A Beutiful Mess

Star Trek: Discovery is a beautiful mess.

Long story short, it’s the worst pilot of any Star Trek series since maybe “Encounter at Farpoint,” where at least they introduced the crew properly. Here we get two hours of the inexplicably named, female first officer, Michael Burnam, making a series of wrong choices that will inevitably land her on a ship we never even see save for the creatively interesting opening credits.

First, I was not unhappy about the 15 minute delay. I guessed as much the NFL on CBS was going to screw up the start time. However, only showing one hour of an obvious two hour pilot was a marketing decision that just made viewers mad, not hyped up to take the obvious bait and sign-up for CBS All Access. I’ll be curious to learn if CBS’s gambit paid off. Of course, I ended up watching the entire two-hour pilot.

What was most frustrating to me was this wasn’t even a real pilot. It was like a two-hour prologue to the actual show. As it stands, the show really starts with episode three and that’s just dumb. I kept waiting for the USS Discovery to show up and save the day, but no. Most of the content of the entire two hour “pilot” would have been better served treated like “The Menagerie” from Star Trek: The Original Series. Imagine a flashback two-parter explaining why everyone hates our lead actress’s character. That would have been interesting. Instead, we get Burnam the Shinzou years.

The show has high production values. Nothing looked cheap. Every set design, special effect, and make-up effect was on par with Game of Thrones, the most expensive television show ever. Unfortunately, there is no continuity aesthetically with the original series. As I was watching, I was firmly convinced this show is set in the J. J. Abrams Star Trek universe (Pine and Quinto), not the “prime” universe (Shatner and Nimoy). Even though they sold it to Star Trek fans as a “prime” universe show, very little resembles “prime” universe Trek. For example, several times during the first two episodes we have these interactive holograms. If this was set in the Abrams universe I’d be fine with it, but it’s supposed to be 10 years before the Kirk and Spock of the “prime” universe. It’s cool looking, but how come Kirk and Spock don’t have nifty hologram projectors on the USS Enterprise?

I know fans are unhappy with the look of the Klingons. For me, it didn’t bother me too much. Although, I did chafe a bit on the “honorable warriors” sneak attack on the Federation flagship. On the other hand, all the ship designs were generically terrible. The Klingon ships didn’t look like Klingon ships and the Federation ships looked like much more advanced ships for the era. Again, if it was set in the Abrams era timeline I don’t think I’d have as much of a problem. Still, the Klingon ships were just visually unappealing and lacked any menace.

Overall with Star Trek, CBS wanted to have its cake and eat it too. They believed they could retrofit Star Trek Discovery with established Star Trek lore and still keep the fans of the Abrams movies. That has been the conceptual problem with this show from the very beginning. Hard core fans already saw through that line of bullshit as soon as the designs were unveiled. However, the writers on this show are not stupid. They’ve said they understand the continuity errors and for fans to have patience because ultimately it will all make sense. To me, that means they’re going to retcon the shit out of established Star Trek lore to recreate Star Trek for the 21st century and damn the torpedoes regarding hard core fans or the whole thing will end up being a separate timeline.

There was a rumor a while back the show was going to traverse multiple timelines/universes, but I’d guess that idea was trashed. Still, I don’t see how continuity-wise this show can be considered set in the “prime” universe. It will either be set in the Abrams universe or a completely new timeline with my money on something new. Personally, I think I’d get more enjoyment out of the show if I just thought of it as all-new, all-different Star Trek and not even try and slide it in between Enterprise and the Original Series.

The first season of Star Trek Discovery is divided into two chapters. The first eight episodes run through November 5. Then in January, the next seven episodes come out. Seeing as this show appears to be the journey of discovery for Michael Burnam, I bet they’ll be a cliffhanger on November 5 where Captain Lorca meets his untimely demise and our disgraced heroine has to take over the big chair leading to new adventures with Captain Burnam.

Frankly, I’m still annoyed the two-part pilot was really a prequel and nothing in the show so far makes sense in continuity. While I certainly wouldn’t want to hold down a writer’s imagination, Star Trek has well-established cannon this show pretty much throws away. Doing that can work, especially if there’s a logical reason for disregarding it, but if ultimately the writers and producers want to try and push a square peg of a show into a round Star Trek continuity hole I think they’ll miss the mark.

Does Star Trek Discovery deserve a chance? Considering, we still haven’t seen the real first episode of the show I’d say yes. It probably merits watching the next six episodes to see where the show is going because we have no idea after watching episodes 1 and 2.

Before seeing the first two episodes, I thought the show was a huge swing and a miss. After watching the episodes, I hope the show succeeds.

Posted in: