From this review for anyone else who was curious.
It's not a false statement that the run of Star Trek from TNG through Enterprise used an atmosphere of period drama to emphasize the sense that the setting is a time other than our own. It's not unlike the common shorthand of setting a piece in ancient Rome and having the characters speak English with a British accent. In that sense, most of Trek is written to not feel contemporary in a way that Picard is an exception to, and to a lesser extent Discovery is as well. It's also true that Picard sets itself in a story world built around some key conflicts that exist to act as mirrors to kinds of problems that are specifically relevant to concerns about the world that we have to deal with in our present historical moment. I don't think that's as true of Discovery - I think Discovery is more parallel to Voyager where there's nothing really new being said in its "vision of the future" at all, and it's just inheriting its setting from other Trek and not really exploring it thematically.
It isn't nothing - it contributes to a character to the franchise in the same way that space ship, set, costume, and makeup designs do. It's one of the many planks making up the ship of Theseus that is a franchise's ethos. Another whole category of elements would be substantive elements of the writing like themes or genre expectations within a given universe. So it's the same basis I'd have to argue that the Yuuzhan Vong as alien invaders from outside the known universe were always a Star Trek plot device in a Star Wars story, that the Kelvin Enterprise (or Discovery's Klingon bird-thing) would be out of place in the main Star Trek universe because it lacks the aesthetic of practical limitations that Trek ships are designed under, and so on.
A series can't dispense with too many of these things at once without being Thing in Name Only. At some point you'd be better off just making it its own separate thing.
But you most certainly can dispense with them selectively and purposefully.
I don't think either Discovery or Picard works, period. Discovery is a very serial show that depends entirely on the cohesion of its season arc to say anything, that happens to be, so far, two seasons that each change direction at the middle and contradict themselves materially and thematically as hard as the Star Wars sequel trilogy does. Picard is a series of really cool vignettes that are supposed to add up to a similarly serial construction and just don't. It's like a Michael Bay Transformers movie, except the setpieces being strung together with no logical connections are character beats and crying scenes instead of action sequences.
I think either of them would work as Star Trek if they worked at all.
Star Trek is an inherently cerebral franchise that has traditionally used a somewhat carefully constructed science fiction setting to explore a variety of speculative-fiction concepts. The TNG era also built up a dense enough canon of facts about its universe that people can talk about ships and species the way WWII junkies can talk about tanks and national economies. Through Voyager and Enterprise, we've seen what happens when the creative team or the network is content to keep authentic, consistent, guaranteed, billions-and-billions-served Star Trek flavor above all else. Through the Kelvin films, we've seen what a nostalgia reboot Star Trek based on the characters and ephemera of the original series in Marvel movie style looks like. None of those things are wholly or inherently bad and all of them contributed great things that have a place in the franchise.
But Star Trek should be able to question its most basic assumptions and ask whether the devices it's inherited are the best ones for going about the business of doing Trek, and lay the guts all out on the table if need be. Because, you know, it's not Star Wars, where being enjoyable and keeping the authentic flavor are the only things that matter; science, social realities, and visions of the future all move on with time, and Star Trek shouldn't just be reflecting those changes, it has to rework itself to actively engage with them. It has to be conscious of its contemporary context, all the time, or it's not working as Star Trek.
Edited by Copper Bezel, 30 July 2020 - 09:31 AM.