Right, you miserable lot! I've finally caught up with Discovery. I put it off for ages because I was re-watching old Trek and have tried to avoid spoilers and opinions, but have naturally learned from snippets here and there that Discovery is not very well liked. Now that I've binge-watched the first two seasons over the last month or so, I am finally in a position of authority to tell all you haters that you are completely...
Some detailed thoughts on S1 to start with and then I'll get to S2...
I think the main problem with this prequel show is that it doesn't feel like a prequel show. Stylistically, thematically, it feels all over the place. It takes every opportunity to drop in references to things on the one hand, while on the other it's constantly taking massive liberties with established continuity or outright changing characters' personalities. So I spent a lot of time just thinking "hang on, why did this never get mentioned again" when I should be sitting thinking "this is a great dramatic piece of entertainment" and be invested in what might happen next. Prequels are the death of a franchise, I think. But putting that all aside, there's the writing, storytelling and tone.
Season 1 felt like it was being pulled in five directions at once. It seemed intent on abandoning its core premise - the Klingon war - at every opportunity and finally wrapped it up in the least satisfying way possible. I didn't grow to like or care about the main character; the supporting characters were better, but Lorca was turned from a conflicted hero to a space fascist, which was a massive waste. I liked Tilly, I liked Saru. The Admiral was alright. The Klingons were all completely horrible, to watch, to listen to - just utter boredom whenever they were on screen. The use of violence and swearing was never earned - this was not an adult show, it was a dumb show pretending to be adult.
It flip-flopped from a gritty war drama serial to a goofy sci-fi episodic show. I admit I enjoyed the second half of the season, when twist after twist was thrown at you and the show embraced its innate silliness and totally hammed it up with mirror universe melodrama. Like, it was totally daft but it was having fun with it. It was still terrible for a multitude of reasons but it was damned compelling viewing for a significant portion of its run. I know most of the twists were guessed in advance (eg. Tyler) but I didn't see them coming. I'm pretty bad at guessing twists, luckily. Also, big up the NX-01 and Archer name-drop!
But the plotting, man. It was all over the place! Even within the confines of an episode, the plots lurched between different ideas, disposing of them and hastily introducing new ones, forcing the characters to behave irrationally/stupidly for these lurching plots to make sense. Nothing had time to breathe, nothing had time to settle, for characters to grow. The pace of the show was relentless, but stopping to think for a moment revealed how little sense anything made. Let's take that final episode, for instance.
So, no humans have been to Qo'noS for a century. But wait, when they get there, there are humans there?
A bomb dropped into a volcano can destroy the entire planet and no Klingons think to guard these caves?
So, the entire war was ended by a single Klingon woman with an iPad? No other Klingons thought "hey, what if we just shoot her and take her iPad before she can press the doom button"?
So, Tyler was a Klingon who was made to look human and given human memories... or was the human Tyler given Klingon memories? If the former, what happened to the real Tyler? If the latter, why did he undergo surgery? Why did nobody seem to care one way or the other? Why was a known spy let free and allowed to wander the ship on the basis of trust?
Why was Stamets so chipper and upbeat in the engine room with Tilly one episode after his husband had been murdered?
All Mirror Universe people have sensitive eyes? That's a new one, that's never been mentioned before. Oh, but they're only sensitive to Regular Universe light. Except for Emperor Georgiou for some reason, who is sensitive to her own universe's light? What?
How did Lorca's plan to return to the MU make any sense? "Hey, if I pretend to be the other Lorca, maybe I'll be assigned this experimental ship and, through a series of coincidences, might contrive a way to travel between dimensions. Good job that mission on the crystal planet didn't work out, otherwise the spore jump plan wouldn't have happened!"
It's like... the plots were constantly lurching and coming to dramatic dead-ends only to lurch another way instead. This happened throughout the season and it was infuriating. Examples:
It's vitally important that we learn how the Tardigrade works, otherwise we can't use the spore drive. Oh, we set the Tardigrade free but it's okay, we can use the spore drive without it anyway.
It's vitally important that we reverse engineer this planet's crystal antenna to beat the Klingon cloaks. Oops, we failed. Oh, we found another way to beat their cloaks after thinking about it really hard for ten minutes.
It's vitally important that we get this intel back to Starfleet otherwise we'll lose the war. Oops, we're in the mirror universe now and can't give them the intel, but we'll win the war another way that makes the intel irrelevant.
It's vitally important that we send Burnham on a mission to find the old Defiant data so we can get home because the spore drive doesn't work anymore. Oops, we can't use the Defiant data, but the spore drive works again anyway! But it's a good job we happened to come to the Emperor's ship anyway because it's going to destroy all known universes!
It's vitally important that we survive normal warp travel through Klingon-occupied space because we've run out of spores. Oh look, we can grow more spores!
Watching these episodes made my head spin! I couldn't invest in what was happening because what was happening seemed to have no consequences!
The spore drive stuff was insane. Given the scope and power of the mycelial network, you'd think it would figure in the history books somewhere. If you're going to introduce some radically new universe-shattering technology, best not do it in a prequel show where nobody ever mentions it again... unless you actively write the secrecy aspect into the plot and then destroy the technology afterwards. By the end of the season, neither of these had happened. The technology wins the war and they retain the power to grow planet-loads more of it in minutes. (This leads to the daft resolution by the end of S2, but more on that in a moment.)
Changes for the sake of changes that instantly took me out of the show from the offset. New Klingon designs, eurgh! (Not even in keeping with the Abramsverse, just straight up brand new pointy-headed people.) Constant Klingon-language dialogue even though they've been using translators for at least a hundred years. Cloaking devices before Balance of Terror, when they were only "theoretically possible" (yeah, Enterprise fucked this up already, but don't double-down on it!). Hologram communicators, hologram computers, hologram maps, hologram mirrors. Viewscreens that are also windows. Phasers that go "phut-phut-phut" instead of beams. Warp drive that goes like hyperspace. Space full of dust and lens flares everywhere. All the stylistic choices from the Abrams movies... and yet this is definitely the Prime Universe, honest!
That said, I definitely appreciated the production budget. Movie-quality VFX, physical sets, costumes and camera work (whatever you may think of the style) all looked fantastic. And even the nothingness of the theme tune, or at least that little bit of it in the middle that's actually new, began to grow on me by the end. I find myself humming it now, it's quite rousing.
So I went into season 2 hoping for something that could take what they learned on season 1 and develop a more faithful show. More science and exploration, no war, less Klingon krap, a splash of colour and warmth, develop the side characters, lean into the humour and have some fun with it. "Hit it!"
So I've binged the whole show over a short space of time and I've kept a log of my thoughts as I've watched each episode. Because I couldn't come wading into a TV topic full of spoilers, so you get the pleasure of reading my thoughts on S2 in one big unfiltered chronological brain-dump - enjoy the ride!
(Spoilered for length:)
ABRUPT INTERRUPTION WHILE I WATCH THE FOUR "SHORT TREKS".
I'd gladly watch more of these Short Treks if they maintain this quality. But now back to the regular show...
EDIT: Spoiler-tags, quote-tags and line-break code all seem to be fighting a battle to the death. Probably got some Sphere Data in there protecting itself.
Literally cannot fix this post, sorry.