Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)

Star Trek Discovery is back and as pretty as ever. Season One was a frustrating mixed bag of episodes: great visuals, interesting characters and stupid plots. The show didn’t know what it wanted to be, sometimes trying to capture the ethos of the original series, sometimes hinting at being a critique of the militaristic assumptions of Trek, at other times just going for ‘gritty reboot’. The best parts I found where it went off on its own thing — psychedelic interdimensional tardigrades, or full on evil galactic empire space opera. The problem though, the best episodes weren’t very Star Trek.

Two alternative directions were available for Season 2. One, of course, was the leaked script I revealed last year — weirdly not adopted by the studio bosses. The other is Discovery as an overt prequel to the original Star Trek. With Season 1’s (minor) cliffhanger ending, the show had already signalled that Captain Pike and the USS Enterprise would appear. It was also revealed that Spock would be a significant character in Season 2.

Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating.

Most of the events in the episode are driven by some decent space gobbledygook (a collapsing/exploding asteroid with a crashed ship and weird gravity, racing towards a pulsar because racing towards a regular star wouldn’t be half as much fun). Just go along with it and enjoy the action sequences.

Behind the woosh, bang, whiz and non-baryonic matter, we get glimpses into Michael’s childhood relationship with Spock. Not much is revealed other than there’s an unresolved conflict between them. Despite the title, Spock himself doesn’t appear except in flashback as a child.

So, a decent episode with a fresh start for the Disco crew.

Rankings

  1. Brother – well obviously there’s only one episode.

Bits and Pieces

  • The proud Star Fleet tradition of sending your senior officers into life threatening situations continues. Hoorah!
  • The first red-shirt death of the new season is a blue shirt.
  • The Enterprise crew’s space suits were colour coded according to the new uniforms and Michael’s was silver. Which implies they had their space suits sent over? Replicated?
  • The Enterprise had recently got back from a five year mission and missed the Klingon war. Is that why they got new uniforms? “Sorry you missed the war guys and a chance to get medals but guess what? New uniforms!”
  • Alice in Wonderland is back.
  • I loved the bit where Tilly asks Michael to promise that she’ll come back safely and when Michael doesn’t answer explains that she means that Michael needs to lie to her.
  • I miss Lorca. He was an evil monster but…OK he was just an evil monster.
  • Also see Cora’s review here: http://corabuhlert.com/2019/01/19/star-trek-discovery-is-back-and-it-actually-feels-like-star-trek-for-a-change/
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23 thoughts on “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)

  1. I miss Lorca too. He was such an interesting character until the Evil Monster reveal. I wish they could have gone in a different direction with him and kept him around. (Of course we might not have Michelle Yeoh’s new show if they had.)

    I think this season’s going to have more humor though. That scene with Saru and his ganglia made me laugh out loud. Also the Disco Creature From the Black Lagoon in the elevator, hacking green snot onto the face of that obnoxious blueshirt who got offed.

    I hope they keep the captain of that crashed ship around. She was quite resourceful, if rather eccentric, in an interesting way. Also, Number One’s there! (Which slid by so fast I didn’t even realize it, until I read another article about the episode.) And names for all the bridge crew! Yay! I want to know more about those people.

    Yeah, a not half bad start for the new season, actually.

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    1. I agree. Anson Mount as Christopher Pike isn’t half-bad, but Jason Isaacs as Lorca was fascinating, even if he was neither a good captain nor a good person.

      I’d also watch Star Trek: Lorca and Mirror Georgiou stranded on asteroid, sniping at each other.

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  2. One thing I noticed… Sarek and Amanda both talk about Spock as their son. Not *one* of their sons. Michael has never made any reference to her other brother…. There is a fan theory, I believe, to the effect that Jim Kirk’s brain stem was severed when Spock caught him as he fell off El Capitan, and the whole of the rest of “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” is just a hallucination, a fever dream in Kirk’s detached brain while Federation medical technology puts him back together. If “Discovery” makes this fan theory canonical, I for one won’t be complaining.

    I’m cautiously optimistic. The bridge crew got a bit more to do, in this one. (Even though Pike said not to use ranks, Airiam announced herself as “Lieutenant Commander Airiam”. Is she growing a personality at last?) The shadowy angel figure must be important…. I’m willing to wait and see how this story arc goes. I note, though, that the Burnham Must Suffer rule is still in effect – in this case, estrangement from her brother, and a massive stab wound in one leg. (Come to think of it, by Burnham’s standards, this is getting off fairly lightly.)

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    1. When Michael said something along the lines that she fears Spock’s estrangement from his family was her fault, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Duh. Michael probably thinks that global warming, the US government shutdown, Brexit, the Syrian Civil War and the fact that the Discovery cafeteria served cold soup today are her fault as well.”

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    1. That’s Michael’s secret childhood nickname for him. Whenever Spock annoyed her, she called him pock. That’s the true reason they’re estranged.

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  3. Yes, quite Treky-Feel, much more than Season 1. The new writing team seems to have a better grip of what Star Trek actually means. Does this feel more classic trek or more TNG? Well, the focus on Pike and Burnham and action may feel more like classic, but plotwise its more TNG, or? Classic was more about interaction with species and Brother didnt have much of that.

    I, for one, were not captivated by the Spock-drama though.

    Overall decent episode. Loved the scene between Tilly and Stamets! (Will he stay or will he go?). That they re-iterate the bridge crew names for the ausienc… i mean for pike is also testament that the show wants to be more Treky, where you know more than just the central characters.
    I also watched the Shorts (well 3 of the 4 so far) and they too feel very Star Trek (Although I dont really know what they are trying to archieve with the second one).

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  4. Very mixed feelings.

    On the one hand: MUCH more fun than S1.
    On the other hand: they seem to have pivoted to just light, banter-y action-adventure, with lots of TOS name-dropping and not a whole lot else. This episode was just one long thrill ride (sandwiched in between a little “Oh, Spock”), and spent most of its attention setting up what looks like a FedEx quest — and almost nothing with the characters themselves. I’m particularly worried the DISCO crew is going to be sidelined in favor of getting to play with Pike, Number One, and Spock.

    I don’t want to judge by the premiere, and I’m deliberately giving the series a few episodes before I decide whether I’m onboard for S2 or not.

    But I did write up a bunch of thoughts and reactions, and dumped them over on Medium: https://medium.com/@ZivW/discovery-s02e01-lets-try-this-again-39543077c2ee

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  5. Given how much S1 delighted in bait-and-switch I’m not taking anything away from this other than that anything I expect will be wrong.

    Instead I’m predicting that:
    Pike will get eaten by an unexpected tardigrade in ep 4
    We will never meet Spock
    Burnham will fight a Gorn
    The Big Bad will be the Tribbles.

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    1. Actually, I strongly suspect that Pike will meet a horrible accident at the end of season 2 that leaves him like he was in “The Menagerie”. No idea if the culprit will be a tardigrade.

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    2. Dont they have new writing team, centered around Michael Chabon? It does feel that way and I do think they will try to make this feel mor Startrekish.
      Spock will probably only shouw up at the last episode though…

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      1. I think Michael Chabon is working on the proposed Picard show, but inbetween season 1 and 2, they fired the previous showrunners (who had themselves been replacements) and installed Alex Kurtzman as the person in charge of all Trek properties.

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  6. Way more Trek to start off with, plus they’ve had some time to grow into their characters. One complaint about Season 1 that I and others had was that the bridge crew were largely nameless and undeveloped. They started improving that at the end of Season 1 and for this kick-off, they introduce the whole bridge crew and give them some bits, as well as the elevator bit. So I enjoyed the dropping of the noir operatic war stuff which I just never found very interesting, despite Isaacs’ best efforts, (I would like for them to find the real Lorca somehow alive somewhere and come back for a visit — could be fun.)

    I also still don’t find the Vulcan stuff to be very interesting, so the flashbacks bored me. The contrast of Discovery and Enterprise — both shiny new critical ships, one of which was called into the war and instrumental in ending it and the other further out told to sit it out as a last resort — was kind of interesting. Enterprise not only had to sit it out, but they also had to stay silent and didn’t even know what was going on in the war and the Federation, so Pike continually playing catch-up while trying to delicately take over Discovery is kind of interesting.

    And I enjoyed Tig coming on board as her character. She makes an excellent new Scottie. And the fact that Discovery is going on a scientific mission, not a war one, even if it turns out to be evil aliens, etc., causing the mystery. I do think that there is room in Star Trek for some war focused series, but overall, ST: Discovery succeeded because we liked the characters enough, not the war story which they just made a mess of.

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    1. We already had “Star Trek at war” in Deep Space 9 more than twenty years ago and frankly, they did it better. Not that there isn’t room for a new take, but the take Discovery gave us simply wasn’t very good.

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  7. I think this was a pretty good start to a new season of Discovery. It’s definitely, so far at least, lighter in tone than S1, but it’s a bunch of fun and I think Tilly’s character is really going places this season. But mostly i’m psyched about the brief little teaser we saw of Michelle Yeoh and her upcoming role in the ST universe, though.

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