Well, my friends, here we are once again: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ has returned to the streaming airwaves, and Season 2 brings a “reintroduction” of sorts for the show. After a very dark and war-focused first season that flirted with canonical Trek compliance throughout its run, the creative team looks to have thrown its own gauntlet down by bringing in large-scale canon-established characters for the second season. How did the first entry into the foray go? Read on to find out.
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: Picking up the action pretty much immediately from where the first season cliffhanger left off, the Discovery is face-to-face with the fabled Enterprise – but the mighty Constellation-class starship seems to be disabled. After some good old-fashioned Morse code messaging, Captain Christopher Pike comes aboard Discovery… and promptly takes command of the ship, citing Starfleet regulations of an “imminent threat.” We assume he’s speaking of the seven mysterious red-flare signals that simultaneously appear all over the galaxy, but not much further explanation is given.
In any case, we say goodbye to the Enterprise, who is getting towed back to spaceport, and off goes Discovery to the coordinates of the only red flare that they could get a lock on. They arrive to find no flare, but a massive and odd-behaving asteroid at the given coordinates. The crew discovers a downed Starfleet medical frigate, the USS Hiawatha, on the surface of the asteroid; the ship has been missing for 10 months, presumed destroyed by the Klingons.
Due to perilous conditions, a brazen, JJ Abrams-esque freefall pod rescue is the only real option that can be mounted. Pike, Burnham, and Pike’s two Enterprise officers make the journey – the cocky one from the Enterprise dies, shocking no one (well, the only shock is that he was wearing a blue shirt instead of a red one, since he died and all). The away team finds Chief Engineer Denise Reno taking care of a handful of wounded crew members; after some classic Trek techno-babble about transporter arrays and emitter enhancers, the wounded are beamed to Discovery along with the away team – excepting Burnham, who gets stuck in the wreckage and knocked out after a series of unfortunate events.
She comes to and see what she believes to be a red angel-like figure – is this entity connected to the red cosmic flares somehow? It turns out the figure she’s seeing is actually Pike, who has come to back to rescue her. They get away before the asteroid plunges into a pulsar, Tilly and Stamets get a slice of the strange rock into the shuttle bay to dissect, and Discovery heads back to spaceport where Burnham wants to visit her foster brother Spock on the Enterprise. He’s not there, Pike tells her – he’s taken leave to try and solve the red flare mystery on his own. And the plot thickens…
- There’s a lot to unpack in this first episode back. While, overall, the action and plot are definitely more streamlined and “classic Trek-ish” than last season, the two factors still fight with each other for prominence, and the tonal direction of the show remains unclear.
- The “freefall pod rescue” scene is practically straight out of the 2009 Star Trek cinematic reboot that JJ Abrams helmed – are we sure that Discovery isn’t meant to take place in the Kelvin Timeline?
- Speaking of that scene – the major plot drama there is that Pike’s life is allegedly in jeopardy when his pod malfunctions. Well, we know very well that Pike has a long and illustrious career in the Trek timeline after the events of ‘Discovery,’ so there is no risk to him in this scene or any other action-oriented scene that will come our way in his ‘Discovery’ storyline, really.
- Burnham is reading and “meditating” in her quarters with holographic candles everywhere; if we have full-scale holographic projectors installed in every crew quarters, then why do the ships need holodecks (that aren’t supposed to even exist at this point in the timeline, natch) at all?
- Speaking of how fancy everyone finds the Discovery: Nahn, upon coming over from the Enterprise, looks around the ship and says “I guess we know where Starfleet is putting its pennies.” What? In addition to money essentially not existing in the Federation so why in the hell does she reference something as archaic as “pennies,” I thought Enterprise was meant to be the more advanced, top-of-the-line ship? If memory serves, Discovery was meant to have been built and in service longer than Enterprise, so this does not compute – especially when Discovery’s officers have long been making general statements of wonder on how amazing Enterprise is. they even say it in this episode, right before Enterprise’s officers comment on how amazing Discovery is…?!
- Piggybacking on this issue: how does Enterprise, who has been on a long-range deep space five year mission, have the “new Starfleet uniforms” but Discovery doesn’t? Discovery Was literally AT STARFLEET COMMAND just last episode! Plus, on the “advanced ships” like these, replicating new uniforms is literally as easy as telling the computer to do it. This does not compute.
- Thank goodness for Chief Engineer Denise Reno, right? I enjoy the comedic styling of Tig Notaro, and I appreciated the energy she brought to the role. Reno may end up being a lucky find for Discovery, considering the ship appears to be losing her Chief Engineer very soon.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: My main concern moving forward for ‘Discovery’ is that the action sequences they employ may be killing the show; they are big and exciting, yes, but they are time-consuming and don’t always progress the plot in a meaningful way. They exist at the expense of time and interest that could be devoted instead to actually getting to know both the main and secondary characters better, which I firmly believe dramatic shows will always live or die by. Time will tell if ‘Discovery’ can course correct this issue.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru
Anson Mount as Captain Pike
Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Cadet Tilly
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ features new episodes Thursday nights at 8:00 pm online via CBS All Access.