Unfortunately, I came away with a negative reaction to the new Star Trek series. I only watched the first episode, because that’s all that was on CBS. I’m not jumping on their streaming service to see the show. It feels like a dirty trick to broadcast the premiere publicly and then charge for it on a streaming service. Should be all one or another. Here’s the run down of my reactions, which are spoiler-free (assuming you saw the trailer):
CBS screwed up the premiere. It was heavily advertised as airing at 8:30 Eastern, but because of football, was delayed 20 minutes. Instead of tuning into the optimistic future of the 23rd century, we got a 60 Minutes focus group lead by Oprah interviewing Trump supporters and detractors in a focus group. Utterly depressing and the opposite of Star Trek. But considering how they fumbled the 50th anniversary, this show’s launch, and in general the handling of the franchise, should we expect better?
Turns out, the premiere wasn’t a full episode anyway. Not even half an episode. More like an extended trailer, really just an ad for the streaming service. There was so much unnecessary stuff that could have been cut. The flashbacks, the Klingon scenes, and the desert planet sequence were all unnecessary. What you end up with is a third of an episode: present problem, investigate and discover source of problem <commercial break> confront problem, retreat, debate next step and then shocking twist <commercial break>.
The Klingons were terrible. They talked slow-ly, either be-cause the actors had trou-ble with the lines or to let read-ers keep up with the sub-titles. Why do they only speak in Klingon? What purpose did the Klingon scenes serve? It seems like there’s a Klingon rally happening in a room that may or may not be inside the hidden Klingon ship. It was completely disconnected from the Shenzhou. It barely made sense to me, and I’m steeped in Star Trek lore (as well as Lore). Also, the actors’ face prosthetics looked completely fake, more like helmets than actual parts of their face.
Big plot contradiction: the Klingons have been unheard from for 100 years but have attacked the Federation in the last twenty years. That’s a basic contradiction. That’s a story bible 101 violation.
Vulcan, not Vulcan, part Vulcan? Michael Burnham’s background is supposed to be an interesting dichotomy and provide internal tension. But it’s just confusion. Is she Vulcan? Are Burnham’s ears pointy? If she* is human why would Vulcans raise her*? Why does she act Vulcan when she is human? Is this 23rd century cosplay? Cultural appropriation? Spoiler alert: she really sucks at acting like a Vulcan.
*Is she or is he? Michael Burnham: man’s name for a biologically female character. Is she female or is she transgender? The Vulcan confusion suggests that her identity is not what it seems or open to interpretation. Is he/she the first transgender lead on a sci-fi show? Who knows? And given the plot twist at the end of the first episode, she/he seems loaded with even more contradictions. Considering that this is the main character’s introduction to the audience, this isn’t layered or nuanced; it’s just a big confusing mess. I get the Kelpian officer Saru more than I get her/him/human/Vulcan.
Visually confusing: the show looks like nu-Trek (the JJ Abrams rebooted universe, AKA the Kelvin Timeline). It’s supposed to be between Enterprise and ten years before The Original Series. Partly this could be because the production values are too high for a TV show. The Shenzhou bridge is too big and poorly-lit, for example. But what universe is this show set in? How are they bridging the bookend series when they introduce new tech that even the TNG movies didn’t have a hundred years later, like a 360 degree hologram? Is there going to be some stupid surprise at the end of season 1 like: you were in the nu-Trek universe all along!
Undiscovered Discovery: Where was the U.S.S. Discovery? Why wasn’t it on the show that it is named after? Usually we get a full season in before the obligatory episode about a crewmember’s previous assignments coming back to haunt them.
I did find a couple of positives:
Sonequa Martin-Green is a great actress and does a great job with the terribly constructed main character, Michael Burnham. She held her own against Michelle Yeoh. And she rocked some pretty awful material.
Saru, the science officer played by Doug Jones, wowed in just a few seconds of screen time. He’s the Bones to Burnham’s Kirk/Spock/Ro Laren/Data.
And that’s about it on the positive side. This show was sort of a rolling dumpster fire from the time it was announced and the premiere showed that not much has changed. This show can boldly stream where no trek has streamed before, but I’m not beaming aboard.