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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Star Trek: Discovery - Test Flight Teaser

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm writing about a minute long teaser! Because the first new Star Trek series in over a decade has finally gotten a name and a starship and I feel like nerding out about it dammit.

Star Trek: Discovery (that's 'DSC' for short, not 'STD'), is the sixth live action Star Trek TV series in 50 years, and the third to have the ship in the title. I really like the name 'Discovery' by the way, it's basically promising 'we're going to do exploration this time for real, honest!' It's a bit obvious maybe, but any starship that shares its name with a space shuttle is okay with me. As long as they don't call the computer 'HAL'.

We're back to the Prime Timeline again, meaning James T. Kirk has brown eyes, spaceships are too small to have their own brewery, and lights are typically placed in the ceiling rather than right in your face. Personally I would've been happy with a Kelvin Timeline series, but I'm way happier to know that the original universe isn't being dropped in favour of the new continuity. Those series happened! I watched them happen, I saw them happen, don't tell me they didn't happen!

Well okay you can tell me half of Voyager and the Ferengi episodes of Deep Space Nine didn't happen, I'd be cool with that. Anyway this will have SPOILERS... for a 1 minute teaser showing off a spaceship. Outside of that you're pretty much safe.

The teaser begins at a mysterious asteroid space dock, possibly built by Microsoft. A blue ring is nothing bad, right? It's only the red ring that means your Xbox/space installation has been bricked.

For anyone familiar with Ralph McQuarrie's concept art for the doomed Star Trek: Planet of the Titans movie, this asteroid base should be very familiar.

It should be anyway. Personally I didn't realise the connection until it was pointed out to me. Possibly because this painting looks interesting and the CG base doesn't. The place is unambiguously a homage though, with the blue segmented circles on either side being the giveaway.

I didn't even catch that the sun shining over a moon at the beginning is a homage to the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey until I saw someone mention it on Twitter. A nice reference to the movie with the most famous Discovery in science fiction.

Speaking of McQuarrie's concept art, this silhouette looks really familiar.

Well it only took 40 years, but the Ken Adam/Ralph McQuarrie Star Destroyer-looking Enterprise design may finally be getting some screen time!

The concept made a sneaky cameo in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, obscured in Spacedock, but this is its first starring role.

It sucks for fans still hoping to see Matt Jefferies' early Enterprise concept ship on screen. They came so close to getting their 'Daedalus' this time! What better design could there be for the 50th anniversary ship than the one rejected 50 years ago for looking a bit rubbish?

Wow, my first impression is that's this is one ugly warp nacelle. Or maybe three ugly warp nacelles shoved in together for triple the warp power. Plus it looks like they forgot to put the cap on the end.

The ship has a bridge on the top, that's good to know.

This bit of the vessel looks like it it's been inspired by the USS Kelvin from the reboot movie and that hilariously fragile science ship from Search for Spock. There's no big viewscreen window at the front though, so apparently that's gone out of fashion by now in this timeline.

The number on the front says 1031, putting it about halfway between the Kelvin's registry of '514' and the Enterprise's '1701'. They called the teaser a 'test flight', implying this is a brand new ship, so that would put the series... some time before the Original Series. But hilariously fragile science ship had the number '602' and that was still around by the time of the movies, so who knows!

You know, I think I've realised what's missing on this model that's making the CGI look fake: shiny hull panels!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Here's the Enterprise in dock from The Motion Picture 40 years ago, looking all tangible and real with its subtle panel variations. Wow, it's so nice to see the colour blue again, I'd missed it. If you're going to show a spaceship off it helps to put it in front of a nice background. This teaser has been a real let down visually ever since it stopped aping Kubrick.

Look at how relentlessly brown the USS Discovery is by comparison. There's no markings to break it up, no Starfleet pennant on the side, no little yellow boxes around the phasers, no tiny labels. Were they too lazy to put the decals on? Also I think those windows on the neck are sticking out and that's just weird looking.

I've heard some people compare the Discovery to a Klingon ship, but down here it's more like... a Cardassian cruiser crossed with the USS Vengeance from Star Trek Into Darkness.

They even made the colour the same! Except these two are more consistent in design (with the Vengeance being consistently ridiculous). The Discovery on the other hand is all curves on top and sharp angles underneath and it doesn't fit together right.

On other Starfleet ships the windows look out onto the majesty of space, but in this they look out onto... another row of windows. Though something tells me that when we get inside and see the sets there'll just be a starfield outside like usual.

Plus is it just me, or is a lot of this ship being lit from absolutely nowhere? It's like they're were so keen to avoid lens flares that they didn't add any spotlights. This is the old school universe now, we don't do flashy effects or spectacle! In fact I feel like saying that they've gone back to Enterprise season 1 quality CGI, but I'm not sure I want to compare the two in case Enterprise looks absolutely terrible these days.

Enterprise 1-01: Broken Bow
No I was right, this really does look about the same. It's been a long road, getting from there to here, but it seems that visual effects software hasn't improved one bit in those 15 years.

Star Trek: Beyond (Trailer)
Except then there's Star Trek Beyond, which looks incredible. It's unfair to compare a blockbuster movie to a teaser for a TV series, but you can tell how little things like reflected spotlights would've made a huge difference to the Discovery.

Star Trek (2009)
Or if it's not meant to be that glossy, a bit of scruffy hull detail like on the Kelvin would help. Even the original Enterprise model has some weathering on it.

Of course we're still five months away from the series at the time I'm writing this, so who knows how representative this teaser is. For all I know the hull will look fantastic when it's in a more artfully composed shot, with the proper lighting.

See, get some light behind it and it looks like it's got a bronze trim. I kind of wish it did now.

I haven't mentioned the music yet, but I'm thinking they must have put the "Klingon battle cruiser launch mix" CD in by mistake. I'm starting to think that the ship is meant to look ugly, as this theme is downright ominous. It might be called Discovery but it sounds like it's on its way to fuck someone up.

Could the Discovery actually be a Section 31 vessel? Well Section 31 are a secret organisation, and the ship has '31' written on the hull, so I'm thinking... no. Also they'd end up calling it the USS Subterfuge or something dumb like that. Could be from the Mirror Universe though!

But there's no doubt now that the ship was inspired by the Planet of the Titans ship, even if it's not quite as triangular as the original art. It's a shame because I used to like looking through the art and thinking "Man I'm glad they had the sense to know this idea wasn't going to work out."

Planet of the Titans was going to be the first Star Trek film, so if Star Trek: Discovery is meant to be in that time period it'd put the series around... a decade after the Original Series maybe. But I doubt they're doing that, because it would mean everyone would have to wear The Motion Picture's uniforms.

Hey they've even got the narrow docking bay in the back, just in case they ever need to park a dozen tiny shuttles simultaneously. Or maybe two Millennium Falcons side by side, if they'd fit; I'm not sure how the scale works out. I could count the rows of windows.... but nah. I'm happy enough saying that the Discovery is approximately 'Star Trek' sized and leave it at that.

Wait, I know what this ship is now: it's the boxy 2250's version of Voyager! It even has its impulse engines housed inside those flat nacelle pylon wings. Anyway the ship's flown off somewhere so I can stop writing about it now.


I am actually pretty shocked at how stylish and pretty this teaser isn't. It really does look like a test render I found on a 3D modelling forum. I had to double check to make sure it was legit and I hadn't watched an Axanar teaser by mistake. This was their chance to show off what a Star Trek TV series looks like in 2017, and judging by this it's going to look like a fan film.

But it's nice to have a new hero ship to criticise, even if it's a bit on the ugly and unfinished side. Right now out of the 6 TV series ships, I'd have to rank this way down at #6. It's definitely distinctive though and despite all my comparisons you'd never mistake it for any of the others. That's the interesting thing about it, as it looks more sinister than your typical Starfleet ship. The teaser doesn't say a word about it, but that music speaks volumes; something is up with this thing, it ain't quite right. It'll be cool to look back on this in a few years time and think 'wow, I had no idea'. I've no idea what I have no idea about, but I'm sure they'll do something to surprise me.

Plus there's five months left to go before airing, so the ship could still turn out very different in the series. The Enterprise you see on the Star Trek Beyond posters isn't the one you see in the movie for instance, as they decided to tweak the model by pulling the nacelle pylons back and making the neck narrower during production. So I'm optimistic!

Sci-Fi Adventures will return in a few days with Babylon 5's Mind War, where I'll be saying absolutely nothing about spaceships. Well, almost nothing.

Leave a comment if you feel like it!


  1. I think many are being a bit harsh on this first showing. Granted the teaser surprised many, and not necessarily in a good way. However, as a teaser it certainly full fills the purpose. I think we should wait until we get a more realistic run of information. Until we get more information from "official sources", we shouldn't jump to to many conclusions. However, I'm excited at the realisation of a new TV Star Trek series, all be it in a restricted release.

  2. DSC is by far the worst SF serie I´ve ever seen. Awfull characters, miserable CGI (the ship designs are a nightmare) and terrible plots. I gave up at the 5th episode. A pure crap.