Star Trek: Discovery review

With the first season’s finale released and season two greenlit, it’s time to have a look at Star Trek’s seventh series. And, as Trek seems doomed to these days, the actual product was much better than the trailer made it look.

But first, my review of having it only on CBS All-Access (at least in the U.S.): 0/5. So I’m supposed to pay for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime AND separate streaming plans for each network now? Hard pass.

Thanks to the miracle of free trial periods, I watched the show in as close to a marathon as time allowed. This means I didn’t have whole week between episodes to form grand opinions on each one or make in-depth theories on where it was going, apart from where no one has gone before.

In general, I would say that Discovery is in the middle of the road for quality and interest. I’d put it below the original series, Deep Space Nine andThe Next Generation, but above Voyager, the animated series and Enterprise.

The first thing you’re going to notice about the show is its art direction. It makes no attempt to fit in with the shoestring budget 1960s show it is supposed to be a direct prequel to. Instead, it seemed likes they spent millions on every inch of set and costume just because they could. The style, frankly, works better as a century of improvement over Enterprise than a decade behind the original series. Oddly, the props are just the opposite; they fit in perfectly as precursors to those seen in the hands of Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

As for special effects, it’s right back into the realm of John Hammond-brad “spared no expense.” Everything is shiny, ornately textured, cluttered and oversaturated. A good comparison would be the “opening” credits sequences in the J.J. Abrams films (but not the films themselves).

If you can get past the conceptual awkwardness in the visuals, though, the show itself is pretty good.

Tonally, it splits the middle between DS9’s grittiness and TNG’s optimism. Some characters will travel from idealistic to gritty, while others head in the other direction. But that’s not the personal journey for everybody. The show, despite having only 15 episodes to work with and an episodic arc to cover, manages to give each main character a completed personal arc and at least one episode to really do a deep dive into what makes them tick.

In this sense, Discovery feels like a show that feels like it had already come into its own without any early season jitters. The proverbial beard was pre-grown. Perhaps the difference is the greater emphasis on tight showrunning these days, but that’s purely speculative. Suffice it to say, the show was executed with focus and confidence.

The acting is top-notch, helping to sell the writing. However, there are many scenes of Klingons speaking Klingon, and not all actors were equally adept at that task. One vital character in particular sounds extremely stilted.

There’s some other obvious hangups here. The ending is way too dopey. The ship’s dang ugly (though the guest ship designs are far superior). But on the whole, there’s a show worth watching under the hangups. As a second season is underway, I won’t dwell on unanswered questions…. For now.

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