Star Trek fans have had a hard time of it in recent years, from the increasingly poor reception of the various new attempts of creating TV shows based in the franchise to the re-imaginings of J. J. Abrams.
Many may like Abrams version of the Star Trek universe, but I am one of those who didn’t get past the first film and don’t consider it to be any more legitimately Star Trek than Disney’s Star Wars films are Star Wars.
But I digress.
Star Trek without Kirk or more specifically William Shatner has a hard time being completely accepted as Trek and all other shows and movies have been a mixed bag.
Personally I like all the original series from 1966 through to 1995 and I even have a guilty affection for the mess that was Enterprise, but perhaps this was just because it was the last real Trek before Abrams killed the franchise for me.
Well, that was until Discovery turned up.
Star Trek Discovery is another prequel show that takes its cues from Abrams universe rather than Rodenberry’s so its parentage is part Abrams universe and part Enterprise; so in my opinion at least we’re already off to a pretty bad start.
The Netflix Original show hit the interwebs with its opening two parter and eagerly I rushed home to view what I was hoping to be good, but was sure was a mess, before the reviews started to descend.
There were already a few rumours about the show and these had been worrying. Entertainment has become a common battleground for ideological ideas in recent years, not that this is entirely new, but as the distance between views has grown and the discourse between opposing views had become more aggressive the battleground has become far more about these views than the actual entertainment the entertainment industry produces.
So unfortunately some of the promotion for Star Trek Discovery has been taken as evidence by some that the show is taking a “progressive” stance, which will set much of its prospective viewer base against it before they even hit play on their web player.
After watching the show I think this is really unfortunate.
I initially found Star Trek Discovery the most attractive show in the franchise since The Next Generations debut back in 1987, with an opening two episodes that gave me good characters and an interesting (not to mention timely) storyline that really makes me want to continue with the show.
I could make complaints about the first two episodes but any complaints I could level at Discovery I could also level at any show within the Star Trek universe. It’s as prone to melodrama and technobabble as Next Generation and in truth much of what has been seen has been done before; but even when we saw it before it had already been done even before that.
Star Trek has always been criticised for these things and Discovery is nothing new here, and I’d argue that it shouldn’t be. I want my Star Trek to have its melodrama and technobabble; these are the things that make it Star Trek.
Where Discovery takes its biggest chance is with its choice of heroes, and its here that many have seen as it wearing its “progressive” nature on its sleeve.
The white males in the cast list are nocicebly sparse with no lead characters being of this demographic. The captain is Phillipa Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh a Malaysian actress better known for her martial arts films, and the first officer and shows lead character is Michael Burnham who, despite the masculine sounding name, is played by African-American Sonequa Martin-Green, best known for her role as Sasha Williams on The Walking Dead.
We do see one substantial white male character, Admiral Brett Anderson, but we only see him in a holographic form. Now perhaps I shouldn’t have but I did think this was pretty funny, the idea that the white guy was “phoning it in” did make me smile because I knew how many would see it; but ultimately I Just have to say that I didn’t really care.
The villains of the show, the ever present Klingons, are on the other hand overwhelmingly male, with a similar male-female split only turned on its head and its hard not to see the demographic make up of Discovery as anything but a progressive take on the previous male-centric Star Trek Universe.
But I don’t have much against any of this…
…perhaps the crappy Klingon design not withstanding…
…and even when I noticed these differences I found myself smiling at it rather than being irritated by the gender twist.
You see, I liked Phillipa and Michael… though I may never get used to calling a woman by that name… and I don’t think their sex is made an issue, in the first two episodes at least. They are played primarily as Star Fleet officers and their sex is irrelevant.
Even their race didn’t seem too much of an issue, Michael’s may be referred to obliquely on the odd occasion thought it may be in relation to her upbringing on Vulcan rather than the colour of her skin.
Star Trek Discovery is closer to what I wanted from Abram’s Star Trek, moving away from actors impersonating Kirk and crew, even if they are really good impersonations as in Karl Urbans case, and instead creating their own stories with their own characters.
In my view many of the bad reviews Star Trek Discovery will attract will be driven by a portion of the viewing public tired of shows pressing ideology rather than story, fed by the hyper vigilance that many experience watching more and more shows made by those who see themselves as moral crusaders rather than… well, just entertainers.
Some of the reviews I have read from such viewers have seemed rather harsh to me, even if I think much of what they say in these reviews is true I don’t see the need to throw the baby out with the bathwater; but then… I don’t think I see some of the things that some find so objectionable either.
A lot depends on how the individual reads the show and whom they associate various characters and situations to in the real word.
I would suppose that if you see the Klingons symbolic of you then you’ll react very differently to if you see them symbolic of your political opposite; and, as always these days, the shows creators have made statements concerning their views on which the characters symbolise.
This is bound to have an effect and alienate much of the prospective audience.
As I’ve already said, I do think this is unfortunate as I think Star Trek Discovery has a lot more to offer and if a viewer can see deeper than the progressive stance the shows creators have made those viewers might see something far more interesting in the show itself.
But this is probably a big thing to ask when even the shows creators themselves have taken up against these very same viewers.
Now I don’t know if you remember but at the beginning I said the word “initially”, and that was deliberate because I have to say that things did not remain as they began in my view.
For the most part Star Trek Discovery remains on similar shaky ground to that which Star Trek has stood on for a long time; but it does take a leap from this ground into an abyss where it succeeds in making me doubt why I even bothered in the first place.
Okay, if you actually intend on watching this show you should stop this video now, we nearing spoiler territory.
Okay, you asked for it…
A few episodes in we meet the captain of The Discovery, a dark and brooding man who goes by the name of Gabriel Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs, and we’re treated to a character that is unlike anyone we’d so far seen in such a pivotal role in Star Trek.
Lorca is a soldier, he’s capable and slightly unnerving as we are not quite sure what he is willing to do and how far he is willing to go to complete his mission; and this mission is to win the Human/Klingon war.
Now to say I liked this guy is an understatement. For me he was the best bits of Kirk, Picard and Sisco rolled into one.
So all goes well until we learn that Lorca isn’t who we think he is, he is a refugee from the fabled Mirror Universe and suddenly he becomes a villain!
Now he doesn’t do anything to make him a villain, the only thing that Michael has against him is that he didn’t tell her his plan.
Newsflash Michael, you’re a civilian who is only not in jail because Lorca bailed you out; as you’re a convicted mutineer Michael Lorca doesn’t have to tell you anything.
You’re lucky you’re not in irons being towed in a lifeboat.
So, anyway, Lorca finds his way back to this Mirror Universe to confront his enemy there and our hero, Michael Burnham, decides to side against him and with the Emperor of the Mirror Universe.
To be clear here, Michael sides against Lorca, a man who saved her from imprisonment, and with the Emperor, a woman who routinely executes people by transporting them into space…
..A thing that, incidentally, she was going to do to Michael at one point…
..So none of this makes any sense to me at all.
And this isn’t the only time this happens.
Later Michael puts ultimate control of the Klingon Empire into the hands of a female Klingon that had been held prisoner and tortured by the acting captain of the Discovery, a captain Michael helped put in charge after getting rid of Lorca.
Trusting, inexplicably, that this Klingon will guide the Empire away from war with the Federation…
..Because I guess Klingons aren’t known for holding grudges…
..Or behaving irrationally…
..Or being warlike…
Star Trek Discovery started out as a show that I thought was being misunderstood and I hoped that its detractors would give it a chance, so I did give the show a chance.
Unfortunately I finish Season One wondering whether I was wrong to do this.
Perhaps I was.
Well, I’ll speak to you later…
In the meantime, take the conn, head for the second star to the right and go straight on till morning.