SPOILERS for the first two episodes of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
After a dozen years, Star Trek returned to television last night in its newest incarnation, Star Trek: Discovery. Set ten years before the events of the original television series, Discovery is the story of Michael Burnham, (Sonequa Martin-Green), a Starfleet officer and orphan raised on Vulcan by none other than Sarek (James Frain), father of Spock.
When we're introduced to Burnham in the first episode, "The Vulcan Hello," she's serving as the First Officer of the USS Shenzhou under Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). After rescuing some friendly crab-like aliens from a drought, the Shenzou is tasked with investigating a malfunctioning relay beacon at the edge of Federation space. When Burnham discovers the cause of the malfunction and the familiar aliens behind it, the stage is set for what I assume will be the series' first-season arc: war with the Klingons, reimagined here as a brutish "Make America Great Again" analogue.
The two-part opener (comprised of "The Vulcan Hello" and "Battle at the Binary Stars" gets the show off to a strong start. While burdened with some clunky exposition, moments of stilted line delivery, and one eye-rolling moment in the pre-credits teaser, Star Trek: Discovery succeeds where it counts, telling an interesting, meaningful story with flawed but sympathetic characters. Burnham makes a series of serious mistakes that arguably cost a great number of lives--and she faces believable consequences for her actions. The Klingons have an understandable motive for their actions, and they have depth; these aren't cookie-cutter cartoon villains. The supporting characters are well drawn, with the alien Saru (Doug Jones) a real standout.
As is usually the case with Star Trek shows, production design, costuming and special effects are all state-of-the-art for the era. The opening credit sequence is quite handsome and a real departure from those that preceded it.
Perhaps most importantly, the show takes chances. The two opening hours end without a trace of the titular USS Discovery or most of the show's main cast. Presumably they'll be introduced next week, in episode three, "Context is for Kings." Instead of a traditional pilot episode, we're given what amounts to two hours of backstory--but entertaining backstory it is, and should, in theory, add resonance to the show's first season arc.
Given the show's behind-the-scenes production drama and the involvement of Akiva Goldsman, my expectations for Star Trek: Discovery were very low. But I find myself pleasantly surprised. It's too early to say whether or not this will reach the heights of the original series, The Next Generation, or Deep Space Nine, I think it's safe to say it's already off to a more promising start than Voyager or Enterprise.