Star Trek Discovery Review

April 4, 2018

Star Trek Discovery

What happens when The Dark Knight, Big Bang Theory and Michael Bay collide in a mainstream sci-fi fest? Netflix has the answer, and it’s not pretty.
Star Trek has always posed as a future of progressive values, mixing a blend of equality, higher consciousness and the occasional laugh delivered by characters like Data, Bones, Mccoy and of course Kirk. It’s this that keeps shows like The Next Generation well syndicated some 25 years later – no sci-fi geek can resist an old Data episode.

Even Star Trek Voyager pulls a similar trick off. Swap out Data and add Robert Picardo into the mix; making for a similar look and feel, helped to no end by Seven of Nine making constant social faux-pas.
It’s all gone a bit “Dark Knight” on us…

The new series, being pushed heavily on Netflix right now, promises some of these things; however, it’s suffered the fate of many modern remakes, it’s all gone a bit “Dark Knight” on us. Everything in the Discovery universe is bleak, dark and edging the brink of war. Gone are the utopian worlds, exploration and comedy – nobody is going to laugh much during this series.

To be fair, the show has its saviours. Sonequa Martin-Green is obviously a star in waiting, and perhaps the fact she’s neither the first female or black person to take the Star Trek limelight makes her role less difficult than it could be. She’s certainly going to have an easier time than Jodie Whittaker, who’s breaking all kinds of boundaries at the BBC.
The first two episodes are more than enough time to re-establish old friends and a couple of unfamiliar faces, before setting course on the storyline that’ll smash their worlds together. The one major difference between Discovery and for example Star Trek Voyager, is that the narrative is overtly designed to hook you in and follow the plot closely. Sure, Star Trek Voyager had its overarching storyline, yet as the program has been syndicated to more and more stations, it’s turned into a show you can dip in and out of – watching episodes that are good and paying less attention to the rest.

Discovery won’t reward this style of viewing, and for me, that’s somewhat of a problem too. I’m not 100% sure I’ll grow to like the characters enough to simply watch a single episode out of sequence. Still, Netflix and TV binging go hand in hand, so it makes sense they would develop a Star Trek that works the same way. Perhaps my way of thinking about TV is old-school too, as an over 45-year-old, I’m more cable TV than Kodi. Perhaps Discovery might just be Star Trek for the younger generation, and I’m 20 years late to the punchline?
Anyway, I digress…

Big Bang Theory Antics…
My other problem with Discovery so far is that it borrows less from the hugely successful TV series that came before it; instead, looking to capitalize on the rather more lacklustre films that have been released of late. The graphics are fantastic, sets are amazing and many of the actors have clearly been cast well; yet many of the “laughs” come from tired pop culture references and nostalgia. I blame shows like the Big Bang Theory for this, and the “pop reference infection” has unfortunately seeped into one our beloved shows.

One thing is for certain, were unlikely to see classic scenes like Data singing about tiny lifeforms, Riker getting himself into unlikely romantic situations or hear some of the wonderful, and often a bitchy dialogue between Spock and Mccoy/Kirk.

And finally, Michael Bay…
The final thing that’s disappointed me about Discovery, is the fact war is an overriding ideal. Anyone who’s watched the original shows can attest to the fact this fly’s in the face of traditional Star Fleet thinking.
The only reason I can see for Discovery and its obsession with conflict is the fact they feel a mainstream audience will find old-fashioned ideas like character development, comedy and good scriptwriting boring. Just like film critics such as Mark Kermode, I blame much of this on Michael Bay and his obsession with explosions over the storyline. Somewhere in the past 15 years, it’s become acceptable to skimp on telling a good story, supplementing the void with violence and big bangs to poor effect.
Unfortunately for Trek, a good story was always a given, and part of what makes it so enduring.

The first thing I’ll say about Star Trek Discovery, is that it’s not a bad TV series at all. It’s worthy of a 7/10 any day of the week and most certainly an upgrade over Star Trek Enterprise. However, somewhere in the Netflix makeover, elements of what made Trek so awesome, so noteworthy and so capable of spawning a million memes has been lost in translation.

After spending 9 hours on a flight, I found a copy of Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours in the seat pocket and decided to give it a go. This book written by David Mack was actually quite good. For me to read this type of book in the first place is unusual. For me to keep reading it was rare. Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours is also available on Kindle, but I enjoyed the paperback.
Comedy has been simplified to a handful of tired pop culture references, genuine nuts and bolts character development has been replaced by “Dark Knightism”, and Star Fleet appears to be going boldly where the Prime Directive forbids – into direct conflict for the hell of it.

Score: 7/10 – It’s good viewing, but might make traditional Trekkies sad along the way.


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