Episode 8 Recap and Review

Episode 8 Recap and Review

Episode 8 is a welcome return to form, and is the most Star Trek episode of Star Trek: Discovery to date in story and theme.

It feels nice saying that, because I’ve said it almost every review now, which means (to me, anyway) that the writers are on the right track and the show is growing stronger every week.

It needs to be said, Kirsten Beyer wrote the crap out of this episode.  Kirsten is a Star Trek novelist, and this is her first television writing credit.

You couldn’t tell.

If this episode has a flaw, it’s in its run time.  There was so much story and not enough time was given to some aspects of it, but, more on that later.

The Facts
Episode Number:
108
Episode Title: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”
Written By: Kirsten Beyer
Directed By: John S. Scott

Quotable
Lorca to Rhys
: “Mr Rhys, could I trouble you to fire at something?

Stamets to Tilly: “What are you doing down here, captain?

Michael to Ash and Saru: “We can’t touch that transmitter now.
Ash to Michael: “General Order One?
Michael, in response: “No, Order One restricts us from revealing ourselves to sentient beings that aren’t warp capable.  We’re well beyond that.  Now our duty is to follow First Contact Protocol, and we can’t borrow or alter their property without them understanding our objective, and agreeing to it.

Michael to Ash: “The needs of the many…
Ash to Michael: “Are worth fighting for… are worth dying for… but so are the needs of the few.
Michael, in response: “Or the one?

Tilly to Stamets: “Okay.  What is going on with you?
Stamets, in response: “Excuse me?
Tilly back to Stamets: “At first, the tardigrade DNA booster seemed like a good thing, but now you’re back to your old persnickety, grumpy self.  So what’s the deal?

L’Rell to Cornwell: “What happens to those who Starfleet captures?
Cornwell, in response: “In war?  They’re imprisoned.  Interrogated – humanely.  Eventually, they’re returned to their people as part of any final peace settlement.
L’Rell, in response: “So, you do not… execute them?
Cornwell: “The Federation has no death penalty.
L’Rell: “I wish to defect.

L’Rell: “First, I am ensuring the end of Kol’s days.  He neglected T’Kuvma’s message.  He desecrated this vessel with his fetid presence.  Before we depart, I will set the ship’s warp core to overload.
Cornwell: “He really disappointed you!
L’Rell: “He disgusts me.  My only regret is that I will not be able to see his pretty painted face as he takes his final breath.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
– “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was originally slated to be the last episode of the first half of the first season.  Episode 9 was made the last episode for the first half a few episodes into the current run.
– The USS Gagarin, we assume, is named for the Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.
– Kelpiens can run at up to 80 kilometres per hour!
– This was Kirsten Beyer’s first professional television or film credit, as mentioned above.  Prior to being recruited by Bryan Fuller to work on Star Trek: Discovery, she was (and still is) the author of 10 Star Trek novels, with two more on the way.  Eight of those novels are based on Star Trek: Voyager.  For information on Kirsten, see her Memory Alpha page here.
– We get some insight into what is happening to Lieutenant Paul Stamets via an exchange in the mess hall with Tilly:
Okay.  I’ll admit that something has been happening to me.  One minute I know where I am, who you are, what I’m doing, and then, all of a sudden, what I know… changes… it gets jumbled…

The Recap and Review
We kick off with a bang after another cold open (no teaser before the credits), with a brand new Starfleet vessel, the USS Gagarin, in a fierce battle with the Klingons.

Sadly, the Gagarin is getting its warp nacelles kicked.

The USS Gagarin

The Discovery drops in to save the day… but can’t, and the Gagarin is blown to pieces.

It’s a demoralising moment for the crew as they engage the spore drive and jump out of the battle to safety, with Lorca (almost showing a drop of compassion) telling them there will be a time to grieve, but later.

Star Trek: Discovery throws together a nice battle sequence.  The effects are always top notch, though at times there are some unusual direction choices that are made that don’t quite allow the scenes to ‘pop’ as much as they could.

I do miss the more traditional phaser fire of past series – sustained beams of light rather than the more Star Wars like bolts of energy, but that’s a small thing.

This entire opening shows Lorca in his element.  He’s a dynamic captain who looks like he wants to jump through the viewer into the midst of the battle, and physically beat the Klingon ships into oblivion.  This is no Kirk or Picard, calmly or with restrained intensity, commanding an engagement from the captain’s chair.  Lorca paces like a caged animal, unleashing the fury of his ship on the enemy.  Jason Isaacs makes you believe it’s personal and he is convincing as a man who has lost a lot to the Klingons and wants to deal them a decisive blow.  He is such an excellent choice for this new Starfleet captain.

Even though Lorca doesn’t get a lot to do in this episode, every shot he’s in adds to his character – and that’s all thanks to Jason’s acting ability.  Last episode he was the fall guy for Mudd’s craziness, but every line delivery imbued Lorca with personality.  I love watching this very talented man work.

If Ash is Voq, Lorca is going to lose it and watching Jason Isaacs chew the scenery over that one will be an Emmy-winning moment.

Stamets Connected to the Spore Drive

After the destruction of the Gargarin, we visit with Stamets and Tilly and quickly learn that the spore-drive has more of an effect on Stamets than we were initially led to believe.  He staggers out of the reaction chamber like a man waking from sleep.  He’s confused, disoriented and says to Tilly “what are you doing here, captain?

Is he jumping timelines?

Tilly has stated that she intends to be a captain.  Has becoming “unstuck” in time thanks to the tardigrade DNA allowed Stamets to see or even actually visit future or alternate timelines?  He’s in a chamber infused with spores… is he actually IN that chamber?  Is something else mysterious going on while he’s hooked up to the machine?  This brief scene was very nicely set up last episode, and you can bet this one is also planting a seed or two that will bear fruit in episodes to come.

As Paul pulls himself together, he goes from confused to snappy in a heart beat.  Shroom-happy, huggy Stamets is gone.  Not-so-happy and eternally grumpy Stamets is back.

We leave Tilly and Stamets to visit with Lorca and a Vulcan admiral, where Lorca once again shows his disdain for the chain of command, walking through the hologram image and speaking abruptly, even dismissively, to the Vulcan (sometimes he’s more respectful with his subordinates).

The Vulcan admiral tells Lorca that they need to find a way to defeat the Klingon cloaking technology, or all might be lost.

We quickly leave the ship and FINALLY visit a planet, Pahvo, where a Landing Party of Saru, Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham are trekking through a forest that gives a slight nod to the very first episode of Star Trek ever, “The Cage”, with blue tinted foliage and an eerie, ethereal, ever-present background musical noise that sounds like it incorporates old school Trek sound effects.

Ash, Michael and Saru on Pahvo

This is the first planet a Landing Party has visited since the Shenzhou Landing Party in the very first episode… and it is beautiful.  Everything about Pahvo is interesting and thought provoking.  I had a really visceral reaction, and was swept away and engaged on every level by the scenes on the mystical world.

The team are trekking through the wilderness in search of a giant crystal spire that ‘sings’ in the hope it can help them detect cloaked Klingon vessels.  Saru is a bit annoyed, because, compared to a Kelpien, human’s are physically quite slow – also, the constant hum and vibration of the planet is doing Saru’s head in.  His senses are more refined than a human’s and he’s struggling through the background ‘noise’ of Pahvo.

We eventually learn that the whole planet may be sentient, as that sentience manifests itself as a beautiful, slowly undulating and swirling cloud of blue/white energy.  The manifestations/emanations choose to communicate with Saru and end up having quite an effect on the Kelpien First Officer.

Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham on Pahvo

More on that later!

Alongside this main plot, we have a secondary plot that involves the Klingons (with the odd visit back to the Discovery).

Yes.  When I saw the Klingons I groaned and looked away, wondering if I should just hit pause and come back to the episode later or go grab a coffee while they growled and pontificated at each other, but thankfully the stilted dialogue and posturing ended quickly and we got to see Admiral Katrina Cornwell again, a character I’ve really come to enjoy.

The Klingon scenes start with L’Rell convincing Kol she can be of use to him as an interrogator, and he sets her the task of getting information out of the Admiral.  She pays a visit to Katrina with a collection of nasty looking weapons in tow, and after getting the Admiral to scream, quite quickly asks to defect.

L'Rell and Cornwell Face Off

L’Rell and Admiral Katrina Cornwell need their own spin-off.  Both Mary Chieffo and Jayne Brook are excellent together.  The scenes between both women sparkle.

In the first exchange between L’Rell and Cornwell, we learn L’Rell hates Kol.

I mean really HATES Kol.

I believe her.  I believe the character’s contempt is genuine.

Does she want to defect though?  That, I’m not so certain of.  I want her to.  I’d love to see more of her and I’d love her to hate Kol so much she works with the Federation to destroy him, then double-crosses our heroes in an attempt to rebuild the Empire.

L'Rell and Cornwell Bond

I don’t know if that could ever happen… but it’s a tiny little fanboy fantasy I have!

Sadly, the exchanges between these two powerful women are too brief, and eventually end with the apparent death of Admiral Cornwell.  In the last half of the episode, L’Rell is taking the Admiral to her ship when they’re discovered by Kol.  In that moment, there’s yet another nice exchange between both as they confirm neither is what the other expected, and then Katrina grabs a weapon from L’Rell’s belt, attacks her, and L’Rell pushes her into a power conduit after some nifty hand-to-hand combat.  Being held against the conduit as it sparks and flashes seems to kill the Admiral.

I’m hoping, desperately, that Cornwell isn’t dead, but I’m honestly not sure.  L’Rell’s statement to her when Kol sees them together in the corridor suggests otherwise – “At least you won’t die in a cage, Admiral.”  So either she killed her, or she’s alluding to their eventual escape that is yet to come.

It is telling that L’Rell offers to get rid of the body… so, who knows?

The scenes between L’Rell, Kol and Cornwell are the best scenes to feature Klingons to date.

Back on the planet Saru gets high on sparkly happy dust and, we eventually learn, loses all fear.  Sort of.  He seems to maintain the fear of losing his loss of fear – if that confusing sentence makes sense?

Saru is Given a Gift From the Pahvo

I don’t know if Saru goes native or not, but he definitely changes.  He crushes communicators, deceives his colleagues, and donkey-kicks Burnham in an attempt to stay on the planet.

Very un-Saru behaviour, and definitely not behaviour that is becoming of an officer.

Before that craziness though, we see Burnham and Tyler take a step closer in their relationship in what is ultimately an awkward scene.  This was a perfect example of how this episode needed more time.  A few scenes needed just one more minute each to make this entire episode something outstanding.

With Ash and Michael, one minute they’re talking about trout, the next Burnham is saying she’s probably going back to prison, and then there’s a touching exchange that evokes Suraks’ teachings (and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), that turns into a kiss.

The scene works, and our head-canon can say that stuff has been building off-screen, but it would have been so much better to see that build.  As it was presented, the scene seems wedged in because the writers thought we needed to have these characters kiss because their last kiss got wiped out of existence.

Thanks, Harry!

Ash and Michael Kiss

So, nice moment, then craziness.  It all ends in Saru once again expressing his frustration and anger at Burnham for, in his opinion, ruining his life.

It’s a powerful moment, but not as powerful as it could have been.

This episode was touted as an immensely emotional outing, and wasn’t.  While it was emotional it didn’t live up to the hype – which made me certain I’d shed a tear or two.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t quite rise to the occasion.

The episode starts to wrap up with a beautiful scene between Saru and Michael that continues the theme of healing that’s been subtle but present in most of their interactions since Burnham’s invitation to join Discovery.  It takes place in Sickbay and goes a little something like this:
Saru.  Please look at me.  Are you alright?
I lied to you… and Lieutenant Tyler.  I attacked you.  I could have killed you.”
“You weren’t yourself.
But I was.”  Beat.  “We are born afraid, we Kelpiens.  It’s how we survive.  As such, my whole life I have never known a moment without fear.  The freedom of it.  Not one moment… until Pahvo.

This is what I meant when I mentioned earlier that Saru found himself devoid of fear, but ultimately still acted out of fear.

This scene also makes me wonder about Saru’s suitability for command.

The last scene is an exchange on the bridge where they learn that the Pahvo have invited the Klingons to come chat… and they take up the invitation, warping in.  The Pahvo are dedicated to harmony, and want to make Starfleet and the Klingons play nice together.  I think we know that that isn’t going to end well!

Saru in Sickbay

So… all in all, a really satisfying episode.

Next week’s episode is “Into The Forest I Go.”

Predictions
I don’t think Lorca and Stamets are going to make it out of the series alive.  A few weeks ago I said I didn’t think Lorca would be alive by the end of the season, and now I’m no longer sure about Stamets.  He’s “unstuck” in time.  His story feels like it’s going to end in tragedy.  He might make it into the next season, and possibly others, but we know the spore-drive doesn’t work and no doubt Paul’s fate will be tied to it.

I am now almost completely convinced Ash is Voq.  Listening to Ash’s voice, listening to Voq’s.  The vague similarity in facial features.  The simple fact that this would really hurt Michael and writers like to torture their main characters!  There would be no more cruel or shocking way to torment Michael than to have her fall in love with a representative of the race that killed her parents – AND her surrogate mother (Georgiou).

Saru will step down as First Officer.  Ash will succeed him (because Lorca makes non-traditional choices, as we’ve seen).  Ash will be revealed as Voq, Burnham will receive a battlefield promotion and her sentence will be commuted, and she’ll become the new First Officer.

In the wishful fanboy category… Cornwell is alive.

Scorecard

4 Deltas

This was an exceptional episode, whose only weakness was in its length – it needed to be longer, and not just because I loved it.

It loses a delta for how “crammed” the story felt.  The story was excellent, and by and large the pacing was good – we just needed more in some scenes because really big things happened in this episode… the possible death of Admiral Cornwell, the kiss between Michael and Ash, L’Rell wanting to defect, the exploration of Saru and the healing journey he and Burnham are on… these are all huge, and just as important, the dynamic between all of these characters, like Michael and Ash, Cornwell and L’Rell and Michael and Saru, deserved more time.

The episode was only 41 minutes long.  That might be the shortest live-action Star Trek episode in history?  They could have included more.  I don’t know if they thought they’d bore us if they extended those scenes, but if so – hear us, oh writers room, you wouldn’t have!  Trek fans love that stuff.  We’re not paying to see this show to watch special effects, we’re paying to be a part of these characters’ journeys.  What’s more, modern viewing audiences love character and story too.  Excellent production values are important, but we want to know and walk side by side with these characters.  Don’t rob us of the opportunity.

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes available Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix with new episodes dropping in the UK at 8:00am BST Monday mornings, and in Australia at 6:00pm AEDT, Monday evenings.

One more episode left before the mid-season break.

By the way, what torturous, horrible person thought up mid-season breaks?  Not a fan.

Join us in a few days time for another review, the last one for a few months.  Until then (and always), Live Long, and Prosper.

LCARS Interface

Advertisements

Episode 3 Recap and Review

Star Trek Discovery Update 22062017

I am so conflicted.

I really enjoyed this episode, but there were a couple of things that gave me pause.  More on that later in the review.  First… the basics:

The Facts
Episode Number
: 103 (Season 1, Episode 3)
Episode Title: “Context Is For Kings”
Writers: Aaron Harberts, Gretchen J. Berg and Craig Sweeny
Story: Bryan Fuller, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg
Director: Akiva Goldsman

Interesting Bits and Pieces
We get to see our first Jefferies Tube!
There is a different Starfleet delta badge worn by some officers on the Discovery.  It’s all black.
A boarding party is a boarding party, not an away team (like on TNG).
Amanda is mentioned, and Spock is hinted at when Burnham talks to Tilly about her childhood.
Lorca has a Tribble.  That is hopefully neutered!
Lorca has a Gorn skeleton in his private area.  This is a little annoying, because I’m pretty sure we don’t officially meet the Gorn until the TOS era?
The robot is called Airiam and appears to be a Lieutenant Commander or full Commander?  I hope they explain this soon.  It looks like Data may have been the first “human-looking” android and not the first android in Starfleet.
The Discovery uses “breath” ID scans to access sensitive parts of the ship.  It actually looks kind of silly.
Last, but not least, Lorca and Landry are up to something together, and seem to have a relationship that goes back a while.

The Recap and Review
The first few minutes of “Context Is For Kings” did not grab me on the first watch.  On the second watch, I was far more interested because I knew what was coming and the scene made more sense.

We start on a prisoner transfer shuttle six-months after the events of “Battle At The Binary Stars.”

Burnham is in old school command mustard-gold, though it’s not a Starfleet uniform she is wearing, it’s prison garb.  She’s not in a good head space.

Sharing the shuttle with her are three not very nice individuals, one woman, two men, all human.  They’re unpleasant in every way, and this works.  The scene does a few things.  It shows us we’re not yet in the utopia that the Federation will become in the Picard-Sisko-Janeway era and it shows us that, as a species, humanity is still working itself out and is still trying to cast off some of its less desirable traits.

We quickly learn that Burnham is infamous as one of the prisoners tells her, with considerable anger, that she lost a family member in that battle.

Before things get violent, some kind of life form that feeds on energy starts to drain the shuttle of all power.  The pilot does an emergency EVA to try and fix the problem, but her tether breaks and she shoots off into the distance.  It’s all a little weird.  The scene is filmed in a very flat and undramatic way.  It’s devoid of intensity and energy.  Even the pilots death lacks drama.  She just shoots by a window.  I think that’s Akiva (the Director) helping us to climb into Michael’s mind – but initially I didn’t like it.

The prisoners go into a panic but Burnham sits there, quietly, almost with an air of relief, accepting her fate.  Perhaps even looking forward to it.

That, the second time around, was actually quite powerful.  It’s as if Burnham wanted to die and thought she deserved it.

Suddenly, a beautiful looking starship drifts languidly into shot, tractor beam extended, to save them.

USS Discovery

After two episodes, we finally get to see the USS Discovery.

I know the Discovery‘s design has divided fandom, but I love it.  It’s recognisably Starfleet, but is it’s own thing – and it’s stunning.  It’s design influence is a little alien, and I wonder at that.  I don’t recognise any particular Star Trek race’s ‘fingerprints’ on the design, but find that I want to know who developed her and whether or not they were guided by an alien aesthetic.

That’s the Trek geek in my coming out!

From the moment Discovery sails in to save the day, the episode kicks into high gear and we finally get to meet most of the principle cast.

Rekha Sharma as Commander Ellen Landry is entirely unlikeable.  She doesn’t seem to like or dislike Burnham, but treats everyone with what feels like contempt.  Equally.  Except for Gabriel Lorca.

Jason Isaacs plays our new Captain and you never know, from one moment to the next, whether or not Lorca is a good guy or a bad guy.  He is entirely mysterious, almost menacing, and completely compelling.

Mary Wiseman’s Ensign Sylvia Tilly is fantastic in every way.  She’s someone a lot of us can relate to.  This show is serious and tense, and Tilly brings a lighter touch which is needed.  I admit, I adore her.  She’s awkward, a ball of anxiety, allergic to almost everything, and is just a really good and really sweet human being.

Anthony Rapp’s Lieutenant Paul Stamets is arrogant, dismissive and entirely obsessed with his work.  He’s going to be an amazing character.  He doesn’t seem to like Lorca, and I’m not sure if he’s Starfleet or civilian?  It seems, from his dialogue, that he might have been drafted.

We reunite with Doug Jones’ Saru, and there’s also a brief, dialogue free reunion with a cybernetically altered Lieutenant Keyla Detmer from the Shenzhou, played by Emily Coutts.

Neither reunion goes well.  Gone is the brother/sister vibe between Saru and Burnham.  Saru is now the first officer of the Discovery, and he makes it clear that he considers Michael dangerous.

Keyla?  She just stares at Michael with barely constrained hatred and turns away.

Michael is temporarily put to work in Engineering with Stamets and Tilly while the shuttle is repaired.  It’s made clear she’ll ship out with the other prisoners and resume her journey when the transport is fixed.

As she gets to work, and gets a little break-and-entery, the mystery that is Discovery and her mission starts to unfold.

We learn that the Discovery has a sister ship, the USS Glenn, and the Glenn goes silent after upping their mycelial propulsion experiment.

Discovery shoots off to investigate.

Burnham, Tilly, Stamets, Landry and our first red-shirt (sorry… bronze-shirt), Ensign Ricky, shuttle over to what turns out to be a ship of horrors.

The experimental propulsion system on the Glenn has done something terrible to the biological lifeforms on the ship, and we go from Star Trek to horror-Trek in a matter of moments.  Disfigured, dismembered crew litter the ship, and it appears the Klingons tried to board her as we see one – before he’s quickly eaten by some kind of slug/beetle hybrid.

It’s a scene that is both amusing and horrifying.  One moment the Klingon is “shushing” the Discovery crew, the next he’s set upon by the monster and sucked into its toothy maw.

After a tense chase scene, that includes Michael reciting lines from an Alice in Wonderland book, our heroes escape, and, we learn, so too does the monster… though escape is probably the wrong word.  It ends up in some sort of menagerie aboard the Discovery thanks to Commander Landry.

The episode ends with Lorca asking Burnham to stay on as a consultant.  She declines, saying she committed mutiny and deserves her punishment, giving context to her despondency in the first scene.  She also doubts Lorca can over rule Starfleet.  He tells her he has a wide latitude in his mission, and insists she’s someone he needs.

She initially thinks its to engage in clandestine, barely legal activities in the name of the war effort and challenges him on this.

In a moment that gives us some welcome insight into Lorca’s cold and suspicious behaviour, he says it’s not.  He needs people who think on their feet, and are capable of doing what is necessary to save lives.

Burnham accepts his offer, affected by Lorca’s argument: “you helped start a war, don’t you wanna help me end it?”

What will her role be?  We’ll have to tune in to the next episode to find out.

“Context Is For Kings” is an excellent episode.  Akiva Goldsman really can direct.

The entire episode is tight, though there is a lot of treknobabble it doesn’t get in the way, and the exposition is light.

The performance of every single actor is superb.  There isn’t one weak actor in this show.

The writing… well, it feels like it’s been written by a committee and suffered as a result.  Previous Trek shows have an almost lyrical narrative flow, but Star Trek: Discovery hasn’t found that yet – and I think it’s because so many people have their fingers in each script.

That might eventually prove to be a good thing, but right now it is clear the writers are still trying to find their groove.

What gave me pause?

This new way of flying.  Unless I’m missing something, the Discovery appears to be mushroom-powered.  Which is okay.  In my day job, one part of the business I work for is looking into the science of mushrooms and how they can purify water and reclaim waste – and I am almost convinced mushrooms might save our planet, but there are four Trek series set in the future where there is zero mention of or reference to mushroom powered vessels.

Also, Lorca.  I admit I love his character, but I can’t work out if he’s a genius or a sociopath.

It rubs me the wrong way that Starfleet has given this man carte blanche to find a way to defeat the Klingons.

Context may be for kings, but I need more context.  We all do.  Is the war going so badly after six-months, that Starfleet is willing to consider chemical weapons or some other horrific tool as a means of stopping the Klingons?  Is this a Section 31 thing?  Are the black markings on the Discovery a symbol it is somehow different from other Starfleet vessels?

Lorca’s moral ambiguity is both fascinating and disquieting.

The shows writers and producers have gone to great pains to assure us it will all make sense, so I’m happy to suspend my concerns and enjoy the ride, but I do hope things become a little clearer soon.

Overall, this is an intense and enjoyable third episode… or actual pilot, if you prefer to see it that way.

Scorecard
This series is shaping up to be something very different and uniquely wonderful.  Four delta’s out of five!
4 Deltas

The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery has the second longest title in Trek history (I think).  It’s called “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry.”

The longest episode title in Trek history?  To my knowledge, it’s “For The World Is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky.”

We’ll be back with another review in a few days time.

Star Trek: Discovery continues to look incredible, and while the show still feels a little uneven I have no doubt it will find its voice soon, and its place in Star Trek canon.

Live Long, and Prosper.

LCARS Interface

Pilot Episode Recap and Review (Parts One & Two)

Review Banner

It’s been 12 long years, but finally Star Trek is back on television.  Sort of.  It was on television in the US for a night, and then switched to a streaming service… but you know what I mean!

The event also coincides, give or take a few days, with the 30th anniversary of another Trek show that gave birth to 18 years of science fiction adventure – Star Trek: The Next Generation.

TNG was a ground breaking series for its time and gave birth to a shared universe before the Marvel movies made the idea popular.  Though beloved now by most Star Trek fans, back in the day people were swearing they would not give it a chance because of how different it was: the command uniform colour was red, red-shirts were suddenly gold-shirts, the ships only looked vaguely familiar and Klingons were on the bridge.  Some Trek fans do like to get their knickers in a twist and make a fuss.

A fuss most certainly has been made about Star Trek: Discovery.  For those of us who were in our teens (or older) when the new series was first in production, all this ‘noise’ is annoyingly familiar.  We also saw it when Star Trek: Enterprise went into production.

I’ll give the more rabid among us this though, the job is harder when the new show is a prequel, especially one that is set in a timeframe we all already know so much about.

In Australia, “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle of the Binary Stars” dropped on Netflix only a few hours after they had premiered in the United States and Canada.  I quickly downloaded both episodes, finished up work for the day and headed to my car, fully intending to watch both episodes when I got home… only I couldn’t resist taking a peek.

Promising myself I’d only watch the first 15 minutes, I turned the car engine on, left it in park, hooked my phone into the car’s speakers, cued the first episode up on my pone and 40 minutes later I had to stop and just drive.

I eventually finished both episodes later that night in the comfort of my own home, with a nice warm feeling inside.  This was the new normal.  Star Trek on tap once a week, once again.

What did I think of the two-part premiere?

I enjoyed them.  I didn’t outright love them.  I was fully prepared to love them, I wanted to love them, but I didn’t quite get there.  I loved a lot of what I saw and I could see with ease the promise of an amazing series (which you might doubt when you read the review below), but it wasn’t there yet.  Nor should it be, it’s a pilot and every series has to find it’s feet, however, having just written that, I loved “The Emissary.”  With that pilot, I was sold.  It remains my favourite introduction to a new Trek series ever – and boy was that series different!

It was the same for Star Trek: Voyager.  I loved “Caretaker.”  That was an excellent pilot and ranks second on my list.

Star Trek: Enterprise‘s “Broken Bow” I enjoyed but had issues with.  The soft porn gel rub down in the decon chamber struck me as gratuitous and ruined that pilot for me.  It still does.

Next Gen?  Well, I was 15.  I loved it, but the adult me now sees how touch and go it was.  I still enjoy it (thanks nostalgia) but we all know it had a lot of issues.

“The Cage” vs “Where No Man Has Gone Before”… I love “The Cage.”  It wins out for me.  I loved Pike and I loved Number One.  Of course, I love Kirk and his crew too, but “The Cage” resonated with me when I first saw it when it was finally released on video many years ago.

Star Trek: Discovery?  I still don’t know.  It’s a little telling that I haven’t watched the two parter since that first night, I will, I just haven’t yet.  I strongly believe it will be an amazing series, but it upsets me that I didn’t immediately love it.

Why didn’t I love it?

I think they made a few mistakes that were avoidable – not Kelvin timeline level mistakes, but mistakes that shouldn’t have happened with that many executive producers nurse-maiding the series to air.

Before I go any further, it’s only fair I give you this warning:

Spoiler Alert

The Recap and Review
Now that that is out of the way, I’m going to go a little spoiler crazy.  This won’t be a blow by blow review, but I will highlight some of what gave me pause.

The first episode starts with the Klingons, and I think that was a mistake.

They look fantastic.  Yes, they are different from the Klingons we’ve known and loved (or been sick of for years because they’re so over used), and that is a little jarring, but they are recognisably Klingon, a more ornate version with very ornate costumes and intricately detailed sets, but they are without doubt Klingon.

The problem is that the makeup/prosthetics are so heavy I couldn’t work out what they were saying.  I don’t understand Klingon, but there is a cadence and familiarity we all have with that language, which was absent.

I wasn’t engaged by any of the Klingon scenes.   Not that opening scene or any subsequent scene.   They were laborious.  Slow, plodding and full of mangled guttural sounds.  I don’t believe that was the fault of the actors, but of the heavy prosthetics, the producers and the two director (part one and two had different directors).

It wasn’t a smart way to start a series.

The second misstep was the scene on the desert world with Georgiou and Burnham.

It was the second scene and it served no purpose.  We weren’t given a chance to be invested in the aliens they’re secretly helping, and though we were given an insight into Georgiou and Burnham’s relationship we get better examples of that later on.  Watching it, it felt like an excuse to mention “General Order One” to reassure us they were playing by the rules, and to set up Burnham’s fall from grace – being told she’s ready to command her own ship, only to have that all fall apart later on.

The worst part of that scene was the Starfleet delta in the sand.  I had hoped it was an insert by CBS that was used only for promos, but no.

Georgiou and Burnham walk a delta in the sand to help the Shenzhou spot them from orbit.

Let’s not even talk about how big that delta would have needed to be.  The biggest sin, besides the stupidity of the delta, was showing the Shenzhou break through the clouds only to jarringly cut to a shot of her hovering over the desert floor.  They wasted what would have been a stunning shot.

BUT, from there, the show really took off.

After a ‘different’ kind of opening credits sequence that is good but derivative, with music that is almost perfect (it dips in the middle which shifts the whole theme from awesome to average) and a list of credits that has us all asking “just how many Executive Producers does one show need?” we jump straight to the Shenzhou and their encounter with a mysterious object.  Suddenly, you forget all the executive producers, the muffled Klingons and the sand-delta because the show becomes Star Trek.  Everything starts to click.

The bridge and design of the Shenzhou owe more to the ships of Star Trek: Enterprise or to the USS Kelvin and USS Franklin of the J.J. Abrams films than to any TOS ship, and the uniforms are unlike anything we’ve ever seen in any Star Trek, but suddenly, for me, it all fit.

The designers have linked the old with the new in a way that works.  They couldn’t ignore the Kelvin timeline, because a smidge of it takes place in the Prime timeline – so it suddenly made sense that we’d see a mix of TOS and Kelvin and Star Trek: Enterprise design aesthetics in the show, mixed harmoniously together.  There wasn’t enough TOS, but we have been told that will come.  We’ve even been told we’ll see the original uniforms in some version.  On that, apparently the new uniforms, as seen on Pike and his crew, are being phased in, like the DS9 and Voyager uniforms were phased in, in Star Trek: Generations before they changed entirely for the eighth film.

It wasn’t just all of those things clicking in my head that made the show take off – it was everything that happened in those first scenes on the Shenzhou.  It worked.  The cast were great.  I’ve read a review or two that suggest the acting was wooden, but I didn’t see it.  There were a couple of moments where I questioned a performance or two, but it was the first episode and that sort of thing is going to happen.

From there, pretty much everything was excellent.  There was one more misstep, and that was in episode two where things happened too fast.  The actual battle with the Klingons and the appearance and almost instant annihilation of the USS Europa and Terry Serpico’s character were a wasted opportunity.  The episode was really building and then suddenly it felt like everything was over far too quickly.

If I have one major issue with these two opening instalments, it’s their pacing.  In places it’s off.

But that’s okay.  By the end of both episodes you realise you haven’t actually seen the pilot.  You’ve seen a prequel to the prequel.

Huh?

The Shenzhou does not make it out.  Georgiou and most of the other characters we’ve been getting to know don’t live.  There is no resolution for the main character, there is life imprisonment for mutiny.  There is no USS Discovery and we don’t meet most of the actual main cast.

I liked that.  I hated it because I was really liking Georgiou and Danby Connor, but I liked it because it was unique and a wonderful device for getting exposition out of the way.

The real pilot we’ve since been told, will be episode three.

So… everyone dies?  Almost.  But yeah, most of the characters we meet don’t make it to the last act.

There are two impactful deaths in this two parter, for me, and both were handled beautifully.

I fell for Georgiou and Ensign Connor immediately, thanks to all the lead up about their characters, and they both go out in style.  Connors’ death is a shock.  But it’s what would happen in a space battle.  It’s so jarring and unexpected I forgot to breathe for a few moments.

Georgiou’s death we knew was coming, there was no way she was making it out alive, but it still surprised me, and Burnham’s reaction was perfect.  It was a heart-breaking, emotionally powerful scene.  Throughout the episode there were hints Philippa Georgiou was like a surrogate mother to Michael Burnham, and we see that play out meaningfully in her death.

Sonequa Martin-Green was incredible.

I won’t go any further into the episode because you need to watch it.  There is one more major death which is completely unexpected, but I don’t want to spoil that one.  It surprised me.

Yes, I’ve been critical of this two-part opener for the new series, but it really is excellent science fiction and it IS Star Trek.  I know I’ve spoiled quite a bit, but there are many more things to discover (no pun intended) that I haven’t talked about.

To wrap up:

Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones (as Burnham and Saru).  AMAZING.  10 out of 10.

Michelle Yeoh.  Why did they kill her off?  She is one of the best Star Trek captains I’ve seen on screen.  10 out of 10.

James Frain as Sarek.  He does it.  He honours Mark Leonard meaningfully, while making the character his own.  The only issue I had with Sarek was when his hologram sat on something in Burnham’s quarters from thousands of light years away, but that’s a nit pick I don’t have the energy to go into.  It’s one more thing the executive producers should have picked up on and didn’t.  Seriously… what do they do on the show?  The sitting hologram is not James’ fault and it didn’t detract from his performance.

The rest of the cast.  Just kick-ass.  I wanted to spend more time with them and am disappointed I didn’t get to.  We were promised “new ships” and got them, but I would have liked to see them stay around for longer.  10 out of 10.

Costumes and sets.  Blew my mind.  These surpass anything we’ve ever seen before on film or television.  10 out of 10.

Writing.  Needs a bit of work.  Some simple plot structure mistakes were made, some dialogue was a bit clunky, and some of what we saw on screen was silly.  Which ever writer or producer thought the delta in the sand was a good idea and that immersing us in the political nonsense of the Klingons was going to be interesting needs to sit out the rest of the season.  7 out of 10.

The overall story.  It’s great.  Personally, I love it and I have no issue with the Spock connection.  10 out of 10.

Music.  The opening theme is beautiful, but strays in the middle which does affect it. The music throughout the show was brilliant.  9 out of 10.

Direction.  Good.  I don’t know why they had to tilt the camera angle all the time, it annoyed the crap out of me.  6 out of 10.

Special Effects.  BEAUTIFUL.  10 out of 10.

Pacing.  Needs a bit of work, especially in the Klingon scenes.  They rushed stuff they shouldn’t have rushed, like most of Episode Two, and set far too languid a pace for some scenes that they should have just smashed through.  7 out of 10.

Editing.  I’ve separated this from pacing, because I think the pacing was a writing, directing and producing issue.  The editing was perfect except for that one scene in the opening with the Shenzhou.  I didn’t feel thrown out of more than that one scene by the editing choices made.  9 out of 10.

Tone.  This was Star Trek.  It felt like Star Trek, it looked like Star Trek, it sounded like Star Trek.  So much so, the strangeness of the uniforms and the Kelvin timeline like effects and sounds faded into the background.  9 out of 10.

Scorecard
4 Starfleet Delta’s out of 5.
4 Deltas

There is room for improvement, but they kicked a goal and I really pleased to say “Star Trek is back.”  I’m proud of what these guys have accomplished and I believe Star Trek is in the right hands.  I’m putting all of what annoyed me down to the reality that this is a new series finding its feet.

Bring on Monday!  I can’t wait for the third episode.

LCARS Interface

A Brave New Adventure

Star Trek Discovery Premiere Eve Banner

We’ve been a little quiet here at Star Trek: Sentinel because there has been so much Star Trek: Discovery news coming out that we kind of just wanted to enjoy it and let it wash over us, and didn’t feel the need to comment on it.

Now we stand on the eve of the launch of a brand new series and a bold new experiment in Star Trek.

Since the new series was first announced and up until today, we’ve all seen people expressing hope and excitement for the show and people nit-picking everything and heaping disdain on this new series every Trek fan should be looking forward to.

Georgiou and Burnham

It’s probably no secret that I am incredibly excited about the show.  I love Sonequa Martin-Green as an actor, I’m a huge fan of Kirsten Beyer, Akiva Goldsman and many other behind the scenes creatives, and I admire the risks everyone has taken to make this version of Star Trek relevant.

I’ve been disappointed, even upset by some of the negative coverage coming from some sites.  The amount of it coming from one particular sci-fi site (not a Trek one) has caused me to delete it from my favourites and move on.

Now that we’re literally only hours away from the first brand new episode of Star Trek television in 12 years, I thought it might be a good idea to point you guys toward a handful of excellent articles out there right now on websites staffed by professionals who are genuinely excited to see Star Trek: Discovery.

There are two sites in particular that have had extensive and exceptional coverage over these last few weeks:

TrekMovie and TrekCore.

TrekMovie, in particular has suddenly become one of the best, if not the best, Trek site ever.  Their coverage of Star Trek: Discovery has been spectacular.

TrekCore have always been amazing, and though they may be following a close second behind TrekMovie, their coverage has still been excellent.

Inside the Discovery

Here are some great articles from both sites.

Let’s start with the coverage of the recent Premiere, held a couple of days ago in Los Angeles – attended by many of the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek royalty, Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner.

Nichelle, Sonequa and Bill

Sonequa and the cast get a blessing from one of the most significant women in modern science fiction, Nichelle Nichols.

TrekMovie gives us some photos from the Hollywood Premiere.

TrekCore‘s coverage of the Premiere.

For more on the “blue carpet” premiere event, visit both TrekMovie and TrekCore and look through their most recent articles.

Of particular interest to fans, the Season One Press Kit for Star Trek: Discovery has finally been released.

It’s beautiful.  The images above, and one a little earlier on in this article are from that kit.

TrekCore got the scoop on this one, so go check out their article focusing on the kit here.

Some of the things we’ve learned over the last few weeks are that the Klingon War with the Federation will play a major part in Season One of Star Trek: Discovery.

We’ve also learned that the war story will be wrapped up by the end of the 15 episode first season arc.

We don’t know what Season Two might hold, but it’s interesting that the Klingon conflict will fade out to be replaced by something else.

I think that’s a good idea.  Multiple years focusing on a war might get a bit a much – plus, there’s a lot more to Star Trek than Klingons and the war-arc has already been done and done well in Trek’s illustrious history.

Star Trek Discovery EW Photoshoot 1

If you want to catch up with all of the Star Trek: Discovery news, visit those two wonderful sites.

Right now, I am eagerly counting down the hours to Star Trek: Discovery‘s release on Netflix.

If I could have one wish over these next few days, it would be for my fellow Trek fans to give this show a chance.

A great deal of incredible talent has been brought together to bring this show to us, and a lot of love and care has gone into it.  Yes, it looks different to Star Trek: The Original Series and probably shares more in common with Star Trek: Enterprise and the J.J. Abrams Trek movies, but that’s superficial and necessary if we want to attract new viewers and keep Stat Trek alive.  The show and it’s producers are doing everything they can to be faithful to canon and to make us something we will love.

The internet has become an horrifically nasty place where people seem to think it’s acceptable, even ‘cool’ and funny, to be negative and sometimes even abusive, but Star Trek fans are better than that, and the worst of us are nothing more than a vocal minority.

I hope other fans who love all things Trek for everything that the shows stand for, and respect and attempt to live the ideals of Star Trek, embrace this new show and love it and ensure it continues for many years to come.

We’ll be back in a couple of days with a review of the pilot episode, which is titled “The Vulcan Hello.”

Until then, may we all and may Star Trek: Discovery especially, live long and prosper.

In the United States, Star Trek: Discovery premieres on CBS on the 24th of September with all subsequent episodes airing on CBS All Access.  In Canada Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on the 24th of September also, on Bell Media’s CTV and the Space Channel.  For the rest of us, Star Trek: Discovery will launch on Netflix on Monday the 25th of September.

LCARS Interface

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

What’s Happening on the Final Frontier?

star-trek-discovery-update-banner-october

It’s been an interesting week for the fans of Star Trek.

A few days ago, it was announced Bryan Fuller had stepped down as the showrunner for the upcoming new series, Star Trek: Discovery.

This sent understandable shock waves through the fan community, because most of us felt the sixth live action series was in very good hands with Bryan at the helm.  He was a fan, he had Star Trek cred having written for both Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and he was communicating with us all on a fairly regular basis feeding hints here and there to keep us guessing.

Add this change to the relative silence coming out of the Discovery camp in recent weeks and the absence of the “major announcement” we had been promised in October, and you can forgive fans for feeling a little anxious.

According to CBS, we don’t have anything to worry about, so maybe now is the time to put our ‘Vulcan’ on and look at all of the facts.

The first thing we need to take a deep breath over is: Bryan Fuller is not leaving Star Trek: Discovery.  He is stretched thin, but he’s not abandoning the new series and he has not been booted by CBS.  Not only was Bryan the showrunner for the new Trek series, at the same time he was also (and still is) looking after American Gods and is still in the middle of prepping another brand new series, a reboot of Amazing Stories.

Because we haven’t perfected cloning yet, there is only so much one person can do and something had to give.

The story about the leadership change broke in Variety and according to their sources, the reshuffle at the top occurred partially as a result of the recent rescheduling of the series (announced in September) that moved the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery from January 2017 to May 2017.

It was also mentioned that the lead role for the series has not yet been cast, despite the fact the series starts filming in November.

The reschedule was an attempt to give post production the time it needed for effects work, and to give Bryan space to get the nascent series in good order.

According to the report in Variety, he has done just that:  “Fuller has penned the first two scripts for “Discovery” and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new “Trek” realm.  But it became clear that he couldn’t devote the amount of time needed for “Discovery” to make its premiere date and with production scheduled to start in Toronto next month.”

You can read the full article here.

Variety also reported that each episode of the new Star Trek series is expected to cost between 6 and 7 million dollars.  With that much money on the line per episode, you can understand why CBS was feeling a little nervous.

The article also mentioned a new creative was joining the production team, writer-director-producer Akiva Goldsman.  Akiva is best known for Fringe, The Da Vinci Code, I Am Legend, and for executive producing Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4.  To find out more about Akiva you can visit his IMDb profile here.

In a statement addressing the departure of Bryan from showrunner duties, CBS Television Studios said:

“We are extremely happy with the creative direction of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and the strong foundation that Bryan Fuller has helped us create for the series.  Due to Bryan’s other projects, he is no longer able to oversee the day-to-day of Star Trek, but he remains an executive producer, and will continue to map the story arc for the entire season.

“Alex Kurtzman, co-creator and executive producer, along with Fuller’s producing partners and longtime collaborators, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, will continue to oversee the show with the existing writing and producing team.

“Bryan is a brilliant creative talent and passionate Star Trek fan, who has helped us chart an exciting course for the series.  We are all committed to seeing this vision through and look forward to premiering STAR TREK: DISCOVERY this coming May 2017.”

So, a lot of news packed into that announcement!

For the record, Bryan seems good with it all.  He commented on the change of leadership via Twitter, saying:

“Riker spent 7 years of TNG unready for Captaincy, @GretchenJBerg @AaronHarberts are ready.  Thrilled to see them in command of the Bridge.”

bryan-tweets

For the record Bryan, you were more than ready to be Captain… just probably of only one starship, not three at the same time!  Not even Kirk, Janeway, Sisko or Picard could have achieved that one alone.

In recapping, these are the important points:

  • Bryan Fuller has stepped down as showrunner, but remains an executive producer;
  • Bryan has helped establish the tone and mythology of the new Trek series;
  • Bryan has mapped the series across it’s first year, and will remain involved in that process;
  • Bryan has written the pilot and has written it’s follow up episode with Nicholas Meyer;
  • Each episode of Discovery carries a price tag of between 6 and 7 million dollars;
  • The show will still shoot in Toronto (Canada), and is still scheduled for release in May 2017;
  • The new showrunners are Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts;
  • Akiva Goldsman has joined the production team.

Other things to keep in mind about the new production:

  • Discovery is set ten years before the original Star Trek series;
  • The show will focus on the First Officer of the Discovery, not the captain.  It’s also been suggested it will follow the lives of non-bridge personnel;
  • The captain will be a character in the series, but we don’t know how a big a role they will have;
  • It’s been suggested the lead character might be a younger version of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry’s “Number One” from the first Star Trek pilot, ‘The Cage’, however Bryan had mentioned in August that he was looking to cast a non-white actor in that role so that rumour can probably settle now;
  • Klingons will feature in the series;
  • The series is based around an event that was mentioned in the original Trek, but the creative team aren’t telling us what that event is yet;
  • The Discovery is an experimental ship (designation NX-1031);
  • The show will feature an openly gay character, who may be played by an openly gay actor;
  • Some of the roles have been cast, including two admirals, a British doctor and an ‘advisor’.

It’s sad that Bryan has had to step out of the leadership position, but I think everyone can agree that the series is in very capable hands – especially with the talents of Alex Kurtzman, Kirsten Beyer, Nicholas Meyer and Heather Kadin on board, and with Gene Roddenberry’s son, Rod, having a hand in making sure his father’s vision isn’t compromised.

So why didn’t we hear anything in October, as was planned?

I’m assuming because things slowed down, and because no one has yet been cast in the lead role.

I don’t think anyone involved in the production to date, including Bryan, thought it would take this long to secure their lead and get the premise of the series sorted.  Star Trek is an incredibly complicated production, with so much history, that navigating that would be difficult.

I’m not surprised this has happened, but hopefully by freeing Bryan up and bringing in two people to replace him, we can start to get some of those announcements we’ve all been waiting for.

As always, as news breaks about Star Trek: Discovery I’ll post it here.

LCARS Interface

Series VI Update

star-trek-discovery-update-banner-september

It’s the week of the actual 50th Anniversary date of Star Trek (when the show first aired on television 50 years ago) which feels like a good time to write a post!  Thankfully, the 50th Anniversary celebration Mission: New York just wrapped, so we have a little news to share.

Did we get any new info on Star Trek: Discovery at the convention?  Yes… and no.

There were no casting announcements, or any new footage of the Discovery as she progresses through the design phase to her final version, but there was some exciting information that was shared by two members of the creative team – Nicholas Meyer and Kirsten Beyer.

As many a fan knows, Nick wrote and directed Treks II and VI and was one of the writers for Trek IV.  While I personally love each of the original six Star Trek films, each for different reasons, The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country are definitely the stand outs.  Most fans nominate The Wrath of Khan as their favourite, and the vast majority love The Voyage Home because out of any and every Trek movie to date, it’s the most fun, and until Star Trek Beyond it was the only Trek film that shared the focus amongst its cast.

Kirsten, however, may not be all that well known to fans – though she should be.  She is, without a doubt, one of the best Star Trek authors to ever grace Pocket Books.  She’s made an impressive career out of writing for the Voyager relaunch novels, and has continued the adventures of that ship and crew in an engaging and pretty thrilling way.

When you read her novels you hear the characters, you see the visuals she describes as if you were watching an episode, and you feel the spirit of Star Trek.  It’s pretty amazing what that woman can do with words!

Among Kirsten’s many successes as a Star Trek author, she’s corrected some of the not so great decisions that were made by previous authors.  On top of that, Kirsten has made the Delta Quadrant come alive, and she’s crafted a list of compelling secondary characters who make you want a second series focused on the USS Voyager and the small fleet (the Full Circle fleet) of ships she now leads.

Kirsten and Nick both serve as part of Star Trek: Discovery‘s new creative team and they were present at Mission: New York to spread the love.

What did we learn?

Like I said above, not a lot.  But a few interesting pieces of information were passed on…

  • As their panel started, a video from Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman was shown.  In it, Bryan and Alex discussed Star Trek‘s legacy, why the show was given its name (the word ‘Discovery’ encompasses Star Trek‘s overall vision of exploration and self discovery), and how the new series will be about the best that humanity has to offer.
  • Of interest to a number of fans, Kirsten said that the very first person she ever pitched a Star Trek: Voyager idea to was Bryan Fuller when he was on staff writing for Janeway and her crew.
  • Kirsten assured those of us who are fans of her Voyager novels that she will continue to write them, despite her involvement with Star Trek: Discovery.
  • They spoke a little bit about the timeframe the series is set in, and how it gives them some room to manouever without having to focus on known characters.
  • Nick assured fans that the writers are talking to a number of scientists in an attempt to keep the science as accurate as possible.
  • Kirsten let us know that the new aliens and life forms will actually be part of the main cast!
  • Kirsten’s role was elaborated on.  As well as writing for the new series, it was revealed she will be working with Simon & Schuster and IDW Publishing to create tie-in comics with Mike Johnson and David Mack.  The tie-in’s will be created hand-in-hand with the television production, rather than after the fact which has been the traditional approach.
  • And… last but not least, Nick asked fans to not watch the series with too high an expectation, because if we do, then the creative team have already failed because there’s no way they can meet every single fan’s various wish lists.  Good point.  Just give me meaningful stories, modern day allegory, characters I love, and the odd space battle (at least one good dust up each season) and I’ll be over the moon.

While we didn’t get the announcements we were hoping for, we kind of knew we weren’t going to.   Bryan has hinted we’ll learn more in October, so we just have to wait a little bit longer.  Patience is a virtue, right?

It is exciting to learn about the comics but probably the most interesting bit of information that was shared was how the new aliens and life forms (androids has been mentioned) will be part of the main cast.  We might end up with a super-diverse group gracing our television screens in a little under five months!

Before signing off I should probably point out that there has been no real concrete confirmation that the Number One character brought to life by Majel Barrett Roddenberry in the original Trek pilot, will be the focus of this series.  When deciding what images to put together for the banner for this story, I couldn’t help myself.  It’s my favourite rumour, and my enthusiasm for that idea meant the original Number One had to go up there.

I’m silently hoping that if all of us keep pushing for that, Bryan will make it so.

So… January 2017… will you hurry up and get here?

LCARS Interface

Star Trek: Discovery Update

Star Trek Discovery Update Banner

A surprising amount of information has dropped recently about Star Trek: Discovery, with more news due to hit in October – though there has been a suggestion we could learn a tiny bit more in early September.

For international viewers, like myself, we recently learned that Netflix has secured the international airing rights for the series – which has upset our American friends, and understandably so, but as someone who has spent his entire Star Trek loving life having to wait months for episodes, it’s nice to not be facing that particular barrier with this incarnation of my favourite series.

As well as word on how the rest of the world will be able to watch the new series, the following exciting teasers were delivered by the man himself, Bryan Fuller:

  • The new lead character won’t be the Captain, it will be the First Officer of the Discovery.  The First Officer, called simply “Number One” (in fine Star Trek tradition) for now, will get a name eventually;
  • Number One will be female and she will hold the rank of Lieutenant Commander;
  • The show is definitely in the Prime timeline, and will be set ten years before James T. Kirk takes command of the Enterprise;
  • The ship we saw in the preview shown a few weeks ago is still being tweaked and that design is not the final design;
  • The show will ‘bounce off’ of an event that was spoken about in the original series, but never explored.  That event isn’t the Kobyashi Maru, nor is is the Battle of Axanar or the Earth-Romulan War… guesses anyone?
  • There will be robots and more aliens that we’ve ever seen before… whether those aliens and robots are on the ship or just appearing throughout the series we don’t know right now;
  • The first season will have a 13 episode order, with Bryan’s preference for following seasons to be 10 episodes in length;
  • Section 31 might make an appearance;
  • Each episode will run about 48 minutes – slightly longer than the 44 minutes most modern versions of Star Trek have run;
  • There will be an openly gay character;
  • Traditional aliens from the original series will get a bit of a revamp;
  • The uniforms will be different to those seen in “The Cage”, but no word on how similar they will be to the uniforms worn by Kirk and crew in the Original Series;
  • The music is still being figured out with a good chance some of it will be reminiscent of the Original Series scores.

A really interesting theory from Joseph Baxter, a writer for SciFi news site Blastr, had me really excited recently – because I love it, and I so want it to be true!  Okay, I’m still excited about it!

He theorises we might already know the lead character.  He wonders, in a very well reasoned argument, if this mysterious Lieutenant Commander is none other than Majel Barrett Roddenberry’s character from “The Cage”, known only to us fans as Number One.

That would be AWESOME!

Despite only appearing in “The Cage” and the re-edited version of that episode called “The Menagerie” parts one and two, Number One has a huge fan following.  That character sparked something in fans that has not faded in 50 years.

Bryan has said that this Number One is an homage to the original character created by Gene and his wife, but he hasn’t confirmed whether or not it is that character.

I hope so.  That would be poetic.

Bryan has said that the next main “info dump” will come in October, but Nicholas Meyer and Kirsten Beyer are holding a discussion panel at the upcoming Mission: New York convention in a few days time and they might be authorised to drop a few more details.

Otherwise, we’re going to have to wait about a month for more news.

This is all pretty exciting stuff!  The pilot starts filming any day now (sometime in September) so there’s a chance we’ll get tantalising stills from the sets as January draws closer.

What information will come out next?  The best guess most of us who are monitoring Trek news can come up with, is that the next news items will be focused on casting.

We might get to learn who the new lead is, or if not, at the very least we might hear about some of her shipmates.  I think we’ll also get another look at the ship soon, probably not the final design, but another evolution.

As more news comes to light, I’ll be sure to post it here.

There are a couple of really good articles covering Bryan’s announcements over at the wonderful TrekCore.  To read them, click here and here.

Keep an eye out on Twitter.  Bryan sometimes drops teasers from his Twitter account, and if we see one we’ll repost it on our Twitter @SciFiSitesAus.  If it’s a big teaser, we’ll post it here on Star Trek: Sentinel.

LCARS Interface

Star Trek Series VI Has a Name

Star Trek Discovery Series Logo

Fans were promised new information on the sixth live action television series at this year’s San Diego Comic Con… and CBS did not disappoint.

Executive Producer and showrunner Bryan Fuller, with a little help from William Shatner, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Jeri Ryan and Scott Bakula gave attendees some much anticipated news – not as much as we could have hoped for, but some pretty amazing stuff, including the name of the starship the new crew will be boldly going in.  As you can probably tell from the above image, the new ship is the USS Discovery, and in fine Star Trek tradition the series has been named after the vessel.  The registration?  NCC-1031.

What else was revealed?  The series WILL take place in the prime timeline, alongside Star Trek: EnterpriseStar Trek: The Original SeriesStar Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager.

While the sharing of information pretty much stopped there, Bryan and CBS had one more surprise – some test footage of the new ship launching from inside an asteroid base somewhere in the galaxy.

As mentioned above, the footage is a test reel, so the graphics aren’t final and are a little less ‘smooth’ than we would usually see on screen, but they are still, never the less, beautiful.  It’s also highly unlikely that the visuals shown come from the pilot episode.

The ship design is, in my opinion at least, amazing… and has some interesting differences to the ships we’ve seen onscreen before.

You’ll notice in the first five images above, that the front of the warp nacelle’s are unique, with three globes containing energy, instead of the usual one.

You’ll also note that the design of the impulse engines in the second set of five images are very similar in appearance to those seen on the reboot Enterprise.

When in the prime timeline will the show take place?  It’s hard to tell.  The only real points of reference we can draw from are the ship’s registration (NCC-1031) and the images on the video.

The registration seems to hint at the original series time period or maybe even a little before.  The ship also looks like it could come from the original series or the original series’ movie era, but Starfleet has shown us that it likes to ‘change up’ it’s ship designs, which means there is a possibility the show could come after Star Trek: Voyager.  I don’t get that feeling, though.  The new style nacelle design seems too retro and along with the original series (albeit the reboot original series) style impulse engines everything seems to indicate we’ve gone back to that period in Trek’s history to explore it via another crew’s perspective.  Another design choice that screams pre-TNG can be found in image 12 (the second image in the third set of five photos) where part of the saucer bears a very interesting likeness to the USS Franklin‘s saucer section as seen in Star Trek Beyond.  What also needs to be pointed out is the almost bronze colour of the Discovery.  I don’t remember seeing a Starfleet vessel that colour before.

If you’re thinking the ship looks particularly familiar, you’re not imagining it, the ship is actually based on the original designs done by famed artist Ralph McQuarrie for Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, a movie that was under consideration in the mid-70’s prior to the development of Star Trek: Phase II, the 1970’s television series that eventually became Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

You’ll note from these original concepts that Ralph created, that the Enterprise is exiting an asteroid and that the artists who created the film drew heavily from those paintings to show the first launch of the Discovery and our first look at it.  Being the 50th Anniversary year, I love that they did that.  It’s a beautiful homage.

Heather Kadin, another member of Star Trek: Discovery‘s creative team, has said that the design is not final, and Bryan has said they’re trying to work out how they can use them as they’re around 40 years old and the artist passed away in March of 2012.  It’s also possible the images are owned by Paramount.

I hope they find a way to use the designs, because I love them.  They’re still Star Trek but fantastically retro and unique when compared with all the other ships we’ve seen.  Plus, I miss the circular command module and was never the biggest fan of the spearhead shaped command modules of the Enterprise-E and the Voyager.

The very last piece of news we know right now is that the new series airs in January of next year and has a 13 episode order that will play out in an arc, rather than in the more episodic style of previous series’.

Star Trek Discovery 16

Star Trek: Discovery is being produced by a stellar creative team, including Alex Kurtzman, Bryan Fuller, Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, Nicholas Meyer, Kirsten Beyer, Vincenzo Natali and, it seems, the late great Ralph McQuarrie.

If you’d like to watch the footage shown at the San Diego Comic Con visit the official Star Trek website here or the wonderful TrekNews here.  You can also find the video on most Star Trek news sites on the web.

This is a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of the most hopeful and inspiring series to ever hit television.

img_1723

Hopefully more news will come soon.  We’ll most likely start to get some information about the casting process in a month, maybe two at the outside – but I imagine that will come incrementally as a build up to the premiere.  I feel like the next bit of big news we’ll get will be a confirmation of when in the prime timeline the series will be set.

Honestly, whatever news they drop next is going to make me happy.  I don’t care how apparently inconsequential!  If they just release an image of the new insignia I’ll probably be grinning with excitement.

I’m READY for this series.

Happy 50th everyone!

Thank you, CBS and Bryan Fuller for whetting our appetites.

So excited for January!

LCARS Interface

Two More Writers Join Series VI

Star Trek Series VI

The creative team behind Series VI has grown again, with two new writers joining the team – one a Trek veteran, the other a former colleague of Bryan Fuller.

According to Ain’t It Cool News, Joe Menosky and Aron Eli Coleite have joined the team that currently includes Gene Roddenberry’s son Rod Roddenberry, Heather Kadin, Nicholas Meyer, Kirsten Beyer, Trevor Roth, Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman.

Joe has real Star Trek credit, and has written for The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.  He has over 50 hours of Trek TV on his resume.

Aron rose to fame on the popular television series Crossing Jordan and worked with Bryan on Heroes.  He’s also worked on the the Uncanny X-Men comic series and has two feature films he’s written in development.

To learn more about Joe, visit Memory Alpha right here.

To learn more about Aaron, visit his Wikipedia page here.

The Ain’t It Cool News article is right here.

It’s a wonderfully eclectic group of writers that Alex and Bryan have brought together, covering pretty much every form of media there is.  Comic book writers, novelists, movie and TV writers!  It’s a very exciting team, and possibly one of the best writers rooms that has ever been put together for a Star Trek show.

This new series is going to be freaking fantastic!

LCARS Interface