Star Trek: Discovery - Season Two

★★★☆☆

What a mixed bag.

The first half of the season is mostly stand-alone episodes, vaguely linked by plot tokens in the form of faster-than-light signals from a winged being they dub the “red angel.” And those are the ones I liked best: Investigating a dark matter asteroid and finding the survivors of a ship thought lost during the war, with only one crew member responsive. Finding a small population of humans who were transplanted across the galaxy during World War III, and actually threading the line between interfering with a pre-warp culture and letting some of them know that yes, Earth survived and is thriving. Exploring what else lives in the ecosystem formed by the mycelial network*.

But after a while they start getting way too cavalier about changing the fates of entire planets without thinking the consequences through, doing things because the plot requires it, or because it would be more dramatic (regardless of whether it makes sense for the character to do it) and generally handing out idiot balls left and right.

Also: how big is Section 31, anyway?

Characterization

One of the things that gets better, though, is the Sarek/Amanda/Spock/Michael family relationship, both present-day and in flashbacks to Spock and Michael’s childhood on Vulcan. (And we get to see other biomes on Vulcan than just red-rock desert!) The season starts out with them dancing around some HORRIBLE SECRET™ of Michael’s, but once that’s out in the open (to the audience) and the two of them start having to work together, it’s interesting to watch them as they start dealing with their past and finally develop a rapport again.

Spock himself feels just a little bit off, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Partly it’s the voice. (Same with Sarek, actually.) But I think it’s also because Ethan Peck isn’t as intense as Leonard Nimoy (or Zachary Quinto) when Spock is just being himself. Then again, he is recovering from trauma at that point, reevaluating how he wants to balance his human and Vulcan sides, and technically on vacation rather than active duty, so a bit of uncertainty makes sense. I haven’t picked up Strange New Worlds yet, but I’m curious to see how his portrayal carries over.

Captain Pike is an incredible contrast to Captain Lorca from season one, coming onto a ship where…let’s just say everyone starts out with trust issues. And they managed to keep Georgiou around, in a way that Michelle Yeoh is clearly having fun with.

It was nice to get to know the other crew some more. Saru is still my favorite of the
second-level main characters. Even the third-level characters get a little more attention this time through, though in one case it’s a bit of too little, too late. And while we don’t see a lot of her, Reno is a great addition to the cast as someone who just cuts through the BS and calls things as she sees them.

Finale

As for the finale… The first half is tedious and all the worst aspects of this season are on display, plus an annoying display of two-dimensional thinking (on the parts of the characters, the writers, and the visual effects team) in a four-dimensional story.

Though let me say, once you get to see inside the Enterprise, they’ve done a great job of updating the aesthetics of the sets and costumes so it looks high-tech to modern audiences and still looks like the same ship we saw in the original show.

The second half actually moves really well and is (mostly) a satisfying conclusion, though one of the major dramatic threads in the battle just doesn’t make sense (apparently their blast doors are really strong). But the epilogue goes way further than necessary in explaining away why we never heard of Spock’s sister or the spore drive before. All you need to say is that Spock never mentioned Michael on camera and no one is known to have ever found another giant space tardigrade. Done.