It is hard to think that, within the first few episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, I came close to giving up on the series entirely. If I had I would have missed out on what quickly became one of the best television experiences I have had for many years.
This is not to say that the show started off bad, however in order for it to establish the plot certain events and characteristics were given more time than they admittedly should have. Namely the Klingons and LT Stamets.
The first three episodes probably contained more spoken Klingon than an entire season of previous incarnations. Now, even if you aren’t a die hard Trekkie you most likely know, thanks to popular culture, what a Klingon sounds like. Let’s just say that it is not one of the more beautiful languages that have been created. Harsh sounding and blunt, much like the beings who speak it, the constant barrage of fricatives from the alien race had my ears hurting and my mind tuning out. I was grateful then when they used some ‘TV magic’ and, much like other science fiction shows of the past, had the Klingons speak English under the guise that we (the audience) were hearing them through a translation unit. Why it took them almost three episodes to get to that point I have no idea. In later episodes the spoken Klingon was dialled down to manageable levels or disregarded altogether as certain characters ended up able to speak English without the aid of a translation tool.
Now onto Lt Stamets, I love this character. However I could not stand him for the first few episodes. I know that was the point, his character arc throughout this show is one of the best things about it, yet in the first few episodes he came off a lot more brash and unlikable than he needed to be. When the plot got into motion and he became more of an integral player it took me slightly longer than usual to start to feel for the character. Now this is a shame because Stamets is a wonderful entity, and not just because he is one of the first openly gay characters to appear in the entire show.
I found the first few episodes rough to get through. But I made it through the other side, thanks to their release being on Netflix (and therefore easy to access) I pushed through the bad and found television greatness awaiting me. One of the main things that thankfully kept me hooked was the characters of Michael Burnham and Gabriel Lorca. Played by Sonequa Martin-Green and Jason Isaacs respectively, the motivations and choices that each character had to make had me on the edge of my seat until the credits of the season finale.
Sonequa Martin-Green, perhaps most recognisable from her stint on The Walking Dead – A show she thankfully left to do this – shines throughout. Despite her human character having a Vulcan upbringing her logical thought patterns were not overplayed, something that cannot be said for Zachary Quinto’s stint as Spock in the recently released film trilogy. When the events of the show started to wear on the character, when her emotional human side started to override her logical Vulcan side, Martin-Green portrayed a wonderful range that could not help but endear me to the character, despite her somewhat treasonous decisions at points. Sonequa Martin-Green was a wonderful choice, occupying the role of first women of colour lead excellently and hopefully paving the way for better representation in the mainstream media.
Now onto Jason Isaacs whose character, Gabriel Lorca, has joined the ranks of my ‘All-Time favourite Characters’ list. My viewing habits made this show the first extended entity within which I had seen the actor. I knew him from Harry Potter (obviously) and recently enjoyed his stellar appearance in A Cure for Wellness, but aside from that I had never really seen him in anything. I plan on changing that immediately. Isaacs role in Discovery is beyond phenomenal. From questioning his motivations at the start, to the fantastic reveal near the end of the series, the character of Lorca holds such power that whenever he was on screen my eyes were transfixed. Near the start of the series Isaacs implements a lot of subtleties that pay off wonderfully by the end of the season, in the hands of a less capable actor they would have been hammy and obvious, Isaacs makes them realistic and has you questioning whether you saw them at all.
A lot has been said about the shows writing by a lot of people already, but it is something that I cannot leave by the wayside. Discovery is a prime example of writing for television done incredibly well. Rather than focus on the ‘monster of the week’ style episodes that previous incarnations are guilty of, Discovery has an overarching narrative that is breathtaking from a writers point of view. Admittedly when viewed as standalone episodes certain events create massive plot holes, however when viewed in its entirety you realise that every thing you thought to be an oversight was actually a well planned part to the structure of the series. Any show that has me unintentionally shouting out at the screen due to the twists and turns presented (and not due to awful acting or subpar writing) reveals to me just how invested in it I actually am.
Despite its bumpy start Star Trek: Discovery is one of the best television series that I have watched in the last five years, maybe more. It presentation of characters and events was wonderful and had me gripped through every episode (after the initial three). I’m beyond happy that it has been commissioned for a second season, despite having to wait until 2020 for it to be released.