Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Star Trek: Discovery (Season 1)

OK, I have stated in the past that I was going to hold off on doing episode reviews of DIS episodes until more of it had rolled out. I also didn't want to get caught up in the whole week-by-week breakdown of the show, as I only do this blog in my spare time and I just can't keep that kind of commitment. However, now that Season 1 is in the bag, I can give you a look back at the season as a whole, in a little piece I am going to call "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". Each section is not limited in the amount of points that I can make, and some points might fit in more than one category. So, without any further ado, here we go.

The Good
  • Special Effects! - Gotta admit that the effects of the show are great. I know this gives some fans a lot to complain about, but it adds to some great aesthetics. Things look sleeker and more modern, which is what is necessary for the franchise to continue to boldly going forward. While I appreciate how some fan shows are paying attention to details that keep the same look as the original series (hats off to you, Star Trek: Continues), I just don't think that the show would be successful if everything looked like it did in the 60s. 

  • Interesting characters - While not every character has endeared themselves to me, I do like many of the ones that they brought into the universe. Personally, Saru is my favourite. I have seen a lot of great growth as he went from timid science officer to capable first officer to decisive Acting Captain. I also enjoyed the characters of Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber (more on them in a moment). Lorca is most assuredly a different type of captain, Tilly is the heart and soul of the show, and Ash Tyler gives us one of the most complex characters ever. Of course, there is Michael Burnham (played by star Sonequa Martin-Green). A first for a Trek series, focusing on not the captain but on a crew member. Burnham is likely one of the most complex characters that we have ever seen. Definitely divides the fan base, but I see a lot of promise being delivered. It also looks as if we will see Georgiou again, and that should be interesting. We also have some well developed recurring characters is Sarek, Mudd, and Cornwell that look like they could add some spice to the future of the show. While not every character is a home run, it definitely makes things interesting.

  • One of the Best Relationships is Trek - Paul Stamets, the first main character that is openly gay on Star Trek, is involved in one of the most real and lovely relationships we have seen in Star Trek. His love, Doctor Hugh Culber, is a perfect yin to Stamet's yang. I have noticed that some shows include a same-sex couple and make such a big deal about it that it comes across as forced and phony. This is not the case here. Their relationship, as tragic as it becomes, is so simple and yet sincere. The fact that there is no big deal made out of the fact that they are gay just adds to the power of this duo. Sadly, with death of Culber, this relationship is looking like it's done, but it gave us some great touching moments while it lasted. Here's hoping that Paul will find love again.

  • Hat Tips to the Past - Some have argued that Discovery spits in the face of the past. I disagree. They have paid great homages to the past. Noticed the list of "Great Captains" that Saru asked for in "Choose Your Pain"? Johnathan Archer is a throwback to Enterprise, Robert April to the Animated series, and Christopher Pike and Matt Decker to the Original series. Did you notice the Gorn skeleton and in Lorca's ready room? All cool little nods to what has come before. Plus, there are the familiar characters with new faces (Sarek and Mudd) that give us more to love. And, of course, the last scene of seeing the USS Discovery nose-to-nose with the USS Enterprise was a great way to end the season.

The Bad

  • New Klingons - There is an old saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". I get that we can have updates to the look of Klingons, but do we have to go so far away from what has been established? Yes, the look of the Federation's favourite foes-turned-allies changed a lot from the Original series to the movies and TNG, but at the time it was understood that it was due to progress and increased budgets over 20 years. Enterprise even gave us a plausible explanation for the difference in the look. And yet, once again, the look of the Klingons underwent a major change that, in my own humble opinion, was unnecessary. I could have bought that T'Kumva's group were on a generational ship that was far away when the Augment virus hit, but they then took the look to all Klingons in the established universe, and I just really do not like the look. The look of the Klingons has become as iconic as the Vulcans, so I really don't get why they have to go such a drastic route as they did. 

  • Failed Hat Tip - Even though I mentioned that the hat tips were a good part of the season, there was one that just seemed a bit pointless. Lorca had a pet tribble. Cool, a tribble! But, why? Tribbles have become a bit of an inside joke among fans, and given what we learned about Lorca it made little sense that he would have one. If it had served a plot device, such as exposing Tyler as a Klingon, that would have been better. Plus, if he had a bowl of fortune cookies on his desk all the time, what would have stopped the little furball from snacking on them and becoming a ready room full of tribbles? I like nods to the past, but I prefer it if they actually mean something and are not on the superfluous side. 

  • It's Been a Long Road - One of the biggest complaints about Discovery was that for many fans it just didn't feel like Star Trek. Starfleet officers were not acting like we had come to expect. Yes, it was war time, and that led to more grit. Yes, we saw some very un-Starfleet actions by officers in the past (Sisko and Janeway have both made some questionable choices in the past). Yet it seemed that it took a while before I myself could say "Now this feels like the Star Trek I knew and loved". I felt a little bit of it in the pilot episode, and then when Burnham mutinied and tried to take control, it went out the window. It wasn't until "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" did I start to feel it again, and then it took me until the last two episodes where I could see the Trek moments of humanity bettering themselves really take shape. There may have been other examples of this in other episodes, but they were overshadowed by the desperation and darkness that dominated this season.

  • Who Are You Guys? - This is not so much as "bad", but it is something I really hope gets explored and developed moving forward. I get that in this new current format of story-telling on TV that the ability to develop characters becomes limited. In Discovery, the focus was on Burnham, Lorca, Saru, Stamets, Tyler, and Tilly. Other recurring characters, such as Sarek, Mudd, Cornwell, Huber, and Gerogiou, were given their moments. Then, there was the rest of the bridge crew. They showed a lot of diversity, (as well as a lot of looking at each other on the bridge) and yet we had very little knowledge of them. Airiam, Demeter, Owosekum, and Rhys all appeared in most of the episodes, and yet very little information about them was provided. I get that they had to tell a story and that these characters were largely in the background, but I wish that we could have learned a bit more about them. Hopefully, some if not all of these characters will be given some more attention in future seasons.

The Ugly

  • Unleash the Trolls - Without a doubt, the ugliest thing that DIS has brought out are the small yet vocal cadre of fans that have taken it upon themselves to sully the name "Trekkie". There are two groups in this. First, there are those that have decided that DIS is utter garbage, but instead of turning the channel or popping in a DVD and watching something they enjoy, they take it upon themselves to ensure that everybody knows about it, and that they insist that people who do enjoy it are not "true fans". Second, there are those that love the show, but as soon as someone expresses an opinion or thought that is a criticism of the show, they turn into ravenous foul-mouthed lunatics who will spam said offenders with venom and vitriol. I get  that Star Trek is a passion for many people, but come on guys, do we have to be so negative that we create a toxic environment for everyone? I have seen a lot of fan groups on social media that have been overtaken by this type of trollish behavior, and it really doesn't put Trekkies in a positive light. 

So now that Season 1 is in the bag, how do I feel about the series and season as a whole? Overall, I liked it. I think the good far outweighed the bad, and I think the first season has been strong. I will freely admit that I miss a more optimistic Star Trek, and the dark mood that DIS sets is not my favourite. I also accept that there are some fans who cannot get over the disappointment of their expectations not being met, and to them I would offer that they have a right to those feelings and a right to offer them up in a manner that is respectful without having disrespect thrown at them. I also accept that there are fans who love the show, that this is the best Trek for them yet. There are a lot of us that fall in between. I hope that in the future, the good gets better, the bad improves, and the ugly (which is what we fans have the most control over) goes away. The only complaint that I have at this point is that we have a long wait until Season 2. Until then, live long and prosper my friends.


  1. Thanks for the article. I bailed on Discovery because it was simply too hateful. So much hateful going on in real life...I depend upon ST to provide a guide for a better way. If their value system is leveling out, perhaps I'll give S2 a go.

    1. Without giving away too much, there are some good explanations provided as the season progresses. I hear you on the negativity, and it is a reflection of our current time, but I really hope that Season 2 is more positive and less dark and broody.