Thursday, November 18, 2021

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Discovery' - Michael's Pursuit of Diplomacy Quickly Clashes With a New Existential Threat in 'Kobayashi Maru'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Discovery - Episode 4.01 "Kobayashi Maru"

After months spent reconnecting the Federation with distant worlds, Captain Michael Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery are sent to assist a damaged space station - a seemingly routine mission that reveals the existence of a terrifying new threat.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Paramount+'s Star Trek: Discovery.

"Kobayashi Maru" was written by Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet & Alex Kurtzman and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi

At the start of its run, Star Trek: Discovery was unique because its lead character wasn't also the captain of the Starfleet ship. That had always been the norm of this storied franchise. This show opted for a different character journey. One that has now seen Michael rise to that position. Across three seasons, the narrative explained how she was always pivotal and consequential to the various missions. She wasn't perfect. She acted irrationally at times. She has started wars. She has questioned her commitment to the Federation. But now, she is resolute in her beliefs. That's the exact mentality she needs as she takes the helm of the Discovery. That's a position that hasn't seen much consistency either. The Discovery has also been uniquely positioned throughout the mythology of this world. It's the ship with the miraculous piece of technology that transcends time and unifies the universe no matter where it lands. It operates with a vital mission. It's mostly been called upon to save the world. That's the life-or-death stakes the show has always operated within. The scope of the problem is always vast and daunting but this crew is determined to solve all the mysteries and offer peace to the entire galaxy. In doing so, it may have given themselves a sense of indestructibility. Of course, that has always been a part of Michael's essence. She feels things deeply. She holds herself to the ideals of Starfleet. She is a good officer. And now, she is stepping up as the captain offering salvation to the universe. She is on a diplomatic to establish trust amongst the disparate worlds with the Federation once more. Michael can reliably see the nature of reality within these species even when they are skeptical of the gifts she comes bearing. It's actually joyful to watch Michael and Book negotiate and then run for their lives in the opening sequence. It showcases Michael doing the fundamental good that once inspired her to join Starfleet. She has finally found her home. It's in this mission. She has purpose. That brings clarity and strength. And then, the premiere sets out to reveal a new grand mystery to knock her off her feet. She only has her bearings for a little bit. Part of this turmoil comes from her not trusting the politicians who also emerge as power players in this new world order - which is a very forced conflict frankly. She doesn't see the benefits of having the President along for a rescue mission. This person is trusted throughout the Federation. She presents herself as someone willing to connect with others as they are. She is the steady voice amongst the chaos and destruction. Michael doesn't know if the President is trustworthy. Instead, she is simply the latest authority figure calling her out for failing to learn the lessons that should have been embedded in her from the academy. Loss is an inevitable part of this job. Michael can't save everyone. And yet, she carries that burden as captain. The crew is her responsibility. She has to save as many lives as she can. She has continuously been lucky. That too has been commented on before. The belief that the crew is indestructible is a tangible concern that develops naturally out of the proceedings. But that doesn't prepare any of them when they witness Book's home planet completely destroyed as a result of a strange gravitational disruption. That's the new mystery that has emerged in this universe. It represents a distinct threat to the idea of home for these characters. Saru chose to walk away from the Discovery to find himself in this new world. Su'Kal gives him peace in knowing that he can be called to various homes. Everyone is connected. Everyone should feel that collective pull to the greater good by acknowledging the scope of life in this world. All of that can seemingly be lost in an instant. That's devastating. It may continue the show's problem of always having to go big and extreme with its core stories. That can frequently come at the expense of the character work, which can often be repetitive on top of that. Those concerns still linger. But it's still impressive to see how much this show can accomplish with its special effects. When the character beats can match the scale of the threats, the drama can be very rewarding. Those are fleeting moments more than coming from any sense of true consistency. It's still worth getting to those moments though because they do work more often than not. This premiere does set up what the audience should expect from these characters even if the pattern has gone unchanged from what has already been depicted across the seasons.