When the USS Discovery found itself back in the normal universe after nine months away, the realization that the Klingons were decimating Starfleet was the second-closest moment the United Federation of Planets has come to destruction. The closest was obviously the Borg, which only the wisdom of Jean-Luc Picard could prevent thanks to his past assimilation into the hive.
With Starfleet in such a perilous situation when the USS Discovery returned from the mirror universe, Star Trek: Discovery was set up for an incredible climax. The war was raging on, and honestly, while we all knew Starfleet would find a way out of it, we all had a little doubt cast in the back of our minds. So it’s with much regret that the final episode ‘Will You Take My Hand?’ was such an underwhelming finale to what has been a decent series.
Ever since Michael Burnham transported Emperor Philippa Georgiou to the normal universe, there was an expectation of cultural confrontation; for instance, the Emperor was seen eating the ganglia of a Kelpien, something that would certainly cause discomfort with Saru at the very least. Much of this arc seemed to have been rushed by the end of it, with several different leads ending quicker than they had begun.
In many ways, the predictable story line would have been more satisfactory. With the unveiling that Captain Lorca was from the mirror universe and the whereabouts of his normal universe counterpart unknown, there was much more momentum with this arc than the final moments of Star Trek: Discovery. Indeed, if the final episode was the death of Captain Lorca and USS Discovery returning to the normal universe, after spending more episodes in the mirror universe developing a unique moment in the series, then the finale would have been predictable but yet engaging; much preferable.
The final episode felt like it needed another episode to outline everything that was happening in better detail. The Klingon home world of Kronos has rarely been visited in any Star Trek series, and there was a real opportunity to develop a monumental ending that would transform the Klingons into more than the blood-thirsty race that they’re often portrayed. Not enough time was spent on Kronos, its culture wasn’t explained, it didn’t boldly go anywhere. One minute they were in a form of Klingon strip-club, they next they had put a bomb down a volcano that was never going to be detonated. A false climax, all puff without the boom.
The expectations were for much more conflict. The Klingons had entered the Sol system, Earth was in their sights. Discovery had landed a party on Kronos with a bomb, the foundations of the United Federation of Planets was supposed to change regardless. It didn’t. While it briefly questioned its values, it only gave itself a virtuous hand-clap at the end, awarding a medal to Burnham for ending the war without destroying Kronos.
Admittedly, that was the most Star Trek of an ending. A diplomatic victory, not quite Picard but certainly clever enough. Nor quite Kirk, but had a little courage in doing something unthinkable. Certainly not Sisko, Kronos would have been made into an asteroid belt had it been. The problem lies with Star Trek: Discovery being counter to much of the previous series, ignoring much of the original exploration premise, the irony not missed. With the key focus of much of the series on the war with the Klingons, a dramatic finale would have given the season a memorable conclusion.
Oddly, all the key moments happened in the middle of the season. Captain Lorca was killed off an episode after we knew he was from the mirror universe. The Ash Tyler arc dispersed quicker than Voq’s Klingon ruler ambitions. The Kelpiens never became an integral part of the series. Emperor Georgiou never caused chaos in the normal universe. The end of the season felt rushed, as if they’ve tried to squeeze as much content into as few episodes as possible, leaving every arc without a satisfactory conclusion.
It seems this series has been set up to coexist with the movies. At the end, the USS Discovery encounters the USS Enterprise in a rather meretricious ending that didn’t seem appropriate for its conclusion, more a cheap thrill to satisfy the Star Trek community than anything else. An attempt to create excitement for season two, of which would beam away from the original concept of Discovery.
The ending has left the season on a sour note. While the series has genuinely been good, the ending has taken it out of warp. Many of the questions being asked throughout the series were never answered properly, leaving many gaps in the story. There is a lot of potential for season two, however, with Emperor Georgiou free to walk across the normal universe. Maybe next time the final episodes won’t feel so rushed.