‘Discovery’ arrived at Comic-Con with a lighter tone and a greater focus on exploration.
When the first teaser for Star Trek: Discovery premiered at Comic-Con last year, concerns were raised. While some fans chose to remain optimistic, others were put off by the somber tone and muted color palette. What came after was a mixed first season. Bold and exciting in some parts, uninspired and derivative in others. And now, a year on, Discovery has just returned to Comic-Con with a new look and a spring in its step.
In the trailer for the upcoming season, set to air January 2019, we see a considerably lighter tone. And we get our first look at Anson Mount‘s Captain Pike, a newfound sense of humor, and even a Lenny Kravitz song.
The trailer opens with some gorgeous shots of space before a neat visual moves us to the USS Discovery at warp. In an ambiguous voiceover, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) talks about finding something out there in space. On screen, she stands amongst a wreckage as a mysterious figure approaches. A look of shock comes over her face as they get closer, with no indication as to whether this is good or bad.
Curiously, Burnham is wearing a space suit in this scene, as she is with Pike and newcomer Lt. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) later. We’re not entirely sure where this is taking place, but the damage suggests a ship without adequate life support.
We then see the aftermath of Season 1’s cliffhanger ending, where Discovery came into contact with the Enterprise. Pike assumes command of Discovery, leading to a slightly awkward exchange with acting captain Saru (Doug Jones). Pleasantries out of the way, the ship zooms off to investigate a mysterious signal.
Next up, Burnham, Pike, and Nhan do some investigating in their space suits. They pull phasers on a potential threat, who appear to be scanning them. A number of action shots follow as they navigate an asteroid field (or debris) in smaller spacecraft. This leads to a nice comedic moment, playing off of the crew dynamics only hinted at last season.
One of the things sorely missing from Season 1 was a sense of camaraderie within the crew. And while the back half the season finally gave them a cause to rally around, it came a little too late. So to see a more playful and familiar dynamic at work is certainly something to look forward to.
A delightful high five between Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) follows before things take a serious turn. One question that has hung over the whole show so far is whether we ever see a recast (again) Spock show up. After all, Burnham is his adopted sister. And his position on the Enterprise has given fans plenty to speculate on since the season finale.
And if this trailer is any indication, the show plans to waste no time addressing the elephant in the room. Well, by that I mean having Spock conveniently be on leave at this time. Although this does appear to be a plot point that’ll play into the story, as a search for Spock appears to be at the center of all this.
While showrunner Alex Kurtzman did confirm on the Comic-Con panel that Spock would be appearing, this could well be the young version director Jonathan Frakes previously let slip about. And although Zachary Quinto does terrific work in the rebooted movies, recasting the role again may not be a popular move, given Leonard Nimoy’s passing. How exactly the show plans on approaching this difficult issue remains to be seen.
Next up is the appearance of Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno from the USS Hiawatha. Notaro is a particular favorite of ours, and those familiar with her work should absolutely be looking forward to her guest role (for those unfamiliar, her new standup special Happy to Be Here is on Netflix now). She gets a fun line here, cutting through the tension and suggesting the type of easygoing character we’re in for.
As more action shots play, Pike suggests that the crew try to “have a little fun along the way,” letting us know that he’ll be a significant departure from the military-minded Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs). Kurtzman himself commented on how Pike differs from Discovery‘s previous captain:
“One of the things that was particularly nice about writing Pike, is that he has enough confidence and authority to apologize when he is wrong. I think that is something that Lorca would never do.”
A nice tidbit, reassuring fans that the classic character is in safe hands.
The trailer then closes with a lighthearted scene in an elevator, as our leads cross paths with Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson). A Saurian with a bad cold, he sneezes all over poor Lt. Connolly (Sean Connolly Affleck). It’s a silly gag, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave me with a smile on my face.
But what can we take from all this? Well, the show’s marketing appears to have undergone a change in the time since Season 1. Gone are the gloomy trailer songs and shots of dark corridors, in are Kravitz and nice new, well-lit interiors. They’ve even eased off the dark blues and purples that dominated the visuals of Season 1.
The extended monologues about the cost of war and images of exploding ships have also given way to a greater focus on exploration. The fact that the trailer revolves around exploring an unknown entity and trying to solve the mysteries of space is a step in the right direction for Discovery. And while there’s still plenty of action here, the show is no longer being marketed as a dour war show. Instead, looking more akin to the fun tone of the last movie, Star Trek Beyond.
Despite some humor here and there, mostly from Tilly and Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), Season 1 was a little joyless at times. After all, it’s hard to have too much fun during a devastating war. But with the arrival of Captain Pike, everyone’s spirits appear to be lifted. And the show as a whole seems significantly brighter this time around.
Casting Number One
Besides Spock, one of the most anticipated casting announcements was that of Number One. The nameless character, played by Majel Barrett, stood alongside Pike in the original Star Trek series pilot. Stepping into the role is Rebecca Romijn, who confirmed her casting on Twitter. Romijn is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Mystique in the original X-Men movies. But more recently, she had a leading role on The Librarians, which also saw her directed by Jonathan Frakes in numerous episodes.
The confident swagger, hiding many layers of pain, that she brought to Mystique always made her stand out in an already terrific cast. It was clear that some deeply buried trauma lay beneath the surface, which added layers to her badass displays. And even if it’s only a guest appearance, we’ll be fortunate to have her filling Barrett’s iconic role.
What to Expect from Season 2
In addition to Romijn’s casting, we also got a taste of what to look forward to in the upcoming season. Doug Jones revealed that Saru’s homeworld will be visited, teasing the idea of seeing the predators on the Kelpien’s home planet. Mary Chieffo‘s L’Rell will also be a continued presence on the show, after taking control of the Klingon Empire last season. Her story will run parallel with the Discovery‘s, giving us further insight into the Klingons in the aftermath of the war.
Wilson Cruz also had the following to say about Doctor Culber’s possible return:
“I’ll be back, I won’t be telling you how. But you know, we’re still reveling in the fact that this gay love has not only saved the world, but the universe. All of the universes. So you’re welcome.”
While his underwhelming death was unfortunate, it’s reassuring to know that we haven’t seen the last of his relationship with Stamets. He did appear via spore-induced visions at the end of Season 1, however, so anything is possible regarding his return.
Expanding the Universe
Also announced at Comic-Con were a new series of shorts, set to premiere in the months leading up to Discovery‘s second season. Called Short Treks, these will focus on four different characters during the show’s time period. The first will see Rainn Wilson reprise his role as Harry Mudd, in a short he’ll also direct. Saru’s backstory will be explored in another, as will Tilly’s early days aboard Discovery. And if the latter could lead to Jason Isaacs returning as Lorca, then count me in.
Perhaps most intriguing is the short starring Hidden Figures‘ Aldis Hodge. Hodge will play Craft, “a man who finds himself the only human on board a deserted ship.” Any opportunity to introduce new characters is welcome, as is the chance to give Hodge the spotlight. The actor has been seen in everything from Black Mirror to Straight Outta Compton in recent years, showing his versatility as an actor.
Kurtzman said of the Short Treks:
“Each episode will deliver closed-ended stories while revealing clues about what’s to come in future ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ episodes. They’ll also introduce audiences to new characters who may inhabit the larger world of ‘Star Trek.'”
The showrunner also answered questions on the recently announced additional shows. He kept his answers vague, but he and executive producer Heather Kadin did give fans plenty to anticipate. Kadin spoke of the variety of the upcoming projects, as they’ve gotten “comedy writers, animation writers, who just want so desperately to be a part of Trek.”
They also confirmed that “conversations” are being had about the animated series fans have been speculating on. In addition to this, Kurtzman also expressed interest in the potential Picard and Khan shows. While it’s far from a confirmation, he did say that “it’d be really cool to see something like that.”
Of the expanding TV universe, Kurtzman also stated the following:
“We are doing a lot of work on building out the universe, and we’re wanting to take our time, but there’s a lot of exciting things on the horizon.”
While the recent behind the scenes shakeups may have caused concerns, Discovery is showing no signs of slowing down. After the mixed bag of Season 1, it seems that an effort has been made to steer the show in the right direction. And beyond Discovery, the future of the franchise gives us plenty to be excited about.