Intro To All Things Trek:
So I finally had a chance to sit and watch Star Trek Discovery, a day after its Sunday night preview. For those of you not so familiar with Trek because you happen to have been living under a rock for the past half century, it’s a science fiction show that focuses heavily on an optimistic future where humanity has learned to set aside their differences in order to further the species through knowledge, exploration and diplomacy. These ideas were key in the original development of Gene Roddenberry’s space based thriller.
The original Star Trek aired on September 8th, 1966 and ran for about three seasons before being pulled, but went on to spawn four additional TV shows and an animated series as well as a plethora of films, literature and fan films to boot. The premise of these stories, for the most part, has been the ideal of expanding humanity’s knowledge through space exploration and the diplomatic contact with new life and civilizations. This of course rarely went without the proverbial hiccups.
This brings us to Star Trek Discovery, the sixth television show in the series which spans 50 plus years. Like many of the previous shows we see that Discovery tells a story where the well intent Federation gets a little too curious and ends up poking the beast. This leads to a series of events that made for a pretty darn good pilot.
Synopsis: As Given by Startrek.com
Star Trek: Discovery follows the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new life forms and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself.
Enter The Klingons?:
I pose this as a question due to reasons I will elaborate on shortly. The Klingons have always been a mainstay villain of the the Trek universe with maybe more of an exception with Next Generation where they acted as more of a tentative ally. In any case, fans have grown to love and embrace the Klingons as a wonderful and semi-complex addition to any sci fi genre. In the case of Discovery, we find that the Klingons have returned as the main antagonist (at least for the start of the show) and have received a revamp in appearance that I found to be somewhat extreme but palatable. I think the more important point is that they are close to the essence of the Original Series Klingons in that they are a passionate, warlike race hell bent on proving to everyone in the galaxy that they are the defacto alpha race who should be sitting on the grand throne of the universe. That’s pretty much the attitude we get in the pilot but with a little societal complexity thrown in. Anyone who’s followed the previous shows, especially Next Generation and DS9 will know that the Klingons were not only warlike with others in their neck of the galaxy, but had constantly fought amongst each other as warring houses would fight for control of their home world of Qo’noS, something that would pop up every few decades or so. Well, that is part of the premise of the pilot show for Discovery. For the most part I thought it was handled well for the amount of time given, but I think it should not stop with the first episode and should be dealt with further to add a measure of richness and complexity to the story. We’ll see where the writers take it. Overall I can live with the aesthetic and set changes as long as we get the rich development of character that the klingons deserve. Some things to note: 1) We get subtitles and well delivered Klingon language, 2) beautiful makeup and costumes, 3) bizarre sets, 4) racial conflict amongst the Klingons, 5) issues of nationalism. Overall satisfying so far.
The Federation – Homo sapiens only club:
Naw, that subtitle ain’t true. The Federation has always been a mixture of all races who were willing to join. That “Homo sapiens only club” comes right from Star Trek 6 Undiscovered Country when the Klingon Azetbur states smugly at a state dinner with Klingon and Federation members, that that was exactly what the Federation was and they were arrogant to believe everyone should join them. This is one of the more interesting premises of the Star Trek universe, something that was hidden and not touched upon until we get to DS9. The best scene depicting this is when the Klingons are attacking Deep Space Nine and Quark and Garrick point out that the Federation, with all their offerings of peace, are quite the insidious institution but were the only ones that could save them all. The idea behind this is that the Federation believed that what they were selling should be accepted by all even when a race felt differently. Would that constitute self righteousness? I guess that’s another discussion and I digress. This idea of “we’re just explorers” and “we come in peace” extends to Star Trek Discovery. The essential point in the pilot expressly pointing out that the Klingons were somewhere they shouldn’t be in typical bully style and the Federation poking around with their usual ‘we can poke our noses around wherever we please’ mentality. The combination certainly makes for a provocative scenario and terms for a legitimate TV show conflict.
Elephant in the Room:
Ok, so there’s something I feel I should point out that I haven’t seen much banter about on the Web. There are two female leads in this opening pilot. There, I said it. I think that constitutes making Star Trek history or something of the sort. The Trek women have always been very capable women including Counselor Troi, Doctor Crusher and Lt. Uhura whom I’ve always considered to ultimately be the cream puffs of the lot (Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand not included because they just didn’t get fair enough screen time). Again, we just didn’t get the undeniably strong female character breakout until DS9 where every single woman on the show was kick-ass. Even Ezri Dax, the gentler successor of the queen of all Trek women Jadzia Dax, proved herself in battle on more than one occasion. All the female characters have been consistent in strong characterization sense, something I’m grateful for. Discovery is no different on that account. Aside from the fact that there’s a Chinese and black woman at the helm, you get the juicy complexity of this first officer who is very human being raised on Vulcan by none other than Spock’s father, the venerable ambassador Sarek. This is definitely a neat treat as we watch the conflict of her Vulcan upbringing and human emotion collide in a way that Spock would consider nightmarish. If nothing else, Trek has always fostered an atmosphere of firsts and diversity and it doesn’t disappoint here. I look forward to the development this ideology in future episodes.
As mentioned, Trek has always been a show of firsts but has also offered nods to previous shows. Some cool things to note are the Vulcan neck pinch, female captain and first officer, nods to Star Trek 2009 aesthetics, consistency with canon timeline (so far), a ship covered in coffins, a robot, lots of flashbacks to Vulcan and great set pieces. Definitely worth a watch for all Trek fans and those looking for an intro. Any comments, leave below and thanks.