So I don’t know about you, but I’ve been really enjoying the new series of Star Trek. I started watching Star Trek Discovery because I was one of the science advisors they talked with from the early writing stages to finish, building some of the science ideas, concepts, and tone for their reimagining of the Star Trek universe.
Over many months after the initial meeting with all the writers, I would take calls from individual writers and researchers and give them ideas or phrases they could use and so forth. But much of the work was done blind, which is to say I had very little context for most of what they were asking for advice for. I think they do it this way because they wanted to protect a lot of the material from leaking because, well, it’s Star Trek! Yes, you’ll know from my various writings and interviews about science advising that this is not usually my preferred way of working as an advisor, but I was happy to help in this case and make an exception because after all of this is a huge show that has a tradition of inspiring people about science over many generations. so it could be of value, just by virtue of some of the little science ideas that I helped sprinkled in there, however accurately or inaccurately. The bottom line is that Star Trek just isn’t about accuracy, it’s about inspiration and dreams.
Well, needless to say, when it came out I was curious to see how they used some of the ideas I gave them*. So I watched the pilot and second episode (it’s really a two hour pilot), and then I bought my subscription to the CBS All-Access service to see the later episodes. Frankly, regardless of how it turned out, I was also very happy to add to the numbers paying to show support for the show, just to thumb my nose at the many vocal fanboys protesting online because they think that having a black woman as the lead of a major sci-fi show is somehow a violation of their civil rights.
Anyway the bottom line is that I am really very pleasantly surprised that the show is as good as it is. Once you get a few episodes in, it seems that they have really captured some of the spirit and tone of the best of the Star Trek: Next Generation series. This is helped a lot by of course good writing with excellent character development, but also a uniformly very strong cast of lead and supporting actors all pulled together by really strong directing. This latter aspect is new to Star Trek TV I would say. Normally there’s always some clunky acting mixed in with the good work, which the show usually manages to rise above because many other things work well. In this case I can’t think of a single weak performance!
I don’t want to go into any examples, because the show is mid-season and also I know many people are waiting until it is over to watch it all in one batch – as all the cool kids do these days. (They’re in a mid-season break now, so you can jump on to CBS all access, get a free trial and watch a bunch if you like… or watch it on Netflix internationally.)
So I’ll just say that if you were wondering, especially if you have a fondness for Star Trek from earlier series, I would say that there’s plenty in there to make it worth your while.
*I’m also a fan of Michelle Yeoh and Jason Isaacs, so that helped with motivation too!