Feature Article

Does Star Trek: Discovery Feel Like Proper Star Trek?

One thing war's good for

Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episode 1: "The Vulcan Hello," and Episode 2: "Battle At The Binary Stars," below

The history of Star Trek shows is long and varied in quality, and Star Trek: Discovery's two-part premiere, "The Vulcan Hello" and "Battle At The Binary Stars," wasn't perfect. Luckily, it didn't have to be; it just needed to feel like Star Trek, and in that, it succeeded.

Trekkies have been especially wary given J.J. Abrams' recent movies--whether or not they liked Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Star Trek: Beyond, many fans agree that the films just didn't feel like the real thing. They were big on action and set largely on earth (besides the third one), and generally light on the cerebral stuff Trek fans crave.

Discovery gets to have it both ways with a protagonist, Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham, who is fully human, but was raised on Vulcan (by Spock's father, Sarek, no less). The show's premiere did a great job portraying the struggle between her nature and her education--her emotional and logical sides--and when her human side wins out, the consequences are galactic in scale. In true Star Trek style, there's no easy solution or simple way out.

Even better is the fact that Discovery spent the bulk of its pilot episode planted firmly on the bridge of the USS Shenzhou. When Burnham, Doug Jones' Lt. Saru, and Michelle Yeoh's Captain Georgiou discover a mysterious artifact concealed at the far edges of space, the show revels in their dynamics and debates as they decide how to proceed. Saru holds self-preservation above all else, while Burnham is both overconfident and overly curious, despite her upbringing. This premiere put a lot of work into developing these characters, and that's going to pay off throughout the rest of Discovery's first season.

The Klingons, too, were adequately explored--arguably too much, as their subtitled snarls started to drag by the hour's end. But their prophet, T'Kuvma, got his own backstory, as an orphan who discovered his father's derelict ceremonial ship and took up his religious and political cause. And the Klingons didn't rally to him simply to fulfill some prophecy; he proved his prowess by showing off the technology to effectively cloak his ship. That's a valuable weapon, and it makes sense that the Klingons would follow his lead despite their reservations.

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The biggest flaw in Star Trek: Discovery's Season 1 premiere came in its second half, "Battle At The Binary Stars," after Burnham broke out from the brig and her prediction that the Klingons would attack turned out right. The crew's plan to get a bomb onboard the Klingon ship was ingenious, but their follow-up was less so. I know it's Star Trek tradition for the captain to use any excuse to embark on dangerous field missions, but she and Burnham could have at least brought some Redshirts instead of assaulting the Klingon ship with no one but one another for backup. No wonder that turned out as poorly as it did.

Star Trek: Discovery's first two episodes set the Klingons and the Federation on a path toward all-out war. You can argue that's not a very Star Trek move--the series is at its best when its crews are exploring the galaxy, making contact with alien beings and destinations, living up to this incarnation's title, "Discovery." But if the rest of the season continues like the premiere, Discovery could be more concerned with the politics and ethical pickles present when two diametrically opposed peoples come to blows.

How do you reach an end to hostilities when your opponents consider "We come in peace" to be a threat? Discovery will hopefully spend more time on questions like that than on pew-pew space battles. Here's hoping so, at least.

Plus, I can't wait to see how Burnham gets out of her current jam; if Star Trek: Discovery keeps feeling like Star Trek, there's no way it's going to be easy.

Click here to learn how and where to watch Star Trek: Discovery with CBS All Access.

Disclosure: GameSpot's parent company is CBS Interactive.

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Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Managing Editor of Entertainment, with over 10 years of pop culture journalism experience. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two dogs.

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