Pilot Perception: Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek Discovery

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access in the U.S. and Space Channel in Canada, Sundays at 8/7c

The Pedigree: Star Trek: Discovery was created by Alex Kurtzman (Fringe, the recent Star Trek movies) and Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), who wrote the pilot along with Akiva Goldsman (Fringe). David Semel (The Man in the High Castle) directed.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) along with Doug Jones (Falling Skies), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful), Anthony Rapp (Rent), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Mary Wiseman (Longmire), Chris Obi (American Gods), Mary Chieffo (Shelby’s Vacation), James Frain (Orphan Black), Rainn Wilson (Backstrom), Kenneth Mitchell (Frequency), and Wilson Cruz (Red Band Society).

The Premise: The show is set ten years before the original series and follows a young Starfleet commander and her ship as they explore the edges of Federation space. There are Klingons. And I don’t want to say too much more, because it’s worth going into this premiere unspoiled.

A Taste:

 

What Works: I am in the ideal demographic to like this show — I’m an enthusiastic but casual Star Trek fan, with no particular expectations nor attachments — and I indeed liked it quite a lot! A few characters captured my interest right from the beginning, when I thought this might be a somewhat standard “encounter of the week” set-up, and by the end, when it became clear that it was not that at all, I was both impressed by where they were going and totally hooked. I honestly did not expect the premiere to surprise me as much as it did. Martin-Green is a strong, flawed lead, and I like that it’s clear already that in this version of the universe, actions have consequences. I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about the other characters and the various political situations. Also: the opening titles are gorgeous.

What Doesn’t: These first episodes have a lot of exposition — too much, at times — and it gets bogged down, especially in the Klingon scenes. The pacing is uneven and the writing sometimes clunky, as the show rushes to get a bunch of stuff established for both new and returning Star Trek viewers. The good thing is that none of these issues are fatal, and they’re all pretty common to premieres of shows that even out later. (Also, some fans are upset about the Starfleet uniforms being wrong and the starship tech being too fancy, but honestly, I don’t care about that stuff. But if you do, be forewarned!)

Our Favorite Line: “You can see my analogy, more or less.” “Less.”

You Might Like This well, if you like Star Trek, but I guess that’s obvious! Though hear me out: There was some concern about whether this show would feel like Star Trek, and it does. Some of the serialized strands also feel a bit like Battlestar Galactica so far.

If You’re Interested: New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery will be available in the U.S. each Sunday on CBS All Access. In Canada, you can watch the two-part premiere on demand or on the Space Channel site, the set your DVRs for Sundays at 8/7c. It will also be available for Canadian viewers the following evening on CraveTV.

(Photo courtesy of CBS.)

About Kate

Kate Linnea Welsh is a New Hampshire-based writer and taxonomist. (No, that doesn't involve dead animals.) She keeps us up to date on TV news in her weekly column "Caffeine." She writes about other TV shows, books, and more at her blog and her site Read the Screen. She'd love to talk to you on Twitter: @katelinnea