Let’s face it, if you’re of a certain age, and grew up during a certain era, the chances are there’s at least a bit of a trekkie in you.
And after a long hiatus from our TV screens, the Star Trek franchise is back, in the form of Star Trek: Discovery.
Now, it has the unenviable task of having to live up to its lineage, prove itself to the faithful masses, while remaining relevant to a modern and some might say, far more demanding audience…
Netflix have just released the first two episodes in the series, and what must be stated immediately is that this is NOT your father’s good old Star Trek. For one thing, its set in a separate timeline from the new Star Trek movies, and covers events that take place ten years before the original Star Trek.
But perhaps the most radical change is the reimagined look of the Federation’s most classic nemesis – the Klingons. In fact right from the start, from the opening pre-title sequence onwards, the Klingons are very much at the centre of this first two-part story. Their point-of-view is clearly stated from the onset, dwelling on fears of assimilation, the loss of cultural identity, of a minority being swallowed up by the majority.
The Klingons, a proud, warrior-class race have no intention of becoming part of the Federation of Planets, which they see both as a weakness and a betrayal of their heritage. And so they push for hostility, provoking a situation that could lead to full-scale war.
The sub-text to this storyline has many parallels with political events brewing in our own modern-day reality, and the series writers make that very apparent as the episodes unfold. To add further authenticity to their separatist point of view, the Klingon dialogue throughout the show is delivered in – well – Klingon.
Their language does sound far more guttural than previous incarnations though, and together with their now predominantly dark-skinned, flared-nostrilled, bestial-type looks, the Klingon race has now been rendered as the very epitome of a scary and undoubtedly violent alien race.
Although this brutish reimagining was undoubtedly undertaken to boost ratings, to me it was entirely unnecessary. And perhaps this was a huge oversight on the part of the show’s designers, but why is it that in this day and age, our enemies must still have dark skin and flared nostrils? As if we already didn’t have enough white supremacism to deal with in popular media… This just adds to a stereotype that should now be part of a regrettable history. Why can’t the enemies of our science fictions be eloquent and elegant for a change?
The other narrative departure from the original Trek is intent. The USS Enterprise‘s mission was exclusively exploration and discovery, and whenever it arose, a mandate to solve conflict and aggression through non-violent means, wherever possible.
But this Star Trek may as well have been renamed Star Wars because conflict – whether by accident or on purpose – is always on the cards. Granted, this is set a decade before the days of Kirk and Spock, but even the slightest attempt at avoiding war through negotiation and discussion is hardly hinted at. The “shoot first, ask questions later” policy is still very much in effect – and to be honest, if the human race is still like that in the 2250’s, I for one would be terribly disappointed in our species.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it – just the first two episodes have aired and there is obviously much more to unfold. Admittedly the ‘darkness‘ of Star Trek: Discovery suits the palate of modern-day audiences. Almost everything that rates highly on our screens today is tinged with darkness – in varying levels of violence, horror and fear. So in that respect, its in keeping with expectations.
Call me old-fashioned, but I actually miss (for want of a better word) the ‘gentleness‘ of the original series, and the optimism, yes, the optimism…
At the end of the day however, it is good to have Star Trek back on our screens. A strong cast has been assembled for the series, so hopefully they will be given adequately emotive and relevant storylines with which to develop.
It did take the entirety of both episodes for the show to make its initial impact, but that’s probably because the unconventional main character required enough of a backstory right from the start to get audiences rooting for her.
Now let’s see how the rest of the series takes shape…