"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Discovering Star Trek: Discovery

One of my favorite lines in any movie or television show is Jake Houseman (played by the inimitable Jerry Orbach) lamely apologizing to Johnny in Dirty Dancing - "when I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong".  That's what I have to say about not watching Star Trek: Discovery until the past few days.  I wasn't in the mood for another Star Trek series, I didn't like paying for or even just watching yet another streaming service.  But I was wrong.

I saw Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access and loved it (here's my review).  But I of course was already very well acquainted with the character, so how could I resist not viewing his further adventures and tribulations?  Most of the characters in Star Trek: Discovery are new - the series takes place about ten years prior to Star Trek: TOS - and I wasn't eager to meet yet another whole new group of people in this saga.  But I did enjoy the new characters in Picard, and I figured, ok, it can't hurt to watch a least the first few episodes of Discovery.  I watched the whole first season of 15 episodes in three days.  And as soon as I finish this review, I'm going to start watching the second season of Discovery.

In case you haven't yet seen Discovery, I'm going to avoid specific spoilers.  I can tell you that time loops, alternate universes, Klingons, new modes of faster-than-light travel, and characters with all kinds of surprising true identities figure in this first season.   One major character from the original series plays a major role in Discovery, and at least one minor but memorable character pops up.  If you think about it, a narrative that takes place just a decade prior to the original Star Trek series has an enormous burden, to get it just right. The "it" is a story that is captivating and satisfying in its own right, while both setting up and not disrupting or contradicting what we know is coming next - what we know, and, in the case of me and many other people, have loved and treasured now for some fifty years.  I'd say Discovery by and large succeeds in this, admirably.

There's some distracting burlesquing and caricature - especially in a few of the Klingon scenes - but this is balanced by a winning subtlety, as when we get confirmation of the time in which this story takes place with a list that's called up of the greatest Star Fleet captains, which ends with Christopher Pike.  The science is by and large ok, though I caught a gaff from one of the new major characters, who reminisces that "I was in a wonderful cafe on Alpha Centauri" (Alpha Centauri is a star not a planet).  But speaking of the new major characters, they all were excellent, and more than enough to make me want to see what happens to those who survived.

I'll tell you what I think of their story when I post my review here of the second season of Discovery, likely within the coming week.

See also: Star Trek: Picard: Non-Pareil ... Star Trek: Discovery 2: Tour de Force Story and Characters



Dave Creek said...

I'm glad you see you enjoyed DISCOVERY. I did, too, and I think you'll find the second season is even better. So many people got bogged down with supposed continuity issues, including the question of why the tech looks so much more advanced than TOS. The answer, according to one of the producers, is that they're doing a show in 2020 rather than 1966!

Anonymous said...

Made in Toronto, btw

Paul Levinson said...

Dave - ha - good answer about why tech looks more modern!

Paul Levinson said...

Anon - thanks for the info - I'm not surprised - a lot of good things are made in Toronto (one of my favorite cities!)

Cora Buhlert said...

I initially wasn't very happy with season 1 of Star Trek Discovery, but I have recently started watching it with a friend who's never seen it before and upon second viewing, season 1 was much better than I remembered.

Season 2 is a huge improvement over season 1 and we get to meet some old favourites from the original series era.

Paul Levinson said...

Hi Cora! I loved season 2, for all kinds of reasons. I just reviewed it earlier today -- https://paullevinson.blogspot.com/2020/04/star-trek-discovery-2-tour-de-force.html -- and will be putting up an audio podcast (a new episode of Light On Light Through) with reviews of both seasons of Discovery, and Picard, tomorrow.