Before the first impressions ...
by Martin Hafer
As a lifelong Star Trek fan, I have had real mixed feelings about the new Star Trek series, Discovery. I am not thrilled that after airing an episode (or possibly two), to see the rest you need to subscribe to CBS All Access if you live in the United States. All Access is a pay service which allows viewers to have access to various CBS TV re-runs as well as this original show. And, I was not happy when I saw the footage released at ComicCon, as the Klingons looked nothing like the ones from the original series or the hairy, nobby-headed ones from the later shows and movies. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to learn more at the gigantic annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas…the largest one of its type in the world. Here, an entire day was devoted to Star Trek Discovery and a traveling Trek museum accompanied it so the fans could see what the uniforms and equipment will look like up close. As a result, I had pretty much all of my questions answered and I know what to expect…and am so excited that I want to share it with you.
The new series is very different from the other Trek shows in many ways. Instead of stand-alone episodes, the story will be much more serialized…with an on-going plot like you saw in Babylon 5 and what you saw some of, at times, in some of the newer Trek shows. So, a continuing story will be important to the program and the plots won’t all be about 45 minutes in length. To me, this enables a show to do deeper and better storytelling…and I like that. Another difference is that this series will be told from multiple points of view…from both that of the the humans/Federation as well as the Klingons!
That is definitely a first and the plan, at least according to the folks at Discovery, is that like many wars, both sides have legitimate reasons for engaging in galactic combat and the Klingons are not simply the bad guys and the Federation complete angels. Again, I like this and think it opens up many wonderful possibilities. Plus, as die-hard Trekkies will know, the two adversaries eventually will iron out their grievances and became allies since this show is intended to fit within the television Trek canon. So we get to see the things that led up to war and understand the why. And, to do that they also feature the crews of several ships, Federation and Klingon, and so there is no one star of the series but it is much more of an ensemble cast. The actual star, if you had to say there was one, isn’t even a captain but a lieutenant commander!
We were very fortunate to learn about these Klingons and see how they were created because the creative folks behind this, Alchemy Studios, came to the Trek convention to share their excitement with the fans. Two of the stars of the wonderful SyFy Channel show, Faceoff, are leading the team making all the props, costumes and makeup for Discovery. You Faceoff fans will no doubt love and appreciate that Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page are in charge of making these Klingons…and they came to the convention to not only discuss their Klingons but to show us the props and outfits they made for them…and they are impressive.
As for why the Klingons are so different looking and so…bald…Glenn and Neville had a reasonable answer to this. According to this show, the Klingon Empire is made up of many races and the bald guys you see in the previews represent just one of the 24 houses that make up the leadership of the empire. And, they plan to feature other houses at well on the show. This makes sense to Trek fans, as many of the races within the Federation are not humans…and so they come in all shapes and sizes as well.
While the show has a few other differences, an important one that I should point out is that Discovery has very modern sensibilities. A couple of the captains in important roles in the program are women and it also features a gay couple. But, instead of just an incredibly brief glimpse of gay Sulu like you got in the recent movie, Star Trek Beyond, this couple will be important members of the crew and their relationship will be explored. Some, no doubt, will be offended by this…others, clearly, will embrace it and appreciate that the Trek universe has become more inclusive. I don’t know what I think yet…I just want the characters to be well written and lacking cheap clichés and stereotypes.
Finally, while we did not get most of the cast to come to the annual Las Vegas Trek convention, four of them did. I really appreciated how the four acted at the convention as well. They were on a panel discussing the show (this is expected) but they also behaved a lot like happy fans and often were found milling about the convention, signing free autographs, posing for photos and just enjoying the heck out of their new-found limelight!
Who knows, perhaps a decade from now these folks will be attending Trek conventions…talking about the good old days and charging folks for photos and autographs…until then, fans were scooping up free photos and autographs from folks who are just starting to enjoy the taste of stardom The only apprehension I had about seeing these four is that Kenneth Mitchell is gorgeous (kind of in a Thor sort of way) and Mary Chieffo is very cute but will both be hidden underneath all that makeup and prosthetics because they are playing Klingons! But I soon realized why they picked the pair as they have become very proficient in learning to speak Klingon. For Star Trek Discovery this is very important as the Klingons all speak Klingon and their dialog will be subtitled…another interesting twist for this new series!
Overall, I am feeling very hyped about the new show and its debut on September 24th. Incidentally, it’s not intended as a part of the so-called ‘Kelvin timeline’ (the alternate universe where the last three Trek films are set) but is intended to fit within the Trek television shows that preceded it. This will also help to explain much of the belligerence you saw between the Captain Kirk, the crew of the Enterprise and the various Klingons they met during their voyage in the original series. After seeing the debut, please feel free to let me know what you think…hopefully we’ll all be as excited as I am now about the project!