Review: Star Trek Discovery

The USS Pizza Cutter?

The really short version of this review is simple: the more I look at Star Trek Discovery, the more I like The Orville.

Star Trek Discovery set the bar so low, Inhumans looked awesome in comparison, even though the pilot was weak.

Let’s go into why STD isn’t catching.

You have to first accept that this is before the era of Captain Kirk … yet the ship has better technology, including holographic interfaces. And someone took the criticism of lens flares seriously: this ship is so damn dark, how does anyone see anything?  The special effects are gorgeous. They are beautiful. You can see every penny of their $10 million an episode on the screen in high-res CGI.

Pity that not a single penny went into the acting or writing.

In the beginning of the episode, we meet Captain Michelle Yeoh–who I think just showed up and read lines– and “Michael,” a woman Starfleet officer who was orphaned by a Klingon attack on a space outpost, then adopted by Spock’s father, Sarek. Because Spock’s siblings have never caused trouble in this franchise. Michael appears to be our main character, and being raised on Vulcan, she has obviously been taught to purge most of her her emotions … leaving only “smug” or “insane” as her only remaining default positions.

Yeoh and Michael are called out to repair a probe. They get some odd sensor readings, and decide, “You know, our sensors can’t read a thing. Something’s there, and it may have screwed with our probe. Instead of calling in backup, let’s send in a person in a space suit.” They send Michael … a Xenoanthropologist. Because anthropologists just do that, don’t they? Once Michael is inside a deadly radioactive field and has eyes on the cloaked space station, she decides, “I have to go over there and poke it, lingering in this deadly radioactivity. I have some time to kill.” Because that’s exactly how radioactivity works… and that’s how anthropology works — I see something new, therefore, I must poke it. After all, if they have time to kill within a hard deadline, they must redline the limit … that’s how logic works, right?

Michael lands on the space station, encounters a Klingon, and promptly kills him.  There is no “I come in peace.” There is no warning. She doesn’t even try to talk with him. She pretty much hits her jet pack, and runs him through on his own sword… and I don’t recall Klingons using their swords in space.

When Michael returns–covered in radiation burns– she leaves med bay to storm the bridge, demanding that it’s the Klingons, therefore we must attack them now. Because that’s how first contact protocols work (In this timeline, no one has talked to a Klingon in 100 years. Even the Vulcans just shoot first, and never ask questions. Yes, really.)

In order to get the Klingons to decloak, Michael says “Target them!!!”  The Klingons do … for reasons. Upon further study, the massive space station is really … a glorified tomb, covered in coffins of their fallen warriors.  And she had them target it. Because all anthropologists want to blow up culture.

At this point, I’m on the side of the Klingons. Especially as Michael drops “smug” and goes to “hysterical” with a side of “Pathological hatred of Klingons to the point of dementia.”

Space Orc, Commander Smirk, Saru,
and Captain “I’m just here for a paycheck”

There was just so much stupid here. Michael is the usual “I’m the main character, therefore I’m always right” syndrome that you need tons of charisma to pull off without being a prick (Patrick Jayne from The Mentalist pulled it off. House didn’t). But she doesn’t have it. Michael has no emotion …. except for smug. Smug is the default position. And she never stops talking. She blathers on endlessly whether we want her to or not.

It may have been less painful if the dialogue didn’t all sound like a stilted first draft of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. And I may be insulting Flash Gordon.

There was one person who bothered acting here …. Saru, the one who said “Hi, on my planet, I’m prey. I’m telling you, time to RUN.” Michelle Yeoh took the script so seriously she sounded like she was trying not to laugh during the reading — I do not call it acting. I concur with Yeoh’s judgement, but it undercuts some of what should be serious moments.

No, seriously, the first rule of acting should be “pretend that you are invested.” Second rule being “At least pretend you’re getting paid.” Seriously, when your visuals are mind-bogglingly gorgeous, and the actor looks at it, then sounds and acts bored as she drones on endlessly, the illusion is massively undermined.

Then there are the Klingons. The long-winded, preachy, Klingons who only speak in Klingonese, even in private, so we are subjected to long winded, translated conversations. They are less Klingons as they are space orcs, and this is an insult to Lord of the Rings. The Klingons here are obviously rubber suits, screwing up a history of good makeup. Really, Christopher Lloyd and Michael Dorn are laughing, saying “I hated my makeup, but God, it must suck to be those guys.”

I gave up at the 40 minute mark. So, all of this is, of course, before I got to the stuff that was supposedly designed to offend me. I’m told there are gay, bisexual and other sexes all over the place, that the Klingons were supposed to be Trump supporters, that they use cussing but can’t say “God” on the show.  Heck, I didn’t even get far enough into the episode to see “Michael” assault her captain of seven years, take over the ship in a mutiny specifically so she could commit an act of war on the Klingons… which happened in the show.

The acting is terrible. The writing is worse. The effects are lovely, fit for the big screen, but not the small minds we have here. This actually reminds me of a CSI episode that had an obvious Star Trek analog, and then murdered a producer who was going to remake it as a grimdark parodyonly Discovery is the grimdark parody.

This is one STD that will never go viral.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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