So here’s another one starting off with a plaintive song and yeah, yeah, it’s a motif. It’s just a lazy and obvious one. Like, these guys only know how to write Star Trek phonetically. Look! Here’s the fellow officer guest star at odds with the lead… except instead of at odds philosophically like in an actual Star Trek episode, Shaw and Picard are at odds because… the only Borg so badass they gave him a name. My sister, who knows who T’Pring is, would have no idea what the scene was supposed to mean, here. Look! State-of the art special effects! except moving with stately grandeur as befits a Star Trek episode, this one has SFX that look like they were Fortnite cut scenes with Star Trek skins. Look! Instead of showing a thought provoking bit of science fiction awesomeness while the leads put it into context and perspective for the audience, you know, like in a Star Trek episode, they have the actual leads gaze upon the space babies and say SEEK OUT NEW LIFE and LET’S BOLDLY GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE overtly, explicitly in the text. Because they don’t trust you to get it and they don’t trust themselves to put it across.
I dunno; the whole missed-opportunity-because-of-BTS-politics thing is just taking the starch out of my Starfleet regulation uniform trousers to the point I can’t even be relieved to be finally free of Star Trek: Discovery, other than to note that we all saw this coming as it was happening, and he’s my review of the first episodes so there’s no need to rephrase the last six years when you can just time travel:
You guys all know me as the Spunkyfellow with the serious S.H.I.E.L.D. fetish, and that’s fine, as far as it goes. But my life, my love, and my lady has always been Star Trek I’m the guy who hand-sewed his own costume from pics in McCall’s and wore pointed ears he bought at a joke shop in Boston to opening day of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the dead of winter in rural Vermont in 1979. Forget Star Trek; do you know how many genre fans were in rural Vermont in 1979? It was me, and six other guys.
Then, in 1992, MTV did a Big Picture: Special Edition on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and the producer, Rick Austin, called me in like a Mission: Impossible guest star to help write it and be a walking reference because my knowledge of Star Trek cannot be measured by human instruments.
As you might well imagine, I have something to say about Star Trek: Discovery.
So many words have been written about the CBS All Access delivery system already we don’t have to go into it here. So much hair-pulling and garment-rending have been done about this show you could mix another few metaphors about blood spilled and missed Craigslist connections that even the most hardcore of social media commenters would let you have it.
But let’s assume you’ve loved Star Trek since before you could confidently talk and you’re fully functional, like Data when he rubs up against Tasha in the second ep of TNG. You’re up-to-date with every iteration and you’ll put your expertise up there with folks who worked on the show. Social media folks quote Jeffrey Lebowski and say, “Well, yeah. But that’s, just, like, your opinion, man.”
Yes. That is my opinion, and it is better informed than yours. Here are my disjointed bullet point notes on this disjointed, made-by-committee show:
• My hopes aren’t exactly up for this as CBS has bungled every step of this production. If you’re reading this, you know the litany of production delays and the PR snafus and hirings and firings and flack interviews and bought “exclusive” interviews to breathe interest into this show. I don’t see how CBS has forgotten there’s a built-in audience for science fiction in general and for Star Trek in particular, but they have. I thought the biggest flub was going to be airing the first episode on network and then having the second be available behind their paywall. But it turns out they flubbed the start time because football ran long (who could have seen that coming, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_Game Heidi) CBS aired it first on the East Coast twenty minutes after they told everyone they would, and then made the West Coast read three hours of IT SUCKS on social media before they aired it there. All the while having the app not be able to handle the traffic.
• After finally figuring out the weirdo All Access interface and watching both episodes, all I could think was, well, that was about what I had expected. Way to go, CBS. The first Star Trek on TV in twelve years, and the first three minutes of the first episode shows us new Klingons, make up, and armor and instead of letting the audience take it all in, you make us read subtitles. It was a fine, obviously quality production. Nothing remotely Star Trek about it. I liked this the first time I saw it when it was called Battlestar: Galactica. If this show was called Rocket War, or something, I’m sure I’d love it. It has no Star Trek soul. When people ask me why I don’t watch Game of Thrones, I tell them that all that drawn-out intrigue just bores the crap out of me and that if you gave everyone spacesuits and ray guns, I’d probably love it.
Turns out that isn’t true.
• Thirteen percent (so far) of your show called Star Trek: Discovery contained zero percent U.S.S. Discovery in it. The entire first episode nothing happens. It is literally all exposition. And we know Burnham ends up on another ship eventually (it’s in the title) so tell me again why we should care about the characters?
They’re structuring the story to be binged and showing them once a week. Nothing about the decisions CBS makes about this show makes any sense at all.
• Have to say I loved Lt. Commander Had Enough of This Crap freaking out every five minutes about some perceived danger. I expected a scene with him yelling I LEFT THE STOVE ON and running off the bridge.
• … and nobody could be bothered to tell the actress playing young Burnham how to pronounce Saw-wreck? I particularly liked when young Burnham pronounced it SAIR-ick and Sarek smirked and told her to behave like that was completely in character for a severe Vulcan while Sarek thought Starfleet was ass for Spock but fine for the little African-American human. This TV is a shitshow in 2017. In their haste to get everything right, they get everything wrong.
• I can’t get over they burned two whole episodes to do maybe five minutes of backstory they could have done in the shuttlecraft taking her to space jail that they stole from JJKirk and JJBones’ meet-cute scene.
• I’m just glad their boots have three giant Enterprise insignias on them to remind me this is supposed to be Star Trek. And the phasers. And the phaser rifles. And the tactical vests. And the prison jumpsuits. And this is ten years before Kirk and Spock? And I know what John Cooley says, but he’s as wrong as wrong can be. Starfleet didn’t adopt the arrowhead fleet-wide until it honored the Enterprise’s first five year mission. Nobody but Cooley cares about a memo no one has seen. #RonTracey
• The most sympathetic characters in the premiere are the Klingons. The main character is an unlikable traitor. Because that’s what I want from my Star Trek: an unlikable anti-hero doing the wrong thing for the right reason. Honestly, I assume anything I can write about this show will apply to the eventual Escape From New York remake.
• I wish I could get away with that John Price-level of sarcastic snark where he says OH DON’T MIND ME I’VE JUST BEEN STUDYING STORYTELLING MY WHOLE LIFE.
• Like I said, it’s obviously a quality show, but it reminds me of the ding against Billy Sizz in the early days of his career: “Neal Adams spent his drawing career studying life and Bill Sienkewicz spent his studying Neal Adams.” These writers have taken the wrong lesson from Netflix.
I dunno. Structuring this show with a two-hour pilot that doesn’t matter and then have the third episode be “a second pilot” kind of makes a janky sense with Star Trek history. NBC commissioned a pilot called “The Cage” and rejected it as “too cerebral” but grokked the concept enough that they famously commissioned a second pilot. But that was a crazy circumstance of the mid-Sixties, and probably wouldn’t have happened for Lucille Ball, who loved the initial conceit of the show. To do that on purpose in 2017 almost beggars belief. It means they’ve structured the show to be binged and yet have released it behind a paywall on a weekly schedule. They’ve learned the Netflix lesson but applied it upside down.
Anyway, I’ve been here for ST my whole life, and I’m here to tell you what I think about this newest iteration.
I just wish there weren’t Enterprise arrowheads of everything. That’s just dopey.