The original series. The animated series no one is sure is part of the canon. The movies. The relaunch of a new series, for the next generation. A static space station. Lost in the gamma quadrant. An origin story. More movies, with multiple generations. And a complete reboot with an alternate timeline. The Star Trek universe does not lack for stories.
And while a lot of people would love to see the story of the Enterprise C up to its destruction at the hands of the Romulons, the new show jumps forward from Enterprise’s origin story and prior to the NCC-1701 Enterprise of the original series and movies.
It has been a 100 years since anyone has seen the Klingons, and now they’re back. Why they look like the Xindi reptilian species, I have no idea, but they are back. And someone wants to light a torch, a beacon that will unite the 24 Klingon families into a single army to fight the Federation. They even have a new weapon — a huge ship with a kick-butt cloaking device.
Enter the Federation to see what’s going on when one of their outposts is attacked. They meet the Klingons, they try to negotiate, and a half-Vulcan half-human half-sister of Spock’s (no, you didn’t miss her previously, she’s newly revealed) tries to take the same approach the Vulcans took previously. When they first met the Klingons, they tried to talk, and the Klingons destroyed them. They eventually decided that whenever they met a Klingon ship, they would fire first. Until the Klingons learned it was too costly to not talk to them. So, Michael Burnham (don’t ask, that’s her name), decides that the best approach is to attack the Klingons as fast as they can. One nerve pinch and one attempted mutiny later, and her Captain ends up stopping her from firing.
Eventually, all hell breaks loose, multiple ships are destroyed, war is begun, and the only interesting character on the ship — the Captain, played by Michelle Yeoh — is eventually killed. Michael Burnham is court-martialed, convicted, stripped of rank, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
And basically so ends the two-part pilot.
Except those two hours were basically back story. Context. Episode 3 is the REAL first episode, with Michael transferred from a prison shuttle to the USS Discovery under the command of Captain Gabriel Lorca. He wants Michael to help him, supposedly, with a new propulsion system that would allow them to travel almost instantaneously anywhere in the galaxy. Think slipstream from Andromeda, or a host of other metaphors from other shows. And everyone important has black Starfleet pins, not the standard silver ones.
For those in the canon, it feels like they are working for Section 31, the ultra-secret group known for bending Starfleet rules when the need arises. But Captain Lorca isn’t sharing everything, at least not yet. And they have already had a catastrophic loss of another ship doing similar experiments.
Captain Lorca is played by Jason Isaacs. I loved him back in 2012 in the series Awake where he was living in two realities at the same time. I thought he was okay as the bad guy in The OA last year. But as the Captain? In a Star Trek role? Captains usually need way more gravitas than I think he is capable of showing. Michelle Yeoh was awesome, but she’s dead. There are a bunch of actors playing various other crewmen, but it’s hard to know how significant they will be yet.
Which leaves the bulk of the show, not surprisingly, resting on Michael, played by Sonequa Martin-Green. She was big on The Walking Dead, but I didn’t watch. She was on Once Upon A Time, but I don’t remember her. The rest of her casting credits are similar — nothing that I saw her in.
Now that’s not a problem, except for a good portion of Ep 1 or 2, she’s trying to over-emote to show the struggle of wanting to attack the Klingons first, to show there’s a struggle going on inside her. At the start of Ep 3, that struggle is long-gone, she’s basically doing a Vulcan emotion purge or something. But where Jolene Blalock did an awesome job as T’Pol on Star Trek: Enterprise, Martin-Green just looks limp and lifeless. Empty. And not in a good way. It makes little sense.
So there was this small problem of the war starting. Some time to transport people around the universe. A court-martial. Sentencing. Some time in a prison facility. A shuttle trip. It’s not like the events that traumatized her are ancient history, but they’re not yesterday either. Yet she is still walking around like it was recent. She’s retreating into herself, but can’t stop asking questions, making conversation eventually, etc. Anti-vulcan (note she’s actually human), anti-timeframe, anti-character development.
Will I watch? Of course, it’s Star Trek. Doesn’t mean they’re doing a good job of it so far.