Tuesday 3 October 2017

Star Trek through the looking glass

Episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery is a masterclass in mystery and suspense! After the two-part prologue aboard the USS Shenzhou, fans are finally introduced to the titular starship in a story that is to all intents a purposes another pilot.

In shades of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is en route to a penal colony, to serve time for treason and igniting the war with the Klingons, when the shuttle is attacked, the pilot killed and she's rescued by the mysterious USS Discovery.

Burnham boards a starship that is more Star Destroyer than exploration vessel inhabited by a militarised crew wearing black badges and seemingly on a black ops mission to defeat the Klingon threat by all means necessary. Old allies and former friends are distrusting.

In the heart of darkness lies the enigmatic Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) with his menagerie of familiar foes from the franchise's celebrated past. A morally ambiguous character hell bent on defeating an enemy with untested biological technology a la Project Genesis from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

To reiterate and develop an observation from my review of the two-part premiere. Some fans have commented that the look and feel is too advanced for a prequel series. However, what if this is the Mirror Universe, intimated through the use of reflections, colour and composition, and the Federation has focussed on empire resulting in rapid technological progress at the expense of peaceful coexistence?

Fun conjecture to be sure, but I never imagined thinking about Star Trek with such passion and genuine intrigue after Star Trek: The Next Generation ended. Deep Space Nine mined Babylon 5's episodic storytelling and still failed to capture my full attention. Voyager and Enterprise reprised too familiar Trek tropes.

Discovery doesn't shy away from body horror and the series' first away mission paid chilling homage to Aliens and John Carpenter's The Thing. Lorca's new pet has an unknown gruesome part to play in the future.

From Jason Isaacs' Captain Pike through a mirror darkly to allusions and references to Alice in Wonderland as Burnham tries to make sense of her place in a fractured universe. This is a Star Trek series I've always wanted to see since Yesterday's Enterprise.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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