- As an Establishing Character Moment for The Federation, outside of just the crew of the Enterprise, one of the first things we see is Georgiou and Burnham, two Starfleet officers, covertly saving a species from extinction by using a phaser rifle to break a layer of bedrock at the bottom of an existing well without being spotted (or so they think). In so doing, they kept an entire sapient species from dying out, proving that this series has learned from the missteps of later Trek series that treated the Prime Directive — referred to as "General Order One" — as a justification for remaining uninvolved and letting species die out from preventable causes. Even better, in a moment of Fridge Brilliance, Georgiou and Burnham start the series off by using a phaser weapon for peaceful and beneficial means — defying the Darker and Edgier attitude that the series seems to otherwise possess.
- Saru and Burnham cannot get a fix on the unidentified object (later revealed to be the Klingon beacon) using the advanced sensors of the Shenzhou. So what do they do? They go for the Mundane Solution of magnifying it through the old-style telescope in Captain Georgiou's ready room.
- Voq, son of none, proves himself worthy of being the Torchbearer by thrusting his hand into flames. And holding it there.
"Battle at the Binary Stars"
- Burnham out-logics a computer! Spock would approve (and they did grow up together)!
- While the Klingons are more prepared for battle, Starfleet proves to be dangerously resourceful. USS Europa is rammed by a cloaked Klingon warship (at this point, Starfleet doesn't even know cloaking technology exists), and despite the ship nearly being bisected within a few seconds, they still have time to trigger their own warp core to self-destruct (ensuring the Klingon ship's destruction as well) and ordering at least some of the crew to the lifepods.
- After the Starfleet forces have been destroyed, disabled, or forced to retreat, T'Kuvma takes the time to begin recovering the fallen Klingon bodies for proper burial. Shenzou, despite being a broken wreck at this point, uses the opportunity to booby-trap a nearby Klingon body with a Photon Torpedo warhead, which T'Kuvma brings inside his own ship, allowing them to disable it in one blow.
"Context is for Kings"
- Burnham demonstrates her badass cred when she effortlessly takes down the other three prisoners when they attack her. Landry, notably, treats her more politely than when they first met.
- Burnham distracts the monster, giving the rest of the away team a chance to escape to the shuttle. She crawls through the Jefferies tubes, pursued by the monster, while reciting a passage from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a Survival Mantra. She ends up exiting over the shuttle bay, dropping directly into the open hatch of the waiting shuttle so they can escape.
- Cadet Tilly deserves credit for not only keeping her composure amid the carnage on the Glenn, but for going right back to work aboard Discovery afterward despite knowing that the very same thing could happen to her if something goes wrong with the spore drive. It's no wonder Stamets thinks she's worth keeping around!
"The Butcher Cares Not For The Lamb's Cry"
- Burnham, after seeing 'Ripper' savagely maul Landry, still has the guts to prove her theory correct by facing down the creature without a forcefield, bringing it a tasty meal of spores.
- The Discovery's Gunship Rescue of the Corvan II colony.
"Choose Your Pain"
- Lorca and Tyler's escape from the Klingon ship. They beat up the guards, steal the guards' weapons, find the cargo bay, and use a Klingon raider ship to escape to the Discovery. You could accuse Gabriel Lorca of many things. Cowardice is not one of them.
- Tyler can pilot a Klingon ship. Lord knows how he learned that particular skill. Talk about being Crazy-Prepared.
"Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad"
- Burnham's brilliant method to force Mudd to make another time loop: she reveals her identity to him and then kills herself. Mudd could just take the victory he's been handed, but, just as Burnham predicted, he just can't let go of the potential reward for delivering her alive to the Klingons.
- Mudd notes that the dark matter pellets he swiped from Lorca's lab kill with incredible pain, as Tyler gets to demonstrate. Burnham swallows one on purpose and barely flinches as it destroys her from the inside out.
"Into the Forest I Go"
- Lorca's brilliant plan to use the spore drive to play Kol for a chump and devise a method of seeing through Klingon cloaking devices.
- Michael fights a duel with Kol. Despite Kol's overwhelming physical superiority, the two of them are more-or-less evenly matched. Michael finishes the fight by prying Captain Georgiou's Starfleet insignia from Kol's chest, right before the Discovery beams her out. Kol is left screaming powerlessly as the Discovery blows the "ship of the dead" to pieces.
- A minor bit due to Lieutenant Keyla Detmer's character development (what little of it we ever see, since she's mostly a Bridge Bunny so far): In Battle at the Binary Stars, the look on her face during the fight is one of contained-but-evident wide-eyed fear. In this episode, when told to keep the Sarcophagus (the same ship she faced off with in the pilot) busy to buy Burnham and Tyler time, she fires off a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner with a smirk before proceeding to make Discovery dance circles around the larger ship.
- While impersonating her Mirror Universe counterpart, Michael has to fight off an assassination attempt by Mirror!Connor, who is trying to keep his position as captain of the I.S.S. Shenzhou by killing her. While Micheal is caught unprepared, she manages to even the odds by disabling the turbolift's gravity and kills him. While Michael is clearly horrified at having killed someone who looks identical to her old crewmate, she manages to regain her composure and emerges from the turbolift to thunderous applause from the bridge crew. And at long last, Michael Burnham is a captain.Bridge Crew: Long live Captain Burnham! (perform the Mirror salute) Long live the Empire!
Michael: Long live the Empire!
- The same subtle lighting effect they apply to the Reliant from Khan has been applied to the ISS Shenzhou. The lighting is red and the hull paint darker, and the Shenzhou looks badass. Especially since she's put next to the still vanilla painted Discovery, which you can immediately tell comes from a kinder, gentler Starfleet.
"The Wolf Inside"
- Before the away mission to Harlak, Ash warns Burnham that her well-intentioned attempt to warn the rebels about the incoming Orbital Bombardment may very well result in her death. Burnham's response? "Better dead than one of them." Ash can't disagree with that.
- Burnham is attacked and overpowered by Voq in Ash's body. Just as he's about to kill her, he's grabbed from behind and tossed across the room by Mirror!Saru, presumably because she didn't abuse him like the rest of the crew.
- For the crime of attempting to murder an Imperial Captain, Voq in Ash's body is sentenced to death. Burnham personally activates the transporter, beaming him out into open space. He is immediately beamed up by the Discovery, where Prime!Saru reveals that Burnham tricked Ash into helping smuggle the Defiant intel off the Shenzhou by slipping them in his empty holster.
- When Voq angrily tells Saru that he should have left him to die, Saru sets him straight with barely-controlled rage:Saru: "No. We are stranded in a cruel, anarchic world. But we are still Starfleet. And we still live and die by Federation law. No matter how heinous your crimes."
- A huge moment in retrospect for Mirror!Lorca. This is someone from a cruel, despotic universe where humans in general are ruthless xenophobes. When Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, and Scott were switched with their Mirror Universe duplicates, it took no time at all for them to be identified and locked up, and Spock indicated it was trivial to spot them because they couldn't act like "normal" people. Mirror!Lorca managed to replace their duplicate for over half a year, successfully con Starfleet medical personnel and psychiatrists who were closely examining Lorca to look for problems after the loss of his ship and crew, including Cornwell, who the real Lorca had been in a relationship with, overcome the xenophobic upbringing and Properly Paranoid behavior to successfully command a crew with multiple non-human species without blowing the cover and no-one suspecting, and, perhaps most impressive, not set off Saru's danger sense.
"What's Past Is Prologue"
- The first time Saru took command in a crisis, he came off as a bad parody of a Starfleet captain. This time, when the stakes are literally all life in every universe, he doesn't bark orders or pull rank. He lets the crew do their jobs, and provides stern but encouraging advice when needed. Then he takes the big chair and coolly leads the Discovery into battle. Fine Character Development indeed.Saru: It is well known that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death. I do not sense it today. I may not have all the answers; however, I do know that I am surrounded by a team I trust. The finest a captain could ever hope to command. Lorca abused our idealism. But make no mistake, Discovery is no longer Lorca's. She is ours, and today will be her maiden voyage. We have a duty to perform, and we will not accept a no-win scenario!
- The battle itself is one for Discovery and her crew. A prototype science ship takes on the city-sized flagship of the Terran Empire and wins.
"The War Without, The War Within"
- Stamets using the last of his Prototaxites to terraform a moon, and the result is gorgeous. And he doesn't even have to use protomatter.
"Will You Take My Hand?"
- The bridge crew of the Discovery stands in support of Burnham when she threatens mutiny again if Starfleet doesn't call off the attack on Qo'noS, with Saru, the one who'd taken her original mutiny on the Shenzhou the most personally, being the first to do so.Saru: We are Starfleet.
- For saving the Federation and not compromising their ideals to do it, the crew of Discovery are awarded the Starfleet Medal of Honor, Cadet Tilly and Lieutenant Stamets are promoted to Ensign and Lieutenant Commander, and Burnham is reinstated with her conviction pardoned and charges expunged.
- The Discovery receives a distress call on the way to Vulcan and comes face to face with the ship that started it all: the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, in all her (slightly artistically updated) Constitution-class glory...and the ending credits of the episode are set to the classic Star Trek theme.
- Credit where it's due, Mudd's plot is impressive. He is scamming numerous bounty hunters trying to claim his bounty with a small army of android Mudd impersonators, which he sells to them while in disguise. To say nothing of how much he's managing to annoy the unfortunate Starfleet crews who have to deal with it all.
- Jet Reno found herself stranded on an asteroid with a bunch of wounded/dead crew and a ship incapable of ever flying again. She then spent the next 10 months keeping those crew alive despite being an engineer and jury-rigged the ship to maintain life support. There's a good reason Starfleet's engineering prowess is so widely known.
- Tilly, with some prompting from May, finds a way for the crew to rescue the colonists on New Eden without violating the Prime Directive: Using the gravity-warping dark matter rock they captured in the previous episode to tow the radioactive debris into a safe orbit. The moment is topped off with the use of the old musical cue from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
"An Obol for Charon"
- A minor, meta moment when the universal translator goes haywire - all the actors begin to flawlessly speak in different languages.
- Even though he is dying, Saru fights through his illness to help save Discovery and allow the dying star-like being to send its last message.
- When "May" refuses to leave Tilly because she has plans for her, Reno immediately says "Wrong." And then shoots the entity. It didn't work, but it demonstrates that Reno is not going to let anyone on her crew get hurt if she can help it, whether she's known them for ten months or ten minutes.
"Saints of Imperfection"
- As it turns out, when Starfleet says No One Gets Left Behind, they mean it: when Tilly finds herself in the mycelial network, Discovery follows an insane plan developed by Stamets to partially get in there and help Tilly.
- However it happened, Hugh Culber managed to revive within the mycelial network, survived with literally nothing to eat for weeks or months, and while he was being attacked/deconstructed by the beings living in the network, had the presence of mind to use something he could tell repelled them.
"The Sounds of Thunder"
- Saru tearing through his restraints and smashing the Ba'ul drones with his bare hands to rescue his sister. Then for an encore, he liberates the entire Kelpien species.
"If Memory Serves"
- When Pike finds out what the stakes really are from Spock and Burnham, he decides to disobey orders and go rogue. He just starts the standard "I'm about to disobey orders" speech when Detmer interrupts him to ask what course he wants, showing he doesn't even have to ask if they'll follow him.
"Through the Valley of Shadows"
- In order to obtain a time crystal, Pike has to knowingly submit himself to the future we see in "The Menagerie" - an immobile, horrifically scarred man in a beeping chair. It takes him a moment, but he reaffirms his belief in both his own and Starfleet's values, and brings it back to Discovery.
"Such Sweet Sorrow"
- Even just the promo trailer for the episode is full of awesome. Discovery and Enterprisenote get to go all Back-to-Back Badasses against a fleet of Section 31 ships commandeered by Control. And we're getting to see the updated◊ Enterprise bridge!
- Not just the bridge, but the corridors as well, with the coloured panels and sections of grid between corridor segments. On the Meta level, overall a brilliant job on updating the classic Enterprise design to a more modern appearance without sacrificing the original look. Even the flat-panel displays on the bridge at Spock's station have graphics replicating those from the original show and the little screen-viewer he would use all the time.
- Although she has no way of knowing how dangerous it was, it's still pretty ballsy of Po to call out the outwardly intimidating Georgiou for being a snarky bitch while she was helping the crew.
- Reno solves the problem of how to charge the crystal in time without exposing everyone to its traumatizing visions: she just tells the others to leave and locks herself in to endure them as she continues working. And she stays focused enough to get the job done in time for the next episode.
"Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2"
- The entire Battle near Xahea. Not since the days of the Dominion War have we seen such a spectacular battle sequence put to screen — capital ships blasting away at each other in close-range combat, hundreds of fighters and drones dogfighting in huge swarms, and of course Burnham flying through the carnage in her Red Angel suit, leading Discovery toward the wormhole.
- Admiral Cornwell's Heroic Sacrifice, as she manually engages the blast door to seal the explosion of a torpedo lodged in the Enterprise's hull to contain the blast, then turns to the torpedo and waits for the explosion.
- The Big Damn Heroes arrival of L'Rell and the Klingon ramming ship. A rather impressive bookend to "Battle of the Binary Stars," with the Cleave ship ramming into a Starfleet ship, now L'Rell arrives to rescue Discovery and take out two of Control's ships.
- Among the ships in the Klingon fleet are the classic D7 battlecruisers showing off their firepower.
- Everyone and everything involved in the hallway fight between Georgiou, Nhan, and Control/Leland. From Alex Kurtzman challenging the cast/crew to do something awesome with the season, to Olatunde Osunsanmi (the director) for working out the scene, to the crew who built the hallway and choreographed the fight, and the performers for carrying off an impressive fight.
- In the run up to the show's premiere, a series of face shot posters were released to advertise various characters, each one displaying the logo of the respective interstellar power (the Starfleet crest for Federation characters, and the Klingon Empire crest for Klingon characters) as an inverted silhouette. Though this alone was visually a nice touch, each of the Federation characters also has their name and rank featured, but that's not the awesome part. What's really impressive is that the Klingons, instead of their ranks above their names, have their names in proper Klingon alphabet underneath their readable names. One can find that either awesome or terrifying.
- Some of the trailers can even get into this at times, especially when the Discovery first appears on screen and goes to warp. To some extent, it's Jason Isaacs' delivery that seals it:Capt. Lorca: We are creating a new way to fly.
- Jason Isaacs telling the white nationalists complaining about the show's black female lead to [expletive] off via Twitter.
- The first episode got at least 8 million views when it aired on CBS; keep it mind it only aired as a way to get people enticed to sign up for CBS Access. In Canada, the first two episodes scored the highest numbers of any scripted show, ever, on cable television in Canada.
- The series has utterly spectacular special effects, demonstrating the advances in technology that have come in the last few years in bringing science-fiction to life on both the big screen and the small screen.
- After numerous false starts over the past 50 years, the franchise is finally giving us a TV show with a gay major character.
- On top of that, there's also the fact that the word "gay" is actually used to describe this character - in the 23rd century it may be a difference that makes no difference, but to the audience in the 21st century, it's a tangible indicator that in the future, gay people do (and have) existed. Considering that this franchise's history with LGBT issues is... mixed at best, it's a pretty solid affirmation.
- Only six episodes into the first season, and the series has been renewed for a second!
- A big one for the producers. The early pre-release stories that Shazad Latif was originally supposed to play Kol but instead was recast as Tyler, supposedly because of allergic reaction to the Klingon makeup, provided cover for possible leaks about the Tyler/Voq reveal; a rumor that connected Latif to playing a Klingon could be dismissed as a mix-up about that earlier story, and by making it Kol, he'd be further connected to an important Klingon...just not the right one.
- For a series that was accused of being too dark to be Star Trek, the season ends on an uplifting note with the main characters taking a moral stand, not only saving the Federation but giving the Klingons a chance to save themselves in the process and not compromising their ideals to do it, very much in the mindset of what people believe Star Trek should be. And to hammer that point home, it ends with the Enterprise herself showing up and Alexander Courage's classic theme for the credits.
- For bonus points, the first season's final shot of both ships seems to be a Shout-Out to the Real Life meeting of their namesake Space Shuttles, the only such meeting to ever occur. Even the positions of the starships (Enterprise on the left, Discovery on the right) matches the famous picture of the shuttles.