’s not a particularly egregious [I meant onerous] amount of money for me to be paying. If that changes, I will let the world know!
Anika: I mean, I have a Patreon, and I have a Ko-Fi, and I make, like, $6 a month. It is not big bucks here. Because I don’t promote it! I’m terrible at it! I am terrible at having those things, because it’s really anathema to me to be like, “Heyyyy, give me money for this thing.” Because I don’t want to need the money, you know?
Like, I said earlier that I have a mortgage, and so I can’t always give as much money to charities as I want to. And that’s true, but I don’t want people to pay me so that I can pay charities. That doesn’t seem to solve the problem. The charities shouldn’t have to exist in the first place. I’m terrible. I’m really, like, money shouldn’t exist.
Liz: One of the notes in our show notes here is “optimism versus idealism”. Which is a rant that you started last week, and I started a couple of days before that in our Discord, but — so I’m an optimist, okay? I think, generally, things are gonna work out for the best. I thought that before Brexit. I thought that before the 2016 presidential election. [I’m not even going to get into the last Australian Federal election. I’m still sad.] I thought that about Covid!
I’ve gotta say, optimism doesn’t seem to be…
Anika: It’s not working out for you?
Liz: I don’t think I can ever stop myself from looking at the bright side to some extent. But optimism doesn’t require you to do anything. Optimism is re-opening Florida even though the virus is still rampant, and just hoping for the best. Idealism … requires you to do the work. And it’s complicated, and it raises questions like, what ideals are you pursuing? And where do they come from? And will your ideals change if new information comes along? And I think … I don’t want Star Trek to be optimistic. I want it to be idealistic. And I think, generally speaking–
Anika: It is.
Liz: Yeah. Discovery is a hugely idealistic show. And so was Picard, it just…
Anika: Oh gosh, Picard is so idealistic.
Liz: It’s idealistic to the point of poor writing. Like–
Liz: Simply being idealistic doesn’t cover all sins. But it’s a starting point! And so I’ve started to cringe when I see the word “optimism”, because I just … I don’t believe in it anymore!
Anika: Yeah. So I am known for positivity. And I’m not sure it’s the same as optimism. Because I think that optimism is like … everything is gonna be great, no matter what.
Liz: Yeah. Regardless of whether I do anything.
Anika: And positivity is, this is a dumpster fire, but it’s keeping me warm. It’s like finding something within the horrible to be positive about, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s horrible, and the reality of the situation, but is saying, I’m going to start from this. You know, because the thing is that the opposite of optimism is pessimism, right? And pessimism kills action.
Anika: And so you need that positivity in order to do something about it. If you’re stuck in optimism, you’re like, it’s gonna be okay, no matter what I do. And if you’re stuck in pessimism, it’s, it’s gonna be horrible, no matter what I do. But if you are an idealist, and you have positivity, you can say, this is awful, and I’m going to do these three things to make it better today. And then tomorrow I’m gonna do another three things. And then I’m gonna keep going until it does get better.
Liz: Right! And frankly, one of the reasons that I started to notice and like you in fandom around, on Tumblr and stuff, was that you are very positive, and when you don’t like something, you make something better. And you don’t get caught up in fights with other fans, and you don’t put things down just for the fun of it. Which are both traps I’m prone to falling into, which is how I noticed their absence. And I really admire that about you! I think you do concrete things to improve your community.
Anika: Thank you! I really appreciate that. I certainly — I think one of the best things that ever happened to me on Tumblr is, I get these asks, you know, messages from people, that say that, that say, “I disagree with you, but you’re so polite, not in a fake, condescending way, but in a — we can have a conversation about this on the same level, and not put each other down kind of way.”
And I appreciate that, because I do, that’s the community that I want. Everything is community to me. I think that’s what we need to do, we need to build communities. No man is an island, and the only reason that humans have lived this long is because we’re able to build communities.
And when they are — you know, the whole point of something like Black Lives Matter is that this is the community that needs our help right now. And it doesn’t matter about all these other communities, THIS is the community that needs help. We need to help THESE people, and we all need to realise that it matters, and we need to do something for it.
Liz: Save the whales doesn’t mean fuck the dolphins.
Anika: Dolphins are whales.
Liz: –fuck those dolphins.
Anika: They’re whales! Dolphins are whales!
Liz: [laughing] You know what I mean, though, when the campaign for–
Anika: Sharks! And — let me be a proud momma for a second. My daughter, for her final project for Global Literature — and she has had a terrible year in school. Can we just say? It has been a horrible spring. And just getting to the point where we’re doing our final project is a huge win. But it was about identity. She was writing her story. All of the distance learning that we’ve done in the spring has been about reading other people’s stories, and the dangers of a single story, and how it’s important to hear from many diverse voices. Even within the same community, even people who are identical in every other way will still have a different point of view.
So one of the things that she had to do was to react to some of these quotes. And I don’t remember what the quote was, that she was reacting to, but her response was about the protests that are going on, and it was, ‘all lives matters’ ignores the fact that black people need our help right now. And that’s such a simple way of saying it, and saying, like, this is just so easy to understand. And we should just live it.
Liz: What your daughter was saying, about needing many voices, it occurred to me that an episodic structure with self-contained stories is a really wonderful opportunity for diverse writers who don’t have the background and experience to get into the writers room for Discovery, or something like that — this is where they can start.
Anika: That’s such a good idea! I would love if that was true. I have no idea how we can make that true, but I would love to somehow convince them that this is what we need, to give — I mean, to be fair, Short Treks has tried to do that, tried to be like, okay, we’re gonna give this random person a Short Trek to do.
Liz: Right, yes. But this is that, on a bigger scale.
Anika: Right, exactly. Taking that to the next level. And I think you’re right, because then it’s like, if it doesn’t work, it’s only this one episode. So who cares?
Liz: Right! And a writers room for a serialised story, you need everyone there all the time, whereas it seems like — certainly in the ’90s, with the pitching process, people might only be in the writers room for a couple of weeks, and then they come and go and learn. And if they do well, then they’re added permanently. And I was thinking of all the new writers and really talented people that Star Trek discovered with its open door submission policy, and I don’t think we can ever go back to those days, but at the same time, the world is full of talented, agented diverse writers who are so hungry for their chance. This is their opportunity — it should be their opportunity.
Anika: Yes. 100%.
Liz: I know Mary Chieffo and Bo Yeon Kim have tweeted a lot about diversity in writers rooms, and the need for more people and more backgrounds at the writing level. And I’m like, I should tweet them and suggest this! And then they can move it up the chain!
Anika: Sure! Be brave! You can do it!
Liz: I was very eyerolly at the announcement that it would be episodic, but I’m starting to come around.
Anika: I’m really at the … whatever. Like, as long as — okay, not whatever. Because if it is the worst possible scenario, which is all white writers room, you know, token diversity in casting kind of stuff, and there’s still no queer people, for example, because we sent them all to the–
Liz: Thirty-third century.
Anika: –yeah, thirty-third century, then I am opposed. And I don’t want to be opposed to anything Star Trek, but if it’s something that doesn’t do the bare minimum? In 2020? Then I have to be opposed.
Liz: The thing is, just because it’s Star Trek doesn’t mean I have to watch it. Like, I know we that we have this podcast, and I have a blog and all that, but I can just say, I’m gonna nope out of this one, and just as I did with Enterprise years ago, I will watch it at some other time, when I know that it will be followed by something better.
Anika: Yeah. I’m at wait and see. I really feel like they rolled this out to distract us from the pandemic, and the fact that we don’t know when Discovery season 3 is coming. I really feel like that’s why they did it–
Liz: Oh, absolutely.
Anika: –as opposed to, this was planned. So they botched that announcement, but it was because they weren’t ready for it. Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn and Anson Mount were in their living rooms in their houses, filming themselves on iPhones. That was not how it would have gone.
Liz: [giggles] No, you think about the announcement of Star Trek: Picard.
Anika: So it’s sort of like, okay. You screwed that up, but I get that you were trying to do something positive because the world was horrible. But now you have to follow that up with really fleshing out the rest of the crew, and I don’t want to see a single white person. That’s where I’m at. I don’t know about everybody else.
Liz: No, no. I am so bored of white people in space.
Anika: I’m done with that. We got these three, that’s enough. Everybody else should be not white.
Liz: I would like to see more than one-third of the cast be women. What about fifty percent?
Anika: Oh my gosh, what?
Liz: What about a trans character? What about human non-binary people?
Anika: These are just pipe dreams!
Liz: I know, SJW ticky boxes. What about a character in a wheelchair who is not tragic?
Anika: Who has a name??
Liz: That too. I’m just throwing ideas out there.
Anika: I’m sorry, I’m just very — like, guys, you really have to follow up with something real. They really need to. They really, desperately need to go forward with this.
Liz: After Star Trek: Picard, we really need more than a Black Lives Matter tweet and a Pride line for June.
Anika: Right. Exactly.
Liz: Follow it up with the stories, please. Because that’s what Star Trek is! It’s stories! And we need different types of stories.
Anika: Lots of different types of stories.
Liz: I guess episodic structure means, in theory, we can have [that]. And I’m starting to come around to that idea, because it means we can do silly little one-offs like sex pollen! And this ambassador is weird and everyone has to put up with them! And sort of small slice-of-life stuff like that. I’m not thrilled about it–
Anika: I just need Spock and Number One to make out when the sex pollen happens. I really need that to happen. I know everybody wants Pike and Number One, but whatever. Spock and Number One, OTP.
Liz: But why not both?
Anika: Pike gets Lieutenant Amin because I am married to my headcanon that she has a crush on the captain.
Liz: I want to know about the red-skinned spiky woman who is apparently Yeoman Colt. Like, is she a shapeshifter? Was she taking a pleasing human form because she felt like she needed to fit in and she wanted the captain to think she was cute?
Anika: And now she’s like, screw you people, I am real!
Liz: Yeah, I am living my red, spiky truth!
Anika: Yes! Red spiky truth! That’s a hashtag!
Liz: We’ve found our episode name! And that’s — when I am feeling positive, which is not very often these days, and I realise that’s as much about my own state of mind as everything else in the world–
Anika: No, it’s the world, it’s not just you.
Liz: No, but my brain is not helping. But I think this is going to be a Star Trek. And it’s going to do some things really well, and other things really badly–
Liz: –and a lot of people are going to disagree on which is which.
Anika: So true! Good points!
Liz: Thank you! See? I’m an optimist! I just really, really want to see them trying more than they have.
Anika: Because this takes place in The Original Series time period, I really want the work. I want the work between First Contact and Original Series that I didn’t get in Enterprise, for heaven’s sake. And I haven’t really gotten in Discovery, because it was sort of hijacked by–
Anika: –mirror universe, and yeah, exactly, AI, and all this other stuff. And Section 31, and whatever. All this other stuff. Which I’m into, I’m not saying that that stuff has no place. I’m totally into all of that stuff. But I want to see the work of how you get from “Past Tense” to Captain Kirk.
Liz: That would be great — and, again, episodic structure means we can do that sort of broader worldbuilding. And it won’t necessarily be deep worldbuilding, but it sets the foundations for future stories.
Liz: And I also really like the idea that Jeffrey Combs should play Dr Boyce. Not because he looks like the actor who played Dr Boyce. I just think, at this stage, he deserves a role in a Star Trek in the 21st century.
Anika: It would be fun for him to — like, that’s one of those fanservice kind of things that I would be into. I don’t think Dr Boyce should be a main character–
Anika: I think he should be a recurring character, and that it would be great. It would be Star Trek royalty coming to play this character that was created for the original Star Trek. That would be such a uniting kind of glue to put it all together, and I think that would be cool. That would be fun. So I’m all for that kind of stuff.
Liz: Yeah. And Suzie Plakson as L’Rell’s mother, I still think is a stroke of genius on my part. Yeah, make it happen! Come on! CBS, just this once, listen to me, but prioritise the diverse writers room over Suzie Plakson.
Anika: Sorry, Suzie.
Liz: I’m not saying we can’t have both! I’m just recognising priorities.
Anika: I just want to say, while we’re on the people playing characters, I saw a tweet that said that John Boyega should be cast as young Worf? And–
Liz: [deep sigh]
Anika: [laughing] I just want to say, there’s interesting ideas in that. I don’t know if I really want a young Worf TV show, although on one hand, Worf being the first Klingon in Starfleet, dealing with that mess, would be interesting.
Liz: I agree. But also, he’s so young when Next Generation starts that I don’t know how much room there is–
Anika: Younger, right, how much younger he could be. It would have to be Academy, and I feel like John Boyega’s too old to be Academy. Although Klingons — I don’t know Klingons, whatever. But I was just like, hmmmmm. But the point of this is, cast John Boyega in Star Trek, guys, that would be awesome. And don’t even make him a Klingon!
Anika: He’d make a great Klingon–
Liz: He would.
Anika: –but make him a heart-throb! Make him the — you know how I said last week that we should not have the ladies man character? I stand by that. But–
Anika: –if you’re going to have a ladies man character, make it John Boyega.
Liz: He’s so physically beautiful. Like, the way he is lit in the Star Wars movies is just extraordinary. And he is so talented, and he has revealed himself as being really thoughtful about social justice issues this week. I know he said some sexist stuff about Rey, but it’s hardly the most egregious thing a man has ever said about a female character, so I don’t understand the urge to cancel him over that. I like John Boyega, I think he’s lovely, I think he should be in Star Trek.
I would like to see him playing a human, or at least a Vulcan, or something, so that we don’t cover up his lovely face.
Anika: Right. We want to see his face. Focus on his beauty. You know how they decided to make both K’Ehleyr and B’Elanna half-human because they still had to be pretty, you know?
Liz: You’re saying that John Boyega could play a half-Klingon?
Anika: Yeah, if he has to be Klingon, he could be half, is what I’m saying.
Liz: I’m kind of into that. Could he play Alexander?
Liz: I know Alexander has had, like, 50 actors so far, but what if he had a good one?
Anika: Oh my God. I would 100% watch The Alexander Show. Like, Alexander — he wouldn’t be in Starfleet.
Anika: He wouldn’t be a Klingon, either, he would be this awesome peacekeeping … going out, social justice warrior Klingon Alexander guy. It would be so good, and it should definitely be John Boyega, and I am 100% behind that idea, and I think we should make a petition.
Liz: I really hate what Deep Space 9 did with Worf and Alexander, so I really like the idea that he’s–
Liz: Yeah! I want him to be, like, the Fenris Rangers’ lawyer, or something.
Anika: [gasp] You’re just making this better and better!
Anika: Oh my gosh, if he was with the Fenris Rangers, but he was the Alicia Florrick, trying to keep them in line…
Liz: Yeah, yeah!
Anika: The idealistic lawyer!
Liz: He’s more or less following in his mother’s footsteps, except in law instead of diplomacy. And, you know, “Yes, your Honour, my client may have blown up a small asteroid, but in fairness, the asteroid was made of fascists.” Or whatever. Alexander Rozhenko: Attorney At Law.
Anika: I love this idea!
Anika: You know how desperately I want a lawyer Star Trek show.
Anika: I want a lawyer Star Trek show so badly. It would be so good!
Liz: I think this idea at least deserves a Short Trek.
Anika: I would fund it. Not personally, but I am willing to find the people to get all the money in. I will kickstart this idea.
Liz: “Dear Mr Boyega, would you be interested in being in a self-funded Star Trek fan film?”
Anika: He’d be like, “What? Who are you people?”
Liz: “Come on, guys, I’m a real actor.”
Anika: I’m just saying. You know. He was worried about his career, and I’m just saying, there’s lots of options.
Liz: We will keep him in work if we have to do it single handedly.
Anika: That’s right.
Anika: Are we done?
Liz: Oh, we are done!
Anika: I feel like we’ve — I don’t even know what we talked about this episode at this point. But–
Liz: Systematic injustice and Jeffrey Combs.
Anika: TL:DR. All right, thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod.
You can find our show notes, which I assume are going to be long and detailed in this particular episode, at antimatterpod.tumblr.com, including links to our social media and credits for our theme music.
You can also follow us on Twitter at @antimatterpod. Sometimes we post pictures of my cute, adorable cat, and Liz’s monster cat.
Liz: He has redeeming qualities.
Anika: And questions for our audience! To be fair, I have four cats, and I’m sure not all of them are cute and adorable.
Liz: I love every one of them.
Anika: If you like us, leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your podcasts — the more reviews, the easier it is for new listeners to find us, just like you did.
And join us in two weeks for our fiftieth episode! Which is a celebration because I cannot believe we’ve made it to 50 episodes. I’m very proud of us.
Liz: When we started out, I was like, if we get to ten, I’m going to call that respectable.
Anika: We’re definitely respectable. We’re putting together a speed round of 50 topics in 50 minutes. This will be chaos. You should look forward to it. Let us know if you have a topic idea! Thank you for listening!
Liz: The question is, like, if they give us a topic like “Katrina Cornwell”, can we keep it to 60 seconds?
Anika: We’re gonna have to have a timer, or something. It’s gonna be, oh, and we’re done with that! It’s gonna be great. Maybe we need a referee.
Liz: I’m sure my flatmate will be overwhelmed with joy if I invite her.