The first season of Star Trek: Picard is over. I haven’t left the house in three weeks, except to hastily buy ramen and peanut butter while trying to keep mask-breath from fogging up my glasses. With few new options arriving as we look for comfort shows in quarantine, I was pleased to remember that Star Trek: Discovery's excellent second season is available for rewatch. Here are some moments to look out for on your inevitable DSC binge!
(Spoilers below. Like, enough spoilers to fill one of Section 31’s minefields.)
“I’m Commander Jett Reno. Engineering. I’d shake your hand, but I’m up to my elbow in Tellarite brains.” From the second she pops up in “Brother,” Jett Reno — played by comedian Tig Notaro — is one of Discovery’s best surprises, whether she’s giving Doctor Culber thoughtful, nuanced relationship advice (“Don’t screw it up”) or displaying her reverence for Starfleet’s chain of command. (“I’m going, I’m going! Get off my ass!” she shouts at Commander Saru. “Sir. Get off my ass, sir.”)
“Sometimes in war, the terrible choice is the only choice,” Admiral Cornwell tells Discovery’s acting captain, Christopher Pike. Pike responds with a truth that, depressingly, never loses its relevance: “Giving up our values in the name of security is to lose the battle in advance.”
Pike’s principles are further tested in “Through the Valley of Shadows,” when he faces a vision of his future that promises agony and loss. Pike has a choice: flee, or accept his fate for the greater good. He doesn’t take long to decide. “You’re a Starfleet captain,” he reminds himself. “You believe in service, sacrifice, compassion, and love. No. I’m not going to abandon the things that make me who I am because of a future that contains an ending I hadn’t foreseen for myself.”
“Initiating Donut Maneuver, Sir!”
Kirk pulled off the Corbomite Maneuver. Starfleet cadets learn the Picard Maneuver. Riker has two maneuvers—one for fighting spaceships, one for sitting down. But can any strategy compare to Lieutenant Keyla Detmer’s “Donut Maneuver”? No. Because the Donut Maneuver is doing donuts in a spaceship in order to save a planet. Look, nobody’s ever going to let me drive a spaceship, but just in case they do, I hereby make a solemn vow: All space donuts, all the time.
Threat Ganglia: Overrated!
In Discovery’s first season, Saru was defined by a single trait: As a Kelpien, he could sense danger, particularly when his “threat ganglia” wriggled out from behind his ears. But in Discovery’s second season, Saru loses his ganglia — and, along with them, his anxiety. “What is a Kelpien without fear?” he wonders. “I am losing the very thing that defines me.”
Thanks to Doug Jones’ fantastic performance, one of the joys of Discovery’s second season —especially for those of us with anxiety — is accompanying Saru as he discovers he’s bolder than he could have possibly expected. Another joy? When Saru discovers his threat ganglia have been replaced with weaponized ear-flaps that shoot spikes at bad guys! Now I’m not officially a doctor, but I’d say that’s a pretty good trade.
Season two of Discovery is full of flashy space battles and shadowy intrigue, but its core is the complex relationship between Michael Burnham and her estranged step-brother, Spock. Joining Spock and Burnham’s parents, Sarek and Amanda, as they watch their smart, stubborn children hesitantly reestablish their bond is one of the most rewarding parts of Discovery. This is in large part due to actors Sonequa Martin-Green and Ethan Peck making subtle, affecting character moments stand out, even during flashy space battles. Plus, bonus points for Discovery’s endearing reveal that Michael and Spock — who grew up with Amanda reading them Lewis Carroll—share a very deep literary nerdery.
“Time is out of joint,” Spock tells Burnham before she embarks on a dangerous mission involving time travel. “O cursed spite, that I was born to set it right.” “Hamlet,” replies Burnham. “Hell yeah.”
Number One Being Amazing at Anything She’s Doing at Any Given Moment
“Cheeseburger. Fries. Habanero sauce.” That’s Number One’s request to one of Discovery’s replicators, and it’s an excellent lunch order. And then she offers sharp, insightful counsel to Pike, cleverly preps the Enterprise for battle, and remains utterly unfazed even when surrounded by fiery explosions and bloody chaos. And again: That’s just an excellent lunch order, and I say that as a vegetarian. (Wait. Is meat from a replicator really meat? Hmm.)
“Previously, on Star Trek…”
As usual, “If Memory Serves” begins with a recap — but this recap, full of decades-old footage from Star Trek: The Original Series reminds viewers what happened in the last century, not the last episode. “If Memory Serves” finds Burnham and Spock traveling to Talos IV, a planet seen in Star Trek’s unaired pilot, 1965’s “The Cage,” and in the great two-parter from 1966, “The Menagerie.” Discovery’s retro recap is fun, and it only gets better: While “If Memory Serves” could have been hollow fan service, it ends up telling its own strange and resonant story.
“She Looks as Good as I Remember”
With gleaming floors, sweeping lines, and bright, bold colors, Discovery’s take on the iconic bridge of the Enterprise is nothing short of jaw-dropping. “She looks as good as I remember,” says Pike —the understatement of the season for Star Trek fans, many of whom thought this Enterprise looked even better than the one they remember.
Or... Maybe Not?
“Orange? Really? Eww,” sneers Phillipa Georgiou as she strides onto the Enterprise’s bridge. Hey, you can’t please everyone!
And throwing shade at the Enterprise isn’t even Georgiou’s finest moment this season — that would be in “The Red Angel,” when she relishes the “fabulous male tension” between Paul Stamets and Culber, even going so far as to hit on Stamets. “Um, you do know that he’s gay, right?” interrupts Culber.
“Don’t be so binary,” says Georgiou. “In my universe, he was pansexual, and we had DEFCON-level fun together. And you too, papi.”
“Did you just call me papi?” Culber asks. Yes, Culber. She sure did.
Discovery and the Enterprise Take On Section 31
One of the best space battles ever seen on a big or small screen, the clash between the Discovery, the Enterprise, and a menacing fleet from Section 31 is sprawling, thrilling, and gorgeous— and that’s before you include Burnham jumping back and forth in time, Cornwell attempting to defuse a torpedo lodged in the Enterprise’s hull, and surprise appearances from some newly emboldened Kelpiens and Klingon Chancellor L’Rell, who crashes the party with a massive Klingon cleave ship, a few D7 battle cruisers, and words of wisdom that are almost as inspiring as Captain Pike’s. “We will wade knee-deep through the ruin of our enemies!” L’Rell promises, and if any of you want to join me in getting that phrase immortalized via tattoo, let me know.
Erik Henriksen (he/him) is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon, and can be found at henriksenactual.com and @erik_henriksen. The first draft of this article was just a picture of Captain Pike with a heart drawn around it.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.