Admittedly, we’ve only seen the first two episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS, but what we have seen has been extremely tantalizing. After more than 12 months of worry and anxiety from Star Trek fans that maybe “Discovery” wouldn’t live up to the lofty standards of the “Star Trek” franchise, it looks like this new Star Trek has the potential to be the best one yet.
“Star Trek: Discovery” will offer us richer, more complex characters and plotlines
If you think about all the earlier iterations of “Star Trek,” they were essentially morality plays set in outer space. There were good guys – everyone from the Federation and everyone aboard the Enterprise. And then there were the bad guys – the Klingons and the various aliens populating the Star Trek universe.
It was easy to know who to root for, and who to root against. And you knew how every episode was going to end. It’s not that these shows were formulaic – but they did follow a very well known dramatic arc that followed the conventional format of TV shows. You had to set up a problem, introduce some conflict, and then resolve a problem, all within a very short period of time.
But look at how the first 2 episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” has completely turned that logic on its head. Start with the Klingons – they are still a martial, war-like species, but their motivations appear to be much more complex, making us question whether we might have gotten the Klingons all wrong.
In fact, the first episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” tries to show the Klingon perspective on why things are as they are. We see them being led almost by a religious fanatic, and how their enmity against the Federation is almost a holy war of sorts that is based on acts taken against them. We’re told that the Federation may be powerful, but that it is torn by conflict and even hypocrisy.
And then are the Vulcans – we usually think of them as being entirely rational and, ultimately, the “good guys.” But here again, things are not as they seem. We learn about the “Vulcan hello” – which is not exactly what you might expect. It turns out that, in the first encounter between the Vulcans and Klingons, the Vulcans’ first impulse was to fire on the Klingons and attack them. That’s hardly rational.
And then take the examples of the characters and heroes themselves. First Officer Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green) has been described as a “disturbingly flawed hero,” and for good reason. What other version of Star Trek has resulted in the First Officer being locked up in the starship brig and facing an imprisonment term for a breach of Federation policy? What other version of Star Trek has seen a character who seems to be wrestling so many internal demons as she decides upon the right course of action.
“Star Trek: Discovery” will be more cinematic than any of the previous TV versions
If you think about the Star Trek franchise, it has done a remarkable job of integrating both the film and TV versions. The times when the film has seemed to veer off-script is when fans have voiced their displeasure. Each new film that is released, then, has to follow a certain dramatic arc and conform to certain “rules of the road” in order to stay true and authentic to the original Star Trek vision.
What gives the new “Star Trek: Discovery” a lot more wiggle room is the fact that it’s set a full 10 years before the original Star Trek. Thus, it’s possible to imagine a new Star Trek universe, and to create plausible back stories for the original versions of Star Trek. The first, initial peaks at this world didn’t go over well with fans – the teaser-trailer showed a starship that many described as industrial-looking and not at all within the spirit of Star Trek.
But this “Star Trek: Discovery” seems to be winning over both fans and skeptics with its amazing cinematic sweep. This is a Star Trek that looks as good as it sounds. We almost feel like we’re watching a movie, and not just a TV series. The battle scenes with the Klingons are fantastic, and exactly what you would expect from a feature-length Hollywood film. And the initial battle with the Klingon guarding the ancient space beacon is almost gladiatorial in its filming. This is just really good TV – TV so good that it almost seems like cinema.
“Star Trek: Discovery’ will be more high-tech and futuristic than other Star Trek shows
It’s hard to think of a TV show that has done more to support the spirit of scientific curiosity and innovation than Star Trek. This is a franchise that has given us the fantastic medical device known as the tricorder, the teleportation room for beaming down to distant planets, the notion of “warp speed” to connote travel at unbelievable speeds faster than the speed of light, and the “phaser” as the weapon of choice in hand-to-hand combat. It also taught us what a spaceship was supposed to look like. That’s hard to top, right?
Well. it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” might just be able to fill those big shoes. Fans are already raving about the holographic telepresence system seen in the first two episodes. Even something as simple as the spacesuits worn by the crew of the Discovery seem to be futuristic and sci-fi. If the first Star Trek TV series showed us a a world that already was high-tech and futuristic, then it looks like it is the job of this Star Trek to fill in all the blanks and lead us on a wondrous innovation journey from Discovery to Enterprise.
Put it all together – the more complex and nuanced characters, the more intricate plotlines, the cinematic sweep of the show, and the emphasis on creating the best sci-fi TV series yet – and it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” has the potential to become the best Star Trek yet. If you had any doubts at all about this latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise, you can now rest easy – this show is going to be bold, daring and spectacular. Gene Roddenberry would be proud.