Star Trek Discovery season 2 2019

Star Trek is highly regarded as one of the most influential shows in television history. Creator Gene Roddenberry’s groundbreaking (and sometimes controversial) series addressed moral and social dilemmas, the pursuit of knowledge, understanding and accepting different cultures, the importance of exploration, and hope for a better future. For over 50 years, the phenomenal sci-fi franchise has kept the dream of going boldly where no man has gone before alive and kicking.

Star Trek: Discovery, the newest entry in the historically trailblazing franchise, has found a strong audience for its first season and has already been renewed. However, the series premiere began with Starfleet First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) committing mutiny, starting an intergalactic war with the Klingons, and causing the violent death of her beloved Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). So yeah, Discovery started out a bit differently than we expected.

The general sentiment among many fans is that Discovery is a good show, but it’s not a Star Trek show. While some fans are praising Discovery, others are rather disappointed, claiming that Star Trek is not supposed to be about war, violence, or killing. Many are asking what happened to Roddenberry’s original vision of hope, optimism, and peaceful exploration. I’d argue that Discovery is a fresh, updated take on Rodenberry’s classic ideals, modified for our modern age, which is exactly what the franchise needs right now.

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Discovery Perfectly Fits Within Existing Trek Canon

Some fans feel that Discovery has no place in the Trek legacy because it’s about war first. However, it’s important to understand when and where the series takes place and exactly how it is tied to canon. Discovery is a direct prequel to the 1966 original, taking place 10 years earlier than the original series, before Captain Kirk, Spock, and the Starship Enterprise set out on their mission. The series maintains continuity with the older series, and more importantly, events during Discovery explain storylines in the original.

During this period (known as the Prime Timeline) the Federation (which supports democracy and civil rights for all beings) was at constant war with Klingons (an alien species known for totalitarianism and loyal supremacy). This war raged on for 70 years before a peace agreement was reached in 2293 with the Khitomer Accords. Discovery is covering new ground during a war that already exists within Trek canon. We have heard about this historical time period in previous films and series, but this is the first time we’re actually seeing wartime with our own eyes.

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Meet Spock’s Big Sister

The main character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), is a human who was orphaned at a young age when the Klingon army attacked a Vulcan learning outpost. Spock’s parents, Sarek and his human wife Amanda, took Michael in as their own child and raised her with both human and Vulcan traditions. Much like her surrogate brother, Michael has a difficult time understanding and even having human feelings as she was taught to suppress them and follow logic instead.

At NYCC, Sonequa Martin-Green explained her character’s struggle, “The turmoil is visceral, I had to learn how to make sure that they (emotions) didn’t hold me back and let them carve new paths of logic. Those sorts of emotional sensibilities led me to where I am now. It is also a path of redemption and the yearning for that absolution will always be there as well.”

When we first meet Michael, she is a First Officer and on her way to becoming a Captain. In the first explosive episode, she commits mutiny and is stripped of her title. So far, the main storyline follows her personal quest to reconnect with her human emotions and find redemption, all while trying to unravel the mysteries of the U.S.S Discovery.

Although Michael is different than Spock, her background directly ties her to one of the most important characters that Star Trek has ever known. Both Spock and Michael personally struggle with the same problem – finding a balance between their human side and Vulcan side. Even though Spock is not in Discovery, his presence is still felt through Michael.

Star Trek Discovery review

Breaking All the Ground

Star Trek is well known for breaking ground and paving the way to the future with a series of firsts. It was the first television show with an ethnically diverse cast, showcasing people from all backgrounds working together. Every Star Trek series since the ‘60s honored Roddenberry’s wish for a diverse cast. It was also the first television series to cast a black female in a role of distinction. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) was the communications officer of the Starship Enterprise and many fans regard Uhura as a true hero because her character broke the mold of African-American actresses only being cast in servant-type roles.

In the documentary Trek Nation, Gene Roddenberry expressed the importance of diversity and acceptance, “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. If we cannot learn to enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

Star Trek: Discovery takes Roddenberry’s tradition of diversity one step further than any other Trek series: women of color are in charge! Instead of the main character being a male captain (the norm, except for Captain Janeway in Voyager), the star of Discovery is Michael Burnham, a black, female officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green. Asian actress Michelle Yeoh plays the role of Captain Philippa Georgiou, who continues to heavily influence her crew and the plot even after she is murdered by a hostile Klingon.

When Brian Fuller stepped down as showrunner he spoke with EW about his dreams for the show, “I couldn’t stop thinking about how many black people were inspired by seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of a ship [as Lt. Uhura in The Original Series]. I couldn’t stop thinking about how many Asian people were inspired by seeing George Takei [as Sulu] and feeling that gave them hope for their place in the future. I wanted to be part of that representation for a new era.”

In episode four, we got a glimpse of Star Trek’s first openly gay couple. Now, a TV series featuring LGBTQ characters isn’t a novel idea, but it’s a first for Trek, which has danced around the concept for years now. Lieutenant Stamet (Anthony Rapp) a fungal expert and scientist, is in a relationship with Medical Officer Hugh Culber (Victor Cruz). Their relationship is an important contribution to the plot, as explained by Cruz in an interview with CBS: “It enriches the storyline. The crux of my journey is how I balance my responsibilities as the ship’s doctor with my responsibilities to the person I love, and how those two ideas can come into conflict.”

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