Trekathon 740: The Vulcan Hello (DIS)

Star Trek is back on TV after 12 years off screen. So far – too early to tell, but there’s a fair bit of promise here. Spoilers after the jump.

There isn’t really a good first episode to a Star Trek series. There’s so much exposition and character establishment to do that it’s hard to get much of an interesting story in. This is actually better than most, perhaps in part because we really only get to know one character, plus a couple of glimpses of two others. There are some very bad cases of ‘as you know’ exposition in the episode, but that’s probably nearly unavoidable.

But for all that the episode feels underfilled. The planet side scene and the spacesuit scene both run on far longer than necessary, and it’s hard to see that the planet side scene added anything at all to the episode other than a few nice visuals. There was some nice ‘sense of wonder’ with the space suit, but it felt more ‘The Motion Picture’ than anything else, not a good place for a Star Trek show to go. Other than that, it really comes down to ‘found a beacon, found another Klingon thing near it, found the big Klingon ship’ for the entire plot of the episode. The most interesting conflict, between the Captain and the First Officer, is given almost no time to develop.

The characters so far are a little too one note for my tastes, but they do have a feel of being in the same Star Fleet as James Kirk and Spock. And it’s only been one episode so far.

Everything hangs together pretty well. There’s an interesting story with the Klingons set up that does feel true to the past (future?) of Trek. And, most importantly of all, it feels more like Star Trek than anything else that’s been around since 2005.

Some other various thoughts:

– The ‘Come in Peace’ transition in the teaser is not done very well. In general there is some quite clumsy exposition in that sequence. On the other hand, the mislead from the episode title (‘The Vulcan Hello’) worked very nicely, so I can forgive a little clumsiness there.

– ‘General Order 1’ at 2 minutes, 35 seconds. A new record for the Prime Directive (and also a new record for arguably breaking the prime directive too).

– The Klingons have the makeup wrong, but there’s also a good sense of continuity in their characterisation so far.

– The floating [dutch angles]( are very distracting and overdone.

– Credits – I like what they’re doing, but it feels mismatched between the music and visuals (a mashup I saw with ‘It’s Been a Long Way’ from Enterprise fit better). But seriously – 6 producers, 4 co-executive producers, 9 executive producers? Yikes!

– Continuity porn – the communicators and hand phasers are very clearly related to the TOS ones. And the starship designs (especially the relay) have a very clear relationship to TOS. And while the set is quite broad and open, the shapes of things like the chairs and the consoles do seem a lot like TOS. Sound effect continuity is excellent – communicator sounds, bridge pings, red alert sound.

But on the other hand – they’re using the Enterprise assignment patch on their uniforms. That doesn’t become the general badge for Star Fleet for several decades yet. I know it’s a nitpick, and it would be hard to explain within the show given what people expect from more modern Trek. This is something that the alternative universe movies have also taken a shortcut on. The other example of this is the Vulcan training, which is drawn from the Star Trek reboot rather than anything in older Trek.

740 down. Another 14 episodes to go in this season, the next of which is cued up on my screen now…