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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Star Trek: Discovery - First Look Trailer

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm writing about that Star Trek: Discovery first look trailer! It's not my normal thing to write about trailers and I don't plan to make a habit of it, but I shared my thoughts about that Comic Con teaser last year so it seems wrong somehow not to follow up on it now that we have some actual footage, with actors and uniforms and everything.

Here's my first insightful observation: they've glued the badge back together again. This is good because I imagine it'd be awkward pinning two halves of a badge to your uniform and getting them to line up right. The weird font remains the same though, despite the fact that someone's clearly taken an axe to it in anger.

The trailer begins with two mysterious figures hiking through a Star Wars movie (apparently filmed on location in Jordan). But they gave us a clear look at them in a photo released just before the trailer, so I already know that this is Michelle Yeoh as Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green as series lead Commander Michael Burnham. Bryan Singer may have departed the series early but his habit of giving his female leads a masculine name has left its mark.

Burnham is currently serving as Georgiou's executive officer it seems, which is interesting as it means she's on the USS Shenzhou not the USS Discovery. It also means that the Star Trek tradition of sending the highest ranking officers into danger is in full effect.

Text comes up on screen saying that this is ten years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise, which puts this around 2256, about the same time as the first Chris Pine Star Trek movie and the Original Series episode The Cage. Those stories take place in two separate timelines and this apparently takes place on the William Shatner side of reality.

That communicator doesn't quite seem like it belongs in either timeline, but it looks great to me. I'm glad the producers didn't succumb to the temptation of giving all the gadgets touchscreens, because it doesn't fit the era and I like them being slightly bulky solid objects. Makes it seems like you could take them out in the desert and drop them, and they'd survive just fine.

It seemed like our heroes were lost in the desert, but one phone call and the USS Shenzhou drops out of the clouds to beam them up! I don't know why it had to drop through the clouds to do it, but it looked cool so I'll give them a pass. It still seems weird to me to see a Starfleet ship enter a planet's atmosphere though. I guess it's been a thing since... 1967 though, as Tomorrow is Yesterday had the original Enterprise flying through the Earth's blue skies.

We got to see a wireframe mesh of the Shenzhou in that behind the scenes teaser a while back, but this is our first look at the finished ship. My first thoughts are that I love the thing, she looks great. Like a beat up old successor to the NX-01 from the Enterprise series. One of my favourite things about it is that the CGI doesn’t look like ass, which has been a question mark hanging over the series for me ever since we got a first look at the Discovery herself.

They've put a grid effect on the transporter beam? I don’t like it! Orange streaks are nice though.

Hah, the Shenzhou's got little fins on her roof, like the USS Exelsior. Plus I like that it’s some of it's painted red, because it means that it’s painted something. There's too many grey spaceships in sci-fi.

The warp effect's cool too. Makes it more obvious that we're not looking at stars streaking by.

There's a  huge break with Star Trek convention here though...

They've put the bridge is on the underside of the saucer not the top! Plus it's got a huge window in front of it, but that's not so unusual any more after Star Trek '09. We've seen that the Kelvin had a window as well, and that existed in both the Prime (TV series) and Kelvin (movie) timelines.

It's not a terrible place to put a bridge when you think about it, as it'd give you a nice view of any planet you're above. Though you'd have to tilt the ship so that it's not orbiting on it's side like they usually do.

And here's what the bridge of the Shenzhou looks like. I already had an idea of what it looked like thanks to the behind the scenes teaser but it's nice to get a good look at the place. It reminds me of the absurdly dark and menacing bridge of the USS Vengeance from Star Trek Into Darkness and I'm totally okay with that. I'd rather have this than the murky grey NX-01 bridge from Enterprise. Though I'd be scared to walk around in there with all those beams running across the ceiling at head height.

We're also getting our first proper look at the uniforms and everyone's wearing blue! This is supposed to be the same time period as The Cage, but we've never seen these outfits before. They're similar to Enterprise's denim jumpsuits, with zipped pockets (and flies), but they've got some shiny space fabric down the sides and they get a bit Zapp Brannigan up at the shoulders.

Right now I'm leaning towards liking them, even though they do look a bit like they were made for a Star Trek spoof.

You could swap them with what Captain Seth MacFarlane’s wearing over on the Orville and they’d work just as well for both series.

I'm actually surprisingly optimistic about The Orville after seeing its trailer. If it can add a bit of heart and plot in with its parody, it might be more of a rival to Star Trek: Discovery than a piss take. Okay maybe not, but it could be the closest thing to Red Dwarf since... whatever that other BBC series was called. Hyperdrive.

Whoa, sudden lens flare! I've noticed that this bold new take on Star Trek seems to look a whole lot like the J.J. Abrams movies.

There's a voice over here saying something like: "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." Which seems to be setting Burnham up to take a leadership role in the series.
The voice belongs to Spock's dad Sarek! I’ve always liked the actor they've got playing him here (James Frain) and he seems like he was a good choice for role.

He definitely looks a bit closer to original Mark Lenard Sarek than Ben Cross Sarek from the 2009 film, even though that movie was set around this time.

I had my concerns though about adding Sarek to the story, because he's an ambassador and should have nothing to do with a Starfleet exploration mission. Plus it makes the universe smaller when we keep meeting the same people over and over.

Though that hologram communicator's a bit dodgy though. One of the key things that differentiates Star Trek and Star Wars is that Star Trek holograms don’t look like ass!

Here’s a clearer view of the bridge with Captain Georgiou in her chair, showing that it’s got a very traditional layout; they’re not dramatically reinventing the Starfleet bridge here. Though they did give the helmsman a joystick. Which is good, because joysticks are a very sensible way to steer something. Except for when they come out of the floor in emergencies on 'manual steering column'.

It’s funny that we’re seeing nothing of the series’ hero ship in this trailer, though we can have a guess at what the Discovery's bridge looks like because of that chair. The Shenzhou’s bridge is very dark and angular, with strips of red, just like the captain’s chair.

The Discovery's chair (seen in the behind the scenes teaser) on the other hand seems to be white and far less bulky, so I imagine the rest of the room will match. If the two ships are going to be on screen together then they'll probably be different enough on the inside so that you know where you are at a glance. Like the Kelvin and the Enterprise in the 2009 film.

Oh plus the Discovery's bridge probably won't have the window at the front. Because the Discovery exterior they showed last year didn't have a window on it.

It’s Doug Jones as Lt. Saru! I think. That’s a bit of an upgrade from your typical Trek bumpy forehead makeup job.

Now that we're closer to the costumes I've noticed that the shiny bit comes in different colours to indicate their division and is covered in tiny Starfleet arrowheads like the Star Trek '09 uniforms. I guess gold is command and silver is science.

Plus I can see the rank markings on their badges, but only barely. They're not making it easy to tell who outranks who here. It's a bit weird that they're all wearing the arrowhead badge, when each ship in the Original Series tended to have a different badge, but I'm finding it very hard to care.

And here's a view of the joystick from another angle! Plus we also get to see the viewscreen I suppose.

The ship's discovered an object of unknown origin in this asteroid field and Burnham feels that investigating unknown things is basically their job so she's going out to have a look.

Damn that's a pretty space suit! It's like something out of Mass Effect maybe, except with giant shoulders that make it look like her arm fell off. People are damn good at making these things these days!

That background's pretty fantastic too. It'll be amazing if we get a Star Trek that tries to add some wonder back into space exploration. Sure the majority of space is a black empty void, but who wants watch them explore that bit? I want a bit more Farscape in my space vistas, a bit more art and spectacle.

Hey this unknown object sure looks like the Klingon Sarcophagus Ship that's been rumoured to be making an appearance. The hull’s decorated like a church.

It doesn't look exactly like the mysterious concept art that turned up on the internet a year ago but it's definitely along the same lines. So I guess it really was for this series after all!

This scene appears to feature a bunch of Klingons in a very elaborate and expensive looking set gathered around a floating sarcophagus. Star Trek: The Next Generation established that Klingons don't give a damn about the bodies of their dead, but maybe they're not an entirely monolithic culture with only one belief system.

Hey I recognise these guys! So the aliens we saw taking a break from filming in that leaked photo actually were Klingons!

The Klingons have had a variety of different looks over the years, but in my opinion they should've stopped screwing with the makeup when Worf became a household name, because at point it's like updating the Vulcans. Still, these might be ancient Klingons, who've woken up from thousands of years of hibernation! That'd explain why they still have backup nostrils on their noses, in case their main nostrils fail.

I'm not sure why they all have to be bald though and clean shaven though. Klingons have always been about the hair.

Hey is this Chris Obi as T'Kuvma, leader of the Klingons? Because with that makeup I honestly can't tell.

Here's the underside of the Shenzhou, showing that those pylons coming from the warp engines apparently just stop without connecting to anything. I'm no Trekspert when it comes to spaceship sizes, but it seems about as big as the NX-01. Plus the registry on the side says 1227, which presumably means it was built some time between the Discovery (1031) and the Enterprise (1701). So the Discovery's probably the older ship.

I've seen some people complain about them introducing new ship classes like this in a prequel series, because if they existed we would've seen them already. But by that logic the original Enterprise must have been the first spaceship ever built since the Apollo program!

People have made the same complaints about new aliens showing up and that's equally confusing to me. There are so many countless one-off aliens in these series that only get seen once and never appear again. Even founding Federation members like the Tellarites vanished for decades.

Whoa, is this a flashback to young Burnham being raised/taught on Vulcan by Sarek? That is something I did not expect. They're trying to Spock her up a bit.

Though Sarek giving her shit because "You will never learn Vulcan, your tongue is too human," is entirely what I'd expect from him. It's fine though, they've all got universal translators. And hopefully her human eyes can read the writing.

Shenzhou corridors! They look as plastic as a Star Wars prequel, but they couldn't have been cheap. They're a bit on the grey side though and it doesn't seem like a particularly cosy place to be locked inside for years at a time. Some red paint would help with that, plus some signage. Or they could try putting the contrast up.

Whoa! Yes, good, more of this please.

It seems like Star Trek is finally rising to the level of Doctor Who in its scenic planet shots.

Plus there's an actually alien looking alien and... an android on the Shenzhou's bridge? Or maybe someone wearing a helmet. All I know is that it has the ship's name on the side, other than that I don't know what to think.

I hope the series doesn't introduce an android, because then it's getting into Data's territory.

But it's not all happy corridors and robot head people, as Klingon warp signatures are detected and the situation gets tense. Burnham wants them to "target its neck, cut off its head" but Captain Georgiou isn't into firing first. The trailer's not showing us what's being fired on though.

Will the Shenzhou get destroyed in the first 10 minutes to set up the Klingon threat? I'm hoping not, but there's always a possibility. They could spray paint their expensive new sets white, swap the other captains chair in and say that the survivors are serving on the Discovery now.

Hold on, we're actually getting to learn a bit about Doug Jones’ character here.
"My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone."
Crap, this isn’t going to be good. I can already tell.
"To sense the coming of death."
Oh balls, Saru is a bloody Soul Hunter from Babylon 5! He's the Deanna Troi of death! Well there goes all my hopes for him. Plus now they're going have to kill someone in every dramatic situation they get into or else he won't sense anything and there'll be no tension.

Anyway he senses death coming now, so things are getting serious.

Cut to Burnham out in space again, facing off against a Klingon in an ornate EVA suit.

The Klingon swipes at the camera with his not-batleth and the Star Trek fanfare plays. The end.

But hang on, what about the hero ship? We went the whole Discovery trailer without one shot of the Discovery! That is downright misleading, as there's no hint in the trailer that the ship on screen was the Shenzhou and not a redesigned Discovery.

I did catch a glimpse of ship in the new poster though and she looks the same as ever to me, though it's hard to tell when it's so fuzzy. The back end looks far better when it's blurry like this, they should stick with that. It could be out of focus, or distorted by warp trails or obscured behind another object... there's lots of ways to disguise how inconsistent and ugly the design is!


They showed a lot more in that trailer than I thought they would, so that was a pleasant surprise. It turns out that despite all the setbacks they have actually managed to film something and they've got the clips to prove it. Plus most of the footage looks pretty good! It seems that the rumours were true: they did spend money on this series.

Despite the Prime Timeline setting it looks a lot like a J.J. Abrams movie, lens flares and all, and I'm okay with that. I wasn't expecting them to go full Rogue One or Alien: Isolation with it and meticulously recreate the look of The Cage, because that episode... it looks a bit dated these days. If the Starship Enterprise ever gets a cameo it'd better look like the damn Starship Enterprise, but I'm fine with things we haven't seen before looking more advanced than designers in the 60s could pull off, because this is set in our future and I'm sure it's a future where people can make things look like whatever the hell they feel like.

I'm also fine with the trailer being devoid of charm or fun, because the first Star Trek '09 trailers were similarly joyless and dramatic if I recall. Right now they're showing off the flashy visuals and teasing the drama, so we don't need to give a damn about any of the faces on screen just yet. It doesn't really matter that my first reaction to the characters is that I want that death sensing alien to climb into an escape pod and fire himself into the Sun (or any star, I'm not picky). I'm sure the series itself will have some actual humour and humanity to it, because even if this isn't your father's Star Trek, there's no way they don't want a bit of that Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars audience.

So yeah, thumbs up so far (though The Orville trailer was better).

Sorry about that unscheduled interruption. Normal Sci-Fi Adventures service will resume with Star Wars in about a week from now.


  1. I haven't been paying any attention to this series, since I didn't think I would be able to watch it anyway; but, now that they say it's going to be on Netflix, I suppose I'll feel compelled to check it out.

    I found this trailer difficult to watch. I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to the editing, and assume the show itself won't be yanking my eyes all over the screen.

  2. I don't think it's an android. I think it's half of Daft Punk.

    1. Oh yeah! Well that's a relief.

      I hope the other half's busy doing the music; the Tron: Legacy soundtrack was great.