Star Trek: Discovery (Series Premiere Pilot: The Vulcan Hello)
After encountering an unknown object in Federation Space, First Officer Michael Burnham, along with the crew of the U.S.S Shenzhou, explores its origins...and potentially it sinister purpose.
September 24, 2017
CBS All Access
Executive Producer: Gretchen J. Berg / Jessee Alexander
Director: David Semel
Writer: Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Kirten Beyer, Kemp Powers ,(Based on the creation of Star Trek) Gene Roddenberry
Starring: Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Michelle Yeoh, James Fain,Chris Obi
Distributor: CBS All Access
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action Adventure, Drama
It has been twelve years since there has been a Star Trek series on network television, and technically there still isn’t. This show is only available to subscribers of CBS’ subscription service. With its fifteen episode season, it is the shortest Star Trek series premiere since Star Trek Voyager’s in 1995. Unlike its predecessors who’s seasons were largely episodic (aside from the occasional multiple part episodes), Discovery is serialized. Events from the previous episode lead directly into the next as one continuous story. This is what gives Discovery its own unique identity in the Star Trek universe.
Star Trek Discovery takes place 10 years before the events of the original 1960’s Star Trek Series. We follow Michael Burnham (The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green), First Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Shenzhou and its crew, as she inadvertently engages the Klingons (a warrior race whose language is violence) and sparks the War against the Klingons and The Federation of Planets. After losing her title and rank and is deemed a criminal, Burnham once again finds her self on the bridge of a Star Ship. While on the U.S.S. Discovery surrounded by some familiar yet unfriendly faces, she and the crew desperately try to gain the upper hand in the war over the fierce Klingon Empire.
Spiritual Content: Ritual Burial, potential occult like themes.
Violence: Mild violence, some hand to hand combat, minimal blood.
Language/Crude Humor: None
Sexual Content: None
Drug/Alcohol Use: None
Other Negative Themes: Collusion of war, betrayal, violence.
Positive Content: Themes of loyalty, unity, and friendship are present throughout.
We are greeted with the threatening words of war in the harsh language of the Klingons from their leader Rejac (Justin Howell), declaring a unification of the twenty-four Klingon Houses to resist Star Fleet and their claims of peace. We then meet Captain Philippa Georgiou (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragons’s Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael Barnhum (The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green) of the U.S.S. Shenzhou on a desert planet attempting to provide water to the planet’s inhabitants after their well has run dry due to radiation from nearby meteor drilling. Once they have successfully restarted the well, a fast-moving storm approaches preventing the Shenzhou from gaining their location in order to teleport them back to the ship safely. Captain Georgiou cleverly takes First Officer Burnham for a walk through the sand of the desert planet. As the storm barrels upon them, First Officer Burnham complains they have been walking in circles after discovering their own footprints. The Star Ship Shenzhou breaks through the storm locating the ground crew. As they are transported from the surface of the planet back to the ship, it is revealed the Captain created a large visual signal of the Star Fleet Crest on the planet’s surface pinpointing their location.
The crew of the Shenzhou is requested to investigate damage suffered to an interstellar relay on the edge of Federation space. After some investigation, the Chief Science Officer Saru (The Shape of Water’s Doug Jones) believes the damage was intentional and not by accident; however, more tests are needed to come to a final conclusion. Upon further investigation, an additional object is discovered just out of visual range of the Shenzhou. Scanning and sensors are useless due to a scattering field the object is producing. Commander Burnhan dawns a space suit to investigate the object up close for data collection.
As the Commander reaches the object, she observes it is by creative design and not of natural origins. A Klingon in a space suit of his own approaches her. They engage in combat. The Klingon is killed and the Commander (who is unconscious) floats aimlessly in space after their encounter.
The Klingons surround their dead leader as they perform the rites and rituals of the fallen Klingon warrior. As the Klingons scream to their ancestors to receive the fallen warrior, the coffin is placed on the hull of their ship with hundreds of other fallen warriors covering their vessel. Commander Burnam awakens in the Med Bay of the Shenzhou. While unconscious, she remembers a time when she studied the Klingon culture as one of the only humans at the Vulcan academy.
She leaves the Med Bay and enters the bridge to warn Captain Philippa that she encountered a Klingon. The Captain targets phase cannons at the unknown object, threatening to shoot it down. Just then, a Bird of Prey (The Klingon war vessel) reveals themselves to be uncomfortably close to the Shenzhou by disengaging its cloaking shield. The crew of the Shenzhou realizes the Klingon ship has been in front of them the entire time.
As the Star Ship attempts to make contact with the Klingon vessel, the Klingons discuss who will replace Rejac as the leader of the Klingons. They argue about who can bring all twenty-four Klingon houses together as one to resist the threat of the federation by lighting the Beacon. After discussions with the Admiral of the Federation Fleet, it is agreed they are to hold position and not engage as other Star Ships are on their way. Suddenly, the bridge is bombarded with a bright light emitting from the Klingon vessel. The Klingons lit their Beacon. Burnham leaves the bridge and contacts her Vulcan mentor, former instructor, and father figure Sarek (Gotham’s James Frain). Burnham asks Sarek how the Vulcans were able to achieve diplomacy with the Klingons. First Officer Burnam returns to the bridge and pleads with the Captain to fire upon the Klingon ship. Violence breeds respect, respect breeds peace, and this is how the Vulcans were able to obtain peace with the Klingons, she argues. The Captain disagrees with firing upon the Klingon. After a private conversation with the Captain, Commander Burnham subdues the Captain with the Vulcan neck pinch, rendering her unconscious.
Commander Burnham bursts onto the bridge and orders the crew to fire upon the Klingon vessel. The crew is apprehensive, and just before they fire, the Captain (who is weakened) stumbles onto the bridge to delay the order. Burnham pleads with her to fire so she can save the ship. The Captain raises her phaser and aims at Burnham. The bridge is alerted of multiple approaching ships. The Captain is relieved as she is expecting the arrival of Federation Ships. However, jumping out of warp are multiple Klingon vessels. The Shenzhou and its crew are now surrounded by Klingon warships.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this next installment in the Star Trek Saga, especially with it only being available online and not on the forefront of CBS’ main network line up. This screamed “we don’t believe in this show”! So I assumed they hid it online and used it as bait for their subscription service. Still, as it is not a perfect pilot episode, I can truthfully say it is a worthy addition to the Star Trek lore.
This is not your grandparents’ Star Trek. The themes are much darker and even skate on some horror elements which gives this show its own identity. However, this can be a turn off to hardcore Star Trek loyalists. Due to its uniqueness, it can sometimes feel a little detached and misplaced in the saga. Though I enjoy the fresh look and the technological advancement setting appealed to me, as a prequel to the original series, it feels out of place.
Discovery is by far one of the best looking Star Trek Installments to date (including the cinematic releases). The environments are outstanding. The visual effects are of cinema quality (which is a surprise, as it is content available only for online streaming). The sets are polished and the space sequences are simply gorgeous to watch. The sound design feels right at home in the Star Trek Universe. The Character design is masterful. The appearance of Klingons is unique to Discovery. They are more fearsome than in previous Star Trek installments. There is beauty in their hideousness. Star Trek is known for its abundant amount of alien species, and Discovery does not disappoint. There are a vast array of new and familiar species to enjoy in this world. From the forementioned familiar Klingons to the newly introduced Kelpies, this series looks to add more to discover and love. I’m looking at you, Tribbles.
The characters are fresh. Their development was natural and didn’t feel forced. The dialog between characters is believable. The banter between Commander Burnhan and Science Officer Saru is playful and endearing. Though there is a healthy conflict between them, there is also admiration and respect. The relationship between the Captain and Her First Officer is full of history and familiarity. Though some of the acting is master class, some of it can be wooden at times. Unfortunately, this mostly comes from the series’ main character. The pilot is enjoyable, but I wonder…would I have enjoyed it more with a stronger lead?
+Looks stellar, beautiful environments, great looking characters
+Some great acting (Doug Jones is a stand out)
-Because it looks so good, It feels out of place and time in Star Trek Lore
-Some acting is very poor and wooden