Star Trek: Discovery

Even in the mid-1960s Star Trek was always exploring uncharted frontiers, so it makes sense that in 2017 Star Trek: Discovery has an African-American female at the centre of its universe. In the form of Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham, the future is in good hands.

Martin-Green is the early standout in the much-delayed new series devised for streaming platform CBS All Access. Reports of co-creator Bryan Fuller jumping ship are hopefully the stuff of backstage dramas, although I can’t help but feel he might have made some changes to both story and production here.

In 2256 Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh in another nod to diverse casting) captains the USS Shenzhou which encounters an unknown ship, revealed to be Klingon, mortal enemy of all things Federation. But they haven’t been trouble for 100 years and Cpt. Georgiou is reticent to re-open old wounds.

Not so Michael Burnham who is convinced they not only defend themselves, but draw first blood. This puts her at odds with her Captain in a dilemma only a space opera could love.

Burnham is also a human daughter raised as Vulcan by Sarek (James Frain), father of Mr. Spock, and there are flashbacks that reveal her heart lets down her logic training. One day she hopes to captain her own fleet.

Over on the Klingon ship there is a battle for supremacy, with T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) seeking to unite Klingon houses, against the Federation. The timing of leaders just inches away from complete annihilation reminds us that science fiction still reflects more Earthly realities.

On the bridge is a collection of crew, including the prosthetically -enhanced Science Officer Saru (Doug Jones), Starfleet lieutenant Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Science Officer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), accompanied by those mandatory Star Trek doors and a parade of holograms. Sadly there are no actors being thrown across the bridge while the camera tilts…. or was that just Fast Forward?

What is lacking in the first episode is the traditional jeopardy and emotional heart brought to life so ably by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy & co. There’s considerable set-up here, hampered by scenes too long with subtitled Klingons, and I felt somewhat alienated (sorry) by the production barriers employed to realise them.

There is the odd clunky dialogue (“Not too shabby huh?” / “The only word to effectively describe it is ‘Wow.'”) and some CGI, especially exterior space shots, also looked like there may have been cost cuts in line with the show on streaming platforms. On Netflix, where it screens in Australia, the 44 minute running time is also distinguished by telltale fade-outs for commercial break inserts.

Despite such shortcomings there are signs this may yet live and prosper. Episode 2 is stronger than 1, including with genre action, while Sonequa Martin-Green’s charisma shines through the exposition and connects us with the underlying human emotions.

With a little more warp speed there is reason enough to believe this universe is worth saving, with or without Mr. Fuller along for the ride.

Star Trek: Discovery is now screening on Netflix.

18 Comments:

  1. Big Trek fan so I was always gonna check this out, even kept my Netflix account going to watch it and I was pleasantly surprised. I really like the new show, the cast, store and sets were fantastic along with the CGI which is bang up-to-date. Even makes Enterprise feel dated with its production values. I like they have a 10 year gap before TOS, I just hope the show lasts longer than Enterprise which I also was a fan of.

  2. It’s a shame Yeoh isn’t returning, she was one of the better aspects of the episodes. Her and Martin-Green played off each perfectly. It was a sort of Picard/Riker relationship but amped up. I’m hoping that the Romulans are somewhere out there, hiding behind a gas giant ready to cause trouble

  3. I saw episode one and was impressed by the Disney type CGI and production quality, the only issue is that if there is a ratings dip in the USA, and Star Trek has a history for this, the costs to produce this show could limit its long term potential which I fear may be the case if Star Trek: Discovery sometimes prosaic plot doesn’t gain some faster pace. The opening scenes are recognisably Star Trek in acting style which means that much about this show will be familiar to older fans. Star Trek has had a dominant history of masculine heroes even when there was Captain Janeway in charge of Voyager, so we will have to see how this shows story progresses in creating its charismatic characters.

    • ratings are not a factor in the US, CBS aired 1 episode for promotion but you have to sign up to CBS all access (their own streaming service) to view the rest, netflix then have global rights.

  4. Oh i so so loved this. Really I have watched Voyager and Enterprise but this seemed better. Yeah I know it seemed to drag a little but they did have to set up the storyline and who people are. I can see this going for awhile yet

  5. I was surprised to find this was a prequel to TOS-this did not work out well for the last series ‘Enterprise’ as they couldn’t resist the temptation to feature characters, species and technology that didn’t appear until much later storylines in the Trekverse-the below comment about ‘wanting to see the Borg…’ says it clearly-Borg didn’t appear as a complete shock surprise to the Federation until well into the Next Gen series. Only major reason to set Discovery prior to TOS is the JJ Abrams reboot timeline that destroyed Vulcan.

    • Yep The Borg were only first hinted at in Star Trek The Motion Picture (set roughly 1o years after the series and with Kirk now an Admiral) when V’Ger appeared and it turned out to be Voyager 6 launched by NASA in the late 20th century (was a play on the Voyagers 1 and 2 that were really launched and will end their journeys this year).

      As in:

      “Voyager 6 emerged from the anomaly in what was believed to have been the far side of the galaxy, and fell into the gravitational field of a planet populated by living machines. These beings found Voyager 6 damaged by its travels, and the identifying plaque attached to the probe’s exterior had been burned, leaving only the letters V, G, E, and R legible; the inhabitants of the machine planet called the probe V’ger.

      These entities found V’ger to be primitive, but of a kindred spirit. They discovered the probe’s simple, 20th century…

  6. As always a great review David. Overall I really liked it. Agree it was a bit clunky in places with obviously a lot of set up for what will be shown later in the series. The Klingon scenes I felt laboured on too long and slowed it down. I kept thinking I want to get back to the Federation to find out what was going on there. Was a bit disappointed the story centred around the Klingon as they’re not my favourite characters in the universe. Keeping my fingers crossed the Borg feature at some point. From watching the first 2 eps I think this series shows a lot of promise to satisfy Star Trek nerds like me 🙂 I hope it lives long and prospers 🙂

  7. I was skeptical that a prequel of Star Trek would be any good. I thought Generations was crap. Yet, I’m pleasantly surprised. And the nod to TNG with the line “we have engaged the Klingons”. I was also surprised that Netflix also screened the After Trek show which reminded me of Whovians for Star Trek. Loved it

  8. jezza the first original one

    If I wanna watch subtitles on Netflix, I watch Narcos. Klingons were annoying, external CGI was about as cheap and crappy as it comes, 1970s Doctor Who was more convincing, the divesity in casting was terrible. What was so wrong with 1960s tokensim? I stopped watching after 17 mins, but I will go back and revisit it…

  9. Yes, the subtitled Klingon scenes dragged on far too long, and that was made worse because they were speaking so slowly. My focus kept being dragged to my second screen which is never a good sign.

    They probably should have transitioned to the Klingons speaking “in English”.

  10. I enjoyed it a lot, but am slightly disappointed Michelle Yeoh won’t be in it moving forward. She was excellent. I also kinda laughed at the pseudo-Daft Punk crew member. Looking forward to seeing where this goes. Also the title sequence was beautiful!

  11. “some CGI, especially exterior space shots, also looked like there may have been cost cuts in line with the show on streaming platforms.” you musnt watch many scifi shows as those effects were outstanding compared to most. and at $8M an episode you’d hope so..

  12. I enjoyed both episodes which play out as a sequel to the series, it appears it is going to be about the Federation-Klingon Cold War as in: “The conflict arose after a disastrous first contact between the powers in the early 23rd century, which led to what Spock described in 2293 as “almost seventy years of unremitting hostility.” So it will be interesting to see that which has been much talked about in various other Trek shows and books visualised and played out and going by the trailer at the end of Episode 2 it looks like it will get even more intersting.

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