Star Trek: Discovery – Establishing a Narrative and Defining Roles

Well with its third and fourth episodes, Star Trek: Discovery’s prologue gave way to the show’s recurring narrative. Viewers now have a sense of how the show will work and how its diverse cast of characters will interact with each other. For Michael Burnham’s part, rather than waste her career doing time for mutiny, she’ll instead make good by serving under Captain Lorca aboard the U.S.S. Discovery.

With no official rank or assignment, Burnham is essentially Lorca’s lackey. Promised a chance to help end the war she helped start, the war-mongering Lorca seems to have different ideas from Burnham on how to do just that. And because Burnham can’t save the galaxy right away, we first need to establish characters and relationships.

Star Trek: Discovery – The Odd Couple In Space

Burnham and her perpetually anxious roommate Cadet Tilly serve as Discovery’s resident odd couple. Tilly’s excitable and often naïve personality stand in contrast to Burnham’s tough-as-nails dedication to duty and logic. There are shades of Star Trek’s battles of wits between McCoy and Spock here and similarities with Star Trek: The Next Generation’s debates between Geordi and Data, but the closest comparison to Tilly and Burnham’s differences in Star Trek: Discovery is probably found in Star Trek: Voyager’s arguments between Neelix and Tuvok.

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Although all of these relationships served to highlight the validity of each participant’s argument, the relationship between Neelix and Tuvok most clearly showed two dissimilar characters learning from each other and realizing that the opposing viewpoint is not only valid but in some cases superior to their own.

Some critics might call these debates filler or comic relief, and in some cases they would be right, but more than just taking up airtime these kinds of relationships act as a primary method of exploring one of Star Trek’s original tenets as defined by Gene Roddenberry, that infinite diversity in infinite combinations should be the aim of any explorer. Beyond simply an injunction to wear flashy pendants, this is the Vulcan philosophy of the IDIC (which stands for Infinite Diversity Infinite Combinations).

Star Trek: Discovery – Are Those Your Threat Ganglia, Or Are You Just Unhappy To See Me?

Although Burnham and Tilly’s relationship has the most in common with Tuvok and Neelix’s, the prickly relationship between Burnham and Saru seems to have more in common with the begrudging respect shared between Star Trek’s Spock and McCoy. Perpetually at odds with each other’s command decisions, one is content to simply survive any given ordeal where the other can’t help but address and solve the ordeal’s underlying problems.

Star Trek: Discovery – More to Come

With 11 episodes left in Discovery’s 15-episode first season, there’s still plenty of time to develop these characters and introduce others — I, for one, am excited to meet Harcourt Fenton Mudd (Rainn Wilson). That said, this sometimes impatient Trekkie can’t help but be distracted by a few logistical issues.

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Cyborg? Soongian prototype? Script editing error? We’ll see.

First, why are there so many seemingly artificial lifeforms serving aboard the Discovery? Since, in the ’80s, Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was set in the 24th century, was established as the first android to serve in Starfleet, one wonders who and what these artificial lifeforms are and what they’re doing in Starfleet in the 23rd century.

Plus, I know this is a big bone of contention with many Trekkies but, I have a hard time reconciling why the Klingons look and sound the way they do, that is very different from the way they look and sound in any other show. And although I don’t want the explanation to be a key plot point in this season, I would like one at some point.

Producers and writers previously ensured fans that answers are coming, so I hope these details eventually do get addressed. After all, these kinds of details will help make the show believable rather than making it seem like just another corporate iteration of an old idea.

Michael Bedford
Michael Bedford
Under intense scrutiny by the Temporal Authorities, I was coerced into actualizing my capsule in this causality loop. Through no fault of my own, I am marooned on this dangerous yet lovely level-four civilization. Stranded here, I have spent most of my time learning what I can of the social norms and oddities of the Terran species, including how to properly use the term "Hipster" and how to perform a "perfect pour." Under the assumed name of "Michael Bedford," I have completed BA's with specialized honours in both theatre studies and philosophy, and am currently saving up for enough galactic credits to buy a new--or suitably used--temporal contextualizer ... for a friend.