3 out of 5
Created by: Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman
covers season 1
It’s a mess! …Which, despite itself – despite its many, many attempts to cut off its own nose and grow a new, surprising face – it manages to outmaneuver, slipshod-logically, flying its way to mostly entertaining heights and, at worst, eye-rollingly, amusingly (as in ya-gotta-appreciate-it) clunky lows.
To be fair to the show’s messiness, its pretty apparent from its opening episodes, which does kick off a conflict which indirectly drives the season’s narrative… but also starts to bury itself into a difficult plotty hole by offing one character and making our POV character, Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) responsible. And responsible for the conflict. Which makes her the underdog, sure, but in a way that’s really hard to bounce back from in a ra-ra fashion. Thus, a show that has undercurrents of hope and exploration – generally tenets of Trek – is forever plagued by a dourness. Because Michael is a stalwart believer in the Federation, she keeps her – our – momentum going when she’s tossed aboard the U.S.S. Discovery, requested by Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs). Keeping with playing against Trekky tropes, our Captain does not fit the Kirk or Picard model, but is instead the grumbly, contrarian, rogue, somewhat backwards wanting to use Fed methodology to, like, attack people.
Anyhow, this wraps all around and through some fun diversions with warping technology, some really unfun and belabored diversions with the Klingons, and then – although, as many have reported, it was, in part, obvious – a fun twist as the season pushed into its latter half which allowed the loose plot to finally cohere into something that seemed to matter for longer than that episode.
There’s a lot of promise in Discovery: the moments not spent trying to bump into a plotthread that works are generally worthwhile because of its varied and interesting cast. Once we get past Michael’s hazing to begrudging friendships, its pretty worthwhile stuff. Of course, once we get to a relationship angle, it’s rather obnoxious, but, fine, we’ll let them sort that out. The effects and fight choreography are pretty astounding for TV, and when they get around to focusing on, like, science fiction ideas instead of ‘this is all your fault, Michael!’ dramatics, you can tell the showrunners have their sci-fi hearts in the right place. It’s just a matter of either shedding or adapting modern era TV habits – season-long arcs; unnecessary twists – to make it a better fit for the Star Trek world. Which doesn’t mean I want this to be old Trek – I like that it’s different in look and tone – but it doesn’t feel like anything yet. It’s too scattered. It’s a mess.
An intriguing enough mess to make me interested to keep tuning in, though.