Star Trek: Discovery first episode review [SPOILERS]

A little while ago, I had expressed some concerns about Star Trek: Discovery and the direction the show creators were taking the show. So now that the first episode of the new series is out, I thought I should do a review.

Short review: I’m still hesitant.

Long review, with spoilers:

I can’t really say that I like what they’ve done with the Klingons. I don’t think there was a good reason to make such a big change to the character design, and I don’t think it really works. Star Trek fans have something specific in mind when they think of Klingons, and what they have in Discovery isn’t it.

The Klingon redesign also causes some problems as far as canon for the Star Trek universe is concerned: Klingons aren’t supposed to look like this in this time period. The original series had Klingons that didn’t look too awfully different from us humans, and while this was chalked up to lack of production value, the ridgeless Klingons were confirmed in Deep Space 9 and Enterprise to have been an actual thing. Indeed, Enterprise established the in-universe explanation for why Klingons looked like humans during the original series. In-universe, Klingons did some genetic engineering based on the same engineering that produced Khan, and a side effect of this genetic engineering was that they started to look human. Eventually, they were able to come up with a way to return to what they looked like before, but that wasn’t until the time of the movies based on the original series, which would be about 20-30 years after the time of Discovery.

I don’t mean to focus so much on the character design for one specific race. To Star Trek fans, though, continuity matters. The new Star Trek movies reference Enterprise, even though those references would be unknown to the majority of the viewing public, as that is the part of the Star Trek universe that still applies to both the Prime and Kelvin universes and would be recognizable to Star Trek fans.

The big problem, though, is the problem that I referenced in my previous post about Discovery. Namely, that there is significant conflict between the characters. The first episode ends on a cliffhanger where Commander Burnham has just Vulcan neck-pinched Captain Georgiou to take command of the USS Shenzhou and fire on the Klingons, after being told by Sarek that the Vulcans earned the respect of the Klingons by firing on the Klingons whenever they encountered Klingons. This isn’t really handled all that well, and while I don’t mind this sort of solution being presented, Commander Burnham didn’t really present this to Captain Georgiou very well at all, mostly just saying “trust me when I say we need to fire on this warrior race with after I was forced to kill one of them and we have not been provoked.” It is very understandable that Captain Georgiou doesn’t see the wisdom in this and declines.

As far as the plot of the episode goes, it’s not really very clear what’s going on and for what reasons. There’s some beacon that the Klingons want to light to gather their people, but it doesn’t really make sense as to why they chose the spot they chose, which is made clear in the episode to be in Federation space. I don’t really know why some Klingon was out on the beacon, or why the Klingon ship that must have been cloaked and nearby didn’t do anything about a Federation officer in a jetpack coming towards them and just watched as she flew around their beacon. This is without getting into the physics of the situation, as no matter how bright the beacon is, the light will still travel at the speed of light and no one will see it for at least a couple of years. I guess it can send a signal through subspace, but then the question becomes why don’t the Klingons just take a selfie at the beacon and post it on Klingon Instagram telling their buddies to get down there? Symbolism, I know, but still.

Anyway, complaints aside, I am still interested in the show. Apart from the Klingons, I thought everything was designed very well and felt very “Trekky.” I’d really like for there to be a Star Trek series worth watching again, and hopefully, they can make the plot feel “Trekky” as well.

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