Star Trek Discovery Remembers What Star Trek Is About
And with that we’ve come to the end of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. Weird, because it feels like it just came back. After leaving us on a cliffhanger over a long holiday break, it came back in another universe. We spent a few episodes, there, two in the near future and now here we are. Staring down an even longer hiatus until season two. I’m so happy it’s getting a season two. Star Trek: Discovery didn’t have a perfect first season, but what Star Trek show did? The original series certainly dragged at times in its first year. You can almost skip The Next Generations first season entirely. Even Deep Space Nine, the best Star Trek (fight me), took some time to find itself. An unsure, polarizing first season is pretty much the most Trek thing you can do.Discovery found itself fairly quickly, mainly because it centered itself around one big question. What happens to Starfleet in a time of war? When faced with a threat that isn’t interested in peace, that doesn’t play by your rules, how much of your own identity are you willing to sacrifice to survive? That’s what this finale was about. Starfleet has enlisted Mirror Georgiou, who knows how to destroy the “cancer” of the Klingon Empire “at its source.” Not a very Starfleet-friendly strategy, but it looks like that’s what they’re doing. The Discovery is slowly approaching the Klingon Homeworld Qo’noS, and Georgiou is running the ship like a tyrant. Saru and Burnham are clearly uncomfortable with her genocidal plan, but Georgiou makes it clear that, at least for now, she is the captain of the Discovery. Also, they’ve somehow managed to convince everyone on the bridge (except for Burnham and Saru) that she’s this universe’s Georgiou, which… doesn’t make any sense. Everyone on the Discovery knows they’ve been in another universe. A dead woman shows up with a complete change in personality and they don’t think she could possibly be a Mirror person? Wasn’t this supposed to be a science vessel?Mirror Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) (Photo via CBS)Her rule gets super uncomfortable. She needs a place to land the Discovery, so she can attack the Klingon homeworld. And she’s willing to torture L’Rell to get that information. We start to see clear differences between Georgiou and Burnham. From the beginning, Burnham has been marked as a mutineer. Lorca was drawn to her because he felt she could do, when necessary, what Starfleet wouldn’t. We know she’s emotional, and can be violent at times, but she’s not sadistic like Mirror Georgiou is. Burnham stops the torture by offering up Tyler. He still has all of Voq’s memories, and knows exactly where the Discovery can land. The episode handles the Tyler-Burnham plot much better than the last one did. It doesn’t have a ton of time to spend on relationship melodrama. Tyler and Burnham’s interactions are quick, subtle and sad, as he reluctantly agrees to help Georgiou. It’s a lot more effective this way.Once Stamets hides the Discovery Georgiou, Burnham, Tyler and Tilly beam out to a black market looking for information and supplies. The justification for bringing Tilly along is a little thin, but I’m glad they brought her along. She adds her trademark awkward comic relief to what would otherwise be an unrelentingly dark and serious group of scenes. Tilly is a great character, and I’m so sad we didn’t get more of her this season. I really hope her character is fleshed out much more in season two. I’d like to see that from a lot of side characters, but her especially. Her drive to become a captain was so good, and it’d be a shame for it to end with her brief tyrant-play in the Mirror Universe.Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) (Photo via CBS)This is when the episode delivers its twist. Philippa betrays the landing party, revealing her true intentions were to destroy the entire planet. And she does. We see Qo’noS blow-up, and we realize… we’ve been watching a simulation the whole time. Holodeck episode! At least up until this point. After showing Admiral Cornwell and the crew of the Discovery exactly what comes of following the Terran way, she offers them a choice. And it’s at this moment that Discovery, both the ship and the show, decide what it wants to be. It’s true Star Trek all the way. The ship decides not to sacrifice Starfleet’s ideals to win a war. They take things one step further by outsmarting Georgiou. There’s no climactic action sequence, no explosion-filled battle. Burnham defeats Georgiou by using her wits. She tricks Georgiou into voluntarily signing her bomb over to L’Rell. Then, she convinces L’Rell to lead the Klingons herself and end the war. It takes some bomb-enhanced persuasion, but peace is declared without anyone needing to die. That’s pretty Trek.It’s not perfect. Burnham being the one to remind Starfleet who they are works really well for this series, but only because it we never really got to see this version of the Federation. The Discovery spent so much time doing its own thing that the war barely even registered. We never got to see how the war affected the Federation. We were only told it did. Don’t get me wrong; I like that the season wasn’t consumed by war. It allowed the show to play around in this universe and find those moments of true Star Trek, well, discovery. But it’s hard to care about a war, or a Starfleet, that we never get to see. It works to build a compelling arc for Burnham, but I still don’t feel at home in this universe just yet.Ambassador Sarek (James Frain) and First Officer Saru (Doug Jones) (Photo via CBS)The episode closes out giving us the Star Trek show we wanted from the beginning. Only now, we see why it didn’t just give it to us. Getting to the utopian Federation we see in later series takes work. You go through some really dark times to get there. With the war ending in a truce, there is now a clear path to the next generation. Burnham reminds Starfleet (and us) of this as the crew of the Discovery is awarded medals of honor for their service. And yes, it looks like Captain Tilly will be happening. At some point in the future, anyway. We still didn’t get a good resolution for Stamets and Culber. And I’ll admit, it hit me right in the gut when we saw Stamets holding his husband’s medal. I can only hope their love story continues next season.Like every first season of Star Trek, Discovery has been odd, uneven and polarizing. It also told a cohesive story and left the universe in a better place at the end. While the uplifting, affirming ending doesn’t excuse some of the more baffling decisions and poorly-written romantic subplots, it definitely pulled it all out in the end. Even Tyler and Burnham’s tearful goodbye, as he joined L’Rell to lead the Klingon Empire, felt earned and real. The show spent a lot of time building that relationship up. It was corny and eyeroll-worthy at times, but in the end, it was sad to see it go. Now, we begin the long wait until season two. And boy, does this show ever know how to keep us salivating for more. As the Discovery heads towards Vulcan to pick up its new captain, it’s waylaid by a distress signal. As the ship’s registry numbers start to come through, you immediately know what’s about to happen. Then, you hear the name “Pike.” The season ends with an image of the Discovery coming face-to-face with the Enterprise. They even throw in the classic Star Trek theme over the credits. And that’s what they leave us with until God knows when. They have our number. Jerks. 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