Often, the best journeys start with a single step. The first season of Star Trek: Discovery certainly began that way when there was a declaration of war between the Federation and the Klingons. While the first season chose to begin with a string that became a tangled mess, the second season has chosen a different path, setting foot straight into a web without any direction as to where the journey could take us.
The first season had Michael Burnham conflict with her own impulses, trying to balance her Vulcan upbringing with her human nature. As a result, she found strength in its balance, embracing her human side that had been hidden since her upbringing on Vulcan. Season two appears to be broadening this relationship further, notably with her brother Spock, where animosity has allowed to manifest itself.
The Original Series had shown how Spock struggled to embrace his human side, choosing to pursue a life of logic without the emotional baggage. While still capable of the illogical, there’s often a reluctance, almost embarrassment, to embody the consequences of being half human; Michael Burnham doesn’t have the same contention, she’s fully human. Spock was shown to be less than welcoming towards Micheal during childhood, and as with most sibling rivalries, there were clear hints of jealousy.
Competition is nothing new for Burnham, as shown in the first season, with the early beginnings of her relationship with Ash Tyler. And the first episode of season two was no different, with a cocky science officer joining his Captain Christopher Pike onto the USS Discovery, whose arrogance would later get him killed. These constant rivalries that Burnham endures are perhaps a hint towards her relationship with Spock, with the writers sowing the seeds for future sibling conflicts.
And it’s with a greater depth of Spock and the reintroduction of Captain Pike that Star Trek: Discovery begins to connect with the beginning of the Original Series. Christopher Pike is the predecessor of James T. Kirk, the captain of the USS Enterprise, who boards the USS Discovery to investigate a signal. Captain Pike is a character that has never been fully fleshed out, always a moon and never a star. This season, portrayed by Anson Mount, he will likely be taking a more dynamic role in the series. In the Original Series, he was paralyzed in the episode ‘The Managerie’, shortly after becoming the Fleet Captain. It wouldn’t take too much to imagine that Star Trek: Discovery season two is hoping to show how Captain Pike became to be a respected captain of Starfleet.
In the first episode, Brother, he’s already been shown as a confident leader, parading elegantly onto the USS Discovery. After finding what was sending the distress signal, the USS Hiawatha that went missing during the war, Captain Pike showed a degree of trust in Micheal Burnham by approving her plan to rescue the vessel. On board the USS Hiawatha, the team found many casualties, as well as engineer Jet Reno, portrayed by Tig Notaro.
Unfortunately, Jet Reno comes across a little stiff, with much of her humor delivered awkwardly. The amusement was in the rigidness of the performance rather than the attempt at dry jocosity, perhaps, as the series begins to hit warp drive, Jet Reno will appear a more comfortable portrayal. However, such is the web of season two, she does raise a few questions, and there is a sense that she could be the ‘grey’ character that every series needs. With Captain Lorca gone, Star Trek: Discovery will need a character that creates unease for the viewers.
There also remains many questions unanswered from the previous season, which will undoubtedly open up another can of worms. Philippa Georgiou from the Mirror Universe is out there somewhere, the Klingons are now ruled bt L’Rell, and Saru remains a character in need of further development. Add all that into the mix of an unpredictable Spock and the adventures of Captain Pike, then there’s plenty of potential in season two to improve upon season one.
Season one ended on a sour note. The final episode felt rushed and was a disappointing end to what had been a terrific comeback for the Star Trek series. L’Rell is a vagarious character and it’s unlikely she will remain at peace with the Federation. If season one ended so insipid without repercussions in the following season, then the writers have missed an opportunity to boldly go where no Star Trek writer had gone before.