In the first episode of the second season of Discovery, EVERYTHING IS NEW AND PAIN AND ALSO WONDERFUL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief.
I am so excited, y’all. I’M SO EXCITED FOR WHAT THIS SEASON IS GOING TO DO.
This premiere involves a fascinating writing choice that I think made it all the more interesting and engaging. Spock was mentioned last season, but here, it was very, very likely that we would finally see him onscreen because of the presence of the Enterprise. And yet, we only see him as a child. Even then, the entire episode is filtered mostly through the eyes of Michael Burnham. It had to have been a bit nerve-wracking to write such an iconic character, first of all, but I think this choice also meant that the writers were firmly planting this experience in the new world they’d created. This was Discovery, not the Original Series, and thus, this had to be seen through the eyes of the protagonists of this show. And what a compelling glimpse that is! I know the show is engaging in a retcon because Burnham was never mentioned in Spock’s original timeline, but I’ve said before that I have less of a desire for exact canon than most fans. I care more if it’s good storytelling.
AND THIS IS GOOD STORYTELLING. There’s so much here about humanity, identity, and expectations and how these these collided once Burnham became a part of Sarek’s family. We have almost no words from Spock himself, so most of what I can say is conjecture at best. Clearly, though, Burnham’s arrival upset Spock’s life, and it led to something that drove them apart. I wonder if jealousy was part of that, particularly since we got a sense that Amanda and Burnham bonded quite quickly. Being half human, did Spock resent that? Was he jealous of the ways in which those kind of interactions were easier for Burnham?
I don’t know. While there’s a huge new story arc in this season in the red bursts, there’s also this deeply emotional, character-centric story set to unfold between Spock, Sarek, and Burnham. AND I WANT TO KNOW SO MUCH MORE! What happened between Spock and Burnham that brought them temporarily closer, only to drive them apart to the point where they’ve now not spoken for years? What were the nightmares that Spock had as a child that have returned? How are they connected to the red bursts? Should I capitalize that? They seem like A Thing. You know, the Red Bursts. Anyway, one last question: How much will all of this destroy me? Because this episode alone cast like 100,000 points of psychic damage against me.
Something tells me that what Stamets reveals here isn’t the end for him. Perhaps what Tilly engineers at the end of “Brother” is what will keep him on the Discovery! That’s a credible idea! But I also understand why Stamets wants to leave, especially since this subplot hit dangerously close to home. I mean, that was something I entertained last year and which is still in the back of my mind. Sometimes, grief attaches itself to a place. While we hadn’t seen a whole lot of Stamets and Culber together on Discovery, it’s clear that this place was a major part of their relationship. So if Stamets is ever going to heal and find a means of moving on, that might mean he has to leave the ship.
Again, I get it. I thought about leaving New York last summer when I was apartment hunting, but it was too nerve wracking to consider an interstate move in the middle of a pandemic. I’m glad I stayed, but it’s still on my mind. Will living be easier if I am physically not in the place where I have so very many memories of a person?
I don’t know. I still think Stamets will discover a means to stay, but I appreciated that the show gave him this decision in the first place. He deserves to have a life outside of his sadness. Shit, I guess I do, too. (I can literally hear my therapist in my head yelling at me. LMAO.)
New Captain, New Crew
I’ve tended to enjoy new captain stories on Star Trek, and this one hit a lot of the things I wanted out of Captain Pike’s introduction. I still don’t know if this will eventually align with canon, but so far, we’re definitely before what we’ll come to see of Pike on The Original Series. He’s a shock to the crew, not because he is anywhere near as thorny as Lorca was, but simply because no one expected him to assume control. I absolutely LOVED the interplay between him and the characters we know. (Whose names we heard in full, which was nice! I think this was the first time Lt. Bryce’s full name was said aloud? And Lt. Owosekun’s first name is Joann???? I LOVE IT.) He is certainly not a manipulative nightmare, but there was still friction here, especially when Burnham had to insist that he trust the Discovery crew. Everything here is new and uncomfortable as it was, but then having a tense exploration and rescue mission as their first group interaction? WHEW. IT WAS A LOT.
But I like this portrayal of Captain Pike. He’s a firm, empathetic captain who also has a sense of humor, so even tonally, this episode felt different than many of those in season one. Which I’m excited about! Like, he traded jokes with the crew, and he also had that private, emotional conversation with Burnham toward the end of the episode, where he spoke openly about the complications of having to stick to their five-year mission in the middle of the war. (I really hope we get to explore that.)
What this premiere does for the two new crew members is create potential. I want to know more about Commander Nhan and Pike and what sort of rapport they have with one another. (Kinda relieved that Connolly was the one to fulfill Saru’s warning because he was so incredibly irritating. Who knew you could graduate Starfleet with an expertise in condescension and mansplaining?) The fact that I want to know so much more is a good sign. There’s so much possibility in this new crew, and I, for one, am thrilled at the chance to see them change.
I HAVE SO MUCH I NEED TO SCREAM ABOUT. Let’s start with TIG NOTARO ON STAR TREK. Commander Reno is already one of the most intriguing characters in Trek history. She’s an engineer who helped her crew survive on an asteroid. Not only that, but she apparently had very little experience with surgery but STILL SAVED THE LIVES OF ALL THE OTHER CREWMEMBERS WHO COULDN’T ESCAPE IN ESCAPE PODS. Commander Reno is the best? Can I have a whole episode about her???? Please???
Anyway, I also kind of love that the Discovery crew finding this one was mostly a coincidence? I kept waiting for confirmation that this was all tied to the Red Bursts, and then… nope. They crashed, Commander Reno helped everyone survive for ten months, and then they got rescued, and the end.
JUST KIDDING IT ISN’T. Hi, what the fuck was that thing???? I mean!!!! That was a new species we’ve never seen before, right??? What was that? Why did it appear to Burnham? Were they secretly behind any of this? WHY MUST I WAIT FOR ANSWERS????
I love a good mystery plot, and I’m hooked. I need to know what the Red Bursts are, y’all. Unfair!!! Why do I watch television like this!!!
The video for “Brother” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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