CBS Delivers the Goods

Star Trek Discovery Banner May Update

CBS All Access has finally delivered a brand new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, giving the world it’s first significant glimpse at the highly anticipated new Star Trek series.

It’s beautiful… surprising… and a little jarring in places, and has me thinking CBS might be up to something completely unexpected.  More on that a little later.

First, an important question was answered by the trailer.  Swimming amongst all of the incredibly beautiful visuals was an announcement from CBS.  The series will air in Autumn (in the United States, which is some time in Spring here in Australia).  The latest word since the trailer went live is that the pilot will be on our screens in September.

Fan reaction to the trailer has been mixed.  Some love it, some don’t, and some were underwhelmed but intrigued.

Why is this trailer dividing fandom so?

I guess because it is unexpected.  We’re often told that it’s never wise to have expectations, but we’re human and whether we consciously realise it or not, we often have them.  I think a lot of us were expecting the new Trek series to look more familiar, and for things to resemble (in a modernised way) what we saw in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie”, which fall in the specified time period.  FYI, “The Cage” was set in 2254 and the year 2255 has often been bandied about when discussing when this new show takes place.

That’s not what we got.  There are slight similarities in the overall design of the sets, and there is an echo of Star Trek: EnterpriseStar Trek: The Original Series and even the first six films in the look of the ships, but everything (except for the uniforms) is a little more ‘Kelvinesque’ than I think any of us expected.  Looking at this trailer, you wouldn’t automatically place the new series between the first prequel and the original 1960s show.

As much as I hate to admit it, that’s probably a wise choice because modern audiences are more familiar with the Kelvin-universe Trek.  To survive, our beloved Star Trek needs to keep attracting new fans (and younger fans) and to do so it needs to appeal to a 21st Century aesthetic.  The uniforms and starship sets we saw in “The Cage” or even Kirk’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” don’t cut it.

The good news is, the sets do look like they belong in the Star Trek universe.

The uniforms?  I don’t know.  They echo, slightly (very slightly), those from Star Trek: Enterprise, but in no way resemble Pike or Kirk’s era.  I have to admit, I love them.  I think they look incredible and are my favourite uniform design to date, but they are very different.  I think many of us were expecting an approach similar to the one taken by J.J. Abrams and his design team when they updated the original uniforms for the 2009 reboot, but… no.

All of these adjustments have me wondering “is CBS planning to reboot Star Trek entirely?”

Lieutenant Commander Burnham - Environment Suit in Deep Space

Those of us who have been fans of Star Trek for a long time love the original 1960s series, and we accept without issue that it’s dated.  We forgive, for example, the sexism, knowing Gene wasn’t a sexist, and we understand that the series was a product of its time.  New viewers not steeped in Star Trek history would find some episodes of TOS quaint at best and mildly offensive at worst, and they would find the ‘look’ of the series silly.  Even Star Trek: The Next Generation and it’s spin-offs are dated now.  Some of the episodes are a little on the sexist side and their desk top computers, for example, are bigger than our current iPads and tablets, and the graphics we see every day on our smartphones are better than the graphics presented in TNG, DS9 and VOY.

Sadly, sometimes science fiction just ages poorly.  One of the few exceptions to that rule is 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Kubrick went to extreme lengths to project forward into the future, and he and his design team did an incredible job.

What I’m about to suggest is pure speculation and I have no evidence or inside information to suggest my theory holds water, but what if they were thinking of rebooting everything?

What if they wanted to modernise Trek in its entirety to ensure it remained relevant well into the future?

Star Trek: Discovery could be the first step.  We’ve just heard that the show’s first season has been extended to 15 episodes (from 13), so if it gets seven seasons (which was once the average for a Star Trek series), that’s a total of 105 episodes if each season is granted 15 episodes.  The creative team could then jump forward to the TOS era, recast Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, Chapel and Rand (again), select 15 of the best episodes from each of the three seasons, update everything in alignment with this new design aesthetic, and make the original crew’s stories more relevant or at least more palatable to a 21st Century audience.

I know, heresy, but bear with me.  Next, they could do another 30 episodes (two seasons) so Kirk and Co. could finish their historic five-year mission.  That’s not seven seasons, but if the creative team wanted to, they could take a look at what happened to the crew in the years between the end of that mission and the crew confronting V’Ger.  There’s another 30 episodes equalling a unique two seasons of Trek, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Then the creative team could jump the series ahead to the USS Enterprise B and look at the adventures of Captain John Harriman, First Officer Janice Rand, and Demora Sulu.  I’d watch that and I’d love it.  Next up, we could finally spend some time with Captain Rachel Garrett and the USS Enterprise C, a captain and a ship that has captured the imaginations of Trek fans since they both first appeared in the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.

By then, we might be ready for a new look at TNG era Trek.  The creative team could select 15 of the best episodes from each season of TNG, DS9 and VOY with new actors playing our favourite characters, and give us something intense and mind-blowing.  Could you imagine DS9 starting out with the necessary world-building required of a series that is still unique when compared with its companion shows, and in those first 15 episodes introduce us to the station and the tragedy of the Bajoran occupation (which is still timely and relevant in today’s terrorism affected world) before shifting into the arrival of the Dominion and that eventual war?  Watching that war build over 90 episodes would be amazing.  Can you imagine correcting some of the mistakes of Star Trek: Voyager?  We could have more conflict with the Maquis as they try to unite the crews, we could redo the Kazon and make them a decent nemesis (with better hair), and we could even dedicate an entire 15 episode season to some of the stronger stories like the “The Year of Hell”.  Finally, just imagine for a moment what the writers could do with Picard, Beverly, Riker, Deanna, Worf, Data, Geordi, Wesley and Guinan in a more condensed and focused set of episodes season after season?  That’s exciting.  Such iconic characters, who often weren’t given the best treatment or the best stories.

Star Trek: Enterprise?  I don’t think they’d need to touch that.  I think it still stands the test of time and fits in with this new vision that is being presented to us.

After that?

As Jean-Luc Picard says in Star Trek: First Contact, “plenty of letters left in the alphabet.”

It’s an intriguing idea.  At the risk of having multiple Trekkies boycott Star Trek: Sentinel forever, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

However… I digress.

Back to Star Trek: Discovery.

First Impressions?
I seem to be one of the few fans who out and out loved the two trailers I saw.  Two?  Yep.  The first trailer I was able to watch was the CBS All Access version.  I went back to watch it a second time and grab some screencaps only to discover it had been region-blocked.

Just as an aside, region-blocking really pisses me off.  This is the 21st Century.  I should be able to access the content I want to access, regardless of where I am in the world.

In its place, international audiences could watch the Netflix version which came with subtitles.  At least the one I saw did.

That’s the trailer I’ll primarily be reflecting on, because it’s the one I’ve been able to watch multiple times (and grab screencaps from).

With both trailers I was blown away by the cinematic visuals.  They are beautiful and this show looks like a lot of money has been spent on it.  As grumpy as I got with CBS in my last post, I can now see that the extra time has been well spent.

The big thing that grabbed me with both trailers was Sonequa Martin-Green.  Holy %#*@!  She is incredible.  She can and will carry this series and make it something special.  I watched the second trailer multiple times because of her.  Yes, I loved a lot of what I saw, but every time she was on screen I was captivated.

So, having disclosed that I loved the trailer, I do need to say that it was… jarring.

STDSC Screenshot 1

We don’t see the Discovery, but we do get to see a few exterior shots of the Shenzhou and a corridor and the bridge of that ship.  There are, as I mention above, some design elements that place it in the prime timeline, but graphics wise it evokes the Kelvin timeline more than Pike’s era.

In what I think is a clever move, they’ve grounded these changes with a few old school Trek elements – the original communicators are back, we have a jazzed-up original series transporter effect, and desert robes reminiscent of those worn by Sisko and Dax in season seven of DS9.  That’s not original series, but it is Star Trek.

Some critics are saying the desert robes are a bit Star Wars, and they do have a point, but when I first saw the trailer and the below image, I immediately went to season seven of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in my head.

IMG_5539

The new Statfleet uniforms are beautiful, but instead of the familiar gold, red and blue/teal that we’ve seen in every incarnation of Star Trek, it appears a more metallic theme will delineate the various departments in Starfleet, with gold, silver and bronze shoulder stripes, shirt side panels and pant stripes all the rage ten years before Kirk.

That’s quite a change!

The uniforms and vessel design choices aren’t the most jarring thing though.  They didn’t ‘break’ me out of the trailer.  The Klingons did, and Lieutenant Saru did.

Discovery 27

Lieutenant Saru and Lieutenant Commander Burnham

The Klingons are familiar, but far more bestial than we’re used to.  They look mean and I loved this deepening of their look. Their outfits/uniforms/ceremonial wear(?) is far more elaborate than what we have ever seen before and I didn’t like them.  I hope that what they are wearing is ceremonial only, and that we get to see something appropriately vicious and lethal for their regular uniforms.

Lieutenant Saru?

He looks amazing.  My first thought was “poor Doug”, because that makeup looks like it would take hours.

My second thought, thanks to the dialogue spoken by Saru, was… WTF?!

The dialogue I remember was from the first trailer.  My memory may be a bit off, but Saru tells us that his race was genetically engineered for one purpose, to sense the coming of death.

Why?  Seriously, why??  There is no point to that.

It’s the only part of the trailer that really disappointed me.  Why would someone engineer a race to detect the coming of death?  How limiting is this going to be for the character?  I love Deanna Troi, but is this going to be another case of “Captain… I sense… (cue ominous music) the coming of death!” episode after episode?

I hope they reloop that dialogue to be “one of the things my species was designed to detect is the coming of death…” which still sucks, but sucks way less than the almost nonsensical “we were made to sense death, dude.”

How is that even possible?

Anyway.  I think you get that I don’t like that!  I actually can’t believe that slipped through, considering the quality of the creative team involved.

The Story?

Not a clue.

It seems like it will be epic.  There’s a big Klingon sarcophagus thing, Klingon ships attacking, Sarek training or mentoring our heroine, and the insinuation something big is happening out on the edge of known space.

The only thing we can guess at is that the Shenzhou awakens something that I assume Discovery will have to deal with.  I am worried that whatever the Shenzhou awakens will kill Captain Georgiou.  I hope not.  That would be a waste of such an incredible actor.  Watch the trailer, you’ll see why I’m concerned.  Think about what and who we don’t see.

It looks like it’s the Klingons that have been ‘awakened’ out on the fringe, so I’m wondering if this is a special type of Klingon… perhaps a genetic experiment gone wrong?  Or maybe it’s an exiled colony?  That might explain the different look and the unusual costumes.

The Effects?

Outstanding.  I don’t need to say anything else.  They are feature film quality.  Bravo CBS.  There’s nothing like that on TV right now.

The Characters?

We don’t get to see a lot of them.  We see Captain Philippa Georgiou, Saru, Connor, Burnham and Sarek, and a few of the Klingons, but that’s it.

The only character we get any insight into is Burnham, and then there are only insinuations.

I was left wondering is she Vulcan?  Is she a human adopted by Vulcans?  She seems to have a very close relationship with Sarek.

She also seems a lot more impulsive than your standard Starfleet officer.

Is it True to Star Trek?

I think it is.

There are design choices that are a little disorienting, but overall it ‘feels’ right.  From the tiny bit of dialogue we get, it seems like the writers and producers have tried very hard to honour Gene Roddenberry’s legacy.  You’d expect nothing less with Rod Roddenberry involved.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, watch it.  You’re in for a treat.  Try to let go of your expectations, and once you do, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

One more little note, CBS All Access has announced an “aftershow” special that will air after every episode of the series.  It’s called “Talking Trek“.

Now… screencaps.

In the screencaps below, it’s implied that the child Sarek is talking to is Burnham.  The child has a Vulcan haircut, but I don’t know if she’s Vulcan.  We never really get a good look at her ears.

As you can see below, the bridge looks a little Star Trek: Enterprise and a little USS Kelvin too.  The graphics?  Very Kelvin timeline.

Check out how awesome Saru looks!  In the CBS All Access trailer Saru says the thing about his species being designed to sense the coming of death.  Then he pauses for a bit and says “I sense the coming of death.  I sense it coming now.”

The first image below is a Klingon hand.  Nice and savage looking.  Check out the Klingon uniforms… really ornate and unusual.  They look super uncomfortable and not something you’d wear into battle.

That’s it.

It ends with the logo we’ve come to know and love.

In addition to the trailer, CBS have released an official poster for the series.  If you look closely, you’ll see the Discovery.

IMG_5540

If you haven’t seen the trailer or want to watch it again, you can check it out on YouTube here.

It’s so exciting to be getting something concrete from this production.  We should be in for an interesting next few months.

One last thought.  If you look at the poster, it indicates the Vulcans are going to play a big part in this series.  I don’t think Burnham doing the Vulcan salute is without meaning.  Is it a clue to her heritage?  Is it an indication this new series will pick up on some elements from around Archer’s time?

There is still so much to learn about this show, and the trailer has definitely got me primed for more.

As news breaks, we’ll post about it.

Now do what I’m doing and heave a big sigh of relief.  Star Trek: Discovery is really happening.

LCARS Interface

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