I am a Star Trek fan. I have been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember. I am named after the TOS character Zarabeth. The Voyage Home was the first movie I can remember quoting as a child. When Undiscovered Country came out, my parents pulled us out of school early so that we could go see it. To this day, I can still identify Voyager episodes by a single still frame. Star Trek is in my blood. Okay, perhaps I should rephrase that: Star Trek’s prime universe is in my blood. When JJ Abrams took over the franchise with his reboot in 2009 I abandoned the franchise. Much to the chagrin of most of my Trekkie friends, I have never seen the reboot movies, nor do I have any desire to see them. Abrams cemented that fate himself when he made it clear that he was making a Trek film for non-Trekkies.
When news of Discovery was first making the rounds, I dismissed it. Then I learned that Discovery would not be set in Abrams’ Kelvin timeline, but rather in the prime universe. I was intrigued but discouraged to learn that it would be another prequel, filling the gap between Enterprise and TOS. Here’s the problem with prequels: prequels must constantly be vigilant of established canon. This isn’t something that studios, production companies, and writers aren’t inherently good at (especially when one has to consider the established canon of five television shows and ten movies). That’s A LOT of history to
remember mess up! But, Discovery is going to feature a WOC main character, and so I felt encouraged to at least give it a try because at least Abrams can’t mess this up, right?
Coming Soon Star Trek: Lens Flare
It’s well known that Battlestar Galactica was in many ways influenced by Ron Moore’s time working on Voyager. The lack of continuity and realism of Voyager’s journey through the Delta Quadrant upset Moore. He felt that the ship shouldn’t be pristine at the start of each new episode; that the crew should be more desperate and less rigid in their Federation principles. He felt Voyager missed the opportunity to explore the realism of their situation. When the opportunity to run Battlestar Galactica was presented to Moore, he took all of those lessons he learned on Voyager and poured them into Battlestar Galactica.
In many ways, Battlestar Galactica reshaped the face of modern sci-fi. It was darker, grittier, and more intense than most sci-fi had dared to be in the past. A wave of darker series followed suit, including the much darker Stargate Universe (which incidentally helped kill another beloved franchise). “Gritty” sci-fi has been in vogue now for over a decade. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Battlestar Galactica is one of my favorite shows of all time. It did re-introduce me to Mary McDonnell, after all, and we all know how that story goes. However, it becomes a problem when we’ve gotten to the place where we believe that all sci-fi must be ‘dark and gritty’. It becomes a problem when we believe that sci-fi that predates this move to realism is inherently lesser.
It’s a problem because Star Trek Discovery is billed as the grittiest Trek yet. Above everything else, Star Trek is the utopian vision of humanity. The Federation rules a planet Earth that is freed from war, poverty, greed, inequality, and all the other defects of modern life. When I was a kid, I loved Star Trek so much more than Star Wars because Star Trek was optimistic. The United Federation of Planets is the most powerful force in the Trek universe. And it is a force that constantly strives to do what is right. Discovery betrays that in an effort to be edgy and hip. Discovery’s first two episodes make it clear to me that those running Discovery have no appreciation for Roddenberry’s vision.
Breakdown: I went into Discovery with very few expectations, and somehow I was still disappointed.
Things I Liked – I enjoyed the way that the theme song sampled the theme from TOS. And for a few moments, I hoped that the sampling of TOS’s theme meant that Discovery would also embrace TOS’s spirit.
– It is obvious that Discovery devoted a huge chunk of their budget to effects. They did not disappoint. The visual effects on Discovery are by far the most beautiful effects of any Trek series.
Things I Disliked – Regardless of what the show runners say, it is obvious that Discovery does not exist in the prime universe. One need only watch the first Klingon scene to realize that these are not your parents’ Klingons. Michael Burnham is the adopted sister of Spock (a sister that has never been previously mentioned). The ships are far too advanced to exist in the prime universe, five years prior to Kirk helming the Enterprise. Discovery is a reboot, plain and simple.
– Lens flares and angled shots. Nothing says “We’re trying too hard” as much as the combination of the two. Seriously, lens flare overuse is a blight upon the genre. For the love of god, STOP USING LENS FLARES!!
All of the promotion for Discovery has revolved around the Shenzhou, Captain Georgiou, and Burnham. CBS used Georgiou to help sell Discovery as a diverse production. So, you can imagine my irritation when Georgiou is killed before the end of the second episode.
Star Trek fans are a lot of things – one of those is vocal. Trek fans have resoundingly echoed that they don’t like the Kelvin Universe, but prefer the Prime Universe. Trek fans have made it clear that they want Trek’s story to carry on, not in reboots and prequels, but in story lines advancing from Nemesis. Trek fans have stated that they want to see a return to Trek’s roots and optimism. It is time for the CBS executives to get their heads out of the sand. Either make Discovery more in line with Trek’s ideals, or let the Trek franchise rest in peace.
I will give Discovery a few more episodes but my low standards are already not being met. I continue to be disappointed by Trek’s current path.