Star Trek Discovery Review: The Good, Bad, And The Ugly
Is Star Trek Discovery worthy of the hype and your money? Here's my take.
Inspired by Steve's great review, I decided to share my thoughts on Star Trek Discovery. Like Steve, I'm a long - time Star Trek fan, but unlike Steve, I didn't have a positive experience with this latest voyage into the Final Frontier.
Before I get into my review, a little background on my history with Trek: I grew up watching reruns of The Original Series and then watched the TOS movies (like The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home) almost as much as I watched the Star Wars movies. The Next Generation hit when I was 11, the perfect age to get hooked on a new science fiction show. I never missed an episode, even if that meant recording the show on VHS to watch when I was too busy in my final years of high school.
I went on to watch Deep Space Nine, some of Voyager, and all of Star Trek Enterprise. My favorite series are The Original Series, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation. I dislike Voyager intensely and thought Enterprise was decent but an otherwise wasted opportunity to do what Discovery is trying to do now. I enjoyed the Next Generation movies for the most part and didn't care for the J.J. Abrams movies at all. I have read dozens of Star Trek novels and comics and while I don't have a Starfleet uniform, I do have a few ship models and an action figure or two from when I was a kid.
On to Star Trek Discovery...
Make no mistake, I don't think Star Trek Discovery (referred to as Discovery from here on out) is completely awful. The production design, special effects, and ship designs are extremely high - quality. The show looks and sounds beautiful.
The performances are another highlight. The great Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) does the great work you'd expect, as does Sonequa Martin - Green, formerly of The Walking Dead.
This won't matter to CBS' target demo for Discovery, but it matters to a Trekker with over 30 years of experience like me: the starship designs look way too advanced for a series that's supposed to take place 10 years before The Original Series. Lots of defenders of the show's look argue that a show in 2017 can't look like a show made in the 60s, and I agree. However, I don't agree that this reality gives too - advanced designs a free pass.
Like Steve mentions in his review, The Original Series was cancelled. When it came back as a series of movies, the designers had to upgrade the look of the ship, uniforms, and special effects to movie quality. They did a great job of this, but they still looked like the era of The Original Series. I personally feel that Discovery looks like it could be a sequel to the three series in the Next Generation's timeframe, which leads me to my next point...
Discovery is a prequel, and while I'm sick of prequels, the original idea was for Discovery to take place 10 years before the original show, with each season having new characters and situations in different eras, like the movie era and the Next Generation era. Instead, CBS nixed this idea and gave us another prequel. There's actually no story reason for Discovery to be a prequel, and a lot of my problems with the show wouldn't exist if it were set 50 or more years after The Next Generation.
These are the deal - breakers for me in that I won't pay for CBS access to watch the rest of Discovery. I felt that the writing and motivations of the characters were really off. THE main character makes a huge decision in the first episode that feels completely unearned. It would have made a lot more sense if this decision had been made in one of the final episodes of the season. Instead, it feels like a decision made for pure shock value.
Finally, this show just doesn't feel like Star Trek to me. It looks kind of like Star Trek and has a lot in common with it, but it doesn't have that sense of fun, adventure, and intelligent writing that's kept the series going for 51 years. I did only see the first hour, but I don't feel that the show is worth paying for.
Overall: I'd give this first episode (and the series if it doesn't improve) an overall score of D. If you want a show with the fun and intelligence of Star Trek but with a little more humor and characters that sound and act more like we do today, give The Orville a chance. It's on Fox each Thursday at 7 PM, and it's more Star Trek than Discovery is, at least in this old Trekker's opinion.