Friday, 19 May 2017

Analysis: The Discovery Trailer

Two and a half minutes of new Star Trek just dropped and don't it look good!!!

The wait is finally almost nearly over maybe for the arrival of Discovery with our first good look at the new show which will debut this Fall (Autumn) on CBS All Access and around the rest of the world on Netflix.

"Captain where are we going? We have no map. You can't set a course without a star."

Today we've been teased with a couple of promo pics from the trailer of Captain Phillipa Georgiou and Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham on a desert planet and another of Burnham in her spacesuit but this evening the big reel dropped and Discovery truly arrived. I'm not going to go through the trailer in sequence as the CBS and the Netflix versions have large variations in order (and a couple of sneaky changes) so here goes...

"It's hard to imagine you've served under me for seven years....Commander Burnham I think it is time we talked about you having your own command"

Kicking us off on that desert planet we have Georgiou and Burnham trekking through the sand with the commanding officer declaring that they must discuss her sub-ordinate taking her own command. She flips open a communicator and a beam effect begins...

Desert worlds are not a new thing to Star Trek and I was immediately reminded of Sisko, Ezri and Jake searching for a lost Orb in Shadows and Symbols from Deep Space Nine's final year or Archer and T'Pol crossing the Forge in Enterprise. However, their journey didn't end with a shot of a starship breaking cloud cover but this has to be the Shenzhou and why? Because there's a glimpse of the all-important ship registry as NCC-1227 which means this is a newer ship than the title vessel. So how does Burnham end up on the older Discovery? What happens to land her there? Is the sugggestion of her needing a promotion after seven years actually going to be rejected after some sort of terrible incident. I'm hedging bets that Burnham actually gets demoted after an "incident" (more on that in a bit) and ends up on NCC-1031.  Even at a distance at this time you can clearly see the familiar design elements and it resembles the wire model from the earlier behind the scenes trailer.

We get to see the new bridge design for the Shenzhou (still no Discovery) and there's more than a few echoes across to the Vengeance bridge from Into Darkness and certainly to the bridge of the Kelvin from the 2009 reboot. It's dark, metallic, functional and not a bit like the Enterprise-D. I would even go so far as to say that it's not too far from the Enterprise-E bridge we saw from First Contact although it seems a lot more cramped and with a much lower ceiling. Note that the forward consoles have a very familiar design to them which would be more at home on Sovereign Class starship than something pre-Kirk. Interesting point to note here as well is that the bridge of the Shenzhou is actually slung under the ship rather than above. Check out the structure of the bridge versus that "upside down" shot of the ship and you can see this new twist on the design. Kinda makes more sense defensibly...

"Great unifiers are few and far between but they do come. Often such leaders will need a profound cause for their followers to rally around."

Sarek (James Frain) shows up as a hologram and giving rather grim Vulcan stoicism. This attitude is more in line with the vision of the green-blooded race from Enterprise than The Original Series. There seems to be a darker tone to Sarek's words, a more disdainful approach to the human race than in The Original Series for instance. Even his later soundbyte sounds stark and against humanity's exploration of the stars.

"What have you done out there on the edge of Federation space."

It makes me wonder if he's integral to the pilot or the season but each time he's a little chilling and direct. Here he could be scorning anyone and Frain's portrayal seems even more stark than Mark Lenard's in Journey to Babel. How they'll explore the character transition will be good to see. Is Sarek going to be the disapproving type of Vulcan we saw in Enterprise, still disgruntled that the humans are stepping out of their comfort zone. What kind of relationship does the Vulcan ambassador have with Starfleet? Is it a personal one with Burnham or something more general? To whom is he talking?

"You will never learn Vulcan, your tongue is too human."

Those familiar with the original "making of" teaser will obviously spot the new uniforms too. So we were completely wrong and the blue with the added piping are actually the duty uniforms and NOT as I suggested, the dress uniforms. They seem very functional and one-piece regardless of male, female or alien. Very form-fitting from what we can tell although there does seem to be a short-sleeved version on show during one shot of a ship corridor. 

Gold braiding indicates Command therefore with silver for Sciences and bronze for Engineering and the other Support Services. Also Georgiou has additional braiding on her shoulders to mark her out as the captain. Wondering about the ranks? Well they're etched into the left-hand facing spike of the delta in the style of The Next Generation's pips rather than The Original Series' stripes. Nice touch. I've included a nice big pic of Doug Jones in character at the bottom of this article so you can see the ranks more clearly!

"What am I looking at?"
"Object of unknown origin."

That hint of the final frontier comes across in the reveal of a mysterious graphic that the starship is scanning and Burnham's enthusiasm to get to grips with something new. It's probably their first sign of real exploration we've seen since the end of Enterprise and certainly pushes hope that this will be a series taking us to new extremes.

"We've come all this way captain. It would be irresponsible to leave whatever that is unknown."

A few shots around the bridge give us the tech contrast of gunmetal to blue displays but we also are visually introduced to two new species of alien - one with some form of cybernetic implants either side of his temples and a second blue-skinned figure with a type of crystalline pattern down one side of his face. There is a third who has more to say in the trailer than anyone else and I'm convinced that this is Doug Jones. Buried beneath a ton of makeup he might be but that voice is quite distinctive. Now, the Netflix variant drops a couple of these shots to add in some others later on.

Jones' alien is another new race to the franchise with a pronounced skeletal structure around the face and piercing blue eyes. Now unless my eyes are playing tricks, the braiding around the edges of his uniform are silver so this has to be the way of distinguishing departments rather than gold, blue and red as we've been led before.

Visually we get a huge treat as Sonequa Martin-Green tries out an environmental suit fitted with rockets taking her out into the galaxy. This has to be the most advanced spacesuit created for the show and you can see that from the use of internal displays and the ability to move itself around.

"Computer; ignitors."

This and the earlier desert scenes demonstrate the care and attention that has been sunk into the show. No desert sets in a studio - we're talking full location shoot in Jordan and a lot of money thrown at making space scenes look breathtakingly real.

"Captain warp signatures detected!"

Back on the bridge and Sam Vartholomeos is getting all worried with the apparent arrival of a lot of ships. Georgiou has to state the obvious as a load of familiar triple-pointed blood red emblems appear and it looks like war is on. 

"Contact Starfleet Command....we have engaged the Klingons."

I get the sense that this is going to be a very action-orientated Star Trek and even from the visual style we've seen here it's nowhere near as clean and polished as we experienced through the '80's and '90's Star Trek shows. This has dirt under its nails and is getting grubbier. Nor does it seem to have any light touches (no sign of Mudd yet so hold a breath for that) but this feels like it's going to be a heavy journey from start to finish - a finish that we know will now have two additional episodes making season one 15 chapters long rather than the original projected 13.

"I'm trying to save you...I'm trying to save all of you."

Take another note of how this trailer is highlighting Georgiou, Burnham and Doug Jones' alien character. He gets a decent amount of screentime in here as well as some lines. I'm suggesting he is going to be one of the main characters in the show alongside Martin-Green's lead. Who we are saving...hmmm...could be the Klingons themselves?

"Target it's neck, cut off its head."

But let's talk about the other major element present in the Discovery trailer before we get bogged down in gold and silver braid, hairstyles and lens flare (oh yes there is....) and go Klingon.

These guys look badass. The reveal of the Klingon look for the show is far closer to the JJ Abrams vision from Into Darkness than to the Prime Universe. Clearly the uniforms we were teased were those designed for the warrior race with the spikes and the intensive skeletal structure. These are very different Klingons. The ridges are still there but as with JJ's interpretation they're bald and oddly remind me more of the Xindi Reptilians from Enterprise than what they are supposed to.

Chris Obi's character does actually appear to be more regal in golden finery but that could just be ceremonial since we do see some sort of sarcophagus being lifted away and the Klingon death howl conducted. Now, could this be the result of a Starfleet attack? Could Discovery firing first cause this death and therefore plunge the quadrant into all out war? What if that's not a sarcophagus at all but some form of super weapon? After all we do see Burnham standing one some form of expanding structure at a later stage and facing off against Obi's Klingon "king". What is the nature of the attack we see with all the crew clutching their ears as a white light explodes across the screen?

Oh - and as for changes CBS vs Netflix, the latter includes a shot of a clawed, metal clad Klingon hand and a close up of a Klingon dagger (included at the bottom of the article for reference).

"Starfleet doesn't fire first."
"We have to!"

Indeed, is it Burnham herself who is the reason that the war starts? Does she push for the attack? Is this the reason that Jason Isaacs character will arrive because Burnham gets most of the crew of Shenzhou killed in a retaliatory attack from the Klingons? Will this be that incident I mentioned earlier that drops Burnham from potential promotion to an older ship with little prospect of going further for some time? Is the captain going to become a disposable character? Honestly as I wrote that I then thought - hang on - what the hell is going on?!? Gotta love a good, vague trailer to make you ask questions.

"My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone; to sense the coming of death. I sense it coming now."

I know I'm coming back to Doug Jones' alien again but if we want to talk haunting moments this has to be the one. I mean, this guy can sense death?! That's going to be something to dread going forward and might be pulled out when the cast starts going through changes? We have to assume that the majority of the players here are going to be disposable to some degree because that's the nature of more "realistic" TV these days. Characters en-masse don't tend to stick around for the whole lifespan of a show anymore. I would think that we will have a very different line up by the end of Discovery than we do now and I personally feel this will be a journey for Burnham as we see her evolve as a character from lieutenant commander through to captain with a lot of bumps in the road to overcome.

This is definitely not the Star Trek your parents knew and not the series spin-offs we saw 25 years ago. Look at the visual style - it's big, grandiose, expensive and on location. How you can say they haven't thrown a lot of money at this beyond question. This is big screen Star Trek done for the small screen. Check out some of those camera angles especially around Sarek and you get that immediate reminder of Star Trek from 2009. There's a majestically epic feel to Discovery that the trailer lavishes over in every frame and I'm really excited for it. No hint whether this is going to be a more graphic, violent and more adult Star Trek than before but there's some seriously impressive random aliens dropped in there too which does add to the sense that comedy episodes will not be on the menu.

However, there has to be substance beneath the gloss and that's where the 13 - now extended to 15 - episode run will come into play. There's room for expansion, exploration and adventure to blast from every second of the show. I don't care if the Klingons are a bit different, I don't mind that the bridge looks a bit JJ-style (and frankly it could be set in the Kelvin timeline as long as it's decent) but there has to be meat on the bone. This has to look good for today's audience expectations and there has to be a step up to encourage not just Star Trek fans but general sci-fi fans to take a chance and watch. Netflix might have stumped up such a large amount that it paid for season one but there has to be a return on investment especially from the CBS All Access platform.

These two and a bit minutes of Discovery ooze quality and give little away. There are some wonderful touches and teases in there and some notable faces cleverly missing (Isaacs) which indicates a ton of stuff to come - and to be honest I don't even think we've seen the ship properly. I did try to squint a bit at some of those visuals but trying to work out what ship they are from was a nightmare. Everything - by that I mean the gory details - seems to have been cleverly omitted to keep fans guessing right up to the premiere.

Add to al this that we will have a companion programme to follow each episode called Talking Trek that will help expand the background and help us get to know the nitty gritty of the show. For us behind the scenes lovers I can't wait for this new addition to the franchise.

I suppose it's also a wise point to note the new poster that's arrived. Now aside from Sonequa Martin-Green being the cover girl and the customary Vulcan salute taking a lot of space, just get close and spot that starship right in the middle. If anything confirmed we haven't seen the finished Discovery yet, this has to be it. The lines are similar to that original tease and not to the ship we have pictured above from the latest trailer. I think there's a lot going to be happening in this first episode we haven't even seen a shred of yet.

Autumn is coming, fellow Star Trek fans and this just makes you want it a bit quicker...

All images from CBS All Access and Netflix trailers.

Still excited? Anything in the trailer getting you hyped up?

Check out the whole Discovery story with our archive!

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