The Vulcan Hello
Battle at the Binary Stars
Context is for Kings
The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry
Choose Your Pain
Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
Into the Forest I Go
The Wolf Inside
What’s Past Is Prologue
The War Without, the War Within
Will You Take My Hand
Star Trek: Discovery is everything you’d want from a dark, violent sci-fi show and nothing you’d want or expect from Star Trek. With an action packed story, realistically depicted visuals and some bold new ideas, Discovery is a big step away from the intricate, politically charged Star Trek of old and a leap into the popcorn munching action of new. It’s not that Discovery is a bad show; if you can look past the illogical decisions from the emotionally indifferent crew members and subplots that never really lead anywhere, Discovery is a fun sci-fi romp but it’s also a far cry from the wonder and excitement exploring the universe had in Star Trek of old making it a difficult one to review.
The story, set 10 years prior to the 1966 original Star Trek, follows the crew on board the USS Discovery after a 2 part prologue that sets the scene and tone for the show. For most of the 15 episodes, the serialised plot revolves around an ongoing feud between the Klingons and Star Fleet. Right at the centre of this is female officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) who becomes entangled in the conflict after an unfortunate encounter with a Klingon. Rife with big action, explosions and dramatic dog fights, Discovery abandons the intricacies of political negotiation for a full on action flick. The series zips by with reckless abandon, leaving little time to familiarise yourself with any of the characters that struggle to be seen or heard over the loud, chaotic plot surrounding them.
The second half of the show is certainly better than the first in terms of plot but the quick pace is accelerated to a breathtaking degree following the mid season break. These final episodes involving a parallel universe are fun but also feel tacked on, superficially increasing the episode run time when most of the plot points are resolved after the first 10. On top of this, illogical character choices plague the show and some subplots, including a tease that the captain may not be a good guy are dropped unexpectedly.
With all this chaos and high stake drama, Star Trek: Discovery has a surprisingly bland ensemble of characters. There’s a profound lack of charisma surrounding any of the characters and the contrived efforts to throw some humour in comes across as weak and unnecessary. “This is f**king cool guys!” One of the characters exclaims excitedly as the others look at her with contempt. “Yes it is,” another replies monotonously and all this time you’re left puzzled, wondering if this is supposed to be funny. These random bursts of humour rarely hit in an otherwise dark and violent plot and Discovery is at its best when it embraces the darkness.
With no time to characterise any of the crew aside from uncharismatic Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) and no emotional resonance with anyone else, Discovery relies heavily on its action packed plot. Setting this as a prequel to the original Star Trek rather than in the distant future away from any contradictions to past shows is a decision that’s surely going to be scrutinised and discussed when the credits roll. With better weaponry, visual effects and tech on board the ships which are far more advanced than anything seen before on Trek, the canon of the show is contradicted from the off and sets the show up in a bad light before the pilot has even finished.
So the bottom line really comes down to whether Star Trek: Discovery should be rated and reviewed as another Star Trek show, continuing the show’s ethos and lore, or whether this should be rated on its sci-fi prowess and enjoyment factor. In many ways Discovery is a perversion of everything Star Trek originally stood for but its new, action packed direction is certainly enjoyable from a purely passive perspective. For those not familiar with the previous material in the illustrious history of this long-running series will certainly find some enjoyment here but if you go into this expecting a progression of the Star Trek brand you’re likely to be left disappointed.
Like Star Wars: The Last Jedi before it, this is another example of a show turning its back on what made the original so endearing and loved and taken in a questionable new direction. This is what Discovery is likely to be remembered for; the proverbial tipping point for a lot of fans and despite its bold, new ideas, there’s just too much here that isn’t Star Trek to positively recommend it.