The Sunday Magazine: Star Trek Discovery

Sometimes you just have to give in and enjoy something for what it is. Somewhere while watching season 1 of Star Trek Discovery I quit questioning all the retroactive continuity that was making me annoyed. Once I did that, I realized this new series was like all of the Star Trek novels I read after the original series left the air in 1969; a way of keeping the spirit alive.

Star Trek Discovery takes place about ten years prior to the original 1966-1969 tv series. It dives right into the problem I have with prequels as it gleefully throws away any previous history in favor of a new version. Over the first few episodes I kept talking back to my television screen which went like this, “Oh c’mon! Somebody would have mentioned this before.” Somewhere in episode 6 or 7 where we were facing new versions of Spock’s father Sarek and original series villain Harry Mudd I stopped caring and just let it go. I put myself in the mindset that this isn’t part of the real Star Trek universe but some alternate version.

One of the reasons I was willing to do this was the crew of Discovery. I stayed with Star Trek Voyager long after the stories dropped in writing quality because of the crew. Discovery, I believe, will have the same effect. It has an advantage of having shorter seasons of 15 episodes. Also, the writing team has seemingly a big board of everything mentioned in the original series and pulls two or three things down and adds them to every episode.

They made a very odd choice to spend the first two episodes on another starship setting up the main character Michael Burnham played by Sonequa Martin-Green. She is a human who was raised by Spock’s parents. Don’t ask more than that because her existence makes no sense. Her actions in the first two episodes are even more illogical. They are meant to put her in a situation where she is looking for redemption when she is added to the crew of Discovery in episode 3. From there as the crew gets to know Burnham and we as an audience get to know the crew things improve.

Like all series these days there is an overarching conspiracy theory plotline. What makes this fun, instead of dreary, is the writers take it to one of the more fun places in Star Trek history setting many of the later season episodes there. Taken as a whole, episodes ten through thirteen are where Discovery takes off. Again as long as you don’t spend too much time thinking about what we know from previous iterations. I was looking forward to the next episode as each one ended.

The resolution of that plot brought season 1 to a two-episode finale that was enjoyable. It ended with a call back to the original series as the Enterprise was hovering in front of Discovery as the season ended. Which is an example of the not quite fan fiction quality of Discovery. There were times it felt like the writers had started with a premise found on a fan forum somewhere.

The second season of Discovery begins in a couple weeks. I’ll be watching. With my mindset perfectly adjusted to enjoy the silly ride.

Mark Behnke

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