Star Trek: Discovery season 2, review: New episode bound to divide fans

Eventually we will end up in a world where every viewer has their own personal version of Star Trek made to order

Ed Cumming
Friday 18 January 2019 08:42
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Star Trek Discovery Season 2 trailer for Netflix

"We have always looked to the stars to discover who we are," intones Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) at the start of this, the second series of the new Star Trek: Discovery. Television looks to Star Trek do discover what it is. Each iteration reflects the era: its technical abilities, its social politics, its tropes.

Discovery is entirely a child of its time, starting with the lead, for once not the ship's captain. The character's name is not a bad joke. Michael Burnham sounds like the white male manager of provincial M&S. In fact she is a black female Starfleet officer with a lot of brains and the odd reckless impulse.

Apparently this inspired a certain amount of hue and cry around the first series. The correct response to this is to tell the complainer to get a life, as so many Trekkies have been told over the years. The rest of the crew is a happy exercise in galaxy-wide diversity, with every human race and sexuality represented along with the usual smattering of aliens.

Other contemporary flourishes abound. The opening credits sequence has a Game of Thrones feel, replete with sombre cello notes. The dialogue, with its smattering of deadpan humour, is a nod to the Marvel films. Particularly egregious in this regard is Silvia Tilly, a heroically annoying ensign. The frenetic, special-effects-laden action sequences are more reminiscent of the Star Wars reboots than the most recent Star Trek films.

Star Trek has never been shy about self-reference. The first episode is a barrage of familiar names to the point that it might as well be called "Waiting for Spock". A new captain arrives on the ship, transferred from the stricken USS Enterprise. This is Christopher Pike (Ansom Mount), Captain Kirk's predecessor.

Amid all the diversity it is amusing to see a classic Hollywood leading man step into the chair: white, chiselled and firm. Mount has the decency to play him with the right amount of wit as he leads the crew questing after a mysterious signal. Absent is Pike's science officer, Spock. Burnham grew up with the Vulcan and is keen to see him despite some unspecified falling out. Martin-Green gives the series much of its core, conjuring depth from cartoonish circumstances.

It's easy enough to watch, if too hasty to get into the pew-pew space battle stuff. As with all things Trek, some fans will love this version, others will despise it. Social media will hum with their disagreement. Luckily there are so many now different versions of the programme that there is something for everyone.

Eventually we will end up in a world where every viewer has their own personal version of Star Trek made to order. Discussing Spock with her, Pike urges her not to expect too much, in order to avoid disappointment. Good luck telling that to the Trekkies.

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