To Boldly Go Where Some Have Gone Before

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery left me cold, ultimately; I could see what it was trying to do, I could even appreciate what it was trying to do, but it didn’t work for me so heavily that I put the series aside, sadly. Despite my deep and enduring love for Star Trek as a whole — I’m that person who’s even watched Enterprise, like an idiot — I felt as if Discovery was a fundamental misunderstanding of the franchise and it’s essential ingredients, a misguided attempt to update the idea that accidentally jettisoned the optimism at its heart. When the second season started, I skipped it; I had other things to do.

That, it turns out, was a mistake.

I dove back in based on the show’s NYCC panel, which I covered for work. They talked about the show resetting itself for the third season, about how much it respects canon despite starting as a prequel (and one that really, really, didn’t respect canon but whatever), but more importantly for me, co-showrunner and EP Alex Kurtzman kept returning to the notion that Star Trek is about hope and living up to that hope despite everything, and that felt like what had been utterly missing for me in that first season. The panel made me excited about the show, cautiously, so it was clearly time to check out that second season after all.

Discovery has been famously (infamously) troubled as a production, switching showrunners between seasons, stumbling around to try and find its footing, so I shouldn’t have been that surprised that the second season feels like a different show than the first. More excitingly, though, it feels like Star Trek, right down to having real life situations transformed awkwardly into sci-fi morality plays every now and then. The characters suddenly… liked each other and felt as if they had character, and weren’t just slavishly doing whatever the writers demanded of them in any given moment. In Anson Mount’s Captain Pike, the show had a curious mix of moral center and charismatic black hole who weirdly made sense as a Captain. It all, almost immediately, felt as right as the first season felt wrong.

(There are still problems, of course, not least of which a belief that bringing back “dark” characters is inherently interesting, or that having someone announce how they’re feeling is preferable to their demonstrating that emotion instead, but… those are pretty Star Trek, too, really.)

The rediscovery of the show — no pun intended, etc. — was a surprise joy, and catching up has become a welcome way of decompressing from work in the evening. Ever since I was a kid, Star Trek has been a kind of comfort food for my head. I’m genuinely thrilled that I get that feeling again.