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Star Trek Discovery is a interesting show to say the least, having gone back to the 23rd Century of Star Trek, back to the halcyon days of red shirts, transporters, and the Klingon Federation Cold War, it has some interesting ideas to say the least and actually has potential to be a good Star Trek show. So why didn't I like it?
Discovery should have a lot going for it but doesn't and I feel that comes down to a lot of questionable decisions made in the process. The Darker and Edgier tone for one could conceivably work but it has very few moments of brevity to play off of, bad things just happen, happen, and happen, in the end playing out in a genocidal cannibal entering the Prime universe and getting away without punishment.
The character ties to other established characters, such as Michael and her connection to Sarek as Spock's human foster sister should give us grounding to work with and establish familiarity. Instead we just question why and view Michael as a undeserving character who's been given a admittedly often repeated origin story for Mary Sues, dead parents, adopted by Spock's family.
The cast is large and diverse, but doesn't feel as important, this isn't the Ensemble story of a Star Trek cast, it's Michael's story as she deals with her mistakes in causing the war to go hot, they aren't afforded as much screen time and thus it feels smaller and tiring, with only a few being more notable.
The spore drive is questionable at the best of times and magic nonsense at the worst being capable of allowing people to remain conscious through time loops, travel anywhere instantaneously including to other universes and apparently connects to a magic mushroom field that connects all living things and if it does so does everything else.
In the end there is little in the show for me to get immersed in.
I can't find myself enjoying the show and I don't look forward to Season 2, if anyone enjoyed the show I'm glad you did, I just couldn't.
...and that acronym is not DIS but STD.
I was initially thrilled that Star Trek was coming back to live-action television. In the months leading up to it's release, I was just as much of a Trekkie fanboy as I'd ever been. I was telling all my friends to watch it, I was posting online about how great it was that Star Trek was coming back, I was blinded by my enthusiasm.
I was really too naive. When I watched in on the very hour it was released in Oz on Netflix, I was heartbroken by how I- as a devoted, lifelong fan- had been betrayed by the makers of the hideous mess that was wearing the cadaver of one of my all-time favourite franchises.
You may think I'm exaggerating. You may think this is for humour. It is not.
Star Trek: Discovery is not Star Trek, no matter how many times they try to use the name and the setting. It depicts not the optimistic, progressive and hopeful future that has been the staple of Trek Shows for so long; but a depressing, grim and (in CBS's own words) a 'Darker and Edgier' Science Fantasy show.
I'm struggling to objectively review this show, because it was so painful to watch. But I'll try and at least say one good thing about it: the budget was well spent on CGI, if not hiring competent writers.
In any case, here are the major issues with STD:
- Klingon Redesign. It was pointless, actually impacted the quality of any scene with a Klingon it it talking, looks fucking terrible, and is a waste of money on a show that already spent most of the budget on CGI.
- Michael 'Mary Sue (she's actually exactly like the original Mary sue in the fact she's Spock's human step-sister who we've never heard of before)' Burnham. A character who is immensely unlikable, arrogant and irresponsible, and is nothing like any other character previously seen on Star Trek.
- The fucking lens glare. It's like they didn't watch anything but the reboot movies!!
- How the writers haven't actually watched any of the classic Star Trek, and if they did, they didn't take anything away from it.
- Technology way in advance of the time period. Holodecks, replicators and holographic communications are all 24th century inventions, not 23rd. This is even outright said by Harry Kim in the episode 'Flashbacks' from season 3 of Voyager when he says "No replicators. No holodecks. You know, ever since I took Starfleet history at the Academy, I've always wondered what it would be like to live in those days."
- THE FUCKING SPORE DRIVE!!! Something that actually invalidates all of fucking Voyager, as it would have taken them fucking two seconds to get home!!!
- The shitty-looking ship. The Discovery is especially ugly, it looks like a oversized pizza cutter, and it doesn't even look right for the period. None of the ships do.
- The dark and non-canon set design: 23rd century ships don't look like that!
- The writing. Oh god, who did they hire again? Was it the guy who wrote 'The Mummy 2016' 'Transformers Age of Extinction' 'Star Trek Into Darkness' and a whole bunch of box-office-fuck-ups? Was it too expensive to hire Brannon Braga or Rick Berman because you blew all your cash on the CGI (which wasn't even as good as the stuff on The Orville)
- The fact that you even thought this show was a good idea, CBS.
- The lack of syndication on live TV.
I could go on, but I'd much rather reccomend that if you're looking for more Trek, go watch Fox's 'The Orville'. It's MUCH better, and is actually in the spirit of Star Trek.
Star Trek: Discovery had a lot going for it in the beginning. There was a great war that could have fueled several seasons of strong, serialized plot. There was complexity, and conflicts that often had no clear right or wrong answer. There was a morally ambiguous anti-hero captain, dealing in shades of grey. There was some fantastic build-up...
...followed by disappointing, weak-sauce payoff.
What was set up so meticulously in the first half of the season, was then carelessly squandered in the second half. Moral ambiguity was replaced by heavy-handed preaching about Starfleet idealism. Dark and nuanced characters got killed off or Put on a Bus. The war got an anticlimactic and contrived resolution in a rushed and lackluster finale. In short, in its first season alone, Star Trek: Discovery got rid of all of its strongest assets.
It's almost like the writers got scared of this bold, brave direction they initially chose for this new Star Trek, and decided to backtrack on it to please the old fans. And, sure enough, those who spent the show's run complaining about the "grimdark" and how it wasn't "their Trek" seem pacified and pleased with how it turned out.
Don't get me wrong. It's still an entertaining, competently made and well acted show. It's just that it had the potential to be much better, if the writers stuck to their guns.
As things stand, those in love with Treks of the old may look into the future seasons with hope, but as a fresh fan who liked what the first half of Discovery had brought to the table, I see the show as a sad bundle of wasted potential.
If you were thinking that returning to original Star Trek timeline would make this series more like the former Trek TV shows and less like the J.J. Abrams movies, forget about it. At least based on the first two episodes, Discovery is exactly like the rebooted movies: more violence, more grim and gritty action scenes, more brooding anti-hero characters... And less of the utopian ideas and cool sci-fi concepts that made TV Trek so unique.
Admittedly, pretty much none of the pilot episodes for other Star Trek series have been perfect, but at least all of them tried to explore some thought-provoking sci-fi themes, even if they weren't always that successful. Here, however, it's just Klingon and Federation ships shooting each other in space, protagonists arguing and shouting at each other, Klingons being stereotypically proud and violent and stupid. That's it.
Obviously you shouldn't judge a whole show based on two episodes, but after the first two Discovery needs to do a lot more to convince me it could become a proper Star Trek series instead of just a generic action piece set in space, like the Abrams movies are.
We were already into the first two episodes of Star Trek Discovery, and outside of it's title making for an unfortunate abbreviation, and some background belly-aching about how the diverse casting is somehow insidious (how little has changed in 50 years?), I didn't know a lick about it.
Well I've enjoyed it so far. Tonally, it has more in common with the recent films than the previous series, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are the bright lights and hey-wow! graphics, but also there is a strong driving thread throughout that carries us straight from one episode to the next. It is a continuous story, rather than "episodic", so to speak, ending on a cliff hanger so we have a real urge to find out what happens next. People have criticised the movies for their lack of depth and action emphasis, but here there are enough philosophical conflicts to imply it is going to at least be a little smarter. The main one is how our protagonists deal with their first interaction with the Klingons; a culture that only respects immediate attack, whilst the heroes have a culture of never being the one to attack first. It's nice seeing Michelle Yeoh (who's title credit "guest starring" gives you a good idea of how long she's going to last), and Sonequa Martin bounce off one another to justify their differing answers to the dilemma.
The other, not so far addressed is a fairly blatant war crime that the heroes commit to save the day in the second episode. I won't spoil what it is, but I'm somewhat concerned that none of the characters even seem to notice something is morally iffy at the time.
There are some cool characters in this. I like how much we are shown of the Klingons, and their own cultural conflicts. I also like the big, tall, fleshy pink thing that is one of the senior officers (forgive me, I'm not at the point of remembering character names yet). I even like how there is a daft punk style robot in the background, because really when was the last time we had a cool robot in a show that wasn't a creepy, sexy woman? I look forward to seeing how they will play into the story, assuming this thing doesn't get too wrapped up in following just the most senior officers.
So far the series has a lot of promise and I'll keep up with it. If you haven't already realised it was out, I strongly recommend giving the new Star Trek a try.
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