Star Trek: Discovery Finds Its Space Legs In Its Second Season

 

*Warning: Major spoilers will follow, do not read until you have seen season two of Star Trek: Discovery.

The sophomore season of Star Trek: Discovery just concluded with its epic two-part episode “Such Sweet Sorrow” and what a way to cap off a successful season!

The episode concluded the season-long “Red Angel” arc where it was revealed that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) was the mysterious Red Angel that appeared throughout the galaxy during pivotal moments in recent history. In “Such Sweet Sorrow”, Burnham used the Red Angel suit to time travel into the past to mark her appearances in the second season and to lead the starship Discovery and the show into its bold new direction for season three.

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery was a marked improvement over the first one with compelling stories, strong characters and a respectful acknowledgment of the original canon established in previous Trek shows. Due to the many stylistic changes done to the show, even though it’s a prequel to the original Star Trek, the setting looked too advanced and didn’t gel with the original. This was unavoidable given the original show is over fifty years old, and Hollywood magic advanced considerably since then.

This led many outraged fans to dismiss Star Trek: Discovery as not a real Trek show, even though the showrunners insisted it was set in the prime timeline. The episode “If Memory Serves” reiterated this point by having an episode recap from the very first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage”, which proved once and for this show is set in the original Star Trek universe. People had to either accept the visual changes and move on or reject the show altogether. Those that accepted the show were rewarded with a well-crafted season.

At the start of the season with premier episode “Brother”, Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), the original Enterprise captain beamed aboard the Discovery and took command. His mission was to investigate unknown red signals that appeared throughout the galaxy. It turned out the signals coincided with appearances of the enigmatic Red Angel. This figure would show up at a pivotal moment that aided the crew of the Discovery. Pike and Burnham realize that the Angel is tied in to the disappearance of his science officer Spock (Ethan Peck), who apparently went insane and murdered people. For the first half of the season, they track him, and this quest culminated with the now-classic “If Memory Serves” which took Pike and Spock back to the planet Talos IV. It turned out that Spock was framed by the secretive Section 31 organization and that Section 31 was taken over by Starfleet’s AI, Control.

The AI wanted to get access to ancient alien knowledge recently stored in the Discovery to gain sentience and Burnham received warnings that Control would eventually destroy all life in the future. This plot propelled the second half of the season and led to the truly monumental “Such Sweet Sorrow” where Control took the Section 31 fleet against the Discovery and the Enterprise. The only way to keep this knowledge away from Control was to send Discovery into the future. This led to a busy, crowded and spectacular starship battle that was simply brutal and dizzying at times. The battle sequences looked like they could have been lifted out of a modern Star Trek film that involved drones, refitted shuttles as fighters, zero-g fist fights, Klingons (who are now thankfully more in line with the traditional Klingons), and even repair droids (!).

But the highlight here were all the character interactions and appearances as all the plot threads in this season and the Short Treks came together. There were plot holes and inconsistencies, such as how a certain character died that left you wondering “why didn’t they…”, but everything else was fantastic as the episode’s developments kept flying faster than the Discovery using spore drive. By the end of the episode we were left with the show taking great pains to explain away the inconsistencies between this show and the original show. Hint: It leads to a massive coverup by Starfleet. It probably won’t satisfy everyone, but at least there is an explanation, so take it or leave it.

Not every episode was this great or even good, but a majority were. Some might even be considered classic Trek. These include the season finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow, along with “New Eden”, “Brother”, “An Obol for Charon”, “If Memory Serves”, “Through the Valley of Shadows” and “The Sound of Thunder”. These episodes were thoughtful, insightful character studies with impactful stories that advanced the main story. More importantly, they felt like the Star Trek we know and love.

Speaking of characters, despite the major arc about the Red Angel, the show took great pains to focus on the characters. The big standout in the second season was Christopher Pike himself thanks to Anson Mount’s brilliant performance. He truly made Pike his own character to the point that it is difficult to think of anyone else playing the original Enterprise captain, as incredible as that sounds. Mount’s Pike brought a much-needed sense of humanity, gravitas and decency to the show and it’s sad that he won’t return for the third season. However, the final shot of the episode did leave him back on the Enterprise and a tantalizing hope that we have not seen the last of him and the historic ship. Let’s hope that the petitions to bring him back in a new spinoff show or limited series actually succeed.

Pike was so good that he stole the show away from Michael Burnham many times even though she was given some great material throughout the season. The core drama for her was her relationship with her foster brother Spock. This not only fleshed out her character but added some unexpected nuances to Spock and set up his personality nicely that we witness in the original show.

Other characters, new and old, had memorable moments such as Saru (Doug Jones), whose character underwent an amazing transformation and Jet Reno (Tig Notaro), a spunky and sardonic engineer that the crew rescued and becomes a vital part of the Discovery.

 

As the episode concluded, Burnham and the Discovery journeyed over 900 years into the future and remained there. According to the executive producer, Alex Kurtzman, this development is a way to take Star Trek: Discovery into a new direction as season three will take place in the far future, away from any canon headaches, but more importantly with a blank slate to play with. This is an exciting development which brings up many questions. Will the crew find a future where the Federation has fallen? What will the future look like? How have all the familiar races and societies developed? How will the Discovery crew fit in or will they try to return to the distant past? We’re not going to find out for a while but this gives us time to speculate and spin theories until the third season streams. Overall, it certainly feels great to be excited about Star Trek again as Star Trek: Discovery boldy goes where no Trek has gone before.

José Soto

 

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3 comments on “Star Trek: Discovery Finds Its Space Legs In Its Second Season

  1. Bravo, I couldn’t agree more on everything you say (coincidentally, my thoughts are already up). I enjoyed season 1 a lot – it actually hangs together better on second viewing – but season 2 really got things going – the characters, the stories, the effects, despite the odd bit of jumbling with all the various subplots it all came together nicely.

    I loved all the connections to TOS with Pike, Spock, the Enterprise – we really need a spin-off to happen – “If Memory Serves” was probably in the top two or three for me, not only because of my love for “The Cage” but it stood out as a good ‘Discovery’ story in its own right. I just wish that there weren’t so many getting into arguments about canon and the look of the show, they always stated from the outset that there would be a degree of updating and reimagining to fit in with modern production values.

    I couldn’t be more excited for the future of Discovery (could “Calypso” have more significance than we were lead to believe after all?) and the other CBS Trek projects in the works (Picard is coming!).

    • Thanks! Loved your review by the way. Even though it was not perfect season two was a marked improvement and established itself as a genuine Star Trek show.
      Pike and the Enterprise crew were so great that I wish they would do a spinoff about them instead of focused on Section 31. But who knows maybe they can combine both into one show.

      • I think the only thing about season 2 that I might have changed really was not having so many subplots stuffed in and keeping a clear focus on the main story.

        I really wish a Pike/Enterprise spin-off could happen, even if it’s only a few movie-length specials or a limited series – with the way we’re left in the Discovery finale it seems nigh on essential!

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