8:15am PT by Mike Bloom
'Star Trek': The Ultimate Guide to 'Discovery' Season 2
When Star Trek: Discovery returns for its second season Thursday, the eponymous ship will have been in the same spot where it ended season one: face-to-face with the USS Enterprise. But in reality, Discovery is occupying a very different type of space, as the CBS All Access drama has undergone several changes in the months since it last aired.
In June, executive producer Alex Kurtzman took over as showrunner on Discovery, replacing the ousted Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts. Kurtzman — who co-created the series with former showrunner Bryan Fuller and oversees all things Star Trek for CBS All Access, including Short Treks, the animated series Lower Decks and the upcoming Picard series — had planned to observe from afar.
“When the writers weren't happy, I couldn't hand the show off to someone else again,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I couldn't stay at 30,000 feet. It was my responsibility to get into that room and make sure the show was working. I created it, and I didn't want to stand back and be removed from that process. I wasn't planning on showrunning Discovery. It was difficult.”
Compounding the difficulty of the showrunner change are the complications that arise from introducing new plots and people, especially those that are not so new to Trekkers. The introduction of the Enterprise prompted many to speculate if classic character Spock would make an appearance, only for Kurtzman to confirm the theory at San Diego Comic-Con. A month later, Ethan Peck was announced as the one to take the ears of Spock, with the season two trailer hinting at his involvement in a possibly universe-ending mystery.
Before season two launches, THR beams up a guide to Spock and Discovery’s other new characters, as well as a status update of where the crew left off in season one.
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green)
The main character of Discovery ended season one on a personal high. After a tense showdown, she was able to resolve the Federation-Klingon war she was accused of causing, with Starfleet reinstating her with a Medal of Honor to boot. “It’s the end of the journey of season one, but it will resonate with season two. It’s not over,” the actress warns. Though Burnham achieved redemption from a professional perspective, finding self-forgiveness from her actions will be easier said than done. “As Burnham, I carry a tremendous amount of guilt and shame," says Martin-Green. "That’s a foundation in my heart, unfortunately, because of the tragic event of my parents being murdered and me essentially being responsible for that. It’s going to be very important that I forgive myself and realize that it’s not about denying my emotions because of my logic training and upbringing. But it’s also not about denying my logic so that I can fill my emotions. In the pilot, I say to Sarek, ‘My emotions inform my logic.’ Now I need to learn how my logic informs my emotions.”
One of the emotions Burnham still has difficulty handling is love. She spent Discovery’s first season falling for Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), only for their relationship to destruct with the reveal that he was actually the Klingon warrior Voq. Though they bid a somber goodbye and went their separate ways, his presence lingers in her heart. “That was a unique experience for Burnham,” Martin-Green says. “Very new thing, to go to a loving relationship with the upbringing I had. This concept of love I’m still learning about, especially self-love. Burnham actually may not even be completely conscious or aware of that self-love and how hard it really is to do it.”
Saru (Doug Jones)
Discovery’s fearful Kelpien First Officer spent the latter part of season one serving as acting captain. Despite his species’ terror at the great unknown, he was able to push past the threat ganglia and gain confidence in his personal leadership style. But the extent of his growth may be challenged with an upcoming visit to his home planet of Kaminar, confirmed by Jones at New York Comic Con. Considering the hastiness with which Saru left his primitive home, depicted in a Short Treks episode from December, coupled with the abandoning of his family, his fear and apprehension might not be completely conquered.
Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp)
The scientist made history as the first to make the spore drive viable for traveling great distances. With the war over, Starfleet opted to shelve the project for now, citing Stamets’ health risk with using his own body as a navigational computer. With his work on hiatus, it gives him the opportunity to breathe and grieve for his partner, medical officer Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), who was murdered by Tyler during an examination. Despite the shock that came from Culber’s death, Cruz foreshadows that the new season will provide some meaning in the grand scheme of things for Stamets. “A lot of people were upset when Culber was killed off last season,” says the actor. “Once you get through this second season, you’ll see that there’s a reason why he had to die the way he did. This story will connect all of those thoughts. Where he ends up will be a good explanation as to why.”
Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman)
The kind and quirky engineer received a promotion to the rank of ensign at the end of season one, as well as admission to the Command Training Program. Her Short Treks episode gave her first taste of leadership, which will be essential to her increased handling of scenarios without the previous support of her mentors. “She’s going to have to grow up quickly to function on a starship in a meaningful way,” says Wiseman. “She’s going to encounter situations she doesn’t know how to respond to or make right. Those are going to be struggles, but with each of these experiences, another brick is laid in her journey to hopefully becoming a captain.”
L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Ash Tyler/Voq (Shazad Latif)
Though the Klingon war has ended, with L’Rell as head of the Empire, their story is far from over. Tyler departed Discovery with the new High Chancellor to assist unifying all of the Great Houses and stands alongside her in season two. When asked how he would balance his two personas in the new season, Latif replied, “It’s sort of mixed. It’s Voq retaining these memories of Tyler. It’s sort of like a new character, another iteration of what we had before. But now it’s about his relationship with L’Rell and Burnham that’s the focus.” “We definitely are in a relationship, because they’re together and we’re allies,” Chieffo adds. “I think that is part of the struggle. She wants to [separate who they are], and she’s really trying to find a way to embrace this new identity. She viewed Tyler as a shell for a while. She really believed Voq would overpower him, and she underestimated the power and integrity of the human spirit. Now she has to come to term with the fact that humans have a lot of integrity, and I think he embodies that quite literally.”
L’Rell’s issues with her closest ally could hinder her new position of power. In preparation for season two, Chieffo researched female rulers throughout history to get a sense of how a woman can lead in a male-dominated society. “I think there’s something evocative and exciting about an alien woman,” she says. “We don’t quite gender her the way we gender a human woman. It’s not just one note. She doesn’t figure out how to be a leader and is done with it. It’s actually quite a struggle, and a heartbreaking one.”
Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh)
The Mirror Universe counterpart of the late captain of the USS Shenzhou proved her coldheartedness when she schemed with Starfleet to detonate the Klingon home planet of Qo’noS and hastily end the war. When her plan was stopped, she took up business on the surface, seemingly putting her violent days behind her. But when she received a visit from a man representing Section 31, the secret and sinister Starfleet security group, their offer may serve as a lesson that bad habits die hard.
Spock (Ethan Peck)
Discovery caused a stir when its first trailer for season two ended on the image of Peck’s bearded Spock. But according to Peck, it serves as a symbol that his take on the half-human half-Vulcan has not fully cooked into the famous Leonard Nimoy depiction. “He’s a guy who had never felt emotions and who was trying to make intellectual sense of them,” the actor explains. “It seemed to me like an existential crisis. We all go through that around this age, so I feel like that was in my life repertoire.” The audience of Discovery will meet Spock much like his adopted sister Michael — in the midst of a conflict between his Vulcan upbringing and his human sentiments. According to Peck, “He has trauma and is forced to do with his two halves of logic and emotion.”
Captain Pike (Anson Mount)
Spock is not the only Original Series character returning, as the emergency hail that brought the Discovery and Enterprise together came from Capt. Christopher Pike. The immediate predecessor to James T. Kirk brings a very different approach to the captain’s chair than last season’s Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), something Mount believes the Discovery writers purposefully highlighted. “Pike’s the kind of leader where there’s a time for paling around and a time for business,” he says. “But it’s hard to differentiate between friendship and working together. It’s probably a waste of time to try and do so. Because you want a crew that cares for each other.”
Jet Reno (Tig Notaro) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn)
Rounding out the new characters are two notable Starfleet officers. Number One is yet another person from the Original Series, serving as Pike’s First Officer before Spock and having been played by Majel Barrett in the franchise pilot “The Cage.” News about Notaro’s casting came about in April, but little has been revealed about the role the comedian and actress plays outside of her job as Chief Engineer of the USS Hiawatha.
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