Thought we’d already gone back to the past with last week’s guide to the essential episodes of Star Trek? Well, we’re not done yet, because it’s time to stay there with the help of the most recent mainline entry in the franchise. Just because it’s still running doesn’t mean we don’t have episodes to recommend while you wait for the new season!
As part of our ongoing efforts to give you things to distract yourself in the moment of history in which we live, io9 is offering up weekly guides to the very best each Star Trek show has to offer. If you’re keen to follow our advice and help yourself to all the Star Trek, here are at least some highlights you can look forward to as you boldly go absolutely nowhere outside.
A note going in: Star Trek: Discovery is not just an ongoing show, unlike its predecessors, is hugely predicated on serialized storytelling. Which means it’s actually really hard to tell you to skip even the bad episodes—and there are bad episodes—that might have information you’ll need to understand the flow of the season. We’ve skipped a few true clunkers, but be warned: to get the most out of this show, you’re basically in for the long haul, through the highs and the lows.
The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars (Episodes 1 and 2)—Aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou, Commander Michael Burnham’s only real conflict is butting heads with her fellow science officer, Saru. But then a chance encounter with the Klingons sends her on a spiral that puts the Federation at war. Whoops?
Context Is for Kings (Episode 3)—Booted out of Starfleet, Michael finds herself partially brought back in the fold by devil-may-care Captain Lorca: because he needs people like her on his experimental-drive-driven test ship, the Discovery, if the Federation wants to win this new conflict.
Choose Your Pain (Episode 5)—Very bad things happen when Captain Lorca is captured by the Klingons. Oh, and Harry Mudd is here!?
Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad (Episode 7)—Discovery takes a brief break from its ongoing plot for a truly wonderful and endearing time-loop episode. Also, surprise again: Harry Mudd!
Into the Forest I Go (Episode 9)—The ethical push and pull of the militaristic and scientific souls of Starfleet come to a crossroads when Discovery hatches a bold plan to eliminate Voq’s antagonistic faction of Klingons...a move that lands them right in Star Trek’s infamous Mirror Universe. Whoops...?
Despite Yourself (Episode 10)—As the crew tries to reconcile the fact it finds itself in an alternate, nightmarishly cruel reality, Ash Tyler faces a crisis of self-identity.
The Wolf Inside (Episode 11)—Things go from bad to worse when Burnham and the crew realize the only way out of the Mirror Universe is going to be to infiltrate the heart of the Terran Empire.
What’s Past Is Prologue (Episode 13)—A very bad twist that happened at the end of the last episode is dealt with here. It’s bad! But important.
The War Without, The War Within (Episode 14)—Back from that whole miserable deal in the Mirror Universe, the Discovery returns to find Starfleet about to make a terrible sacrifice of principles to win the war.
Will You Take My Hand? (Episode 15)—Ethical nightmare averted, Michael and a small team head to the Klingon homeworld to cut a deal that could end the crisis tearing the Federation and even Qo’nos itself apart.
After the first season of Discovery, CBS revealed Short Treks, an ongoing miniseries of short vignettes set in and around the events of Discovery and its other current Star Trek series, Picard.
While these are pitched as bite-sized ancillary nuggets, not only are there some great bits of Trek among them, some are actually fundamental to the story Discovery leans on, especially in its second season. For that reason, we’ve got a couple of recommendations we’d make for you to check out now, between seasons of Discovery, and a few more you can hold till after that are just fun watches.
Before Season 2, watch...
Runaway—As Tilly attempts to grapple with the personal and professional stresses of the command training program, she comes across an alien stowaway likewise avoiding the onus of duty.
The Brightest Star—Tired of his people being beholden to unseen masters, a young inquisitive Kelpian named Saru looks to the stars for succor...and finds a Starfleet vessel looking back.
Calypso—A thousand years in the future, the Discovery is abandoned and adrift. But when a mysterious interloper wakes up aboard the ship, he finds company in the artificial intelligence maintaining its systems.
After Season 2, watch...
Q&A—Trapped in a turbolift with Number One on his first day aboard the starship Enterprise, a young Lieutenant Spock has plenty of questions about his new Captain.
The Trouble with Edward—On a ship full of successful researchers, the resentful Edward Larkin plans to prove his worth to the team with his latest experiment: turning a docile race of familiar, fluffy aliens into a sustainable food source by upping their reproductive rate. What could possibly go wrong?
Brother (Episode 1)—Back in Starfleet’s good graces after the end of the Klingon War, the Discovery is commandeered by Captain Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise for a mission vital to the entire galaxy. Also: Lieutenant Spock has gone missing: Also-also: Did we mention Burnham is Lieutenant Spock’s adoptive sister?
An Obol for Charon (Episode 4)—On the hunt for more mysterious signals, Discovery encounters a sentient planetoid that puts the ship, and Saru in particular, through one hell of a tough day.
Saints of Imperfection (Episode 5)—On a quest to save Tilly from being trapped in the mycelial network, Stamets is faced with a surprising chance to find love again.
The Sound of Thunder (Episode 6)—Chasing another signal leads Saru to go through some things when Discovery’s mission takes him back to his pre-warp homeworld, Kaminar.
If Memory Serves (Episode 8)—Having found Spock on Talos IV, Michael and her wayward brother try to patch up their damaged relationship.
Project Daedalus (Episode 9)—The Discovery and Starfleet command realize that letting a secret shadow organization acting in the Federation’s interests handing all of its tactical decision making over to an A.I. named Control that’s gone rogue was maybe—maybe—not a smart idea.
Perpetual Infinity (Episode 11)—The identity of the Red Angel the Discovery has been chasing all season shatters Michael to her core, but sets her on a path to prevent the rogue A.I.-gone-wrong future it’s come from.
Such Sweet Sorrow, Parts 1 and 2 (Episodes 13 and 14)—The Enterprise, the Discovery, the Federation, and even the Klingons come together in a battle against Control for the fate of not just the galaxy, but the future itself—and for the Discovery, nothing will ever be the same.
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