“Star Trek Discovery” Trailer. What’s Right – What’s Wrong

Lieutenant Saru (Doug Jones), First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) - Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek Discovery Trailer Analysis

Okay, here it is.   After much analysis, we’re finally ready to publish our official NCC-1031.COM analysis of the recently-released Star Trek Discovery trailer.  We’ve covered all aspects that we can think of including the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, and the exciting.  And if we later discover we’ve missed something, we’ll come back here and update the article.

Disagree with our opinions on any of this?  Great! Let us and all the other Star Trek fans out there know by commenting at the bottom of the page.  Keep it respectful or we’ll remove your comment.

Without any further detail, lets get to it.

First, About The “Star Trek Discovery” Trailer

CBS presented their wares at the Upfronts 2017 on May 17th.  Of this year’s showing, one of the most highly anticipated segments was the rumored (expected actually) announcement of Star Trek Discovery images, and possibly a trailer.  To this point CBS has been exceptionally tight-lipped about any series details, revealing only character names and not much else.

The first official in-show photo, with leading character Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), was provided at the Upfronts breakfast, signalling a possible announcement to come later in the day.

Michael Burnham (right), First officer aboard the USS Discovery, and Captain Georgiou (left) of the USS Shenzhou - Star Trek Discovery
Michael Burnham (right), First officer aboard the USS Discovery, and Captain Georgiou (left) of the USS Shenzhou – Star Trek Discovery

Wrong – Trailer Release

An official trailer (we’ve already had two teasers) for the series was published to CBS’ Star Trek Discovery website.  However fans around the world began blasting the move on Twitter and other social media.  The official CBS page had regional encoding built into the trailer.  In other words, only people in the US could watch it.  Many fans, who had already waited patiently the entire day for the trailer, found they weren’t allowed to watch it because of their geographic location.  This even though the series is slated in air in 190 countries at the same time, 188 of those countries on Netflix.

CBS says "no" to non-USA Star Trek fans
CBS says “no” to non-USA Star Trek fans

Fans and websites scrambled to find a way to watch it online.  And while the annoyance of feeling like a second-class citizen wore off relatively quickly once one had seen the trailer (some places didn’t get it “officially” until days later), it was a misstep by CBS and showrunners that left a sour taste in the mouth of some die-hard and casual fans alike.

Right – Production Quality

The cinematography, sound, and sets are all top-notch.

Historically, Star Trek hasn’t exactly been known for its high production quality.  At least not any of the television shows.  Some of them suffered due to a shoe-string budget (The Original Series) while others have seen some relatively average production quality. Enterprise and some of Voyager and Deep Space Nine come to mind.  But never top-notch production quality, as each series had to work within their respective limited budgets.  It meant for the shows to succeed they needed quality stories.

Star Trek has not historically been known for top-notch production quality
Star Trek has not historically been known for top-notch production quality

Part of the reason for this is that science fiction is an expensive genre at its core.  Sets, costumes, makeup, and special effects all quickly eat away at the budget.  CBS CEO Les Moonves has quipped a few times about Star Trek needing to be produced for CBS AllAccess in order to justify the production costs (AllAccess is a paid service).

Production quality of Star Trek Discovery is theatrical
Production quality of Star Trek Discovery is theatrical

Without a doubt, Star Trek Discovery‘s showrunners have spent a lot of time, effort, and money, in making sure the production quality of the series is top-notch; and it really shows.  The tv series trailer plays just as good if not better than many mid-to-large budget Hollywood theatrical releases.

– The Sets Are Quality –

When CBS posted their 2nd Star Trek Discovery teaser, it was obvious they had been spending a lot of money on the set development.  Construction of the sets started more than three months before filming began in January 2017.  The scale was like no other Star Trek series, with the single possible exception of the Promenade set in Deep Space Nine.

Star Trek Discovery - Set Design. Klingon Ship Bridge based on Mark Worthington's designs?
Star Trek Discovery – Set Design. Klingon Ship Bridge based on Mark Worthington’s designs?

The showrunners also made the decision to produce the series at Pinewood Studios, Toronto – North America’s largest purpose-built soundstage.  Likely because of the scale of the production and set requirements.

In the summer of 2016 when the series was in the very early days,  Discovery showrunners hired award-winning film art director and production designer Mark Worthington to work on some of the show’s design.  You can easily see some of these by Googling “mark worthington star trek discovery” on Google Images to get an idea of what the earliest designs looked like.

– Cinematography Looks Great –

The cinematography in the trailer appears to draw more than a little inspiration from the Star Trek reboot movies, aka the Kelvin timeline.  Likely because Alex Kurtzman is involved.  Kurtzman worked on the new Star Trek reboot movies with J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci, and has been working on Star Trek Discovery‘s production since the beginning.

Star Trek Discovery cuts back on the use of the traditional straight-on dolly and opts for more angled, lowered, or elevated perspectives
Star Trek Discovery cuts back on the use of the traditional straight-on dolly and opts for more angled, lowered, or elevated perspectives

In the trailer, the camera has clearly been freed of the dolly, giving this series something new and fresh.  There’s a more cinematic feel to what we’re seeing.

Those perspectives give the show a more edgy and almost nervous feeling that, while going against traditional television Trek, looks like it will work well for the series.

Also featured in the Discovery trailer are the much-discussed lens flares found in the movie reboots.  However Star Trek Discovery looks like it will use them a little less liberally and not in a way that distracts the audience too much.

– Sound is Moving, Music Inspirational –

Star Trek has always had good music, both the series intros, and in-episode.  Though some would argue that all changed when Star Trek: Enterprise hit the airwaves, music has always been one of the key components for the show.

It’s unlikely what we heard in the trailer is going to be used for the show or in the intro, but what we did hear sounded great.  Either trailer actually, since there’s a CBS trailer and a Netflix trailer.  They both contain mostly the same footage (CBS trailer has more) but have very different music.  The Netflix trailer also introduces the “red alert” sound effect for those that haven’t yet heard it.

Sticking to the CBS trailer, there were notes that managed to inspire goosebumps and instruments that produced feelings of optimism.  Add to that the sound effects that delivered modern and new, yet familiar tones, and the audio for this trailer left us with a feeling of promise for the series.

Right – Continued Tradition of Diverse Cast & Crew

Star Trek has an over 50-years-long tradition of promoting diversity, both in its casting and its characters.  From TOS‘ heavily-accented Russian and Scottish characters, to its Black communications woman, inter-species (Spock) first officer, and Japanese helmsman.  This while the cold war was brewing, and just 20 years after the American roundup and internment of Japanese-Americans.  George Takei who played Sulu, was literally one of those Japanese-Americans imprisoned just a few short decades earlier.

Star Trek is the truly original social justice warrior.  It needs to stick to that, never shying away.

We previously wrote in an opinion piece that Star Trek Discovery was shaping up to be the least diverse cast of any Star Trek series (proportionally) yet.  And while the casting is still disproportionately Caucasian, some of the key characters, including the protagonist, are not only people of colour, but women of colour – a demographic under-represented in television, and sci fi in particular.  Tens of millions of women will now get to see themselves represented, like it always should have been.

Michell Yeoh, who plays Captain Philippa Georgiou, carries on the tradition of characters with accents instead of trying to conform to a particular culture’s dialect.  A much more realistic approach.

Wrong(ish) – Costumes

Our analysis of the costumes in the trailer was a bit more difficult.  First, because there’s so many of them.  Second, because they all look to be top-quality with an amazing attention to detail.  Here’s what we find wrong(ish) about the costumes.

– Starfleet Uniforms, Not Quite Right –

Starfleet Captain's uniform
Starfleet Captain’s uniform

The most important costumes in any Star Trek series are, of course, those of Starfleet.  We feel that Discovery is a miss in this regard.

We’ll say it again – these uniforms are top-quality and they are extremely well designed.  The detailing is exceptional craftsmanship (see the pic below).  Our concern is more with their adherence – rather the lack thereof – to what Starfleet uniforms of the time period typically looked like.

In Star Trek: The Original Series, Starfleet personnel wore simple, bright colors.  Part of the reason was TOS had a small budget, but the another was that the bright colors were visual representations of the optimism, cheerfulness, and brightness that the future promises in the Star Trek universe.  They were distinctly non-militaristic.

We’re also not sure why there is only a single neck collar on the Starfleet uniforms, and whether that has something to do with rank or not.

Star Trek Discovery seems to have drawn inspiration from Star Trek Enterprise, and just about every other space science fiction series this side of the 21st century, with their navy-blue colours.  They very much have a military look to them, which is completely counter to the ideals of Star Trek.

In no way do they look like they’re standard Starfleet issue just 10 years before the uniforms worn by Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.  They’re even farther from those worn by Captain Pike and Number One on the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek pilot episode.

As we mentioned earlier, the level of detail on the uniforms in unparalleled, as can be seen in this picture.

Starfleet uniforms in Star Trek Discovery have a high level of detail
Starfleet uniforms in Star Trek Discovery have a high level of detail

– Klingon Uniforms, Not Quite –

There’s also the uniforms of the Klingons.  Once again the quality of the costumes is to-notch, but they seem to diverge from what we’ve already seen of Klingons in the 23rd century.

T'Kuvma, played by Chris Obi, in Klingon uniform
T’Kuvma, played by Chris Obi, in Klingon uniform

Of course the Klingon uniforms may look the way they do because of the series plot line.  Some people have suggested that the Klingons we’re seeing so far may be of a different species, or possibly an ancient tribe that remained separated from the rest of the Klingon Empire for some time.  That’s all, of course,  just speculation.  Regardless, it’s quite different from anything we’ve seen any Klingon wear in any of the television shows.

– Vulcan (Sarek’s) Uniforms, Bang On –

The uniform that Sarek is wearing in the trailer looks pretty bang-on to us from what we’ve seen of the Vulcans.  Perhaps not exactly those shown in The Original Series, but certainly those found throughout the movies and other Trek shows.

Once again the quality looks great.  The hard shoulder pads make a return once again, giving the Vulcan’s a striking, serious, appearance.

Sarek, played by James Frain, in Vulcan costume
Sarek, played by James Frain, in Vulcan costume

– Costumes – Other Notable Mentions –

Other notable costumes in Star Trek Discovery
Other notable costumes in Star Trek Discovery

Right – Warp Drive Effect

Ever since Star Trek: The Next Generation, each television series has followed the same look for what space looks like when the ship is at warp.  It’s a nice effect and, after having graced our television screens for nearly 30 years, it’s a very familiar one too.  However many of the franchise’s theatrical releases came with their own visualizations for how the warp effect looks.  Star Trek Discovery once again re-invents.

Star Trek Discovery re-invents the look of warp drive
Star Trek Discovery re-invents the look of warp drive

The stars flashing by almost appear to be bolts of lightning, and appear to be anything but straight lines along the plane of the ships trajectory.  At first, we thought this seemed random – something done just to look “cool”.  But after further analysis, the squiggly, seemingly-random bends in the light does make sense.

Albert Einstein’s theories suggested that gravity literally warps space, and as a result the light that flows through that space would also be bent.  We’ve known this to be true for some time now, and there are some pretty amazing images out there of the effect.  Check out “gravitational lensing” in Google images.  Essentially every object that has gravity also will bend visible light to some degree.  The stronger the gravity, the larger the bend.  A starship at warp, who’s perspective of any given star or object, would see not only the quickly-changing position of stars, but also the quickly-changing gravitational lensing effects applied to those stars.

Whether or not the special effects artists did it for this reason isn’t clear.  Perhaps it was just a very lucky coincidence.  On the other hand, if it was intentional, this bodes well for Star Trek Discovery using a little less “treknobabble” and a little more real science.

Right – Aliens

We think that Star Trek Discovery gets the aliens right in the trailer.  By that, we mostly mean that there looks like there’s a lot of them.  Whereas most previous Trek incarnations had relatively few alien crew, Discovery appears to have more.  And we mean beyond the usual Klingons and Vulcans.

Star Trek Discovery looks to feature more aliens in the show
Star Trek Discovery looks to feature more aliens in the show

Okay so one of these may be a robot, not an alien, but it may still be another type of life form.

We’ll continue to add further analysis to this official Star Trek Discovery review, so be sure to check back here often.

Or visit our Star Trek Discovery Opinions section of this website right now for other articles,  reviews, and opinions about the upcoming television series on CBS AllAccess (USA), CraveTV (Canada) and Netflix (rest of the world).

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About Cassius Adams

Cassius Adams is the creator of ncc-1031.com and is a content contributor. He has been a Star Trek fan for nearly three decades. Cassius discovered his passion for the franchise early into TNG's run, and nourished that passion throughout DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies. Cassius can be reached by emailing cass@ncc-1031.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @supercass

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  • Sean Swindler

    It looks fine – my only problem is they are litigating the past instead of moving forward – no reason this should not be set 25, 50, 75 whatever years after TNG, to keep us moving forward.