Star Trek Discovery recap: The Pilot

Welcome to my episode by episode guide of the new and shiny Star Trek, sort of a TV show. It’s sort of a TV show because it’s sort of on TV. CBS access in the US and Netflix in the UK. And following the debut of the new series record sign-ups for CBS access have been reported.

I’ll be looking at each episode, pretty soon after it has aired. This is the first TV Trek since 2005, so dust off your Shatner dolls and get ready to Boldly go once more.

Pilot – The Vulcan Hello & The Battle at the Binary Stars

This blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t watched episode 1 and 2 (I’m viewing them as an extended pilot) – What are you? A green-blooded hobgoblin? This review will definitely contain spoilers for episode one and two, so this is your last chance! Ready, the review is below the photo, so let’s go.

Damn it man! I’m a writer not a nuclear physicist

The first thing to say about this show, is that it looks amazing. I’m not a film student so I won’t try and delve into the technicalities but what I can say is that there appears to have been no expense spared. This is clearly the biggest budget a Trek show has ever had (those Netflix dollars stretch a long way.)

The opening planet is epic and there is some kind of Woodlouse man lurking in the sand. In short order we establish that Michael Burnham, our protagonist attended the Vulcan Science Academy and Sarek (played with gravitas by James Frain) is her adoptive father.

We are in a universe where Starfleet see themselves as explorers and they haven’t seen hide nor hair of the Klingons for 100 years. The plot sometimes feels exposition heavy but it’s the pilot so I’ll give it a pass.

The Klingons are lurking though and in Discovery appear to have been cast as fanatics. And was it just me or did Burnham have a touch of the Kirks in her hatred for the Klingons? This being a modern show means we get the answer before the two hours are up.

All the talk of terrorism and suicide bombings put me in mind of BSG and DS9 and I hope it keeps this tone. I’d like it to slow down a little but I think we’ll get this as the season unfolds.

There are loads of cute moments like Burnham and Saru using a telescope to look at the Klingon beacon and Sarek’s acidic quips.

“I assume you didn’t call me for emotional solace.”

By the end of the first two episodes the war with the Klingons has gone from cold to very hot indeed and we haven’t even yet glimpsed the Discovery or heard mention of Admiral Archer’s beagle.

Phasers set to “that was fricking awesome.”

Talking of phasers didn’t they look great. My other geek-tastic favourite bits were the transporter beam, it had a classic look, and the sounds on the bridge, including the famous swish of the doors. One minor grumble is I felt the bridge had a little too much JJ sheen (and Surak help us lens-flare) but that’s just a taste thing.

I liked the Klingons, they looked like  vampires from Buffy. What did you think? Is there a reason they don’t look like Worf?

Their ships were certainly visually arresting, and adding to the ancient Egypt vibe they mummify their dead and use them for cladding.

Predictably we are being manoeuvred to a point where Burnham will end up on Discovery. But was it me or did it happen too quickly? And how will Burnham escape prison?

I certainly hope we see Saru again, he reminded me of Kryton (from Red Dwarf) crossed with C3P0

Beyond the Guardian of Forever

Ok, time for continuity watch. If Sarek is Burnham’s step-dad how come Spock never mentions her? Maybe Sarek was always off banging hot alien chicks behind Amanda’s back.

We discovered that  T’Kuvma invented the cloaking device and we are treated to mind-melds, nerve pinches and even get to see Sarek’s katra (which is a bit much for me on a first date).

I enjoyed the theme music with its subtle nods to past series and the ships looked inspired by an abandoned concept for TOS movie Planet of the Titans.

What continuity hits and misses did you spot?

Beam Me Up Lucius

No sign this week of Captain Malfoy. I’m hoping Jason Isaac gets longer in the chair than Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Philippa Georgiou, who I felt was a class act. I miss her already even though I felt her death was inevitable in this Game of Thrones era of television.

What did you think of it all and where do you think the plot is going?

Join me over at the Trek Talk forum if you want to discuss it further. Overall I thought it was great and I’m optimistic about next week.

Until then live long and prosper

John is a writer and clinically diagnosed Trekker. You can get the latest news about his published work at his website The World Outside the Window.

About the Author
John is a lapsed soccer fan who has played and watched football all his life. He once appeared in an episode of Casualty (he requested that all copies of the episode be destroyed) playing football for Holby City. When neither football or acting fame came calling he took up writing. John is an author, poet, songwriter and visual artist. His work has appeared in Star Trek Magazine, the Guardian, the BBC and many more. “An assured and powerful performer who could do well in the slam arena..” – Anna Saunders (CEO of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival). He has just published his first Children’s story – Aardvark Tales (published by The World Outside the Window Publishing).
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