Star Trek’s Most Hated Show Gets No Love Because Of The Original Series

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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The fifth and final season of Star Trek: Discovery has hit the ground running, and this has reignited all of the old fan debates about why the show sucks. However, I’ve got a take hotter than Captain Killy: Discovery gets so much hate precisely because its writers understood the assignment and made this prequel show too similar to The Original Series. Years of spinoffs have made fans long for an ensemble Star Trek show, and that’s why nobody appreciates a show that, like TOS, focuses more on a small handful of characters.

TOS Was Shatner’s Show

Before anyone tries to hit me over the head with Spock’s lute, let’s get this out of the way: I’m aware that, nominally, Star Trek: The Original Series is an ensemble show, and I love its many colorful characters very deeply. However, go back and watch almost any given episode and you’ll notice that Kirk is almost always the focus, followed closely by Spock, with Dr. McCoy completing a memorable trinity. Others like Uhura, Sulu, Scott, and Chekov (who didn’t even join the show until its second season) were generally given far, far less to do.

Likewise, Discovery Is No Ensemble

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Arranging an entire Star Trek show around a tiny handful of characters is something that Discovery would basically copy many decades later. Countless fans have expressed annoyance that it’s basically Michael Burnham’s show, and early on, we mostly spent time with only a handful of supporting characters such as Saru, Tilly, and Stamets. Coming out of season one, even the biggest fans of the show barely knew who any of the supporting bridge crew were, which is the real reason why Captain Pike made a big deal out of having a roll call of name announcements at the beginning of season two.

Discovery Belongs To Sonequa Martin-Green

star trek discovery

In other words, Star Trek: Discovery really is the Michael Burnham show in the same way that The Original Series was the James T. Kirk show. This series was originally designed to be a prequel leading into The Original Series, and it managed to capture the vibe of classic Trek more than most haters will ever be willing to admit. Logically, this leads to the following question: if Discovery began by following the same characterization and storytelling of Gene Roddenberry’s original show, then why do so many modern fans complain that it’s not real Star Trek?

TNG Changed Everything

The answer is simple: decades before Star Trek: Discovery was a twinkle in a Paramount executive’s eye, The Next Generation expanded the franchise in a very fundamental way. Despite some early homages to The Original Series (like “The Naked Now,” a cringe-inducing sequel to The Original Series episode “The Naked Time”), the new spinoff very quickly established itself as a new kind of Star Trek. One of the most important ways it did so was to focus on the entire ensemble, and while not every character was treated equally (poor Dr. Crusher and Deanna Troi got some of the worst episodes), everyone got their own spotlight.

Such an ensemble approach quickly became the new norm for Star Trek, and future spinoffs Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise all embraced it. Ironically enough, other NuTrek shows like Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks also adopted this approach, leaving Star Trek: Discovery as the only live-action Star Trek series since The Original Series to focus primarily on only a handful of characters.

Michael Burnham Deserves Her Spotlight

Star Trek Discovery season 5

Neither approach is inherently better or worse than the other: while I personally prefer the ensemble approach of shows like Deep Space Nine, I’ve enjoyed most of Discovery’s episodes because, like The Original Series, the stories focus on interesting characters. It’s also worth mentioning that William Shatner’s over-the-top line deliveries were a punchline for many years before the collective nerd community decided he was actually a great actor. With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if and when the reactionary parts of the fandom will re-evaluate Sonequa Martin-Green, who is, at her best, a better Trek actor than Shatner ever was.

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