Star Trek has come back as a franchise and staple of TV even if it’s not conventional. Here are the three best first season episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.
The Vulcan Hello/Battle at the Binary Stars
I know it’s technically cheating, but it’s hard to isolate one without the other, because it’s the first tone the show is going to set for the whole season and the series.
While it was unconventional for a Star Trek series not to have its focal character be the ship’s captain. It is done with purpose as we originally follow the crew of the U.S.S. Shenzou. While its captain is Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), the main character is Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the ship’s first officer.
A triggered war, a mutiny, a tragic major character death are things you definitely did not expect in a premiere episode of the show. Right away, it told you boldly that it’s not gonna follow the franchise staple.
Normally, when there is a major death or departure in the show, there’s quite some time to build chemistry and camaraderie among the crew. We felt those departures like Tasha Yar, Wesley Crusher, Jadzia Dax or Kes. While some didn’t have as emotional impact as say Kirk (William Shatner) did in Star Trek: Generations, we did however felt the deep emotional impact of Spock’s not once, but twice. While his second passing in Star Trek Beyond was due to Leonard Nimoy’s death, Spock’s first death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was particularly devastating, because no one publicly expected it. It particularly hit hard when Kirk delivered one of the most touching eulogies on screen.
That being said with the uncertainty of the franchise being in the unfamiliar territory of being on a streaming service. No major network or cable outlet would be airing Star Trek: Discovery, but instead it would be the flagship show of CBS All Access service. Much to the disdain of quite a number of viewers, it did become of the most pirated shows.
The plot set in motion from the first episode leads the crew to flee and its remnants over to the U.S.S. Discovery, led by Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs). Lorca is definitely not as benevolent a captain as the crew found Georgiou was.
As we get to know the Federation, we also get to know the Klingons and their clearly defined purpose not some vague objectives. Led by those like T’Kuvma (Chris Obi), L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), and Kol (Kenneth Mitchell). They see the Federation as a threat not as a unifying force that embraces diverse cultures, but rather a homogenized bodies that forces cultures out of their identity. These episodes are far more than any feeling out process the other shows have been before.
Will You Take My Hand?
The season finale that bookends the premiere is also what would be considered mandatory viewing, because it re-establishes its identity as Star Trek and the ideals that made the franchise strong for so many generations.
The episode literally boils down to keeping to your own ways or the nuclear option. What do you do when your back is against the wall? Do you find yourself changing yourself beyond recognition? Do you embrace what you were or what you’ll become despite the reminders that surround you? That was the struggle Burnham and crew found themselves particularly in this episode and throughout the season.
Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
Rainn Wilson is a national treasure for not only bringing us Dwight Schrute in the American version of The Office, but also what he’s brought to the Star Trek: Discovery as Harry Mudd.
While Harcourt “Harry” Mudd was originally played by Roger C. Carmel in The Original Series, Wilson brings his devilish charm and vindictiveness to Discovery. Introduced on Discovery in “Choose Your Pain”, he was abandoned his cellmates Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Lorca while imprisoned in Klingon custody.
Mudd boards the Discovery as revenge in “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” using a temporal device that sends the ship in an endless time loop finding new and innovative ways to destroy the ship and its crew. Having spend a number of the loops studying the ship’s schematics and systems, Mudd was one step ahead of everyone in the crew.
While the theme of “Groundhog’s Day” has been a popular sci-fi story to borrow, Wilson brings Mudd’s charm, vindictiveness and devilish personality to the seemingly inept crew. The episode is easily the best of the first season and one of the most memorable in Trek history.
What is your most favorite Star Trek: Discovery episode?