Look, everyone loved The Mandalorian but for Star Trek, this is not the way. Star Trek Discovery S3E01 – That Hope Is You, Part 1 Review

*SPOILERS*

The year is 3188, the place…is less clear. The focus of this “Star Trek Discovery” season opener is…Michael Burnham. Of course.

Clearly, Kurtzman is fed up of being criticised too often for not living up to Rodenberry’s optimistic view of the future and has decided to do something about it. That something, it would appear, is to do away with it altogether and replace it with a fragmented, worn-out sci-fi aesthetic that feels borrowed from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.

Having thwarted Control’s attempts to acquire the sphere data, Burnham exits the trans-temporal wormhole some nine hundred years in the future and immediately collides with another ship sending them both crashing to the surface below. Alone and adrift, Burnham must find a way to make contact with the USS Discovery.

Michael Burnham Joy

It’s hard to ignore Kurtzman’s ongoing desire to play in the “Star Wars” sandbox and how it’s impacting every creative decision on “Star Trek Discovery”. Having brought his chosen one far enough into the future that he can ignore canon as he sees fit, he immediately strands his ‘chosen one’ on a barren planet which, if there’s a bright centre to this moribund universe, is clearly the farthest from.

From the establishing shots featuring alien critters eating other alien critters in the foreground, this is a shameless application of the Lucasian vision to “Star Trek”. Never mind the episode then sees Burnham venture through the wastelands until she discovers a shifty smuggler who then takes her to the local wretched hive of scum and villainy before they manage to escape from some dispute arising from lost/ stolen cargo. There’s even a nod to the Rathtar’s from “The Force Awakens” and the episode’s title “That Hope Is You” sails pretty close to “A New Hope”.  

Star Trek Discovery Aliens

It remains to be seen how much the apparent collapse of the Federation and the MacGuffining of dilithium into Kurtzman’s version of Coaxium after most of it abruptly blew up…for some reason will impact the storytelling of this new era of Star Trek, but I’ll lay odds on them not doing very much exploring between now and season’s end.

It’s not all Kurtzman calamity though. The episode looks fantastic and the production values are probably higher than any other individual Trek pisode or movie thanks in large part to the extensive location shooting in Iceland. Must have been expensive though, because director Olatunde Osunsanmi makes sure to include as much of it as he possibly can in the frame, whether it detracts from the character action on screen or not.

Sonequa Martin-Green continues to deliver a great performance as Starfleet’s most emotionally unstable Vulcan-conditioned officer and the script asks her to do a lot of crying, which is a shame. She’s much better when given better material to work with whether it’s the superb moment she scans for life and realises her mission to defeat Control was a success (obviously we knew, but it’s nice that the writers remembered that she wouldn’t) or when she’s under the influence of an interrogative intoxicant.

Likewise, Book (David Ajala), the show’s new Han Solo/ Lando Calrissian mashup, makes a strong first impression, even if his ‘scoundrel with a heart of gold’ character is by this point a venerable genre cliché.

Flying The Flag Of The Federation

Given its slow pace, there’s still a surprising amount of violence crammed into the runtime and not much in the way of the exploration of ideas. It’s still hard not to feel this is a show which talks about Starfleet and the Federation a lot without ever understanding Starfleet (or “Star Trek” itself) at all. Still, let’s see what comes of this one giant leap and give the series time to take hopefully more than one small step in the right direction of regaining the spirit of The Great Bird Of The Galaxy, but with the same showrunners still at the helm? Yeesh.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this [season].

5/10

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