“STAR TREK DISCOVERY” Season Two Musings

“STAR TREK DISCOVERY” SEASON TWO MUSINGS

There have been plenty of articles on the Internet that many television shows with successful first seasons usually decline in quality with its second season. This is known as the “second season curse”. I do not There have been plenty of cases when the quality of a television series has improved with each succeeding season. However, I do believe there are some shows that adhere to this theory. When it comes to Season Two of the CBS All Access series, “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”, some believe it had .

Most Trek fans either believe that Season One of “DISCOVERY” was a disaster. Many were put off by Michael Burnham, who is portrayed by an African-American actress, as the series’ lead. Many had complained about the series’ serialized format. And there were numerous complaints about the season’s ambiguous portrayal of its main characters and the Federation. Despite these complaints, “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” managed to become a big hit and attract many fans. Unfortunately, the show runners had listened to these disenchanted fans who considered themselves “veteran” Trekkers and made certain changes to the series for its second season. I usually have no problems with a series making some kind of changes. It is necessary for a series to develop. However, some of the changes or additions to Season Two of “DISCOVERY” . . . bothered me.

Season Two began with the episode called (2.01) “Brother”, when Captain Christopher Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise, took emergency command of the U.S.S. Discovery after his ship was damaged during the crew’s investigation of seven mysterious red signals. The last signal led Pike and the Discovery crew to an asteroid made of non-baryonic matter, where they discovered the U.S.S. Hiawatha, damaged during the Federation-Klingon War of last season. How did the Hiawatha crew’s rescue play a role in the season’s overall arc? Were the events of “Brother” more about rescuing Commander Reno and adding a new character to the series? If so, this was a piss-poor and vague way to do it. Reno could have easily been transferred to Discovery as its new chief engineer without this convoluted set-up to bring her aboard the ship. Also, she had played a very limited role in the second season’s narrative. By mid-season, I found myself wondering why she had not returned to Starfleet Headquarters on Earth, following her rescue. I did not learn until after the finale had aired that she had been officially assigned to Discovery. Huh? And there was the matter of a primitive Human colony on a planet called Terralysium. The Red Angel had led the Discovery to the colony and prevented its inhabitants from being destroyed by an extinction-level radiation shower. How did this play a role in Season Two’s overall arc?

Burnham and the Discovery crew eventually discovered that the signals came from a time travel sentient being called “the Red Angel”. And the Red Angel turned out to be Michael’s presumed dead mother, Dr. Gabrielle Burnham. Since viewers learned that Dr. Burnham’s overall goal was to make the Federation aware of dangerous artificial intelligence called “Control”, why did she go out of her way to bring attention to the Hiawatha crew and Terralysium’s inhabitants? As it turned out, Dr. Burnham was not involved in those situations. Michael was. Michael had ended up using the Red Angel suit in the season’s finale, (2.14) “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part II”. And she was the one who had sent the seven signals, including the two that led Starfleet to both the Hiawath and Terralysium. Really? Was that show runners’ way of explaining why the Red Angel led the Discovery crew to situations that had no major impact upon Season Two’s narrative? Frankly, I found this rather a waste of time. Perhaps Michael wanted to save Commander Reno and allow Terralysium to survive when Discovery arrived in the future. But honestly, the show runners and their writers could have handled this with tighter writing.

Or perhaps the above scenarios were inevitable, since the show runners had planned to send the U.S.S. Discovery over nine hundred years into the future. Imagine, a serialized television show’s format or setting undergoing an extensive change in the middle of its run – during its third season. The series went from being about a Starfleet science vessel during the 2250s to one that is exploring the future. Why? Alex Kurtzman claimed that he had wanted to take the series into a new setting so that the writers would not have to work hard to connect the series’ narrative with the 1966-1969 series, “STAR TREK”. Especially since the latter series is set a decade after “DISCOVERY” and so many fans have been crying plot holes upon discovering that Michael Burnham was the adoptive daughter of Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda Grayson. Pop culture fans can be incredibly stupid sometimes. And so are the television show runners who listen to them.

Taking the U.S.S. Discovery some 900 years into the future struck me as one of the most unnecessary moves the show runners could have made. I also find the whole idea ridiculous. “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” began in 2256 – a decade earlier than “STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES” and aboard another Starfleet ship . . . with a different crew. There would have been NO NEED for the series to make a concerted effort to connect with the 1966-69 series, despite Michael Burnham being the adopted sister of Spock. At best, Spock, Sarek and Amanda can make the occasional appearance on the show. If “DISCOVERY” ever lasts as long as those shows between 1987 and 2001 – “STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION”“STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” and “STAR TREK VOYAGER” – the series’ setting would have ended in 2263 or 2264 – at least two to three years before the beginning of “THE ORIIGNAL SERIES” setting. Did any of the show runners ever considered this? By changing the premise, “DISCOVERY” will only end up being some kind of time travel version of “VOYAGER”. And that does not strike me as particularly original.

There is another problem with the new direction that the series had undertaken in the Season Two finale – namely the former Most Imperial Majesty, Mother of the Fatherland, Overlord of Vulcan, Dominus of Qo’noS, Regina Andor, Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius of the Mirror Universe. As everyone knows, mirror Philippa eventually impersonated the deceased Captain Georgiou prime as a retired Starfleet officer and later became a Section 31 operative. Midway during the airing of Season Two, it was announced that Michelle Yeoh, who portrayed Georgiou, would headline a new Trek series in the near future about Section 31. Why is this a problem? Georgiou was one of the Starfleet personnel aboard Discovery when it followed Michael in the Red Angel suit . . . into the future. If Discovery being 900 years in the future is the series’ new premise, how will Georgiou return to the 2250s in order to continue her story with Section 31? Someone had suggested that she will command Section 31 in the 32nd century? Really? Why on earth would anyone in Earth’s future allow a woman from the 23rd century assume command of an organization like Section 31?

There were aspects of Season Two that I liked. I found Starfleet’s conflict with the A.I. entity known as Control rather interesting . . . and frightening. Many Trek fans had complained that “Control” should have been portrayed as the origin story for the Borg. What they had forgotten was that around this period in Trek history, the Borg had existed for quite some time and had wiped out the El-Aurian home world. Using “Control” as the Borg’s origin story was out of the question. I also enjoyed how the writers used the spore drive’s mycelial plane to bring Dr. Hugh Culber back from the dead and how this resurrection had affected his relationship with Lieutenant Paul Stamets. I especially enjoyed Michael’s reunion with her missing mother, Gabrielle Burnham. In fact, I could honestly say that I had truly enjoyed the episodes of mid-Season Two – from (2.05) “Saints of Imperfection” to (2.11) “Perpetual Infinity”. However, I did not like the finale, (2.13-2.14) “Such Sweet Sorrow”.

Many had complained that the two-part episode seemed over saturated with action. Or that the finale seemed more “STAR WARS” than “STAR TREK”. The action in “Such Sweet Sorrow” did not bother me. I certainly had no problems with Georgiou’s brutal fight against the Control-possessed Captain Leland. Along with Discovery’s eventual journey into the future, I had some problem’s with the episode’s writing. One of those problems involved Ash Tyler, the former Klingon whose body and consciousness had been transformed into a Starfleet officer who had died during the Federation-Klingon War. Instead of joining the rest of the Discovery crew for their journey into the future, he remained behind to convince Empress L’Rell (his or Voq’s former paramour) to help Starfleet’s conflict against Control. This would be nothing, except Ash had openly contacted L’Rell and was later by her side aboard a Klingon starship during the battle. Apparently, Alex Kurtzman and the episode’s screenwriter that Georgiou and Section 31 had went through a good deal of trouble to end Ash’s brief role as L’Rell’s aide on the Klingon home world in order to save her reign as the new Empress . . . by faking his death. Worse, Starfleet put Ash in command of Section 31, despite his limited experience with the agency and his unsuitability as a spy. Despite the fact that Georgiou had managed to destroy Control and prevent it from acquiring the massive data from the Sphere that the crew had discovered in (2.04) “An Obol for Charon”, Michael and the Discovery crew traveled into the future anyway. Following Discovery’s disappearance into the future, Captain Pike (back in command of the Enterprise) and Ash informed Starfleet that Discovery had been destroyed during the battle against Control. Why? Why did the writers feel that was necessary? I feel as if a great deal of unnecessary writing decisions had been made in this episode to justify the Discovery’s journey into the future.

For me, the biggest frustrations of Season Two proved to be the presence of Spock and Captain Christopher Pike. Especially the latter. But I will start with Spock first. Initially, I had no problem with Spock’s role in the season’s narrative. But once the crew had identified Gabrielle Burnham as the Red Angel and Admiral Katrina Cromwell had returned to Starfleet Headquarters, why did Spock remain aboard the Discovery? Why did he not return to Headquarters with the Admiral and rejoin the Enterprise crew? However, Spock’s continuing presence aboard the Discovery struck me as minor problem in compare to the presence of his commanding officer, Captain Pike.

I have been a fan of Anson Mount since he starred in the AMC series, “HELL ON WHEELS”. But I wish to God that he had never been cast as Christopher Pike in “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”. More importantly, I wish that the show runners had never utilized the character in the first place. I believe Christopher Pike was the worst aspect about Season Two of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”. His presence on the show struck me as irrelevant. Useless. Why did the show runners have him serve as Discovery’s commander throughout the entire season? Why was he even needed? Saru could have easily remained in command of Discovery after the crew was given the Red Angel mission. This was the officer who had led the ship out of the Mirror Universe. And he had also stood behind the crew’s refusal to obey Starfleet’s order to help Georgiou to decimate the Klingon home world in the Season One finale, (1.15) “Will You Take My Hand?“. With the Enterprise temporarily out of commission, Pike could have appeared in “Brother” to hand over the Red Angel mission to the Discovery crew and to inform Spock’s disappearance to both Michael and Sarek before guiding his damaged ship back to Starfleet Headquarters. Then he and the Enterprise could have returned for the final battle against Control in “Such Sweet Sorrow”.

But no. Certain fans had raised a fuss over an African-American actress serving as the lead of a Star Trek series and cried tears over “DISCOVERY” not being “traditional Trek”. And the series’ show runners had made the mistake of listening to them, despite the fact that “DISCOVERY” was a hit. And with Pike, they had provided these narrow-minded fans with an ideal leading male character to swoon over. But why did the show runners felt it was necessary to appease these fans with the addition of Pike for Season Two? Pike was not needed. Even worse, they did not have to paint Captain Pike as this ridiculously ideal Starfleet officer. Because frankly, he came off as a bore. And bland. There were moments when the series was willing to portray Pike’s idealism and inflexibility as flaws, especially in his conflict with Ash Tyler. However, by (2.09) “Project Daedalus”, it seemed quite obvious that the show runners were determined to paint Pike as “the perfect or near perfect” Starfleet officer. This became obvious in his conflict with Ash. Even when Pike was seen to be in the wrong in both (2.07) “Light and Shadows” and (2.08) “If Memory Serves”, Pike was painted in a more sympathetic light than Ash. If only the show runners had ditched this useless conflict and focused more attention on the fallout between Ash and Hugh from Season One, I would have been more impressed. In “THE ORIGINAL SERIES” episode, (1.11-1.12) “The Menagerie”, Trek fans had first learned about Pike’s future as a paraplegic, due to an accident. Somehow, the writers managed to twist Pike’s future as some kind of “heroic sacrifice” in which he had to give up the idea of accepting Klingon time crystals to defeat Control or taking them and facing a future as a paraplegic. There was no need to include what I believe proved to be a contrived and unnecessary plot twist.

I loved Season One of “DISCOVERY”. Despite some moments of clunky writing, I thought it had provided something new and exciting to the Star Trek franchise. I became an instant fan. There were aspects of Season Two that I liked – Starfleet’s conflict with Control, Dr. Hugh Culber’s resurrection and Michael Burnham’s reunion with her mother, Gabrielle Burnham. However, there were aspects of Season Two that I disliked. Too many. And that included the season finale, (2.14) “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part II”, along with Discovery’s unnecessary trip into the future. Also, I saw no reason for the over utilization of characters like Spock and Captain Christopher Pike. I saw their presence during the season as a heavy-handed attempt with the “nostalgic factor” to win over certain Trek fans still mired in the past. It must have worked to a certain degree. Many have declared Season Two to be superior to Season One.

So in the end, I can only repeat that I do not agree with the assessment that Season Two of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” was superior to Season One. I believe that the Trek fandom’s desire for nostalgia – especially in the form of Christopher Pike and Spock – has made Season Two overrated in my opinion and a victim of the “second season curse”. And most importantly, I saw no need for Christopher Pike to serve as the temporary commander of the U.S.S. Discovery. I found this decision by the show runners to be completely unnecessary.

 

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