Star Trek returns to our screens after a 12 year hiatus. Wait… are we seriously counting Enterprise?
Star Trek returns to our screens after a 16 year hiatus. Unrelated to the recent JJ Abrams action films we follow Michael Burnham’s adventure 10 years prior to the original Star Trek series. You know the one, with that Kirk bloke. It also looks a lot like the JJ Abrams action films.
Ignoring the cosy Star Trek format of the past, this series tells the overarching story of a war. Yes. A bloody war.
Wait… is this a soft reboot? Urgh… that term. Oh well. Let’s not judge too hastily, despite the sheer endorphin pleasure of doing so.
The first thought that hits you is “Blimey… this is Star Trek with serious money”. It’s a tad jarring as I kept expecting a cheap, but satisfying 20 minute discussion about the prime directive. I did laugh to myself when the original series Star Trek radar “bing” sounded off every now and then, but only at thematically correct timings within the scene…
…The second thing, and don’t worry, I won’t list any more things, is the masterstroke of hiring expensive Hollywood star Captain Michelle Yeoh. She’s absolutely fantastic and it’s a shame that she’s a “guest star”. You might as well have tagged her with “dead meat”. They should have based the whole show around her as she feels like the most traditional Star Trek character in the show. Wise, with a sprinkle of dry wit and a stubborn streak thrown in for good measure. I guess this is the new team throwing off the shackles of the past… a gritty reboot you say? Bit of the moral grey area? Why not? Without the pull of ya’ traditional Star Trek Captain we turn to our protagonist Michael Burnham. Without Sonequa Martin-Green the whole show could have crumbled very quickly. Without the brilliant casting this could have been a very different article.
Strangely, four episodes in, nothing in the universe feels wholly original… yet. Not a good sign when you’re boldly going nowhere. The Klingons have been rebooted into something a bit more menacing and I think that’s fine. What’s the point of a soft-reboot if you don’t change things up a bit? The continuing story-arc isn’t a bad idea, but basing it around a war brings Discovery closer in line with the flashy excess of an action-packed feature film. Although you’ll hear about the Klingons great savagery, you never actually see it in action. You’ll hear about the war, but showing that would be just that lil’ bit too expensive. The biggest difference between this and say, a Deep Space Nine is that we’ve had 5 series worth of character building and story before building into a meaningful conflict. With Discovery we already know that Klingons love a nice bit of war… so… let’s get right to conflict. Job done. Autopilot writing in that regard.
Due to all this conflict the camera gets to go full shaky cam at every opportunity, complete with outrageous avant garde camera angles. As I said… jarring for those expecting a cup of tea and a nice little natter about port nacelles. Hey, isn’t it funny when a brand new expensive prequel presents better technology then the old shows set far, far in the future.
I tell you what does look better then ever. The opening credits. Now that’s something us British could learn from American telly shows, fantastic bloody credits. Whilst we are on the subject of good looking, I’m hugely enjoying the adequately shady Captain of the Discovery, Gabriel Lorca. I mean, he literally sits in darkness. He even references that the first time we meet him. He didn’t spin round in a chair though. We can always use a bit more slow chair turn. It’s a great idea to have such a remote Captain and we can only wonder how much time we’ll get to spend with the guy. Again another highlight.
Yes, I don’t mind the characters as a whole, despite a good portion of them relying on snark and, of course, we must entertain the obligatory kooky lady. Brilliantly, she’s also the roommate. I’m unhappy to report the show doesn’t really suffer big ideas or even clever dialogue. It’s all pretty basic so far. In fact, there is some fantastic dumb shit teleported in.
We whoop in glee as drama’s fabricated from the flimsiest of premises. “We must save the fuel depot!” cry the Federation, who somehow left it completely unguarded in time of war. Quick guys, we must have a convoluted technological way of fixing this! Also war is hell.
I mean, I don’t mind a save the day moment, but you’ve got to work for it. Blimey, Discovery is a lazy fucking show. I could go on, but I did tag this with spoiler-free didn’t I? Yes, you could argue that this is the beginning of the Federation, which makes thematic allowances for the flaws in mankind and maybe the odd military mistake. But c’mon…
The grand Klingon super-weapon is a giant fucking lens flare.
Despite everything I’ve said, I am enjoying Discovery. I can see the show growing and I’ve a sneaky suspicion bigger and better things will crawl out once the glitz has calmed down a lil’ and grand ideas are allowed to flow. The story of redemption and mankind’s last bastion of savagery could make for an interesting dilemma down the line, although the signposts are so huge and gaudy they may as well advertise a cheap motel. Michael Burnham’s story is one I want to stick with and I’m intrigued to see how her story takes shape. The intrigue’s mostly earned with the strength of the actor’s performance and the powerful artistic vision. Yes, even with the wonky camera angles and flimsy plot premises.
Star Trek Discovery could really do with feeling a lil’ bit more like Star Trek.