Well, after a long wait, Star Trek: Discovery finally returns to round out its first season as “Chapter Two” of the series arrives with “Despite Yourself” tonight, the first of six episodes left to air this year.
Ahead of the show’s return, series producers Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg took part in a multi-series showrunner panel at the annual Television Critics’ Association winter press tour, where they touched on the series to date — and offered some teasing hints towards what’s to come in Discovery for 2018.
* * * SPOILER ALERT! * * *
After the Discovery landed in unfamiliar terrain during the final moments of “Into the Forest I Go” — thanks to Lorca adding his own special instructions to the spore drive system — fans have wondered what may play out for the Starfleet crew lost in space.
Berg and Harberts commented on where the series moves for “Chapter Two,” implying it will be a wild ride, as reported by the AV Club:
Berg advised fans to “buckle up,” because the show is “introducing a huge new development.” “It’ll be fun for Trek fans,” Harberts chimed in, teasing a “nice nod to stuff from [The Original Series]. This back half—what happens tomorrow night firmly anchors the back half to the season.
It’s definitely again a war story, as far as how it’ll play out, but our characters find themselves in a place where their identities are challenged. It’s an emotionally wrought back half. Very intense. The cast has done some amazing work.”
The pair also addressed fans’ hopes for a return of Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) who was killed in the series’ premiere, following up on comments made at the show’s New York Comic Con panel:
Berg calls the relationship between Georgiou and Burnham “such a core relationship for the entire spine. Our goal was always to keep Captain Georgiou alive on the show. The joy is in the journey. I’d say, keep watching, because Georgiou is such a huge part of the heart who was Michael Burnham. If that’s something you’re invested in, keep watching because I think you hopefully will enjoy what we’re going to do.”
“Once you watch episode 10, you’ll see the context that we’re playing in,” Harberts adds. “Another theme for the back half is second chances.”
Aaron Harberts on moving the world of Star Trek: Discovery to the Federation fans are familiar with:
“The other thing that’s a huge theme for us is taking the Federation from the darkness into the light. Everybody wants this optimistic version of Star Trek right out of the gate.
And I feel that our show has a lot of hope in it from episode to episode, depending on storyline we’re tracking… by season’s end, people will see the Federation they’ve come to know and love from TOS on.”
Looking ahead to the green-lit second season, currently in the (very) early days of development, Harberts shared a little of the vision for where Discovery may head after this year’s story is concluded — and how the chaos surrounding the first year’s development has been done away with for next season:
Harberts pushes the more traditional Trek angle as something the duo “wants to explore more” in the new season, which they just started working last month. He acknowledges the “well-documented” embattled season-one production, but enthuses that “This year, we have a fantastic creative team in place, everybody knows each other.”
“But we also have time this year—we have time to do things like more away missions, newer planets. These are stories that might fall a little bit more into a framework of allegory that people love to get from Trek. But we will always continue to have that overarching serialized thread.”
And as for the themes or potential storylines, Harberts teased an exploration of faith and “science versus faith.”
A few critics who have already seen tonight’s episode seem to have high hopes for the quality of “Despite Yourself,” which kicks off what one calls a “reboot” of the series.
Ryan Britt at Inverse.com had this to say:
If you’re someone who didn’t watch the debut of “Star Trek: Discovery” last year, there’s good news. If you jump right in with the new mid-season debut this Sunday, you’ll be mostly fine. Because the previous episode pretty much left one big plot arc behind, the rest of the episodes seemed poised to take the show in a new direction.
Superficially, some things do look different [compared to previous Trek shows], but this stuff doesn’t matter as much hardcore fans might tell you. And in the new episode, it probably matters even less. Yes, for those who have followed the entire franchise, you’re going to be rewarded big time in this episode. There are several references to HUGE events from the original series and beyond in this one.
TV Guide’s Alex Zalben and Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast host Jordan Hoffman shared their thoughts on Twitter:
Tonight’s #StarTrekDiscovery is epically dark and hugely emotional (and occasionally pretty funny)… I highly recommend catching up today, if you haven’t already.
— Alex Zalben (@azalben) January 7, 2018
Just watched tomorrow's STAR TREK DISCOVERY and shouted "Holy Shit!" no fewer than five times. This is a groundbreaking hour of Trek, no jive.
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) January 6, 2018
In an fairly spoiler-y interview with “Despite Yourself” director Jonathan Frakes, RottenTomatoes.com’s Debbie Day reacted to one (unnamed) characters’ apparent demise:
Rotten Tomatoes: Let’s talk about your episode of Discovery… I have seen it, and it was very good. I gasped when [spoiler]. I was sitting alone watching it, and I just went, “Aaaah!” I wondered if my neighbor heard me, because it scared the hell out of me.
Frakes: It was a great death. But is it a death?
RT: I think any time the words “temporal anomaly” come into a Star Trek episode, all bets are off.
Frakes: It’s a quantum anomaly.
RT: Correction: quantum anomaly. I think there’s potential for a lot of things to happen.
Frakes: There are equally dramatic moments in this episode.
Star Trek: Discovery returns with “Despite Yourself” tonight on CBS All Access and Space, and returns to Netflix globally tomorrow night.
As always, we’ll have our post-show reaction thread for you to discuss all that the newest episode brings us tonight at around 9PM ET.