Star Trek: Discovery

I hoped but I feared.  Then I watched and my fears were realized.  While Star Trek: Discovery looks beautiful I found the teasing first episode to be disappointing.  Not horrible just not good.  A friend of mine who also works in the industry had the perfect word that incapsulated all my problems with the show.

It’s lazy.

 

*************************SPOILERS****************SPOILERS***************SPOILERS**************SPOILERS*******

 

The writing is lazy with terrible on the nose and obvious dialogue.  And because the dialogue is poor it leads to poor performances.  Michelle Yeoh is lovely, but Sonequa Martin-Green is put in a dreadful position with how she is written.  How can I support and root for a woman who takes such crazy actions against her beloved commanding officer?  Against everything that Star Trek was supposed to represent?

Yes the cast is diverse and we have two women in command and that’s cool, but not when they present one woman as a hysteric.  Burnham’s supposed to have been raised by Vulcans, but you’d never get that from her behavior.  And of course she is Sarek’s adopted daughter.  Another lazy choice.  Look, I love Sarek, but I didn’t need him in this show and it just felt like a cynical attempt to mollify the old fan base.

They have once again taken another step to make the Klingon’s even more alien.  While I can applaud that idea as a science fiction novelist the writer/producer thinks it was a terrible decision.  The actors look like the are doing battle with their costumes and their make up particularly those teeth.  The appliances make it almost impossible for them to emote, and for god’s sake fire up that universal translator.  The use of this guttural version of Klingon through the entire show became tedious as hell especially when our Klingon leader looked like he was just mouthing sounds that he had laboriously memorized but didn’t understand.

The direction was flat and dull.  Too much time was spent on pointless scenes.  Like that teaser which seemed designed only to provide a squee when the footprints form the Star Fleet logo.  I guess it was supposed to show the close relationship between the Captain and Number One, but first what they hell were both of them doing on a planet together with no one else along and in a clearly hostile environment.  I try not to be too literal with TV and movies that was an utter Oh Come On moment for me.  That and the damn torches on the Klingon ship.  Both knocked me right out of the show.  The long lead up to Michael Burnham’s spacesuit flight.

A reviewer for Ars Technica gave a breathless review calling the show gorgeous and fascinating.  As I read her review I thought she was straining to add meaning that simply wasn’t on the screen.  I wish I had seen the show she was watching, but I just didn’t.  As one of my bosses, Ira Behr taught me — “If it ain’t on the page it won’t be on the screen, and if it ain’t on the screen it ain’t there.”

When I was a little girl and the Enterprise flew across our TV screen (the first color television in our neighborhood.  All the neighbor kids came over to watch Star Trek at our house for that reason) I fell in love.  It was my dreams made manifest, but more than that I met people who became my family — Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu.  Trek has always been about family despite differences in gender, race, species, national background.  This new show gave me no family.  It gave me a woman who had found to be the antithesis of what I think Trek represented, one weird alien who talked about cows and a terrific captain who is apparently going to die so we lose not only the only really interesting character, but a great actress.

Television is at its core about company.  We invite these people into our homes.  In the old days it used to be once a week.  Now we binge and spend hours at a time with them so they better be people with whom we wish to spend time, people we can like.  The only person I saw last night that I want to see again was Captain Philippa Georgiou and apparently I’m not going to get to.

I know I criticized bringing in Sarek as too much of a call back to the older shows, but there is one thing that I think was the show runners having amnesia about the old show.  Yes the costumes worn by the women of original Trek were sexist as hell, but this show is set ten years before Kirk and Spock.  So where are those uniforms?  Was the Federation aware of the need to outfit all crew members in sensible clothing, and then Trump became the president of the United Federation of Planets and suddenly we have micro mini-skirts?  I think you have to be very careful as you are picking and choosing among which bits of canon to use and which to ignore and this one again left me head scratching.  It might have been better to place this in JJ Abram’s alternate Trek universe to explain these odd differences.

The Arstechnica  review states “It’s not so much that the future feels darker in Discovery. The future just feels more realistically complicated. We’re not trying to make the galaxy a better place anymore, kids. We’re in the real world.”  If that’s what I had seen I might be plunking down money for CBS All Access, but I didn’t.  And I think CBS and the show runners missed the show that could have done that.  I have always wanted to see a Trek show about the people who don’t fit in, who chafe under Federation rule, but aren’t militant assholes like the Klingons and Romulans or flesh and blood creatures trying to turn into robots, the Vulcans, or crass capitalists like the Ferengi.  I want Harry Mudd.  I want the people living in the cracks, trying to make a buck, pull off a con, and try to avoid the judgmental eye of Star Fleet.  That’s the real world too and I think it would have been fun to write and more fun to watch.

Maybe someday Star Trek will get that broomstick out of its ass and we’ll have that show.

58 Responses to Star Trek: Discovery

  • Larry Allen says:

    I was afraid of that.
    I agree with your idea for ST.
    I want to see someone like Denny Crane in space, or perhaps Dr Edison Milford Goodson III, Max Klinger, and Father Mulcahy, Freddy Benson and Lawrence Jamieson, Alan Swain and Benjy Jacobson, or Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney – 14th Earl of Gurney – those sorts of characters – on the ship.
    Enough bad guy shoot-em-ups, already. A few one-dimensional characters are fine, but really, let’s see some real meat.

  • Jon Davis says:

    To be honest, I have to push myself to remember the scenes. And yes, the hysteria was definitely not well suited to the character.

    I think the spacesuit got more characterization than any of the crew, save for Captain Philippa Georgiou.

  • Elizabeth H says:

    Spot on review! You spell out my disappointment perfectly. I have long wanted to have a Harry Mudd Trek too, with no reset button and a cleaning crew on the ship pissed-off at the constant messes.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I found it interesting that the Captain had the same first name as my JAG judge from The Measure of a Man. Not that it particularly means anything. I just found it interesting.

  • Stephen Aryan says:

    I was worried going in, because it looked like a very shiny show, the latest FX and costume design and all of that. And sadly it was like a really shiny apple that when you bite into it, you find its rotting. It was all glitz but ultimately hollow.

    The cast really did their best with clunky dialogue, huge false teeth, and inconsistent behaviour. Why would Burnham kill the Klingon leader, after stopping her Captain (yet again) from carrying out an order, insisting they take him hostage not to creator a martyr, only to shoot him through the chest? Logically, wound him, or maybe not have a phaser on kill and stun him, so she can complete the mission. Those , and more , were its worst sins for me.

  • owen ronalds says:

    It just didn’t seem like any Star Trek series universe I had been in before, nor one I am keen on visiting again.

  • Bingo! And too bad. 🙁

  • Stuart Nager says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I really was looking forward/fearing to the pilot. Fear won. I wonder why hollywood doesn’t understand that less is more. Too many new races (that never appeared in the OST; the costumes; the further devolution of the Klingons; and yes, the dialogue. Just one big ball of UGH.

    This is not a show I’d pay for. On regular TV, I might give it a few more episodes, in the hopes they finally get it right. Not now

    Thank you for your post. I’m glad I’m not alone.

  • Jason Powell says:

    Maybe the Harry Mudd of “Discovery” will get his own spinoff? 🙂

  • Jeff Beeler says:

    In the first Star Trek pilot there was a woman First Officer and all the women wore the same shapeless utilitarian uniforms as the men.

    I see these Kilngons as the ultra right wing conservatives to the radical left winged augemented Kilngons of the original series. Who I assume are going to come to dominate the Klingon empire after Discovery’s Klingons get themselves killed off fighting the Federation.

  • Bill Maness says:

    I’m content to give it time and see if they can find their feet. First episodes of TNG were awful too. Doesn’t excuse this one, but it is a parallel. We’ll see. I think your “It’s lazy” is absolutely spot on.

  • Tony Bruno says:

    Agree completely with this assessment.

    With regards to “The Vulcan Hello,” how did the writers not expect viewers to ignore the fact that Burnham had already done it? She’d killed their Torchbearer (after, I should add, ignoring her orders to just perform a flyby…) That a character trained to think like a Vulcan didn’t make that logical connection was just ludicrous.

    CBS has given me a show with a POV character that I don’t care for, in a universe that borrows names from one of my favorite series of all time, while completely changing either their art design or ethos for no other reason than they couldn’t think within the box they decided to use.

    Deeply, deeply disappointing.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      You are so on point with that. I don’t know how I missed it, but well done on catching that further example of The Lazy.

  • David Clow says:

    They’ve forgotten gravitas. It ought to be a given in a program that depicts accomplished, capable people in uniform doing brave things, but it’s not here. When you watched the likes of Kirk, Spock, Picard, Troi, Crusher, et al., at their best, you wanted to be like them. (Numerous actual astronauts in our day got their inspiration from Star Trek.) No one on the bridge of Discovery was given what they’d need to be that kind of inspiration. It was like watching fans of the old series playing Trek.

  • Mark2000 says:

    I think you nailed every single thing I was thinking while watching this show. I wrote my own review of it here, a lot of it discussing some of the racial tone deafness the show has: http://trekcomic.com/2017/09/25/star-trek-discovery-it-could-have-been-worse/

    The only place where we disagree is on the show not looking like TOS. This is a reboot in all but name. I don’t think we should try to reconcile anything here with the Star Trek we already know. A full on Klingon War, for instance, has never been alluded to in anything but FASA material. All the tech and aesthetics are completely different. The show may improve in it’s writing and direction, and when it does we need to take it on it’s own merits and not try to make it mesh with TOS.

  • Peter David says:

    Actually, that show you described about people living in the cracks, pulling cons, etc…that was Firefly. I always maintained that if the show had been called “Star Trek: Firefly” it would have run seven seasons.

    PAD

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      My god, that is so true. Yes and Firefly was delightful. Trek needs a sense of humor, but Rick and even Gene hated anything that seemed the least bit funny. It was all technobabble and sententious speeches. The original Trek had funny episodes and light moments and it was wonderful. I can’t speak to the subsequent shows. I never watched them. TNG was a… difficult experience.

  • Brenda Pon says:

    I watched the pilot last night and was really disappointed with the flat performances. I really hope Burnham gets herself together, I am really a fan of her character in her previous series and I was expecting more of that ballsy, strong and stoic character. How on earth would the weepy, emotional GIRL in this series make it to First Officer anywhere? I didn’t see where the Captain would have confidence in this person.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I think a lot of the acting problems started with bad dialogue. Who knows if these people can act, and yes. I needed Burnham to be smart and instead she just seemed crazy.

  • Jed says:

    “what they hell were both of them doing on a planet together with no one else along and in a clearly hostile environment.”

    This criticism would apply to I don’t know how many episodes of the original series where Kirk and Spock beam down to a completely alien and unpredictable planet. They didn’t always bring along red shirts. And there was a lot of set-up there that I can’t see them just abandoning. I think we’re going to come back to that planet. There’s some suggestions of that in the preview of the upcoming season.

    “Trek has always been about family despite differences in gender, race, species, national background. This new show gave me no family.”

    The biggest change here is episodes that are not self-contained. This is long form storytelling. We’re not even on the ship that is the title of the series yet. We don’t know what that’s going to look like or what relationships are going to form.

    “I want Harry Mudd.”

    He’s coming, and he’s being played by Rainn Wilson, which I think is brilliant casting.

    As for the Klingons:

    I think it’s a lot to ask of actors to add nuance to their phrasing of an invented language that only a handful of people actually understand. Maybe when they’ve been speaking it for a few episodes and they can grow into the roles they’re inhabiting.

    And the culture isn’t just more alien, it’s less homogenous. This is a more plausible portrayal of the Klingon culture than any we’ve seen, and with a more comprehensive and thoughtful design of all the costumes and set pieces.

    Her motivation for mutiny is to prevent a war and save the crew. It’s no less radical or hysterical than what Kirk has done on dozens and dozens of occasions. Or Spock doing the nerve pitch on Kirk so he can go against orders and sacrifice himself to save the ship. She’s not being hysterical. She’s being rational. You see the full consequences in the next episode, which you tell us you haven’t, and won’t be watching. We learn just why she made the decision she made. We also see her make a very calculated, Vulcan-like decision in the face of a life threatening situation in that same episode. So we do see her Vulcan side.

    And yes, liberties have been taken with continuity, but no less than between the original series and the first movie. Times change,we get better effects, better design, Star Trek has never been particularly consistent on this one. They got rid of the mini skirts with the first movie. The last three movies have just been nostalgia fests. This is Star Trek with a new tone and a new voice. Give it a chance. Set your preconceptions aside and just see what happens. Maybe it’s worth the 6 bucks. Consider how long The Next Generation took to find its sea legs. So far I think we’ve got a much stronger start with this one.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      My biggest issue really is with the writing. I thought it was flaccid at best and bad at worst. I acknowledge your points and position, but bad writing is going to kill a show no matter how great the surroundings might be.

      • There’s a moment in the show where Michael says, “you’re confusing race with culture.” Not because she’s black, but because she’s human and was raised by Vulcans.

        This is the kind of thing that Trek is about for me. It’s not just about character, but culture and ideas. This was a more Star Trek moment than anything that happened in the last three theatrical releases. It was one of the moments that made me trust the writers, despite clunky dialogue and occasional inconsistencies.

        And it’s not insignificant that this is the first black women lead protagonist that we’ve seen in any Star Trek series in the over 50 years of its existence. Star Trek has always been about diversity, but we haven’t seen a crew on a star ship this diverse before. I always wondered, if this was supposed to be the United Federation of Planets, why were there so few aliens and people of color in the crew? It looks like they’re making efforts to correct that.

        You say it’s “bad writing.” But the majority of your criticisms seem more like those of a fan than a writer. I’d be interested to see your criticisms as a writer, after you’ve seen more than just the pilot.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          I will probably be waiting until it is available on Netflix. I”m unwilling to add another streaming service. The dialogue was flat and repetitive. There was too much time spent on faux military speak and technobabble rather then developing some of the supporting characters. Only three members of the Star Fleet crew had any development. There was too much time spent on the Klingon rituals so once again I had no real sense of those characters. And the poor actors were fighting the makeup the entire time. I did not understand the constant use of people’s names. That’s one of the first lessons we’re taught in the business. You don’t have to keep using someone’s name. It ends up sounding stilted and unnatural. I needed to know two things — who are these people and why should I care about them? On both sides, Federation and Klingon.

          • These are totally fair and substantive criticisms. And you touched on some of them (but not all of them) in your original post. I would have liked to have seen more of these kinds of criticisms than what made up the bulk of your review. When and if you do see more of the series, I’d be interested in hearing more.

          • Melinda Snodgrass says:

            I will be waiting until it is available on Netflix. I’m unwilling to pay for this despite the overall fine cast.

    • Peter says:

      Totally agree. Give it a chance to grow. I hated TNG in the beginning but loved it after a season or so. This is off to a much more interesting and different start. I’m eager to see this series evolve.

  • Matthew Kresal says:

    You have summed up my thoughts on Discovery better than I could have. I absolutely agree with everything in this.

  • Matthew Hickey says:

    The Trek show that you (And I, and everyone) want exists. It’s just called ‘The Orville”, and is on Fox.

  • William Komnath says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review. It was disappointing and I think the whole premise is a missed opportunity. Despite the title, where is the discovery??? Instead we get another sci fi war show. Ho hum. I was hoping for some more plot, characterizations, etc. but I guess there’s not a lot that can be done in 5 minute blocks between 5 minutes of commercials. (I realize this is probably subjective but that’s what it felt like.)

  • Mickey Goins says:

    Thank- you for mostly hitting the nail on the head.

  • Michael Fortner says:

    “I have always wanted to see a Trek show about the people who don’t fit in, who chafe under Federation rule, but aren’t militant assholes like the Klingons and Romulans or flesh and blood creatures trying to turn into robots, the Vulcans, or crass capitalists like the Ferengi.”

    There is one. It’s called The Orville.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I’m going to have to watch this show. I just haven’t had a chance yet.

      • Mark2000 says:

        I wouldn’t bother. It’s a pretty awful “Honeymooners in Space” show with a lot of awkward humor, mostly consisting of dick jokes. The main character is a completely incompetent doofus who is propped up by his ex-wife. She sticks with him due to guilt from cheating on him, as if that’s a reason to support a man for the rest of your life. It’s the show you’d expect from the guy who sang “We Saw Your Boobs” at the Oscars. I have no idea why some people are holding it up as respectable science fiction.

        • Andre Lieven says:

          I have watched all three so far aired episodes of The Orville and while it’s mean to be somewhat a humourous take on Star Trek, it does a very good job of actually giving the supporting characters some real space, and in developing both the primary leads and the supporting characters quite well, as well as dealing with actual social issues.

          At this point (And, I will add that being in Canada, we got to see the two first episodes of ST:D, not just the first one), I would say that The Orville is far better Star Trek than Discovery is, on pretty much every level.

        • Sharon Van Sluijs says:

          It is free, at least. The dopiness quotient is really high, though.

  • Absolutely right on target, Melinda. I just saw it this afternoon and was extremely disappointed. To can’t negotiate with the Klingons; you have to shoot at them first? Really? Did Trump write that line? Aargh!

  • Leslie G. says:

    My husband and I agree: we want NCIS:Starfleet. Set in San Francisco. Only question is, do they still HAVE crime and murder in the utopia Roddenberry envisioned?

    And what’s the deal with Lorca busting Burnham out of life imprisonment? Going for the Suicide Squad crew on the Discovery?

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I didn’t bother to watch a second hour so I’m only going off what I saw in the first episode.

      As to the issue of law in Gene’s vision. He nearly killed The Measure of a Man because according to Gene there were no lawyers in the 24th century because if people had criminal intentions they “had their minds made right”. I found that chilling. I also pointed out that you have contracts that have to be negotiated and conflicts of law between different legal systems, and divorces, etc. etc. There was no way there would be no lawyers in the future.

      • Shawn says:

        It’s unsettling to know that Gene would 1. Try to kill at least one of the top 3 best episodes of TNG. and 2. That he thought anyone with wrongthink would have their “minds made right”…I agree with your discription of “chilling”.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          I don’t think Gene understood that if there were no lawyers in the 24th century and if Data would “be delighted” to be taken apart then there was no script. Data had to defend his right to be autonomous for there to be a story.

  • Paul Mount says:

    It’s lazy….says the reviewer who can’t be bothered to look up the name of “the young woman who is going to be the lead.” Nothing to see here…

  • Julia Danher says:

    Yes, I can say it now, “It was lazy.” I hope it settles down with the third episode. It was just too American which means they didn’t know when to stop. The Klingons are so made-up they have lost their individuality. So they stand for anyone or anything. So, who cares?

  • Matt says:

    I am optimistic about this show because I think that the serial format necessitates that the audience look for the the Trek-truths and messages to be delivered differently – less often, more slowly, by fewer characters actions and reactions over a longer period of time.

    I hate abvramsverse instant communication for the sake of plot. They did it to Staw Wars as well. It kills the drama. Make the characters think for goodness sake.

  • Seth Jones says:

    More on those uniforms. Setting it 10 years before kirk and spock places this exactly 1 year after Christopher Pike’s encounter with the Talosians in the TOS episode “The Cage” which was later recycled into “the Menagerie”. The costumes, and ship designs for this period were already established. No miniskirts for number one or other female crewmembers. Watch that episode again. CBS has some splaining to do.

  • Mel Patterson says:

    Totally agree with your review. It puts into words feeling I had when watching the show that I was having some difficulty expressing. The frustrating thing is that I WANTED it to be good. But alas . . .

    I wanted it to be good because I love Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green who I felt gave good performances. Probably better than the material that was written for them.

  • Steven Mantz says:

    I totally agree. well said!

  • Rus Wornom says:

    Hmm. I completely agree with you about the writing. Flaccid is as good a word as anything; lazy is 100% apt. I’d like to add another term: derivative. While the storytelling–a limited-run series of however many episodes–is new to Star Trek, nothing else about episode 1 feels original. (Different Klingons? They’re still Klingons. I did like the artistry of their ship’s exterior. Nice touch.) Of course, there’s only so much they can do, given they’re in between “Enterprise” (a bastard child, as far as I’m concerned) and the original pilot, so originality, I guess, has to come from concepts and storytelling techniques. So far, it’s not happening. Not paying for all access–Discovery didn’t impress me enough to pay for it–and I’ll have to wait to borrow the dvds from a friend next year.

  • Sharon Van Sluijs says:

    Yes! Who are these people and why should we want to pay attention to them? That’s the key question in writing any fiction.
    I thought Burnham was too childish to be what she’s presented to be.
    Captain Georgiou was someone I could respect: commanding, sympathetic, complex, and radiating gravitas. Alas, she is quickly killed off.
    The dumb plot line of “it’s war!” is just too much. Yes, lazy.
    I wanted to like this; it’s nothing I can.

  • G says:

    The writing is indeed lazy and predictable.

    The aspects of tokenism – need not had been so. Indeed if the characters were not so derivative we might have had some people to root for. As it was it seemed like watching some characters that no one really got to know nor care about.

    The line confusing race with culture stuck out like a sore thumb to me. Specifically because Vulcans developed their culture based on their extreme emotions that came from their genetics. Not everyone would be aware of that basic Trek lore. But it makes the line particularly grating. I got through the episodes only because I saw them through Netflix in Australia. The uniforms the setting, the interminable JJ flares… are very out of an exec meeting. “Let’s not be taking too many risks now. Let’s keep people thinking this is progressive even though it is just catering to their predispositions towards the old progressive Trek. Start with a scene that looks like Star Wars. That should hook them!”

  • Paul paz says:

    I hope you ripped JarJarAbrams an even more than this, since his crap was 10,000 times worse.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Oh I did. That second film was just ludicrous. The first one had the right feel… along with a lot of silly stuff. Why didn’t the pissed off Romulans just go home after they went back in time and warn everybody that the planet was going to explode instead of chasing around after old Spock? And a red predator on a snow world? Really? But the Khan film was head scratchingly bad. They have this terrific actor in Cumberbatch and they waste him. I was actually interested when I thought he was a PO’d Star Feet officer, but once it was clear they were remaking Wrath of Khan I lost interest. There was one point where I laughed out loud. When Khan revealed his cunning plan to hide his frozen crew inside missiles. I was waiting for the Star Fleet requisition officer to notice this stack of missiles and send them off for some war games off in the Gamma sector or have them loaded on disparate ships. For a guy who was supposed to be a genius this seemed like a really terrible idea.

  • John says:

    What is most sad is that these are supposedly our most talented people, people actually who are chosen for the sole purpose of writing stories and dialogue. I’m only 15 minutes in and I stopped before it got more painful. Everything about the first 15 minutes is just wrong, trite, dumb. But everything. I suppose that just puts it in the same category of every other Star Trek premiere since the original.

  • Martin Horowitz says:

    As Someone who was inspired by the Original Star Trek to do science and Engineering, I cringed at the tecnhobabble in the episode, and I agree with you about your comments on the rest of this Episode.

  • Jonathan Mock says:

    I’m enjoying STD (never thought I’d ever say those words) simply because it isn’t falling into the torpor that often blighted the spin offs, especially Enterprise.

    I like the fact that this is a morally ambiguous Star Fleet, that characters make mistakes, that there isn’t a linking shot every ten minutes of a spaceship and some cookie-cutter music.

    The show has faults – timeline, canon contunuity, Klingons etc… – but it is at least boldy going (see what i there?) somewhere Trek has never been before.

    Yes, I may be more taken in by the new-show smell right now but I am genuinely enjoying Discovery, and I wish the reboot Kelvin films had this kind of light and shade rather than the generic action movies they’ve become.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Appearances
Social Media
Friend me on FacebookFollow me on Twitter