Star Trek Discovery
Star Trek Discovery has generated as much controversy as JJ Abrams' film franchise and its altered universe...perhaps more, given that Discovery is set in the original timeline. While the latter's proposed fourth film has fallen to the wayside (perhaps never to be made), Discovery is entering its second season with the premier episode "Brother". It is lighter in tone this season with a few touches of humor and more familiarity and cohesiveness in general. It picks up where the first season finale ended...with the Discovery coming ship to ship with the NCC-1701 -- the star ship Enterprise which has just returned from its 5 year mission badly in need of repairs.
Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) along with 2 other officers beams aboard the Discovery. Not among them: Spock, to the dismay of his foster sister, Michael Burnham, and his visiting father, Sarek. Throughout the episode we see flashbacks to when young Michael came to live with Sarek, Amanda and Spock. There is no mention of Sybok, Spock’s half brother whom, to my knowledge, has only been heard from in the abysmally received Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and it’s for that reason I can’t help but think he might have made a better choice to bring into Star Trek Discovery than Spock, the franchises most beloved character who is bound to stir up controversy no matter how he is handled.
Captain Pike assumes command of the Discovery to investigate a mysterious (as all things are in Star Trek!) signal. They trace the signal and find the wreckage of the USS Hiawatha, a casualty of the Klingon War.The Away Team, lead by Pike, find a woman engineer, Commander Jet Reno, who has been keeping the surviving ship members alive for several months. They also discover the asteroid contains an unknown energy source but the whole thing is about to plunge into a pulsar. Everyone manages to get transported out of the wreckage except, naturally, Michael Burnham who has shown a propensity for getting left behind. As everything is coming apart, Michael gets struck by some shrapnel in her leg and she sees a fuzzy “vision” of something vaguely looking like an “angel”.
Michael is rescued and the Discovery manages to grab a chunk of the asteroid to check out. As the episode comes to a close, Michael goes to visit Spock’s room on the Enterprise and discovers a cryptic recorded message from Spock.
The previews of what’s ahead this season on Discovery leads me to think that the rift between Michael and Spock –why Spock has never mentioned his foster sister — stems from the pair having once had deep feelings for each other…of the romantic type. Sarek tells Michael he hoped Michael might teach Spock empathy…perhaps it went a little too far. Adult Spock will show up at some point (bearing a close resemblance to his mirror universe look seen in the original series).
I like Star Trek Discovery. It has a fresh feel to it and moving the main narrative from the traditional Captain's POV to crewman Michael Burnham works well due largely to the incredible Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead). But Discovery's biggest problem...and it's an ironic one...is its fear to "boldly go where no one has gone before". Why set the show in the time frame they've chosen (10 years before Star Trek TOS)? The series would have been so much better served if they had set it after Star Trek Voyager. All the advanced tech seen in the series would have felt more natural and unquestionable then. The new look for the Klingons could be left to the imagination much like their new look in The Next Generation was brushed off by Worf when he was asked about it and said "We don't like to talk about it". We wouldn't be scratching our heads and wondering why all the other shows to come from the original version to Voyager look antiquated in comparison. My thought during season one of Discovery was an advanced prototype that was off doing its own thing till at some point the ship is destroyed...a flimsy reasoning at best that still doesn't explain why some of the new tech wasn't used in other shows. However, there was no way they would have or should have tried to duplicate the card board sets of the first series, which came out in the sixties, in today's era of digital effects. The only reason seems to me that the folks at Paramount, who, since Star Trek Voyager, have seemed to felt they couldn't sell Star Trek if it moved beyond the familiarity of Captain Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise. None of the series which followed after the first Star Trek were an immediate hit and that is what Paramount wanted to launch their CBS All Access pay streaming service...an instant hit.
Since my original theory is proven wrong (in the season 2 premier alone, Pike seems quite at ease using the tech on the Discovery meaning we are going to see a more advanced Enterprise than we remember), I have a new theory: The Powers That Be running the Star Trek Universe would like us to just fuzz out our memory of what we have seen before and pretend that this is the way it has always looked like. I mean, if Kirk, Spock and Bones were heading out today instead of 1966 this is what the show would have looked like. I know it's a stretch, it's patronizing and we shouldn't have to do it but it is the easiest, head ache free way to move on and enjoy Trek. The aesthetics are an easier thing to get past than some other burps we've seen.....the swearing and f-bombs used on Star Trek Discovery alone out of 6 TV series and 10 movies... after Captain Kirk clearly explained that humans "used to" use such "colorful metaphors" (Star Trek IV The Voyage Home). Remember, the humans of the 23rd century are supposed to be just a little bit better than we 21st century humans are. But hey, it's 2019 and George Carlin's "7 Words You Can't Say on Television" has been whittled away to zero. Swearing is big on TV today and we're not talking pay services ("Fuck Batman!"-Titans) any more. And while I have no problem with language, the swearing does seem out of place in the Star Trek Universe based on precedent.
Harder to look past is Star Trek Discovery's season one's flagrant disregard for other life forms. From the Tardigrade to the Spores, the Discovery crew seemed to be A-OK with using other species for their own needs. It is only 10 years before Star Trek and there is still no Prime Directive? I should think that would have been established sometime closer to Star Trek Enterprise....remember when Captain Jonathan Archer says "Some day, my people are gonna come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that says what we can and can't do out here, should and shouldn't do. But until someone tells me that they've drafted that directive, I'm gonna have to remind myself every day that we didn't come out here to play God." Did Archer forget to bring the subject up at Star Fleet?
One last thing that I'm having trouble with -- and if any astute Trekker out there understands this I'd love to hear from you in the comments -- in the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" it is said that, due to the sacrifice of the Enterprise NCC-1701C, all hostilities with the Klingons had ceased (which is why Worf is allowed to join Star Fleet). We know there was some kind of war that was greater than a "cold war" but may not have been an all out war with the Klingons happening from Star Trek TOS through Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country where they were having actual peace talks. So how do we have this Klingon War which starts and ends the first season of Star Trek Discovery? One possible answer is that L'Rell, whom Star Fleet arranged to be placed in power over the Klingon Empire, held the peace for a certain amount of time then the hostilities boiled over again.
I will tell you one thing...if you spend to much time analyzing everything you are going to miss a good show. There is so much to like about these characters and their adventures. For the first time we have full LGBTQ visibility (not a simple nod like we got in the film Star Trek Beyond). We have Saru, the best First Officer/Captain since Spock, played magnificently by the talented Doug Jones (Hell Boy). Certainly, Discovery must be held accountable to hold steadfast to established Trek history as that is a corner they have willingly put themselves into. Star Trek has a very unique place in Television History and it is not only loved but guarded by legions of fans. We have so much to learn from this show which makes it possibly the most important scripted TV series ever. If our own world is to survive we must...I mean absolutely must...adopt the Vulcan principle of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations or we will not survive as a species. This is evident in all the hate crimes, wars, genocide, racism, homophobia, climate change and yes, The Wall. Gene Roddenberry had a vision...a vision that is not unobtainable if we choose to follow him on his Trek. Live Long and Prosper.
Star Trek Discovery…To Boldly Go Is Logical
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Acting - 10/1010/10
Music - 8/108/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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