NPR Hypes New Star Trek Series' Nod To 'Diversity'; Jabs At Trump

NPR's Eric Deggans fawned over the "triumph" of the new TV series, Star Trek: Discovery, on Monday's All Things Considered. Despite his praise for the "diversity" in this latest installment in the sci-fi franchise, Deggans still managed to jab at it from the left by noting that "it was odd as a black man to see the bad guy T'Kuvma and many of his followers were the darkest-colored Klingons we've seen yet, as if darkening their complexion makes them more menacing."

The TV critic also boosted a media talking point that connects Discovery's villain to President Donald Trump: "T'Kuvma is a charismatic populist — uniting the Klingons by manufacturing a threat from an outside culture. Make Klingons great again?"

Deggans led his segment with his praise for the new Star Trek series: "I'm happy to say, after watching the first two episodes on CBS's streaming service, All Access, Star Trek: Discovery is a triumph. It's a series that connects to the traditions of 'Trek,' while blazing a brand new story that refreshes a fifty-year-old TV franchise." The reviewer wasted little time before zeroing in on the "diversity" angle: "The first scene between the two [lead characters] is on a desert planet. It's a little stilted, but it makes history. We see an Asian captain and black first officer — both female — leading a 'Trek' TV show for the first time."

After summarizing some of the plot of the lead episode, Deggans set up his race-based critique with soundbite of the first officer rebuking a Starfleet admiral, who lectured that "considering your background, I would think you the last person to make assumptions based on race." The officer retorted, "With respect, it would be unwise to confuse race and culture." The NPR journalist underlined that "this is a 'Trek' that's aware of the history that it's making diversity-wise — though it was odd as a black man to see the bad guy T'Kuvma and many of his followers were the darkest-colored Klingons we've seen yet, as if darkening their complexion makes them more menacing."

Deggans then dropped his point about President Trump: "There's also a nod to contemporary issues. T'Kuvma is a charismatic populist — uniting the Klingons by manufacturing a threat from an outside culture. Make Klingons great again?" He closed the segment by touting that "Discovery has eye-popping effects and a contemporary feel — showing a Trek universe where complex characters are still fighting to build the Federation that Trek fans have known and loved for fifty years."

It should be pointed out that the NPR correspondent didn't mention a separate "diversity" angle regarding the new show. Back in July 2017, Entertainment Weekly profiled how Discovery would have the first openly homosexual lead character — Lt. Paul Stamets, played by actor Anthony Rapp. A liberal observor might wonder how Deggans could have left out the LGBT component, when he highlighted how the series made "history" in the areas of sex and race.

The full transcript of Eric Deggans' review segment for Star Trek: Discovery, which aired on the September 25, 2017 edition of NPR's All Things Considered:

ROBERT SIEGEL: The first new original Star Trek TV show in a dozen years debuted on CBS last night, Star Trek: Discovery.

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the show goes where no Trek show has gone before. It's a prequel to the original Star Trek series, which also moves the saga forward.

ERIC DEGGANS: Space may not be the final frontier for Star Trek: Discovery. Instead, this show's most challenging frontier is the skepticism of all us nerds who couldn't wait to see a new Trek series, but also feared how badly producers might mess the whole thing up. I'm happy to say, after watching the first two episodes on CBS's streaming service, All Access, Star Trek: Discovery is a triumph. It's a series that connects to the traditions of Trek, while blazing a brand new story that refreshes a fifty-year-old TV franchise. It starts with the character Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green.

SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN, ACTRESS (as Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery): First officer's log, Stardate 1207.3 - on Earth, it's May 11, 2256, a Sunday.

DEGGANS: Burnham serves as first officer on the USS Shenzhou. It's about ten years before the time of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek. Her captain, Philippa Georgiou, is played by Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoh. The first scene between the two is on a desert planet. It's a little stilted, but it makes history. We see an Asian captain and black first officer — both female — leading a Trek TV show for the first time.

MICHELLE YEOH, ACTRESS (as Captain Philippa Georgiou on Star Trek: Discovery): What will you do if you were stuck here for 89 years?

MARTIN-GREEN: As a xeno-anthropologist, I could reveal myself to the natives. And you, Captain? What will you do if we're trapped here for 89 years?

YEOH: That's easy! I'd escape.

DEGGANS: And they do. Though the episode starts too slowly, momentum builds steadily and inexorably. The Shenzhou is confronted by a mysterious ship from the warrior race, the Klingons. Burnham insists to an admiral that they will attack.

MARTIN-GREEN: They're relentlessly hostile, sir. It's in their nature.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We've had only fleeting run-ins with them for a century; and now, you presume to know their motivation. Considering your background, I would think you the last person to make assumptions based on race.

MARTIN-GREEN: With respect, it would be unwise to confuse race and culture.

DEGGANS: This is a Trek that's aware of the history that it's making diversity-wise — though it was odd as a black man to see the bad guy T'Kuvma and many of his followers were the darkest-colored Klingons we've seen yet, as if darkening their complexion makes them more menacing. There's also a nod to contemporary issues. T'Kuvma is a charismatic populist — uniting the Klingons by manufacturing a threat from an outside culture. Make Klingons great again? Burnham is a human who has some history with Klingons. Her parents were killed by them; and she was adopted by Spock's father, Sarek — a Vulcan. Starfleet officials were skeptical when Burnham suggests shooting at the Klingons first. She says that's how Vulcans won the Klingons' respect.

MARTIN-GREEN: They said hello in a language the Klingons understood. Violence brought respect. Respect brought peace. Captain, we have to give the Klingons a Vulcan hello.

YEOH: Starfleet doesn't fire first. That's our number one.

DEGGANS: Burnham eventually clashes with her captain in a way that turns her into an outcast — new territory for Star Trek. CBS broadcast Discovery's first episode, but to see the rest of the series, you have to subscribe to its streaming service CBS All Access — which is a shame, because the first two episodes are really one story ending with tragic twists that define the series. Alone, the first episode doesn't have the same impact. Discovery has eye-popping effects and a contemporary feel — showing a Trek universe where complex characters are still fighting to build the Federation that Trek fans have known and loved for fifty years. Mission accomplished — at least, so far. I'm Eric Deggans.


Please support NewsBusters today! (a 501c3 non-profit production of the Media Research Center)

DONATE
Culture/Society Labeling Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Race Issues Sexuality Feminism Radio NPR All Things Considered Eric Deggans
Matthew Balan's picture