‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Is As Modern As It Can Be… For Better and Worse

Drew Dietsch
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TV Streaming Star Trek

Star Trek: Discovery is out in the world now, and fans have plenty of opinions about it. The consensus seems to lean towards the positive, and there are certainly elements of the show that deserve some praise. But, not everything is fantastic.

Let’s take a critical look at the newest addition to the Star Trek franchise.

Blockbuster TV

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Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) investigates an anomaly.

It’s worth pointing out that Discovery has the production quality of a feature film. CBS spared no expense when it came to making this show look great. The interiors of the ships, the wardrobe, the makeup and special effects, and pretty much every aspect of the production design is top notch.

The filmmaking on display is clearly competent and streamlined, but it’s also taking a ton of notes from the reboot Trek movies. There are copious Dutch angles, lens flares, and swiftly floating camera moves that try to inject momentum into a static scene. All of that isn’t negative on its own, but it adds to fan criticisms about Star Trek becoming much more homogenized for modern tastes.

And that’s where Star Trek: Discovery shows its true colors.

A Modern Drama in Star Trek’s Clothing

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Klingons take part in a funeral ceremony.

Star Trek: Discovery is blatantly taking cues from this new era of television and trying to take the franchise into that territory. Discovery is primarily focused on action, fantastical world-building, and melodramatic character plots. The science fiction and ethical aspects of the show all feel like window dressing.

You can see the influence of Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica in these first few episodes and it’s a bit disappointing. Discovery had the chance to be another trailblazer for the franchise and the genre. Instead, it looks like it wants to copy what all the popular kids have done.

That doesn’t mean that Discovery is bad — those formulas have clearly worked for their respective shows — but it does mean Discovery feels derivative. Star Trek is a franchise that sets the standard instead of aping it. That doesn’t seem to be the case with this new adventure.

A Chance to Grow

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Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) in 'Star Trek: Discovery.'

But, it’s never fair to judge a show in its early run. That goes both ways; we shouldn’t be praising or damning Star Trek: Discovery. What we’ve got is only a glimpse at where the show is headed. We can make a few evaluations right out the gate and that’s all I’ve done here. It’s unfair to analyze things like character arcs, performance, or the overall project until we’ve seen the full picture.

Star Trek: Discovery certainly has potential. But, it’s made itself pretty clear that it wants to be a modern Star Trek show in every way possible. While that’s great for things on a technical level, it makes the narrative potential both worrisome and unsurprising. “To boldly go where no one has gone before,” isn’t a phrase that quite rings true right now. Let’s hope that changes.

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