“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
I grew up on three things. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Star Wars and Star Trek. My whole family is composed of Trekkies and so I watched the original series at a very young age. While I would navigate more towards Star Wars in my youth, Star Trek stayed with me. When CBS announced that a new Star Trek series would be airing on their new site CBS All Access, my whole family was skeptical because they still had the sour taste of Enterprise in their mouths. But I knew that Bryan Fuller was attached and as an eternal fan of his I was excited. But Star Trek: Discovery didn’t come easily and we would have to wait a very long time before it aired. But now it is here and just like my whole family, I was ready for it.
The now Bryan Fuller-less version of Star Trek: Discovery aired on CBS for the first hour before moving to CBS All Access while here in Canada the two-hour premiere aired on Space and will continue to do so. Taking place ten years before Star Trek: The Original Series, the show follows First Officer Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) as she enters by accident a war with the Klingons who’s leader T’Kuvma, played by Chris Obi (American Gods), look to unite the 24 great Klingon houses.
The two episodes that aired last night are more like a cold open to the show and its premise. And it works because if we had jumped in the series from where it will start in episode three, we would not have known Michael and her motivations like we do now. With that said, I am curious to see if it will be jarring to jump away from the episodes that aired tonight as these were built around the original idea that Fuller had when he was still on board.
Just like its predecessors, Star Trek: Discovery is able to break another glass ceiling from the very beginning of its pilot. We know that the show will do a lot in it’s run, we already have the promise of the first openly gay character in Science Officer Paul Stamets, played by Anthony Rapp (Rent). But in the premiere, the very first characters we meet outside of the Klingons are First Officer Michael Burnham and Captain Philippa Georgiou, portrayed by Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) respectively. And that is in itself groundbreaking as most of the first two episodes are centered around a Black woman and an Asian woman and their relationship. Not only that but just looking at the bridge of the ship it was diverse and it was so beautiful to see. Gene Roddenberry has started this with the original series and it is so good to see that it keeps going even now.
Like most people, I know Martin-Green from her time on the AMC hit TV show The Walking Dead and I loved her on it. So when she was cast as the lead in the series, I was excited and she did not disappoint. Being at the center of a series that iconic can’t be easy but she does it with such ease that we can’t see anything else than Michael Burnham. We could compare Burnham to Spock. She is a human that was raised as a Vulcan after the death of her family and was put as the ward of Sarek, Spock’s father. It is interesting to see a human act like a Vulcan and to see how she navigates her emotions, just like Spock did and Martin-Green is able to tell how she feels with a simple expression and no words in a way that is remarkable. It pulls us right in and makes us want to know more about who she is and how she came to be.
While Martin-Green might have been the MVP of the premiere, we can’t forget about Yeoh. She gave us a Captain that was different than what we had seen before but that was also an homage to those who sat in that chair before her. The way she portrayed her captain and the relationship that she has with her first officer, whom she calls “Number One” an homage to the original Shatner-less pilot, was an interesting take. Never before have two woman been at the helm of a ship in the Star Trek Universe and so to see this mother-daughter relationship intertwined with the Captain-First Officer relationship was interesting and Yeoh played in with a nuance that was fun. Without giving spoilers away, it will be interesting to see how or if she will be brought back to the show now that we are moving away from the two hours cold open to the Discovery itself.
And now let’s talk about Doug Jones (Hellboy, Mimic, Pan’s Labyrinth). Jones is known to play characters with heavy makeup and so when he was announced to be in Discovery, I was more than excited. As a fan of his work, I was over the moon to know that not only was he going to be in the show but that he was also going to be portraying a species that had yet to be introduced in the series. Jones portrays Lieutenant Saru the first Kelpien to enter Star Fleet. Kelpiens were hunted on their home planet and evolved the ability to sense death. Jones has the difficult task to not only introduce a new species but also to portray a character under heavy makeup, but he does it brilliantly. For me, one of the highlights of the show was the teasing of the relationship between Michael and Saru and how the two have different visions of the world. It will be interesting to see where that leads after the events of tonight’s episodes.
What Discovery does that the other series didn’t do is to show us how the other side of the medal works. Showing us the inner workings of the Klingon was necessary because it made us understand this long-standing history between Star Fleet and them. The only other Klingon we got to know in the whole Star Trek Universe is Worf but even he wasn’t a full Klingon since he had been adopted by Federation parents. And so showing us clear villains with a motivation behind their actions and a common goal makes the Klingon so much more threatening.
The premiere sets up the war between the Klingon and Star Fleet. It sets up the whole premise that has been teased in the trailers but we actually never meet the Discovery ship and its crew, that will come next week. Instead, we follow the USS Shenzhou and how a simple reparation mission ends up starting a war. It is an interesting way to start a show and we won’t know if it pays off until we see more but I like it and the last half-hour of the second episode made me scream a couple times.
Is Star Trek: Discovery a smash-hit? I don’t know, I guess I will make my opinion after I have seen episodes three and four and more of the Discovery crew itself. But did it tease me enough to have me come back to it? Yes, it did.
TINY LITTLE BITS I LOVED:
- The visuals are so pretty. I know it doesn’t really fit with the idea that it takes place before the original series because it looks so different but the space scenes and the whole desert sequence was magnificent.
- The bridge being sarcastic to Michael’s expense and her asking if that is necessary and the little smirk on the Captain’s face as she answers “necessary no, but I do like it.”
- I could go on and on about everything between Saru and Michael because every time they interact they are hilarious.
- Young Michael with her Vulcan hair was the cutest thing ever.
- “Your human tongue isn’t a problem, it is your human heart.” Glad to see that Sarek is still mean as hell to kids.
- “With respect, it would be unwise to confuse race and culture” – First Officer Burnham.
- “Battle is not a simulation. It’s blood and screams and funerals.” -Captain Georgiou
Come back next week as I review episode three and more of the Fall TV coverage will arrive as it starts airing.