In an exciting season premiere which could be described as nothing less than a passionate love letter to Star Trek, the second season of Discovery launched, and its course and trajectory are proving true now that the second episode has settled in. It would appear the scatter-brained beginnings of Season 1 were just the first unsure steps on a journey that’s turning out to be robust and thrilling — words that have always been what should describe Trek. Episode 2 even poked a little fun at the show itself, demonstrating a self-awareness in the team on this show, which is rare in current entertainment culture.
Let’s get the one problematic elephant in the room out of the way early on: CBS All Access is still an insulting and flawed business model. It is an exercise in arrogance and greed, and causes North American audiences to provide a welfare system for the rest of the world to enjoy this show where we all should — on Netflix. But then, truly, this show should be in prime time on CBS itself, as many fans have noted. Loving it as much as I’m thinking I might is a vastly conflicted situation, as CBS’ history of abuse of this franchise deserves nothing in reward until they… “right the ship,” so to speak.
But that’s all beside the point of this piece. This show is — on point — and it’s been a long time since the energy and clarity of self being delivered by Discovery have been seen in Star Trek. While there is a pretty stout lineup of vocal haters in any circle, online or otherwise, even those who’ve disliked the first season are finding themselves admitting the second is plotting an improved course.
Let’s take a moment to talk about what Trek is. It is adventure. Hope. Far-out concepts woven into seat-of-your-pants space-sailing. It is exploration of both the imagined unknown and the known moral struggles we find familiar. It utilizes newness in technology to tell tales decorated and dressed in even newer, yet-to-emerge technology. Trek is a platform for tales of honor, friendship, warp-speed wayfaring, political intrigue, peace among differing peoples, and yes, sometimes war.
Discovery is all of that. Even the first-season zig zags fell within those very-much-Trek bounds, despite the best efforts of the haters to ignore them. But this new season is right off to a much stronger start, with a clear focus on its star, Sonequa Martin-Green, and the debut of their fresh iteration of Captain Pike, in the addition of Anson Mount to the ensemble. In Pike, we have the gallivanting adventurer we enjoy in Trek, complete with his own little Easter Egg in the fortune cookie slip he finds in the Ready Room, referencing a cage.
Now, when I say “ensemble,” I mean it this time around. This new season has activated some characters who were auxiliary to the focus in the prior season. The ladies on the bridge who guide the harrowing and thrilling plummet of four — well, three — pods into utter chaos in episode 1 are once again part of the central ship-stunt of episode 2 — a starship doing a “donut” in space. This is an example of the visceral and less uptight Trek that’s carrying the current torch of the franchise.
Production design is cinematic and gorgeous, in line with the first season, but with more and more refinement and some major cashing in on “wow-factor.” The score is spot-on, with original riffs alongside the usual Trek overtures. Ultimately, the story has been well-coordinated by now residing in the overall keeper of Star Trek storytelling, Alex Kurtzman. Toss in some wonderful guest stars, like Tig Notaro as a stranded and extremely inventive engineer-turned-medic, and the formula is sound.
Essentially, the only way you can hate on this show at this point is by insisting on being a curmudgeon who refuses to imagine an update and continuation to be impossible for something that’s 50 years old. Everything that lasts gets updated for currency. That’s what is happening to Star Trek.
Discovery is on the forefront of this evolution, and it’s time to beam aboard.