TV Review: Star Trek: Discovery (2020)


Title: Star Trek: Discovery
Release Date: 2020
Creator: Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman
Season: 3
Episodes:13
Production Company: Secret Hideout | Roddenberry Entertainment | Living Dead Guy Productions | CBS Studios
Summary/Review:

Picking up from the cliffhanger end of Season 2, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the USS Discovery successfully travel 930 years into the future.  Their mission to save the universe is a success, but they find new troubles in the future.  Specifically, sources of dilithium for warp travel through space have dried up and an event called The Burn additionally destroyed many starships.  Unable to travel long distances, the Federation has dwindled in size while pirates and mercenaries operate freely in many systems.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Star Trek:Discovery and continue to do so.  Season 3 is definitely the best of the three seasons thus far, and I continue to like the cast and the characters they play.  Sending Discovery to the future helps in that the show can finally shake off being overshadowed by the original series and can feature more futuristic technology without it looking anachronistic.

Some other highlights of Season 3:

  • introduction of Book (David Ajala), a courier or smuggler from the 32nd century who becomes a love interest for Michael Burnham
  • introduction of Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio), a teenage human who is bonded with a Trill symbiont. They have a Wesley Crusher teen genius flair to them (NOTE: I know in some quarters of Star Trek fandom, Wesley is hated, but I’ve always liked the character so this is a compliment)
  • there feels to be a lot more exploring of “strange new worlds” in this series although it is tied to the season-long arc.  Seeing this far into the future of the Star Trek universe is fascinating in of itself
  • a completely bonkers call back to the Guardian of Forever
  • fleshing out of the bridge crew characters that we learned little about in the first two seasons, especially Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) and Joan Owesekun (Oyin Oladejo)
  • Grudge the cat
  • the final three episodes are a highwater mark for story, action, and direction.  These episodes are the first the really feel like they are made in the same spirit as the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. We even get to see Doug Jones in a rare performance as Saru without prosthetics

There are also a few downsides:

  • the continued presence of the evil Mirror Universe Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is a drag.  Yeoh is a great actor but she’s saddled with two much air time that could be dedicated to more interesting things. Georgiou does finally depart the show (for a planned spinoff series), but not before we have to sit through a two-parter that brings us back to the Mirror Universe for gratuitous nastiness. The other characters fawning over her at her memorial service seems more like a tribute to Yeoh than to Georgiou who everyone rightly would’ve hated
  • while the show has gradually shed being grimdark for grimdark’s sake over the course of three season, it’s still baked into the show with crazy plot twists often substituted for good storytelling.  And there’s too much gratuitous violence, even in the good episodes where Burnham chokes a person to death with her legs.
  • while I generally like Sonequa Martin-Green’s performance as Michael Burnham, I feel that the writers are overdoing it by having her be central to every story in every episode.  Even Kirk and Picard were left out of smattering of episodes in the old shows. As the series ends, Saru is apparently leaving the show and Burnham takes over as captain. The loss of one of the best characters and the further centering of Burnham makes me a bit uneasy about the future of the show.

But as I said earlier, this is the best season of Discovery so far and with it finishing so strongly, I do have high hopes that the show will continue to improve and earn a place in Star Trek lore.  My subscription to Paramount+ runs out before season 4 premieres and I don’t know if and when I will re-subscribe, but I expect somewhere down the road I will watch future seasons of the show.  In the meantime, I’m inspired to go back and rewatch Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation and finally work my way through Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  This will take some time, for sure.

 

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TV Review: Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020)


TitleStar Trek: Lower Decks
Release Date: 2020
Creator: Mike McMahan
Season: 1
Episodes:10
Production Company: CBS Eye Animation Productions | Secret Hideout | Important Science | Roddenberry Entertainment | Titmouse, Inc.
Summary/Review:

Starfleet:  they’re just like us!  The animated comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks shows the perspective of low-ranking crew members aboard the starship U.S.S. Cerritos. The four main characters included Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) a wise-cracking rule-breaker who is the captain’s daughter, although neither of them publicly acknowledge their relationship. Mariner befriends the nerdy but ambitious Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) who is a stickler for the rules.  The cast is rounded out with D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells), an Orion medical ensign who is very enthusiastic about everything Starfleet, and  Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), an engineering ensign adjusting to a new cyborg implant.

This show isn’t breaking any ground as joking about the tropes and conventions of Star Trek go back a long way. The adult animation style and humor are also nothing new as it’s pretty similar to your run-of-the-mill animated shows on The Cartoon Network/Adult Swim.  And yet, I found the show had a goofy charm I enjoyed.  Maybe Discovery and Picard set me up to have low expectations for the Paramount+ Star Trek Universe.  I definitely felt this show improved vastly as the season went along and I would be happy to watch more when season 2 is released.

 

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TV Review: Star Trek: Picard (2020)


TitleStar Trek: Picard
Release Date: 2020
Creator: Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Alex Kurtzman
Season: 1
Episodes:10
Production Company: Secret Hideout | Weed Road Pictures | Escapist Fare
Roddenberry Entertainment | CBS Studios
Summary/Review:

Beloved character Jean-Luc Picard, played by the even more beloved actor Patrick Stewart, returns to the small screen nearly 20 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis (the only one of the 10 films in the original Star Trek film series that I’ve never watched). The premise of the series is that 14 years before it begins, Admiral Picard was active in relocating the Romulan people before the star near their home planet went supernova. After synthetic life forms carry out a devastating act of sabotage on the Federation’s facilities on Mars, the Federation calls off the relocation project and ban all synthetic life.  Angry at these two betrayals, Picard resigns from Starfleet.

In the present day a young woman, Dahj (Isia Briones), seeks out Picard’s help after realizing that she is an android created from the remains of Picard’s friend Data (Brent Spiner) .  Romulan spies kill Dahj, but not before Picard learns that she has an identical twin, Soji, working at a Romulan outpost on an abandoned Borg cube called The Artifact.

Picard puts together a crew to help find and help Soji.  This includes a friend and colleague who helped with Romulan relocation, Raffi (Michelle Hurd), who struggles with substance abuse. Raffi finds a captain with a ship, La Sirena, Chris (Santiago Cabrera) who has a traumatic background in Starfleet.  They are joined by Agnes (Alison Pill), a synthetic life expert who is naive about space travel.  Along the way they pick up Elnor (Evan Evagora), a samurai-like Romulan who  was raised by a sect of warrior nuns to provide protection. To please the fans, familiar characters from the Star Trek franchise make appearances, including former Borg Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and Picard’s crewmates from Enterprise, Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi ( Marina Sirtis).  Brent Spiner also returns to play Data in dream sequences and Altan Inigo Soong, the son of Data’s creator.  One of the weird aspects of the show is that Picard not only quit Starfleet, but hasn’t kept in touch with any of his friends which is both out of character and used to create artificial tension.

In the early episodes, the show moves slowly, setting up Picard’s current situation and introducing the new characters.  There are elements of mystery and spy thriller with Picard thrust into the role of detective.  It was a refreshing change from the fast-paced action for action’s sake of Star Trek: Discovery.  By the end of episode 3 when we finally see Picard on the bridge of a starship and hear him say “Engage!,” it is a cheezy moment for the fans but one that is well-earned.  Unfortunately, during the second half of the season the show goes off the rails.  All the worst instincts of Discovery for shocking twists are indulged and a lot of drama is forced from the characters making bold choices to raise the stakes that seem irrelevant a few scenes later.

For a show called Picard, the title character seems lost in the crowded cast.  And yet, we don’t really get to know the new characters all that well either.  Sometimes they seem to do things that are out of character, but then their characters never seem to be developed well enough to know in the first place.  I loved Star Trek: Generation as a kid, but the level of graphic violence and profanity in Picard that makes it “gritty and dark,” makes me not want to share it with my kids. There was some promise in Picard, and maybe it will be fulfilled in the upcoming two seasons that are in production, but right now I don’t feel compelled at all to want to watch them.

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