Star Trek was always the franchise that promised to take us where no one has gone before. Yet, with Star Trek Discovery, it feels more like we’re on a space-faring roundabout, seeing the same sights over and over again. Unlike the masterful character development in The Next Generation or the intricate societal dynamics in Deep Space Nine, Discovery often resorts to grandstanding, with characters delivering speeches rather than engaging in genuine, reflective dialogue. While it’s commendable to attempt to address today’s complex societal concerns, the execution leaves much to be desired. Comparing the insightful and philosophical debates of Captain Picard with the overt dialogues of Discovery underscores a glaring difference in depth and maturity. And all this might be at least somewhat forgivable if showrunners had bothered to write a compelling story beyond, “Oh look! Michael Burnham saved the day again!”
Discovery’s attempts at tackling social issues feel more as though they’re channeling a soap opera in space rather than the nuanced philosophical debates we’re used to. “Oh, look, another impassioned speech about justice! And there’s one about loyalty! And… wait for it… another about hope!” It’s almost like there’s a speech bingo going on, and frankly, it’s a huge disappointment for a franchise that used to bring people together with its positive take on the future and discourse on what it means to be human.
While the show has tried desperately to tackle modern social issues, it often comes off like someone who’s just discovered philosophy and can’t wait to tell everyone about it at the dinner table. We get it, Discovery, you’re woke. But maybe a touch more subtlety? A sprinkle of nuance, perhaps? While The Expanse was undoubtedly created out of the same social justice idealism and was anything but nuanced, I enjoyed it a lot because, shocker — it was actually a well written show with intriguing characters.
Social issues aside, perhaps one of the most unforgivable failures of Star Trek Discovery showrunners is their complete disrespect for the timeline. These oversights pull fans out of the experience, Star Trek fans in particular. I’m not sure how CBS could have possibly missed this one since there is a whole SubReddit dedicated to debating Star Trek’s most nuanced intricacies to a fault. My only conclusion is that the writers and executives simply don’t care. It’s a challenging tightrope to walk to be fair — honoring the past while crafting something new — but Discovery’s leaps of logic often feel more like being thrown into the vacuum of space. Star Trek Youtuber, Major Grin has done a great job documenting Star Trek Discovery’s continuity failures in this playlist.
Star Trek Discovery is on a quest — not for new life and new civilizations – but for that classic Star Trek magic that captivated audiences for decades. Here’s to boldly hoping for a return to form in the vast cosmos of space television. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful we’ll get it from the upcoming fifth season or any new “Kurtzman Trek” to come. It’s hard to say whether or not Rodenberry would be proud to see what recent Star Trek has become. He’s from a different time, after all. But what I can say is that if Rodenberry were still around, he would have written a better show.