‘Short Treks’ Is The First Fully Successful Presentation From The ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Universe

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

CBS All Access’ Star Trek series Discovery has proven over the course of its current two-season run.  The series, and its cast and crew are hoping to “right the ship” when the series’ third season debuts next month – Oct. 15 to be exact – on CBS All Access.  Until Season Three makes its debut, audiences have another way to pass the time in the form of Star Trek: Short Treks.  Released June 2 on DVD and Blu-ray, this latest addition to the Discovery universe is a rare ray of light for the otherwise maligned over-the-top series.  That is due in part to the shorts featured in the single-disc collection.  They will be addressed (along with the one short that did not make the final cut).  The bonus content featured along with the stories adds to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The collection’s average price point proves relatively worth the money, considering the featured content and its value.  It will also be addressed later.  Keeping all of this in mind, the collection proves to be the first truly successful offering so far in the Discovery universe.  It gives hope that maybe, just maybe, the series’ third season will be just as enjoyable.  Even if not, at least audiences will have this rare bright spot in the series.

Star Trek: Short Treks is the first great presentation that fans of Star Trek Discovery have received since the series made its debut in September 2017.  It is a presentation that gives hope for the series’ third season upon its debut Oct. 15.  That is due in part to the shorts that are featured in the single-disc collection.  The shorts in question have loose ties to the series, but are still their own unique stories in themselves.  One of the most notable of the nine total featured shorts comes in the form of “Ask Not.”  Directed by Anson Mount, who also plays Captain Pike in the series, this story focuses on Pike testing a young cadet named Thira Sidhu (Amrit Kaur – The D Cut, Kim’s Convenience)  to see if she is ready to serve on the Enterprise.  There is really little to no real connection to Discovery in this story.  Though considering that a spinoff series involving Pike’s time on the Enterprise is allegedly in the works, that short might in fact come into play somewhere down the line.  Getting back to the subject at hand, there is something compelling about this story.  Maybe it is the acting between Mount and Kaur.  Maybe it is the writing.  Maybe it is the production (which Mount mentions in his commentary – this will be discussed a little later).  Maybe it is all of the above.  Regardless, the approach that was taken in front of and behind the camera, made this story something unique that shows in its own way what make this collection worth watching.

“The Girl Who Made The Stars” is another key addition to the collection.  This story, which goes back to Michael’s childhood, finds her father having to come check on her after she has a bad dream.  Her father, by the way, is played here by Kenric Green (The Walking Dead, The Originals, Hawaii Five-O).  Green is the same man who played her father in the series.  In the case of this animated story, Mike (played by Green) tells a then young Michael Jr. the story of how the stars came to be.  The very act of a parent sharing a bedtime story with a child is something that will appeal to any viewer.  It is just a portion of what makes the short so appealing.  The other portion of the short’s appeal comes in the fact that Mike Sr. used the story to help Michael learn a valuable lesson while also connecting her to the rich history of her African ancestors.  In reality, there is no story of a girl who created the stars, though there is a myth from the Khoisan people of the Kalahari about a girl who threw embers from a fire into the sky and created the Milky Way galaxy, which included the stars.  So to that end, maybe Mike’s story was rooted to some extent from that real life African myth.

“The Trouble With Edward” is another key addition to Star Trek: Short Treks.  Like many of the other shorts, this one boasts no connection to Discovery.  In this case in fact, its connection is to the infamous Star Trek: TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  The short and simple of the short’s story is that it tells how the Tribbles came to be so reproductive and hints at how they likely ended up on the Enterprise.  According to the story Federation scientist Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin — Home Movies, Bob’s Burgers, Archer) was responsible for all of the problems.  Larkin tells his cohorts during a meeting that they actually reproduced slowly and that he was able to speed up their reproduction.  Larkin revealed the whole intent was to be able to do just that so as to use them as a food source for a non-human race of beings.  This just seems odd.  It’s right up there with the revelation in the second season of Discovery (***SPOILER ALERT) that the Federation black ops group Section 31 essentially created what would go on to become The Borg in what was then called “Control.”  It’s hard to imagine that an organization that was meant to bring the universe together would be responsible for two such destructive species (if one even wants to call the Borg a species).  While the story just seems so suspect Benjamin’s performance here is so entertaining to say the very least.  His demeanor as he talks about being able to use the tribbles as a food source is so unsettling, but all a person can do is laugh because he is so unsettling in his persona.  The same applies as he reveals whose DNA was combined with the tribble DNA to make them reproduce so quickly.  Even as he is being overtaken by the tribbles (not to giv away too much), he holds character.  That makes that moment just as hilarious even though it is supposed to be a tense moment.  It leads to the final scene being such a powerfully entertaining exclamation mark to the story.  It is hardly the last of the collection’s most notable stories.  “Calypso,” with its tie to the Greek myth of Odysseus, and its minimalist approach is another powerful work in its own right.  There is allegedly even a chance that it might end up having a tie to the third season of Discovery after all.  “The Escape Artist,” with its standalone story about the infamous Harry Mudd (who also appeared in an episode of Star Trek: TOS) makes for its own entertainment.  It allows for Rainn Wilson (who played Mudd in Discovery) to expand and really show his chops even more.

Now for all of the value that the noted shorts (and those not noted) offer audiences, it should be noted that there is at least one short not featured in this set.  That short is “Children of Mars.”  Why it was omitted from the collection is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it was a copyright issue.  Maybe it was an intentional saving for a second volume of shorts.  With those potentialities in mind, one cannot be but so displeased with that issue.  Hopefully it will end up on a second volume of shorts in the not too distant future.  Keeping all of this in mind, the shorts featured in this collection give audiences more than enough to appreciate in themselves.  For all of the value that the shorts themselves offer audiences, they are just a portion of what makes the collection stand out.  The set’s bonus content adds its own share of appeal for audiences.

The bonus content that accompanies the set’s shorts adds its own appeal because of the background that it offers audiences.  Case in point is the audio commentary in the episode “Ask Not.”  As previously noted, Anson Mount (who stars as Captain Pike in Discovery) directed the short “Ask Not.”  Mount talks in the short’s audio commentary about directing the short as well as its production values and tone.  He notes the use of the camera work as he and co-star Thira Sidhu circle one another in the simulation and his intention in using such an approach to help heighten the tension of the moment.  It was an approach that worked, too, as audiences are led to believe fully at first that what was happening was anything but a simulation.  He also addresses the sound balance, considering everything that was going on in the tight space, while also offering praise to Sidhu for her own portrayal.  Mount is so reserved as he talks about everything, and it serves to really draw audiences in that much more and appreciate everything he has to talk about.

Staying on the same track, Rainn Wilson directed his feature short “The Escape Artist.”  He talks in the bonus content “Covered in Mudd” about directing the short and everything that went into directing.  His humility in his discussion is refreshing.  It will please any longtime Star Trek devotee.  What’s more, Wilson talks about how the final scene was created.  It gives a new appreciation for the painstaking efforts that those responsible for special effects make to entertain audiences.  As if that is not enough, Wilson also addresses getting the chance to allow Harry Mudd to expand as a character through the short.  This goes back to Wilson’s humility as he discusses taking on the short in front of and behind the lens.  It really is a discussion that audiences will appreciate just as much as any other. It certainly is not the last of the most notable bonus features.  The bonus feature “Score!,” which is featured as a companion to the short “Ephraim & Dot” is yet another standout bonus feature.  When that feature, which explains the short’s connection to Discovery — ***Spoiler alert, Ephraim is the Tardigrade from Discovery) – is considered along with the other bonus content addressed here and the rest of the disc’s bonus content, the whole of said content adds even more reason for audiences to check out this presentation.  That whole, together with the disc’s primary content makes the collection’s average price point a positive in its own right.

Star Trek: Short Treks was released this past June on DVD and Blu-ray.  The average price point for the collection’s DVD presentation is $15.38.  Its average price point on Blu-ray is $22.44.  Those prices were reached by averaging listings through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  Amazon and Walmart offer the least expensive DVD listing at $12.96 while Amazon offers the least expensive Blu-ray listing at $19.74.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million are the only major retailers listed whose prices — $28.96 and $25.99 respectively – exceed the average for the Blu-ray.  They are also the only retailers of those noted whose prices exceed the average for the DVD, at $18.39 and $17.99 respectively.  Keeping that in mind, they are the only retailers that audiences should avoid when ordering the collection on either platform.  All of the other retailers stay within the bounds of the averages on each platform.

The price itself is its own positive for audience.  Audiences should also take into account with the noted average prices that they are going to get the same presentation on each platform.  The primary and secondary content is the same on DVD and Blu-ray in other words.  Keeping that in mind and the fact that a DVD can play in a Blu-ray player, audiences really will do themselves more of a service purchasing this on DVD than Blu-ray.  That is especially considering that the DVD’s average price listing and its separate listings are all below the $20 mark.  As the sticker on the box notes, audiences get more than three hours of content (including the bonus content) for less than $20 on DVD.  That is a positive that cannot be ignored.  It puts the final touch on a presentation that in reality is the best Discovery presentation so far.

CBS All Access’ latest Star Trek: Discovery presentation Short Treks is the best presentation that the company has released to date.  That is important to note considering all the problems presented in the series’ first two seasons.  This standalone collection shines in part because of its featured shorts.  They exemplify acting and writing done right, in comparison to everything presented in Discovery.  It is known widely that a new creative force was brought in behind the lens during the second season of Discovery.  Maybe these shorts are a reflection of the stylistic change brought on by the new crew addition.  The bonus content featured with the shorts adds to the set’s appeal.  It offers background that enhances the experience even more.  The collection’s average price point (especially on DVD) adds even more appeal to the collection’s presentation.  Each noted item is important in its own way.  Collectively, they make Star Trek: Short Treks a welcome watch for any true Star Trek fan.  The collection is available now.

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