With the premiere of STAR TREK PICARD fast approaching, and the rumored links between Picard and STD, I thought that I would brave the storm of suck and revisit STAR TREK DISCOVERY (that’s probably the first time I referred to this catastrophe by its full and proper title). STD was marketed in the midst of the woke entertainment craze and the spirit of social justice, centered around a woman of color in a junior officer role instead of the typical white-privileged captain at its center. Of course, this would be the first STAR TREK series not centered around a white male.
To summarize the stars of the previous STAR TREK shows were:
Okay, that ends making fun of the social justice warriors who have complained about STAR TREK but don’t even watch anything in geek culture. They don’t even watch STD so yeah they deserved to get poked at.
My ultimate question is: does STD deserve such ire?
Season 1 of STD opens with the Battle of the Binary Stars, both in-universe name and as the episode name. Michael Burnham is first officer of the USS Shenzhou, a Walker-class starship reminiscent of an Akira or Miranda class starship. It’s said to be a much older vessel. Right away, we are taken aback by the staggering advancement of its technology, above and beyond what we see in the original series.
Production teams criticized the 1960s TOS as saying that they wouldn’t produce a modern day television show with “cardboard cutout sets.” Fans scoffed at the very notion, citing the STAR TREK ENTERPRISE two-parter “In A Mirror, Darkly” and the entirety of STAR TREK NEW VOYAGES/PHASE II and STAR TREK CONTINUES, which kept the original aesthetic of the 1960s but updating the effects to be modern, such as updating those blinking, flashing lights to have actual screens and displays. Alec Peters, who is producing a prequel fan series entitled AXANAR, even created his set to fit in with the era he thought his series would be taking place in, which resembled the original series’ looks, with modern technology. Explored in the pics, below.
Okay, so continuing to disprove the critics in their claims is not the purpose of this review. Sorry for the distraction.
Long-story short, Commander Michael Burnham and crew encounter an old Klingon artifact which turns out to be a war beacon that is ignited by T’Kuvma, a fanatic who seeks to keep white purity while closing their borders against the evil open border policies of the rest of the world…
Sorry, let me rephrase…
He’s a fanatic who seeks to protect the Klingon Empire against the expansion and homogenization of the Federation.
Anyway, there’s an argument about how to proceed against the Klingons. Michael Burnham argues with her captain that they should fire first, which is not the Starfleet way. When the captain disagrees, Michael betrays her captain, stages a mutiny, is caught and arrested just as the dreaded Klingon war begins.
The captain and Burnham end up beaming aboard the Klingon flagship, killing T’Kuvma, but not before the captain is killed in the process. Burnham is beamed away while everyone abandons the Shenzhou.
Flash-forward six months and Michael is on her way to being transferred between prisons when her shuttle is infested by space bugs (you can’t make this stuff up… well, someone did). The pilot of the shuttle is killed but shortly thereafter, the Discovery rescues the shuttle.
The captain of the ship is Gabriel Lorca, who we will find out is an impostor. Lorca leads the ship on adventures which include a time loop involving time crystals and a space whale, arguments and insubordination with Starfleet command officials, and a romp through the Mirror Universe, where he’s from. He’s killed, of course, by Mirror Emperor Georgeou, who is affectionately known as “Space Hitler,” in the end of a story arc that is yet another jab at President Trump and enemies of the left wing. Just as Space Hitler is about to meet her end, Michael kidnaps her, mid-transport, and the Discovery makes it back to the regular universe.
Unfortunately, it’s here that they discover (pun intended) that all hell had broken loose and the Klingons are about to be handed certain victory. Burnham, along with the survivors of Starfleet, involve the newly acquired Space Hitler along with Lt. Ash Tyler, who revealed himself to be T’Kuvma’s lieutenant and torchbearer, Voq, come up with a plan to end the war quickly. The idea was to map the surface of the Klingon homeworld from underground using drones.
Starfleet quickly approved the plan and Lt. Stamets spore jumps Discovery to the caverns of Quo’noS where a team of our heroes goes into the Orion Diplomatic Zone to find a temple to Molor, the enemy of Khaless. It’s in a rather comedic sequence where Tilly realizes that the mapping drone is a hydro bomb, the same which Spock uses in JJ Abrams’ STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, to vaporize all of the hot liquid magma in the planet’s mantel, destroying it from the inside-out.
Burnham discovers this, raises hell, the crew rallies behind her and she comes up with a diplomatic plan to end the war with L’Rell, lover to Voq, receiving the detonator and becoming Chancellor of the High Council, uniting all of the houses of the Empire, at gunpoint.
In the end, Burnham gets reinstated and assigned as second officer of Discovery. The ship is on its way to Vulcan to pick up a new captain when they get a distress call from the Enterprise under Captain Pike. Cut to a view of a beautifully rendered and re-imagined Enterprise, and cut to black.
That’s Season 1 in a nutshell.
I need to divide this up to keep it comprehensible. I can’t just throw all of my thoughts into one section. Here we go.
I need to throw some mentions out there, first of all: the actors. While they went on social media to run their mouths and ruin their own images (I’ll get to that in the next section), and while I’m saving my opinions of the scripts and stories for the same, I will say that the actors here did an exceptional job with the materials they were given.
Jason Isaacs as “Captain Gabriel Lorca” – Best known as Draco Malfoy’s father in the Harry Potter film frachise, Isaacs perfects his American accent and acting chops in STD. His portrayal of Lorca kept even the haters guessing as to who Lorca truly was. Was he good, just broken? Was he tortured and sent back from the Mirror Universe? Was he a Mirror Universe figure altogether? What brought us back for fore this season was Isaacs’ performance. Even though we pretty much knew the answer to the questions we asked, it was intriguing to see him play this out; so much so that we’ve been asking for a “Prime Lorca” appearance and a return for Isaacs, on both sides of the argument.
Mary Wiseman as “Cadet Sylvia Tilly” – She was cute and funny. Making her the comic relief was a great idea. Tilly had some great moments on screen, including the dropping of STAR TREK’s first F-bomb. Sure it was out of place and didn’t belong, but Wiseman’s delivery was great. She truly made us want more Tilly, even though the character herself was borderline annoying. To me, she was a good character and I read about half-way through her dedicated character novel, which I had to close because it started to suck real bad. That’s a story for another time.
Anthony Rapp as “Lieutenant Paul Stamets” – Named for the real scientist in the same field of study, Rapp plays one half of STAR TREK’s first openly-gay couple in Lt. Stamets. His delivery and performance is next to gold in STD. I really enjoyed almost every scene Rapp was in.
Shizad Latiff as “Lieutenant Commander Ash Tyler” and “Voq, Son of None” – We saw this coming a billion light years away. When the PR team tried to pull a “Khan’s not in the movie” with the Tyler/Voq connection, they should’ve known that they weren’t fooling anyone. Tyler is a mystery, even though we knew the answers. I completely enjoyed his scenes and how he brought awareness to wartime PTSD victims in the process. I felt his emotions when he was going through his reveal in the mirror universe, nearly killing Michael Burnham in the process. His recovery was heartfelt, and I looked forward to what he had in store for us for season two….
Keyword: “looked,” past tense. That’s for my second review.
Wilson Cruz as “Doctor Hugh Culber” – His performance as the second half of STAR TREK’s first openly gay couple on television was well done. It wasn’t as brilliant as Rapp’s performance, but it was good in its own way. He plays a mother hen character, the cuck in the relationship, who meets his end at the hands of VoqTyler. While we didn’t get to see much of his character except for “Into the Forrest I Go,” in the scenes when his soul is trapped in the cosmic fungus network, he does a good job.
Sonequa Martin-Green as “Specialist Michael Burnham” – While I hate this character in season 2, her first iteration wasn’t too annoying. Written as an absolute Mary Sue, MG played the character well with the crap she was given. She conveyed emotion properly, carrying the show on her shoulders like her predecessors before her.
Doug Jones as “Commander Saru” – I have to save the best for last here – Doug Jones, who won an Oscar for his performance in “The Shape of Water,” is probably one of the best character actors in Hollywood, today, along with Andy Serkis. Saru is a true STAR TREK character and steals every scene he’s in, no matter how cringy the dialog is. He brings presence of character, heart and soul to a show that is generally lifeless, especially moving forward into season 2. He is what drives season 1, and along with Isaacs, gives it enough substance… just enough to make it watchable.
That’s it. That’s all the “good” there is.
Oh, where do I begin? Well, obviously I begin somewhere if you’re reading this…
- The Story – There are three overlapping plots in Season 1. Plot 1: The Klingon War. Plot 2: Michael’s evolution. Plot 3: The Mirror Universe. All of these overlap and all of these confuse the hell out of the viewer. We quickly lose track of what’s happening to the point where we just don’t care anymore.
- The Writing – Absolutely atrocious! STD has some of the worst writing staff on planet Earth. Bo Yeon Kim’s scripts poison the well of STAR TREK and they show through the episodes she writes. Having written the majority of Season 2’s episodes, of all of the writers who should be fired, Kim needs to go, in my own personal opinion.
- The Politics – Fans always argue, “Well, STAR TREK has always been political.” This is true in its own right, but not to the extent in STD. STD is a feminist, woke show, something that the whole of STAR TREK is not. It does not center around downplaying the role of men, nor does it condemn half of its fan base.
Okay, enough with the generalizations. Here are my actual gripes with Season 1 of STD.
In all seriousness, the story of this season was very convoluted. It was originally developed by Alec Peters who created the story of a lone starship becoming the hero of the Klingon/Federation war. When the writers and producers of STD wanted that for their show, they sued AXANAR productions and won.
When they fired Bryan Fuller, the original creator and producer of STD, they sought to rape the ideas by plagiarizing a little known video game called TARDIGRADE programmed and created by Anas Abdine, who consequently sued and lost.
For the mirror universe sequence of episodes, they attempted to pillage GAME OF THRONES, the point and themes of which were lost immediately in translation. There wasn’t a single original idea in the whole mix.
For a show that attempted to paint the Klingons and the Terran Empire as the United States and supporters of Donald Trump, the writers did the exact opposite by painting the Federation as a fascist state that says, “embrace our diversity or die.” The whole “fire first” mutiny sequence is direct proof of this. “We have to attack first so that they will respect us.” That is not the ideals of the Federation nor the United States, at least in principle. These are the ideas of left wing organizations that cry out, “Celebrate diversity… or else.”
STAR TREK was never about that. In fact, STAR TREK always preached against such an attitude, hence the depiction of us vs. the Borg. Planets and empires, free to join, embracing freedom enough to maintain their own planetary governments and military forces without having to rely on Starfleet or the Federation council. So much so that the Klingon Empire would eventually form a solid alliance with the Federation in earlier incarnations (future down the timeline) of the series.
The writers felt free to take political liberties and they fell offensively flat.
However, in contrast to the next season, STD season one is entirely watchable. It just sucks really, really bad.