So, I watched the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery last night. First thing you need to understand, is I’m a massive Star Trek fan. Hugely so. It’s likely my favorite IP. There hasn’t been lots of Star Trek stuff to go gush over til recently (new RPG, which is amazing. New TV show. Kelvin timeline finally gets good in Star Trek Beyond) so my fandom has lain rather inert the last decade plus.
Well, no more. Star Trek: Discovery is airing, and I can finally let loose the rampaging beast that is my Star Trek love affair. I have lots of feelings here.
So what *did* I think of Discovery? Well, anonymous internet reader, I’m glad you asked. Spoilers abound below the logo here.
Let’s do this right:
- The Visuals: It was very pretty. The ship and uniforms screamed Star Trek (I adored the new ship designs they’re working with). It was a high quality and pleasing show to watch.
- Michelle Yeoh: First off, Michelle Yeoh can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Also, she’s the perfect fit for a Star Trek captain. I can’t imagine a better choice. And of course, she was excellent as the captain of the Shenzhou.
- Sonequa Martin-Green: Excellent acting, considering the writing she got (more on that later.)
- The rest of the Cast: Solidly turned in performances. No complaints. They looked like a Starfleet crew (visually, acting, and more).
- New Intro: I really liked the new intro music and graphics.
This is the big section. THE BAD
Ok, so. I can’t bullet point this section because it’s way too big.
War Story: Why is Discovery a war story from the start? Star Trek has always been about exploration, hope, and diverse species working together.
I mean the famous opening leads with: “”to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.” I’m not saying you can’t have violence or physical conflict in Star Trek (obviously you can, and should), but TNG and DS9 (which were the most “war-like” of Star Trek) still had the focus revolve around exploration, discovery and the future.
Sigh. There was nothing to indicate this is anything more than a science fiction war story, which really irks me.
Inter-crew conflict: Gene Roddenberry famously had a “no long-term inter-crew conflict” rule (which obviously was broken in the past, but never seriously, or with long term intent.) Now, as to the sanctity of that rule, I don’t think it’s necessary. We all know conflict drives good stories, and the Discovery writers have long made their intent to dispense with this rule clear. Shockingly, guess what didn’t work for me.
Good drama, pathos and conflict among a crew drives good storytelling. Having your first officer lead a mutiny against her captain of seven years (who wants to give her a command, and clearly serves as a mentor who things highly of her)? That’s stupid and lazy. Especially when there was nothing given to us in the prelude up to that moment that suggested Burnham would take Sarek’s advice over her captain. It’s an absurd level of conflict with no basis for existing. Completely stupid. I mean, what’s the thought process?
Here I am, a highly trained, very successful Starfleet officer, raised by Vulcans to be logical, confronted with an enemy empire we’ve not contacted in a hundred years. My adopted father, a Vulcan ambassador, says the Vulcans always attacked Klingons on sight, and then the warlike race sued for peace. Hm, my captain won’t open fire based on my recommendation, based on this single piece of information, only I am aware of! I know! I’ll directly break the chain of command on the bridge, and then attack her when she reprimands me! Then I’ll order the crew to open fire on an enemy who hasn’t attacked us, or even powered up weapons?
It’s inane. Martin-Green turns in such a great performance, I feel so bad that she got such terrible writing and plotting.
I don’t even know what to think.
The Klingons: Oh. Yeah. Sooooo, this was a thing. First off, NONE of those Klingons were memorable. Their scenes dragged on under the weight of all Klingon dialogue and subtitles (and I love subtitled films.) Their make-up was uninspired, and it was just a mass of 90s goth club costumes, dialogue spoken through a mouth full of cotton, and unmemorable characters.
Other Star Trek has been so good at making the individual Klingon’s individuals that, it was jarring to have to deal with the opposite.
WHY IS IT A PREQUEL?: If you made some minor adjustments and updated a few details, you could slap this movie into the timeline 100 years after Star Trek: Nemesis (the last stop in our canon timeline) and we’d have an all new story that moves Star Trek further into the future. This obsession with prequels and re-writing what has gone before didn’t work for Enterprise (even when Enterprise is good, the prequelness hurts it), and I have no faith it’ll work long term here.
Sarek: What the crap was that? I know Spock and his father didn’t get along or talk much, but did Sarek have a human ward he never told Spock about…who..also served in Starfleet? And was probably somewhat infamous (as that mutiny would suggest?)
It really throws the claims of “main timeline” into murky water and tells them to tread for a bit.
Here’s a bullet point list of the rest:
- Holograms (I can’t recall a time they used Holograms like this pre-TNG, and not even in TNG/later shows that much after season 1.) Does Sarek have a desk in the exact spot in his office, so he can mirror Burnhams? How does that sitting thing work?
- Burnham’s placing her opinions over Starfleet values: Geez, someone did not get a complete psych eval. Why is a commanding officer so willing to throw Starfleet ideals and values to the wind to satisfy their own needs/beliefs?
- The idiotic plan to capture the Klingons? Why would you beam TWO human Starfleet officers (Captain and First Officer) into enemy territory because you “need to redeem yourselves?” I mean, first off: A living officer with years of military experience is still worth more alive than dead to the Federation. It’s a boneheaded tactical decision.
- WHERE WAS THE DISCOVERY?
Look, for all my complaining I’m glad there’s a new Star Trek on TV. And I hope it’ll be good. But I’m gonna be waiting til the season is wrapped up. I canceled my CBS All Access this morning.
I hope Star Trek: Discovery finds its feet and moves itself forward into something resembling Star Trek in the long term, and for it’s sake, I hope it happens fast. I’m not sure how long viewers are going to pay for CBS All Access to watch ST:D without more to it.