Originally Published on There Are Four Mics – A Star Trek Podcast
(We’re moving our Star Trek Discovery related content over here where it belongs)
Star Trek Discovery season two is starting here in just a week, and I think I’ve got just enough time to squeeze in a re-watch of the entire first season. So I’m going to do that. Especially with that fancy new Star Trek Discovery Blu-ray I was talking about this morning. And I’m also going to work through my feelings about each of these episodes on this blog right here with tons of random thoughts. My philosophy is a simple one: the more people talking about Star Trek, the better the world is. It’s our social obligation to do our parts! First up? The Vulcan Hello. (Check out that episode of the Star Trek Discovery podcast!)
I want it to be clear that I am a huge Star Trek Discovery fan. I’m not one of these weirdos who argue that it isn’t actually Star Trek, or it’s the worst Star Trek, or anything of the sort.
I get that out of the way because this opening sequence on the desert planet with Michael Burnham and Philippa Georgiou was…a struggle. They aren’t actually having a conversation with one another. They’re just talking to us.
“Oh, hello, Michael Burnham my trusted commander for the last seven years.”
“Why hello, Captain. It is quite unfortunate a local mining accident dried up this planet’s water table and we are walking our way over to fix it for them”
And sure, that’s not an actual quote. But it isn’t far off. It was clunky, unnatural and awkward as hell, and doesn’t improve upon rewatch. I feel like this portion must have been written and filmed before the episode proper, as this awkwardness drops away immediately as soon as it shifts over to the Shenzhou. I am happy that the desert planet sequence exists, however. Georgiou’s plan to walk in the shape of the Starfleet insignia was a helluva beautiful sight.
Visually, everything is literally out of this world. That opening shot after the credits where it’s zooming through the destroyed probe with the spinning camera until it zooms in through the viewscreen of Shenzhou? It’s beyond stunning. This show deserves every visual effects award available.
I know the Klingon redesign is a controversial, but I’m here for it. According to the special features of the Blu-ray, their idea was that the Klingons have an empire, so it doesn’t seem far-fetched that residents of these different Klingon worlds might have different appearances. It works for me, especially with Chris Obi as T’Kuvma being the focus of the first two episodes. I haven’t seen Obi in anything else, but this fella has a commanding presence. I have zero doubts as to what made all these people turn to him as their Messiah.
Somehow I’d forgotten that Maulik Pancholy was the Shenzhou’s medical officer, so seeing him again was an unexpected delight. I believe his fate is left unclear, but after the events of season one, I do think there might be an opening for medical officer aboard the Discovery. The ship would be better for his presence.
Burnham leaving the bridge in the middle of the crisis to call her dad still strikes me as a little bit odd even on rewatch. It seems surprising that the story of the Vulcans first contact with the Klingons isn’t available in the Federation database, especially considering how free-wheeling Sarek seems to be with that information. My guess is that it was shoehorned in a bit in order to get James Frain as Sarek a bit more screen time in the pilot. More James Frain and more Sarek is always a good move, in my opinion, so it makes it forgivable. Especially because it seems like Sarek is playing the role of serving as the connecting fabric for the viewer between the other series, just like McCoy did on The Next Generation and Picard did on Deep Space Nine.
I’m not sure I agree with Burnham’s effort to attempt a mutiny and initiate an interstellar war, but I’m also not sure I disagree, either. On the one hand, as viewers, we know the Klingons. They love some fighting. But I don’t feel like she has enough information to convince her to such a dramatic and severe conclusion. The Vulcans started firing first _after_ the Klingons fired first. Starfleet has had interactions with the Klingon Empire, and Archer never felt the need to fire first. Our contact with the Klingons has been entirely different than the Vulcans. It seems one heckuva leap to me for her to ignore all those other Starfleet contacts and adopt the hyper-aggressive Vulcan response.
Overall this was a great start to the series, even with what I feel like are few hiccups. One thing that I find to be entirely unimpeachable? Everybody’s performances. There isn’t a lemon in this bunch, and I’m grateful I have the opportunity to watch them. This episode was particularly great at emphasizing the Star Trek that we all know and love. This is the era of exploration and curiosity. The defining missions in this episode are to fix a probe and end a drought. These are Star Trek missions. This episode marks a transition into a more militarized era, and does a beautiful job setting up that demarcation.
Pick up all of season one on Blu-ray from Amazon here.