Star Trek has introduced viewers to new series on one of two ways.
The first is the sink or swim approach utilized by “The Man Trap.” The episode threw viewers into the universe of Star Trek with little or no exposition or character introduction. (Of course, it helps that “The Man Trap” feels like the middle portion is a “day in the life of the Enterprise”).
Then there’s the get the crew together and start having adventures model used by the four modern Treks. There may be an emphasis on a central character (Sikso for DS9) and a lot of exposition on the setting, place in the Trek-verse and potential storylines that may or may not be examined during the series run.
Now with (for lack of a better term) post-modern Trek, Star Trek: Discovery starts off with a hybrid of those two models.
“The Vulcan Hello,” introduces us to Michael Burnham and the crew of the starship Shenzhou. But as the teaser shows us, this isn’t the crew’s first mission and there’s a comfort, trust and familiarity that this crew has to each other. Burnham is even at a crossroads of her career with her captain, Phillipa Georgiou saying that it’s time for Burnham to consider a command of her own in the opening teaser.
This is all to set up things for what’s to come in the first installment and, possibly, the series as it moves forward.
Set ten years before the legendary adventures of Kirk and company, Discovery appears to be tackling the Klingon Empire’s re-emergence as a player on the galactic scene and the Federation’s reaction to that. And while these Klingons are like no Klingon we’ve seen before in original or modern Trek, they still look and act like Klingons we saw on the modern Trek shows. After a hundred years of not being a galactic power, the Klingons are ready to re-emerge, assuming the 24 powerful houses can be reunited. (Given what we’ll see in original series, I’m going to say it works).
The Klingons are looking to “light a beacon” that will signal a new era for the Klingon Empire. I can only assume this is the Klingon’s becoming more aggressive and into direct conflict with the Federation as was depicted in the original series.
And while the series may eventually get to sweeping space battles between two empires, it’s fascinating to see how the fuse is lit by and who helps light it. While using a space suit to see what is hiding in a disruption field, Burnham sees the beacon and gets into a conflict with the Klingon guarding it. Burnham kills the Klingon, angering the Klingon leadership we see and possibly serving as a rallying cry to unite and destroy those who stand in their way.
Meanwhile back on the ship, Burnham is struggling to get her captain and the crew to realize the best way to respond to the Klingons isn’t be retreating or peacefully but by a show of strength. She even goes as far as violating her captain’s orders and targeting the beacon. Her attempts to get the beacon destroyed or put out of commission are delayed by the captain’s return (Burnham knocks her out with a Vulcan nerve pinch) , giving a Klingon fleet the time to show up and…we’re left hanging for the next installment (which as of this writing I have not seen yet).
A lot of heavy-lifting takes place in the first hour of Discovery, whether it’s meeting the crew of the Shenzhou to giving us the backstory for Burnham. Raised on Vulcan by the parents of Spock, Burnham clearly struggles with her devotion to the Vulcan principle of logic above all else. Her attempts at a cool demeanor are interesting and something the series will hopefully explore as we continue forward. Also, the consequences of trying to do an end run around the chain of command should have some huge consequences as we move forward. (I’m guessing she’s dropped in line for a promotion and a command of her own!)
The first hour of Discovery looks spectacular. And while it’s odd to see a ship appear shinier than what we saw Kirk and company using is a bit disconcerting, it’s nice to hear some familiar sound effects from the original series technology used here. Ending on a cliffhanger, the series has me hooked and wondering where things will go next.
A couple of random thoughts before I go:
- It’s interesting to see Burnham go to consult Sarek about the best course of action to take in regards to the Klingons. I can’t help but wonder if some of the sense of the Vulcans holding back/shielding humanity from the bigger universe from Enterprise is still in play.
- Beyond Burnham and Goergiou, the only other character we spend much time with is Lt. Saru. I’m wondering how much of him we’ll see and how exploration of his species the show will give us.
- The theme song and credit sequence won me over. Any time you homage the original (and best) theme to Trek, you’ve got me.
- Will the show try to explain why the Klingons look different than those we’ve seen before. Could the retro-virus that was introduced in Enterprise to explain this be responsible? That may be too deep a cut for the show to examine.
- I will admit it’s odd to NOT see the title appear on-screen during the episode itself! First time in Trek history for that!