Having just finished ‘Brother’, the first episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, I can confirm that my entire identity as a blog writer has been shattered.
I didn’t hate it.
This is a chaotic “first impressions” article as I pull my thoughts into coherence following a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I’m going to follow it up later in the week with a more cohesive look at what we’ve seen so far and where it fits within the show, as well as some of the “meta” problems that sit around it.
First, though, stray observations:
- “Sometimes it’s wise to keep our expectations low, Commander. That way we’re never disappointed.” – Now that’s just not fair. If the show’s going to make fun of itself, then all the joy of doing so is gone for me.
- Vulcan interior design! Brought to you by Ikea!
- At first I thought Sarek’s home looked horribly un-Vulcan. Then I realised “Duh! Of course it does! He’s the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, this’ll be in North America somewhere!” Then Amanda promises to take Michael to Earth, where she’s never been, and I groaned with frustration.
- Tilly has somehow forgotten every bit of character development she had in the last season and is now back to being disturbingly awkward and socially incapable.
- Airiam, still the ship’s third-highest ranked officer, doubles her line count TO DATE by speaking her name. And then triples it when talking about a power cable.
- Also, I can only assume that her first name is “Lieutenant Commander”, or she just ignored Pike when he asked them all to forget their ranks.
- Pike and the Enterprise crew got the new uniforms (although he still changes into the old DISCO-style ones at the end of the episode) but hasn’t Discovery literally just left Earth? And Enterprise has been on its mission? So, why didn’t Discovery’s crew get the uniforms before they left? How did Enterprise get them first? Ah, whatever.
- Detmer and Owosekun get lines! Multiple lines! They even talk to each other! Such progress! It is 2019.
- “Red thing! Where’s my damn red thing?” How did you become a captain exactly, Pike?
- The “interstellar asteroid” is travelling at “5000 km/s”. Voyager 2 is currently travelling at roughly 16 km/s. Which means… no, that actually checks out. Wait, did ‘Discovery’ just get a science measurement roughly correct?
- One of Discovery’s design features is apparently “telescopic cameras,” and the line delivery implies that this is a non-standard feature. That’s right! Starfleet’s most advanced ship has reached an equivalent technology level to 1960’s paparazzi!
- They then have to get Saru to look at the crashed ship’s registry with his superior eyes because this is ‘Discovery’ and all prior information is rendered null and void as soon as we cut to the next shot.
- Which… he’s looking at an electronically-enhanced image on the viewscreen anyway, so… what, do his eyes multiply the pixels on a viewscreen? Guy could’ve been a champion professional gamer in that case.
- “Really? Are you surprised?” asks Saru, as a bridge officer looks at his extruding threat ganglia. Well, yes, actually, Saru, your bloody threat ganglia never shot off all those other times you were about to die in Season One, so, yes, I am pretty fucking surprised.
- Also, Saru briefly transmorphs into C-3PO for some “The odds of surviving…” banter.
- I adore Commander Reno and I would like to have her babies – and she seems to have the capability to make that happen biologically. She had better be a recurring character or I may have to take drastic action.
- Michael’s helmet-hair is adorable.
- And, I know I’m trash, but I still really miss her lovely fringe (or “bangs”) from ‘The Vulcan Hello’. That was such a nice hairstyle on her.
- Apparently, the first couple of episodes of this season blew more than half the budget for the entire season, and with Burnham’s desperate escape from the exploding wreckage, I can see how. Jesus, that was an extravagant scene.
- There’s problem-solving! And obstacles to overcome! What is this, a Star Trek show all of a sudden?
- Poor old Enterprise, busted up and being towed home. Farewell, sweet princess, we shall see you at some plot-convenient point later, I can only assume.
- There were NO LONG, POINTLESS FIGHT SCENES. Hell, there wasn’t even any shooting! It’s almost as though compelling science fiction doesn’t need people stabbing each other to be good.
- Spock’s quarters aboard the Enterprise have some lovely little nods to the old sets of ‘The Original Series’. Those brass circle-pattern screens particularly.
Right, that’s enough bullet points. Let’s get down to business.
What’s Going On?
So, despite the Enterprise flying up to Discovery at the end of last season under its own power and with all its lights on, in the time it takes Tilly to be a bumbling dickhead apparently Enterprise shuts down completely. Almost as though the writers had no idea what they were doing last season and just jammed the Enterprise in at the end for a fanservicey cliffhanger.
But that’s okay, because Pike says the Enterprise was sent here to take command of Discovery. Even though the Enterprise’s systems were down so completely that they could barely transmit their registry number, they nonetheless conversed with Starfleet Command, located on Earth, from where Discovery had moments earlier departed, and got orders to intercept Discovery on her way to Vulcan, despite all her systems going completely offline with no explanation at some random point, and, with her systems still offline, flew up to Discovery, broadcasting a Priority One distress call, but then died completely, but they still picked up the colourful new uniforms along the way, and then…
I’ve lost track.
Look, the first half of this 60-minute episode is a mess. In fact, that doesn’t do it justice. It’s a complete fucking Kurtzman is what it is. A massive steaming Kurtzman, with a magnitude of about 16.3 Lindelofs.
None of it makes sense, and it seems like there were a lot of re-writes and re-shoots to make it even nearly comprehensible. None of the writers really seem to know how to get Pike onto Discovery to achieve the appropriate level of fanservice demanded by their studio overlords, so they just keep throwing plot points out like narrative diarrhoea in the hope that the audience will gloss over it all and just keep drooling into their laps.
They also, clearly, have no idea of what to do with Sarek, as he has a moment with Burnham where he explains that he’s going to leave Discovery as soon as she drops out of warp, but then they drop out of warp into a Dark Matter debris field and immediately get the shit smacked out of them but Sarek still never appears again, but we never see him leave, so didheleaveordidhestickaroundforabitandwherewashisshipdidhetakeashuttleorIdon’tknowwhat’sgoingonpleasehelpmeJasonJasonJasonJasonJasonJasonJasonJASONjasonjasonJasonJASonJasonJaSON.
Let’s move on.
Ah, Commander Jet Reno.
Just like Captain Georgiou before you, you are FAR too good for this show.
First off, “Jet Reno” is the best name ever.
Second, God damn you are one competent motherfucker.
I’m a bit skeptical of “the body’s just a machine and I read a lot” explanation for an engineer carrying out BRAIN SURGERY but y’know what? Fuck it, maybe she’s just that smart. I love her. I love her so much.
She responds to Pike’s “You stayed behind?” with exactly the right amount of contempt and fuck-youery to cement her as a fundamental Starfleet disciple.
She delivers every line with the perfect degree of deadpan pragmatism.
I haven’t done any research on whether or not we’ll see her again, and I don’t intend to, as the hope of seeing her returning and bossing all of these simpletons around will be the one thing that keeps me going through this entire god damn season.
For those who aren’t watching the show: we meet Jet Reno on a wrecked hospital ship, stranded on an asteroid eleven months earlier in the opening stages of the war with the Klingons. When the ship was wrecked, most of the crew and the patients left in escape pods, but some of the wounded were in too bad of shape to leave that way.
So Jet Reno, star commander and steel-hided badass, stays behind, on her own, to keep the ship’s systems going and look after the patients. In that time, she improvises floating worker drones to help her with manual labour, and somehow figures out how to run a human off a Bolian heart.
She keeps the beating heart in a jar.
She fits Star Trek’s optimistic vision of humanity’s future so perfectly that I can barely believe she appeared in ‘Discovery’. She’s tough, capable and compassionate, and I am completely fine with her becoming the template for all future characterisation within this show.
The acting was another wonderful element to this episode.
Alan Tudyk’s Anthony Rapp’s performance in Season One. And I loved it here. He brought a fantastic degree of pathos and thoughtfulness to the recently-bereaved Stamets, struggling to cope with living in a claustrophobic environment in which his partner was recently murdered. I felt genuinely sorry for him, and shared in his grief.
Sonequa Martin-Green was variable. There were some great touches, such as her grinding her teeth as she thinks about her troubled relationship with Spock. But later in the episode, she seems to suffer from the bobble-head syndrome that plagues so many actors. That may have been a result of the director, however, and I’ll not condemn her for it unless it becomes a pattern.
Anson Mount gave a lovely turn as Captain Pike. We’ll talk about the more general issues with Pike in a bit, but from an acting perspective he was pretty much spot-on. He’s casually likeable and seems like a nice guy to talk to at a barbecue or to be stuck in a turbolift with.
Detmer and Owosekun (Emily Coutts and Oyin Oladejo) can actually act! I know you would never have guessed it given the eight-and-a-half “status update” lines they had between them in the first season, but here they get at least that many lines each, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. Keep it up, ‘Discovery’, and soon you’ll almost be an actual feminist show!
Burnham and Tilly have a lovely moment in sickbay. They seem like genuine friends, with real affection for one another, and they excitedly talk about science shit, and they seem almost exactly like what you’d expect to see in a good Star Trek show made within the last ten years. And, Tilly gets her terrible “The power of maths!” line out of the way with in this episode, and it is terrible, but at least it’s out of the way with early on and I don’t have to spend the next few weeks dreading its arrival
What is this? It’s like I’m having feelings about ‘Discovery’, but they aren’t bad, horrible feelings that burn like a smouldering, fitful rage. They’re nice feelings, almost like I’m rooting for these characters and want to get to know them better. I didn’t finish the episode depressed. I actually want to see more.