Like last season, The Shuttle Pod has again transformed into Shuttle Pod At The Disco for the run of Star Trek: Discovery season two, with weekly podcasts about each new episode.
Shuttle Pod At The Disco – Season 2, Episode 15 – A Look Back At Season 2
Subscribe to Shuttle Pod: The TrekMovie.com podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music, and Pocket Casts!
Like what you hear? Please leave us a review on iTunes.
The Shuttle Pod crew has a final Star Trek: Discovery episode to wrap up the season. Brian, Jared, Kayla, Matt, and returning guest Laurie look back on the second season. The crew discusses the season’s themes, writers’ goals, plot arcs, and general feelings about the season as a whole.
Laurie is cool. She should be on more episodes.
You just made my day. So nice! Thank you.
I just wanted to say how much I always enjoy the podcast. You folks perfectly captured my mixed feelings on season 2. While you say that you think the show runners shouldn’t pay attention to social media… and just write stories, I agree with the exception that they should listen to you. Journey on!
I love the podcast, but I always get the sense that you guys are tip-toeing around a big question; is this writing team capable of writing good science fiction? Is Alex Kurtzman qualified to be the overseer in all of this? Should he have stuck with schlock like Transformers: Dark of the Moon? Shouldn’t CBS have hired someone like Ron Moore instead? Every BS sound bite that comes out of Kurtzman’s mouth makes me want to fight him. 5 million a year they’re paying him to make this crap. Unreal.
“Shouldn’t CBS have hired someone like Ron Moore instead?”
They did. They hired Bryan Fuller and Nick Meyer. Then some kind of creative catastrophe happened and they got purged. The show has been creatively tumultuous since that time.
Maybe because he has done Star Trek and wants to challenge himself to do new things. Does every writer and creative want to be stuck doing just one thing? Not everyone wants to be the next Gene Roddenberry or George Lucas known for one thing.
Perhaps the greater issue skyjedi is that the renewal of the writers hasn’t taken place within the franchise. And I don’t think that it’s just the hiatus between series.
Moore and Braga (and Naren Shankar who runs The Expanse) came up from the bottom as junior writers on TNG.
Somehow, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise didn’t recruit and form a new generation of showrunners in the same way.
Yes, Brian Fuller worked on the later 90s shows, but he hadn’t reached the showrunner level before the hiatus.
I’m hoping that as Discovery and the other new products stabilize on the writing side, Trek will be able to develop its own writing talent again.
But the recruitment dynamic is very different…I don’t know if the current system enables production companies to find entry level writers with science backgrounds and knowledge of Trek.
Certainly, there is a reason the WGA is in a legal conflict over how the agencies operate.
But more than that, even by the late 90s recruiting writers from spec scripts was no longer the thing.
Back when DS9 was coming on the air, film school students like David Mack spent their summers writing spec scripts for shows they loved.
Mack (and a buddy) only sold 2 stories to DS9 – but one, about Nog hiding in the holosuite after losing his leg, is a classic. Whatever the history, this didn’t lead to any regular work on Trek shows.
Mack has instead become a favourite author of licensed Trek-lit.
Strongly agree. It is literally Star Trek by people that don’t like or understand Star Trek.
I tend to agree with the overall assessment. Started out interesting but somewhere in the 2nd act things just started to fall apart. For me, these things started with the Culber resurrection. Which was a terrible idea. And the only reason he came back at all was because they feared something that no rational person should fear. Would have been great if Culber sacrificed himself in the network. That could have given him a noble end and Sammetts gets closure.
Pike was great. Reno was fun. Makes me wonder how the show will work without him. He held everything together.
Oh man… Kayla’s comment that producers insisted on talking about the show and things that never appeared in the show… I’m right there with that. That’s a HUGE problem. We are set up to expect one thing and then, we DON’T GET IT!!! Also, doing interviews to explain away issues is not a good sign for the show, either. If the audience is constantly not understanding your plot points.. That is on you.
Yes. I’m not big on having to do homework to enjoy a movie.
Regarding how close this crew is… That closeness felt forced and unearned. The most genuine relationship that was forged felt like Burnham-Saru. And even that one wasn’t done all that well.
Maybe I missed something but I saw no real character arc for Burnham in season 1. She suddenly became accepted by everyone for no reason whatsoever. And in season 2 she was all over the map emotionally.
And as much as I disliked Saru losing his fear, I’d still rather see the show centered on him than anyone else. I like the Tilly idea as a concept. Just do it with someone other than Tilly!
Regarding “syncing up with canon”… Never happened. That was a huge fail on producers part. Fixing the problems could have only really been accomplished with a time reset button of sorts. Make it so none of the things in Discovery ever happened. That is pretty much the only way to do it. I’m wondering why did producers feel the need to explain way things that did not need to be explained away. I honestly have never heard of the “Kill your gays” trope until it was spoken about in regards to Discovery season 1. I’ve never noticed that as being a thing. Ever. So that reasoning totally blew me away. It sucked hearing he was coming back so fast because Culber’s murder was the one and only one “holy crap!” moment in season 1.
Pike worked. Reno worked. But the Section 31 stuff didn’t work. The time suit stuff didn’t work. Pretty much the major plot points didn’t work.
I would say that far more often than not, I was thinking about why the plot or character actions did not hold up WHILE I was watching. When you re-watch anything even really good stuff it’s pretty easy to pick it apart. But when the show is working, I’m caught up in the moment. Going with it. I’m not thinking about alternative actions all that much. But if I’m not engaged… Not connected to the story, I DO start wondering “why don’t they just do that instead?” The only time I was caught up in the story was that episode where Nahn killed Ariem. I felt it worked even though the entire sequence doesn’t stand up to scrutiny when you stop and think about it. But most other moments, I was thinking about all the plot issues. Which is why I feel like the story overall didn’t work.
Even though they didn’t make it about the Borg, that would not have been the worst thing in Trek ever. That honor still belongs to Lorca being from the MU.
The AI threat was pretty dumb as Control was already pretty damn sentient and powerful without the sphere data.
I gotta say that I was happy as hell that Tilly’s role shrunk away somewhat towards the end. And the Stammets Culber thing I just never cared about because I couldn’t get past the silly way he was resurrected. So I never could buy that it was the REAL Culber. Ever.
The things that worked in season 2 were things that were not a part of season one. So while the first season was a solid F- this season has risen to somewhere between D+ and C-.
Thanks again for a thorough analysis.
I particularly appreciated the inventory of plot arcs across season 2.
A few thoughts of my own…
First, I find it really interesting that the group find that the potholes or inconsistencies increasingly irritate on rewatching.
For me it’s often the opposite. Many of them take me out of the moment, and it’s only after hashing them out in my mind or seeing them discussed in reviews, that I can go back, watch the episode and really enjoy it.
The spectacle of the season finale was about the only episode where the ‘what about…?’ part of my brain didn’t get in the way the first time through.
Second, I disagree that they should tune out the social media. But the showrunners and CBS need to be a lot less ad hoc about taking messages for social media and professional critics and responding to them.
Really, it’s the ad hoc rather than systematic and professional approach to strategy and tactics that’s missing… much as the Shuttlepod Crew described about the writing.
Yes, there’s lots of opposing fan views, and some make more sense to pay attention to than others. But good market research, rather than casual assessments could help TPTB know what they need to respond to.
Ideally, TPTB should have a good description of 10-20 representative fans and potential fans/viewers. What pulls them in, and what puts them off.
For example, there is a group of fans who couldn’t let go of the Spock’s sister issue, no matter how much it’s completely consistent with his character. Or the folks who just couldn’t get past yet another visual change to the Klingons. Market research could let TPTB know if this is 1% of the historic audience or 20%.
And even if it’s 20%, the right creative decision might be to ignore the group’s issue and focus on other products for that group. But at least there would be an opportunity to prepare senior CBS management, and have a plan to contain the impact.
Basically, it all comes down to needing good research, professional expertise, preparation, intentionality and a reasoned approach…..and not going for the knee jerk, quick response when confronted with the unexpected.
Pretty much Star Trek values right there.
The major achievement of season 2 of Discovery was serving as a pilot for what could be an awesome Christopher Pike-Spock-Number One series set on the Enterprise.
The crew continues to handle this show with kid gloves. The notion that there is a silver lining based on fans’ criticism of the show (because this apparently demonstrates that “they care” about the show), demonstrates just how much our friends on the shuttle pod crew do not understand trek fans, or they choose to ignore the basic principle that trek fans live by: “Any Star Trek is better than no Star Trek at all”. And while this show seriously challenges that basic principle for most fans, it means that fans care about Star Trek, period; not STD.
Pardon the acronym, its just too appropriate….
Having had the evening to mull over this podcast, the observation about covering the relationship and character beats separate from the action is really resonating with me.
It really gets to the ‘show, don’t tell’ approach.
On one hand, Discovery has used moving cameras in meetings and corridor conversations to give a sense of forward momentum when the work is discussed…
But when character or emotional beats are taking place, they are done as static conversations, particularly in the second half of the season.
It explains my impatience with these moments, and how particularly for Burnham in the latter part of the season, I stopped feeling along with her.
I really like the groups suggestion that character beats be found in the work, not outside it. Or at least a better balance such as the suggestion that Culber should experience his PTSD and perhaps dissociation during his work as a physician.
Lastly, I was trying to think about where I’ve experienced this ‘stop to talk’ pacing…
Sincerely, what came to mind was when I watched General Hospital in its heyday in the late 80s.
And even then, what drew a larger audience to GH was that the relationships were formed and developed in the backdrop of a spy story.
A very fair and interesting discussion. I confess I do feel somewhat validated that you guys have pretty much all the same concerns that I have, although perhaps to slightly different degrees. The midseason reviews had me feeling like I was taking crazy pills because everyone was so happy with it and I wasn’t, but now I see we are pretty much on the same page. I don’t hate absolutely everything about discovery either, but it’s definitely a hot mess, as you discuss. Personally, I have little interest and no enthusiasm for what comes next for Discovery. If they haven’t been able to make it work so far, I don’t believe a change in locale is going to fix anything. Going into a brand new setting with this writing team seems even riskier that retreading TOS. I just don’t think they have the chops to create an entirely new, compelling premise. Then again, just getting through one season without changing show runners would probably help immensely.
I think my main take away is that I wish I worked for TrekMovie or had a bunch of cool friends to talk about star trek with every once in awhile. Seems super fun. The podcast is great though, and it continues to be a pleasure to listen to all of you discuss my favourite subject. LLAP.
” If they haven’t been able to make it work so far, I don’t believe a change in locale is going to fix anything.”
Michael, I have the same concerns. In the past on more traditional television, when a show makes a change like the one Discovery just did, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the show. Such changes have never worked. I can understand being excited for new doors that can be opened but my guess is the underlying problems with the show will continue. I’d say at this point there is a better than 50-50 chance season 3 will be Discovery’s last. Especially considering that they have so much coming down the pipe.
Loved the podcast as always.
Would love to hear your (updated) thoughts on the whole CBS Trek franchise, and all the shows they’re doing (at this point I’ve forgotten which ones are greenlit or not) in light STD’s continuing problems up through the end of S2. Can CBS/Kurtzman still manage all these shows? Is there still cause for optimism?
Do you guys have plans for doing a Star Trek 2009 movie retrospective this year? I know you’ve got The Search for Spock and The Motion Picture lined up.
Whatever other topics you’ve got, I look fwd to catching up.
Yes we’re planning on doing ST 2009 for the 10th anniversary.
I always enjoy the Shuttle Pod. All five of you bring something to the Trek table to discuss. I totally agree with Discovery being similar to a movie like Spider-man 3 in that a lot of people watch it and really don’t like it, but a few moments stand out. My favorite episodes were the first two, but the show just drastically drops in quality after that.
I was hoping for more discussion of the Enterprise bridge that I love, but I guess they covered that last time.
And Kayla is right again about the need for a science consultant! What exactly are the red bursts? It was never really explained, it’s like the writers did not want to even try to explain them. A simple line or two would have sufficed
Looking forward to the next podcast!
I guess I’ll be the voice of dissent here. I feel like the show improved in the second half. I found the Tilly/spore arc tiresome and was relieved to get to some more meaningful plot developments. Aside from New Eden, the first time things really connected for me was “Project Daedalus.” I feel like the first half of the season created a mess that they had to clean up. It seemed strong only in that it didn’t half to cash any of the checks it was writing. I appreciate what the writers and producers accomplished in the second half of the season, setting this show up to arrive where it belongs, where no one has gone before, in a new universe, with a clean slate. I’m excited and enthusiastic to see what comes next.
I still say that the major issue for this show is trying to serialize it too much. We don’t need to try to services 11 major plot threads in each episode (or have some of them inch forward but remain undecided every episode). What they should do is service 1 or characters’ arcs in one episode, giving them complete mini-arcs in that episode, while advancing the one big season mystery a little, and then move on to different characters’ development in the following episode. The two good examples from this season were “An Obol for Charon” and “New Eden” – they told self-contained stories focusing on one or two characters (Saru and Pike?, respectively), while giving some more info on the Red Bursts storyline. But each was self-contained enough to be its own story.
There are “rules” to writing good stories. A big one is needing a beginning, middle, and end. But others are “show not tell” and having consistency (character, historical, rules of the universe – like transporters vs shields). If you want to completely serialize the show, that requires a solid commitment to the story and structure from the beginning, and an excellent ability to plot out story points, revelations, motivations, and destinations ahead of time – without those commitments, you often end up breaking those good “rules” of storytelling. This show doesn’t yet have that commitment or ability. Each episode tries to rely on others to establish the beginning of the story, or fill out its middle, or give it an end – but they have not been nearly cohesive enough.
The writers have been good writing the small stuff, character scenes, and small interactions, and terrible at the big picture stuff (Lorca, the Klingon War, syncing with canon, AI, faith).
Ditch the serialized storytelling of Game of Thrones or Westworld and go back to the semi-serialization of DS9 (excluding the last 10 episodes of DS9), or the mini-arc storytelling of ENT season 4. That would force the writers to write beginnings, middles, and ends to character stories that would also make more sense and give the important decisions enough time to be explored and keeping those decisions on screen. So long as you don’t drop down to TNG-era standalones where it was questionable if major life-changing decisions would ever be mentioned again, you won’t have a problem.
Interesting that the Shuttle Pod crew seemed to enjoy the Mycellial Network plot so much. For me, the strongest stretch this season was episodes 6-10 Sound of Thunder through Project Daedalus, with the best being If Memory Serves. I liked it but it overstayed its welcome about 1.5 episodes too long. By the time Hugh came back to life I was REALLY eager for them to get back to the main Red Burst story. I agree 100% that the Tilly character and Mary Wiseman’s performance was fantastic through those early episodes and I too was upset that she faded to the background towards the end of the season.
I think you guys sort of hit my mixed feelings on the head: this show can be frustrating because it clearly has so much potential. The finale had a lot of highlights but I can’t help be feel that they didn’t stick the landing. The writers are great at thinking about the WHAT in terms of the plot, but are not good at thinking through the HOW.
I agree that the “classify everything about Discovery and Michael” was weird and frankly unneeded. What makes this even more frustrating is that the show already teased us with several potential ways to get rid of the Spore Drive, only to pull a 180 on us:
-S1 established that the DASH requires a intelligent being to act as a navigator, which is not a sustainable solution. But this season it seemed like it wasn’t that much of an issue for Stamets to use the spore drive?
-Both MU arc in S1 and the Mycellial Network arc seemed to imply the mycellial network takes damage and a toll on life in the network from use of the DASH (but in S2 it turned out to ge Hugh causing the damage, not the jumps themselves). I can’t belive this wasn’t used as a reason to discontinue the use. What if there was a cataclysmic accident that destoryed the mycellial network? Tragic storywise, but it would’ve worked perfectly.
Somehwat ironically after I type out several paragraphs of things I didn’t like so much, I think I would’ve appreciated it if you guys hit on the things that DID work some more during the podcast. E.g., I thought the way they tied the whole season together with the temporal paradox was clever and made a lot of sense. They did a fabulous job with the Pike character and really took advantage of the prequel setting to flesh out and enrich character we knew very little about. I really cared about our main characters. I liked the injection of more humor and fun this season.
Hopefully there will be less behind-the-scenes upheaval next year, which will lead to more coherent storytelling. I really enjoy the podcast but it can be hard to listen to at times when the crew seems to be overwhelmingly negative, but I appreciate that you guys articulate and explain your points well.
I’m wondering why anyone who participated in this podcast thinks this makes for a valuable listening experience: an entire panel describing their random and cynical, yet uniform opinions about the season. No one had insight, experience, or any intellectual probity. What a downer. Christ.