Star Trek: Discovery has earned widespread acclaim from the critics, but the franchise’s television revival is garnering a lukewarm response from plenty of others: namely, longtime fans who have waited 12 years for Star Trek‘s return to TV. There’s a clear disconnect, as Discovery meets modern standards for quality television, yet, at least in the eyes of many devotees, it lacks key elements that make a Trek series … Trek.
Discovery is action-heavy. Because it follows the J.J. Abrams films, it has to meet certain expectations of those fans who boarded the decades-old franchise with his 2009 reboot. Thus, we’re given a Star Trek that’s more focused on space battles than with philosophical discussions. There’s still a touch of that — and the allegorical elements are definitely present — but it’s not nearly as “let’s sit down and debate the ethical consequences of our actions” kind of show as even Voyager.
A divisive moment in last week’s premiere of Discovery was the decision by Sonequa Martin-Green’s First Officer Michael Burnham to defy the orders of her captain, and attempt to stage a mutiny aboard a Starfleet vessel. It was a bold creative choice that left many questioning its merits. Of those who opposed the development, classic Trek fans were the loudest. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Riker would never disregard Captain Picard’s wishes like that. The moment simply didn’t ring true for a lot of longtime viewers, even if the writing did justify Burnham’s actions as much as it could.
Costumes and Tech Are A Big Problem, For Some
Although it’s set 10 years before the events of The Original Series, Discovery, for whatever reason, evolves the visual aesthetic of Star Trek in a lot of ways, rather than representing a ’60s throwback style. That might be jarring for a lot of fans as 1. it doesn’t make a lot of sense; and 2. doesn’t deliver on that nostalgia. But, as Jadzia Dax hinted at in Deep Space Nine’s “Trials and Tribble-ations,” the classic ’60s aesthetic in TOS was more of a consciously retro choice. So it’s possible a few years down the road, the Federation decided to ditch its space-age uniforms in favor of the gold, red and blue shirts (and skirts!) we know and love.
These Aren’t Your Dad’s Klingons
There is also a disconnect and divisive reaction to the Klingon designs on Discovery. The producers say the Klingons’ different houses justify the visual shakeup. However, some fans complain they should appear as they did on TOS. But, honestly, it would look terrible (and downright offensive) if the black-face Klingons from TOS were realized again in 2017. And it just makes sense that the TNG/DS9-era Klingons would receive an upgrade, considering the advancement in our real-life technology, and as a visual nod to their look in the Abrams films. However, to a lot of fans, this isn’t true to the established visual style of Trek.
But apart from costuming and makeup, Discovery just looks and feels like a different kind of Trek. The cinematography — with its sweeping shots of starships, extravagant space battles and in-orbit exploration — is far more flashy than any other Star Trek we’ve seen on TV. It’s downright cinematic, and could be jarring for fans who want a simplistically shot, more grounded Trek series. The comparisons to Abrams’ Kelvinverse Trek are fair, considering Discovery borrows from this more cinematic style, which wasn’t really executed on the small screen before.
There’s Still Room to Grow
Besides Enterprise, which reached its peak early, every Trek spinoff took a long time to find its groove (for some, even three whole seasons). For fans who might not be satisfied by what Discovery has to offer, fear not: There’s still plenty of time to get the je ne sais quoi that makes Trek Trek. Or, it may never get to that point. And you’ll have to get over the fact that Discovery evolves beyond what you think you know about Trek. Who knows. Either way, it’s best to give the series a fair shot, and see where it goes. They haven’t even boarded the U.S.S. Discovery yet — give it a chance! Or, as William Shatner famously said in 1986: “Get a life!”
Set 10 years before the adventures of Kirk and Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp, with Alex Kurtzman, Bryan Fuller, Heather Kadin, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Akiva Goldsman, Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth serving as executive producers.
The series is streaming on CBS All Access in the United States, Crave TV in Canada, and Netflix internationally.
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