Over the previous few weeks I’ve been documenting my odyssey of spending one hour a week (well, two on the first week) watching CBS’s latest attempt to bring Star Trek back to [sort of] television. At times it is painful, other times it is okay, sometimes it’s obnoxious and rarely it’s sort of fun. There are a lot of things about the show that miss the mark of the classic Treks, just like there are a lot of throwbacks to previous Treks that can feel trite and meaningless, like shallow attempts to satiate a fanbase unhappy with the direction of the show.
I’m an unapologetic fan of the Ronald D. Moore era of Star Trek, which was later TNG into DS9 and very briefly on Voyager when it was in its uptick. I even loved his take on BSG until it became a show about the ONE TRUE GOD and characters hearing All Along the Watchtower in their minds all of the time. Who am I kidding, I didn’t even mind it much then, either. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy Moore-less Trek, because I do enjoy it. I was able to get into Voyager eventually and while Enterprise had a god-awful start it really did get a hell of a lot better as time wore on. That’s what I’m hoping happens with Discovery, as long as they keep with this story, these characters and this time and don’t go for the “anthology” format they originally talked about.
My biggest complaint about this series is that it doesn’t feel like it can stand on its own feet. It’s trying to serve too many masters and, by doing so, instead doesn’t seem to serve anyone in the end. While I know people that are enjoying the show, it isn’t at the same, weird, fanatical level that a Star Trek usually gets. Inevitably, what I hear is “have you checked out The Orville?” When people are pointing towards the Family Guy-creator’s satire on Star Trek as a more authentic Star Trek, well, things aren’t looking great. No, I haven’t watched that show yet and I’m not sure that I will. So while past episodes of Discovery have hinged on cheap tricks with characters from previous iterations of Star Trek (namely from TOS), finally we got an episode that was so uniquely Star Trek that it was hard to dislike.
The plot was simple: the crew has discovered a planet emitting a message through this giant, organic pole and they wanted to see if they could harness this to help in their battle with the Klingons. Oh yeah, remember that? It’s kinda nice that we have a big story arc and that they’ve moved away from it being all-encompassing like it was earlier on in the season. Space is big, they have a starship that can go just about anywhere and there’s a lot to do. So here we are, on a planet with secrets, inhabited by, wait for it, the planet itself that takes form via an ethereal light, that is just looking for company. This is such a Star Trek episode, right down to one of the crew having his mind taken over by the well-meaning planet and almost sabotages the mission.
The episode ends with a cliffhangar involving a showdown with the Klingons heading into the mid-season finale and it’s all pretty much fine. While not a classic episode of Star Trek, it felt like an episode of Star Trek. We got glimpses into the stories of individuals on the crew during the downtime and we didn’t have to deal with Captain Lorca’s inane bullshit and whatever grey brush they are lazily painting him with that serves as depth these days. Like I said, mostly fine, kinda fun, classic Trek. Not a classic episode that we’ll reflect on for years and go back and rewatch, but a step in the right direction for a rather listless, ineffective ship that points towards the second half of the season being a smoother ride.