Back in the dark ages, before binge watching was a thing, getting involved in a television series was a different proposition altogether. You would actually have to tune in week after week, getting to know the characters and the storylines seemingly in real time, and so it took some patience—and sometimes a lot of forgiveness—before a show finally found its legs and hooked you in.
Of course, the downside to this relationship is that often a show will peak after a few years and then keep going. . .and going. . .and going, long past its shelf life, shuffling around like a zombie of its former self—and yet as a fan, you feel the obligation to keep watching. This is how I ended up sticking with Smallville, even though the series lost its steam right after they killed off Clark Kent’s dad (and really started sucking wind right about the time Michael Rosenbaum decided he’s had enough of Lex Luthor and jumped ship before he jumped the shark). I’d invested time in this show, dammit! After suffering through everything from Lana Lang turning sorority vampire and Martha Kent becoming a secret agent, nothing would stop me from seeing it through to the end. No matter how much I hated myself.
Which, alas, brings us to Star Trek: Discovery. As a longtime Trekker, I considered it my obligation to at least give it a try—and given the amazing things that showrunner Bryan Fuller had done with his previous TV series Hannibal, I actually had high hopes that the show would be something quite special. But then came the news that Fuller had departed over creative differences, and then came the actual two-part pilot episode (which I savaged here ) , and it seemed as if the new Trek was off to a very bumpy start.
But hey, was it any different with Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I had grown to like in spite of my initial doubts? It took them until season three to get all of the kinks worked out of that show—and so I gave Discovery a chance. Happily, the first episode after the pilot was actually pretty good, and seemed to set the stage for some pretty dark stuff to follow. There were clues that perhaps the ship’s captain wasn’t really a good guy, and had his own agenda outside of Starfleet Command. Wow, I thought, this could really be something different. I sure hope I’m not wrong.
Boy, was I wrong.
The momentum from that second episode quickly sputtered, as if the writers had already run out of ideas and were just tossing in filler while they figured out what to do next. The plot thread that made it look as if Captain Lorca had gone rogue just fizzled out with no explanation. Then they introduced the character of Harry Mudd—a loveable con man from the original Star Trek back in the sixties—but in this incarnation, Mudd was a lot less lovable and a lot more of a d*ck. By the time he returned a couple of episodes later, he was a homicidal maniac blowing people into space while munching on a ham and cheese sandwich (I swear I’m not making this up).
In the meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery—perhaps we could shorten it to STD?—gave us the first utterance of the word “f*cking” in the franchise, which wouldn’t have been so bad if there had actually been some machismo behind it. “Blow that f*cking ship out of the sky!” or “Not on my f*cking watch.” would have been far more preferable to the girly, giggling way the writers actually deployed the word—like a couple of middle schoolers talking trash while sneaking a cigarette behind a dumpster at the mall.
Then there was another Star Trek first—on screen nudity! It’s brief, just a flash, but it’s there. That it was the bare breasts of a woman came as no surprise, though I was a little floored when I saw that the boobs belonged to a Klingon. Who was on top of a human man. While raping him. I’m not exactly sure what kind of twisted fanboy fantasy the writers thought they were fulfilling here, but I do know that I can never unsee it.
What really put the nail in the coffin for me, though, was the winter finale episode (yes, we’re only halfway through the first season, God help us) during which the Big Boss Klingon—a chap by the name of Kol—stops everything to engage in hand-to-hand combat with STD’s main character, a woman named Michael Burnham, who has just insulted his honor. You might think that’s typical behavior for a Klingon, and it is—but did I mention that the fight takes place on the bridge of the Klingon ship, during active combat with Discovery? That’s right. With an enemy vessel on the attack, Kol drops everything to tussle with Burnham while the rest of the bridge crew watches! Even Skeletor never sunk to that level of incompetence.
At that point, I asked myself: Is this really worth the six buck a month I’m plunking down for CBS All Access?
And therein lies the rub. If STD was running on some commercial network where I could watch it for free, or if it were part of another streaming service that I already pay for, I might be inclined to suffer some more and stick with it in the hopes that things will get better. But the only reason I subscribed to CBS All Access was to watch this one show—and if the CBS suits want me to keep ponying up, it has to suck a lot less a lot faster.
Time to change course, captain.