– By Carly Twehous –
Whenever I hear of a new show—and especially after I see the trailer for one—naturally, I have some expectations. Usually, the bar is pretty low. First seasons and pilot episodes are not always the prettiest things out there, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the show itself is going to be terrible. (Case in point: Doctor Who.) In a perfect world, of course, the pilot should captivate me from that very first scene, but there’s usually a two-to-three-episode grace period to earn my attention before I completely abandon all hope with a new show.
That was never going to be the case with the new Star Trek series. When you attach people like Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman and The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green, the bar was already astronomically high. Throw in the fact that Star Trek is so deeply ingrained in my bones that I can kick some serious butt in the special edition Star Trek Trivial Pursuit, there was no way this show was going to catch a break, unless it was spectacular right out of the gate.
If Star Trek: Discovery didn’t deliver every Trekkie’s vision in a single pilot episode, it was going to flop. We Trekkies are rather belligerent folk, and although we’ve waited twelve years for a new television series, we would be perfectly content to put up shame curtains, put paper bags over our heads, and pretend that the new show didn’t exist if it, in any way, fell short of all our secret hopes and dreams and theories. (Think I’m exaggerating? Ask your resident Trekkie about the odd-numbered movies. Or, better yet, the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. The running theory is that we can wipe them from existence by sheer will-power if we continue to deny the fact that ever aired in the first place.)
Star Trek: Discovery had absolutely no margin for error. It had to cater to every whim of the die-hard, Trivial Pursuit winners, as well as draw in enough of a new audience to convince millions of people to fork over $5.99 per month for a subscription to CBS All-Access, the network’s cheap knock-off of Netflix and Hulu. That alone was a huge gamble on behalf of the network. Nothing else on CBS is even remotely good these days. Because Discovery only streams on All-Access, it’s quite literally the only reason anyone would even consider purchasing streaming rights.
Everything—the fate of the Star Trek franchise, the general morale of loyal-to-a-fault fans, and the future of CBS—hinged on one, hour-long pilot episode.
Thank God for Michael Burnham and for her (Yes, her.) human stubbornness and Vulcan ideology that accidentally started the infamous, yet never-before-seen-on-screen Klingon War. Not only was the pilot exceptionally well done, but over the course of all the currently-aired episodes, Discovery has both proven itself worthy to carry the Star Trek name and legacy as well as set itself up to become a juggernaut of modern science-fiction.
Science-fiction has always been about blending what is imaginable with what is possible. More than that, it’s about the ideology: humanity balanced with that which is unknown, the argument of faith vs. reason, of right and wrong, of the lines crossed to save the many or to save the few. Science fiction, more so than any other genre, allows for a reflection of the human condition that is both raw and believable and, in the best of circumstances, terrifying to see what each man is capable of becoming.
Because of the backdrop of the Klingon War and in the spirit of the deeply philosophical Original Series of Star Trek, Discovery asks these sorts of questions, as well as those increasingly relevant ones regarding the justification of war, the implementation of war-time politics, and the relative punishment of those individuals who still view themselves as entities operating outside of natural law.
The best part? Discovery never once lost the unadulterated wonder of the Original Series. They may be wearing the colors and stripes of warriors, and Captain Lorca is definitely up to something shady, but every person on board that magnificent ship joined Starfleet because of the iconic promise: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
So give me the wonderful time-loop episodes, starring none other than Harry Mudd. Give me the subtle references to Spock and Captain Archer and the not-so-subtle flashbacks of Sarek and Michael Burnham’s long and varied history with the Vulcans. Give me the Klingon War, brutal and in color, and give me that Starfleet Captain who sold out his admiral to the Klingons and who is almost certainly working for the fabled Section 31. Give me more moments of Lt. Ash Tyler trying to cope with the horrors done to him at the hands of the Klingons, more of Stamets’ unreserved self-sacrifice for the sake of exploration rather than war, and more hilarious allusions to Anthony Rapp’s Broadway days.
Give me that mirror universe almost certainly established in the mid-series finale.
I don’t want to wait until January.
Give me more Star Trek: Discovery.
For more TV reviews by Carly, click here.