WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Star Trek: Discovery, “Will You Take My Hand?,” which premiered Sunday on CBS All Access.
Viewers didn’t really think the Klingon home world would be destroyed in Star Trek: Discovery‘s season finale, no matter how desperate Starfleet brass had become. Qo’noS exists later in the franchise timeline, after all, and it wouldn’t be very Starfleet of them, besides. What viewers didn’t expect, however, was for the series to take another big leap, not to the Mirror Universe or through time, but … backward. With “Will You Take My Hand?,” Discovery‘s producers tossed away a season’s worth of bold storytelling in favor of fan service.
Sure, that’s been part of the show’s fabric from the beginning, from protagonist Michael Burnham’s connection to Spock and Sarek to the contents of Captain Lorca’s private menagerie. But it’s never been the primary point, like it was in the finale. What began as a mere wink to the franchise faithful with a prominent role for the Orions, the green-skinned species introduced in the Original Series‘ first pilot, picked up steam with a cameo by actor Clint Howard, who as a child played the alien Balok in the TOS episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.” (He also appeared on Deep Space Nine and Enterprise) It culminated in the finale’s final moments, with Discovery dropping out of warp to answer a distress call from Captain Pike’s U.S.S. Enterprise, heralded by the familiar notes of the classic theme, and followed by the TOS end-credits music. It was a scene undoubtedly intended to make fans stand up and cheer. But they shouldn’t.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with Emperor/Captain Georgiou enjoying herself at an Orion pleasure palace, or Clint Howard playing a shady drug dealer who gets Cadet Tilly high and tries to rob her blind; those are arguably the best, and inarguably most fun, moments of “Will You Take My Hand?” It’s just that they underscore the much larger problems of the episode, which feels intended as a mea culpa to longtime fans who have groused since Day 1 that Discovery isn’t “their” Star Trek.
Those fans craved heaping helpings of comfort food, and until the season finale, Discovery‘s producers only gave it to them in small portions, with a little spice. They wanted an away mission? Fine, we’ll travel to Pahvo, but focus on Saru’s nature, and the burgeoning relationship between Burnham and Ash Tyler. They liked the Mirror Universe, a franchise staple? Great, but we’ll go really dark, and kill off a couple of prominent characters in the process. Discovery delighted in challenging the conventions of the 52-year-old property, at least until it embraced them.
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