This week I decided to do a one week trial of CBS All Access so I could watch season one of Star Trek: Discovery. I finished the season in three days, which speaks to the show’s quality, here’s my review.
As I wrote in my opening, Discovery is a quality show. The cinematography, visuals, and score are cinema quality. The performances of the actors are also very good, though few have character arcs of any note. The season as a whole is more one long arc than episodic, which gives the impression that the show is a ten hour film than a television show, and that’s OK. As far as science fiction goes, this is about as high quality as it can get. It’s exponentially better than the Kelvin Universe movies.
But it’s not Star Trek 1.
Or, rather, it’s not Star Trek in any way the other Trek show are. The setting is familiar, and there are species similarities between “regular” Star Trek and Discovery, but that’s where it ends. Discovery is really its own thing. It’s good, but it’s a reimagining of Star Trek rather than the show’s continuation. The closest comparison I can come up with is the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. That show, like Discovery, was a reimagining of a familiar setting. Certain elements made it through, like the older Viper models and the original theme song becoming the National Anthem for the Colonies, but the two shows diverged from that point. Discovery is like that, there is enough familiarity present for old fans to pick up what’s going on, but everything is tweaked a few degrees from what’s come before. Many of these changes, like technology and uniforms updated from the campy futuristic vision of the 1960’s, benefit the show. Others I’m less happy with. I don’t care what anyone says, those are not Klingons. Also, because of the show’s setting, there’s little really likable about it. Everything is edgy, and it feels sometimes as if every character has a knife hung over their heads. I do miss the good natured banter between crewmates. Tilly is the closest we get to banter in Discovery, but she doesn’t have anyone to play off of. Q would find Discovery’s universe boring.
So, no, Discovery is not the Prime Universe 2. It’s also not the Kelvin Universe, though it shares some visual similarities with that branch of Trek 3. Am I OK with this? I’m shocked to say, but I am. But for me to be at peace with this I will also never rank it against the other shows 4, because it doesn’t fit. Trying to fit it in would drive me mad.
In the end, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica was better in just about every way than the original. I’m not prepared to offer that praise to Discovery just yet. The show takes place during a war, which lends itself to the over-the-top seriousness of the production. But even before the war started the hopeful vision of the future for which Star Trek is known was non-existent. While the season concludes with an attempt to instill that hopeful vision into the show’s DNA, it didn’t ring true. Maybe they’ll find that in season two.
So if you’re OK with a reimagined Star Trek, which has some flaws as a Star Trek but is a quality show nevertheless, then Star Trek: Discovery is a good show to watch. If you would rather enjoy the older vision of Star Trek, however, then The Orville is a show you might like to consider. I’m happy doing both, though I’m not paying for a year long subscription service just to watch one show.
- Neither are the new movies. ↩
- No matter what the creators say, it’s not. The tone, themes, and personality is so distinct it’s can’t be the Prime Universe. Yes they mention Captain Archer, but it was a different Archer than we saw on Enterprise. So there. ↩
- “The awkward uncle no one really wants to invite over” branch. I am not fond of the films. ↩
- For the record: Deep Space Nine, Next Generation, The Original Series, Enterprise, The Animated Series, Voyager. ↩