I was recently off work for a couple of days and decided to check out Crave (since I’m paying for it) to find something to soak up my time while off work. As I scrolled through the list of Crave’s available shows, one thing stuck out to me, Star Trek Discovery. I will say this first and foremost, I am not a Trek fan. I liked the reboot movies with Chris Pine and Co., but I was always more of a Star Wars/Stargate fan; which apparently means you can’t like the Trek?
Anyways, I loaded up the first episode and I was actually blown away at the production quality of the show. I have seen episodes of every Star Trek show in existence, my grandmother was a fan of anything Sci-fi as is my mother. So I have seen the odd episode here and there but it just never tickled my fancy. But Discovery is one of those high quality shows that has fewer episodes to really make their limited budget work, and boy does it.
Most people are familiar with the Star Trek Unitards that were made famous with the original series and the sequel series’. While most of the main cast always had a two piece uniform, any supporting members of Starfleet normally sported a rather form fitting one piece. With this new series all members of the USS Discovery sport sleek and updated two piece uniforms that are distinguished by their colours and bands on the sleeves and shoulders. For example, our main character, Michael Burnham, is a science team member after she was dishonourably discharged from Star Fleet. Her uniform is the standard dark navy blue of the others, but instead of gold on her sleeves and shoulder she has silver to signify her occupation as scientific.
The main villains for the first season (and I presume subsequent seasons) are the Klingon race, but these are the not the Klingons made famous by The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. These Klingons resemble the brief view of Klingons we got in the feature film Star Trek Into Darkness. Normally Klingons have brownish skin with very pronounced facial ridges. The Klingons in Discovery vary in colour from deep black to white and their facial structure looks much different, (I’ll touch on that later in the make-up section) their clothing is also much different. In the older series Klingons wore armour exclusively to signify their readiness for battle at all times, the armour was always a black or dark grey in colour. Discovery has moved away from the stark colours and have shown the Klingons in deep reds, whites, golds, blacks, and greys.
As I said before I am not a fan of Star Trek and most of my knowledge comes from hearing people discuss it, the movies, or the passing episodes I’ve seen. Discovery takes place after Star Trek: Enterprise and roughly 10 years before the Original Series. In one episode First Officer Saru pulls up a list of notable Starfleet captains and it lists both Johnathan Archer ( Captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek Enterprise) and Christopher Pike (Captain who recruits James Kirk into Starfleet). This series sets up and explains how the Klingon race went from a fractured house state governed by 24 distinct houses to the Empire encountered in the later series’.
While the technology they display is similar to other shows, the weapons of the Discovery and the crew are where the slight differences lie. The Discovery only has 4 phaser banks that fire in small bursts as opposed to the long blasts from The Next Generation, and the phaser rifles and handguns are more bulky and less refined than their ‘future’ counterparts.
The make-up for this show is leaps and bounds better than any other sci-fi show I have ever seen, it’s closer to movie level make up than for a standard television serial . I understand that at the time of their production all of the Star Trek shows used state of the art make-up and visual effects, but this show just sits above the rest. First Officer Saru is a Kelpien, a race designed specifically for this show; he is played by the amazing Doug Jones who has made his entire career by working under heavy prosthetics to bring his characters to life. The Kelpiens look like a cross between a fish and a gazelle. They have long legs and arms but their face is very much asymmetrical and and standard looking. Apparently able to sense the ‘coming of death’ most other species view Kelpiens as cowards.
The Klingons for this show look VERY different from the original source material. The prothetics that the actors wear give them a large nasal cavity with a large crown and pointed egg shaped head. As I said before the Klingons come in all different colours and their armour is much different too. Traditionally the Klingons look like regular people with dark brown skin and facial ridges, these Klingons are much beefier and stand roughly six feet tall at the shortest one seen (as of episode 9).
CGI & SPECIAL EFFECTS
The CGI for this show is better than some of the feature films I’ve seen. It’s a very visually stunning show with expansive backdrops and uses practical effects whenever possible. In the first two episodes, the story takes place in a binary star system. This provides a very stunning backdrop for the entirety of the two episode arc before we are placed firmly in the Discovery for the remainder of the episodes. Even being set firmly in the inside of a ship, there is a lot of moments where CGI was used perfectly in conjunction with actual prothetics. In the third episode, the crew finds their sister ship, the USS Glenn, and in an attempt to discover why it went dark, board it. Without revealing anything, the CGI and practical effects used to generate the creepy atmosphere is spot on.
The cast for this show is exceptional. There’s no one person that I dislike, which is rare. Normally there’s always that one member of the cast that makes you question why they’re there, but not this crew. Each member serves a very unique and important purpose. The cast is as follows:
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham: A one time mutineer set to serve a life sentence in a Federation jail. She is mysteriously conscripted by Captain Gabriel Lorca to serve on his ship the USS Discovery.
Doug Jones as Saru: The first and only Kelpien member of Starfleet. He serves as the First Officer on the USS Discovery. His character is comparable to Spock and Data from the Original Series and The Next Generation respectively.
Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca: Captain of the USS Discovery and a brilliant military tactician. He is willing to use any means necessary to win the war against the Klingons so that Starfleet may continue its primary directive, exploration.
Shazad Latif as Lt. Ash Tyler: A Starfleet member held and tortured in a Klingon prison, he helped Captain Lorca escape and as restitution Lorca named him his Head of Security.
Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets: Chief Engineer aboard the USS Discovery. His invention of a Spore Drive that allows for blink travel could end the war with the Klingons in favour of the Federation.
Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly: A Cadet in her final year of training she was assigned to the Discovery under Stamets with Burnham as her roommate. She is optimistic about everything and wants to have her own command one day.
As I’ve said numerous times in this post, I’m not a Trek fan and never really was, but this show has changed my outlook. I have heard lots of conflicting reviews of the show and what I believe it boils down to is this: If you liked Star Trek before this show, then you’re not a fan; but, if you weren’t a fan and see this show, you’ll like it. I’ve spoken to some people regarding their ideas of the show and that seems to be the die hard consensus I’ve come up with. I spoke to one fan who said that he didn’t like it because it had become “too flashy” to be called Star Trek. Star Trek was always about the stories and acting not so much about the shiny sets and the perfect CGI battles. I can both agree and disagree with that statement because I think that while classic Trek was like that, it was because they didn’t really have a choice. With the advent of new animation techniques and CGI that can be used in everyday shows, I think the flashy space shows are only going to get more flashy in the future.
The show is pretty good from what I’ve seen so far, I’m only on episode 9, but it has grabbed my attention after only a few episodes which is good right? Normally I like to give shows at least 7 episodes for them to grab my attention. I find that 7 episodes is enough that you get rid of all the “mandatory” introductions of characters and into some plot. There are plenty of shows out there that lots of people love that I just couldn’t get into (Breaking Bad and Dexter for example), but Discovery is something every sci-fi fan can get behind. It has action, plot, aliens, and some pretty amazing backdrops that help to deliver a modern and stylistic approach to the decades old franchise. I give it a solid 8/10! Give it a shot, you might just find yourself engrossed in this new fantastic show as much as I am.