Season One of Star Trek: Discovery has come to home video! Here’s what we thought of the Blu-ray release.
Much has been said about the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, so I won’t spend long here. We at TrekMovie covered the individual episodes as they came out, in reviews by our site founder Anthony as well as in a weekly podcast. You can find links to both the written reviews and the podcasts in our episode guide on our Discovery overview page.
Like most first seasons of Trek, Discovery was uneven. It didn’t help that the main creative force behind Discovery, Bryan Fuller, left before production had really begun; his influence is most directly felt in the first three hours of the season.
Discovery was quite unusual in that it effectively had three parts to its pilot. The first two episodes make a single story, a prelude to the events that unfold throughout the rest of the season. Then in episode 3, we get a second pilot of sorts. Burnham is now a prisoner due to her mutiny, and we go aboard the titular vessel — the USS Discovery — and just about all the characters are in place for the season.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that season one hit its stride in the middle section of the season; episode 6 (“Lethe”) through episode 10 (“Despite Yourself”) are really firing on all cylinders. I liked the Mirror universe episodes fine, they were gorgeous to look at, and had some interesting themes, but it felt like they overstayed by an episode. The final two episodes felt rushed and tacked on, which in fact they were: Discovery initially had a 13 episode order which was then expanded to 15 midway through the writing of the season. But even when things get a bit ridiculous the actors are so darned good you just come along for the ride with them.
The Blu-ray Set
The episodes and special features are spread out across four Blu-ray discs. Each disc has the names of the episodes it contains printed on them.
The episodes have losslessly compressed DTS-HD MA 5.1 channel soundtracks. This is pretty standard for a TV show release. In general, Discovery sounds great. Occasionally it feels unnecessarily front-heavy, but most of the time it does a great job using the surrounds for the music and environmental sounds (bridge sound effects, ship humming, planet ambiance like wind, animal noises, etc.).
When it first aired there were complaints about dialog issues, especially with Lorca. In the first few episodes, Jason Isaacs seemed to mumble a bit more, which didn’t help things. I can say that the audio here is noticeably better for that issue; however, there’s no getting around the fact that Lorca still mumbles a bit. That’s just the way Isaacs performed things early on, but at least what he says is as clear as can be.
|Comparisons to All Access|
|Americans were stuck watching Discovery with the audio (poorly) collapsed down to stereo on CBS All Access. The music and ambient sound effects, like bridge noises, that were supposed to be part of the surround channels, were loud and drowned out what should have been the focus: the dialog. This led to a number of issues like the dialog intelligibility issue mentioned above. All Access did not support surround sound until after season 1 had finished. Because of that, the audio you’ll get on these discs is far superior to what we heard when if you streamed the season as it came out weekly. For people in other regions you always had a native 5.1 soundtrack, so it may not seem particularly different. Now that All Access supports 5.1 on selected devices, the issue is effectively fixed, but surround support is still missing from many common devices. (Most glaring is the lack of 5.1 support for the popular game consoles — Xbox One and PS4.) So these discs are still the surefire way to get the best audio regardless of the device you use for streaming.|
The show has never looked better. Having the breathing room on disc means the image quality is just that much better than streaming. There’s an extra bit of sharpness, and notably, the many dark scenes are just a little less murky. Season 1 was a dimly lit show, so anything that increases the detail in the darker areas is great. There are some scenes that really surprised me at just how colorful and sharp they looked, as I certainly don’t remember them looking that way when streaming the season.
The visual style they used in season one makes the picture somewhat inconsistent, and this was how it was made so it’s not specific to the Blu-ray release. All the episodes have a layer of digital noise applied to them, I assume to make things “gritty” — one of the production’s buzzwords for the season. This layer of “grit” seems to have been toned down over time, as it’s more obvious in the earliest episodes. The effect is similar to the esthetic the rebooted Battlestar Galactica used.
|Comparisons to All Access|
|For Americans watching Discovery on CBS All Access, the streaming service went through a number of teething problems, and the sheer number of people streaming Discovery on Sunday nights buckled All Access a few times early on. Often this resulted in poor streaming quality, if you could even keep a stream going. CBS worked on that, of course, and by mid-season the issues were few and far between. However, All Access still has not caught up to the quality of other streaming services. It still appears to top out at a lower bitrate and lower resolution than others. CBS’s apps do not show stream details, but they appear to only stream at 720p and with rather aggressive compression, which results in frustrating inconsistency in fine detail and murkier regions of darkness. The Blu-ray can be noticeably better than what you get via All Access. As one might expect, the increase in quality gets more noticeable the larger (and the higher-quality) TV you have.|
Bits of these features have been sliced and diced and released online. Also, some of the features here cover similar ground to the behind-the-scenes packages the team on After Trek made for their show.
Most of these are 10-20 minute pieces, and much of it comes from early on in production.
Discovering Discovery: The Concepts And Casting Of Star Trek: Discovery – Executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg discuss casting season one.
Standing In The Shadow Of Giants: Creating The Sound Of Discovery – Alex Kurtzman and composer Jeff Russo talk about creating the Discovery theme.
Creature Comforts – Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page and members of the makeup crew discuss their designs for the aliens. We get to see Doug Jones made up by James MacKinnon. Mary Chieffo talks about being L’Rell.
Designing Discovery – Todd Cherniawsky (the first production designer) discusses designing the USS Shenzhou, the USS Discovery, and the Klingon Sarcophagus ship. Tamara Deverell (the current production designer) discusses her contributions for the second half of the season, which includes Pahvo, Harlak, and the Terran Empire sets.
Creating Space – Alex Kurtzman discusses using feature film-quality visual effects and the blend between practical and computer graphics. Jason Zimmerman, Star Trek: Discovery’s VFX supervisor, discusses the process of bringing Burnham’s space flight from the pilot to life.
Prop Me Up – A look at one of the more successful aspects of the Discovery production, the props. Producer Alex Kurtzman, prop master Mario Moreira and costumer Gersha Philips discuss designing the props and how the two departments work together to inform each other.
A Woman’s Journey – A feature discussing Burnham’s journey, and the larger representation of women in front of and behind the camera. We hear from executive producers Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman, actors Sonequa Martin-Green, Michelle Yeoh and Mary Chieffo, and writers Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt, and Kirsten Beyer.
Dress For Success – A look at costume designer Gersha Phillips and her team. They discuss designing the Discovery uniforms, all the layers of detail that go into the Klingon costumes, and the designs of the Mirror Universe. Jason Isaacs talks about squeezing into the Disco uniform, and Mary Wiseman, Michelle Yeoh, and Sonequa Martin-Green discuss their Mirror costumes.
Feeding Frenzy – A look at how the Discovery food stylists made the banquet of food Burnham and Emperor Georgiou eat in “Vaulting Ambition.” A particular challenge was making edible prop versions of Kelpien ganglia that were vegan-friendly for the ganglia soup.
Star Trek: Discovery: The Voyage Of Season One – This is a 40-minute look back at the entire season and is probably the most interesting and comprehensive of these features. Nearly everyone weighs in. We hear from producers Alex Kurtzman, Heather Kadin, Aaron Harberts, Gretchen Berg, and Akiva Goldsman; writers Jordon Nardino, Kirsten Beyer, Bo Yeon Kim, and Erika Lippoldt; and actors Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, Doug Jones, Jason Isaacs, Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Wiseman, Mary Cheiffo, Rainn Wilson, Shazad Latif.
For many people, these are likely the most compelling of all the bonus content. There are six episodes that have deleted or extended scenes.
“Battle at the Binary Stars”
An extended scene of young T’Kuvma dusting himself off after being beaten and swearing to unite the great houses in Kahless’ name.
“The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”
A deleted scene of L’Rell and Voq plus a few other followers of T’Kuvma gathered around a dying Klingon. L’Rell kills the dying Klingon to stretch their resources. They discuss how everyone onboard is starving and losing faith. L’Rell says they need to take more drastic measures but Voq pushes back, telling L’Rell she may not kill anyone else.
“Choose Your Pain”
There are a number of trims of Saru as acting captain:
Saru records an acting captain’s log about being uneasy, calling the barren planet they’re currently orbiting “the orb of our undoing.”
Saru finds Tilly and others locked out of the engineering bay by Stamets, who is passed out in the reaction chamber from injecting himself with Tardigrade DNA.
Saru congratulates the crew for a job well done. Then, as seen in the final version, he goes to the ready room to hear his analysis as acting captain, which he cancels.
“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”
A deleted scene that followed Burnham swallowing a weaponized dark matter orb in the ready room. Cut to Stamets and Tilly discussing Burnham’s risky plan with Lorca, who was locked in the brig by Mudd, and wondering if Mudd will take the bait of being able to turn Burnham over to the Klingons if he resets the time loop one last time.
“What’s Past Is Prologue”
Lorca gives a speech to his compatriots in the agonizer booths before setting them free.
An unfinished scene where Stamets discusses the poor state of the spores in voice-over as the camera follows him through the sickly crops of spores in the mycelial storage bay (which at this point is just a soundstage of green screens). Then back in the engineering lab, Stamets and Tilly discuss the crop and how to treat it. Our Stamets mentions seeing Hugh in the mycelial network and that he told him what Mirror Stamets was doing.
“Will You Take My Hand?”
The “bonus scene” of Leland recruiting Emperor Georgiou into Section 31, first shown at WonderCon.
There are a few more deleted scenes known to exist, but not included on the set:
“Battle at the Binary Stars” – There are two known scenes that were deleted or majorly edited down.
One of T’Kuvma and L’Rell where T’Kuvma lights a ceremonial Bat’leth-like torch and L’Rell follows him. This scene was part of a Comic-Con photo spread in Entertainment Weekly from July 2017.
Another is an unspecified scene that David Mack worked into his novel Desperate Hours based on the final draft of the script, but the scene was heavily edited in post-production. Mack told the podcast Literary Treks: “They cut an entire character, they cut half of a scene.”
“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” – Two extended scenes are known to exist.
An extension to the scene where Tilly and Stamets talk in the mess hall about how the spore jumps have affected him, Culber comes in and Tilly gets squirmy trying to keep Stamets’ secret.
There was also more to the L’Rell and Cornwell interrogation scene, where Cornwell pushes back and uses some psychological tactics to try to throw off L’Rell.
“Will You Take My Hand?” – A deleted scene of Starfleet admirals meeting with a Klingon delegation to sign a cease fire.
Other potential content
We’ve heard they did not make an outtakes reel for the cast, so alas there is no blooper reel for the set.
After Trek, the official aftershow for season one, is not included on the set. After Trek was made by production company Embassy Row for CBS, which means different licensing, and it would also mean upping the number of discs in the set to fit more bonus content, so it’s not surprising After Trek isn’t there, but a bit of a bummer nonetheless.
This Blu-ray is the highest quality way to watch Discovery Season 1, so for people who care about getting the best audio-video experience, this is the set for them. It’s also recommended for collectors, as well as anyone who wants an offline copy of the show; this includes people who can not or do not want to stream the show, and folks who have concerns about the fleeting rights to streaming media.
More season 1 images
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