Star Trek: Discovery – Midseason Reaction

Trekkies rejoice: there’s new Star Trek for the first time in twelve years! Star Trek: Discovery is the seventh iteration of the Star Trek franchise. The show is set in the prime universe, ten years before The Original Series. However, it’s not airing on TV! Instead, Discovery is streaming behind a paywall at CBS All Access. Viewers have an option to pay seven dollars a month for limited commercials or ten dollars a month for commercial-free.

In a new development to the Star Trek canon, the female protagonist Michael Burnham was raised by Sarek and Amanda Grayson as their ward. This makes her Spock’s foster sister. Amanda raised the children together for the most part though Spock was four years younger. Both Sarek and Amanda appear in Star Trek: Discovery but Spock does not. (He does feature in the first tie-in novel, Desperate Measures by David Mack!)

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Characters from Left to Right: Captain Georgiou, Michael Burnham, Saru, Captian Lorca, Paul Stamets, Sarek, Cadet Tilly, Ash Tyler

Nine episodes have aired so far. The first one, “The Vulcan Hello” aired on the CBS channel with a cliffhanger meant to entice even casual viewers to log onto CBS All Access for the second part of the premiere. Michael Burnam is initially the first officer of the USS Shenzhou, under the command of  Captain Philippa Georgiou. For the first time in the Star Trek universe, there are two women of color as the command team, and an alien is third in command. But SPOILERS Captain Georgiou is killed in a fight with the Klingons, and Michael is charged with mutiny for her actions that led up to the fight.

As someone who was literally raised on The Next Generation, this new canon insert doesn’t bother me. Spock already has a never-seen-before brother named Sybok who appeared during The Final Frontier, the fifth Star Trek movie. Perhaps if I hadn’t gotten into Doctor Who, where the timeline can be rewritten in an episode, the insert would bother me more.

What took me a while to get used to was the level of technology in the show. The look doesn’t exactly reconcile with what The Original Series depicted. During the ’60s, Star Trek looked very advanced, but as technology has progressed in the real world, the original show is starting to show its age. Discovery, on the other hand, has a larger budget and embraces 21st-century filmmaking technology with a lot more CGI. Eventually, I just learned to go with the flow.

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USS Discovery NCC-1031

When I first started watching Discovery, I didn’t exactly love it. The first episode had a scene at the beginning of Burnham and Captain Georgiou that I thought was just a huge exposition dump. The two characters were talking about things they already knew for the viewers’ benefit. I initially found it a little cheesy. Now nine episodes in, I find the Klingon War storyline incredibly dark and depressing. It also took me a few episodes to adjust to the TV-MA rating. Michael Burnham as the protagonist falls into the “character must suffer” trope, especially when she joins the crew of Discovery. She is guilt-ridden as she is the direct reason why her captain was killed and war with the Klingons broke out.

However, the spirit of Star Trek is still alive thanks to the USS Discovery’s spore drive. The ship can instantly appear at a point in space, instead of traveling via warp speed. I’m already wondering if the show progresses closer to Kirk’s timeline when and how Starfleet will drop the spore drive or if they will have it on certain ships that were never seen in The Original Series.  There’s also an episode involving a time loop that had lots of character development for Michael as she realizes she’s interested in her very first relationship with the head of security Ash Tyler.

I think Star Trek: Discovery is worth the seven dollars a month for CBS All Access. Especially since I’ve been watching the show with my Mom, who raised me on The Next Generation. It’s already been renewed for a second season, which is a promising sign. The acting has been top notch. Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca is the most dysfunctional and ruthless captain. Sonequa Martin-Green has been phenomenal as the first woman of color protagonist, definitely a highlight of the show.  Another highlight is that there’s finally LGBT representation in Star Trek! It’s a long time coming, given the franchise’s problematic track record. Anthony Rapp plays the chief engineer Paul Stamets who is in a relationship with a doctor named Hugh Culber.

Welcome to the 21st century Star Trek. It’s great to have one of my favorite shows back, and I’m definitely looking forward to its return. What do you think of Discovery? Does it meet your expectations or fall short? Feel free to leave a comment below. Live Long and Prosper!

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