Monday, September 25, 2017

Television: Star Trek: Discovery

I wish they'd admit Star Trek: Discovery is set in the alternate universe. From what I saw of it last night, I don't see how this could match up with The Original Series beyond the most basic ways. Everything about this new show, the sixth live-action Trek series, looks and feels like the Bad Robot-produced Trek films: the ships, the look of the aliens, the cinematography, the damn lens flares! And did everything have to be so grim?

In terms of story - what I saw of it, anyway, since we only got one half of a two-part story (thanks a lot, CBS) - I thought they jumped us into the action without letting us get to know the characters. Compare this to the TNG-era pilots of the other shows and you'll see what I mean. Those pilots had action to spare, but they also gave us a basic understanding of the cast. Then again, it wasn't clear to me which of the secondary characters, besides Doug Jones' alien, would be important. I had thought Cmdr. Burnham would go from the ship she was on with Michelle Yeoh to the Discovery and that's where we'd meet the rest of the cast, but clearly, they're doing things differently. I didn't even get to see Anthony Rapp! 

Was it me or was there way too much cutting? BBC America was showing a Trek marathon (TNG), so during commercials, I flipped to that. The difference is obvious: shots were sustained for longer than three seconds. It was easier to pay attention to what people were saying. Shots were composed in such a way (and this was true of TOS, too) so you could see where everyone sat or stood relative to each other in a room, on the bridge, wherever. You didn't need to cut to Guy With Funky Headgear or Cute Redhead or Anonymous Engineer or Robot(?!) to remind us they're on the bridge too.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham was fine. Raised by Vulcans? That's a clever twist. I saw the flashback of her on Vulcan as a child, learning how to think logically; I saw her talking to Sarek (how convenient that she knows an important TOS character), but I didn't catch how she ended up there. You'd think that's something they would want to make clearer.

The argument is that Trek needed to get with the times. General television audiences supposedly demand a different storytelling method, that Discovery is Trek for the Game of Thrones generation. I might buy that, except Seth MacFarlane is putting the lie to that with The Orville. I know I said that show relies too much on knowledge of TNG-era Trek, but after watching Discovery, that's looking like less of a bad thing. Orville still hasn't found the right balance between humor and drama, but it feels much more like the Trek I remember, telling stories relevant to us in 2017, with clearly-defined characters. CBS can keep their pay-per-view Trek. I'm not sure I'll miss it.

Bibi and I talked about Discovery afterwards. She didn't like it either, and neither did Eric (he said it wasn't science fiction). She liked Doug Jones, but she thought they got the Vulcans all wrong - they fired first because that's how you deal with Klingons? Yeah, that didn't make sense to me either - nor was she that crazy about the Klingons. Again, I'd buy it if this was the alternate universe, but if they're gonna insist this is the prime universe, I can't go for that (no can do).

Discovery to break the Trek mold
Sonequa Martin-Green


  1. Well.

    Janet and I settled in to watch the first two episodes this afternoon (from Canada's sci-fi channel, Space).

    Your comments on the filming style rang true with us. There were intriguing enough characters, but only hints of their backgrounds and relationships. I don't necessarily need everything spelled out for me right away, but when two of the characters we have been investing our time in are dispatched by the end of the second episode - let's just say I found it bothersome.

    I am willing to give the next couple of episodes a look-see because often pilots are a piece apart from what comes after. If the corner they have put their lead character in is too easily resolved, I may throw something at the screen. Next week will tell.

    PS: The "different story telling mode" used is what killed two of my favourite soaps. The network used the excuse that this is what audiences demanded, but then were shocked when audiences tuned out.

  2. It's gonna be a season-long arc, so I doubt whatever happens to her will get resolved quickly. I knew Michelle Yeoh was only there for the beginning, so I'm guessing she's one of those dispatched characters.

    1. Yeah. I hadn't read much, and sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes not.

      Burnham has been sentenced to life in prison, so I'm curious about how that's going to work out. The show didn't excite me, but I'm not totally "meh".

  3. Whatta revoltin' development! Well, she had it coming for disobeying orders, which must have lead to something worse. So I'm guessing the series will be about her redemption, though this sounds like it's in the same ballpark as the fan film RENEGADES, which I hated. I dunno...


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