Review by CJ
David Semel, Adam Kane, Akiva Goldsman, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Lee Rose, Douglas Aarniokoski, David Barrett, John Scott, Chris Byrne
Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Mary Wiseman, Anthony Rapp, Shazad Latif, Wilson Cruz
Other notable appearances:
Michelle Yeoh, James Frain, Emily Coutts, Rainn Wilson, Mia Kirshner, Jayne Brook, Conrad Coates
39-49 minutes per episode
Number of episodes:
Ten years before Captain Kirk and his crew took to the skies, the crew of the USS Discovery boldly went where no-one had gone before.
Okay. A mild warning that I have loved Star Trek in its various incarnations since I can remember. As a result, most of these issues come from the perspective of a lifelong Trekkie. It’s worth noting though that I’m not afraid of change, having loved Enterprise and the rebooted film universe, and I was very excited that a new series was being created. Now that’s been clarified, I can get to the issues that I feel have caused me to be deeply disappointed by Star Trek: Discovery.
The main problem with Star Trek: Discovery is that it is a prequel, but also not really. It’s a prequel to the original while also being a sequel to the original prequel of the original. Bear with me. By slotting it between Enterprise and The Original Series, Star Trek: Discovery creators have not only reopened the Klingon aesthetics issues that Enterprise gave reason to, but they have caused so many more holes in the greater universe.
In past incarnations of Star Trek, not all characters are likeable but a majority of them are the reason the shows are so great. In Star Trek: Discovery the likeable characters are few and far between.
Our protagonist Michael Burnham, played by Martin-Green, is a human raised by Vulcans (specifically Spock’s parents — more on this later) so she has the same inclination to be stiff and awkward but without the charm. Instead, Burnham is characterised by imploring speeches that often go on for far too long.
Captain Lorca, portrayed by Isaacs, is possibly the most inconsistent character in the Star Trek universe. If your captain is shadier than the villains, there’s probably something there that isn’t quite right.
The Kelpian first officer Saru is played by Jones and is the ship whiner. Saru spends more time scared, complaining, worrying and posturing that it gets quite pitiful to watch. This is explained away as a trait of his species but makes no sense given that he has managed to get into space in the first place. If his character is as innately and proudly neurotic as Star Trek: Discovery would have us think, there’s nothing that leads the viewers to believe he would want to, let alone be able to, progress as far as he has.
In addition to being a prequel(ish) causing issues, Star Trek: Discovery sets itself far too closely to The Original Series’ universe. This includes cramming Sarek in as often as possible and throwing Spock’s name about to throw Trek fans a bone. This happens in big ways (not one but two episodes featuring Harry Mudd) and in little ways (a list of captains showing ones from past shows), but it happens at least once per episode prior to the mid-season finale.
The most frustrating thing about these references to past shows isn’t that they’re constantly rammed down our throat (though that’s not great) but that so much about the rest of Star Trek: Discovery is telling us how different and edgy it is trying to be. It feels like two show runners had two different visions for Star Trek: Discovery and, instead of reconciling, they’re just playing tug of war with the show’s direction.
Back to the Klingons. Am I the only person who thinks they look like Coneheads? (Autocorrect wanted to change that to ‘boneheads’ so I guess at least it’s on my side.) Am I also supposed to believe this race not only has warp capabilities but also advanced cloaking technology, yet they don’t have a fluent grasp on their own language? The Klingons in Star Trek: Discovery sound like they are struggling with every word.
[Full disclosure: The Klingons didn’t bother me in the first two episodes. As the series progressed though, they definitely started grating on my nerves.]
Despite all of this, I did find several things I liked about Star Trek: Discovery.
Anthony Rapp’s Lt Stamets has interesting character development from the start of the series to the mid-season finale.
Despite the character’s inconsistency, Jason Isaacs does a great job selling both sides of Lorca’s personality.
I loved that, while only in a couple of scenes, we get to see the lives of general crew members. This is especially true of the party where crew members are letting loose in a way that the officers, who are generally the primary focus, simply aren’t able to.
Overall, I think Star Trek: Discovery would have been a great show if it were set later in the Star Trek universe’s time line, if it had been produced as a separate show entirely or if it had found its own footing without cramming the past down the viewer’s throat every episode. Unfortunately, instead of honouring a long line of beloved shows and movies, Star Trek: Discovery gets bogged down in its legacy while simultaneously stomping holes through it.
“If a death was necessary, I am satisfied it was not yours.”