STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
Working the shrooms
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.