DVD Review - Star Trek: Discovery Season One

Star Trek: Discovery was a very welcome return to the small screen for Star Trek as far as this reviewer was concerned. Whilst now, months removed from its finale, I have reservations about some of the creative and (specifically) narrative decisions they made, I still overwhelmingly enjoyed it and am very much looking forward to season two. With the release of season one on DVD (and Blu-ray), not only I did I anticipate the opportunity to re-watch the series (a bit odd as I have Netflix, the UK home of all Trek TV) but also the chance to delve into those behind the scenes special features to see just how they brought the new series to life.

As with all home releases, The Lord of the Rings has forever spoiled me. I might not expect an experience like the deep dive into the creative process as we got there on all home releases, but I’m always a little disappointed when once past the animated menus I’m greeted by an admittedly broad, yet not entirely comprehensive series of ‘featurettes’. Mostly skimming the surface of the production behind the show, feels somewhat paradoxical that there’s literally over two hours of this behind the scenes stuff, that left me wondering if a feature length ‘Making of’ documentary was a possibility. But they decided to go down the bite-sized featurette route, despite my personal preference, Is it easier to consume and more accessible to a casual audience?

A lot of time is given to the overriding theme of the sheer weight of responsibility felt by the production of Star Trek: Discovery. Revising and modernising Star Trek, whilst paying repsects to what had come before, clearly was equal parts inspirational yet daunting. From music to sets, costumes to props, particular attention is given to the challenge of making a science fiction show set in the future, that is also technically a period piece within the wider Star Trek canon. How do you make sure you don’t surpass the technology of the original series, whilst simultaneously keeping up with the aesthetic of the rebooted Star Trek movies, all on a TV budget? Also, where do I get my hands on some of those amazing retro yet uber-modern props?

Each of these featurettes is typically 10-12 minutes long, but then seemingly out of nowhere, the ‘Dress for Success’ featurette goes deep on the step by step creation of a full set of Klingon armour, as well as highlighting the creation of other costume pieces, including probably my favourite uniform in the canon of Star Trek. At 20 minutes, the level of detail given here somewhat gives away the fact that they could have gone deeper on other topics if they really wanted to, which I feel is a shame.

Pictured (l-r): Michelle Yeoh as Captain Philippa Georgiou; Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY coming to CBS All Access. Photo Cr: Jan Thijs © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Themes of how pertinent Star Trek’s message is today are stressed in not too different a manner I expressed back when I reviewed the episodes as they aired, with Jason Isaacs proving himself an absolute legend once again by all but naming those guilty of shifting the political spectrum back to the strong man politics of the last century that drove the world to its darkest day. The importance of having a black female lead In Michael Burnham as well as a gay couple in the form of Stamets and Culber are all touched upon, albeit gingerly. No mention is made of any of the behind the scenes drama about the departure of the original show runner Bryan Fuller though. It all feels a bit like fluff, despite its accumulative runtime.

Frustratingly, despite more than a few visits to the writers room across these featurettes, particularly to highlight the women called upon to write this iteration of Star Trek, no real time is given to discussing the narrative that they wove over the 15 episodes. The final featurette on the last disc, ‘Star Trek Discovery: The Voyage of Season One’ is a 40 minutes mini doc, giving a decent overview to the season as a whole, but only touches upon each episode briefly. Missing from the package was the one thing I ultimately felt could scratch the itch I was left with; episode commentary.

Whether it would have been the showrunners, writers or cast (or perhaps all of them across multiple audio tracks) I feel commentary on each episode could have granted us a better insight into the story telling process, especially into the reasoning and logic behind some of the season’s greatest plot points. Including finally dealing with the fact that they essentially re-designed a classic Star Trek alien (the Klingons) as a way to cover up a plot twist they built the whole season around. If you’ve seen the show you know exactly what I’m talking about. Perhaps it’s just me, but the reasoning given for their reinterpretation of such an iconic science fiction race has always rung hollow. I guess I just wanted to hear them talk us through that particular plot thread and how so much of Star Trek: Discovery’s freshman season, so many concepts that will forever define the series, sprung out of a single idea for a ‘killer twist’. Alas, no.

There are a smattering of deleted and extended scenes, but not every episode has them. They do provide a glimpse into the narrative process but I’ve always felt deleted scenes an odd inclusion on a home release. As fans argue online as to the canonicity of them (If they don’t contradict anything in the final product, then who’s to say it isn’t more of a bonus scene), but over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that the final product is the true product. Unless there’s documented examples of studio interference butchering a creative’s specific vision, which really isn’t the case most of the time, then deleted scenes like this tend to feel more like filler to me.

"Despite Yourself" -- Episode 110 -- Pictured (l-r): Shazad Latif as Lieutenant Ash Tyler; Mary Wiseman as Cadet Sylvia Tilly; Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham; Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru; Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screengrab/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Whilst Star Trek: Discovery Season One is a decent home release, it does leave something to be desired. Much like the show itself, you can see where it could have been great, but for to a few iffy decisions it was just good. Still good and nothing to be sniffed at though. And this will very likely make it onto my Christmas shopping list as my non Netflix having Mother can finally binge watch the latest version of the show she got me into.

Oh and one final note – We do get the obligatory Doug Jones makeup chair transformation into Saru, which for a long-time fan of the man almost makes it worth it by itself.

You can read our reviews of all the episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season one and other Star Trek related news here.

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