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Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery’s premiere

Like the good relapsed Star Trek geek that I am, I found myself grudgingly signing up to CBS’ All Access streaming service for the week trial just to watch the first two episodes of the new Star Trek: Discovery. I don’t know if I’m so tempted as to actually pay for the service (I did get an extra month free when I went to quit the sub), but I certainly was pretty enthused about this show after watching both premiere episodes back-to-back last night.

Really, we had so little advance information about Discovery, which wasn’t necessarily a good sign. No advance previews, no plot, just scant sketches of info and character points. I thought that the series had pretty much bombed out after Voyager and Enterprise and that it was a good idea to let it lie for a while until someone had a better idea of what to do with it. But another prequel series? That wasn’t as episodic? And had very lackluster trailers? I wasn’t on board.

Maybe I’ve changed my mind. We’ll see. The weird thing is that the first two episodes are a prelude to the rest of the first season, an extended setup of what’s to come afterward. It’s a very interesting move that allows the writers time to set up the story and some lead characters without feeling like they need to shove in a ship tour and a “lets get the crew together” mission right from the get-go.

Some things I liked:

  • Love the main character of Michael Burnham. She’s flawed, she has an interesting background (tragedy + Vulcan training), and you get to know a bit more about her as the episodes go on.
  • Incredible special effects and alien designs (esp. the teaser’s scene).
  • The ongoing nature of the story, which allows for death, downfall, change, and progression.
  • Conflict in Star Trek. A captain who is really level and has a lot of nuance and balance. Would’ve loved to have had a whole show with Michelle Yeoh. She’s really tremendous and does a lot in the little time she is afforded.
  • A main character trying to do the right thing but also doing the wrong thing — and I agree that it was wrong. Michael is not a Mary Sue and that is refreshing.
  • Sarek — the first Vulcan since Spock that I actually like? You can see the ambassador in him and some deeply buried emotions.
  • It kicks off with a confrontation and battle and a whole lot of upheaval, which makes an audience wonder where it’s going to go from here.
  • The initial ship is so sterile and lacking personality.
  • Using an actual telescope when sensors failed, genius.
  • The bit with radiation poisoning and the sickbay was also a neat touch.
  • A couple of scenes where the bridge crew reacted in subtle but understandable ways without saying anything.

Some things I disliked:

  • The first five minutes were Awkward Exposition City, with the two lead characters telling each other things that they each should know already. It was really, really wince-inducing.
  • Boy I am not sold on the Klingons. They look even worse than before and I have never warmed to their battle-hungry, honor-obsessed culture. If this is going to be Klingons 100% of the time… I dunno.
  • Those uniforms are kind of tacky. There, I said it. Enterprise and TOS had much better outfits.
  • The battle was kind of underwhelming. Like “pew pew pew” from afar. A few moments helped to redeem it, like the one ship crashing into the other, or the force fields holding together a damaged ship, but it wasn’t as dynamic as it should’ve been.
  • Feels a bit — a bit — like it’s taking cues from the recent Star Trek movie series in some of its set dressings and special effects. Not a big fan of that.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery’s premiere

  1. I’ve got a lengthy review on my blog, but I’m kind of underwhelmed. I very much dislike the new direction with the Klingons, and unlike you, I can’t stand Commander Burnham. The rest of the cast will have a lot of work to do to make up for how annoying I find her.

    That said, there’s enough action and excitement to keep me watching, but I’ve had to lower my expectations for the series several notches.

  2. Meant to watch the first episode but it was so under advertised, I completely forgot to turn it on. Most reactions seem to be favorable but I think for a new stab at an old IP, putting it behind a paywall was not a good idea. I doubt I’m willing to give CBS the money to watch it.

  3. Totally agree there. I would continue to watch if it was on regular TV. I guess they thought they would hook people by showing the first episode.

  4. I has done a free trial of CBS All Access a few months back. The interface was so bad and the content so lacking in things I wanted to see, nothing encouraged me to go back to it.

    If CBS wanted to give me another free day or week to watch BOTH parts of the Star Trek premiere, I’d have done it, but as things stand they basically give anyone watching the old fashioned way just half of the opening episode.

    The lesser half by far, if what I am hearing from others is accurate. I saw a jumble of exposition, flashbacks, camera tilting, dark interiors, and a main character that stepped over the line from flawed into dangerously unstable.

    It may be asking too much for the first hour to provide more than that, but CBS is asking viewers to pay monthly to see more, so I don’t think it is too much to ask that the first hour give more reasons to continue than 1) it is Star Trek and 2) it ended on a cliffhanger to, presumably, make you want to pony up to see the rest.

    Dear CBS, the premiere episode would maybe have been a teaser to bring me in to the rest of the show. HALF the premiere episode, however, was just annoying.

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