Tuesday, February 27, 2018

To Brazenly Reboot... Star Trek Discovery Review (Part 2)

Also, in case it's not obvious...  *SPOILER ALERT!  CONDITION RED!*  The review contains spoilers for the first season.
The Ugly

Let's start with the Klingons... they're horrible.  Mush-mouthed over prosthetic'ed alien of the week makeup with little to no flexibility or ability for the actors to convey emotion or at times even simply move their necks.  They physically and philosophically bear almost no resemblance to the established Klingons in Star Trek.  I was too young to participate in the bruhaha in Trek fandom that happened when green facepaint Mongolian Space Communists turned slowly into ridged foreheaded Viking Samurai hybrids.  I expected more grimdark in tone and action Klingons given post-BSG reboot scifi but I didn't expect them to abandon almost everything that made them Klingons.  They pay lipservice to the old lore but these would have been much better as completely new aliens rather than Klingons.  The same holds true to the Klingon ships that bear *ZERO* resemblence to what came before and after supposedly in the same timeline.  The D-7 made an appearance midway through and was completely unrecognizable.  The ship asthetics really do bolster my opinion that the what Discovery calls Klingons would be much better if classified as a completely new alien race/fleet.

On a similar note, I'm simply not a fan of the asthetics used on a show that is ostensibly set only a few years before TOS.  Again, I fully expected and wanted updated visuals and tech but the showrunners have effectively rebooted 90% of the visuals with little regard for what came before beyond an occasional bridge beep boop or photon torpedo whoosh.  The bridge feels way too dark and metallic for a Star Trek show and the ship designs look someone spilled Stargate and Tron (both of which I like) all over some Trek outlines and forgot to clean it up.  Ironically there is the occasional almost exact port of an old prop like a communicator that I'd have prefered them to update instead.  Again, I'll use the JJverse Starfleet uniforms as an example of what I expected as they're both modern, different, yet instantly recognizable as Trek.  Something as simple as using primary colors (grey, red, blue, yellow) and brighter lighting on the exact same Discovery bridge with the exact same special effects would have been enough to scratch that itch.  The showrunners wanted to change everything in a reboot while still claiming to be a prequel to the classic Trek timeline.  I'm sorry but you can't have it both ways and they should have just flatout admitted they were changing so much ahead of time like JJ Abrams did with his movies so that the series could be judged on its own merits.  A clean break with classic Trek might be what the IP needs but they should have been honest with the fans after doing so instead of hedging their bets.  It also feels like the showrunners did a 60 degree turn after the midseason break with more blatantly forced fanservice nods to TOS culminating in the appearance of *THE* U.S.S. Enterpise in the season finale that looks somewhat like it doesn't belong in either visually.

Lastly we have the blatant intrusion of real world politics into the show by a creative team with a distinct left leaning agenda.  Star Trek has always tackled social issues in a progressive way but I've never seen it couched so blatantly in political rather than moral terms.  The writers are on record as having based the Klingons on Trump supporters and the parody continues over in the Mirror Universe.  Comments by actors prior to the show's premiere actively dismissing classic fans as unimportant in response to the criticism of the asthetics and politcs certainly don't help either.  Now my political leanings are decidely in the ever shrinking center and I was completely disgusted with both mainstream party choices in the 2016 election but the writers taking out their frustrations on having lost an election within their scifi work is a step too far.  Leave the one sided real world politics out of Star Trek and stick to debating the morality that underpins the issues at hand instead.

The Final Verdict

Overall, I'd give the show as is a 1.5 stars out of 4 despite the relatively different word counts I gave to the category above.  If the show had been properly advertised as a reboot without the baggage of classic Trek, I'd have given it a 2 / 4.  If you don't fancy classic trek, that latter score is probably more applicable to you.  It has/had promise (some of it already squandered with wasted good characters) but I'm not entirely sure it'll make it much past the first two or three seasons.  The beginning of a Trek series has always been rough with those initial seasons traditionally being the worst (TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT) but the TV landscape has changed and I don't know if fans and/or the network will stick with the show long enough for it to find its own niche.

Will I watch the second season?  Probably.. if I can yet again find a way to do it for free like I did this time with the introductory free week of streaming on CBS All Access... but I certainly won't pay separately for the priveledge to do so.  I also have no interest in the associated merchandise that I'd normally be a shoe in for like T-shirts, models, and books.  I suppose I'm simply just not in that new 18-40 demographic that the show is looking to hook but rather in the 40+ dedicated fan demographic that they largely (at best) take for granted or (at worst) actively disregard.

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