Star Trek Discovery is a series with an identity crisis. Much like it’s lead character, Michael Burnham, it is trying to live between two worlds and succeeding completely at neither of them. Just a fair warning, the way forward is dark and full of spoilers so go back if you want to remain ‘pure’.
Still with me? Okay.
Lets start with the most reoccuring thing in the show, The Theme Song. The Theme to a show can make or break it. Just ask people who watched Enterprise. Yeah, it was bad.
This one is actually pretty incredible, with hints of the original series and it is certainly a proper Star Trek theme. So this goes in the good pile.
What is the series about?
Star Trek Discovery is supposed to take place 10 years prior to Star Trek The Original Series (TOS). So, timeline wise, this series takes place well before the famed 5 year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701. This means it, theoretically, takes place when Captain Christopher Pike was in charge of the Enterprise and that would also mean that Spock was among Pikes bridge crew on at the time.
Star Trek is traditionally known to feature ensemble casts that work together even if there is a little conflict at times. By the end of the first episode of any given series you typically know the characters, have a basic understanding of their needs, and personalities. These traits are later defined further through subsequent adventures. This series, on the other hand, mostly follows two characters, Burnham and, the Captain of the Discovery itself, Lorca. There are other players in the series but really only two (maybe two and a half) characters.
Discovery follows First Officer Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green) as she struggles with her own moral code and the duality of her life. From early on, some of her decisions lead to the events that are indirectly responsible for the first Klingon War with the Federation. This war would eventually lead her to the Starship Discovery under the command of Captain Lorca (played by Jason Isaacs). More on this later.
Burnham’s story, as I mentioned before, is one of finding her place and justifying her existence. Lorca, on the other hand, seems to be proving himself to himself. His is a dark internal conflict that is rarely seen in Starfleet Captains. Unscrupulous and obviously corrupted by the freedoms he has been granted by Starfleet Command, Lorca feels he can do no wrong and rarely even tries to hide it. He is a fascinating character and is certainly one of the high points of the show.
Ultimately, the USS Discovery is attempting to find new and unique weapons for Starfleet to win the war against the Klingons while under the command of an unscrupulous Captain. They do things, get into trouble, and then do more things. The ironic thing is that Lorca has something on his desk that could honestly end the war on it’s own and he doesn’t even know it. A freakin Tribble.
Michael Burnham (aka Vulcan Not Vulcan):
You see, Michael is a human that was raised by Sarek and Amanda, a fact of which the show WILL NOT let you forget. These are the same parents who gave birth to Spock from the Original Series, in case you don’t recognize their names. Michael was rescued by Sarek in an event where she was given part Sarek’s ‘Katra’ (his soul) and so she has a unique link with him that also serves as a plot device. She also happens to be the first Human to graduate from the Vulcan Academy. Because of her upbringing, she straddles both worlds and has issues with both. So yeah, she is a pretty convenient character to be following in this series but, then again, most of the characters we meet in Star Trek are exceptional people with interesting backgrounds so we really shouldn’t be surprised here. I mean how boring would it be to follow Craig the Space Janitor? Okay, maybe that would be a good show.
She is ultimately responsible for the war between the Federation and the Klingons in this story and is reminded of this constantly at first. Then people stop caring about that since you know it stopped being important to the plot. She’s a hot head and it gets her in trouble a bit, which is ironic since she was raised by Vulcans from a young age. Man, Vulcan education must be pretty terrible.
Captain Gabriel Lorca (aka Lucius Malfoy in Space)
The Captain of the Starship Discovery. You don’t meet him until episode three even though the show is named after the ship he captains. Heck, you don’t even meet the ship until episode three so there’s that too.
Lorca is basically the combination of every evil character Jason Isaacs has ever played. I swear he is the go-to bad guy these days. Not that he does a bad job but seriously, when I see him pop up on a show, I know this guy is gonna be bad news.
Anyhow, Lorca is the Captain of the Discovery and he isn’t the ‘nice guy’ ‘straight laced’ Captain we are used to. He’s not even a Kirk level ‘cowboy’ Captain, he is a war Captain and he had been given the okay by Starfleet to do pretty much what he wants to do. This is NOT a good idea as he is not the most stable or pleasant or diplomatic guy to be in charge of a Starship with the power that Discovery has.
All that being said, I loved his character on the show, he is one of two and a half fully formed characters with the rest being pretty two dimensional at best.
Saru (aka Not Abe Sapien)
Saru is played by one of my favorite actors, Doug Jones. Sadly the show doesn’t give him much to work with in this character so he just comes off as a dickish alien version of his character from Hellboy, Abe Sapien.
Saru is from a species that is new to Star Trek (yeah 10 years before TOS and already a species we never met before) called the Kelpians that are a Prey Species. He has these ganglia things that tell him when he is going to die, or so he says that’s what they do. They are really just telling him to run away because there is a chance for them to get killed. His species was not the top of the food chain on their home planet so it’s a pretty good chance they all got eaten before TOS began. Ten years can be a bitch.
He hates Burnham and makes it VERY WELL KNOWN throughout the season. I mean, this dude won’t shut up about it. But overall he isn’t too bad. I mean, he’s good enough to get a photo on this review so that’s pretty good. The rest of the folks can pretty much be replaced by a talking lamp post. Yes, only ONE lamp post. That’s how two dimensional they are! I know that sounds mean and it’s no fault of the actors. The writers have just done a really poor job making these characters interesting.
The remainder of the crew is pretty forgettable so I’ll give you my own names for them. There is Chippy the Starfleet Cadet , who ends up Michael’s roommate. There is Science Officer Grumble, who ends up being key to running the ship. Then we have Doctor McFancy Pants who we find out is dating Science Officer Grumble. Oh and later we meet up with Security Chief Tyler (that’s really his character’s name, so maybe he was memorable, not fully formed but memorable) ‘the human guy who is maybe a Klingon but we aren’t sure yet.’ (Hint, he’s probably a Klingon and we don’t know it yet. He might not even know it yet for that matter. hmmm) Sarek is worth an honorable mention only in that he is important in this series as part of Michael Burnham’s Character, but as a character of his own he is pretty one dimensional this time around.
Of all these half characters Science officer Grumble and Security Chief Tyler are the ones I hope get more characterization. They have potential and maybe when I do a Season One Part Two review they will get photos of their own.
There is one other character that I absolutely love but I can’t consider him one of the two and a half fully formed characters since he only shows up in 2 episodes. Yeah, I know thats nearly a fourth of the show so far but still, he is at best a recurring character at this point. That character is one of the few solid connections to TOS, that character is Harcourt Fenton Mudd.
Harry Mudd (played by Rainn Wilson) is an amazing connection to the Original Series. You see, when we originally met Mudd, he was a con man who was attempting to swindle miners until the Enterprise happened along to stop him. Mudd was a terrific foil for Kirk but what was he doing prior to all of that? Why being a con man of course! (and serving time in a Klingon Prison) Rainn’s portrayal of Harcourt Fenton Mudd is, by far, one of the highlights of the series thus far and I honestly hope we haven’t seen the last of him.
The first ship you meet is the Shenzhou, don’t get used to her, she doesnt last long. Heck, I’m not even going to go into details.
The ship you need to know about is The Discovery. This ship doesn’t show up until Episode 3 ‘Context is for Kings’. It is an experimental ship, one of two, that contains a unique ‘Spore Drive’ that allows for unique travel. The ship is captained by Captain
Malfoy Lorca and is a science vessel turned weapons research ship due to the battle with the Klingons.
This is really tough for me. I absolutely HATE how the Klingons look in this series. Let’s discuss for a minute. Please bear with me.
This is a Klingon from 100 years prior to the events in the Discovery and Original Series.
Note the prominent Brow Ridge, the bushy eyebrows, the long flowing hair, the unique facial hair and dark skin.
This next one is a Klingon from the Original series. Remember he is from 100 years AFTER the events in Enterprise but only 10 years AFTER the events in Discovery.
Note the shorter hair, lack of brow ridge, bushy eyebrows, unique facial hair and dark skin. Also keep in mind that this series was from the 1960’s so prosthetics were not commonly used due to budgetary reasons.
This next one is from the Star Trek Next Generation Era set 100 year AFTER the Original Series.
Note the return to the brow ridge, the bushy eyebrows, the long flowing hair, the unique facial hair and dark skin. According to the storyline the Klingons had experimented on themselves resulting in the smooth foreheads from the original series. It was an embarrassment to them and not something they liked to talk about.
Now, this is what appears as a Klingon in Discovery. Please note that Discovery is supposed to take place only 10 years prior to the original series. So you would think they would look either like that of the Enterprise Era or of the Original Series Era but no. They look like this.
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?! Seriously. There is no way to can go from this to the smooth headed version in 10 years!
This really bothers me and every time I see one, it takes me out of the series immediately. Everything else, from the insane technology that doesn’t make sense 10 years prior to TOS to the uniforms that don’t make sense I can get over, it’s distracting at best. The only thing that would make ANY sense to a Trekkie like me is that Discovery takes place in the Kelvin Universe (click the link for an explanation) where the Klingons looked like this:
And you know what? That would have been awesome. A TV series set in the new movie universe would have been great as they would have been able to bring in the new version of Kirk, Spock and McCoy with little effort. Unfortunately the producers say that it is based in the Prime Universe and fits in with all the other tv series. Shenanigans I say.
Okay, Rant over, let’s get back to this lengthy review.
Other aliens include…well there really aren’t any specific other aliens. I mean, we see some Vulcans. We see Saru and there is also the Waterbear that becomes the navigator/regulator of the spore drive for a while. This guy:
He’s pretty cool.
There are some other things on the show but nothing really notable, not so far at least.
Episode One and Two: The Vulcan Hello/Battle At The Binary Stars (aka the 2 hour pilot that was split into two because CBS wanted viewers to pay for half the first episode on their new streaming service.)
Michael and the Captain of the fist ship get into a disagreement on how to handle the newly (re)found Klingons and Michael tries to incapacitate the Captain and take over the ship in order to initiate a first strike. She ends up failing in her task, the ship gets wrecked and she gets courtmartialed. There, just saved you two hours of a pointless pilot.
I won’t get into the details of each one of the rest of the episodes. Ultimately, this first half of the series ends up in an interesting cliff hanger where we find out that there are Alternate Dimensions. I hope to GOD that one of these dimensions give us an explanation for those damned Klingon Not Klingons (KLINGNOTS for short for those of you who have been reading my weekly episodic reviews). If you want more details you can find those here. They are 99% spoiler free so you can enjoy them fully. Although if you already read all of this it really doesn’t matter huh?
Theories and Musings
One of the biggest theories is that Tyler the Security Chief is really a Klingon Sleeper Agent. One big thing is that there is an Albino Klingon named Voq that seems very important to the story until he and a female Klingon are disgraced and make plans to get revenge. This is literally the last time we see the Albino Klingon. The very next episode we are introduced to Tyler who is found on a Klingon ship as a captive. That ship is captained by who? The Klingon Female that the Albino was plotting with. At the end of the mid season finale Tyler and this Female Klingon meetup and, after he deals with some PTSD, she tells him ‘ I will never let anyone hurt you’. Weird huh? The crazy thing, Burnham is in love with Tyler. Yeah that’s gonna suck. (Oh, Hey look Tyler got his picture in after all! Maybe he is an important character!)
One other theory is that Lorca is not from the Prime Universe at all. He is actually from the Mirror Universe and has been trying to get back. He blends in as the Prime Universe Lorca having either displaced or killed the original and is trying to use the Discovery to find his way home. One thing that verifies this is that he has been tracking the rifts that lead to alternate universe and when Science Officer Grumble tells him he will only do one more jump he overrides the jump and they end up somewhere unexpected. Also, it would really explain his a-hole tendencies that is very unlike traditional Starfleet Captains. Unless he is just like this guy. This guy was a dick.
Well, that’s all I have for you on this one. I hope you enjoyed my ‘indepth’ review of Chapter One of the Star Trek Discovery Series. I am sticking around for the second half in January and I plan to report to you on a weekly basis when those episodes are released. I am a firm believer that Any Trek is Good Trek unless it’s Bad Trek then it’s crap. Let’s hope this series finds its stride, it looks promising but I don’t like to get my hopes up. Let’s be honest, they should have set the series After Star Trek Voyager.
Thanks for reading, if you liked this review please check out my other review series: Key Movies Of My Life and my Toy Reviews. You can also get caught up on my Star Trek Discovery Reviews HERE. As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these movies as well. If you just happend by, please tell me what you think!
Late To The Game 11/14/17
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