Star Trek Discovery - Season 1 | Review

Star Trek Discovery - Season 1 | Review

It’s been over a decade since Star Trek last graced our TV screens, so what did our crew make of the new series Discovery? We invited Chief Engineer Ash Gardiner to join a couple of our resident crew members Paul and George to find out. Set phasers to stun…

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1 - How does Discovery live up to your expectations, both as a Trek series and as a TV series?

Paul - It’s better than I could have ever hoped for really. It’s delivering most of what I would want from a Trek series including the two most important things; great storytelling and strong characters. It’s ‘trekkie’ enough without trying to copy any of the previous series too. And as a TV series, that’s easy; right now this show is second to none and that’s a big call when you think about how much other quality TV is out there right now.

George - It ticked all the boxes when it comes to Trek; lots to nods to cannon, a new starship, heaps of science mumbo-jumbo, and it didn’t shy away from the nerdier aspects such as mirror universes and discussions of Starfleet’s purpose. As a TV series it fitted the modern trend for accelerated storytelling and I feel like it did a good job defining the characters and telling a neat story over the first season while setting up the coming story arcs.

Ash - When it comes to Star Trek I try not to have any/many expectations. But this time I had high expectations. Does Star Trek Discovery live up to expectations? Well it lives up to my expectations and more. Its clearly the strongest season one Star Trek to date and off the top of my head I can only think of one weak episode Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (Latin for If you want peace, prepare for war) That’s the obligatory away mission episode where Saru goes bit nutters he has an interesting running technique.

Overall this season was strong. A lot stronger than I was expected and I was surprised by that. 

2 - Favourite character?

Paul - Michael Burnham. It’s the first time that the ‘main protagonist’ from a Trek shows has ever been my favourite character. And what makes it even more fascinating to me is that there really are a lot of candidates in this series. I think Sonequa Martin-Green is a really great actress and I’ve been amazed (and relieved) at how easily I was able to disassociate her portrayal of Sasha on The Walking Dead from Burnham. I like the fact that Burnham doesn’t always play by the rules, and the fact that she does this NOT because she’s rebellious, but because she believes she’s doing the right thing; there’s always a logic to her action (whether I agree with it or not). Her Vulcan upbringing makes her character complex and interesting (check out this scene where she’s trying to logically convince drunk Tilly there’s nothing going on between her and Tyler). I found her character fascinating from the moment she incapacitated Captain Georgiou with the Vulcan nerve pinch. Unprecedented levels of mutiny!

George - Saru. Doug Jones’ acting was top notch let alone when you allow for the fact he was doing it on stilts and behind a layer of latex (or whatever it is they make creature effects out of these days). On top of that, he was a compelling character and an interesting take on the stuffy, by the book character that we’re used to (he could have been Space Dwight meets Odo) but by giving him a good shot of empathy and acknowledging the respectful relationship he had with Burnham prior to the pilot episode’s unfortunate mutiny he became nuanced and more than just a set of tropes. All leaving me with the question why they even need to go collect a new leader when they’ve got a fantastic captain-in-waiting right there.

Ash - At this stage it has to be Commander Saru. The first Kelpien to grace our screens and a true-blue Starfleet office. He is a product of the Academy and proud of it. He believes in Starfleet the Federation and all it stands for. So, at this point he rates high in the “I would have a beer with that character” meter. Was Saru robbed at the end season one? Has he not done enough for the “chair”.

Honourable mention: Ever actor who has played Sarek has never let me down James Frain is no exception to that. Sarek was played with all the grace, mana that his character deserves.

3 - How does Discovery compare/rank next to the other Star Trek series?

Paul - Very hard to say for sure, but one hell of a start. Put it this way, I haven’t watched The Next Generation S1 or S2 since they came out in the 1980’s, DS9 didn’t really get good till S3, a lot of Voyager S1-3 is forgettable and Enterprise struggled through S1 &S2. Discovery though has a lot of high-quality, memorable moments in S1 and episodes that I already want to re-watch. If I compare it to any other Trek series on the basis of their respective first seasons, it’s up there with The Original Series. That’s a pretty strong start!

George - I think it’s too early to tell as pretty much all the other series took a while to get up a head of steam but overall, I’d rate these first 15 episodes right up there with the best story arcs from TNG and DS9. I doubt it’s going to have the same lasting impact as the TOS but it made Trek fun again after some of the plodding stodge that we got during the worst moments of Voyager and Enterprise (full disclosure, I haven’t actually finished watching all of Enterprise despite the protests of certain other members of the NG fraternity).

Ash

  • TNG
  • DS9
  • DIS
  • ENT
  • TOS
  • VOY

I’m a Captain Picard fan boy so there is no way in hell Discovery will knock The Next Generation off the top but it does have the essence to easily take second place.

4 - What didn’t work or would you have changed if you were the show runner?

Paul - I can’t handle the footwear. A lot of fans complained about the ‘new look’ of the Klingons, frankly I couldn’t care less. But please, can we not have our crew walking around in what appears to be some Adidas BOOST boots. Clearly I don’t have too many complaints about this show.

George - Maybe they’re going to do another Voc/Ash bait and switch on us but I would have done everything I could to retain Jason Isaacs. I think Lorca is/was a really interesting and new approach to a starship captain that combined the swagger of Kirk, ingenuity of Picard, and the moral fluidity of Sisko. That is until he was revealed to be Mirror Lorca and he just became a onenote, moustache twirling villain. Whoever the new captain is, I hope we get a leader that works in the grey areas rather than presenting morality being a binary concept.

Ash - We honestly don’t have time for me to answer this question. But if I had to change one thing just one thing… It would have to be the USS Discovery disco ball routine when it uses the spore drive. For the love of the great bird in the galaxy please stop using it. 

5 - Best “Trek” moment so far?

Paul - It’s less of a single Trek moment, but more of an overall feel. What makes it the best for me is the fact that they’ve managed to make it feel like pre-TOS Star Trek without it necessarily having to be restricted/look like pre-TOS Star Trek. This is something Enterprise struggled with at times I think. The challenge for the producers was to make a prequel series that delivers what today’s audience expects from a TV show and simultaneously one that Star Trek fans can accept as fitting in to the Trek universe. It works, right down to the aesthetics; I love the interior of the ship, the bridge is superb and the special effects are amazing. I also have to mention the sound effects too as I really love how they somehow managed to mix TOS, TNG, VOY & ENT sounds. 

George - The impressive Scotty level of science talk that Stamets managed to get out every episode.

Ash - Harcourt Fenton Mudd (Rainn Wilson) introduction during the episode Choose Your Pain was great. It was a surprising… yet unsurprising way to introduce the character. Mister Wilson played the character perfectly and the episode Magic to Make the Sanest Man go Mad is easily one of the series great episodes. I’m sure it will take its place with The Corbomite Maneuver (TOS) and The Measure of a Man (TNG) as one of Star Trek great episodes.  

I don’t know if this rates as a Star “Trek” moment when realisation kicked in that the Discovery was in the Mirror Universe was a solid “well I didn’t see that coming” moment.  

6 - Expectations for Season 2 & your overall rating for Season 1

Paul - Season 2? Well, it’s impossible to ignore that big ol’ Constitution Class starship sitting there at the end of S1, so that has to form part of my answer. I never necessarily thought they had to “go there” and bring Pike’s ship in to the series, but now that they have, they can’t just ignore it. Very interesting to see how much of all this will dictate what happens in S2; it may well be just the first episode or it could form a huge arc.  I’m keen to learn more about Burnham and what life was like in the Sarek household. Be interesting to see if we learn more about Sybok too. Other than that, my main expectation of Discovery is to do a little more discovering…and less war. I rate S1 very high and the mirror universe arc really impressed me.

95%

George - I really hope Season 2 continues the story they’ve established so far rather than completely setting off in a new direction. The Klingon War was tied up with a nice bow and they kind of ignored the time that passed while the Disco crew was in the Mirror Universe. I want to see it take a nuanced view of war and have us see the fallout from a major conflict affect the story for a long time to come. I’d also like to see more of Mudd and fun stand alone episodes like Magic to Make the Sanest Man go Mad. I’m all for big arcs but it’s also cool to see the characters in new lights and the one-shot episodes are perfect for this.

80%

Ash - Simply put it’s the strongest season 1 to date. TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT have some key episodes within season 1 but overall the seasons are generally… weak. The interesting possibility with Discovery is it may bring new fans to Star Trek. 

I have no expectations for season 2 but I do have some hopes for episodes/story arc:

  1. More Mudd please
  2. No more disco ball (please see above)
  3. Can we move away from the Klingons? While the Klingons are my favourite race as a life time Star Trek fan I’m getting bored of them as a protagonist race. Romulans. Ferengi, Breen, Cardassians a lot more other races to play with.

80%  


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Paul Knauer - follow me on Twitter @ObiWanKnauer

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