The Star Trek universe was built on an optimistic/naive/hippieish vision of the future. There's no hunger, there's no money, there's no religion (imagine...), and the Earth is a member of a galactic version of United Nations. It's all a benign version of communism. All the main characters are unambiguously good people, conflicts are a result of cultural misunderstandings, and even most baddies are just fighting their corner and can be redeemed. Classically, the stories were mostly episodic with a bit of long-term story developing in the background. Each series was a mixture of episodes concentrating either on an ethical question, or on adventure, or on humour. The story was told mostly in words i.e. dialogues, action sequences were just for illustration and could've been completely dropped without losing the essence of the story. It was all laid back and didn't take itself too seriously.
“Star Trek Discovery” is nothing like what I described above. It's a completely different thing, not Star Trek at all. It's a little wonder that it's being praised by people who say that they never liked Star Trek (including critics), while actual Star Trek fans are turning to “The Orville”. I think that the biggest inspiration for the series was clearly “Game Of Thrones”. Viewers like surprises? We'll surprise them! Viewers like main characters killed off? Well, we can't afford that, but we'll kill a few off, and then bring most of them back as their alternate universe alter egos, or mushroom ghosts. GoT had an after show? We'll have an after show! And we'll have a gritty, dark side to it, somewhat literally. One can suspect how the series was pitched to the money folk.
The theme (though much done) of exploring consequences of choices could be interesting, as could some of the other themes dabbled in (a Star Trek crew bypassing some of the moral boundaries set by the first series, somewhat sanctioned apparently by Starfleet, or the Klingon pride movement). But the frenetic nature doesn't ground the series enough, quite for us to care about the characters. GoT did that pretty well within the first series, before throwing Bran out the window, killing Sansa's wolf, and nicking Ned's head off. I keep having the suspicion with DIS (like that) that each following week the show could become a cook off reality show, or a nature show on penguins. Who knew?! The show runners could surprise me! I always in constant fear that Lorca would return as a mushroom ghost. (But he appeared to be in shooting for something else, so maybe not). His was an interesting character, in part because he was only partly likable. As an ethereal Obi Wan Kenobi presence..."Michael, use the mushroom force!"...I'm not so sure though, even if it's Sarek mystically talking into one ear of Michael and Lorca into the other. But maybe I'm off on a completely different track (dog training show?) so who knows.
Jokes aside, I started off less that enthusiastic after the opening couple of episodes put me right off Burnham and established a ship and captain that didn't last. A few episodes later with it establishing itself as its own thing and giving some time to the various crew members I started to like it a bit more. Burnham's got better, but they could still do with dropping that Vulcan stuff. She's not Vulcan and the bond with Sarek has been distracting and annoying. Still, she's much improved now she's got the rest of the crew to interact with. I like Lorca a lot. Jason Isaacs is brilliant as always and I've liked the contrast between his methods and the ideals of Starfleet. He's hugely different to other Star Trek captains but he reminds me of Sisko and that's a good thing. Fingers crossed he's not killed off at some point so that somebody else can take the captain's chair. I'm starting to like the rest of the crew, but each of them need a bit more focus. That'll come with more episodes. My favourite episode so far was the one with Mudd and the resetting time loop, mostly because I got to see the crew enjoying themselves in their downtime.
The first episode really wasn't very good - particularly the awful exposition that's meant to introduce us to the characters but makes absolutely no sense when these characters are meant to have known one another for years. It does get a marginally better by around episode 4 though. The attempt to flip gender expectations is the clunkiest part of the show - female badass leads are ten a penny these days (I wanted more Michelle Yeoh personally) but they've gone further with a male damsel in distress love interest. Clem Fandango with his pitiful puppy dog eyes is their solution. It'll be interesting to see where the writers can take it but it's already stretching the limits of credulity to believe that Michael's still interested in him.
Michael's about as interesting as a Tim Henman tea towel but the rest of crew are really good with the two outstanding characters of the season being Mud (the Q of the series thus far) and Tilly. The Captain is cool, the tall speedy dude reminds me a bit of Otto from DS9 in a good way, and I like the grumpy engineer and his doc soulmate. The new Klingons look better than the angry deep fried mars bars of old but I'm glad they still roar the same monosyllabic spittle at each other. The F word threw me but only because nobody had (or has) sworn. It would be good to hear the captain shout "get that motherfucker off my bridge!" once in a while. What about the Klingon language? It doesn't even sound right to me: too slow, wet and nasally. Or something.
Let's be honest here. By the time Enterprise was canceled and Star Trek: Nemesis had been released, the franchise had run out of steam. Even the opportunity for a "reboot" of sorts with Enterprise had slowly faltered, the opportunity squandered. The reboot films, while not perfect, have at least tried to bring some energy to the franchise, but Discovery has been a unique opportunity to try to do what Enterprise tried and failed to do; tell an origin story, but in a way updated to modern tastes and sensibilities.
The best and most overlooked incarnation of Star Trek is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Best written, best acted, best use of secondary characters. Sure it had some dire episodes but overall it was thoughtful & at times confrontational. It will always be my favourite.
As much as I enjoy the earlier series (especially TNG) television has moved on and DIS has to pull in new viewers who have never seen the 'old' shows (crikey, Enterprise was cancelled twelve years ago).
NB: I'm just happy to have some Trek again, especially as it looks like the Abramsverse is dead following Beyond's box office performance.