“One cannot have all the lives one desires.”
Discovery returns with those cool uniforms from last year, a lot of sound and fury, and an inconsistent start for a season for which many have high hopes.
Title: “Kobayashi Maru”
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Written by Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet, and Alex Kurtzman
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Saru
Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly
David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker
Anthony Rapp as Commander Paul Stamets
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Bill Irwin as Su’Kal
Chelah Horsdal as Federation President Laira Rillak
Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal
Ian Alexander as Gray Tal
Oyin Oladejo as Lt. Joann Owosekun
Emily Coutts as Lt. Keyla Detmer
Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance
Ache Hernandez as Kyheem
Raven Dauda as Dr. Tracy Pollard
Vanessa Jackson as Lt. Audrey Wiilla
Rachael Ancheril as Cmdr. Nhan
Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Gen Rhys
Sara Mitich as Lt. Nilsson
Hannah Cheesman as Lt. Cmdr. Airiam
Ronnie Rowe as Lt. Cmdr. R.A. Bryce
Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll as Nalas
Ache Hernandez as Kyheem
Vanessa Jackson as Lt. Audrey Willa
Jodi Jahnke, Avaah Blackwell as Kelpien Council Members
Alex McCooeye as Lee’u
Oded Fehr as Admiral Charles Vance
The Discovery helps rebuild the Federation– only to uncover a mystery that may threaten future success.
The opening leans into the new premise, which brings us back to a classic Trek, albeit one tailored to the expectations and conventions of twenty-first century prestige shows.
The episode throws too much at us, and a lot of that is technobabble. It takes twenty minutes to get anywhere near a plot, and the central questions– whether Burnham is actually ready for command and whether action movie-style heroism is truly heroic — gets somewhat lost in the light and sound show. I’m good with the story arc approach, but some of those stories needed to be separated further for the sake of coherence and overall effect. It becomes hard to focus on and feel for specific characters, and that matters a good deal.
Originality: 2/6 We have some inventive concepts and visuals, though they cover a conventional, if confused, start.
Acting: 5/6 The acting, with such a large cast, can vary, but the principals have developed excellent chemistry and Doug Jones has transformed Saru into one of Trek‘s strongest extra-terrestrials, alongside Spock and Worf.
Effects: 6/6 This episode throws so very many spectacular visuals at us that I can overlook a few times the CGI seemed a little too CGI. The current budget and technology bury the charming but low-tech sets and effects of yore.
Emotional Response: 4/6
Story: 4/6: We have a visually stunning opener reminiscent of the Trek movies and then, after a slow burn (see what I did there), we finally hit what would have been the start of a TOS or NextGen ep.
I understand that they’re wedded to the story arc approach, but the new premise permits some effective stand-alone stories, and they had a credible center for this one that could still have kicked the larger story into motion. A little less narrative chaos and fewer pyrotechnics and a little more focus on the central story might have made for a better viewing experience, especially for a season premiere.
In total, “Kobayashi Maru” receives 31/42