Star Trek: Discovery – Does it stand up on a re-watch?

It was with great trepidation and excitement that I awaited the premiere of the new Star Trek series at the end of 2017. Star Trek is an IP that is very important to me and after the rocky Enterprise and the long gap since its cancellation I was ready for new trek. I had seen some of the development history for Discovery, who doesn’t in this day in age, and was leaning more towards the trepidation side.

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I was not originally enthralled with the ship itself, the Klingon’s or in fact the uniforms, not a good start one may think. I watched the two-part premiere on Netflix and went through a range of emotions. The one thing the show got right was the ambient noise and music. The sounds were those of Star Trek and especially those of the Original Series. The visual language was obviously very different and it took some getting used to. The acting was good and the storyline engaging, but during that whole run I was constantly filtering every action with what I knew of established canon. As an aficionado I found I was critiquing it from minute to minute, this detracted from the enjoyment and left me unsure whether I enjoyed the series or not.

With Season 2 in development and teasers being dropped all the time I decided a rewatch was warranted. I have watched untold critiques of the show, I have seen debates and arguments ad infinitum, I have had time to weigh up the canon and work out how some of the problems are solvable so does my uncertain view remain.

When I originally watched the series I did actually enjoy the weekly release schedule. It reminded me of my youth waiting for TNG on BBC 2 but this time I was able to binge it over a week, episode after episode and this actually helped the series. It seemed to flow better and the storyline gelled together more.

The second good point was that I knew all the plot twists and so wasn’t consumed by calculating possibilities; I could enjoy the drama, unencumbered. Some of the twists were fairly well signposted but still managed to have impact. The plot made a little more sense when viewed consecutively, it doesn’t absolve all the problems, the ending whilst uplifting is still a little weak.

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The characters also came out more in the rewatch, particularly Stamets and Culber, both of whom seemed bit parts on the first watch, Culber more so than Stamets. Saru was an excellent character and Lorca was a delight as the Captain with questionable priorities who became meglomanically creepy when home in the mirror universe. Tilly, although used as comic relief and the misjudged vector for swearing in Star Trek, was a delight and quickly became the heart of the show. She was in effect us, trying to understand the universe in to which she had been thrust. I even liked Ash Tyler, his blending with Voq has created a unique character and one that I hope we get to see more of as he struggles to find himself in the world.

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Episode-wise most still stand up. ‘Magic to make the sanest man go mad’ remained a superb take on the somewhat overused time travel trope and the two-parter ‘Si vis pacem, vis bellum’ and ‘Into the forest I go’ is a fine example of what Star Trek is and could have occurred in any of the previous series.

I finished the full rewatch today and found myself coming to the conclusion that Discovery is Star Trek. The morals are there, they are hidden a little but they show, a little like DS9 did, that during war times the Federations morals were challenged and found wanting, but at the end, it was still a Starfleet crew doing the right thing. I still have a problem with the Klingons, but then Klingons have hardly been consistent in existing canon so I can’t hold this too much against them. What is important is that this is new Trek for a new generation and we should be glad for it. If we don’t like it we do not have to watch it, we have books and comics that continue the Trek we grew up with.

One of the things that did strike me in the rewatch was one character. Many would see Burnham’s character arc as the most important. Going from stalwart, stiff vulcanesque First Officer to war starter and mutineer, through rehabilitation, to realisation and redemption she does have an important arc but for me, Saru’s was bigger. He went from a nervous and frustrated timid officer to a powerful acting-Captain. We got see his growth more subtly than Burnham’s. He represents a new species that despite the short airtime is as rounded as some of the other more familiar races. Other familiar races are something obviously absent from Discovery, we have Vulcans and new aliens but there is a lack of Andorians, Tellarites, Bolians, Benzites, Deltans and a hundred other species, hopefully, they will get more representation in Season 2.

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The rewatch and the news coming out currently about Season 2 is filling me with hope. Most Trek series had poor first seasons and I think Discovery is no different. I am willing to reserve judgement a little while longer. I am excited for the future today, is a good time for Trek.

 

 

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