Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pilot Review: Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
Premiered September 24 at 8:30pm on CBS

This premiere is a pretty big deal for a lot of reasons. On the heels of the first streaming series winning a top Emmy prize, this is the flagship show of a major broadcast network’s premium subscription service, which could become a new model for television in the coming months and years. Though “The Good Fight” beat it to air, this was the first show conceived for the network, and the first “Star Trek” series in twelve years following the successful relaunch of the brand with three films in the past decade. In a lot of ways, this feels like classic fare, with a few important differences. Sonequa Martin-Green, of “The Walking Dead” fame, is an actress of color in the leading role, and she even has a male name, knocking out racial and gender stereotypes in one fell swoop, charging ahead by venturing into unknown space, knocking out the captain, and getting a computer to accept her ethical protocols in order to give her a fighting chance at survival. She’s a huge asset to her crew, using her learned Vulcan knowledge to her advantage at every turn. The all caps subtitles for the Klingon make them less accessible, seeming like a truly alien species, and going back in time yet again to a Cold War point makes them the natural enemies for the less war-oriented Federation. Unlike “Enterprise,” this show doesn’t address the novelty of space travel, but rather hones in on the adventurous exploration of deep space. I’m not sure that, if that wasn’t part of this universe, I would be compelled to keep watching, but I’m eager to meet Jason Isaacs’ captain following Michelle Yeoh’s memorable start and see where this show and its protagonist go, at least for a few more episodes.

How will it work as a series? This brand has never had a problem filling its episodes, and as long as it doesn’t stay too focused on the Klingon threat, there should be more than enough space to cover to keep it engaging for years. The characters are well-written and there’s a lot to be gleaned from this crew.
How long will it last? The reviews are very good, which is a positive. I think everyone would have expected that the buzz for this show would produce strong viewership numbers for the two-hour premiere, and the question is how many of those viewers will subscribe to CBS All Access, a statistic that will matter more than how many people are actually watching it. I suspect this will be a resounding success and wouldn’t be surprised if a renewal was announced very soon.

Pilot grade: B+

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