Star Trek Discovery, Some Thoughts

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So I’ve watched the first two episodes of Discovery twice now, and I’ll catch the third episode as soon as the rest of my schedule allows, but I’m not entirely convinced yet that it’s Star Trek.

Oh, it’s supposed to be set in the Star Trek prime universe (which makes the Klingon redesign really annoying, and rather stupid), but that doesn’t necessarily make it Star Trek. Witness the reboot movies in the past few years. Only the third one comes close. The first two are just action movies in Star Trek wrapping. But let’s not rehash that now.

It’s beautiful. Cinematic. Grand in an almost space opera way. They could have gone with slight variations on the classic aesthetic, but it’s a new show and I get wanting to show off new tech and new FX to bring your work to a wider audience, so things look like a reimagining of that original era, and I’m okay with that, the detail that’s been put in.

So it looks good, and it sounds good, and they’ve put a bunch of potentially good characters and actors together, and I’m guessing a lot of people have worked hard to make it an experience Trekkies will want to savour and remember. For that, my thanks, and my eyeballs to give it probably a more than fair chance.

Of course, putting most of the story behind a paywall is going to be self-defeating. Oh, a few dedicated souls will buy the All Access subscription, and a few will hack it to make the show available for illegal download. In Canada, we’ll be able to get it on Space, and in other jurisdictions, CBS has cut deals with Netflix, but the company has to consider the primary audience to be American, which means their own streaming service, and I worry that’s going to kill the show after one season regardless of how good it is.

And so far, I feel like it’s good science fiction, but I’m not ready to grant that it’s good Star Trek yet.

Star Trek, at its heart, is about two things: characters and ideas. I think the characters have some potential here, the ones who survived the first two episodes and who actually have names, that is, and not all of them fit into both camps, but I’m struggling with the ideas.

At its best, Star Trek makes us think and reconsider, it holds up a mirror for us to look at ourselves in without necessarily realizing it’s us that we’re seeing. Star Trek is supposed to push boundaries and make us look at issues and things in new ways. I can’t say that Discovery is doing that yet. So far, it’s a descent into war story and while it’s presenting things that need to be considered in a good war story—motivations and misunderstandings on both sides, characters making tough decisions who aren’t really ready to, and fallout from those decisions—I’m not sure anything I’ve seen so far needed to be science fiction, much less specifically Star Trek.

But I’ve only seen the prologue so far. The main story doesn’t start until episode 3. This is like watching the last few days of Kirk’s previous assignment before he stepped on board as captain of the Enterprise, if that had gone far worse and he’d started a war. It’s background information, stuff that, in a novel, you’d sprinkle in bits of later and just get to the real story. It’s an interesting choice, and whether or not it works depends on the story that follows.

I still have hope, and I have hope that my hope for the show won’t be crushed too soon.

Two completely unrelated points. First, if I add things up correctly, Sarek took in a human ward just after his half-human son left for the Academy? You know, the son he didn’t talk to for a couple of decades because he was too human and wanted to find his own way against his Vulcan father’s wishes? Second, why do the Klingons have to talk so slowly?

Live long and prosper, everyone.

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