Review: STAR TREK DISCOVERY Seasons 1 – 3

A collection of the first three seasons of Star Trek Discovery comes to home video

After over a decade with no Star Trek on the small screen, we live in an era where Trekkies of all ages are being catered to by shows such as Lower Decks, Prodigy, and the upcoming Strange New Worlds. This renaissance is largely down to the success of Star Trek Discovery, a (initially) pre-Kirk era series, launched in 2017, which is about to unveil its fourth season later this month. To mark this event, we’re getting a repackaged collection of the first three seasons, with over 8 hours of extra features. Yours to bring home should streaming services not take your fancy.

Season One

Set around a decade before Kirk and the Enterprise set off on their 5 year mission, this is a future on the brink of war. One of Starfleet’s most renowned officers, Captain Georgiou (a tremendous Michelle Yeo), commands the USS Shenzhou, along with her first officer Michael Burnham (the series lead Sonequa Martin-Green). It’s an invigorating start, this dynamic of mentor-mentee, and the potential for following their adventures is palpable. Then the series flushes it all out of the nearest airlock. A mission throws them up against one of the Federation’s most grave threats, the Klingon Empire. Long beset by internal conflict, a new iconic figure, T’Kuvma, has arisen and looks to unify the warring Klingon houses. The mission turns sour when Burnham takes it upon herself to strike first in the hopes of deescalating the conflict. Shortly after she is stripped of rank, the gathered ships begin battle. The consequences are severe on both sides, as the Federation nurse their losses, the Klingons mourn the loss of a leader, something that brings them all together to turn their ire on the ever-growing Federation in the form of all out war. The third episode picks up several months after this battle. Starfleet takes devastating losses, prompting one Captain Lorca (played with militaristic gusto by Jason Isaacs) to grant Burnham a pardon before bringing her on as a specialist aboard his experimental starship, the USS Discovery. A vessel propelled by a prototype “spore-drive” that allows instantaneous transportation between any two points in the galaxy, it might just be the only chance for the Federation to turn the tide of war.

Where Discovery differs from its predecessors is how it embraces a more serialized structure. While common structure for TV shows these days, the older Trek series rarely played with longer form storytelling (exceptions such as DS9’s 6-episode Dominion arc or the Xindi-focused Season 3 of Enterprise spring to mind). There’s plenty going on throughout, with groundwork being laid, interesting developments, new characters and old ones (think TOS) introduced. It speaks much to how the show should be evaluated as a complete season, rather than as individual episodes. How things develop is certainly fascinating at times, but the grounded work done in those first two episodes, and the pure excellence of Yeo, make you yearn for more of that, rather than the more sporadic content that defines the later episodes. Since its inception, Gene Roddenberry’s show has been about human advancement and progress. Discovery thoroughly embraces one of the tenets of Star Trek, not just in the characters but the cast too, building on its predecessors by having women take the helm (literally) and giving prominent roles to people of color and of different sexualities. Sonequa Martin-Green excels as the first woman of color (and non-Captain) to act as the series lead. A restrained character, due to being raised by Vulcans, she’s still emotional, yearning for approval from her commanding officers as well as her adoptive father, Sarek (James Frain). She’s a flawed character, beset by internal conflict and just enough arrogance in her own (admittedly impressive) abilities to get into trouble. Doug Jones (Hellboy, The Shape of Water) again shows his mastery of crafting an incredible character despite being covered by prosthetics as Commander Saru. The rest of the crew, brought to life by Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, and Wilson Cruz, also impress, their energy and enthusiasm being most infectious.

Discovery is a very handsome show indeed, and its production values seemingly surpass many of the feature films. The ship itself, a call back to the unused designs from the original series, is delightfully retro; the planets visited are colorful alien realms; galaxies are illuminated by nebula and shimmering stars; and we get a beautifully sketched opening credits sequence. Probably the most notable makeover for the franchise is the re-imagining of the Klingons, here depicted more as religious fanatics, ceremonial figures more concerned with racial purity than drinking bloodwine. It’s another nod to the times we live in; “Make the Klingon Empire Great Again” may as well be their new battle cry. It does serve a wider purpose. The Federation and its unification of hundreds of different planets and species is about the strengths of diversity and cooperation, and this new Klingon Empire is a more stark contrast to such ideals. Like Deep Space Nine previously, Discovery uses the backdrop of war to test what it means to be human, and how far we should go to protect our ideals. It’s a rich era filled with flawed characters that can and should drive the show; it just occasionally over-complicates things.

Extra Features:

  • Discovering Discovery: The concepts and casting of Star Trek: Discovery: Interviews with producers, writers and stars of Star Trek: Discovery about the debut season
  • Star Trek theme: A discussion with executive producer Alex Kurtzman and composer Jeff Russo about creating the Discovery theme and score for the show
  • Creature Comforts: A behind-the-scenes look at the makeup and prosthetics department on Star Trek: Discovery, as they modernize well-known Star Trek species, such as the Klingons, Vulcans, and Andorians, and bring to life a new species, the Kelpiens
  • Designing Discovery: Insight into the production design department led by Tamara Deverell as the team creates the planets, the world within those worlds and the starships to travel among them
  • Creating Space: An exploration of how the VFX team, headed by Jason Zimmerman, creates the reality of space, planets, and starships
  • Prop Me Up: Led by propmaster Mario Moreira, this is a look at Discovery props, with an inside view of the design process from inception to set
  • Feeding Frenzy: A look at the on-set food stylist who creates a galaxy of cuisine
  • A Female Touch: With strong female producers and writers off-screen and powerful female characters on-screen, Discovery exemplifies the groundbreaking inclusionary theme first put forth in the original series
  • Dress for Success: Costume designer Gersha Phillips and her team create an array of clothing, uniforms, and armor for every kind of species in the galaxy
  • Star Trek: Discovery: The Voyage of Season 1: A look at the adventures and plot twists encountered in the first season by the crew of the Discovery

Season Two

The sophomore season again sees the show mining the history of the franchise, this time in bringing aboard Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), the man who commanded the Enterprise before Kirk took charge. His arrival comes in response to an unusual phenomenon, the sighting of a figure coined the “Red Angel” throughout the galaxy. A herald for unusual and often destructive events. The key to figuring out this mystery might be his missing science officer, one Lieutenant Spock (Ethan Peck). And so Pike enlists the Discovery and her crew to help him track down his missing man, who also happens to be the step-brother of Michael Burnham.

It feels very much like classic Trek, albeit tied to a more serialized narrative. Investigations of these weird sighting taking them to different worlds, uncovering more of the mystery, ties to Burnham’s past, and also giving the crew time to grow, forge closer ties, and start to unpack the trauma of season one while heaping more on top. The show ramps up in terms of gung-ho action set-pieces, thankfully wraps up some of the dragging plotlines involving the Klingons, and further develops the nefarious Section 31, even if that does come with a rather grating riff off of the Borg. Much of the latter half of the season feels to have an eye on the future though, literally. Setting up a few characters and technological advances, and discoveries. The mining of fan nostalgia is pared back, but in its most prominent deployment is forgivable given the charm of Anson Mount. His presence, Peck’s, as well as the work of Rebecca Romijn as his “Number One”, is one of the more compelling aspects of the show.Indeed, they proved themselves to such great effects that their adventures will continue in a spinoff, Star Trek Strange New Worlds.

Extra Features:

  • Enter the Enterprise: Production teams give a runtown of building an updated version of the iconic ship’s bridge
  • Putting it Together: A general overview using interviews and behind the scenes footage to introduce most of the creatives and crew that work on the show
  • The Red Angel: A featurette on the concept and execution of the ‘Red Angel’ character
  • Designing Discovery Season 2: On a show where no location exists in our world, the production and lighting design teams must create every space. Look at the locations and spaces created for Season Two.
  • Prop Me Up Season 2: Propmaster Mario Moreira introduces some key props from the show
  • Dress for Success Season 2: Costume design (and other creative touches), with Gersha Phillips and her team
  • Creature Comforts Season 2: Crew, design teams, and actors involved, discuss the creation and execution of the various alien lifeforms created for the season
  • Creating Space: Insights from the VFX team on the special effects used in the show
  • Star Trek Discovery — The Voyage of Season 2: An overview of the plot and themes that drive the second season
  • Audio Commentaries (Select Episodes):
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes:
  • Gag Reel:

Season Three

The season 2 final saw the crew of the good ship Discovery opening a wormhole to launch themselves, and cargo they needed to protect, away from a rogue AI. Overshooting their destination, they find themselves 900 years in a far flung future, going from the 23rd, the the 32nd century. This future is one rocked by an event that occurred a few hundred years before Discovery’s arrival, called “The Burn”, where dilithium, the crystals essential for warp drive, exploded. Thousands of ships across the galaxy were destroyed, crippling intergalactic travel, with only a few fragments remaining to allow the lucky few to move from system to system. A once unified Federation of planets has broken apart. New entities have risen to exploit the power vacuum. Enter Discovery. Equipped with their unique spore drive, they are able to traverse the galaxy, setting out to find the remnants of Starfleet and the Federation, and uncover what exactly caused the Burn.

It’s a bold direction for the show, flipping the galaxy on it’s head, upending the status quo. Discovery is thrust into encounters with wretched hives of scum and villainy, more than cordial diplomatic exchanges. Trade has been replaced by barter. Galactic powers by local governments. Exploration by more insular behavior. A time when people can conjure food and supplies out of thin air with replicators is reintroduced to the idea of rarity. A real test to see how the ideals of an evolved society like humanity and the Federation hold up. A superpower that falls on hard time due to a change in resources. A challenge by the emergence of the Emerald Chain, a large crime syndicate expanding its reach on the basis of exploitation of both peoples and resources. They serve as an antithesis of the Federation’s ideals and seem better suited to this new galaxy order.

It all sounds dark, but is nicely countered by how fascinating it is to explore these strange new (but familiar) worlds. Trek nerds will delight into the gradual trickle of information, some in dialogue, some in background graphics (Voyager-J!, Ni-Var!). We get hints at what the Federation became (new member species), and slowly revealing what remains. Of Starfleet, Earth, and other member worlds too. Exciting reveals of new technologies too. The tone is further assisted by the crew of the Discovery serving as a time capsule of old-school Starfleet ideals and aspirations. A gung-assembly, kindling hope in a dark galaxy.

Extra Features:

  • Star Trek Discovery: The Voyage of Season 3: Assorted interviews with cast and crew, plans and production, building sets and more. A solid rundown on the making of the show
  • Stunted: Stunt coordinator Christopher McGuire gives a run down on how stunts are prepared, rehearsed, and executed. Season 3 has a bit more grit and physicality to it, so nice to see this aspect of the show getting some acknowledgement
  • Being Michael Burnham: Martin-Green discusses her character’s arc this season
  • Kenneth Mitchell, To Boldly Go: Featuring Mitchell, an actor typically seen on the show under layers of prosthetics, chats about his new role as Aurellio, his fights against ALS, and how the show worked in his reliance on a wheelchair into the show and his character
  • Bridge Building: A little dive into the main characters featured on the show
  • Writer’s Log — Michelle Paradise: New showrunner Paradise talks about the ideas for the new season, as well as the shooting experience on location in Iceland
  • Deleted Scenes:
  • Gag Reel:

The Bottom Line

Star Trek Discovery has at times leaned a little more into its past than it should, but always remained entertaining fare. As it has progressed, it has forged a more distinct identity, never more so than it it’s propulsive and enthralling third season. This release marks a perfect way to get caught up on the show, and more deeply appreciate it through the extra features, before the fourth season debuts on Paramount+ later this month.

Star Trek Discovery Seasons 1–3 is available now

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