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Star Trek: Discovery - Preview

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Anthony Clark gives us his first impressions of the latest Star Trek TV series, Star Trek: Discovery...

Any reboot of the Star Trek franchise is going to get very close scrutiny, especially as the recent big screen outings received such a lukewarm reception from some corners. As a result, there’s lots of expectations weighing down on Star Trek: Discovery; perhaps too many, given that it’s up against so much hardcore fan anticipation.

Feature imageHowever, to put this into context, the fan critics who’ll come down hardest – and there’s already been a vitriolic fan backlash in some parts – are the ones that’ll claim great things about the early seasons of Next Gen despite it being the visual equivalent of a very dull still life featuring a bald man and a comedy robot. So if you think Next Gen, or the equally exorable Voyager, is great telly then pack your bags now and leave: you probably won’t like Star Trek: Discovery… it’ll be too grown up for you.

The first bold step…

Episode one has a slightly cheesy pre-credits sequence but it works. The Star Fleet insignia writ large on the sand… it’s hard not to smile. However, the show’s theme music is so bad it’s... well... dreadful, aside from a few familiar borrowed notes, but get past that and things start to quickly shape up.

Feature imageA fractured Klingon Empire is starting to coalesce around a desire to protect racial purity and an urge to prove itself against incomers. Its ire is targeted against the Federation, which it considers weak because of its desire for peace. Meanwhile, the crew of the USS Shenzhou are about to become the innocent victims of this resurgent Klingon blood lust…

So far, so good. But what really makes things tick is the very believable central character of first officer Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green. She really is very good indeed, and I have no doubt she’ll get better if the scripts are half decent. And on the basis of the first two episodes my expectations are high.

Feature imageAnd now to the themes… and being Trek there are themes. We’re still boldly going on a mission of discovery and peace, there’s still the great unknown and a quest for new encounters. What makes this different is that it’s not all butch and macho [sorry Janeway, but you were just Kirk in a bra]. All that stuff’s left to the Klingons; for now, at least, our door into federation space is a modern female with brains and a three-dimensional character, albeit married to a clear commitment to action. And it makes for a different type of narrative, perhaps because the scripts no longer try to pull at the hem of James T Kirk’s tatty yellow jersey.

Feature imageStar Trek: Discovery is fresh but still familiar take on the Federation saga. It’s opening two episodes are strong, well balanced story telling. Nothing too clever, nothing too reverential to the past – just as it should be. The downside for me – aside from the boring theme tune – is that the CGI is worked very hard at times. A little less computer-generated lens flare would be nice and some of the shots that swoop dramatically around digital objects are distracting, I find. Aside from it’s all shipshape and ready for action.

Go watch if you want something fresh… avoid if you’re looking for Q, Harry Mudd or other such hokum.

SPOILER ALERT: A famous Vulcan appears early on in episode 1 – a nice and unexpected.

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