Star Trek: Discovery – Style over substance?

2017 saw the return of one of the planets greatest franchise, Star Trek to the small screen. I grew up on The Next Generation (TNG) and reruns of the Original Series (TOS) and so was present for the launch of Deep Space Nine (DS9), Voyager (VOY) and Enterprise (ENT) all of which I enjoyed, but what of the latest entry.

Discovery (DISC) is a controversial show and was so right from the start from the negative reviews of the design of the ship to the decision to set the series 10 years prior to TOS. We were sold on the idea that DISC would tell new stories around the Klingon War and slowly as more information dripped out regarding cast and character fans became nervous.

I, like many, watched the first two-parter with eager excitement. I lapped up the pilot but was left somewhat cold at the end of it. I enjoyed it, I can’t deny it but the look of the Klingons and some elements of the story did not hold my interest, to put this feeling in context when I first got Emissary, the pilot for DS9 I watched it three times within the week, ‘The Vulcan Hello’ and ‘The Battle of the Binary Stars’ I have only watched them twice in the past 6 months.

The series did pick up as it went along and I must reiterate other fans views that TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT all had shaky first seasons and in comparison, DISC has more good episodes than bad. ‘Magic to make the sanest man go mad’ was a tour de force, in fact, the last 7 episodes including the Mirror Universe arc were all superb. So what still gives me pause.

I don’t like the Klingons, that is a big one. I like the established canon Klingons from the post-TOS era but given that they have already visually changed I can’t get too hung up on that. Visually the design aesthetic of Starfleet is very advanced compared to TOS but again this is understandable, were Roddenberry making TOS now this is what it would have looked like. The uniforms are excellent but not Trek-like. Discovery isn’t a fabulous ship and the spore drive whilst interesting doesn’t quite gel.

What does work is story and character. The plot twists and turns (although some of the twists were predictable) and the take on the mirror universe was interesting. We are now 6 months away from season 2 and have just seen the first trailer drop. I have higher hopes for this season. We have been promised that the series will start to conform more to canon and we can see efforts of this with the introduction of the Enterprise, Captain Pike and more TOS-like uniforms.

The trailer promises to leave the fumbled war arc and show us something more related to discovery as a pursuit. There seems to be a continuance of character-led story and hopefully more examination of the crew in its widest form. We need more Saru, more Tilly and more Stamets and perhaps a little less Burnham.

What I am driving at in this post is that its the story and characters that make this a suitable trek series and not the design language or imagery. There is enough homage in the designs to link to classic trek. Ignore the visuals and imagine them as pre-TOS and you have good Star Trek. So my advice, accept the visual changes for what they are, the medium to tell the story. Enjoy the graphics and stunts, the holographs and lens flare for what they are, if you can’t, focus on the story and the people, this is the true heart of Star Trek.

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