Last weekend, with much fanfare and anticipation, “Star Trek Discovery” premiered.
Before the first 2 episodes of the show aired, quite a few of my friends were adamant in finding out what my preconceived notions of the show were. I was pulled aside at work, texted, and pulled into a drunken discussion at a party. I wasn’t drunk, they were, I am an upstanding member of society. I tried my best to waylay the hype and actually analyse and disseminate the information I was given before giving my thoughts. Like with anything I am truly interested in I tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible. I had only watched a teaser trailer, a full length trailer, and seen/heard references to the show in passing as the internet and TV and people just talking are hard to avoid. I wanted to be surprised and concentrate on the show unravelling before me instead of being preoccupied with everything that I had learned before hand.
Things I knew about the show
- The protagonist would be female, played by Sonequa Martin-Green
- She would be a second officer, not a captain
- The story takes place 10 years before the original series
- The Klingons would be a big part of the story
- Michelle Yeoh would be a captain, but not for very long
- Jason Issacs, Doug Jones, and Rainn Wilson would also be in the show.
- Rainn Wilson will be playing Harry Mudd, a character from the Original Series
- The Starship Discovery would not be in the first episode
- This would be a more serialized show instead of weekly stand alone episodes
- The Press was not allowed to release reviews of the show before it aired
As you can see I knew quite a bit about the show but nothing too in depth. There had been trailer breakdowns, character bios, numerous speculatory articles on the possible story and trajectory of the show. Besides reading titles, I skipped all of these things. But based on the first impression garnered from the trailer I did have some reservations about the show.
The JJ Abrams’ style visuals – In the rebooted films directed by Mr Abrams, there is a very specific style that I can only succinctly describe as shiny. Everything seems new with glinting surfaces and lens flare galore. I find that I am tired of this style and think it will make the show look dated far quicker than the previous iterations.
Action – Yes all the previous shows had action. There were space battles, explosions, and fist fights but those were never the focus. There was always a focus on diplomacy and (intended) non-violent conflict resolution. But, as with the new films, the focus seems to have shifted to fight first talk later. This breaks one of the fundamentals that made Star Trek, Star Trek.
The Klingons – Yes there have already been a lot of talk about them. Every time something is changed about the Klingons people throw their hand in the air, “You can’t do that!”. Yeah they can change whatever they want actually, I just think it is ugly. But that is just me.
No reviews – When a film or show insists that no reviews are allowed to be published before the official release that is usually a red flag. This is done so audiences would not be deterred from sitting down to watch a claptrap of nonsense.
Despite my worries (as if those would stop me), I sat down on Sunday to watch the newest addition to the Star Trek Universe. The cold open was attention grabbing as well as dialogue heavy, introducing characters and setting up their relationship. It was one of trust and admiration. Then came the opening credits. I did not like it. I will get used to it I suppose and it is not as bad as what was done to “Enterprise” but it is disappointing to say the least. It reminded me of the opening credits to “Westworld” in tone, sound, and visually. It is quiet, mysterious I guess, but kinda boring. It doesn’t have that orchestral grandness that made the intro to TNG, DS9, and Voyager so revered.
As the show continued my fears were realized. The visual style from the most recent Star Trek films was utilised making everything look falsely new and there was an unnecessary amount of lens flare. Scenes were all shot on some sort of angle. It didn’t seem to be used for any purpose but to annoy the audience, I found myself tilting my head to level out the shots.
The Klingons were introduced spouting rhetoric about making
America Klingons great again and keeping away the aliens that will make them weak and impure. And all of this was said in Klingonese with subtitles. That would have been fine if everything else on screen wasn’t so distracting. The makeup, costumes, and everything gilded. It was gaudy and garish like a scene out of the movie Immortals. It did set up a good premise on why the Klingons were getting into a war with the Federation. Klingons being a proud warrior race refusing help and wanting to remain separate from of other races is not new.
The show wasn’t specifically action focused even though there was a huge space battle but it was spectacle focused. Showing off the stuff and coolness. Like holographic communicators (something that wasn’t introduced until DS9 previously), jet packs on space suits, and out logicing (i think I just made up a new word) a computer to jettison you into space to save your life. It is meant to make the audience ohhh and ahhh. This was also the sin of TNG and probably one of the reasons why re-watching that first episode is incredibly painful. (Remember the long saucer separation sequences? Ugh!)
But the show, overall, was not a disappointment, it was pretty good actually, introducing some interesting characters, providing a good story, with a decent script. It wasn’t the greatest but it laid a good foundation. And then they went and destroyed all of it. At the end of the second episode the ship had been destroyed, the crew separated, and the protagonist sentenced to a lifetime in jail for mutiny. This left me confused. I no longer had a legit basis to critique the show. I could critique what I had just seen but not the show to come as I hadn’t really seen any part of that show. The show to come will have a different ship, a new captain, a new crew, new relationships, and who knows what their journey would be. There is no way to know at this point.
I liked the first 2 episodes of “Star Trek Discovery” even though there were some questionable aesthetic and directional choices but I am not sure yet what I think of the show as the show hasn’t really begun. Hopefully it will only get better.