There’s an air of newness around ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ this year. Sure, the second season – which begins in two weeks’ time – will follow (more or less) the same crew on the same ship, but it’s also set to shake things up in several key ways. The most immediately apparent, by all accounts, will be the overall tone, as star Sonequa Martin-Green explained to EW, nothing that the first season’s storyline (which focused on a war between the Federation and the Klingons) by its very nature necessitated a grimmer tone. Now that that’s behind us, the actress says, “there’s more room for levity.”
Just as notable, though, are the show’s “new” characters. That’s in quotations, of course, because those characters – Mr. Spock and Captain Christopher Pike – are among the oldest in the franchise, both having appeared in the original series’ first pilot episode. And make no mistake, we can definitely expect those characters to bring further differences with them.
With Pike, those differences are largely in reference to his predecessor. Based on what we see in ‘The Cage’, Pike was – like Kirk – in many ways an archetypal “sixties TV hero.” In contrast to Kirk, Pike did, however, represent a somewhat more thoughtful (though not to quite the same extent as Picard twenty years later) take on that sort of character. But what about this new take on Pike? After all, even if one takes the Bruce Greenwood’s portrayal in the J.J. Abrams reboot movies into account, Pike has never been the most fleshed out character, due largely to the fact that he’s made a sum total of four onscreen appearances to date in a fifty year span. So how does Anson Mount describe his version of the legendary officer? Well, for one thing, he demonstrates that my earlier comparison to Picard is not entirely unwarranted:
“Kirk has a swagger, and is good at thinking outside the box because he’s a rulebreaker. Pike is very by-the-book. He refers to the Starfleet code of conduct more often than not. What sets him apart from other captains, especially from Lorca, is he knows like any good leader the most precious resource is his crew. When he’s stuck, he’s not afraid to say, “I’m lost, anybody got a better idea?” He uses the bridge as a bigger brain.”
And then there’s Spock. In contrast to Pike, Spock (here played by Ethan Peck) may very well be one of the most developed characters in the entire ‘Star Trek’ canon. But of course, this version predates the one we’re most familiar with. So where does that leave the character, exactly? For his part, Peck told us at New York Comic Con that he drew more on Leonard Nimoy’s version of the character than Zachary Quinto’s, “because that’s ultimately who I will become.” But beyond that? While we still know very little about what to expect from the character this year, one point the producers have consistently hammered home is that he isn’t quite the Spock we’ve come to know, at least not yet. As showrunner Alex Kurtzman puts it in the above linked EW article, “he’s really struggling.” But the more interesting part of Kurtzman’s quote is this: “But if it were not for his relationship with Michael, he wouldn’t become the Spock we know today.”
That’s an attention getter because, outside of a few fleeting clips of the two together in the Season Two trailers, it’s probably the most explicit comment that has been made on their relationship to date. While some have been fixated on the retcon (“How can Spock have an adopted sister we’ve never heard about?”), that has honestly always been the least interesting question to me. After all, Spock has never exactly been in the habit of talking about his family unless his hand is forced (just look at ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ or ‘Journey to Babel’ to see what I mean). But once it became clear that Spock would appear on ‘Discovery’, the nature of their relationship (especially given the revelations about Sarek’s choices in ‘Lethe’) became the much more interesting question. After all, Spock’s reticence to talk about the rest of his family could be chalked up to rocky relationships as much as his typically private nature. He had been estranged from Sarek for some time, and Sybok was something of an exile. So where does that leave Michael? I don’t know, but I suspect we’ll find out this year.
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