The pilot is out in the wild at last, and it’s time to tell you what I think. There be spoilers below.
This was very much a mixed bag for me, and it’s really too early to tell what I really think of the show. What was executed was executed well, but is it Star Trek or ActionTrek? I hate a lot of things because they are different than what had been rather firmly established. Luckily for me, I knew about pretty much all of it going in, so there were only a couple unpleasant surprises. However, I do really hate the things I knew I would really hate, so to get that all out of my system first I’m going to go into deep spoiler territory and do lots of complaining, so this is your last chance to turn back. Basically everything from a visual design standpoint that’s different from the original series and Enterprise without looking like an evolutionary link between the two bothers me. (The hand phasers look fine.)
The Klingons are the biggest problem. Their ship designs and physical appearance are vastly different in every way from what we’re used to. Everything looks wrong, and supposedly this was going to be because these Klingons were isolated and on their own following ancient customs and whatnot, but the rest of the Klingons barely look any different. They’re all bald, and absolutely none of them wear the style of clothing that we’re used to from other shows. And the prosthetics are so thick and covering that it makes the actors’ jobs harder.
OH AND LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT CLOAKING DEVICE. I was really annoyed when I saw it. For those that are unaware, during the run of the original series, Romulans traded the Klingons cloaking technology for their D7 Battlecruiser design. The first time we see a Klingon ship use a cloak is during the Animated Series. Sure, Enterprise played fast and loose with cloaking technology thanks to time travel, showing that Romulans had at least primitive cloaking tech a century before Starfleet was supposed to encounter it. Since most of this is only conjecture from Spock, they’re probably retconning it because it’s a more loose fact and I’m sure helps them tell the story they want to tell or there’d be no point. This could easily be an old Suliban or Romulan cloak scavenged and eventually spread amongst other ships. Here we’re really not messing with anything Enterprise didn’t.
Now that I’m done dumping on the Klingons problems, it’s time to switch to Starfleet. Their ship designs start out close to the norm and quickly deviate heavily into unfamiliar territory in ways that don’t make sense for objects in space. Lots of hard angles, busying up the hull, and oh yes Discovery having instead of a saucer, a sphere within a saucer, within a saucer, with at most 4 narrow hallways connecting one section to the next. This GREATLY increases the surface area of the outer hull in ways that reduce the volume of the ship. Any attempt to make sense of that is bound to be extremely convoluted. Unless it’s a prison ship… which makes no sense in Starfleet….
Next up is a quick stop to the uniforms. I get why you’d want something flashier than the velour shirts of the original series, but to make something so vastly different than anything we’ve seen is frustrating. I know I can’t tell gold from bronze on that outfit. Now while that is what it is, the thing that really annoys me about them are the tiny rank pins on the chest insignia. They’re almost impossible to see, AND they’re a rank style used first in TNG (and then also for Enterprise because it was just so much clearer than the cuff bands). Not only does this deviate from cuff-band ranks we know are used before and after these uniforms, but the pips on the insignia are even HARDER to make out than the cuff bands had been.
My last real gripe with the show is that Sarek of Vulcan is in it at all. The premise is that the main character lost her family in a Klingon raid many years ago, and for some reason instead of returning the orphan to Earth, Sarek decided to raise this emotional and traumatized human himself. The big continuity problem here so far (they claim they’ll take care of this) is not that Spock never mentions she exists. It’s been well established that Spock, like many Vulcans, does not divulge pretty much any personal information unless it’s necessary. The problem here is that when we first met Sarek fifty years ago, he and Spock were not on speaking terms because he was in Starfleet. Now, would a father so unhappy with his son’s choice of vocation adopt a human & then throw her at Starfleet as an adult?
MIND MELD TIME. Okay, Vulcans tend to greatly distaste using mind melds with emotional races. Now if her life were on the line it would make sense, and I believe it’s what they were going for when they depicted it, but I don’t buy it. That wouldn’t be the FIRST THING Sarek tried unless we knew everyone else was dead and there was nobody to provide basic medical attention. BUT THEN USING THIS CONNECTION TO HAVE A TELEPATHIC CONVERSATION ACROSS LIGHTYEARS?! REALLY?! This must be something they’re going to use repeatedly in the show because the one instance we’ve seen of it so far would have just been as easily done with the fragment of his katra left behind from the initial meld, with her meditating to reach it. I trust them to have done their homework enough to know not to make stuff up just because they feel like it, but instead because there’s a story purpose behind it.
Okay. I don’t feel any better getting all that out, but it’s out in the open and now I can focus on the rest of the show. Ignoring everything I think about the Klingons, this could easily be the strongest Star Trek pilot ever. Encounter at Farpoint has the best argument, but once you go there you have to deal with “PAIN. SUFFERING.” Farpoint did have a more “Star Trek” versus “Action Trek” story though. And again if I think about the Klingon stuff it probably loses solidly to TNG. Michelle Yeoh is an amazing captain and I’m not surprised they killed her off because she would’ve stolen the show. The cast is great, they do a great job, and even though you can feel the show careening into ActionTrek territory, it did a great job of being about the exploration of the unknown where ever it fit. The Klingons were all well acted and their story was absolutely fine. I just hate their outward redesign, but it’s nice to see there are actually still Klingons under the hood.
I’m not gonna lie that seeing the lead black woman at the end get court-martialed and imprisoned for shit Kirk & other guys would do ALL THE DAMN TIME kinda pissed me off. Granted, her captain wasn’t around to offer any defense on her behalf, but still… Discovery may be a world where that doesn’t happen unjustly anymore, but today was full of reminders in the real world of how much a problem that is for far too many people.
I’m very curious to see where Discovery goes from here. This is one of those things that I really can’t judge properly until I’ve seen more of the show, and where it goes from here could be handled very well or very poorly. And since it’s 100% relevant, here’s Axanar’s review of Discovery.