The first-look trailer for Star Trek: Discovery‘s season two debuted at SDCC and I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions.
I’ve been missing new Star Trek content, my friends. While we’re not yet in a time of Discovery‘s imminent return—there’s no official date set for season two’s bow—this trailer is the most concrete peek we’ve gotten into what’s in store for Discovery and her crew in the wake of the Klingon-Federation War.
Instead, the new big threat this season appears to come in the form of a series of seven mysterious beacons that pop up in space. Our heroes don’t know what the beacons herald, but the whole thing seems pretty ominous, and Michael Burnham’s adoptive brother, Spock—maybe you’ve heard of him?—is bound up in it in some way as well.
My first impression of the trailer is that the show continues to look visually fantastic. It’s not surprising that former showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, who recently exited after allegations of staff mistreatment, reportedly struggled with ballooning budgets. The aesthetics remain on-point, and the sight of Captain Pike’s snazzy yellow-gold command uniform made me feel blessed as a person.
Let’s talk more about Pike. That vaunted figure out of Star Trek legend (the original pre-Kirk Enterprise Captain, and the Enterprise’s second Captain ever), played here by Anson Mount, seems primed to be front and center at least at the start of the season. He’s temporarily taking over as Captain of the Discovery while this beacon thing is investigated. (Discovery is, of course, first and foremost a science vessel.) Pike is the sort of figure that’s well-known enough in Trekdom but not so sacred that it feels like blasphemy to have him inserted into the story here as a fully fleshed character, and I already like Mount’s proto-Kirkian swagger.
More problematic for me is the apparent reliance on Spock as a guiding subplot. Discovery can stand strong enough on its own when it’s at its best that the constant callbacks to one of the most famous Trek characters, and Burnham’s familial connection to him, never quite work for me. This feels like shorthand for instant poignancy rather than building up and earning that drama through Discovery’s own mythos. At SDCC, producer Alex Kurtzman confirmed that Spock himself will be appearing on the show in some fashion, and I already don’t need it.
It’s fun to see the rest of the gang back together in this trailer: Sarek, Tilly, and Stamets all have the potential to be compelling characters, and hopefully this season we’ll learn more about what makes them tick. Season one never gave us the deep enough dive into character motivations and backstories that I would have liked, since it was so bent on its big war and its myriad way-too-predictable twists and turns. I’m crossing fingers that this season will let us spend more time with these characters and get to know them, along with more of the supporting cast on the bridge and elsewhere.
(Let’s start with bringing back Doctor Culber, you cowards.)
I love the character of Michael Burnham, and I would die for Sonequa Martin-Green, but the strength of the best Treks has always emerged from the ensemble rather than the individual, and too often Discovery has in the past relied on Burnham to do every single damn thing all by herself. Give us more episodes like the fan-favorite Harry Mudd-featuring “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” with its Groundhog Day-esque timeloop, its scenes showing the crew actually fraternizing, and people working together toward a solution. Give us less of the “new” Klingons, please, please, and less “shocking twists” that we see coming from lightyears away.
This first look looks promising, although as soon as Lenny Kravitz’s “I Wanna Fly Away” came on I was incapable of taking any of the rest of it seriously. Really, guys? Is it 1998? What a weirdly corny throwback for a show that should be taking us to the future.
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