Star Trek Discovery is a 2017 science fiction drama series created for streaming service Netflix. The series is based on Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek and is set roughly a decade before the original television series in the 1960s. Discovery explores the Federation-Klingon war while following the crew of the USS Discovery with Sonequa Martin-Green in the leading role as science specialist Michael Burnham. Star Trek Discovery just finished the first part of its two-part season and this review will reflect on that.
Star Trek Discovery brought the 50-year-old franchise into the present by moving into its past. Does the franchise still holds up to modern-day standards and will it draw in newcomers? It does both. The series’ greatest innovation has been making the leading role not the captain, but a newcomer. Burnham wants to redeem herself on the USS Discovery. Burnham is scarred by personal tragedy and experiences an internal clash of nature and nurture that is delightfully played by Martin-Green. The first two episodes perfectly show that Martin-Green can carry the show. She gives her character a very realistic human approach, a very rounded character with realistic emotions. The two first episodes are followed with mostly explaining Burnham’s background and her dynamic with USS Discovery’s captain Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs. Isaacs is playing a character whose basic instincts are quite different from Burnham’s. This creates an interesting dynamic that does not drag out too long during the first part of the season. It adds to the approach of how they handle the objectives that are thrown at them during their service at the USS Discovery. The supporting cast is made of very diverse characters from different backgrounds and cultures.
The cinematography is astonishing. The limitations of a TV budget were not downgrading the superb scope of the experience. The score of the show adds to this almost-cinema-like experience. The costumes of the various alien races are prosthetics rather than computer graphics. The result is a somewhat generic, but does not distract from the storyline.
The variety of characters and backgrounds in Star Trek Discovery is a very strong asset. The show features a black female leading role, which is still a rare phenomenon on television and movies in the current landscape. Additionally, one of the storylines focuses on the same-sex relationship between two crewmembers in a natural way, which is refreshing. Also refreshing is the portrayal of the diverse characters from different backgrounds and genders. All of them are treated like equals and it creates this unified team that exists of humans, rather than ethnic backgrounds and genders.
Star Trek Discovery is overall a decent show that will please both old fans and newcomers alike. However, the story loses momentum towards the finale of part one and even though the atmosphere of the show is convincing, it can also be a bit too sombre. Hopefully part two can shine some light in this dark universe.