Well, here we are. Half way through Star Trek: Discovery season one.
Not that most people have seen more than the pilot episode. CBS All Access has a lot of crimes to answer for.
Perhaps it’s the fact that this show has been sealed away behind a paywall, accessible to only the most dedicated (and/or wealthy) of fans, but it doesn’t really feel like Discovery has made a huge impact on popular culture at large.
That’s a real shame – this show could have had the wherewithal to be just as iconic and influential as, say, the Chris Pine Trek movies. Star Trek returning to television could have redefined science fiction shows, especially considering the budget and production value that was thrown at this thing.
But strip away the issues of a limited audience, and is this show actually a solid successor to the Trek legacy?
In some way, yes. The big budget special effects are gorgeous, and the acting performances are nothing short of astounding. Even the dialogue writing is on point for Star Trek – the eloquent turns of phrase employed by the lead characters feels for all the world like an extension of the Trek that fans know and love.
There’s just one key thing missing: hope.
Hope is more than just a catch-all buzzword for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s also the connecting theme of solid Star Trek shows.
The whole premise is built around the idea that humanity has evolved past a petty desire to fight each other, into an intergalactic civilization that’s full of love, compassion, and scientific achievement.
If you watch the progression of the Klingons throughout Trek lore, from their first appearance in the original series, through The Next Generation and into their future appearances in later shows, it’s possible to track the developing relationship between these warrior aliens and humanity.
The two species grow and learn together. They form alliances, and work past their differences. The Klingons’ role within the wider Trek narrative is to show how peacemaking can be achieved.
This stands in stark contrast to the role of Klingons in Discovery. It’s no accident that this show is set chronologically before the Federation starts seeing Klingons as anything other than a threat, and vice versa.
The show is built around war, but that entirely misses the point of Star Trek in general. The series is supposed to be about exploration – hence the name Trek.
We already have a Star Wars. Trying to ape that particular style means that Star Trek simply ends up feeling like a George Lucas knock-off project.
Imagine what could have been if Discovery focused more on exploration and adventure than gritty warmongering. This show could have taken the core concepts of the original Gene Roddenberry show, and made them relevant for a modern audience.
Instead, we get grumpy people blowing each other up. It’s just not the same.
But, hey, there is some optimism to be had here. It does seem like Discovery may be building towards some more nuanced ideas, and there have been moments of classic formula Trek amid all the warfare.
Maybe, if we’re lucky, the show will shift in tone a little once it returns from its mid-season break.
Perhaps, in spite of everything, there is still some reason for hope in the future of Star Trek.