Star Trek: Discovery Launches Trek’s Return To TV

For one night only, Star Trek returned to TV. On CBS, Star Trek: Discovery premiered, but for one episode only. Want to see the rest? Then you have to subscribe to CBS’ streaming service CBS All Acess, which will leave many frustrated, especially with the way the first episode ended.

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Titled “The Vulcan Hello”, the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery introduced viewers to a new slate of characters starting with Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the first officer of the Federation starship Shenzhou (the starship Discovery does not appear in the first two episodes). As the main character, she is rather mysterious and has an interesting back story that was only partly revealed in the first episode. After her parents were killed by Klingons, the Federation’s arch rivals, Burnham was raised by Sarek (James Frain) in the logic-oriented Vulcan culture. Now a grown woman, Burnham is having trouble balancing her human and Vulcan upbringing. By the way, yes, this is the same Sarek that is Spock’s father.

In the pilot, the Shenzou comes across an ancient-looking artifact on the edge of Federation space and Burnham volunteers to investigate it. Her curiosity quickly escalates a tense situation that brings the Federation to the brink of war. What is worse is that her actions afterwards are what make war more and more likely.On the whole, this was a solid and enjoyable episode. There were many issues with it, but most open-minded fans will be pleased with Star Trek: Discovery. What’s good to great about it? First of all, unlike the J.J. Abrams reboot films (except Star Trek Beyond), this feels like Star Trek, only modernized. There are many references and adherences to Star Trek lore that should satisfy hardcore fans.

Time is taken to explore characters and themes. The driving one in this episode is about how cultural misconceptions can be disastrous. This has been explored in other Treks, but this issue is still relevant given today’s fragile political climate.

The production values and special effects are absolutely stunning and rivals what you see in theaters. Yes, that includes the Star Trek reboot films. Every dollar spent is up there on the screen. The show is just beautifully filmed.

“The Vulcan Hello”, which was directed by David Semel, does a good job of building a sense of unease and tension thanks to liberal usages of Dutch angles and editing. You truly feel that this crew on the Shenzou is out there on their own. This creates a barely concealed uneasy feeling among them and us. The character that best expressed this anxiousness was Lt. Commander Saru (Doug Jones), a lanky and cowardly alien who is the first one to recommend that the Shenzou hightails it out of harm’s way.

Star Trek: Discovery takes place in the original Star Trek universe and is a prequel to the very first show. But being a prequel presents the show with many problems that comes with being a prequel. While the technology is stunning eye candy, it looks more advanced than even the later Star Trek shows so how can this be a prequel to the original Star Trek with its clunky sets and limited technology? This gives critics a good argument that it doesn’t take place in the Prime Universe and is more at home with the Abrams reboots. But that is just nitpicking.

The bigger flaws with Star Trek: Discovery lie with its script and some execution. The dialogue is often stiff and clunky, unlike the show’s new rival, The Orville. Most of the time, when characters speak, their speech comes off as wordy and does not feel natural. This is a problem because it sometimes brings the show’s pace to a grinding halt and it happens whenever the Klingons appear.

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Scenes with the alien race are probably the biggest stumble for Star Trek: Discovery. All their dialogue is spoken in a clumsy tongue with tiring subtitles. Honestly, they are nothing like the violent and popular Klingons of previous Treks. Even their look is different and downright ugly, and not in a good way. Previous Klingons appeared imposing and hulking with their brow ridges and fur-covered armor. These new Klingons lack hair and wear hideous, bony tunics that Liberace would have loved. They look more like the poorly received Abrams version of Klingons, which were also disappointing. It makes you wonder why producers keep insisting on changing the classic look of the Klingons. They were perfect, why mess with the look?

Issues aside, “The Vulcan Hello” heralds an auspicious beginning for the latest incarnation of Trek. For too long, we waited for new Star Trek and now we have it. But there is a big catch.

In order to keep watching Star Trek: Discovery it will literally cost you since it’s on a streaming service. Outside of North America it is streaming on Netflix, so if you have not subscribed to the service then it is worth doing so to continue watching the adventures of Commander Burnham.

But in the U.S. fans are being forced to subscribe to CBS’ own streaming service. This begs the question, is this show worth a subscription? Sadly, the answer would have to be no. As good as “The Vulcan Hello” was, it did not hit it out of the ballpark. Plus, the cliffhanger ending, which forces viewers to subscribe to find out how the story ends, will infuriate fans. Sure, some will say just spend the six to ten dollars a month. But for just one show? Seeing the commercials for the other programming on CBS All Access is enough to convince me it is not worth the money. Frankly, I have no interest in watching CSI: Insert an American City or Survivor. Not only that but it usually takes three to five episodes of a series for me to decide if it warrants continued watching. One episode simply is not enough to convince me to subscribe to another streaming service. If you are that much of a hardcore Star Trek fan and have to get your fix, then go ahead and subscribe to CBS All Access. I can wait to see the entire show on a later date. After all, I have the other Star Trek show to watch, The Orville, and I do not have to spend extra money to do so.

José Soto

 

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Star Trek Returns To TV

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After being out of the TV landscape for over a decade now, Star Trek will finally return as a TV series on January 2017. Now the bad news, it will only be available via streaming a la Netflix. Actually if it was on Netflix or a cable channel it wouldn’t be so bad but in order to see the entire series you have to purchase the new streaming service called CBS All Access.

CBS Television Studios stated in a press release that aside from the first episode, which will be broadcast on the network, all the other episodes will only be shown on the streaming service for $5.99 per month.

Think about that. Six bucks a month just to see new Star Trek episodes. While the service also provides access to the previous Star Trek series (and don’t be surprised if all all enterprisethe series will become exclusive to CBS All Access–goodbye Netflix), who wants to pay more money from our TV budget just to see Star Trek? It’s bad enough we have to pay for cable and Netflix just to see the better shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Daredevil, but now we’re being forced to cough up more money just to see new Star Trek. Never mind that we’ll be able to see the junk that CBS has because who cares about all the CSI/N CIS clones and stale comedies that clutter that network’s schedule?

This follows the same dumb strategy that Paramount carried out in the ’90s with their so-called TV network UPN. Star Trek: Voyager kicked off the network, which struggled throughout its existence until it finally merged with the other fledgling WB Network and became The CW. Of course, by that time Star Trek was banished and retired. The point is that this strategy didn’t turn out too well, so what makes CBS think it will work this time? The smarter thing would’ve been to shop it to a cable channel or strike a deal with Netflix or Hulu. Broadcasting Star Trek on CBS is a non-starter and won’t be a good fit with their generically bland fare. This also proves the notion that network and even cable TV is dying out and underlines the fact that streaming services will be the standard for watching TV programs.

kurtzman pineother downside with this announcement has to do with who is running the show. Alex Kurtzman, the guy who helped dumb down Star Trek in the movies with his cohorts J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci. So it’s a given at this point that despite the press release proclaiming that the show will feature new characters it’s a lock that it will take place in the NuTrek universe that emphasizes cheap and flashy thrills over substance. Many talented showrunners could’ve been given the reins for the new Star Trek show, people like Bryan Singer, J. Michael Straczynski and even Manny Coto have expressed interest in jumpstarting a new Star Trek show. Any of them would’ve been terrific choices to hand the franchise over to and let it grow. But with Kurtzman in charge, it just leaves a sour taste and there isn’t any way that the original and true Star Trek universe will ever return.

Honestly, ask yourself this question: will this new Star Trek be worth the extra expense? Sure, it’s great that Star Trek is finally back on TV where it belongs, but not under these circumstances.

Waldermann Rivera