It is finally here, the show I’ve been waiting for. Star Trek: Discovery hit Netflix about 2 hours before I started writing this, and I’ve now seen the 2-parter pilot. But should you?
Short answer: YES!
But let’s go with the longer answer as well, just so it feels more like an article and less like a tweet.
Discovery takes a look back at all previous installments of the series and asks the questions “what worked” and “what didn’t” and proceeds to answer those by giving us all of the former. The two episodes released so far has brought in elements from all the previous shows as well as the reboot films without copying any of it.
The pilot episodes The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars shows the start of the Klingon-Federation war. Where this fits in the timeline depends on which timeline this show will take place in. It is in the year 2256, which is 2 years before the timeline split in the reboot films and 9 years before the Original Series’ 5-year mission starts. The original, lesser known pilot of the Original Series with Christopher Pike as captain took place 2 years before Discovery, but as the reboot films have Pike being a slightly different character, it is unknown whether those events really happened, if Discovery runs on the new timeline.
We follow the Federation starship Shenzhou and its crew as they survey a broken Federation station in a binary star system, when they discover signs of foul play. It doesn’t take long until they discover an ancient Klingon ship. After a brief exchange of both words and firepower, the ship lights up brighter than both stars its parked near and both sides declare the area to be within their borders, with both defending their claim by the other expanding too rapidly. That is as much as I am going to spoil for you before you watch it yourself. From here on, there will be major spoilers.
Sonequa Martin-Green plays one of the main characters, Michael Burnham. She is human, but was raised on Vulcan and much like Spock she has a very logical mind. Unlike Spock, she’s not hiding her emotions and even lets them guide her at times, consulting both her human nature and her Vulcan upbringing in every decision. She is the First Officer of USS Shenzhou under Captain Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh.
As part of the Vulcan-Earth diplomatic progress, Michael was transferred to Georgiou’s care by Sarek, as Georgiou had a similar background and was seen by both sides as the logical option to introduce Michael back to the human culture.
It is all played out very well and all acting is on point. The effects are stunning and for the most parts, the science is solid. Most people complain about the looks of the Klingons, but I’m actually OK with it. It looks more like Roddenberry described them, but the lack of affordable makeup in the 80’s and 90’s made it hard for them to do much more than the forehead ridges and bad hair cut and the makeup in the 60’s and 70’s looked nothing like aliens at all.
My only grief with the show is the science, at some parts. The most notable example is in the first episode, when the aforementioned beacon lights up. The captain explains to the crew that the closest Federation station is 1.8 light years away and they are the closest ship to that station, so they are the last line of defense. This is to justify why they had to engage the Klingons, rather than just run away. Yet moments after it lit up, Michael speaks to Sarek, who is not aboard the ship and the first thing he mentions is “the new star in the sky”. Granted, there was a subspace message sent as well, and that can go faster than light, but that message did not mention a star-like light. Even if Sarek was on that station, it would still take the light 1 year, 9 months and 16 days to reach his eyes.
In the grand scheme of things, that is a petty complaint though. The rest was so good that I didn’t even think about it until after the second episode was over.
As I mentioned earlier, they took inspiration from what worked in earlier shows and discarded things that failed. One big change from the last show is the re-introduction of the orchestral theme, even using the very familiar notes heard before the theme plays in both the Original Series and the Next Generation. I won’t lie, I squee’d a little when I heard those notes. To fit with the darker tone, the theme itself is slower and more akin to the reboot film’s theme, but without that Hollywood Orchestra sound.
If you have not yet caught the show, you can watch it on either Netflix or CBS.