New Trek, Part One: Discovery

I wanna talk about new Trek. I’ve mentioned it before but I want to say more. I’m all caught up on Discovery, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds. I’ve also watched the first season of Picard. There are probably some light spoilers below but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, if that’s something you care about. This turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be so my plan now is to just start with Discovery and then work forward.

Discovery is a really interesting show. It was a departure from the typical Star Trek formula in a lot of ways. I would say that it had more in common with Enterprise or DS9 in tone than say, the original series or TNG. I generally hate time travel stories. But the idea of going forward with no plan to go back didn’t bother me as much. Seasons 3 and 4 are significantly different than Seasons 1 and 2.

And I like Discovery. I like most of the cast and especially love Saru and Tilly. Saru has become one of my favorite ST characters of all time across his character arc. And Discovery does have real, honest, character arcs. The characters are not static. They grow and change a lot. This is good.

My main criticism of Discovery is the character of Michael Burnham. Not the actress – she plays the shit out of the character – but Burnham herself. Burnham is not a good Starfleet officer. She is rebellious, selfish, and reckless but often gets praised for these qualities. And I really questioned myself… how would I feel about this if I compared her to other captains – like Kirk – who were often seen as rebels. Well, Kirk is practically a dyed-in-the-wool company man compared to Burnham. And if Burnham were just another part of the cast, like a Tom Paris, it might not be so bad. But she is really “the main character” for most of the series and everything revolves around her. And Star Trek shows are better when they don’t have a main character. Sure – some characters will always get more screen time than others but Discovery is Michael Burnham’s story most of the time and the other characters are just orbiting around her.

As I mentioned above, the story is also really two stories. Seasons 1 and 2 are very different than Seasons 3 and 4. There is a storytelling shift between the parts of the story that are set in the standard ST universe and the future ST universe. I don’t want to delve into spoilers too much here but I do love the particular future they explore in Discovery and how they characterize the Federation and Star Fleet in that other time. It is done very deftly and while it carries a lot of the same tonal changes that mark how Discovery is presented, it is also very respectful of the past of the Federation and reflects on it in interesting, new ways.

So, Discovery was a departure. It took a risk with the formula, the tone, and the style of Star Trek. It didn’t always succeed. It did give us a great cast, some fantastic new additions to the list of great ST characters, and it did show character growth in a way not many ST shows explore. I very much enjoyed it… when I didn’t have to juggle that liking in my brain with the parts that were super frustrating.

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