I have seen the first two episodes of Discovery. Here is my very spoileriffic review.
And it is not the review I wanted to write.
I love Star Trek. Back when I was a kid, I grew up watching TOS. I know I saw Star Wars in the theater in 1977 (or maybe during the re-release in 1978), but I don’t remember those. I DO remember seeing The Motion Picture in early 1980.
Whenever I had a birthday party, my mom would rent a VCR (yes, that was a thing), and we’d rent video tapes to go along with it. If I wasn’t watching the David Warner trifecta (Tron, Time After Time and Time Bandits), I was watching The Wrath of Khan. Great movie.
I really began to embrace Trek with The Voyage Home, and then along came TNG. Excited? Oh, yes. And I quite enjoyed the show. I fell in love with Deep Space Nine, occasionally liked Voyager, and watched Enterprise, which of itself puts me in rare company.
The less said about Star Trek Into Darkness, the better, but the other two movies were very good in their own way, if full of occasional unnecessary stupidity.
So when Discovery was announced, I was very excited! A new Trek series! Strange new worlds, new life, new civilizations, and best of all, an optimistic future that runs counter to the fucking nonsense we get in most sci-fi these days. And, hey, Bryan Fuller, who makes some very good TV, was involved, and so was Nicholas Meyer! What could be better?
Then the bad news began to trickle in. It wasn’t going to air on TV, but rather on a streaming service. And not one that I was already paying for; it was going to stream only on the CBS app which has literally no other shows that I want to see that I can’t get elsewhere. It got worse when the dreaded “word” “prequel” came along. Even worse still when we learned it was set only ten years before TOS.
None of this filled me with confidence, nor did the trailers. Gone was any sense of exploration. Of those strange, new worlds. Instead we had action, action, action! Wall-to-wall action! Nothing great or grand or anything concerning the human adventure. No, we got explosions, and an aesthetic feel like the new movies. What we didn’t get was anyone boldly going anywhere.
But ok, fine, trailers have to have that crap in them, I suppose. Otherwise how will you get the kids to watch? So I tabled my reservations as best as I could, but doubt kept creeping in, and the more I saw, like the other trailers, and the more that I learned about the way the show was being promoted, such as the review embargo, which is never a good sign, the more doubt accumulated.
Today I have seen it.
I did not like it.
There are things to like, yes. The SFX are sensational, there’s some good acting, and the one character we learn anything about who doesn’t subsequently die is fairly interesting. And…that’s really it. That’s all that I can say that’s positive. Great production values, good acting, and one good character.
Oh, and the opening credits were neat.
But then there’s everything else. I don’t really want to type up anything terribly coherent, so here’s just a list of questions and observations.
- Why is this a prequel? Why not set it 30 years after TNG? Or 300 years? Why put it ten years before TOS? That limits the stories you can tell without violating continuity, but clearly that’s not a concern because…
- Having decided to do a prequel, why do it this way? Say what you like about the Abrams Trek, and there is certainly much to say, but at least the overall “look” is fairly consistent with TOS. Primary color uniforms, a brightly-lit bridge. Excellent. But in this series, only ten years before TOS, mind you, everything is dark and muted.
- Why change the look of the Klingons again? This serves no purpose! And what the hell are those outfits they’re wearing? Also, what’s up with those ships? They do not look even remotely Klingon.
- Hologram communications technology, eh? Yeah, that’s a thing here. Why didn’t they have that in TOS? Or TNG? They did in DS9, but even then it required special equipment. You see the nonsense questions that come up with prequels?
- Radiation doesn’t work that way! There’s no timer ticking away where one second you’ll be fine, and the next, doomed beyond recovery!
- Oh, a species that can sense death coming, eh? How does that work exactly? What science is there to explain this? I can (barely) tolerate telepathy in this universe, but now we have a species that can only see into the future in one very specific way? Yeah, that’s reasonable, I guess. I mean, the universe for this show also includes Q, so what the fuck.
- Did no one pay the electric bill on the Shenzou? Why is the bridge so dark?
- Wait, so killing T’kwanda (or whatever the guy’s name was), would make him a martyr, so let’s capture him instead. Fine and logical, and the right thing to do. So…why attack his ship, and then shoot him in the back?
- Also, speaking of attacks, Starfleet attacks other ships during a cease fire?
- Why is Michael…actually, before I do anything else, why the fuck is she named Michael? Not Michelle, not Michaela, but Michael?! Ok, let’s remove gender from the name. Fine. Let me know as soon as we have a male character on the series named Mary.
- Ok, now…why is Michael the adopted daughter of Sarek, and therefore sister to Spock? Why has this never come up before? “Oh, hey, you have a secret half-brother you never told us about and an adopted human sister? Well done, Spock.” On that note, where’s Amanda during her childhood? Surely having a human woman around would have been of some benefit.
- Seriously, did no one pay the fucking electric bill? What the hell was up with that tribunal? Three people with their faces in shadow in a poorly-lit room? What’s up with that? Where was Michael’s lawyer? Where was the prosecutor, come to that? A court recorder? Where was all the navy trappings? We know what a court marital looks like in Star Trek, and it doesn’t look like that. Hell, even Klingon court-pits have better lighting schemes. Even the Cardassians gave the defendant a lawyer!
- As near as I can tell, none of the series regulars really appeared in this two-part story. Hell, the titular ship didn’t even show up!
- And the greatest sin of all…the worst thing about this…why is it so fucking boring?! Not just a lack of “strange new worlds, new life, new civilizations”, but also a lack of entertainment! You know that scene in Citizen Kane where Joseph Cotton’s character is so bored watching an opera that he starts tearing his program? God, I wish I’d had a program to entertain me with.
I have said to some people recently that I wouldn’t pay for the streaming CBS service because, come on, I already pay for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Sling, and Britbox. But I added as well that I would buy the series if it were available for purchase.
I am now glad it is not. I would have wasted my money.
When this comes out on Netflix, I’ll watch the remaining episodes. Maybe. But until then, count me out.
Final rating: 2/5 stars, or to put it another way, a D.