Just finished watching the series–er, second season finale of “Star Trek: Discovery”; it was epic, sweeping, emotional and (as usual) a bit overstuffed, but damn, it was gorgeous, too.
****QUANTUM SINGULARITY-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!****
Review of Star Trek: Discovery, S2.13; “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 1”
Part 2 picks up at the very end of Part 1, with the USS Enterprise under Capt. Pike (Anson Mount) and the USS Discovery under acting captain Saru (Doug Jones), along with a seemingly endless supply of armed shuttles and even armed maintenance vehicles from both ships padding out their impromptu armada. All ships are preparing to engage Leland/Control’s massive Section 31 fleet, as the Discovery crew are hurriedly creating a new time-suit for Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green). Burnham will then open a wormhole and lead Discovery safely on a one-way ticket into the future, keeping the ship’s precious, intractable sphere data safely away from Control.
As they engage the Control fleet, the possessed Captain Leland (Alan van Sprang) hails the Starfleet vessels with yet another surprise…swarms of even smaller ships break off from the already massive Control fleet, leaving the good guys seriously outgunned.
Enterprise’s and Discovery’s mission is to engage the Section 31 fleet long enough for Burnham to finish building/prepping her time suit, while engineer Jet Reno (Tig Notaro) charges the time crystal. These are not easy tasks to complete, as the ship around them is taking repeated hits from weapons fire.
During the early stages of the battle, as they are transferring the time-suit to the Discovery shuttle bay for launch, Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is gravely injured, and Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) rushes him to sickbay, where he has a reunion with his on-again/off-again lover Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). Culber stabilizes Stamets by putting him in a medically induced coma…but not before committing to be with him, wherever it takes them both.
The two fleets battle each other at close quarters for what seems like forever, until Burnham is ready to leave the shuttle bay in her time-suit with her brother Spock (Ethan Peck) riding shotgun in a shuttlecraft to assist with her pre-flight and to see her safely to time-launch.
Upon leaving the Discovery, Michael tries to create the wormhole that will enable she and the Discovery to jump forward in time, but she is thwarted. For some reason, she is unable to set future coordinates…
…until Spock remembers that she needs to appear in the past first. She, in her red angel suit, created the previous five ‘signals’ and thus, must travel to those points first, gathering all the people and materials necessary in order to make the current moment in time possible.
The battle is seemingly hopeless, as both Enterprise and Discovery are taking heavy damage to their weakening shields, when suddenly…
… a massive combined fleet of Klingon vessels enters the fray, led by Chancellor L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) with her ex-lover and current acting S31 operative, Tyler/Voq (Shazad Latif)at her side.
Also joining the battle fleet are ships from the planet Kanimar, the home planet of Discovery’s acting Kelpien captain Saru. The advanced Baul (the species formerly culling the Kelpiens before they reached maturity) are using their own warp-capable ships, now manned with Kelpien pilots, including Saru’s sister Siranna (Hanna Spear). Siranna has finally joined her adventurous brother out among the stars, as she is currently trying to save his embattled fleet. A sweet, if highly improbable reunion.
Michael then begins a series of frantic jumps, appearing at all of the various mission points earlier this season; the asteroid crash of the USS Hiawatha to rescue brilliant engineer Jet Reno, on to Terra Elysium (to find safe harbor for Discovery in the future), on to Kanimar (to unify the planet’s factions and help them in their current fight), on to Borath to get the Klingon time crystal, on to fetch dilithium crystal expert Queen Po (Yadira Guivara-Prip), etc. Michael has to be present at each and every one of the previous red angel destinations in order for them to ever occur, so that recent history will be set in order for Discovery to sail off into the future.
During the battle, an undetonated torpedo strikes the Enterprise saucer, as both Michael and Reno saw in their visions with the time crystal. Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), Number One and eventually Capt. Pike, all brainstorm in an attempt to disarm the torpedo before it explodes. When their combined efforts fail, Cornwell (like Spock in “The Wrath of Khan”) volunteers to stay behind to close the powerful blast door leading out to the other decks manually, thus minimizing damage to the rest of the Enterprise. She is successful, but of course, is killed in the ensuing blast. The crew briefly mourns the admiral’s sacrifice, and the Enterprise loses a large chunk of her forward saucer…
As if that wasn’t enough, the nanobot-compromised Captain Leland himself boards the Discovery in one last desperate attempt to steal the sphere data. He immediately encounters resistance from Section 31 operative Georgiou, and former Enterprise (now Discovery) security officer Nhan (Rachel Ancheril), who combine their ass-kicking efforts in a last-ditch effort to distract Leland/Control from gaining the data, which will make him (and his now-fully automated fleet) virtually invulnerable, free to eliminate all sentient life in the universe.
Cleverly luring and trapping the cybernetically-compromised Leland in the Spore Drive chamber of Discovery’s engine room, Georgiou magnetizes the sealed chamber floor… thus physically separating the millions of metallic nano-bots from within Leland’s body and rendering them (and him) inert. The metallic nanobots are just so many tiny metal beads on the chamber floor as Leland is physically gutted from within. What’s left of Leland’s human form is as dead as fried chicken. The giggle on Georgiou’s face is just so wonderfully twisted…Michelle Yeoh truly is priceless.
Burnham, having set the recent past to rights, is back to take Discovery into the future. She and Spock anticipate going there together, but there is a problem with Spock’s shuttle; during the battle one of his engines was damaged in a hit, and he is unable to fly out with her and the Discovery as promised.
With no time to take him in via tractor beam, Spock and his sister make a final tearful farewell to each other, to be separated not by sibling squabbling or different assignments, but centuries of time (!). They say “I love you” to each other in Vulcan and part, never to see each other ever again.
With Control dead, the Control/Section 31 fleet powers down, yet Discovery is still determined to fly into the future with Michael leading the way as the ‘red angel.’ Their flight is very reminiscent of the wormhole sequence from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (a film the episode references visually several times) with various light-streaking effects as the crew is plunged forward in time… presumably to Terra Elysium (the ship’s designated safe haven) and in the point in time occupied by Michael’s mother.
With Leland/Control dead, and its Section 31 fleet powered down, I’m not exactly sure why Discovery still had to flee the 23rd century, but maybe I missed something (…?). At any rate, their trip forward in time is a wild ride. Discovery jumps ahead in time to an unknown fate (to be seen in season 3), while a badly-damaged Enterprise is left behind in the 23rd century to pick up all of the shattered pieces of what just happened.
We cut to Starfleet Headquarters, in 23rd century San Francisco. Every surviving member of the Enterprise crew is giving debriefings on what happened, and each lies to protect Discovery from any possible reanimation of Control from going after them and their sphere data.
We see Pike, Spock, Tyler (who is given a now permanent rank of Section 31 commander), and Number One (turns out Number One is actually her given name) all swear that the USS Discovery was lost in battle, when a “critical failure of her spore drive” caused her to explode…with the loss of all hands. The crew are all sworn to highest secrecy not to reveal their knowledge of Section 31’s time travel suit, nor of the USS Discovery and her spore drive, so that such highly dangerous technology may never fall into the wrong hands. This kind of retro-explains why we don’t see or hear of time travel again in the Star Trek universe until Captain Kirk’s five year mission (“The Naked Time” being the ‘first’ time a Starfleet vessel traveled in time).
Spock says goodbye one final time to his parents (who are also sworn to secrecy), as they are never allowed to speak publicly about the highly classified ‘death’ of Michael Burnham ever again (thus explaining her complete absence from the original series and its movies). With the USS Enterprise fully repaired and ready to leave drydock, a clean-shaven Spock is back in uniform and on the bridge. Pike and executive officer Number One set a course, and the refit vessel gets underway…
The credits roll as we hear Discovery’s end title theme, as well as the familiar Star Trek Original Series’ theme, gently playing over each other.
Season 2 MVP Award:
Anson Mount’s Captain Pike.
Resurrecting a character who was literally there from the very beginning of Star Trek history (the late Jeffrey Hunter first played Capt. Christopher Pike in Star Trek’s first pilot, “The Cage”), Anson Mount took on the role and made it his own, adding to the character’s history considerably, and fleshing him out in ways we never got to see, since the character of Pike was dropped after Trek’s rejected first pilot was reworked to include William Shatner’s Kirk in the second attempt. Mount’s own likability and charm ensured a smooth landing for the character.
I initially resisted the idea of bringing too much of Star Trek’s earlier baggage onto Discovery (Pike, the Enterprise, etc), as there was a real danger of the show becoming less about Burnham’s Discovery and more about Christopher Pike. However, the easygoing charm of Anson Mount made it all academic. Now I find myself actually wishing for yet another prequel series of Pike’s unseen five year mission aboard the USS Enterprise… this from a guy who also originally hated the idea of Discovery being a prequel to begin with. Well done, Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike. You’ve proved me wrong.
A lot to unpack…
In what is inarguably the most visual effects-heavy season (or series) finales in the 53 year history of Star Trek, “Such Sweet Sorrow” part 2 is, at the very least, a remarkable demonstration of what Star Trek has evolved into over the past six decades…a long way from the hard candy-control buttons and paper mache rocks of the original series, at the very least. This series boasts higher production values than any prior Star Trek production… television series or movie.
While the season finale is undeniably a spectacular and entertaining piece of Star Trek, it also has a tendency towards unevenness; with most of the episode flashing by at breakneck speeds, almost to a loss in narrative coherency at times, while other moments (those long goodbyes) bring this otherwise full-steam ahead story to a dead stop. Pacing has been a thorn in this series’ paw since the beginning, I’m afraid.
I certainly appreciate the Discovery’s cast of characters getting in their goodbyes to their colleagues from the USS Enterprise (and to the 23rd century itself) but there were moments where the farewells were a bit longwinded. I mean, these characters were smack dab in the battle of their lives. While the actors certainly gave it their all, my patience wore thin at times. It’s one of the reasons that this 2nd season finale could’ve easily doubled as an end to the entire series if it hadn’t been picked up for a third season. The long (and sometimes labored) goodbying felt like Star Trek’s answer to MASH’s “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” (minus the latter’s 3 hour length, and with a lot more explosions…).
The time jump to the far future is a smart move for the ship (and the series), since the super-advanced starship USS Discovery, with her mycelium-network spore drive, will be much better off in Star Trek’s own future. Jumping into an unseen century frees the ship (and the show) from further bumping its head on the ceiling of continuity with the already-seen adventures of Captain Kirk’s USS Enterprise, which are only a few years away, according to the series’ clock.
While I applaud the time change, I have a nitpick with the all of Star Trek: Discovery’s major digressions from established Trek lore (spore drive, time travel, the threat of Control, Spock’s sister, etc) being kept at bay solely on the word of the survivors. That’s a rather flimsy safety net to reign it all in. Even Spock once said (in TOS’ “The Enterprise Incident”): “Military secrets are the most fleeting of all.”
On the plus side, this change of temporal venue means that the series will no longer have to be as careful of not stepping on the toes of previously established Star Trek canon… something it’s achieved with questionable results at best (an entire Klingon-Federation war that was never previously mentioned, for example). With the ship ‘officially’ declared lost with all hands, and knowledge of pre-original series time travel now classified, the Discovery and her crew are essentially ‘killed off’ in the 23rd century. They are free to live out the remainder of their years in a future that none of us have yet seen.
Steady as she goes.
For the first time since the end of Star Trek: Voyager, we will finally see a Star Trek series going beyond any timeframe seen in the original series (the previous three movies and TV series “Enterprise” all took place prior to the timeline of the original series). That prospect, for me, is both exciting and refreshing, as we really don’t know what to expect in the next season.
Without familiar places and faces, such as Captain Pike’s USS Enterprise, Sarek, Amanda or their son Spock, the Discovery will be without its prequel support network. It’s not only thrown the crutches away, it’s made a spectacular bonfire of them as well. The Star Trek universe will, once again, be a blank slate free of familiar faces and events. For the first time in what seems like a very long time, Star Trek will, once again, “go where no one has gone before.”
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