Star Trek: Discovery Destroys the Franchise's Most Infamous Trope

Star Trek: Discovery - Brother

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, "Brother," streaming now on CBS All Access.

Picking up mere moments after last year's finale, the Season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery brings the vessel's crew into contact with the U.S.S. Enterprise, with the charismatic Captain Pike, the specter of Spock, and many of the trappings of the original series. A decade before James Kirk's legendary five-year mission, Starfleet's best-known ship may not possess the technological bells and whistles of Discovery, but it does have those colorful "new" uniforms: gold for command division, blue for science and medical, and red for engineering, communications and, yes, security.

The latter, dubbed redshirts by fans, have transcended the sci-fi franchise to become shorthand for someone who's expendable. That's, of course, because security officers died with some regularity on The Original Series, sometimes as many as three or four in a single episode. With the debut of the red Starfleet uniform on Discovery, it's perhaps inevitable the series would have a little fun subverting five decades' worth of expectations.

Star Trek redshirts

With Enterprise suffering a catastrophic system failure while investigating one of seven mysterious red signals that have appeared around the galaxy, Pike (Anson Mount) takes temporary command of Discovery in hopes of completing his mission. He brings with him Lt. Evan Connolly (Sean Connolly Affleck), an arrogant science officer, and Commander Nhan (Rachael Ancheril), who wears -- you guessed it! -- the red of operations division. If you're surprised that Spock doesn't accompany his captain, you're not alone: an anxious Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) soon discovers her estranged foster brother has taken a leave of absence from Enterprise, a decision tied to the red signals.

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There's not much time to dwell on that in the season premiere, though, as six of the signals have disappeared, and Pike is determined to study the one that remains. However, when Discovery arrives at its coordinates, the crew instead finds an asteroid, which unexpectedly possesses an atmosphere, to say nothing of the downed U.S.S. Hiawatha, a Starfleet medical frigate believed to have been destroyed during the war with the Klingons.

Star Trek: Discovery - Brother

With conditions making it impossible to beam, to the asteroid's surface, and too risky to use a shuttle (both well-established Star Trek tropes in themselves), Burnham quickly comes up with an alternative: lander pods developed for an earlier mission. Basically large hamster balls with thrusters, they're the best bet for maneuvering the debris field. With the asteroid heading into a pulsar, there's little time so save anyone who may have survived the Hiawatha crash.

Pike promptly assembles his away team: Burnham, who has the only experience with the high-speed pods, Connolly and Nhan.

"Get your redshirt into an E.V. suit," Pike says, seemingly placing a target on his commander's back. "Nhan, you're with us."

Wearing their delightfully shiny, and color-coded, suits, the away team races into danger in a thrilling action sequence that rivals anything previously seen in the franchise, on screens small or large. Naturally, conditions are even worse than anticipated, and the team is quickly forced to switch the pods to manual controls, setting up disaster for someone.

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The nervous Nhan, in her red E.V. suit, is the obvious candidate, but it's the pompous Connolly who invites catastrophe by ignoring Burnham's instructions, and insisting he knows better. He's rewarded with a collision that cuts him off in mid-sentence, and turns his pod into a ball of flame.

Pike, too, meets with misfortune, as his pod suffers system-wide failure. Unable to eject, he orders Burnham to stay on mission. Of course, being Burnham, she instead orchestrates a daring rescue: Discovery remotely ejects Pike from his pod, Burnham abandons her own to catch him and then the bridge crew controls her space suit's thruster to slow their descent onto the asteroid.

In the end, Nhan is the only one who safely pilots her pod to their destination. Defying the odds, a redshirt emerges from a dangerous away mission unscathed. Well, this week, anyway.

Streaming on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler, Wilson Crz as Dr. Hugh Culber, Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Mary Chieffo as L'Rell, Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno, Ethan Peck as Spock, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes premiere Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT.

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