Star Trek Discovery has had a mixed reaction from audiences. But why? Why does a show like Discovery get so much hate?
Fan films have been a part of Star Trek since the beginning.
The fan film Axanar had quite a buzz in the fan community. Being made with a real budget from a Kickstarter campaign (You can still see the 20 minute long pitch video they made on youtube.) This was going to tell the story of the Klingon Wars. The plot was interesting, and fans were excited!
Then CBS forced them to shut down the project citing copyright. In the aftermath CBS released official guidelines for fan films to follow. I should point out that CBS had every legal right to do this. but they could have gone about it in a better way.
When it was announced that Star Trek Discovery would be about the Klingon Wars well, guess how that looked to fans.
2. The Name
Star Trek is a franchise with movies, shows, novels, even board games. To help keep all this straight Star Trek fans have used short hand names to differentiate the shows for years.
The original series Star Trek is TOS, Star Trek: Enterprise is STE, all the other shows have comparable nicknames. Following fan naming convention Star Trek Discovery, is STD.
The fact that no one caught this is just sad. Now the official abbreviation is DIS, but still, not a good first impression. It was a red flag to fans that the show runners do not know the Trekker community.
I know, “that which we call a rose” and all that, and this would be a very minor point if Discovery was a good solid Star Trek show.
3. Lieutenant Mary Sue
Did you know Star Trek fan fiction gave us the term “Mary Sue?” you do now!
Micheal is Spock’s sister, who was top of her class at Vulcan science school. Kind of makes you wonder why she will NEVER be mentioned by Spock or either of his parents ever again doesn’t it?
If Micheal is the first mutineer in Star Fleet history, as they say, It’s really odd that it never came up a few years later during Spock’s court martial. I mean two mutineers in Star Fleet just happen to be siblings!
What really makes this sad is how avoidable it is. First, Did Micheal really have to be Sarek’s daughter? You couldn’t just come up with a new Vulcan character? Even if you do want her to be Sarek’s daughter, then play up the fact that Spock never mentions a sister.
Set Discovery 50 years before main continuity. Keep Micheal’s back story, but have Sarek raises Micheal as a single parent. Foreshadow that Micheal’s duty to Star Fleet will “get her killed one of these days.” That way it’s a little a mystery to fans, “Why haven’t we heard of Micheal before?”
Set up the Micheal dies tragically before Spock is even born. Amanda and Spock may know about her but didn’t know her personally. Sarek doesn’t like emotion, so he never mentions Micheal because it’s emotional for him. It even adds depth to Sarek’s opposition to Spock joining Star Fleet. As Star Fleet already took his first child.
Sybok and Star Trek V don’t count! We do not speak of Star Trek V.
Star Trek science has always been dodgy, I can’t tell you how dylithium crystal warp engines are supposed to work, but they talk about matter and antimatter and coolants so it’s some sort of powerful reaction process. While it’s dodgy, it at least matches real world science in that you have to generate a LOT of power to go faster than light speed.
But Discovery has organic power spore drive, because some Hollywood hyptster was worried about making the future carbon neutral.
My suspension of disbelief cannot take space fungus!
A space whale that thinks Enterprise is it’s mother, Barely squeaks by with a great guest star, but this is a fundamental element of your show, thinking should not be the enemy!
5. Mudd in our eyes
HARCOURT! Harcourt Fenton Mudd You’ve been drinking again!
Harry Mudd may have been a slime ball con-man but a murderer? Betraying Star Fleet to the Klingons? (yes, he does this in Discovery) really? oh sure! Smuggler, war criminal those are the same thing, right?
So just to be clear in the world of Star Fleet: going to a quarantined planet is punishable by death, but betraying Star Fleet’s secret weapons to a current enemy in a time of war, is punishable by being forced to marry that girl you conned out of a fortune. (yes, this happens)
Discovery desperately wants to be loved by the fans, adding “nods” to Star Trek cannon. Nods that are not clever but annoying.
While some things like Lorka having a pet tribble may actually make sense for the character (since tribbles are living Klingon detectors, and he is the type to be constantly looking out for Klingon spies.) It doesn’t make practical sense in that years later, Kirk and crew have never heard of tribbles. There are many more examples of this but I think you get the idea.
6. Star Fleet is a military.
Admittedly Discovery is not the only Star Trek property to struggle with this, but while Kathrine Janeway letting formalities fall and being a mommy to the crew was some what excusable given Voyager’s situation with the hodgepodge crew. Discovery is in the middle of a war.
Micheal your captain is not your mommy!
There is WAY too many emotional screaming matches on this ship. You people are military in the middle of a war! Act like it!
Little things like Chain-of-Command, professionalism, and thinking through your next move can mean the difference between life and death.
Yes there are some die hard fans that want the TNG Klingons and will except nothing else, but for most of us the issue is not that the Klingons are changed, but that the changes are bad.
There is a reason, other than budget, that Star Trek aliens usually just have bumps on their forehead. It’s to leave the actor’s face free to show emotional range. The Discovery Klingons look like they can’t see each other, and are constricted by the costumes. The actors performances are lost under layers and layers of spirit gum!
The Discovery Klingons have a motto “Remain Klingon” but what does that mean? It would seam to imply that there are Klingons who are not “remaining Klingon.” Is there some social movement in the empire they are resisting? That would at least explain the different Klingon culture we see in TNG! But we got no explanation.
And yes, I am aware of the “Remain Klingon” movement is an allegory for the white supremacist movement, but I only know that because the producers have said so. You cannot deduce this from Discovery itself because. . .
6. Bad Politics in the show
Star Trek fans are used to hearing the politics of the writers and creators, and it’s been progressive most of the time.
often sexist, but still progressive
So for me, it’s not the fact the the show is pushing a left leading ideology, it’s that it makes no sense within universe.
The Klingons are a bad allegories for white nationalist. The Klingons have their own empire, they are not, and never have been a part of the federation. They have nothing to “remain Klingon” against! Do they want to destroy the federation? That’s not remaining Klingon, that’s destroying the federation.
This allegory should have been given to a new species that had just joined the federation and a separatist faction springs up wanting out of the federation once they realized that certain things were expected of them, (Imagine if the people of Europe didn’t know what they were signing up for with the EU’s responsibilities and regulations) and Micheal’s mistake is violating the prime directive, picking sides and accidentally getting wrapped up in a civil war.
The way it’s constructed here, the Klingons are a backwards superstitious people who should give up their self governance to the enlightened Federation.
So colonialism and “Convert or die” tactics are good thing? wait which universe are we in?
7. Bad Politics out of the show
Star Trek has always made allegory to real world issues of
the day. We trekkers have had Gene Rodenberry’s “double think” utopia politics since the beginning, (“People don’t morn, death is just excepted” WTF Gene? have you meet a human?) So please don’t think we are just “haters” who don’t like Micheal because she’s a black woman. Personally, I hate her for betraying her captain, and single-handedly starting a war. I can’t speak for others, but for me at least, it has nothing to do with skin color, gender or even a character making a bad call.
My favorite Trek episode of all time is DS9’s “In the Pale Moonlight” it deals with the cost of war, and a good man having to get his hands dirty, hoping to save lives in the long run. It’s a brilliant character piece!
Imagine for a moment that “In the Pale Moonlight” was the first episode of DS9, that this was your introduction to Sisko. He would come off as a stupid evil man. This episode works because we knew the character so well, We know that Sisko is a good man who acts impusivly sometimes. Seeing Sisko compromise everything he stands for is both gripping and heart breaking, because we know how this will weigh on him.
Micheal’s actions in “The Vulcan Hello” are our introduction to her. She was stupid, cocky and hot-tempered. This is the first episode, Micheal hasn’t earned our empathy yet.
8. CBS All Access
Most of the fans who “refuse” to watch Discovery, just don’t want to have to pay for CBS All Access. They would have checked it out on TV or hulu, but no, you expect us to pay for a subscription. For fans already on the fence, this was the clincher.
So what does this all mean? Well, I am of the opinion that Discovery is not a bad show, but it’s not Star Trek. It’s not even standard Science Fiction, it’s Science Fantasy akin to Star Wars (seriously, if you do a find and replace for “spores” with “the force” and it works.)
Discovery all by itself is not a terrible show. It’s just not that good. There are ideas in there. A Human raised by Vulcans, is an interesting idea. and if they follow with some of the things they have hinted at (like a Klingon spy on board) it could make for a season finally on par with Riker firing on the borg ship.
Goodness knows that TNG had growing pains in it’s first season. The difference here is that while TNG had bad one-shot episodes farting around the stars, Discovery is episodic storytelling. So one bad episode snow balls into another.
I think Discovery has potential. but right now, what I’m seeing is bad Star Trek. but there is hope for Discovery, there has been plenty of bad Trek before.