Monday, September 25, 2017

Discovery is not Star Trek

First, if this was a new science fiction property I'd say that it was fantastic, and worth watching but I would have said that it "reminded me" of Star Trek yet I'd probably chastise the creators for making the good-guy ships and ray-guns look like Starfleet ships and phasers, (oh and and ripping off the idea of the Vulcan mind-meld) - yet overlook them as being minor rip-offs in contrast to the full-blown Star Trek homage that is Seth McFarlane's "The Orville". If this was the case I'd watch every episode with no apprehension or concern whatsoever.

But no, because this is actually Star Trek and Discovery is carrying the IP name with millions of devotees and a 50+ year legacy that both need and deserve to be respected, especially if intending to frame it within the prime universe (as opposed to the Kelvin timeline of J.J. Abrams creation) and if the first two episodes are anything to go by - that hasn't happened.

The plot here seems to centre on a single character, Commander Micheal Burnham who I'm branding the worst Starfleet Officer, second only to Lon Suder and even gives pre-redemption Tom Paris a run for his money. The idea of giving the spotlight to only a single character, especially one whom is not the captain is a fresh one but fails due to the characterisation, not due to Sonequa Martin-Green's splendid performance.

There was another two characters who appeared that had equally dubious motivations, Doug Jones' Science Officer Saru is a Kelpien, apparently a race with a reputation for cowardice in the Federation. While this justifies why we don't see them in later set series, it doesn't address what the fuck such an obvious coward is doing on the bridge of a Federation starship where he's third in command! It would be akin to making Reg Barclay the chief of security! There was another character, Ensign Nobody who gave a war lament in the middle of a battle "Why are we fighting? We're explorers not soldiers" demonstrating that the criteria for the Starfleet psychological tests slipped somewhat between Archer and Kirk's time.

I did make only one verbal reaction to what was on screen. Remember in one episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine when they install a holographic communicator allowing Captain Sisko speak with Captain Sanders and Michael Eddington on the bridge of the Defiant? Remember how distractingly shit it was and they used it once more before never mentioning it again? Well remember how it was considered "new technology" then, so it couldn't exist 120 years earlier, especially without the huge holographic ring to power the image and it would be ridiculous to have it as an apparently "normal" feature in standard crew quarters? Well now you can guess why I verbally reacted to the screen. My other non-verbal, but face scrunching reaction was to the obtuse opening titles with a complete failure on Jeff Russo's part to deliver a coherent theme with a line drawing "artistic" montage, something that would be far more appropriate to a documentary on the making of Discovery as opposed to the series itself.

Two elements I was counting on for this Star Trek incarnation to work was (1) a plausible or implausible social, Geo-political or even quasi-biological explanation for the Klingons, why they and their technology look like that and not in keeping with the established canon, and (2) a scientific (in Star Trek terms of the word) explanation for why Starfleet tech and designs on display here in some cases make the Enterprise E seem as advanced as the Searcher from Buck Rogers. But no. There isn't any, no mirror/alternate universes, chronometric distortion, godlike being influencing the natural order - feck it, I'd even settle it for being all someone's "dream" - I'm fine with all changes to canon so long as there's an in-universe reason! But nothing, nada, zilch and the series will suffer because of it because it's just too distracting the way it is. It is possible we'll get some explanation for either before the end but I won't hold out hope.

I believe any other problems delve into spoiler territory so enough now. Overall I think it's pretty solid and works as a show where things explode in space; something that's always welcome on TV. But this is not really Star Trek, it doesn't even feel like Star Trek let alone look like Star Trek. I reckon now they'll only be one season here and that's it. It won't save the franchise. It's too difficult not to draw comparisons to The Orville, which has aired three episodes already, better characterisation, better music (veteran composers) and opening titles (homage to ST: Voyager), better commentary on the human condition and the infusion of optimism at a time when we need it more than ever in our lifetimes - just with the occasional fart jokes! It looks and feels more Star Trek than Star Trek Discovery does and you can quote me on that.

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