Star Trek Discovery is LOST in Space and That’s a Good Thing

(Seeing and Believing is a podcast from the good folks at Christ and Pop Culture. In their recent episode 127 they reviewed the first five episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. I highly recommend listening to this episode, as well as any of their other episodes, but just in case you don’t take my advice, I’ve titled each section of my comments with a paraphrase of their concerns as a section heading. – JTA)

isn’t Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.

This is true, and that’s totally ok. Star Trek hasn’t been entirely “Gene’s vision” since some time during the third season of the original show. For instance, a the positive reference to Christianity in the closing moments of Bread and Circuses in season 3 would never have cleared Roddenberry’s staunch secularism, but he was on to other things at that point. Years later, when Roddenberry still had his hand on Star Trek: Next Generation, he insisted that there was not to be conflict amongst the crew, an idealism that was hopelessly constricting in terms of both drama and realism. That dictum was ultimately abandoned, allowing for more realistic and interesting character development.

Discovery isn’t about exploration, which is what Trek was all about.

Truth is, conflict and war have always had prominent treatment in Trek. Wrath of Kahn? Fighting a vengeful super human. Search for Spock? Fighting a taxi cab driving Klingon. The Voyage Home? Fighting the Punk on Bus (see I Hate You). The Undiscovered Country? Again with the Klingons. First Contact? Killing the Borg before they kill us. There is high minded exploration in Trek, but there has always been a serious amount of butt kicking.

Discovery has abandoned Trek’s idealism.

Not at all! Starfleet hierarchy has often been cast in a negative light, so Trek has relied on its principle┬ácharacters to maintain idealism, and Discovery is continuing this practice in the person of Michael Burnham, the mutineer (an insight that I believe I’m stealing from the stellar folks at Phantasic Geek’s Discovery podcast). Michael accepts responsibility for her actions and her mutiny and expects to pay the price for the rest of her life. She mourns the deaths that occurred at the Battle of the Binaries. And when it comes to Trek’s ideals about respect for life, she is initially the only crew member who is concerned for the well-being of the Tradigrade.

It isn’t clear why everyone would blame Michael for starting a war with the Klingons.

In truth, the fact that everyone blames her for the war is understandable, even if it is incorrect. Michael is ordered to fly by a Klingon artifact. Against orders she lands on it, fights and kills a Klingon, and starts a conflict. She then commits the first mutiny in Star Fleet history in an attempt to have her ship fire first on the Klingons.

Oh, and Michael shot and killed T’kuvma, the self-proclaimed Klingon messiah.

Michael was orphaned by a Klingon attack as a child, so to the rest of Starfleet, it looks like she was plotting revenge and started a war. They have no way of knowing how badly the Klingons were wanting war anyway. I bet that comes to light later.

Discovery’s forray into arc driven stories is a risk.

I would argue that it isn’t a risk, it’s a benefit. Star Trek Discovery is LOST in space. Read that carefully. It isn’t Lost in Space, it’s the TV show LOST…in space. Feeling the desire to binge watch the show? That’s actually going to happen to a lot of people, I think, when the good buzz for the show catches us with it and people take the plunge into subscribing to CBS Interactive so that they can see it.
The arc driven thing is the strength of the show. As much as I’ve enjoyed all of Trek’s TV and movie incarnations, it is time to branch out and that is exactly what they’re doing. This from me, the guy who has been hoping for a series focused on a Section 31 spy to really mix things up, or something like that. The show’s creators are wise to play in the Trek universe, but do so in new ways. In broad concept, it is similar to the way Rogue One was Star Wars But Not The Usual Star Wars.

Discovery doesn’t fit well in the Trek cannon. It doesn’t know where it’s going.

Fear not! The producers have indicated publicly that they are very aware that they are on a journey from the disharmony and conflict of the Klingon War to the more idyllic era of Kirk’s early career, which is about 10 years down the timeline at this point.

The first 2 episodes are more like a prequel.

I know! Isn’t it awesome?

Discovery is entertaining.

OK, that doesn’t sound like a concern, does it? I’m concluding with that because the Seeing and Believing guys weren’t entirely negative at all, I just happen to be attempting to address their negative comments here. This is my way of saying don’t go all Vulcan death grip on them, they had nice things to say as well.
I’d say more, but Discovery’s next episode drops in a few minutes, so I’ve got to go!