Philippa Georgiou - Seeming is Believing
The new Captain is stately, but does she pass muster? She is a bit like the bridge of her ship the Shenzhou – a bit too futuristic and with none of the familiar motifs of the original. Sometimes you’d wish they’d step in a slice of tomato so that you could get a different expression on their face. But of course that will never happen because everything feels as stiffly scripted as the opening sequence when Captain Georgiou leads Commander Michael Burnham on a walk in the desert to form a Starfleet symbol in the sand (P.S. Windy?). All the bridge scenes back up the feeling that austerity trumps truthiness. The officers are all very flippant with each other. Proving their personal bravado ends up being more important than their goal of peace-making in the galaxy. The Captain is probably the most likeable character in the first episode and she does her best with what she is given. She attempts to save the old Starfleet with her lines like, “Starfleet does not fire first.”
is Starfleet a Military? Look to the intro animations
The new series has an opening sequence that praises technology by turning it into something it is not: mystical and composed of lines and thought. It shows visuals of Star Trek technology pieces and though it’s visually impressive, it makes a mockery of how these objects would actually work. Where ENT’s intro was selling short the distance between sea-travel and faster-than-light space travel, DISCO forgets about the journey entirely to suppose that Star Trek is made of futuro-guns and pseudo-religious iconography. It steals the symbols while doing so little service to its forefathers. In what war do we fight? Culture wars with Klingons!! Waged with the symbols of diplomacy stolen from previous generations!
What’s the deal with a boy’s name for a lady?
I don’t know and I’m not sure.
Old tropes or bad writing?
I really wish we’d do away with senseless plot hooks like sending high-ranking officers on away missions to strange artifacts protected by nothing else than a spacesuit, but maybe I’m asking too much of those who crave drama constantly in their TV. Ah, but the drama is oversold too; the scene where Michael floats through the ‘object of unknown origin’ she says “the only word to effectively describe it is ‘wow’” – What a terrible, terrible piece of writing. But I guess I should redact my previous statement because she is in perfect garb to kill a Klingon. Diplomacy with other races? Worf be damned!
These are not your father’s Klingons…
No, indeed they are not. They are space-orcs who make you read subtitles.
Why did they need to kill the Klingons again?
Klingons started out as human-appearing ‘aliens’, then those guys (reveal-retcon) have had a phage and Hi! These are the new Klingons. Worf is strange at times but continually walks hand-in-hand with his humanity while remaining distinctly Klingon. B’Elanna Torres is half-human half-Klingon and identity conflict is one of her primary character-building traits. It had taken four series, but we had found a friend in the Klingons as another tradition with whom we share this quadrant of the galaxy. Suddenly Discovery places us at war with the Klingons; while this doesn’t make later characters impossible because we’re (grr) publishing a prequel–it has turned the Klingons into something far more bestial for no reason I can see.
I guess it’s okay to make them bestial since we’re killing Klingons left and right in these episodes–they should be scarecrows. It’s one of the first actions Michael Burnham takes: BAM!! Kill a Klingon. It’s okay~He was going to attack her first.
I guess I can’t blame this Star Trek franchise specifically for making the Klingons into dark-n-scary guys, doesn’t one of the new Star Trek movies take us to ash’n’ruin Kronos? I’ll have to validate that later but really, why has this race been subject to so many changes in their appearance and culture? It’s less insulting to create a new race than it is to create an alternate telling where the Klingons get gutted and remade because their makeup no longer suits the modern palette?
Let’s not forget that T’Kuvma vows to remain Klingon and damns the possibility of inter-species diplomacy when he mocks the Captain’s transmission: “Here comes their lie: ‘We come in peace’”. These Klingons do not want to be your friend, they want to destroy everything you are.
The Klingons aren’t the only violent, jingoist aliens
Vulcans got some racial assassination as well. Any scenes with Vulcans (or the Vulcan-trained Burnham) interacting with humans has them rude to the point of demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of human culture. I might have preferred to see Burnham instead be a Vulcan, and one not with a connection to the Spock-family of yore. But I get it, she’s gotta be a princess or whatever.
But the Vulcans are crummy to each other. Sarek is not straight-forward with Burnham, despite this being a time when clarity would be logical. And the title concept: a ‘Vulcan Hello’, is a reference to a tactic where the Vulcans fired first upon the Klingons to display their dominance. Vulcans aren’t peaceful, either.
But Vulcan logic does give us one of the hilarious moments in the episode. When Burnham uses her superior Logic to outsmart the computer after being put into the brig.
Organics can out-think the Computer
Burnham Computer implement steps of brig emergency evacuation protocol. Computer Denied. Ethical protocol state prisoner evacuation to occur in life-saving circumstances only. Burnham This is a life-saving circumstance. I'm going to die in here unless you let me out. Computer Speculation. Request to engage ethical protocols denied. Burnham How long before my cell's containment field fails? Computer Approximately eight minutes. Burnham At which point I will die. Confirm? Computer Confirmed. Burnham Is the corridor outside the brig undamaged and still pressurized? Computer Affirmative. Burnham Then getting from my cell, through the blast door, and into the corridor ensures my survival. Computer Negative. Exposure to the vacuum of space for over 15 seconds would result in respiratory distress, shock and suffocation before you are able to reach blast door. Burnham But if you open a meter-sized hole in the containment field, the rapid depressurization will shoot me through to the blast door in less than six seconds. Computer Affirmative. But you will be unable to open the door in your inhibited physical state. Burnham Then, ethically, you should open the door for me. Computer Working. Request confirmed. Ethical protocols engaged. Chance for survival estimated at 43%.
This episode is a passable story, but it’s not Star Trek. It outright mashes any preceding canon in favor of its own rhetoric. The whole thing is too violent to feel good at roll of the credits. Burnham is disgraced, Georgiou is dead, and we have no one to root for.