Star Trek Discovery Hits Its Stride
We’re halfway through Season 1. Is it any good?
After the Battle of the Binary Stars, The Federation and the Klingons are in a full-blown war. Klingons possess cloaking technology, completely neutralizing the Federation’s ability to see and shoot them. It’s a dire circumstance for our home team, but there is hope: the USS Discovery and its secret weapon. Primarily a science vessel, the USS Discovery was quickly retrofitted for the impromptu war and possesses a one-of-a-kind “spore drive”. It’s akin to Battlestar Galactica’s FTL drive, a device that can teleport or jump the entire vessel to another point in space instantaneously. It’s a powerful weapon, for sure, but its use is entirely experimental.
Stripped of her rank and on her way to a prison facility off world to serve her life sentence for mutiny, Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) prison transport ship is conveniently rerouted by a power-eating space cloud to the USS Discovery. Its captain, Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), quickly recruits and converts Michael to a part of his crew, reassigning her to a role within his ship.
The first half of the season focuses mainly Michael’s role on getting the spore drive running to order to counter the Klingon’s cloaking device—and boy, it’s one hell of a ride!
It was pretty rough going in the early episodes, but they’ve won me over—I can say with confidence that this is one of the most approachable and enjoyable Star Trek shows I’ve seen in quite a while.
A Stellar Cast
Sonequa Martin-Green’s portrayal of Michael grows on you. I initially wrote Michael off as being un-relatable in the two-episode series premiere, but the subsequent episodes devoted solely to exploring her past and relationships really helped to flesh out her character. From the heartfelt moments with her love interest and PTSD-prone Security Officer Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), to the lighthearted and comical scenes with her whimsical bunkmate Tilly (Mary Wiseman), to her confrontation with her Vulcan foster father Sarek (James Frain), Sonequa Martin-Green’s ability to define and refine Michael is a delight to witness.
With all due respect, the biggest surprise was quite possibly Rainn Wilson, best known for his role on The Office as Dwight Schrute. When he first appeared in promotional material for Discovery, I just shook my head, turned up my nose and thought, “This can’t be good.”
I could not have been more wrong.
Playing an interstellar con-man by the name of Harry Mudd, Rainn Wilson’s performance is an absolute tour de force. Though only in two of the first eight episodes, he manages to steal every single scene he’s in. I was awe struck by how well he was able to portray Mudd, a charismatic slime ball able to sweet talk his way into and out of anything–it was absolutely mesmerizing. I sincerely hope to see more of his character in the second half of this season.
Likewise, Jason Isaacs is a wonderful addition to the cast. Not only does he serve as the Captain of the USS Discovery, Gabriel Lorca, he also acts as a father figure to Michael and a foil to Harry Mudd. Lorca is both mysterious and, yet, somehow comforting—it’s quite hard to describe. Isaac’s performance kept me guessing his character’s true intentions time and time again. Now that I think about it, he sort of reminds me of Admiral Adama from Battlestar Galactica, but a little less on the serious side.
In fact, Discovery cribs a lot of notes from the 2004 series, Battlestar Galactica. Both series are named after the spaceship wherein the story unfolds. Each ship is underpowered, outnumbered, and outmatched by the enemy forces. Both ships are their last hope for survival.
The Spore Drive
While Battlestar Galatica has its FTL Drive, Discovery relies on its spore drive to traverse huge swaths of space in an instant. It is both powerful and dangerous, as the technology is only in its infancy. The USS Glenn, the only other starship with a spore drive, had an accident in which its ship was ravaged and all its crew was contorted grotesquely inside-out.
Everything about the spore drive is awesome! Decades of watching Star Trek captains activating Yellow Alerts or Red Alerts in combat has taken its toll on me, but when, for the first time, Captain Lorca yells, “Black Alert!” and the whole set turns a tint of black, it feels new and fresh and just so right.
The spore drive powers up by dispersing a gallon of blue mycelium spores in a transparent room and sticking two needles into whatever sentient life form is present. I’ll admit this is a bit far-out (even by Star Trek standards), but one look at that jump animation, and I’m willing to gloss over it. I mean look at how cool it is:
CBS is fully committed to this series and it shows. The special effects and set design are top shelf, and if the first half of the season is indicative of the quality and care that CBS is throwing behind this show, we are in for a treat!
You can watch new episodes every Sunday on CBS All-Access.
Photo Credits: Michael Gibson/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.