It completely slipped my mind that Nicholas Meyer, the man who breathed new life into Star Trek with The Wrath of Khan, was also serving as “executive consultant” for Star Trek Discovery. I’m sure that there’s some nerd out there that could tell me, but I wonder what exactly his contributions are to the new show?
Meyer did a pretty good job with expanding upon the Klingons in Star Trek VI. He also mentioned in one of his commentaries that he enjoyed reading subtitles. That’s gotta be Meyer right there! I mean, most shows would never have the guts to include entire scenes spoken in another language…especially not a fake language. So I’m hoping that that’s ol’ Nick Meyer setting his foot down.
But like Star Trek’s II and VI, there’s an air of cynicism that permeates Discovery. In II and VI, the story was dealing with pre-established characters…beloved characters…that had the leeway to explore the darker side of themselves. Take for example Kirk’s depression at the beginning of II and blatant racism against Klingons in VI. As a beloved character, Captain Kirk was able to display those emotions in convincing way without the audience thinking this is not Star Trek. It’s what made those scenes all the more convincing (or shocking), because in seeing Kirk be the epitome of Starfleet ideals throughout much of the series, he now had those ideals challenged only to later have them reaffirmed…thus making the ideals of STAR TREK reaffirmed to the audience. Discovery doesn’t have the same benefits for the audience that those films had.
To my recollection, Discovery begins in the typical highly-idealistic world of Star Trek, but when the Klingons are introduced it quickly descends into the highly militaristic world that Meyer thrives in. I believe this to be the biggest point of contention between Roddenberry’s Trek and Meyer’s Trek. Despite heavily resembling a military organization, according to Roddenberry, Starfleet is an exploratory operation first and foremost…a beacon for peace for the galaxy. While Meyer might not contest that, Starfleet in his eyes is absolutely a military organization and it’s only lying to itself if it says otherwise. He never bought into the optimism that the original series presented. In the end, however, Meyer is still involved in Star Trek and his vision is far more palatable to modern audiences. Therefore, Discovery takes on the darker and realistic mold that is far more in the style of Meyer than Roddenberry.
That being said, even in though things got pretty dark in II and VI, the ideals of the Federation, Starfleet, and Star Trek as a whole were challenged…. but they were ultimately upheld. Captain Lorca seems like a character that perfectly fits Meyer’s Starfleet…a Captain that understands what Starfleet is, but also understands that he is at war and must do what he can to win it. Such archetypes in previous Trek would have been clearly villainous (think Ronny Cox in TNG and Peter Weller in Into Darkness), but this time it’s a central character. Lorca is clearly a warmonger, but if previous Trek is any indication, such violent ideation will eventually be decried. (Either by coming to his senses or becoming an all-out villain)
I believe that this is what the producers might be doing. There’s already been plenty of hints about this, like the engineer’s clear objections to Lorca’s motivations or the doctor’s unwillingness to “partake in murder”, to name a couple. This might be the overall theme of the series: through the Federation’s war with the Klingons, it must loose itself to find itself again. In that sense, Discovery is very much Star Trek….I believe Alex Kurtzman said as much, hence the NAME Discovery.
So hopefully Trekkies will be able to sleep better at night. (I know I will)
BUT, just because it is Star Trek doesn’t mean that it’s GOOD Star Trek.
I was sad to see Michelle Yeoh’s character killed off so soon (I don’t give a fuck about spoilers). She seemed to be a great Starfleet captain and Sonequa Martin-Green’s character would have benefited greatly with more interaction with her. Had there of been more development (namely a greater exploration Martin-Green’s prior experience with Klingons, her time on Vulcan, and just about everything), then her actions wouldn’t have seemed so ridiculous in the first couple of episodes. To me, Yeoh would have made a great catalyst for that exploration. But, perhaps her missing presence is likely deliberate…to present an image that Martin-Green and Saru are striving towards.
But Yeoh has been far and away my favorite character so far. Mary Wiseman’s part is also interesting, as she presents someone that isn’t often seen in Starfleet. (Recall Lt. Barclay). There’s been a lot of buzz about Saru, and indeed he is a memorable character, but that archetype is a bit played out in modern television. But his scenes with Martin-Green do bring out the best in each character…subtlety reminiscent of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship, with a mix of each characterization found in the two.
I wish that there was more to say about Sonequa Martin-Green. She’s a great actress, but the writers aren’t doing her justice. It feels as though they don’t know what they want her to be. There’s nothing defining about her, although she ably plays whatever role they write for her. That being said, some fan asked the producers if they’re going to give Martin-Green a love interest. Don’t. That’s actually one of the things the writers are doing right by this character….not providing her a male to lean upon (assuming that’s her thing). I’d like to see a strong female character that doesn’t rely upon a love interest to be interesting. At the time of me writing this, there’s still several episodes left in the first season…so there’s a lot of room for character development.
But then there’s the aesthetics….
Yes, the Klingons look ridiculous. Star Trek gets a lot of flack for simply slapping makeup on a forehead and calling it an alien. Clearly, the producers were going for a more menacing/alien look for the Klingons, but they went in the wrong direction. There’s too much makeup and the actors clearly can’t in it. But what bothers me most is….why fuck with something that worked? The old Klingon look might not have been elaborate, but so what? It was effective…it was classic…and it was immediately recognizable. Now they just look, well, too ALIEN.
I also hate the uniforms and the Discovery itself. Part of the appeal of Star Trek to me, as a kid, was the colorful uniforms. Clearly they’re going to introduce those later, but even the design is kinda…meh. As for the Discovery, I was never a fan of that look….which I believe was influenced by an early (unused) Enterprise design for Phase II. There’s probably a reason why it was rejected, just saying. Plus, a saucer section that can spin? C’mon.
But one thing that I simply cannot forgive are the fucking holograms.
Yet the one thing that disappoints me most about this new series is it’s total lack of scope. I clearly remember watching the first episode and thinking: “is that it?”
Look, Discovery is definitely STAR TREK. Let’s make no mistake about that. There’s just a lot of work to be done. And that’s okay! TNG was god-awful the first season, way worse than Discovery, but that turned out pretty well didn’t it?