Monday night my bride and I sat down and watched the prequel episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.
That's right. The first two episodes are entirely devoted to setting up the series. The USS Discovery is nowhere to be seen (except in the opening credits). It's an interesting approach, though one taken before. The new Battlestar Galactica did something similar. What Discovery gives us for these first 2 episodes is a re-introduction to the Star Trek universe. The Federation's do-gooder "We Come In Peace" starfleet, the angry war-like Klingons, the Treknology (visually updated for the 2017 audience), and lots of fan service that manages to not overwhelm the story.
Synopsis of the first 2 episodes
So what do we know about the pre-Kirk Federation. It's multicultural, and fairly well matured, but it's been a while since they've been involved in a war, and they're really not ready for it. Their tech is improving, but they're not in a super hurry to retrofit/upgrade their ships. Aside from some skirmishes, including the one that left Michael Burnham an orphan, the Klingons haven't really been in contact since Archer's time.
The Klingons themselves are a fractured people, with each of the 24 houses scheming and fighting each other more than expanding the bounds of the Empire. A small cult of highly xenophobic Klingon-supremacists draws the houses together in order to unite them in a war with the Federation. These are not the Klingons we're used to, but I can see the old Klingon Ambassador from Star Trek 3 & 4, and most of the plot of 6 coming out of these Klingons. Also, a ship covered in the caskets of dead Klingons?!? Love it!
This may not be NuTrek, but it kinda looks like it. The technology looks fancy and shiny, but it doesn't seem to work as well we it seems to in the TNG time period. Honestly, of everything going on, most of the visual changes don't really bother me. There was no way they were going to make everything look like it did in The Cage. It's been 50 years since that was filmed, technology has gotten better.
The changes to the Klingons appearance... I like less, but I'll get over it.
The uniforms bug me, but mostly because they're going to be such a bitch for costumers to replicate. Other than that, they're pretty...
After mulling it over for over a day now, I think I'm a fan. That the show is focusing on a primary character, rather than on a strong ensemble cast is an interesting take. That the main bad guys are 1) Klingons and 2) Stand ins for the nationalist/white supremacists works for me in a way that no prior Trek villain ever has before. I appreciate that the first two episodes were something of a slow burn leading up to a fantastic space battle I thought was a good choice, especially as I could watch one episode after the other. I'd have been less thrilled if I was watching on TV, and then had to switch over to the new CBS streaming service.
I also really appreciate that the main characters were a black woman and an Asian woman. And that they were both friends and colleagues who liked and respected each other, and didn't once talk about a man, except when planning to kidnap the Klingon zealot. I also liked that they disagreed, and talked about it... and that Burnham made a series of bad choices. That the ethics of the choices, and the Federations standing directives are questioned.
Star Trek is at its best when it asks those questions. I hope they keep it up.
One thing I'm not really thrilled with is that they made, on the whole, the Klingons even darker. The main zealot was in fact coal black. That his second was an albino... well we'll see if they can make it work without being painfully racist.
The other issue I had was the fact that Michael (not Michelle...?) Burnham is Sarek's foster daughter... Why? Why Sarek. There's a whole planet full of Vulcans. It didn't have to be her, and it doesn't make much sense given that there has never been mention of yet another sibling of Spock. Did they learn NOTHING from Star Trek V: The Search for God?
On the whole though, I'm looking forward to where they're going, and in hopes that we'll keep seeing Star Trek on the small screen, I'm almost convinced to subscribe to the CBS service to keep watching.