An unknown Klingon attempts to rally the 24 houses of the empire against those “who come in peace.” It’s declared there is a need to fight off an impending threat, which is assumed to be The Federation. The entire dialog is done in Klingon, a departure from any of the other previous series. This right here is the main theme that is expected to guide the season. The Klingon/Federation War is one where unlike the Roluman/Earth War, The Federation was on the losing side for most of the conflict.
During that time we find ourselves with Captian Philippa Georgiou and First Officer Michael Burnham who are working tirelessly on an undeveloped world. Due to a meteor mining accident cutting the water supply of the Crepusculans, the pre-warp civilization is facing certain death. Which is a clear violation of the prime directive. Nevertheless, utilizing both their skill and advanced technology they fix a well. This well will ensure that the residents of this world are able to make it through the coming 89-year drought which would have claimed their lives.
On the 11th of May, 2256 the crew of the USS Shenzhou are given orders to investigate a damaged relay on the edge of Federation space. At this point, the Federation’s borders are still quite wild and untamed. The system in which the relay is located is a binary star system. Looking at the system I can tell that they spent a great deal of time creating a visual effect to remember. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Because of the tidal forces from the two stars, the system is filled with a large field of debris. The debris field prevents the transporter from getting a lock on the relay. As the crew scans the area they find a strange anomaly that is preventing further scans. This scene draws us into the stark contrast that is the personality of First Officer Burnham and Science Officer Sura.
You have one who is fearless in her action. While Sura later details a fundamental trait of his species that allows us to understand his psyche better. First officer Burnham is able to get the captain to allow her to go out in a space suit and investigate herself. However, the area is radiated and only gives her twenty minutes of walk time before radiation levels are lethal. Flying through the debris the quality of the special effects shines very well. The binary system that is shown is amazing. You can see that same amazement and wonder in Burnham’s eyes as she looks at it on her journey.
The trip to investigate severs her ability to communicate with the USS Shenzhou. Investigating the anomaly, it is clear that the architecture is different in many ways, compared to what we’ve seen traditionally in Star Trek. But if I remember correctly, it’s still pretty similar to what I remember seeing in Qo’nos with its buildings In the Next Generation. That’s when she finds herself face to face with an unknown Klingon. In her attempt to make contact he attacks Michael only to be stabbed by his own Bat’leth. This death felt a bit off for the Klingons I’ve known growing up. This species is basically the equivalent of space Spartans, I expected a bit of a battle.
In the next scene, we are with the Klingons in a chamber. The body of the warrior who attacked First Officer Burnham is laid in display within a sarcophagus at the center. The room is eerily reminiscent of work and designs I’ve seen in early Stargate SG1 episodes. Nowhere have I seen this in any other Trek show. Maybe this is just a bit of Klingon culture being explored, but I feel that Discovery is getting close to retconning the Klingons.
During the Klingon dialog, the anomaly that was originally being investigated by the Shenzhou is found to be considered sacred and placed there by the Klingons. Which makes me wonder why it hasn’t been noticed until now especially if it is in Federation Space
Back on the ship Burnham is unconscious and remembers her time at the Vulcan learning Center. Unwrapping Burnham in this manner gives Discovery room to allow her own personal development. They really make her a fish out of water on Vulcan. It will be interesting to see how her experience on Vulcan will play a critical role in her choices this season.
After a short time, she awakens inside a medical pod. Three hours had passed since she was taken back aboard the ship. Jumping out of the pod, Burnham rushes to the bridge. In her haste, she makes it to the bridge crew and begins to warn them of the Klingon she’d seen. It’s dismissed as symptoms of head trauma and Burnham is ordered back to sickbay. The scene was all too reminiscent of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek when Bones is treating Kirk for an allergic reaction on the Enterprise only to have Kirk rush to the bridge to warn the Captain about the impending Romulan danger.
This is also a very similar scene to the one from Into Darkness where Carol Marcus rushes to the bridge to warn of another impending danger. Her own father. If the showrunners are trying to prove to fans that Discovery isn’t part of the J.J. Abrams universe, then this is a poor way of doing it. I understand that this series is set to be CBS All Access’s flagship program and they’re looking to shore up subscription numbers, but this isn’t the way to do that. With what Abrams did right in his version of Trek, this series has instead used what he did wrong.
Captian Georgiou believes her and locks onto what ends up being a cloaked Klingon. Suddenly the ship decloaks. The Shenzhou tries to hail the ship. However, no response to the hails are given.
The Klingons then start sending out a painful electromagnetic signal that inflicts physical pain on the Federation crew. While this is happening Burnham opens a subspace channel to her mentor, Sarek. They go back and forth about the situation regarding the Klingons and come to the conclusion that a new leader is making structural changes within the empire or at least attempting to. Then she’s asks how the Vulcans dealt with the Klingons. Sarek requests she keeps what she’s about to tell her secret and the scene ends.
Upon that realization, Burnham returns to the Captain and recommends they attack the Klingon ship. Justifying this action based on similar situations the Vulcans have had in their dealings with the Klingons. An argument ensues about morals and the Federation. Burnham argues proven results by the Vulcans while Captian Philippa retorts how that isn’t a value held by the Federation. Unswayed, Captain Philippa orders a stand down. An outburst by Burnham silences the bridge. A physically frazzled Captian Philippa orders Burnham to her ready room. In this scene, Michelle Yeoh’s acting experience comes out on full display and easily outshines in the dialog department.
Sure of her logic, Burnham knocks out the Captain by use of the famous Vulcan nerve pinch. Though the nerve pinch was nice to see, what concerns me is after those years on Vulcan, how on earth didn’t Burnham learn to resolve her disagreements with Captian Philippa Georgiou better? I get that you need conflict, but one thing that Star Trek captains have learned to do in each series was to trust their first officers.
This point here makes the character feel as it is more of a mishmash of two different characters than a completed idea. Which would make sense because the show had to be pushed back several months for re-shoots. It seems some of that story confusion may have found its way into the first episode.
Taking command of the ship Burnham orders an immediate attack on the Klingon ship. The crew questions her orders and inquires about the Captain’s location. In order to sway the crew to her side, Burnham lies in order to launch the attack. Again Burnham orders that attack, but Georgiou returns to the bridge to rescind Burnham’s orders. With her phaser set center mass on Burnham, the Captain orders her to stand down. Here, Michelle Yeoh’s acting experience shines through again at its best point in the entire episode. While pleading her case to the Captain, sensors find that several other warp signatures are appearing on an intercept course. The episode ends with the Shenzhou alone, outgunned, and outnumbered by a fleet of Klingon ships.
“The Vulcan Hello” gives us a lot to process in one episode. Between the prologue and competing stories of each faction, it felt a tad rushed. The reshoots and release delays are still pretty apparent in the final product. It could have easily been turned into two episodes instead in order to bring together some order. Maybe if it were two episodes some of the scenes could have been ironed out a bit more. The Klingon dialog and First Officer Burnham’s character development could have been given better breathing room.
This isn’t’ the weakest premiere episode of any Trek show in my opinion. That honor still belongs to Star Trek Enterprise. If you’re a Trek fan give it at least two viewings before you judge, that’s what I had to do. And I’m happy I did so.