Star Trek: Discovery S2E1: Brother

We’re back! Discovery‘s season 2 pauses before diving back into the action, with a  terrific intro that shows footage from the real-life Cassini probe while Burnham intones the magic words, “Space… the final frontier.” But instead of hearing about the voyages of the Starship Discovery, we get a meditation on humanity’s first yearning for the stars and earliest creation mythos, which segues into Burnham’s own mythos—young Michael meeting her new adoptive parents… and her standoffish adoptive brother, Spock.

Post-credits, we pick up where the Season 1 cliffhanger ended, with a distress call from a derelict Starship Enterprise, and Captain Christopher Pike taking command of Discovery and her skeptical crew. He leads them into Disco‘s typical mix of high adventure, weird science, and mystery, as six mysterious pulses appear around the galaxy, and with Enterprise nearly destroyed, it’s up to Discovery to fly into danger and solve the mystery.

The flying into danger sequences work like gangbusters, and one of Discovery‘s strengths is that it finally has the special effects to do what earlier Trek shows had to approximate with plywood sets. We get a high-speed chase through an asteroid field, a daring rescue, some show-offy CGI exteriors of both ships, cool new alien designs, and transporter chief with a LaForge-type prosthetic as the episode’s token shout-out to what’s come before.

But when the episode isn’t moving at Disco‘s typical full throttle, the episode can drag, as Burnham ponders her troubled relationship with her foster brother without actually saying what the trouble is. Spock’s absent through most of the story, and he starts to feel like the episode’s Poochie—when he’s not on screen, (and the plot takes a break from hurtling forwards), everyone’s talking about him.

Discovery has always been at its best when it gives us something new, and the show often feels dragged down by trying to pay constant homage to the Trek canon, the Original Series in particular, and one feels this episode would be much improved if Burnham were an only child. And yet.

We end with just the faintest glimpse of our favorite half-Vulcan, and it’s enough to suck us right back in. Ethan Peck manages to echo Leonard Nimoy’s gravitas-laden voice enough to bring all of our—with apologies to Mr. Spock–emotion about the character into play. And whatever this season’s story arc is going to be, Spock is going to play a central role, and not as a calculating science officer. Disco seems to be revisiting Trek’s most iconic character, while also giving us something new. We won’t know what until next week.

Quick thoughts:

— Stamets doesn’t get much to do, but he’s still missing his murdered boyfriend Dr. Culber, so at least the show hasn’t compounded “Kill Your Gays” with “…Then Immediately Forget Them.”

— In the early going, Tilly’s back to being painfully awkward, which is a shame, given that they seem to be ignoring the character’s growth over the first season. She gets less annoying as the episode goes, so maybe it was just a bad early scene or two.

— Anson Mount does a fine job as Captain Pike, combining military bearing with a little warmth and charm. He manages to be serious while being very distinct from Jason Isaac’s prickly hardass from last season.

— Tig Notaro also shows up in a terrific supporting role as a cranky engineer. Here’s hoping she sticks around.

— The previews give us flashes of story, but more importantly, they assure us Michelle Yeoh is coming back. And all is right with the galaxy.