The Defective Inspector boldly goes where no Defective Inspector has gone before and gives his thoughts on Season 1 of Star Trek Discovery (with spoilers)...
I am Human, and as a Human I have a tendency to binge watch Netflix shows with little to no regard for my sleeping pattern. One of those times came by recently where I felt compelled to give the newest series of Star Trek a try. By putting the so called ‘hardcore fans’ opinion to one side I tried to approach it without expectation or judgement. On 25th February 2018 I finished Season 1 and I am still not entirely sure how I feel about it all. So taking a page from Sarek’s book I choose to split this opinion into pieces to understand my feeling logically. Raise shields, spoilers ahead.
The main protagonist, Michael Burnham, is a strange mixture of nostalgia and disappointment. Raised by Sarek and Amanda, battling between logic and emotion, feeling like an outsider, it is all just too familiar to be novel. Once you expand to the supporting cast you find occasional gems; having a commander like Saru (a nervous prey-based species) was absolutely perfect, allowing Sylvia Tilly to be vulnerable but also comedic, keeping an arrogant yet somehow likeable scientist alive in Paul Stamets, hell even Ash Tyler ranked fairly high on my list when not interacting with Burnham! Oddly enough my opinion doesn’t come from the acting, I actually think everyone played their roles admirably, but I didn’t always like the characters they were told to become. My only hatred was for Lorca’s twist at the end, I like Jason Isaacs’s character too much to be torpedoed by such a strange overarching storyline.
I was so conflicted throughout Discovery. I loved the idea of a Commander who betrayed her uniform and while I loathed the new look of the Klingons the concept of the war being the backbone of the storyline was fantastic. War is brutal, so Star Trek could enjoy a darker more dramatic setting while allowing occasional levity. I can also give some rather big kudos for the idea of the Spore Drive and how it would be a useful but difficult to use technology. It’s problematic to be innovative when trying to make technology which isn’t allowed to leak into other movies/series and I do love me some techno babble. Just a gentle tip of the hat to the writers there as I won’t be as kind in a moment.
My problem seems to be the writers were not sure exactly how to plan out the arch, it made it almost impossible to picture a screenshot for this section. Traditionally Star Trek episodes were isolated with occasional bridges of Lore (pun intended) but in this day the arch should be absolute. Problem was the writers wanted to fit in dramatic deaths, a dangerous twist near the end, a Klingon war, psychological trauma, development of technology, 2 strong relationships, ANOTHER dangerous twist while also visiting the Mirror Universe/Future. It was WAY too much so everything felt rushed. This mean every event felt hollow as I didn’t feel anything when Voq/Ash walked away from Burnham or when Hugh Culber was killed. If you want me to cry I need to care first and I just didn’t have the time to give a crap. Perhaps as time goes on and I watch it more I can appreciate it a bit better but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
No review of Discovery would be complete without ranting about the new Klingon Empire. Like most old school fans I was not pleased with the dramatic changes made to the Klingons, they have an almost gothic turtle quality which I never truly appreciated. Beyond the aesthetics I actually liked what they did with the Klingons, they made them fierce again which was much needed after being soften so much during the Next Generation and beyond. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Next Gen but your enemy needs to be vicious and unpredictable so bringing them back to the “old ways” was perfect.
Captain Lorca… Oh Captain Lorca. I loved the idea of a leader of a technologically advance ship being in the hands of a jaded and psychologically scarred captain who was demented enough to get through the mission by any means necessary. The conversations between Burnham and Lorca were ominous enough that I should have seen the twist coming but once it all slid into place I felt deflated. Suddenly this interesting character became a typical shallow villain and my love for Lorca dissipated faster than he did.
I could dedicate myself for a moment on other particular Antagonists but yet against I am unable to focus on one for much more than a few moments. As I mentioned in the plot everything went way too quickly so when I think about Voq, T’Kuvma, Mirror Georgiou I never really feel like I have enough time to make a sound opinion. L’Rell might get a bit more attention, she lingers throughout the show, but it really is a lingering rather than a greater presence.
My favourite? Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd. Who the hell would have guessed a random con-man from TOS would suddenly be my favourite antagonist in the new darker series? Granted he was a lot more malevolent than his previous incarnation but there was something immensely enjoyable him. He was comedic, interesting, clever and didn’t get polluted by any of the other elements I found displeasing about the series. Even though he was short lived (like everything else) his time was too enjoyable to discount.
The remainder of the show is important, but I am not skilled enough to separate them out without making this article into a book. Graphically I am giving a pass to the show, it felt like the new Star Trek movies really set out the aesthetic design, but I was impressed with how well it replicated into Netflix series, the budget must have been HUGE.
Almost everything creative about the series (music, set design, locations etc) are an excellent mixture of innovation and nostalgia. The theme music is a splendid example of how to bring elements of the old world and incorporate it into the new one. For better or for worse the nostalgia cocktail is a pretty standard recipe which seems to work and appeased my old school soul.
I need to acknowledge the cultural relevance of the series. The cast was a mixture of creeds, colours, cultures and sexuality. That was strangely comforting to see and while I wouldn’t say this make Discovery “the show to watch” I need to at least acknowledge the attempt to be diverse and inclusive. Looking back this is a Star Trek trait (at the time of production) and the tradition so I am delighted to see it continue.
Despite the backlash from “Hardcore Fans” I found myself liking the series, but reluctantly. Looking at the Klingons still offends me and I can’t find myself enjoying Michael Burnham yet, but I know there is something within Discovery worth sticking around for. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but the potential is there. The writers need to be think further ahead, Burnham needs to start obtaining qualities worthy of watching and I need to get over the Klingons but that’s far from impossible. Need I remind everyone that Next Gen, one of the most successful of the franchise, originally started off poorly with Ferengi as the main Antagonist and Riker without a beard! If we can get past that then there is hope for Star Trek Discovery yet.
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Images from IMDB