Star Trek is back on the small screen! But does it live up to the hype and solidify itself as a worthy chapter in the franchise?
Before I start this review, I should probably state that I’m not a Trekkie. In fact, outside of the big screen adventures, I’m what you would call a Star Trek rookie. I’ve never seen the original series or any of the shows that have aired over the years. That being said, I frickin’ loved the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.
While Star Trek continues to entertain fans on the big screen, the sci-fi franchise hasn’t appeared on television since Enterprise concluded in 2005. Star Trek: Discovery marks the first televised entry in the franchise in over a decade, and after a troubled production, various delays and the loss of a showrunner, I can happily state that Star Trek: Discovery has successfully transported the franchise into the 21st century and reinvigorated the basic formula.
Possibly the most appealing aspect of Star Trek: Discovery is the grounded approach to the characters and situations. Most sci-fi shows make an attempt to hide one-dimensional characters behind CGI and great effects, but with Star Trek: Discovery we spend a lot of time developing The Walking Dead star Sonequa Martin-Green’s first officer, Michael Burnham. Through flashbacks, we discover that the character was educated in Vulcan culture, before joining the Starfleet. This focus on character instead of spectacle allows us to build an immediate connection to the lead character, which in turn makes the excellent special effects and jaw-dropping battles more enjoyable. Possibly even more than the show’s introduction of the crew and Burnham, the Klingons are presented in an impressive light, with the species being represented as an advanced race of people, rather than one-note villains, who are “bad guys” just for the sake of being villains. The premiere episodes spend a lot of time with Klingon leader T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) as he attempts to unite the leaders of the Klingon Empire.
As with any sci-fi series, the special effects and settings are a make-or-break factor for Star Trek: Discovery. While the films obviously have a larger budget and are able to do more, this is clearly the most ambitious series the franchise has ever dared attempt, and the risk paid off. If these first two episodes are enough to go by, Star Trek: Discovery is alongside shows like Game Of Thrones and Westworld as one of the most visually stunning shows on television, and it’s not just the special effects. Everything from the set design to the stellar makeup, costumes, and props make Star Trek: Discovery stand out as one of the best-looking shows on the small screen.
If anything, the only issue to be found in the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery is the incredible amount of exposition thrown at the audience. The opening sequence, for example, is possibly the clearest and most frustrating exposition scene that I’ve seen in a long time, with two characters wandering through the desert, actually telling the audience what is going on. In fact, The argument could be made that these first episodes simply set-up the larger storyline and instead of introducing the series, the showrunners have instead decided to begin Star Trek: Discovery with a two-hour exposition scene.
That exposition scene, however, is still a lot of fun and does a great job of introducing these characters and the life-threatening situation thrust upon them. Also, I dare you to find a television pilot that doesn’t throw exposition at the audience.
Overall, Star Trek: Discovery has managed to defy expectations, delivering one of the most entertaining and visually stunning premieres in recent memory. More than anything the series has shown exactly how to respect the past, but evolve to meet the needs of a modern audience. Of course, as with any new series the showrunners and cast are working out the grooves, and if these two episodes are any indication, Star Trek: Discovery will only improve in the weeks ahead to become a great chapter in the Star Trek franchise.