Why am I even still writing about this stupid fucking show?
Nevermind. Let’s just get this over with.
There’s a part of me that really, really hopes they made a point of putting that “Right, ladies?” line in the trailer because of this article I wrote last year. Like, I really, really doubt it. But I know that at least some of the writers saw it. So I can hope.
“We have always looked to the stars – to discover who we are. And hidden there was a message, made of space and time. Visible only to those open enough to receive it.”
Well gosh golly gee, that’s all very deep and provocative. And it’s accompanied by the image of what looks like some kind of sexy space spider lady in high heals. Is she delivering the message? Is she some kind of space courier? Cosmic FedEx?
“I’m here to take command of the Discovery under Regulation 19, Section C.”
But at the end of Season 1 of ‘Discovery’, wasn’t the Enterprise broadcasting a “Priority One Distress Call”? Then the Enterprise appears and she doesn’t look distressed. And this trailer doesn’t make it look like Pike was leaving a distressed ship, he only brings two or three people with him. Can you really put out a distress call and then as soon as someone drops by to pick you up, just take command of their ship?
Pike invokes regulation 19, section C. And then Saru says “Your directive is only instituted when an imminent threat is detected.” So, wait, so Pike knew he was taking command of the Discovery? Then why was the Enterprise broadcasting a distress call? It’s almost as though the writers needed a cliffhanger and some Enterprise fan service at the end of the first season, so just wrote a scene with no idea of what was going on and then just picked up where they left off for the second season. But I’m sure the writers are smarter than that.
“Federation sensors picked up seven red bursts, spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.”
Hey, remember how in the 2009 J. J. Abrams reboot movie, they had “red matter”, and everyone thought it was the dumbest thing ever? I bring that up now for no reason.
Also, in space, I know they have “red shift” and that stars are classified by colour, but don’t scientists usually talk about stuff by its defining feature? Like, gamma-ray bursts, or neutron stars? When I’m ordering an ice slushy at the cinema I’ll ask for “the red one”, but if I was talking about a potentially life-threatening explosion in space I like to think a bunch of scientists in the future would be a bit more specific than just describing it by its colour.
“Sir, there’s an anomaly off the starboard bow!”
“Well, what is it, Data?”
“It’s red, sir! It’s red!”
Also, he mentions that these bursts are “spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.” Which is between one third and one sixth the diameter of the Milky Way. Except that the CGI seems to show them across the whole Milky Way. Unless that’s not the Milky Way, but if it’s some kind of nebula or star system, it’d be way too big – an area of space with a diameter of thirty thousand light-years could contain as many as 30 billion stars. Ah, whatever.
“These mysterious signals are beyond anything we understand (except for colour theory). Is it a greeting? A declaration of malice? Let’s find out.”
Oh, okay, so that’s the mystery – what’s behind these weird signals? Except I’m guessing it’s whatever message Burnham was talking about in the opening of the trailer. So I guess that’s that mystery solved.
“Trust us. Discovery has you. Right, ladies?”
There’s more dialogue between Burnham, Detmer and Owosekun in this two-minute trailer than there was in the first twelve episodes of Season One put together.
“This is the power of math, people!”
I am completely fine with everyone getting a bit more scientific and rational on this show. But god damn it if that line and its delivery and the little high five doesn’t make me want to murder literally every single person on this wretched fucking planet.
Also, Commander Airiam doesn’t appear in the trailer at all except for this shot. Until I spotted her here, I honestly thought she’d just been dropped from the series and that nobody would mention her ever again. Also note how she’s the third-highest ranking officer on the ship (maybe fourth now that Burnham’s reinstated) but she’s still being bossed around by a lieutenant and a cadet.
Sara Mitich, if you’re reading this, you did a great job on ‘The Expanse’, nobody thinks any less of you because of ‘Discovery’.
“My foster-brother, Mister Spock.”
“He took leave. It’s as if he’d run into a question he couldn’t answer.”
“Spock is linked to these signals. And he needs help.”
Jesus, where to start.
First off, I never had a “canon” problem with Burnham being written as Spock’s foster-sister. After all, it’s not the first time Spock had a family member ret-conned into his backstory. The main issue with it is that it acts as a weight around Burnham’s narrative that just wasn’t required. You can have a human character with a Vulcan upbringing without making her a relative of the only Vulcan that anyone recognises from the franchise.
Now they’re bringing Spock in as a major plot point, and you just know it’s going to suck. He’ll be doing something stupid or out of character and unless they get Zachary Quinto in to revive his role, the whole thing will probably be garbage.
Fortunately, abusing an existing character doesn’t retroactively ruin that character. Watching Spock scream and roar as he beats Khan with a metal box in ‘Into Darkness’ doesn’t change how I view the character when I re-watch ‘Wrath of Khan’ for the ninetieth time – it’s possible to retain detachment.
The real problem, and the catastrophic misstep that ‘Discovery’ seems to be making, is of taking familiar, brand-reinforcing characters like Spock and putting them firmly in the centre of a story that ought to be about Discovery and its crew.
Trek has always had crossovers – from minor guest appearances in one-off episodes like TNG’s ‘Relics’ and Voyager’s ‘Life Line’, to full-on cast insertion with Worf joining the Deep Space Nine crew from season 4 onwards. But when it’s a single episode in a season of more than twenty, it’s relatively non-intrusive. And in the case of Worf, it was actually a boon, giving an existing character some much needed growth and adding an extra element to an ensemble cast of strong, compelling characters (and Jake).
And for all of ‘Discovery’s woes, its characters were arguably its strongest point. Tilly was a new take on the bumbling rookie. Saru had an interesting background, as poorly explored as it was. Tyler was a great vehicle for Shazad Latif, and even Stamets ended up rounding out nicely to be a thoughtful, tragic personality, quite distinct from the high-energy enthusiasm of the likes of Scotty, La Forge and Torres.
And the show should be about them. They’re the cast. It’s their stories that we want to care about. But now, in this season, we have Christopher Pike as the (white, male) captain – Christopher Pike, the man who was originally deeply uncomfortable with having women on his bridge, and who later became Bruce Greenwood, the fire alarm of contemporary actors – functional, but only remarkable if something’s going wrong. (I mean, he’s great and all, but try describing Christopher Pike based on his performance in the reboot movies. Do it. Tell me what his character is. Tell me what was distinct about his personality. I’ll wait.)
Then, we get to Burnham. Burnham suffered from a bad case of Gimmick Personality. Burnham is essentially an armature, onto which was layered the various hashtaggable statements that the writers thought were necessary to make the show interesting. She’s a human who was raised by Vulcans. She’s an orphan. She’s Spock’s sister. She’s Starfleet’s first traitor. Everything distinctive about Burnham comes from things that happened to her, or things that are incidental to her character. She began the first season with a series of actions that were baffling to the audience, and after that point all she really did was respond to stuff that happened to her.
Stamets strives for scientific understanding of the fabric of the universe. Tilly is driven by her command ambitions. Saru tries to correct his past failures. But Burnham? Burnham gets coerced into serving on the Discovery, responds to threats as they arrive, and by the end we are told she has redeemed herself. She never sets out to seek redemption. She never pushes to make herself better, or discover new things about herself. When she takes the captain’s chair of the I.S.S. Discovery in the Mirror Universe, she doesn’t have that moment of “Alright, this is it, this is where I prove what I’m capable of.” She just sort of wanders over to it in confusion. The one decision we ever see her make is to save Mirror Georgiou.
Now, it looks like she’s just going to be on a mission to rescue Spock. Or as she calls him, “Mister Spock”, which is neither his name nor his rank. Also she’s older than he is. Which leads to the hilarious scenario that she grew up with a younger foster-brother who she called “Mister Spock.”
But let’s put this in the perspective of people who might be watching this show with absolutely no prior knowledge of Star Trek (i.e. nobody). Are they suddenly supposed to care deeply about the fate of some rando who’s been mentioned by name twice in the first season? ‘Stranger Things’ made us care about the fate of Will by having us invest in his mother and her frantic, desperate need to find him. But Burnham doesn’t really seem to be very close to Spock at all, and Sarek is an emotionless Vulcan. So basically, the threat to Spock is palpable only to people who are already familiar with the franchise and who, therefore, already know that he’s probably going to be fine.
Just let these dweebs be the centre of their own story, for Christ’s sakes.
We also need to talk about the fact that Captain Pike takes over. This’ll be brief, but my points are thusly:
- There is no compulsion to have Pike in charge to fit Trek’s history or canon. As far as we knew he only ever captained the Enterprise.
- You could totally have had a badass woman in charge, like that one who appears in the wreckage in the trailer with the really stupid line about the pulsar thingy.
- Why did they need to put another white man in charge of the ship?
It’s just really annoying, because it’s not even like Pike is some iconic part of Trek, he was in the first of two pilot episodes that nobody really remembers, and he was also in the reboot movies as a bland mentor character. And they’re not even using the same actor. So what’s the point? Could they not think of anything else in terms of storyline? Or anyone else to take command of the ship? Dullllll.
The rest of the trailer is pretty standard teaser-trailer fair. You get a few dramatic / amusing one-liners, some plug-in pop-rock (depending on which version of the trailer you watch, you’ll either get Lenny Kravitz for the CBS All-Access one or some painfully generic thumpy beats for the Netflix one).
We also get a BONE-HURTINGLY FUNNY SCENE ABOUT SNOT at the very end, I think to try and convince the audience that this season won’t just be about torture, genocide and shouting, but honestly it comes across as cheap and dull. IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE THE SPACE PERSON HAS A COLD, HAHAHA, HUMANS GET COLDS TOO, HAHAHA, SUCH FUN.
What we’re left with is a lot of explosions and action, a lot of shots of white, male Christopher Pike in the captain’s chair (because what, do you expect a woman to do it? It’s the captain, of course he has to be white, and a man), and an overall feeling that this season will probably be less grim and dark than the first season, but not necessarily much smarter. I mean, the opening shots imply the secret to the universe will be delivered by a sexy space woman in high heals.
The really positive thing to come out of all of this is that there’s no mention of or reference to bloody Section 31. That being said, I wouldn’t put it past this collection of bumbling fuckwads to introduce it in some “SHOCKING CLIFFHANGER” at some point to surprise everyone. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
As an aside, try watching the Netflix version of the trailer and then watching the initial trailer for Justice League. The similarities in tone are disquieting, to say the least. Although that could just be because every trailer is the same these days.