TV Review: ‘STAR TREK: DISCOVERY’ (2017) – S1E1 & E2 – Heralding In A New Generation Of Trek?
After what seemed like an eternity, another ‘Star Trek’ show has graced the small screens and returned to the lives of hardcore Trekkies jones-ing for their fix. Or casual ‘Star Trek’ lovers like myself who have, nonetheless, also felt an absence without a ‘Star Trek’ show on the air. (Wonder how many times I can say ‘Star Trek’ in this Review?)
The latest show from one of the biggest Sci-Fi franchises, has already premiered on CBS, with the rest of the series to be airing on their paid streaming app, CBS All Access. At least in America. In Canada, the show can be found on the Space Channel, airing weekly, as well as their streaming App, and On Demand through CraveTV. The show will also be available around the world through Netflix.
Not sure why CBS is screwing over their American viewers by making the show available on their streaming app only, but I’ve given up trying to figure out America this year. The show it self, so far, has been pretty innovative, and able to blend a few different concepts successfully. So let’s dive into a Spoiler filled Review of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’.
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is able to blend aspects of it’s predecessors in an engaging and somewhat original way.
Headlined by Sonequa Martin-Green, ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ opens with two female leads, which seemed to piss of many people. Scratch that, piss off many mysoginistic and ignorant people. In what was completely unrelated to the main story sequence, Captain Georgiu (Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael (Martin-Green) establish their history in a pre-credits mission that sets the tone for the episode. It’s a great scene, completely unrelated to the story, but allows the two characters to let viewers know their chemistry, each others’ history, as well as provides a money shot of the new starship.
‘Star Trek: Discovery’s bridge crew is amazing. The cast and characters share incredible chemistry, as they banter, get along and even have rivalries that are highly pleasing to watch. It’s able to blend the casual and complete unprofessional behavior from the Original Series, to the subtle and dry humour of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. Martin-Green’s Michael and Yeoh’s Georgiu are such a pleasure to see together, and Michael’s interactions with others in the crew is just as enjoyable to watch.
Micheal herself has a very interesting backstory. The character has elements of a fish out of water, while also being of two worlds; themes established previously by the character of Spock (Leonard Nimoy & Zachary Quinto) but with the added twist that Micheal is a full human raised by Vulcans. Story-wise there is a lot of room for this to be taken further. Spock always dealt with the internal conflict of being of two different cultures, and trying to find a balance with either, or both. I assume that Michael will similarly have to deal with that as well, especially given where her actions in Episode 2 takes her later in the series. I already enjoyed how she had to justify her controversial actions based on logic, and her steadfast assertion that her emotions inform her logic, instead of undercutting it. I hope that is something that the series continues to explore.
Martin-Green is great as Michael. I became familiar with the actress during her run as Sasha on ‘The Walking Dead’, and was not a fan of the whiny and constantly distressed character she played. However, her charm and confidence in a role like Michael really shows her talent, as she completely won me over. I was impressed by both her comedic timing, and ease with which she portrayed both an uptight young woman with Vulcan influences in flashback sequences, as well the more relaxed badass first officer.
Her comradery with Yeoh’s Georgiu was remarkable and immensely fun. The characters’ obvious history was a treat to watch. Her rivalry and back and forth with Science Officer Saru (Doug Jones) were the highlight of the light hearted and comedic elements of the first two episodes. ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ so far has managed to retain the professional and formal elements of the later ‘Star Trek’ shows, while also blending a bit of the care-free attitudes portrayed by the bridge crew in ‘Enterprise‘. No other cast member really stands out though in the 2 hour premiere, but probably for good reason.
Over all, it was a refreshing pace to see a story where the characters had history with one another, and were not being introduced for the first time, to us, the audience. It conveyed a sense of established continuity that felt natural. It’s like we skipped all the preamble and introductory stuff, and went right into the meat of the story. Allowing the characters interactions with one another to feel genuine and natural, instead of awkward and forced.
The story and portrayal of the villans in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ was probably the weakest element of the show; so far at least. The antagonist being a faction of Klingons that want to reunite the other warring factions to created united front against Starlet, almost makes me wonder why I should care. We got a ‘Star Trek’ show centered around a war in ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’. But it seems like ‘Discovery’ will distinguish themselves by featuring the story of one character, Michael, and her journey through this new world and its events.
While most of the ‘Star Trek’ shows have been largely ensemble casts, the more significant character, mostly the captains, were always considered the ‘lead’. Other characters over time gained prominence and had their journeys focused on as well through specific arcs of episodes. ‘Discovery‘, however, may be attempting something new. It feels like the story will exclusively follow Michael, and how her actions in the first two episodes affected the universe, and her dealing with those consequences. I’m sure other characters will become important and we’ll see their journeys as well, but the show starting off centered around one character hasn’t been done before.
I immensely enjoyed the writing, characters and over all direction of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ thus far. But my biggest concern for the future of the show, is that everything I like about the series, so far, may not be what the series is about.
After the ending of Episode 2, we’re treated to an extended trailer for the rest of the Season, which can be seen below.
The story seems to jump months after the events of episodes 1 & 2, with Michael being recruited to the new starship Discovery, at the expense of serving out her lifetime prison sentence for er mutinous actions in the premiere. It’s implied that the war between the Klingons have been progressing for a while, and Michael is seen by many as the direct cause. She is disgraced. Dishonored. And brought aboard a new ship by its Captain (Jason Isaacs) for her expertise… in something. This is the actual show. And this is my concern.
The character of Michael that we were introduced to, is no longer. She is now a tormented hero, given a chance to redeem herself by a new mentor in Isaacs’ character. She has to put up with the hate and abuse of the rest of the crew on this new ship, deal with the consequences of her actions, while building new relationships and becoming a part of this new crew. Aligning herself more with Martin-Green’s character from ‘The Walking Dead’. Everything that I enjoyed about the bridge crew aboard the Shenzou, and their chemistry with Michael, is also gone. Now we have a new crew, who will be the actual regular ensemble cast for the show, with Michael being the fish out of water character.
It’s an interesting development and one that hasn’t been done before by any other ‘Star Trek’ show. The (new) regular cast members look great, and Isaacs makes an impression in the brief trailer. Saru seems to return as well. In essense, the first two episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ can be considered as an extended prologue, almost self contained episodes in the larger season. Seemingly, only the main character and the threat of the Klingons progressing into the rest of the season. So the best parts of the show, in my opinion, will be gone with the premiere of Episode 3, and we’ll have to see how the new elements play out to be truly invested.
Despite all this, I still think ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is a show worthy of the franchise. It remains to be seen what larger themes the show will deal with, as we’ve only experienced the show so far from a very personal perspective from the characters. Hopefully as the difference in idealogies between Federation & Klingons are expressed, those themes will become more apparent. If the show can maintain the same level of writing and execution through out the season, then ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ can definitely become the ‘Star Trek’ TV show for a new generation.
22 times, by the way.