Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Star Trek Discovery: Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2

The anticipation level I had about this show was simmering very nicely. Sure, the trailer hadn't done much for me, but surely I couldn't be as unsure after watching the opening episodes than I was after watching the trailer? Well, seems that is possible. Now, I've watched every Star Trek TV Series, the films and even the rebooted films (aside from the third one). Admittedly I didn't enjoy the new rebooted films, and I wasn't the biggest fan of Voyager, but I welcomed a return to Trek in the timespan between 'Enterprise' and the 'TNG' onto TV. I also was well chuffed that it was 'canon' Trek, and not the new timeline from the rebooted films. I loved 'Enterprise' so more of that with some bells and whistles would suit me fine. So, what did we get then?

Having watched the opening two episodes, I'm feeling quite flat. I'm trying to 'cling on' to aspects of what I saw in the hope that I'll feel inspired to keep watching the series but there's so little there to really say I enjoyed. Let's do a little recap ...

Things start off with the new hairless crustacean version of Klingons. Tick. That was the best way to start. Introduce the menace early. Then we get two of the new cast on a desert planet trading compliments and conversation as if written from an educational textbook between each other. Yes, let's meet Captain Philippa Georgiou and Michael Burnham as they essentially walk miles to fix a water well with a phaser and then walk around in circles to create sand patterns of the starfleet insignia. As great as it is to see Starfleet helping other civilizations and boldly going, this is a little dull due to the dialogue by two characters who seem unable to show emotion even in the heat of a desert. Sure, Michael has been raised as a vulcan so it's a little hard to show anything remotely emotional I guess. Plus, she's been called Michael since birth. Some mistake with the birth certificate I gather and someone who can't spell Michelle right. Ok, I made that bit up. If it was true it would have been more exciting than this segment though. The groan in my head when sand patterns helps the ship find and rescue them was deafening. How exactly did that insignia help through a heck of a lot of clouds and an incoming storm?

We then have Michael doing what she ends up doing for the next two episodes; being impulsive, self-indulgent, pompous and about as likeable as phaser pistol to the head. If you've seen the actress in The Walking Dead, you'd think she was playing the same person for they are almost indistinguishable. She goes off in a funked spacesuit to investigate a nearby oddity, finds an ancient ship of amazing decorative sorts, gets into a two second battle with a klingon that also seems to be suited up and standing around on the hull of the ship, kills the klingon and narrowly gets back to the ship alive. She exits the medical bay dressed in bandages around the important bits, looking like a half dressed mummy, and starts blabbing onto the Captain about Klingons being everywhere. Captain eventually believes her as they have somehow managed to serve together for seven years without killing each other, and hey presto, big bad Klingon vessel comes out of invisibility cloak nearby. It then shines like a massive lightbulb, summoning all Klingons to come join them and unite the Klingon Empire together. We know this as we are treated to several long arduous scenes of the new styled klingons talking to each other as if they are speaking about one word every 10 seconds. Nice to see the language of klingon's being used but boy does it go on and on and on. It really doesn't help in any way to stimulate the audience. But anyhow, at least when the 24 factions of klingons all warp in to join the massive ceremonial klingon ship, we can get back to some normality and see proper klingons, right? Nope, don't be daft. All Klingons now lack hair, any real traditional forehead and instead look like they've been swimming with starfish for a few years. Even their ships barely resemble anything we've seen before. Apparently, humans haven't seen Klingons for a 100 years. Now where have I heard this story setup before? Oh yeah, Battlestar Galactica.

Michael demands in a rather teenage manner relentlessly at her Captain to fire first on the Klingons but she won't. No worries though, because in true adolescent style she ignores the chain of command that she's served for 7 years and nerve pinches her captain and attempts to assume control in the most unconvincing manner ever. Naturally, for apparently tension purposes only, the Captain recovers from the assault in record breaking time and comes out waving a phaser about. Sadly, before she can shoot Michael and spare us another hour of listening to her blabbing on, all hell breaks loose as federation ships turn up and it's like fireworks in space. I've not got a clue what's going on as it's damn hard to tell with lense flare and more background objects than at any landfill site. Basically the federation loses this battle, mostly thanks to the best scene of the battle which is a klingon ship cutting up the admiral's ship in half. Michael is sent to the brig ... during a battle ... because rules are rules folks. One of the bridge crew gets injured and is asked to walk to the medical bay. Hang on. If he can walk there, why can't he continue at his station? Anyhow, he gets lost, walks to the brig. Easy mistake huh? He's then blown up as miraculously, and damm annoyingly, the brig is all but destroyed, except for the bit where Michael is standing. Later she bores the ship's computer into helping her get to safety for fear it might try to kill itself if she keeps talking any longer. She's then back on the bridge with zero security people about and not one person really surprised or caring. Rules go out the window and she and the captain transport to the Klingon vessel after disabling it in the most un-federation like manner ever (bomb in a body), and go after the main baddy, which results in Michael shooting him just a few minutes after she said that they need him alive or he'll become a martyr. Oh well. Sadly still, the captain is killed just moments before so I guess we'll have Michael feeling guilty for that for the rest of the series. Then, just to help set us up for a cliffhanger of sorts, we have Michael in a court martial meeting, in the darkest of rooms ever. Quite how the judges can see each other, let along anything else, I don't know. Are they still into saving energy? Naturally she pleads guilty to all charges and is sentenced to life imprisonment, which naturally won't happen as we all know she's a star of the show. So, quite pointless to end with that one.

Final thoughts? Well, after thinking "We've got a whole season of this?" my next thought was something like ... 'meh'. It's not horrendous. It's not brilliant either. Critics apparently loved it but they most be smoking weed and stoned still from the rebooted films if you ask me. This is more Star Trek than the rebooted films, but only just. The modern sci-fi style of lens flare overload is everywhere, including the modern trend to have camera angles that look impressive but do nothing to help you engage with the story or understand what is going on. We only got introduced to three of the new crew in this opener and now one of them is most likely dead as a dodo. The Captain was a little Janeway like but, and even I thought this impossible, less interesting and likeable. She almost displays more humanity on a few occasions, giving us genuine emotional facial features but they were too far and few between, with most of the time all she did was give orders and reread Starfleet protocol manuals at us. Michael was so much like her Walking Dead character that I half expected her to put a knife to her captain's head instead of the vulcan nerve pinch. She's portraying a Vulcan-Human as if this is a B-movie; i.e. badly. It's as if she's so much naturally like a Vulcan in real life that she hams it up ridiculously in the show. The only other crew character we see anything of is Saru, an alien, but far more likeable than any of the humans in Starfleet in this show, thanks to his Scooby-Doo like ability to want to get away from danger and crisis. He's the only breath of fresh air on a ship that thus far is rather stale.

There's far more of the crew to meet and it's almost certain we will over the course of the season but why we couldn't' we have seen more of them in the opener, I don't know. They decided to ignore most of the crew and just go straight into a Klingon versus Starfleet storyline. Probably most of that crew we're never see as that ship is already fodder. I guess we're heading to a new ship and crew, which is very much welcome because this lot were only just about bearable because most of the time I couldn't see them due to lens flare. And what of the new Klingons? Why? This needs some explanation, that's for sure. I'm a little lost here. Why have the Klingons changed so much across the lifetime of Star Trek but humans stayed the same?

I love Star Trek but even I'm having a hard time with this show. However, there is plenty to go, and with a heck of a lot of crew not even covered yet, there's promise of there being people much more interesting than those we've seen so far. Star Trek needs interesting characters, just as much as all the alien stuff. So far there's only been two to try to identify with and one of them is about as interesting as a brick and likely to be shoved down out throats as the star of the show for the whole season. This could be a long road, getting from here to there ...

Rating 6/10 - There's some promise here but it's incredibly hidden behind a lot of annoying and unlikeable issues currently.

What I liked:

  • Like the ancient feel to new klingons and design. 
  • Starfleet ship looks cool on outside and the instruments are an electronic delight.
  • Lieutenant Saru; thank goodness for this character. Entertaining in every scene he was in.

What I didn't like:

  • Lens flare alert!
  • Some really unuseful camera angles.
  • Why is everyone in Starfleet suddenly so pompous and arrogant?
  • Did we really need another 'Vulcan/Human with issues' character?
  • Sarek? Did we really need him either?
  • Long distance mind-meld communication. No thanks.
  • Cringe inducing sand insignia moment.
  • Nice touch with old theme in new theme but at start and end? Didn't need it twice.
  • Flashback scenes didn't really work most of time.
  • Not the most interesting klingons and they are very very chatty in a manner that makes it tedious to watch.
  • Hologram communications? WTF? Even 'Enterprise', Voyager and TNG didn't use that form of communications!
  • Only introduced to 3 of crew in episodes 1 and 2.
  • Isn't Commander Michael essentially just playing the walking dead character? i.e. Dull, opinionated. Not sure how her and the captain served for 7 years together without hitting each other.
  • Captain is/was very goody goody but that's starfleet although she always looked like she was going to end up dead.
  • Since when do a Captain and 'Number One' go alone to launch an attack on an alien ship?

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