STD: ‘Context Is For Kings’

Well, after the first proper episode of this new series, I still don’t like it, though things are getting more interesting. Most of my issues still revolve around tone and characterization, but there’s one other thing that bugged me after seeing the USS Discovery for the first time: that damn ‘Aztec panels’ texture!

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Look, the VFX in this series are competently executed, but many of the aesthetic choices are truly awful. The glossy, shiny surfacing paired with over-saturated lighting and high contrast texture maps bring to mind the early days of 3D fan art, not physically real objects. Nothing about the above image convinces me I’m looking at a starship. It’s just a 3D model inside the computer of a person who’s never heard the word ‘subtlety’. Interior sets and props are much the same. Various shades of smooth grey metal or plastic, punctuated by a strip of blown out LED lights. Starfleet expects people to live and work in that environment for months or years at a time? I don’t even want to look at it for a couple of hours, and I’m at home on my couch!

Things don’t feel much better when it comes to the people inhabiting this monstrosity. So far, nearly everyone on Discovery has behaved more like a high-school ‘mean girl’ than an officer in a professional organization. Attitude, sarcasm, selfishness, insults and disrespect ooze out of every character as we meet them for the first time. Not just toward Burnham, who seems content to stick with the silent treatment through most of it, but to each other. Even Michael’s new bunk mate is an annoying, embarrassing stereotype of the ‘nerdy loser’, who literally uses the ‘this seat is taken’ trope as if they’re in grade school. Only Captain Lorca seems remotely interesting, and despite his questionable motives, joins Saru as the only other character who seems to behave as a mature, intelligent adult. Everyone’s lines are written in the very best colloquial English 2017 has to offer. This show is going to seem dated in record time.

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The ‘haunted space ship’ rears its head in this episode, because that’s something we haven’t seen before. I did appreciate the mangled crew members, though. Star Trek has always been far too tame when depicting the horrible things that might happen to people in its universe, and I’m glad to see that starting to change. I could have done without the Klingon warrior ‘shushing’ the away team. Not only is he from an alien culture, but the show just spent its entire premiere trying to establish these guys as bad ass, and yet the very next time we see one, he’s the punchline of a joke. Dramatically and emotionally tone deaf. Are we sure JJ Abrams isn’t on the writing team?

So Captain Lorca and the Discovery are working on a way to travel without Warp drive. Too bad this is pre-TOS or, the ‘biology of space’ aside, it might have been a cool idea. Since Warp drive is still in use far into the future of both established timelines, we’re only left to wonder in what interesting and dramatic way they’ll fail. Oh, and probably secret way, too, since Picard and co. are still legitimately astonished by the Iconian gateways.

Prequels. Sigh.

The show is just interesting enough that I’m curious to find out what happens next, but that’s all. I still don’t like most of these characters. I don’t want to hang out with them. I don’t want to be where they are. I haven’t seen a future worth looking forward to, and in my mind, if you don’t have that, you’re not Star Trek.

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