Julien Neaves – Editor
So I was planning to do this article for a few days now and then news dropped that Star Trek fans were getting yet another new TV series Strange New Worlds. This latest show will feature characters that first appeared on season two of Star Trek: Discovery, namely Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Science Officer Spock (Ethan Peck) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn). Pike and Spock were real standouts (Number One sadly didn’t get much screen time) and with the new show The Powers That Be gave the fans what they clamouring for.
Personally I am excited as well, especially with news that the show will return to a more traditional exploration, episodic format following two serialised shows – Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.
And speaking of Discovery, in 2017 this show launched the modern Trek Renaissance 12 years after Star Trek: Enterprise warped into the Great Beyond. Star Trek: Discovery ended its second season since April last year (and a third is on the way) but the Trekkie fan base still can’t decide whether they love it or loathe it. To call this modern Trek series divisive would be the understatement of the 24th century. There are people who think it is a great show worthy of the Trek name, and others who think it is a piece of space trash and jokingly call it STD (get it? You get it).
From the point of view of my figurative captain’s chair the truth of DSC (the official acronym btw and no, I am not using that corny abbreviation “Disco”) is more in the middle. With an armada-sized SPOILER ALERT here are the the Top 10 Best and Worst Things about Star Trek: Discovery:
#5 Best – Good Looking Frontier
One thing that most fans would agree on is that the show looks good. They spared no expense when it comes to special effects, and the alien encounters, space phenomena and massive ship battles all have a cinematic lustre. Sure the Discovery ship design does look like a giant pizza cutter at first glance, but you get used to it after a while. And the other ships, including a jazzed up original Enterprise, look pretty sweet. Most of the alien practical and CGI effects are also very well done; we’ll get to a major exception later in the list.
#5 Worst – MA But Not Really…
The show is rated TV-MA and I really don’t know why. Now I have no problem with mature Sci Fi nor a mature Trek show for that matter, but if you are going to do it then at least commit. Other than a few mutilated body parts, Tilly randomly dropping f-bombs and some nasty looking Klingon nipples, there actually isn’t a lot of mature content on display here, and the show is actually very tame.
Did they think more people would watch if they thought it was Game of Thrones in space? When the show does try to be “edgy” and use its MA rating it is a bit jarring, and feels like they are trying too hard. DSC is like the kid who brings a toy gun to school and pretends it’s real because he thinks it will make him look cool. Kind of sad really. But this one is my smallest nitpick and that’s why it’s at the bottom of the list.
#4 Best – Set Phasers to Action!
While it is nice when Trek plot lines massage the old gray matter, sometimes you just want to see stuff go boom as the guy from SNES Drunk would say. And DSC does deliver that in spades. Whether it’s melee combat with a Klingon, phaser blasting some Mirror Universe minions, or torpedoing an AI-controlled ship into atoms, the show brings the goods and brings them in style. In terms of the level of action content DSC is closer to the films, especially the past three Kelvinverse films, than the previous five TV series.
#4 Worst – Restrictive Timeline
The aforementioned Star Trek: Enterprise was a prequel series, and being a prequel series there were a few times it screwed with the canon. But that show was set more than a century before Star Trek: The Original Series, giving it a bit of wiggle room. DSC is set about a decade before TOS – there is not enough room to wiggle your finger there, especially with a large proportion of the fanbase having lived and breathed more than five decades of Trek canon.
But DSC wanted to have its proverbial cake and eat it too by trading heavily on nostalgia (Klingons again, Sarek et cetera) but also doing a lot of new and anachronistic things (holographic communication way before its time, previously unheard of and utterly ridiculous Spore Drive). And they ended up playing very fast and very loose with the canon, much to a lot of people’s chagrin (yes there are people who say it’s just a TV show and canon doesn’t matter but that’s just a bit disingenuous).
Things were so bad that the show runners had to deus ex machina the end of season two to try to fix some of the canon mess they made. And it is no surprise the ship and crew jetted into the future with season three. Let’s hope Strange New Worlds studies their canon homework and doesn’t get a D on the big fan test like it’s sister show.
#3 Best – Outstanding Characters
Okay, that last entry was a tad long. I get rant-y sometimes. So for this one I will make it short and sweet. DSC has some cool characters. I love the cautious Saru, the plucky Tilly, scheming Mirror Universe Georgiou and the duplicitous Lorca. And with season two the intrepid Pike and mysterious young Spock were a breath of fresh air. What about the lead, Commander Michael Burnham? Oh, we’ll get to her.
#3 Worst – Crew Schmew
As we’re on the topic of characters one of the show’s biggest weaknesses is its lack of a crew structure. Now there is a crew and regular faces you see but outside of Micheal, Saru, Stamets, Culber and Tilly they have little to no development. And some pop up and are never seen again. Remember that big headed alien looking guy that was on the bridge once? What the hell happened to him?
And the chick who looked like Scorpius’ kid sister (Farscape kids – look it up)? Well we got her backstory in the same episode she died. Why even have a crew when you have two to three people doing EVERYTHING? The older Trek shows gave every character a time to shine. Heck DS9 had an entire episode centred on “mute” alien bar fly Morn. Sadly in Discovery most of the crew are the equivalent of furniture.
#2 Best – Mirror Universe arc
Season one of DSC was rough. Some of those early episodes were some really poorly written, generic action Sci Fi with a pretty Trek paint job. But thankfully we had the Mirror Universe arc and things looked up a lot. There was torture, betrayals and the tone got very, very dark. Tilly pretending to be evil Tilly was hilarious, Empress Georgiou was delightful, revealed-as-evil Lorca chewed some scenery, the action stepped up, and there was a whole new urgency to the proceedings. This exhilarating arc salvaged what could have been a massively disappointing season.
#2 Worst – Those Damn Klingons
Yes, you knew it was coming – those damn Klingons. And yes I could go on and on about the ugly and unnecessary redesign, or how dumb their stiff-looking Klingon speech looked. Or how they had cloaking technology before they were supposed to. Or how there was no mention of the Augment virus. Or how merely playing off these Klingons as a previously unknown subspecies and showing ridge-headed Klingons and TOS-era Klingons would have smoothed things out and quieted many of the canon complainers.
But my main issue is why the Klingons again? We’ve spent decades seeing them as villains and allies and villains again. Why not just go with a previously unknown and new species? But no, they had to nostalgia-bait again. And because of the whole Klingon war set-up season one had little to no exploring of new worlds nor seeking out of new life and civilizations. No, just fighting the Klingons for the millionth time. It was like they didn’t even know what the franchise was about or didn’t care.
#1 Best – Season 2 Step Up
I like to give Jack his jacket and Jane her blouse, and I will give the showrunners kudos for listening to the fan complaints and fixing many of the problems with the show between season one and two. Season two is actually such a vast improvement it almost feels like a different show.
Everything (well almost everything) was better. The writing was improved, we had the mystery of the Red Angel, and we actually explored some new planets including Saru’s home world. Now this is the Trek we wanted all the time. Sure it was still very action heavy and as a villain Control felt somewhat derivative. But overall the show was much, much better and I am interested to see what they do in season three.
#1 Worst – Michael Burnham
Now let me explain before you get out your pitchforks and torches. I like Sonequa Martin-Green as an actress. I enjoyed her in Once Upon a Time and she was brilliant as Sasha in The Walking Dead. But specialist-turned-commander Michael Burnham has to be one of the worst written characters in all of Trek and science fiction in general. She is so inconsistent, bland, arrogant and unlikable. She was raised by Vulcans but lacks their stoicism and often acts impulsively and illogically. She is an expert at pretty much everything and frequently renders the rest of the crew pointless. How many times is she going to save the day? Should have called the show Star Trek: The Michael Chronicles. Sheesh!
And instead of recognising the inherent weaknesses of the character the showrunners try to distract viewers by frequently reminding us that she is Sarek’s adopted daughter and Spock’s adopted sister. Well people like Sarek and Spock so they will like her too, right? Um, no. That’s not the way it works. Doing this just makes Michael look worse in comparison. With the many improvements in season two Michael Burnham remained an albatross around the show’s neck, dragging things down with her suckitude. If you are still doubtful try comparing Michael with the lead characters in the previous shows. She does not even measure up to Captain Archer and I am not a card-carrying member of the Archer fan club. I’m sorry but the actress, the show and the fans deserve a much better leading character. Let’s hope we get it in season three.
So that’s my thoughts. What do you like the most and the least about DSC? For my review of Picard season 1 you can click here.
Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. Also loves promoting Caribbean film, creating board games and is an aspiring author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Can also be found talking about TV and movie stuff on Instagram as redmanwriter and on Facebook at Movieville