Chapter 1: Prologue
Note about images: If you're having problems viewing the images, try deactivating your ad blocker. If this doesn't work, all images will still be available on the Twitter thread!
Variety , March 20, 2020: "Spacefaring reality series 'Star Trek' announces season 1 cast"
Officially endorsed by NASA, PBS’s new reality series Star Trek is being pitched as an intellectual spin on shows like Big Brother and Survivor. A crew of eleven highly trained individuals will spend six weeks on a simulated space voyage, completing challenges that test their mettle as scientists and explorers.
Unlike most reality shows with an ensemble cast, Star Trek will be more about teamwork than competition. Captained by 28-year-old mountain rescue pilot James Kirk, the crew includes astronauts, physicists, anthropologists, and Olympic athletes. Aimed at the 18-34 market, weekly episodes will be accompanied by live social media updates from the cast, who are otherwise cut off from “Earth.”
[Image: Twitter thread between two fans.]
@softbalrog: i wanna like this spaceship show but theres onlu 1 woman in the crew? srsly???
@wosbv72: no theres like 3 other girls, they just used a bad pic for that article. buzzfeed has the full cast list.
@softbalrog: wait why do some of them have different uniforms
[Image of Keyla Detmer in a Discovery-style Starfleet uniform.]
@wosbv72: idk maybe its like soccer teams having different costumes for home and away games?
Buzzfeed, March 20, 2020: "Get ready for 'Star Trek,' the spaceship reality LARP show"
We didn't expect our new favorite reality show to air on PBS of all places, but we need something to fill the void between seasons of The Bachelor, and apparently that's... Star Trek?
This show is meant to be an educational look at the future of space exploration, but let’s be real here: it’s a big-budget LARP. Its creators clearly had fun with the worldbuilding, because there's a whole backstory involved. Star Trek's cast of sexy nerds are officers on the U.S.S. Enterprise, tasked with exploring the galaxy. They’ll go on missions to (fake) alien planets, following orders from a peacekeeping organization called Starfleet.
We kind of expected to see some Z-list celebrities in there, but PBS went for a crew of... actual smart people? Check out this exhausting squad of high-achievers:
- Captain James T. Kirk, a mountain rescue pilot and competitive chess player.
- First Officer Spock, an astrophysicist with a weird haircut and a black belt in judo. He only has one name because he was raised by Vulcans - an obscure meditation sect that kind of sounds like a cult??
- Helmsman Hikaru Sulu, a test pilot and NASA trainee astronaut.
- Helmsman Keyla Detmer, a roboticist who designed her own cybernetic eye.
- Navigator Pavel Chekov, a 17-year-old math prodigy from the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
- Medical Officer Leonard McCoy, a doctor. Kirk’s IRL best friend; they met while working for Doctors Without Borders.
- Communications Officer Nyota Uhura, a professional translator who speaks 12 languages. Nationally-ranked sprinter in Kenya.
- Operations Officer Joann Owosekun, an anthropologist. (If anyone knows what “operations officer” means, sound off in the comments. We’re just sharing what the PBS press release told us!)
- Engineer Montgomery Scott. He’s an engineer; whatever.
- Security Officer Gaila Orion, the only person here who actually seems like a normal reality star, because she’s done some underwear modeling.
- Science Officer Michael Burnham, a quantum physicist and extreme sports enthusiast.
[Image: A Twitter thread commenting on PBS's Star Trek announcement tweet.]
@StarTrekPBS: Eleven crewmates. Six weeks. One spaceship. Join the U.S.S. Enterprise as we venture where no one has gone before.
@derrick96: holy shit. PBS is gonna make someone fuck an alien.
@martinjose1: my tax dollars at work lol
Chapter 2: Day 1
May 1st, 2020: The voyage begins. (Image post.)
[Images: Tweets from May 1st, 2020. Launch day for the U.S.S. Enterprise.]
@Spock: Today the U.S.S. Enterprise will engage its warp drive for the first time. Click here to learn more about the theory behind faster-than-light travel: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/technology/warp/warp.html
@Scotty: ok lads i'm packed n ready to go. [Image of a truly terrifying number of cans of Irn Bru.]
@Kirk: Honored to work with such a talented crew. Follow them @Spock @Uhura @Chekov @Owo @MBurnham @Detmer @Sulu @Gaila @Scotty. (Bones says he's "too old for Twitter" but I'll win him over!)
@kevinj: who is bones??
@mairi10474: whose bones?
@carlo_p: is bones Dr McCoy?
@minalock [.GIF of Raymond Hold from Brooklyn Nine Nine yelling "BONE???"]
@Sulu: .@PBS can i get a cup-holder on this thing? [Photo of the Enterprise bridge from the pilot's seat.]
@pavel: ready for the adventure of a lifetime!!! ))))
@Detmer: we left Earth like 2 hours ago and i just realized i have no way to maintain my undercut in space.
@Owo i've got u covered!
@Detmer: lieutenant you're a lifesaver
@winstoooon: HAROLD... [Screencap of Detmer and Owosekun's conversation.]
@paula74373: she was just offering to lend her a razor or something, cmon.
@winstoooon: girl they BOTH have undercuts
@paula74373: ok i stand corrected.
Chapter 3: Meet the Starfleet admirals behind PBS's new reality show, Star Trek
An interview with Christopher Pike and Philippa Georgiou, two of the masterminds behind PBS's Star Trek.
Space.com, May 1, 2020
Star Trek is one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the summer, an unlikely partnership between reality TV and hard science fiction. Shortly before launch, we spoke with two of the creative minds behind the series: Astronaut Philippa Georgiou, and science educator Christopher Pike, whose PBS documentary series Enterprise was the namesake for Star Trek's high-tech spaceship simulator.
Space.com: In Star Trek , you both play admirals in the fictional space agency Starfleet, but neither of you are professional actors - you're part of the show's creative team. How did you get involved?
Christopher Pike: Philippa and I were brought in pretty early because the exec producer, Jonathan Archer, realized he needed some specialist input. He has a long background in reality TV, but PBS and NASA wanted Star Trek to be a little more complex. Philippa, Gabriel Lorca and I, we kind of represent the three corners of the Star Trek triangle: an astronaut, a sci-fi author, and a science educator. I’ve spent my whole career figuring out how to get the public excited about science, but Philippa has this unique real-world experience to contribute, and Gabe, he... well —
Philippa Georgiou: He knows how to create drama.
Georgiou: Obviously it wasn’t just us three. There’s a whole team of producers and researchers, but Chris, Gabe and I get to do the fun part on camera. Our job is to give the crew their orders from Starfleet Command, and offer advice if they ask for it. We're their version of "phone a friend."
Pike: Starfleet is kind of an expanded version of those educational reality shows where people embed themselves in a historical setting. Except our historical setting is 150 years in the future.
Space.com: How do you find the right people to crew a spaceship to the future? Do you look for the same traits as real astronauts?
Georgiou: Yes and no. It’s a little more weighted toward personality, for the obvious reason that this is TV, not a real spaceship. We also had to consider what skills would be relevant to this mission, versus the job requirements to work somewhere like the ISS [International Space Station]. For instance, I come from an engineering background and I spent two years doing intensive training before my first journey into orbit. Right now, NASA’s entry requirements include a masters degree in a STEM field, plus fitness qualifications. Whereas for the Enterprise, we wanted scientists but we also wanted explorers and diplomats. We're picturing a future where long-distance space travel is easy, so there's less concern about the discomfort of living in zero gravity, or hiring people with really fine-tuned academic specialties, which wouldn't make for good television anyway.
Pike: Basically the difference between the ISS and the Enterprise is the difference between the dangers of a transatlantic sea voyage in the eighteenth century, compared to just buying a plane ticket today.
Georgiou: Exactly. The Enterprise needs pilots and navigators, but it doesn't necessarily need what we think of as astronauts. We were looking for people with a certain kind of flexibility and drive, to encounter a wide range of challenges. So we ended up with a captain who dropped out of an English Literature degree after six months, but has fantastic leadership qualities thanks to his time as a search-and-rescue paramedic. Only a couple of our crewmembers fit the criteria to be an astronaut - Michael Burnham the quantum physicist, and Hikaru Sulu, who we recruited from NASA's flight program.
Pike: We took a lot of inspiration from the HI-SEAS project, an artificial Mars base in Hawaii. Groups of volunteers live there for months at a time, to see how people might behave during longterm space missions. [laughs] Actually, that led to most of our big arguments behind the scenes - cordial arguments, of course. Philippa and I were completely caught up in creating this ideal team of people to collaborate smoothly on a real mission, while Gabe and Jonathan kept reminding us that it’s a TV show, and no one wants to watch a bunch of people be considerate to each other for six weeks.
Georgiou: I’d want to watch that.
Pike: Me too! And I hope that’s what we’ll get. Everyone in the crew really wants this project to work, so hopefully all the conflict will come from the challenges they face, not interpersonal issues.
Space.com: You mentioned being prepared for challenges. How dangerous will it actually be for the crew?
Pike: That's something we went back and forth on. A lot of reality shows, especially outdoor survival shows, put their contestants in a certain amount of real peril under controlled conditions. I mean, plenty of people get hurt on Dancing with the Stars, never mind something like Survivor. The cast will spend most of their time inside the Enterprise set, so they're not under much physical strain on an average day. But at the same time we're aiming for authenticity. Our crew fulfills a plausible range of roles for a long-distance voyage, and that includes a shipboard medic, Dr McCoy.
Georgiou: He can pull the plug at any time if someone needs serious medical treatment. Under those circumstances, they'll get airlifted out immediately. But everyone in the crew was very open about their enthusiasm for the project, which includes the potential for minor injuries. I don't want to sound ruthless because we're not aiming for Star Trek to be car-crash viewing, but if someone breaks a finger or something, they're prepared to handle it. Dr McCoy essentially has the same job that behind-the-scenes medics perform on other shows, except he's doing it on camera.
Pike: Also we've included some simulated dangers. One of Gabe's earliest ideas was the possibility of crewmembers being endangered by alien atmospheres, or by the vacuum of space. So if the Enterprise suffers a hull breach, or someone's spacesuit gets damaged, that's where we enter roleplaying territory. That person either suffers a fake case of hypoxia, or if they're exposed for too long then they "die" and have to leave the show. So there's an urgent motivation for the crew to behave like they're really in space, even though there's no real danger involved.
Georgiou: The Enterprise is probably a safer environment than the real-life careers of several crewmembers, never mind the hobbies we've heard about from adrenaline junkies like Gaila and Michael. I think we've struck a good balance between simulated risks, and meaningful challenges where we keep the physical dangers to a minimum.
HI-SEAS is a real thing, and if you want to learn more, I highly recommend the Habitat podcast, which follows a group of volunteers who spend a year together inside a fake Mars base.
Chapter 4: Audio logs, Day 1
KIRK: Captain’s Log, Day 1. We left Earth, uhh... fourteen hours ago. Currently en route to Pansermia IV for our first mission. Everyone’s settling in well. Most of the crew are in shared quarters, so there’s a bit of a college dorm vibe so far. Commander Spock and I are the only ones with private cabins, but we’re splitting a bathroom. Can’t get much of a read on that guy yet, but I’m pretty sure he’s not the type to leave damp towels on the floor.
I don't know how much we’re meant to acknowledge the fourth wall here, but the ship is damn convincing. I already feel like we’re in space for real, traveling to another planet. The crew seem to be taking the mission seriously, and the designers did a good job of hiding the cameras, wherever they are. It's surprisingly easy to forget we're being filmed.
DETMER: Gotta say I had my doubts about Kirk. He looks like a lacrosse bro and he doesn’t come from a STEM background, which wasn’t exactly a reassuring start. But he knows how shut up and listen to the experts, and he didn’t make us do any dumb team-building exercises on our first day. Actually he just asked us about our favorite books. Books! Apparently he’s a big fan of Moby Dick. Figures. [Pause.] I said my favorite was Neuromancer, but it's actually the Moomintrolls.
GAILA: Think we’ll meet any aliens?
UHURA: I hope so, right? But actors in prosthetics would look pretty corny on camera, so I was wondering if they'd go for something non-humanoid...
GAILA: Like with animatronics?
UHURA: Or virtual reality. Some of the spacesuits have VR headsets, I think.
GAILA: Kind of a waste of your skills if you don’t get to translate an alien language, anyway. I hope we get, like, an octopus that speaks in interpretive dance.
UHURA: Finally, all those years of ballet lessons paid off.
UHURA: No, I got kicked out of kindergarten Swan Lake for biting one of the other swans.
SULU: Okay, Chekov’s in the shower, so I figure it’s time for a chat with my other roommate. Computer?
COMPUTER: Yes, Lieutenant Sulu?
SULU: What’s the square root of 72,934?
COMPUTER: Two seven zero point zero six two —
SULU: Thanks. What’s the weather like in San Francisco right now?
COMPUTER: Overcast, with intermittent showers.
SULU: If the captain wants to alter our course in the middle of the night, can I stay in bed and delegate that to Chekov, or do I have to do it myself?
COMPUTER: A simple course-correction is well within Ensign Chekov’s capabilities, but as a Starfleet officer aiming for a command position, you are expected to perform your duties with enthusiasm and only delegate when strategically prudent for both parties.
SULU: Thanks, computer.
[A crinkling sound, like a candy bar wrapper.]
SULU: So, what I don’t understand is, how does the Enterprise computer seem to know everything? Are we dealing with a really advanced Alexa situation, here? Or does PBS have a voice actor on-call 24/7 to google all our questions and tell us the answer?
[Sounds of chewing.]
SULU: Only one way to find out I guess. Computer, are you real?
COMPUTER: I am as real as the U.S.S. Enterprise, Lieutenant Sulu.
SULU: Well, that’s me told.
MCCOY: [A loud, protracted sigh, followed by a clink of class and a glug of liquid.] Why the hell did I let Jim talk me into this?
Chapter 5: Vlog interlude: Chekov & Owosekun
[Image: A Twitter thread between Joann Owosekun and Keyla Detmer, May 2.]
@Owo: Everyone got to bring one "personal item" onboard, and my roomie @Detmer chose... a modified bomb disposal robot called Fido?
@Detmer: i don't go anywhere without my doggie!!
@Owo: Your doggie weighs 650lbs and has to live in the shuttle hangar because he can't fit into our quarters.
Pavel Chekov, a wide-eyed teenager with curly hair, is filming in selfie mode. He’s standing in the cabin he shares with Hikaru Sulu, a spartan room with two single beds, two desks, two bedside tables, and two storage lockers. Sulu’s side of the room is neat and tidy, with a photo projected onto the wall beside his bed: Sulu at the beach with his arms around a thirty-something man and a little girl aged four or five. Chekov’s side of the room is already a mess, with clothes spilling out over the floor. There’s an open jar of hair gel on the bed, along with three packets of freeze-dried fruit snacks.
CHEKOV: Hello everyone! This is Ensign Pavel Chekov reporting in. We’re on our way to our first mission, but there’s not much to do right now, so I thought I’d make a video. Uhh... as you can see, this is my cabin, which I share with Hikaru Sulu. And here’s Lieutenant Owosekun!
The camera swings round to show a woman with a broad smile and long, braided hair.
JOANN OWOSEKUN: Hi there! Call me Owo! As you may know, everyone in the crew got to bring one personal item along with our Starfleet-issue kit, so I decided to visit some cabins and ask people about what they brought.
CHEKOV: Here’s mine!
He turns to point the camera at a torn, dogeared poster of a dark-haired man in white shorts and a t-shirt, holding a tennis racket. Chekov zooms in to show a message scrawled in the corner: “To Pavel: Persevere!” An autograph is scrawled underneath. Despite the poster’s tattered state, it’s been carefully framed and hung up on the wall at the foot of Chekov’s bed.
CHEKOV: My signed poster of Roger Federer! I take it everywhere I’ve lived so far! He’s my hero.
OWO: Do you move around a lot?
[Chekov’s forehead wrinkles adorably. He starts ticking places off on his fingers.]
CHEKOV: Well, first I went to uniwersity in Moscow when I was twelve. Then a year at MIT, then internship at the ESA, and now Roscosmos. And here! It can be a little scary, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just look at Mr Federer and remember: persewere!
OWO: You know, I think the captain plays badminton. You could ask him for a game!
CHEKOV: Lieutenant, tennis and badminton are very different sports.
Owosekun’s cheeks dimple as she visibly suppresses a smile .
OWO: My apologies. Okay, what about Sulu? Do you know what he brought?
CHEKOV: Oh! I’m not sure. Just a second. [He taps his combadge.] Sulu, it’s Chekov! Are you busy?
SULU: [Audio only.] Just piloting a starship through deep space at warp factor three, man. Why?
CHEKOV: Owosekun and I are making a video! Can you tell us about your personal item?
SULU: My what? [laughs] Oh, right. Yeah, sure. Are you in our quarters? Just look under the bed.
The camera shakes wildly as Chekov drops to his knees and pulls a long plastic tube out from under Sulu's bed. He sets the camera down against the wall, allowing us to see his confused expression as he pops open the end of the tube. Something metallic rattles inside, and Chekov upends the tube to reveal a pair of fencing foils with foam protectors on the tips.
CHEKOV: Oh my god! You brought swords?
SULU: Gotta stay in shape somehow.
OWO: [giggling] Chekov, shut it down. Sulu officially brought the best personal item. There’s no way anyone can beat this.
CHEKOV: What did you bring?
OWO: My Nintendo Switch.
CHEKOV: Okay yeah, that’s not as good as swords.
[Image: Two tweets from Owosekun.]
@Owo: I asked around about other people's personal items, and here's what I got so far: @MBurnham brought her mom's copy of Alice in Wonderland, @Uhura brought rollerskates (!), and Spock brought these beautiful meditation bells! [Photo: Nine antique bells hanging from a simple square frame.]
@Owo: I asked the captain what he chose, and he just said, "That's for me to know and you to find out." Ominous!!
Chapter 6: Day 2: Kirk and Spock
“Computer, lights to fifty percent.”
They'd all decided to get an early night before their first mission, but at 0200 Jim had to admit defeat. He’d been lying awake for three hours like a kid waiting for Christmas morning, either staring at the featureless grey walls of his cabin, or switching on his padd to reread the crew’s personnel files. Any tiny detail of their biographies could prove useful down the line, but at the same time it almost felt like having an unfair advantage. As the captain, he had access to private information about his crewmates before they'd even met. Most of it was harmless - family histories, academic achievements, relevant skills - but it was enough to remind him that they weren’t on equal footing.
Pulling his uniform shirt on over his pajamas, Jim stepped out into the corridor. The ship was in night mode, lights dimmed to a drowsy sunset yellow as he made his way toward the bridge.
To preserve the illusion, the crew had been driven - or rather “flown by shuttle” - to the Enterprise without ever seeing the exterior. It was easy enough to believe the ship looked exactly like the concept art he'd seen during the audition process: A 400-foot disc containing the bridge, sickbay, labs and sleeping quarters, with the storage hangars and engineering section down below, connected to a pair of massive, electric-blue warp engines. Jim tried not to imagine what it looked like in reality. Most likely a warehouse.
The doors to the bridge swished open, and Jim almost jumped out of his skin. Someone else was already here, looking equally shocked to see another person awake. Spock. He was perhaps the most inscrutable man Jim had ever met, but there was still a split second where he gazed at Jim in open-mouthed surprise before his face smoothed out into its usual impassive gaze.
“Captain,” he said, inclining his head.
Jim strolled over to the captain’s chair and sat down. The whole front section of the bridge was taken up by a massive viewscreen, currently showing stars shooting past as the Enterprise made its way to Pansermia IV. “We’re off duty,” he said. “You can call me Jim.”
Sitting at the starboard science station, Spock turned back to face his console, his shoulders a stiff line of hesitation. Jim drummed his fingers against the armrest. He couldn’t just ask if Spock wanted him to go away; it would only make things more awkward. But he couldn’t just up and leave for no reason, because then it would look like Jim was trying to avoid him. In an ideal world, this man - with his strange haircut and his peculiar upbringing and his unnervingly perfect posture - should be Jim's closest ally for the next six weeks. Maybe not a drinking buddy like Bones, or someone he could joke around with like Gaila and Sulu, but hopefully someone who Jim could trust, and who would trust Jim in return.
Asking Spock why he was out of bed was an obvious opening gambit, but Jim's instincts told him it was too invasive. They’d only met a couple of days ago, but Jim already knew that Spock prided himself on being painstakingly rational. He probably wouldn’t want someone pointing out his failure to catch a well-regulated eight hours of shut-eye. So instead, Jim continued to look out at the stars.
“I keep forgetting it isn’t real,” he said, at last.
Spock followed his gaze to the viewscreen. “It is real, in fact,” he said, and tapped a few keys on his console. A box appeared in the corner of the main screen, zooming out on their view of the galaxy, where stars were reduced to streaks of light as they passed by.
“Everything you see here is based on real charts and predictive models,” continued Spock, tapping another key. Now some of the points of light were accompanied by labels, mostly long strings of numbers. “Many of these star systems already have names. Others are educated guesses, extrapolated from gravity wells in the vicinity. Inasmuch as it’s possible, this is what we would see while passing through this area of space.”
“So it’s more than just a glorified screensaver?”
Jim leant his chin in his hand, watching alien worlds go by. “Did you stay up late to study them? Or are you just stargazing? Because if it’s the former, you should get some rest instead. Captain’s orders. We’re too early in the mission to be pulling all-nighters.”
“It was the latter.”
“Glad to hear it.” He risked a glance over at Spock, who looked eerily pale in the blueish light of the console. Everything about him was almost inhumanly angular: cheekbones, eyebrows, shoulders, jawline. Like Jim, he was wearing his Starfleet-issue pajamas, but Jim hadn’t noticed until now. Spock just gave off an aura of wearing a formal uniform at all times.
“Forgive me if I’m overstepping,” Jim began. “But stargazing seems kinda frivolous for your philosophy. Vulcanism is all about logic and pragmatism, right?”
“It is." A pause. "But I’d argue that under the circumstances, there is nothing more logical than focusing one’s attention on the stars. Pragmatism does not mean drudgery, and our entire purpose here is to look forward as far and as clearly as we can.”
"Huh. You know, Spock... when I asked everyone about their favorite books, you were the only one to list a poet."
Out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw a twitch of movement from the science station. "You know Surak?"
"I looked him up."
"Most would characterize him as a philosopher, albeit one who wrote in verse."
Albeit, thought Jim with faint disbelief, but didn't repeat it out loud in case Spock thought he was making fun.
For a long moment Jim was silent, aware that Spock was now studiously avoiding his gaze. Self-conscious, perhaps, about revealing too much. "They're beautiful," Jim said eventually, nodding toward the viewscreen.
In his own way, Spock seemed to agree. “They are accurate,” he replied.
Chapter 7: Episode One
[Images: A series of tweets from May 5, the night of the Star Trek season premiere.]
@PBS: "Star Trek" premieres tonight at 8/7c. Join the Enterprise crew for a journey into space - and a very surprising end to their first mission.
@nocupcakez: i'm watching the spaceship reality show and their first challenge is literally just to drive the fake spaceship to a fake planet, did no one explain to PBS how reality TV works!!!
@nocupcakez: AT THE VERY LEAST there should be a hot tub on this spaceship.
@nocupcakez: can't believe i've been tricked into watching Educational Programming.
@balrog99: quick question why do the star trek uniforms include freaking MINISKIRTS lol
@wosbvvt: allegedly they're unisex
@balrog99: i'll believe that when Captain Jock wears one.
@wosbvvt: put [clap] the [clap] captain [clap] in [clap] a [clap] minidress!
@BrandonLL: lmao they just asked the crew about their hobbies and everyone gave some nerd-ass answer like "i play chess" or "i trim my bonsai tree" and then there's this one chick whose just playing Animal Crossing.
@puckbunny94: hikaru sulu can G E T. I T.
@gregoneill78 Why would a starship have a giant window on the main deck showing empty space outside? Completely unrealistic not to mention dangerous.
AV Club, May 6, 2020: PBS's Star Trek premiere takes an abrupt left turn
In a way, we have The Great British Bake Off to thank for Star Trek . The trend for constructive, uplifting reality TV is still going strong, with shows like Bake Off and Queer Eye laying the groundwork for a more high-concept series like this one - a big-budget successor to PBS’s ’90s hit The Magic Schoolbus . Airing weekly with supplemental updates on social media, Star Trek introduces eleven strangers as the crew of the Enterprise, a spaceship tasked with peacefully exploring the galaxy. If it weren’t for the documentary-style voiceovers and video diaries from the crew, you could easily mistake Star Trek for a scripted drama like Battlestar Galactica or Lost in Space .
Filmed in an undisclosed location (presumably a studio backlot in Vancouver, but why would I want to spoil the magic?), Star Trek is impressively immersive. After the first few scenes of people ooh-ing and aah-ing over their new home, the crew visibly begins to believe they’re on a real ship, efficiently going about the business of “launching” the Enterprise into space. For the next six weeks their only outside contact will be messages from “Starfleet admirals,” a quasi-fictional role that almost feels like a satire of reality TV personalities like Simon Cowell and Tyra Banks. Around ten minutes in, Admirals Pike, Lorca and Georgiou reveal the first challenge (a fact-finding mission to an uninhabited planet) and offer some private mentorship to various members of the crew. It’s fairly banal stuff — Pike giving one officer advice about anxiety management; Georgiou advising another to rein in her natural cockiness — until Lorca reveals himself to be a secret shit-stirrer.
Lorca’s first private call is with Captain Kirk, telling him to trust his gut instincts during emergencies, and avoid getting bogged down in the Starfleet rulebook. Since Kirk (a mountain rescue pilot) is one of the few crewmembers with real experience of life-or-death situations, this seems like solid advice. Then Lorca speaks to Kirk’s second-in-command Spock, and I’m forced to reconsider.
In a cast full of academics, Spock is the most stereotypically nerdy. While the other scientists are charming, outgoing, and excited to talk about their specialties, Spock is taciturn and awkward. He’s a logic-obsessed vegan who meditates for forty minutes each day. I expected Lorca to nudge him in the direction of socializing with his crewmates and coming out of his shell (an obvious character arc for a show about team bonding), but instead he went in the opposite direction. Lorca reminded Spock that as the ship’s second officer, his job is to balance out Kirk’s leadership style and make sure everyone remains on the straight and narrow. Considering their divergent personalities, Lorca explained, Spock would have to get used to the idea of playing bad cop to Kirk’s easygoing nature. In other words, Lorca was pitting the ship’s top two officers against each other from day 1, setting us up for a mutiny...
[Image: A continuing series of livetweets about episode 1 .]
@nocupcakez: every single person in this show is acting like it's 100% real, how are they managing this.
they just explained how the artificial gravity works on their fake spaceship that literally isn't in space [crying laughing emoji]
ok someone's gonna fake die, i take it back, pbs DOES understand reality TV drama lol
wait waht the fuck
are they allowed to do that??? SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME IF THIS IS STAGED.
ok everyone please stream star trek immediately, no spoilers but we need to Discuss!!!
Chapter 8: Cargo Bay 4
For those who don't know Michael Burnham, she's the protagonist of Star Trek: Discovery, which takes place shortly before the era of Kirk's Enterprise.
Glowing red with ammonia vapor, Pansermia IV hung in the center of the viewscreen like a ripe fruit waiting to be plucked.
Only a handful of people were actually needed on the bridge right now, but the entire crew were at their posts anyway, buzzing with anticipation as their first alien planet came into view. McCoy was the only absent face, still playing up his misanthrope act and sulking alone in sickbay. Well, he'd come round eventually. Jim hoped.
“How long till we’re in orbit?” he asked, leaning back in the captain's chair.
“Four minutes. You gonna keep asking if we’re nearly there yet? Because I get enough of that from my kid back home.”
“Are you mocking my youthful zeal, Mr Sulu?”
Sulu smirked. “Wouldn’t dream of it. I just —”
His next words were drowned out by a deafening roar of grinding metal. The lights flickered and the image on the screen lurched abruptly to the side, the planet swinging out of sight. Out the corner of his eye, Jim saw several of people flinch as if they'd actually felt the ship move.
“Are we hit?” he demanded, as warning notices began to pop up on the screen. “Damage report!”
“Um,” said Owosekun, frantically poking at various buttons. “I don’t think we crashed into anything? The power’s out in part of the cargo section, but no signs of impact.”
“Captain, we have shifted off course,” said Spock. “We’re 200 kilometres out from our previous position, and still moving.”
“What? Sulu, Detmer, hit the brakes. What the hell just happened?”
Jim waited as various crewmembers either stared furiously at their screens, or shared looks of mingled apprehension and excitement. Their original mission was to collect soil samples from the planet's surface, but that must've been a fakeout. The producers clearly had something more dramatic planned.
“The planet’s gravitational field is fluctuating," said Michael Burnham after a moment, frowning at something on the science console. “I think there was some kind of surge, like a solar flare. It dragged us in and spat us out again.”
Jim raised his eyebrows. “Can planets... do that?”
“Apparently this one can.”
“Can we compensate for that and still reach orbit?”
“Maybe if we predict —”
The comms channel buzzed, cutting her off. “Bridge, can you hear me?” came a familiar Scottish accent.
“Scotty! Everything okay down there?”
Scotty’s harried breathing was audible down the line. “D’you want the good news first?”
Jim groaned. “Hit me.”
“Well, the good news is the engines are fine after that wee jolt we just had. But I was making my way through Cargo Bay 4 when the power cut out, and now I’m... stuck.”
“Stuck,” Scotty confirmed. “I’ve got emergency lights and life support in here, but the door’s jammed and the hull's damaged. There's no getting out.”
“Okay, I’ll send someone down to jimmy the lock from our side.”
“No can do, captain,” said Scotty. “No power means no shields. If we get hit again, this whole section goes kaput.”
Jim sat up straight. “Alright, we need to withdraw and regroup. Sulu —”
“Wait!” said Burnham. “Computer, how much debris is there nearby?”
“There are significant deposits of ice and metamorphic rock in Pansermia IV’s outer orbit,” said the computer in its cool, expressionless tone.
“I’m guessing that’s bad?” asked Jim.
“Without shields, they'll tear through the hull like tissue paper if we go faster than a medium jog,” said Burnham.
“So what you’re saying is, if we try to escape then Scotty dies, and if we wait around here too long... Scotty still dies?”
“The ship is also likely to sustain further damage if we wait, endangering the rest of the crew,” added Spock.
"Great. Any more ideas?”
Uhura raised her hand. “Can someone fix the power from the outside?”
“Maybe if you’ve got an hour for me to walk you through it,” said Scotty.
“Do we have an hour? Burnham? Computer? Any idea if we’ll get hit again?”
A brief pause. “Judging by the distribution of the debris around the planet,” said the computer. “These surges occur every twenty to twenty-five minutes. It has now been six minutes since the last one.”
“Shit!” exclaimed Sulu. “Uh... Sorry, PBS.”
“Yeah, they bleep the cursewords but they keep the mortal peril,” said Detmer drily.
Chekov winced. “They wouldn’t kill one of us off in the first challenge, would they?”
Privately, Jim found the idea very plausible. The whole point of the show was to create realistic drama. He really should've seen this coming.
“This probably is the challenge,” said Owosekun, voicing Jim's thoughts. “No one seriously cares about soil samples. We're meant to figure out how to save Scotty.”
Spock frowned. “We're in a simulation of a real emergency scenario. It would be a mistake to treat this like a puzzle with one specific right answer.”
“There may not be a right answer,” said Jim firmly. “But there sure is a wrong one, and that’s leaving a crewmember to die.”
“I was not suggesting that. I merely —”
“Good. No pessimism on the bridge, Commander. That’s an order.” Jim drummed his fingers on the armrest. “Scotty, can we cut the doors open? There's gotta be a circular saw around here somewhere.”
“Not in fifteen minutes, we can't.”
“Damn. Okay, Owosekun, gimme a list of everything Scotty has access to in that room.”
“Oh my god,” said Detmer, spinning round in her chair. “Is this an escape room challenge ? Is that what we’re doing here?”
It was. But Scotty's cargo hangar was largely devoid of obvious tools, empty aside from some heavy equipment for offworld missions. None of it looked relevant, except... "Ah hah!" Jim zoomed in on the outside wall of the hangar. Each of the cargo bays included an airlock, and each airlock came with a pair of spacesuits. "Scotty, can you access the offworld gear?"
Rummaging noises emerged from Scotty's mic. "Yep!" he said. "Can't believe I didn't think of it maself. Shall I suit up?"
"Go right ahead, Mr Scott."
The air on the bridge was thrumming with activity now, everyone ready to see some real action. Everyone except Spock, whose expression was even more rigid than usual.
“Even wearing a suit, Mr Scott would not survive a sudden depressurization in that section,” he said. "He could easily be crushed or flung across the room."
"One step at a time," said Jim. "At least he's got his own oxygen supply now."
Over the next few minutes they churned through a laundry list of escape options. Could Scotty stick himself to the wall somehow and ride out a hull breach? Could they hotwire the doors from the main engineering room? Could he access any of the maintenance shafts? Aware of the ticking clock, Jim tried not to let his irritation show. Every idea sounded good at first, but they all seemed to come with built-in rebuttals, mostly delivered by the ship's computer.
"You know, Starfleet needs to work on their ship designs," he said. "Why can't we extend the shields or something? And it's meant to be the 23rd century, can't I just cut through the wall with a laser?
"I had a similar thought," said Spock. "Several of these suggestions should have been viable. It's as if Mr Scott's predicament was designed to be unsolvable."
"Are you saying the game's rigged, Spock?"
"Not in so many words. But we may be examining it from the wrong angle. Rather than being a technical challenge, it could be an ethical one: Are we willing to risk the safety of the entire ship to save one man?"
A wave of apprehension spread visibly across the bridge.
"We still have at least eight minutes before it's time for that conversation," Jim said briskly, turning his attention back to the screen. It still showed a floor map of Cargo Bay 4, with a little dot showing Scotty's position. "Alright. Let's take it from..." he trailed off, staring at a single word he'd been reading over and over again the entire time: Airlock.
"I'm an idiot," he concluded. He jabbed a finger at his console, enlarging the image. "Scotty, please accept my apologies, we've just wasted five minutes of your precious time when there was literally another door right in front of you."
Everyone paused. "The... airlock?" asked Uhura. “I thought the whole point was to avoid Scotty getting sucked into space.”
“There’s a difference between falling overboard and diving on purpose,” said Jim. “Scotty, the airlock doors do work remotely, right?"
“Aye, sir." He chuckled. "Are we thinking the same thing, Jim?"
"If you're thinking you're about to go on a spacewalk, then you better believe it." Jim turned to Owosekun. "Okay, I'll need you to open the airlock on my mark, then Scotty can walk round the outside of the ship to the other airlock in Cargo Bay 3, and get himself inside. That's what, fifty feet? No problem. Then we're out of here before the next gravity wave hits." He glanced around the bridge. "Any arguments? Speak now or forever hold your peace."
Spock’s mouth was now a thin line of displeasure. “As you just pointed out,” he said. “We are not on a real ship. There’s no “space” out there in which to walk. You’re planning to break the parameters of the challenge.”
“At no point were we led to expect easy solutions to our missions,” said Spock. “However, we are meant to abide by Starfleet guidelines, which state that the needs of the many --"
"Outweigh the needs of the few. Right. But we actually have a solution here, Spock. Scotty can do this."
Spock held his gaze. "I believe this solution may be viewed as... cheating.”
Jim bit down on the urge to say something like, Are you trying to tell me how to do my job? Or worse: What the hell's gotten into you? Last night they'd gotten along just fine. Spock might be a tough nut to crack, but Jim had been so sure they'd work well together. Except now they were actually on duty, Spock was suddenly acting like a total hall monitor.
Instead of letting himself get sucked into an argument, Jim curled his hand into a fist and tried to ignore the way Spock’s eyes were flashing with suppressed frustration.
“Under the parameters we’ve been given," he said out loud. "We’re meant to treat this ship like she’s real. And since the airlocks are still functional during a power failure, that means our chief engineer can walk through this one and out the other side. The fact that there's no actual space out there is just a technicality. Scotty, are you good to go?”
“Aye, captain. If you patch me through, you should see the view from my helmet camera.”
Uhura pressed a couple of buttons, giving them all a widescreen view of Cargo Bay 4 and the airlock doors - which, unlike the kind you saw in most sci-fi movies, were windowless and opaque.
“Excellent,” said Jim. “You know, someone told me today that no one gets anywhere by following all the rules. Let’s hope we’re about to prove him right.”
He glanced over at Spock, expecting another round of pushback, but instead Spock’s expression seemed suddenly frozen, as if he’d been hit by an unexpected thought. Their eyes met, and Jim had to drag his own attention back to the problem at hand. “When you’re ready,” he continued. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.”
Owosekun hit the button and they all watched with bated breath as Scotty stepped into the small chamber that served as an airlock. The door slid shut behind him, leaving him in darkness aside from the headlamp on his helmet.
For a long moment, Scotty fumbled with his tethering wire, attaching it to a hook in the wall. Then he gave a thumbs-up to the camera, and Owosekun activated the outside door, revealing... something that looked a lot like an abandoned airport.
Scotty turned around, giving the crew a long look at an expanse of concrete with scrubby grassland in the distance. Somewhere off to the left, there was a truck with the PBS logo on the side. Their chief engineer had officially stepped outside the Enterprise film set, arriving in a very different world from the one he’d inhabited thirty seconds ago.
“Ah, the majesty of the cosmos,” said Scotty, breaking the tension. A flutter of nervous laughter spread across the bridge as he walked at an exaggeratedly slow pace, his tethering wire unspooling along what was clearly a plywood wall. Did this count as cheating? Well, it was too late to turn back now.
“Owo, open the next door,” Jim ordered, once Scotty was outside Cargo Bay 3. They repeated the airlock procedure in reverse, and Jim found himself letting out a genuine sigh of relief once Scotty was safe. Belatedly, he remembered that they'd roundly failed at completing their original mission. But Owo was right: no one was actually interested in soil samples.
“Well,” he said at last. “It seems like high time we got out of here. Mr Sulu?”
“With pleasure, captain."
As Sulu plugged in a course to leave the planet’s orbit, the crew broke out into a chorus of wolf-whistles and cheers. The only one silent was Spock.
Chapter 9: Close quarters
For the second time since arriving on the Enterprise, Spock struggled to clear his mind before bed.
He left the others to their jubilant post-mission dinner, chattering and laughing their way through the halls. Instead he took a no-cook ration pack from storage and ate it in his quarters. Composed the day’s log entry and delivered to the microphone in his desk. Settled down on the floor for his customary evening meditation, which failed to settle the dissatisfaction stirring in his gut.
At last he surrendered to temptation and checked the crew's communication logs, confirming an unspoken suspicion.
Spock was no stranger to workplace disputes. His academic career was already littered with unwanted rivals, marked out by their small-minded jealousy and incompetence. Standing on the bridge today, that familiar sensation came flooding back: roiling frustration, bolstered by the knowledge that he alone must solve the problem at hand.
Except the problem turned out to be Spock himself. It was doubly galling to realize that he was acting just like his father, rigidly adhering to untested doctrine. He could only imagine how he'd appear in the TV edit of their argument. Kirk shining as the all-American hero, steamrolling his way through their first challenge to a literal round of applause. Spock embodying the archetypal company man trying to ruin everyone's fun, a predictable narrative choice that bore no real resemblance to his actual personality.
Staring fixedly at the ceiling, his bitter thoughts were interrupted by the sound of movement next door. Kirk was back, faintly audible as he moved around his quarters, the mirror image of Spock’s own.
For a split-second, Spock’s hand reached for his tablet, ready to message Kirk and clear the air. But of course the ship’s intranet wasn’t private. His crewmates found it startlingly easy to forget they were being recorded at every turn, but Spock felt it like a constant miasma in the air. According to their broadcast contracts, only a specific handful of places onboard were completely surveillance-free.
Unwillingly, his gaze swung round to the connecting door between their two rooms.
The Enterprise’s design was barely plausible for such an advanced interstellar vessel. Assuming a future with lightspeed travel, was there any logical reason for the crew to share sleeping quarters? No. But form followed function, and in this case the function was to encourage more interations between shipmates. So most of the crew shared bedrooms, while the captain and first officer had private quarters to create a sense of elevated status. Their shared bathroom was a manageable dose of enforced camaraderie, vaguely inspired by life onboard a naval ship.
Before he could talk himself out of it, Spock strode through the bathroom door and past the shower, knocking on the adjoining entrance to Kirk’s quarters. A second later it opened to reveal a rather ruffled-looking Kirk, clearly halfway through getting ready for bed.
Silently, Spock stepped back and gestured for Kirk to join him inside. Kirk’s expression shifted from bemusement to disbelief, but after some hesitation, he obeyed. The door slid shut behind him, trapping them together in the cramped space between the shower and sinks.
Kirk raised an eyebrow. “A private meeting in the bathroom, Mr Spock?”
His jocular tone suggested that a double entendre was imminent, but then he glanced around and visibly reconsidered his surroundings.
“A private meeting in the only room without cameras?” he amended.
“Precisely,” said Spock.
“Huh. So am I here for an apology, or another argument? Because honestly, I don't think we need either.”
“In fact, I have a query.” The room suddenly felt even smaller than before, but Spock ignored his burgeoning discomfort and pressed on. “Shortly before Mr Scott stepped into the airlock, you mentioned receiving a piece of advice today. Was that advice from Gabriel Lorca?”
Kirk blinked, visibly wrongfooted. “Yeah, how’d you guess?”
“I surmised it must be whichever admiral you spoke to this morning. Then it was just a matter of checking the call logs.”
“Most people don’t take kindly to being spied on, you know.”
“An ironic statement, from a man who volunteered to be surrounded by cameras.”
The captain’s mouth quirked up. “You got me there.”
“At any rate, the call logs listed you among the officers who spoke to Lorca, along with Sulu, Detmer and myself. The call itself was not recorded, but I suspect it took a very different tone to my own. Enough to inspire suspicion.”
“Potentially. At the time, my conversation with Lorca felt completely reasonable. Without further context, yours would have as well.” As efficiently as he could, he set it all out: The way Lorca had ingratiated himself by praising Spock's values. His subtle implication that Spock’s job was to enforce the letter of the law. His emphasis on maintaining the integrity of the simulation, and counteracting bad orders as he saw fit. Essentially the polar opposite of him advising Kirk to flout the rules and go with his gut.
“I can’t speculate how much he influenced my behavior today,” Spock finished. “But without more evidence, there are three plausible possibilities. The first: Lorca was merely tailoring his advice to suit our personalities, with no ill will. The second: I am subconsciously blaming my own mistakes on an outside source, and seeing a conspiracy where there is none. And the third: That Lorca intentionally steered the two of us in opposing directions, in order to sow conflict among the crew.”
“Well," said Kirk, after a moment. "It’s reality TV, Spock. Occam’s Razor suggests he’s messing with our heads.” He leaned back against the door, arms crossed thoughtfully. “I hate to say it, but I don’t think we should tell the others just yet. The last thing we need is everyone getting paranoid about sabotage.”
“Agreed. And until we have solid evidence —”
“Exactly.” He caught Spock’s gaze, a sudden glint of sly humor in his eye. “I guess that means we’ll be having more meetings in the bathroom, then.”
"An ample motive to find other methods of communicationa," he said drily, and Kirk broke into a fully-fledged grin.
[Images: A series of tweets from May 7.]
@Uhura: Check out our babies growing in the hydroponic garden! [Image of salad greens.]
@erikcjk9: hand to god i didnt know u could grow anything except weed in those
@stantuna: Star Trek's one-way twitter feeds are the perfect social media platform cuz we get to see all of Uhura's cute educational tweets & she never has to know how many ppl are replying like "step on me."
@minu3ts: this is blatant erasure of all the people who want commander spock to step on us.
@stantuna: the fact that you use his official starfleet rank is EXTREMELY telling.
@wosbv72: when scotty puts on the spacesuit in episode 1: [Screencap of the viral Scottish Twitter post saying, "Ye ever wanty just wrap yersel up in tin foil nice and cosy and then just fucking get right inty the microwave and blow yersel up tae fuck"]
Entertainment Weekly, May 8, 2020: "5 times reality TV broke the fourth wall"
PBS's Star Trek got off to an attention-grabbing start this week by having its crew of astronauts escape their spaceship and poke fun at the show's creators. A risky move for episode 1, but far from the first time reality TV has broken the fourth wall.
The most iconic example is surely The Hills, whose finale ended by zooming out to reveal the stars standing in front of a fake Hollywood backdrop...
[Image: Tweet from Gaila Orion, May 8.]
@Gaila: what should we watch for the crew's inaugural movie night?? [Twitter poll showing 63% of votes for Alien and 37% for The Martian.]
@Gaila: j/k we're watching CATS, baby!!!!!
[Image: A series of tweets by Keyla Detmer, later that evening .]
@Detmer: only two people in the crew have seen Cats before: me and sulu. he saw it UNIRONICALLY. this is gonna be an Experience.
"i don’t think chekov is old enough to watch this." - Uhura
"i don’t think I’M old enough to watch this." - Scotty
Owo just asked what a jellicle is and Sulu had the temerity to say “the song just explained it.” THE SONG DID NOT EXPLAIN IT!
just fyi we don’t have google here, we only have the ship’s computer encyclopedia thing and it doesn't include anything about musicals. so no jellicle help there.
“why the hell are they drinking the milk like that?!” — dr mccoy has the hollow-eyed stare of a man who just came home from the battlefield.
i was wondering why spock agreed to watch this movie with us, and it turns out that Jim told him we were watching an adaptation of poems by T.S. Eliot. that sneaky bastard.
nothing compares to the experience of watching people find out that Cats is about a death cult.
u can tell which members of the crew are optimists by the fact that they remark out loud that taylor swift's song is "pretty good" (jim, sulu, chekov, owo), vs everyone else, who have all visibly lost the will to live.
scotty literally started crying laughing during judi dench’s “cats are not dogs” speech.
mccoy asked gaila why she picked this movie and she said very seriously, "my sister plays the main cat, wasn't she great?" he went deadly silent for a good 10 seconds before he realized she was kidding.
spock admitted this is the first non-documentary film he's seen in 2 years. the last one was Lawrence of Arabia, so he's really covered all the bases now, artistically speaking. no more movies required.
[Image: A tweet from Pavel Chekov, shortly after watching Cats.]
@pavel: i feel like i am prepared to meet aliens now.
A quick timeline: The voyage runs from May 1st to June 12th, with episodes airing every Tuesday: May 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, June 2nd, 9th, and 16th. There's one mission per episode, but it could last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days, depending on the format.
Chapter 11: A kitchen interlude
A stationary camera focuses on Sulu and Uhura, sitting side-by-side in the Enterprise dining hall. In the background we can see a few other crewmembers at the kitchen counters, preparing food.
SULU: Hi, folks! We’re here to answer our first ever audience question, courtesy of Ms Garcia’s third-grade class in Santa Fe. They want to know: What does Mr Sulu eat for dinner? [He grins at the camera.] Not sure why you picked me specifically, but I’m happy to help!
UHURA: [Smirking.] Oh, you can’t guess why the kids wanted to ask the real live astronaut , Hikaru?
SULU: Well, I’m worried they’re gonna be disappointed because today I’m just having plain ol’ mac and cheese.
Uhura tilts the camera toward Sulu’s cafeteria tray, which contains a bowl of pasta and a cup of tea. Sulu points at it with a “ta-da!” gesture.
SULU: So, I think maybe Ms Garcia’s class were angling for an introduction to space food, which is always the second most popular question for astronauts.
UHURA: What’s the first?
SULU: Thanks for asking, Lieutenant Uhura. People always want to know whether astronauts pee in their spacesuits. Anyway, I haven’t actually been into space yet —
UHURA: — Apart from now.
SULU: — Apart from now, obviously. But yeah, I’ve tasted some of NASA’s space meals in a spirit of inquiry, and it’s definitely different from what you eat back home. They’re designed to avoid mess in zero gravity, and they have to last a long time because you can’t just go to the store when you live on a space station. Here on the Enterprise we have artificial gravity, but storage is still an issue. So we mostly have food that keeps for a long time, along with a garden where we grow salad and stuff.
UHURA: And are you eating any of that salad and stuff?
SULU: No, because I have the palate of a 10-year-old. Nyota, we need to find these kids a better role model!
Uhura pans around the room, alighting on Chekov. He is standing beside one of the kitchen counters, frowning in concentration as he carefully spreads peanut butter onto a PB&J sandwich. Beside him is a stack of five identical, geometrically perfect PB&Js. In the background, we hear muffled laughter.
UHURA: Don’t be mean! He’s a growing boy!
She keeps panning round, finally pausing on Spock, who is cooking something on a stove. Kirk is perched on the counter nearby, listening intently to whatever Spock is saying. The camera cuts out for a moment, restarting from a vantage point showing Spock stirring a pot of dark red liquid.
KIRK: Hi, kids! Spock’s teaching me how to make plomeek soup.
SPOCK: A vegetarian dish that my mother often made for me as a child. This is an approximate adaptation, as we don’t have all the necessary ingredients on hand.
UHURA: Spock, that’s so sweet!
KIRK: Yeah, I feel very nurtured. You know, McCoy’s always trying to get me to eat more vegetables, I’m amazed that he and Spock don’t get along like a house on fire.
SPOCK: I am not.
KIRK: Not what?
Kirk bursts out laughing and the camera cuts out. When we return, Kirk is holding a mug of soup and leaning against the counter.
KIRK: Okay, it’s the moment of truth! [He takes a sip from the mug, and pauses.] Spock, with the utmost respect to you and any traditional Vulcan cooks watching at home... this tastes of absolutely nothing.
[Image: A tweet from the official Star Trek account on May 10th, and the resulting replies.]
@StarTrekPBS: This week on Star Trek: Join the Enterprise's offworld team as they attempt to visit the Temple of the Golden Snake without alerting the locals! [Image: A fake-looking cave entrance shaped like the mouth of a snake.]
@randyk: temple of the golden snake thats what they call my bedroom
@getouttamy: alerting the what now? [grimace]
@lina_w: omg TOMB RAIDER EPISODE!!
- @dallasboy2: Tombr Raider? have kids these days seriously not heard of Indiana Jones?
@winstoooon: major colonialist energy here @PBS. [eyeroll]
- @rosaaargh: plot summary makes it sound a bit better imo. [Screencap of text reading: "Space pirates have stolen a sacred treasure from the Temple of the Golden Snake on Gamma Trianguli, whose peaceful inhabitants have no idea it's missing. Can the enterprise's offworld team figure out the temple's puzzles and replace it without breaking Starfleet's cardinal rule and interfering with a pre-warp alien civilization?"]
@harrison29373: was that temple built by a 10-year-old? jfc production values.
Chapter 12: Episode Two: The Temple of the Golden Snake
[Image: A thread of tweets from Gaila Orion on May 11th.]
@Gaila: PSA for any viewers who mistakenly think our esteemed captain is a cool or sexy person: he and Spock just spent 2 hours finessing the rules for "3D chess."
It involves two chessboards where half the pieces can move vertically, and Jim says it "improves spatial reasoning skills."
Honestly I'm impressed. They found a way to make boardgames even worse.
On behalf of PBS, Nyota wants me to add that it's wrong to make fun of people's hobbies. But I don't see her volunteering to stare silently at a bunch of black & white squares!!!
Tumblr post from @cptncan, May 13th:
fav moments from ep 2:
- when they reveal the challenge and it’s literally that meme where oscar isaac is a reverse indiana jones.
- kirk’s blatant envy of the Away Team getting to explore a ~mysterious cave~ while he stays home.
- when gaila yelled “who’s ready to kick some alien butt!!” and immediately fell into the water trap.
- when gaila called owosekun Sporty Spice because she used the rope swing to get across the canyon, and owo pretended not to get the reference because she’s only 21.
- when uhura tried singing to the snake puzzle like a snake charmer, and it didnt work but she has a REALLY nice voice.
- when owo said she’d had worse injuries from rock climbing, and mccoy shouted “THEN STOP GOING ROCK CLIMBING!”
- the new game where someone names a random celebrity & you have to guess if Spock’s heard of them. (he hasn’t.)
- credits montage of uhura & sulu making “temple of the golden snake” jokes but like 70% of the words are bleeped out.
- the ice cream scene!!!!!!
[Images: A series of tweets reacting to episode 2.]
@nocupcakez: no-context spoilers for Star Trek ep 2. [Images: A screencap from the first Indiana Jones movie; Reese Witherspoon saying "What, like it's hard?" in Legally Blonde; the "two bros chillin' in a hot tub, 5 feet apart cuz they're not gay" meme; a photo of the Spice Girls.]
@0z0ne: NORMAL BRAIN: kirk is just being friendly cuz he's a nice guy. / EXPANDING BRAIN: kirk has a crush on spock. / GALAXY BRAIN: kirk is gaining spock's trust to betray him later. / GOD BRAIN: they're already fucking but PBS won't show it.
@tortellinini: i know i've entered full stan territory because i keep thinking "wow the way uhura LOOKS at people!!!"
@balrog99: uhura tearing a strip off the bottom of her skirt to use as a bandage & saying "i've always wanted to do that" = a Mood.
The cult of "Star Trek," the weirdest reality show on TV - by Jeff Macleod on Medium, May 15.
Star Trek’s ratings are in the toilet, but it’s a runaway hit with one very specific demographic: people who work in unscripted TV.
I confess I didn’t watch the first episode live. Around 700 reality shows air each year in the U.S., and I only tune in based on personal recommendations, which unexpectedly began to pour in when Star Trek premiered last week. Five unrelated acquaintances texted me about it, not just because it’s good (which it is) but because for people in the industry, it’s a morbidly fascinating piece of car-crash viewing. An astronomically expensive white whale of a passion project for some lucky freak at PBS, combining rookie mistakes with something that’s missing from most reality TV: genuine, un-mawkish sincerity. It’s as if someone hired Michael Apted to direct the next season of Survivor.
There are two main ways to make a reality show: Filming a whole season in advance (like the Kardashians) or filming “live” and editing week by week (like Big Brother or contest shows where viewers vote on the winner). It’s easier to control the narrative if you already have all the footage in the can, but the producers on something like BB can still manipulate (or creatively edit) the contestants in real time.
It’s no secret that reality TV is largely fake. In fact, contestants routinely sign contracts allowing themselves to be represented inaccurately. The people we see onscreen are just cannon-fodder for whatever sadistic drama the producers dream up behind the scenes.
Anyway, Star Trek uses the BB format of keeping the talent in a single location and editing week-by-week. The “missions” are planned in advance, just like Survivor, Shark Tank, Amazing Race , etc. Yet the first two episodes felt unpolished in a way I haven’t seen in the past 10+ years of mainstream reality TV. Not just because of the spacewalk plot twist in episode 1 - which might well have been the planned outcome all along - but due to the incoherent way the character arcs are unfolding.
Star Trek has a cast of 11. That means each episode can only focus on a few at a time, setting up different relationships and storylines. Usually you see alliances and feuds begin to solidify in the first couple of eps, because the people who sign up for these shows are already familiar with the format. They know how to lean into certain tropes and stereotypes. In contest shows, they’re also nudged along by fabricated rivalries - something that Star Trek can’t rely on because the entire cast are meant to cooperate. Which is an insane choice for this kind of show, because the whole point is to create drama . The cast of Star Trek act like the squeaky-clean contestants of Bake Off, without the friction of actually competing with each other.
PBS clearly wanted to make something educational, an admirable goal with unexpected consequences. On the surface it’s just a more wholesome riff on team contest shows, but there’s an undercurrent of chaos because the producers are visibly failing to control the narrative. Think about it:
- Kirk & Spock are enemies in ep 1 and allies in ep 2, with no explanation.
- Ep 1 introduces Kirk & McCoy as lifelong friends, then McCoy barely appears on camera.
- The captain chooses which crewmembers perform each mission, making it harder to direct character arcs and team-ups in advance.
- A simple google search reveals that two contestants are secretly siblings, a HUGE plot twist that the show hasn’t foreshadowed at all, but hasn’t been hidden from the public either.
I suspect this uneven tone is partly because much of the show’s creative team have zero unscripted TV experience . Yep, you read that right. Taking a gander at IMDb, I see a couple of familiar names (exec producer Jon Archer and most of the editing department), but the other producers either work in educational programming, or are new to TV.
The result is a show that may disprove the industry’s reliance on manipulated storytelling... or could turn out to be an incoherent mess. Of course, in terms of ratings it’s already a dud. A cast of astronauts and academics is an instant no-go for some viewers, turned off by the suspicion that they're being tricked into watching a documentary. Meanwhile it’s hard to market as a typical reality show because it lacks the soap opera appeal of Big Brother, the sentimentality of Queer Eye, or an accessible competition format. It clearly works for some people because the online engagement is strong, but you can see why it’s a hard sell. Still, I’m happy to evangelize while it lasts.
Chapter 13: Ice cream
Jim flopped down onto McCoy’s bed with a groan. “I can’t believe I missed out on a mission with a giant rope swing, Bones! A rope swing!”
“What are you, twelve?”
“Don't kid a kidder. You were on the edge of your seat when Owo went over that cliff. I saw you.”
“Because I thought she was gonna break her neck!”
“Because it was like watching a real-life action movie,” Jim retorted.
Bones rolled his eyes and went over to his bookshelf, retrieving a bottle of whisky and two glasses - his Starfleet-approved personal item.
“I hope this isn’t the only action challenge,” Jim said glumly, clinking McCoy’s glass and taking a sip. “It’s gonna suck if I wind up spending the whole show indoors, captaining.”
“You could’ve just gone on this one. You literally chose the team.”
“Yeah... I just couldn't justify it, you know? Gaila, Nyota and Owo was the right mix, they did a great job.” He frowned. “Hey, d’you think Spock and I are allowed to do offworld missions together? Or does one of us have to stay on the ship?”
Bones sighed. “Two and a half minutes.”
“Two and a half minutes. That’s how long it took for you to mention Spock.”
“So you’ve brought him up in damn near every conversation we’ve had for the past week.”
Jim peered over at McCoy, who was sprawled in his desk chair wearing a familiar expression: long-suffering exasperation, mixed with a dash of confusion.
“Bones, you’re not jealous, are you?”
McCoy snorted. “Of that skinny little robot? Hardly. I just don’t get it. What’s there to like? Half the time he talks like he swallowed a dictionary; the rest he’s lookin’ down his nose like he’s grading you.”
“C’mon, Bones. He’s not like that. He’s just got some unusual mannerisms. And he’s funny! It’s just... a really really dry sense of humor.” He paused, swirling the whisky around his glass. “I don’t know. Don’t you ever feel like you’ve known someone forever?”
“Dear god,” groaned McCoy. “Get one drink in you, and you start talking like a Hallmark card.”
“Don’t you, though?”
"That's how I felt when I met you," said Jim in an intentionally syrupy tone, smirking in triumph as McCoy turned red.
"You'd make friends with a block of wood!" McCoy exclaimed. "I've seen you get someone's number while you were plugging a gaping chest wound! You babysat for the guy who arrested you!”
“There were extenuating circumstances!”
He snorted. "Sure. I just don't understand why you're going for this humorless dweeb when there's eight other people to choose from. They're literally all more fun to be around."
Jim shrugged. “He’s an interesting guy, Bones. What can I say?”
“You could try saying less,” said McCoy, and Jim, rolling his eyes, allowed the subject to be changed.
Jim’s room was only a thirty-second walk away from McCoy’s, but he found himself pausing in the hallway between their quarters instead of heading straight home. Pleasantly buzzed from the whisky, he made a split-second decision and turned back toward the dining hall.
At this time of night it was deserted, a few dishes left behind from the evening meal. Jim made a beeline for the freezer, digging out two vacuum-sealed sachets of ice cream: chocolate and coconut. A minute later he was back in the dormitory corridor, standing outside Spock’s quarters. Spock answered the door almost immediately.
“You brush your teeth yet?”
Spock blinked. “No.”
“D’you want some ice cream, then? One of ‘em’s vegan.”
“It is eleven o’clock.”
“Last I heard, there’s no law against having ice cream after dark. But it’s no biggie, I can just eat it all myself if you want.”
“I would never ask you to make that kind of sacrifice,” said Spock drily, and stood aside to let Jim in. Jim resisted a foolish urge to pump his fist in victory.
Spock’s room was as serene as ever, lights dimmed to 50%. Some people could make a mess anywhere they went, even on a ship where no one had any actual possessions. Jim’s own quarters had laundry on the floor and a few bits of equipment strewn around, but Spock’s bedroom was both neat and relaxing - not the kind of tidiness that made you worry about screwing something up, but just a quiet sense of organization.
There was, however, only one chair. And while Jim was perfectly comfortable flinging himself all over McCoy’s bed, that didn’t feel quite right here. He hopped up onto Spock’s dresser instead, tossing him the coconut ice cream from a respectable distance.
“Cheers,” said Jim, and tore his own packet open with his teeth. Spock copied him and then paused, watching as Jim squeezed ice cream out the top of the packaging. “Uh, yeah, there’s not really any dignified way to eat ice cream out of a bag. Just treat it like a Gogurt.”
“Oh, I guess you didn’t have name-brand snacks growing up on a Vulcan commune, huh? You just gotta, you know... slurp it. I can go get spoons from the kitchen if you like.”
“No need,” said Spock, and squeezed experimentally at his own ice cream. Somehow he did manage to look relatively dignified, which just wasn’t fair. “And I did not grow up in a commune,” he added.
“Should I not bring it up?” Jim asked. “I'm not trying to be a jackass.”
“You are permitted to ask. I reserve the right not to answer.”
“Right. Right.” Jim briefly second-guessed himself, wondering if this was Spock politely telling him to fuck off. But Spock otherwise seemed perfectly comfortable, shoulders relaxed as he watched Jim coolly from across the room.
“So...” Jim tried. “What was it like, then? Your not-commune?”
“Quiet. Sparsely populated. Shaped by rational principles. It is somewhere between a monastery and an academic retreat.”
That explains a lot, thought Jim.
“Which I imagine sounds like an unkind punchline from your friend Dr McCoy,” Spock continued. “But nevertheless, it is the truth. My father is the foremost expert on Vulcan meditation practises. He founded a small settlement in the New Mexico desert, mostly inhabited by people who visited for a few weeks or months each year. Only a handful of families lived there on a permanent basis, so by nature or circumstance, I was a solitary child.”
“Indeed. University was a significant culture shock.”
“A very different situation to yourself, I assume."
“Yeah, I wasn’t exactly cut out for academia.”
Spock gave him a Look.
Jim balled up his ice cream packet and threw it in the trash, stalling for time. “I don’t know," he said. Maybe he was a hypocrite, but he didn’t want to delve into the intricacies of his childhood right now. Frank and Winona. The lean years after they moved out of naval housing. The Kodos Hearings, which were thankfully sealed to the public. He shrugged. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way?”
“In my experience, I have not found that to be the case,” said Spock quietly. “But I rescind my question.”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to be a downer.”
“No." He paused. "As your first officer, I’m reliably informed that that's my job, not yours.”
Spock’s face was as calm as ever, but his presence radiated a kind of quiet warmth. Looking away, he carefully folded his own ice cream wrapper into a little square and set it down on the desk, placed at a perfect right-angle in the corner.
“God,” said Jim, laughing softly. “Where did the producers even find you?”
“Seriously, though. How the hell did someone like you end up on a reality show? You don’t even watch TV.”
“On the contrary, I did extensive research before signing my contract.”
“You mean you like... sat down and took notes on the Real Housewives?”
“More or less. I also read several academic papers on the social and psychological impact of the genre.”
Jim shook his head. “Of course you did.”
Spock shifted, giving Jim the full weight of his attention again. “I could ask the same of you,” he said. "There are certain assumptions to be made about those who volunteer for a project like this. Vanity. A desire for fame. But those are largely absent here, both from you and rest of the crew. A welcome surprise."
“Well,” said Jim, tamping down his embarrassment. “Who says no to a free trip in a spaceship?”
“Indeed. Considering the unique nature of the opportunity, I decided the benefits outweighed any potential pitfalls.”
It took a moment to decode that one, but... “Spock! You mean you just signed up for fun?” Jim had expected some spiel about being a role model to baby astrophysicists, or something.
Spock avoided his gaze. “I am here in a spirit of scientific enquiry.”
“Right,” said Jim. “Sure. Well, we're all participating in a very intellectual endeavor here, can’t argue with that.”
With barely a twitch of an eyebrow, Spock managed to convey a silent reply: You’re not funny as funny as you think you are.
"Nothing says academic rigor like a big-ass rope swing or an obstacle course shaped like a magic snake," Jim continued.
"Please," said Spock. "Feel free to continue this mockery the next time you need me to explain a star chart."
Jim's cheeks ached from trying to suppress a smile. "Tell you what," he said. "Next time there's an offworld mission, I can put in a good word for you. So you can exercise your spirit of scientific enquiry outdoors instead of staring at screens all day. How does that sound?"
"It sounds suspiciously like nepotism," said Spock. "But in this particular instance, I'll accept."
Jim lost his battle with himself, and grinned.
Chapter 14: F/M/K
Linda Rossi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sat, May 16, 11.48AM
RE: Episode 3
As per this morning's meeting, here's what we've locked in so far:
- Pre-filmed interview w/ PC's grandparents - 3 MINS.
- Pre-filmed Nairobi segment w/ NU - 4 MINS.
- Scotty's birthday dinner - 3 MINS optional.
- Educational clip: MB & HS explain gravity - 3 MINS.
Aiming for 30-35 mins of content from the main challenge tomorrow. We've already got potential filler scenes with Kirk & Spock, Owo & Keyla, and Kirk & Sulu, plus some decent audio logs (Nyota & Gaila's is potentially NSFW, but we can send that one up the ladder.)
- Linda Rossi
Supervising editor, PBS Unscripted
Craig Lindberg <email@example.com>
any good mccoy footage? jon keeps asking.
- Craig Lindberg
Editorial manager, PBS Unscripted
Linda Rossi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Melissa banked some decent reaction shots during the bday dinner, you can find them in EDT4.
Craig Lindberg <email@example.com>
no full scenes?? we were hoping for more banter... he and kirk were great off-camera, and jon’s getting pissed about mccoy clamming up. Is there anything we can even frankenstein together?
Linda Rossi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There’s still the option of using the convo where he and JK were drinking together after Mission 2. Any idea why it didn’t make the final cut last week?
Craig Lindberg <email@example.com>
Oh we decided they were talking about spock too much.
Linda Rossi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
JK and Spock are spending a lot of time together now, so we may have to reconsider that angle going forward. Especially after we included part of that icecream scene last week. Kareem is pitching edits for a friendship storyline this afternoon. Thanks for the update!
[Linda Rossi's phone.]
[Image: A text conversation between two editorial employees at PBS Unscripted.]
Linda: losing my fucking mind because craig & jon are up my ass demanding more mccoy footage again
Kareem: they need to give up, he's like the damn sasquatch.
Kareem: we're just never gonna catch him on camera.
Linda: that convo w kirk last week was a bona fide heart-to-heart and they cut it bcos it wasn't "banter." slap some sentimental music on it & it would've been a standout scene, but noooo.
Linda: there are so many good friendships in the cast already! I don't get why they're still so thirsty for mccoy!! it's not like he's trending on social even... the audience doesn't care.
Kareem: he reminds jon and craig of their distant, absent fathers, transferring their craving for recognition onto his friendship with a younger man.
Linda: jesus christ kareem lol
Kareem: tell jon that if he wants more mccoy content, he should make sure someone gets injured.
Linda: DON'T EVEN JOKE.
Crew audio logs, May 16.
DETMER: So it’s Sunday tomorrow and they still haven’t announced the next mission, and it’s making me antsy. I woke up at like 6am today so I guess my subconscious is ready for action. No one every accused me of being patient. I’m hoping the next challenge is a bit more technical so I actually get something to do. Uh... that’s all for today, I guess. The only thing I had on the roster was gardening duty, so I spent most of the day just messing around and shooting some hoops with Owo. Nothing else to report. Detmer out.
GAILA: Okay. Scotty, McCoy, Michael Burnham.
UHURA: Hmm, I think this will have to be an elimination round. Let’s see... well, fuck Scotty, obviously.
GAILA: Obviously. Experienced, good with his hands, et cetera.
UHURA: And I don’t think I can marry McCoy, he’s too short-tempered and you’d have to deal with Kirk showing up at your house all the time. I mean, I like the guy but you want some privacy sometimes, you know?
GAILA: Sound reasoning.
UHURA: So it’s fuck Scotty, kill McCoy, and marry Michael. She’s got a PhD, so my mother would approve.
GAILA: Plus those eyes. You know, kind of an intense laserbeam stare, but warm at the same time? That bodes well, my friend.
UHURA: [laughs] I'm so bad at this game, I clearly haven’t been checking out my coworkers enough. Okay, your turn. Um... Spock, Detmer, and Admiral Georgiou.
GAILA: Oh my god, a wild card! Love it. Man, this is a real stretch of the imagination because obviously I want to fuck Spock, but it’s basically impossible to picture him being up for that.
UHURA: Even though this is a purely hypothetical exercise.
GAILA: Even though this is a purely hypothetical exercise, right. So we have a conundrum on our hands. Georgiou is the clear choice for marriage here, I’m ready to be Mrs Admiral and wear low-cut ballgowns to alien embassy parties, or whatever it is that admirals do. I’d make an incredible diplomatic wife. But that leaves us with a dead heat between Spock and Detmer for fuck or kill. I think... I think I actually have to kill Spock, mostly because Detmer would be pissed if she found out I killed her instead.
UHURA: I’ll allow it. Wait, just to clarify, are we envisioning a celibate marriage here, or are you allowed to have sex?
GAILA: Why wouldn’t we be allowed to have sex??
UHURA: Well, it arguably messes with the metrics of the game if you’re allowed to sleep with two of the options, versus deciding your spouse on personality alone.
GAILA: That's a whole new can of worms. We need to start again from the top.
SULU: This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but before the show began, I had to wean myself off Diet Coke. My only vice! I used to drink it almost every day. And apparently two weeks into the voyage is the point where I start getting cravings again. NASA, if you're listening to this, my body is a temple. But I'm definitely looking forward to getting some of those sweet, sweet preservatives and sugar substitutes again once we get back home.
Chapter 15: “Dr Spock grew up in a cult and it shows.”
[Image: Spock’s Rate My Professors page from the Astrophysics department at Caltech.]
Dr Spock in the Astrophysics department at California Institute of Technology (2018-20)
Overall Quality: 3.1/5 based on 31 ratings. 63% would take this class again. Level of Difficulty: 4.8/5. Popular tags: test heavy, tough grader, get ready to read.
- "Super smart. Surprisingly sympathetic if you have a good reason to ask for an extension, but if you make up an excuse he'll glare at you until your balls shrivel up & drop off like raisins."
- "A walking stereotype of physicists having no social skills or sense of humor. Lectures are way too dense & boring.”
- “Insanely demanding and a harsh grader.”
- “Dr Spock grew up in a cult and it shows.”
- "DO NOT try to flirt with this guy for grades. I know this sounds like obvious advice but people keep trying because he's young and cute, and it DOES NOT work. He either doesn't notice what's happening, or reacts like you just threw up on his shoes."
- “Good teacher but the class (Physics of the Interstellar) is way more advanced than expected. Also he doesn’t really understand how anyone can be bad at math.”
- “this guy spent all semester telling us to take the work seriously and now he’s on a reality tv show lollll.”
Michael Burnham, TA in the Physics department at University of Colorado - Boulder (2016-17)
Overall Quality: 5/5 based on 4 ratings. Level of Difficulty: 3.9. Popular tags: sticks to the syllabus.
- “Seems stern at first but she's actually really nice. Go to Michael before trying Prof Yahontov because she'll actually pay attention to your questions instead of dozing off during office hours.”
- "the only person in the CU Boulder physics dept who knows how to do a smoky eye."
- "i'm not in any of her classes so i can't comment on her qualities as a TA, but Michael Burnham once drove me home when she found me crying outside Backcountry Taphouse thanks to my shitty ex-gf. just a really solid person for sure! sorry idk what quantum physics is but i figure a 3.5 rating for difficulty is fair. 5/5 as a person which is more than i can say for any of the TAs in the geology department."
Stats for the Star Trek (Reality TV) RPF tag on Archive of our Own, as of May 16th:
- 49 works in total.
- 18 Kirk/Spock
- 10 Owo/Detmer
- 4 Gaila/Uhura
- 3 Kirk/McCoy
- 1 Sulu/reader
- Most popular tags: Fluff, Angst, Romance, First Time, Alternate Universe, Alternate Universe - College/University, Science Fiction, Fisting, Alternate Universe - Coffee Shops & Cafés, Alternate Universe - Battlestar Galactica Fusion.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vulcanism or Vulcan meditation is a spiritual practice popularized by 13th century poet and philosopher Surak.   Promoting logical thinking and emotional detachment, Surak’s teachings had a resurgence  during the New Age movement of the 1970s. Despite comparisons to neo-religious groups, Vulcan practitioners reject mysticism and often identify as atheists.
Vulcan meditation practices range from mindfulness techniques to a martial art called Suus Mahna, allegedly  developed by Surak and his disciples. The most common form is silent meditation performed kneeling or sitting in the half-lotus position, sometimes accompanied by bells, rhythmic drumming, or an aeolian harp. People who adopt Vulcanism as a full-time lifestyle aim to purge themselves of emotion , although most practitioners merely aim for a more logical way of thinking. Due to the anti-emotion stance of more extreme Vulcan leaders (some of whom publicly oppose traditional mental health treatments), detractors have characterized Vulcanism as a cult.
An estimated 12,000-15,000 people follow Vulcan teachings worldwide, including a significant number of academics, particularly in STEM fields. Some Vulcan practitioners choose to adopt a mononym inspired by the names of Surak’s original followers. High-profile examples include Spanish soccer player Taurik, classical pianist Syvar, and Vulcan community leaders T’Pau and Sarek.
- Modern Vulcanism
- Notable practioners
- Impact on academia
- Further reading
- External links
While Vulcanism has never reached the status of celebrity spiritual movements like Transcendental Meditation and neo-Kabbalism , a number of public figures are proponents of Vulcan teachings. Vulcan meditation has earned a particular following among athletes who want to improve their sense of focus, with 2006 World Judo Champion Jacques Bisset crediting Vulcan techniques for his success.
Other notable practitioners include Dutch politician Arno De Vries, musicians Alex Beckley, Syvar and Geraldo Bryan, actor Jonas Ferry, athletes Ming Sun and Lucy Ferreira, scientists Paul Tanaka, Rachael Glick and Omura Eri, scientist/reality TV personality Spock, and Vulcan scholars Sarek, T’Pau and T’Pring.
See also: Meditation • Spiritual practice • Neo-religious movements • Mind-body interventions • Surakian logic • ShiKahr settlement • Cult of Romulus
Chapter 16: Episode Three (Part 1)
[Image: A series of tweets from May 19, the airdate for Star Trek's third episode.]
@StarTrekBPS: Tonight at 8/7c, the Enterprise crew have their first encounter with another starship.
@jokerfied98: IT'S UFO TIME BITCH!!!!!
@izak123: I kinda love how Star Trek is all serious business but the crew are still doing that Big Brother thing of taking 3 naps in the middle of the day like there's nothing else to do.
@zuccession: no big spoilers but can we discuss the big in ep 3 where they interviewed uhura's family in kenya and her apartment literally looks like a tumblr aesthetic blog
@tortellinini: no-context star trek spoilers [Image of a poster for The Parent Trap] [Image of Bill Nighy's character from Pirates of the Caribbean]
Jim skidded to a halt outside the bridge, scraping his elbow along the wall with a wince. Thirty seconds ago he'd been fast asleep, enjoying a midday nap until the red-alert siren screeched through his head like a dentist's drill. He was pretty sure he still had bedhead.
“Can someone please turn that thing off?” he demanded, prompted a flurry of activity as people tried to find the right controls. Sirens blared for another few seconds until someone located the off switch, reducing the alarms to a more sedate red light around the ceiling.
“Status report,” he added, and sank into the captain’s chair, rubbing his elbow.
“Something hit the ship,” said Sulu.
“Someone fired on the ship,” said Detmer. “A torpedo this time. Not just debris.”
"We don't know. It hit us like two minutes ago, and there haven't been any signs since then."
"Okay. Good work on the red alert. Gaila, you're up. We have to assume we're under attack, so you need to be ready to fire if we see..." His mind filled with action movie terminology. Was "bogey" the word for airborn missiles, or was that a submarine thing? "Anything dangerous," he finished. “Michael, can you track where the torpedo came from? Maybe we can find the other ship that way.”
The bridge doors swished open again, revealing Chekov (red-faced and breathless) and Spock (whose hair was very slightly mussed; his version of being in a hurry). Now the gang was all here.
“Got them,” said Michael, after a moment. “It’s a small ship, I had to use the long-range sensors.” She hit a couple of buttons, bringing up a new image on the viewscreen. The bridge fell silent.
“Um,” said Chekov, voicing Jim’s thoughts exactly. “Is that...?”
The screen showed a small spaceship, an arrow-shaped vessel painted red and white. Darting this way and that, it was dwarfed by something that resembled a jellyfish or a giant squid: a glowing, billowing balloon of a creature with colossal tendrils, a shocking patch of luminous color in the black void of space. It was clearly trying to catch the ship in its tentacles, warded off by bursts of fire from some kind of energy weapon.
“I guess that torpedo wasn't meant for us?” said Sulu, after a moment.
“Looks like it,” said Jim. “Let’s fly closer, but keep the shields up. Uhura, can you hail that ship?”
They waited with bated breath as the other ship ducked and weaved, barely avoiding being hit by unfurling whips of light. “This is the U.S.S. Enterprise,” said Uhura, as soon as they were in range. “Do you need assistance?”
A pause, then a buzz of static as they made contact. “Hell, yes!” came the reply, crackling with interference. “Our warp drive’s kaput, and this thing is way too fast for us. We need an airlift out, ASAP.”
“We’ll see what we can do,” said Jim. “I’m Jim Kirk, by the way.”
“Captain Surya of the Nomad.”
“Any idea what this jellyfish thing actually is?”
“Well, it’s definitely hungry,” said Surya. “But aside from that? Nope.”
“Okay, hang in there. Sulu, Gaila, I want you to fly us in and draw its attention away from the Nomad. But try not to get caught, okay?”
The creature didn’t seem to notice them at first, only reacting once the Enterprise came within grabbing distance. One of the tendrils spun out towards them with the deceptive slowness of a collapsing building, and Sulu gunned the engines.
With a lurch of speed, they swooped low over the creature’s head. Gaila pelted it with a line of fire from the plasma cannons, and soon the whole viewscreen was filled with light. The experience was not unlike watching someone play a videogame, except with full surround-sound and the nagging awareness that they didn't have any spare lives.
Twice the tentacles clipped the Enterprise, sending up a flood of alerts. The squid was determined not to let go of its prey, blocking the smaller ship's path whenever it tried to escape. Jim looked around the bridge, taking in the growing tension among the crew. Even Spock was leaning forward at his console, frowning as the Nomad ducked another whiplash strand of light.
“I don’t think this is gonna cut it,” said Jim. “We need breathing room to evacuate the crew. Do we have any weapons that might slow that thing down without harming the ship? Something that doesn't go boom?”
Two voices spoke up at once. “Warp core radiation,” said Michael Burnham succinctly, just as Uhura asked: “Are we sure that’s a good idea?”
“What if it's an endangered species?” Uhura continued. “Do we really want to kill something before we even know what it is?”
“Hell, it could be a person,” said Detmer. “Just not a human-shaped one. We don’t actually know if it’s sentient or not.”
“I see where you’re coming from,” said Jim. “But if it’s a person, then right now it’s trying to commit murder. I’d prefer if that didn’t happen on my watch. Michael, what’s that you said about radiation?”
“We can jettison some excess fuel from the warp core, that should be an effective deterrent to any biological lifeform. And it won’t penetrate the Nomad's hull."
"Great. Set that up. Uhura, can you relay our plan to Surya? We're going to do the warp core thing, and while the alien's out for the count, we can use our tractor beam —” He paused. “We do have a tractor beam, right?” A couple of people nodded. “Okay, then we use our tractor beam to pull the Nomad in to whichever airlock's nearest. Then we bring the crew onboard, and get the hell out of dodge."
To Jim’s surprise, it worked.
The crew watched as Sulu skimmed past the squid’s flank, releasing an invisible cloud of radiation. It was enough to give the Nomad time to escape, the creature’s body rippling as if caught in a gale. Jim quashed a grimace as it flinched away. Too late to change course now. The Nomad was already out of immediate danger, and as the tractor beam drew the smaller ship in toward the starboard airlocks, Jim realized what this actually meant.
In a few minutes, a group of total strangers would join them in the hermetically sealed world of the Enterprise.
[Interview segment with Michael Burnham, filmed before launch.]
PHILIPPA GEORGIOU: You’ve chosen to keep a pretty big secret from the rest of the crew.
MICHAEL BURNHAM: We both opted to retain a measure of privacy. It’s a complicated relationship and we'd prefer to avoid distractions during filming.
GEORGIOU: But it didn’t discourage you from applying to join in the first place.
BURNHAM: Well, neither of us knew the other was involved until we got the call from PBS. It didn’t even cross my mind to ask. Spock isn’t exactly a sharer.
[Montage: A series of brief, stilted interactions between Spock and Michael, filmed during the first two weeks of the voyage.]
VOICEOVER: Michael was just ten years old when her parents passed away. With no surviving blood relatives, she was adopted by Amanda Grayson and Sarek, who raised her alongside their younger son, Spock.
[The montage shifts to a series of family photos, beginning with Spock and Michael’s childhood in the early ‘90s. Spock generally looks stiff and awkward, palpably aware of the camera, while Michael is more likely to be in motion, jumping into a river or playing soccer with other kids. In the later photos where they’re pictured together, neither child looks especially happy.]
GEORGIOU: I have to admit, it was exciting to find out that two of our top candidates were secretly siblings. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this sort of thing on camera, but our executive producer practically laid an egg.
BURNHAM: If he's hoping for drama, I’ll be happy to prove him wrong.
GEORGIOU: You did just describe your relationship as complicated, though.
BURNHAM: Spock and I are competitive. We get on each other’s nerves. But he’s still my little brother. We just don't want to be pre-judged as a single unit.
GEORGIOU: But it does seem a little drastic to hide your family connection from your crewmates. Would you say that plan was... logical?
BURNHAM: You’re alluding to the fact that Spock and I shared a Vulcan upbringing.
GEORGIOU: I am.
[Montage: More photos of Spock and Michael, now in their teenage years. Many of them were taken in an arid desert landscape, with a group of domed buildings in the background. We see Spock and Michael sitting in meditation with other Vulcan practitioners, followed by a series of video clips from Vulcan events around the world.]
BURNHAM: There’s a misconception that Vulcanism encourages people to act like machines, but even the strictest followers are still human. I won’t pretend to be some kind of perfect, rational being, but one thing Spock and I have in common is a desire to take this project seriously. We joined this show as academics, with a mutual decision not to involve our personal lives. This was the most efficient way to handle that issue.
[Image: More livetweets from episode 3]
@yolandasz: screaming bcos this show is so fucking bad at setting up twists... they just dropped in that interview with michael bunrham like "AS YOU KNOW, spock is my adopted brother." like no michael we did NOT know.
@memerasor: that Star Trek chick going on a realit TV show like, "my private life is PRIVATE" is the funniest shit i've seen all week
@nocupcakez: "a mutual decision not to involve our personal lives" is the sapiosexual version of "i'm not here to make friends."
Chapter 17: Episode Three (Part 2)
Dressed neutrally in jumpsuits and cargo pants, the Nomad's crew were a ragtag bunch, arriving with kitbags full of whatever belongings they’d salvaged from their ship. One of them was “injured” and went straight to sickbay, two headed to the mess hall to grab some food with Chekov and Sulu, and the remaining three joined Captain Surya - a cheerful middle-aged guy - for a tour of the ship with Jim.
“Sorry we don't have enough bunks for everyone,” said Jim, as they made their way to the bridge. “Maybe we can set up some beds in one of the hangars or something.”
“It’s no biggie,” said Surya. “We’re what, two days out from the nearest starbase?”
“That’s what they tell me,” said Jim, trying not to catch anyone’s eye. Surya was easy to talk to, but every now and then, Jim would abruptly remember that he was a paid actor. This whole conversation was like talking to one of the characters at Disney World.
Jim tapped his combadge. “Detmer, do you have a course laid in for Starbase IV?”
“Comms down?” asked Surya, sympathetically. “Could be electromagnetic interference from the squid. Half our systems malfunctioned the minute it touched us.”
“Damn. Well, I can ask our engineer to check it out."
When they reached the bridge, the doors slid open to reveal Gaila at the conn and Detmer at the helm, with Spock off to one side at the communications desk. Oddly enough, they were all sitting with their chairs swiveled to face the door, as if they were waiting for Jim to arrive. Detmer nodded a stiff greeting to the Nomad's crew, but didn't get up.
“Hey, guys,” said Jim. “Have you noticed any equipment malfunctions? My combadge isn’t working.”
“As a matter of fact,” said Spock. “We have picked up on some issues. If you could join me over here for a moment, captain?”
As Jim moved over to Spock’s console, he caught Gaila and Detmer exchanging a strange glance in the background. It was enough to make him falter, at which point two things happened at once: Surya's hand fell to his hip, uncovering something that Jim belatedly realized was a gun... and Spock grabbed Jim by the arm and shoved him roughly to the floor. He stumbled to his knees with a yelp, catching a flash of color out the corner of his eye as Detmer and Gaila both leapt from their chairs.
"Jim, stay down!" yelled Gaila, as if he had any other option when Spock was pushing him bodily behind the bulk of the comms console. Then the bridge dissolved into chaos, and Jim was just trying his damnedest not to get in the way.
Along with their Starfleet uniforms and basic gear, each member of the crew had a phaser, a small energy weapon for use during dangerous missions. They’d had fun with target practice during the first week - basically a glorified game of laser tag - but after that, they'd mostly forgotten about them. Gaila carried hers everywhere because she was the security officer, and the offworld team had taken theirs on last week’s mission. But otherwise, people generally left their weapons in their quarters. Jim’s phaser was currently clipped to the captain’s chair, inconveniently right in the line of fire.
From his vantage point under the console, Jim watched Spock sprint across the bridge, shooting one of Surya’s crewmen before ducking behind the helm. Gaila and Detmer had already taken cover, exchanging fire with two of Surya's crewmen.
The phasers made a pleasing kind of pew-pew sound effect, while the Nomad's guns made a more aggressive kind of electrical zap. Otherwise the bridge was surprisingly quiet, as everyone focused their energy on not getting shot in the head.
Well, Jim felt like a total fucking idiot now. Oh, the comms are down? he thought furiously to himself, inching along the cool metal floor toward the door. Nothing suspicious there! Why don’t you just invite a bunch of strangers onto the bridge!
At least his crew had enough brains to notice when the ship was under attack.
Adding insult to injury, Jim barely got halfway across the deck before Spock called out: “Captain, I believe the threat has been neutralized. We should reactivate the comms and alert the rest of the crew as soon as possible.”
Jim picked himself up with a groan, surveying the bridge to see the four interlopers lying unconscious on the floor, stunned by phaser fire. "Thanks," he said. "That was some quick thinking. We --"
Jim whirled around to see Detmer leaning against the helm. She was looking down at her shirt, where a black patch was spreading out across the middle of her chest, like a burn without a flame.
“Lieutenant Detmer was hit by disruptor fire during the confrontation,” said the cool voice of the ship’s computer, emerging from the loudspeakers overhead.
Jim slapped his combadge, forgetting it wouldn't work. "McCoy? We've got an emergency up here!
“There is no time for medical attention," the computer continued. "The wound is fatal. Lieutenant Detmer is now deceased."
He froze, staring across the room at Detmer, whose eyes had suddenly gone very wide.
“Shit,” she said, at last. “Well, I hope PBS has something fun lined up for the afterlife.”
[Crew audio logs, Mission #3.]
KIRK: I can’t help thinking I screwed up. This evening I gave everyone a speech about how none of this was their fault, but as the captain, it kind of is my fault, right? I guess I got complacent. It didn’t even cross my mind that the Nomad might be hostile.
Luckily Spock and Gaila have better survival instincts than I do. Once they took out the leader, we got the jump on the rest of the pirates pretty easily. Element of surprise. Apparently Surya's plan was to separate our crew and pick us off one by one, starting with the bridge. Now they’re all locked up in the empty storage hangar, and we’re delivering them to Starbase IV for arrest. So technically we've caught some wanted criminals, but it's hard to see this mission as a win.
I don’t know. Obviously I’d never compare this to losing someone in real life, but at the very least, it feels like Detmer just got fired for no good reason. If I’d done things differently, maybe she'd still be here. It’s gonna be a rough couple of days for everyone.
SPOCK: I still cannot see the merit in this week's mission.
SCOTTY: Come on, Spock. Not everything’s about merit. It’s entertainment. They wanted a little action.
SPOCK: The goal of Starfleet is to protect and explore. The goal of the show is to educate. What purpose does it serve to arrange a challenge where we can only succeed through paranoia and violence?
BURNHAM: I don’t know, teaching kids about stranger danger?
SPOCK: There’s no need to be facile.
OWOSEKUN: This is bullshit.
Chapter 18: The Afterlife
[Images: A series of tweets from after episode 3.]
@grootoftheloom: a big hello to all the jim kirk stans who thought he was a strategic genius, then had to watch him invite a bunch of armed pirates onto the ship.
@mimistevenson: Captain James T. Kirk is the teen girl who dies in the first 5 mins of a horror movie.
@balrog99: someone PLEASE make me a gif of Gaila Orion vaulting over a desk while firing a laser pistol
@itsbrando: i have to walk thru a metal detector to go to math class but those PBS astronauts didn't even google the space pirates before letting them in the airlock lol.
[A Twitter thread from Keyla Detmer.]
@Detmer: Now the episode's aired, I can officially confirm that Fido & I are back on Earth! It sucks to leave the show early. I already miss the crew, but at least I had the honor of a dramatic death scene!
I'll post more later about my time on the show, but for now here's an FAQ thread:
1. Yes, I can see all your replies on twitter now! But the rest of the Enterprise crew can't see ME because I'm no longer posting from the Starfleet intranet.
2. I'm NOT mad at ayone in the crew! It's not Jim or Gaila's fault for failing to save me from getting shot or whatever. (Yes I've seen your conspiracy theories lol.)
3. Speaking of conspiracy theories, the viral clip of "me" dancing at a Rihanna concert is actually just someone else with red hair, sorry.
4. Happy to confirm that yes i'm queer, it came up in several conversations but I guess those scenes didn't make it into the show.
5. there's no Hikaru/Nyota feud! all their "arguments" are jokes, they're kidding around. i honestly don't know how anyone could interpret this differently.
6. Yes we all got paid to go on the show. I won't say how much without the others' permission, but it's a small stipend, we ain't making Kardashian money over here.
[Audio: A cheerful techno jingle plays, fading out into a pair of voices.]
VOICE 1: Hi, I’m Justin!
VOICE 2: I’m Fatema!
JUSTIN: And we’re the hosts of America’s Next Top Space Bachelor, your favorite unauthorized Star Trek podcast! This is a very special episode because we’ve got a celebrity guest on the line: former Starship Enterprise helmswoman Keyla Detmer!
FATEMA: May she rest in peace.
DETMER: I’ve been dead for five days, and I’m feeling great.
FATEMA: First of all, thank you so much for coming on the podcast! We really didn’t think you’d answer our email. Cards on the table, we only have like six hundred listeners.
DETMER: Well, I mostly said yes because your podcast has such a great name.
JUSTIN: Thank you, thank you. I’m glad that puts us on the same level as Entertainment Weekly.
DETMER: Sorry to give you this glimpse behind the curtain, but EW actually had some kind of contract where they’d automatically interview whichever castmember got killed off first. So that’s the only big interview I’ve done. I’m not in high demand. I did a Q&A with the PBS website right after I left the ship, then some interviews with a couple of geek blogs and my old college newspaper, and, uh... that’s it! It turns out the show is way less popular than I expected. [Laughs.] My dreams of becoming a D-list celebrity have totally been dashed.
JUSTIN: People don’t know what they’re missing.
FATEMA: Have you been reading reviews, or are you steering clear of what people are saying online?
DETMER: Oh, I’m reading reviews for sure! Are you kidding? It’s fascinating! Also I have nothing else to do right now because I cleared my schedule for six weeks, and now I’m back halfway through. Let’s see... I haven’t read all the reviews of the first episode because there were too many, but I read the weekly recaps on AV Club and Space.com, and NASA’s astrophysics commentary because a friend of mine wrote it, they’re great. And obviously I’ve been catching up with what people are saying on Twitter and Tumblr, and fan theories on Reddit.
FATEMA: Ooh, what’s your favorite fan theory?
DETMER: I can’t actually say. I’m not allowed to confirm or deny anything until after the finale airs. Basically I’m banned from mentioning anything that could theoretically become a spoiler. So... vague impressions and trivia only.
JUSTIN: I guess we should’ve expected that.
DETMER: I'm going to spend so much time forcing myself not to debunk people's theories online. I'll tell you what, though. I was not expecting the whole Michael/Spock thing when I watched episode three! I literally screamed. None of the crew knows! We seriously didn't know!
FATEMA: Holy shit, I can't believe that wasn't our first question. Spock and Michael!
DETMER: Right? So now I've been going over all my memories of them from the past three weeks, trying to figure out if there were any clues. This is definitely one of those things I'm not allowed to discuss in any depth, but I will say that Spock and Michael share a lot of little mannerisms and vocal patterns, so when you know that they grew up together, that makes sense. It's a really wild secret for them to have kept for so long. I don't know what would be weirder: If the others don't find out until after the show, or if it comes out by accident halfway through. But I really can't comment on their relationship or their vibe, that's classified. I don't wanna anger PBS, they'll send Barney the Dinosaur to beat me up.
FATEMA: [Laughs] Okay then. What’s the biggest difference between what we see in the show, and your actual experience of living on the ship?
DETMER: Hmm. Obviously I was worried about being misrepresented, like, what if they make me look like a douchebag? What if I am a douchebag? But I think they did a decent job of showing everyone’s personalities in an accurate way. I suspect Star Trek is more truthful than a lot of reality shows, just in general. I would’ve liked more screentime though. I kept being like, where am I! But of course there’s eleven people on the ship, and only an hour-long episode each week, edited down from six or seven days of footage, which is nuts. An actual episode is a miniscule fraction of what really happens. I mean, the mission where I died was like four hours long. And every day we’re doing all these little games and tasks to keep everyone busy, but most of it doesn’t end up in the final edit, or sometimes it just goes to the PBS YouTube channel or something.
Oh, and along with my own screentime, I kept being like, "where's Owo??" because from my perspective she’s like, a permanent fixture. We’ve been sleeping in the same room for three weeks, we work together every day, we've been cooking together... At this point we're closer than some people I’ve known for years, and I'm hoping it's not just one of those flash-in-the-pan summer camp friendships that fizzle out after the fact. Anyway. Watching the show really made me think the audience is being robbed of more Owo content. Robbed!
[Fatima and Detmer both laugh.]
JUSTIN: [Whispering almost inaudibly.] Oh my god.
DETMER: Um... I’m trying to think what else is different. A lot of stuff! The camera angles make everything look weird compared to just walking around the ship. And it kind of gets to you, to be shut away from natural light for so long, which is why there are so many scenes with people hanging out in the greenhouse. When I got out I was like, I love rain. I love clouds.
In terms of the rest of the crew, I feel like I know these people so well now, the show only scratches the surface. Hikaru has this really calming energy, very reassuring. I don’t know how much that comes across onscreen. I also found myself viewing the crew differently on TV versus IRL. Like, we’re used to seeing hot people on TV, so it doesn’t feel notable as a viewer that so many members of the crew are, uh, good-looking. [Laughs] But if you actually met Nyota Uhura, you’d immediately think, “this is a famous person,” because she’s so beautiful and her hair is like, unbelievable. Um, who else? Chekov. Little Chekov is completely freaking obsessed with Evangelion. He talks about it incessantly. He’s comparing shit to cartoon robots on a daily basis. I actually feel bad for whoever edits the show, because I think maybe PBS isn’t allowed to include branded references or something? Is Evangelion owned by Netflix now? Whatever. They have to cut all that stuff out.
JUSTIN: Evangelion! Love that for him.
FATEMA: This is such good info, thank you.
JUSTIN: The internet definitely needs to know that Chekov is into anime.
DETMER: He has this whole manifesto about how Shinji is misunderstood and underrated, but the only other crewmember who’s seen the series is Owo, so he doesn’t really have an audience for it. [Laughs] Poor kid.
FATEMA: I have to ask. What about Kirk?
JUSTIN: It feels so basic for us to be so interested in, you know, the white guy who gets the most screentime, but he seems like he’s... a lot. We're curious!
FATEMA: In the best possible way.
JUSTIN: Yes, he’s a unique figure for reality TV, let’s put it that way. And there’s a lot of controversy, uh, debate in the fandom about his leadership style, as I’m sure you know. Comparing his strategies in episode one and three, that kinda thing. We don’t want to step on any toes but like, could you tell us a bit about him?
DETMER: Sure! “A lot” is a good way to describe Jim, actually. So... honestly, it was a real relief find out how nice the rest of the crew was, at the start of the voyage. Everyone’s very easy to get along with, except Spock. Um, just to be clear, I don’t mean that in the sense that we’re enemies or anything, he’s just a more reserved kind of guy. But yeah, everyone’s very friendly, and Jim puts a lot of effort into making sure the crew is happy and working well together, he’s... I was going to say “chill” but he’s actually the opposite of chill.
I’ve noticed a lot of comments from people who are confused about him and Dr McCoy being such good friends, but it’s because neither of them have any chill whatsoever. The same goes for Spock. They’re very invested in a way that I’m just, like... not. I mean, it’s a game show! None of this stuff really matters! But even in their normal lives outside, I think those three are the kind of people who just give everything 110%. The thing I was talking about a minute ago, about people looking different on TV... Jim really feels bigger in real life. If I was more of a hippy, I’d say he has an aura. He’s very persuasive. If he was a worse person, I think he’d make a great cult leader. Um, please don’t take that quote out of context! Jim and I are buddies.
JUSTIN: I read this one recap that described him as having high-achieving teen energy.
DETMER: Yeah, that sounds about right. Which is interesting because I don't think he actually was a high-achieving teen. But at the risk of alienating all the academics in the audience, standardized qualifications aren’t everything!
FATEMA: I have a PhD in molecular biology, and I approve that message.
JUSTIN: And I work at the Gap. Just thought I’d throw that in there.
FATEMA: [Laughs] On that note, I think it’s time for a break! We’ll be back after this to ask Keyla Detmer about what it’s like to get killed by space pirates.
[Podcast jingle plays again.]
[Images: A series of tweets from May 20th & 21st.]
@Owo: Missing my roomie!! [crying emoji]
@Owo: @Detmer please know that Gaila, Nyota & I held a lil sleepover party funeral for you, we watched Speed & ate grilled cheese in your honor.
@Detmer: it's real Orpheus & Euridice hours over here, watching this shit play out from beyond the veil. [screencap of Owo's tweets.]
@winstoooon: [image from the acclaimed lesbian historical drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire.]
@mileohotman: omg i love Speed!!
@ohflatteries: a;sdfkjs is this a portrait kf a lady on fire reference lmaoooo
@fillipfillip: [crying emoji] [image of Sirius behind the veil in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.]
@Detmer: sorry guys i've never seen whatever french film you're talking about in the replies, i only watch movies with a minimum of 3 explosions.
Jim hoped they'd have some time to relax after delivering the Nomad’s crew, but a message came through from Starfleet Command almost immediately: Their next mission would be a two-person research project on the desert planet Sagnaruta, lasting five full days and six nights.
“We recommend sending people with a scientific background,” said Georgiou, capping off the pre-recorded mission briefing. “Preferably with some experience of camping or working outdoors. But of course the final decision is up to you. Good luck!”
The viewscreen flicked off, and everyone visibly began to calculate who'd be on the offworld team. A week-long mission was a big deal, far more intensive than anything else they’d done so far. Jim would’ve jumped at the chance to go himself, but this challenge was clearly earmarked for the science officers. Most likely including Detmer, if she’d still been around.
“Well, the obvious shortlist here is Sulu, Chekov, Burnham and Spock,” he said, voicing what everyone else was thinking. “Unless you’re harboring a secret desire to go camping, Scotty?”
“Keep it,” said Scotty. “I like the indoors.”
Sulu looked around at the other three remaining contenders. “Wanna draw straws?”
“I hate to say it, but five days is a long time to go without our pilot,” said Jim apologetically. “I don’t know if we can spare you, with Detmer gone.”
“Ugh,” said Sulu. “When you’re right, you’re right.”
And then there were three.
Spock and Burnham both looked even stiffer than usual, whereas Chekov was practically vibrating with nervous energy. “I went on several interdisciplinary field trips during undergrad!” he said bravely, palpably intimidated by the idea of spending a week alone with either Spock or Burnham. “I'm sure I am up to the task!”
“It’s cute how you say “undergrad” like you’re not twelve years old,” said Gaila.
“Chekov, I'd never suggest you're unqualified,” said Jim, who in fact was thinking, No way are we sending this kid to the desert for a week. “But I think there's already a clear answer here. Between the fieldwork and the necessity of setting up a base camp, this mission has to go to the two senior science officers."
Spock and Burnham said nothing, which really wasn’t the reaction Jim was expecting.
“If you guys are up for it?” he tried.
“I am willing,” said Burnham, at the same time as Spock said simply: “Yes.”
There was a protracted and rather confused silence from the crew, as Spock and Burnham continued to studiously avoid each other’s gaze. What the fuck, thought Jim to himself, before remembering it was his job to keep things on track. “Right then!” he said cheerfully, clapping his hands like a summer camp counsellor. “We've got two hours to pack up the offworld gear before launch. Let’s get to work!”
[Episode summaries from Star Trek's Wikipedia page.]
Episode 1: “Cargo Bay 4.”
Mission leaders: Kirk, Scotty
Location: U.S.S. Enterprise
Airdate: May 5, 2020
Summary: The crew take a tour of the Enterprise, introducing their jobs as Starfleet officers in the year 2265. After settling into their quarters, they receive advice from the show's producers via video chat, including Georgiou reassuring Sulu about his choice to spend six weeks away from his family. On the way to their first mission, a piece of debris hits the ship and traps Scotty in an empty cargo bay. Faced with a choice between sacrificing Scotty or risking the entire crew, Kirk turns the tables by having Scotty perform a "spacewalk," which involves him breaking out of the Enterprise film set. The premiere concludes with a pre-taped segment about Kirk and McCoy's history as longtime friends and coworkers in Doctors Without Borders. This episode earned positive feedback for its fourth-wall-breaking twist, but was criticized for its lack of screentime for female crewmembers.
Educational segment: Spock explains lightspeed travel.
Unaired social media content: In the show's first YouTube minisode, Pike, Georgiou and Lorca discuss the creative process for inventing Starfleet. Owosekun and Chekov interview other crewmembers about the "personal items" they chose to bring into space.
Episode 2: “The Temple of the Golden Snake”
Mission leaders: Gaila, Owosekun, Uhura.
Location: Gamma Trianguli
Airdate: May 12, 2020.
Summary: Episode 2 opens with a day-in-the-life montage for two sets of roommates: Gaila and Uhura, and Sulu and Chekov. Gaila, Uhura and Owosekun are selected for the crew's first offworld mission, a series of puzzles and athletic challenges in the ruins of an alien temple. Owosekun showcases her climbing skills, receiving a minor injury treated by Dr McCoy. Back on the Enterprise, Uhura and Sulu taste-test the ship's food rations, and Spock cooks Kirk a traditional meal from his childhood. We end with a pre-taped interview with Gaila, discussing how martial arts helped her overcome her body image issues.
Educational segment: "Rocket Science with Mr Scott."
Unaired social media content: Detmer live-tweets the movie Cats. A panel of scientists discuss the show on PBS's Sci-Talk Podcast.
Episode 3: “The Nomad”
Mission leaders: Entire crew
Location: U.S.S. Enterprise
Airdate: May 19, 2020
Summary: In a pair of pre-taped segments, we visit Uhura's family home in Nairobi, and Burnham reveals that she and Spock are adoptive siblings, both raised in a Vulcan community. The third mission begins with the Enterprise encountering a civilian ship called the Nomad, which is being attacked by an alien squid. After defeating the alien, Kirk invites the Nomad's crew onboard, where we discover that they're actually pirates. They infiltrate the Enterprise, resulting in a shoot-out on the bridge. Detmer "dies," but the remaining pirates are soon subdued and delivered into Starfleet custody. The episode ends with the crew mourning Detmer's departure from the show, and discussing strategies to avoid further losses. Shortly after this episode aired, fans launched the #BringBackDetmer campaign.
Educational segment: Sulu and Burnham explain gravity.
Unaired social media content: Video outtakes from Scotty's birthday party. Pike, Georgiou and Lorca debate the crew's progress in a YouTube minisode.
Episode 4: “Beneath the Desert Stars”
Mission leaders: Burnham, Spock
Airdate: May 26, 2020
Hopefully the wiki summaries don't feel like rehashing old news! I figured they might be helpful because the overall format is kinda meandering.
Chapter 20: Sagnaruta
[Image: A series of tweets from May 20th and 21st .]
@StarTrekPBS: For the next 5 days, science officers @Spock & MBurnham will be camping out on the planet Sagnaruta. Follow them for daily updates!
@_rainy_: lol PBS like "we LIVE for the drama"
@s4lamanda: so do the crew know they're brother and sister yet?? or????
@losfartos: michael burnham @ spock: shut up about quasars or i'll turn this shuttle round, so help me god.
@joe729473: burnham is a quantum physicist, wtf is she gonna do on an away mission?
-- @yolandas: kirk's an EMT and he's captaining a whole-ass spaceship, who gives a fuck.
@Kirk: letting the kids drive to this field trip all by themselves... they grow up so fast! [Image: The Enterprise shuttle bay, ready for launch.]
@MBurnham: Underwhelmed by these in-flight snack options. [Image: A pile of vacuum-packed food items.]
@MBurnham: Home sweet home! [Image: A desert landscape.]
@Detmer: this is such a shit-stirring idea for an offworld mission, honestly i've gotta respect it.
@Detmer: personally i would've upped the ante by making spock & michael share the same oxygen tank so they can only move 10 feet apart or something. just a free idea for you there @PBS.
[Audio log, May 20th, 10.35pm.]
SPOCK: Day One. After arriving safely on Sagnaruta, Dr Burnham and I —
BURNHAM: Dr Burnham? You’re seriously doctoring me out here?
SPOCK: Is it not your preference for people to use your title in the workplace?
BURNHAM: Yeah, but in a workplace where I’m sharing a bunk bed with my little brother? Am I meant to call you Dr Spock?
SPOCK: Personally, I see no need to announce my credentials when the information is readily available.
BURNHAM: Yeah, I’ve heard your whole rant about unearned academic respect —
SPOCK: I do not rant.
BURNHAM: — so forgive me if I don’t exactly take it as a compliment when you call me Doctor Burnham.
SPOCK: I was merely respecting your wishes.
BURNHAM: Come on, Spock. I only do that at work because otherwise people conveniently forget I have a doctorate. That’s not exactly a danger here.
SPOCK: How could they forget? Presumably everyone you work with has read at least one of your papers.
BURNHAM: Do I really have to explain racism to you right now? On camera?
SPOCK: [supremely uncomfortable] Ah. My apologies.
BURNHAM: Thanks. You’ve solved the whole problem now.
SPOCK: [after a long, reluctant pause] While I do acknowledge the privilege inherent in my habits, part of the reason why I don’t insist on academic titles is to avoid confusion with Dr Benjamin Spock, who is not known for his scientific rigor.
BURNHAM: Oh my god, you are so full of shit.
SPOCK: Perhaps we should restart the recording. [click] Upon arrival on the planet Sagnaruta, we scanned the neighboring terrain and made ready to erect our base camp tomorrow morning —
BURNHAM: Please start again without using the word “erect.”
James T. Kirk was not sulking. At the absolute most, he’d admit to ruminating on the events of the day, and if those events happened to involve Spock jetting off to another planet for the rest of the week, well — that was a perfectly understandable topic for Jim to dwell on.
He couldn’t even complain about it to McCoy, who’d just make fun of him. After all, Spock and Michael were already scheduled for mandatory check-ins every evening. It’s not as if he has more than one facial expression, he imagined McCoy saying. What’s to miss?
Over the past five years, Jim had lived in four different countries. He was used to making friends fast and saying goodbye soon after. There were dozens of people he kept up with via sporadic international Skype calls, or only heard from when they were in town and needed a place to crash. He was, as Bones sarcastically put it, a people person. So what made Spock so different? Why did he —
This train of thought was interrupted by a cheerful ping! from Jim’s padd. Expecting an unwanted late-night update from Starfleet, he suppressed a groan. But when he checked the messaging app, there was nothing there. Instead, a new icon icon was flashing on the screen. Opening it, he saw single-sentence message:
If you need to contact me privately, use this program. — Spock
To read these updates in the original SMS format, follow me on Twitter.
Spock's messages are in italics; Kirk's are in regular text.
Day 1 of the Sagnaruta mission (May 20th, 10.42pm)
Spock: If you need to contact me privately, use this program.
Kirk: how do i know it’s you?
tell me something only spock would know.
If only I know the answer, how will that help you to identify me?
ok there’s the overly-literal sense of humor i know and love. i believe you. if i get catfished by a PBS intern, on my own head be it.
how’s the vacation going so far?
I strongly suspect we are in the Mojave Desert .
you’re on the *alien planet Sagnaruta* spock! come on.
The asterisks presumably denote emphasis?
jesus christ. call yourself a millennial?
Does anyone call themselves a millennial?
probably just ironically.
but how are you guys doing out there?
We are sleeping in the shuttle tonight, and I predict that much of tomorrow will be taken up with building the base camp. The camera rigs appear to have been hidden in “homing beacons” around the landing site, which was a clever solution .
ok cool. i meant like, how are you and michael doing though. it seemed like there was some tension back there?
We are both professionals .
that makes it sound like you’re either going to murder each other, or embark on a tempestuous affair.
Don’t be crass .
so, murder it is, then?
The mission is going smoothly thus far.
ok i’ll mind my own business. let me know if i can help with anything though alright?
I shall remain in touch.
Day 2 of the Sagnaruta mission, 8.25am
btw how did you figure this chat thing out? you said it’s private, right? i had no idea you were such a hacker!
also good morning.
I am not a “hacker.”
yeah i know, i’m just yanking your chain.
Chekov mentioned in passing that the internal messaging system appeared to be a standard office email clone. Many such services include built-in IM functions. I merely unlocked that element and activated a pair of dormant accounts for us.
wow, how simple, can’t believe i didn’t think of it myself.
seriously though, thanks. if you’re not around for me to pester, who am i gonna talk to after lights out??
And I intended to make this option available for important messages only.
good thing i’m the captain then, everything i say is important.
wait, you guys are only meant to contact the ship during the evening check-in window, right? so doesn’t this count as cheating? we’re meant to be separated by the dark side of the moon or whatever!
Offworld communications are being disrupted by sunspot activity, as well you know.
And as for my decision to message you outside the prearranged window... I am making use of the resources available to me, just as you did during our first challenge.
you sly dog.
how goes it in the Mojave? and don’t just tell me the ambient air temperature or whatever, i’m onto you.
I am taking mineral samples. Michael is setting up the water filter. Our base camp is largely complete, but we are yet to assemble the beds.
you gonna give us a tour during check-in tonight?
It will be a short tour. Two geodesic dome tents, one for sleeping and one for the workspace. And of course our instruments outside.
have some showmanship, spock! we’re on tv!
I will leave the showmanship to you. A good officer plays to his strengths.
I trust everything is well on the Enterprise?
yeah we did a self defense class with Gaila this afternoon.
it was fun but now i’m worried about what chekov will do if he ever gets mugged. that kid has the hand-eye coordination of a newborn deer.
and don’t say “deer don’t have hands,” you know what i mean.
It sounds like he would benefit from the lesson, then .
he’d benefit from maybe 20 lessons, sure.
i feel like a cruiseship director up here, keeping everyone busy. scotty and i are organizing a Robot Wars tournament for tomorrow.
you know what robot wars is, right?
I have studied and subsequently taught at four different universities in a STEM field. So yes, it was impossible to avoid.
any robot design tips?
The ones that use leverage to flip their opponent often seem the most effective.
but the ones with a big sword/flamethrower are so much more fun.
You already said I lack showmanship, I don’t know what you were expecting.
if you were here i bet i could talk you into making a real killer robot.
I suppose we shall never know.
you mentioned your apartment during the video tour... what’s it like? i bet ur a neat freak.
It is past midnight, ship time. You should go to sleep.
lull me to sleep with a boring description of your apartment then.
i bet ur a neat freak, right?
I do prefer to be tidy.
For the past two years I have lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Pasadena, not far from the university. It overlooks a shared garden where one of my neighbors grows flowers and lemons. As I’m sure you can guess, my taste in interior design is rather minimalist.
However I have perhaps more clothes than you might expect.
Spock! are you into fashion??
I have no interest in trends or brands.
lol that isn’t a no.
i figured you’d have like a wardrobe full of ten identical logical outfits.
Yes, Michael finds my tastes irrational also.
you’re talking to michael about your fashion sense?
It must have come up in conversation.
huh i guess i didn’t fully consider how much time you guys are spending together. making small talk! well done!
There’s no need to be condescending.
i’m being a supportive captain!
come on, tell me about your favorite outfit.
You are fixating on this to an unnecessary degree .
well i’ve only ever seen u in uniform, i’m curious! and i just wear plaid shirts every day, it’s like they got me out of a box marked “caucasian american male, 18-34.” i wanna know how the other half live.
I too am a caucasian american male, 18-34.
My favorite jacket is black with a nehru collar, and I generally wear it with dark trousers.
i don’t know what nehru is so ur just gonna have to send me a selfie once we get back home.
If you remember to ask next month, which I doubt, then you may have one .
Chapter 22: The Clock
[Image: A tweet from @StarTrekPBS: "After 21 days in space, our crew have faced everything from alien attacks to meteor showers. But will they ever notice this basic equipment malfunction?"]
[Embedded video: A montage of Enterprise crewmembers waking up and going about their morning routines.]
VOICEOVER: For the last three weeks, the Enterprise crew have faced challenges great and small. They’ve bonded, they’ve had arguments, and they’ve even lost a friend.
[We see Detmer and Owosekun laughing together over dinner, followed by Detmer's death scene.]
VOICEOVER: They’ve proven their competence as scientific explorers, keeping the ship running through thick and thin. With one exception.
[Footage from episode 1: A CGI simulation of space debris hitting the ship’s hull.]
VOICEOVER: During their first mission, the Enterprise suffered significant damage. Most of it was repaired, except for one crucial system. The ship’s clock.
[The camera pans over a clock on one of the bridge control panels. It glitches, switching from 15:45 to 17:38.]
VOICEOVER: Since then, the Enterprise has gained or lost a few minutes or even hours every day, at random intervals.
[A pair of split-screen images show the time onboard the Enterprise, versus the time outside in the real world. In Los Angeles, it’s 8.23am. On the ship, it’s 11am.]
VOICEOVER: Without realizing it, the crew is gradually succumbing to jet-lag.
[Montage: McCoy chugging a cup of coffee; Owosekun tossing and turning in bed; Sulu dozing off on the bridge, head resting on his fist; Kirk showing up late to last week’s Red Alert, just after waking up from a nap.]
VOICEOVER: Will they notice something’s wrong? Only time will tell.
[Black screen: “Episode 4 airs May 26, 8/7c.”]
[Image: A series of replies to the @StarTrekPBS tweet.]
@0z0ne: yo what the fuck.
@agnetha: Is this legal? It definitely doesn't seem ethical.
-- @vamp1rell4: it's reality tv, what do u expect?
@Detmer: just saw this. WHAT.
@gailastan: well i guess now we know why kirk was asleep at the start of ep 3 lmao.
[Texts between Kirk and Spock, May 22: Day 3 of the Sagnaruta mission. Spock's messages are italicized.]
KIRK: so gaila and uhura are in a fight about a missing shoe.
everyone is sort of tacitly hoping it doesn’t end up in this week’s episode because it would definitely look sexist out of context.
but the fact is that uhura has lost a shoe and it is CLEARLY gaila’s fault, but i can’t take sides without proof because i’m the captain.
so now we’re all looking for a fucking shoe.
do you ever worry about this kind of stuff btw?
not shoes. how this is all gonna look on tv. whether we’re getting shit on by the media out there, or if the audience just thinks we’re boring losers. do you worry about that?
Of course I do .
i was really hoping you were going to say something reassuring.
We already had reason to be concerned about outside interference.
But if you need reassurance, please consider these points:
1. The show is explicitly marketed as educational programming, and has a public partnership with NASA.
2. While some of the missions have been more geared towards conflict than I hoped or expected, we’ve experienced no seriously exploitative moves so far, eg. pushing boundaries of personal privacy, or attempting to sexualize members of the crew.
ok good to know you’ve overthought this as much as i have.
you’re right of course.
[Image: A Twitter thread from documentary filmmaker/former reality TV producer Jeff Macleod, May 22.]
I’ve seen a lot of controversy about the new Star Trek twist. Just adding my two cents here as a (former) reality TV guy: sleep deprivation is a tried-and-tested tactic. It’s normal for competition shows like Project Runway & Top Chef to make contestants work all-nighters to increase emotional volatility & drama. In shows like Netflix’s Love Is Blind, where contestants sleep on-site, producers sometimes mess with their heads by removing clocks or keeping the lights on 24/7.
Definitely an unpleasant experience. Contestants sign a lot of waivers they don’t fully understand. But TBH Star Trek doesn’t look too bad from the outside. No hysterical crying scenes etc. Contestants don’t seem visibly exhausted. My take is that the producers’ biggest mistake was revealing this “clock malfunction” to the public. Reality TV fans don’t like to know how the sausage is made. Unless PBS is forcing the crew to get by on 3hrs a night or something, they should be fine. IMO it’s an interesting way of baking an old reality TV technique into the show's internal canon.
May 23, Day 4 of the Sagnaruta mission. [Texts between Kirk and Spock.]
KIRK: you know, i realized last night that we're basically pen pals.
i feel like i should be asking what your favorite color is. like, "hi, i'm jim kirk and i'm in the fourth grade. i have a brother called sam, and i want a dog but i'm allergic. do you have any pets?"
SPOCK: My only correspondence as a child were academic, so I can't say I recognize that experience. But I do have a cat called I-Chaya. She currently resides with my teaching assistant.
what’s she like??
A grey domesticated feline, 10 years old.
you are the only person on god’s green earth who would describe their cat like that. you sound like you're writing her arrest report.
tbh if anyone ever tried to make me write letters as a kid, it would've lasted all of 10 minutes. attention span of a gnat. believe me you would NOT have tolerated me at that age.
I was not an especially tolerant child.
i can't believe you turned that round in a vaguely flattering direction, commander spock. true diplomacy in action, can't wait to see that deployed next time we face an alien attack.
[Image: A tweet from the @StarTrekPBS account, sharing a screencapped text post.]
We regret any concern caused by yesterday’s video update. My creative collaborators and I care deeply about the wellbeing of the Enterprise crew, which is why we have a qualified doctor onboard, and a safety consultant monitoring each day’s footage.
The ship’s timekeeping errors were designed to give the crew an extra challenge behind the scenes, and as always, we do not intend to put anyone in real danger. While there has been some disruption to the crew’s sleep schedules, the difference is no worse than mild jet-lag. As with most of our challenges, this idea was inspired by the real experiences of astronauts, and simulations created by our research team. However we do understand your concerns, and always welcome any feedback from our audience.
- Jonathan Archer, executive producer, Star Trek
[Image: Twitter replies to the @StarTrekPBS statement.]
@_rooney: baby's first public apology... i'm so proud, our lil show is growing up!
@wosbv72: disappointed it wasn't posted as a notes app screenshot tbh.
@sulu_im_baby: great, i'm so reassured that the *reality tv producer* has his cast's best interests in mind lmao.
[Image: A series of tweets from Keyla Detmer.]
@Detmer: Honestly, now I've calmed down from the initial BETRAYAL (lol) from yesterday, this statement from jon archer seems fine! seriously guys it's not such a big deal.
@Detmer: it's not like we were all keeling over from exhaustion in there. our sleep cycles probably would've been disrupted even if they didn't mess with the clocks.
@Detmer: so thanks for your support everyone but please redirect your ire elsewhere, the producers weren't propping our eyelids open with matchsticks or anything.
@yolandas: omg they got to her.
- @Detmer: yep, the pbs cabal are buying my silence, there's no other explanation.