Tyler’s Spoiler-Free Rambling Review
Why I Think Saying This Series Is In The Prime Universe Is BS
When I heard over a year ago that Star Trek was taking another run at a TV series, I will admit that I was very skeptical. Their last kick at the can, Enterprise, a prequel series, was met with enough trouble that its run was cut short by 3 years, and the movies seemed to have been in a popularity slide over the past decade. The announcement of another attempt at a TV series made nervous.
Like many others, I was a huge fan of The Next Generation, followed closely by Deep Space Nine. I liked that TNG, initially helmed by Gene Roddenberry himself, clung to the ideal of the optimistic future, but I also enjoyed how DS9 too a bit of a darker turn with the events leading up to, and including, the Dominion War. It grounded the universe for me, made it a bit grittier, and not always so “spit and polish” clean as it became more aesthetically detailed with the advances of our real world technologies.
In 2009, JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek movie franchise definitely took it to a bold, new place, honouring the canon while creating an entirely new timeline (and I would go so far as to say in an entirely different universe) in a way that made sense to me. The “Kelvin Timeline” was born – a much more visually detailed and seemingly technologically advanced version of its former self. So which one does Discovery fit into?
Also, I am well aware of the licensing issues that play a role as both CBS and Paramount share ownership of aspects of the franchise.
With that said, let’s get into the show. And right out of the gate, let me say that it had its perks and pitfalls, and there are a lot of things that I am quite conflicted over. I will begin with something that bothers me.
Why another prequel?
I am not necessarily a hardcore canon adherent, but the prequel road has already been traveled, and it didn’t necessarily turn out all that well. (I’m looking at you, Enterprise.)
There’s always something about going back and rewriting the history of a well-established universe that bothers me and feels overly pretentious on the part of the writers, as if to say “I like your original idea, but we are going to steamroll a few things in order to shove in what I think is best.” The time period around the original NCC-1701 has been reasonably well documented over the past half century already. Can we not move on from there and try something else? Dealing with Romulans after the explosion of their homeworld, perhaps? Further expansion of the Federation deeper into the galaxy? There are literally countless millions of stars left in our galaxy to move outward to. Why the need to revert back to history that has already been established? The incessant need to bastardize franchises by going back and unnecessarily rewriting their history is something that always irritates me. (Don’t even get me started on my first true love, Star Wars).
As I mentioned, I can understand how our own real life technological advancements would influence the look and feel of a show, but would it not have made more sense, even from a canonical point of view, to work those advances into a later time period? Let’s use the holographic communications, for example. On one hand, I felt it was a great way to ground the show into a more realistic technological future from what we have now versus what there was in the 1960s, when this phenomenon was born. However, it makes little sense canonically, as the technology doesn’t readily present itself in the 24th century.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that they need the minimalistic appearance from the shows of old. That would look almost laughable in our day and age.
Did I like the effect? Absolutely. It was a believable technological advancement from now to then for me.
Does it fit with established canon universe in a believable way? Nope. Not even close.
Let’s move on to address the turtle-head in the room. The Klingons. From what I have read from other fans, this topic is almost as divisive as a certain, almost-equally rubber-looking politician. However, unlike said celebrity, I think these Klingons actually look really good. I held very strong reservations about such a drastic change of such a well-established species when I first saw the images, but after watching the show, I have come to feel that this is one of those changes that should have been made a long time ago. Granted, while the budgetary differences between The Original Series and TNG were substantial, birthing the forehead-ridge-laden warriors we have all come to recognize rather than men in dark makeup and fake eyebrows and the “evil henchman goatee,” this is what I would love to have seen them evolve into during that period.
They are menacing, they are unquestionably alien, and the heavy use of the Klingon language drives that point home. In fact, unlike previous series, where every alien interaction was spoken in English, the amount of Klingon that was spoken during the show was another thing that made them feel realistic to me. Their culture and class structure felt a lot more like what an alien warrior race would be like.
Did I like the reimagined Klingons? It took a few minutes, but after the opening scene with T’Kuvma’s speech, I truly did.
Do they fit into the established universe? Again, not really. While the language and aspects of their culture honour some of what we already know, they look like further evolved version of Klingons seen in Into Darkness.
This one is an annoyance to me for a few reasons. I have already ranted about my disdain for unnecessary prequels, but the inclusion of such a recognized figure really aggravates me. The addition of Spock’s father feels shoehorned in as an attempt to draw an emotionally-connecting line from the Original Series to Discovery.
Fine, you want to have the main character saved by Vulcans as a child. Regardless which timeline/universe this story takes place in, the planet Vulcan is still around an inhabited by 6 billion other people, and I don’t need to be one of them to tell you the odds of the father of Spock being the person to help raise this individual.
It’s another case of a completely unnecessary historical rewrite. Not everything in the known galaxy needs to lead back to Kirk and Spock.
The show certainly did have its ups and downs, but all in all, I think it certainly had more positive than negative. I can appreciate the need for aesthetic updating, and I think that the ships, sets, tech and uniforms looked good and felt quite believable. I felt that the Klingons were a pleasant surprise hit, and I look forward to seeing the focus on what seems to be a closer following of Kahless’s teachings and a deeper look at the warrior side of their species.
The story, aside from the prequel factor, was good. It felt darker and more visually realistic. Scenes that required tension and a sense of urgency were well done. Flashbacks didn’t feel forced, and flowed nicely as they contributed their pieces of the story.
As for the main question I ask myself – is this show a part of the Prime timeline? I’m going to say it’s not. Even if I am told by the heads of CBS that it is, I won’t believe it. There are far too many things that just don’t match up to established Star Trek history, and honestly, I think it would be incredibly stupid for CBS to place it within the Prime universe. As Abrams proved with his reboot, the story has a lot of different and more interesting tangents it can follow when not shackled to what has already been established, even if it does annoy me that we are going back to the 2250s.
I think that it Star Trek: Discovery can continue to deliver at this level, it holds promise.
Of course, that’s just the opinion of one guy.
RATING (1-5): 3.5