This is a transcript of our first introductory episode, available here.
Carla: Hello and welcome to the best thing that has ever happened to me – re:Discovery, a Star Trek: Discovery recapping podcast! I’m one of your hosts, Carla Donnelly. You may know me from my other podcasts about my obsessions: Across the Aisle, a performing arts criticism podcast, and Club Soderbergh, about the films of director Steven Soderbergh. However, Star Trek is my deepest and oldest love. So here we are. And by we, I mean us, the other half to re:Discovery – Ben McKenzie. Ben where would our listeners know you from? And most importantly tell me your personal history of your relationship to Star Trek?
Ben: Well listeners might know me from other podcasts including the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary celebration Splendid Chaps, which is where I got started in podcasting. Or from my other current podcast, Pratchat, which is a Terry Pratchett book club where we’re trying to read and discuss every single book written by Terry Pratchett, one every month. Which is basically like being in Star Trek – we’re on a five year mission, except it’s going to take us more like six and a bit years.
Carla: Okay so your nerd credentials.
Ben: And you might also know me from Night Terrace which is a time travel audio comedy series which I co-wrote, co-produced, and I star in it alongside Jackie Woodburne who plays Susan from Neighbours, and Petra Elliott… I should say she plays Susan in Neighbours, not in my show. That would be weird.
Carla: Though coming soon! (laughs) Potentially.
Ben: Okay, so I started watching Star Trek back in the 90’s when The Next Generation was on TV. My stepdad at the time really liked the old Star Trek and he wasn’t that much of a fan of the new one. So you know…
Ben: Look… One of many ways in which he and I never got along. But I resisted it for ages because I was very much an Anglophile growing up. So, for me the big sci-fi thing was Doctor Who, always, and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf. They were sort of my three big sci-fi things. But then when I – and I watched a little bit of Star Trek Next Generation but not a lot – and then when I got into university I sort of… I was at a college and there was the main TV room, which was closed in the evenings, and then there was another one that was hidden under the stairwell. And me and this other small group of nerds, we would all go down there late at night when everyone else was like leaving, or in fact we just claimed it as our thing, and we’d go down there at like nine or ten o’clock at night and watch whatever sci-fi show was on. And that’s when I really started to watch a lot more Star Trek. I’d kind of, you know, I’d seen the films, I got into the films, I liked the films but that was when I really started to get into it. And mostly that was, it was a little bit of Deep Space Nine, sometimes it was Babylon 5 you know or some other non-Star Trek show, but it was sometimes Deep Space Nine, but a lot of Voyager. And I think because Voyager started around that time when we were watching it, for me Voyager is like my first true Star Trek love. I really…
Carla: Oh! I just got chills, because exactly the same!
Ben: Yeah. Because for me it’s always a bit of a guilty pleasure. I think in some ways Next Generation is a, is a better show. But Voyager, particularly the first two or three years of Voyager, is still probably my favourite Star Trek. And I’ve since gone through and watched the whole thing again. I kind of I love it. So that’s my Star Trek background. How about you? How did you get into it?
Carla: Wow. I come from a family of pretty nerdy, sci-fi, freaky people. So sci-fi was huge in our household. Yeah. And when I was little, like really little, like infant, my favourite shows were Doctor Who and Astro Boy. And like I figured out exactly what days, it took me like ages when I was like three, to figure out that TV shows came on at regular times on regular days, and then once I cracked the code of the television guide there was no stopping me. So we did watch Next Gen in the ’80s, most religiously actually, and all sci-fi films. My dad would take us to the movies all the time to watch everything Star Trek, Star Wars and a lot of things that really terrified me like Dune. He showed me Dune when I was eight years old, he’s like “You’re into Star Trek and David Lynch let’s watch this”. No. Bad. So yeah, I had a pretty steady diet of it. And I think, and I…you know, like a lot of box sets in the ’90s. Same as you were, about the same age, I remember that commercial television around that time, yeah it was like the 10-11-12 slot was all taken up with sci-fi re-runs or things that were on during that time.
Ben: Stuff they bought cheap from the US.
Ben: “We don’t think that Australians really want to see this. But we know that the nerds will stay up late at night and watch it.”
Carla: Yeah. (laughs)
Ben: That was my theory. (laughs)
Carla: Well, thank you. Because yes it was true for me. But it wasn’t really until, like, it’s always been in the periphery for me I’ll always go into a Star Trek movie when it comes out. But like five years ago Jessie Scott, who I do Club Soderbergh with, she was just appalled that I had never really seen much of Voyager. And she’s like it is the best one you have to watch it. So I finally sat down to watch Voyager and it just pretty much beamed me into a new Star Trek fandom.
Ben: Yeah. Do you have a fave Voyager character?
Carla: Tuvok. Because I’m a Vulcan freak, obviously, because of my avatar too.
Ben: I’m so glad you said that, Tuvok’s my Vulcan dad. I love him.
Carla: Tuvok is the Vulcan-ist of the Vulcans. He’s magical.
Ben: I love him so much.
Carla: Totally. But also Janeway, of course, like and also like I love Neelix as well and whenever I see the actor in other things as well I can like pick him even when he’s off screen just saying something and I’m always so excited. What about you?
Ben: Look you named, you named most of mine. I do have a soft spot for Harry Kim.
Carla: Oh yeah.
Ben: I just feel like…you know, he’s very put upon, and he’s, like he feels that… I can identify with how he feels, this tremendous weight of responsibility that he’s just an ensign, on this, like, supposedly, you know, first job, and then all of a sudden “Oh we’re cut off from Starfleet on the other side of the, you know, Universe and everything’s awful and now I’ve got to really pull my weight, I can’t like get transferred off the ship when I’m not good enough.” And you know, I just really like the actor as well. And I think for some people they sort of see him as the Wesley Crusher of Voyager which seems a bit mean.
Carla: That’s rude.
Ben: But I really like him. Yeah. I like most. Actually I like pretty much the whole cast of a Voyager. I love the…
Carla: B’Elanna was awesome.
Ben: Oh B’Elanna is great.
Ben: Yeah. B’Elanna Torres.
Carla: I guess like that’s the thing coming here today, thinking about why was it that Star Trek really caught my eye? And it was something that I did go back to more than the other sci-fis. And I think even in my little tiny child brain it was…even though sci-fi is the most progressive genre, quote-unquote, because you know they are breaking down barriers and have been for 50 years, 60 years in TV. Star Trek really kind of did have more developed female characters even with the Next Generation like Beverly Crusher was the doctor and the women really had proper roles and they weren’t kind of supplementary like they were in…
Ben: Tasha Yar.
Carla: Star Wars… Yeah.
Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting because you know from a Doctor Who perspective you’ve got all these people who talk about the ’60s era of the show, when it started, as being the most sexist, and yet in actual fact when you go back and look at some of those episodes there’s extraordinarily sort of forward thinking stuff in there. Which then is kind of lost throughout the ’70s and ’80s, and has come back, you know, obviously in the new show in various ways, and also yes, it’s got its failings. But I think, yes, Star Trek’s got that weird sort of combination of both as well, like it does some things really progressively and some things are like “ugh”. And both of them, because they’ve both been around for so long, like they get examined in a way that other shows from the 1960s don’t. Like particularly Doctor Who because it’s the one show – even though you know it’s also been like six or seven different shows throughout its history, but it’s been the same character in the same sort of situation basically throughout the whole thing – that gets examined a lot. But I think also Star Trek, because it still exists as a sequel series and spin-offs and new ideas about what it should be, and so we do go back and look at the original with a more critical eye than maybe we do other shows from the 1960s which just get forgotten and nobody goes back to look at them again.
Carla: Yeah like Lost in Space which has had a reboot now.
Ben: Yeah I do like the reboot of Lost in Space.
Carla: Oooo Parker Posey!
Ben: Love Parker Posey.
Carla: Oh my God, that was a casting…and that’s what I’m, like, this is where we need to go. If we’re going to re-imagine these things just recast them with different genders.
Ben: Oh yeah totally.
Carla: You don’t need to change much about it to get the inclusivity and diversity happening. You can just put different actors in the same characters. It’s a mind blowing thing for a lot of people apparently.
Ben: Well you know Doctor Who’s been doing it for a long time. I mean it’s taken them a long time to finally cast a woman and I think in a lot of ways, for example, Jodie Whitaker’s Thirteenth Doctor is written very similarly to the other characters. And I think you know when we get into talking about Star Trek: Discovery I think again you know a lot of the stuff is- they haven’t really had to change much, like they’re not writing captains particularly differently. I mean this was true in Voyager as well: Janeway was her own character, she was her own kind of captain, but she wasn’t like a radical departure from the kind of captains that you’d seen. And I kind of liked that she’s got a bit of Kirk and a bit of Picard in her but she’s also very much her own thing.
Carla: Well she was so hardcore science, so she was, you know.
Ben: But everyone in the future is Carla, it’s what I love about Star Trek.
Carla: But I don’t really feel like that about Picard. You know, like…
Ben: Well he loves his archaeology.
Carla: (laughing) And archaeologists as well!
Ben: Yeah. Oh yes that’s true. (laughs) Can’t get enough!
Carla: All right. So just before we wrap up what is your favourite thing about Star Trek?
Ben: Well it is that, you know, it’s that idea of the future. It’s really, it’s a kind of future I can really get behind where everybody is a massive science nerd. Like it doesn’t matter what job they have on the starship, they understand quite advanced ideas in physics and chemistry and geology and, you know, human knowledge is like a thing that you do because you understand its worth, it’s not like your job. And I think that I really I really dig that. And extrapolating further from that, that idea of what the future could be like for people. That’s kind of a big broad one, but I just really like that idea.
Carla: Like you just really love the Star Trek universe.
Ben: I really like what the future human society looks like…
Ben: ..in the Star Trek universe. Yeah.
Carla: Yeah and I would agree because I think that it’s actually… I mean you can understand that that was sort of a post-war Atomic Age view of what the future could be in the 60s, but for it to still develop into that in the 80s, like in decades of total social nihilism, and to have this kind of little beacon of “but we can be this in the future”… It’s amazing.
Ben: How about you? What’s your favourite thing about Star Trek?
Carla: I’m more sort of on the mechanics of it. And, and it’s also why I like Voyager the best as well because the temporal timelines in Voyager I think are the best.
Ben: I love a good time travel episode.
Carla: Yeah, and they’re so well developed and we’ll talk about it soon in the next episode or in the future with Discovery. But there’s this whole other Star Trek universe like a thousand years into the future that keeps you know touching back and there’s all these other timelines so I love the breadth of that. And you know it’s just obvious seeing nerd writers really ripping into their favourite fantasies, and I love that, and I love that there’s a place for that in this world. You know what I mean?
Ben: It is, like, for continuity nerds – and I am one – Star Trek is the most fun playground. ‘Cause most of it makes sense, you know? That’s the thing. Whereas if you want to get into continuity nerd stuff with Doctor Who – and I promise I won’t, I’ll try not to talk as much about Doctor Who in the rest of the podcast, I already did a whole podcast about that… But, you know, it’s written by different people and totally different production teams over a span of you know 55, 56 years now. So it doesn’t make any sense. Like that’s the honest truth, most of it does not make any sense, even within the last 11 years. So looking at Star Trek you know and the amount of work that fans have already done to make it make sense. I love that shit, ohhh, I love it.
Ben: So I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.
Carla: I do too. So we’re a little late in the game as the second season of Discovery is about to begin but we’re just so happy to be doing it at all. A bit of housekeeping in terms of what to expect: we will be publishing episodes on Tuesdays, Australian time, because we’re obviously Australian.
Ben: Yeah, and now you know who we are and where we’re coming from, you’re ready for next week when we publish our preview episode. We’ll be discussing the first season of Discovery, the Short Treks mini episodes that we watched, somehow, and our spidey-senses about what we think Season 2 might have in store for us.
Carla: Can’t wait. Until then… re:Discovery is hosted by Carla Donnelly and Ben McKenzie. Our theme music was composed by David Ashton of Sample and Hold Studios, and our portrait illustrations were created by Alex Clarke. All links to creatives are in the show notes or on our website rediscoverypodcast.com. Please connect with us on Twitter and Facebook at @rediscoverypod. And we record this podcast on the stolen lands of the Woiwurrung and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin nation. Land that was never ceded, land that was and will always be Aboriginal. Thanks for listening!
Petra: re:Discovery is brought to you by Splendid Chaps Productions. Find more entertainment for your ears at splendidchaps.com.