STAR TREK DISCOVERY [Review]: ‘Kling’ing on to Service.
It took awhile to get back, but Star Trek is back on TV. And, man, it does not feel like anything I’m used to that contain the words “star” and “trek” in that order. Aesthetically influenced by the Abrams films (yet set in the Prime timeline of the original series, while also predating the original series), Star Trek Discovery starts aboard the USS Shinzhou, commanded by Phillipa Georgieu (Michelle Yeoh), one of the smaller ships in Starfleet, as they investigate what turns out to be a Klingon religious outpost, commanded by T’Kuvma. A battle ensues, there’s plenty of ships blowing up, and, long story short, our main character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) finds herself court martialled.
Ever since Deep Space Nine ended, J.L, I’ve been waiting to be excited by Star Trek again. Voyager was okay; Enterprise was plagued by bad writing; and.. the less said about the J.J. Abrams timeline, the better. So when Discovery was announced, I was cautiously optimistic. Another prequel? Why can’t we explore post-Voyager? After viewing the first two episodes, I’m anxious to see more…
J.L.: True, and this is a much different, militaristic version of Starfleet, which is a bit odd considering Enterprise toyed with that notion (as well as the prequel angle…), and a bit offputting. As of yet, none of the characters stand out (Burnham is a but stifff…but given where she grew up, it makes a bit of sense), with only Doug Jones‘ Saru making any lasting impression — and that isn’t just do to his prosthetic work). Hopefully once the series transitions to the actual starship Discovery and we focus on the main recurring characters there’ll be someone on whom to latch. Seeing as how the first two episodes don’t focus on the majority of the main characters, there was a coldness to nearly everyone.
DESTINY: So this is why they call it a “Face-Off.” Heh. Sorry, pal, but I was hooked from the first “Energize.” The show looks great; the Birds of Prey looked beautiful and bad ass. CBS/Paramount put a lot of effort into the visuals and it shows. I’m less impressed by how the Klingons look; they look ridiculous and I’m not so sure how to describe it…
J.L.: Completely agree on the aesthetics, Angelic. The music and cinematography of STD (heh) are top notch, feeling grandly cinematic. Elaborate tracking shots, a free-wheeling camera, and transitions from exteriors to interiors are much more complicated than anything seen on Trek before. But there are some flourishes that were a tad distracting: the new face-to-face communications are no longer on a viewer, but full-body holograms our characters talk to. The holograms can walk around the set (in one scene, the bridge; in another, Burnham’s room), and interact with at least some objects, and the whole time I kept thinking “Why the hell? If Sarek is talking to Burnham from Vulcan, and his hologram is sitting on her desk…is there another desk on Vulcan he is also sitting on that is the exact same height and location as hers?”
DESTINY: I’m intrigued by the entire concept of a human being raised on Vulcan — Michael has serious issues trying to reconcile her human biology with her Vulcan training. As a child, Sarek tells her that her “human heart” is why she struggles, and as an adult, he tells her that he sees that she’s still letting her emotions make her decisions. Michael has the logical thinking of Spock and the impulsiveness of Kirk. Supposedly, she will eventually have the wisdom of Sisko, but right now, I don’t see it. I’m hoping her time on the Discovery will help with that.
J.L.: I hope so, too, since this is the first series to fully serialize its story (Deep Space Nine eased into this in its last few seasons with great success, as did Enterprise, to lesser success…); it’ll be interesting to see how the social commentary and parable is parsed out over longform storytelling. Star Trek seems to be most successful in one- or two-episode stories that could explore multiple different themes, ideas, and sometimes even genres (“A Fistful Of Datas”, anyone?) and where one-off stories can affect individual characters much moreso than the overall story; imagine a season-long plotline stopping dead so an episode like “The Inner Light” can play out. It seems at once both ambitious and myopic, but I hope it works.
DESTINY: Yeah, it feels like this could be Trek, but it’s still got some work to go. Crappy way of obtaining viewership or not, Discovery could be the shot the franchise needs. 3.75/5 Vulcan Bibles.
J.L.: I still don’t see why they don’t expand to a post-Voyager timeline rather than write itself into what is already a cluttered chronology, but I’m, too, still eager to see where this goes (as well as seeing Jason Issacs, and Rainn Wilson in action). Oh…and I seriously hope CBS reconsiders making this an All-Access exclusive. Cannot justify signing onto yet another streaming service. Strange new worlds, indeed. 3/5 Escape Pods.