Spoilers ahead for the Season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek: Discovery went nearly a full year without debuting its second season, and so Trek fans have had a long time to speculate about how the CBS All Access series would incorporate Spock. Discovery takes place before the events of The Original Series, and it was bound to be fascinating to see how the new show would handle a heretofore unknown version of an iconic TV character. Well, any fans who were hoping for Adult Spock in the Season 2 premiere were undoubtedly disappointed on that front, but showrunner Alex Kurtzman has explained why he didn't appear:
Spock looms so large in Burnham's life. He's been such a presence in his absence. I love the idea of watching Burnham's relationship to Spock before we actually get to meet him. You see how much he means to her. This is a story about this deep connection between siblings. The fact that it's so defined by absence, the fact they haven't spoken to each other in so long, is compelling. We all wanted to put the audience in her shoes and feel her perspective and yearning for a character we wanted to get to know more about. Hopefully, it drives the mystery and whets your appetite to understand more about why they haven't spoken.
Viewers learned back in Season 1 that Michael Burnham and Spock had been raised by Sarek as foster siblings, and there was the big question of why Spock in all of his other canon appearances never mentioned her. Alex Kurtzman's comments indicate that their relationship was important, even if Spock wasn't going on and on about his foster sister in The Original Series or any of the movies.
Fans can see and comprehend Spock's role in Michael's life before even encountering him, and that should raise the stakes for when they do inevitably cross paths as adults. The Season 2 premiere revealed that they weren't exactly the best of friends as children, and it tracks that such feelings might extend into adulthood, especially if they went their separate ways in their careers.
Still, there must be more to the story than what Star Trek: Discovery explained about their background in the Season 2 premiere. The trailer seemed to indicate a fair amount of Adult Spock in the second season, so no need to worry that Young Spock will be the only one in the mix. Besides, what sibling relationship isn't at least a little bit complicated? With Sarek for a father and a Vulcan society around them, it makes sense that Spock and Michael fall short when it comes to sharing their feelings!
Alex Kurtzman went on in his chat with THR to say this about Michael and Spock's relationship:
We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we've known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they're headed. That excited me. It's the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We'll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.
We've known for a while that we should expect a very different version of Spock in Discovery than in his previous appearances in Star Trek canon; perhaps what we learn of his relationship with Michael will help explain why he is the way that he is when he first appears in The Original Series. Just because fans had never heard of his sister prior to Star Trek: Discovery doesn't mean that Discovery can't make her retroactively important to him, right? This is sci-fi franchise we're talking about.
Spock won't just be in and out of the action in Season 2, judging by what Alex Kurtzman had to say, and that should make longtime Star Trek fans happy. It was difficult to imagine Discovery only featuring a character as huge and iconic as Spock for only a couple of episodes. Honestly, what would be the point of bringing in Spock of all people if he wasn't going to be impactful?
Given the in-universe circumstances that led to his absence in the Season 2 premiere, we can probably be confident that Spock's screen time won't be dedicated to a ton of heart-to-hearts with Michael. There are larger issues to be investigated, addressed, and resolved than just the family drama. Star Trek has always sought to balance the sci-fi shenanigans with lessons about life and society; maybe we'll learn a lot from how Spock and Michael work out (or do not work out) their issues with each other.
I do have to wonder if Star Trek: Discovery won't give Michael and Spock a happy ending to their issues. There's no getting around the fact that Spock didn't mention his sister in any of his decades of appearances in Star Trek canon. Could their conflict continue despite any strides they make on Discovery? Or is Spock's lack of mention of his sister reflective of a tragedy that went down, making it too painful for him to speak of her? Did Spock actually talk about her all the time, but we never saw it?
Only time will tell. A third season of Star Trek: Discovery has not yet been announced, but Discovery has been such a big deal for CBS All Access that I don't see it going anywhere any time soon. After all, Discovery is already getting a spinoff, and none other than Jean-Luc Picard is coming back to TV with a Star Trek series of his own! This is a good time to be a Star Trek TV fan, especially since Star Trek 4 is in developmental hell for the big screen.
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery release Thursdays on CBS All Access. For more viewing options, swing by our midseason TV premiere schedule.