The second season finale of STAR TREK DISCOVERY, “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2,” aired on April 18th. Wrapping up a story-line is always good, especially because one narrative arc’s end signals another’s beginning. This was true in more ways than one in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” since this episode not only promised a third season wildly different from DISCO’s previous two, it also tipped its franchise hat in a very large way to STAR TREK, the three-season show that started it all. I’ll get to whether or not this large hat tip was handled well later. First, it’s time for some good ol’ fashioned Trekkie nitpicking.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – The Sounds of STAR TREK
Familiar sound effects and musical themes that pepper various franchise iterations add built-in opportunities for nostalgia. Of course, sound engineers should only go to the nostalgia well every so often. DISCO’s sound engineers, for the most part, did a good job of balancing new against nostalgic throughout season 2 but the drone sound effects used in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” triggered the wrong kind of nostalgic sci-fi callback, at least for this reviewer. Rather than feeling as if I were watching a starship battle in the Alpha Quadrant, I felt as if it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
My cross-franchise disorientation intensified when Leland’s Section 31 ships fired battle drones at Discovery and Enterprise. Then, that squadrons of shuttlecraft launched from Discovery and Enterprise defended both starships had a decidedly STAR WARS feel as well. These issues aside, though, I think that “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” represented the ultra-rare Trek space-dogfight well, Lucas-y though it may have been.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – A New Frontier in Space Battles
The usual Trek approach to space battles is to show an engagement of two or more ships blasting away at each other. The ships fire their energy weapons, aiming for key systems, targeted systems eventually fail, and the ship in the worse condition loses. The losers warp away, surrender, or fight to the death.
The space-dogfight in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” shook up the starship battle status-quo, showing that because every enemy is different so too is every battle.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – Third-party Calling Feature
Another off-franchise design element featured in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” was the split-frame effect that allowed viewers to see all members of three-person conversations at once. The creative team may have made this choice to heighten drama but, instead, this effect served to take me out of the moment. I would have preferred a shot of one person on a bridge having a conversation with the other two participants by way of the bridge’s view screen.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – You Call These Catchphrases?
Although Captain Pike’s abysmal “This is Starfleet. Get it done,” was a tad bland for a Trek show, reminiscent of something you’d hear Larry the Cable Guy say if he were commanding the Enterprise, Commander Nhan replying, “Yum yum,” to Georgiou when she invited Nhan to help her make Leland scream was just plain stupid. Trekkies don’t know very much about Barzan customs, so I hope that awkwardly using inappropriate expletives isn’t typical of Nhan’s species.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – Bad Morale
One wonders if ship’s morale might be dipping a bit on Discovery. The crew has gone through a lot in the name of their mission throughout season 2, so it’s understandable if people are a bit on edge. Even so, I think that Stamets owes the nameless engineer he publicly dressed down an apology. Yes, the crew is involved in a seriously emergent situation but that’s no reason to be a jerk to a fellow officer.
Ensign Tilly similarly needs to review her Starfleet protocol handbook. I get that Tilly is socially awkward and frequently blurts out inappropriate things but her habit of sucking all the air out of every room she walks into is getting a bit stale.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – “Shut up, Tilly!”
Cmdr. Reno and Dr. Pollard also displayed some less-than-acceptable protocol in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” but I’ll forgive both of them simply because their quips were funny. Reno’s “Get off my ass! Sir. Get off my ass, sir,” and Dr. Pollard’s “No, I’m going to do a half-assed job because now’s the perfect time,” as responses to Saru’s captaining injected some lightness into the episode, whereas Tilly’s poorly timed quip just served to slow everything down.
In addition to being annoying, Tilly asking Saru if he had any words of wisdom only served to set up an overused Trek franchise reference. That Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is mandatory reading at Starfleet Academy was established in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – “The Last Outpost,” but, with so many references throughout Trek franchise history, it’s starting to seem like the only mandatory reading at the Academy.
Although Dr. Pollard’s quip was great, I think I liked the chaotic state of her sickbay more. In just about every Trek show, sickbay is generally shown as a safe zone. Patients are tended to in an orderly fashion with absolutely no wait times. Dr. Pollard’s sickbay in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” was altogether different, a believably hectic emergency room rather than a perfectly functioning clinic.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – Fatalistic Starship Design
The last couple of nits I have to pick for “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” involve Admiral Cornwell’s dutiful sacrifice. Cornwell’s brave actions provided a great topper for this DISCO-specific character but the basis for her sacrifice had me scratching my head a bit.
Number One informs Cornwell that the blast door that would effectively seal an unexploded torpedo off from the rest of the ship will not respond to vocal or remote commands. Cornwell takes over but there’s nothing she can do to disarm the torpedo. Cornwell starts eyeing the manual controls for the blast door. These manual controls end up being the ship’s only hope so Cornwell operates the controls from within the room that has the torpedo in it. She closes the blast door, sealing herself in with the torpedo. The torpedo explodes, and Cornwell disintegrates in a burst of photonic energy.
Powerful stuff, to be sure! But why didn’t Starfleet engineers also put manual controls on the other side of the blast door? This one simple backup would’ve saved Cornwell’s life, so I hope that Starfleet fixes this obvious design flaw soon, preferably before the Enterprise’s refit in the 2270s.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: Nitpicking – Klingon spies?
OK, last one: what the hell was with Number One and Adm. Cornwell’s 14th-century handshake? Canon has established that Klingons tend to shake hands this way but I’m unfamiliar with this style of handshake being a common human custom in the 23rd century — except among Klingon spies and mirror-universe Terrans. All I’m saying is that if Number One is some kind of Klingon sleeper agent like Lieutenant Tyler or an inter-dimensional one like Georgiou, I might lose it.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Time Travel Clip Show
One thing that made “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” a bit clunky in its execution was its inevitable review of Burnham’s various appearances as the Red Angel. I think that some review was needed, especially because the Red Angel story-line is convoluted anyway, but Burnham’s in-suit review gave “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” a clip-show feel, which is not what any viewer wants during a season finale.
It seemed as though the creative team wanted their audience to have some kind of “aha” moment during this sequence. Unfortunately, building up to it took so long, so the intended “aha” moment turned into more of an “OK, right…I guess,” moment.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – “I AM IRON MICHAEL!!”
Hats off to the special effects team of IRON MAN (2008) who apparently defined every subsequent special effects department’s idea of what it would be like to fly around in a rocket suit.
Possible accusations of derivativeness aside, though, I enjoyed the visual effects that represented Burnham’s initial jump back in time. In addition to its nods to IRON MAN, this sequence was full of nods to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), which were great to see on a Trek show that actually has a special effects budget.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Touching Moments
As with most season finales, “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” had plenty of touching moments between characters. Dr. Culber and Lt. Stamets’s scene together in which Culber tells Stamets that he is his family was very touching, as was Capt. Pike’s calling the crew of Discovery his family.
The most touching moment for this reviewer, though, was shared between Spock and Burnham. Spock, realizing he will probably never again see or speak to Michael, protests her leaving. He tells her that he will be lost without her emotional guidance. Burnham disagrees. She tells Spock that he’ll persevere and suggests that he find a person who seems the furthest from him, then reach for that person, and let them guide him.
This was a great moment between emotional sister and distant brother but it was also a lovely nod to the imminent events of STAR TREK in which Spock, rather than finding just one person, reaches for two people who seem the furthest from him, Jim Kirk and Leonard McCoy.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Fishing for Pike
As Discovery plows into the 32nd century, it’s hard to say what they’ll encounter. Trek canon more or less runs out by 3125, so DISCO’s creative team will have plenty of opportunity to define the universe of the show as they see fit since the show will now, presumably, be set primarily in 3187.
And because canon demands other sacrifices of Capt. Pike, “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” will likely mark Anson Mount’s final appearance on DISCO. This is really too bad because Mount provided a solidity that DISCO lacked in its first season. I particularly liked that he and Number One referred to the plan to defeat Control as a “Hail Mary.” Much like Capt. Archer, Pike and Number One definitely seem like the kind of officers who would use sports metaphors.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – “Leave some Enterprise for Captain Kirk!”
It was great to see the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 get beaten up again. Although it wasn’t a common occurrence in STAR TREK, various models of the Enterprise have limped over the finish line, or not, in Trek movies; most notably, Capt. Kirk destroys the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 by initiating its self-destruct sequence at the end of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN.
Going way back to the 22nd century, the Enterprise NX-01 routinely got the crap kicked out of it in episodes of STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE. The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B was nearly destroyed at the beginning of STAR TREK GENERATIONS, and the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D was destroyed at the end of that same movie. Similarly, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E is nearly destroyed during an encounter with the Borg in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT and is nearly destroyed again, this time by Romulans, in STAR TREK: NEMESIS. And, although it’s never shown onscreen, the destruction of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C features heavily in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”
Just like it was exciting to watch Voyager, from STAR TREK: VOYAGER, and the Defiant, from STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, get the crap kicked out of them every once in a while, though, it’s similarly exciting to see Discovery in peril. That said, the stakes always seem higher whenever it’s the Enterprise, whichever model, on the line.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – An Uncertain Future
DISCO’s second season opened a lot of Trek doors for the show’s creative team. The introductions of Capt. Pike, Number One, Spock, the Talosians, and Vena provided some much-needed nostalgia beacons for longtime Trekkies but, based on the uncertain ending to season 2, DISCO’s third season probably won’t feature many more of these familiar Trek touchstones.
So far, canon has only defined the 32nd century as the century in which Dr. Gabrielle Burnham has her temporal anchor point, the year 3186 to be exact. Canon further sets 3187 as the presumed destination of Burnham and Discovery. Beyond these two bits of information, all canon has to say about the 32nd century is that in 3125 a new design for a retrofitted dorsal carrier will be commissioned (STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE – “Future Tense”).
Extrapolating from canon, though, viewers can assume that 32nd-century humans will have either already colonized, or will be planning the colonization of, Alcor IV. Alcor IV is the war-torn home of Craft, a 33rd-century human soldier who finds Discovery adrift in the SHORT TREKS episode “Calypso.”
For the time being, though, extrapolating is all viewers can do. After all, Burnham and Discovery might wind up in a completely different time period than the one they expect. Personally, I’m hoping for 2026, the year that the Trek-franchise World War III starts.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Room for Editorial Improvement
As interesting as DISCO’s second season was, it suffered from some serious problems. First, the timing of the seven red burst signals was very confusing. I know that we’re dealing with temporal anomalies here, but it was difficult to understand how Starfleet and the Klingon Empire knew that there were/are/will be seven signals without knowing where or when they would appear.
I couldn’t help thinking about this detail throughout the season, and, finally, the conclusion I came to is that my confusion is the result of poor script writing. It seems like DISCO’s writers came up with an idea that they liked, that seven mysterious red bursts draw Discovery closer and closer to its predestined goal, but then couldn’t figure out how to make their idea work properly. Much like DISCO’s season 1 writers, season 2 writers seem to have great ideas but often lack the ability to execute those ideas well.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Bag of Bots
DISCO’s second season also suffered from having a weak villain. “Control” is just a stupid name for a bad guy and, again, this character suffered from a weak execution of a good idea: why would an amalgamation of nanites assume human form in order to seize a ship, as Control did when it attempted to take Discovery?
It seems like it would have been a far better idea for Control to break down into the multitude of microscopic robots that comprise its consciousness, infest Discovery, and download the Sphere data it needed. For a super-intelligent AI system that, if left unchecked, will wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy, Control seems a bit slow on the uptake. Hats off to Alan van Sprang who did the best he could with the character he was given, but I hope season 3’s villain has a bit more meat to it.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Loose Lips Get Charged with Treason
The denouement of “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2,” in which various Starfleet officers, including Number One who apparently refuses to give her name even to the admiralty, contained the most egregious Trek offence in DISCO history. I and many other Trekkies have spent the past season or so wondering how the amazing adventures of the USS Discovery and her crew will become purged from Starfleet’s history books. Well, we finally got our answer, and it’s a real stinker.
That no mention is ever made of Discovery or her self-sacrificing crew, including Michael Burnham, throughout the entirety of every other iteration of Trek — all save one iteration (STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE) being set after the events of the first two seasons of DISCO — is quite strange indeed. “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2’s” explanation for this lack of discussion is that Starfleet bans any discussion of Discovery and her crew under penalty of treason — cue the biggest fan eye roll in Trek history.
Setting aside how ridiculous it is that the threat of being charged with treason would effectively stop every member of Starfleet — an organization comprised of beings obsessed with exploration, discovery, and seeking the truth — from uncovering the truth about Discovery and her crew, the threatened charge of treason still doesn’t explain why Kirk, McCoy, and eventually Picard don’t all find out the truth after mind melding with Spock and/or Sarek. This was a stinky wrap-up that marked the low point of season 2 for me, and, again, poor script writing is to blame.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Nearly Final Thoughts
All in all, DISCO’s second season was OK. This season earned points with me by involving and fleshing out Capt. Pike. For many Trekkies, the adventures of Capt. Pike and crew were what they were hoping DISCO would turn out to be before producers announced DISCO’s wildly different premise. But if season 2 is the only peek viewers get at Pike’s Enterprise, at least we got that. Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn did admirable jobs playing Pike, Spock, and Number One, respectively. Personally, I’d rather watch a show about that crew than I would about former Emperor Georgiou working for Section 31.
Pike’s Enterprise isn’t all viewers got a peek at though! I can’t properly describe how happy I was to see an aerial shot of 22nd-century San Francisco, the home of Starfleet, at the end of “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2.” Variations on this iconic shot appear in a number of Trek films and episodes so even though I may have disliked the narrative content of the final scenes of “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2,” I fully appreciated the nostalgia of their sets and scenic designs.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E14: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” – Saturation Station
As DISCO warps ahead into its uncertain third season, it’s tough to say what direction the show will take. With time travel now firmly on the writing room table, there are essentially no limitations to where and when Discovery could wind up next. This reviewer wonders if DISCO will, from now on, feature a different Trek era every season or if it will pick one and stay put. Either way, writers have their work cut out for them. With access to a ship that can travel to anywhere in the multiverse in the blink of an eye and a suit that allows its wearer to travel through time, writers may find that their editorial horizons are slightly too broad.
Whenever DISCO season 3 airs — probably early 2020 — it may find itself a bit crowded, though. The still-unnamed show about Jean-Luc Picard’s continuing adventures in the 24th and, presumably, 25th centuries will, apparently, begin airing on CBS All Access in late 2019. Premiere dates for two animated Trek shows — one geared toward adults, the other geared towards children — a live-action Section 31 show featuring Michelle Yeoh, and a rumoured show about Pike’s second five-year mission aboard the Enterprise have all yet to be set. Whenever these shows air, though, you can bet that I’ll be watching each episode with the focus of a Guardian of Forever.
Until then, qapla’, live long and prosper, and keep on trekkin,’ folks.