(Sure, we likely won’t see this show on our screens for some time – thanks a lot for that, coronavirus – but as we collectively dig our way out of, well, everything, the very fact of its existence provides some tangible and necessary hope.)
In the increasingly dark world of Discovery, Pike’s arrival in Season 2 feels like a breath of fresh air – a handsome, charming and utterly dedicated believer in the larger Starfleet mission. As a character, he feels like he stepped straight off a recruitment poster. From his first moments onscreen, he’s everything a Starfleet captain should both be and do, an encouragement to everyone around him to be their best selves. The promise of Strange New Worlds carries a similar feeling, to be honest – a reminder of why we fell in love with this franchise in the first place, and why we continue to look to it to show us the best possibilities of our own future.
On Discovery, Captain Pike is a perfect blend of classic nostalgia with modern sensibilities. Mount plays him with a golden retriever’s charm, the sort of relentlessly good and likeable figure that, in the era of Peak TV, we are all basically trained to hate instantly. He’s not an anti-hero. He’s not particularly conflicted or questioning his inner understanding of right and wrong. He doesn’t have a dark past. (Though, technically, he has a dark future that hasn’t arrived yet.) In fact, he’s kind of a goober. Surely, there’s something secretly wrong with him. Or with us, for caring about him.
Or maybe there’s still something to be said for the simple story of a good man, after all.
It is Pike’s most aggressively normal qualities, after all, that make him so compelling to watch and root for. He’s kind to those who serve with him. He listens to others, and values their opinions. He constantly works for the betterment of himself, his crew, and the galaxy he’s running around in. As a leader, Pike legitimately lives his values, on both good days and bad.
“You’re a Starfleet Captain,” he tells himself at a critical point during Discovery’s second season. “You believe in service, sacrifice, compassion, and love.”
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