We are now six episodes into CBS’ new series Star Trek Discovery. Critics and fans are divided on how they feel about the show. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 85% fresh out of 49 “professional” reviews (40 fresh, 9 rotten). Fan reviews on the same site, however, come in at a much lower score of 60% rating (an average rating of 3.5/5 out of 3,871 reviews). Looking at these numbers it would seem the rift between critic and fan is a fairly wide open frontier of space which should be explored.
So the question then becomes, “What makes good Star Trek?” Who gets to define exactly what Star Trek should be, and what makes “good Trek”? The answer my friends is very easy to find. The only person who can define what makes good Star Trek is Gene Roddenberry himself. That answer; “is the story believable”.
“Believably is everything. It is the most essential element of any Star Trek story.“^2
“..we’ve learned during a full season of making visual science fiction that believability of characters, their actions and reactions, is our greatest need and is the most important angle factor.“^1
Gene went on to say “If you are in doubt about a scene, you can apply this simple test: ‘Would I believe this if it was occurring on the bridge of the battleship Missouri?’ If you wouldn’t believe it in the twentieth century, then our audience probably won’t believe it in the twenty-fourth.”^2
So let us take a look at the believability of Discovery in just the first two episodes.
WARNING SPOILERS BELOW
Episode one, “The Vulcan Hello”:
The Captain and her First officer get into an argument, on the bridge, about how to handle the Klingon activity. The bridge crew is fully aware of the captain’s viewpoint before the two of them leave the bridge. The basics of which is “Starfleet does not fire first.” These two leave the bridge, and the first officer returns, issuing orders that countermand the last order given by the captain. The bridge crew, starts to follow her orders? Would this happen in real life? No. Is it a believable scenario? No. It also violates another of Gene’s rules. “Stay away from petty military politics…it usually comes off as unbelievable in our advanced century.”^1
Episode two “Battle at the Binary Stars”:
So Burnham winds up in the brig, relieved of duty, and yet still has enough security clearance to talk with, and convince the computer to release her. Yet another unbelievable set of events. It should also be noted here that during the battle, Saru mentions levels six through nine are breached. The bridge, is on deck seven?
For the remaining episodes, I’ll let the reader draw their own conclusions. If you were watching this show, and it was set on a modern day aircraft carrier, would you believe it? I am doubtful that you would. For me, this show fails Gene Roddenberry’s vision. It fails to meet the one key requirement he laid out for both The Original Series and for The Next Generation. For me, Star Trek Discovery is not worthy of the name Star Trek.
^1 – Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek Writer/Directors Guide. Desilu Studios, 1967
^2 – Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek The Next Generation Writer/Director’s Guide. 1987