Sunday, 4 March 2018

Star Trek Discovery Season One



The Vulcan Hello written by Akiva Goldsman and Bryan Fuller and directed by David Semel


What’s it about: ‘Tell them we have engaged the Klingons…’ 

Hybrid: One of the central reasons to watch and enjoy Discovery is Sonequa Martin-Green’s terrific performance as Michael Burnham, a half human-half Vulcan character who goes on the (very Star Trek) journey of discovering herself throughout the first season of this show. In a series of shifting regular characters, Burnham is an anchor and Martin-Green’s wonderfully cold and yet humane turn really keeps the series afloat during the rockier moments of the season. I really liked how Burnham refused to think that the mysterious presence in the binary star was automatically hostile, preferring instead to see it as a something lost or perhaps asking for help. She’s completely wrong, but it’s a very human approach. Her fear that ultimately turns into laughter as she is flaying through space is gorgeous, mirroring that of the audience. The fear of the unknown and the beauty that surrounds her. The Vulcan Hello charts Burnham’s downfall and cements her reputation as the (accidental) catalyst to the start of a war between the Klingons and the Federation. This gives her a dramatic presence in the series but I think it is worth pointing out, because everybody will be pointing the finger at her in the future, that the Klingons were going to attack anyway and anything she does here merely gives them an excuse to bring forward their plan. She’s more of a scapegoat than anything. I’m not sure I buy her reason for wanting to open fire on the Klingons. She says it’s saying hello in a way that they understand, which would make sense if they were on conflicting terms but it just feels like open provocation to me. It’s quite a leap to say that the Klingons will respect you if you say hi with a torpedo up your arse. It feels like creating false drama, a character acting in an illegal way to pump up the tension. Certainly, for her to attack her captain and commit mutiny is a massive step to make on the basis of a psychological hunch.

Emergency Transport: I think it was Kate Mulgrew who once said that Star Trek comes with its own language and way and talking and acting and you can either adapt to that level of performance or you can’t. She was referring to the actress that she replaced in the role of Janeway, but she may as well have been talking about Michelle Yeoh who, despite being a very strong actress of some repute, looks extremely awkward and stiff in the Trek universe. There is a way of making technobabble sound effortlessly like Shakespeare, and Yeoh simply doesn’t have it. Even when she tries to display humour it comes across as forced an unconvincing (the gage about noting the date and time of an agreement between her officers). 

Death Sensor: To fear everything is to learn nothing, Saru is an intriguing new character and the only other person on the Shenzhou to exhibit any kind of personality so grab onto him and his quirks as quickly as you can. I thought we were heading into TOS territory with three central characters heading the series with Georgiou, Burnham and Saru taking the main chunk of the action. That was never the case but they are focus in the first episode and written with a small degree of familiarity and humour. We know relatively little about his species beyond the fact that they can sense death, but his caution, put downs and unwillingness to put himself in danger shows promise. At one point Burnham says that Saru is the only one talking on the crew about the potential upcoming conflict with the Klingons but that is only because he is the only character that has been allowed to exhibit a personality. His ability to sense the coming of death adds a layer of tension. That might be an interesting angle to explore throughout the series.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Their entire ship is covered in coffins.’

VFX:
One of the most beautifully produced shows I have ever watched, Discovery really marks out a new era of science fiction that is genuinely reaching cinematic goals. There is no part of this episode that isn’t epic in it’s visual scope, from vast planetary landscapes with huge moons in the background (I love the creepy betentacled creatures that scuttle and chitter in to view) to a dazzling binary star system lit up by the majesty of a nearby sun. The transport technology is awesome, Burnham and Georgiou looking as if they are literally turning to dust in the desert. If Trek celebrates the beauty of the unknown then I cannot think of many sequences where that is explored more viscerally than Burnham flying through the binary system and landing on the dangerous looking and yet strangely beautiful Klingon vessel. Discovery feels like it is exploring the unknown visually and geographically. Hand to hand combat in space with both combatants caught in the hand of gravity is incredibly ambitious. 

Great Ideas: The title sequence and music both score a win for me, for once erring on the side of subtlety rather than melodrama. I’m used to Trek title sequences throwing a huge orchestra and vast interstellar vistas at me but Discovery instead pumps for a memorable but low-key theme tune that hits all the recognisably Trek notes and a progression of beautifully drawn images that represent the franchise in a vivid way. You might think it oversimplifies the franchise by reducing it to a number of sketched pictures but it suggests a back to basics approach that I wholeheartedly endorse. 

Since we know there was a pre-TOS conflict with the Klingons but one that we know relatively little about this does seem like a fresh field of drama to plough for Trek. Although DS9 has already handled that conflict (not especially well admittedly given how brilliantly the Dominion war arc was charted later) so we need a fresh approach to the material. Prequels have that tricky balance of having to tell their own story whilst leaving everything in place for the story they are preceding to make sense (Enterprise used to make up the rules as it went along with TNG style Klingons and the Borg showing up) but setting Discovery in this period means that you can have lots of Original Trek touches that will please the fans of that show. Correlating the technology seen in this series with Original Trek is practically impossible, but then technology has never been a reason for me to enjoy Trek so I can just accept it for what it is and assume they abandoned certain technology before Kirk began his 5-year mission on the Enterprise. 

Illogic, Captain: I want to get out of the way one of my biggest bugbears with Discovery and that is the interminable scenes with the Klingons talking in their own language. Firstly, I fail to understand how the Klingons look so different from their TOS counterparts given that this is set 10 years before the beginning of the Original Series. I get that Discovery wants to have its own visual impact with the species, but in order for this to fit in they need to evolve (devolve?) into wimpish looking orange men with goatees within a decade and then mutate into the Klingons that we know and recognise from hundreds of Trek episodes set during the TNG/DS9/VOY era. That’s rather a dramatic transformation for a species! It was these extended dialogue scenes in Klingonese that kept me at a distance from Discovery and forced me to watch the first episode three times before I finally moved on to episode two. They go on for the length of a bible, feature actors already struggling under heavy prosthetics with the addition hindrance of a language that the audience (except hardened Trek fans) understand. It’s a massive disconnect between the show and the audience, especially the casual audience, which I assume the producers were hoping to attract. I can imagine a non-SF fan switching on Discovery, seeing it’s main villains screaming their heads of in unintelligible dialogue but trying to pull it off like Shakespeare and switching off almost immediately. For Trek fans (which I guess I have to label myself, because I have reviewed almost 500 episodes), I can see the creative decision to allow this species to exist in its own right and free from the Federation and it’s spoken language and customs (because our go to Klingon was always Worf, who was corrupted by humanity at every turn) but in practice these scenes (some truly impressive design aside) are inexplicably inarticulate and boring. It’s no way to open a show, frankly.

I fail to understand why directors assume that science fiction has to be shot in such a discordant way, all tilted camera angles and over exposure, to overstress that this is not a regular drama. There were points during The Vulcan Hello when I wanted the camera to fix itself just so I could get a good look at the sets and concentrate on the performances but the pace, fast cuts, over lighting and sweeps and angles really served to distract. It suggests a lack of trust in the actors to constantly shoot them in such a jarring, attention seeking way that forces the attention on the direction over the performances.

Aesthetically Pleasing: Burnham exposed in her underwear might have been titillating had she not had radiation burns all over her face.

Result: A show that offers a two-hour prologue rather than a pilot and is definitely serving up Trek for a post-JJ Abrams audience, Discovery offers a visually stunning but troubled opening episode. It asks its audience to take a lot for granted (the relationships between the three central characters are well established before the show begins), to be extremely patient (half the cast don’t feature nor the titular starship) and to suffer interminable scenes of Klingons spouting their own language. Countering that there are some truly dazzling special effects sequences, a sense of foreboding at a potential conflict with the Klingons, excitement at exploring the unknown and a pleasing feeling that this is a show that won’t set it’s stall immediately but build its foundations slowly through the first handful of episodes. TNG, DS9, VOY and Enterprise all laid out their intentions, their cast of characters and their settings quickly and created an identity in their pilot episodes but Discovery is going for a more slow burn, serialised approach. How things have changed. There’s an immediacy to the material, which is furiously paced and packed with visual interest but there were definitely points where I wished it would slow down and let me get close to the characters, which is my anchor into any series. By the end of The Vulcan Hello there is a mutiny that is sold as a huge moment for the characters but since we haven’t gotten to know them well enough it yet it feels like an unearned moment of drama, and rather hollow. It’s a deathly serious show at this point, lacking the colourful characters and humour that I have come to associate with Trek that makes all the technobabble and po-faced drama palatable. Burnham is an immediately interesting character but that is mostly down to Martin-Green’s nuanced performance, whereas I never believed in Georgiou for a second because Yeoh really struggles in this environment. Given conflict with the Klingons is a staple of Trek there is not a lot here that is particularly original, just how the material is presented. The Vulcan Hello works on a moment by moment basis, mostly because the budget allows for a beautifully realised universe, but you will have no clue what this show is going to be about once you reach the titles and I think that’s a tricky way to start a show: 6/10


Battle at the Binary Stars written by Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harbets and directed by Adam Kane

What’s it about: ‘Why are we fighting? We’re Starfleet. We’re explorers, not soldiers.’

Hybrid: It’s extremely useful to have the scene depicting Burnham meeting Georgiou for the first time and, since the first two episodes can be taken as an extended pilot (or prologue), it provides the right context to give the mutiny that Burnham is currently committing some real context. Most Star Trek shows see a crew coming together in their first episode and so the relationships grow organically but Discovery bucked that trend and opened on existing relationships that we had to get up to speed with pretty quick sharpish. Whilst that was fine and dandy, asking us to invest in a betrayal when have only just started to understand these relationships was pretty hollow. With this scene we can see how aloof (well, Vulcan) Burnham was when she was first invited to join Georgiou’s crew and given the difference in her performance in the scenes in the current day you can really see how her life on the Shenzhou has changed her and tapped into her humanity. It’s probably the most vital scene in the opening episodes, if it’s Burnham’s journey we are charting.  Sarek communicating across light years to consul Burnham is something quite unusual for Trek, it strikes me more as Star Wars (Luke/Obi Wan) but it does stress the closeness between the two characters. Burnham is no slouch when it comes to getting herself out of a tight spot, thinking her way out of an impossibly dangerous situation involving a forcefield and a room that is open to space. Georgiou was worried that one day Burnham’s Vulcan side might trump her humanity. She’s a contradiction of logic and emotion these days, a true hybrid of her mixed race. Her breakdown on the transporter pad following Georgiou’s death and abandonment shows that her humanity can burst like a dam. Voq and Burnham scrapping is very interesting, given later developments in the season. She pleads guilty of treason and mutiny, to starting the war but I still think she is someone it is easy to point the finger at than anything. Starfleet is angry and it needs someone to blame. Unfortunately, because of her questionable conduct around the beginning of this conflict, Burnham is arrested and charged with penal servitude. Who knows what is going to become of her? Let’s find out… Martin-Green is stunning during the trial scene, delivering a powerful speech that is just about as downbeat as I can imagine this show getting. Amazing how good the actors can be seen to be when the pace slackens and the camera stops moving.

Emergency Transport: Amazing how much more comfortable Yeoh seems during a simple intimate dialogue scene at the beginning of the episode in the way that she is so unpersuasive during her big hitter sequences like squaring up to Burnham with a phaser on the bridge (listen to how she says ‘you violated the chain of command’ like you or I would say ‘you forgot to get the milk’). Georgiou does her utmost to avoid war with the Klingons and strikes me as a believable advocate for peace. Unfortunately, her tagline (‘we come in peace’) taps into T’Kuvma’s paranoia about the Federation. Yeoh’s most impressive moment comes with a silent reaction to the destruction of the Europa. ‘Make it hurt, Saru’ she says of his plan to destroy the Klingon ship. All that diplomacy goes out the window when one of their own is killed.

Death Sensor: The look that Saru and Burnham share when they first clap eyes on each other is priceless. His tactics are devious, which Georgiou approves of.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘T’Kuvma lured Starfleet to a massacre. It’s time I repaid him.’

VFX: The Klingon fleet facing off against the Shenzhou is a fearsome visual. You genuinely get the sense that the shit is about to hit the fan for the Federation ship. It took DS9 six seasons to amass two great fleets to slug it out. If Discovery is to go for the action jugular, it’s nice to see them aiming this high. The Klingon ships belch great plumes of green fire which achieves great damage whereas the Federation ships look like kids spitting into the wind. Watch and gasp as the Europa is basically bitten into by T’Kuvma’s vessel and then explodes in spectacular fireworks. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

Great Ideas: Am I such an old fuddy-duddy that scenes of crewmembers walking through the corridors of the ship and discussing technobabble please me so much? Whilst it isn’t exactly what I watch Star Trek for, these sorts of scenes just feel so right. The Shenzhou being seconds away from impacting with the binary star debris and being pulled away at the last minute by a tractor beam is heart in the mouth stuff. If they can keep up that level of tension during the action sequences, I’ll be very happy. The Klingons extracting their dead officers from the battlefield ties into everything we have ever been taught about honouring their dead and provides Georgiou with a devilishly crafty way of damaging their ship. What kind of Star Trek series sees the lead Captain being stabbed in the chest in the second episode? It’s astonishingly brutal and unexpected and really sells the idea that Discovery is taking place in a dangerous universe.

Illogic, Captain: Still too many bloody tilted angles. Do the camera guys know how to hold a camera straight? The last time I watched something this visually jarring was Battlefield Earth and for the same reasons, and we know how that turned out. I remember reading interviews with David Livingston saying that he wanted to bring a more dramatic visual style to Trek, include high and low and tilted angles, and how he snuck them in to episodes as much as he could without the execs getting in a paddy (Go watch DS9’s Crossover, he went to town in that one). But it seems that the tide has well and truly turned these days and whilst I understand the need to be visually arresting and unique, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the performances and storytelling because it is so distracting it pulls your attention away from the important things.

Despite trying to give T’Kuvma (say his name in a melodramatic growl like the Klingons do, it’s so much fun) so backstory (including flashbacks to when he was a child), the Klingon dialogue scenes are still hampered by the language barrier. In the same way that excessive technobabble used to switch me off in TNG and VOY, these inexplicably incomprehensible scenes had a similar effect. Maybe I have become a lazy television watcher and expect everything in English, or maybe these scenes plod on in dreary Klingonese and feel as though they are adding little to the overall story. TNG found a way to make the Klingons palatable and that was to stage their politics and their world as though they were the most theatrical of Shakespeare plays. Discovery seems intent in keeping them as alien as possible. A laudable goal, but pretty alienating as far as I’m concerned. It might be hard to believe but I don’t watch science fiction to listen to men in freaky masks babble an incoherent language, but I think that is exactly what non-SF think. This material would confirm a non-fans fears. There’s a moment where it looks like Burnham’s head might be burst like a massive spot, Game of Thrones style (and the scream she lets out is agonising).

Moral of the Week: Don’t be so keen to reach out the hand of friendship. Someone might bite it off.

Moment to Watch Out For: Burnham, trapped in the Bridge, witnesses Connor blown into space suddenly and her security field that is intact is the only thing that is preventing her from joining him. Not only is this a stunning visual of a kind we have never seen on Trek before (the square forcefield open to space) but it also reveals that Discovery is happy to go down the Game of Thrones path of murdering people swiftly and without regret for dramatic value. Phew, we aint seen nothing yet. Truly CGI has upped its game considerably since Star Trek has been off the air.

Result: Much more engaging, but essentially because this is an hour-long action sequence that never lets up the tension. You’re talking truly cinematic visuals that accompany Battle at Binary Stars (and I would expect so too, the reported budget per episode exceeds that of many movies); epic space battles, ships detonating in slow motion, sets being torn to pieces, insane sweeps and zooms through wreckage into battle, hand to hand combat…the action is relentless. Is this the Star Trek we have come to know and love? The one which indulges philosophy, morality and huge science fiction ideas? Not at all. But maybe we have to move with the times and this dizzyingly accomplished action proves to be extremely watchable on a ‘cor wow!’ level whilst my brain remained quite unengaged. It’s Trek based on adrenalin and not intelligence. I’ve certainly not seen anything thus far in Discovery that suggests it is better television than the more dialogue driven Trek of old, just that it is much more expensively produced. I like the fact that the Starfleet gets an arse kicking so early in the show and the attempts to shake hands with the Klingons ends in bloodshed. There’s a certain arrogance about Roddenberry’s vision for the show that deserves a bloody nose every now and again. DS9 was adept at dishing this out and it looks like Discovery is following suit. Burnham remains an interesting character and I’m really pleased that she is called to account for her actions and that her fate remains ambiguous, right up to the last scene. This kind of serialised Trek is well worth exploring, as long as there is one character or a crew to follow to make the journey worthwhile. With Georgiou for the chop, Burnham has become our protagonist and she’s a disgraced and imprisoned one. With no hint of the ship in the series title the biggest question is where do we go from here? As a piece of television, this is damn near flawless. The action is relentless; full of tension, drama and smart set pieces. As an episode of Star Trek, it is unpredictable and exciting, but still very vague as to its intentions as a series. Entering the third hour of a show you shouldn’t still be wondering what the hell it is about: 8/10

Context is for Kings written by Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts & Craig Sweeney and directed by Akiva Goldsman 

What’s it about: The Discovery finally arrives, but nobody is happy to see Michael Burnham…

Hybrid: Look at Burnham in that first scene; she’s dejected, lifeless, depressed. She literally does not care as her fellow prisoners are about to expire, spelling out their fate in cold, logical terms. This is the character we are doomed to follow throughout the first season? Martin-Green plays the first half of the episode as though she really doesn’t want to be there, but the charisma starts to return to her performance as she sniffs out a mystery and then she truly comes alive in the climax aboard the Glenn. I really liked how Burnham quoted Alice in Wonderland as she tried to escape the tardigrade, a nice humanising touch in an episode that is too cold for its own good.

Dark Captain: Here’s a thing, a Captain in Trek who hides in the shadows, talks with ominous ambiguity, behaves contrary to the Federation ideal and commits questionable acts that cannot be explained. Whilst I think Sisko could wipe the floor with Lorca in the ‘fuck, that’s a scary guy’, it’s pleasing to see Discovery shirk that Trek ideal and put a very flawed man in the Captain’s chair. If only the rest of the crew were a barrel of laughs it would make for a pleasing contrast. Who cares if Jason Issacs is always called in to play this kind of morally equivocal badass, it’s a role he plays very well and he caught my attention from the first scene in his debut. Lorca doesn’t care about Burnham’s past, he recognises that she will be a remarkable asset to his team. 

Death Sensor: Saru’s condemnation of Burnham is understandable given how close he was to the mutiny when it occurred. I’m not sure if this is best way to bring your characters together as a unit for them to dismiss a heartfelt apology, but he’s reaction stuck me as a genuine one. After their second conversation it is clear that Saru still believes in her ability but has lost faith in her as a person. This is going to be a relationship to watch. 

Spore Man: I really like Stamets. Plain and simple, he’s a character I enjoyed from his first utterance. He’s written intelligently, he is open with his feelings and he can cut right to the bone if he isn’t feeling you on a particular day. Technically he should have been extremely unlikable but Anthony Rapp plays the part with a cool intelligence that draws me in and he just gets better as the series continues. I love the fact that he can express his awe at the miracle of life whilst still being a total grumpy puss. He considers Lorca a warmonger and hates handing his research over to him.

Goofball: Special needs by her own admission, Tilly is the one character on this show that seems bred with the ability to smile. Each Trek show has the more overtly comical characters and Tilly stumbles into Discovery all nervous energy and naivete. Oddly, compared to her deathly serious comrades, she’s a little too goofy at this stage. 

VFX: How can you possibly be a Trek fan and not give a shit about the technology? Because I put its affinity for character drama, ideology, humour and quadrant building first. I wanted Discovery to show up because I wanted the show to start to conform a little to the Trek ideal, not because I have a need to salivate over every deck, Jeffreys tube and power source. I had a boyfriend who obsessed over the technology of Trek and would pour over the schematics and his enjoyment was dependant on whether that technology made sense. Me? If you tell me if the ship is propelled forward by dilithium or gel packs or a ruddy great spore monster is much of a muchness. I’ll just accept that it flies. Saying that the introduction of the ship in a luxuriously long CGI tracking shot that cranes 180 and comes in to focus on the saucer section is beautifully done. I think there must be quite a few Trek fans exploding in their pants at such a sequence. An organic propulsion system created through spores? Sure thing, it looks like magic to me. It’s a stunning looking sequence, but it’s the Star Trek equivalent of waving a magic wand and travelling across space in an instant. 

Great Ideas: I thoroughly enjoyed the first scene that depicted Burnham as a prisoner of Starfleet, handcuffed and on the way to work in a dilithium ore mine. For a breath this feels like a very different kind of Trek, where our protagonist is rubbing shoulders with hardcore prisoners and manacled. I could have done with a little more of that before Discovery turned up and whisked her away to a better life. It reminded me of the first couple of episodes of Blakes’ 7 where the regular characters were serving out fake (and real) sentences on a prison ship and had the same kind of vibe that the series was going somewhere truly unexpected. However, I won’t complain too much about Discovery showing up because that finally addresses my reaction to the first two episodes that it was very strange indeed to advertise a show as one thing and then deliver something completely to the contrary. A Tribble in Lorca’s quarters is the one cute touch in this entire episode. One thing I think Discovery really aces is the expression of the fantastical and the moment Burnham breaks into Stamets secret spore farm really captures that feel of wonder. And poses more questions than it answers. Hooray for the bloody, mangled corpses that litter the Glenn. Discovery is certainly not shying away from horror and it only helps to ramp up the suspense. It doesn’t feel at all gratuitous but part of the atmosphere, except maybe the severed foot that is keeping one of the doors open. Being hunted through a darkened ship by a great brute of a creature that is kept in the shadows and inflicts terrible injuries, this is my kind of action. 

Illogic, Captain: Commander Landry is the first crewman that we encounter on board Discovery and she’s one of the most obnoxious characters in the entire Trek canon. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the crew. Unrealistically aggressive, lacking any kind of Federation principles and looking to cajole and pick a fight with anybody that will let her throw her fist, there’s very little Rekha Shara (a proven actress, tackling a similarly unlikable character on BSG with much more subtlety) could do with a character that is written as one-note as this. 

Forgive me, but where the hell is the humour on this show? Aside from the odd in-joke between characters, every situation, every person is played in deadly earnestness that makes it very hard to warm to any of the material. Original Trek could tip over into self-parody its humour was so overdone at times, but I would still say it was the cute moments between the crewmembers that made it so memorable and endearing. Some of the greatest episodes of TNG, DS9 and VOY were the comedies (Deja Q, Little Green Men and Tinker Tailor Doctor Spy to name a few). Humour allows us to get close to the characters without belittling them, but by humanising them. Joss Whedon, creator of one of the greatest TV ensembles, understood this perfectly and used humour as a tool to give characters complexity and likeability. I realise there is a war rumbling on in the background of Discovery but you would think that would give these people all the more reason to lighten up a little. Let’s hope Discovery learns how to find the fun a little as it hits its stride.

By the time our lead protagonist was given the stare of death by all and sundry on board Discovery and beat the shit out of a fellow prisoner (who admittedly had provoked her) I was starting to wonder if this show would ever capture that Trek ideal of remaining human in the face of adversity. I don’t mind Trek offering up challenging scenes and behaviour (DS9 did that very well, often remarked as anti-Trek), but much of this accusation and violence seems to contradict the identity of Trek as it has been established for decades.

War has struck out in the Alpha Quadrant between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, not a new idea in Trek but one with some dramatic legs. Unfortunately, this season long conflict is rarely given the context or detail it deserves. I’d like to be able to see the bigger picture, to see how this conflict is affecting people, to learn of the casualties and for the war to be show beyond the experiences of those on Discovery. When the Dominion War broke out, we had an opportunity to see that struggle from many different perspectives; an entire wave of change swept through the Quadrant that was comprehensively documented and explored. The war in Discovery seems to drive all the action, but without the elucidation of the greater fight it is simply a background threat that it is tricky to emotionally invest in. We’re just told it’s there and getting worse without ever truly charting its progress.

Above top secret? Does that mean it’s hyper important?

‘We’re trying to piss it off!’ ‘Shit that worked!’ I just can’t imagine Captain Kathryn Janeway saying these lines.

Moral of the Week: Leave your past behind you and look to the future.

Result:
 Context is For Kings sees Discovery constantly trying to get my attention with innovative new things in a very busy script but by it's climax it was perhaps trying a little too hard. One thing that would definitely help would be if the show would cheer the hell up every once and a while. I might find the situations interesting, but I can’t say I’m particularly relaxing into a show that is constantly being played like it is attending a funeral. Its characters are all either tortured, pissed off or emotionally charged. Add to that the bizarre choice to skip ahead six months from the previous episode and fail to chart much of what has happened since. It means that the only reason to have two-episode prologue was to point Burnham in the position where everybody can point their finger at her and accuse her (wrongly) of starting the war with the Klingons. A war that we really haven’t learnt anything significant about. Countering that is the semblance of a crew emerging and some fascinating (if overly dour) characters stepping from the shadows. Lorca might be untrustworthy, but that’s a pleasing new look for a Trek Captain. Stamets might have a bug up his butt, but he’s afforded some scathing dialogue. Saru might not want to be anywhere near Burnham, but it’s really nice to have a memorable alien on the show. Cadet Tilly is the one bright spot, displaying a little charm, but she’s like Ezri Dax on acid, socially dysfunctional squared. The less said about Landry, the better. They haven’t gelled anywhere near enough yet, but the building blocks are in place. There’s a sense of the unknown about Discovery in this episode that kept my interest high, and I like how we investigate the mystery of what the ships purpose is along with Burnham. With its focus on the characters and suspense, the camerawork has calmed down a little too so we can really focus on the performances, all of which are excellent. Well, Mary Wiseman is weak spot for me, but it’s so nice to see a character that is trying to appease I can let that one slip. I’m just not sure what to make of this show that purports to be Star Trek but pushes against its identity so forcefully. In an episode that is ship bound, contains a reasonable mystery and ends on a sentiment of acceptance it is making baby steps in the right direction. This is New Trek; flashy, morose, arc bound and enigmatic. I’m not sure if I’m sold but there are certainly lots of elements that I admire. An extra point for the whole sequence on the Glenn: 7/10

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

So glad you're taking the time to review this series...it took quite a bit of rewatching for me as I found the Klingon scenes a bit heavy. but I got there in the end.

Anonymous said...

HOLY CRAP I LOVE THAT YOU ARE DOING THIS! On a slightly less excited note, I really liked discovery. I certainly liked it more than Enterprise at least and I am definitely looking forward to series 2

Ed Azad said...


Personally, I prefer realistically flawed (eg. Seven, Aeryn, Starbuck) to bland perfection, which seems to be par for the course with female Captains.

" I certainly liked it more than Enterprise at least"

Part of the problem was that Paramount was trying to get by with a more 'economical' cast. The other problem was the writing. The only characters that didn't seem to have Multiple Personality Disorder were T'Pol and Phlox, and between them, only Phlox had serious acting chops.