Waiting for Discovery


I have been tuning in every week since the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery eagerly anticipating the next installment of the latest iteration of my favorite sci-fi series. I won’t lie, I’ve usually been left disappointed on some level after each episode. That’s not to say I don’t like the series, I do like it a lot but after every episode I felt a little unsatisfied with the progression of the story.

The pilot episode set up a major conflict with the Klingons. While aspects of this set up are a little frustrating I can totally buy into it as part of the history of Trek and the story they want to tell. War makes for great and tragic dramatic story telling and some of Deep Space Nine’s best episodes were during the Dominion War.

As I began hearing about the premise of Discovery before it was released, I imagined a ship of science changing its focus as it found itself in the middle of the Klingon conflict. Kind and gentle Starfleet officers would have to learn a more militaristic lifestyle and that would create a great deal of internal conflict with the primary characters of the show. I haven’t really seen anything like that with the crew of Discovery. Most of them seemed kind of shady from the start!

As for external conflict, I imagined the Klingons would press the Federation with numerous engagements, seizing world after world until the Federation had no choice but to dig deep and stand up to them. We really haven’t seen that either. Since the pilot we’re seen one space battle, the opening of episode 8 ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ where Discovery swoops in to try and rescue a fellow Starfleet ship (they fail). The only conflict involving a strategic world was episode 4 with the awesome title ‘The Butcher’s Knife Cares not for the Lamb’s Cry’ where a dilethium mine colony is about to be overrun unless Discovery can get there in time.

Instead we have a show where there is a large focus on a new way to travel through space. We know this form of space travel will inevitably fail because this is a prequel series and in the twenty-fourth century they still use the tried and true warp engine. We have a small story arc with Harry Mudd, a character who made an appearance in the original series. This had me excited at first as I was hoping for some kind of anti-hero; a character who doesn’t play by the rules but still has some kind of moral backbone. With the shadiness of Captain Lorca, I guess there wasn’t much choice but to make Mudd a full on villain.

So far the show talks a lot about war, the cost of war, and how they must win the war. While Discovery has had a few run-ins with the Klingons, most of the time the show just tells us they’ve done a lot rather than show us the action. The primary focus is Burnham’s character arc and redemption journey. This would be great if she weren’t hampered by years of Vulcan training on the suppression of emotion. She comes across as cold which in my opinion doesn’t work very well in your principal lead.

While the content of the show may leave me with something to be desired, the production quality is nothing less than spectacular. I absolutely love the musical themes and I wish they’d release the soundtrack. Visually the show is stunning and it’s easy to believe the world they’ve created. While it’s not the Star Trek of old, it is very much in line with the reboot “Kelvin” universe and utilizes the best of what’s available in current cinematic tools. It may not have the feel of Star Trek but it does make for great science fiction.

After every episode I feel like I’m still waiting, waiting to see where they go and disappointed they haven’t made more progress in getting there. At least that was the case until I saw the mid-season finale. All of a sudden everything comes to a head and it looks like everything gets wrapped up in a nice package. Discovery has a plan to unlock the secrets of the Klingon cloaking device and mid-execution of said plan, the security chief suffers an episode of PTSD! Burnham fights the Klingons, Discovery fights the Klingon ship, the spore drive is put to the test! We went from zero to warp 9 in a single episode! That too was not very satisfying as there are still at least six episodes remaining in season one. It’s possible this wrap up is just an illusion or the show could be taking a new direction. The latest episode does end on a cliffhanger so I guess I’ll have to wait until January to find out.

Looks like I’m still waiting.

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Strange Things about Stranger Things

WARNING: Contains Spoilers for Season 2

Last year when I binged watched Stranger Things, I was simply amazed. I grew up during the 80’s and loved movies like E.T. and Goonies. Television and movies today can’t seem to capture that adventurous spirit those of us old enough to remember existed back then. That’s probably because it really doesn’t exist today. Back in the 80’s kids lived outside with each other. We built forts and went everywhere on bikes. Society in suburban America has changed since then and kids today don’t get to experience the problem solving of fort building, rope swings, and the minor medical emergencies that go along with them! Stranger Things convincingly takes us back to 1983!

Season one of Stranger Things quickly became a cult classic and overwhelming success. It came as no surprise there would be a season two. It’s so hard to reproduce magic in a series like this one. Many shows start out strong with a seasonal arc without much thought to a continuing through story. While season one of Stranger Things ended with a tease, the show did wrap up everything in case it failed. Could season two live up to the awesomeness of season one?

I recently finished watching season two and I have mixed feelings as to it living up to season one. The production design remained epic and the character dialog was really good as I couldn’t get enough of Dustin and his smart mouth. However, there are two major elements of season two that didn’t work for me.

The first was Eleven’s story arc. Her character in season one became an instant fan favorite. Anyone attending comic conventions since it aired can tell you of all the characters from Stranger Things, hers is cosplayed most. While the character of Will in season one was the driving motivation, Eleven was the means to get him back from the upside down. Her character and how she interacted with the three boys was the heart of the show. In season two, Eleven has her own story arc. While she pines away wanting to reconnect with Mike, she doesn’t get to interact with the boys until the end. Even when she finally reconnects, it’s short lived as her part of the climax is carried out with Hopper rather than the boys. For a majority of the season, she goes off on her own self-discovery tour. She meets her mother and finds Eight, an older girl with different psionic abilities who was part of the same program that raised Eleven. I’m guessing this story thread will become relevant in future seasons as it didn’t seem to connect with everything else happening in Hawkins.

The second element that really didn’t work for me was the dynamic between the four boys and the addition of Max. I actually like the character of Max and having a girl compete with Eleven is a really awesome story trope. Yet as I mentioned earlier, Eleven wasn’t with the boys for most of the season so Max was just competing with a memory. In addition, the four boys themselves didn’t interact as much as season one. Each of them had their own arc and while they spent more time together than Eleven, that “group character” dynamic was really missing. For me the best parts of E.T. and Goonies are the interactions of the kids as they face adversity on their story adventure and season one of Stranger Things was entirely that. The kids carried the show largely together and that was awesome. I just didn’t get that same feeling from season two.

The principle story arc itself for season two was a good one as far as the upside down and the machinations of the Hawkins Lab went. I felt that Will’s story arc was a necessary one and a logical progression from season one. It would have been nice to see his arc interact more with Dustin, Lucas, and Eleven but at least Mike was there for most of it.

I did like season two but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I liked season one. The Duffer brothers plan on a season three and four with the potential for a fifth but as the principal actors age, keeping the show credible beyond that is nearly impossible. That’s my perspective anyway.

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