(This contains spoilers for the opening two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery)
After one of the most troubled and delayed productions in modern television history, CBS and (outside the US) Netflix’s Star Trek: Discovery has finally arrived. Sadly this was one starship voyage I’d have been happy to miss.
Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh – the two leads (for these episodes at least) – kept telling us how their characters had served together for 7 years, yet there wasn’t a glimmer of warmth between them.
Never mind 7 years, it felt as if the actresses had accepted their parts at 5pm one day and arrived on set to start filming their scenes at 7am the next.
As for the setting – what’s the point of deciding to make a prequel and then making zero effort to make the sets, costumes and designs fit with the original?
If you decide to make a prequel then you have accept doing so means playing within the narrow space inherent in your own decision.
This, of course, is why Enterprise was so dull and it’s understandable the producers of this new series wanted to avoid that. But if you want to step beyond the baggage inherent in a prequel, the obvious thing to do is set your show further forward and give yourself maximum leeway.
Instead, Discovery tries to have it both ways – it wants to cash in on telling a classic piece of Trek lore but then mixes concepts from across the franchise’s run.
Why does the ridiculously spacious Shenzhou have a captain’s ready room? Why, when they’re not even a thing in The Next Generation and beyond, are there holographic communication links?
And what’s the point of the Klingon resdesign? None of the new designs look especially well finished – the actors’ mouths mostly look completely disconnected with the sounds supposedly coming from them – or sophisticated. They’re not as bad as the terrible Dalek redesign Steven Moffat presided over in Doctor Who, but they’re not far off.
As for their ships – there’s no obvious thought or logic to the designs. They’re just CGI shapes with no obvious function.
And what’s happened to their language? Unlike the Next Generation and beyond, the actors appear to just be making up noises on the spot. If they were actually given scripts or direction there’s no sign of it on screen,
Also, though not directly related to this, how exactly is Sarek able to appear in front of Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham whenever she feels like a bit of soul-searching?
By the time the second episode ends, hundreds of Starfleet personnel have been slaughtered by the Klingons. Yes, we’re obviously meant to blame their savagery but the real cause – or at least the catalyst – is Burnham’s panicked slaying of a Klingon warrior. Every death that follows is linked directly to her actions.
How are audiences meant to warm to a character in those circumstances?
And – seriously – what’s the point of serving up 2 hours of a series called Star Trek: Discovery, about a ship called the USS Discovery, in which the USS Discovery makes no appearance?
In the States this show is meant to help drive subscriptions to CBS All Access, a subscription on demand service which despite launching almost three years ago, has so far failed to make much impact.
To reverse this, CBS needed this show to shine. It needed to deliver a solid, polished and exciting bonanza.
Instead it’s served up a dull, cold, humourless mess.
And that’s a real shame because the world of Star Trek has so much potential left in it if only someone could be bothered to bring a bit of passion and vision along with them.