Live Long and Prosper: A Conversation with Star Trek Super-fan Jon Clatworthy
Marking the return of one of the most iconic and influential global television franchises in history, the debut season of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: SEASON ONE arrives on Blu-ray and DVD November 19 from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution. The four-disc Blu-ray and DVD collections will feature all 15 Season One episodes of the CBS All Access original series, along with a trove of compelling featurettes and other special features.
From VFX to set design, composing the series’ score to make-up and prosthetics, the special features will provide an unprecedented look at the making of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY follows the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new life forms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself. The series features a new ship and new characters while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY stars Sonequa Martin-Green (“First Officer Michael Burnham”), Jason Isaacs (“Captain Gabriel Lorca”), Doug Jones (“Lt. Commander Saru”), Shazad Latif (“Lt. Ash Tyler”), Mary Wiseman (“Cadet Sylvia Tilly”), Anthony Rapp (“Lt. Paul Stamets”) along with guest stars James Frain (“Ambassador Sarek”), Rainn Wilson (Harry Mudd) and Michelle Yeoh (Captain Philippa Georgiou).
The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali had the opportunity to talk with Star Trek superfan Jon Clatworthy about the home entertainment release of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: SEASON ONE…
Okay, if we begin at the beginning, what fuelled your interest in Star Trek?
Well just being a general science fiction fan really since primary school liking science fiction, fantasy novels as a child, everything from H.G. Wells, Issac Asmiov, Arthur C. Clarke that kind of stuff and Tolkien as well Lord of the Rings, and then Star Trek was always on television and as a child I couldn’t help but come across it and I immediately fell in love with it.
Okay. My first introduction to Star Trek was The Next Generation, but obviously we’re talking about Star Trek: Discovery, how do you think the two series differ because they do look and feel rather different, what do you think of their distinct qualities?
Well, Next Generation was always my favourite series, but Star Trek: Discovery is completely different, I think it’s more in keeping with the rebooted films from 2009 and that in a way does help to bring in new fans as well, I mean Discovery is walking a fine line, it’s trying to keep old fans happy while bringing in new audiences at the same time which is always a difficult task.
But I think Star Trek: Discovery has retained the ethos Starfleet and the Federation as in a sort of utopian society where differences have been cast aside between nations, religion, poverty, war, money, all that has been set aside for the greater good and that is evident in TNG and the other ones.
With Discovery, it’s not quite as evident in the first few episodes but towards the end of the series it basically reminded that the point of Starfleet and the Federation is that there is no shortcuts in doing the right thing and not to give in, whereas talking about things, discussion, thoughtfulness is basically the correct way to go about things than the harder route. It has got similarities but quite a few differences at the same time.
Yeah absolutely I enjoyed the series, I watched it week to week, because that’s how it was released (laughs), but I’m hearing a lot of people say it would have served it better if it was a bingeable show. What’s your thoughts on that?
It’s very funny you say that because that’s pretty much what my partner Louise said two days ago, because we watched it week to week like yourself and it’s okay and then in preparation for this interview and other things I binge watched the whole thing again and back to back, it’s much better watched like that than it was with a week gap in between because the 15 episodes in this Star Trek series is much more serialistic in a way, less stand alone episodes or hardly any at all and it does really benefit from being watched consecutively, it’s like a large movie essentially. So yeah, because of the not so much episodic nature to it, watching it back to back is preferable to watching it week to week, I was sort of losing track of what was going on I must admit the first time round.
Right. It’s a good series it keeps you guessing and I certainly didn’t see that twist coming (laughs) yeah I didn’t see it coming….(Jon interrupts)
there are several, which?
Lorca, I didn’t see that coming
Ah right yeah.
Yeah that was quite a revelation. Obviously a few months back we got the announcement that Sir Patrick Stewart is coming back to Star Trek, just speculating, how do you think that’s going to impact Star Trek as a whole?
Well I think a lot of people are going to be thrilled about that, me I’m one of them, but I’m curious to see how it’s going to work because that’s really harking back to the role, 2002 was the last time we saw Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Nemesis for the TNG feature film and that was 16 years ago now and, he’s a great character, probably my favourite captain he really did embody Starfleet, the Federation, diplomacy, basically did more for interplanetary relations than any other person that put on the uniform and he’s an absolute legend of a character, but it’s strange that they would announce this now just as Discovery is just getting underway to introduce something to distract from that, it almost feels like the Picard thing should have been done several years ago and then give Discovery it’s limelight, I hope it doesn’t take too much away from Discovery.
But I mean Star Trek series have run consecutively in the past in the 90s with TNG, DS9 and Voyager all overlapped to a certain extent, and that worked really well but that was all set in that timeline where all different corners of the solar system, you had Gamma Quadrant and Delta Quadrant in the same Galaxy, they’re all sort of chronological, they’re contemporary with each other and that worked really well, but now Discovery is close to the original crew and then bringing Picard back after obviously 30, 40 years after TNG, I imagine it will be it’s going to be sort of a slight juxtaposition of the two. I hope it works and I love Picard but the jury’s out until I see it (laughs).
Yeah, hopefully they…well I assume they’ll be some scope for crossovers like back in the early days of TNG, Voyager and DS9. If that is the case what do you think his impact will be on the Discovery timeline?
Well do we know for certain…..(Marc interrupts)
No this is just all speculation at this point.
Yeah well maybe he will get sent back 110 or so years or 150 years probably most likely in this Discovery that’ll be interesting to how they do that and get away with it, I mean there’s been lots of time travelling Trek before and a lot of the time it has worked and sometimes it doesn’t, but I just think if they’re going to bring him back as a Star Trek fan what I really wanted to see for the next Star Trek series progressing after Voyager so let’s go 2, 3, 4, 5 hundred years into the future and see how the Federation turns out though Picard set a few years after TNG, Discovery began as a prequel like Enterprise did, I think, even though Discovery is great and I was pleasantly surprised by it I just think that the next Trek series should be set several hundred years in the future and let’s see where it’s going, how technology has advanced for the Federation.
Yeah absolutely. The new series of Star Trek: Discovery is starting, I believe, in early Spring, what are you hoping for for the series?
Well it looks like it will be Enterprise with Christopher Pike and Spock in it as well, I mean there was only one or two episodes with Pike so it will be great to explore that character a bit more because he’s still relatively unknown.
In the original canon Pike was the original Enterprise captain, but then Archer was with Enterprise. So it will be good to get to know that character more, because in the original pilot it was Pike and Spock and in The Menagerie parts one and two in The Original Series Pike was massively injured, you see a few flashbacks but it’s a character we don’t really know a great deal about, so that’s interesting I think, I just hope it doesn’t take much away from the ship, I mean the show’s called Discovery and we’ve now got the Enterprise turning up at the end of the first series… was it a bit soon? Should we have allowed Discovery to establish itself a bit more and then bring in Enterprise? I hope it’s not a move that’s going to backfire and detract away from the Discovery ship and the Discovery crew and focus largely on the Enterprise, it would be great to see that and dominate the show.
Yeah absolutely because they did a really good job of setting up Burnham and the rest of the crew. So do you have a favourite character within Discovery?
Well, Michael Burnham is a great character because I think, harking back to The Original Series, she embodies the passion and determination of Kirk with the incredible intellect and logic of Spock, it’s like having those two characters blended into one and also the first there’s been a real true protagonist she is the main character of those 15 episodes and it all sort of hinges around her, whereas in other Trek series it was a different character each episode and they all get a cool look in.
Burnham is a very interesting character. I found her a bit cold and annoying the first time around but but on second viewing I thought differently. Also another great character is Saru, one of the most alien looking Starfleet officers we’ve ever had, he looks like a true alien rather than just a person painted a different colour with a few ridges on their head, but prosthetics and special effects have come a long way and yeah it looks great and he’s got a good personality. I think there’s a few decent characters, some of them are a bit under-explored at the moment like the various people on the bridge that have had a set of lines but we don’t really know who they are, though it will be interesting to see how they develop as well.
Yeah and obviously Saru is played by the wonderful Doug Jones under all that make-up, he’s wonderful, he’s an interesting character in himself (laughs).
Doug Jones has made a living from playing sort of lanky semi-aquatic alien like creatures and this is like the fourth or fifth time he’s done such a thing but WOW.
Yeah 3 that I can think of, he was Abe Sapian
In Hellboy yeah. He was in The Shape of Water he was that alien creature in that and now Saru so three aquatic aliens that I an think of…
And Pans Labyrinth as the sort of tall white creature and in the relatively obscure Sci-fi series Falling Skies as a tall alien in that.
And let’s not forget he was in Buffy as well (laughs)
Oh yeah (laughs)
He was The Gentleman
So moving forward, what do you think is the secret to the longevity of the series that was created by Gene Roddenberry?
Well it’s the fact that his vision for Star Trek was to take modern social issues and examine them through the prism of the future as it where and basically say well it’s a diverse crew to begin with, I mean in those days it was absolutely groundbreaking and it’s that sort of message of co-operation and putting aside our differences which was so relevant back then and it’s so relevant today as well, back then we where in the middle of a civil rights movement.
You got Uhura who is a Black lady on the bridge, you’ve got a Japanese American Sulu who is, and it’s not that long after Pearl Harbour memories of that, got a Russian; Chekov in the beginnings of the Cold War, it’s basically telling people that things can get better, if we work together in the future we can live in the world we want to live in.
If you can put aside differences, nationalism, prejudice, small minded pettiness and just work for the greater good and that is such an incredible message and it’s very positive I think it’s a world that everyone would want to live in ideally.
I mean I think Discovery also has a similar message about diversity, things that are very important and how the world’s going, everyone’s rolling down the shutters and sort of suspicious of each other and leaving the EU and nationalism is on the rise like Trump and far-right politicians, I mean the last time this happened it ended up in World War II so we just need to stop being suspicious of each other and co-operate and I think that is the message to watch it for.
Yeah it is. We where talking a bit about TNG and about other Star Trek series, is there any other series other than Discovery that you find yourself going back t?
Well I like all of them, absolutely all of them, Deep Space Nine was probably my favourite although it is between TNG and DS9, I mean, I did Deep Space Nine on Mastermind four years ago as my specialist subject and I just find that series fascinating because it got a bit darker but still kept the core ethos of the Federation but it touches subjects like religion and war, things that weren’t that explored in the other ones the Federation’s response to that in a sort of life and death struggle with the Dominion and that was the first time we had seen anything on that scale, and the fact that it’s set on a space station is sort of a nice departure from the starship thing which is travelling through the cosmos, travelling to different worlds and discovering different situations, whereas Deep Space Nine was the reverse the situations come to them and they’re on a space station, so I just thought it was an interesting take on the whole Star Trek universe really.
And just before I let you go, within Discovery are there any other characters from the past, like we’re seeing the introduction of Pike and Spock next season, are there any others that you’d like to see that haven’t been touched on as much?
Well I suppose any character really can come back through some sort of time travel storyline but I think Pike and the Enterprise and Spock will be enough for the time being. As I said, this is Star Trek: Discovery its got its own crew, its own ship, we need to explore those characters and find out about them because there have been quite a lot of characters on that bridge in the first series that have lines but we need to get to know, usually Star Trek if someone talks and we didn’t know their name they ended up dying 15 minutes later, whereas we’ve got several different characters on the bridge there that you need to get to know better. So I’m not overly keen see loads of old characters come (trotting?) back onto Discovery I think that would be a bit gimmicky and I think it would be an admission that maybe this crew can’t sustain it themselves, I think they need to have their moment.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: SEASON ONE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY & DVD NOW