"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Friday, April 17, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery 2: Tour de Force Story and Characters

I endeavored in my reviews of Star Trek: Picard and the first season of Discovery to keep them free of specific spoilers. But it is not possible to review the tour de force that is the second season of Discovery without them, so expect plenty of spoilers in what follows.

First and foremost, as what was hinted at/promised at the end of Discovery 1, the emergence of Spock and his self-transformation from a troubled young man/Vulcan to the Spock we came to know, blue Star Fleet uniform and all, was one of the main and most gratifying themes of Discovery 2.  There is a great call-back in "If Memory Serves" (2.8)  to the two-part classic TOS episode "The Menagerie" (which incorporates the unseen pilot for the series, "The Cage") in which Spock violates Star Fleet quarantine (an unfortunately apt word in our current, real world) to help his former Captain, Christopher Pike, reunite with the love of his life on Talos.  Spock's defiance of Star Fleet for a greater good was a rare occasion in TOS, but in Discovery 2 we see that this is a fundamental part of his nature, which as a younger person is much closer to the surface.  Meanwhile, "If Memory Serves" shows some actual clips from "The Menagerie" - meaning "The Cage" actually figured, literally, in two Star Trek episodes, more than fifty years apart - and it was great to see Melissa George as Vina (originally played by Susan Oliver) and Anson Mount as Pike (originally played by Jeffrey Hunter and Sean Kenney) who, in a later episode in Discovery 2, palpably sees his future in a wheelchair, courtesy of a time crystal in a Klingon monastery.

About Mount, last time I saw him was in the lead role in Hell on Wheels, where he was outstanding.  If anything, he was even better as Pike in Discovery, with the result that Pike has now become, at least in my opinion, one of the most memorable Captains in all of Star Trek, second only, I would say, to Kirk and Picard.  And that's after just one season.  It's not clear how much more we'll be seeing of Pike, since Discovery 2 ends with Pike on the Enterprise - with Spock, beard shaven, his science officer - on the way (in some near-future date) back to Talos, and what awaits them there in "The Menagerie".  The Star Trek: Discovery series is of course about the ship Discovery, which is last seen hurtling into the future, following Burnham the Red Angel's lead, with Saru in the Captain's seat.

Time travel, indeed, plays as important a role in Discovery 2 as space travel (which, as readers of this blog will know, makes me very happy, since I'm a fan and a writer of both kinds of travel stories).  Spock even mentions the "grandfather paradox" (which could also be "grandmother" or "parent" or any recent or remote ancestor), noting that future Burnham has no choice but to save her younger self (but Spock missed the point that any member of the crew could also have saved the younger Burham). And in a nice sprinkle of humor, Tilly mentions "time bend"; Pike replies "time bend ... I like that"; and Tilly comes back with "everything sounds cooler when you put time in front of it". I completely agree.

There's also some unintentional humor afoot or onboard.  The Ba'ul, the predator species on Saru's world, is pronounced by most of the crew, including Saru, who should know, just the way it's spelled.  But at least one crew member referred to the species as "The Bowel," and I'm pretty sure I heard another call them "The Bowl".  On the plus side, it was good to see Pike have some of the subtle mannerisms of Kirk, including the way Pike stands when he's at the helm and delivers the truth to difficult-to-pronounce species like the Ba’ul.

But Discovery 2 evokes a wide range of emotions, including tears, sense of wonder, edge-of-your-seat excitement, and deep satisfaction in following a story not only very well done, but fitting in beautifully with not only the past Star Trek corpus, but ongoing new series, such as Picard, which addresses the same AIs wanting to destroy all organic sentient life as Discovery 2 confronted in the epic space battles at the end of the season.

Count on me to be back with more after I see Season 3 whenever it airs this year.

See alsoStar Trek: Picard: Non-Pareil ... Discovering Star Trek: Discovery



Dave Creek said...

I loved how in "If Memory Serves" they cut from the "Previously" segment and the closeup of Jeffrey Hunter to the one of Anson Mount. Pretty gutsy, and it shows confidence in Mount to make the equivalence so explicit.

Paul Levinson said...

Well said! And thanks for reminding me that Pike in TOS was played not only by Kenney but Jeffrey Hunter - whose name I'm adding to my review right now.