Work­ing the shrooms

SFX - - Contents -

As sea­son one takes a break, we de­liver our ver­dict on a Trek like no other.

UK Broad­cast Stream­ing on Net­flix, on hia­tus US Broad­cast Stream­ing on CBS All Ac­cess, on hia­tus Episodes Re­viewed 1.01-1.09

Six months ago, en­ter­tain­ment web­sites were is­su­ing prophe­cies of doom about Dis­cov­ery, seem­ingly based mostly on the fact that its start date had been bumped back mul­ti­ple times. Those guys must still be wip­ing egg off their faces, be­cause what­ever mis­cal­cu­la­tions were made (we sus­pect CBS may not have re­alised quite what an un­der­tak­ing mak­ing a Trek show is), it’s the end re­sult that mat­ters, and Dis­cov­ery is show­ing huge prom­ise. After a slightly shaky start, this open­ing sea­son is shap­ing up as prob­a­bly the best of any of the Trek spin-off series.

That’s largely be­cause it nails one key as­pect: it has great char­ac­ters. Lt Stamets, the acid-tongued engi­neer. En­sign Tilly, the big-hearted, bab­bling au­di­ence stand-in. Lt Saru, the “prey species” sci­ence of­fi­cer with a line in pas­sive ag­gres­sion and a gen­uinely alien psy­chol­ogy. Loose can­non Cap­tain Lorca, ca­pa­ble of chill­ing ruth­less­ness. Michael Burn­ham, the Vul­can-raised xeno­bi­ol­o­gist whose re­liance on logic leads her to be­come Starfleet’s first mu­ti­neer. Line them up against the likes of Janeway, Tom Paris and Neelix, and there’s no com­pe­ti­tion. It helps that they’re easy to em­pathise with: ar­gu­ing about com­mands; drop­ping the f-bomb; play­ing beer pong.

It looks daz­zling too – and we’re not just talk­ing about the lens flare. The sets are stun­ning, and the way the Dis­cov­ery is lit – of­ten in pools of red and blue, like some Ital­ian hor­ror movie by Mario Bava or Dario Ar­gento – is sim­ply glo­ri­ous. Let’s hope Lorca never

It shapes up to be one of the best Star Trek spin-offs

thinks of get­ting round his is­sues with bright light via sunglasses.

If Dis­cov­ery has a weak­ness, it’s the Klin­gons – ad­mit­tedly a bit of an is­sue in a series cen­tred on the Fed­er­a­tion-Klin­gon War. Not be­cause they look rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent – The Mo­tion Pic­ture rein­vented the look of this race, and no one de­nounces that as heresy. No: be­cause the de­ci­sion to use sub­ti­tled Klin­gon means they can be a drag. Ev­ery Klin­gon-toKlin­gon ex­change is like lis­ten­ing to some­one with a mu­cus cough hawk up phlegm while de­claim­ing a list of Welsh place names. The ac­tors en­cased in the pros­thet­ics do their best, but in­vest­ing a made-up lan­guage with emo­tion is quite an ask. So it’s a re­lief when, say, Burn­ham is able to whip out a univer­sal trans­la­tor.

Dis­cov­ery can also stretch credulity to break­ing point. For starters, we’re asked to swal­low a propul­sion sys­tem pow­ered by pow­dered mush­room, and a men­tal con­nec­tion be­tween Burn­ham and adop­tive father Sarek that’s the mind-meld equiv­a­lent of JJ Abrams’s long-dis­tance trans­porter. We won’t go into where one par­tic­u­lar crewmem­ber’s arc ap­pears to be head­ing – but we fear it’ll take Emmy-win­ning writ­ing to sell that sto­ry­line. Then there are the smaller de­tails – like the way T’Ku­vma’s “Ship Of Death” just floats around for six months, crip­pled, when it’s eas­ily fixed!

None of this mat­ters much, though, be­cause of the strong foun­da­tion. Some of these char­ac­ters are not im­me­di­ately like­able, but they grow on you as you dis­cover dif­fer­ent facets of their per­son­al­i­ties – just as flesh-and-blood peo­ple do. We’re look­ing for­ward to get­ting to know all of them much, much bet­ter. Ian Ber­ri­man

Laser Quest had gone high-tech.

A rare shot of Ja­son Isaacs ac­tu­ally sit­ting in his chair.

Michael knew Tilly had taken her pet Trib­ble.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.