By Standback: Twelve years after the last Enterprise episode; eight years since JJ Abrams rebooted Trek with a new movie series, Star Trek: Discovery has been greeted with gargantuan portions of excitement, suspicion, and discussion.
Now that Discovery’s first season has concluded, here’s a round-up of reviews, discussions, and observations throughout the web.
CONTAINS SPOILERS for all of Season One.
(1) THE GOOD.
(1A) Matt Zoller Seitz, at Vulture, writes that Discovery Just Pulled Off An Incredibly Good Season:
The season’s final run of episodes was also very affecting for the way that it brought Michael’s story full circle. The symmetry and sense of balance were evident while still emotionally messy. (…) I can’t think of another Trek series, TV or theatrical, that went as deep into trauma and irresolvable despair, or as often.
Humanity in this future mirrors how many of us feel in our society right now: some big advances have been made, but the biggest challenges still remain, and it feels like things are coming apart. Discovery gives the hopeful vision of the future as a moral adventure that Star Trek has always offered, enhanced by a deeper sense than any previous series of how much failure, tragedy, hard work, trauma, and redemption are integral parts of human progress. Discovery gets that empathy and relationships are also forms of technology that need advancing?—?and that’s exactly what Star Trek needs to be doing right now.
(2) THE BAD.
(2A) Angelica Jade Bastién, in Vulture, explains Why Discovery Needs to Evolve:
In many ways, Discovery has imported the worst habits from modern television: brutal violence and casual deaths that make it seem any character could be killed at any moment; rape scenes; bold twists that mask ramshackle stories; and juvenile vulgarity that masquerades as intriguing world-building. But the greatest failing of Discovery that undercuts the appearance of trailblazing progressivism is its poor character development, seen most acutely in Michael and Ash.
(2B) Daniel Cooper, at Engadget argues that the show Failed To Do What Good Sci-Fi Does:
Discovery gave me 15 episodes of serialized storytelling that, as Alex Kurtzman admitted to TrekMovie, was worked out backwards. Now, lots of TV shows are plotted in this manner, but with this series it led to incidents and character development that took place because the storyline demanded it. I doubt even he could explain, in a single sentence, what Discovery’s overarching theme was, or if it had one at all.
(2C) Zack Handlen, at the Onion AV Club, rips into the finale, although he does feel the season concludes With A Promise To Do Better:
If “Will You Take My Hand?” works, it works because it does a confident job of convincing the audience it’s seeing something meaningful. It hits the notes it assumes we want it to hit. I can respect that to an extent—it’s certainly entertaining—but I still can’t forget this is all built on a hollow foundation.
The more you pick at this, the worse it gets.
(3) THE MIXED.
(3A) The season ends with both “A Bang (and a Whimper),” writes Annalee Newitz, at Ars Technica:
This season of Star Trek: Discovery has been wobbling between awesomeness and toxic muck, and last night’s finale didn’t tip the balance. (…)
Over the season, we’ve had standout, brilliant episodes mixed in with 60-minute clunkers. Burnham’s character arc has been consistently fascinating, but characters like Lorca and Voq/Tyler have slowly eroded from multi-dimensional people into mere plot devices. Most of the show’s worst problems cropped up in the second half of the season, when we took a long detour into the Mirror Universe. Though finale “Will You Take My Hand” tied up any number of loose threads, often in ways that were rich and satisfying, the episode also doubled down on some of the series’ biggest mistakes.
(3B) The IGN Scorecard, by Witney Seibold, recognizes Discovery for its characters, and for its tech and visuals. Demerits are awarded for tone and for storytelling.
(4) MULTIPLE IDENTITIES. Abigail Nussbaum, “Through a Mirror, Darkly”:
Here we are, nearly a week after the finale, and I’m no closer to a conclusion. Neither, it seems, is the rest of fandom, which often feels like it’s watching and reacting to several different shows. And no one, no matter their opinion, seems very clear on what Discovery is. Is it a bold reinvention of the franchise for the Peak TV era, or a shallow action-adventure whose ambitions often outstrip its capacity to execute them? Is it the spiritual successor of the reboot movies, reveling in Star Trek tropes and fanservice without understanding the franchise’s meaning, or is it a genuine attempt to grapple with the core ideas of Star Trek fifty years after its inception? Is it, in short, Star Trek?
(5) MINIMALLY INVASIVE STORYTELLING. Gerry Canavan suggests Discovery has “No Follow-Through” in his piece at the LA Review of Books:
Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends, but Discovery is all beginnings, constantly rebooting itself over and over again without allowing its narrative to develop or to reach an organic conclusion. In that sense it is the exemplary Star Trek series for our time, the latest in a series of prequels and reboots that continually retell the beginning of the story and then peter out before they find their own identity or a way to put a unique spin on the franchise. From Enterprise to the Abramsverse films to Discovery, Star Trek seems paralyzed by the idea of doing the one thing the fans of the series actually want: telling new stories that take place in the Prime Universe after the end of Voyager.
(6) CRUDE MORALITY. Crude Reviews highlights The Moral Lesson of ‘Discovery’: We Should Use Super Weapons To Install Despots In Foreign Nations.
With all of that history behind us, what do the writers have our so-called heroes choose as their heroic, principled solution to a war in space?
They hand a weapon of mass destruction to a religious extremist, and install her as a dictator over her own people.
(7) YOU’RE DEAD, JIM. From Genevieve Valentine, at Vox: How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ and ‘The Good Place’ find humanity in hell. SPOILERS for both shows.
Though they couldn’t be more tonally different, each show is deeply concerned with how one person making moral decisions — or compromising them — can change a world. And those complexities of subjective morality, utilitarianism, and acceptable collateral damage are all tied into stomach-sinking revelations: The characters in these stories are trapped in horrible places, the utopia they’ve been sold is a lie, and it’s a surprisingly small jump from that supposed utopia to their horrible reality.
The central question of each show is whether their protagonists will be defined by the hell they’re in, or whether they’ll be able to redefine it.
(8) FILERS CAN DISCO. Lots of discussion of the finale, and Discovery in general, at Camestros Felapton’s blog post “Star Trek Discovery: Finale!” which opens:
What an odd episode. What an odd show.
Cora Buhlert offers some in-depth thoughts on the finale, on the seedy Orion camp, on the cliffhanger, and on the show in general, in “The Star Trek Discovery Season Finale or ‘Hey, we finally remembered we’re making Star Trek and not Game of Thrones in Space.’”:
So can Star Trek Discovery become a good Star Trek show after all? It’s certainly possible and the production team have done their best to tie up the messy first season to give themselves as clean a start as possible. And Star Trek is rather infamous for weak first seasons. However, this is one area where Discovery‘s serialised structure really harms the show. For while it is perfectly possible to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and skip over dreadful early episodes and pretend they never happened, it’s not nearly so easy to ignore the bad episodes of Discovery‘s first season and watch only the handful of good ones, because the serialised structure means that the episodes don’t stand alone well.
(9) BREAKDOWN. At Consequence of Sound, Andrew Bloom and Clint Worthington pick highlights, lowlights, and moments of note from the season in their Season One Breakdown. They try to identify major elements of the show’s story — and of fans’ reactions.
(10) FIVE THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU. Chris Taylor, on Mashable, wrote a listicle explaining Why ‘Discovery’ is a Cosmic Dud.
The bizarre mid-season finale, with its scenes of Klingon rape and a twist that saw Discovery jumping into an entirely different universe altogether, left me cautious but hopeful: okay, let’s see where this thing is going.
But by the time Season 1 ended on Sunday, however, I had no defenses left. My shields were down as the show fired photon torpedoes of poor choices at any desire to care about the characters or keep watching.
(11) WE CAN REBUILD HIM. Crude Reviews, a vocal critic of Discovery, has embarked on “Re/Discovery” — “a personal project to re-write the series from the bottom up.” First installment is here; tag for all posts is here.
The first post explains:
I’ve set myself a few rules – first, that most of the premises set up by the show are maintained. Specifically:
- Burnham is a disgraced officer who threw away her career with some really poor judgement, precipitating a war with the Klingons.
- The Discovery is a ship with an experimental spore drive.
- Lorca is a mirror-universe impostor with a hidden, wicked agenda.
- Ash Tyler is a sleeper agent, with Voq’s memories and personality suppressed.
I will also be keeping almost all of the same characters and settings, where possible, and will do my best to hit the same plot milestones as the show.
This is entirely self-indulgent, and I make no apologies. I certainly have no shame.
(12) THE ENDING AND AFTER. “What Does The Ending Mean?” poses eight questions about where the finale has left the show, and what to look forward to: