Star Trek Discovery finds itself in a pretty familiar distant future

Burnham wasted no time running into a very sexy future man in the 32nd century. supplied

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If we learned anything from the season premiere of Star Trek Discovery, it’s definitely that our main character Michael Burnham — played with ample passion weekly by Sonequa Martin-Green — probably needs to be high all the time.

In the captivity of two rather excellent throwaway security guards — Ithyk the Andorian and Ithor the Orion (Brandon McGibbon and Jake Michaels) — Burnham is dosed with a truth spray which basically turns her into that guy you feel sorry for rolling around in the parking lot of an all-day music festival, yelling about the dinosaur raspberry clouds singing at him.

Orions and Andorians are still around as heavies in the 32nd century on Star Trek Discovery. supplied

Similarly frooped, Burnham dozes off, giggles uncontrollably, and in a very snort-cokey way comes to the speedy realization that she’s both too allowing and generally overcompensating, a very fun look-in-the-mirror moment which somehow misses the main and ongoing flaw of her schizophrenically developing character: that as an emotion-controlled, Vulcan-raised stepdaughter of Sarek, half-sister to Spock himself, the lady sure does seem to break down and cry like clockwork every episode. But, you know, usually wins anyway.

If you played a drinking game about her salty face rivers, you’d probably have liver troubles by now. And it’s one of the major things that bothers me about this show, of which I’m a general fan, especially of last year’s run with the preposterously likeable Anson Mount in charge as Capt. Pike, who will soon enough be the star of his own show called Strange New Worlds — and aren’t we all excited about that?

But so we were about season three of Discovery, too, which flung our kaleidoscopic and intrepid crew into the 32nd century with no hope of return (cough, Guardian of Forever), a scenario so full of possibilities, so far away from mining the same-ol’-same-ol’ Star Trek original-series-era, the mind licked its meaty brain folds.

Nine hundred and thirty years forward, pretty well anything is possible — especially given the way, in our own time, so-called “normal” identity has been so thoroughly redefined in the last decade. Let’s remember that a science fiction show is exactly the sort of place bold and groundbreaking ideas of who we are can be really played with, warned about, enthusiastically discussed and from multiple angles of great storytelling explored in fabulous metaphor.

In the year 3188, would humans even still exist at all in present form? Would everyone be mostly robotic? Would we be done with troublesome hair altogether? What new alien races might have slipped into the story and, say, half fused with every living thing in the galaxy — a relationship that might appear as horrifying to Burnham as a Roman centurion seeing most people stiffly stare into glowing screens all day with their mouths open in the 21st century, yet potentially have our own merits, such as the fact of our life expectancy is a little higher than, say, 35, as was the case in 1200 A.D?

Instead, Burnham popped out of her own personal wormhole into an episode of Doctor Who, complete with endless gravel pits (ok, Icelandic lava rock), clearly taking a few production notes from The Mandalorian when it comes to dropping big planets in the sky. But all in all, it’s basically the same place as ever, complete with a dumb rom-com opening where, in all the infinity of the universe, she bumps immediately into a severely hunky British guy who looks great with his shirt off, a rogue with a heart of gold, who not only predictably “saves the cat,” but is in fact an action-adventurer slash endangered species conservationist.

Grudge and Book (David Ajala) are two fine additions — one going viral — to Star Trek Discovery. supplied

And when Burnham is stunned — almost to the point of tears — that Starfleet/the Federation is gone almost 1,000 years after she left it on the stove, I couldn’t help but yell like that parking lot guy that in 1326 or so, 930 years before she was cavorting through the galaxy, mind-melding with disaffected space elves, the human race had yet a) to map the Earth, b) drink its first glass of whiskey or c) invent a flushing toilet.

It’d be as if some flea-covered toothless peasant popped onto Kirk’s bridge, stunned that we weren’t exploring the heavens in the name of Byzantium with Christ Pantocrator cemented in mosaic tile onto the circular hull.

Instead, this crazy future — besides the Short Trek episode Calypso being the furthest into the future TV Trek has flown — is so far all about slightly better gadgets: portable transporters, drug drones, commonplace cloaking devices, space cats … all that sort of very familiar stuff.

Which is not to say they might not really get into the Twilight Zone sort of weird of the original series, where a left-behind Gangs of Chicago book became the blueprint for an entire civilization where everyone dresses like SportsNet hosts.

But so far, besides the odd floating building and some altered political structures, a sneaky Andorian is still a sneaky Andorian, people still fill the tank with Dilithium and so, in our “real” world, mostly what everyone’s talking about on the Internet is Grudge the cat, a giant Maine Coon, a girl actually played by two brothers.

Whatever, I’m still in and curious, or I wouldn’t be here. But I think we’ve been spoiled a bit by Star Trek Lower Decks which absolutely blew the lid off everything, including having a major crew member die laughing their head off in its season finale; and weren’t those space battles just amazing, and didn’t those characters actually all grow quite a bit in 10 scant episodes which are doing a fantastic job of bringing the Star Trek universe back into one coherent story? Man, that show.

In Discovery’s season premiere, we did get a nice reference to the Temporal War, which once again summons prequel series Enterprise, just the sort of nerd bait losers like me love … but fingers crossed things get a hell of a lot weirder and more philosophically challenging than a guy sitting in a office for 40 years waiting to hang up an old flag. Actually, that is honestly pretty weird — but man, also so dumb, echoing the lamest parts of the original series where Kirk is chipperly barking out the long-forgotten American Constitution.

Come on, Discovery, summon the deep sci-fi author explorers and take us somewhere bolder, where no conscious ball of fifth-dimensional pan-species energy has gone before! We believe in you!

fgriwkowsky@postmedia.com

@fisheyefoto

 

 

 

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