WARNING: This review contains spoilers about the first two episodes of Star Trek Discovery. It also contains references to plot points from other Star Trek series.
My induction as a Trekkie occurred in Grade 7 when a TV station in my area started running the original Star Trek episodes in syndication. From the first episode I was hooked. I’m currently watching all of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes with my son on Netflix. I have therefore been anticipating the launch of a new Star Trek series for quite some time (12 long years) and I have very high expectations for that show given the fact that I wasn’t a huge fan of the series Enterprise.
I watched the two-hour premiere of Discovery last night and must admit to having mixed feelings about the show. I expected the show to be a bit dark in terms of story line and to exhibit “cowboy” space exploration as the show is set 10 years before the original series and space is still likely to really be a somewhat unexplored final frontier.
Many of the details were super cool and nerdy to a Trekkie like myself. These included the transporter effect, the phasers, the Starfleet uniforms (especially the number of pips on the Starfleet badges used to indicate rank), and the bridge of the Discovery. These visuals were permutations of what we’ve seen before as an audience, but with a novel spin which was interesting.
It’s clear from these episodes that the story arc will be continuous and that it will heavily include the Klingons. I’ll be honest that the Klingons as presented in this show are unfamiliar. This includes multiple changes to their physiology, language, and culture. These could all be very interesting over time, but they were rather jarring last night. While the Klingons are still presented as a warrior race, some of them appear to be content to rest on their laurels, some are religious zealots, and others are outcasts due to previous power struggles. They are also pretty sneaky which is exhibiting a distinct lack of honour in my opinion. There is a treasure trove of information to dive into here, but there does exist a danger in unravelling Star Trek cannon a little too much for my liking. My biggest beef was that my husband and I were constantly brought out of the story and show by the guttural delivery of the Klingon language which is much harsher than that spoken by Klingons from any of the other series. I’m intrigued by the fact that the Klingon forehead bridge is highly variable in the Klingons seen on the series thus far depending on their house and I suspect that this might be important as the series develops.
The other large issue for me when watching the episodes last night was that I didn’t find myself rooting for any of the characters. There were a lot of confusing dichotomies on display that seemed unrealistic. As an example, the captain of the USS Shenzhou makes several references to having a past that is filled with pain and suffering caused by conflict, but seems rather lackadaisical about the appearance of an armada of Klingon ships suddenly appearing and the implications of that event to the Federation. The science officer is exceeding cloying. The main character’s personality is all over the place; at times stoic due to her Vulcan upbringing, and later ludicrously irrational when breaking the chain of command on the ship and especially after the death of her captain. She ends up court martialled and sentenced to imprisonment at the end of the second episode and it was a bit of a struggle to frankly care about what’s going to happen to her next. As to that, I’m pretty sure it involves redemption in the form of Jason Isaac’s character offering her a second chance based on the fact that she was the only one who felt that a show of force might have changed the outcome of the first significant contact between the Federation and the Klingons. Pulling people out of jail for a unique skill set seems to be a recurring theme in a couple of Star Trek shows (Ensign Ro Laren in Next Generation and Tom Paris in Voyager being the most obvious examples).
Most Trek series have pretty rocky starts until the cast and crew start to gel and the writing and milieu of the show comes together. This show has a steeper hill to climb based on what’s come before and the fact that they are playing in a much grittier universe than previously. Hopefully they’ll be able to boldly go where no one has gone before and get the kinks ironed out in short order.