Klingons, and Vulcans, and Kelpiens, Oh My! Lots to Discover in This New Star Trek!

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Well, after a busy weekend followed by a busy week I was finally able to set aside some time to watch Star Trek: Discovery.  If you’ve read my blog entry on Fan Expo Day 3 that should give you an indication of how excited I was for this.  I was first exposed to Star Trek at a fairly young age when I saw an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation at my grandparent’s house and it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to really explore all that Star Trek had to offer.  I mainly watched TNG and the original series (TNG is my favourite and I have recently been re-watching it on Netflix), and the other incarnations of Star Trek are waiting on my never ending “To Watch” list.  I decided that Discovery would not end up stuck on that list and that I had to watch it as soon as it came out because: it’s shiny and new, and the trailers caught my attention, and I found out Doug Jones was going to be in it.

I have been a fan of Doug Jones for quite some time.  Ever since I saw the Hellboy films I was determined to see more of this actor’s work – and then I discovered that I already had.  Most of the time when I tell people I am a fan of his they say something along the lines of “I’m not familiar with him. What’s he been in?”  Then when I list his past acting credits their eyes widen with the realization that they are, in fact, very familiar with his work.  I have so much respect for Doug Jones as an actor because he will wear the complicated costumes that no one else will, and he can still perfectly present a character to the audience without becoming lost in or overshadowed by his costume.  It takes a truly skilled actor to do this.  Because of this I was always a little unhappy that Doug Jones didn’t seem to be that well known (by name at least).  Star Trek has changed that.  All over Facebook, in the days before I watched Discovery for myself, I saw many posts praising Doug Jones in his role as Lt. Saru.  Not only is Doug Jones fantastic in this role, but the character of Saru is also really fascinating.  During the Star Trek: Discovery panel at Fan Expo they mentioned that Saru was a new type of alien – a Kelpien – that had been created for the show.  I find with Star Trek a lot of the same aliens tend to get used frequently so it’s refreshing to see a different type of alien with a unique personality and culture.  I know I’m biased, but I really like what I see with Saru so far and I’m interested to see how his unique perspective on life plays a part in the adventures we will see in this new installment in the Star Trek franchise.

In terms of the other characters that appeared in the first two episodes of Discovery I was really enjoying the diversity of the crew members.  Aliens, robots, humans – overall a nice mix and a long way from the predominantly human/humanoid crew of the original Star Trek series.  I was disappointed as the show went on, however, that we weren’t getting much of a chance to learn about these various characters.  On the USS Shenzhou, the only characters we really get to know are Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), and Saru.  On the Klingon ship we mainly hear from T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) and Voq (Javid Iqbal).  The cast of characters felt a little watered down compared to previous Star Trek series but I soon discovered that this was because (SPOILER) most of the crew members on both the Klingon and Star Fleet ships are to be presumed dead.  I only hope that by the time we get to meet Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and his crew that we get to see a crew as diverse as that of the USS Shenzhou and as interesting and engaging as the characters in previous Star Trek story lines.

In terms of the story, these first two episodes definitely felt a little darker than what I was expecting from a Star Trek show, but in a good way.  These episodes felt as if they are merely the hook to get fans into this new Star Trek universe, and from what I’ve seen in the preview of what is to come for the season it looks as if later on we’ll be getting some more classic Star Trek type adventures.  I’m curious to see how Michael Burnham develops as a character due to the combination of her human origins and Vulcan upbringing.  Given that Spock is half human, half Vulcan I was initially concerned that Michael Burnham would end up being just a Spock-copycat.  Luckily, Sonequa Martin-Green has been doing a fantastic job so far of avoiding that.  I feel like Michael Burnham is walking a fine line between human and Vulcan, moving back and forth between the two depending on the situation – it is as if there is a constant struggle between nature (human) versus nurture (Vulcan) in this character.  It’s been interesting to watch so far and I’m curious to see how this continues and how the Vulcan/human dichotomy is handled.  I also like the fact that her hair seems to indicate her current situation.  As a Vulcan in the flashbacks, Michael Burnham’s hair is rigidly straight and perfectly styled – there is not a single hair out of place.  As an officer in Star Fleet, her hair is more or less in the same style, but it is not so rigid; her hair is no longer completely straight and there is a bit of a wave in her hair.  In this situation she is presented more or less as half human and half Vulcan, and her look is still professional as she is a Star Fleet officer.  In the previews for future episodes (SPOILERS) it looks like her hair is going to be super curly now that she is imprisoned as a criminal.  A her life has fallen apart by the end of episode two, there is no longer and structure to her hair.  It’s little details like this that really makes the show special.

Speaking of details, I knew I was in for a treat when I saw Bryan Fuller’s name pop up in the opening credits (which are gorgeous by the way).  I’m a fan of his from watching Hannibal and American Gods so I knew that no matter what he delivered it would be visually stunning.  Star Trek: Discovery isn’t just fun, it’s pretty to look at.  As the internet seems to have already noticed a few months ago, the star fleet uniforms are covered with small Star Fleet insignias – they are even on the inside of the helmet of Michael Burnham’s spacesuit!  I feel like you would need a magnifying glass just to be able to catch all of the phenomenal details that have gone into the costumes.  The sets are also gorgeous and detailed, and the colours are used thoughtfully as a way to separate the two main ships that appear in these episodes.  The Klingon ship is presented in warm browns and golds for this proud, passionate, and noble warrior race.  Even some of the Klingon costumes have gold details.  The USS Shenzhou on the other had is bathed in blues and filled with officers in blue uniforms as this ship is governed by cool, calm, logical scientific discovery and learning.

I’ve also enjoyed the social commentary that appears to have surfaced so far.  Many elements from previous Star Trek shows can be interpreted as a form of social commentary and Discovery is no exception.  What caught my attention the most was the grand Klingon speeches that promoted unification of a divided people who should strive to “Remain Klingon”.  It all felt very similar to “Make America Great Again” in some ways and I found myself wondering if that was an intentional choice.  Additionally, during a time when representation on screen is a issue that dominates news and social media, it is very exciting to have a woman of colour in the lead role for this show and it is a bonus to feature an Asian woman as a captain.  I also feel that with a Kelpien present in the crew that that could open the door for some very interesting points of social commentary in the future, given that Saru was essentially born and bred to be killed an eaten.  There is certainly the potential for some interesting discussions to come out of this show, and in this regard I hope that Discovery does not disappoint.

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Overall, a good first impression from Star Trek: Discovery.  This unique approach to the Star Trek universe has caught my attention and piqued my interest.  I look forward to future episodes to see what lies ahead.  Live long and prosper.

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