With Doctor Who on hiatus until 2020, we are reviewing other programmes with actors and creatives from the series and/or shows that just interest us.  Star Trek – Discovery is the later.

Discovery is Back!

Star Trek’s latest incarnation, Discovery, is back again for a second season. Now under the command of Anson Mount’s Captain Pike, just how different will the show be?

Brother picks up directly from last year’s finale, with the USS Discovery receiving a garbled, but urgent, hail from the USS Enterprise. Within moments the most iconic Star Trek ship of them all has shown up and a new era has begun.

And this most definitely feels like a new era. The closest comparison is, appropriately enough, the evolution of Star Trek between its pilot and the first full season. The original pilot, The Cage, starred Jeffery Hunter as the tense and serious Captain Christopher Pike. Yet the launch of the classic show we remember had William Shatner’s wry Captain Kirk in the centre chair. It remains the only time, prior to this, that a Star Trek series has changed the captain except for one-off story purposes. And it’s as good an illustration as any of how much the captain sets the tone of a Trek series.

Moving at a breakneck pace, Brother quickly establishes a new style for both commander and show

Because, moving at a swift pace, Brother ensconces that same Captain Pike as commander at the Discovery only a handful of minutes in. He hasn’t even gotten to the bridge before trying to get the command codes from Acting Captain Saru. Saru, being Saru, very politely and demurely makes Pike do all the virtual paperwork first, though. It’s Pike’s first test for us as an audience. And his mix of bemusement and respect regarding Saru’s fussiness immediately establishes almost everything you need to know about him. The second comes not long afterwards as he asks for a roll call of his new bridge crew, calling for “just your names, ranks don’t matter.”

That moment also embodies a change in the show itself. Sonequa Martin-Green’s Specialist Michael Burnham most definitely remains the heart of the show. But unlike last year, the bridge crew are no longer mere window dressing. Here they begin to be allowed to show their own personalities and quirks. When, later in the episode, Burnham must save Pike’s life with a fantastically dangerous manoeuvre backed up by the calculations of Lieutenants Detmer and Owosekun she assures him “We got you,” followed by an anxious aside – “We have him, don’t we ladies?” The two’s completely unconfident look at each other followed by enthusiastically positive noises over comms probably showed more of their character than the whole of last season.

 Pictured: Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Jan Thijs/CBS ©2018 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Despite the tweaks this season, Star Trek: Discovery remains, at heart, the story of Specialist Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) personal journey. (c) CBS Photographer: Jan Thijs

Season Two still retains the quality and drama of Season One

But Brother doesn’t represent some tearing up and throwing out of the Discovery formula either. Star Trek has also balanced heart and logic, not just in its characters but in its storytelling. More than any other Star Trek, Discovery has told stories deeply personal to its crew. And despite the new lightness of tone and a greater sense of the ensemble cast, that still holds true. Because the Enterprise is, of course, the ship to which Burnham’s estranged foster brother, Spock, is assigned. And while there’s no reunion here, Pike is uneasily keeping a secret from Burnham about Spock, while Spock himself has been keeping secrets from Pike.

And so it lends greater emotional heft to Pike’s original reason for coming aboard. Seven extraordinary, unprecedented beacons have flared across the galaxy. Beacons which appear to defy everything the Federation understands about the laws of nature. Already the Enterprise badly damaged by even trying to get near one of the beacons. Which is why Pike has taken over the Discovery to complete his mission and discover their secret. A mission that will take, I’m guessing, about fourteen episodes to complete. But which will also mean coming to a closer understanding of who Spock is, what’s happened to him, and of his relationship with his foster sister?

With Anson Mount aboard and proving himself every bit the charmer as Shatner, the Discovery appears in good hands. And, with Discovery combining this with its trademark stunning visuals and action, the viewers would appear to be too.

Star Trek: Discovery is carried on CBS Access in the United States with new episodes every Thursday.  Brother is also on CBS’s official YouTube Channel for free as a special promotion. In the UK and Ireland, it’s available on Netflix, with new episodes appearing on Fridays.

 

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