'Star Trek: Discovery' finale thoughts and season 2 questions

"Discovery" may not have felt like Trek to start with, but it does now.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Last year " Star Trek : Discovery" began with a few elements that didn't seem very "Trek". It spotlighted a hero other than the captain. It followed an ongoing arc rather than standalone episodes. And for a ship called USS Discovery, there was very little seeking out new life and new civilisations.

But now the first season has drawn to a climax with episode 15, "Will You Take My Hand?" it seems like the show wasn't about discovering new life after all. It was about discovering what made "Star Trek", "Star Trek". And in the season 1 finale the show came full circle back to its own genesis and to "The Original Series".

With spoilers, here's some thoughts about season 1 -- and some questions for season 2.

Full circle

"Will You Take My Hand?" confronts Burnham with the same dilemma she faced in the very first episodes "The Vulcan Hello" and "Battle at the Binary Stars". Once again she faces the Klingons and must choose whether to be the aggressor or seek peaceful resolution. At the Binary Stars she chose to fight. Here, she searches for another way -- the Starfleet way.

By focusing on war and the terrible things people do when desperate, "Discovery" has sometimes felt light years from the utopian dream of previous Star Treks. It turns out that was the point. I couldn't figure out why this show had to be a prequel -- for me, the uniforms and the production design just didn't fit into the timeline -- but as the story unfolds to its finale, I finally understand. This is a story about the people of the Federation and Starfleet discovering that utopia inside themselves.

Maybe "Discovery" didn't feel like "Trek" to start with, but it does now. 

Which is why only now can the USS Enterprise appear, symbolically tying this discovery to "The Original Series". As does the cameo by Clint Howard, who appeared in "The Corbomite Maneuever", the first episode of TOS shot after the pilots.

We'll always have Paris

Our hero Michael Burnham has completed the journey she began in the opening episode. And now she's officially back in Starfleet the scene is set for the journey to continue.

The show wraps up with medals all round, but instead of journeying to HQ in San Francisco as in previous versions, we find ourselves in Paris. Maybe that's a reminder that the Federation is never just one place, but rather a collection of peoples and places.

Context Is for Kings
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Context Is for Kings

Will Jason Isaacs return?

Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive

Boldly going bad

Lorca is stardust. Georgiou is free to roam the galaxy, for some reason. And perhaps most surprising, Ash Tyler is off to hang out with the Klingons instead of staying aboard the USS Discovery. Between them, they've been some of the most complex and interesting villains in "Trek" history, and I'm sad to see the back of them.

Season 2 will no doubt see some new and equally interesting bad guys show up. The door is certainly open to see more of Georgiou and Tyler in season 2, but I'd most like to see Lorca come back. Maybe the original universe Lorca will show up, or perhaps the Terran version ended up zapped back into our universe again somehow. It doesn't have to make sense, it just needs to bring Jason Isaacs back.

Culber-ble homicide

So Dr. Culber is for reals dead? Tough break considering how many others survived apparent death in this series. I guess you have to be a captain to properly come back from the dead.

Poor Stamets -- having lost his lover, his life's work and very nearly his humanity, he might be the character who's sacrificed the most for Starfleet's resolution.

Spore relation

The space-hopping spore drive is pretty much finished and the Discovery is back to regular warp drive instead of warping Lt Stamets' mind. The Federation is developing a non-human interface to navigate the spore drive, but judging by the fact it's never been mentioned in any other "Trek" series we may have seen the last of this particular plot device.

Still, future Trek crews could do with looking into making the spore drive work -- remember that episode of "The Next Generation" that revealed warp drive messes up the fabric of the universe? TNG engineer Geordie LaForge should dig out Stamets' notes.

The Butcher\'s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb\'s Cry
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The Butcher\'s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb\'s Cry

Season 2 will see some changes on the bridge of the USS Discovery.

Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive

Discovering season 2

"Discovery" has been confirmed for a second season in 2019. It's set to once again stream on CBS All Access in the US and Netflix elsewhere (disclosure: CBS is CNET's parent company). Until the show returns, here's some questions we'll be pondering in the meantime.

Captain, my captain

Who will take the conn in season 2 of "Discovery"? The first season revolved around Burnham's relationship with two captains, Lorca and Georgiou. Although Saru has done a pretty good job filling the captain's chair, we can expect a new captain for the new series. And if season 1 was anything to go by, the new skipper will bring their own complexities and problems.

New life and new civilisations

Will season 2 adopt a more familiar "Trek" format? The producers have promised more away missions and new planets, but the show will still have an ongoing story arc. It sounds like season 2 will combine elements of old and new "Trek".

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Free enterprise

How will the USS Enterprise fit into the show? I'm not ashamed to say I misted up when the Enterprise hove into view at the end of the finale. It's a potent symbol that "Discovery" has taken its place in "Trek" history -- and opens the door to new stories in season 2. 

The lightly-modernised version of the classic ship feels like a nice bridge between the original 60s design and the high-tech aesthetic of "Discovery". It'll be interesting to see though how they bridge the gap between bridges -- the gunmetal and holograms of the USS Discovery's command centre are a far cry from the pop art colours of the original Enterprise bridge.

Spock treatment

Who's on that bridge? The Enterprise's distress call reveals the ship is captained by Christopher Pike, the man in charge in the very first TOS pilot episode "The Cage". Pike is a predecessor to Captain Kirk, so there's probably a few years yet before any of the TOS crew arrive on the Enterprise -- I doubt then we'll see familiar characters played by new actors like the recent reboot movies. It seems we may see a new actor playing the square-jawed Captain Pike, taking on the role originated by Jeffrey Hunter in the original unbroadcast pilot episode.

There is one character however who survived from "The Cage" into the classic series, and has already played a significant -- if unseen -- role in "Discovery". Yes, everyone's favourite half-human, half-Vulcan: Spock.

Star Trek: The Original Series

Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike and Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock in the "Original Series" pilot episode, "The Cage".

CBS Photo Archive

We've seen a lot of Spock's family in the first season, and Burnham has encountered the man himself in "Discovery" tie-in novel "Desperate Hours". Will season 2 see Spock appear in the show proper? Would it be too much to ask for reboot-Spock Zachary Quinto to play the role, or would that just be too confusing?

If you want more "Discovery" before season 2 rolls round, the third spin-off novel "Drastic Measures" has just been released and features Lorca and Georgiou in a story tied into a classic TOS episode. You can also find spin-off comics too. Keep an eye out for season 2 news and trailers -- and be ready to boldly go.

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