‘Star Trek: Discovery’ adds new enterprising chapter to Trek universe

By Rachel Popa, Managing Editor

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Captain Philippa Georgiou and First Officer Michael Burnham. Photo courtesy of Facebook/CBS.

I’ve been a fan of the “Star Trek” franchise since I could remember. My mom would watch “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine” when I was little, so “Star Trek” has always been a part of my life. The show’s depiction of humanity’s potential to move beyond prejudice and conflict to work toward the common goal of space exploration sparked my love of science fiction. Since its debut in 1966, “Star Trek” has been breaking boundaries and showing what humankind is capable of. After broadcasting the first interracial kiss on television in 1968, “Star Trek” has cemented its place as a show ahead of its time (or rather a reflection of the times), a tradition that has continued to its current iteration, “Star Trek: Discovery.”

The new show premiered on Sep. 24 CBS All Access, CBS’ online platform. Besides some original reservations about the show being broadcast exclusively online, “Discovery” has added a new, enterprising chapter to the “Star Trek” universe.

“Discovery” takes place about a decade before the events of the original series, which helps set the stage for the major events in the rest of the series, specifically the conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. In the first episode of “Discovery,” Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) make contact with a cloaked Klingon vessel. After Burnham kills a Klingon in self-defense, the Federation is unwillingly thrown into a war with the Klingon Empire.

The Klingons are depicted in “Discovery” as being a people that is fighting to keep their race pure. The nationalistic mannerisms of the Klingons feels current and relevant, especially with the recent conflicts started by the growing white nationalist movement in the U.S. Despite the disturbing behavior of the Klingons, I am enjoying how the show is exploring different “houses” of the Klingon elite, which are either fighting together against the Federation, or in-fighting against each other. They also speak Klingon exclusively, which for a linguistics nerd like myself, is really cool to see.

Before the war started, the U.S.S. Discovery was a science vessel that was studying astromycology (fungi in space) under the direction of Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), a science officer who is also the first openly gay character in a “Star Trek” television series. Now that the Federation is at war, the Discovery must halt its scientific experiments, much to the chagrin of scientists aboard the ship. This disparity between being a vessel that was designed for science that must now fight in a war is a different situation than other ships in the series have dealt with.

As a female “Star Trek” fan, seeing two women in charge on the bridge of a starship is inspiring, especially considering that Georgiou and Burnham are women of color. Keeping in fashion with “Star Trek’s” cast of multi-faceted characters, Burnham was raised by Vulcans, which allows her to give a multicultural perspective on things. While she was trained to suppress her emotions by the Vulcans, it becomes obvious that her human qualities prevent her from doing that. In ways, she feels things more deeply than other characters on the show, which is a testament to both the writing and Martin-Green’s performance. Other characters on the show comment on Burnham’s multicultural background, calling it a weakness rather than a strength, which adds a layer of prejudice which hasn’t been explored in a “Star Trek” show before.

In addition to the compelling characters and stellar writing, the visual effects on the show are visually stunning. Being that “Discovery” is the first new “Star Trek” show on television in nearly a decade, it is certainly doing its part to ensure that the message of “Star Trek” will live long and prosper for many more years to come.

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