Star Trek: Discovery review — old meets new in a pleasing balance

Discovery is a blend of old and new. There are fresh stories and characters but the series also ties in nicely with the rest of the Star Trek universe. It's enjoyable and entertaining whether you're new to Star Trek or a hardened Trekkie.

I reckon I've been watching Star Trek for about 50 years now. I've watched every episode of all the TV series' and I've seen every film. This might make me a Trekkie, although I don't attend conventions and I only dress up as Captain Kirk in an emergency. I don't have a phaser and I don't speak Klingon either. Perhaps this just makes me a Trekkie Lite.

I've nevertheless enjoyed watching Star Trek over the years. I'm a fan of sci-fi and I've always thought I was born too early. I really wanted to live in a time when we could trek the stars aboard something like the Enterprise, where I'd be the captain of course.

I had previously worked through a couple of sci-fi series': Away, which is good, and Salvation, which is moderate. Moving into Star Trek — belatedly, I admit (the series started in 2017) — is like returning to familiarity of a favourite pair of underpants.

I think my favourite of all the Star Trek series' until now was The Next Generation, but that's in danger of losing its top spot to Star Trek: Discovery. I've thoroughly enjoyed what I've watched to date.

Still from Star Trek: Discovery.
Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou (left) and Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham (right).

Without giving away too many spoilers, it tells the story of Michael Burnham, who is a commander aboard the Discovery. Despite the name, Michael Burnham is a woman played by Sonequa Martin-Green, and she plays the part very well indeed. Burnham is human but was orphaned and brought up on Vulcan by Sarek, who Star Trek buffs will know is Spock's father, and his human wife Amanda.

The series is set in a period just before The Original Series of Star Trek and Burnham's upbringing is one of the various links Discovery has with The Original Series. Discovery even ties in with the original 1965 pilot of Star Trek (The Cage).

There is plenty that will be familiar — Klingons, Tribbles and other species' we've seen before — but there's also a new perspective. The main protagonist of most Star Trek series' is a captain, but this time it's a commander, and one who isn't always as compliant as Commander Riker was.

There's more depth to the series too. This seems to be the way of things these days — think old Batman vs The Dark Knight, for example — and this is a good thing. As the series progresses we get more of the backstory behind the main characters. In the first series, this is all done against the backdrop of a war between the Federation and the Klingons. The second series moves on from that and tracks the clues to a particular puzzle; I won't reveal anything further about that in order to avoid spoilers.

One of my favourite characters is Commander Saru. He's a Kelpien, which is a species of hoofed humanoid that was bred to be hunted. The role is played by Doug Jones who's listed as a contortionist as well as an actor. I imagine he was uncomfortable a lot of the time walking around in hooves and heavy make-up, but he affects some excellent mannerisms.

It runs to three series' now and, as I write, I'm mid-way through the third.

What you get with Discovery is something that fits into the Star Trek universe nicely, but with storylines and characters that offer enough new material to keep things interesting. It's not perfect — things rarely are — and the occasional episode can seem a bit slow, but, over all, it's an entertaining series that's worth a watch whether you're new to Star Trek or an old hand.

And of course the scenery doesn't wobble as much as it did in The Original Series either.