Star Trek: Discovery: “Battle at the Binary Stars” Review

Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham.

If you caught my review of the debut episode of Star Trek: Discovery you’ll know that I wasn’t all too impressed with the shows first outing on the small screen in over a decade (despite being a huge fan of Trek in general). My chief complaints were the slow pace, the small cast of characters, and a plot that seemed like half an episode – the other half deliberately kept from fans behind the paywall that is CBS’s All Access streaming app. Despite this, I went ahead and subscribed to their service to properly assess the full package.

The second episode did improve some things over the debut. It seemed to move at a better pace no doubt due to the action between the Federation and the Klingons finally beginning to escalate. After Michael’s (still weird referring to a female by a dudes name) attempt to takeover the Shenzhou she’s confined to one of the ships prisoner cells. When a Klingon attack blows off the side of the ship she has to cleverly convince the ship’s computer that it’s logical to lift her confinement considering she will eventually die to the vacuum of space otherwise. It was one of the better scenes so far.

Chris Obi as T’Kuvma

When we check in with the Klingons we learn that the heads of all the noble houses have arrived and are considering following T’Kuvma’s leadership. He delivers a speech that makes it clear that these Klingons are not interested in assimilation best demonstrated by his mantra to “Remain Klingon”. Given the comments of the producers I know this is meant as a real-life comparison to Trump supporters, but regardless, it is fitting with the expected attitudes of a pre-peacetime Klingon Empire, and it serves as a stark contrast to the diverse multi-cultural Federation. Some of the best material comes when the Federation is faced with a culture that doesn’t share their views and is forced to reflect on their own beliefs and what they stand for.

The episode does still suffer from some problems. They didn’t really introduce any more characters, and aside from the lead no one has been particularly interesting. There was also some straight up bad writing to be found. At one point Michael offers up an opinion on how best to handle a situation, yet later in the episode, she does the exact thing she advised that they not do. Also, once again, the episode suddenly halts to an end, although, it becomes clear now (without spoiling anything) what the writers were working towards, and it does make for an interesting setup for the rest of the season.

Michelle Yeoh as Captain Philippa Georgiou

Having now seen these two lead-in episodes it’s clear that they’re intended as a prologue to the entire series. That means we probably still haven’t seen how the shows going to fully operate yet. So far, Discovery feels like any other non-Trek sci-fi show with a decent budget like Battlestar or Stargate. It’s mildly entertaining but utterly devoid of the diversity or personality expected in a Star Trek cast. The preview for future episodes seemed to have a lot of action and spectacle to please modern audiences short attention spans, but other than familiar races, iconography, and sound effects, it still didn’t seem very Trek like.

In summary, if the show didn’t have the Star Trek name I probably wouldn’t have much interest to watch it further, but because it does, and I know the potential if they start getting it right, I’ll continue on a little bit more.

The Rebel Domain Score:
 
“OK”