DeFlip Side #194: Discovery Soars

DeFlip Side #194:Disco.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

The wormhole has closed on the second season of Star Trek Discovery, and I’ve never been more excited about the future of my favorite franchise.

That’s not to say season two was perfect; but the good far, far outweighed the bad.

And the best thing about Discovey’s second season was its unswerving focus on main character Michael Burnham, and her continued character evolution. Michael’s story could easily have gotten lost, as she was sharing the spotlight with two Star Trek legends. But she remains the heart of the show, and we got to witness the genuinely moving culmination of an emotional arc that began for her way back in the series premiere. Soniqua Martin Green is amazing in the role, and I can’t wait to see how she reinvents Michael in season three.

Now, about those legends. . .

Let’s start with Captain Christopher Pike, awesomely portrayed by Anson Mount. He lent a depth and humor to Pike that Jeffrey Hunter never got the chance to. And his harrowing encounter with the time crystal on Boreth — which revealed his chair-bound fate — cemented him as one of the greatest Starfleet captains of all time, choosing duty and sacrifice, eyes open. And honestly the updated life-support chair and radiation burn makeup were worth the price of admission alone.

The other big guest this year was Spock, compellingly realized by Ethan Peck. Peck had heavy lifting to do as the first actor to don the pointed ears of Spock-prime since Leonard Nimoy — an impossible standard. So I give Peck and the writers credit for presenting us with a different Spock, at a crisis point in his life where he’s venting his emotions and struggling to find the Vulcan serenity that Nimoy evoked so brilliantly. Peck’s chief triumph was the chemistry his Spock shared with Michael. Their brother-sister relationship was wonderful, and I teared up during their final goodbye before Michael powered up the Red Angel suit and pulled Discovery into the future — presumably never to be heard from again.

About that. I think it was a very calculated move by the show runners to send the Disco 1,000 years into the future. They were no doubt sick of the litany of complaints by whining Trek fans who could not or would not reconcile the events of Discovery with their personal interpretation of canon. Every interview I’ve read with the cast and crew since the finale has invoked the “C” word, and how everything is now reconciled with the Trek we’ve always known. And I guess it is, sorta, if you discount the visual reboot. But that’s missing the point.

Sure, there are things to complain about. How was Hugh able to come back from the mycelial network if he was composed completely of spore material? How was the ship able to use the spore drive at all if it was so life-threatening to Stamets? Why the artificial ticking-clock drama if Discovery could spore-jump to literally any point in the galaxy, instantly? And since Georgiou defeated Leland at the last moment, eliminating the threat of CONTROL, why did Discovery have to go to the future at all? And how can Starfleet sweep the existence of Discovery and its crew under the top-secret rug, never to be spoken of again, when they were central to both the starting and the ending of the Klingon war?

Fans have raised these and other very valid questions. But focusing on them is refusing to see the forest for the trees. I accepted early this season that the writers were less interested in story mechanics than they were in presenting the emotional truth of the characters. This may be due to behind-the-scenes shakeups that led to mid-season course changes in the overall story arc. But through it all, the writers remained true to the characters, and on an emotional level Discovery soared.

Sometimes the writers went overboard, asking us to care too much, too fast about characters we’ve barely gotten to know. As with the death of Lieutenant Commander Airiam. She was largely set dressing until she was killed off. And the secondary bridge crew are still relative question marks. I hope they get more fleshed out as the ship finds itself in a future further than any we’ve ever seen in Trek.

And the future overall never looked brighter. We have the New Picard series coming, a Section 31 series, an animated comedy series for adults called “Below Decks” from a creator of Rick and Morty, and just announced this week:

Another animated Star Trek show coming to Nickelodeon. According to Star Trek.com, the CG animated series will “[follow] a group of lawless teens who discover a derelict Starfleet ship and use it to search for adventure, meaning and salvation.”

I don’t know what that means, exactly. Has kind of a Star Wars Rebels vibe. But in any event, this as-yet-unnamed Nickelodeon series will be the first Star Trek show available to a broadcast audience since the series finale of Enterprise in 2005. Which in itself is an indicator of Discovery’s success in reinvigorating the franchise. Clearly, the powers that be at CBS are jazzed about Star Trek again.

And so am I. I urge disgruntled fellow fans that still can’t reconcile where we are with where we’ve been, cast aside your prejudices of what you’ve always expected Star Trek to be, and embrace its inevitable evolution — as it boldly strives for infinite diversity, in infinite combinations.

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