Very soon, Star Trek fans across the western hemisphere will resubscribe to CBS All Access, intending to pay for the service for the fourteen-week duration of Discovery’s second season. After that, it’s back to hibernation until Picard (or whatever they’re going to call it) is out, possibly this winter.
Last year, the show was released in two chunks, one dropped in the fall of 2017 and the other in the winter of early 2018. There was so much behind the scenes turmoil, almost from the inception of the show, that it’s impossible to know who gets credit for the good or blame for the bad. The first season was messy, rushed in places, unfocused in others. Rarely did it feel like Star Trek of old (but when it did it really did). Often it seemed more intent on being a “space action” show, rather than a pure “science-fiction” one.
Incidentally, though the two halves featured two very distinct storylines, the show was not originally intended to be split the way it was. That’s curious since the first half ended with such a sudden and abrupt dropping of the plot (and season two so sharply shifted gears to a new story) that you’d swear the season was always meant to be two mini-arcs. Apparently not. No doubt the departure of Bryan Fuller and his being replaced by…several…head writers contributed to the season’s uneven year.
You can read our review of Discovery’s two halves here…
To put it in brief: Disco’s biggest problem was it didn’t know what story it wanted to tell. Since it was obvious the showrunners were not content to just send their starship out on weekly adventures (despite the name of the ship being “Discovery” and all) but instead wanted to tell a single (or two) long-form story, the impetus was on them to create and maintain a story that was compelling enough to justify the subscription price.
Let’s not get into the fact that CBS is asking me to pay for this “network” while also forcing me to watch ads.
Disco’s troubles were apparent halfway through the first half of the season when characters died unceremoniously, plot points came and went without much explanation, and no one, apart from Burnham and Lorca were given any real attention or development. The overall arc of the Klingon war felt undeveloped as well, and when it was dropped in favor of a “sneaking around the mirror universe” storyline, no one really minded except for the lack of good resolution. When the mirror universe arc was ended, it too felt like an abrupt changing of plans.
The season ended with Discovery lacking a captain and suddenly face to face with the Enterprise (but of course). Now season two promises Captain Pike and Mr. Spock will join the fun, shrinking the universe, re-writing more canon, and offering up more angsty drama and explosions than you can shake a season one at!
MATTHEW, DO YOU ACTUALLY HAVE ANY PREDICTIONS FOR SEASON TWO OR ARE YOU JUST GOING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT SEASON ONE SOME MORE?
Yes, I have predictions, but more than that I have wants. I dare not call them expectations. Here they are:
WANT: SLOW DOWN!
I want Star Trek Discovery to feel like Star Trek Anything Before Discovery. I want commentary on social issues (like in the original series). I want an examination of the human condition (like in TNG). I want character growth (like in DS9). I want wacky, high concept episodes (like in Voyager). I want them to use their prequel status to expand the universe, not shrink it (like in [season four of] Enterprise).
You can’t have any of that if everyone is always running from and to explosions, shouting at each other and shooting at each other all the time. I want Discovery to slow down and rediscover the joy of science fiction. Star Trek has always been unique in that it is a popular franchise that has grown beyond niche status while, until recently, not losing its roots as a thinking man’s show. I want the show to slow down and think again.
WANT: STAND OUT!
I want Discovery’s secondary cast to step up and exist beyond vague descriptions. If you were to ask me to name the senior staff of the Enterprise, I wouldn’t even say “which one?” I’d just start listing all of them, from Kirk and his crew, to Picard and his, to Archer and his, and then I’d mention Sisko’s team and Janeway’s bunch. If you ask me to tell you the names of Discovery’s crew (still alive), it’s not happening. I know Michael Burnham, Paul(?) Stammits, Saru and that’s it. Beyond them, I know there’s the chick with the borg eyebrow, the robot person…oh, Tilly, I remember Tilly. Who else? I’m sure there are more but it’s just a big grey blur right now.
And sure, a lot of that is the fact that Discovery is new, but not all of it. By the end of the first season on any previous Star Trek show, you knew the names of the Bridge Crew. You knew their names, their personalities, their ranks, because the show featured them. That’s especially true of the 24th century shows but even the Original Series made sure to give Sulu, Uhura, Scotty and eventually Chekov little moments to stand out with. Discovery is just a one person event and the show feels small as a result. What a want from season two is, while we’re slowing down, for the rest of the cast to be fleshed out and given life.
WANT: MAKE SENSE!
What was Lorca’s plan last season? What about Admiral what’s her name? What is even the point of the spore drive/super warping? The tardigrade who gave the ship its power is gone without any serious deconstruction of it on moral grounds. Characters who could have developed into antagonists, like the security guard lady whose name escapes me, were killed off unceremoniously. The Klingon war was ended with a whimper and resolved nothing vis a vi the first episode’s intentions with it.
The show felt like a relay race where the writers were blindfolded, just running in the vague direction of someone shouting for the baton, before clumsily handing it off to the next blind guy to run with it for a while. What I want is for the writers to have a plan, to know where they want to go with this season, and to execute the story, in a slowed-down, character-rich, environment. And, failing that, I want the Picard show to live up to the legacy of the franchise’s best captain.
Because someone’s gotta carry the torch around here.