Has DISCOVERY gotten TOO dark to still be STAR TREK? (editorial review)

There be SPOILERS here!

And now we know.  Well, lots of us already knew.  I’ve written about it repeatedly here and elsewhere.  I and others have debated with those in the fan base who believed that Captain Lorca was simply a tough-as-nails leader who would always put Starfleet first.  In this time of war with the Klingons, we needed someone like Lorca to make the United Federation of Planets great again!

But now we have all, er, discovered that Lorca has been playing us this whole time.  He’s really from the Mirror Universe, and he’s a bad dude.  For those fans who supported Lorca, stood up to defend his disturbing behavior and his dark methods—guess what!—you’ve placed your loyalty in someone who is just out for personal gain and doesn’t care about the UFP or anyone in our Prime Universe.  In fact, he doesn’t seem to care about people from his Mirror Universe either…certainly not women.  “Her name was Ava, and I liked her,” Lorca tells the brother of a woman he’d killed years before.  “But you know how it is.  Somebody better came along.”

Sure, he can be charming and talk crew members like Stamets into doing almost anything.  But Lorca’s been keeping a lot of secrets from all of us, including from the people he leads.  As far as I’m concerned, Lorca’s lust for power trumps anything that might have made him seem admirable in any way…and he’s fooled at least 37% of us all along.

Okay, enough of the fun double entendres.  Let’s start doin’ some reviewin’!

Maybe I just have Discovery fatigue from all the darkness in this episode (pass the Kelpian, please!), but I found most of this 12th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, “Vaulting Ambition,” to be mostly meh.  I was much more invested in last week’s 11th episode.  And that’s somewhat disappointing on a personal level, as one of the parents at my son’s school works for the director of this episode, Hanelle M. Culpepper, and I was hoping to tell him later on this week how much I enjoyed her (Hanelle’s) episode.  But I can’t do that.

I can’t say I hated it either, though.  For me, Discovery doesn’t suck, but it does have some serious flaws.  And that’s why I feel such consternation about this show…I can’t decide whether or not I like it!!!

So rather than take a look at all the little things about this episode that were either good or bad (or meh), I want to pause for a moment, take a step back, and look at the series as a whole.  And I want to ask an interesting question:

IS DISCOVERY TOO DARK TO STILL BE STAR TREK?

I read in another review that writer saying something like, if you’re worried about what Quentin Tarantino is gonna do to Star Trek, just take a look at Discovery, ’cause this is pretty much it.

And I already know what proponents of the new series are going to say: this is a dark Star Trek for a dark world of 2017 and 2018.  And like all the best sci-fi, Star Trek always provided a critical reflection of the harsher realities of the time.  But is today’s world really THAT much darker?  I mean, 1968 was pretty dark, too—Vietnam, political assassinations, race riots, the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union—and somehow Star Trek still managed to be a beacon of hope to light the way for the world to dream of a brighter future.

The future depicted in Star Trek: Discovery, however…not quite so bright (at least, not so far).  Remember when Deep Space Nine was considered “dark”?  Compared to now, though?  HA!  How naive we were!!  Then when the third season of Enterprise brought in the whole Xindi arc, that was considered “dark,” too.  Yeah, Archer threatened to toss a prisoner out an airlock…big deal!

Now we have a show where Klingons eat starship captains.  Tartigrades eat security chiefs and then the creature is tortured in the name of “science.”  The racist Vulcans make Sarek choose between futures for his two children.  Harry Mudd is now a sociopathic serial murderer (with style and flair, of course).  Saru has inner demons causing him to resent Burnham’s very existence.  Dr. Culber’s neck is snapped by a deeply-planted Klingon sleeper agent.  And as if that isn’t bad enough, things get a hundred times worse when we’re forced to watch the denizens of the Mirror Universe try their darnedest to outdo any sick and twisted depravities we’ve seen in previous Mirror Trek episodes.

Look, I understand the argument.  Television has evolved.  This ain’t the 1960s anymore…or even the 80s or 90s.  In this Game of Thrones/Walking Dead/Breaking Bad world of ours, more than just random extras and nameless redshirts die.  It’s 2018, and sometimes you’ve just gotta show your main character eating a Kelpian.  Who cares if I can’t watch Discovery with my 7-year-old because I don’t want him hearing the F-word or trying to use his fidget spinner like a Japanese throwing star to slit my throat?

Here’s my issue…

If a dark show like Discovery is now considered the “new normal” of Star Trek, then what’s next?  In another fifteen or twenty years, what will our kids and grandkids be watching that’s called “Star Trek”?  Will this once noble and beloved franchise really descend to the level of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Bastards?  Will teasers begin looking like the opening fifteen minutes of Saving Private Ryan?

In that way, I think Seth MacFarlane has it right in thinking the world needs a return to lighter sci-fi like The Orville that goes back to the roots of Next Generation-style BRIGHT Star Trek.

Not that good sci-fi can’t be dark, as well.  The rebooted Battlestar Galactica was one of my favorite sci-fi epics, and I love The Expanse.  Even The Orville has its darker moments.  Heck, Star Trek had some pretty dark moments, as well, over the past 52 years.

But how dark is TOO dark?

To me, Discovery has overshot that mark.  The show, as good as it is—and it IS a good sci-fi saga—has simply gone too far into the realm of gritty and disturbing realism that reflects the worst of our current world.  Maybe today’s reality has simply descended too far and so Discovery can’t exist and be relevant without also dropping  into that same heart of darkness.

In my heart, I can’t accept that.  Seth MacFarlane is demonstrating that yes, it is still possible to show us a reflection of our world without losing that sense of hopeful sci-fi we all used to take for granted on television not so long ago.

But if we can no longer count on Star Trek to provide that beacon of hope, and if The Orville is only making 13 episodes a year, then where does that leave us fans? Where is that Star Trek beacon that used to light our way?   Are we fans destined for eternally bleak darkness in the world of sci-fi and a race to the bottom of ever more difficult-to-watch Star Trek?  As a long-time loyal fan, I shudder and weep at such a future!

But maybe, just maybe, there’s still some hope for Discovery…

On the AfterTrek broadcast this past Sunday night, Jonathan Frakes, Anthony Rapp, and episode 12 writer Jordon Nardino discussed how Lorca was never intended to feel “right” as a Starfleet captain.  He was always meant to feel dissonant and out of place.  The writers knew what they were doing with him all along.  And that’s why I still have some hope for this show.

The writers are aware of how dark and disturbing their episodes have been.  And remember that the writers knew all of this would happen from the beginning.  Bryan Fuller—ironically the biggest and most experienced Trekkie of them all—constrained the storyline early on to the Klingon War and, later, the Mirror Universe.  There wouldn’t be time to “explore strange new worlds” in this new series (at least for season one).  The exploration, the “discovery” in this show, would be internal for the characters themselves.  We discover Lorca’s true identity.  Tyler discovers his inner Voq.  Saru explores his own fears and insecurities as a leader.  Tilly discovers her confidence and inner strength.  L’Rell discovers her willingness to release Voq from his Tyler prison.  And Burnham—wait for it (and, man, have we been waiting!)—discovers her humanity.  And to do all of this, many of these characters needed to start from or journey to some very dark places.  I get it.

But now that many of these people have made this journey, perhaps season two can move forward to discoveries that don’t require such dark places as war, torture, imprisonment, and the horrors of the Mirror Universe.  Maybe the writers themselves can make their OWN discovery of lighter and more noble places/characters in season two.  It’s already being hinted at, and the crew seems much less dysfunctional and bitchy than where they started.

I don’t expect the last three episodes of season one to make any transition from dark and intense.  We’re still in the Mirror Universe for at least one more episode, and then we return to an all-out war.  But there’s still hope for, well, hope in season two.

For me, Star Trek has always been about hope, about light, about the better angels of human nature triumphing over our demons.  Without it, Discovery is fine science fiction—well produced, mostly well written, well acted, and well directed.  But at least right now, at least for me, it’s still too dark and bleak way too often to feel like Star Trek.

But I haven’t given up hope for Discovery, and that’s why I still watch it.  “There are always possibilities…” Spock said.

71 thoughts on “Has DISCOVERY gotten TOO dark to still be STAR TREK? (editorial review)”

  1. When the Bionic Woman was rebooted, they asked Lindsay Wagner her opinion. She stated that it was “dark and angry. ” That is how I am feeling about Discovery. Until now, even the most dark episodes of Trek had a sliver of hope and light. Discovery makes me never want this future.

    The mirror universe is a weak copout. It is easy to write about the bad guys. Its hard (and hence requires skill) to write about the boy scout and make him interesting. I would not like to spend even an elevator ride with any members of that crew.

    Trek has always been about saying the future is not going to be as bad as you think. That we will get through the now. If Discovery is the future, press the little red button.

  2. Short answer, yes, it is still Trek (to me, at least). Among the many things TOS was, it tried to push the boundaries of what it could show. Usually that was in the direction of female skin, but it also gave us the first interracial kiss. So, being shown in a place where f-bombs can be dropped, I simply see the darkness as another example of boundary pushing.

    Also, given the serialized nature of the story-telling, I think it’s better to answer this question at the end of season 1. Otherwise, it’s like judging how dark In The Pale Moonlight was just after Vreenak declares the rod a FAAAAAAAKE.

    1. Yeah, I thought of saving this blog for the end of season one, and I might still do a follow-up in three more weeks. But the thought popped into my mind this week as I saw what was not only the bleakest episode yet but going out of its way to be dark and disturbing. And then I realized how few truly “feel good” moments this show has had so far.

      As dark as Trek has been over the past five decades–the death of Edith Keeler, the deaths of Spock and David Marcus, Picard seeing five lights, Sisko’s deal with the devil (Garak), Voyager’s “Killing Game” two-parter, the aftermath of the Xindi attack on earth–there was always a bright moment waiting just ahead…whether it be the next episode, the next season, or the end of the movie.

      I’m not saying that Star Trek can’t be dark sometimes. It’s just that Discovery feels TOO dark. For me, at least, it has overshot the mark, and no episode yet has left me feeling uplifted. That’s fine sometimes, but we’ve had twelve episodes of this.

      1. Remember, though, regardless of the number of episodes, they are telling one story. That’s why I made my comparison to In The Pale Moonlight. That was as bleak and as dark as Trek got at the time, but the story was told in one hour.

        1. But for me, there in lies the danger of serialised story telling for Trek, that it can easily become a very long dark journey.

          And I think you miss the point about the original Star Trek HubcapDave in terms of pushing boundaries. From what I understood, the showing of skin was meant purely meant to distract the censors away from the real boundary pushing, the underlying allegory critiquing for example American Foreign Policy.

          1. Ironically, this was just a few years after Marilyn Monroe showed some skin and provided a nice distraction for JFK to get his mind off American foreign policy. 🙂

          2. This seems like a variation on: “Artists use lies to tell the truth; politicians use them to cover the truth up.”

  3. I’m still disappointed in the Lorca character. They had the chance to make him so much more and not the obvious choice of a mirror captain. A Lorca who was from a third universe and of a character between the prime universe and the mirror one would have had more depth to him.

    This trek has gotten too dark to be Star Trek. The only ‘good’ characters left are Burnham and Tilly. More and more those are the two characters who feel out of place compared to the rest because they still are trying to follow the ideals of star fleet. I’m actually starting to wonder why there is no real conflict between the characters because of that.

    1. I think Saru tries his best to follow the ideals of Starfleet. He’s just a little brooding sometimes: “Hey, Saru, what’s eating ya, man?”

      (Oh, no he didn’t!) Yep, I did. 🙂

    2. I agree. The Mirror Lorca, like the whole Mirror Universe, is almost laughingly violent. (What happens to waiters who bring soup that’s too hot?) Is Discovery too violent? Yes. How often will they treat us to Tyler Ash flashbacks as we see various parts of his innards exposed? Borders on viscera-porn. OK, OK. It’s Trek for the 21st century audience. I say hogwash! The reason why TOS is still watched after 50 years is because it is not not dark. It’s much easier to write dark. Nevertheless, Discovery has plenty of interesting ideas. I would have preferred a revealed Lorca arrested, on trial, and challenging Starfleet idealism with his edgy pragmatism. A real debate. Instead, he gets a stab in the back by another dark captain. And bonehead Burham decides to bring her to the prime universe. Why? Mommy issues? Phillipa is just as blood thirsty as Lorca and no more trustworthy. The show promises to move towards the light. OK, then. Move!

  4. Ah, now I understand why I have so much hard time not hating (for lack of better word) the dark tone of Discover, while have minimal issue with Battlestar Galactica and, especially, The Expanse, even though in many place The Expanse is probably as dark as Discovery itself, especially the remaining part of book 2 that haven’t made it to TV yet (Agatha King, those who read the book should know what I meant), and pretty much the entire story of book 3.

    The dark tone in DS9, BSG, and The Expanse ENHANCED the story. Everything that is dark is dark for actually believable reasons, and most people that are dicks act that way because the environment forged them to be a dick, not because they want to, and they all show sign that they all want better future (well….aside from Mr. Mao….he’s a pure dick).

    Dark tone in Discovery, on the other hand, DOMINATED the show. Everything is dark because the script demand it, not their personal history, not their environment.

    One of them lead to powerful story development, while the other actually limited the story.

  5. It’s the same thing with Superman.
    Superman is supposed to be the ultimate good guy, honest, brave, loyal, but for an alien, most of the time very human.
    There are those today who feel that’s too old fashioned, too hokey, or too “unrealistic.” Who tries to be a good guy just for the sake of being a good guy anyway?
    So we get a Superman who is grim…dark…almost unfriendly. More Batman than Superman.
    But then in the Supergirl series, we get a very different Superman. He smiles. He talks to the public. He enjoys being super, man! And fans responded to him positively. Why? He was Superman as fans expect him to be.
    Star Trek has become Henry Cavill’s Superman.
    The Orville is Tyler Hoechlin.

  6. I’ve thought it was too dark since almost from the beginning. The tone, the design, the first officer mutinying on her captain of seven years the first time things get tight. I stopped after the first hour of the premiere (that was all I could watch over the air) and haven’t bothered with it since.

    Seems to be just getting darker. Everything about this show screams “smart, hip, cool sci-fi”… but it doesn’t scream Trek.

    I really have no interest in it and hope it’s just a passing phase so we can get back to the optimism and bright colors that are Trek.

  7. DS9 *earned* its time to put their characters through hell and make them do things you might not expect.

    Discovery seems like a show that already thinks its in its second season, a show that thinks you care about the pathos and agony of these people at their worst before it took the time to make you get to know them at their best.

  8. I think time has changed and the Star Trek we knew 25, 30 40 and 50 years ago has had to change as well. DS9 was nothing like what I grew up with in 1966 and conversely I’d say that the Trek that someone who is 25 grew up with was nothing like what was experienced in the ‘70’s TAS episodes. It just seems to me that too many people don’t want to see change and when they do it upsets them.
    However, as we’ve said before Jonathan, this is your blog and you are entitled to your opinion and more and more I am starting to respect it. At first you seemed very angry at Discovery and those were your opinions however lately it seems that your ideas are much more thought out and are not mainly for the reason…because. I appreciate (to me) your new attitude!
    I do want to ask an honest question. Do you really think that your 7 year old son has never heard the f-word? I was an elementary teacher for over 20 years and it was always amazing the words kids use when they think there is no one around to hear them. (And no I didn’t teach in some terrible school!). You’re of course entitled to think what you want but I really don’t think the kids I knew then were so different from today.

    1. True and funny story about Jayden and the F-word…

      A few weeks ago, Jayden and I were discussing his planned trip to Mars when he gets older and what to bring along. This led to a conversation about atmosphere and growing crops, water, climate, and all sorts of other things working against you on the surface of the red planet. And then I thought, “Hey, we should watch THE MARTIAN (the movie with Matt Damon) together and talk about it while we watch!”

      I remembered there was that one line “I’m gonna have to science the shi*t out of this!” and so I explained to Jayden before we started that there might be some “adult angry words” (my term) that he might hear but shouldn’t use because they’re not for kids and they’re angry words (Jayden isn’t an angry kid). That said, I still tried to cough or say something to Jayden just as the bad language was hitting…which is my version of a bleep. But I’d forgotten exactly how much swearing there is in this movie! Even Wendy got kind angry at me for showing it to Jayden, despite how much he was learning about the science.

      Anyway, despite my best efforts to creatively insert noises over the potty language, I missed a major one as Matt Damon’s character yells, “F*ck Mars!!!” Oh, snap. That one came through loud and clear. Time to explain that that was an “adult angry word” and for Jayden not to use it. But before I could say anything, Jayden asked me, “Why did he say ‘Luck Mars?” Mommy immediately answered, “Oh, that’s because he feels lucky to still be alive on Mars, sweetheart.” Yeah, that’ll work. 🙂

      That said, I have no illusions that Jayden will be hurling F-bombs left and right before I know it…along with giving up his belief in Santa Claus and realizing that I never have actually served in Starfleet despite all my uniforms and photos of me on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. But at least for right now, I’ve still got a mostly innocent, adorable 7-year-old. And I’m gonna enjoy that moment for as long as I can stretch it out.

      1. I don’t see the problem with Jayden hearing F-bombs if you think he will use them in the future. I think it says more about us then it does the show if we hold two contradictory views at the same time, that we see no problem with the language using it as adults, but finding it terrible language when it comes to children. Where does this dichotomy come from? If we think of it as bad language, why do we use it?

        I don’t use such language, I don’t see a need to. For me Star Trek not using bad language wasn’t a sign of it being a show aimed as a family show, but because we as a society had grown up in the future, with stress eliminated from most of our lives, especially our early life, growing up in healthy mental environment, we had developed a healthy emotional state where we could talk about our emotions freely without hiding them behind such language.

        1. My only real issue about Jayden using bad language is that, often, I find that swear words “dumb down” the level of conversation. Our language contains so many rich and wonderful words, and if every other word out of one’s mouth is “f*ck” or “sh*t,” then how profound, truly, are one’s thoughts and ideas?

          I’m always ecstatic when I hear Jayden inject new words into what he says (he recently added “glorious” to his repertoire), and I’m go gratified that he does have such an extensive vocabulary–even at the age of 7–as I believe it will serve him well later in life.

          When Jayden’s a little older and wants to swear like a sailor, I won’t stop him. But I am going to request a level of conversational courtesy be employed when speaking with his parents, other family members, and adults in general. In this way, he can still have his “street cred” with his friends and peers, but he’ll also be able to keep in practice and exercise the non-swearing muscles in his brain.

          1. Precisely, and that means you don’t articulate what you want to say very well, and the language we use defines how we think, they reinforce one another. I remember my English teacher telling me she hated the word “nice” as it doesn’t mean anything, to learn to become more descriptive. I have also banned the verb “to be” as that also “dumbs down” the language we use, while also teaching us to think in black and white terms.

            My issue here though lies in whether we refer to these words as “bad” language. To separate the two issues of the repugnant offensive nature of the words; from their ability to dumb down the conversation. I would refer to “offensive language” as “bad language”; but the other as “puerile”, or “inarticulate” language. Of course a strong overlap exists between the two categories, but as we talk about using language intelligently, we should make an effort not to conflate these two overlapping sets of words.

          2. Well, with Jayden, I didn’t tell him they were “bad” words. I used the term “adult angry words.” That being said, I realize that when I take a sh*t, I’m not usually angry about it. And there’s nothing wrong with a good f*ck if you’ve got a willing partner and you aren’t Harvey Weinstein. But at the time, I was dealing with a five-year-old (now seven) and needed a fast and simple way to explain it. And I also gave him kid alternative words like shoot, heck, and snap. There’s no manual for being a parent, and I wasn’t leaning toward an explanation of deeper philosophies of “puerile” and “inarticulate” language versus “offensive.” I just wanted to keep my son innocent and adorable just a little while longer. 🙂

            And totally off topic, I’m also a fan of avoiding the verb “to be.” Not all the time, of course, as I just used “I’m” in the previous sentence. But when I wrote my book several years ago, I worked very hard to keep my sentences in the active and not passive voice as much as I could. It was NOT easy. Or rather, I found it QUITE a challenge! 🙂

      2. I must say, you have a super smart 7 year old…he managed to con both his Mommy and Daddy! I did have a question I was discussing with my son, “How old would you say a kid is old enough to watch Game of Thrones? I said 12-13 but got yelled down. “ (Remember I’m Jewish, 13 = Bar Mitzva = adult)

        1. I’d be okay with a 13 or 14-year-old watching Game of Thrones. But it 1) depends on the child, and 2) I would want to be certain to discuss what we watch and make sure Jayden (or whatever child/teen) is understanding what is going on and why such behavior might seem okay on Westeros and Essos but not here.

          And while I know you were trying to be funny about Jayden conning his parents, I’d like to request that you don’t make those kinds of jokes in the future. While Jayden is certainly clever and will occasionally sneak a marshmallow when he’s not supposed to, Jayden does’t “con” his parents. You might not believe it, but my son really does not know the word f*ck. He does know sh*t, and we’ve discussed how there’s a child equivalent to that that he is allowed to use: “shoot.” And he does. He’ll also say, “Oh, snap!” as opposed to “Oh, crap!”

          And yeah, I know I’m living in a state of grace. The floodgates to swearing are starting to open. But please don’t assume things about my son, especially when it pertains to his being dishonest with his parents.

          1. I assumed nothing Jonathan…I made an observation and a joke, that’s it. I’d understand your feelings if I was being serious but as a joke I feel you’re being a bit too sensitive, unless Jayden reads your blog…in that case I apologize. Hopefully you don’t think I’m being disrespectful since as an Opa, a father and a teacher I would never do that in relation to a child. From what I’ve read you seem to be a good Dad and Jaydin seems to be a great kid…we disagree about Star Trek, not children!

          2. No harm no foul, Edward. I know you were likely joking (and I think I even said as much), but it just didn’t sit right with me, and I wanted to share that reaction. It wasn’t an admonition so much as a request. No, Jayden doesn’t read this blog (at least, not at present), but as his parent, I do still feel quite protective of his “reputation. I’m sure you understand.

        1. Nope. Jayden isn’t old enough or mature enough yet for that level of obfuscation, Mickey. I’m sure he will be someday, but those talents of charming deceit don’t usually develop until a slightly older age. Seven-year-olds are still pretty awful liars…not that they don’t try. They just have haven’t honed the skills yet.

          That said, I’m the world’s worst liar. I just can’t do it; I suck at deceit. My wife likes to say that she never has to worry about me having an affair because I’m likely to call her during the tryst itself and confess. She’s probably right. Anyway, we’re modeling that same behavior of honesty for Jayden, and the most severe consequences (punishments) for him are when he lies to us. And while, yes, there’s a Darwinian risk that setting up such negative outcomes for lying only leads to Jayden developing ever more effective techniques for deceit, we’re still hopeful that, instead, we’re helping him develop a mature conscience and maturity to know that lying is wrong.

          We’ll see if I’m still as confident and cocksure in another five years. 🙂

  9. Okay okay okay! I was wrong about Lorca! Look – I’m eating humble pie, but it tastes like Kelpian. Or is it Georghiou? Can’t tell – so much cannibalism in this show…

    So Lorca’s cat is indeed out of the bag, thanks to the highly convenient and hastily-invented fact that MU-types don’t like bright lights. Couldn’t they all just wear sunglasses? Think how much more bad-ass they would look. Imagine a bearded Spock, with Ray-Bans…

    It’s almost a shame for Lorca, as (in my humble opinion) I think he would have been a far more interesting character if he were just deeply flawed, as opposed to ‘evil’. We can now only assume he has a real-world counterpart who is probably very dull, and keeps kittens and fluffy toys in his ready room instead of Gorn skeletons and bump-stock phaser rifles.

    As for broader issues, then hell yes – it’s dark, and far more so than it needs to be. At its heart, classic Trek (of any iteration) *made you want to join the adventure* creating generations of wanna-be astronauts, or wide-eyed scientists inventing everything from flip-phones and iPads to satellite communications and space tourism. Or indeed to make fan films, large or small. It was *inspiring stuff* on so many levels. Regrettably, there’s little of that present in STD.

    The BSG reboot was certainly dark – and entertaining to be sure – but often exhausting since almost every character was flawed to the point of dysfunction. That level of antipathy between characters is hard to maintain – and indeed watch – without running out of steam. Which is kinda what the show did, with its own unsustainable mythology and rather bonkers ending. A warning indeed for STD.

    I do agree that The Orville has captured a brighter vision of the future whilst still being able to embrace human drama in space. And it does so in a universe that’s still full of wonders and adventure. Sure, it throws the occasional dud, but in general the whole thing seems much more *enjoyable*.

    On the bright side – I got 8/1 on Mirror Landry returning : ) Yay!

    1. Yep, Mirror Landry…check.

      I suppose the only ones left for the Mirror Universe to show us will be Mirror T’Kuvma, Mirror L’Rell, Mirror Culber, Mirror Cornwell, and Mirror Harry Mudd. Oh, and Mirror Captain America (or whatever the name is of that cyborg chick on the bridge crew).

  10. When you say “I can’t decide whether or not I like it” That for me was enough to decide that I didn’t way back when. That phrase can only last for so long. Given how many episodes you have invested your time in watching, and you still can’t decide, should tell you something.

    Oh, and of course we have the BRIGHT future that Axanar paints, and the applause it received, so yup, still possible :).

    1. I don’t necessarily agree. I didn’t really like or hate TNG or DS9 when I first watched their initial seasons. My feelings were just as conflicted about the these two series during their infancies. But I believed in them both, stuck with them through episodes like “Ugly bags of mostly water” and endless scenarios where Wesley saved the ship to eventually be rewarded with two fine and wonderful series. And so I stick with Discovery.

  11. I found your article on point. I am a 48 year fan of Star Trek and my reaction on seeing the first episode was anger. What had they done to my Star Trek? The dreams the hope the greatness of humanity? I knew in my heart what I expected and it wasn’t Discovery it was The Orville. So I stayed my course and hated Discovery. I became a huge fan of The Orville instead. I was content to watch The Expanse, Dark Matter and my old Star Trek series in it’s place. Even JJ’s timeline was better. But as time passed my dislike turned to curiosity at what episode two was about and how the series was progressing. So I gave in (mostly hating that I had to pay access for a show I had been loyal to for four almost five decades) and tuned in. Yes it’s dark and way over the top at times. I wasn’t a fan of all the tech they had for a show that was set before TOS but I watched. Because my love of Roddenberry’s vision gave me one thing above all else, hope. As I watched the characters seeped into my blood and awoke a spark that, I thought had gone out when Voyager ended. I realized that the candle was still lit in the window. As I watched I began a new love affair with Discovery and her crew and their inner demons. For me it felt right now that I took it into context of our current social and world issues. Discovery has been a flame for me now and I doubt I could extinguish it anytime soon. I was/am invested and have been for years. When Enterprise came out I disliked it but loved the cast. As the seasons continued the story lines improved and roped me in. Seasons three and four were Star Trek but for whatever reason it was doomed. Enterprise was cut too short for my tastes. It still had a great deal of potential that was snuffed out to soon. Though the last episode was horrible to watch. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have learned to wait and appreciate where the journey will take me, has taken me since my first Star Trek show. And Discovery is taking me to places I thought I’d never see with Star Trek. I do agree that it does needs a bit more lightness and clarity of vision but it’s still in it’s infancy. Star Trek TOS for me was a show I could believe in. The ideals of a society achieving all that humans can achieve. I wish this new series success for that others in our future can continue to watch these episodes an take humanity where no one has gone before (couldn’t help that!). Long live Roddenberry’s creation, Star Trek.

  12. Hi Jonathan,

    While I quit watching after episode 4, I get plenty from reviews like this, and many others on YouTube. Speaking of which, here is a fabulous music compilation in which 50 years of Trek anniversary music even sounds, “Hopeful” !!!
    https://youtu.be/gfXhmdjOqGI
    (Wear headphones, turn up in high)
    Perhaps it will help cheer you up?
    And keep the reviews coming, please.

      1. All comments are moderated on this blog site, David. And I don’t always have time to get to them immediately since I have other daily tasks to keep me busy, as well. Yesterday was doubly problematic, as I managed to catch a stomach virus and could barely keep my eyes open for most of the day. I’m playing catch-up now.

  13. Very good analysis of the state of the series! I wish I could share your hope that Discovery (or whatever show with Star Trek in the name will follow) may become a positive vision again.

    Most fans (or at least those who appear as a majority because they are very vocal, if not to say aggressive) seem to be quite pleased with the current direction though. But what’s worse than fans who tick off when “haters” find flaws in their series is the more or less “professional” media coverage. Almost all reviews of Discovery that I read are governed by compliance. If they include any kind of critical notes, its’s minor quibbles, and usually exactly the ones that the producers want the fans to talk about. There are very few notable people left who still ask uncomfortable questions, who apply yardsticks other than “it’s the 21st century, it needs to be competitive” and who address the horde of elephants in the room.

    It’s a pleasure every time I visit this blog.

    1. “It’s a pleasure every time I visit this blog.”

      One thing I noticed during my first year of writing this blog (back when I approved every comment–even the hateful ones), is that I could get a hundred that said stuff like you just said, Bernd, and then get one that would say, “You’re a really terrible writer” or “You’re just a shill/hack/idiot” and it would bring down my whole mood for hours or even days. Just one negative remark could cancel out all of the good ones because it would stick with me like a splinter.

      Then I realized something. The process could work just as effectively in REVERSE! I find one really good or positive statement, and then I just let that one lift me out of any funk created by the negative comments. I’ve been doing that for the last year or so, and I’ve built up quite the collection of positives and praise. Any time I say to someone, “That’s one going up on my wall,” I’m not entirely kidding. I have a Word doc filled with the best of the best of the encouraging comments. And while they’re not actually up on the wall of my office, they are sitting on my hard drive…easily accessible.

      So thank you, Bernd, for the compliment. It’s definitely going up on my “wall.” 🙂

      1. Well, I don’t collect the positive comments. But knowing that some intelligent people are with me or at least willing to discuss, more than cancels out the rage directed at me.

        1. What do people possibly have to be angry at you about, Bernd??? I mean, I’ve inherited Alec Peter’s detractors because I stand by him, but all you do is provide every possible detail about the world of Star Trek to people. Who could get pissed off at you for doing that???

  14. “But there’s still hope for, well, hope in season two.”
    I really, really hope so. At the moment Disco is a perversion of Trek, a wild mixture of murder, torture, sort of cannibalism, abuse and death. Yes, I know, it’s the mirror universe, but I have the strong impression this is just a lame excuse for showing all this under the Trek label.
    I don’t say Disco is a bad show (neither a good one, but this is a totally different topic), but it’s treating the core values of Trek like garbage.
    Is there really a chance of going back to what Trek once was? Will the writers and producers say “enough with all the darkness and cruelty, we’re now evolving back to a utopian world”. Honestly, I don’t see that happen.

  15. Indeed this tale is dark, but what a story of character, of war, of clash of “civilizations” it is! What delightful irony that Emperor Georgiou relates to Burnham the ideals of the Federation and Starfleet that Captain Georgiou died to maintain, and that those ideals were the dangerous infection that had to be classified from USS Defiant’s database (after all, Imperial Terran society had abandoned them long ago!). Of all the places for Burnham’s sense of identity and ethics to be affirmed: a supra-fascist Spartan society led by murderous psychopaths. Once this war story concludes, Season 2 (and hopefully others) will rest on a foundation of everything the Federation and Starfleet mean as a civilization to the Prime universe story’s characters (and to we TOS fans) by having put Burnham through hell in experiencing what the negation of that society and naval institution are in Trek’s ethos. From my perch, this episode goes back up to Fantastic because of the uncompromising clarity with which it directly shows Empire (murder, madness, destruction, psychosis) and how Federation (democracy, rule of law, scientific exploration, honor) by implication is it’s antipode. And now, Captain Lorca (yes, I thought he was a military man of honor) appears to be the killer who is the Enemy even in this abominable Imperial society (what an achievement?). No doubt Burnham will have to face him in combat and decide who is the primary danger to her ideals: Lorca or Emperor?

    1. For these reasons and others, I can’t bring myself to hate or completely disparage this show. I enjoy it, too. It’s a very engaging sci-fi saga with strong characters and solid storytelling. It just doesn’t feel like it should be considered Star Trek…at least for me. But that’s just me.

  16. As a non-watcher of STD originally for cost and the Axanar affair, I did wonder if I had made a mistake. Your review convinced me that I made the right decision and that I’m not going to regret skipping this show, at least from what we’ve seen so far.

  17. I don’t know is this is gona be received as a strange opinion, but, personally, when darker he tries “Discovery” to be, less dark I find it to become.

    Their depiction of the Terran Empire would be a good summation of my opinion: I don’t find them “dark” at all, just comically evil.

    When it was revealed than Lorca was Mirror Lorca, I felt like the writers were throwing through the window all the dark themes that could have been explored through Lorca’s character: how war can change a person, to what extent it is morally permissible to arrive when confronting a threat that can result in your annihilation, what happens when “doing things right” will just ensure your doom… Revealing that Lorca WAS EVIL ALL ALONG because he comes from a universe where ALL HUMANS ARE EVIL means that Mirror Lorca couldn’t care less if the Federation wins or loses its war. He just wanted to return to his home universe. The Klingon-Federation war doesn’t means anything to him. He has seen much worse thing on any Tuesday in the Mirror Universe.

    I’m moderately enjoying “Discovery”, although it has a lot of things that I don’t like and smother any desire to see it for a second time (or buy the series when it comes in DVD), but “being dark” it’s one of the criticism that I’m not sure it really applies, or at least I think that Star Trek it has already gone many times to much more darkest places than “Discovery” wants or it is able to be.

    1. I realize this isn’t a direct reply to anything specific that you just said (all good points, though), but I just want to say…

      THANK YOU!!!!

      THANK YOU!!!!

      THANK YOU!!!!

      …for properly using the phrase “COULDN’T care less”!

      People saying “could care less” when that really makes no sense because it means the opposite of what they want to say is one of my biggest pet peeves at the moment.

  18. It is definitely too dark for me, I do not understand that to be “adult” and mature it has to become sinister and unpleasant. I understand the dark arguments when history requires it, (Galactica’s argument premise left little room for comedy). but in Discovery I see a need for “artifial” darkness … they think- “the dark series (Game of Trones, Walking dead, Breaking bad) are Cool, ok let’s be Cool being the darkest of the TV ” and They have crossed all my red lines, they have left no room for hope, honor, loyalty … (I would follow Sisko or Picard to the doors of Tanhausser, but if I saw Lorca waiting for the turbolift I would take the Jefriess tube )… Kelpiano in green sauce? What will be next? Chilled andorian brain ?, if I were Burham I would not ask for Plomek soup … just in case

    1. “I would follow Sisko or Picard to the doors of Tanhausser, but if I saw Lorca waiting for the turbolift I would take the Jefriess tube”

      You win the Internet today, Patricia! That was totally awesome.

  19. I think my biggest dislike about this show lies not in the darkness that Lorca has given us, but the complicit nature of the crew following Lorca’s orders blindly.

    Remember TNG:The Pegasus, where virtually all of the crew rebelled against their captain because they knew it was wrong?

    To have respect for the Discovery crew, we need to see them going up against Lorca not when they find it easy to do so, once they have found him out, but when they still regard him as there CO, going up against people whom you trust and have confidence in.

    1. You might be asking a lot of them, Jack. At the risk of officially bringing this blog into compliance with Goodwin’s Law, look at Hitler and Nazi Germany. Yes, the Nazi leaders and soldiers themselves were evil, but the Germans who went along with them and followed their Führer weren’t necessarily bad people, despite being complicit and not standing up to authority. Look at the experiments of Stanley Milgram from the 1960s if you don’t believe me. It’s not easy to mutiny under an authority figure higher up in the chain of command, whether it’s your captain or just some laboratory psychologist you met five minutes ago.

      Now, that being said, one would hope there would be more “noble” crews in the 23rd/24th century than there were in mid-20th century Germany or 1963 Connecticut. But for every USS Pegasus, there is likely also a USS Equinox. 🙂

      1. Totally in agreement with that appreciation ,,, the sad thing for me is when the Showrunners decide that it is more “appropriate to our times” give prominence to the Equinox and forget the Pegasus …

      2. Much agreed. It goes without saying that in a military organization, mutiny is a momentous step for a member to take. If memory serves, USS Pegasus’ crew knew that their experimental stealth device violated a well known treaty signed by the Federation with the Romulans; there was a written legal authority with which to judge the captain of the ship. Discovery’s crew in the story probably regarded Captain Lorca as a combat veteran who could ably lead them in a war that Starfleet was in the process of losing (Mirror Lorca certainly fooled several of we fans flawlessly). As well, Discovery was an experimental warship, so (I would think) the crew would not be surprised by orders beyond normal procedures. Finally, the opening drama of the show involved Burnham destroying her career and honor by attacking Georgiou and attempting to seize control of Shenzhou’s weapons as Burnham correctly sensed disaster coming for both her captain and ship. But it was for naught, as Georgiou was killed, the Shenzhou lost, the Federation was entangled in war, and Burnham was ruined.

  20. My question was (weirdly related to Discovery) ‘What age would it be considered appropriate to allow a child to watch Game of Thrones? I said 12-13 (Jewish – adult – Bar Mitzvah) other people feel that is too young. After our talk about f-bombs I wanted to ask here.

  21. Once again… your arguments make sense to Star Trek Fans… however once again (last time I use once again) Discovery is not made for Star Trek Fans. It’s made for the general public masses who vastly outnumber Star Trek Fans. The people writing, producing, directing acting etc… are well aware what they are making. Star Trek is the background to this Science Fiction Drama. Jonathan you yourself have said it using different wordage.

    Star Trek originally was not good fiction… decent drama yes… but there was better… Asimov, Clarke… how about Sturgeon and Ellison. You think if they had the opportunity to write for Discovery they would turn out Orville or Lost in Space… maybe Discovery wouldn’t be as dark… except if Ellison was running the show. I bring up Lost in Space not to insult Orville. Orville is good at what it does and Discovery is good at what it does. I would even say Discovery is very good to excellent at what it does.

    Yes maybe it is like Game of Thrones in Space… but it is dammed good Space Drama. It’s too bad Axanar won’t see its concept turned into reality. Personally I think many of the nay sayers who appear here are closet Discovery watchers anyway and their main beef is with CBS over the Star Trek Fan Films 10 rules of engagement and they would hate anything put out by CBS or Paramount to be successful. My prediction is a 3 year run for both Discovery and Orville… enough episodes for a syndicated package for both.

    1. It’s funny, but the more I watch of the series and the more I see of the interviews on AfterTrek and elsewhere, the more I think that–yes–they are writing this show for the fans after all. Despite initially (possibly) hoping to draw in the casual non-Trekker who likes sci-fi, I suspect the writers realized that they have to build an audience on top of a core viewership. And that’s why there are SO MANY little easter eggs (perhaps too many?–that’s another discussion entirely) that harken back to five decades of Star Trek.

      As for the Disco Infernals (those complaining about the new series here and elsewhere), I don’t believe they are simply pissed off over the fan film guidelines, and here’s three reasons why I’m pretty confident about this…

      1) Trekkers will bitch about Star Trek if they don’t like what they see. Case in point: JJ Trek. Long before there were any guidelines, fans kvetched about the Kelvin-verse as much as they’re kvetching about Discovery.

      2) There aren’t enough fans who give a shat about the guidelines to support the number of fans on Facebook and elsewhere who post negative comments about Discovery. Even at its height, Small Access had about 1,200 members. There’s WAAAAAAY more than that griping about the new series! Look at the thousands of negative viewer reviews on RottenTomatoes or the tens of thousands of views (and likes) of negative reviews posted on YouTube. I can’t believe all of them are simply pissed off at the guidelines. They just feel that Discovery isn’t Star Trek. And guess what–according to the writer of episode 13 and also Jason Isaacs (who were both on AfterTrek this week)–the writers knew it, too!

      3) Many fans aren’t watching the series at all simply because they don’t want to have to pay for it, and not because of the guidelines at all. Some of the people posting negatively here and elsewhere are pissed about the subscription model…not the guidelines.

      And finally, syndication. Discovery just had a 15-episode first season. Orville had 13 episodes. Assuming about the same number of episodes for seasons two and three (Orville’s second season order was confirmed at 13, as well), that leaves Discovery at only 45 completed episodes and Orville at 39 after three seasons…well short of the 100 episodes generally required to justify a syndication package. Each series would need to stay on the air for at least TWICE as long as three seasons…which might be asking for a lot. But we’ll see, Xman.

  22. Understood….too late for my son, 10 years in the Navy ruined him! Now the grand boys on the other hand! (Phooey) We agree!

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