'Star Trek: Discovery' returns with more movie-quality science fiction
By Edward Wallace • Staff Writer
With so many franchises letting us down due to the pandemic, Star Trek: Discovery returns on time with another season of movie-quality sci-fi entertainment.
Its newest voyage is a great jumping-on point for new fans. To protect a rapidly evolving alien artifact fused with their ship from an evil computer intelligence, the crew of the Starship Discovery have used an experimental device to travel nearly a thousand years into the future. A prequel to the missions of Captain Kirk is now a sequel to the adventures of Captain Picard.
Showrunners Alex Kurtzman, Michelle Paradise, and Heather Kadin’s adult writing, and darker, serialized stories, are more in keeping with Deep Space Nine and Nicholas Meyer’s films than the four-color pulp tone of Gene Roddenberry’s Silver Age original or the cozier Next Generation, Enterprise, and Voyager.
The effects and action are easily the equal of the Abrams' Trek films. You won’t be hearing the Beastie Boys, but composer Jeff Russo’s cinematic soundtrack continues to wow. Taking Star Trek’s setting to the far future allows a fresh spin on classic aliens and concepts without the need for retcon. New technology can be a source of wonder instead of a continuity chafe. The fugly Klingon design from Season One have been left behind so far in the ash bin of history.
Continuing a tradition of using science fiction to address real-world issues with hope, this season’s arc investigates an interstellar catastrophe called The Burn and the need for a fractured Federation to pull together. It’s the characters and drama that make the show where problems aren’t neatly wrapped up at the end of each hour and wounds take time to heal.
The heroes have left behind everything they know and love, but still find hope. Saru (Doug Jones), a prey alien now liberated from fear, must grow into the role of captain. Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has stepped up from cadet to officer. Navigator Stamets (Anthony Rapp) deals with a lost lover Dr. Culber ( Wilson Cruz) back from the dead. Wild card Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), former tyrant from a parallel universe, is destined to rebuild an ends-justify-the-means spy network.
The first episode focuses on main character Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) as she arrives in the future ahead of her team and must come face-to-face with crushing truths as she is drawn into an action packed adventure worthy of The Mandalorian’s raised bar. New characters from the future include Book (David Ajala), a daring rogue and likely romantic interest for Burnham, introduced in the first episode. There’s no Baby Yoda, but we do have Grudge the Maine Coon cat.
Later we’ll meet Gray (Ian Alexander), a Trill (a transgender symbiotic life form),and Adira (Blu del Barrio) a non-binary ally, treated with the same professionalism and respect that has helped other marginalized groups find acceptance in Star Trek. Somehow this will eventually link to the stand-alone Short Trek mini-episode Calypso, which I recommend as the best way to recruit Discovery skeptics.