Continuing the trend of no new ideas, CBS made the choice to bring back Star Trek, in the new incarnation of “Star Trek: Discovery.” They also made the controversial choice to only show the series on their pay streaming site. Either to try and lure in more viewers, or to try and throw a bone to some of the displeased fans, they showed the first episode, “The Vulcan Hello,” on the regular network.
The first major segment showed a good bit of promise, aside from the ongoing Star Trek fallacy of sending the captain and first officer on the same mission (a trend parody show “The Orville” consistently echoes). It was a nice, tight sequence that worked (mostly) and gave us a sense of the two characters. And it may have been the only part of the show I really liked.
The show is set in 2256, so, between that, the tech, and a few other references, this is roughly the Kirk era (ten years before according to the IMDB page). Among the departures from the usual, Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is not the focus of the series. First Officer Michael Burnham (Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green) is, and she comes with backstory, PTSD, and a link to some notable Star Trek characters. It’s a fairly diverse cast, as Trek tends to be, although once again, for all the species diversity, everyone in charge, from First Officer up to Admiral, is human. So, diversity goes but so far.
Their ship, the USS Shenzhou (I guess the titular Discovery comes along later), gets sent out to repair a communications relay. Naturally, nothing is that simple. They find a strange artefact near the damaged device, and Burnham goes out to check on it in a sequence that seems like they’ve shifted to Star Trek: Iron Man, although in fairness, it reminds me of some stuff I vaguely recall from the first movie. I’d say it’s not a spoiler to reveal the Klingons are involved. This is a new version of the Klingons, redesigned, with a whole different look and somewhat different culture. They also sound like even they are having trouble pronouncing their own language.
There’s a lot of debate about what to do, and Burnham takes some really unusual steps. Disagreeing with orders is a staple of the show. How Burnham deals with it is decidedly different, and I didn’t care for it. To me, she’s demonstrating that she has no business being in a position of authority. The episode ends on a cliffhanger that I suppose is designed to entice the viewer into paying for the streaming service. Unsuccessfully in my case.
What I liked: I am a Star Trek fan. A new version is something I was excited about. Some of the special effects were pretty good, and I really enjoyed the opening. I liked Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou. Their small, short opening mission worked for me.
What I didn’t: Just about everything else. I’m certainly not paying for this. The redesign of the Klingons seemed entirely unnecessary. The way they are portrayed here seems to be some weird Klingon/Romulan hybrid. The main character I’m finding hard to like. The ship gets overwhelmed by a bright light/loud noise, and they can’t shut off their screen and speakers?
There was a lot of potential here, and they didn’t quite get there. I read a joke in the comics section of the newspaper this week (yeah, I still read the newspaper) that said, essentially, that The Orville was more like Star Trek than Discovery was. I agree.
I’m giving this a 2 out of 5. If I ever get access to the rest of the series for free, I’ll probably watch, mostly out of curiosity. But I’m not paying for this, and I was disappointed by it.