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Rediscovering 'Star Trek'
February 13, 2018  | By TVWW Guest Contributor  | 6 comments

[EDITOR'S NOTE: TVWW Guest Contributor Shannon Farrell, a Rowan University student, last wrote for TVWW about 'Dirk Gently.

All eyes have been on the sky lately with the recent launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, but Elon Musk isn’t the only one bringing us closer to the stars. If cruising in a Tesla Roadster isn’t your style, you might prefer exploring the galaxy with the U.S.S. Discovery. The 23rd century Federation Starship is the titular inspiration for the new Star Trek: Discovery from CBS, created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman.

And what a magnificent ship she is: sleek, mysterious, and technologically unprecedented within the Star Trek ‘verse. Although the U.S.S. Discovery doesn’t make her debut until after the two-episode pilot, the wait is worth it. There’s a hush of secrecy aboard that makes the hair on the back of your neck prickle with both alarm and excitement.

The newest installment of the Star Trek saga is set ten years before Captain Kirk sits at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Despite taking place in the “past," Discovery has reinvented Star Trek for contemporary times.

The show has carved out a new, sharp angle on Star Trek: it’s an exploration of the sacrifice and moral conflict of war, featuring intensely personal characters and powerful writing.

In other words: this is not your father’s Star Trek.

Discovery takes a darker tone than classic fans are familiar with. The stakes are higher, and the payoff is greater. It deals more explicitly with issues of trauma, violence, and consequence. The utopian world that the United Federation of Planets represents is fundamentally challenged and shaken to their core during their early interactions with the Klingons. The second half of the season sets our heroes in an unfamiliar environment, and we see how living in a world of fear and mistrust makes people desperate for survival; makes them angry, irrational, and lose all sense of morality.

Yet, in Star Trek, there is always light and always hope. From the original series to The Next Generation, from Deep Space Nine to Voyager and Enterprise, it has always been a show that explores the question of what it means to be human. It challenges our assumptions, deconstructs social injustice, poses complex psychological questions, and pushes the boundaries of what we think we know about our place in the universe.

Discovery continues this tradition with honor and reflects upon its origins by teasing at references to the original series. The show, set in the pre-Enterprise era, also has room to explore Vulcan and Klingon history in a way that fans haven’t seen before, adding fascinating backstory and depth to what we already know.

This is a different show than anything we’ve seen from Star Trek in the past. Discovery is truly going where none of its predecessors have gone before while remaining true to the heart and origins that have made Star Trek a cultural phenomenon. Not only are the surface-level visual aesthesis crisp and crackling in modern fashion, the series feels grounded in reality; in relevance.

Discovery emphasizes the power of empathy and interpersonal connection: people finding strength in each other and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to succeed for the greater good. The show asks challenging questions about morality and responsibility and follows the characters through the struggle of personal growth in the face of conflict. Most of all, Discovery is a story about defining our identities: the choices we make and the principles we uphold, especially at our most desperate.

Michael Burnham, played by the fantastic Sonequa Martin-Green (top and left), gives us this memorable monologue in the season finale:

“The only way to defeat fear is to tell it no. No. We will not take shortcuts on the path to righteousness. No. We will not break the rules that protect us from our basest instincts. No. We will not allow desperation to destroy moral authority…We have to be torchbearers. Casting the light so we may see our path to lasting peace. We will continue exploring. Discovering new worlds, new civilizations. Yes. That is the United Federation of Planets. Yes. That is Starfleet. Yes. That is who we are. And who we will always be.”  – Star Trek: Discovery, “Will You Take My Hand?”

Season 1 wrapped up this past Sunday leaving viewers breathless and eagerly anticipating more. The first season is heavily serialized, and the first few episodes might feel a bit slow at first, but it’s actually laying the groundwork for some hard-hitting plot arcs later on. Looking back on the season as a whole, the early episodes no longer seem “slow” at all. It’s a thorough and much-needed introduction to a series that is winding up for a home run.

Star Trek: Discovery is an exhilarating expansion of the existing universe that will satisfy Trekkies and newcomers alike. It is confirmed there will be a Season 2, but a specific release date is not yet on the horizon. For now, we’ll have to be satisfied with re-watching or catching up on Season 1, available on CBS All Access.

[Shannon Farrell is a senior undergraduate student at Rowan University, studying both Radio/Television/Film and Writing Arts, with a minor in Biological Sciences. Her other favorite television shows include Stranger Things, Sense8, and The Good Place.]

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Dennis Robles
Well written and analyzed, I couldn't agree more as I grew up watching the original and the proceeding Star Treks. I found this version much more compelling and in earnest than the previous ones. In some ways, this version felt like an extended film.
Feb 14, 2018   |  Reply
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