Monday, April 5, 2021

TV Show Review: Star Trek Discovery - Season 1

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters (eventually), effects, makeup, acting
Cons: Very slow storytelling makes it hard to get into the show
The Bottom Line:
Something new for Trek
Takes a while to get into
So it’s average



Uneven but Interesting

Since I’ve watched Star Trek shows off and on over the years, I paid attention when Star Trek: Discovery premiered a few years back.  But since I wasn’t interested in any streaming services at the time, I didn’t watch it until CBS put the first season on the air in the fall of 2020.  I can certainly understand the mixed reactions the show has received.

The show centers around Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green).  Michael is a young Star Fleet officer who was raised by a Vulcan, so, while being human, she is very Vulcan in her approach to life.  After a disaster of her own making, she finds herself sentenced to prison for life only to get a second chance on board the Discovery, a ship with new technology.  She is serving under Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and alongside Saru (Doug Jones), an old shipmate who is decidedly not happy to see her again.

However, things are not going well for Star Fleet.  The Klingons are on the war path, and they are winning battles.  The technology on the Discovery might be the only hope of beating them.  Will the ship turn the tide of the war?

I’m just giving a very brief teaser here, and am leaving out several of the main characters.  The show is actually very different from a traditional Star Trek show in that we don’t meet all the main characters immediately.  I really felt like it was three episodes in before we were done with the set up of the show, in fact.  Even then, we were meeting key characters in later episodes.

Unfortunately, that does make the show rather slow.  And that’s the charge I remember hearing most about it from when it was first released.

I think the biggest problem is that the decision was made to focus on character over plot.  Don’t get me wrong, I love characters, and I love seeing them being developed.  But I also need something to be happening to fully be drawn into the show.

Yes, there are some twists to the show, most coming late in the season.  I certainly enjoyed those.  Meanwhile, there are action and fight scenes, but they don’t seem to lead anywhere, at least for a while.  I guess it’s a case of the payoff coming too late to keep me fully engaged.

This was a show that I watched every week, but I wasn’t anxious to find out what happened next, and it would often take me half an episode to be fully back in the world of the show.

I think another part of that is because Michael, our entry into the series, shows so little emotion for so long.  I need to feel something for the main character, and since she doesn’t show emotion, it’s hard to bond with her.  Spock is an iconic character, but he was not Kirk, the lead; here they tried to recreate that with the main character.

The show looks amazing.  The visual effects are outstanding, as you’d expect.  The makeup is remarkable as well.  The Klingons look more alien than they ever have, which is pretty funny since this is set 10 years before the original Star Trek.  After the explanation they gave in Enterprise for why the Klingons makeup has changed, they’ve changed it again.  I’ve got to repeat myself – it really does look great.

Likewise, the acting is all fine.  My issues with character and acting decisions are not a complaint against the actors or the acting itself.

Would I continue Star Trek Discovery?  If I could do it without any effort on my part, probably.  But I’m not willing, at this point, to pay any money to continue beyond season 1.

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