‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Shows Some Growth In Its Second Season

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

Early next year, CBS All Access will debut the latest entry in the long-running Star Trek franchise in the form of Star Trek: Picard.  The series’ debut is set for April 2020.  According to information from multiple media outlets, the third season of the streaming service’s other Star Trek series, Discovery will premiere.  While audiences wait for the premiere of Discovery’s third season, they have the series’ to take in on DVD and Blu-ray.  Officially released Nov. 12, the series’ second season is a slight improvement from its debut season.  That is proven in part through the season’s writing, which will be addressed shortly.  At the same time that the writing has provided a certain improvement from the series’ first season, it also has proven to be a negative to the season.  This will also be addressed.  The season’s acting rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed here.  Between the writing and acting, audiences get in the second season of Discovery, an example of a show that is improving, but still has a very long way to go before it can be considered among the best of Star Trek’s series.Star Trek: Picard

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery is a small step up from the series’ debut season.  It shows that the series has some potential.  That is due in part to the series’ writing.  The writing offers audiences far more lighthearted moments this time out than in Season One.  There are more jokes and casual moments featured throughout the season’s 14 episodes this time around.  That could be perhaps because the crew of the Discovery has more breathing room, what with the war with the Klingons ended after Season One.  It is nice to see those more lighthearted moments, as it shows that the show’s writers apparently don’t constantly take themselves with a lot of seriousness and can offer some entertainment.

The writing offers entertainment not just through lots of lighthearted moments this season, but also in the more action packed moments.  Those moments are many throughout the season, too.  From the crew’s dealings with “Control,” which are essentially the ancestors of the Borg, to the fights with Capt. Leland to the final epic battle in the season’s two-part finale, there is just as much enjoyable action throughout the season as there is joking and lightheartedness.  The combination of those elements shows that clearly a lot of time and thought was put into improving the writing for this season.  The time and thought paid off, clearly.

For all of the payoff that the noted time and thought had in the writing, it also proved just as much a negative as a positive.  That is proven as there is an overabundance of unnecessary, over-the-top drama throughout the season, too.  From the season premiere to its exciting two-part finale, the show’s writing team gave star Sonequa Martin-Green more than her share of screen time and just as many opportunities to shed a river of tears and then some.  Between her personal moment with Saru when it appears he is going to die (not to give away too much here, but Saru doesn’t die), her nonstop emotional confrontations with Spock and her adopted parents, to her full-on emotional breakdown after another of her ship mates forced her to send her out of an airlock, killing her, Martin-Green gets plenty of crying time on screen.  As if all of that is not enough, Anson Mount’s extraordinarily (and unnecessarily) long speeches as the season nears its end make it quite easy for audiences to hit the fast forward button on their remotes.  The ongoing drama between Hugh and Stamets, and the seemingly never-ending drama between Michael and Ash adds to that overabundance of drama, too.  That overabundance of drama sadly detract quite a bit from the season’s overall general effect and make it difficult for audiences to take seriously.  Rather, they give the season more of a feel of one big supernova of an interstellar soap opera than an action, science fiction series.  Simply put, the overabundance of drama tied into Season two’s presentation does just as much to hurt this show even more as the more lighthearted moments do in order to make the show more enjoyable.  To that end, one can only hope that the show’s writers will continue to infuse more light dialogue next season than drama.  If they don’t go that route, odds are, it will just continue to alienate fans (no pun intended) and find itself ending sooner rather than later.

While the writing incorporated into Discovery’s second season is both a pro and a con, the one element that can be said to be a full positive is the work of the show’s cast.  Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) is a wonderful addition to the cast.  His portrayal of Capt. Pike makes him one of the best additions to the cast.  He really conjures thoughts of Capt. Kirk as he directly contrasts the much harder-edged presence of Capt. Lorca.  Getting off topic for a moment, the writes mention Lorca in the opening episodes of the season, but still do nothing to explain away what happened to the prime universe Lorca, since it was revealed that Discovery’s Lorca was from the alternate universe.  Getting back on topic, Mount effortlessly makes Pike a character that every viewer loves just as much as the Discovery’s crew.  He cracks jokes with the bridge crew, shoots sarcastic remarks at Ash and Emporor Georgiou, and takes control when the heat is on, just as a good leader would.  He just shows so much charisma throughout.  It makes it too bad that he allegedly will not return for the series’ third season.

Another notable acting job from Season Two comes from newcomer Tig Notaro.  Notaro, who takes on the role of Federation Engineer Jett Reno plays expertly off of Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets).  The verbal barbs that Reno so willingly shoots at Stamets are among the best of the season’s lighthearted moments.  Her timing and general presence makes for some of the season’s best laughs.  In the same breath, she shows her own unique brand of care as she talks to Hugh about his relationship with Paul (yes, Hugh does return this season, albeit in a rather comic book-esque fashion, which is another issue with the writing that detracts from the season’s general effect).  She maintain’s Reno’s edge, but still manages to show Reno has a heart in the process.  It makes her quite the sympathetic character and talented actor.  Between her acting, that of fellow newcomer Anson Mount and Ethan Peck (who plays Spock – Peck’s take on the timeless, beloved figure is noteworthy in its own right), audiences have just as much reason to watch this season for its acting as for the growth exhibited in the show’s writing.  One can only hope that between the growth exhibited in the writing and the positive acting jobs of the cast, the improvements made in this season will continue in Season Three and continue to help this show prove its potential.

Paramount Pictures and CBS’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe, Discovery has show n significant growth in its second season from its debut season.  That is evident in part in the season’s writing, which attempts to offer more lighthearted moments to balance out its overabundance of unnecessary over the top drama.  Speaking of the drama, there is a lot of that, which seriously detracts from the season, along with the oftentimes dizzying cinematography.  Thankfully, as much as those items detract from the season’s presentation, they are not enough to make the season completely unwatchable.  The on-camera work of some of the show’s new cast members adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  Each item is key in its own way to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, they show this season has the potential for growth, if only its creative heads won’t let it become the full-on interstellar soap opera that it largely become this season.  Here’s to hoping Season Three will avoid all that drama and instead opt for more action than overdrawn, overabundant and unnecessary tear-filled jaunts.  If they do that, it can make Season Three a major turning point for Discovery; if and only if they go that route.  Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on the series is available online now at:

 

 

 

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CBS All Access’ New ‘Star Trek’ Series Fails In Its First Season

Courtesy: CBS Television Studios/Paramount

In a little more than a month, CBS All Access’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe – Star Trek: Discovery — returns for its second season.  While audiences count the days until the fledgling series returns, they have its debut season to take in on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of CBS Television Studios and Paramount Home Entertainment.  Released in stores Nov. 13 on separate DVD and Blu-ray sets, Season One’s home release offers both pros and cons to note, beginning with the series’ very writing.  It will be discussed shortly.  The set’s bonus content is its own positive, and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s average price point is also important to discuss, and will be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery proves to be a new start for the Star Trek universe that is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.

The debut season of CBS All Access’ new Star Trek offering, Star Trek: Discovery is a rough new start for the Star Trek universe’s latest offering.  It is not the franchise’s worst entry, but definitely is not the franchise’s best entry, either.  That is due in part to the writing, which like Paramount’s 2009 big screen Star Trek reboot, is little more than just another revisiting of the Star Trek universe’s past.  It takes audiences into the past, attempting to show what led to the never-ending tensions between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.  The result is a presentation that conjures thoughts more of SyFy Channel’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot than any Star Trek entry, either on the big or small screen.  This is just the beginning of the problems with the writing, because the set-off is actually somewhat ambiguous.  Were the Klingons already planning to rise up before the incident with Michael Bernham and the Klingon warrior, or did it only happen after that incident?  Audiences know that said incident played at least in part to the conflict, but because of the dialogue featured throughout the early episodes of Season One, audiences will be left scratching their heads to a point as to that setup.

As season one progresses, it resurrects some ST story elements that are all too familiar to longtime ST fans.  One of those elements is a time loop arc. Another is the alternate universe story arc.  The time loop has been done already in Star Trek: The Next Generation while the alternate universe arc was used in Star Trek: TOS.  This series’ writers try to freshen up the time loop arc by setting it off through a character that fans of TOS will recognize, and while it does work to a point, the story starts to plod along after a while, getting lost in itself along the way.  The alternate universe arc proves even more problematic not only because it’s already been done, but also because it creates its own share of plot holes.  Not to give away too much for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen Season One, but if the alternate universe has the evil twins of the Discovery “prime” universe – the term “prime” is actually used by Berham in this arc – then where is the “good” twin of Capt. Lorca and the “evil” twin of Bernham?  Bernham’s doppelganger is mentioned by the “evil” Phillipa, but the writers never address where she is in a bigger sense.  Nor is it mentioned where the “good” Capt. Lorca is or if there even is a “good Capt. Lorca.  The writers try to explain it away in an early scene in the arc between Discovery’s Bernham and Lorca, but it is still ultimately left up in the air.  Even Paul Stamets’ double is introduced as he sits in a coma.  This is its own problem as one can’t help but make comparison to so many soap operas, as every major soap opera has done the coma “dream sequence” way too many times.  Getting back on track, even as Discovery gets back to its own universe, the whereabouts of the “evil” Discovery ship is not addressed, either.  Where is it?  Did it go back to its universe when Discovery jumped back to its universe?  Again, here audiences have a plot hole that is left wide open even as the writers struggle to address the situation in the story arc’s finale.

Another plot hole that is left wide open involves Bernham’s adoptive father, (who also proves to be the father of another even more well-known Star Trek character) Sarek.  Again, not to give away too much, but Sarek is rescued after his ship is sabotaged (in a moment that makes one think of something from Iron Man 3), but after his rescue, his character is ignored until the season’s final two episodes.  Audiences don’t hear from him after Bernham leaves him laying in sick bay, recovering from his wounds.  Next time he’s seen, he’s in full health.  This is problematic as it doesn’t take long after that instance for the problems to start again for Discovery.  Was Sarek still on the ship at that point?  When did he leave the ship?  Again, this is a plot hole that simply cannot be ignored.  It proves the writing that much more problematic.  This still is not the last of the issues raised through an examination of the writing.  The introduction of Lt. Tyler creates its own issue.

The introduction of Lt. Tyler is a direct comparison to Battlestar Galactica.  This critic will attempt to not give away too much information here, but the revelation about who and what Tyler is makes that comparison far too easy.  The recent reboot of Battlestar Galactica saw the Cylons infiltrate the humans’ ranks by making them look like the humans.  This in itself was a lifting from Terminator 2 (if not other previous movies and TV shows).  What the writers did here with Tyler is very similar, but instead of making him a robot, they made him something else.  Audiences who have yet to see this season will be left to make that discovery themselves, but it goes without saying that it has been done before.  In this case, it is the same thing, just altered slightly and in more gory fashion.

As if the general story elements, the plot holes and that they create, and the rehashing of another element are not enough, the smaller items of the writing prove just as problematic for this presentation.  There is lots of overt bloodshed, gore, sexual content and foul language.  Given, maybe her and there, there has been some mildly suggestive material in previous Star Trek incarnations, but never was it to the point that it is here.  There are flashes of a sex scene between one of the lead Klingon characters and another character late in the season’s run.  There is also enough bloodshed and overt violence to appease the most bloodthirsty person.  It’s a disappointment because none of the Star Trek universe’s other series’ needed any of that in order to be even mildly entertaining.  So, why did the writers think it was needed here?  Have audiences really become that dependent on violence and sexuality?  If so, then that is in itself is a troubling statement.

While the writing exhibited in the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery does a lot to detract from its presentation, the set is not a total loss.  That is thanks to the bonus content featured throughout the set.  Throughout the set, audiences are treated to featurettes, which focus on the series’ sets, costumes, makeup and even the philosophical aspects of the storylines as well as other items.  The discussions on the stories’ deeper ruminations are interesting, and do create at least a little bit of appreciation for the work that the writers put in.  After all, this is not the only Star Trek entry that has striverd to use its stories to create dialogues on certain deep topics.  However, it sadly is not enough to make up for the bigger problems posed through the writing.  The discussions on the sets and costumes make for fun glances behind the cameras,  Audiences will be interested to see how the costume and makeup departments used modern 3D printing technology alongside more traditional methodology to create the look of the Klingons.  In the same vein, the thought and effort put into the sets is just as interesting.  This feature will appeal just as much to theater production specialists as it will to general audiences.

As the season comes to an end, audiences are treated to another, different type of feature in the season retrospective, “The Journey of Season 1.”  This roughly 20-minute featurette features discussions from the show’s cast and creative heads about their favorite episodes and the importance of those episodes to the season’s overall presentation.  This brings everything full circle in regards to the bonuses.  It brings back those discussions on the season’s philosophical elements while also letting more people offer their own perspective on those themes.  Of course it is just one more of the bonus features worth watching.  The bonuses, including deleted scenes (at least one of which gives a hint about Season 2), are spread throughout the season’s discs.  This is important in that it shows Paramount and CBS Television Studios did not try to just cram a bunch of random featuerettes onto the last disc, unlike what so many other studios do.  It shows the companies wanted to give audiences the biggest bang for their buck.  They succeeded at that, too.

Speaking of bang for the buck, the set’s average price point is respectable.  The average price point for the season’s Blu-ray presentation – using prices listed at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million – comes to $39.86.  In other words it comes in at just under $40.  The DVD set’s average price – using those same outlets – comes to $32.14.  Both sets feature the same bonus content and the same episodes.  There is no real difference between the two platforms in terms of content.  Considering this, the pricing here is on part with other DVD and Blu-ray sets for other TV series, so there is that to appreciate.  Considering the entertainment that the bonus material (and to a slightly lesser degree, the primary content) offers, that makes both platforms’ average pricing respectable.  When this is considered alongside the noted bonus and primary content, the whole of Discovery: Season One proves worth at least one watch, but sadly, no more.

CBS All Access’ latest journey into the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is a presentation that is nothing like its predecessors.  More akin to Syfy’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot and Disney’s most recent Star Wars movies, this latest revisiting of the Star Trek universe history’s past (it has already been done in 2009 with Paramount’s big screen Star Trek reboot) suffers severely from writing problems, such as lagging story arcs that are often times overflowing with plot holes and general lack of creativity.  Additionally, the overall cinematic nature of the season, and the knowledge that the series is a serial (unlike its predecessors) makes this season feel more like one big movie than a general TV series.  Some people will like it, but others – like this critic – will very much dislike these aspects.  The bonus content spread across the set’s discs does at least a little bit to make up for the problems posed by the writing.  The average price point for the set’s separate DVD and Blu-ray platforms lets audiences know that their money spent was not entirely wasted.  Despite that affordable price point and the positives in the bonus material, the problems posed by the writing are just too much to overcome.  In general, the positives of the pricing and secondary content makes this set worth at least one watch, but sadly no more than that.  Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is available now in stores and online.  More information on Star Trek: Discovery is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

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