Sunday, October 8, 2017

Star Trek Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery (aka DSC) premiered a few weeks back, first on CBS proper and then continuing onward on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Netflix everywhere else. Set 10 years before the five-year mission of the Enterprise under the command of Captain Kirk in the "Prime" (non-reboot movie universe), DSC follows the journey of Michael Burnham, a human woman who was raised by Sarek (Spock's father) after a Klingon attack left her orphaned. The show is served as geek-bait in the United States in order to get Star Trek fans to subscribe to CBS' brand new streaming service, CBS All Access. As much as I like Star Trek, there's no way I'm paying $6 a month to watch a show that doesn't release all of its episodes at once and contains commercial breaks to boot, especially when the rest of the world can watch it via Netflix. There are ways around that model, and I took the path of least resistance and wondered why I even bothered.

I've stuck with the show through 4 episodes and my general feeling is that, while it's a pretty decent show overall, Star Trek: Discovery doesn't really feel like Star Trek. Or, at least, it doesn't feel like
Prime Universe Star Trek. Discovery feels more at home in the universe created by the J.J. Abrams movies (the Kelvin Universe), both in tone and in visual style, but, there's likely some legal issues keeping CBS from placing Discovery in that Universe. With that being said, I like that, for once, we're being given a main character that is fallible. Burnhman makes mistakes and there are immediate, long-term consequences for them. Despite her mistakes, I don't feel that Burnham is irredeemable and I'm hoping that part of her journey on Discovery involves her path to redemption (and, by extension, the redemption of the Discovery crew). Even though the visual change in the Klingons is jarring, I appreciate the the people behind the show are giving us an alien species with a lot of diverse looks. For too long, Star Trek has given us alien species that all look alike when it makes more scientific sense that there'd be a bit of variation. I don't have a real issue with the overtly militaristic bent of Starfleet, nor the judgemental nature of the side characters. I feel like those traits are coming straight from DSC producer Nicholas Meyer, the man behind Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn and Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country.

What I am having a hard time grasping is the reasoning behind setting the show 10 years before Kirk's five-year mission. Four episodes in, there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason why Star Trek Discovery has to be set in the "past" as opposed to the "future" (10-100 years after Star Trek: Nemesis, the last Prime Universe movie). Indeed, the updated visuals, theoretical technology and Klingon motivations would make a lot more sense if were set in Star Trek's future rather than the past. So far the only reason I can come up with is that Kirk and crew is the pop culture focus of the Star Trek franchise, so TPTB wanted to be able to drop as many references to it as possible (Did you hear Michael mention her foster brother? She knew Spock! Squeeeee! Oh! And Captain Lorca has a pet tribble! Double Squeeeee!). So far, it seems that most of what has gone on with DSC could be done 100 years after Nemesis without any major changes to the storyline.

Overall, I kind of like what I've seen so far with Star Trek: Discovery. Is it good enough for a $6 a month subscription? No. Would I binge watch it on Netflix? Yep.  Is it worthy of the Star Trek name? The jury's still out. So far, I don't see much of the optimistic future that Gene Roddenberry envisioned when he created Star Trek. But I'm keeping an open mind. I hope it shows up eventually. That's part of what Star Trek is about, isn't it? Hope?

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