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Star Trek: Discovery's second season may boldly go where the first did not



 Michael Burnham is all of us
Enlarge / Michael Burnham is all of us

CBS


In many ways, this season felt very much like a much-needed reset from the previous one. The Klingon was, and the Federation is, consumed by a new scientific pursuit: mysterious red bursts of light that have appeared across 30,000 light years.

The scene that really drove home the reset was the formal roll call, where our bridge characters say their names really, directly to the audience.

It's still baffling that we went for a whole season without knowing the most of the bridge crew's names! Yes, we sort of got to know a handful of characters, but there are regular faces that we've seen many times on the bridge. If like the other shows, where the bulk of each episode happens in the nerve center of the ship, it would help to know who we're interacting with.

But by the end of this episode, "Brother," despite all the original series-era teases Discovery is the audience that it's leaving old Trek tropes behind. The show is uncharted from here on out.

"I suggest that you focus on the problem in front of you, rather than what is behind," Sarek tells Burnham in the scene just before the roll call.

Spoilers ahead. If you continue to read and then compile about spoilers, you'll be up to your elbow in Tellarite brains.

Not all who wander are lost

This first episode is about setting the tone of the new season and exploring relationships. There are all kinds of relationships to dive into — relationships that are being mended, forged, and possibly even broken.

There is the relationship between Burnham and Spock (she wants to repair it); the one between Stamets and Tilly (he says he's leaving Disco but of course he'll stay on); and the one between Captain Pike and the new crew (everyone excited to work with a rockstar Starfleet captain!). But this episode is primarily about the relationship between the show's viewers and the show itself.

As the first Trek television show in many years, its creators are constantly aware of the fans' feelings towards the iconic series. (Recall, the end of the show's rather silly opening scene in its debut episode is Capt. Georgiou revealing that she's drawn a huge Starfleet badge icon in the sand, ostensibly as a way to get rescued.)

As Ars pointed out last season, Discovery used the mirror universe story arc as a crutch and largely failed to explore the implications of new characters and new technology that it set up for itself. The first season was full of titles back to the original 1960s era trek (known colloquially as "TOS," for "the original series"): the mirror universe itself, Harry Mudd, tribes, Klingons, and more. To top it all off, the first season ended with the USS Discovery going bow-to-bow with the USS Enterprise .

The second season premiere was one TOS tease after another . Heck, literally the first words spoken in the episode strike an immediate chord with any Trek of: "Space, the final frontier."

There's the monocolor TOS era "new" uniforms, the unnamed and unmarked-upon saurian with the sneeze gag in the turbo, the Tellarite in the makeshift sick on asteroid, the familiar TOS Enterprise by elevator, and even the direct fortune cookie reference to the name of the original TOS pilot episode "The Cage."

Discovery uniform, Sarek's announced departure, and Burnham watching as the Enterprise is being pulled away by space tugboats . Even when she's aborted, there are no wide shots — just a turbo lift and spock's stuff in storage. We don't even see the NCC-1701 bridge.

"The damage to Enterprise was severe," Pike tells Burnham at one point. "The engineering corps has no idea when she'll be back online."

In other words, this season just might be the actual premiere that we might all have known for the beginning of last season. A node to TOS, but with a handoff to actually explore "strange new worlds."

It's probably worth noting that the Mirror Universe wasn't mentioned at all. Pike's peak

We know that the overarching question of season two has to do with what these crazy red spots are Spock's connection to them. That seems to be fun to explore. Plus we've got the B-story mystery: how and why does this asteroid fragment tickle the spore drive in an unusual way?

As a 21st century show with modern special effects, Discovery was all too happy to dazzle us with new vehicles, costumes and equipment. The titular starship is equipped with spinning single-person pods that come with sweet voice-activated spaces. It appears that the early chase scene is simply to show off this tech. Discovery also sports telescopic camera (possibly borrowed from the Google Street View cars?), And something awesome called "gravity simulator."

Also distinct from TOS is the fact that the first person to get red-shirted is the blue-shirted cocky science officer, Evan Connelly — and no one cares at all. Connelly perishes in a high-stakes chase scene and has never been mentioned again.

Heck, the title sequence has changed as well: we now see some new animated sketches, including the captain's chair, the angel figure, three enlarged Starfleet badges

There are new crewmembers too: Tig Notaro turns into a hilarious performance as Chief Engineer Jet Reno, leader of the surviving members of the crashed starship USS Hiawatha .

Still, the premiere raises some curious questions: why was the Enterprise Starfleet's flagship, away for the duration of the Klingon war? Does it really take that long to get across the galaxy at high warp? When Burnham calls the Enterprise "an instrument of last resort," what does she mean? Why is the Enterprise disabled? What did Burnham do to Spock away?

And finally, we've got Pike himself, who remains a bit of a blank slate. He's revered, one seasonly named him as one of Starfleet's decorated captains — but we don't know why. At least in this episode, Pike comes across as earnest: of all the previous television captains, probably the most like Captain Jonathan Archer of the NX-01 Enterprise .

"Wherever our mission takes us, "Pike tells Burnham," We'll have to have a little fun on the way too, huh? Make a little noise. "Ruffle a few feathers." 19659005] Maybe we'll finally get the show that we were promised after all.


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