Speaking at WonderCon 2018, the Star Trek: Discovery team revealed that Season 2 will address one of the more complex issues: how the show fits into the Star Trek timeline.
The first season of Star Trek: Discovery was a tremendous success, but it raised some awkward continuity questions for the fans. The show introduced Michael Burnham as Spock's adopted sister, for example, a plot twist that raised a curious eyebrow; why hadn't Spock ever mentioned Burnham before? The spore drive technology seemed at odds with everything Starfleet would use in the future. Even the main arc, the war between the Federation and the Klingons, seemed very different to the one described in The Original Series; far from a "cold war," Season 1 saw the Klingons come close to wiping out the Federation.
Longer-term Star Trek fans were left frustrated and confused. The Star Trek timeline is already confused in the aftermath of J.J. Abrams's reboot, and that left fans hyper-aware of the issue. At WonderCon 2018, one fan actually proposed that the series is part of an alternate universe. Co-showrunner Aaron Harberts insisted the show is set in the Prime Timeline, and then reassured the questioner that this will be resolved in Season 2.
"The idea was to always be in the Prime Timeline. Obviously, there are questions and concerns and things that are different. Our technology is a little different. We have a ship that runs very differently. We are our own show in a lot of ways. Season two is really exciting for us. This is our opportunity to really show how Discovery fits into this Prime Timeline. We are firmly committed to that."
It seems Season 1 was essentially about establishing the show's core concept; Season 2 will explore how that concept relates to the overarching narrative of the franchise. That's a smart approach, preventing the series becoming too continuity-heavy. Harberts promised that Season 2 would move away from "the backdrop of war." Clearly excited to move the story on, he explained that the creative team is looking forward to a "more exploratory phase and a more diplomatic phase." As he acknowledged, this would be "a bit more of a Trekian chapter." It certainly seems like a subtle pivot, a response to frequent fan criticism that the heart of Star Trek is exploration, not conflict.
While it's certainly gratifying to see that Star Trek: Discovery is acknowledging its continuity issues, the showrunners will have to strike a careful balance. The reality is that most average viewers won't even notice the continuity. Resolving these perceived problems in a heavy-handed way would actually draw attention to them. Meanwhile, too strong a focus on continuity can easily make a series inaccessible to new viewers. As Spock would put it, this particular challenge is "fascinating."
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