I was much more successful in writing a post after I’d watched the first season of Witcher so as much as possible that will be my habit going forward. Star Trek Discovery has already had two seasons and while I was initially planning on doing an episode by episode review, that sadly did not come to pass. I think to some extent that is a factor of the format.
You see, unlike older Star Trek shows where each episode was something that primarily stood alone, Star Trek Discovery is basically an extended movie with a single underlying story that ties each episode together. This is both good and bad. From the positive, there is quite a bit more character exposition provided. Negatively though, missing something in one episode could ruin the whole series for you.
So to ensure you’re all caught up before you jump into Season 2 on Netflix or CBS, let’s do a quick recap of Season 1 to make sure we’re all on the same page. Star Trek: Discovery is set roughly a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, and follows the crew of the USS Discovery during the Federation–Klingon war.
The first installment saw the beginnings of the cold war between the Klingons and the Federation after Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green), the first officer of the USS Shenzhou, accidentally killed a guard while investigating a strange object. A group of Klingons mourn the death of their soldier, dubbed the “Torchbearer”, before the outcast Voq volunteers to take his place. The Klingons, led by T’Kuvma, reveal themselves in a cloakable ship. T’Kuvma preaches to his followers of the Federation’s attempts to usurp the individuality of the Klingons and their culture and plans to fulfill an ancient prophecy by uniting the 24 great Klingon houses as was once done by Kahless.
She directly disobeyed Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and even attacked her in a bid to try to avoid a war with the Klingons. When all went horrendously wrong, Burham was imprisoned and later found herself on the USS Discovery helmed by Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs). Lorca later asks Burnham to work for him, despite her sentence, explaining that he organized the circumstances that led her to him so she could help develop a new spore-based propulsion system that could win the war she started by killing T’Kuvma.
The series proceeded with hostiles between the Starfleet ship and the Klingons as Burham traveled on the ship. After a month of successful operations, Lorca is ordered to protect the spore drive until it can be replicated for other Starfleet ships. As he returns to the Discovery, Lorca is taken captive by the Klingons. Burnham has grown concerned with the toll that the drive has taken on Ripper. Along with Stamets’ partner, medical officer Hugh Culber, Burnham convinces Stamets to find an alternative to run the drive. Lorca is imprisoned with captured Starfleet officer Ash Tyler and human criminal Harry Mudd, and in discussions, Lorca reveals that he killed his entire crew during an earlier battle to spare them from the Klingons’ torture, but escaped himself.
Lieutenant Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) made a jump while feeling unwell which saw the USS Discovery getting sent into unchartered territory. Discovery‘s crew determines that they have arrived in a parallel Mirror Universe, with Stamets now unconscious and unable to power the spore drive. Tyler confronts L’Rell, and she attempts to use a verbal cue to trigger something within him, though he fights this off. From a data core from a wrecked Klingon ship, they learn that this universe is ruled by the human Terran Empire, who are fighting a resistance that includes species such as Klingons and Vulcans. Here, Burnham is the former captain of the ISS Shenzhou, presumed dead after an attack by the fugitive Lorca. The ISS Discovery is captained by Sylvia Tilly’s counterpart, so she and the crew pretend to be their Mirror selves. They deliver Burnham and Lorca to the Shenzhou, under the ruse that Burnham had been hunting Lorca since her presumed death and had now captured him. Tyler accompanies them, after first killing Culber when he informs Tyler that he appears to have undergone major surgical modifications. On the Shenzhou, Lorca is tortured while Burnham assumes command.
Burnham and Lorca are summoned to the ISS Charon, the imperial flagship. Georgiou sends Lorca to a torturous agony booth and has dinner with Burnham. Stamets finds himself within the mycelial network with the consciousness of his Mirror counterpart, learning that the network has been corrupted by the Mirror Stamets’ experiments. Stamets encounters a representation of Culber and accepts his loss, before waking up to find his spore collection infected. Georgiou laments allowing Lorca to become a father figure for Burnham, only for the pair to fall in love and plot to overthrow her. She plans to execute Burnham, who reveals the truth about being from another universe. Explaining how they had crossed over, Georgiou trades the spore drive’s schematics for information on alternative ways to cross between universes, which leads Burnham to realize that the Lorca she knows is actually from the Mirror Universe, and has been manipulating events to get close to her and back to the Mirror Universe.
Lorca frees his old crew, who have been tortured since his disappearance, and with the help of Mirror Stamets, they are able to kill those loyal to Georgiou and usurp her throne. She goes into hiding, while Burnham also evades capture and contacts the Discovery. They agree to a plan in which Burnham lowers the containment field around a large energy source originating from the mycelial network. The Discovery will then arrive to destroy the energy source, causing an explosion that they can ride into the mycelial network through which Stamets could navigate them home. Georgiou agrees to help Burnham, and they attack Lorca’s group. Rejected and defeated by Burnham, Lorca is killed by Georgiou, who offers to sacrifice herself to allow Burnham’s escape. The latter instead takes Georgiou with her as they are beamed to the Discovery, and the Charon is destroyed. Back in their own universe, the Discovery crew learns that they have arrived nine months after they left, and in the meantime, the Klingons have nearly won the war.
As the Klingons close in on Earth, “Captain Georgiou” (really, the evil mirror version) quickly gets used to being in command of the Discovery. She snaps at a crew member who refers to Qo’noS as the Klingons’ home planet: “Klingons are animals, and they don’t have homes.” The plan is to map the surface of Kronos by spore-jumping into one of the planet’s massive caves, but they need to know where to land. Georgiou interrogates L’Rell — and doesn’t hesitate to rough her up when she doesn’t talk — but the Klingon prisoner just laughs her off. So they turn to their next best source of Klingon information: Lt. Tyler, who still retains Voq’s memories.
Tyler points to the site of an ancient shrine on Qo’noS, now an outpost for the green-skinned Orions, as the ideal spot for their mapping drone. So after they successfully spore-jump into a nearby cave, Georgiou takes Burnham, Tyler, and Tilly (the captain was impressed by her “Killy” alter ego) on an away mission to the trading post — an entertainingly grimy street market dripping with vice. Tyler goes into Voq mode again to play a Klingon game, which disturbs Burnham; she tells him the chilling story of how she had to listen while Klingons killed her parents. Inside a seedy club, Georgiou calls over a couple of go-go dancers for some private “me time” (hey, she’s the boss!), leaving Tilly in charge of the mapping drone. And yeah, she messes it all up.
Tilly encounters a drug-peddling Orion weirdo — and, to be polite, inhales the volcanic vapor he offers her… and ends up passing out cold. When she wakes up, she’s “very high,” and the drone is gone. It’s not really a drone, though, as it turns out; it’s a bomb, and Georgiou intends to use it to blow up Kronos. Burnham runs to tell Cornwell, but quickly realizes: She and Starfleet were in on the plan, too. Cornwell insists this is Starfleet’s best shot at survival: “We do not have the luxury of principles.” But Burnham fires back: “That’s all we have, Admiral!” And Saru and the crew stand with her, ready to mutiny if Cornwell goes through with this genocide.
So Burnham is dispatched to stop Georgiou before she triggers the planet-shattering bomb. Even though she’s not the prime Georgiou, the two still have a strong connection; in fact, Georgiou asks Burnham to ditch Starfleet and join her to rule this universe together. When Burnham refuses, Georgiou points a phaser at her, but she doesn’t budge: “The only way you’re going to get past me is to kill me.” Ever the pragmatist, Georgiou agrees to cut a deal: She hands over the detonator in exchange for a clean escape. But how to defeat the Klingons, then? Burnham turns and hands the detonator over to L’Rell, and tells her that in order to save Qo’noS, she needs to convince the Klingons to stand down.
The overall arc of Star Trek: Discovery season 1 was the Klingon War, which was fought with the help of the Discovery’s experimental spore displacement hub drive. However, that very same advanced tech sent the starship into the Mirror Universe where Burnham and the crew discovered Lorca was an imposter – he was the Mirror version of Lorca posing as the Discovery’s captain. In the Mirror Universe, Burnham also met the Terran Emperor, the doppelganger of Phillipa Georgiou, who Lorca was trying to depose. After defeating Lorca, the Discovery jumped back home to the regular universe – with the now ex-Emperor Georgiou aboard. Finally, the crew of the Discovery found a way to end the Klingon War by installing L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) as the new Klingon High Chancellor.
Back on Earth, all is well. Burnham gets her mutiny charge expunged and is officially named a Starfleet commander. Tilly enters the command training program, and Saru becomes the first Kelpien to receive Starfleet’s medal of honor. Burnham also has a heartwarming reunion with surrogate dad Sarek, who commends her unwavering commitment to Starfleet ideals. Rewarded for saving the Earth by having her rank returned to her, Burnham reaffirmed Starfleet’s ideals and the Discovery returned to their mission of exploration – before receiving a priority one distress call from the U.S.S. Enterprise in a shocking end to the season. Suddenly, they’re face-to-face with the Christopher Pike-captained Enterprise! Cue the old-school theme song…