So here it is the end of a 15-episode controversial first season of Star Trek Discovery. It had some positives, it had some negatives and here’s where we will discuss them all based on the context of the whole series so far and where it might go for its already announced second season. Before checking out my season review be sure to read my individual episode reviews here as I’ll be glossing over things I went into more detail on throughout each episode. And in case you haven’t seen it yet I posted a review of The Orville Season 1 explaining how it was slightly more Star Trekky than Discovery was up until that point.
The main story of season one revolves around Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) who is forced to work on the USS Discovery under the command of Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and the rest of her old crew after starting a mutiny leading to in an intergalactic war and the death of her former captain and mentor, Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). The crew must try and find ways to win the war for the Federation while exploring the toughest frontier of them all: relationships.
From the two-part premiere you can see the influence that Abrams’ action-heavy Star Trek trilogy had on Discovery’s tone, visuals and atmosphere. The Hollywood-level effects and action sequences are rivaled by very few shows which makes its appearance on CBS’ paid video on demand service a little more understandable. The issue that arises there lies in the difference between the TV and film versions of Star Trek. While films are inherently focused on plot and story, they tend to gravitate more towards the action or thriller genres, but TV shows need to sustain longevity which makes them rely more on character development.
The Abrams’ trilogy is very action-oriented where the essence of classic Trek is downplayed for modern storytelling which appears to be the case with Star Trek: Discovery. The season one arc focused on a Klingon-Federation war previously unheard of in Star Trek canon. This war is the complete opposite of the scientific purpose behind Starfleet which made this series so far an immediate bastardization of the Star Trek universe to many fans. Instead what it becomes by the end of the season is the fusing of the heart of old Star Trek with the tone of TV’s Golden Age.
As mentioned, the characters are what define a show and Discovery certainly succeeds at this, despite losing some along the way. Michael Burnham is a deeply-layered, complex and terrifically conflicted lead character that blends the emotions of a Human with the stoicism of a Vulcan upbringing. While her judgment sometimes comes across as forcing the plot to move forward, it’s explained through her struggle with feelings and facts.
Beyond her performance a few more stood out. Doug Jones’ performance as First Officer Mr. Saru was impressive in showing that he was more than just a man in a mask, or heavy prosthetics. He took a character that seemed so unrelatable at the beginning of the season and make them into a character everyone wants to see captain the Discovery. His analytical, inquisitive nature was reminiscent of Spock and yet he is also his own strong character in his own right.
Shazad Latif did a phenomenal job in not only creating the two characters of Ash Tyler and Voq, but being able to personify them within one body so realistically. However, when it’s all said and done the season-stealer was Isaacs’ Lorca. He had so much depth to him and yet at the same time there was always a shroud of mystery about him. It is a shame that two of these three actors are most likely not returning for the second season as they were some of the best parts of this season.
Unfortunately beyond these characters, others were left to be seat fillers in the bridge. Yes their faces were repeatedly seen, but we knew next to nothing about them and hopefully that changes in the future. Characters like Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) grew with each episode, but the death of Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) is still a sore spot. As for the Klingons, they were at least bearable when their screen time was reduced.
But the biggest issue arises in the show’s uneven pacing throughout the season, which is reflected in its episodic stories. The season’s two-part premiere acts as a prologue to the Discovery’s story that sets up the ongoing conflict with the Klingons, but the season takes a few detours rather than staying the course. A self-contained episode about Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), a landing party episode about the ethical debate of a living planet and the slightly over-extended mirror universe arc are all side stories that take time away from the season arc and yet all these episodes feel the most like Star Trek.And that’s what made the finale so perplexing.
The season cuts off a number of stories with no real closure or conclusion like the fallout of Tyler’s or Lorca’s identity reveal (Personally, I would have loved a second evil Lorca episode before his demise), Dr Culber’s death, the spore drive technology and even its driving narrative: the Klingon-Federation war. With so many loose ends that seem to fall more towards the war-centric, action-heavy episodes of the season does this mean that Discovery plans to focus more on the ethical debates and scientific stories of old and fix their slight pacing issues? Only time will tell.
This season of Star Trek: Discovery is an action-heavy, sci-fi adventure that takes the best of both worlds mixing the style of the new Star Trek films with the tone of older Star Trek shows. Despite some uneven pacing and questionable continuity, the characters are strong enough to carry this show out of the darkness and beyond. With its war-centric story in the past, Discovery looks forward to a more science-based story so I’m going to say it’s worth the watch. Beam me up to season two!
Here’s our video review:
What did you think of Star Trek: Discovery? Let me know in the comments!
On top of writing reviews for this site, I also post video reviews like the one above on my YouTube channel The Film Fanatic where we post other content like countdown videos, movie recommendations, script analyses and more.