Last Sunday saw the airing of the final episode of Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery. All I can say is that I hope there will be many more seasons, and that Season 2 better hurry up and get released because I CANNOT wait for more!
I have been a fan of Star Trek for a majority of my life. My mum was a Trekkie and growing up it just seemed normal to have the DVD Boxsets of all the shows (except Enterprise because well, that one’s an acquired taste) taking up an inordinate amount of shelf space, and to have the films on VHS, always available for your static-y viewing pleasure. It was only once I started sharing my love with the world that I realized just how uncommon a love of Star Trek was in my surroundings.
I was a lonely little starship, floating through space, desperate to find more of my kind.
Eventually I did pick up a few Star Trek pals (though they are still few and far between) and even enticed a few non-fans into starting the long watch. But growing up in suburban Germany definitely did not lend itself to meeting many of my kind.
Then there was the inherent lack of new content. Voyager ended in 2001, when I was about six. Until I was seventeen, I didn’t even know that Star Trek: Enterprise was a thing (again, it’s an acquired taste) so I never had anything current to feel excited about. The odd movie here and there, but that was that. Also the recent movies are a bit of a disaster if you’re attached to, you know, the previous FIFTY years of canon… (Yes, the Kirk/Spock switch IS upsetting. No, there is nothing you can say to change my mind).
And then, one probably rainy day in Scotland, I was scrolling the Interwebs and discovered (heh) that a new show called Star Trek: Discovery was in the works.
I kept up with every bit of production news that was released and veritably hungered for a release date.
Which brings us to 2017. In the interim, there were a few things about the show that already bothered me. It was once again set in a close-to-Kirk era which I am frankly sick and tired of (there ARE other captains and other cool people in Starfleet you know), the captain was once again a white male, and the character of Michael Burnham seemed like an odd fit – it created a connection to Spock and while, yes, Spock is great and all, I have never been the biggest fan of Vulcan-centric storylines, so the whole thing held the danger of feeling very stale. I was afraid that it would try to retrace old paths, running the risk of stepping all over the footprints that had been stepped before. I’m not sure that metaphor really flows, but the point is that it felt like more of the J. J Abrams Star Trek, which I am only 50% on board with.
So I pressed Play on the first episode with a great sense of trepidation. That sense did not fade during the first episode. Or the second. Or the third. Frankly it lingered for a good half of the season. In the first episode you don’t even see the starship Discovery, you’re unsure which characters are of long-term importance, the Klingons look and act weird, and the title sequence reminded me too much of the likes of Fringe and House M.D. It was better than the Enterprise title sequence (because honestly what the hell was that?!) but still did not come close to the epic space orchestra feel of Next Generation or the whimsical Theremin sounds of The Original Series.
See for yourself:
If you follow me on Twitter (which you should, just fyi) you will know that I have been tweeting a LOT about the whole journey.
Because regardless of the issues I had with the whole thing… I kept watching. And eventually, I couldn’t stop watching.
WARNING! SPOILERS ARE IMMINENT!
So here’s my list of reasons why Discovery is the best thing to happen to the Star Trek franchise since the 90s:
1) It’s a Star Trek for the new generation. Every Trek show has always tried to capture the spirit of the times, much like the Bond films. As such, Discovery features a beautifully diverse cast – I actually think this is the first time that a starship bridge crew has consisted of a majority of women – and there’s more. Discovery also shows us the first LGBTQ+ relationship among members of the main cast, and the Stamets/Culber relationship is so beautifully sweet and tragic that you ship them from the first toothbrush scene onwards.
2) It plays the Long Con, again and again. I won’t say anything more on this because giving away anything here would be a crime to anyone who hasn’t seen it, but honestly, don’t trust anything. There are so many twists and turns that keep you on your toes, and every main character seems to be hiding something.
3) For the longest time, it’s not Star Trek. That is a fact. It doesn’t feel like Star Trek, especially not the Star Trek of that pre-Kirk time, and some of the decisions the characters make seem to spit in the face of every value the Federation stands for.
When I first started watching it, I described Discovery as:
“a very good space show, with interesting and challenging characters, that would be fully able to stand alone and create a new franchise, but it’s not Star Trek.”
Only at the end of the show do you realise that that is the entire point of Season 1. Discovery shows us a Federation stuck in a very difficult situation and follows a crew that has to deal with both being a giant science experiment led astray as well as consistently finding themselves on the front lines of war.
So for most of the season, it really does feel like a giant betrayal of Star Trek ideology. And yet, the closer we get to the ending, the more we see characters embracing those tenets of the Federation, those notions of a utopian society we would all love to live in.
4) The speeches. Oh damn, the speeches. As the show progresses and you get attached to these characters, there are several moments where you will inevitably find yourself clutching your laptop screen, sobbing and completely in awe of the writing talent that has let you experience this moment. Tying this back to the first reason, there are a few instances where the writers take the opportunity to write a scene that completely captures not just the issues at stake in the 23rd century but also those at stake in the 21st century.
No moment proves this more than Burnham’s final speech (view at your own risk) which, honestly, I have no words for. I dream that I may one day write something that powerful.
5) The final scene. I can’t tell you anything more than that, but if you’ve watched the show you know what I’m talking about. Oh damn. After Michael’s speech there is only a brief respite before the cliffhanger leaves you laughing hysterically, while tears are still drying on your face. I’m glad I watched this in the safety of my bed because had anyone observed that display they would’ve surely written me off as mad. After spending an entire season testing the ideals of Star Trek, playing the Long Con and making even hardy fans of the franchise doubt whether this effort at a new, canon-compliant show is sincere, the final scene feels like an affirmation.
Yes, we are Star Trek.
Yes, we know what we’re doing.
Yes, you can trust us. (Not really, but do so anyway).
If nothing else, that final scene convinced me completely that I am going to enjoy this new iteration of Star Trek. However, that final scene only has the desired effect because the season leading up to it turned out to be an incredibly well written, well directed and, generally, well executed journey.
My hopes in writing this post is that a) more Star Trek fans than I have ever known come out of hiding and talk with me about Discovery and b) that if you haven’t watched it, you might give it a try. I know some people get intimidated, thinking that in order to truly understand Star Trek you have to start at the Originals and watch your way forward, but that is simply not true.
Each Star Trek series is designed to stand on its own, so whether you start with Kirk, Sisko, Picard, Janeway, Archer or Lorca is completely up to you.