Star Trek: Discovery - Season One
The weird thing about reviewing Discovery is that I feel like I need to avoid revealing spoilers. That’s not something I’m used to with Star Trek, but there are so many twists in the first season, and it’s a continuous story where the twists make a difference.
Essentially it’s Star Trek with the pacing of Farscape, then tightening the season to feature only the arc episodes. The first two episodes set the story in motion, and then it jumps forward to pick up with the Discovery itself and its mission. It’s almost frenetic, and things change drastically over the course of the show.
Season one is focused on the Federation-Klingon war, ten years before the original show, and while they do get into cool science-fiction ideas, they’re still seen through that lens. And they do pull some interesting variations on time loops, hive-mind planets, etc. Even the younger, more dangerous Harcourt Fenton Mudd is seen in the context of the war and how it impacts civilians.
It’s also very much built around Michael Burnham and her efforts to redeem herself for her part in the events of the first two episodes. (Sonequa Martin-Green is really good at showing the changes from cold-and-logical to depressed to slowly rebuilding herself as a whole person.) But it also means that we don’t get to know the other characters as well as we would in a more fully-ensemble show. (Saru is one of the stand-outs, and shows a lot of growth between his first and second stints as acting captain when Lorca is off-ship.)
The spore drive is way over-powered. But it’s also a really interesting idea with a lot of possibilities. They strike a balance by establishing limits on how it can be used, explaining why they don’t use it all the time, and why it hasn’t become standard transportation by the time of the original series.
The second half of the season takes a swerve and a deep dive into some other concepts from the original series…and throws several twists that ride the line between “whoa, that was set up better than I thought” and “that makes no sense whatsoever.” They work if you willfully ignore some of the implied logistics and just go with it.
Unfortunately the finale wraps things up way too…not easily, but too simply. It’s the kind of resolution that you can see how easily it would unravel.
I didn’t have a problem with Burnham being retroactively established as Spock’s foster sister. If anything, it makes more sense to me than Sybok in Star Trek V. So she never came up on camera before. Fine. And while the fact that she’s closer to Sarek than Spock seemed weird at first, there was already a years-long rift between Spock and his father, so this fits right in.
The Klingon redesign took some getting used to, but after a few episodes I kind of went with it. At some point it occurred to me that if you just put hair on them, they’d look a bit more like the movie/TNG Klingons. Which is kind of funny, because they end up doing that in season 2.