Mar 7, 2018

[TV] Star Trek: Discovery - Season 1 Review

As a lifelong Star Trek fan, I've naturally been in the camp that has wanted a new television series to breathe new life into the franchise. But when news of Star Wars: Discovery first came out, my feelings were more of concern than excitement as it took a while for this project to really move forward and the notion of it being yet another prequel series felt like they were trying to stay within a weird safe place, narratively speaking.

So I started this show with a lot of reservations and this darker, grimmer Federation did not make it any easier for the show to endear itself to me. But I was enough of a fan to want to see this show succeed and so I continued watching until the end.

While far from a perfect series, their overall vision for the show did make sense of the most part and made for an interesting ride. And now we're all waiting to see where the writers are going to take the show in the future given all that has taken place across this first season.

Synopsis: Star Trek: Dicovery is the latest Star Trek television series in the franchise. It was created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurzman and it takes place about a decade before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series. As of the time of this blog post, the show has already been confirmed for a second season.

The show introduces us to Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michell Yeoh) and her first officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The bond between them is quite strong but things change when they detect a mysterious object that turns out to be an ancient Klingon vessel. As the Klingons have not been seen for some time, this is practically a first contact situation. Burnham proposes a controversial course of action and ends up insistenting that the ship folllow through, even against the Captain's wishes

Six months later and the Federation is at war with the Klingon Empire and Burnham is now considered to be a traitor to the Federation for her actions during that first contact situation. A routine prison transfer goes awry and Burnham ends up being rescued by Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and the crew of the USS Discovery. The ship is apparently part of an experiment to utilise spore drive technology to aid the Federation in their way given near-instantaneous travel cross vast distances.

What I Liked: There are a lot things going for the show including some intriguing characters with rich back stories including the main focus of Michael Burnham. How the key members of the crew interact and how they face issues together is really what defines the show and aligns it with the larger vision of the Star Trek franchise as a whole. It takes a while to ring true to that vision, but the show does get there.

There's a lot about the show that involves subverting what we know about these characters and maybe even the franchise as a whole and comparing it against opposing views or antagonists. This constant cycle of juxtoposition is really what helps elevate  things and make the story a lot loftier that what it may have seemed initially.

What Could Have Been Better: The changes to the Klingons as a people just didn't work for me. Sure it's mainly a visual update to the look of their species but the changes also affected the way their actors were able to perform their lines. Something about the new make-up made it consistently difficult for the different actors to be able to speak clearly, what more emote with any degree of believability.

Many of the seemingly big reveals of the show ended up being ridiculously obvious. It has been argued that not keeping the reveals secret meant stressing  other things entirely but that doesn't always hold water consistently. The first half of the season took a while before really gettin anywhere worthwhile, but at least there was some degree of recovery once  the show resumed after its mid-season break.

TL;DR: Star Trek: Discovery can be a tricky Trek to get into if you're a long time fan but trust in the process as the show remains firmly oriented on the Star Trek future we've come to love as fans. The effort to incorporate more "modern" story elements seen in other TV shows resulted in varying levels of value in the plot points, but they more or less get there in the end. Thus the first season gets a good 4 unusual technologies that will once again disappear come the time period of the Original Series out of a possible 5.


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