So I did watch the first and second episodes of this show, but I won’t be watching any more of them, I guess, because the show sits behind a paywall. In order to watch Discovery in the US you have to subscribe to a streaming channel called CBS All Access, the first week of which is free. Also, I can’t watch this on my TV, because I can’t add any channels to it. The streaming channels are preset on my DVD player too, so I can only watch it on my Ipad, or at my computer, which is inconvenient for me.
Now, I generally don’t watch network television anyway, that is the top four networks of Fox, CBS, ABC, and NBC. I don’t watch them because their programming isn’t particularly interesting to me, and I’m extremely wary of liking a show, only to see it get canceled after one season. I’ve been burned waay too many times by network TV.
I subscribed to CBS All Access, but after scrolling through the shows available on the streaming network, I figured out that I was really just paying for each episode of Star Trek, (like about 2 or 3 bucks an episode, which isn’t bad, but still) and decided to unsubscribe. It’s not a bad price per episode, as the six dollar fee is only once a month, and there are three or four episodes per month, but there is literally nothing else I watch on that network. Maybe later I’ll change my mind, so I can binge watch all eight of them during the hiatus in December.
Star Trek Discovery is a very different show for CBS. They have no track record for diversity, either. In fact most of their lineup seems to consist of mediocre detective style shows, of which the only interesting one is Elementary (Lucy Liu is a goddess!), which I can watch reruns of anywhere else, including at my library. So basically, Discovery is like nothing else on that network.
After watching the first two episodes, I decided that I did indeed like the show, but I’m going to have to forgo this pleasure until later. I’m also to understand that the rest of the season will be a whole new animal from the pilot, although from the trailers it still looks pretty good.
What I Liked:
Soniqua Martin-Green (Michael Rainsford) naturally gets a lot of screen time, as the show’s lead. A lot of the episode rests on her shoulders and I feel confident that she is up to the job. She turned in a very strong performance. I had a few quibbles about some of her character’s decisions during the episode, but the show was suspenseful and compelling, only requiring a little tweaking, for consistency.
I loved everything about Michael and it was a real joy watching her and the captain banter with each other. We don’t get to meet any of the rest of the crew really, and there’s a reason for that. We won’t be seeing any more of them beyond Saru (the alien scientist played by Doug Jones.) Another thing I like is that there is quite a contingent of White women who seem to really like Michael too, and are coming to bat for her.
The only people who seemingly hate the show, and nitpick every single tiny detail, so as to do so, appear to be White men, and I expected as much from the ones online, because they stay disappointing me on the regular. (Its funny! The real life White guys are know are some of the nicest, most considerate people. Are they even the same species as the ones online?)
The plot of the first two episodes is basically background stuff for Michael’s character for the rest of the season. We’re introduced to the person she was so we can get to know and understand the person she will be. Michael is orphaned during a Klingon attack on an outpost and is adopted by James Frain’s Sarek. (You may remember Frain as the vampire who was obsessed Tara Thornton in the show True Blood.) I like Frain’s version of Sarek. I liked the other versions too, but Frain’s version seems less stiff and formal. He seems like the type of man who is just very used to being comfortable around humans, while still remaining uncompromisingly Vulcan. My favorite moment is him whispering “Behave!” to his young charge just before he leaves her alone with Gheorghiu, because that’s such a ‘parent- type’ thing to do, (This is the kind of behavior he might well have learned from raising his spirited, half human son.)
I liked that the show isn’t filmed in quite the same way as other Trek shows. For one thing, we get flashbacks to Michael’s upbringing on Vulcan, and I wish we’d had more of those, rather than showcasing the Klingons. In one of the first flashbacks we see her as a child having a moment of PTSD in one of the learning pods, and witness Sarek’s reaction to her.
I have to admit I have never been a fan of the Klingons. I’m simply not now, nor ever have been, impressed by their existence, language, culture, any of it. So I didn’t particularly enjoy having to look at the Klingons for half the episode. What made them even more annoying was that their makeup was hard to look at, and they were difficult to understand, and not just because they were speaking their native tongue. They sounded like people speaking through masks, and quite frankly, a Klingon with a lisp is not scary. (Plus, they all spoke very slowly, as if they had all suffered recent head injuries.)
Klingons have always been “coded”as Black people and I don’t really have a problem with that. My problem is with their depiction as one of the more violent races on Star Trek. On the other hand, the show does have a very good track record for giving them depth and making them likable, and sympathetic characters, the most notable one being Worf from STNG. Now there is an element of colorism involved in their depiction, as there is a Klingon with albinism, who seems to have to prove himself to be more Klingon then all the others, after being kicked out of his family. I’m reminded of the discrimination of albinos in certain parts of Africa, but I don’t know that this calls back to that or not.
I liked the Klingon costumes, though. The costumes had this beautiful Elizabethan look that just kinda suited them. I liked all the costumes in the show really, and I liked all the tech stuff that Trek is famous for. This is an extremely pretty show, that’s just nice to look at. The color scheme and design reminds me of DS9, and the Federation outfits seem almost Bajoran. Well, Bajoran with lots of bling, and I like bling, so that didn’t bother me. That’s probably due to Fuller’s influence since DS9 was the last Trek show he worked on.
Michael joins the crew of the Shenzhou with Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Phillipa Gheorghiu. I loved the relationship between these two women and hope to see that replicated in later episodes, because showing that type of rapport and mentorship between women is important. After Michael encounters and kills a Klingon (a race of people that the federation had not had contact with in some 100 years), on Sarek’s advice, she argues that the Shenzhou should fire on the Klingon ship, to show greater strength, hence the name of the episode, The Vulcan Hello. Gheorghiu disagrees with her and Michael gives her the Vulcan Sleeper Pinch, and takes over the bridge.
When Gheorghiu gets back on the bridge, her Federation backup has arrived, but because she still refuses to fire on the Klingons, even though their backup arrived first, this starts a skirmish in which the Federation loses. Michael, who has been stashed in the brig during this fight, manages to escape just before her imminent death, by logicking at the computer. She goes back to the bridge and proposes the idea of capturing the Klingon leader, so as not to make him a martyr. Michael and Gheorghiu board the Klingon ship, but their attempt to capture the Klingon leader (T’Kuvma) is unsuccessful, and Gheorghiu is killed.
At the end of episode two, Michael is convicted of assaulting her captain, mutiny, (and exacerbating an already tense situation). The rest of the season is her (and Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca) dealing with the aftermath of her conviction.
During the standoff between the two women, Michael makes a bunch of emotional decisions, but she’s been raised on Vulcan and has never dealt with the PTSD of what happened to her as a child, so she has not learned how to handle her emotions in an environment with a lot of other emotional issues. Well, she doesnt seem to have learned, and this incident is a direct callback to a highly personal event that she’s never had to think about while safe on Vulcan.
She seems to be having difficulty telling the difference between decisions she makes through logic, and ones made through emotions, which makes her a wonderfully complex character. I’m interested to see how she grows and changes throughout the season, and I hope the writers don’t pull a Sleepy Hollow, and sideline her in favor of Captain Lorca. This first season should be all about Michael and her journey. Later, we can get more into the stories of the other characters.
I loved the special effects, even if I didn’t like the makeup on the Klingons. The transporter effect looks a little different and Gheorghiu explains that it’s because the Shenzhou is using older technology.
Doug Jones (you may remember him as Hellboy’s Abe Sapien) has great makeup, but those stilt things he has to walk around on look deeply uncomfortable, and I worried that his feet hurt, even though surely, he must be used to that sort of thing. I liked the character too and enjoyed the rapport between him and Michael. It reminded me of the threesome from the original show.
Things I Could’ve Done Without
As I said, I hated the Klingon makeup, not because I thought it was especially bad, but because they all look like they’re trying to talk through Kabuki masks. I’m used to Klingons looking expressive, and their faces (the makeup) makes that impossible. Another thing I don’t particularly care for with Klingons is all the group yelling. I’ve always found that annoying.
I wish they would’ve shown more of Michael’s background, as I could’ve used a lot less of the Klingons, and I also get the impression that the people who wrote this show don’t understand Klingons very well. I understood their reasons for attacking the federation but those reasons still were not well articulated for me.
I think they could have ditched the ten minute prologue of Michael and Gheorghiu on the desert planet. It was a cute scene, that introduces the two characters and the nature of their relationship, but ultimately it was unnecessary. That was made clear when the two of them first met, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of that first meeting. Or they could have done away with the first two episodes altogether and just jumped right into Michael’s new life, and new captain, for the rest of the season. The plot feels like a bait and switch and I didn’t like that, although I understand that Gheorghiu will be making plenty of cameos in the form of flashbacks, so the show began as it means to go on. Its flashbacks all the way in.
There wasn’t a lot I disliked about the show itself, and I think the show is really worth watching. Part of me hopes it succeeds but as I said i’m probably not going to be watching it because I don’t want to pay for it. Apparently a lot of other people feel the same way because I heard it’s one of the most pirated shows online. I’m not going to pirate the show, but maybe I’ll sign up later.
You’re probably going to see a lot of comparisons between this show, and another one called The Orville, led by Seth MCFarlane from Family Guy. If you’re lookng for something like Star Trek, but a little lighter, than the Orville is your show. In the last episode I saw, things got just a bit heavy, dealing with the issue of gender change, in an interesting way, and I think it was handled well, (but it would be up to transgender people to say whether or not it was actually handled well).
The first couple of episodes are an odd blend of seriousness and humor. Now, I don’t watch Family Guy, because I don’t find the show not particularly funny. McFarlane’s dudebro humor doesn’t mesh well with mine, but The Orville is a different side of McFarlane. He wants to be taken seriously as both a comedian and a showrunner and it shows. The show still doesn’t know whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama, but once it figures that out, it can be a really good show, and I actually enjoyed watching it. The humor is scattered all over the place, but its not raunchy or especially offensive, if that’s your worry.
The closest comparison would be Galaxy Quest, (although it’s less funny), as the show is very obviously a love letter to Star Trek, if a somewhat irreverant one. The show still needs some degree of tweaking, but it’s not a bad show. And I hate to say it, but it’s a lot more fun than Discovery. Discovery is a heavy show with very little humor, and although I enjoyed it, it’s a very different type of show than The Orville. The two don’t really compare, inasmuch as they are both offshoots of Star Trek.
So for those of you who can’t get your Trek fix, I think The Orville is a good enough substitute, and this is coming from an OG Trekkie, who also loves Galaxy Quest.