“Star Trek: Discovery” doesn’t suck.
There was reason to fear that the seventh “Trek” series might be terrible because the Powers That Be at CBS didn’t screen it for critics before Sunday’s premiere, and that’s almost always a bad sign. But the first hour was good and the second hour was better … so it does appear that this was a botched rollout rather than a problem with quality.
(And it seemed even more bungled because the first episode didn’t contain much that would qualify as a spoiler because we already knew most of the plot points.)
There’s a whole lot in “Discovery” to appeal to obsessed “Star Trek” fans, including yours truly. Whether that appeal spreads beyond those of us who have seen every bit of all the other series — all 725 episodes — plus the 13 movies is less certain.
As we knew from the clips, “Star Trek: Discovery” looks cool. Amazingly cool. More than enough to make the geeks giggle with glee. And the narrative is … pretty good. Not great. At least not yet. But this is by far the most serialized “Star Trek” ever, and we’ve seen the first two installments in what is basically a 16-part movie.
I’m avoiding spoilers here, but the story centers on Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who — as “Discovery” begins — is the first officer aboard the USS Shenzhou, serving under Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).
As we knew before the premiere, Burnham grew up on Vulcan as the ward of Spock’s father, Sarek (James Frain). We find out why, and — minor spoiler alert — it involves the Klingons.
A great deal of “Discovery” involves the Klingons. This story is told not just from the perspective of Starfleet personnel, but from inside the Klingon Empire, which we learn has been in disarray for generations.
Again, we knew this before the premiere, but relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire go from bad to worse as “Discovery” gets underway, and Burnham is right in the middle of what happens.
There’s action. There’s adventure. There are Big Events.
Again, no spoilers, but not every character we meet in the first two episodes makes it out alive.
Those first two episodes aren’t perfect. At times the technology overtakes the narrative — the effects are so cool the characters sort of step aside so we can look at the CGI. It feels a little bit like the original “Star Trek” movie way back in 1979, although it’s nowhere near that extent.
And, given that this is one big story broken into 16 parts, it’s impossible to say at this point whether “Star Trek: Discovery” will hold up. It’s one thing to produce two watchable episodes; it’s something much more difficult to deliver 14 more.
But, at this point, it certainly seems worthwhile to tune in and find out.
The bigger question is — is “Star Trek: Discovery” worth the money it will cost to watch it? Only the first episode aired on the CBS broadcast network; Episode 2 and all subsequent installments are/will be streaming only on the subscription-only CBS All Access. Which has been a point of contention for many “Star Trek” fans — at least the ones who have been expressing outrage on social media.
Let’s be clear about this. CBS is a business. It produced “Star Trek: Discovery” to try to drive subscriptions to its streaming service. That’s no different than any retailer who stocks a product people want so that they’ll come in and buy it.
And this product is not prohibitively expensive. CBS All Access costs $5.99 a month for the cheaper version; $9.99 a month if you pay more for the no-commercials version. If you subscribe today, you can pay for two months and see the first eight episodes for $10.98.
(Subsequent episodes will be released one per week on Sundays. The season is being broken in half; the first eight episodes will be released weekly through Nov. 5; then, after a break, Episodes 9-16 will be released weekly beginning in January.)
A six-month subscription will cost you $35.96. That’s, what, a couple of movie tickets, popcorn and drinks?
Or you could do it more cheaply. Wait until the last episode goes online and pay $5.99 for one month. For that matter, maybe CBS All Access will still be having its get-a-week-for-free promotion and you can watch it for nothing.
(By the way, there’s a whole lot more on the streaming service than just “Discovery.” You’re not just paying for one show.)
To be clear, I’m not telling you to pay for CBS All Access. I am saying that for obsessed fans like me, it’s not crazy expensive. I’ve spent a whole lot more than 36 bucks to see all the “Star Trek” movies (multiple times) and buy the movies and (some of) the series on DVD and Blu-ray.
Judging by the first two episodes, “Star Trek: Discovery” is worth it.