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STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Season 2 Premiere Is a Step in the Right Direction

Star Trek: Discovery made its second season debut this week on CBS All Access with an episode that seemed as much about jettisoning the past as it was about recapturing its glory. Many of the major plot points from season one—the Klingon war, the Mirror Universe—were mentioned but then quickly brushed aside; it feels like the show is ready to move on from the divisive material of the first season and dive headfirst into a new status quo. But this season opener also had many references to the original Star Trek series, suggesting a need to try and connect itself to old glories of previous Trek. This made for a confusing, although entertaining, new beginning.

This episode is titled “Brother,” a reference to Commander Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) foster brother Spock, who only appeared in flashbacks as a child (so far). It picked up right where the season one finale ended, with Discovery receiving a distress signal from none other than the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). Pike is instantly likable and charming, a nice change of pace from season one’s cold Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs), who ultimately turned out to be a bad guy. You see, Discovery writing staff, it helps immensely when you have a likable Captain on board your ship.

Under Starfleet orders, Pike beamed aboard Discovery, informing the crew that his ship the Enterprise had been crippled by massive systems failure while on an important mission for Starfleet. To complete his mission, he took command of Discovery in order to investigate a series of strange signals from all corners of the galaxy. These signals had the Federation pretty freaked out, as they could lead to something catastrophic (although how they knew what that all meant isn’t really clear).

That quest led the Discovery to a rescue mission on a crumbling asteroid, in what was a pretty stunning action sequence worthy of a feature film. During the rescue of a damaged craft on the asteroid, we were introduced to comedian Tig Notaro as Commander Jet Reno, an engineer who survived for months on the asteroid while using her smarts to keep her crewmates alive. She instantly brought a dry wit and a fun presence to a show much in need of one, and I sincerely hope she sticks around.

One of my big complaints about the first season of Discovery was the lack of a familial feeling among the crew; it seems based on this first episode they are taking steps to correct that. Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) had a nice scene together, and the two felt like friends, even if Stamets was obviously still annoyed by her. Speaking of Stamets, we saw him properly mourning the loss of his partner, Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz), which was very needed, given how he almost brushed it off in season one. Michael Burnham seemed more relaxed and less stiff, and I guess not being a hated mutineer anymore does a lot for someone’s disposition. And a lot of the cool-looking bridge crew finally got something to do this episode. They were even given names! It’s about time.

But there were still some rough patches here. In the first five minutes, there was a cheesy visual gag about an alien blowing snot all over a crew member—it was very Jar Jar-esque and made me want to reenact the Captain Picard face palm meme. While the action and effects remain truly spectacular, especially for television, I can’t help but feel I’d take more character moments than another high octane action scene, now matter how feature film-worthy it looks (and it really does). And the writing team had a hard time conveying just what the emergency behind the signals really even means. It was a lot of what they call “Treknobabble.”

And then, there’s the ever present tribble in the room: the continuity. There were elements of this episode that tried to reconcile the timeline of the original series with Discovery, but most failed spectacularly. On the plus side, when Captain Pike and his crewmates beamed over from Enterprise, they were wearing uniforms far more reminiscent of the original series, explaining that the Enterprise (perhaps because it’s the flagship?) had a different uniform design. In fact, the Enterprise uniforms were so much cooler and so much more Star Trek-y, I wish they’d just switch over to those on Discovery, and get rid of the blue track suits they have now. But at least they tried to explain away that aesthetic discrepancy.

Still, the technology used on Discovery remains way beyond not just what the original series had, but also anything in the Next Generation timeline. Maybe the producers just hope the audience stops caring and moves on from the continuity errors and focuses on other things, and we probably will eventually. But the show is going to have to become great if fans are being asked to swallow that Spock’s quarters on the Enterprise are now a luxury condo instead of what we saw for years, among so many other things. All in all, episode one of Discovery‘s second season felt like a step in the right direction, but the jury is still out on the sixth live-action Star Trek.

Images: CBS All Access

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