Star Trek Discovery (DIS) Season 1 Guest Reviews

The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary StarsContext is for KingsThe Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's CryChoose Your PainLetheMagic to Make the Sanest Man Go MadSi Vis Pacem, Para BellumInto the Forest I Go

 

The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

I so badly wanted this to be good. I really wanted it and I was well prepared to overlook some inconsistencies and some visual updates. I was aware that it would be a pilot episode and I was willing to accept many things. As long as they have a vision, as long as they do something unique and special. I watched the trailers and I listened carefully to everything the producers said and to what they promised. I was looking forward to this.

Now, twelve years after the last Star Trek episode on TV my first reaction was: They didn't do something unique; instead, they wasted an opportunity.

Well, I don't know where to begin. I just finished watching it. The most obvious change is the complete (and I do mean COMPLETE) visual reboot of the franchise. In my opinion there is no point in creating a Star Trek show without any visual connection to the other shows. Yes, they had those phasers and flip-communicators, but that aside, there was almost nothing recognizable. Everything looks so generic and meaningless and they obviously weren't willing to give it some internal cohesion. The costuming, the designs, the visuals... everything is a mess. Not only didn't the ships in any way match the canon, they didn't even seem to be from the same fleet. They are completely out of proportion and their overall structure doesn't make much sense. Nothing fits together as if a dozen people worked at it who never ever spoke a single word with one another. It felt like they just threw around some buckets of paint.. There is no concept, no idea, no vision and almost nothing that LOOKS like Star Trek. There is no love for details and no sense for continuity and absolute no visual consistency. And I haven't even been talking about the Klingons yet who bear nothing in common with the Klingons I knew but the name. They are so far out of proportion that it is simply ridiculous.

A few days before the pilot aired the producers told us they would value the heritage of Star Trek and they would stick to the canon. We now know that this was nothing but a lie. Discovery is nothing but a reboot that has some very very remote borrowings from the original Star Trek. The whole story doesn't fit into the Star Trek canon and doesn't go along with what we know. It looks like they simply wanted to use (and exploit) an established brand to promote CBS All Access.

First of all: Why did they make a prequel when there was obviously no interest in making it fit? What is the point? ENT tried to make the show look like 100 years before TOS. They didn't always succeed, but at least they tried and on most instances I could recognize the effort and the thought they had given it. Not with all the will in the world can I say anything like that about Discovery. The look has no similarities with what we're used to and there's no way that anything could possibly lead from DIS to TOS which is sad, a missed opportunity and let's me doubt the creators sincerity. They randomly mixed some elements from the different shows (like some sounds, the badges, the Starfleet logo, Sarek etc.) but they got all of those things confused and it simply comes across as if they didn't care. So, if they didn't care, why in the world did they actually make it a prequel instead of going into the future where they would have had all the license in the world...

Second: Where is the light? Where is the optimism. I've heard producers and actors of DIS talking about what Star Trek is all about. I've heard them talking about the spirit of space exploration and about Star Trek's optimism. I didn't find any of that in this episode. On the contrary the overall atmosphere was very dark and very militaristic and even depressing. The lighting of the sets was so dark that it was almost impossible to recognize certain things. (The court scene in the end was just ludicrous!) They, hypocritically, tried to salvage it with lines like: "Starfleet doesn't fire first" and "Why are we fighting? We are Starfleet". This is purely a sledgehammer approach and comes across awfully incongruous compared to the story itself and the tone the show sets. A few contrived lines can't make up the overall setting and the maneuver is just to simple. In the end, they told a very simplistic and by times even dumb story that is meant to be epic and shoehorned some lines in of which they thought the fans would like to hear them... very disappointing. (and insulting). And, to add insult to injury they so openly and so obviously stole from other shows that almost nothing original is left... even more disappointing (considering the time they had).

Third: I could write a book about the Klingons but I think everyone who has seen some episodes of Star Trek will understand that there is absolutely no point in commenting what happened to them. There is no way to make any of this reasonable and those people are simply not Klingons. Not in the way they look and not in the way they behave. They are written as one-dimensional, cult-like freaks talking in preachy sermons and thereby creating nothing but hot air. There is no meaning and no motivation for what they do. They are simply meant to be epic but they are in fact pathetic. Very sad. And by the way: The subtitles soon became very annoying.

Fourth: I don't comment on the acting yet because that would be unfair unless we have seen all of the cast. I also think it is fair to give them some time. But, I liked Michelle Yeoh and her very specific acting. I also liked that most of the screen time went to the ladies without making it an issue even once. Unfortunately, Yeoh's fate was quite foreseeable (ever since she was credited "Special Guest"; not very clever!). I'm getting tired of those kind of killings because almost every show does it nowadays and it became predictable a long time ago. Nothing bold here but again an uninspired copy of other shows.

Fifth: The story itself. I know that it is fashion today to write stories like this and everyone tries to be cinematic and so on... But is it really necessary to insult the intelligence of people? Again, DIS has the same problems the Abramsverse films have. There are simply no cohesive ties within the story and one plot hole follows another. Everything feels like a random chain of scenes and sequences and you always get the feeling you've seen that before. Nothing is balanced, everything remains sketchy and no thought has time to evolve. (I think the very limited skills of Kurtzman, Berg and Haberts are more than obvious and notorious. It would be interesting to know what's left of Fuller's initial efforts.) The producers try to overtrump one another with "epicness" and with pathetic sermons and speeches but I don't see the vision here and I fail to see the point of the story. Star Trek was so strong (especially on TV) because it functioned as a metaphor and tackled real-world issues in allegories. Those qualities are completely absent from DIS and this is maybe the greatest letdown. This is a very generic, very disposable Sci-Fi story that heavily steals from successful shows. But it is not DIFFERENT. Different would have been to create a positive vision of the future, to emphasize what people have in common. That is the kind of Star Trek we need in a world like this and this is what made Star Trek unique. Unfortunately, that was immolated for an uninspired story and lots of action sequences. Granted, the series is in an early stage and there might be a slim chance that the writers show some awareness (and start to understand and value the chance that is offering here), but recognizing how heavily they copied other formats and simply followed the usual trends in todays TV, the glimpse is very weak...

Well, before the show started I was willing to watch the whole season regardless of what would happen in its pilot. I'm still willing to do so but, frankly, I have little hope. Star Trek, as I knew it, may have died today once and for all but I'm willing to give it a chance and just hope that the producers surprise me with a profound idea and something truly unique. I wrote a lot of negative stuff, but I still want it to be good. Nonetheless, after watching the first two episodes I simply feel very sad.

Annotations

Rating: 0 (Kilian T.)

 

The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Synopsis

Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

For this review I'm going to ignore the lack of visual continuity with previous Star Trek series, as that's basically the attitude of the producers, and ultimately it was unfortunately expected - especially after the JJ movies.

So as far as differences (or 'updates') to some of the look and feel of the show go, I'm not going to factor them into my appraisal of the episode and instead focus on the show as if it visually does fit in with established canon.

Here goes.

I'm very much left very ambivalent after finishing the opening two episodes of Discovery.

It's clear that Discovery has been strongly influenced by the changes in TV since Star Trek was last on air, and it's the intention to have a strong character story. And while the focus on character is not necessarily a bad thing, the execution of it in the first two episodes was terribly clumsy.

If we go back to the Voyager pilot, the conclusion of the episode required a specific set of circumstances to be put in place:

The problem was, the writers knew they needed to achieve this but ended up engineering a situation that was full of logical holes. Why not use timed explosives? Voyager warping off at the end without doing anything else meaning that the Ocampa would eventually be at the mercy of the Kazon anyway to mention but two.

The reason I bring this up is, is that the opening to Discovery seemed to be having this happen every other scene. The writers needed some set of events to unfold, but engineered it in ways that made no sense.

Michael's mutiny is the most obvious example. When she went into the captain's ready room for her dressing down, it was clear to the whole crew she was in all shades of trouble.

So when she emerged after doing the least effective nerve pinch in Star Trek history, telling the crew to get ready to fire - everyone should have been as suspicious as Saru... particularly when her reasoning for the captain not giving it directly was because she was on the phone. The ready room is literally right by the bridge, if the captain was about to completely change her decision so radically the crew would know she would do it in person, particularly when it involved breaking Starfleet's principles about not firing first.

The crew's lack of suspicion wasn't the biggest problem with this though, it was Michael's reasoning. She's meant to have the mind and logic of a Vulcan but the heart of a human, yet her actions were devoid of any logic. She would have known the crew should have been suspicious, so she should have known her plan was almost certain to fail. Her reasoning for carrying out the mutiny was because she viewed it fundamentally essential to fire first, whatever the cost, even if it meant going to jail for the rest of her life. She had plenty more options available to make it succeed.

She could have taken the phaser and stunned the entire bridge before they knew what had happened. She could have attempted to seize control of the ship via hacking the bridge, or by adjusting the environmental controls of the bridge to force the bridge crew to evacuate or to be rendered unconscious. She could have just tried to fire first without even telling the bridge crew what was happening - once the torpedo was launched or the phaser fired, the plan was in motion.

It was a case of the writers having to provide the following set up for the series:

The writers needed that to happen for the starting point for the Michael's character in the Discovery series as a whole, yet they delivered it in such a hamfisted way it makes Janeway's reasoning from the Caretaker look like a masterclass of Spock logic.

Another major criticism of the opening episodes, is that it seemed so often that a character would say they can't/won't/shouldn't do something and then immediately do it a few moments later.

When T'Kuvma summons the 24 houses of the Klingon empire, they immediately reject him and ridicule him for being a nobody whom they will never listen to or follow. Yet they listen to him deliver a short speech and suddenly they are eager to go to war with the Federation. I was expecting some trickery, or events unfolding with the Starfleet vessels to trigger this rapid change of heart, but no, they just inexplicably change their minds.

When it's suggested that they plant torpedoes on the hull of the Klingon vessel, Michael states it's a terrible plan that would make things worse - yet moments later volunteers to be the person to do it.

Michael then states they mustn't kill T'Kuvma as he mustn't become a martyr, yet she lethally shoots him, and makes no attempt to bring him back to the Shenzhou to try and save his life as a prisoner. And where was the sense in sending only the two highest ranking officers from the ship on the boarding party, and how was Georgiou able to hold off a trained Klingon warrior in hand to hand combat using Klingon weapons for so long?

Criticising the differences in the Klingons makes little sense given the radical departure the show has decided to take, however I will point out that during this time, the Klingon Empire was far more dominant in the Alpha Quadrant politics compared to the 24th century, and consequently its internal politics was far less focused on warrior tradition. Yet the warrior culture depicted was very different still to that seen in TNG and DS9.

The opening sequence with them drawing the Starfleet insignia (let's not get into that canon argument here either!) with their footsteps made no sense either as there was clearly thick cloud blocking the view from orbit, but let's not pretend this was meant to make sense, it was just meant to be a cheeky VFX humorous introduction.

I have been very negative here, so I will say that I did enjoy watching it. But then I went into the show with low expectations, and I feel that it's very much a show that if you even slightly pick, it starts to quickly fall apart.

I like the idea to focus on character stories more, it's something Star Trek hasn't really done, not even in DS9. I think that the visual style is a lot better than in the new movies - although it does take it over the top at times, what was going on with the shady court martial scene - had the fuses blown for the lights?

I'm reserving my full judgement until the show begins properly, until the full set up for Michael on board the USS Discovery has been completed and we see exactly the direction the show is intending to take.

I just wish that more care had been taken with the internal logic of the writing of the show, rather than just seeing the goals they needed to achieve and jumping to them without applying reason to the character's actions.

Rating: 5 (Ben Dickson)

 

The Vulcan Hello

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

I was very excited about seeing a new series of Star Trek but it was with some trepidation, I have to admit that I am not a fan of the Abrams movies and I suspected that the movie would not fit in with the established timeline of TOS.

"The Vulcan Hello" is entertaining to watch, but there is no way that this could be considered as Canon in the Prime Universe. The feel and technology is completely inconsistent with TOS, and why use the Klingons when they are so different in both culture and style? Why not just create a new alien species. Had this been set post-TNG I could have accepted the series more as the vast differences could be explained, but it just seems to be shoehorned pre-TOS just to include Sarek.

Compared to the web mini-series "Axanar" this pales, "Axanar" took what I loved about TOS and re-invented the visuals, it paid homage to TOS. Personally, I would have funded the "Axanar" team to produce a TV version of their web show.

The new series does have its merits as a stand alone show and I would expect fans of the Abrams movies to enjoy the series, I like the juxtaposition of Michael who is almost the reverse of Spock and the ret-conned phasers and tricorder look good. There is some good action in the show and on the whole I like the characters they have created. For me this is not Canon Star Trek and as such when I watch the show it is somewhat diluted.

I think that DIS has missed a trick on this one, it could have been so much better had continually been maintained, you can still have a show that rocks that still fits pre-TOS.

On a side note I have no problem that Michael is Spock's adopted sister, the fact that she has never been mentioned on screen doesn't negate her existence, we already know he is reticent to discuss family.

Rating: 3 (marcus handford)

 

The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Synopsis

Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

I enjoyed this opening two-parter greatly, although it's not without its frustrations. This is a very different take on Star Trek than we've had before, although clearly inspired by earlier iterations of a franchise that has changed a great deal over the last fifty-one years. I'm not quite sure how it will develop as a series, and that's actually a great place to be. The last thing I want is something safe and predictable. This opener is cinematic, exciting and visually stunning. The binary star system is astonishing to look at - this looks like a huge science fiction movie, not a regular TV series. Burnham's spacesuited mission through the debris ring is obviously influenced by the skydiving sequence in the 2009 movie and the infiltration of the Vengeance in "Star Trek Into Darkness", but is portrayed as something of wonder, rather than a death-defying stunt. Still, there's a real sense that space, though wondrous, is a dangerous place to be, with Michael left scarred by radiation that will be fatal if she doesn't sit through immediate treatment.

Burnham is, for the most part, a great character. She has real horror in her past that she tries, not always successfully, to rise above. Her escape from the brig by logically talking the computer round to agreeing to releasing is a brilliant character moment for someone who is both human and Vulcan. She puts her convictions above her commitment to Starfleet principles. Sonequa Martin-Green's performance is excellent, she's a charismatic and interesting lead. It's just a shame that, in many ways, her character is so inconsistently written. She sticks to her convictions when it comes to firing first but changes her mind easily when it comes to everything else.

Both Michelle Yeoh and Doug Jones are excellent secondary leads, making a wonderful trio that has hints of the old Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship without being a slavish recreation, like Archer-T'Pol-Trip often was. Burnham is the logical voice in most respects, but also the more aggressive, with Saru being the cautious McCoy-like one, and Georgiou being the noble commander in the centre. There's an interesting backstory being hinted at for both Saru and Georgiou; unfortunately, we don't get to learn about the Captain's past before she's killed off. Although this is being billed as a prelude to the main series, there's a lot of time invested in establishing a relationship that is then cut short. There's also some very clunky expositionary dialogue early on that I really hoped we'd heard the last of by now.

Trailers for the upcoming episode suggest that Starfleet blame Burnham for starting the war, and Georgiou certainly does, but it's hard to see why that's the case. Yes, she killed the Torchbearer on the Beacon, but that was in self-defense and she had no way of knowing he would be there. Her insistence on shooting first looks like it would have been the right choice - Georgiou's "We come in peace" hail is what triggers T'Kuvma into opening fire - although it's hard to see how the outcome would have been different if the Shenzhou had fired first, as the Klingons were there for a fight regardless. In any case, blaming the war on Burnham's mutiny makes no sense as she was stopped before she could put her plans into action, and so her decision made no material difference to what happened.

I have no problem with the changes to the Klingons, the retroactive changes to the series' history, or the mixed bag visuals for this version of Starfleet. If it works for the story and it looks effective, that's fine. I'm happy to accept a revisionist 23rd century - it's not as if The Original Series was consistent in its own backstory - although, given the clear influence of the new films, I wonder why the producers and writers didn't simply set it in the new cinema timeline, thereby freeing themselves up a good deal more. It's hard to see exactly who this series is aimed at. It's quite right that they shouldn't slavishly stick to established canon or try to appeal solely to hardcore fans. On the other hand, one surefire way of alienating new and casual viewers is starting with five minutes of guys in latex, speaking Klingon with subtitles. Surely you'd want to hook viewers with amazing visuals first, and only later bring in the high geekery?

I'm very interested to see where this series will go. There's an interesting clash on display between the peaceful explorers that Starfleet claim to be, and the military organisation that they look, sound and act like. If the series explores this dichotomy, it could be very interesting indeed. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more of Michael Burnham and seeing how her character develops as the series goes on.

Annotations

Rating: 7 (Daniel Tessier)

 

The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Synopsis

Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

After an absence of twelve years, Star Trek is back on TV. Despite a torrid production and against a lot of peoples' expectations, I found Discovery to be a highly entertaining and interesting addition to the Star Trek universe.

The opening scene with the characters walking to create the Starfleet delta in the sand was symbolic of the show's rebirth. And what a rebirth! The production values are top notch, the special effects are truly cinematic, the sets complex and believable and the musical score is perfect.

Regarding continuity, I wish that the producers had set this series in the Kelvin timeline, which would be a better fit stylistically and creatively. I understand that we can't go post-Voyager as the technology had become too elaborate and was used as 'magic' later on. I wouldn't be surprised to see an 'old style' Klingon as one of the other 'houses' - we didn't see all 24. To be honest though, their appearance is trivial and I preferred Worf's explanation to why Klingon appearance varies, rather than the convoluted explanation offered up in Enterprise.

Martin-Green's strong and nuanced performance carefully balances the cool Vulcan detachment with her PTSD damaged human side. I also enjoyed Michelle Yeoh's performance, and I hope we see more of her in flashbacks. I haven't formed an opinion on Saru yet, but he's certainly an interesting character.

Star Trek is, has been and probably should always be left leaning in its politics. I was pleased to see clear parallels drawn between Trump and T'Kumva as well as between the Klingons and religious fundamentalism. Hopefully Discovery will find interesting ways to explore current-day issues and not pull its punches.

On the negative side of things, the episodes felt a little rushed, and I thought the Sarek mind meld scene spoiled the flow during the battle scenes. I didn't like the dimly lit courtroom scene towards the end, nor the harsh sentence imposed. It reminded me of "The Menagerie" where Spock is sentenced to death, with a similarly black backdrop. I guess the point was to literally show Burnham's isolation and she was literally under a spotlight, which I thought was a little too 'on the nose'.

I'm excited, and am looking forward to see where they take the show. Enterprise was a very weak series and I'm optimistic that DSC can revive interest in Star Trek again.

Rating: 8 (James)

 

The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Synopsis

Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

Ok, where to start?

Not going to lie, I was bored watching the opening two episodes of Discovery, think it has to go down as the Worst Star Trek pilot ever.

There were a lot of things that didn't impress me, and not just the canonical issues.

I'm going to keep it short and just give my impressions, otherwise I'll go off on a full rant!

The whole first sequence is designed to introduce us to Burnham I suppose. The final part of the scene is just weird, the Shenzou can't detect their bio signs but they can somehow detect a bloody great delta walked into the sand?

Then we meet the Klingons. Oh god! I thought they were gonna be crap just by looking at them, and I was right. I find the Klingons pathetic tbh. The whole flashy ceremonial Armour seems a little pointless. I do like Kols outfit however, that fits in quite nicely with Klingon style we know.

The whole Klingon story is so dull and quite vague. I get bored very quickly in the Klingon scenes because they're soooo long! Reading subtitles is the biggest culprit, all "Klingons" speak Klingon. And let's face it, it's not a nice language to hear a lot! You also don't pay a lot of attention to what is going on in the scenes as you're constantly reading subtitles.

The whole Burnham scene going to investigate the unknown object was pretty boring. Don't have anything to say about that other than that Klingon was very easy to kill.

The Klingon ship reveals itself. Yup, Klingons have cloaks around 30 years to early!

Back on the ship Burnham talks to Sarek, via real-time holocoms! Oh, it gets worse!

He tells Burnham that the Vulcans kept the Klingons at bay by always firing first, even when, I'm assuming the Klingons were just passing by. This really opens a Pandora's box, because this is where thew story and Starfleet's morals and Gene's vision goes totally out the airlock! So, Burnham tells her captain they need to attack. Georgiou says Starfleet doesn't fire first.

Burnham then takes her captain into the ready room and promptly knocks her out, apparently humans can do Vulcan neck pinches now too. Obviously not very well though as Burnham has barely made it onto the bridge and barking out attack orders before Georgiou is back on her feet again! Probably the most pointless cause for a mutiny they could've come up with. It would've been better had she succeeded and fired, and that was the instigator of the war.

The ships of the 24 houses arrive after being signaled by the mystery object. Again, the whole Klingon plot and story surrounding this is very vague.

Burnham is sent to the brig and the rest of Starfleet arrive.

Georgiou contacts the Klingons saying they come in peace, something which clearly T'Kuvma doesn't believe, although, to add to the numerous plot holes we have no sodding idea why!

He finally provokes the Klingons to attack and a rather bland space battle commences. All Starfleet ships are destroyed, The Shenzhou is severally damaged and evac'd. Another scene which I found hilarious, Burnham having a moral argument with the computer!

The admiral's flagship, the Europa arrives and saves the Shenzhou from hitting an asteroid; This ship is very quickly destroyed. CBS sending messages there? White admiral, ship called the Europa? Just saying.

And it all ends with Burnham being sentenced to life imprisonment for mutiny.

That's a pretty vague review of what happens, but no more vague that what actually happens in the episode. To sum up, I found the story dull and uninteresting, I thought the writing was poor and some acting in places too.

Hugely disappointing for Star Trek's return. Much more pew pew than interesting and thought provoking story lines.

Annotations

Rating: 0 (Jamie House)

 

Context is for Kings

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

So, following the prelude two-parter that opened the season, we finally got to meet the Discovery in this episode. Unlike the warm and fuzzy Enterprise D (or Voyager), which are homely and welcoming places, the Discovery is more like one of those weird, creepy ships that the Enterprise (or Voyager) encounters and has to solve the mystery of what killed everyone before it kills them too. It's more akin to what the D would've been like with Jellico in command.

What's great about this episode is the tone, it's quite creepy and suspenseful in places - and reminded me of 'The Tholian Web' and 'The Doomsday Machine' as the crew explored The Glenn.

Anyway, back to the Discovery - a science ship with a commander who has a hint of moral ambiguity. Jason Isaacs is instantly compelling and commanding. Saru and Tilly prevent the show's tone from slipping into BSG territory, the latter being a relatable and likeable character. There is also some nice, leavening humour. Saru has the mild mannered and cool headed appeal of Data and all his scenes were excellent.

Lorca has some cool things in his office and in his laboratory, is the Tribble there to identify Klingon agents who are augments? Is he Section 31, what's with his eyes? Lots for us to speculate about...

It is also great to see some actual science in Star Trek. The theory that organic life is spread throughout all of space via asteroids, meteorites or comets, panspermia is a sound one. That the building blocks of life could eventually prove to be extraterrestrial is something referenced in Trek before, specifically in 'The Chase'. It also links in wonderfully with the whole Alice in Wonderland book. Whilst not what I would call 'hard science', it's much better than the fake technobabble of TNG's worst excesses.

The instantaneous interdimensional doorway to the entire universe is also something that we've seen before, specifically in 'Contagion', but also to a lesser extent in 'All Our Yesterdays' - though that involved time travel. I wonder how they will deal with this 'breakthrough'.

All in all, it was a fascinating episode that took care to create believable characters. Lorca is full of charm, but also lizard like - there's a real sense of wonder and of exploring the unknown in this series. Discovery seems like it will be a show about Burnham's redemption, and I'm more confident after this episode that Burnham will be a character we will root for. Eventually.

I can't wait to see the next one.

Annotations

Rating: 9 (James)

 

Context is for Kings

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

Context is for Kings. What a cynical way to name an episode like that. Well, here is some context: The producers of Discovery were very vocal about how the show would value the canon of Star Trek and how it would implement the optimism of the original. After watching the third episode it is quite obvious to me that those statements were nothing more but a try to get sceptical fans to subscribe to CBS All Access. I can only speak for myself but I would never have subscribed to it if I had known that all I get is a complete reboot that doesn't seem to care about canon or the original Star Trek and that sports a dystopian vision of the future. There is a word for something like that: deceit!

Before watching this episode I still had some hope left that it would embrace more of the essence of Star Trek. Anyway it was labeled as the "real" pilot. But soon after the teaser it became very clear that this episode would be even darker than its predecessor.

The story even starts with a huge plothole: Everyone blames Michael for being the one who started the war with the Klingons. Well, that's simply not what happened in the first episode. Yes, she did mutineer, but it had no effect on the Klingons because they started firing after Georgiou spoke to them. But who cares? Kurtzman & Co. obviously don't.

This scene is followed by some racial slurs on the transport shuttle and lines like "Starfleet wants us to feed the animals" that I find simply disturbing on a Star Trek show and appalling in general. The graphic violence shown on the USS Glenn is also something I simply don't need to see on a Star Trek show. By the way, why didn't the away team leave when it became obvious that something is aboard that killed a whole Klingon landing party?

The rest of the story is completely out of proportion. The whole spore-drive-thing lets Voyager's "Threshold" look like brilliant writing and excellent science and there is absolutely no way to squeeze that into the history of Star Trek. Even if the writers should come up with excuses like: "it all was a very, very secret operation" or "it was all Section 31 in the first place."

What starts to annoy me is the random dropping of names and species. Nothing fits. The sounds they use don't match the era, the Tribble and the Gorn-skeleton don't fit into the timeline. The Starfleet-emblem doesn't fit in too, just to name a few things. This try to establish some weird kind of pseudo-continuity is nothing but insulting and shows again how little the producers care.

Again this episode lacks everything I used to like about Star Trek. The overall atmosphere has become even darker and it is dominated by some very questionable dialogue. The characters are shown as bitter veterans (or annoying cadets). There is not a single trace of the optimism and the spirit of the Original Series and its followers. Worst of all, Discovery lacks the dignity and the lightheartedness of original Star Trek.

In conclusion I have to emphasize the most pressing point again: Why did they make a prequel in the first place when there is absolutely no effort to make it fit? That doesn't make any sense.

Annotations

Rating: 0 (Kilian T.)

 

Choose Your Pain

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

I have to admit that this episode was somehow better. On the other hand that doesn't say much...

The first thing that strikes me about "Choose Your Pain" is how the writers seem to alter the premise of the show every single week just to their convenience. In the Pilot (or Prologue) it was quite easy for the Klingons to receive reinforcements in a matter of minutes. The next week it was told that the remains of the fleet have been stranded for six month without relief. Then, a week later, L'Rell was left behind aboard the Shenzhou together with Voq. Now, we learn that Lt. Tyler is aboard the prison-ship for seven months and L'Rell is also aboard. Does any of that make sense? I am usually not much of a nitpicker when it comes to stretches of times and places but in this case the violations are so obvious (and simply a product of very, very lazy writing) and do hurt the plot in such a severe manner that it is impossible to overlook it.

The way Lorca is abducted by the Klingons is again bordering silliness as is the way he and Tyler escape from the ship. The raiders they use to escape are one of the most cringeworthy things in a long time on Star Trek (accompanied by surprisingly unconvincing special effects). Something a little bit more sophisticated would have been nice.

The scenes on the prison-ship itself are efficient and the introduction of Harry Mudd was quite a positive surprise. Rainn Wilson (who easily outperforms the main cast) is a capable actor who is able to portrait a convincing younger version of Mudd. (This becomes even more the case when we compare him to Sarek in the pilot.)

Again, the graphic violence is absolutely nothing I want to see on a Star Trek show.

The revelation that Lorca sacrificed his crew to spare them imprisonment on Qo'nos comes across as quite casual but I hope will not be forgotten. It reminds me about Jean-Luc Picard who killed a crewmember of the Enterprise in "Star Trek VIII" to spare him assimilation by the Borg. Frankly, I think of both instances as an example of extremely bad taste and hypocrite ethics. It is very hard to imagine a scenario in which Lorca killed off his crew (which requires some kind of action from him) and still escape as sole survivor. Also, I don't think it is very clever to give this character an even darker shade.

The story aboard the Discovery was convincing for the most part. For the first time we partially had a sense of cooperation among some of the crew and the story managed to make some emotional impact. Still, it was far from being flawless.

Saru was a big disappointment. He is a trained officer and serves as First Officer for quite a while. How can he not anticipate a situation that would force him to take command? How is he, of all people, capable of such a level of incompetence? When he has to take command he basically has to ask the computer for a job-description. What makes it even more annoying is that the real reason for him asking the computer is so obviously the casual name-dropping Discovery loves so much. But it hurts the character, as does the fact that he seems to have no authority. I'm also not very fond of how his relationship to Burnham is worked out. He seems to change his opinion about her on a weekly basis and again his character misses any stringency. Still, the telescope scene manages to make some emotional impact and that's a good thing.

The character of Lt. Stamets is explored a little in this episode and becomes more likeable which eases some of the tension. The creepy ending showing his image in the mirror after he left the room is perhaps setting the stage for episodes to come. There is plenty room for speculation.

The release of the "Ripper" was very cheesy and felt more like something out of any given Fantasy-franchise. By the way, what did Captain Lorca say about that?

And speaking of pointless name-dropping. Discovery reaches a new height in insulting the fans when the Klingon prison-ship is identified as D-7-battlecruiser. I have no words for that...

A scene that I particularly liked was the homage to "The Wrath of Khan". It was nice for a change to see that the producers are capable of dealing with such a scene in a subtle and respectful way. Also, for maybe the first time in DIS a glimpse of Star-Trek's spirit could be felt. I really hope for more of that.

All in all, this was the most enjoyable episode of Discovery so far but it is still full of inconsistencies, bad writing and spoiled continuity that it his hard to legitimately watch it as a Star Trek series. Everything about it still cries reboot. But who knows, considering the foreshadowing in the final scene, we are maybe actually watching some mirror-universe-version of Star Trek.

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Rating: 3 (Kilian T.)

 

Lethe

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

It is very difficult to rate this episode. I have to say it has its moments and profits from overall more decent writing. Certainly because of the influence of Joe Menosky on the script, who is capable of giving the characters better and more natural sounding dialogue. I also appreciate that "Lethe" tells a self-contained story.

Still, the episode is full of annoyances. The most obvious is the portrayal of the Vulcans as xenophobic terrorists. It is stunning that DIS maintains something that didn't really work in DS9 and ENT and even puts it to an extreme here. Also, I think the one thing the show doesn't need at this point is another shade of darkness.

The Vulcan mumbo-jumbo is again bordering silliness like it already has in the pilot. The connection between Sarek's katra and Michael is far from being credible and could be right out of a fantasy novel. It is so over the top and so exaggerated that she can sense him through the galaxy while the basic concept is never really explained. Again, it bothers me that no one of the Discovery crew seems to be interested in learning about it. What makes the whole thing even worse is how casual Lt. Stamets can build his magic device just seconds after Dr. Culber explains that he doesn't even understand the basic concept. At times, it feels like no one is listening to one another on the Discovery.

The scenes on Vulcan are repetitive and put the Vulcans in a bad light. The outcome is rather disappointing and the "secret" itself makes me question if it was worth the effort. We are expected to believe that the Vulcans would refuse Michael access to the Expeditionary Group despite her excellent test results. This is far from being a logical decision and adds to the negative undertone towards them and lets Sarek look like a fool the second time in a row. Speaking of Sarek, I find James Frain's acting painful to watch. He comes across as a very bitter character and as a surprisingly emotional Vulcan. Frain's acting unfortunately lacks the stoic grace of Mark Lenard.

Three things are really starting to annoy me to an increasing extend from episode to episode:

First, the depiction of space in DIS looks like the explosion of a candy machine has caused the formation of the universe. It feels phony and looks somehow cheap and doesn't give me the feeling of being "out there".

Secondly, is it really necessary for the computer to comment absolutely everything and thereby even repeating what people just said?

Thirdly, I don't know anyone on the bridge and we never had time to explore the rest of the ship. That attributes to the feeling of watching strangers in a random assemblage of rooms. For me, the ship in a Star Trek show is an essential part of the cast.

Lorca's story was somehow the more interesting part of the episode. Although he is not very interesting as a character, mainly because I think we have seen enough mid-aged, traumatized white men on TV shows by now. Again Discovery follows the trend instead of producing something unique. (I really wish they had kept Captain Georgiou. She was way more intriguing and a really unique, well-played character.) While it is all in all convincing that Lorca suffers from PTSD his involvement with Admiral Cornwell seemed strange to me. It leaves too many questions unanswered. Discovery's missions so far have all been a success. They saved the mining colony, retrieved the Glenn's secret and Starfleet didn't bother questioning its Captain (and his decision to add Burnham to his crew). Cornwell's concerns come out of the blue and why exactly did she feel the need to tell him about her doubts in person. Just to get seduced by him? Frankly, I was more worried about her leadership-skills than I was about Lorca's at that point. Of course, the solemn purpose of this senseless effort was to bring Cornwell into the scene to allow her to take over the negotiations with the Klingons. Again, the show disregards earlier installments and common sense just to change the setting to the writers' convenience.

On a side note it is amazing how, again, nobody bothered to take into account that the Klingons could possibly have set up a trap. It is like the events of "Battle at the Binary Stars", that claimed the life of Admiral Anderson in a similar fashion, never happened. Poor writing.

On the bright side the relationship between Michael and Tilly is more convincing and feels more natural which is a positive surprise. It is also nice to see how the opening scene with the two of them running through the corridors is addressed and resolved in the end.

Another positive aspect is that this week's name-droppings at least didn't violate canon at all. The appearance of the holodeck of course is a different matter.

On a final note, the addition of Ash Tyler to the crew regrettably completes the effort to diminish the diversity of Discovery's cast that was meant to be an integral part of the show in the first place. For once, they managed to do something in a subtle way...

Annotations

Rating: 2 (Kilian T.)

 

Magic to make the sanest man go mad

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing

Commentary

This week's episode was entertaining on the surface but is severely damaged by lazy writing and some odd choices.

First of all, the episode doesn't seem to be in the right place. Is it possible that it was intended to air at a later time? It feels odd that Admiral Cornwell is not mentioned at all even though her abduction should be a great deal for the crew. Also, the timing for throwing a party seems to be quite inappropriate. There's still a war going on out there. This could be an attempt to lift the show's overall dark mood but it just feels out of place.

On a positive note the character of Michael Burnham gains some depth and she is shown as a more realistic person when she interacts with Tyler and feels uncomfortable at the party. I also like that she didn't come across as bitter as it was the case in previous episodes.

The story itself is interesting. Mudd tries to attempt his goals by using a time loop which is, initially, an intriguing idea and qualifies as a very "Star Trek"-concept we haven't yet seen on any of the other series. I also do not think of it as a rip-off of TNG's "Cause and Effect". The underlying technobabble on the other hand seems to be out of the fantasy-genre once again.

Unfortunately, the episode's execution is hurt by so many inconsistencies and stupidities that it is hard to enjoy it.

Many pressing questions are simply ignored by the script once again:

How exactly did Mudd escape from the Klingons? How was he able to find the Discovery when the Klingons obviously can't? How could he be certain that Discovery would run into him? How could he manipulate the computer in a way that no one was able to stop him? Why didn't they detect his ship in the space-wale earlier? (They easily detected it using a Tricorder at a later time, so why couldn't the ship's sensors).

And, the most striking one: Why didn't they simply destroy the wale and even beam it aboard AFTER they learned what's inside from a previous loop? Stamets knew what had happened in the previous loop and I refuse to believe that he could possibly be so stupid (or high). I think, he should have been the one to stop Mudd instead of his weird attempts to convince Burnham.

On top of all these questions it strikes me as quite a disappointment that Mudd wasn't able to find out Discovery's secret in over 50 loops. We are supposed to believe that he is able to manipulate the computer to seize control over the ship (which seems to be quite simple) but didn't learn from any data or logs or whatever that Stamets is the one who flies the ship? And why did he kill Lorca immediately instead of trying to get to the secret by interrogation or even torture? (something I would have expected from DIS).

Unfortunately, those problems are far beyond simple nitpicking. Again, we are faced with a story that immediately falls apart when we dig any deeper into it. In this regard DIS really feels like a time-loop.

I somehow enjoyed the presence of Mudd in "Choose Your Pain" and felt that it worked out surprisingly well. This time, the feeling is different. Mudd is characterized as a psychopath who is capable of mass murder and even finds joy in executing people. (even though Rainn Wilson again outperforms the main cast with ease). That has nothing to do with the Mudd we know and it again severely hurts continuity and adds some bad taste to the episode. It is quite obvious that the producers simply wanted to use Mudd, because the character enjoys some popularity among the fans but they again didn't mind to completely change him.

I have to admit, I would have been able to ignore most of the above mentioned problems; but what really kills the episode is the unbelievably stupid ending (I have no other words for it). We have a man who has shown his willingness to commit mass murder, who has sworn revenge to Captain Lorca and the entire Federation and who is obviously intended to be a very resourceful and hence extremely dangerous criminal, and all Discovery's crew can think of is calling his father-in-law and his wife. Come on! That's dense even by Discovery standards.

Of course, the real reason for this is again to maintain some kind of pseudo-continuity with TOS (while they interestingly didn't bother to change Mudd's basic character) and underlines once again the very basic problem of the show.

All in all, this episode COULD have been a good one but it is hurt by blatant laziness and an incredible level of incompetence on the writers' part. The amount of plotholes and inconsistencies is so high this time that I really wonder how the script was able to pass the preliminary stage and if it was shot without further supervision.

Annotations

Rating: 1 (Kilian T.)

 

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main TOS listing

Commentary

Here we go again. This week DIS presents yet another unbelievably powerful new technology with striking similarities to the spore-drive. How the producers plan to shoehorn this into existing canon? Frankly, I don't think that's possible anymore...

"Sis Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" is a very odd episode and as it was the case last week, it seems to be somehow out of place (and I strongly dislike the esoteric undertones). The storyline seems to be rushed and the writers, once again, create an unexpected and unfitting Deus-Ex-Machina-moment at the end in an lazy attempt to alter the premise.

The episode starts with the USS Discovery fighting the Klingons in order to rescue the USS Gagarin. We see a little bit of the bridge crew and get some rushed CGI straight out of the JJ-Abrams movies. It is very hard to really see something and the scenes come across as sketchy at the best. But this seems to be the way it goes nowadays and is not a sole problem of DIS. It would have been nice to have some more memorable and detailed effects here.

We get a little background about Stamets connection with the spore-drive and how it influences his behavior. It certainly makes sense that Tilly wonders what's wrong with him and I like the interaction between the two, but it strikes me as quite a stretch that no one else aboard seems to bother. Where is the captain? Why is no one discussing the effects the spore-drive has on Stamets? Why are they not searching for a different solution? It feels like there is almost no connection among the crew. The characters seem oddly isolated from one another and everyone just cares about his own business. I think those are the main reasons why the characters feel so strange and alien.

The story on the planet is again full of contrivances and serves just again as vehicle to severely alter the series premise through some fantasy-like mumbo-jumbo. This time the similarities to "Avatar" are so obvious that DIS is bordering plagiarism.

The way the story unfolds in order to create some kind of cliffhanger is very constructed even by DIS standards. The Federation knew about the planet but never discovered the crystal that can be used as some kind of sensor-array to detect ships in the entire quadrant? (How does it work anyway?) Well, once again some care could have made this (halfway) work.

In the end the Pahvans feel it necessary to restore peace and order in the galaxy by using their phony device and calling the Klingons to the planet for talks. This comes out of the blue and is again a sudden change without any satisfying explanation. Is this meant as a certain kind of homage to the Organians in TOS?

A larger part of the story focuses on Saru who is influenced by the aliens. I don't think it was very clever to choose a character who has been shown as quite unevenly characterized as being possessed and turning against his shipmates. It makes him even more unsympathetic and adds to the question how someone who is driven by fear could have chosen a career in Starfleet at all. This weakens the character. The goal was, I presume, to show how Saru would act without his fears that holds him back. The problem here is, that he acts like a lunatic, free of common sense and loyalty and it never becomes clear what exactly the aliens gave him. I think, it would have been wise to give Saru a more profound basis before showing him like this.

On a positive note, the relation between Lt. Tyler and Michael Burnham feels quite natural which is a nice surprise and is another step in lightening the Burnham-character. Another thing I liked is that the crew, for the first time, actually explored something (despite all the story's shortcomings). I'm not sure if that should make me happy or sad...

Another thing I strongly disliked this week is how uneven L'Rell is characterized. It is such a mess that I don't have any clue how on earth the writers could possibly resolve her storyline. She doesn't seem to have a clear agenda and is more than willing to offer her loyalty to anyone coming across and it doesn't make sense to further comment it until we see how her story progresses.

In general, the Klingons once again act one-dimensional and stumble from one stupidity to another. The scenes between Kol and L'Rell didn't make any sense. Why does he apply the paint on her face just to throw her into prison seconds later?

In conclusion, "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" sports many of the basic problems DIS struggles from. Many of the characters don't have a profound basis, the plot is sketchy at best and full of plotholes and inconsistencies. There is no real connection between many of the crew and they don't work as a unity. A general thing that becomes frustrating is the lack care that goes into the scripts. Many things are not properly explained and "just happen" only to be explained or summarized at the end of an act or the episode (usually by Michael Burnham who lets all the others look like fool). I hope for the coming episodes to put more effort and more patience into the stories. The purpose of serialized television is to give stories more time to evolve not less.

Annotations

Rating: 1 (Kilian T.)

 

Into the Forest I Go

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main TOS listing

Commentary

I have to admit, this was better than I expected it to be. Still, this week's episode wasn't free from flaws and contrivances but it benefited from an overall better rhythm and "flow".

First of all, I really liked that, for the first time, there was a real spirit of cooperation among the crew. An existing problem was properly discussed and all of the crew contributed to its solution. The show definitely needs more of that because it immediately makes the characters more realistic and sympathetic.

There are nevertheless some major problems in this episode. As much as I liked the interaction between the crew I hate to see that yet again a major dilemma is solved in a very simple way. The algorithm used to neutralize the cloaking device comes out of the blue and yet again a major threat has no way to really evolve but is neutralized in a Deus-Ex-Machina fashion. It seems that the writers have no other creative tools to resolve problems. Again, the story of the cloaking device is rushed to an end before it is even properly established. At least the underlining science was more satisfying and not some esoteric or fantasy-device.

I like the way Lorca acts as a captain. When he disobeys his orders to protect the planet of Pahvo he reminds me of Picard. I like this Lorca better because he acts more like a Starfleet captain than an unpredictable lunatic. As much as I welcome this change it strongly contradicts the way he was depicted in previous installments. Also, the way he manipulates Stamets is ethically problematic at best.

The scenes on the Klingon vessel including Burnham and Tyler were quite repetitive. We have seen things like this many times on DIS by now and it the lax security and the Klingon stupidity becomes more and more annoying. This week Burnham even manages to hide on the main bridge of the sarcophagus ship for quite a while. Come on... Her scenes with Kol were effective and the duel resembled the Klingon behavior a bit. Still, why should Kol engage in such a thing during a battle in the first place?

The scenes showing Tyler's PTSD were quite convincing but I think he should have received a more thorough examination in the first place. (But Culber doesn't make the impression of being very competent. See below.)

Another frustrating aspect is that sensors and shields once again seem to work or not work to the writers' convenience. This happens all the time on DIS but this time it stretched credibility too much.

L'Rell's story (again) took a turn to the worse this week. I see no way how she could have planned something in advance. There are to many things she could not have taken into account and to much relies strictly on the inability of her enemies. She is stumbling from plothole to plothole and I wonder how her story will be resolved.

Her connection to Tyler is hinted several times in this episode and I would really wish for more subtleness on the writers' part. This sledgehammer approach is really unsatisfying. (The whole mess reminds me about the "big secret" that was made about Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan in "Into the Darkness"). I don't expect much of a surprise here but I still hope that the writers manage to limit the damage to the Tyler character. In addition, there is probably no realistic way to resolve this storyline without major contrivances and continuity-breaches.

The story about Stamets use of the spore drive is full of contrivance as well. Culber has the inspiration to monitor him during the jumps. This idea is so great that I really wonder why no one else had it earlier. (I mean, come on...!) Again, it becomes apparent that until this episode everyone worked on his own agenda aboard Discovery.

Finally, it disappointed me that neither the storyline regarding the Pahvans nor the Cornwell/Lorca relationship were even addressed. It would have been nice to see some kind of reaction from both the Pahvans and Cornwell. I have a feeling that both is forgotten by the producers...

In conclusion, this was as close to a good episode as DIS could possibly come at this point. Regardless of the immense structural and creative problems the show suffers from I sincerely do hope that this is a turn to the better!

Annotations

Rating: 5 (Kilian T.)

 


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