Star Trek: Discovery Premier
What is it about Star Trek that gets me fired up so much? It’s not like I was invested in the original series that much. I did get into the TOS after TNG started but I can’t say that I have actually watched EVERY episode. I did watch every episode of TNG, seen every movie, and watched most of DS9. I watched some of STV and STE but could not take those after a period of time. Time travel became such a crutch in later seasons and shows, I could not do it. John was a big part of my Star Trek fandom evolution and as time went on, I became to really appreciate the value of Star Trek and the stories it had to tell.
Unfortunately, since the death of Roddenberry, things have changed so much and so many different people have completely corrupted and destroy that story. One core thing about Star Trek was that it put the science back in science fiction. Or it at least tried. It was during my evolution of my fandom (late teens to late 20s) that I saw the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars. Science fantasy and science fiction are step-brothers but they don’t always get along. As I have come to appreciate more and more the real world physics of the universe and just how terrible space is for humanity to explore, I have also come to the opinion that we can tell these stories without ignoring reality. Unfortunately, very few (especially in Hollywood) do not share that opinion.
Star Trek: Discovery had a very encouraging start – long time Star Trek director involved, distancing itself from the crap that is the Kelvin/JJ Abrams timeline, etc. But as time went on, things got worse. Delays. The show-runner quits. And the production pictures. The first controversy, of course, was the klingons appearance. After the first trailer came out, more complaining about how similar it was to the Abrams-verse, as well as some advances in the technology that seem to contrast with the time period.
I was one of those that was skeptical. Very skeptical. I hate the Jar Jar Abrams-verse –aka the Kelvin timeline. It is what happens when a Star Wars fan gets ahold of Star Trek. They just don’t get it. I was both a Star Wars fan and a Star Trek fan, but I kept them separate. One is science fantasy and the other science fiction. There was some cross-over in terms of elements but they were very different. John Reavis helped me really appreciate what Star Trek is and what it is not. I was really worried that Star Trek has been lost to the dumbed-down fans that don’t know what science fiction really is. Abrams had some good ideas but his approach and execution lost all that was what Star Trek was about.
Discovery (I don’t think we should call it STD) is another attempted to reboot the setting while claiming to be a part of core ST canon. However, you can tell that the Abrams-verse influenced it. Especially in the first two episodes (I have since seen the third, which seems to tone down that influence). So here are some key areas I had problems with:
The biggest hubbub I think everyone has is the redesigned Klingons. I was prepared for the look of the Klingons because of the leaked pictures. I was willing to at least accept a redesign since it has happened before. However, not only are they redesigned visually but they are also reimagined culturally, to a degree. They merge the radicalism of Islamic terrorists (apparently Klingons use terrorists tactics now, the most dishonorable way to attack someone) into a metaphor of white American nationalists (because we all know this show is run by leftist anti-Trumpers) to get this angry and isolationist society bent on keeping itself “pure” by not joining the Federation. What happened to “honor is everything”?
Additionally, the prosthetics of the klingon masks are so terrible that you can barely understand them. I get it. They were trying to make them appear even more alien than they already were. The big joke when I watched TNG, DS9 and so on was the “Ridged alien of the week.” The whole universe was apparently seeded with humanoids that all had ridges someone on their body. I am sure that’s what someone thought of when they decided to make the Klingons more alien. The succeeded in that but only to fail in actual execution. It is terrible to listen to them, let alone to look at the HR Geiger inspired costumes. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Geiger fan. But I don’t feel crossing his work with the Klingons should be a thing. The fact that they talked in Klingon with subtitles was also quite annoying.
Many people stopped here. Once they saw the Klingons, how the acted, and the subtext being hinted at, they were done. I, on the other hand, attempted to get passed that part of it, as hard as it was. Some people love the Klingons and are heavily invested into that part of ST. I, on the other hand, am not. I am more partial to the Feds and the stories that come out of their exploration of space.
Another complaint I had was the Klingon ships that showed up. None of them looked like Klingon ships, other than the veiled attempt to represent the Bird of Prey. They all were blocky generic ships that could have easily been in Star Wars or something. Nothing jumped out and said “THIS IS A KLINGON SHIP!” The sarcophagus ship was a cool concept, however, so I have to give them some props for that. But outside of that ship, I was not too thrilled with the starship aesthetic. That’s something core to Star Trek in general. Every races has signature ship designs.
The USS Shenzhou, crew, and technology
There was a lot to like about the Shenzhou set, but there was not enough shown. There is a clear reason for that later but I will avoid the spoilers. It does feel like an Abrams-verse set, however. Additionally, there seems to be a disconnect with what we understand as normal ST technology for that time period and this ship. It has been said many times that this show takes place a few years after the events depicted in The Cage (TOS episode that makes up The Menagerie). Holographic communication and HUD displays are just of the things that jumped out at me. I get it though, this show is in part a reimagining. If you simply put a modern spin on what we were given in 1966, you would get quite a boring show.
The crew was a little stilted and uninteresting. I don’t mind putting women in charge as long as its not at the expense of men, but all the male figure (what few where there) seemed either petty, idiotic and just in the background. Social Justice Warriors strike again. The diversity was there but I basically became numb to that. I just see people as people.
Also…. Phasers don’t go “Pew Pew!” They are constant beam weapons. Not until the Defiant did we see short-burst cannons.
The main characters
A woman named Michael. Interesting. I let is slide, whatever. Hollywood is just trying to be edgy and gender neutral. Whatever. But my problem with her is that she’s an idiot. Nothing she did made any sense. For someone that was raised in a sterile, logical and rational Vulcan environment, she was way too emotional and irrational. And I am not the first to notice that for a show to tout its diversity, it was not very progressive to throw your ethnically diverse main character into jail at the end of the pilot episodes. Just saying.
Most of the other characters are mostly throw away, quite literally (minor spoilers) including Captain Philippa Georgiou (played by Michelle Yeoh). And I really liked her character. I pick her over Janeway any day (I never liked Janeway). But let’s just say … don’t get to invested in her. The bad part is that I never got the feeling while watching the show that the crew had the depth or the weight that the crew of the Enterprise or the Reliant had. From the beginning, you had a feeling they were just throw-away characters. Each time you get to know one, they were gone. The only one that was obviously going to stick around was the alien Saru (Doug Jones). Although somewhat interesting, I found his species very bland and unbelievable. A race bred to sense the coming death? WTF does that mean?? I found that stupid and hokey. The crew of the Orvillehave more character.
Physics mean something. Space is big. It’s HUGE! If a bright light shines in one point in space, even if you are 1 light year away, you are not going to see this “new star” for another year! Light years are call that for a reason. You don’t place a convention like Warp speed into a sci-fi show to totally ignore stellar distances at another point. It’s just stupid and annoys me. Some folks had issues with the psychic connection between Sarek and Burnham, especially the range. Sorry, you can’t have a problem with that if you don’t have a problem with people seeing a bright light from LIGHT YEARS away instantaneously!
Overall, I have described this show as a decent sci-fi show with a watered down flavor of Star Trek. Star Trek is there but only superficially at this point. Some of decried it as “Not Star Trek!” as if that declaration “… makes it so…” (ha ha, see what I did there?) but those were probably too young to remember that similar voices of diehard ST fans back in the mid-80s decried the same thing about TNG. It was a change, as is this. I think they need to sharpen up the intelligence, tell good (better) story, and give me a character I care about, and maybe this can be called Star Trek.