“Sometimes, in war, the terrible choice is the only choice.” — Vice Adm. Cornwell
Late as usual, but I “needed” to add my 2 cents re Season 2. So,…
SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!
Cmdr. Michael Burnham
I may have mentioned it before, but the stoic Burnham character reminds me a lot of Martin-Green’s ‘Sasha’ character on “The Walking Dead”. It has made me wonder how much range she has in her acting. Of course, since Burnham was raised on Vulcan since the age of 12 or so, it makes sense that she would have much of that emotional discipline ingrained in her. But, as revealed this season, Burnham has a lot of rage and other things bottled up inside. We got to see her deal with many personal issues — e.g., Saru nearly dying, awkward reunion with Tyler and concern over his joining Section 31, worrying about Spock (first AWOL, then non-communicative), awkward reunion once Spock regained control of his faculties, awkward reunion with her long-thought-dead mother (played wonderfully by the talented Sonja Sohn), seeing her mother sucked back into the future, seeing a friend sacrifice herself, prepping to defeat Control via a one-way trip to the far future, etc.
Burnham went through an emotional roller-coaster this season, and it showed. She raged, cried in grief and frustration, cried with joy and relief, and, yes, she even smiled a couple times. Martin-Green is an attractive woman with a beautiful smile, and I wish we got to see more of it. The main thing, though, is that Burnham is growing into a more complex, self-assured, and more-rounded character, and we’re there to witness it. (Now, if only we could figure out why this woman is connected to so many important people and events….)
I gotta say, though, it sucks to be Tyler, too. I’m not just referring to all that guilt, shame, etc., from his Klingon spy days, either. One former girlfriend, with whom he just (secretly) had a baby, is now Chancellor of the Klingon High Council, and his mere presence at her side causes her all sorts of problems. So, not only is the baby sent off to an isolated monastery, but Tyler takes the blame for a failed coup (by someone else) and is banished from the Empire. His more recent former girlfriend is very conflicted about seeing him again, especially given his Klingon/family problems, and she hates his new job. He reluctantly accepts assignment aboard Discovery (as a quasi-spy), but no one trusts him, and they eventually accuse him of sabotage. Sheesh! Of course, he eventually is cleared and acquits himself honorably. Oh, and he gets stabbed in the gut by a rogue A.I. along the way, too.
But, honestly, I’m sorta bored with the character. I’m wondering if it isn’t time — no pun intended — to write him off the show. (At the very least, give his hair and beard a trim!) Of course, now Tyler is in charge of Section 31, but he is stuck back in 2257. So, assuming Season 3 doesn’t have a parallel storyline in that era, problem solved. I suspect we may see him in the Georgiou-led spinoff, though.
L’Rell and Tyler
About those Klingons… So, L’Rell now has hair, as do some others. I believe it was explained that only the religious caste/sect had the custom of shaving their heads. Same goes for those funky, spikey outfits we saw the Klingons wearing on the Sarcophagus ship in Season 1. It was a religious thing. In her new position, she doesn’t have to abide by those rules. Makes sense. But, we still have the more serious problem of the much different appearance of the Disco-Klingons vs. previous representations. I maintain that the best way to address this would be to establish that there are two (or more?) races native to Qo’noS. The ones we are familiar with from STIII/TNG/etc. are from Houses we have not yet seen on STDisc. At some point before the show goes off the air, we should see (or, at least, hear about) those other Houses rising to power over the current ones. Perhaps the STDisc Houses could even be a) destroyed via battle or disease; b) banished far, far away; c) rendered sterile; or, d) transported far elsewhen via time crystal.
OK, back to the characters…
Tilly is always a delight to watch, and she didn’t disappoint this season. I really liked the “evolution” of Saru’s character, too. (Glad I saw the Star Trek Short that introduced us to his family and culture, as well as the one where Po and Tilly met.) While the B-storyline with Culber’s return was somewhat interesting, I’ve never cared for the character and would be happy to see him written off. (Though, perhaps we could see more of Dr. Pollard?) I didn’t mind Stamets as much this season, perhaps partially ‘cuz he was less central to the main plot. His relationship struggles don’t appeal to me, either. I wouldn’t be disappointed if they wrote him off, though the crew will probably need him to control the spore drive in the 32nd century. After that, he should transfer or retire, as the character has been contemplating, and be replaced by a real engineer (i.e., Reno).
I never really liked the morally ambiguous Leland, so his death didn’t bother me at all. Georgiou, on the other hand, is always entertaining, as you never know quite how much to trust her. Yet, she does seem to genuinely care for Burnham. Michelle Yeoh must have a fun time playing her. While I wouldn’t say I loved the Vice Adm. Cornwell character, she was a good ally and died an honorable death. She will be missed.
I’ll mention the rest of the main bridge crew later….
As for new/”new” characters, Cmdr. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) seemed to remain in the background most of the time, like the writers weren’t quite sure what to do with her. She did, however, prove herself a stand-up gal in the end, ready to make the hard choices, including risking her own life (like any good officer). I wonder if she and Number One were friends…. Number One was played ably by Rebecca Romijn, and it’s too bad we only really got to see her in action (sort of) in the finale. Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) reminds me of Harry Dean Stanton of Alien fame. Scrappy little guy… Anyway, I like the Reno character, and the Discovery needs a regular engineer (as opposed to an astromycologist) in the lineup.
Spock and Pike
I have to admit, after seeing Anson Mount in the abysmal “Inhumans” mini-series, I wasn’t sure about his casting for ‘Captain Christopher Pike’. Turns out, I had nothing to be afraid of. He was perfect for the part! He played Pike as somewhat Kirk-like — e.g., his sense of humor — but also different enough to be… Pike. He was a great Captain, loyal and appreciative of his crew, a good tactician, willing to sacrifice himself, etc. I think the decision to temporarily give him command of Discovery worked quite well for the story and, afaik, didn’t interfere with canon. Count me among those who would like to see another series centered on Pike, Spock, and the Enterprise.
Given that Spock is… Spock, and I’ve been a fan since the mid-70s, I can’t help but be critical of anyone other than Leonard Nimoy attempting to portray him. But, of course, no one is going to look, sound, or act exactly like the original. So, with that said, I think Ethan Peck ended up doing a terrific job. We got to see Spock at an even earlier place in his personal development than ever before (setting aside previous glimpses into his childhood in “Star Trek: The Animated Series”, that is). We didn’t see him grinning and outwardly exuberant as in “The Cage”/”The Menagerie”, but we did see him struggling with strong emotions. Much of that was due to the aforementioned reunion with his foster sister, from whom he has been estranged for a couple decades.
It was most gratifying to witness the healing process, though, once the true cause of the estrangement was revealed. In particular, it became apparent how much Spock and Michael love and respect each other, as well as how much he depended on her to help him find the “balance” between logic and emotion (despite their long estrangement). In truth, Michael helped to shape Spock into the character fans have known and loved for 50+ years. Her final piece of advice to him was a gift that long-time fans know will lead to his strong friendship with James Kirk — and, arguably, Leonard McCoy. Excellent! Also, finally seeing a clean-shaven Spock in science-blue, on the bridge of the Enterprise, makes me want a Pike/Spock-led spinoff to happen even more.
Some have complained about the writing in Season 2 (as they did for Season 1), calling it “hokey” or full of “massive plot holes” or whatever. Personally, I think the writing was pretty darn good, and the complainers are setting too high a standard. Taking the season as a whole, yes, it might have been a little uneven. There were occasional plot holes and things that, upon further reflection, didn’t make sense. (For example, in the last episode, how the heck did that one bulkhead so greatly reduce the projected damage to the saucer-section and also completely protect Pike, who was practically at the center of the blast?) Is it annoying? Frustrating? Definitely. But, that is true for any series I can think of, including such standouts as “The Sopranos” and “Babylon 5”. And, yes, that includes every other ST series, as well. (I think I said as much in my Season 1 review, too.)
I will say that, just as when Discovery went to the “Mirror” universe in Season 1, I was surprised they used time travel in Season 2. On the one hand, it seems like the writers/producers feel a need to return to familiar (and popular) territory. Why? On the other hand, many fans find this comforting, cheering for connections to the old favorites. Plus, the writers gave us decent stories that expanded our knowledge (“Mirror” universe; Empress Georgiou) and introduced new methods/tech (time-suit; time crystals). Of course, the whole idea of using Captain Pike, Number One, and (eventually) Spock from the Enterprise could be seen as a similar tactic, and one that worked incredibly well. (Fans loved it, including me!)
One thing that has sort of irked me is that the show has not been more focused on the “lower ranks”, as it had originally been billed. (Or, at least, that was the impression I had.) In actuality, we have another triumvirate, with Cmdr. Burnham as the focus but followed closely by Cmdr. Saru and the revolving captains (i.e., Georgiou, Lorca, Pike). In a way, this is too bad, because I thought the new approach could give an interesting perspective. To be fair, we have at least gotten to know Stamets and Tilly pretty well. I’d like to know more about Owosekun (aka “Owo”), Detmer, Rhys, and Bryce, though. (R.I.P., Airiam, we hardly knew ye.) I haven’t read anything about it, but I’m guessing that the writers/producers just decided that the old formula (with a little variation) worked better. And, tbh, that’s probably true. However, showrunner Alex Kurtzman has confirmed, “We’re going to be using all of them much, much more.”
One of the best episodes this season was #8 (‘If Memory Serves’), which brought Spock and Pike back into contact with Vina and the Talosians. (Another nice tie-in to ST:TOS.) Episode #11 (‘Perpetual Infinity’) was also an excellent episode with great performances by Martin-Green and Sohn in particular. (Fun Fact: In the flashback, Burnham’s biological father was played by Kenric Green, real-life husband of Sonequa Martin-Green.) And I definitely have to include the season finale (‘Such Sweet Sorrow’) — particularly the second Part — in my list of top episodes. This was great Trek and great writing in general.
That finale finally gave us the solution we needed for why the Spore Drive was never used in other ST series. If Starfleet takes Spock’s recommendation, all records of Discovery and her crew will be erased and talk of them banned within Starfleet, so I guess that’s supposed to answer why Spock (and maybe Sarek) never mentioned Burnham before. (Or, would that be, later?) But, conspiracies and associated cover-ups are less likely to work the more people that are involved, so I don’t quite buy it. Plus, any Starfleet-wide ban wouldn’t hold sway over Klingons, Kelpians, Queen Po (love her!), Amanda, or anyone else Discovery encountered while it was in service. Details, details…
The Discovery‘s travel 950 years into the future sets up Season 3 for a very different situation to deal with, though one similar to when they jumped to the “Mirror” universe in Season 1. It will put them beyond even the period that “Crewman” Daniels (“Enterprise”) came from. Will Discovery be able to wipe out the Sphere data with advanced tech? Will they get in trouble for violating the Temporal Accords? Will they jump into the middle of another war or the aftermath of one? Will they ever return to the mid-23rd century? And, where/when is Dr. Gabrielle Burnham? We certainly don’t have any answers, and Kurtzman ain’t talkin’. But, you can bet, despite my complaints about the series, I eagerly await the (continued) adventure!
P.S. Saru gets my vote for who assumes the captain’s chair. Burnham, naturally, should double as Chief Science Officer and First Officer, as her brother will on the Enterprise in a few years. 🙂