CBS’ first attempt to restart the Star Trek television franchise has begun. It has been thirteen years since Star Trek: Enterprise had left the airwaves. It is the thirtieth anniversary of Star Trek’s return to television with Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is a Star Trek for a new culture. A culture that prefers dark tones to the bright utopia that Gene Roddenberry created. Star Trek: Discovery is what Star Trek: Deep Space Nine could have been if Rick Berman and company allowed it to exit the entire Roddenberry universe.
Star Trek: Discovery takes place ten years before the adventures of Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise. Most likely, he would have been a cadet in the academy. The story for the first two episodes of the series were very ambitious and dealt with a very powerful topic: does Roddenberry’s vision of utopia fit in today’s ideology? Starfleet’s mission is peace obsolete when dealing with a known warring culture. Even the Vulcans shot first when they had continued encounters with the Klingons.
Starfleet has not had any encounters with the Klingons in the last century. The Klingon Empire is not the same empire that we discovered in the original Star Trek series. Not only that, they have no semblance of the empire that Picard would have constant dealings with in The Next Generation. They are an empire that has fallen into disarray. Leaderless. T’Kuvma attempts to bring the empire together and unite the 24 families of the Klingon Empire. Reassert their dominance in the galaxy.
Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) encounter a cloaked Klingon ship. Immediately, knowing the Klingon culture from Burnham’s past, she has a course of action to deal with them. However, Georgiou believes in the Starfleet moniker of peaceful exploration. This leads into an allegory for our present-day culture. Western societies views on trying to deal with fundamentalism. How can one peacefully negotiate with a society when their view is that of dying in battle?
The series offers more in complex storytelling and awe-inspiring visuals. However, if you are a Star Trek nerd, you would be offset by the design of the ships, characters and wardrobe. The designs of their universe, even though it is ten years earlier, do not fit. They bare more of a comparison to Enterprise than they do to the original series. The uniforms are more of the jumpsuit style that was first introduced in The Next Generation. The ship designs are more of Enterprise. The layout of the ship, including the Captain’s ready room, was more to TNG that the original series.
Having been watching Star Trek since the original series re-runs on channel 13, many of their tactics I called out before they mentioned it on screen. This made me aware that I have, in fact, been watching way too much Star Trek in my life. If you doubt the validity of that statement, just check out the other podcast we do here, The Away Team, to find out just how big of a Star Trek nerd I am.
The aspect of putting Star Trek: Discovery on CBS’ All-Access streaming service is a reward and a curse. CBS knows that Star Trek fans will sign up to view the series, since they have not had a new series since 2005. This will lead to benefits in revenue and not have to worry about ratings in a traditional television market. Obviously taking note of Star Trek: Enterprise’s ratings, which led to its cancellation. They can tell more ambitious stories and lead to more complex characters.
The downside is how many viewers will Star Trek: Discovery need to be profitable? While CBS saw a 64% increase in signups leading up to the series, how many people opted not to view it? The stymie of adding another monthly streaming service would not be sustainable if you are paying $10/month for just one television series. How many subscribers will fall off after the premiere?
Star Trek: Discovery is a good series for the modern time. Bringing back something that left the series was debate of ideology. The debate of ideology in the first two episodes cost many lives and a Federation star ship. The series itself belongs on a premium cable network or even Netflix or Hulu. However, banishing it to a network paid subscription service will ultimately be its downfall. Is it worth $10 a month for its run? I think so, but I will not pay for it. Which is a pity, because it could have ended up being a great show.