Star Trek: Discovery Pilot Review

So I know that everyone is wondering, what did Captain Spargo think of the pilot episodes to the new Star Trek. Don't even try to deny that you were wondering that. Here we go then, I'll lumber on over to my keyboard and let you know.

Be warned, here be spoilers.



Star Trek: WARRRRR

There must be an easier way to title these things, something snappier than Star Trek: WARRRRR. Any trademark involved with inserting the word 'war'? Seriously though, for some reason I went into a series called Discovery, thinking that there might be some attempts to, you know, discover something. Instead, we get war, death, murder, 'splosions, shouting, anger, combat, sneaky tactics, fighting, floating corpses, and so on. 

I don't know why I was expecting it not to just turn into the 'splosion fest that it did. It's picking up right where the rebooted films left off, a universe where Spock does the thinking with his fists and angry shouting instead of with his brain, where planets getting 'sploded is practically commonplace. Because that's what Star Trek is really all about, it's not about ethics, morals, choices, doing the right thing, science, exploration, meeting new cultures, nothing like that. Sure there were 'splosions when interactions with those cultures was a bit rocky but the captains did their best to avoid that as much as possible. Long gone are those days it seems.

So the pilot opens, after some Klingon nonsense, with Captain Michelle Yeoh, and our main character, Michael Burnham, AKA the only character whose name I can remember, on a desert planet flagrantly violating the Prime Directive. Oh, but they say it's okay if the aliens don't see them. Some classic Homer Simpson logic there. And this is how that terrible film Into Darkness began too. Rocky start. My other complaint is that this opening scene has nothing to do with the rest of the episodes. All it had was clunky dialogue that didn't particularly build the characters enough to warrant its inclusion as character-related filler.

Then we cut to the opening credits. The music lacked any sense of oomph, it left no impression in me. Not a hugely bad thing and it had the classic refrain to make it feel Star Trekky. However, I can't help but feel this was a missed opportunity. All the other themes were so distinct and memorable and this just pales in comparison. Maybe I'll warm to it. Visually the opening credits were great, but oh no, here comes a spoiler. 

Michelle to die.png

The captain is only Guest Starring, huh? Well, she's not surviving this pilot, that's for damn sure. Sure enough, she gets a bat'leth through the chest, leading to the rest of the season being helmed by, now let me get his name right, Another White Male Captain.

Full disclaimer, I went into this completely blind – I'd only seen a few still images of the show, and I hadn't read any news about the show or anything. I just picked up on it by osmosis really, a vague awareness that it was being released. I don't tend to hop aboard the hype trains much. Michelle Yeoh was in pretty much every single photo I saw of this show. I was damn well looking forward to having her be a captain – she looked the part, and I thought that was great casting, I thought she'd excel in the role and frankly it's time for another woman to sit in the captain's chair. But she's dead now, byeeee! Hello Jason Isaacs apparently, who I'm sure will be great as a captain, but I'm sure as hell not going to care as much.

The other person I don't care much about is our god damn main character. Michael Burnham, while on a story level worked well, just came across as irritating and arrogant. Because she's had past dealings with Klingons as revealed in vague flashbacks and exposition from Sarek, starts bossing Captain Michelle Yeoh (I seriously don't remember any other character names and I ain't opening up a new tab to look it up) about, then proceeds to Vulcan nerve pinch her in a mild act of mutiny to briefly take over the ship to enact her plan.

Now, I get that desperate times call for desperate measures, this just doesn't work as the first time we are introduced to this character, one that we're going to be with for the rest of the season. This should have been at the end of the season, after we'd got to know her properly, her motivations and everything, then we're torn between her disrespecting the authority of the captain and taking matters into her own hands. Instead, I was just screaming, 'DO WHAT MICHELLE TELLS YOU, YOU BASTARD!' at the screen.

Moving on from some of my biggest problems, looking at the two episodes as a whole, there's not too much else to complain about. Visually it was gorgeous, except for the egregious Dutch Angles – apparently tripods in the future are notoriously unreliable – and the plot of the episodes was fine. Klingons want to start a war for some reason, motivation a little lacking, but still, as an opener, that's fine. It was a great little movie really, told in two episodes of TV. It was entertaining, thrilling, interesting.

As a Star Trek pilot however, it has to be said, it kind of fails. It didn't feel very Star Trek to me, and given that the captain dies and the ship gets 'sploded, we need a new pilot. The season needs restarting already. If this was a two-parter season finale, in classic Trek style, I would have been pretty happy, with some earlier hints that the Klingons are up to something while they go out Discovering space things and Trekking about. We could get to know our characters and their relationships, we could have even a tiny bit of screen time on anyone else that isn't Michelle or Michael. Or the science officer, I guess he got some screen time as the snarky comic relief. I even almost remember his name. Surro? Saru?



In short, it was good TV, it really was, well worth a watch, and I'm definitely going to watch the rest of the season, because of course I am, it's got Star Trek in its title. I just hope that it remembers that it's meant to be Star Trek.