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TV Review: 'Star Trek: Discovery' Begins Its 2nd Season


"Star Trek: Discovery" begins its second season tonight. It made a big splash when it debuted last season on All Access, CBS' streaming service. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says this season is good enough to win over even the most loyal and skeptical "Trek" fans.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: The second season of Star Trek: Discovery kicks off with an announcement sure to quicken the pulse of serious "Trek" fans everywhere.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As crew member) Transmission coming through - Captain Christopher Pike requesting permission to come aboard. He has an engineer and science officer with him.

DOUG JONES: (As Commander Saru) Permission granted.

DEGGANS: Old-school "Trek" fans know Christopher Pike as the captain of the Starship Enterprise. Before the legendary James T. Kirk. Pike and Kirk also had a science officer in common - a pointy-eared Vulcan named Mr. Spock. Pike has come aboard the Starship Discovery to drop some important news.


ANSON MOUNT: (As Captain Christopher Pike) Commander, this is awkward. But back in Mojave, I learned the best way to get into a cold stream is to jump right in. I'm here at Starfleet's order to take command of the Discovery under Regulation 19 Section C.

JONES: (As Commander Saru) We received no notice from Starfleet.

MOUNT: (As Captain Christopher Pike) Because I asked to deliver the news myself out of a respect for what you and your crew have been through.

DEGGANS: What they've been through, if you saw "Discovery's" first season, was an action-packed adventure featuring Starfleet officer Michael Burnham played with an intelligent ferocity by Sonequa Martin-Green. Burnham is blamed for starting a war with the Klingons, she unmasked the previous captain of the Discovery as an evil doppelganger from a parallel mirror universe and then figures out how to broker a peace deal with the Klingons.

And there's one more thing. Michael Burnham is a human woman and Mr. Spock's foster sister. She was taken in by his parents, Amanda and Sarek. Here she asks her father, Sarek, why he brought her into his household.


SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN: (As Commander Michael Burnham) What did you want Spock to learn from me?

JAMES FRAIN: (As Sarek) Empathy, something he would need to understand to successfully interact with humans.

DEGGANS: The show's producers have found a way to make one scene on "Discovery" accomplish a lot. It can connect the show to the classic world of Kirk and Spock and also move a new story forward. Still, "Discovery" has taken a lot of criticism from "Trek" fans, some of whom prefer a series more like the classic show or the late '80s program "Next Generation."

But I value the bold vision of "Discovery," which is trying to build a new style of "Trek" series with movie-level special effects and more modern pacing. That said, the second season does evoke the team spirit of the classic show more often. Captain Pike, played by Anson Mount, is a traditionally handsome, good-humored hero who pushes Discovery's crew to save a stranded starship.


MARTIN-GREEN: (As Commander Michael Burnham) Landing on an asteroid traveling at 5,000 kilometers per second with spotty telemetry and no...

MOUNT: (As Captain Christopher Pike) I know what it is, Commander. I didn't sit out the war with my crew just to stand down now. Listen; I don't mind dissenting opinions. I really don't. But they have to come with solutions.

MARTIN-GREEN: (As Commander Michael Burnham) I have one. That's what I was trying to offer. But for the record, there is not a single person on this bridge who would abandon a Starfleet brother or sister - sir.

DEGGANS: Adventure ensues. But I can't reveal much more without dropping major spoilers, including the appearance of Spock, played by Ethan Peck. There are moments that may remind you of recent "Trek" movies and nods at humor that would have been better left unexplored. But "Star Trek: Discovery's" second season offers a bit more traditional "Trek" adventure while promising to show new sides of characters that fans have known for decades - talk about going boldly where no one has gone before.

I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans
Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.