OK, so season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery (ST:D from now on) has started, and luckily it’s on Netflix here in Finland.
Ever since Battlestar Galactica in my childhood I have been a sucker for quality space opera -TV-shows, so of course I’m watching this! The 21st century has been so far interesting in that shows have more room to move when it comes to violence and foul language, i.e. shows these days can be as gritty as they like and handle any themes they please. Although sexuality is still somewhat of a taboo, as America is so prudent about nudity… heads may blow up and blood can flow freely but tits and penises swinging on the screen is still a no-no. Strange world we live in, that way.
But, as TV shows have gotten better and taken over movies in some regards, quality sci-fi is still hard to find as it caters to a smaller – if economically quite wealthy – audience. In recent years, The Expanse is a book series *and* TV-series I’ve been following, and it’s doing a good job. But there isn’t much else in the way of space opera, except the Star Trek spin-offs, and now The Mandalorian on Disney+. Last year Amazon had Picard as a new Star Trek -series, and it was IMO quite mediocre if enjoyable from a nostalgic perspective. But ST:D is still a better series.
When it launched, ST:D felt like a mixture of ST:TOS, ST:TNG and the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies. The production values are consistently high, this is movie level stuff. However, plot wise all the 21st century Star Trek -series have tried to a) ride on nostalgia and b) add Star Wars-y action elements to the proceedings, which has sort of diluted one of the things that made the original Star Trek and the Next Generation so influential: the emphasis on non-violent, diplomatical ways of solving problems. So yeah, ST:D is trying to be more like Star Wars, I get it, but it’s also taking away from what makes Star Trek great.
Season 1 of ST:D started off in a bland and frankly boring way, but at the end of the season there was a twist that rode on old nostalgia and did it successfully. Season 1 really mined all it could from the Mirror, Mirror -episode of ST:TOS. Season 2 was more cohesive and quite interesting – although it also rode the nostalgia wave by having Spock in it. But it also seemed to bring the template that season 3 is following now: the overarching great mystery that the crew of the Discovery tries to solve.
Finally, and hopefully in season 3 – due to events from the end of season 2 – this series is free from the burden of old Star Trek episodes, and can create some original adventures.
So far, the series has again taken the template of presenting a mystery that will probably follow us through the whole season. And, it has shaken up things in a way that makes the Star Trek universe more like the Star Wars universe.
Hopefully there will be more Star Trek-ky ways of solving puzzles than blasting and shooting through doors, but we’ll see if the writers have the chops (and the courage) to write truly intelligent space opera for the 21st century…