TV Review: Star Trek Discovery
by Tim Piland
Star Trek Discovery is a Slow Burn…And That’s a Good Thing!
CBS All-Access’s hit show Star Trek Discovery has been out for over almost a month now. While there have been rave reviews, there has been a small yet, vocal minority of die-hard fans that have voiced their concerns about the latest installment of the venerable Sci-Fi franchise.
They’re concerned that the show looks too modern, when compared to Star Trek: The Original Series. The uniforms and ships are not very similar to the vaunted USS Enterprise from 51 years ago. David Mack’s recent tie-in novel Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours, goes a long way to allay these concerns. For more information on this…and possible spoilers…see my review on Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours.
Here’s the thing: In this writer’s opinion, fans are waaaaay to obsessed with this. In reality, there is no way they could make this show look like 1966. It would not hold up. Fans may love it, but possible newcomers to the show would not be interested in this at all. It would be a massive waste of network funds to appease a deeply seeded need for fan’s nostalgia, when we could have new Trek focusing on meaningful, relevant storytelling.
On top of that, Star Trek has never been about the look of the ship, or tech…It’s about the people. It’s about making you stop and take a deep look inward. Star Trek has always done a good job of doing exactly what good science fiction is meant to do: Make you observe the human condition from an outside perspective. That’s what we need from Star Trek.
I understand that need to see canon observed, and from everything I’ve seen, the writers and producers say that all the inconsistencies will be explained away in time. We can’t withhold love of the show for this reason. Leonard Nimoy commented on the fans devotion to canon. In an interview with Reuters back in 2009, before the release of the reboot “Kelvin Timeline, Films. Even then fans took issue with changes to continuity and canon.
“Canon is only important to certain people because they have to cling to their knowledge of the minutiae,” Nimoy told Reuters. “Open your mind! Be a ‘Star Trek‘ fan and open your mind and say, ‘Where does Star Trek want to take me now???”
This is the sentiment we need when approaching Star Trek Discovery…
Another bone old school Trekkies have to pick with Discovery is the apparent redesign of the Klingons. I’ll admit, this one has bothered me more than it probably should, but lets look at it this way: Not all humans look alike. Some are drastically different from others. That’s just Earth, one planet. The Klingon Empire is HUGE, made up of many individuals raised up on many different worlds, not all Klingons look alike. (However, I think if you put hair on these new Klingons, they’d look a whole lot like the ones we are used to…)
Some fans are also frustrated with the tone and pace of the show. “It’s too dark,” or, “I’m not seeing the hope and exploration I’m used to,” are some pretty common complaints. The way stories are told on television has changed dramatically since Trek was last on. People watch TV differently too. Discovery isn’t a series of 44 minute neatly wrapped up morality tales. It’s a slow burn, and that’s a good thing. We are in a position to see the formation of that Roddenberry utopia. We will get to see the story that gets us there. “ The Great Bird of the Galaxy,” Gene Roddenberry even talked about this when explaining the Star Trek Phenomena:
“It is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are. It does not matter that we will not reach our ultimate goal. The effort itself yields its own reward.”
We will get to go on this journey of exploration and redemption with Michael Burnham and I feel like we get a decent glimpse into the current state of humanity along the way…
We need this Star Trek. It has always been an exemplary vehicle that has served as a mirror of our current lives. It made bold, controversial statements in its early years about the Vietnam War, Civil rights and women’s issues. It has inspired millions the world over to go into Science and engineering. We still need this influence for future generations.
Isaac Asimov, a great friend of Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry had this to say about Science Fiction:
“Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all…”
The Final Frontier is back in a big way with Star Trek Discovery! Here’s to many years of entertainment and inspiration! I’ll end with one final quote from Gene:
“The human race is a remarkable creature, one with great potential, and I hope that ‘Star Trek‘ has helped to show us what we can be if we believe in ourselves and our abilities.”