Here’s our review of the much-anticipated first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. Warning: contains spoilers…
The phenomenon that became Star Trek started all the way back in 1966, from the mind of Gene Roddenberry and has been built upon by many more creators in the past 51 years. The original Star Trek series suffered during its opening three seasons, subjected to budget cuts and poor TV timeslots, and it was thanks to syndication in the 1970’s that the right audience had been found and the series could finally flourish.
Following 25 years of films, TV spin-offs, books, comics & games, the little show that could looked ready to be retired as Star Trek: Enterprise aired its fourth and final season in 2004. Then came a short period of darkness again, albeit one that still featured books and comics, before a new series of films with a new cast becoming those who went where no one had gone before. One drawback, alas, was that everything bar Leonard Nimoy’s original Ambassador Spock, had to be thrown out to create a new entry point for film-goers in 2009, when Star Trek hit the big screen, and one of those film-goers was this reviewer.
Despite misgivings from lifelong fans, the new series of films managed to spur enough interest in the long-running franchise to bring us Trekkies a new TV series – Star Trek: Discovery! Set 10 years prior to Captain James T. Kirk’s legendary five year mission, and within the original timeline prior to 2009’s reboot, we had a chance to see what the original Star Trek could look like filmed with bigger budgets and better special effects, and the results were spectacular!
From the start, we are introduced to a brand new look at the Klingons, warriors with a religious following, an aspect rarely associated with the race previously. For fans of the original series, the ridged foreheads of these Klingons may come as a surprise at best, and, at worst, shocking disrespect of the original show’s portrayal of the iconic people. However, later we are shown the other 24 houses of the Klingon race, all of whom appear different, and the Klingons encountered in the original show may have just been from one of those 24 houses.
The leader of the main Klingon house we see, T’Kuvma, is probably the most complex Klingon we’ve seen since Lieutenant Worf during The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, with his faith in Kahless and the purity of the Klingon race feeling somewhat comparable to some religious and racial problems facing humanity today. Which is something that Star Trek and science-fiction as a whole tends to use as thematic basis to tell epic stories that we can all learn ethical and moral lessons from.
Moving from the villains to the heroes, we meet Commander Michael Burnham, the main character of Discovery and the first to not be the captain of the titular starship, which we sadly never see in these two episodes, as they act as a prologue. During these episodes, we see Burnham’s past and present, where she lost her parents in a bombing by the Klingons and she was adopted by none other than Sarek, the Vulcan father of Spock!
It was a bold move to include a character with major ties to another famous character, but James Frain really captured the look and mannerisms of Mark Lenard, who originally portrayed Sarek in films and TV. The only issue I have is how much more fatherly he appears to be to Burnham in a few appearances than he ever seemed to be to his own son, but I believe that will be a run longing story arc to come. Burnham, as the main character, is definitely the audience surrogate, to the point where some of the rash decisions she makes would be more what a fan of the recent Star Trek films would expect, rather than a fan of the earlier series.
Other characters appearing in these two episodes are mostly smaller characters, including Captain Phillipa Gregoriou – who appears only die to shortly after. Thankfully, she gets a nice bit of action inbetween, with Gregoriou being particularly badass during a face-to-face fight with the Klingons. The only other main character on the bridge was Saru, a Kelpian, who provides fine comic relief with his innate desire to run away from everything, but still making some good recommendations every now and again. With all these new characters, however, we see Star Trek stand by its diverse casting, while also not making it the only facet of the characters, something that will hopefully continue with the new starring characters to follow.