When Star Trek fans found out a new show was on the way, there was both elation and trepidation. With the revival of the films ten years ago, we’ve gotten a mixed bag of Trek. The film series is often called “Abrams Trek” for a reason.
The series includes an alternate universe timeline. We’re introduced to a younger crew of the Enterprise and a slightly different Federation. The first Trek captured the feel of the original trilogy perfectly, but subsequent films were full of failed attempts at nostalgia and fan pandering.
Of course, each film featured some redeeming moments. While Benedict Cumberbatch was an odd choice for the Indian superman Khan (KHAAAAAAAAAAN!), his incredible fortitude as an impetuous and vengeful villain nailed the performance in place. And the energy of the crew in all three films is spot on.
But then you can’t ignore the weird and unoriginal plot flip-flopping (Kirk instead of Spock? Seriously?), voodoo science with Tribbles (I guess Kirk is promiscuous…), and the Federation’s human sacrifice revenge plot (supermen as warheads? Huh?).
But I digress. We’re here to talk about Star Trek: Discovery and how it’s beginning to look more like one of our possible futures one would expect. (Thar Be SPOILERS Ahead!)
Star Trek: Discovery Isn’t More of the Same…Thank Kahless
Star Trek: Discovery isn’t the return to form we were expecting. And that’s absolutely fine by most Trek Fans (I’ve seen few gripes about the show).
Discovery is set in the Prime Timeline as opposed to the Abrams Trek Kelvin Timeline. The events of the first half of the season take place ten years before the Enterprise embarks on their “Five Year Mission.”
In the show, there is a reference to the Enterprise as an envious place to work. And Spock’s father shows up as he’s the adopted father of Michael Burnham, the Discovery’s protagonist.
But for all the little details the show gets incredibly right about the Star Trek Universe near and around the time of TOS (those phasers and communicators are fantastic), the show’s format is completely different than any other Trek that came before.
For one, the show is completely serial. Only one episode involving Harry Mudd and his attempt to steal The Discovery for his own gain (“Call me Mudd”) comes close to the episodic nature of previous Trek shows.
Secondly, the show is a shade darker and more violent than previous Trek shows. The captain doesn’t wear half a grin most of the time; he sleeps with his phaser, and the Federation is in a full-on war with the Klingons.
The first episode opens with murder and mutiny. And the darkness never lifts. This is the real Star Trek: Into Darkness.
The emotions and relationships are as complex in Discovery as the overarching plot. And at one point, the Science officer actually says the “F-word.” It’s pretty clear by the time episode 3 rolls around that this ain’t your grandpa’s Star Trek. But it sure is awesome.
Is the Mirror Universe Our Possible Future?
Star Trek: Discovery employed Chandler’s Law in the mid-season finale in November of 2017. “One last jump” became a jump out of the prime timeline and into a new one. Fans had to wait until January to find out that the Discovery and her crew had actually landed in the “Mirror Universe.”
Now, the Mirror Universe isn’t a new concept. In fact, TOS introduced the concept in season 2, episode 10 “Mirror, Mirror.”
There is an Empire instead of a Federation of Planets. And the uniforms are comprised of gold on black with a waist sash.
We’ve only seen one episode of Discovery in the Mirror Universe, but it’s evident the writers drew from the Mirror Universe of TOS. Same gold uniforms, same Empire and same sigil (it’s a really cool sigil: a dagger piercing the Earth).
According to Do It Yourself Logos, your sigil defines your mission. And the Terran Empire lives by the sword as evidenced in the latest Star Trek: Discovery episode. Captain Tilly (in the prime universe she’s only a Cadet) apparently killed her own Captain to gain the rank of Captain. And Burnham later ends up killing her first officer who tries to overthrow her as Mirror Universe Captain.
Most of Trek is Hopeful
Traditionally, our future is bright in Star Trek. A good ending is guaranteed for humanity. We cooperate, give up money, and live a utopian dream exploring the universe and making friends as we can.
But our current world does not reflect this possibility. And much of what we see in the world gives us a sense that maybe the bright future of Star Trek isn’t inevitable.
Thus we often turn to our entertainment for reassurance. The world isn’t as dark as we think, right?
This Trek Isn’t So Hopeful
But Star Trek: Discovery refuses to do this for us. While it’s the most diverse Star Trek to date (the Science and Medical officers are the most winsome gay couples ever to grace the small screen), it’s also the most honest.
In the Mirror Universe, it’s already apparent that Earth chose the brutal xenophobic path rather than the altruistic one. In the mid-season premiere, Discovery lands in the wreckage of Klingon vessels and comes under attack by a Vulcan Rebels vessel. The crew quickly discovers that some Vulcans are allies with Klingons and Andorians against the Terran Empire.
I read up on the Mirror Universe after watching the latest episode. I found that instead of making peace with the Vulcans at first contact, we killed them, stole their tech, and used it to overtake the galaxy.
The Vulcans are our subjects and not our allies in the Mirror Universe. And it makes absolute sense that some Vulcans would then rebel against the Empire.
The Star Trek We Need
Does this Earth timeline fit better into what we know of our world today? Since H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, we’ve been conditioned to think extraterrestrials are coming to destroy or imprison us and a depressing number of people on our already hate people who look or act even slightly different from themselves list.
Only time will tell what will happen to the U.S.S. Discovery in the coming months, but I say this is the Star Trek our world needs right now. And it’s the letter of warning about what could come of us if we don’t pay attention.