I’ve been watching the new Star Trek. The one that CBS has commissioned: Star Trek Discovery. The first episode was excellent, I thought. Delicately treading the line between the various Star Trek ethos (suggested plural of ethos, please see: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/what-is-the-plural-of-ethos.286920/) that have been created over decades. A cautious, but pleasing blend of Original Series style with Next Generation intrigue and DS9 variety.
The new captain was everything a Star Trek Captain should be, the inter-species camaraderie between crew-mates already apparent, the Klingons (how could it be Star Trek without Klingons?) absolutely magnificent and complete with sub-titles.
Then came Episode Two …
Summoning the audacity to tag onto the wake of previous Star Trek traditions is an exceedingly brave move, and I was pleased to see honour and authenticity maintained by the inclusion of a Roddenberry in the credits. But how does one fulfil the expectations of millions of Trekkers, Trekkies and ‘Trek-istas’ without merely regurgitating second-hand plots and characters? Surely, after all the ‘Star-ry’ avenues that have been explored, boldly going anywhere new is going to lead to trouble.
Yet, that must be precisely the point of the enterprise. Next to the Prime Directive of non-interference in an alien species’ time-line, the Secondary Directive appears always to have been: Let’s go there and see what trouble we can get into. Closely followed by a Tertiary Directive of: Now, let’s work the problem.
This, I believe is glorious advice for the creative process. I have been doing a lot of thinking recently, spurred on by conversations with a fellow dog-walker, (where better to put the world to rights?) on the whole messy business of expectations and their rather nasty habit of ruining creativity. Make no mistake, expectations are a deadly species, with many forms of attack.
First, they start out as innocuous as Tribbles (and we all know where that leads. How wonderful to see homage paid to the little darlings in the new series.)
They pose as aspirations, present themselves as goals. But it’s not long before their not-so-subtle masquerade of providing direction, begins to uncloak and reveal itself as a not-so-invisible tractor beam, dragging you where you do not want to go, and where your inner self is screaming you should not.
From here, it is a small step to feeling completely in their power, as they have the ability to drain your strength and energy, and to alter your perceptions of reality, as well as sucking dry any sense you might have of your own ability to manoeuvre safely into deep space and the unknown.
Expectations have no mercy. They are as rigid as a Klingon’s forehead, and about as open to negotiation as the Borg. Expectations are afraid of imagination, and incapable of inhabiting the present moment. Their domain is the stale alternate universe of Predictability, and they infiltrate this world like a deadly virus, infecting everyone in their path with carefully metered doses of: I must, I should, I ought …
But worst of all is that special breed which is capable of destroying one’s entire sense of self. The very deadly Self-Expectations. They appear as gently as poisoned gas, through the Jefferies Tubes and vents of your mind, quietly subduing originality, creativity, longing for adventure, until they can lock you in their deathly grip and squeeze the life out of …
There’s a reason why you never see a starship called the USS Expectation, and that’s because the notion is complete anathema to the Star Trek world. And it ought to be (whoops!) to writers, too. The privilege of being a writer – a conduit for nurturing inspiration and new ideas – is a position to be used with respect. We have a duty of care to welcome each new story that arrives in our jurisdiction and to accompany it on its journey, honouring what it chooses to reveal as it goes, observing the Prime Directive as we work.
If we allow Expectations to take over our task, they will surely determine that our beautiful Tribbles quickly become Troubles.