Friday (TV) Review: Star Trek: Discovery

What to say about this show? It’s difficult, because so many things were right, but some were just not. Or rather, they were not-quite-right.

It’s got a lot going for it. It’s pretty true to the Trek legacy. It’s got some really great characters. There were episodes that rivaled the best of the original Trek, and some that were on a par with the worst of that and some of the other series. There were missteps, sure, but doesn’t every first season of every show have some of those?

Overall, it was a pretty strong season. It brings the Trek universe into a more modern type of storytelling. The original series, and most of the follow-ons, were primarily one shot episodes. Everything was neatly and cleanly tied up by the end of the hour. Here, we have a more throughline-based type of story. Although, that’s not quite true, either. There were a few stand-alone episodes, and several arcs of a couple or three episodes that were basically self-contained.

There’s much familiarity here, also. The ship designs, the logos, and some of the equipment are firmly and visually recognizable as Star Trek. The opening credits are a clever collage of familiar ships and objects that are taken apart, redrawn, and rebuilt into new forms that are still familiar. There are familiar characters reimagined and done well, particularly Sarek and Harry Mudd. New characters have perhaps more depth than some of the originals. Michael Burnham is fascinating (No, I’m not sorry!) in her almost split selves. She’s angry and fearful, seeming unable to get past the murder of her parents by Klingons, yet constantly cautioning others against letting past experiences impair present judgements. Her Vulcan upbringing keeps her grounded and prevents the character from becoming too much on any level.

Aliens are mainly represented by the Klingons, who are at their warlike best here, and the Kelpien Saru, who very ably demonstrates the feeling of not belonging as one of the few aliens on the Discovery’s bridge. They ground the series in the Trek foundations of seeing and feeling unseen, and of diversity versus purity of cultures.

So, what was wrong? Well, for one thing, I kept having to remind myself that this Star Trek was set 100 years before TOS. Part of it is the advances in film technology that make TOS and even some of the other series look truly dated, while the new show is glitzy and CGI-filled. It almost makes me wish the decision had been made to make this another future Trek. It wouldn’t take much reworking of the basic idea. It isn’t necessarily a stretch to think there might be a Klingon-Federation split in the future of the Trek universe. And the mycelium drive could have just as easily been a future discovery as a past technology. But that’s me and as the season went on, it was easier to simply enjoy the fancy stuff and work with the story as given. A few episodes relied on tropes and a bit too neat endings, but, again, so did the original series, so that’s not a judgement on this one alone.

At the end, I think it’s a pretty decent show, and hope we get a second season to work out some of the kinks and add one more star to the Trek legacy.

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