If you’ve been waiting patiently for Star Trek: Discovery, we have some good news and some bad news (and, I guess, some in-between news). The good news is that the series will make its debut on CBS All Access this fall and that its order has been expanded to 15 episodes from the originally promised 13 episodes. The neither-good-nor-bad news is that it will be accompanied by a Talking Dead-style post-show discussion show called Talking Trek, which you can watch if you like that sort of thing or ignore if you don’t. And the bad news is that, well, the trailer falls a little flat, especially knowing what we do about the behind-the-camera turmoil (Bryan Fuller, its original showrunner, dropped out of the process partway, and the show was originally supposed to launch this past January).
Though the new show canonically takes place in the same fictional universe as the original series, The Next Generation, and most of the other pre-JJ Abrams Trek shows and movies, the show’s look has a lot more in common with Abrams’ Trek than with any of the older entries. Everything, including the uniforms and the bridge, is shiny and slick. And while later episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise made extensive use of computer-generated effects, decades of advancements in the field are going to mean much bigger and flashier effects than anything that has been possible in older series.
As a lifelong fan, my impulse is to be pretty forgiving of Trek, but the trailer doesn’t do much for me. In some ways, it’s Trek-by-numbers: warp signatures are detected, crewmembers are beamed up, (newly redesigned and honestly sort of off-putting) Klingons are engaged, computers are spoken to, objects are viewed onscreen, frontiers are explored. But a few wooden performances and editing that leaps wildly from scene to obviously unrelated scene does the trailer no favors.
Part of the problem is that the trailer aggressively avoids anything that could be called a “spoiler” for the show ahead, making it hard to say just what kind of stories Discovery is trying to tell. We see a few landscapes, a few interior and exterior shots of Discovery itself, and what looks to be a Klingon meeting. But we lack context, and it isn’t helped by broad, world-is-gonna-end dialogue that is ratcheted up to soap-opera levels of melodrama.
For example, one alien Starfleet officer intones somberly: “My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone: to sense the coming of death; I sense it coming now.” This is both vague and puffed-up dialogue and a completely bonkers thing to base an entire alien society around, so we can only hope that it makes more sense (and sounds less comically ominous) when we hear it within whatever episode it’s a part of.
All of that said, it’s still very early, and I’m doing my best to reserve final judgment until we actually have a show to watch. Trailers are tough, especially when expectations are high. And the show’s main protagonist, Sonequa Martin-Green, cast here as an apparently part-Vulcan first officer Michael Burnham, has done good work on The Walking Dead and other shows.
Discovery is an important show both for the Star Trek franchise and for CBS’ All Access streaming service. It would be the first Trek TV show on the air since Enterprise was canceled in 2005 and a test of whether the movies’ decent financial and critical success can transfer to a TV show as they did back in the ’80s when the original cast’s films prompted the creation of The Next Generation. That show was allowed to take a year or two to find its footing, but in today’s faster-paced and more crowded TV industry it seems unlikely that an unsuccessful first season of Discovery would get the same treatment.
Listing image by CBS
More Info: arstechnica.com