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7 Things We Loved About Star Trek: Discovery’s First Season… And A Few Things We Didn’t

7 Things We Loved About Star Trek: Discovery's First Season... And A Few Things We Didn't
Photo: CBS

It’s hard to believe that after years of anticipation, speculation, and excitement, Star Trek: Discovery‘s fist season has come and gone. Now that I’ve watched Discovery‘s fifteen episodes many times over, I’m happy to report that overall, I love this contemporary incarnation of Star Trek and I can’t wait to see where we are taken next (particularly after that closing scene).

As we prepare for the next set of adventures, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the show. Below I’ve compiled a list of the ten things that have stuck with me the most; seven of which I love and three that just missed their mark.

Things I Loved:

Sonequa Martin-Green

As the show’s lead, Sonequa Martin-Green brings a genuine excitement and a fresh perspective to Trek; she leads the show with beauty, grace and gravitas – and she shares it with all of us regularly, online. Her excitement for being a member of the Trek family is tangible and contagious. Martin-Green infuses Michael with both a distant complexity and a familiar warmth. We’re lucky to have her leading Trek’s charge into the future and I for one can’t wait to see what’s next for now Commander Michael Burnham.

Lethe

“Lethe”

Martin-Green’s portrayal of Burnham is arguably at its best in “Lethe.” Written by Joe Menosky and Ted Sullivan and Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski, “Lethe” is Disco’s finest hour to date. The episode delivers a high-octane story punctuated by a deep understanding of Trek lore: an understanding that expertly complicates the now fifty-year Sarek/Spock dynamic in a way that no one saw coming. The episode beautifully delivers a stand-alone story and a continuation of both Michael’s character arc and that of the Klingon war. The effects (those opening shots on Vulcan!), James Frain’s Sarek, and the integration of Tyler into Disco’s crew are just several of the cherries on top of this fantastic story – this is 21st century Trek at its very best.

The U.S.S. Shenzhou

The U.S.S. Shenzhou

The U.S.S. Shenzhou

The design of our show’s flagship starship wasn’t love at first sight for me. The U.S.S. Discovery has, however, grown on me. It is from several angles (particularly the top) a unique and streamlined vessel. However for my money, the Walker class U.S.S. Shenzhou is Discovery‘s greatest single ship – from that very first teaser, I was smitten. Designed by the legendary John Eaves (who’s given us countless iconic Trek ships, including the Enterprise-E), the Shenzhou perfectly marries that classic Starfleet aesthetic with a contemporary sci-fi sensibility – this is a ship with a long history, one that, from a design point of view, is perfectly slotted into a gap of Trek’s history that until now has not been much explored. Eaves’ mastery of his craft is on full display with the Shenzhou and this new ship is for me, one of my top five starships of all time.

The Party Scene

With the exception of Jadzia Dax’s bachelorette party, Trek has never done partying particularly well. Sure, it shows us characters enjoying themselves in a variety of ways (theater, poker, chess, darts, etc.) but rarely do we witness Starfleet officers throwing caution into the wind. Discovery‘s seventh episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” which is itself one of the best episodes of this first season, really lets loose – and it is fun to watch. The party scene – which is repeated over and over, thanks to Rainn Wilson‘s Harry Mudd – shows officers, soldiers, and scientists, of all shapes and sizes, at their most relatable and human; it’s also an ingenious focal point for the episode to revolve around.

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca

Captain Lorca

We’ve had many a Starfleet officer over the years whose motives weren’t exactly genuine. From his first appearance to his last, Lorca broke the Starfleet officer mold and I loved every second of it. Lorca was dubious, secretive, violent, and ultimately an impostor – not exactly Captain Picard. Lorca manipulated the show’s audience as well as he manipulated the Discovery‘s crew. He was played beautifully by Jason Isaacs who, at every single turn and with quite literally every single character on the show, lulled all of us into a false sense of security. Lorca kept us on our toes and will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion among Trekkies for years to come.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham in the Mirror Universe

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham in the Mirror Universe

The Mirror Universe

Lorca’s universe of origin loomed large over Discovery. Disco’s take on the mirror universe was responsible for some of the season’s most memorable character moments; think of Tilly pretending to be Captain, Saru actually becoming one. The mirror universe was fun, energizing, and gave us amazing Michael Jackson inspired uniforms and hardware. We’d spent almost the entirety of a dozen episodes focused on the Klingon war and all of a sudden we’re taken on this brilliant sharp detour that I was immediately (because of the quality of the mirror universe episodes of old) invested in. Everything just worked (and it could have easily not). From a storytelling perspective, it was definitely a gamble, but one that paid off. The mirror universe was also responsible for one of Disco’s most memorable moments and arguably the creepiest scene in all of Trek: mirror tooth-brushing Stamets.

Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly

Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly

Cadet Sylvia Tilly

Tilly is easily Disco’s standout and most unique character. Had I put a bet on who would have won that title when the series started, Tilly wouldn’t have cracked my top five. I can’t think of an analogous Trek character for her – and its refreshing. She’s socially awkward, yet delightful. She’s insecure of her abilities, but stands up to the challenge. Ambitious, loyal, caring, and most of all overtly human, I found myself fully invested in Tilly and can’t wait to continue rooting for her. Mary Wiseman brings a youthful energy, an energy that finds the wonders of the universe wonderful; and you truly feel it when she says that she loves feeling feelings. Hands down the season’s MVP.

Things I Didn’t:

“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”

Not every episode of Discovery worked. While as a whole the series exceeded my expectations, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” is easily the season’s weakest link. The episode just doesn’t work on any front. This is most noticeable because of how much I like the character of Saru (and Doug Jones by extension). This episode is meant to represent a turning point for his character, but due to the disjointed storylines, Saru’s emotional payoff, which should have been there in spades, just wasn’t; a missed opportunity. The episode’s shortcomings are particularly noticeable as the episode follows, “Lethe” and “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” two of the series very best shows.

The Klingon War Wrap-Up

With the exception of the last 10 minutes, “Will You Take My Hand?” feels unnecessarily rushed. The episode certainly has some memorable moments (thanks Tilly!) yet it is far from the sum of its parts. This is most noticeable in the way the episode wraps up the Klingon war arc. No doubt we shall see ramifications of L’Rell’s rise to power in season two, however, I was surprised at how quickly, and with how little information, this season long war – with all of its ramifications for the quadrant – was wrapped up. The war should have had one more episode devoted to its resolution. I understand that maybe the producers didn’t have the budget for another episode. But with the freedom that subscription services like Netflix or CBS All Access provide a series, it’s a curious creative choice not have had at least several more scenes devoted to explaining the war’s resolution.

Time

I’m gonna cheat a little with this last one. I so loved the show and, most importantly its characters, that I wished we would have spent more time with them outside of the Klingon war or the Mirror Universe. So many of the show’s most memorable moments were when we were just with our crew in smaller, character-driven scenes: think of Burnham and Tilly’s run and after-run meal, Burnham and Tyler’s dynamic during and post-party, Stamets and Culber brushing their teeth, Lorca’s speech to Burnham in “Context is for Kings,” etc. This crew of characters, and troop of actors, is so good, I want more opportunity to spend time with them outside of larger galaxy changing affairs. Here’s hoping the second season gives us more of these – and extends them to include the fantastic supporting crew.

While the above is not a definitive list – I could do an entire blog on my love for all the new Starfleet gear (those phasers, delta shields, etc.) – it is meant to stir conversation and debate. So do let me and the TrekNews.net crew know what you think in the comments below and on social.


TrekNews.net is your dedicated source for all the latest news on Star Trek: Discovery. Follow @TrekNewsnet on Twitter, TrekNews on Facebook, @TrekNews on Instagram and TrekNewsnet on YouTube.


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Written By

When not drinking coffee or watching Star Trek (or other sci-fi), Carlos spends his time running around London working on several projects. He has incredibly rambunctious boy-girl twins (his wife foolishly did not let him name them Luke and Leia). You can follow Carlos on Twitter @doublemacc.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Joshua Womack

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    I tried to like Discovery but I found myself with anxiety after every episode watched. Just never felt like it was part of the Trek universe in any meaningful way. I hate what they did to the Klingons, I really really hate what they did to the Klingons.

  2. pittrek

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Sonequa – I don’t agree, I thought her performance was wooden and boring.
    Lethe – I agree, you can clearly see what happens hen you hire a good writer. I’m so glad he’s on the Orville now.
    Shenzhou – I agree, I like the design
    Party scene – one of the worst scenes in the season in my opinion
    Lorca – nope. I was happy when he finally died.
    Mirror Universe – the first episode was great, the rest sucked.
    Tilly – I would go even further and say that she is the ONLY CHARACTER on the show. The only one who has a personality.

    “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” – I have no clue which episode this was, but because I hated almost all of the episodes, I probably agree.
    The Klingon War – I don;t like the Klingon war or the Klingons at all.

  3. John Knighton

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    I share a lot of the dismayed, irked reactions to Discovery – including referring to it as “Disco” (WAY too much wrong connotation and baggage there!). But, screwy and backward as it is, it’s still a sight better than what the J. J. Abrams movies turned out to be.

  4. theodore antonopoulos

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    It is disappointing that the showrunners found it more interesting to fill in gaps in the Star Trek mythology as opposed to advancing the mythology further into the future, say 50-100 years after TNG/Voyager. The irony is that the spore drive works very well as the next generation of drive technology….as do the uniforms, starships, and my favourite of all, the regular use of hologram communication. It is too bad that the JJ era of showrunners on both the big and small screens have chosen the re-boot/retell/prequel approach. It makes one wonder whether this is because they don’t have the creative courage to take those next bold steps.

  5. JB

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Burnham is a violent, irrational cannibal. Her prime directive is to follow whatever her selfish emotional motivation is. It’s why she attacks Giorgiou. It’s why she spaces Ash. It’s why she saves evil Giorgiou. It’s why she leaves a religious fanatic with a planet killing device. Burnham is the antithesis of everything Starfleet stands for.

  6. O

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Correct
    It is a good scifi series but not Star Trek

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