SERIES "Star Trek: Discovery"
WHEN|WHERE Season 2 starts streaming Thursday on CBS All Access.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The starship Discovery has a rendezvous with a particularly famous cousin, the USS Enterprise, which has been away on the other side of the universe while the Federation battled the Klingons. Capt. Christopher Pike (Anson Mount, "Hell on Wheels") seeks permission to beam aboard. He temporarily takes over command of the ship because of an impending, and mysterious, threat to the starfleet. This second season of "Discovery" — which begins with an episode entitled "Brother" — picks up exactly where the first left off. The war with the Klingons has ended, while there is still a little while to go before the events of The Original Series, or TOS (1966-69), take place. This season, fans meet a young Spock — played by Ethan Peck, grandson of Gregory — and so does Discovery's First Officer, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who was raised a Vulcan and is Spock's adoptive sister.
MY SAY "Star Trek: Discovery" had a troubled first season, which is a nice way of saying it was a "starfleet debacle!" OK, maybe not "debacle," but it was definitely an unremarkable dud that had a habit of reflecting the off-screen turmoil (a total of four top producers were fired). The first "Trek" since 2005 at times seemed lost in space, or worse, clueless in space. In one baffling move, Michelle Yeoh's character, Captain Philippa Georgiou, was killed off in the 2017 pilot episode — a parallel universe version of Philippa was brought back late in the season — while Yeoh would go on to become one of the hottest stars of 2018, thanks to "Crazy Rich Asians." Not about to make the same mistake twice, CBS this week handed Yeoh her own "Trek" spinoff.
If Thursday's launch is any indication, "Discovery" and showrunner, Alex Kurtzman have learned from past mistakes, too. "Discovery 2.0" appears to be that vitally needed course correction and reset. It's also a big, brassy entertainment that's more aligned with a theatrical experience than what's typically a TV one. That's shrewd too because there's an arms race in TV right now. Winter is coming and "Game of Thrones" is nigh. Streaming series like this one had better look expensive or risk instant irrelevance. "Brother" looks expensive, all right.
But Kurtzman, a TV and "Trek" veteran, knows that franchises like this can't subsist on money alone. Character development is key, and that may be what the episode does best of all. Sure, there's a spectacular — and de rigueur — spacecraft dodge 'em scene with a meteoroid field midway in the opener. But more memorable is the scene that follows, when "Discovery" introduces Tig Notaro's new character, chief engineer Denise Reno of the USS Hiawatha, a truculent and unexpectedly funny survivor of the recent troubles with the Klingons.
"Brother" reintroduces — and re-energizes — other favorite characters too, notably Saru (Doug Jones), Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), who gets the best line at one of the best moments. Burnham's love interest from last season, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), is not in the opener which gives her time to lament the brother she barely knew, Spock (Peck arrives later in the second season).
Mount even bears a certain resemblance to the original Christopher Pike, captain of the USS Enterprise — played by Jeffrey Hunter (in the show's unaired 1965 pilot episode "The Cage" and later in 1966's "The Menagerie"). But in a line that only James Tiberius Kirk could get away with, he tells Burnham that "wherever our mission takes us, we'll try to have a little fun along the way."
Burnham: "I look forward to it captain."
Me, too, captain. For a change.
BOTTOM LINE A fun, nostalgic, energetic re-entry that makes up for that sometimes bloated bore of a first season.