Monday, September 25, 2017

Star Trek Discovery Review and Credit-Less Sequence

The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discover are official out. What did you think? I liked it overall. To be upfront, it is one of the best looking Star Treks to date. The characters are also all solid and demonstrate lots of potential. Definitely a new take on Trek in as many ways as they could get away with. It looks like they are taking full advantage of the season long serial story telling style so looking forward to see how that unfolds. From a production standpoint there is little to complain about. While the designs of the set are heavily reliant on JJ Abrams' movie look and feel, there is enough classic Trek to by in on the look. The special effects are the best ever for Trek (possibly including the recent movies or at least on par with them). The cast is great, the character development for the key characters handled well considering how much information they are conveying in a short amount of time. I highly recommend this show for new and old fans. It looks like its going to be a great story telling ride.

Now being a Star Trek fan, that means its time to quibble. One of them is actually kind of major as it involves the main character. Based on the first two episodes (which really act as prequel/origin story for the main character), the first season at be a redemption arc for starting a war with the Klingons. You know she started the war because characters say it several times. Except, I am not clear on how she started it. Now as the audience we know the Klingon leader wanted a war. He was purposedly looking for an excuse and basically manufactured one. Starfleet does't know this so its very unclear how they blame her for landing on their ship and defended herself. That's it and the Klingons barely mentioned it (something the previous series Klingons would have been lasered focused on during any talk with the Federation). Getting the audience to buy in on why she needs redemption and worthy of it seems like a very important starting point and they skipped right over it so just go with it mostly out of lack of other options.

Speaking of Klingons, the new design is interesting, if way over the top. Especially once add in the constant Klingonese talking. The result is just a series of limits on everything involving the characters. I get the thinking on it (to immerse you in the Klingon world), but budget alone didn't decide post-80s Klingon design. There was a practical reason to - the miminal but effect prosethics and costumes mean the actors and the writers could focus on the story. Instead you can tell that the actors were more focused on speaking words phonetically around their makeup. When they moved (which was rarely) it was clear the goal was to not damage the costumes or the sets. Basically the focus was on everything but the scene so the result is all Klingon scenes felt flat. Add to that is the writers know about these limitations so all the lines was twitter style on steroids. I think the average line was five words, the most around 10. This is because learning lines phonetically is a nightmare for anyone. Try doing it with a list of medical jargon, triple the difficulty and that is what these actors had to deal with. Just copy the Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country method where they used a camera move to seamlessly transition from Klingon to English. It was a beautiful thing to see and something this show could benefit from to lose the distractions that going "full Klingon" is causing both in makeup, costume design and words. They are stuck with it for the first half of the season but not the second.

All Star Trek shows suffer from growing pains until they figure out their rhythm. I am happy to stick it out until they do. If I had any advice for old fans it is roll with the continuity glitches and the small stuff and just enjoy the ride. For newbies, enjoy the ride two. For the production team of the show, my main advice is to remember that in a push to be a new version of Trek, do not forget a lot of production decisions for the shows were not just based on budget limitations but also born of practicality. For alien design, it was about the need to have actors being able to emote and move freely so can focus on acting and for set/ship design it was often about thinking what a ship out in deep space without access to resupply might need, be missing, or have on hand. Basically just because it was an old way of doing things doesn't mean it is now the wrong way. There is some wisdom to be gleamed from there.

One last complaint, get new opening music (credit-less version below). Its just not majestic enough. Its too quiet, doesn't rev the engine for the adventure that is supposed to follow. Quibbles aside I am looking forward to following the rest of the season and hopefully more to come as I do believe Star Trek is in good hands.

1 comment: