Whether it’s due to the sophistication of audiences nowadays, a series of wildly lucky guesses or a less than airtight set, there’s no getting around the fact that the main shocks and surprises in this latter half of Discovery’s first season were neither shocking nor surprising to many of us, because the good people of the internet guessed them all long ago.
From the minute we met him, people were speculating that Lorca might be from the Mirror Universe. From his first day on the Discovery, people thought Ash Tyler might be a Klingon, and they worked out pretty quickly after that which Klingon he was. Even “I think Phillipa Georghiou’s the Emperor of the Mirror Universe!” was on comment threads almost as soon as we heard there was an Emperor of the Mirror Universe. So when one of the characters in Discovery’s second-last episode blithely announced that “No one could have predicted this!” my immediate reaction was: “But everybody did!”
Is that a bad thing? As consolation for the missing element of surprise, we did, after all have the excitement and the vindication of seeing the pieces fall into place just as we suspected they would, and the show definitely picked up the pace in the post-Christmas run (as if they knew we knew, so there was no point in making us wait), with the stakes and the speed escalating in thrilling and satisfying fashion. It was a great run of episodes and I really enjoyed it. But it wasn’t without its problems.
Lorca’s 180 degree shift from maverick pragmatist to murderous lunatic was a little too much of a jump for me for a start. Yes, I know the Capt Lorca we thought we knew was a lot less cuddly (in one sense, anyway, not the other – I mean, dude was hot) than most of our previous Star Trek captains, but given how long he spent and how successful he was at posing as a relatively sane, reasonable person, I could have bought the story a bit more easily if he’d wanted to challenge Emperor Georghiou for Federation-type Kum Ba Yah reasons of peace and equality, rather than garden variety megalomania. The Tyler/Voq conundrum was, by contrast, much more believable – Shazad Latif was great, Ash’s pain and confusion as his two personalities battled each other was palpable, and Tilly taking that first step to sit with him once Voq had been “subdued” made me cry. I love Tilly. And I love Tyler. Sending the de-Voq’d Tyler off with his PTSD and the architect of his agonies L’Rell at the end was both disappointing (does this mean he won’t be back for season 2? Or that we’ll have to sit through more endless scenes of people pretending to speak Klingon if we want to see Tyler at all?) and daft, though: his touchy-feely Federation pals struggled enough with how to deal with him, I really can’t see the Klingons being quite so kind. And if Tyler’s access to Voq’s memories was useful to Starfleet in trying to defeat the Klingons, it doesn’t take a Stamets-level genius to work out that the Klingons might want to use Tyler’s access to his own memories in trying to defeat Starfleet. After all, the war might be over for now, but it’s never completely over with the Klingons, whether they’re united under L’Rell or not.
The war did seem to end a little easily, too, though, now I mention it. NuGeorghiou gadding about like a space bandit, toting her secret McGuffin around, while she and the rest of the very obviously human away team somehow manage to stroll around the Klingon homeworld without being shot on sight. Mary Sue Burnham instantly achieving intergalactic peace after months of war and the death of billions by saying “here’s a bomb, go sort peace” to the incredulous L’Rell. And Stamets suddenly being absolutely fine. I mean, his boyfriend was murdered, he was hooked up to the universal equivalent of the national power grid crossed with Google maps, and his brain went completely, electro-tastically haywire, but never mind all that, he’s just dandy now, cheers!
And if the ending of the war was a little too easy, the ending of the season was a little too cheesy. It’s not enough that Burnham is Spock’s sister, and Spock’s parents are significant characters in the show, now Captain Pike and the Enterprise have rocked up too. Guys. Look, I get it. It’s a cute idea. Long-time fans will be excited by having yet another link to the original series. But there are supposed to be billions of people and scores of star systems in the United Federation of Planets. Does everybody need to know or meet someone from the USS Enterprise? This isn’t continuity, it’s using the show’s canon as a crutch.
Sigh. This is all sounding somewhat negative for a run of episodes I actually really liked, even if I didn’t entirely love the way they ended. Discovery’s first season didn’t start well for me, either, in fairness. By the third episode though, it won me over, and by the Christmas break I was hooked. Michael, in spite of or perhaps because of her impeccable Trek pedigree, irritated me throughout, but the brand new characters who weren’t in any way connected to or trading on previous Trek lore – Lorca, Saru, Tilly, Tyler and Stamets – were spiky, intriguing and different, and I loved watching them navigate their way through this darker, deeper, dirtier, and infinitely more diverse, chapter of the Trek pantheon. The Klingons were… mercifully less prone to long scenes with subtitles as the season progressed. And the ship itself was gorgeous.
I wasn’t sure when I started watching if there was life in tv Trek yet, but on the strength of this series, there absolutely can be. I’m hoping season two will focus more on people who aren’t related to Spock – I mean, I really like Spock, but give the guy and his relations a break; at this point, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see his Auntie Mary and his first cousin Hilda turn up – and look honestly at the consequences of the war and the need to rebuild, with some cool space fights and a load of beaming up and down in between. And if there’s anyway we can get Tyler and Lorca back (are we sure the Starfleet one is 100% dead?), I’d be more than happy with that too. Either way, see you next season, Discovery. It’s been fun.