The new Star Trek series, Discovery, has two shiny new episodes on Netflix and it really is interesting viewing purely for the fact it tries to do something different with the concept while at the same time ticking off as many boxes you’d expect from a Star Trek series as you can imagine in around 90 minutes.
Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, the first officer of the USS Shenzhou, a starship commanded by Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou.
Martin-Green plays Yeoh’s first officer and this shift in focus from the captain to a member of the crew pays off right away in that Star Trek: Discovery feels different. We’re not having a story told through the eyes of a captain, but rather a first officer, and one that is related to the original series Mr Spock. So from the start everything is familiar but slightly new, fresher and it feels better rather than just go through the motions which considering the jaw-dropping amount of executive producers on the programme it’s a wonder the show actually got made in the first place.
Thankfully the names of Nicholas Meyer (director of Star Trek’s best two films, The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country) and Brian Fuller (ex of Hannibal) show there isn’t just someone who gets what Star Trek should be, but someone who gets how to make a series work.
The plot revolves round the Klingons coming back after a century as T’Kuvma (a sort of Klingon ultra-nationalist like Nigel Farage but with a Mars bar stuck on his head) hopes to reunite all the houses of the Klingon Empire to take the fight to the Federation to stop them for corrupting the purity of the Klingon race. Very topical and done surprisingly well as we see the Federation at first avoid conflict before being dragged into battle but only reluctantly.
In the middle of this Martin-Green holds the thing together from just being another Generic Space Adventure, which at times this does creep into being. She manages to convey enough conflict between what’s best for her crew and how that contradicts Starfleet’s ethics well, and it’s that conflict that drives these first two episodes. Backed up by a strong performance from Yeoh and some nice supporting performances, these opening episodes establish the world we’re in and the central character. Having the Klingons as the central antagonist keeps that sense of familarity too, though I’m not keen on the redesign at all.
There are flaws. Apart from the main two characters everyone else barring Doug Jones’s lanky alien is a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out so when people start dying there’s little emotional attachment to them, and for a programme named after a starship, the Discovery doesn’t actually show up in these episodes then again the basic design is an abandoned one for a Star Trek film from 40 years ago. Neither does Jason Isaacs who makes anything better by just being in it.
Overall this is a nice start. Dark enough to keep a section of fans happy while still being positive enough to be called Star Trek. How it develops remains to be seen but all those folk hating on this because it had a female lead, or there’s a gay relationship (this is in future episodes I assume) are just the sort of people who don’t get that Star Trek is supposed to be an inclusive vision of the future. These people are essentially like the racist Klingon zealots in these episodes. Anyhow,this is good stuff and I look forward to seeing where it goes.