Season two kicks off with one of the best hours of Star Trek in a long time
The first season of Star Trek: Discovery ended with the ship encountering a distress signal from the infamous USS Enterprise and as the second season picked up moments later, so came with it a wave of nostalgia wrapped up in action, drama and just a healthy dash of humour. There was a noticeable shift in tone with Brother; the Klingon War that had dominated the first season was over and there was a sense that the crew of the Discovery were in a period of relief. No longer was the fate of the Federation resting in their hands and for the first time, there was even the hint of excitement in the adventures to come.
One of the biggest successes of the first season was its ability to add some levity to the darkness and high drama and that dominated the Klingon War and Mirror Universe arcs and if anything that levity has been carried through and amplified in the first episode of this season. Brother is feels more breezy from the start. This can only be a good thing and it feels like Alex Kurtzman, who has taken on full show runner duties this year, is ready to embrace the fun that often accompanied the Original Series. Don’t be mistaken though – this is a very modern take on Trek and builds beautifully on the foundations that were laid down in the first season.
With Discovery sans-Captain following Lorca’s betrayal and the Enterprise is suffering technical difficulties so we find literally jumping ship Captain Pike (Anson Mount) takes command for the duration of his mission to investigate a mysterious signal that has been picked up by the Federation. Pike is joined by his science officer – who to our and Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) surprise is NOT Spock but a Lt. Connolly – and Cmdr. Nahn (Rachael Ancheril) who may well have a larger role than the couple of words she had in this season premiere.
On arriving at the source of the mysterious signals the Discovery encounters an asteroid field with very odd properties and on further investigation discover a crashed Federation medical frigate, the USS Hiawatha, thought lost during the Klingon war. With transporters unable to penetrate the asteroid field’s interference and it being far too dangerous to navigate with a shuttle, Burnham, Pike and his two companions take some smaller experimental craft down to search for life and, if found, set up equipment to allow any survivors to be transported back to the Discovery.
Unfortunately, a particularly cocky Connolly ignores Burnham’s advice and ends up being sideswiped by an asteroid. Pike also finds his craft damaged during the journey forcing Burnham to take on the heroic duty of saving him and earning his respect in the process. On the Hiawatha we’re quickly introduced to the surviving ship’s engineer, Jett Reno (Tig Notaro), who could be a brilliant addition to the cast – especially if, as hinted at in the episode, Anthony Rapp’s Stamets departs at some point soon.
The big question that hovers over the episode is where IS Spock? Neither Sarek (James Frain) or Burnham have spoken to him for years and until the Enterprise arrival they were under the impression he was on there. Despite this, his shadow looms over the whole story and we’re treated to flashbacks of a young Michael meeting her foster brother for the first time and the young Spock’s refusal to accept her into his life. The Spock here feels like a much more conflicted character from the off – could his half Human, half Vulcan heritage play a much bigger part in this take on the character? By episode end Burnham broaches the subject with Pike who reveals he’s taken a leave of absence – and when Burnham visits his quarters on the Enterprise she discovers that he is actually missing, maybe (but we know he isn’t) dead, and has been investigating the very same mysterious signals that sent the Discovery on this latest sojourn in the first place.
Brother feels like a series premiere – it resets the show and gives it a new purpose. The introduction of Pike allows us a second introduction to the crew and cast of Discovery at the same time, and one that takes time to give the ensemble far more of a role – many of the familiar, yet surprisingly anonymous, faces had more to say and do in this one episode than they had in the whole first season – Detmer (Emily Coutts), Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) and even augmented human, Airiam (Sarah Mitich) might have only had a few words but they already felt they had more depth of character as a result of how they were used. Tilly also had some of the episode’s standout moments and Mary Wiseman’s performance continues one of the most joyous things about Discovery – there was one hugely touching scene between her and Stamets that highlighted everything wonderful about the character.
There was plenty here to make Brother not only the perfect way to start the second season of the show, it was also one of the strongest hours of Star Trek we’ve seen in the last two decades. It is clear that Kurtzman has taken onboard some of the criticism that the show had in its first year and used that to softly mould the series into something that feels like it might sit within the same universe as, at the very least, Star Trek: The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. There is a warmth that was lacking from the entire first season and the whole thing just felt more fresh and this alone is enough to make this reviewer excited for what is around the corner.
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