Star Trek Discovery S01E01 "The Vulcan Hello"

First of all, my Trek credentials. I was made a Trekkie (or Trekker, whichever) in the womb by my mother who was a massive fan of Star Trek from childhood on. This love was passed to me through the umbilical cord. I started with The Next Generation which premiered when I was about six years old. At a convention I once told Wil Wheaton that as a kid I had a massive crush on Wesley Crusher and I used to fantasize about what age would be appropriate for us to get together (seven-year-old me was fairly realistic). Wil told me that had he not been married I would have had a chance. I cherish this and lament the fact that I was too late.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the Star Trek love of my life. I am a DS9 evangelist and my mission is to tell everyone how amazing it is and convince them to give this "dark and gritty" series a chance to blow their minds. I once drove to Las Vegas to attend the official Star Trek con solely because Terry Farrell (Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax) was going to be making her first con appearance since her time on the show. I may have gushed to her during our photo op about how she played my favorite character, how I came to the con solely for her, and how overwhelmed by feels I was.

I have met at least 14 Star Trek actors from various series (I have photographic proof); I own an Original Series costume and have cosplayed in it at SDCC (please do not ask me if I'm Uhura when I am clearly wearing science blue. Being a Black woman does not automatically mean I'm Uhura by default. I will judge you); I hung out with Eugene Roddenberry (Gene and Majel's son), at an exclusive Star Trek cocktail party once; I have attended Trek cons (who's on for 2018?), and Trek museums; I own lots of Star Trek memorabilia that I love and cherish (no, you cannot play with my con exclusive special edition Uhura Hallmark Christmas tree ornament, but I will let you play with my Riker action figure and we can totally play the trivia game together). I actually wear Star Trek clothing and jewelry proudly outside of my house. Do not try to tell me you do not think my Kirk/Spock earrings are cool or that my Star Trek cologne does not smell amazing (Tiberius—you too can smell like James T. Kirk).

All this is to say do not come at me with that "fake geek girl" shit. I will violate the Prime Directive all over your ass and then shove you out an airlock. Now. Onto Star Trek: Discovery!

★ SPOILERS ★

The first thing I noticed about Discovery is how visually beautiful it is. This is clearly big budget Star Trek. No foam boulders here. The opening reminds me of the Enterprise opening homage to humanity's aviation history, which I happen to love (fight me). The uniforms look like a logical progression from Enterprise's utilitarian US military inspired uniforms. Those who were expecting brightly colored mini dresses will be disappointed. The technology also looks more real/advanced. I've heard people complain about this and it baffles me. Like do you really think that any contemporary Star Trek movie or series is going to replicate the original series look? I love it too, but it is very much a product of its time. So no random beeps and whistles or flashing colors from the bridge computers, no deserts that are clearly Hollywood sets, and no elaborate beehive hairdos (I really need to know how Uhura and Rand had time to do their hair every day).

The opening scene of the series lets you know that this is a new and different Star Trek. Two highly ranked Federation officers are walking through a desert. Both are women. Both are women of color. I can’t even describe how this makes me feel. Amazing. Bless you 2017.

It's clear from the beginning that the captain and her first officer have a Kirk/Spock dynamic. Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is calm and laid back. She has clearly had a command for a long time. She is visibly amused by the banter on the bridge and the obviously par for the course bickering between her science officer (Doug Jones) and her Number One (Sonequa Martin-Green). Definite Spock/McCoy vibes.

Lt. Commander Michael Burnham (Martin-Green) is formal and somewhat stiff, but it's clear that she is constantly trying to keep her passionate nature in check. During a flashback dream scene we see her on Vulcan as a child trying to stoically answer a computer's test questions about the Klingons as the images of violence she is looking at start to emotionally overwhelm her. After failing the test, she tearfully tells Sarek (Spock's father) that she will try again and be better. He gently tells her that her problem is not some failing on her part as she assumes but that "It's your passionate heart."

Much of the episode is Michael trying to convince her captain and shipmates that the Klingons are in the area despite not being seen in years. The ship is investigating a broken Federation relay in an uninhabited system. They can’t clearly see it due to unknown interference. Burhnam volunteers to take a spacewalk in order to investigate. The captain reluctantly lets her go. She will only have 20 minutes before the radiation starts to become too much for a human. Burnham lands on a large unknown object that is elaborately and beautifully carved. While walking around the object describing it to her recorder, she's confronted by a Klingon who seems to come out of nowhere. Though clearly afraid Michael tries to introduce herself to the Klingon. However, he attacks before she can finish. They struggle for a bit and she kills him with his own weapon in self-defense.

By this time her time is nearly up. As the captain tries to figure out ways to pull her back in, Michael loses consciousness and is drifting in space. The next time we see her, she is in a radiation chamber in sickbay. Once Michael awakens, she forces her way out of sickbay against doctor’s orders. She stumbles onto the bridge in only a hospital gown and covered in radiation burns. As the crew looks on in shock, Michael tries to convince the captain that they must flee the area because Klingons. Naturally, they assume she's confused and suffering from the effects of the poisoning.

And then the Klingon ship uncloaks. Welp. Once they appear, Michael tries to convince the captain, who has orders to just sit and wait and see what they will do, to attack them before they are attacked. Sarek tells Michael that this is how the Vulcans kept the Klingons off their backs for so long.

As Captain Gregiou insists on following orders and neither engaging nor retreating, Michael becomes increasingly desperate. This is where the episode starts to take shocking turns and establishes for us what type of officer and person Michael Burnham is. First, she challenges and argues with the captain on the bridge in front of the crew. When Gregiou angrily orders Michael to her ready room (office) for being subordinate, Michael seems to be contrite. She tries one more time to convince the captain to give the order to fire upon the Klingon ship. When this does not work, she looks sad and apologizes. For what? For what she is about to do. Michal renders the captain unconscious with a Vulcan pinch to the shoulder. I literally said “oh @#$%!” And then, Michael goes back to the bridge and tells the rest of the crew that the Captain is on a call with the admiral in her ready room and then she gives the order to charge up weapons and attack.

Lt. Saru, the science officer who was bickering with Michael earlier in the episode, is instantly suspicious. He starts pressing Michael on whether or not these are actually the captain's orders. Michael, looking somewhat shifty and unable to meet anyone's eyes, goes on the offensive and tries to pull rank. This does not work. Lt. Saru has guessed that this is not authorized. In desperation Michael screams for them to fire. In that moment, the ready room door opens and out stumbles the captain looking pissed and pointing her phaser at Michael. Before she can shoot or have Michael arrested, a bunch of ships start uncloaking in front of their eyes. Well, crap. They are officially in trouble. Michael doubly so. It seems that everything is going to hit the fan in episode 2.

I want to say something about a thing I have seen people complaining about online ever since the first images were released. The new Klingon look. It is very different from the Klingons we are used to seeing in TNG, DS9, and VOY. And they look absolutely nothing like the TOS Klingons (I am curious to see how this is canonically handled on the show as Discovery and The Original Series take place at roughly the same time). That said, I like the look. Why? They look scary AF now. Like genuinely terrifying. The freezing terror their very name inspires seems to be wholly justified when they look like this. The Klingons have long been one of my least favorite Trek aliens but now I am actually interested in these Klingons.

Verdict: I give "The Vulcan Hello" a thumbs up. It seems that this series is going to be worth the hassle of subscribing to yet another streaming service (thanks, CBS All Access).

Niala Terrell-Mason's picture
on September 26, 2017

Hey, I'm Niala! I'm black, bisexual, super liberal, a Unitarian Universalist (I'll wait while you Google that), and a long time fangirl. I love fan conventions, Marvel, Star Trek, fan fiction, Tumblr, Harry Potter, most of the shows that Fox cancels and books. I work in a public library and I am a grad student pursuing a masters of divinity in interfaith chaplaincy (aka someone who does religion for a living). I hope you think I'm funny.