Star Trek: Discovery Series Premiere Review: Lighting the Beacon

Television

If there was one show that needed to NAIL its premiere, Star Trek: Discovery was it.

On this stardate in 2017, Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 1 relaunched the television franchise that hasn’t embarked on a voyage since 2005’s Enterprise finale.

Plagued by rumors of production issues and showrunner conflicts, fans could be forgiven for harboring some concerns about the show.

After all, more than any other franchise out there, Star Trek defines not only a fandom for Trekkers, it embodies their moral code, their sense of representation, and even their hopes for humanity’s future.

Not to mention the snazzy uniform update.

The casting news has periodically electrified fans over the years as they salivated over every bit of news they could find.

Michelle Yeoh as experienced Captain Philippa Georgiou in the early days of Star Fleet was universally lauded as she so easily epitomizes many of the qualities Star Trek is known for in its mentors.

And the signing of Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, the central character, delighted lovers of her performance on The Walking Dead even if it did put back the original 2017 premiere date yet again.

.So what did ST: Discovery deliver?

It gave us Trek on a GRAND scale with production value every bit as worthy of the movie screen as the latest J.J. Abrams offerings in that “other” timeline.

The ship’s set design was retro yet novel but it was the Klingon sets that were truly jaw-dropping. Even as Burnham describes the Kahless Beacon for her data collector, we could see how epic it was.

The premiere successfully built onto a world many of us know as well as our childhood homes. A new-to-us starship, the U.S.S. Shenzhou, with a crew that knows and trusts each other.

Burnham: Your Chief Science Officer is worried. Something took a bite out of our relay. Saru thinks it was malicious.
Georgiou: Saru is Kelpian. He thinks everything is malicious.

Most of all, it oriented us in the timeline and in the hierarchy. This is not the slick and shiny world of Next Generationas pretty as it is. It’s gritty and problematic.

The Shenzhou is far from being Star Fleet’s flagship. It does the maintenance and the grunt work that ships like the Europa can’t be bothered with. Its crew wants to see the stars and maybe crack a few jokes along the way.

Burnham: Is this level of sarcasm always necessary?
Georgiou: Necessary, no. But I do like it.

All the familiar tech was present – phasers, and transporters, and photon torpedoes. Oh my. 

But to make it exciting, they’re not advanced enough to have a probe to send into the scatter array, forcing Burnham to don a thruster suit and basically space walk into a radioactive star system. Awe. Some.

The bureaucracy rings a bell too. It seems, in Star Trek, that anytime we meet an admiral that we didn’t know as a captain, he or she turns out to be pompous, bigoted, senile, or some combination. 

One of the tests of captain-readiness must be the ability to take those pompous orders with good-natured stoicism.

The primary purpose of the premiere, more than anything else, was to ignite Burnham’s hero’s journey. Her ordinary world is that of Star Fleet even with her Vulcan upbringing. 

When Star Trek: Discovery first premiered in 2017, they aired the first two episodes as a two-hour event. In a lot of ways, I’d say this was the smarter move as the U.S.S Discovery doesn’t even appear in the first two hours of the series.

On its own, “A Vulcan Hello” feels like half an introduction. It establishes Burnham as an impetuous and imperfect officer, with impulses that supercede her Starfleet training. While we know the consequences will be dire, it leaves us with numerous possibilities but no certain outcome.

A close second in purpose is the focus on Klingon unification. For a warrior species, it has always fascinated me that so much of their society is driven by spirituality.

Chris Obi as T’Kuvma is amazing to watch as he emotes through the layers upon layers of prosthetics he is masked in. The charisma and fervor necessary to spark the faith of the Houses of the High Council are palpably infectious.

It’ll be interesting to see how Voq is able to take up the torch of T’Kuvma’s teachings and face the challenge of uniting a society that sees him as worthless and aberrant. 

His path may be a parallel to Burnham’s climb back into the Star Fleet ranks. I have to assume that when she joins the Discovery, most of the crew won’t be welcoming her with open arms.

Needless to say, Star Trek: Discovery is NOT a light-hearted romp through the stars. This is dark Trek, war-time Trek. This is a fallible, dangerous, high-risk Trek.

The only thing I think I’ll need to learn to love is the opening credits. I know Bryan Fuller was the guiding hand for most of the production and inception but the credits are about as un-Trek-like as the Scooby-Doo theme song.

Seriously. They look like Hannibal moved to Westworld and hired the orchestra from Game of Thrones. Until the final shot where they’re all like, oh yeah, this is Star Trekbetter throw in that ring tone everyone knows.

The premiere, being as cinematic as it was, is totally worth a second look so be sure to watch Star Trek: Discovery online when you have a chance.

Honestly, in today’s reality of an over-abundance of really GOOD television, they needed a win right out of the gate to keep the fans happy and draw in the new, specialty TV viewers.

Nailed it. Yup, at least for me.

Over to you, now. Was this the Trek you were waiting for?

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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