At last! This long rollercoaster ride has come to a stop. And I think I might have to vomit.
Don’t get me wrong–I enjoyed the ride. It was thrilling! Lots of ups and downs and twistarounds, with more than a few unexpected twists and turns. But now that the ride is over… I just feel sick.
If you haven’t yet watched the season finale, “Will You Take My Hand?”–what are you waiting for? The entire season of Star Trek: Discovery is now available on CBS All Access! And if you’re one of those cheap-ohs who don’t like paying for television, then now’s your chance! With the Olympics pre-empting every good TV show for the next 2 weeks, there’s never been a better time to check out their 1-week free trial offer! You can binge the entire show in a week! Just don’t be surprised if it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Seriously though, for the most part, I enjoyed about 90% of this season. The visual effects are better than most of the Star Trek movies, the acting is 100x better than Shatner, and the writing is… well… they did alright.
But I just can’t seem to get past that other 10%. There were a lot of missed opportunities, in my opinion–great moments that weren’t fully realized. The whole season felt rushed. I understand the need for dramatic action-adventure pacing, but Star Trek: Discovery is a bit extreme. It felt like they were trying to do the same type of thing Star Trek: Enterprise did in its third season (the war arc with the Xindi): Telling one overall story, with a bunch of other little stories intertwined with the main story. And that’s fine. Enterprise pulled it off effectively. But they did it in 24 episodes, not 15, and they had the benefit of 2 seasons worth of backstory and character development to draw upon.
The problem with doing an epic arc like this in the first season is two-fold: First off, it sets a pace that will be difficult to match in the second season. The producers will either have to slow down the pacing, which may alienate some of their newer, younger fans, or try individual episodes–with each episode being its own, self-contained story. In an era where practically every dramatic series on television is serialized, that idea almost sounds inventive! The only other option would be to come up with another season-long story arc that can match the intensity of the first season–and I’m not sure the franchise can handle much more of that!
The other problem with doing an epic non-stop story arc over the first season is that we still–after 15 episodes!–don’t really know much about our main characters. Michael Burnham aside, there really wasn’t a whole lot of character development throughout the season. What do we know about Tilly’s past other than the fact that her mother was constantly criticizing her hair? Is that really the defining quality of Sylvia Tilly? Her hair? Honestly, we know more about “Captain Killy” from the Mirror Universe than we do about our own Cadet Tilly.
What have we learned about Lt. Stamets? The writers spent all their time developing this love story between Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber–and then they killed the good doctor off! WTF?!?
Here’s a little known fact about Saru: His species is able to sense the coming of death by use of their threat ganglia. Did you know that obscure little factoid? Did you even watch one episode of the show? It is quite literally the only thing we know about Saru!
Who else is even in the main cast? Lorca’s dead (in both universes)–so there goes one of the most interestingly dark and complex characters Star Trek has ever seen–and Shazad Latif’s character… I don’t even know what to call him! Voq? Ash Tyler? Doesn’t look like it matters, since he’s leaving the show to go sing kumbaya with the Klingons!
The lost art of character development. That’s what I miss. Silly me for thinking that a TV show should dare to take the time to develop characters, share their backstories, and forge relationships with one another. The only relationship that was developed this season was Michael Burnham and “Ash Tyler”–and what good will that do us next season?
I may sound like an old fogie, but I remember the days when TV series would utilize their episodic format effectively by focusing on a single character or pair unlikely duos together. As the viewer immersed themselves in the world of those characters, and learned about those characters, the viewer might be forced to reflect and learn something about themselves. Nowadays, its all about the story. No time to dwell on those people who are telling the story–its gotta be boom!—smash! Onto the next plot point!
But I digress. Let’s talk about the season finale. There were quite a few enjoyable moments. Michael Burnham making her case to Admiral Cornwall with the entire crew of the Discovery willing to risk their careers by backing her up? That’s what Star Trek is all about! L’Rell as the new leader of the Klingon Empire? Love it! Tilly inhaling some kind of space dust with Clint Howard? Classic!
Of course, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t remind everyone that Clint Howard first appeared in Star Trek nearly 52 years ago! That gives him the distinction of being the longest-running recurring actor in Star Trek history, having also appeared as a Ferengi in Enterprise and even a human in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!
We also got to spend quite a bit of time on Qo’noS! In fact, I’m not sure that we’ve ever seen this much of the Klingon homeworld. Canonically, the first time we saw Qo’noS was in Star Trek: The Next Generation–but we usually only saw the Great Hall of the Klingon High Council. In fact, this was one of the very few times that we’ve seen anything other than the capitol of Qo’noS.
The Orion “flea market” was a lot of fun! Best known for their weapons dealers, Tilly spent her last day as a cadet learning first-hand about some of the other things the Orions have to offer on their outpost: Drugs, for one–powerful enough to knock you out–Sex (although Tilly chose not to participate in that orgy), and the best-tasting Gormagander on all of Qo’noS! I guess now we know why the “space whale” is so endangered! They’re delicious!
I’m going to ignore the implications made by that Klingon taking a piss in the alley (at least for now–I’m not sure I can let that go). So long for Star Trek being a family show!
I’m struggling to come up with more good things to say about the finale… I like that they at least tied up the spore drive issue. Of course Starfleet is putting the project on hold until they can find a non-human interface (and, presumably, non-Tardigrade interface). This explains why Kirk, Picard and Sisko never used a spore drive on their ships. But I still have a hard time believing that Captain Janeway, after stranding the crew of the Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, never even considered building a spore drive to jump back home in a flash! And trust me, they came up with some pretty far-fetched ideas to try to get home. Here’s hoping that the second season of Discovery reveals that all of Stamets’ research has been classified top secret. That would at least make Janeway less of an idiot.
Since I’m making a wishlist for season 2, let me add this plea to the writers of Star Trek: Discovery: Please stop making episodes where the entire dramatic element hangs on the possible death or destruction of something we, the fans, know will survive into at least the 24th Century! It may seem like an exciting way to raise the stakes in your season finale by posing the imminent destruction of the Klingon homeworld–except that we know that isn’t going to happen! This is the same exact problem as “Lethe”–one of the weakest episodes to date, primarily because the entire premise of that episode is that Sarek might die! Will they find Sarek in time to save his life? YES! We know this already! Stop wasting our time!
And last, but not least, please do not EVER show the “USS Enterprise” ever again! Unless you enjoy wiping your ass with The Original Series, because that’s exactly what it smelled like!
Look, I enjoy Star Trek: Discovery–I really do! But I enjoy it as its own thing. Honestly, the only way I could enjoy this season at all was by thinking of it as a really high-budget fan film. That has allowed me to get past the multiple canon issues and just get swept up in this amazing story being told. But the only way I can do that, is by ignoring the fact that this series takes place in the same universe/approximate timeframe as The Original Series.
I accepted the fact that Sarek’s voice and face has changed dramtically from his appearance in 1967’s “Journey to Babel”. Amanda too. And I accepted the fact that Spock has an adopted human sister that he never, ever talked about. Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd was a stretch, but I accepted that, too. The Klingons look nothing like they’re supposed to, but hey–it’s just a TV show, I should really just relax!
Listen, I understand that when the writers of Star Trek: Discovery wrapped their first season, they had no idea if they’d be coming back for a second season or not. And I understand the temptation to anchor everything you’ve just written–all 15 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery–firmly into the canon of the franchise as a whole. I get it. I really do. And, although I’d like to think that if I were the showrunner I would resist that temptation to do such a cornball ending to the season, I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to or not. But I do know one thing: If I were able to cast all my doubts aside and say “Fuck it, let’s do it!” about showing the USS Enterprise in the final frame of the season, I’d at least say “Let’s make sure that the Enterprise actually looks like the Enterprise” for fuck’s sake! There’s already a CGI-Enterprise in CBS’ files–just use the one created in 2006 for the re-mastering of The Original Series! Or, if you must, use the one from the “Kelvin-timeline” movies (which, to the best of my knowledge, there’s still no canonical explanation about why that Enterprise looks so different from the original Enterprise, inside and out). But, whatever you do, do not create yet another inconsistency by redesigning the original Constitution-class Enterprise again!
I have never missed Deep Space Nine as much as I do now. Not only were their epic storylines easy to follow and rich with character development, but while making their nod to The Original Series, they painstakingly built a brand new model of the original USS Enterprise for “Trials and Tribble-ations”–knowing that every fan would be scrutinizing every centimeter of that ship to see if it’s consistent with the original. It’s that attention to detail that I sorely miss.
The sad part is, the Discovery writers are probably really proud of their inclusion of the Enterprise in their show. Even after the series was renewed for season 2, they had four months to think better of that ending and take it out. They could have easily edited the final episode to end with the obligatory warp-out of our solar system. That would have made for a fine ending that would have made this Trekkie very happy. But the sad truth is, the producers of Star Trek: Discovery actually thought that it would be a good idea to include a distress signal from Captain Pike and the USS Enterprise. And they probably thought fans would love the 2000th redesign of the original starship Enterprise. Which just goes to show you how out of touch the makers of Star Trek: Discovery really are. They don’t really give a damn about canon or making a good Star Trek series. They just want to get paid to write their fan fiction. I guess it’s hard to blame them–afterall, they do make a shitload of money to produce this crap. That’s a lot of isiks!
For the record, an isik is a monetary unit of the Vlugtan government, as revealed in the Deep Space Nine episode “Rivals”. Why nobody in the 23rd Century seems to know what an isik is is beyond me.
At any rate, I feel that the last 2 episodes of Discovery probably would have been better as originally conceived: As one episode. Well into the production of season 1, it was announced that the season would consist of 15 episodes instead of the originally announced 14. Initially, I assumed that was because of the 2-part premiere set aboard the USS Shenzhou, but that theory didn’t really make sense since those episodes would have already been “in the can” by the time the announcement was made. Now it makes sense: The expansion came about because there were too many loose ends to tie up in the finale. I think that originally they had planned for only 1 post-Mirror Universe episode to tie things up and end the war with the Klingons. But, for whatever reason, they decided to make it a 2-parter. That meant that they needed a little bit of filler. This explains why Michael Burnham “rescues” Emperor Georgiou from the Mirror Universe and brings her to the prime universe, and why Admiral Cornwell put Georgiou in command of the Discovery: They needed a hook for the second part! I’m pretty sure all of that was added in after they decided to expand the season. I also think they added in the element of Discovery returning from the Mirror Universe 9 months “too late” for the same reason: They needed to make it harder for Discovery to win the war.
All the mis-steps aside, I still enjoyed most of the season. I will be eagerly awaiting season two by reading all the books and graphic novels about the show, most of which are being considered “canon” by the writers of the TV show! Hell, maybe some of those will fill in some of the backstory of our regular characters! A good example of this is in the novel Desperate Hours, where we first learn about the fate of Michael’s birth parents and why she harbors so much guilt about it. Until this week, the only way to know that story is if you read the book. But, when Michael tells the story to “Ash Tyler” towards the end of this week’s episode, it officially became canon and I felt all cool for already knowing that fact about the lead character.
In the coming weeks and months, I plan to dive into the expanded Star Trek universe in print. Keep checking back to The Trekaissance, where I plan to write similar musings for each book and comic series!
But if season 2 of Discovery literally picks up where season 1 ended: With the USS Enterprise–I’m out! I’m sorry, there’s only so much I can accept. Unless they can get Zachary Quinto to reprise the role of Spock, or better yet use stock footage of Leonard Nimoy and generate his role via-CGI (like how Carrie Fisher will live forever in Star Wars!), I will not accept another actor as prime Spock. No. Just don’t do it!
Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll still watch. Who doesn’t love the sight of a bloody trainwreck?!?