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[Article] – Star Trek: Discovery – The Sci-Fi We Need Right Now

 

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Posted October 8, 2017 by

 
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*Thoughts and opinions provided based on the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery

I was both apprehensive and excited by the prospect of a new Star Trek series, especially one created by Netflix. The Netflix originals have been more diverse and more provocative, both integral aspects of Star Trek.

We’ve only seen two episodes so far (Netflix is releasing an episode a week) and it is difficult to tell where the show is headed. It is clear that our primary antagonists are the Klingons, now featuring a different look, somehow more menacing, yet more attuned to our times.

Interestingly, we have another conflict, aside from the battle between Starfleet and the Klingons – the war raging inside Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Burnham wants to save everyone but her actions can best be described as self-destructive. Her path is clear to her, and her alone, and we soon see the fatal results of acting purely on instinct, leaving logic by the wayside.

As I said, it’s not quite clear where Discovery plans to go. The primary ship we have been following, the rather stunning Shenzhou, and its crew have already suffered massive losses within the span of two episodes. Additionally, the fates of the commanding officers are uncertain.

Unlike the Trek shows of old where an episode was self-contained with a neat conclusion, Discovery has chosen to have one storyline divided over the entire season. The second episode takes off immediately where episode one ended. This means we get a cliff-hanger at the end of each episode. It’s not a bad plan by Netflix, but the suspense is killing me!

What I immediately loved about Discovery is that it gives us a female captain played by a Chinese actor, Michelle Yeoh. We have had far too few women, especially women of colour, in command positions in Star Trek, and in science-fiction, in general. Commander Burnham, despite her masculine name, is also, excitingly, a woman of colour. Scattered through the crew are people of various genders and races, similar to the make-up of our own world. This looks like a Star Trek made in the 21st century that pays homage to creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an equal world.

I know we’re only two episodes in but Discovery has managed to get a very crucial aspect of Trek down pat – inter-crew dynamics. If there’s one thing that’s always been a staple in Star Trek, it’s the relationship between captain and first officer. We can see that Georgiou and Burnham are close without them having to tell us they’ve served together for seven years.

I must admit to being disappointed that Yeoh only has a guest-starring role. She belongs in the captain’s chair. Her onscreen presence is mesmerising and she runs the ship like she has been there for a decade. I don’t know what the reason for her limited role is, but I do hope that there is some way for us to see more of her.

Discovery is not a show to mess about. Star Trek has always dealt with political issues and Discovery is doing the same. Already we can see that race and culture will be key issues explored in the series, and it couldn’t be more on-point considering the heightened racial tensions around the globe. Not only has Discovery opened with two women of colour as commanding officers, the show is also addressing the issues of race and otherness within the Klingons.

The new design of the Klingons is going to take some getting used to. Having grown up watching Worf and B’Elanna Torres, these skin-head Klingons are quite a shock. Whether their design has been altered to allude to certain aggressive members of American society, is unclear. I’m also not sure if their change in appearance will be addressed on the show or whether it will have any bearing on the story, but for the moment, I’m content to see how these Klingons unfold.

Unlike most other Trek shows, Discovery has chosen to delve into darker subject matters much sooner. The death toll in the first two episodes is really high. We’ve already been faced with subterfuge, betrayal and loss. The pace of this show promises to be much faster than the others. Another very 21st century trait that can only benefit the Trek-verse.

There’s also an injection of humour that we have grown used to in Star Trek. I would say the first episode probably had a few too many quips to be comfortable but that was swiftly corrected by episode two. There is a lot of darkness in this series, but I hope that they are able to hold on to some semblance of humour.

I have to talk about the theme music, as well. I’m glad Discovery moved away from the song we had in Enterprise but the theme is too Netflix – it combines parts of The Original Series and The Next Generation but the body of the music is a standard Netflix string and percussion orchestra. I was hoping for something a little different. This is Star Trek, after all.

Discovery is going to be different, that much is obvious but it’s the kind of different we need right now. Star Trek has always endeavoured to show us the world as it should be and Discovery has its work cut out, what with our world in the state that it’s in and a future that seems bleak.

I’m quietly excited for this show and what it has to offer. However, with the state of things as they are on the USS Shenzhou, we might soon end up with another formulaic white male captain in charge. That will be disappointing after the subversive set-up we have had.

I can only hope that Discovery manages to boldly go where so many shows have not gone before – to a diverse, empowering realm where more viewers get to see characters like themselves that they can root for.

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Louis Skye
@LouisSkye77
bloggingatwarp10.blogspot.com
Freelance Contributor

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