The professional critics keep saying this is a "Star Trek for our time". If our time is about hopelessness, extreme belligerence, logic defying turns of events, hamfisted social agendas, and over- engineered glamour shots, then yes this show completely reflects our time. What follows is a rant about quality of the writing on this show, but if you want a quicker summary without spoilers, just scroll down to the last paragraph.
One of the reasons why I loved the earliest Star Trek shows was that it wanted to inspire you to be a better person, and it did this through exploration of the characters' struggle to make choices that would ultimately be objectively good. In this show the first episode treats us to a drone operator's dilemma: short term morals and short term thinking as opposed to considering the wider implications of your actions, which is something that was a total staple of the show. We get a Vulcan character advocating conflict seemingly to avoid conflict, but nobody seems to question at all the logic or implications of pre-emptive strikes, instead it's an almost entirely emotional endeavour. Why? Why did the writers miss this opportunity? So we could get more lens flared CGI shots of the exterior? Or that pointless space suit drift that lasted 20 minutes just so it could be made into a pretext for the Klingon war? This review would be an essay if I was to pick apart the plot holes in the 1st and 2nd episode, so lets just sum it up by saying those episodes made the main character look stupidly impulsive, which already seems inconsistent with her backstory.
And don't get me started about the other characters: the redhead crewman is an obvious comic relief/nervous newbie trope with no nuance whatsoever, every single one of her lines is annoying so far. Even Ensign Crusher was miles better than this despite the flaws of that character. The main character is supposed to be Spock-lite under the idea that there will be a conflict between Vulcan logic and human morality. And yet the conflict is so forced and the writing of the character conversations so linear, that it breaks suspension of disbelief. The new captain looks set to be killed off by the end of the season judging from what happened so far, can't say I'll shed tears about that. Interaction with different races on the starship Discovery is limited to the "I just want to survive, please" first officer, as it seems like every other Federation member race has been replaced with human cyborgs and actual robots (I wish I was kidding). If Star Trek races correspond to certain sides of the human personality, then this guy corresponds to the fight or flight reflex. Except that's not a personality trait, and any kind of nuance that was had in having a coward as one of the main characters ended after the first two episodes really. All in all, the character writing on this show so far is terrible and getting worse with every episode.
And then you have the Klingons. Never mind the change in their appearance, the Trump supporter monologue was ridiculous. I'm sure there was a better way to include the nuances of our time than to change the Klingons from an honour based society into fundamentalist conservatives. Also, as a more minor quip: the other Star Trek shows went with a Universal Translator plot setup for a reason: it's annoying to have to read subtitles.
Or take this little gem: The main character has to introduce herself on the Discovery by getting into a fight with three inmates. A fight that was completely unnecessary and forced, did nothing for the plot other than showcase some people getting hurt. What? The closest we get to an actual exploration of morality is the tardigrade arc, which truly is the Trolley Problem re-hashed: do I want to kill one creature to save hundreds or not? Would've been on the right track, had there been an actual exploration of it instead of outright rejection of the main character's complaints followed by a clichéd exchange about chains of command. Not that we were able to empathise with any of the characters involved anyway, even if the writing wasn't so trope ridden. The end of Ep.5 where the mirror universe literally looks back at you through a mirror just sums it all up.
The writers had a chance to make something truly outstanding here: a show that would break out of the doom and gloom and indiscriminate killing of modern TV shows and bring the viewers something that would inspire them and make them think for a change. This show is available via streaming to unshackle it from its commitments to mainstream TV, but it instead becomes exactly that: mainstream TV - a combination of the winning traits of a bunch of modern TV shows, so that a sweet spot can be hit with the ratings I guess? What happened to boldness in creativity? What we get is a cynical Game of Thrones treatment of the Star Trek universe, the exact opposite of what Gene Roddenberry wanted it to be, and paradoxically completely unimaginative and uncreative since it's just a rehash of what has been done much better in other sci-fi/fantasy TV shows already out there. There are plenty of reviews that say this show would be fine if it wasn't a Star Trek show. I don't think it would be. I think there's a serious problem with the character writing, the constant clichés, the generic trope overload, and the forced direction the plot is taking. The fact that it is a Trek show only makes it worse, because I expected so much better. I hope this gets canceled in disgrace, so that the next Star Trek show learns from its mistakes, then maybe we can have some actually bold and interesting writing.
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