Star Trek: Discovery is an American web television series produced for the subscription streaming service CBS All Access. It was created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman and It is a continuation of the Star Trek franchise which started with Star Trek: The Original Series (which aired on NBC from September 8th 1966 to June 3rd 1969). It is the seventh series in the Star Trek franchise, and the first to be released in the franchise since Star Trek: Enterprise (which also has its own Top 10, which you can check out here). Within the in-universe timeline, Discovery takes place roughly ten years before the original Star Trek series, and follows the crew of the USS Discovery. Discovery premiered on September 19, 2017, airing weekly until the first season concluded on February 2018. The second season aired from January to April 2019. Following that a third season was commissioned and it is expected to debut in 2020. Discovery features an ensemble cast with Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, A science specialist on USS Discovery. She is also a human who was raised in the vulcan lifestyle by Sarek (Spock’s father). Doug Jones as Saru, the First officer of the USS Discovery and the first Kelpien to join Starfleet. Shazad Latif as Voq (Ash Tyler), an Albino Klingon who underwent extreme and extensive surgery and mental conditioning to pose as a human called Ash Tyler, who would later become the chief of security for Discovery. Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets, the Chief engineer aboard Discovery and a science officer specializing in astromycology (the study of fungi in space). Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly, a cadet assigned to Discovery and works under Stamets and is also Burnham’s roommate. Jason Isaacs as Gabriel Lorca, the new Captain of the USS Discovery, and a brilliant military strategist. Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber, the Chief Medical Officer on Discovery as well as Stamets’s husband. Lastly rounding off the main cast, Anson Mount as Christopher Pike, another Captain of the USS Discovery, following Lorca. So not that I’ve broadly introduced the show, time for the list.
1. Choose Your Pain
There are a lot of reasons to like this episode, and a lot of reasons why it takes the top slot, it could be that by this point, we are five episodes into the first season, I personally felt that the show had found its stride, not to say it hadn’t been good up to this point, but by this point I felt like I knew what the show was about by this point. It could have been that it gave Stamets, one of my favourite characters another chance to shine, when he hooked himself up to the Spore Drive, in classic desperate scientist style. But again, that wasn’t it, it even could have been the appearance of Harry Mudd, a con man who appeared two episodes of The Original Series, and an episode of The Animated series. But again, no. I think other than just being an awesome, engaging and truly riveting episode, I liked this one so much because it introduced my favourite character Ash Tyler.
I loved Star Trek: Discovery’s version of Sarek, so this episode instantly made the list for featuring him, but what I liked most about it was that it showed the connection between him and Burnham, not just the metaphysical, mind meld thing, but here we have to emotional restrained characters, for whom discipline and order and tantamount, and they manage to portray being those stoic Vulcan and pseudo-Vulcan masks that they care greatly for one another. Incredible acting and a great episode.
3. Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
This episode already makes the list for having Mudd in it again, but also I am partial to time loops, and in this Mudd turns up and ends up blowing up the ship, only for time to reset, with only Stamets, seemingly aware due to some greater cosmic awareness as a result of his actions in the episode that took the number 1 slot. It’s not only fun but also just a really well done episode, and also even though it’s technically wiped out by the nature of time loops, Burnham and Tyler kiss.
4. Despite Yourself
First off this episode was written by Jonathan Frakes (who you may know as William T. Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation) so it’s already going to be a good episode, but the fact it introduces the parallel mirror universe previous seen in Star Trek episodes such as ‘Mirror, Mirror’ (TOS), ‘Crossover’ (DS9) and ‘In a mirror, Darkly (ENT)’ just to name a few. I love the whole mirror universe thing and not just because it gave Spock a Van Dyke beard. I also love this episode because it advances the Tyler/Voq thing, an element of the series I truly enjoyed.
5. Vaulting Ambition
This episode would be good just because it revealed the season long arc that Lorca, is in fact his mirror universe counterpart, this has such a strong pay off, my only complaint is that the Lorca and Voq reveals happen to close together and as such it robs some of the dramatic tension from both reveals. I’m sad about Lorca’s end in this episode, but again I feel like it wrapped up smoothly, a very interesting, if convoluted story arc.
6. Such Sweet Sorrow Part I & II
As finales go this one really packs an emotional wallop, and not only is it satisfying, because it draws to a conclusion, 2 seasons worth of building and narrative, but it does so in such a way that for critics of the show, which does admittedly play fast and lose with established canon and in-universe reality, resolves some major issues. It also puts my favourite character Ash, in the driving seat of Section 31 opening up the possibility for more of him in future seasons and/or spin-offs. I also particularly liked Queen Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po shortened to just Po, played by the talented Yadira Guevara-Prip.
7. If Memory Serves
This episode had a whole lot, a visit to Talos IV, a real chance for Anson Mount’s version of Pike to shine, it also gives ample time to both Culber and Tyler both of whom are going through deep internal crisis regarding personal identity and their own futures. It’s overall, a really strong episode.
8. The Red Angel
While I was sad about the death of Airiam, and they really only gave her character a chance to shine, in the episode or two preceding this one, I felt that you could sense the weight of her death of various characters. Additionally this progresses the Red Angel story arc, which while deeply enthralling was dragging just a little in my opinion.
9. Into the Forest I Go
This was a nice middling episode, it wasn’t the best that Discovery had to offer but it was far better than perhaps I thought when I first watched it, it showed more of the inner turmoil/trauma suffered by Ash, prior to revealing the root cause, especially when he is confronted by Klingons directly and it also ties up part of Lorca’s plans which push towards the conclusion of his story arc.
Despite the fact I had been unsure since the initial mention of the idea that Burnham was Spock’s foster sister, they played off the dynamic between both characters well, especially considering they share no scenes together in the episode, instead it’s all provided through Burnham’s actions. The highlight of this episode though easily has to be Engineer Jet Reno, played amazingly by Tig Notaro, who charmed me right away.
Honourable mentions go to The Vulcan Hello, Will you Take my Hand? and Perpetual Infinity which I also really enjoyed but didn’t quite make the top 10 list.
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