Twelve years after Star Trek: Enterprise (STE) went into space dock, we have a new entry in the long running television franchise, Star Trek: Discovery (STD).
The series takes place in the television universe and NOT the alternate universe of the last three Star Trek films. The setting is ten years before the events depicted in the original Star Trek series (STTOS) and will explain the back story of the cold war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The decision to bring Star Trek back to television is wise; it has generally played much better on the small screen rather the big one. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only good decision made in this series.
First, let take a look at the designs. The exterior and interiors of the Federation ship USS Shenzhou depicted in the pilot looks like it came from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ST:TMP) and is clearly more advanced than anything Kirk and Spock flew. Yet the communicators and phasors look the same as the ones shown in the 1960s.
And while I will allow that the uniforms do seem to be a logical extension of what was worn on Star Trek: Enterprise the abandonment of the blue, gold, red departmental color scheme left me confused. But not as confused as trying to determine each character’s rank; there was no rank insignia on any of the uniforms except the captain’s and an admiral’s.
Another issue is the way the crew interacted. One of Gene Roddenberry’s prime directives was that all Federation officers got along with each other. I did not get that vibe with this crew, but then again they broke with tradition. The four Star Trek series produced in the 80s, 90s and 00s all started with a two-hour pilot in which we saw the crew come together and we got to know the ship’s company individually. Not so here. The pilot was only one hour long and we only got to know, sort of, three of the crew members.
Of course, some of this is due to decision to focus the show around the first officer, Cmdr. Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green instead of the captain. This is a huge mistake. Star Trek has always worked best as ensemble piece, especially in the case of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But this may be for naught as I sensed no chemistry between the cast members.
However, my biggest gripe is the Klingons new look. While I will admit that it is a good alien design, there still remains the question as to why would anyone want to change a forty-year old design that has become one of the most iconic alien looks in history? I might have been able to forgive this decision except that the Vulcans look the same now as they did fifty years ago. It makes no sense to change the look of one alien race and not others.
In fairness, there are some good things about the first episode. The special effects were feature film quality with some of the most beautiful CGI depictions of outer space I have ever seen. Also Doug Jones was delightful as Science Officer Lt. Cmdr. Saru, a member of the Kelpien race, an intelligent species that was bred for food. I suspect that he will be the breakout star and character of the show.
Of course, if one wants to watch the rest of the series, be prepared to pay. The show will be streaming on CBS All Access. How well that is going to work is hard to say. Published reports said that the service had technical issues during and after the show’s premiere. CBS expects only a third of those who sign up for the one week free trial will keep it. As for me, I will wait until it my local library has it on DVD. I saw nothing in the first hour that made me want to pay money to watch it.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Star Trek: Discovery suffers in many ways from the same issues that plagued Star Trek: The Motion Picture – good science fiction, but not good Star Trek. The inconsistencies in the Star Trek timelines presented here were too numerous to accept. If you want good Star Trek, watch Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. True, other incarnations of the franchise did not find their footing until the third or fourth seasons, but I have doubts that Star Trek: Discovery will even last that long. Frankly, it’s just not very good, and most certainly NOT worth paying money to watch. – 4.5/10
Staff Writer/Resident Historian: Nerd Nation Magazine