Star Trek – Discovery

This people making this show tried so hard to make a worthy new entry into the Star Trek franchise it’s a shame it’s failed so badly.  Maybe they tried too hard.

The acting isn’t bad; the ensemble as a whole is miles better than the B-list crew of the original show. Jason Isaacs, in particular, tries to give his Kirk-influenced starship captain a back story and motivation.  But that’s part of the problem.  Kirk works better as a one-dimensional character; maybe you need a cheeseball actor like Shatner to pull that off.  It doesn’t help that it’s hard to watch one of the genuinely interesting characters, Anthony Rapp as the ship’s engineer, without remembering that he was The Guy Who Brought Down Kevin Spacey.  And how do you cast an actor to play Harcourt Fenton Mudd who isn’t funny?

The scripts are surprisingly poor.  That didn’t keep the original show from being a success (Spock’s Brain was famously bad) but that show had flashes of brilliance this one completely lacks.  One of the things that saved the original show was the genuine chemistry that developed among the main characters, which the writers were smart enough to adapt to.  Here, you can see the writers intentionally trying to use the scripts to recreate that chemistry (“let’s write a scene showing A and B trying to get along”) — it’s painful.

Another poor choice was setting the show only 10 years prior to the original show.  Not only do you have no new gadgets — you don’t even get to see humorous prototypes of phasers and warp drives, as in Enterprise.  So, oddly, you have a show about the future that seems firmly rooted in the past.

The look and feel of this show is surprisingly ugly.  The original Klingons didn’t look very much different from us, except for their foreheads — that was part of the point.  In this show, they’re grotesque.

Worst of all, though, is the total lack of good direction in the individual episodes.  Every hack director of police procedurals knows how to create suspense — except, it appears, these guys.  Characters are kidnapped and left for dead — we don’t find out what happened to them for two or three episodes.  Characters risk their lives in heroic efforts to save civilization as we know it, and we don’t even get to see them celebrate. Either the showrunners accidentally picked up their directors from the film school reject pile or (more likely) it’s a deliberate, and misguided, artistic choice.

I’m a huge Star Trek fan, and will probably watch the conclusion of the series when it resume in January, in hopes that it will get better.  I’m not too hopeful, though.

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