Shield of Tomorrow – Beginning my Star Trek Education

Trekucation? Nah. Treducation? Nope. Trekkie Initiation? Nell no. Oh well, I’ll figure out a clever name at some point!

I’ve never been a Star Trek fan, for a variety of reasons, from finding Roddenberry’s vision of the future unappealing, partly because it seems disturbingly militaristic, and the other part because it’s often portrayed as so idyllic (no crime, no poverty, no ignorance, everyone is good and happy and want for nothing) that it’s bland. It’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some Star Trek media. I really liked Deep Space 9, what I saw of it, because I liked how much the stories were personal, about the characters and how flawed and human they were, compared to those of other series in the same universe–and of course, the Rules of Acquisition. I’ve also enjoyed the recent Star Trek Discovery and even the oft maligned Enterprise, mostly because Doctor Phlox was pure joy to watch. 

I’ve always been drawn more towards Star Wars, as I love space operas a lot more than pure sci-fi. Not only that but I’ve always found Star Wars closer to science fantasy than science fiction. I love the mystical mumbo jumbo along with my spaceship. That’s not to say I blindly love Star Wars, we all know there’s a lot of poor quality nonsense in this franchise as well and I’m not just talking about the prequels, which are a topic I can get into and pick out the good bits and my ideas on fixing the bad ones. As an aside, I despise The Last Jedi, but not so much as a Star Wars fan but a movie fan. As a film, it’s subpar, with a stupid premise, lazy storytelling, wasted storylines and just lots of useless nonsense. About the only thing I like is the reveal that Rey’s parent’s aren’t special.

For the longest time my love for Star Wars clashed with the bits of Star Trek I enjoyed. There were vocal geeks around me and in popular culture putting both fandoms at opposite ends and impossible to reconcile. Star Wars vs Star Trek was a thing and I often felt I couldn’t enjoy both. It’s complete nonsense of course, and now I look back at that peer pressure fear and can only shake my head. But even so, I feel a certain degree of trepidation when facing Star Trek material, it’s something so built in I have to consciously shake it off. It’s a similar feeling to when I off-handed disregard certain games and then have to remind myself not to do so as it would mean losing out on a potential gem.

This was the case with Shield of Tomorrow and I’m happy I’ve developed that ability to question my own mental nonsense and just enjoy things. Shield of Tomorrow is a Geek & Sundry produced Star Trek RPG show, using the Star Trek Adventures rule-set published by Modiphius, in a similar vein to Dice, Camera, Action and Critical Role. It tells the story of the crew of the Sally Ride, an Intrepid-class ship in the Federation, as science vessel that much like the others, gets in so much trouble it’s almost ridiculous.

What attracted me to the show was the same thing I loved about Deep Space 9, the characters. The crew is fantastic, and the players play them quite well, and their stories are really really cool. There’s some incredible character depth here and I’ve enjoyed the series a lot. In fact I’m now watching the first episodes as I caught the show by chance on Twitch when they were doing a crossover episode, of their current third season, with Doctor Who, something that fans voted for and donated to a charity to make happen. Apparently, before Shield of Tomorrow, the same players had a Doctor Who game, also broadcast and so it gave them a chance to bring over their characters into this one-off episode that I found phenomenal, especially with Taliesin Jaffe playing a very strange but enjoyable version of The Master.

Shield of Tomorrow - Crew
The crew of the Sally Ride

Aside from the characterisation, the humour in Shield of Tomorrow is extremely appealing to me. I can’t stand extremely dry stories or shows, I disconnect. It’s one of the reasons I find many modern shows unappealing, as they tend to focus too much on being edgy and dark and don’t even let a bit of humour in, only misery. With these shows I inevitably become desensitised to the events on-screen. There’s only so much misery you can take before you no longer feel anything for it. Humour and lightheartedness cleanse the palate and it’s the good moments that make the bad ones feel so powerful. It’s not just storytelling but life itself and it’s done wonderfully in the Shield of Tomorrow episodes.

As I watch the episodes, I’m bombarded by Star Trek terms and phrases I don’t understand and so I’ve scoured the internet for terms and clips from the different series to further my understanding. In doing so I’ve now been thinking more and more that I should deepen my knowledge of Star Trek and so I’m now planning on going over the different series, despite the feelings I’ve had towards them for years, because I might just find a gem. In the process I’ve discovered a curious fact: all three “Next Generation” era shows all ended after 7 seasons. That’s Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space 9. Thanks to the wonders of Netflix, all these season are available to me. One thing I don’t know and which I need to ask someone who does is if the films are worth pursuing or not. I know I’ve seen some of them in the past, just don’t remember them all. I remember the one with the whales, which I thought was silly as hell at the time and the one where Picard finds Shatner. And of course I’ve seen the new ones, where they prove that space is comprised of dark matter and lens flares.

Taliesin Jaffe - The Master
You can never go wrong with Taliesin Jaffe playing an RPG

Will I become a fan? If the stories and characters are good enough, then there’s a chance. Or it might be that Shield of Tomorrow is the only piece of Star Trek that I find appealing. We’ll talk once I’m on the other side of this journey aboard the many ships and stations of the Federation.

Since I’m looking at a long learning process, trying to catch up with decades of content, I leave this question here for whoever reads it. Is there anything I should look for specifically? It can be one film, a site, a book, a specific storyline in one of the shows, etc. Are there things that you feel are crucial to understanding and enjoying Star Trek or to the overall plot or timeline? If you can help me, you’re doing me a great service and I will forever be thankful.

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I love everything readable, writeable, playable and of course, edible! I search for happiness, or Pizza, because it's pretty much the same thing! I write and ramble on The Mental Attic and broadcast on my Twitch channel, TheLawfulGeek

2 thoughts on “Shield of Tomorrow – Beginning my Star Trek Education”

  1. It’s awesome that you’re trying to do this. As you say, the whole Star Wars vs Star Trek thing is difficult to overcome. I genuinely am not into Star Wars and I have tried many times, but have absolute respect for what it is and what it means to so many people – I hate that people spend lots of time fighting on the internet about which is better – that really isn’t a thing to me!

    It’s difficult to know where to begin with suggesting Star Trek starting points (and i’d never heard of Shield of Tomorrow so that isn’t a great start), but it’s cool that you like the idea of DS9 as that is the series I usually recommend to people – particularly those who don’t like the weird idyllic nature of the Original Series and TNG (although, I do also love TNG and also Voyager).

    Film wise I really like First Contact – it takes the Next Generation crew (Picard et al.) to a slightly darker level, but it’s hard to say if the plot would make sense to someone who hadn’t watched the series – I think it probably would though. That may not be much help, but if you have any specific questions about Star Trek i’m happy to try and answer!

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