A quick note before we get into the review:
Discovery has premiered and Star Trek is finally back on TV! Oddly enough, it seems to be a difficult time to discuss Discovery among some Star Trek fans.
There are some that are so disappointed in the way CBS chose to sustain the show, through the new All Access platform, or disappointed that the show is so far from the Trek they recognize, that they are not willing to give Discovery a shot. It almost seems like they want the show to fail, to send a message to CBS to abandon All Access, or abandon the direction of the show. Having watched so much Star Trek in their lives, they can’t believe people would make a show so untrue to the meaning behind Star Trek.
And there are others that are so excited that Star Trek has returned to TV that they’re really not in the mood to hear any kind of criticism. They desperately want the show to succeed, and are frustrated at those who actively want the show to fail, and see any negative comments towards the show as working towards that goal. Having watched so much Star Trek in their lives, they can’t believe Star Trek fans would act so untrue to the meaning behind Star Trek.
To be candid, we are much closer to the second group, but on this site we’re going to be discussing everything in the show, both what we liked and what we didn’t. We hope that people are open to the discussion. Ultimately we really hope that people will see Star Trek fans and want to be a part of that group. We should try to remember what Surak said to Kirk and Abraham Lincoln (lol), “I am pleased to see that we are different. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.”
OK, now on with the review.
Everything that follows will have SPOILERS
We start off by very briefly meeting our main villain, T’Kuvma, and already there’s a lot to break down. He describes the Federation taking over, and to resist this is to “remain Klingon.” He pays special attention, and references it later in the episode, to anger over the greeting of “we come in peace.” Initially I thought that “coming in peace” is merely a disgusting trait to the Klingons because it is seen as a sign of weakness to them. But he seems especially angry because he sees it as a lie, and perhaps their way of taking over a civilization. It’s an interesting position for the Klingons, that they see the Federation as slowly assimilating other cultures. It isn’t clear that this is exactly their grievance, because the series hasn’t fleshed out all of the reasoning behind the Klingons (yet). Another point of confusion for me (not that it’s a problem, merely something yet to be explained), is what interaction the Klingons and the Federation have had. It’s said that “almost no one has seen a Klingon in 100 years.” Did they mean they haven’t seen each other face to face? The Klingons apparently killed Burnham’s parents, so there’s been some kind of interaction. Are the Klingons basing this grievance on their observations of the Federation interacting with other cultures? At any rate, T’Kuvma says that his mission is to fight the Federation by lighting a beacon, and uniting the 24 Klingon houses.
Next we meet our two main characters, Captain Philippa Georgiou, and first officer Michael Burnham. They’re in the middle of a more “routine” type of mission (similar to the formula used in the opening of Into Darkness and Beyond). They need to help weird-bug-people in getting some water. Georgiou and Burnham very unnaturally jump between topics: retelling themselves the mission they’re on, the stakes of the mission, how long they’ve known each other, Georgiou says she thinks Burnham is ready to be a captain, and finally what their respective plans would be if they were stuck on the planet for 89 years.
The prime directive is mentioned, but one of the cool looking bug aliens seems to notice the officers walking away. I’m not sure if they are trying to say that Georgiou and Burnham were careless in following the prime directive? That certainly wouldn’t be too far out of line from TOS continuity.
They also leave the bug men with their version of crop circles. Oops! Overall this sequence didn’t work for me. The interpersonal information is better conveyed later in the episode, and the example of Captain Georgiou being clever is pretty goofy. This is also the first of a few examples where its unclear how much time has passed or where the characters are. It feels like the Captain and Number One are only walking for a few minutes, but then the starfleet insignia they made in the sand is huge, seemingly the product of hours of work.
They encounter a mysterious object, and we’re introduced to Saru. These three characters have pretty fantastic chemistry.
Burnham gets into a fancy spacesuit to check out a mysterious object adrift in the orangest outer space I’ve ever seen. I like the level of automation in the suit, rather than Burnham unrealistically zipping around the debris freestyle.
Burnham delivers some unwieldy dialogue as she discovers that the object is a crazy old looking ship thing.
The Klingon attacks and Burnham ignites her boosters, accidentally stabbing him a little bit to death. I’ve seen a lot of confusion about this online – to me Burnham didn’t cause the conflict by killing the Klingon. The Klingons say from the opening scene that their goal is to provoke conflict. But from what the Federation knows, it looks like it could all be Burnham’s fault.
The Klingons have a burial for their torchbearer. It introduces a new interesting Klingon tradition of keeping coffins all around the surface of their ship. It’s later mentioned that some of the coffins date back 1,000 years, making this ship a pretty big deal, which is also cool.
While Burnham is knocked out, we get a flashback, and are introduced to Sarek!
Burnham warns everyone about the Klingons and they all put on their red alert faces.
The Klingon ship de-cloaks, apparently the first time the Federation has seen that.
We meet Voq, son of none, who is willing to take over as the torchbearer. Watch out for this guy, he’ll burn himself, just ’cause. Or maybe he misunderstands what torchbearer means idk
Saru explains that cryptic line we saw in the trailer: His planet has a binary ecosystem, where there are distinct groups of either predators or prey. His species was prey, so he has an acute sense of danger. I *think* I like this weird idea? I want to hear more about how Saru’s crazy planet works, that’s for sure.
They call up the Admiral and he puts his hands on his hips.
The Klingons light up their beacon!
Burnham calls dad. Wait did his projection sit on that table? Did they get matching rooms?
Sarek told Burnham about how Vulcans worked their way towards peace with the Klingons by attacking Klingon ships whenever they were encountered, leading to the Klingons respecting the Vulcans as strong. Burnham sees standing around waiting to establish relations as leading to the deaths of many Federation lives, and that only striking first gives them a chance. Georgiou’s main arguments against this are 1. that the Federation doesn’t fire first/take innocent lives 2. It could ruin any chance of diplomacy with Klingons, who for all they know could be very different from 100 years ago, and 3. that they are wildly out-gunned and if they did pick a fight, they would probably lose. The writers did a good job of something that can be very difficult. I can see the rationale behind both of their perspectives. It’s likely neither of these plans will work and the Klingons probably have a huge cloaked ship waiting around to crash into the Europa. Really Saru is right they should gtfo. The beacon is supposed to signify a threat to the Empire. If they just leave, it hurts T’Kuvma’s case.
But then Burnham starts neck-pinchin!
Saru knows something is up.
Georgiou wakes up before Burnham opens fire.
More Klingons show up! I like a lot of the new Klingon designs, but I’m not a huge fan of the ships, or at the very least, how the ships are filmed. I don’t know, I just kind of miss the days when I could distinguish what the shape of a ship was.
We start off episode 2 with another flashback. We see the affect Georgiou has had on Burnham over the last 7 years, as Burnham is A LOT more Vulcan-ey here.
Burnham guesses that it’s the 24 houses uniting against them, but she also has to go to the brig.
We get a glimpse of some dead jedi– I mean of the different Klingon house, each with their own style. It makes the Klingon world seem much bigger. I’m looking forward to seeing how the fill out what’s implied here.
We get a flashback of T’Kuvma where we learn that he used to be younger. Not a lot else actually.
Georgiou speaks with the Klingons, saying get lost or open diplomatic relations.
T’Kuvma gives a speech and the warring house immediately join T’Kuvma. In all honesty it’s not a huge problem to me. Sure they could’ve spent more time justifying their decision, but their position was presented well in this scene.
They open fire!
Conner wanders into the brig by accident on his way to sick bay? I found this scene really odd. Maybe there is a universe where they could’ve sold me on him being disoriented enough that he does this, but the scene is so poorly executed it seems as though the writers are trying to get some kind of exposition out of the way that doesn’t ever seem to happen. He gives Burnham someone to talk to, conveys shock that the Federation is actually at war, and then shows the audience the danger facing Burnham as half of the room is blown away.
We see a flashback of a bombing where Sarek gives his katra to Burnham…
…So Sarek could give Burnham a pep talk in her mind. Maybe I’ll be ok with this if it’s a regular thing, but it seems like kind of a stretch to get these characters to talk to each other.
The Europa shows up and saves the day!
The admiral gets T’Kuvma to agree to a ceasefire. Thats great news! Everyone will probably live here!
But then a giant ship rams into the Europa as it de-cloaks!
Burnham convinces the computer to let her out.
Georgiou knows a Sun Tzu quote. Not one that’s really relevant, but that’s cool. In fairness it is pretty cool to see Georgiou be such a strong proponent of peace in her conversations with Burnham, and then see her warrior side come out after the fight is on. They spend quite a bit of time devising a plan that becomes irrelevant once they learn of the Klingons retrieving their dead. One thing that I have always loved about Star Trek is its focus on problem solving. You get inside the reasoning of the characters as they weigh their options, and having a plan that quickly changes based on new circumstances makes you feel like their decisions are natural, and not just stringing together necessary plot points.
They sabotage the Klingon ship!
They need to capture T’Kuvma alive or else he’ll be a martyr for the Klingons to wage an endless war.
A fight breaks out.
Dangit we liked her!!
We see Burnham switch from stun to kill. So much for capturing that potential martyr…
In the closing scene we see Burnham sentenced to life in prison. It’s great to see consequences for the extreme actions Burnham took over the course of the premiere, and this sets up a situation that feels unique to Trek TV.