I am, admittedly, late to the party. However, in my defense, I’ve only recently begun re-immersing myself in the Star Trek universe. It started with the excellent, and well-deserved, buzz that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds had been generating. I had not been interested in Star Trek: Discovery nor Star Trek: Picard thanks to middling (at best) reviews. So when Strange New Worlds came out to excellent fan & critics reviews, I decided to give it a go.
And I’m certainly glad I did. It’s truly exemplary Trek, capturing the adventurous feeling of The Original Series (TOS) but with modern sensibilities, outstanding performances, and movie-quality effects. Home run.
Then I gave Lower Decks a go and was, once again, thoroughly entertained. A lampooning celebration of everything Star Trek that is a joy to watch and packed full of laughs and endearing characters. 2 for 2, Star Trek!
Which brings me to Discovery. I am going in with, to the best of my ability, no expectations. I will do my best not to compare the show to Strange New Worlds, Lower Decks, any classic Trek, or any hold any reviews in my mind. But I’m going to watch the whole series that I have access to and give my thoughts.
The show starts off oddly. I enjoyed the away mission with Captain Georgiou (the always outstanding Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael Burnham. They were on a planet covertly doing “humanitarian” work to help a pre-warp civilization that was emperiled by drought. Great stuff, awesome little side mission. Cheesy ending with them walking out the Starfleet logo, but a little cheese never hurt Star Trek.
The rest of the first episode was…uneven, but overall pretty enjoyable. We get a good feel for the dynamics of the ship, we have interesting crewmates, especially in Doug Jones’ Saru, a Kelpian science officer whose species lives in a perpetual state of fear. Love it.
And we see the klingons, who are actually featured pretty heavily. And I like the Klingons. I think the new look is pretty decent looking, even if a redesign feels unnecessary. They are a bit more menacing and alien, which is fun. Though their voices bother me. They all sound like they’re about to cry or they have a lump in the back of their throat. It doesn’t make them intimidating when they sound on the verge of weeping.
But I did enjoy their story in the first two episodes. The outcasts using an ancient technique to unite the clans against the federation is pretty cool. And their reveal was also exciting. You don’t necessarily realize at first that the crew of the Shenzhou is investigating what the Klingons are up to, so the reveal of the klingon symbol as Burnham is investigating the mysterious object was pretty thrilling.
Then we get to a spot that didn’t quite feel right. After consulting her Vulcan father(?), Burnham goes and attacks the captain and tries to get the crew to fire on the klingons. The crew, especially Saru, are skeptical and slow to respond. Slow enough that Captain Georgiou is able to come to and confront Burnham and throw her in the brig.
I think this moment, even though it was very dramatic, felt very out-of-character, even considering we just met Burnham. She is incredibly loyal to her captain, she is supposedly a very talented starfleet officer, yet she’s advocating first strike against another species and is so adamant that they attack that she mutinies! I just met her and it feels out of left field.
So she’s in the brig now. More klingons have arrived, then starfleet arrives, and the battle is on. This was a great battle. Harrowing scenes, exciting shots, and they even squeezed in a poignant moment when the bridge crewman is injured and winds up in the brig on accident due to a head injury. He laments Burnham being confined and that they in the battle when Starfleet is supposed to be about exploration. A moment of distress and confusion right before a weapons hit sucks him into space right in front of Burnham. Brutal. Heartbreaking.
The admirals ship arrives, feeling like the day is saved, when a cloaked vessel tears through it (literally), killing the admiral and any chance at peace. Georgiou and Burnham (having escaped after some clever dialog with the computer) manage to kill their klingon adversary & blow up their ship, but Georgiou is killed in the process. Burnham is brought before a tribunal and sentenced to prison.
I’m glad Burnham is facing consequences for her actions (even though I’m certain it’ll be reversed next episode, as is Star Trek custom). The tribunal itself was pretty silly, all shrouded in darkness like an evil 80’s villain, but being tossed in prison is absolutely the appropriate response and I’m glad they didn’t just ignore her crimes.
All-in-all, the first two episodes impressed me. The show looks fantastic, all the performances were great, and it set up a very interesting conflict between the federation and the klingons. I hope we see more of the klingon society and how it works and I’m curious what circumstances will get Burnham not only out of prison, but back on a starship.
So far the show feels like it’s trying to recreate the Kelvin movies feel for the small screen and doing a respectable job. The Kelvin movies weren’t my favorite, but the stylization wasn’t my problem with them, really. With the right writing, the style can service the story.
I would say this is a strong start to a series. Burnham is pretty abrasive and borderline unlikable, but we learn enough about her to recognize it’s from a good place and she has potential. Being unlikable isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it’s not exactly something I’m looking for in a space adventure show. I’m hoping she becomes a protagonist we can really root for soon. But hey, open mind. I’m excited for the next couple episodes!
And, final note: Doug Jones is the man. A national treasure.