Yet, we, as viewers, don’t recoil at these actions. We root for them because we have spent years falling in love with this crew. We trust that they have noble intentions. It doesn’t seem out of character. Simply put: We like these guys.
That affection hasn’t been built up yet on “Discovery,” which is part of the reason the mutiny in the pilot was risky. There’s no reason to like Burnham at this point. She’s been written as a one-note character whose emotional range stretches from morose to angry. She’s supposed to be the show’s hero, yet she’s given the qualities of an antihero.
“Discovery” is not, thus far, a fun show. No one seems to like each other. There have been no humorous relationship-developing moments, like when Data learned small talk or Spock picks up cursing.
But the show’s promise is still there. Whatever it is, it isn’t boring. It has action and strong casting. It has the opposite problem that faced “The Next Generation” faced at its beginning. In the Times review of early episodes, critic John J. O’Conner wrote in 1987, “The rest of us can only hope that things get a little livelier in coming weeks.” Thankfully that show eventually found its (warp) core!
1. The first look at the U.S.S. Discovery
Every version of “Trek” does something like this at some point to introduce its ship. (See here, here and here.). The grand, sweeping introduction to the Discovery was the show’s purest “Trek” moment yet. This one didn’t disappoint. The look of the show continues to be stellar — and the exterior of the Discovery looks magnificent.
2. Captain Lorca
I was sad to see Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou gone after two episodes, but I am here for Lorca. Mr. Isaacs’s no-nonsense gruff nature and mysterious motives, combined with his own unique charm (and an ambivalence toward rules that has echoes of Kirk and Sisko), will make him compelling. The writers lose points for having Lorca literally say that he is mysterious, though.
3. The boarding party
Kudos to Akiva Goldsman, who directed this episode, for the scenes where the Discovery team is on the U.S.S. Glenn (likely named after John Glenn). The staging, cinematography and editing draws viewers in with a horror film sensibility.
What doesn’t work
1. The plot is all over the place.
I wish I wore a helmet to protect my head from all the scratching. A prisoner transport ship is manned by one pilot? She might as well have been wearing a red shirt. (I couldn’t tell, but it is implied that the pilot’s safety tether broke and she was sucked into space. We don’t know because she is never brought up again.)
Burnham is told that when she is not working, she is confined to quarters. Yet, she is easily able to leave her quarters later to break into engineering, where apparently no one is working late. And why does Captain Lorca insist on Burnham being part of the crew? She’s a known mutineer whom the crew loathes and already has disobeyed a superior officer on Discovery by breaking into the lab. On top of that, Saru gives Lorca his blessing to send Burnham on an away mission, despite the fact that just few moments earlier, he told Burnham to her face that she’s dangerous.
2. Paul Stamets
Anthony Rapp plays Lieutenant Paul Stamets. Mr. Rapp is an undeniably talented actor (“Rent”) but his first impression in “Discovery” is one of a meanspirited, patronizing and constantly condescending astromicologist. Stamets repeatedly berates Burnham for asking seemingly reasonable questions. (Remember, if you zoom out, Burnham is also asking questions about complicated science on behalf of the audience too.) It was an uncomfortable portrayal, and he’s supposed to be one of the good guys. I understand the crew being suspicious of Burnham, but Stamets came off as a one-note bully.
Contrast that with how we meet Data in the opening minutes of “Encounter at Farpoint,” the “Next Generation” pilot. In the opening minutes of the episode, Data is befuddled by the word “snoop,” which leads to a humorous exchange where Picard has to explain it to him. We learn a lot about Data in that moment: That he is inquisitive and removed from humanity. We also learn about Picard in that short exchange. He is shown to be patient with Data. To an extent. And that dynamic will be the foundation of a long running bond that lasts through the television series and the movies.
If this is the foundation for Stamets, it’s not going to be pleasant.
Did you catch that?!
1. I’m sure there were other callbacks, but the most important one: Burnham refers to Spock!
Burnham hands her a roommate a copy of “Alice In Wonderland” and says, “My foster mother on Vulcan used to read it to me and her son. She and I were the only humans in the house.” She then reveals her mother’s name: Amanda. Amanda refers to Amanda Grayson, Spock’s human mother, and “her son” presumably refers to Spock. It was revealed in pre-“Discovery” press that Burnham is the adoptive daughter of Sarek and Grayson. What is still not clear — and I doubt it ever will be — is how the existence of Burnham was never mentioned by Spock.
2. That sure looked and sounded like a tribble on Lorca’s desk. Tribbles were part of one of the most famous episodes of the original series, “The Trouble With Tribbles.” This is fan service, plain and simple. The Enterprise crew had never heard of Tribbles. It’s unclear why Lorca would have one on his desk more than a decade beforehand. But you know what? I’m good with it.
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