The new series, set a decade before the original “Star Trek,” premiered on CBS and CBS All Access on Sunday night. I watched it both places. Here’s my take.
One. Flawed as the two-hour premiere was, it was still exhilarating to see two women of color in the top command roles on a starship. Two women, in fact, who carried the “Star Trek” tradition in their approaches to problem-solving, their ability to kick ass, and their occasional need to talk much more than the circumstances called for. First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), though educated by Vulcans, has a lot of Kirk in her – even one of those Kirk-outtalks-a-higher-intelligence scenes. And having women in charge is made even more significant by this version of the Klingons, who with their talk of purity and “Remain Klingon” (making Klingons great again) bear all the hallmarks of the Donald Trump crowd – and we know how they feel about strong women.
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Two. I don’t think we really know what the show is going to be yet. These two hours were a very long set-up for Burnham’s story going forward, with a first hour that was very talky before ending with a cliffhanger meant to get people to pay for CBS All Access to see what happened next. (Subsequent episodes will be All Access-only.) The second hour was better, more exciting and emotional, but even it seemed just another step toward the show’s main narrative, and we have not seen that yet. Because those two hours focused intensely on conflict between the Federation and the Klingons, there wasn’t any humor to speak of; tonally it recalled key scenes in some of the big-screen “Star Trek” reboots, where death and destruction dominated. I saw more than a few fans complaining online about the lack of humor, and wonder if there will be any. But by the end of the second episode, the drama was satisfying enough to keep me watching.
Three. Is it worth paying for? I am the wrong person to ask. Almost as soon as I learned that “Discovery” was going to be on CBS’s pay service, I signed up. I wasn’t unhappy to do so, either, since that let me see the engaging “Good Wife” sequel “The Good Fight.” Still, the big draw was “Discovery” and I was happy I could see the second episode and more potential than the first hour offered. (Even the trailer at the end of the second episode felt better than the one at the end of the first.) But I read plenty of comments from people unwilling to shell out extra bucks, especially if they were already paying for Netflix, Hulu, et al., not to mention a cable provider. On the other hand, CBS said the show led to the record-setting sign-ups for All Access (without offering specific numbers).
Four. This is sure an improvement on “The Orville.”