Sunday, October 08, 2017

Subspace Reviews: Star Trek: Discovery Episodes 1 and 2

Once more we find ourselves on the precipice of the final frontier. Ready to join a new crew of Starfleet officers as they plunge into the unknown. But instead of a series at the edges of Star Trek history, we find ourselves at a midpoint of sorts. Between Enterprise and the original Star Trek.

What ever shall we do?

Let's start at the beginning of the project. The Powers That Be announced some time before Trek's 50th anniversary that a new series would be coming out. We learned it would take place a number of years before the original series. Then we learned it would be about a ship called Discovery. We learned the lead would be a woman that wasn't the captain. And then we learned that the plan was to place the series in the Prime timeline (the timeline before the 2009 movie).

The show was being created by Bryan Fuller. He'd previously created Pushing Up Daisies, Dead Like Me, Six Feet Under, among others. He also wrote on Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And he made the series pilot Mockingbird Lane (Sadly, not picked up.). And since then he's created the American Gods series.

But the show ran into some trouble, Fuller was having issues with the series, and The Powers That Be. So he left. And come the 50th anniversary, there was nothing to show expect some concept images of Discovery.

These images are from the 3D models the Trekyards channel used, based on
the early concept images.

And I forgot the show was coming out, presuming it might have died. But it was still coming to fruition, and we started seeing images this Summer. We started learning more about the basic layout of a serial series occurring 10 years before Kirk's Enterprise era.

It's a tricky proposition as between the start of the project and it's release a lot has changed, so it's unclear now what of the original concept remains. Is it Prime timeline? It's not clear.

When you look at the show it shares many similarities to the 2009 movie' style.

Star Trek;Discovery
Star Trek (2009)
But at the same time they both share similarities to their prequel, Enterprise.

 So it isn't really clear. And, like Enterprise, the movies and new series chose to modernize the future.

Modernizing the future does seem to upset some, who want a more 60's look these things. Personally, I appreciate continuity, but I also see that being super retro only gets you so far. 60's future isn't futuristic anymore. It has been recreated beautifully in DS9, Enterprise, and fan films. But I am just not married to the look.

I appreciate the desire to create a more active and creative environment for the show. And they insert various classic pieces (old photon torpedoes, sound of the sensors, similar Engineering bays).. I just hope they create more connections and parallels to the original Trek designs.

So the style of the period in fictional Trek history is being re-imagined. Every other change, I have to see the whole season first. Preemptively denouncing doesn't win you a First Prize. You can't be afraid of change.

So let's look at the first two episodes of the series.

The first things to appreciate about these 2 episodes ("The Vulcan Hello" and "The Battle at the Binary Stars") is not really the shows opening, it's all a prequel movie. It sets up the state of the galaxy, Starfleet, Michael Burnham, and the Klingon Empire. It sets the stage, before the main story begins.

You don't know it until you get to the end of the second episode, and they suddenly start hitting you with clips of the rest of the series. The segue is sudden, and threw me at first.

The episodes follow events happening with two characters, Starfleet Commander Michael Burnham and Klingon Head of House T'Kuvma. They both are heading towards a confrontation and war.

Among the changes we see in this series is to the Klingons. Their look is a little like the 2009 movie version, but it also is quite different from that (and the costumes are quite a change). The ships also diverge from the classic design fans have become used to (Some are close though.). The look is so different that it's hard to process. But like their faces and armor, I am waiting to see where it all goes through this season. And I may just get used to the look.

We learn in these episodes that over the previous 100 years the Klingons have largely been disinterested in the Federation. There have been border skirmishes and raids, but they are infrequent.

It seems part of the issue is disunity in the Klingon Empire. The Houses of the Empire are at cross purposes. Fighting each other, or only interested in their own narrow ends.

T'Kuvma wants to end this. He wants the Empire reunited and focused on the greatest of threats. The Federation.

In his mind they are the looming doom of Klingon culture. They talk peace, unity, multiculturalism, diversity, and friendship. It's a poison, to T'Kuvma, that will rot the Empire into nothing.

So, lighting an ancient Klingon beacon, he calls together the Heads of the 24 Great Klingon Houses. And he asks them to join him, his massive ancient Klingon ship, and a secret weapon he has.

It seems that T'Kuvma has a cloaking device, or two. Of course Klingons, per the old series, are not supposed to have this tech for well over a decade. But we don't know the whole story here, yer. So I wait to see if only T'Kuvma's ships will have this tech, or if "others" are meddling in the Klingon Empire, giving them the devices, to bring it to war with the Federation. We'll have to wait and see.

On the USS Shenzhou, Burnham is in her 7th year serving aboard the ship under Captain Philipa Georgiou.

Burnham is a human, but at a young age her family was killed on a Human/Vulcan colony during a Klingon raid. In the wake of the attack she is injured, and Sarek of Vulcan takes her to safety and adopts her into his family. (Not the first time we've learned about a surprise sibling for Spock) Raised on Vulcan, she embraced the Vulcan ways. But eventually Sarek chose to have her return to her people. And she was given a post aboard the Shenzhou under the care of Georgiou.

The years since have been good for her. She started out reserved and uncomfortable, but she soon came into her own, gaining the respect of the crew, and the position of First Officer. (It might seem odd for her to get a place on a starship and become an officer without going to the academy, but T'Pol on Enterprise set the precedent for transferring people between different services. - And I believe we saw it on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine to.)

She even has an adventurous side, eager to take an EVA suit to an unknown object in a nearby asteroid field. Even risking deadly radiation.

But now comes Burnham's sore point. Klingons.

A survivor of an attack by Klingon's, I have some concerns about how she reacts to their presence just inside Federation space. She is panicked. When she returns to the ship, she runs out of Sickbay, still recovering from radiation poisoning. When the captain is deciding on a course of action she wants to be proactive and aggressive.

Contacting Sarek, she is scared. She wants to maintain control, but it seems clear the past is affected her. He tells her of how when Vulcan first met the Klingons, they lost ships. So Vulcan decided that the only way to get the Klingons to not attack them was to shove back and destroy their ships. It resulted in Klingons and Vulcans giving each other a wide berth. (Some people seem affronted to see Vulcans being aggressive. But that seems like a super narrow view of this species. Vulcans, especially pre-Federation, had to protect their world.)

And then the Klingons activate a powerful beacon.

So Burnham, only seeing doom and destruction in this Klingon presence, demands action. Destroy them now! It stops the threat before things escalate, by her thinking. And it might have worked. T'Kuvma was not respected, so Klingons might not care if he was lost. But it also might have been seen as an act of war that would unite Klingons.

When Georgiou won't do it, she knocks the captain out. Assuming command she attempts to open fire on the Klingons. Saru, the second officer, tries to challenge her, but she shuts him down.

Before they can fire, the captain recovers and retakes the bridge.

She demands that Burnham step down.

And suddenly the Klingon beacon stops. In moments, a fleet of Klingon ships warp in, around T'Kuvma's vessel.

T'Kuvma begins to make his argument for the danger facing the Klingons. The dire threat of peace.

They are not entirely convinced, and one outright leaves (He looks down at T'Kuvma as a lesser being.). Then a fleet of Starfleet ships arrive to face them. This rallies the Klingons to T'Kuvma's call.

Georgiou attempts to offer deescalation and peace. The Klingons have decide just what they want.

It's not the best battle scene in Trek for sure. They cut away repeatedly (In large part because the battle is irrelevant to the larger story being told.) which slowly the action.

Burnham is sent to the Brig. And waits out the battle. On both sides ships are being lost. And the Shenzhou getting hit hard. And then Brig is exposed to space.

During this Burnham is knocked out, and while out she connects with Sarek due to their katra sharing years before.

This is very new to Trek, unless it is just going on in her head, but I am assuming it isn't. So they share a moment together.

Leading up to this moment a wounded and disoriented crewman wanders into the Brig. He is concussed, but he makes the point that he doesn't understand why they are fighting. Starfleet is out to explore and study, not fight. And, as mentioned earlier, the Klingons have been at arms length for a century. Right before that, the Romulan War ended, and the Romulans disappeared for over a century to. Starfleet has been largely unimpeded for 100 years. Expanding. Exploring. New worlds. New Civilizations.

After generations, war. What does this do to them? What will this mean for them? (I think this is one issue the show wants to look at.)

Burnham works out a way to escape, and makes her way to the bridge. Everyone is relieved she didn't die. But the ship is adrift. As they are pulled into the asteroid field, they are suddenly hit with a tractor bean.

The USS Europa has arrived with Admiral Anderson. He's come to save the day.

He begins talks with T'Kuvma. He offers a ceasefire and T'Kuvma accepts.

And then he orders a massive cloaked ship to cleave the Europa in two.

After ordering the ship abandoned, the Admiral activates the self-destruct. It takes out the attacking ship.

The Klingon leaders are completely brought over to T'Kuvma's cause. (Amazing new technology. Willingness to sacrifice his own assets. Bold victory against their enemy.) And they embrace him as a messianic figure.

The Klingon fleet returns to Qo'nos to bring news of war. T'Kuvma declares to the surviving Starfleet ships that they will be spared to share news of what is to come.

And then he begins gathering the remains of Klingons who died in the battle.

Meanwhile Georgiou is determined to take out T'Kuvma and his threat. She and Saru come up with a plan to fly a worker bee up to a weak point on the Klingon ship with an explosive to destroy it. Georgiou will be making a one way trip.

But Burnham suggests that killing T'Kuvma will make him a martyr. If they can capture him, they could destroy his movement. So they have a new plan, put an explosive in one of the Klingon bodies. Then when it approaches a sensitive part of the ship, set it off.

As has been pointed out, this is usually deemed a war crime by the current Geneva Conventions. And that is true. There is some cleverness in trying to overcome a superior enemy, but the writers seemed to have missed this clear issue.

They disable the ship (They blow off the neck of the ship.), then Georgiou and Burnham board to capture T'Kuvma.

Yeah. Just two. That isn't a risky idea! Why take over 1 or 2 other people? Maybe more?

This goes as well as you'd guess. Georgiou is pretty successful in fighting T'Kumva. But he eventually gets the advantage in a fight with blades.

And when Burnham finally is able to get over, the captain is dead, and Burnham fires her phaser on the kill setting.

The captain dead, the plan falling apart, Saru pulls Burnham off the ship.

T'Kumva slowly dies, calling on his people to keep going. The war will rage on.

After the crew escape back to safety, Burnham is taken into custody and court-martialed.

She acknowledged everything she's done, and that she failed her ship, her crew, and her captain. She is despondent.

The court finds her guilty and remands her to a life sentence.

And that would seem to be the end of Michael Burnham. But this is only the beginning of our story.


USS Discovery! Captain Gabriel Lorca! Spore Drives! Black Alert!

The Adventure Is Only Beginning.

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