Star Trek: Discovery (first impressions) – OR: I really hate Michael Burnham

I grew up on Star Trek TNG.  I was, in fact, one of ‘those’ trekkies, with the encyclopedias and the model Enterprise, and even every single one of the extended universe books.  I would rush home from school every day and wait for it to begin at 4PM.  And then I would despair when the syndicated episodes ran out and it would start over at season 1 episode 1 again and I’d have to wait until the channel caught back up to presently airing episodes.  Ahhhh, the late 80s/early 90s.  And now we have the internet!  What a savage and primitive world this used to be.

As most people are probably aware, the world of Trek has been languishing of late, and so did my interest.  I was happy to leave nostalgia back in the 90s with TNG and not worry about reviving it.  I don’t think I even saw an episode of Enterprise before it got canned.   So I hadn’t even really heard about Discovery, except maybe in passing.  I paid no attention to the hype, or the trailers.  I had zero awareness or expectations for it.

Then we ran out of TV to binge and wandered into The Orville.  If you’re not aware of The Orville, it is Seth MacFarlane’s love letter to Star Trek TNG, which basically means TNG with dick and fart jokes.  Here’s your bonus review: I actually really enjoy The Orville, but god damn is it awkward, ahahahahahaha.  It doesn’t know what to do with itself.  I saw one review/comment that said ‘Basically, it’s a perfect show, except for the part where it is a Seth MacFarlane show.’  Right in the bullseye.  The show tackles deep and interesting plot lines and tries to develop its characters and world in ways that are, dare I say it, TNG-esque.  It pulls you in and hits you with nostalgia that reminds you why you liked TNG.  And then it remembers that it is a Seth MacFarlane show and shoehorns an awkward fart joke into the mix and it falls over itself.  Now, I am ALL FOR a show that is literally TNG with dick and fart jokes, but c’mon guys, you gotta have better delivery than that to make this work.  I will continue to enjoy The Orville and facepalm at its horrible awkward delivery until its inevitable cancellation :(

So, anyway, we exhausted the current run of Orville episodes and found ourselves wanting more Star Trek.  Rather than binging through TNG again, which was my first inclination, we decided to check out Discovery.  It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s Star Trek, and we’re out of shit to watch.  Why not!

In case you are wondering why not, I will explain to you why not.  Full disclosure: at the time of writing, only four episodes of Star Trek Discovery have aired, and two of them are the pilot which kinda don’t even count as episodes.  I am intrigued to see where this goes and will continue to watch, but I am not optimistic.  The best case scenario would be if I can come back to this after the season is finished and lauuugghhhhh. We’ll see!

I’m also breaking rules by logging this under “movies” but since bitching about writing is my MO, you’re just going to have to deal with it.

We watched the pilot, and as I said before I had paid no attention to the show or the hype, so my first thought was “Why are the Klingons lizard people now, and why do they hate everyone?”  I wasn’t even aware that Discovery was a prequel; that’s how little attention I paid to it.  Turns out it is set pre-original-series, when the Klingons were at war with the Federation.  There is no explanation for why the Klingons have no hair, though (at least not yet).

I actually really enjoyed the pilot and was excited for the series, Klingon weirdness aside.  It certainly didn’t have the TNG feel that The Orville sent us looking for, but it was set in space with exploding shit and hell, that’s all we need (or so I thought.  Turns out I also need not-shitty writing).  Michelle Yeoh kicked ass and if the series was about her I’d probably be super hooked.

But, instead, it is about “Michael Burnham”, the female-with-a-male-name main character for Discovery.

Now, I want to take an aside here and point out that, at least in the first four episodes, it really feels like Discovery is ABOUT Michael Burnham.  Other forms of Star Trek do not have that sort of character-centricness.  When I think of TNG, I think of the entire crew.  They may have character-centric episodes, but the show is not ABOUT any single one of them.  I feel that most (good…) Trek series are similar.  Discovery is most definitely ABOUT Michael Burnham, thus far.  It might change, but I am not optimistic, and I will tell you why:

Michael Burnham is a huge Mary Sue.  Now, I’ve been following some debates about this over the past couple weeks where people who hate the show are claiming she’s a Mary Sue and people who want to love the show (because it’s Trek.  Of course we want to love it) vehemently deny that she is a Mary Sue.  I’ll clear it up for you right now.  Michael Burnham is so much of a Mary Sue that she almost fits the description for the original Mary Sue (which was, in fact, from a Trek fanfic), and in fact exceeds the original Mary Sue by also being Spock’s sister.  She is Mary Sue 2.0, encompassing everything that the term ‘Mary Sue’ has come to encompass in the years since her creation.  In the future we might be calling them Michael Burnhams instead of Mary Sues.  That is how much of a Mary Sue she is.

The pilot was okay.  There were a few moments where I was like “Why are the captain and Michael doing literally everything by themselves?” but it’s a Trek trope to throw the most valuable officers into the most life threatening grunt work so I shrugged and enjoyed it.  They didn’t really need anyone else on the crew, but as it turns out most of those people are unimportant to the series and the setting was temporary, so it makes sense not to waste time introducing everyone.

Then she got to Discovery.  The episodes started to follow this formula:

Everyone acts like a dick to Michael.  Michael is stoic and brooding, accepting the abuse because she feels she deserves it.
Events happen.  Michael is asked to help.
Michael assesses the situation and gives advice.  We are repeatedly given evidence that Michael’s assessment is the correct one, because she is so smart and stuff, but no one believes her and instead they act like dicks to her.  Her advice is ignored, to the detriment of all.
Michael finally gets fed up and breaks rules to do The Right Thing (TM).  Everyone is amazed at the variety and accuracy of her abilities as her solution fixes everything.
In order to hide the fact that they are amazed by her, they act like dicks to her.  Michael is stoic and brooding and accepts this abuse, because she feels she deserves it.

I want to stab my eyes out.  Both [Update: The first three…] of the post-pilot episodes followed this formula and if the entire season follows suit I might not survive.

Here are some of the arguments I have seen for Michael to NOT be a Mary Sue:

– Michael cannot be a Mary Sue because everyone hates her.
FALSE: Everyone acts like dicks toward her, but they are very clearly in awe of her ability.  Mary Sue klaxon goes off.  Granted, she hasn’t fucked anyone yet, but I’m sure that will be an episode plot soon. [** UPDATE: SEE BELOW. AAAAAAAAGH.]

– Michael cannot be a Mary Sue because she has so many flaws.
FALSE:  Michael has not yet been shown to have a flaw that is not easily spun into being an asset.  Note that Mary Sues often have tragic backstories that they regret, so the mutiny stuff is more evidence that she is a Mary Sue, not proof against it.  She has not come up against a single solitary test (caveat: in four five episodes) that she did not excel at.  The correct response is ALWAYS “Have Michael handle it.”  Even the way she flagrantly violates rules is an asset.  The ‘mistake’ she made in the pilot — the mistake that drives the entire series — was shown to us as being the correct decision.  She was prevented from carrying out the plan.  For all we know, she could have prevented the war if she had been allowed to go through with it.
[Edit] Except for shooting T’Kuvma, immediately after explaining why they shouldn’t shoot T’Kuvma (which she is, of course, correct about).  I think that might have been some sort of attempt to show her having emotional overreaction, which is a flaw, but it’s also just shit writing because they attached it to the story with scotch tape instead of rolling it into the narrative. [/edit]

Meanwhile, she is the only one on the entire crew who is capable of accomplishing anything.  But, instead, they act like dicks to her and ignore her advice.  And she is stoic and brooding because she feels she deserves it.


Side note: I also saw an interview with the creators that suggested the characters of Michael and the Captain are named after the archangels Michael and Gabriel.  *continues stabbing eyes out*


As of episode 8, Michael Burnham has a flaw.  The flaw?  She has never been in love.

So, first of all, *huurrrrkkkk*.  But second of all, never fear!  She will soon be cured of this one and only flaw by the security chief who has the hots for her.  He will teach her how to love.

The security chief who spent seven months being tortured in a Klingon jail but is such a badass that he got out unscathed and was promoted to security chief of the Discovery after being on board for like, one day.  When that happened I was like “You’re all idiots.  Clearly this will have repercussions.  Either this guy will be mentally unstable from the things he has endured, or he’s going to be a goddamn spy.   Promoting some random guy you found in a jail is never a good idea.”

But now he is in love with Michael Burnham.  So probably he really is just that badass and good.




About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

One Response to Star Trek: Discovery (first impressions) – OR: I really hate Michael Burnham

  1. namegoeshere says:

    Spot on. All the people saying she’s not a Mary Sue are either in complete denial, stark raving feminists, or just lying.

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