Universe-halting storylines are a dime a dozen since Marvel and Doctor Who dictated that for a showdown to be meaningful all life as we know it apparently has to, more than once in a while, hang in the balance. Discovery, playing the card for the first time, actually gave us a circumstance where it felt believable and relatable; leveraging ever-present musings on the detractions and self-preservation tendencies inherent to understandings of artificial intelligence. Here, thrillingly, varying iterations are put forward as to how this might manifest in different forms and how that seemingly aggressive or otherwise might pose a threat.
Sure, the Infinity storyline was ten years in the making but when it came down to it Thanos didn’t take too much time to come by those stones. With Discovery’s showrunners taking the season (and last year’s) to set the groundwork for the believable, eerie threat, when push comes to shove the stakes seemed mindbogglingly real.
Ridden with, as is usually the case, overwhelmingly familial elements for those we’ve come to know, namely Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green), these episodes don’t bear the overstated, soap opera-ish feel that undermines some Trek, in large part due to that emotive being rooted in a threat so foreboding and well-articulated as this one. The presence of Spock (Ethan Peck) in such capable hands buoys the series, with this season welcomely elaborating on the character’s lore rather than pivoting to fan service as could easily and regrettably been the case.
Only in it’s second year, the show delves into a much-speculated Federation era and too the very origin of Star Trek that along with Captain Pike (Anson Mount) has been the subject of much fan fiction. Graciously, Discovery emerges far from anything of the kind, expanding on the canon rather than regurgitating it or relying heavily on mainstay Trek imagery or tropes. The insight into Pike, well known to be historically short-changed by the saga, works wonders and only more so given Mount’s abilities; stepping into the series with welcome aplomb as if he’d always been there.
Shrewdly tying up loose threads and plot inconsistencies vis-a-vis Discovery and its precursors, those involved were too wise to split the final story/episode into two epic segments. Together effectively a feature-length thriller more rewarding than any of the recent Star Trek films (to note; Star Trek and Beyond were enjoyable), it’s also a more complete work than any of the aforementioned behemoth conclusions that came along this April past. Separate to actually being able to see what is going on as intense space battles (with evident spatial awareness – we always know where we are in all this) play out before our eyes, there’s a lot happening with our leads. Unusually, we can follow it, and it makes sense.
Several storylines and, surprisingly, significant character development and dynamics emerge as characters race to save it all, whether it be Michael’s relationship with Ash (and, yes, Voq), Pike’s approach to command, Saru’s further self-actualisation, Stamets’ less than common romantic situation and Tilly, well, being Tilly. We’re even introduced to a hilarious new character in the guise of Yadira Guevara-Prip’s teen Xahean Queen Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po.
Packing some marvellous special effects and representations of how time operates, absent Marvel’s signature and tired quippy style the approach to humour, rendering it organically and as we’ve come accustomed to these characters interacting when under pressure, is very welcome. Shoehorning in nothing, this well-considered, well-staged and utterly thrilling take on Star Trek will go down among it’s best.
Star Trek: Discovery is now streaming on Netflix