As part of this breakdown of the first three episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 2, I shall open this article with the beginning paragraph to my breakdown of the Short Treks.
Back in 2016 CBS took the entertainment world by storm when they announced the return of Star Trek to the small screen. However what followed through Press Releases as they announced the series details was another matter entirely. By the time it finally premiered in the fall of 2017, it was learned that the series was only to be made available on the CBS Streaming subscription service for people in the US, while in other countries it could be found on Netflix since they were signing on as a co-production company. The series would only be 13 episodes long, set in the past prior to the time of the original series, would take place in the “Prime Universe” (meaning same as all of the other live action TV properties), and would be highly serialized as if each episode served as a chapter to a book, which is a bit of a difference than creating a story-arc season with each episode being able to largely stand on its own legs. Also, because of the advancement of production technology they would be redefining the look of the series (which has been to date one of the most controversial aspects of this series). Characters were mentioned and before the series would premiere it would see some serious shakeups in terms of show-runners.
When the first season aired the level of controversy was so severe that it quite literally split fandom in two. Many Trek fans lauded the series was being one of the finest things they had ever seen, while others derided it claiming that it was enjoyable sci-fi, but in no way shape or form is truly Star Trek. While we here at TG2Studios have our own opinions on the subject, we will leave it to you to come to your own conclusions regarding this new series. In any case, the first season aired and finished in the spring of 2018, but the new series wouldn’t start until January of 2019. Now season 2 has started airing episodes on CBS.com and the questions that most people have are, did this series try to correct itself from season 1, and does it maintain the new creative energy that we were given in Short Treks?
When we ended in season 1 Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) had just been properly reinstated and given back her rank of Commander, thereby wiping clean her prior record of mutiny thus sort of maintaining the canon established in the original series where in season 2 Spock stated that there was no record of a mutiny ever occurring in Starfleet. It’s a stretch, but here we are. Anyway she’s back onboard of Discovery with Saru (Doug Jones) as her Captain when they are greeted by the most famous starship in history, the Enterprise. This season picks up with the episode “Brother” and Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) is beaming over to take command of Discovery. It also seems that both the Enterprise, and Burnham’s adoptive brother Spock, are “out of commission” for now. Pike is there under Starfleet orders to investigate a report of seven mysterious red signals that have been appearing across the universe. Their investigation involves tracing a signal to an asteroid field where they find a downed starship. They manage to rescue everyone, but not before Burnham has a vision of a red angel.
The second episode, “New Eden,” presents the Discovery with a second signal only this one is human in origin and located on a world so far out that no human colony from Earth could have ever traveled there. Upon arrival (by way of the spore drive) they find a pre-warp colony of people. Because of this they are now bound by the Prime Directive, and their investigations lead them to an unexpected “revelation” that the colonists unknowingly have in common with Burnham. Then there is Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and her continued efforts to succeed in the Command Program. Her enthusiasm and curiosity land her in Sickbay. Can those same qualities help save the planet below?
The third episode, “Point of Light,” finds Burnham revisiting two different parts of her past. First she has contact with Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) who is still on the Klingon home world of Qo’noS with new Chancellor of the Klingon Empire L’Rell (Mary Chieffo). There appears to be some dissent among the different great Houses of the empire, and this has come to the attention of the Federation’s shadow ops group, Section 31. The second part of Burnham’s past that has come to visit her is in the form of her adopted mother, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirsner). She comes bearing news about Spock that is not greeted very well by Burnham, and now they are on their own quest to learn more about both Spock’s whereabouts and what he knows regarding the Red Angels.
At the beginning of this I had stated that we here at TG2Studios had our own opinions regarding the first season of Discovery. Well I feel quite free to now openly admit that neither Keith nor I liked it. Except for a certain episode here or there, which we thought had some merit, as a whole we found the first season to be an utter travesty and undeserving to be called Star Trek. Again, these are only our opinions. Your mileage may vary… In any case, when we watched Short Treks we were actually encouraged and given a small bit of hope for what this may bring about. We had also read news items saying that the showrunners heard the complaints from many fans who were also less than pleased, especially in regards to how Klingons were presented, and we were promised that there would be a resolution for the second season that would help bring this series more in line with the established Trek canon. Imagine my surprise when they actually attempted to do that! By simply adding a line of dialogue spoken by Burnham we are given a reason as to why the Klingons looked as they did in season 1, and why they look the way they do so far in season 2. This does not fully exonerate for we know that in the time of the series Enterprise through the original Star Trek we had very human looking Klingons, and at no time has this series addressed them. I have my own personal theories regarding them, but time will tell if it is dealt with at all. As for these episodes themselves, the first one was the grandest in terms of production, but still had elements that were appreciated by me, most notably the addition of Anson Mount as Captain Pike. He has some of the same squared jaw look that the late Jeffrey Hunter had, but this Pike has a bit more humanity to him as opposed to the Pike we saw in “The Cage.” That Pike was terribly traumatized. In the original series episode “The Menagerie” we are informed that the Enterprise’s mission to Talos IV was 13 years prior, and this series takes place 10 (well now 9 since this is year two) years before the original series. Much has happened to Captain Pike in those 4 years between “The Cage” and now. He’s less rigid and dour. This is a Pike who actually smiles. In any case, as much as Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca was disliked almost from his first appearance, Mount’s Captain Pike is the complete opposite. He’s by the book, but he’s flexible. He’s got the type of stuff that great Starfleet Captains possess.
As for the episodes themselves, “Brother” was about setting up a new game board, probably because the series is embarking on a new story idea for this season, and even possibly because of this attempt to right the course of the show itself. It was spectacular and grand, which is something that even episodes from the more recent Star Trek television franchises couldn’t accomplish in their day. Digital FX being what they are allow for more fantastic stories to be told, and there are some who say that this type of storytelling doesn’t fall in line with what Star Trek is supposed to be. As I said before your mileage may vary. Having a whiz-bang type of episode to kickoff season 2 didn’t initially build much hope for me, especially following the Short Treks, but when we got into the episode “New Eden” I saw something that was filled with incredible sense of hope. It didn’t have the heavy type of message that many episodes told from years past, but it was still a human drama, almost intimate in its telling. Then there was the B story involving Tilly (who has rapidly become an incredibly popular character) and her journey as a character. When this episode ended I couldn’t help but proclaim how much I truly enjoyed it. However the test would be “Point of Light” with its Klingon heavy story. The apparent retconning of the Klingon race in this series from season 1 left many fans disillusioned, and while this did not completely undo some of the mistakes we were given from that first year, at least there was an attempt to fix it.
Now that these three episodes have aired, I have found myself actually looking forward to watching Discovery. This is a good feeling. I can remember in my younger days (only about 30 or so years ago) when I would greet a new episode of The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine with great excitement. I had hoped that I would experience such a feeling again and now that I am again I just couldn’t be happier.
On a personal note, I take some personal pride in that I never paid to watch a single episode of Discovery last year. I made use of promotional offers allowing me to watch it for free. I would get one month free, watch all the episodes as they came, cancel my streaming account, get another three months free, etc. As inexpensive as it was, I could not out of principle actually pay for the quality of stories we were receiving last year. However, if the quality of stories maintains for this season then I will HAPPILY continue with my CBS account and pay to watch a show that I feel now truly deserves the name Star Trek.
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