I started watching Star Trek Discovery when it premiered in 2017, and it didn’t go well. I only made it a few episodes, and I didn’t like the speechifying Klingons (or the font used for their subtitles), I really didn’t like Burnham, and I generally found everybody so disagreeable that no one good thing was enough to overcome all the things that weren’t sitting well with me.
In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have mainlined Enterprise before trying Discovery back then, because 1) I definitely had Klingon burnout and 2) The loss of a crew that I loved had me clamoring for another crew to love. And when your series starts with a mutiny and then expects you to love its mutineer…that’s a big ask. So it took four years (including a year of quarantine) to decide to try again.
To give an idea of how it’s going: I restarted season one near the end of March. It was 15 episodes. As I write this, it’s April 12, I’m nine episodes into season two and Discovery has become the show for which I neglect all my other shows, housework, a little bit of sleep and most cooking that doesn’t involve a microwave or freezer so that I might watch just one more episode. (I also started writing this post at the conclusion of season one. And, well, it’s been days and here we are.)
There’s a lot of gushing I could and will do about season two, but for me the non-spoilery turning point came right around the time I stopped watching, actually. A lot of things happened, but for me, the biggest turnaround was what didn’t: Far less time was spent listening to Klingons mumble gruntily around their teeth while I sat there unable to take in the intricate surroundings and costuming because I don’t speak Klingon and had to follow along with the subtitles. This gave more time for the things I cared about.
Namely, gobs of character development.
Stamets and Michael Burnham both got much more likeable. Tilly grew on me in kind of adorable ways. Saru got real about Burnham’s betrayal, and most importantly, Captain Lorca started to seem like more than a bit of a warmonger. He’s a soldier for sure, but you see notes of the explorer in him, too. And while he is A+ at manipulating people to get what he wants, what he wants right now is to protect his people from the Klingon threat and go home. Of everyone, Burnham, Stamets and Lorca ended up growing the most in terms of personality. Sometimes that meant a deeper understanding of themselves and their comrades and sometimes it meant getting to inject just a smidge of much-needed levity (the myriad ways Lorca does not give a damn about a space whale never ceased to make me laugh).
And it needs that levity.
There’s no denying that Discovery is a darker Trek. It’s way more violent than The Next Generation, and the fights are way more graphic than William Shatner rolling around and swinging his arms like a hammer. Betrayal, corruption and war are themes throughout season one, but so are love, redemption and heroism. And while season one and what I’ve seen of season two certainly show us an imperfect Starfleet, the ideals of Starfleet remain in the individuals. And that makes Discovery feel new and different without feeling wholly alien to the franchise.
Speaking of season two, as I write these words, it’s now April 15, I’m on episode 13 of 14, and I have been absolutely blown away by it. There’s definitely an argument to be made that season one doesn’t feel as much like Trek as people wanted (and indeed even though I ended up really liking it, there were some developments that I was really disappointed by), and season two makes up for that in a couple ways that I don’t want to spoil up here.
On rewatch, I’ve come to realize that I would recommend Star Trek Discovery to pretty much anyone, and for people who might have abandoned it or feel like it isn’t for them, I’d encourage waiting it out. I think you’ll be glad you did.
I was going to put a lot of spoilery thoughts beneath a cut, but 1) This is getting long already, and 2) I really want to go finish season two. So, stay tuned for Star Trek: Discovery Spoiler Talk.