I’m only now just starting to warm up to Star Trek: Discovery. But I am warming up. Season 2 looks like it could be fairly strong.
So, here’s me, thinking out loud about what I like and don’t like about the show.
The Gaze and The Gays
First, I’m glad that they’ve dispensed with the “let’s make sure we give our young, cishet, male viewers their requisite number of boners.” I mean, Star Trek: Enterprise was hyperactive about finding reasons to put T’Pol in her underwear while Archer rubbed
suntan lotion decontamination gel on her skin. And that was clearly a thing they did because 7 of 9 taught them that having a hot chick in a skintight uniform helps with the ratings.
I like that there are so many more women in the series. As much as I liked Deep Space 9, it was underwhelming how few women were in that show. Think of all the recurring (non-main) characters they brought in on DS9? How many were women? Winn. The female Changeling. Ziyal (until they fridged her). Maybe Moogie (but she was more a plot element than a character after her first appearance). And Leeta. (I think I’d argue that only the first two were strong characters) I suppose Kassidy Yates, as well. Keiko too, but she was a carry-over from TNG. But that’s pretty much it. But the menfolk: Garak, Damarr, Dukat, Brunt, Wayoun, Ross, Martok, Sloan, Vic Fontaine, Nog, Rom, the Grand Nagus, Joseph Sisko, Eddington, and even Morn (okay, Morn’s more of a prop than a character). Can you name a Cardassian story where the main Cardassian adversary was a woman?
The same is basically true of Enterprise. Is there a single female Xindi character, for example? Villains for a whole season: zero women.
I know there’s a contingent of manbabies who derisively call the show “Star Trek: Diversity”, but fuck. It’s about time. Not just for women, but characters of colour, crew members with disabilities, and — finally! — Star Trek embraces the gay cooties!
Season two looks like it’s promising to show us the bridge crew in action a bit more, and if so, I’m there for it. As much as I like Michael and Stamets and Tilly, I’m hungry to see more of Detmer and Rhys and Owosekun and Airiam. Seriously: tell us what the deal is with Airiam.
(The one character that does nothing for me is Saru: he just delivers these awful speeches intended to be deep).
The Stories We Tell
The Federation at War is not my favourite type of Star Trek story. So the fact that most of the first season was mired in a war with the Klingons was kinda meh for me.
Having said that, I think that elements of the storytelling are working for me. I’ve never clamoured for Trek to be more episodic, so I’m wary of the way that the second season purports to be less arc-y and more episode-in-a-bottle-y. But season two has started strong.
The Design of Everyday Things from the Future
There’s a lot of nice design work on the show. But before I talk about the things I like, I need to say that I hate hate hate the exterior look of the ship, and I think the fact that those saucer rings spin drives me to distraction.
It makes me feel like Sigourney Weaver.
I would also have preferred it if the interiors of the Discovery weren’t so spacious: that seems inconsistent with the era that they’re showing us.
But otherwise, I quite like the design elements. The uniform, which I was wary of, has grown on me, but what is with that collar? I liked the blue jumpsuits that they had on Enterprise, and I can buy that this is an evolution of those blue-heavy uniforms.
It’s clear that the designers for the Abrams-verse movies (of which I am not a fan) hated the primary coloured uniforms (they did everything they could to dress them differently). So I think there’s something about the designers thinking “we can’t attract a modern audience with the classic shirts.” And I get that. But this is supposed to be Pike’s era, and Pike wore the gold shirt. And I’m enough of a continuity nerd to drum my fingers over it.
But, like I say, the uniforms have grown on me (minus the collars). And I like the away-team-body-armour (although I don’t really understand why they have to change shirts to put on the body armour. The shirt that they wear under the body armour has black at the shoulders, whereas the shirts they wear regularly has their division colours at the shoulders.)
And I unequivocally love the spacesuits. Each series has gotten better and better about spacesuits. Discovery has great spacesuit.
I could quibble about things like the prevalence of heads-up-displays or holographic communications and monitor displays. These things are practically part of our world and it seems glaring for them not to be part of the future, even though the TNG-era didn’t seem to have them. You can’t attract a modern audience with 1960s visual effects.
I don’t like the make-up changes to the Klingons. But I don’t know anyone who does. (C’mon: fandom angsted about the last make-up change for Klingons for 15 years!) But I liked them getting different outfits. I’m tired of Klingon armour; let’s mix it up a bit.
I also like the better budget for alien make-up. Saru’s design is pretty good. Airiam is eye-catching. I liked the scene of the Saurian in the turbolift, and I’d love to see the big-headed alien bridge officer again.
And the special effects have been amazing. There’s a scene of Tyler using a workbee in Season 1, where the bee’s controls are holographic: nice effects. The asteroid chases and space walks and ship-to-ship combat have been impressive.
I am the type of Trek nerd who frets about continuity (while recognizing that every series broke continuity).
I came around on the whole “Spock has another sibling that we’d never heard about?” thing. (Part of me hopes that we’ll see Sybok in Discovery, to see if they can make the character interesting).
I came around on the uniforms and the look of the tech. I’m consciously giving the show a pass on the Spore Drive and the holocommunicators. I’m angsting a little bit about the show redesigning the Enterprise (although Pike’s Enterprise quarters were so different than Kirk’s, clearly the Enterprise went through some different appearances).
But aside from the improved tech, the continuity changes aren’t drastic. The whole “no, we actually knew about the Mirror Universe” thing is a minor irritation. Just, please, don’t show us the Romulans.
There have been interesting hints about tie-ins to TOS, like the fan theory that Admiral Cornwell is fated to become Lethe from the rehab colony on Tantalus V.
In conclusion: I’m warming up to the show. I think I would have liked the first season a bit better if we’d stayed with Captain Georgiou. And if they didn’t kill off one of the gay characters.
(Yeah, yeah, they keep saying they’re going to fix that latter mistake).