While patrolling Federation space, the U.S.S. Shenzhou encounters an object of unknown origin, putting First Officer Michael Burnham to her greatest test yet.
There’s something about having Star Trek back on our TV screens. Familiar and comforting yet new and exciting at the same time. Star Trek: Discovery is many things but is never a carbon copy or imitation of those which have gone before it.
This first half of the pilot story feels more like a prologue. It could be likened to the opening flashback of J.J. Abrams first Trek film if only to illustrate how important it is to the rest of the story. Whilst most pilots setup the characters and the world which the series will inhabit for it’s entire run The Vulcan Hello merely setups up SOME of the cast of Discovery whilst barely scratching the surface of its setting.
For now we’ll focus on part one.
The visual spectacle that is Star Trek: Discovery is hugely impressive. This series looks more cinematic than even the most recent movies in the franchise. Space looks sprawling and deep. Ship interiors are heavily detailed with enough of the original series magic balanced with the flair of the new films to really catch the eye of viewers.
The ship exterior of the Shenzhou leaves a little to be desired. It’s mentioned early in the script that it was an old ship when it started its 7 year mission and it shows. The designs for the federation ships (more of those in future episodes) seem to be trying a little to hard to differ from previous shows. Instead of echoing the great designs of ships past (or is that future?) it instead veers off in to more angular territory.
Small niggles aside the episode looks spectacular from start to finish. Exactly what any fan would want from Star Trek.
The story of The Vulcan Hello is equally as intriguing. It clever sets up the Michael Burnham character whilst inventing a whole ships worth of characters for us to invest in.
Using the Klingons to bring fans back in to the world of Trek on TV is perfect. Here they find themselves entirely reinvented for a new generation but with a genius twist. Given that the setting puts us at the beginning of the Klingon/Federation war the producers had no option but to make them a formidable villain in this reality.
Painting the warrior race as more of a terrorist threat to the Federation helps parallel real world events in a way that only Star Trek can. The bonus of the first ever white Klingon also takes the race to new depths. The reverse racism of the Klingon empire – shunning one of their own for being pale skinned – feels like a classic Trek twist on real life issues. Something the series has never shied away from in it’s 51 year history.
Much of the rest of this episode is simple. An explorative missions which leads to a confrontation with the Klingons. It’s only at the episodes climax that it begins to escalate.
There was a clear fear amongst fans that Star Trek: Discovery would lean to the side of action over drama. Following the blueprint of the new film franchise would have been simple. If this episode is anything to go by then the series will carve its own path in to the history books by ramping up the action of Star Trek on TV but by grounding it with its tried and tested, character driven stories.
What is perhaps most intriguing is the lack of the titular U.S.S. Discovery. Going back to what I said earlier about this being more of a prologue than a pilot The Vulcan Hello is really a standalone tale. A bonus warm up to the real series which will kick off in episode 3.
I defy any viewer who doesn’t instantly watch the second episode to follow this story to its climax.
The Vulcan Hello is a great start to the new series. There’s glimpses of action, a dash of character and a good level of intrigue. It’s a slick look episode which sets the bar high for the remainder of the series. Welcome back Star Trek!
Star Trek: Discovery is available to watch on CBS All Access in the US and internationally via Netflix. New episodes are released weekly.