Oh, I forgot to add at the bottom. I think “The Orville” is preferable.
I just saw
Star Trek Discovery Season 1 (2017)
Okay. This show has an interesting spin on it from a number of different directions.
The first is that it was intended to anchor a new CBS streaming service ala Netflix or Hulu
Secondly, the whole series was filmed first and then dropped over time on the streaming service.
So the season is supposed to tell a single self-contained story. It was filmed before feedback came in.
It has 15 episodes.
This format could be used to tell interesting stories because you can really mess with your set up a lot each season.
They made some interesting design choices. For instance, the Season 1 Starfleet uniforms look like track suits to me. There’s a side-by-side picture of the Discovery’s mess hall showing they used the same color palate some design elements and lay out as the TOS enterprise.
So there were call outs.
They made it supposedly a prequel series set 10 years before TOS.
None of that was in any way necessary.
Between Enterprise, JJ-Trek and DSC, that’s a decade and a half spent playing in the pre-TOS playing field. Enough is enough. (Sigh)
In other ways, DSC is, like all Star Trek series, a creature of its times. So it’s a 2017 TV show aimed at 2017 people.
They made some storytelling choices I would not have.
Michael Burnham, the POV character of the series is a human raised on Vulcan. Fine and good.
Raised by Sarek and Amanda, as a sister to Spock.
Wait, what? Why?
Michael’s relationship with Sarek is complex and makes for good drama. But shoehorning her into Spock’s family tree is unnecessary and doesn’t add anything to our story.
I’ll talk about cross over potential here in a bit.
Now – The longer story has a book end format. in the first episode Burham faces a choice, makes her choice and suffers consequences.
In the last episode, Burnham is faced with the mirror image of that choice and chooses correctly.
In between, we see the crew doing Staar Trek things under the shadow of a terribly destructive war with the Klingons.
Both DSC and TNG had the Klingons winning the war.
This is a sort of a retelling of Robert E Howard’s Conan saying “Civilization makes you weak”
I think this is a pat and facile view of the Federation versus the Klingons and I find it disappointing. But, whatever.
One thing I did find disappointing. In the front end of the series, we join L’Rell and Voq. They are Klingons on the lower end of Klingon Society.
They are outcasts and dregs. They’re following a Klingon fundamentalist. He is a nutbag who has dragged an ancient dreadnought out of history somewhere and is laboriously refitting it. T’Kuvma feels that the Klingons, in warring amongst themselves are eating their own. His solution, murder all aliens. A Klingon Jihad against non-Klingons can unify the great houses of the Empire and end the threat of Klingons murdering each other into irrelevancy.
Just typed out here, I can see the resonance the writers were going for and why not. A little too ripped from the headlines, but whatever.
Because T’Kuvma, the charismatic madman Klingon leader of the cult gets killed early on.
His cult, set adrift eventually falls to blandishments from more accomplished but more venal Klingon houses.
L’Rell and Voq are left pursuing their fanatic faith and their question to make their lives mean something in the greater universe – they’re left to make it up as they go.
During the early episodes, these characters are actually as engaging or more so than the Discovery characters. I wanted to see what insanity they’d come up with.
In the middle, we see some character development. But the Klingons seem to disappear.
As the Klingons fade into the background, Captain Lorca comes to the front, along with the Spore Drive.
I have heard some fans bitching about the spore drive. It’s the gaia hypothesis, mapped on to the universe and, then turned into a highway system
The theory is that the Universe on a deep level has more in common with a living ecosystem than a complex system of physics.
There are some living things that access this deeper, living layer to the universe, and people can use this weird deep layer livingness to the universe to travel.
The way they perfect this Spore Drive is interesting and had tones of real Star Trek to me. I was pretty sure they were going to make the Spore Drive fatal to the person who is the key to using it, forcing Starfleet to put it on the shelf with other ideas that sound good in theory but fail in practice.
But it allows instant-elsewhere travel without warp drives. A ship can teleport all over the place, in the blink of an eye.
For awhile the Discovery, with the only functional version of this drive becomes the Federation’s Secret weapon Stalling the Klingon Advance.
But Lorca seems broken. There’s a story that he lost his previous ship the Buran and his whole crew to the Klingons. He comes off as domineering, angry and demanding military skill and perfection from a crew that started out mad science nerds.
I was thinking they were going Ron Tracey with him. In TOS the starship Enterprise goes to planet Omega and finds the USS Exeter in orbit with her crew dead. Captain Tracey is on the ground, mad. He thinks the planet contains the secret to Immortality. It’s plain that losing his crew and getting mangled by the people of Omega has driven Tracey around the bend. He is a mirror image of Kirk. He fails the way Kirk might if Kirk is unlucky and slightly less Kirk.
In the end, Kirk punches Tracey in the face and gives a rousing, if incoherent speech to the natives. They agree to try a little more enlightenment and they beam up, situation resolved.
So I am looking at Lorca going “Holy shit, the stress of being a captain and the war is breaking him!”
I wanted to see where they went with that. Ask Shakespear, nothing says drama like a man who gets so caught up in his shit that he can’t tell right from wrong anymore.
Ah, but no.
They have Harry Mudd in DSC, but he is not the Original Harry Mudd. in TOS Mudd endangers the Enterprise, but this is coincidental to him avidly pursuing what he sees as his own interests. He doesn’t actually mean to hurt anyone unless you count fraud and deceit. He’d sell you a broken phaser and let you find out yourself the hard way, but he’d never point a phaser AT you! How barbaric!
The DSC Mudd is a different and much uglier guy. The only reason he doesn’t stick a phaser in your face and pull the trigger is that he doesn’t quite have a foolproof escape plan in place yet. He’d rather not deal with the ugly details of consequences. But without those, look out.
Near the climax of the story, they go to the Mirror Universe.
And that’s when things unravel. It turns out that Lorca is not DSC Timeline Lorca. He’s the Mirror Universe Lorca. He was running a long and very complex scheme all along.
Mirror-Lorca was a usurper. He’d attacked the Mirror Universe Emperess (Michelle Yeoh) and failed. When he fled, he accidentally wound up in the DSC timeline and began a complex plot to build his own copy of the Spore drive and return to the Mirror universe to complete his rebellion against Emperor Yeoh and become the new Emperor.
He wasn’t a shakespearian character, a man in such dire straights of anger and revenge that he lost track of his own moral compass. No, he was evil because it was in his nature to be evil. Bwaaa haa haaa!
That really, really disappointed me.
Because instead of asking “What is good, what is evil, and how do we know? How do we know when it gets really difficult? How do we know if we fail, during trying times? Can someone recover from going off the rails like that?”
Instead of asking these interesting (To me) questions, they dropped into the Mirror Universe and rendered all such questions moot.
Now, at the end of the series, they have a Federation, on the ropes, desperate to survive making a very bad decision.
And then in true Star Trek fashion, Burham and the crew of the Discovery point out the moral compass and say “No”
Then they take one of their biggest problems (The Klingon Jihad) and turn it into a solution.
On paper or in summary, it sounds good. Its what Star Trek is supposed to be.
But a lot of it is handled quickly, by shorthand or off-screen.
Disappointing. As if the writers knew that this was supposed to be the Star Trek Ending – but they can’t figure out why it would work, or why it would be preferable.
Then in the last 5 minutes – after Starfleet rewards the Discovery Crew for saving the Federation – they get a distress call from the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. Captain Pike.
The show the Enterprise approaching the Discovery and they roll credits.
It’s not the Classic TOS Enterprise. It’s not the JJ-Verse Enterprise.
Michael Marek does a good explanation why on his blog.
As it turns out there was a split between CBS and Paramount.
Paramount owns JJ-Trek. Both can derive works from TOS. But if DSC borrows from JJ-Trek, they’re crossing a line.
So they have to either do a faithful recreation, ala “Star Trek Continues”
They have to make a DSC version of Pike, Pike’s Enterprise, and Pike’s crew.
IF they’re going to use them at all. I don’t know.
It solidifies to me the impression that DSC is it’s own timeline. I am okay with that.
Weirdly I am more okay with DSC being its own timeline than with DSC being yet another Prequel.
In any case.
Most Star Trek Series take 2 seasons of struggling before they really find their groove and their own identity. You’ll have good stuff and bad stuff and awkward stuff, but you’ll see them hunting to find their tone.
I give this one a C+.
I hope like hell they can give themselves permission to just go ahead and tell their own stories in season 2.
It feels to me like half the season was written, and an arc was set and then CBS balked, said “oh, hell no!”, changed up writers, and had it follow a really safe action-adventure plotline to its conclusion.
There are things I’d keep for Jay Trek. There are things I would not let into Jay Trek. (The Spore Drive, for instance, is right out)
It added 15 hours worth of legos to my mental Star Trek set.
It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. They could have done better.
I will watch the second season, assuming I can access it in the piratic ways I have done previously.
Again, as with …. well, all previous incarnations, a decent cast. A good technical crew. You can tell this was put together by pros.
There were likable characters and characters who got no screen time.
I have a new set of Star Trek People in my head now. Not a bad thing.