It’s not uncommon for Star Trek to cinematize the politics of that current era into the distant future; this is the show of the first interracial kiss after all. So it’s not surprising to find Star Trek is once again at the front of 21st century political and cultural crises. Whilst trying to remain subtle in the approach, there’s no denying Star Trek: Discovery has been heavily influenced by the political and cultural shifts of modern-day Earth.
Once again, the Klingons have to endure another redesign, with their ridged-forehead reverting closer to that of Next Generation than its subsequent generations, and a complete overhaul of their attire, with a cultish, golden style that fits their new religious fanaticism. Their teeth have even taken on a much more carnivorous look, holding true to their evolutionary lineage and warrior culture.
Klingons, as the main antagonists so far, appear to have much of their pride wounded, and their religious worship of Kahless the Unforgettable, the founder of the Klingon Empire, shows a race desperately pining for their glory days. This weakness is exploited by T’Kuvma, who seeks to unite the Klingons as one empire once more and deliver a blow to the Federation. The religious nature of the Klingons in Star Trek: Discovery isn’t coincidental with their imperialistic desires. It’s a demeanor inspired by 21st century Earth, which has manifested itself in the Middle East and has started to do the same in both North America and Europe.
However, it is within the internal politics on the U.S.S Discovery that begins their inevitable destruction, allowing the Klingons to push their agenda further than they should have been able to. Whilst the Klingons loathe the Federation’s equality, diversity, and peace, the Federation’s inflexibility to move as one unit gave the Klingon’s all the time they needed to gather the resources for an attack. It is the obvious flaws of the crew on the U.S.S Discovery that make them some of the most compelling characters in Star Trek already.
Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham, the protagonist who serves as Number One to Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou, begins episode one showing a mental strength beyond any doubt, honed by her attendance at the Vulcan Science Academy. However, after her initial encounter with a Klingon on an unidentified object, which results in the death of the Klingon and Burnham seriously wounded, the flaws from her past soon creep into the dynamics of her evolving personality. Once so calm and assured, now ready to defy the orders of her Captain and take the Klingon crisis into her own hands. This subsequently has her arrested and put in the brig, at the detriment of the battle as a whole, allowing the Klingons a switch early victory against the Federation.
But it is Burnham herself, before the fight between the Federation and the Klingons begun, that said one of the most subtle, yet most politically motivated quotes seen in Star Trek. While Captain Georgiou spoke to Terry Serpico’s Starfleet Admiral Anderson regarding the approach to the Klingons, Burnham concluded that the fight “wasn’t about race, but about culture.” This seems to be a small allusion to the current political situation across much of the world today, something Star Trek seems to competently do in much of their previous series. Star Trek: Discovery plays on the weak fabric of our own society to make an alien world seem incredibly familiar.
It’s this sense of weakness in the Federation that truly puts Star Trek: Discovery on a completely different course to previous Star Trek series. Sir Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard had very few weaknesses before his integration into the Borg, and while William Shatner’s Captain Kirk had some personal flaws, they became strengths through much of the original series. Discovery seems to be trying to round some very compelling characters amongst the crew, with even the new Spock, a Kelpian called Saru played by Doug Jones, showing much cowardice due to the nature of his species.
This leads to a few assumptions about where the series is heading. Firstly, the existence of the Federation might well be under threat, much like some notable federations within the world we see today. Secondly, staying true to the Star Trek formula which doesn’t delve into the dull Star Wars formula of dark vs light, leaving most factions sitting in a very grey area, leading to some potential dark exploits of the Federation. And thirdly, with the main protagonist, Burnham, behind bars for mutiny, the next few episodes could change the typical Star Trek formula completely; although she will probably be freed and made Captain of the U.S.S Discovery.
With what will be the resurrection of the Klingon Empire, inspired greatly on the internal and external troubles worldwide today, it’ll be interesting to see how that particular story arc develops and evolves, and how much it aligns with the world events of today. There will be more than meets the eye with the Klingons very own internal struggles, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to expect the Romulans to be doing what the Romulans so often do near the end of series, stoking the fires that already burn. This time, humanity could really use some Vulcan logic and reason to solve the crises that be.