In a brief aside, GO LOOK AT THE TEASER FOR STAR TREK: PICARD. RIGHT NOW. I’LL WAIT.
Now, back to the regularly scheduled Discovery post. As with Part One, summarizing the plot of this episode would require almost the entire post, so I am going to rely on Memory Alpha’s recap. Both of these episodes have been just packed to the gills as the show has raced to wrap up all the extraneous threads, leading to some real pacing issues, and Part Two suffers from this issue more than does Part One because Part One did provide us with some breathing space in the form of character beats. Part Two attempts to do this, and there is some success. However, what the main driver of the episode and indeed the back half of this season is to shift Discovery from underneath the burden of canon.
From the first episode of the series, Discovery has wrestled with how to be a prequel while still incorporating new elements such as the spore drive, and the fan base, initially, was openly hostile to the approach adapted by the show. They did keep existing characters, but they confined themselves to relatively minor ones such as Amanda and Sarek. Here, I mean minor in terms of actual screen time. In season two, they pull in one of Star Trek’s most definitive characters, Spock, which was a bold move and one of which I was initially skeptical. Over the course of the season and once allowed to be onscreen, Ethan Peck gives us a Spock in transition and one that works in the context of this show. Nowhere is that more evident than in the goodbye sequence Spock and Michael share before she jumps into the future. This is, of course, the emotional heart of the season, and while it seems a touch strange to place it in the middle of a large-scale space battle, Martin-Green and Peck’s performances are strong enough to capture the moment.
Discovery also breathed new life into Amanda and Christopher Pike, two characters that get comparatively short shrift in canon. Bruce Greenwood’s Pike is a more significant force in the reboot movies, but giving Anson Mount the opportunity to breathe real life into Pike as a person over the course of an entire season proved to be a good investment. I am quite sorry to see him depart the Star Trek universe. If you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity, you know how much I’ve enjoyed Mia Kirshner’s take on Amanda, and I confess that I’ve grown to appreciate Frain’s Sarek. However, I don’t know that this more enlightened version of Sarek, this better father, really fits with the canon we see later in “Journey to Babel.”
Discovery also gifted us with some new faces, including Ash Tyler and L’Rell. I think both were under-used in this season, and while I appreciate that they were given the opportunity to close out this phase of Discovery, L’Rell’s appearance especially felt a bit contrived. The same is true of Siranna who served as Deus-Ex-Kelpien, but again, her appearance cements that the Kelpiens and the Ba’ul will be just fine in Saru’s absence. What disappointed me most about the episode is the decision to sacrifice Kat Cornwell to a photon torpedo. Setting aside the question of just how powerful the blast doors on the Enterprise are (because honestly, this sequence was a little ridiculous), her death seems only to serve to remind us that in battles, people die. Having her last words be to remind Christopher Pike that his story is not yet over comes across as if the show is fridging Cornwell to drive Pike’s story, which as we’ll never see that story, seems like a waste.
The decision to end the episode with the aftermath, featuring those left behind, is a good one. The ending provides us with a coda for this phase of the series, and I found Spock’s statement that he and his parents have agreed never to speak of Michael again but amongst themselves unaccountably sad. The show shifts tonally from the grief felt by Tyler, Spock, and others by putting Peck on the bridge of the Enterprise clean-shaven, returning to us a Spock we recognize as a nod of respect to the canon that has gone before. Certainly, doing so is intended to pull at fandom’s proverbial heart-strings, but y’all, I’m willing to let those strings be pulled.
Though I will miss the rest of those characters, I am unbelievably excited for where the writers and crew behind Discovery now have the opportunity to go. They’re in an entirely new quadrant, hundreds of years in the future, and judging by “Calypso,” it’s an entirely different landscape. Unlike in Voyager, the Discovery will be truly alone, assuming something happens to the spore drive. They’ve been transported far beyond any canon we’ve yet seen, to the point that there may not even be a Federation to which to return. It’s a huge new sandbox in which the writers can play, and I’m really thrilled that they will no longer be hampered by having to work within established canon.
Stray Thoughts from Behind the Couch
1. THAT FIGHT SEQUENCE WITH MICHELLE YEOH! They used her talents last season, but I loved getting to see her wipe the floor with Leland. However, I have real questions about what’s going to happen to the Section 31 spinoff considering that Georgiou is now 900 years in the future, but the moment when she tells Leland she wants to hear him scream is worth it.
2. Looks like we’ll get more Tig Notaro next season, and I’m there for more Jett Reno.
3. I’m glad to see Culber back, which we knew would happen, and I’m certainly hoping for more Starfleet medical magic to salvage poor Stamets.
4. I’m a tad confused as to why, canonically, the ship had to jump to the future after the destruction of Control and the affected ships, unless the idea is that Control could be lying dormant somewhere in Starfleet’s network.