At long last, the first season of Star Trek: Discovery has been released on DVD, BluRay, and iTunes. As a result, I was finally able to watch the season. That said, I should note that nothing actually prevented me from subscribing to CBS All-Access to watch the show there before it came out on home media. In fact, a few weeks ago, I gave in and subscribed for the trial period just to check it out. What I learned was that even when I viewed CBS All-Access from the highest speed internet I had available, I still experienced pauses and video glitches that detracted from the viewing experience. Also, as I suspected, I didn’t find enough available on CBS All-Access to feel compelled to stick with the service. I decided I’m content to wait a year for the series to appear on home media.

As for the series itself, I enjoyed it … mostly. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up as a Star Trek fan. I would run home from school and anxiously turn on the TV to catch episodes of the original series. Star Trek was, in many ways, the series that’s responsible for the start of my writing career. This new incarnation of Star Trek is set about a decade before the original series and the first season tells the story of the Federation’s war with the Klingon Empire. The story is told from the point of view of Michael Burnham, who starts out as first officer of the U.S.S. Shenzhou. In an attempt to stave off war, she commits an act of mutiny and ultimately ends up being recruited by Captain Lorca of the Starship Discovery to help in the war effort. It turns out that the Discovery has a special new type of drive that utilizes a biophysical network to transport it almost instantaneously from one place to another. Over the course of the series, we get to see plenty of Klingon politics, the return of original series villain Harry Mudd, and a return to the Mirror Universe where humans have formed a tyrannical empire.

I liked how the series used the Klingons to explore issues of cultural assimilation and appropriation. In the original series, Harry Mudd was something of a comic foil for Captain Kirk. In the new series Rain Wilson managed to give Mudd a decidedly dark and sinister twist. I thought the deeper exploration of the mirror universe was pretty cool. I enjoyed all the actors and was especially pleased to see the navigator and helmsman of Discovery both played by women. I felt the season-long story arc suited Star Trek. I also really liked the almost “lower decks” approach to the show where we see the action through the eyes of people who are not the most senior officers. What’s more, this series improved on Star Trek: The Next Generation where for all their high-minded talk of equality, the senior officers often took an almost elitist approach to their juniors.

My main problem with the series is the so-called spore drive. While I don’t have an intrinsic problem with the idea of a biophysical network that spans the universe and perhaps even bridges universes, I wasn’t so keen on the idea that it would provide an almost magical way of letting you move instantly between two quite distant points. Also, while I liked the season-long story arc, I felt it wrapped up just a little too neatly in the final episode and the solution relied on the Klingon homeworld being constructed in a way that seems inconsistent with our understanding of planetary geology.

Those issues noted, I liked it enough that I’ll almost certainly be back for season two … when it comes out on home media.

As I mentioned earlier, Star Trek was responsible for the start of my writing career. My first, albeit unpublished, novel was set between the end of the original series and the first movie. When I learned that it was unlikely that I could publish that novel because I was a young, untested writer, I created the starship Legacy and Captain Ellison Firebrandt. Because Firebrandt is a privateer, he ended up being quite a bit different than Captain Kirk. Monday is the official release day for my latest book set in this universe, Firebrandt’s Legacy. The ebook is available right now for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. I can’t quite control the release date for the print edition to the same degree as the ebook, but I expect it to be available by Monday. The Amazon link should indicate when it’s live.

10 comments on “Discovery

  1. sftrails says:

    How do they reconcile the later starships had no such magical drive? I haven’t seen the show and have doubts that I even want to.

  2. Jeff says:

    Neat personal connection, and I am still trying to decide if I should watch this or not. The spore drive (as a big ST fan)… gives me pause….

    Still, I’ll probably end up watching it!

    • I understand about the spore drive. However, it ends up presenting the kind of moral dilemma for the Discovery crew that Star Trek handles well. The nice part about the show’s current availability is that you can now either rent or buy just a few episodes to sample and see if it’s for you. And of course, you can always sample CBS All Access for the week trial period and watch a few episodes that way for free.

  3. Jack "Blimprider" Tyler says:

    I haven’t seen this and probably won’t, but one of the harshest criticisms I read was that the producers were so hell-bent on showing the equality of women in the society that men were completely marginalized, and either had very minor roles, or were consistently wrong, and their mistakes consistently had to be corrected by women (or female aliens). Did any of this find its way into your perceptions?

    • I didn’t get that impression at all. I felt the women were just as capable of screwing up as the men were. What the show doesn’t have is a Captain Kirk or a Captain Picard (or even a Captain Janeway, for that matter) — one strong central leader who gets everyone to work as a team. There are reasons for that in this story arc and I think the sense is exacerbated by the “lower decks” storytelling approach. You’re not constantly on the bridge seeing the senior officers making the decisions. Of course, one of the main senior officers does have his own hidden agenda, but saying more would be a serious spoiler.

  4. I thought the spore drive was one of the best plot elements of the season, and also the mirror universe. I’m still holding out hope this will one day be used to explain the aesthetic differences to the original series (ie. Alternate timeline like the Abrams films). But either way, explaining away a top secret science project that will inevitably blow up in their face is easy. I love the ship and the hand phasers and Rain Wilson as Mudd. I thought they were definitely trying too hard but not to be liberal so much as prestige television. I’ve been reviewing almost all the episodes on my Captain’s Blog if anyone’s interested. So far the new season is off to a great start!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, William. Sounds like we’re on much the same page and yes, I can see them trying a little too hard to impress the powers that be with their approach, rather than trying to impress the fans that helped build the series.

  5. Ironically, I just found this about 10 minutes after I submitted a humor article on Star Trek. Keeping my fingers crossed….

    I watched the first half of the first episode, a two-parter, and was quite unhappy that the network had not said you have to subscribe to see the second. As much as I wanted to see it, I decided then and there I would not subject myself to such a ploy.

    I did watch the first part with computer handy, and worked fast to be the first one to describe the episode on Wikipedia. Well, it ended up a couple of other people had the same idea, and we kept having edit conflicts. But everybody involved was nice, so it was actually kind of funny,.

    • Thanks for sharing your story about watching the premier and attempting to be the first one to describe the episode on Wikipedia. You’re not the first person who I’ve heard was caught off guard about having to subscribe to see part two of the season premier. I was at the observatory that night and working, so didn’t have the option of watching the premier on television.

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