* * * B
I’ve seen a few reviews of the Star Trek Discovery pilot, and all of them have been highly negative. I agree with some of the criticism, but overall, I thought the pilot showed some potential. Though I heard about some of the virtue signalling and hamfisted political posturing by the producers and cast–the Klingons represent Trump supporters, and other such nonsense–I judge the show based on it’s merits.
The show looks good. The pilot is a sort of prequel to the series. The main character, a woman annoyingly called Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), a name which grates each time it’s spoken, is a human raised by Spock’s father Sarek (James Frain) and trained at the Vulcan Science Academy. Her backstory is told in a series of flashbacks which are jarringly interjected into the story.
In the present, Burnham is the second officer to Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). They encounter the Klingon Warlord T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) who is bent on uniting his people in war against the Federation. Burnham gives him the excuse he needs when she kills one of his men in space. The Captain prevents Burnham, who mutinies, from attacking the Klingon ship. The Klingon fleet show up, followed by the Federation fleet. In the ensuing battle, the Captain is killed and Burnham kills T’Kuvma.
Frain is excellent as Sarek, as is Doug Jones as the cowardly Lieutenant Saru. Michelle Yeoh is solid as Captain Georgiou. The weak link is Martin-Green. Making her the central character made sense, but her character is very unlikeable. Perhaps this is setting her up to be an underdog, a character who must come back from adversity, in the remainder of the series. In making her so unlikable, the writers have made this a tough job.
There has been harsh criticism of the redesigned Klingons, who end up looking like monsters in this incarnation. People who complain they aren’t like the Klingons in The Next Generation and after probably don’t remember how jarring the redesign that occurred in Star Trek the Motion Picture was, or the surprise at Warf, a Klingon serving on a Federation ship. The original Klingons were ruthless (e.g. punishing failure in agony booths), and lived under constant surveillance by their superiors (even the ship’s Captains). Having Klingons become, once more, implacable enemies, is arguably a good thing for the series.