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Oct 17

Star Trek: Discovery

It’s been over a decade since Star Trek: Enterprise, the last series of the Trek franchise, has graced our television screens. I grew up in the 1990s, which was the heyday for Trek. The 90s had 3 series running almost concurrently (TNG, DS9 & Voyager) and featured 4 films (Star Treks VI to IX). Back then, I binged watched seasons with a friend during sleepovers. (Binge watching then meant going to Blockbuster and renting a stack of VHS tapes.) I spent countless hours with high school friends discussing all the ideas, themes, and concepts that Trek introduced us to – astronomy, astrophysics and other sciences, “what if” questions about the universe, ethical issues, so so on. The sorts of stuff that most teenagers pseudo-philosophically discuss, but through a geek’s sci-fi lens. I also used to attend Trek conventions and had a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of Trek trivia (like, memorizing Starfleet ship registration numbers). At the turn of the century, the output of the Star Trek universe slowed down, and that obscure knowledge started to mothball in the recesses of my brain.

When news broke of Star Trek Discovery, I was excited that my sci-fi franchise of choice was going to be back on the small screen with new content.

Television has evolved a lot since the 90s. We’re in the so-called Golden Age of television, and the episodic nature of TNG has long since been replaced by grand story arcs, sophisticated treatment of themes, and great acting. I wanted to see what Trek might look like given the advances in television story telling over the last half of my life.

After watching the first two episodes of Discovery, I am disappointed. Like Enterprise, Discovery is a prequel, and the problem with prequels is that they are constricted by events that have already happened in the future, so to speak. The new Star Trek movies try to avoid that by splitting the timeline and creating an offshoot universe. But Star Trek is about the future, and I do miss forging even further ahead in the future and exploring more uncharted territory.

With Discovery, what we get instead is an opening few episodes where we are introduced to the start of hostilities between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Perhaps the writers will eventually make this a compelling story-line, but it’s not one that they have managed to grab my interest with. In the future Trek story-line, there is peace between the two civilizations, and how that came to be was an interesting concept.

It also doesn’t help that all the episodes so far are lacking in personality. The characters and acting feel wooden. I just don’t care about any of them, and none of them stand out.

The focal character is, for the first time, not the captain of a starship or space station, but it remains to be seen if something interesting comes from this shift in perspective. Michael Burnham’s initial personal theme of an internal conflict between emotion versus logic, child versus parent, has been done before: Spock, Data, 7. Simply reversing the dynamic by thrusting a human child into having a Vulcan upbringing feels like a gimmick.

The Klingons are also somewhat boring. Their dialogue is slow and stilted, and even the font selection for the subtitles (ALL CAPS, SERIF, BIG) felt like a crutch to supplement the acting.

Even the theme song played during the opening credits is bland and meek. The only memorable part of it is when its closing bars throw back to the original Alexander Courage theme.

The story itself feels jumpy and contrived, unfolding unnaturally as you try to make sense of where it’s trying to go. A Klingon from nowhere shows up, recruits another houseless Klingon to be a “torchbearer” because he can hold his hand in fire for a while, and suddenly they reunite the Klingon empire. They blow up a bunch of Federation ships and then warp out of there. What?

As critical as I’ve been so far, it’s Star Trek, so I’m going to keep watching. But I do hope it starts to kick into gear.

  11:46pm  •  Star Trek  •   •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment

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