Red Alert! I will try to avoid a ton of spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery’s first season in this post, I won’t be able to avoid them all. Please proceed
to battlestations with caution.
After answering a distress signal from the U.S.S. Enterprise, season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery finds the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery joining forces with Captain Christopher Pike on a new mission to investigate seven mysterious red signals and the appearance of an unknown being called the Red Angel. While the crew must work together to unravel their meaning and origin, Michael Burnham is forced to face her past with the return of her estranged brother, Spock.
After the war with the Klingons comes to a tentative peace, the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery have time to actually fulfill their original mission: exploration. And when strange signals start popping up across the galaxy with no real discernable pattern or reason behind them, Discovery sets out on an exploratory mission—with a new captain—to solve the mystery.
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Martin-Green’s been in quite a few TV shows in recent years, from The Good Wife to Once Upon a Time to The Walking Dead, but I didn’t really take note until the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, when she impressed me with her ability to walk the line between human and Vulcan so gracefully. (The Michael character was a human girl raised in a Vulcan household, and as such was asked to keep her emotions in check, to the point of not having any at all.)
Anson Mount as Christopher Pike
According to IMDB, Mount’s most well known for being in … Crossroads. (Yes, the Britney Spears movie.) But he’s also been in a lot of other things, often playing a king of macho man’s man. Christopher Pike is not that kind of guy. In fact, he’s a caring, humorous captain who’s willing to listen to his crew, even if they offer outlandish ideas. We’ve seen the Pike character previously, in the original Star Trek series and the new Star Trek movie ‘verse, but we didn’t know all that much about him … until now. And Mount’s portrayal of the character easily landed him a spot in my top five Star Trek captains of all time.
(It’s annoying how good he is, really. Yet another white dude taking some of the thunder away from a woman of color? It’s frustrating. But he really is just so good.)
Doug Jones as Saru
Jones is someone you know, but maybe don’t know that you know him. He’s a prolific character actor, and does an amazing job of completely disappearing into a creature. His height and gangly nature make him perfect for the tall and gangly Saru, but it’s his ability to emote while covered in head-to-toe prosthetics and thick makeup that really makes Jones a stand out. The Saru-centric episode, “The Sound of Thunder” was a particular gem amongst a season that had no bad episodes, and really felt like a throwback to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s style of character-driven plot.
Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou
We all know that Yeoh is a badass, and watching her—semi-spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the first season—as such a grey, almost villain is an absolute delight. As is watching her use her martial art skills to fight off attackers who soon realize that they’re so ridiculously out matched.
Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber
Cruz brings a tenderness to Hugh that’s at times completely heartbreaking, and the reality of the situation he faces is quite relevant to problems we face today, albeit couched in a very non-realistic wrapper. (Also, the man is FIT. And sometimes shirtless.)
Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
Had Rapp not been in Rent, I don’t know that I would have considered him a familiar face, even though he’s had a pretty long and varied career. But he does a wonderful job of bringing Stamets to life, and his relationship with Hugh (they’re married on the show) is poignant and realistic, without ever veering into stereotype—they’re a gay couple, if that wasn’t clear—territory. Rapp’s also really good at the sad puppy dog face, which he uses to great effect, while also being super snarky and standoffish.
James Frain as Sarek
Frain has been in so. many. shows and movies; he’s actually probably the most familiar face of the entire cast. He does well in the role of Sarek—a Vulcan, and therefore an emotionless, logic-led automaton*—but he had a larger role in season one of this show, and the time he was in the second season got overshadowed by everyone and everything else.
*Kidding? Vulcans are weird.
Ethan Peck as Spock
Spock is one of the most iconic characters in all of pop culture history, and it takes a strong person to be able to embody the role and make it their own, without becoming a caricature or veering too far in the wrong direction. Peck’s Spock is a little more human than the “traditional” Spock, but it’s a nice callback to the times that the character’s internal battle between his human and Vulcan sides became visible to outsiders. I actually prefer Peck’s Spock to Zachary Quinto’s, and no, it’s not just the beard.
Tig Notaro as Jett Reno
Jett Reno not only has the best name in the show, but she’s also the most delightfully snarky in a “I am supremely confident and have very good reason to be” kind of way. I’m not super familiar with Notaro’s comedy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Reno was familiar to those who are. And her hair is pure magic.
I also have to mention Mary Wiseman, who—while not really a familiar face—is the absolute BEST as Sylvia Tilly.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Movie Night in Ten Forward
Full disclosure: I found the first season of Star Trek: Discovery merely OK. (Which is part of why I’ve skipped over it to write this post about season two.) But I would suggest making your way through it to get to the good stuff; in this case, when Captain Christoper Pike takes over the bridge of the U.S.S. Discovery, and he and the crew go on a bunch of adventures trying to figure out a very intriguing mystery. The season has all the hallmarks of a classic Trek, updated for our era: mysterious galactic signals; a crew filled with a diverse group of people and creatures (size, shape, species, sexual orientation, etc.); a captain that oozes charm, in a non-problematic way; moments of triumph and heartbreak; and lens flares.
Invite all your friends, be they Trekkies, Trekkers, or just fans of quality science fiction, and tuck in for some fun. You might want to include a “bring your jammies” caveat on the invitation; 14 hour-long episodes is a bit of a marathon binge sesh. But it’s worth it!
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Break Out the Synthehol
People don’t really drink in the future—at least, not actual, drunk-making alcoholic beverages. (Except for the rare occasion that someone cracks open a bottle of Romulan Ale.) If you’d prefer to stick with the tendencies of the modern era, however, might I suggest trying one of these five drinks, inspired by Star Trek episodes and species?
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Really the Only Reason to Have It, Except Maybe for The Twilight Zone
Honestly, the model of paid streaming services having exclusive content is more than a little frustrating, especially for someone who still (also) pays for cable; it feels greedy. But CBS All Access frequently offers free months of their service, but if you want to spring for the no commercials package, you could easily get away with paying around $10 for one month and just binging both seasons of the show. Just don’t get mad at me when you feel the need to watch Season 3—plus the new Picard show, I MEAN—as it airs. (CBS All Access also follows a more standard, one-episode-a-week release schedule. If you aren’t one for delayed gratification, it’ll add up.)