Star Trek Discovery Review: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Also check: Will the Shenzhou become the Discovery?
Finally, after all the delays, setbacks and scandals, Star Trek Discovery arrived with a bang and wowed audiences with an eventful opening double-bill. Trekkies around the world were introduced to new heroes, old enemies, new alien races and new ships as the Star Trek franchise tried to reinvent itself whilst retaining enough of what makes it Star Trek to keep the core fans satisfied.
Did it succeed?
The double header was generally well received, scoring high ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and generally receiving positive reviews from the media, but, given the amount of content available online and the way CBS have restricted it to their own streaming service, can the show can go on to have the success of TNG, DS9 or Voyager?
The success of the show will depend entirely on viewing figures, and whilst you can bet your gold pressed latinum that many millions will be downloading and streaming the show illegally (already started), Star Trek Discovery will be considered a failure if the legitimate viewing numbers don’t come through. CBS has to get enough people to sign up to CBS All Access to make the show a success, or we won’t be talking about a second series.
CBS have said on their news site that Discovery has given them a record day of customers signing up, but they didn’t reveal any specific numbers, and they’d hardly say that it has been a failure already, would they? But is Discovery good enough to warrant another monthly paid streaming service?
I spent several years in the infantry and was always taught that when debriefing troops after an operation or exercise, to give 3 points for improvement followed by 3 positives. So I’ll follow this method in reviewing Discovery and provide 3 points that I didn’t like and 3 that I loved.
The Bad Bits
Commander Michael Burnham
I didn’t warm to Commander Michael Burnham during the first episodes and I felt her performance was forced, unnatural and over-the-top. I know that she was raised on Vulcan, and anyone having a mind connection with Sarek is bound to be a bit odd, but I just couldn’t fully understand her motivations and personality from what we’ve seen so far. She might well grow on me, as many characters have in the past, but I couldn’t help but feel the performance of Sonequa martin green felt forced. Her relationship with Captain Georgiou, who I thought was actually pretty good, was also a bit of a rollercoaster ride in under 2 hours which didn’t seem natural to watch.
Unnecessary Klingon Prosthetics
Never has a species changed its look so much as the humble Klingon. If this was a totally new species, I really would get it, but this is a species that actually has a copyright and an official language and they’ve undergone so many changes that they are now practically unrecognizable. I do get that changes had to be made to the Klingon look, especially as the TOS Klingons looked pretty wimpy and even the TNG, DS9 and Voyager Klingon’s had become a little bit comedic, but this species looks nothing like the Klingons that we are used to and I think they went a little bit overboard with the design.
The intro was extremely unremarkable. I like that Russell Watson wasn’t giving us a country ballad, and I like the nostalgic touch with the music, but it looked like an opening for a James Bond movie instead of Star Trek. Star Trek is the ultimate space opera and there was very little reference to anything about space involved. My 3 year old goddaughter calls Star Trek ‘Whoosh’ as she loves the intro for TNG where the Enterprise goes to warp, but she definitely wasn’t interested in the Discovery introduction.
The Good Points
Great Debuts From Lt Saru and Sarek
Doug Jones was excellent as Lt Saru and introduced us to a well created new species, the Kelpiens. Kelpiens have a heightened survival instinct which can make them come across as a little cowardly, but Jones has warned us not to underestimate them:
“[Producers] said Saru is the Spock of the series, he’s the Data of the series — and those are beloved characters that I always connect with whenever I would watch the past incarnations of Star Trek,” said Jones, giving some details about his role for the first time. “On Falling Skies, I played an alien species who came to Earth to help the humans fight back the bad aliens who’d taken over, and I was intelligent, well-spoken, had a lot of answers and science-y smart. Saru is all of those things and then some.”
James Frain was equally compelling as Sarek and knowing him only from Gotham, I expected him to be quite brilliant as a Vulcan. Thankfully they dint include anything about Spock in the show.
Saru also gave us the best line of the show:
“My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone: to sense the coming of death. I sense it coming now.”
They Are Keeping Us Waiting
We haven’t yet seen Captain Lorca, nor the titular ship that he captains, the USS Discovery. Almost all of the action so far has taken place on board the Shenzhou which is a nice introduction to the show and keeps us waiting and speculating about the rest. I originally theorized that the Shenzhou would become the Discovery and whilst the ship itself, damaged beyond repair and abandoned, might not become the USS Discovery, I imagine that much of its crew might join Lorca and USS Discovery on its mission.
Great Pace and Feel
The show felt like Star Trek. After more than a decade we finally have Star Trek back on television and it actually feels like Star Trek as well. It wasn’t all lens flares and explosions, although there were a few, but they were well paced and without Chris Pine and Simon Pegg running around like headless chickens for hours on end. It had heart to it. I especially liked the opening scene where Captain Georgiou makes the Federation symbol in the sand, even though they just trampled all over the prime directive and a spaceship would hardly see footsteps in the desert, but we can overlook these minor points.
Overall I liked the show. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good to watch Star Trek on television again and I hope they can continue it for some time.