Sunday evening, or rather Monday morning for the part of world increasingly glad not to be American, saw the premier of the long awaited new Trek show: Star Trek Discovery. Opinions have been mixed so far, as in 95% percent of people were positive and 5% are Trekkies.
I was anxious going into Discovery, I had to admit. For months now we have heard rumors here and there about production troubles, people complaining about the time period it covers, a trailer that looked visually stunning yet felt somewhat off. As a lifelong Trek fan with long periods of switching between frustration and love for the franchise, my expectations were quite high going in, especially in light of an excellent movie in form of Beyond last year. Turns out Discovery met my expectations and went far above it. Simply put, I love the show and have now watched both episodes twice already with a third time skipping around the best scenes.
I won’t bother giving a summary as everyone who has wanted to watch the show will have at this point. What I will say is that not only is this the best pilot Trek has ever put out (not saying much, I know) but it is also one of the best two parters. I am glad both episodes were released at the same time as they form a complete whole, with The Vulcan Hello building the world, characters, and tension, and The Battle At the Binary Stars using that setup to reach for even greater heights.
Some ham fisted exposition aside, sadly unavoidable in a pilot, the dialogue was great, the characters immediately likable, the conflict with the Klingons easily established. This is why a modern Trek show will always have a leg up against any science fiction series trying to start out. The amount of legacy, lore, and pop cultural osmosis Discovery was able to build on, paying homage to many elements of previous shows in its debut alone, is simply only possible with such an old franchise. While the visuals have been polished up for a 2017 audience in a post-HBO, post-Netflix world. Finally what we see on screen can live up to the wonders of exploration Star Trek has always wished to live up to. The binary system in these two episodes is simply put the most stunning backdrop to any Star Trek story, including the big screen adventures of recent years.
Many Trekkies who dislike the show and reach beyond a break in visual design language with The Original Series for their criticism, bring up the fact that the show doesn’t feel like Star Trek. The characters are quippy and behave un-Starfleet-like, the show is focused on bombastic visuals and space battles. Without leaning too far out the window on this, these people are idiots. I am not ashamed to be snobby and cast judgement here, it has to be said.
The three leads in this episode, Burnham, Saru, and Captain Georgiou, have the best chemistry between them since the days of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy power trio, easily pulling off a routine between the three of them that makes it believable that they have been having adventures for 7-odd years. The story itself is about Klingons feeling threatened by being culturally displaced by the Federation, mirroring similar feelings from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. And a focus on combat? If anything this was the most anti-war a Star Trek space battle has ever been, showing the real cost of war, with characters we’ve grown attached to over 90 minutes suffer horribly within. Of 90 minutes a good 60 are spend on avoiding conflict to suicidal degrees. Fuck. Starfleet hasn’t been this much of a doormat since TNG season 1. If this isn’t Star Trek I don’t know what is.