CBS All Access finally launched its flagship with Star Trek: Discovery and it lives up to the hype. It has amazing visuals with compelling story arcs and characters. Sonequa Martin-Green shines as the lead of this franchise and brings gravitas and depth to the role — she will fit in with the previous Star Trek captain icons.
This review is for the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, so if you have not seen episode two this is your warning there will be spoilers below…
Being a long time fan of the Star Trek franchise, there is a bit of trepidation and excitement going into a new series. Out of the gate, Discovery, establishes a brand new tone and story while maintaining the spirit of its predecessors. First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), of the Starship Shenzou, was raised on Vulcan by Ambassador Sarek. That is a major connection to the original series given that Sarek was Spock’s father. How is this possible since we have never heard of a little girl growing up with Spock? Unknown, but what it creates is a character with an interesting mix of sharp intellect and bubbling emotion.
Sonequa Martin-Green does an amazing job portraying this character after seven years among a Starfleet crew and during flashbacks when she first came onboard.Burnham is definitely the heart of the show.
The relationship between Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Burnham is more mother/daughter than commanding officer to subordinate. Georgiou knows Burnham has not been with humans since she lost her parents as a child and wants to re-acclimate her into human society. Burnham depends on Georgiou for reassurance and approval which they intimate she did not really get growing up.
Both actors do a great job giving weight to this relationship which is why Burnham’s betrayal in the second act is so shocking. The audience may understand Burnham’s reasoning but it obvious that Georgiou does not and it’s a bit gut-wrenching to watch.
Another highlight is the character of Lt. Commander Saru (Doug Jones), who is the science officer. What makes him compelling is the banter/bickering he has with Burnham. His character initially is played as a joke. His fear of seemingly everything makes you wonder why he joined Starfleet at all. It’s not cowardice, however, but instinct his race has developed from being prey on his planet. He can sense death coming. Which could be very useful if anyone had listened to him.
Characters are great, but what about the story, you ask? We are on the front edge of conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Historically, the Klingons have been a fractured empire consisting of 24 houses. T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) wants to use a war with the Federation as a unifying factor to get the houses under his leadership.
All the scenes with the Klingons are subtitled and the sets are gorgeously sinister which gives them a sense of immersion. The rhetoric that the Federation wants to “erase Klingon purity” is on the razor edge of too ripped from the headlines though. It’s a fine line between using science fiction to talk about current social issues and hitting the audience over the head so this will really depend on how they handle such issues in upcoming episodes.
Once the action steps over the line from tension into battle sequences, Discovery really shines. The CGI or visual effects are amazing to behold and words like “epic” come to mind.
The most amazing aspect of this two-hour adventure is that there is no reset button at the end. The Shenzou is destroyed, Captain Georgiou is dead, the Federation is at war with the Klingon Empire, and Burnham is held responsible. It can be argued that Burnham tried her best to prevent all of this destruction, but Starfleet does not see it that way and more importantly, Burnham blames herself. The episode ends with our main character being stripped of rank and carted off to prison. Now that’s a cliff-hanger.
What is happening with the war? How is Burnham going to get out of prison and back into the fight? Tune in next time with CBS All Access.