Star Trek: Discovery - One Fan's Lament
Okay, finished the two-part pilot.
Bottom line, it's very pretty and well acted. A lot of money was evidently spent and most of it is on screen. If you are a "new Trek" fan you'll probably really dig this show.
If you grew up with it, prepare for disappointment. I know a lot of my issues are probably fanboy issues. I know a lot of my issues are premature since we're only two episodes in. But really they just serve to be piled on top of the big disappointments:
Lazy writing. LOTS of exposition scenes and flashbacks. SHOW DONT TELL!
Poor direction. Chaotic battle scenes that left me wondering what was happening.
and, the dark tone. It just didn't feel like Star Trek.
I'll stick with it, but as of right now, it left me flat. For those that are curious and want more info, keep reading, but beware, spoilers abound...
It's very pretty.
It's well acted.
I like Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones.
I like the uniforms and costumes.
The thruster suit looks amazing. No way does it become the Motion Picture model, EVER. No way does it evolve into a classic Trek Eva suit, EVER.
I like the USS Shinzou, as I always wondered what putting the bridge on the bottom of the saucer would be like, and because I can buy that it is a post-Enterprise series, pre-Trek ship.
I like the opening titles.
Not a fan of the theme. It tries to straddle the gap between the original series and Kelvin scores and winds up without a discernable theme and becomes just a piece of music....
I appreciate the fact that the ships were never orientated head on. In the first encounter with the Klingons, the Shinzou is rotated almost 90 degrees from the other ship, which is authentic space stuff. Alas, it just doesn't look right...
I don't like the Doug Jones character, yet. I was hoping he'd grow on me over the course of the episode, but so far he's just kind of annoying.
This is not a true pilot, but a 2-hour movie event that acts as a PROLOGUE to the series. It should NOT have been split up to cater to the financial desires of CBS All Access.
Oh boy, where to begin? All the things that I feared were going to be problems were problems for me:
The uniforms, while cool, do look like they could be gussied up versions of the old Enterprise series jumpsuits. But they DO NOT look like they could then evolve into the gold and blue classic series uniforms.
The fact that Starfleet is wearing the Delta Arrowhead 15 years too early. Every ship had its own insignia, the arrowhead was for the Enterprise. She was the only constitution class vessel to survive her five-year mission, and in recognition, the arrowhead was adopted as the symbol for all of Starfleet.
The rest of the Starfleet ships do not match this era.
Is that a ROBOT officer on the bridge? Even if it's just data collection, it's WAY too advanced for this time frame.
The Klingons and Federation communicate through hologram imaging. DS9 had a whole episode devoted to trying out that new technology, some 100 years AFTER this is supposedly set.
The holograms INTERACT with the environment of the OTHER ship. WRONG! It doesn't work like that.
The Klingon makeup and costuming sucked. It completely limited the actor's abilities to ACT. Too many prosthetics around the mouth full of pointed teeth and it all became mumbled mush. Oh, but that's okay because those scenes were all in Klingon anyway, right? No, because they used a terrible seriffed font for the subtitles that was in all caps and hard to read. FAIL! The costumes limited their movements and made them much less imposing and scary than they were trying to portray. Oh, and they don't look like any other Klingons except for (you guessed it... The Kelvin timeline.)
The Klingon ships fared no better, as they took that bony exoskeleton thing to absurd degrees with what I can only assume was a proto-bird of prey.
Why redesign the wheel?
In fact, most of the design choices would be right at home if this was a Kelvin timeline series OR set 20 years beyond Prime, not ten years pre-Kirk and Spock.
The direction was either chaotic or flat. Too much shaky cam, severe dutch angles and... you guessed it, lens flare.
The space battles took a page from the Battlestar Galactica reboot, (which was copied from the Kelvin timeline movies) with the way ships drop in and out of warp, and the chaos involved with the battle--which made it impossible to follow what was happening.
The pacing was awkward as if they were rushing to get to the next action scene. Unlike "talkie" Treks, events just kinda kept moving forward to the showdown with the Klingons. But then once we got to the showdown, THEN the Captain left the bridge like every five minutes to have a talk with someone.
The writing was clunky, lazy, full of exposition and not very exciting. There were at least 3 flashbacks, including one flashback within a flashback.
Okay, so we haven't seen the Klingons for nearly 100 years, they've been reclusive. (IE we stole this from Next Gen's Romulans) Oh, but they did attack this outpost and kill Burnham's parents when she was a child, thus setting up her move to Vulcan, but they're reclusive. Oh, and apparently they continued to skirmish with the Vulcans off and on for the next 30 years or so, but they're reclusive.
Oh, and the Vulcans won all but the first of those engagements by firing first?!?! (The episode is even called The Vulcan Hello.) HELLO? Vulcans are pacifists you ham-fisted dipshits.
So far, there is NO reason for Michael Burnham to be Spock's adopted sister. ANY Vulcan family could have stood in for them with the same resulting character traits, and you wouldn't have had to recast Sarek. I had issues getting around that.
I like Sonequa Martin-Green, and think she brings a much-needed gravitas to the proceedings. I HATE her character. Michael Burnham, far from being an efficient, rising star ready for her own command that they tell us she is, is in fact, the WORST STARFLEET OFFICER EVER. In 30 short minutes, she kills a Klingon emissary, stages a mutiny against the captain (her friend), plunges the Federation into a full-blown war with the Klingons, gets her captain killed, and creates a martyr out of the big bad, something she warned against! There's having a bad day and then there's total fuck-uppery. Burnham is the later.
So, a rouge can be charming, endearing, and even dangerous for the audience to rally behind them. See Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds, or even Voyager's Tom Paris. A mistake made in the past can be wiped out with hard work and rededication of principle. See Severus Snape or Sam Spade. Occasionally, an out and out villain can be someone the audience roots for if they are charismatic enough. Check out Francis Underwood or Dexter Morgan. But because of her Vulcan upbringing, Burnham doesn't have any charisma. She has to stand on her abilities, which right now is kinda lacking. I get it, she's going to go on a mission of self Discovery (get it?!?) to atone for her mistakes. Ugh.
The dark tone, the TV-MA, it all feels like some other sci-fi show. Not Trek.
I've even moved beyond my frustration with how CBS is handling the show with All-Access. I'll concede it really isn't any different than HBO and Game of Thrones. Plenty of folks subscribe during new season times in order to watch it, then cancel later. I get it. And I don't begrudge CBS wanting to make a buck.
Hell, if it was good Trek, I'd pay for it! That's the most frustrating thing. I am such a Trek fan I give things passes that most fans wouldn't. I LIKE The Motion Picture, I think Nemesis is a GOOD movie! I think Beyond was a GREAT movie! I LOVE the Animated series! And yet... this is failing to move me.
There's still time, and I hope I can revisit this laundry list and say, hey, I was wrong. I honestly would like nothing better. BUT I may just have to fall down on my fanboy sword, take my 700 hours of Trek and go home, and quit yelling at the kids to get off my lawn with their newfangled Trek.