Posted in TV Stuff

I believe in redemption: Or I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery

Trek and Me:

As a longtime fan of sci-fi and similar genres, it’s not going to be shocking information that I was a fan of Star Trek. I was for many years a Trekkie and feel no more embarassment about that, than I do anything else I am a fan of. By that I mean, deeply embrassed in the past, but a lot less concerned about people’s opinion now. Whilst Star Trek was on telly when I was younger, it wasn’t until The Next Generation started in 1987 that I really started to get into Star Trek. With it’s hopeful future, high concept sci-fi ideas and cool technology, there was a lot for me to like, it even had a number of alien characters for my less socially confident self could identify with. The show went from strength to strength and this spin off itself had a spin off, the excellent Deep Space 9. It peaked at that point and for me the less said about Voyager and Enterprise the better. For many years Trek was the only game in town for quality TV sci-fi, so it kind of got away with coasting from time to time, when other sci-fi TV and films started getting better, Trek didn’t keep up, so when Enterprise called it a day at 4 years old, I was quite sanguine about the whole thing, we got over 28 seasons of enjoyable TV and ten or so movies, I think we did alright and so Star Trek kind of went away.

Years went by and then the JJ Abrams reboot happened, recastings and hand-wavy alternate universes gave us new Trek, but with all the old names and it was …good. The first film stands up as a good space opera movie, with action and some small amount of pathos and a little fun here and there, but didn’t feel like Trek, the second one wasn’t better in that regard, the third one, Star Trek Beyond, felt a little more like real Star Trek, but the writing was on the wall and with all sorts of problems with the casting and the like, it felt like movie Trek was about to go the way of TV Trek and I was okay with that, Star Trek was a TV thing anyway, so it not being on at the pictures was no great loss, I mean with the MCU and Star Wars doing so well, it wasn’t as if I didn’t have enough to fill up my Blu-Ray collection.

But really, Star Trek was and really should be a TV show, it was more cerebral, more episodic and was made to have a large cast, that didn’t really need a star. Then we heard the news, Star Trek was coming back to the small screen on a streaming service, then the horror for the non-Americans, it was a streaming service we didn’t get. Fortunately the ever expanding Netflix got the international nights and along with all the old shows, we got something unexpected, for the first time in ten years, new Trek on TV. For the first time in a while, Star Trek was exciting again.

The show itself.

Warning, spoilers

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Set just before the Original series, in the 2250’s, this was the story of Michael Burnham, the adopted daughter of Sarek of Vulcan, who had become the 1st officer of the USS Shenzhou under it’s captain Philippa Georgiou. Whilst surveying a binary star system, the ship encounters Klingons. These Klingons under the leadership of zealot T’Kuvma are trying to unite the great houses of Quo’nos and the best way to do that is to find a common foe, in this case the United Federation of Planets. Michael sees this heading towards a fight and tries to strike first, to avoid diplomacy and meet the Klingons as they would meet them. This goes badly and this ill-advised course of events, leads to a state of war between the Federation and the Klingon empire, which was of course what T’Kuvma wanted all along. After shooting her superior officer and her attempts to make things right getting her captain killed, Michael is arrested for treason, stripped of her commission and sentenced to prison for the rest of her life, all as the Federation she did this all for is plunged into a war that Starfleet (mostly at this point being explorers rather than soldiers) is ill-equipped to fight.

6 Months later, she is on a shuttle being moved to another ship, when it’s attacked by a Klingon vessel and is rescued by the USS Discovery, under the command of Gabriel Lorca, who see’s Michael as useful to him. Michael is uneasy, seeing many of her old crew on Discovery, including it’s 1st officer is Mr Saru, her old subordinate on the Shenzhou. Lorca offers her a chance a redemption, a way to win the war and explore the universe once more. She’s given quarters, which she shares with an incredibly chatty cadet called Tilly and an assignment in engineering with the less than cheerful Lt Paul Stamets. The first season of Discovery is essentially Michael’s redemption, her second chance to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

There’s the usual easter eggs, with appearances by Spock’s parents, Harry Mudd as well as many mentions of familar worlds and races, but there’s also a lot of new. The uniforms are not the old two piece bright colours and the Klingons also get quite the new look. There’s a bleaker tone, as if a brighter world has been tarnished by war, but still yearns to gleam. We also get looks as what it means to be a human raised by aliens, what war does to good people and also how compassion for our enemy might be the only thing that seperates us from them. We see matter of fact depictions of gay marriage, sensitive handlings of post traumatic stress disorder and what different people are okay living with in order to keep themselves and their way of life alive.

It isn’t Star Trek of old, it isn’t Rodenberry’s way, but it is compelling, it is interesting and it is a welcome return to Trek on TV. It starts well, takes several twists and turns and ends up as single season that tells an interesting story about redemption, about principles and about compassion.

This could have been a disaster (cough Enterprise cough) but instead was a thoughtful 15 part story that showed me that my love of Star Trek was an ongoing thing, rather than something a bit of my history. When I heard that season 2 was coming in January, I was actually excited about it.

It’s not it’s episodic antecedents, but if you have ever enjoyed Trek, you’ll find a lot of the good is still there, if you haven’t then it’s different enough from what it was to win new fans. It’s easy to find on Netflix here in the UK and it’s well worth seeking out.

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Author:

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

One thought on “I believe in redemption: Or I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery

  1. Wonderful post! I have MANY of the same feelings about the entire Star Trek universe! I enjoyed TOS on reruns and had watched the movies, but it was TNG that made me a fan. DS9 was excellent, as was Voyager (♥ Janeway), but Enterprise was a mess and was the only series I didn’t watch every episode of. The robooted movies are fabulous with great casting. I was leery of Discovery because it seemed too different and off canon, but it really grew on me. I’m really looking forward to the next season, I just wish I didn’t have to spend extra money to watch it! I’m a Star Trek fan forever!

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