By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer
First premiering on CBS on September 24th, Star Trek: Discovery has used an unconventional distribution model that might bias people’s opinions of the show.
The first episode was shown on television, while all the rest of the episodes are only available on the network’s online Netflix-equivalent called CBS All Access for six dollars per month. Discovery is not available to watch on regular cable.
Despite any opinions associated with the distribution method, the actual show is a compelling mix of old Trek and modern, gritty sci-fi that great for hardcore fans and separate enough for new viewers to join.
Starting with the set design, Discovery appears to have adopted an aesthetic similar to the recent reboot movies. There’s a lot of nu-Trek sleek designs and bright lights involved in the Starfleet ships. In contrast, the Klingon ships appear to be spikey and complex which reminds me of J.J. Abrams’s Romulan mining ship from the 2009 reboot.
The visual effects are very different from previous shows. Over 15 years have passed since the last Trek show premiered, so they have increased in quality with technology. That being said, there are a lot more light-effects, like lens flair and visible particle. This is like Mass Effect-level lens flair.
The show also uses different camera angles than traditional Trek. There are fewer shots that look straight at the captain’s chair on the bridge. This may have something to do with the main character not being a captain. Regardless of why, the different angles give the show more of a movie feel.
Discovery is also being filmed in a 2:1 cinematic aspect ratio, rather than the more common 16:9 ratio we see every day. This is even more of a difference considering that every Star Trek show aside from Enterprise was filmed in a nearly square 4:3 ratio.
The characters in this show are different compared to old Trek. Without specific spoilers, the main character, Michael Burnham, starts the show off blatantly breaking the rules. Captain Gabriel Lorca is different as well because most Starfleet captains in the past have been simple, honest people.
Lorca seems to gravitate toward the “the ends justify the means” philosophy, which draws him to Burnham. This contributes to the overall gritty sci-fi feel. The characters feel a little less two-dimensional than traditional Star Trek monoliths.
The show’s plot is unique to it in the Star Trek universe. Most Trek shows do not have one story arc they follow across a season let alone the series. They previously tended to have isolated episodes that do not impact the following episodes.
Discovery is different in that it has a season-long story planned out. The first three episodes seem to provide an enticing bite to real in us, the viewers.
There’s progression and change. We are not plopped into a situation that can be anticipated to remain stagnant.
Given Trek fans’ positive reaction to both Deep Space Nine and Enterprise’s later-season story arcs, this may work well. That being said, Voyager tried a mix of story arc and isolated incidents that was criticized heavily by its fanbase.
Star Trek Discovery looks promising. Only time will tell if it’s distribution model will outweigh its genuine quality.