Star Trek Discovery Review: “Kobayashi Maru”

“One cannot have all the lives one desires.”
–Saru

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

Cast
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

Premise:

The Discovery helps rebuild the Federation– only to uncover a mystery that may threaten future success.

High Point:

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.

Low Point:

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.

The Scores:

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.

Production: 6/6

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.

Overall: 4/6

In total, “Kobayashi Maru” receives 31/42

4 replies on “Star Trek Discovery Review: “Kobayashi Maru””

  1. lost says:

    This episode felt like it was possibly intended to be two stories (or a two parter) – the first being the exposition and the discovery of the macguffin noodling around, and the other the bits with the macguffin’s second target. But for whatever reason (and I can think of a couple that would make at least some sense), they merged the two stories and rearranged them. Which led to a single episode attempting to do too much, at least in isolation.

  2. JD DeLuzio says:

    I think that approach would have produced better episodes. The story-arc concept can work very well, but it takes deft handling, and that sometimes runs up against what the people behind the scenes expect the episode to contain.

  3. I agree that the opening was wonderful, it was like a short film about everything that makes Star Trek wonderful, it’s a utopian future we can all strive to one day achieve, where science, rationality, and compassion brings about the place we want to live.

    I especially loved how they arrive at Deep Space Not-9, and had to put in a few hours of work, just straight up work to fix the issue. I wasn’t thrilled with the tumbling through space aspect, because they’re tumbling in relation to what? If Discovery arrived and matched position and velocity immediately, it wouldn’t have seemed like they were any different than any normal approach. Hell, they probably could have docked.

    I am all in for this show.

  4. I appreciate the fact that it feels more like an ensemble than it did before. Detmer, Rhys, Owo, Nillson… the entire bridge crew had functional moments. That’s been lacking in this series up to this point.

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