Series Review: Star Trek Discovery

I embraced the Star Trek universe when I was 14 years old. In culture jargon, I became a Trekkie at that impressionable and informative age, and I have remained one since that time. In ways that are difficult to put into words, Star Trek has shaped my life by modeling for me how to boldy go, and how to expand my known universe.

Tonight, with great excitement and anticipation, I watched the premiere of the newest installment in this long running franchise…Star Trek Discovery.

Star Trek Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Maulik Pancholy, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Jason Isaacs, Kenneth Mitchell, and James Frain…among other upcoming season regulars. The sci-fi series premiere was directed by David Semel and is based on the Star Trek universe, as created by Gene Roddenberry. The series has a weekly run time of 1 hour and carries a MA (mature audience) rating.

Tonight’s episode, titled The Vulcan Hello, opens by reintroducing us to the warrior race known as the Klingons. Discovery takes place 10 years before the Enterprise sets out on its five year mission. At this point in the Star Trek storyline, the Klingons have not been seen for generations, except on rare occasions. But they are rallying the 24 noble houses, with an intent that seems less than peaceful. Commander Kol (Mitchell) is the formidable leader.

On a desert planet, we meet Captain Georgiou (Yeoh) and her first officer, Lt. Commander Michael Burnham (Martin-Green). The women have served together for seven years, long enough to develop an understanding of each other and build trust between them.

However, when Lt Commander Burnham makes a startling discovery involving the seldom encountered Klingons, long buried emotions from her past threaten to spill over.

While serving with the Vulcans, Burnham’s parents were killed during a Klingon attack. Orphaned, Burnham was raised by the Vulcan ambassador, Sarek (Frain). Although she has adopted logic, and learned to repress her emotions, finding the Klingons in Federation space brings Burnham’s distrust and desire for retaliation into sharp contrast with her cool intellect.

The Federation appears to be on the brink of a fresh war with the Klingons.

Other members of the crew of the USS Shenzhou that were introduced tonight include Dr Nambue (Pancholy), Lt Tyler (Latif), Lt Stamets (Rapp), and Lt Saru (Jones), an alien with the ability to sense approaching death. Jason Isaacs’ character, Captain Gabriel Lorca, will be a regular, although he was not present in the pilot.

There was much for me to love about Star Trek’s return to television after a 12 year absence. The movie quality visuals, special effects and musical score were amazing. There were moments of familiarity, such as seeing a young Sarek, that warmed my heart. And enough new material, species and technology to make me want to know more.

Discovery’s opening sequence was so good that it brought tears to my eyes. I had to watch it again after the episode ended. For Trekkies there are iconic depictions of the hand phaser, the flip open communicator and the beloved Vulcan salute. And within the new musical number, stirring notes from the classic Trek score can be heard. Watch the opening sequence HERE.

The stories in this series are told, for the first time, not from the captain’s perspective, but from the second in command’s viewpoint. There is a very diverse crew, portrayed by an equally diverse cast. The choice to make the commanding officers female is a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt Uhura in the original series.

And there are unanswered questions at the end of episode one, the primary one being is Discovery the name of a replacement ship for the Shenzhou…or more of a theme? The series tagline is At the edge of the universe, discovery begins. I like that. My own discoveries, about who I am and what I am capable of, began at the edge of my known universe too. Going beyond has become my own personal trek.

The question that I had at the beginning of tonight’s episode has been answered. Another first for this franchise was moving the series to CBS All Access after the premiere. The first episode was on network television. The rest can only be seen with a paid subscription. I didn’t know if I would be joining the streaming network.

But…it’s Star Trek. This show and its concepts have been a part of my life for 45 years. I am a most loyal fan and devotee. I don’t try to make Star Trek fit within my parameters and perceptions. I accept it, in all of its storylines, series and movie adaptations, and remain open to the lessons that I can learn by doing so.

This is how Star Trek expands me. This is how Star Trek takes me beyond where I currently am. This is how I boldly go, where I have not gone before.

I am happily joining CBS All Access. It is a nominal fee. Episode two of Star Trek Discovery is waiting for me there.

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