USS Discovery

Fan Collective Unimatrix 47: In Defense of Star Trek: Discovery

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.

We’ve settled into a holiday lull for a bit in new Star Trek streaming content, so I want to take a moment to look into 2024. We know Star Trek: Prodigy will land on Netflix for a rewatch on Christmas Day, at least in the United States, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that. We’re also going to get a chance to watch Star Trek: Discovery’s final season sometime in 2024. With respect to the Starfleet Academy Show, the Section 31 movies, and more Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, all of those have had production interrupted or on hold. The WGA strike has impacted coming Trek content, so it’s looking like new Trek is going to be a little light on the…er…ground in 2024. Bear in mind that I am in no way criticizing the striking artists, and I support their efforts; I’m just looking at what we know so far.

Once Prodigy season one completes its run on Netflix, we’re going to see the show’s second season, though we don’t yet know if we’ll see more seasons on Netflix. We also know that Paramount Plus will air Star Trek: Discovery’s final season, which is actually what I want to discuss here. Discovery has been a polarizing show in the fandom for a number of reasons, both justified and not. The show has come under fire because it’s too “woke.” I’ve seen commentary that Michael Burnham cried too often to be taken seriously. Dip your toes into various subreddits, and you’ll see a great deal of criticism directed at the show for being “too in your face” with its themes immediately beside commentary that the writing has been juvenile or other, less repeatable descriptors. I’ve even seen a number of folks complaining about the re-done Klingons, and members of my own podcast have complained that they don’t know the Discovery’s bridge crew all that well.

Some of these critiques have merits, but a great deal of them don’t. I don’t think we can argue that the show’s writing has been anything other than uneven. I’m on record on multiple platforms arguing that Discovery’s “Project Daedalus” episode tried too hard to tug at my heart strings in all the wrong ways by asking me to invest more in Airiam in one episode than we did in any of the previous seasons. Some of the Red Angel plotline struggled from pacing issues and at times didn’t quite hang together the way it could have. That said, Discovery has taken the franchise farther than it had ever really gone before, and I don’t just mean into the future.

Discovery gave us Adira Tal, our first nonbinary character, and while there’s an argument to be made that it would have been more in-keeping with Star Trek to have them exist as a normal part of life, Adira’s coming out to their adoptive dads occurs in a future in which the Federation and its ideals don’t exist. Rather, they grew up in a very different universe, but more importantly, Adira affords folks representation they don’t normally get to see. My feelings on how the writers introduced them are ultimately immaterial because getting to see Adira be accepted wholly and perfectly for who they are provides a very under-served group of folks the opportunity to see themselves in the future. Adira’s discussion with Stamets provides a positive mirror for folks who may not have had that same experience in real life, and y’all, I can think of fewer things more Star Trek than that.

Whether one cares for Michael Burnham or not, the furor surrounding her emotional distress on camera seems very out of place. Yes, she cries, but Burnham and her crew face incredibly stressful situations without the support of a major political power behind them. They’re also unique in that they’ve left everything and everyone they ever knew behind in order to protect the sphere data. However, even setting all of that aside, Burnham and the crew model emotional literacy. Discovery reminds us that most of us do not live emotion-free lives, and we have to continue to do the hard things we do in the face of those emotions. That’s a great lesson in the necessity of emotional literacy.

Even setting aside those issues, we have to remember that Star Trek: Discovery brought us the wealth of Trek we’re seeing now, and that, if nothing else, earns it a soft spot in my heart. I do think I’m going to do a bit of a rewatch in preparation for season five, and I have to say I wonder if my feelings on the series will change. I wonder if looking back on the series will provide needed context.

I guess we’ll just have to see.

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