“Captain, I’m not the enemy here.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Light and Shadows” s2e7

Tyler and Pike in shuttlecraft.
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 7
“Light and Shadows”
Review by Clinton

I’ve spoken before about relationships on “Star Trek: Discovery.” In fact, it was the basis of my review of the “Saints of Imperfection” episode. In “LIght and Shadows” the emphasis seems to be on testing the limits of these connections, pushing for answers and reconciliation.

Discovery and time rift

First, a bit about the episode overall, which has a story by Ted Sullivan and Vaun Wilmott, teleplay by Ted Sullivan and was directed by Marta Cunningham: While Discovery remains at Kaminar, studying residual decay that appears to be connected to the appearance of the red signal and the so-called Red Angel, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) travels home to Vulcan. Burnham believes her adoptive mother, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner) knows more about Spock’s (Ethan Peck) whereabouts than she is telling.

Naturally, things do not go according to plan when Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and the crew of Discovery approach the “residual decay.” They find it has an impossibly high density of tachyon particles. Why is that important? In the “Star Trek” universe, tachyons have moved from the realm of theory to an actual faster-than-light particle that can be detected. Their presence is associated with temporal distortion (time travel). And as Discovery moves closer to the particles, a massive rift in spacetime opens before the ship.

We have already been peppered with suggestions that time travel could be involved in the mystery of the signals and the Angel. The appearance of the rift would appear to confirm all the speculation.

It is when Pike announces that he will pilot the shuttle tasked with launching a probe into the rift that conflicts begin. Section 31 liaison Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) insists on accompanying Pike on his mission. Pike has an understandable distrust of Tyler, since Tyler’s Klingon personality killed Dr. Culber. And Tyler is growing increasingly frustrated at having his authority as a Section 31 operative marginalized by the Captain.

Once in the confined space of the shuttle, Tyler is determined to confront the captain. Even when the shuttle is pulled into the temporal anomaly, where other matters should take priority, the liaison baits Pike. Tyler accuses him of taking dangerous missions to atone for the fact that Enterprise was ordered to sit out the Federation/Klingon war. This type of psychoanalysis does not sit well with the captain.

On Vulcan, Burnham is also making accusations. She believes Grayson knows exactly where Spock is and is hiding the information from everyone, including her husband, Ambassador Sarek (James Frain).

Grayson also has some unresolved relationship issues. She confronts Sarek, accusing her husband of casting a blind eye at the humanity that resides in both their son and adoptive daughter. She reveals that the Vulcan Learning Center had no desire to help Spock overcome his human learning disabilities. As a result, the former teacher took on the responsibility of guiding their children through the looking glass world of outsiders attempting to survive in Vulcan society. She also rejects the notion that she is simply using Sarek’s position to protect Spock, virtually demanding Sarek see the truth.

Amanda Grayson:
I don’t live under your authority. I’m your wife. And I’m your partner. Try again, husband.

In all three cases, the accuser is correct. After the liaison saves his life, Pike confides to Tyler that he might, indeed, be taking dangerous assignments to absolve himself from the guilt he feels over being forced to sit out the war. Amanda Grayson admits to Burnham that she, in fact, is hiding Spock in order to protect her son from what she knows in her heart to be false accusations of murder. And Sarek, feeling the weight of the unwinding of his family structure, reveals, with as much emotion as he dare show, that his family is tremendously important to him.

And still there are confrontations yet to be had. Burnham must reconcile with Spock, for whatever act she committed to drive her brother away. We learn that Captain Leland (Alan Van Sprang) apparently must deal with his involvement with the death of Michael Burnham’s birth parents. And Ash Tyler must still face the man he murdered, the now very-much-alive Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz).

Burnham and Spock

But Burnham setting course for Talos IV, as well as a glimpse of some familiar-looking aliens in the preview for the next episode of “Star Trek: Discovery,” may mean we put these issues on the back burner. For now.

Next episode: If Memory Serves

Random Thoughts and Observations

It was interesting to see it raining on Vulcan. I would imagine it needs to rain on the planet from time to time, as we have no indication that Vulcans can survive without consuming liquids. Still, it was a bit odd to see a storm outside Sarek’s home. Or was that a metaphor for the storm brewing inside the dwelling?

Apparently they have been there since the shuttle first appeared in the first season, but I was noticing the number of physical switches and knobs on the consoles in the pod. It is odd to have such a predominance of tactile controls here and seemingly nowhere else on Discovery.

It is odd that once the crew finds out the Red Angel appears to be humanoid, everyone immediately believes it is from the future. Why? Starfleet must have encountered several civilizations with advanced technology. And, as we see, virtually all of them are humanoid.

Lt. Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) says that igniting the shuttle’s plasma to alert search parties is a trick that is taught in flight school. Which makes one wonder why, in the the original series episode “Galileo Seven,” Spock, or some other crew member aboard the shuttle, didn’t outright suggest it as a way of signaling Enterprise?

Spock disappeared in the Mutara sector. Presumably this is where the Mutara nebula, seen at the end of “Star Trek II: The Search for Spock” is located.

Airiam's eye

Something appears to have taken over Lt. Commander Airiam (Hannah Cheesman). Hopefully, when we find out what has happened to her, we will also have the opportunity to learn a bit about her.

Discovery engages maximum warp while in proximity to Kaminar, to avoid the time tsunami. That’s bad enough, but we don’t know how the temporal waves affected the planet itself. I would hate to think it rolled back time to the point where the Ba’ul still had the means to control the Kelpiens.

What has been happening on Qu’Nos all this time? Have the Klingon houses accepted Chancellor L’Rell (Mary Chiefo)?

If Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is quickly gaining so much power over Leland, could this be the reason Section 31 eventually goes back “underground” and is unknown to the majority of Starfleet later in history? Does she force it into the background, where it answers to no one?

“We’re here to gather information…Not start a war” — Star Trek Discovery review, “The Sound Of Thunder” s2e6

Siranna and Saru
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 6
“The Sound Of Thunder”
Review by Clinton

Before I address the element of this story that fascinated me the most, I wanted to acknowledge an intriguing secondary plot line that appears to be playing out over multiple episodes. Namely, what is up with Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz)? We know, from a past incident in “Star Trek,” that coming back from the dead can be a bit disorienting, to say the least. After all, Spock needed 1.1 movies to rebuild his memory. But memory loss does not seem to be the issue here. Culber remembers, in great detail, the incident Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is recounting to Dr. Tracy Pollard (Raven Dauda). Culber appears preoccupied by something he can’t quite identify. Pollard feels this is simply Culber coping with adjustments. But there is something about the way Culber recoils from Stamets’ touch and tries hard to not look completely distressed that tells us otherwise.

Culber

Perhaps it was the months he spent attempting to survive in the mycelial network that has pulled the good doctor’s emotions inward. Or it is the lingering memory of his death at the hands of Ash Tyler/Voq (Shazad Latif)? We have yet to see the confrontation between Culber and Section 31’s on-board liaison. Will that trigger something deep within Culber’s subconscious? More on this as things develop.

Now, on to the subject at the heart of this episode, insofar as far as I am concerned — General Order One.

It is well known that “Star Trek” has a love/hate relationship with this set of rules, also known as the Prime Directive. I would love to list that directive here, but it has actually never been quoted in its entirety in any iteration of the show or movies. Which is odd, because the Prime Directive has been a part of the franchise since early in the run of the original series. In fact, because the series “Star Trek: Enterprise” takes place before the founding of the Federation, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) muses on the necessity for such regulations:

“Someday my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that tells us what we can and can’t do out here; should and shouldn’t do. But until somebody tells me that they’ve drafted that… directive… I’m going to have to remind myself every day that we didn’t come out here to play God.”

In “The Sound of Thunder”, written by Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, Discovery needs to do intelligence gathering on the planet Kaminar. One of the mysterious red signals recently appeared above the planet. Upon Discovery’s arrival, one of the two sentient species on the planet, the Ba’ul, strongly resents the appearance of a Starfleet vessel. They demand that the starhip exit Kaminar. That leaves the other species, the Kelpiens, as the point of contact. There is one problem — the Kelpiens are a pre-warp culture. The Prime Directive has rules about such contact. Essentially, Starfleet can not divulge anything about space travel, other worlds or the existence of other sentient beings to such a culture.

Message from the Ba'ul

To get around this predicament, Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), uses the following logic: Kelpiens have seen warp technology in use by the Ba’ul. And the Kelpiens know about space flight. She and Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) reason, therefore, that they can bend General Order One a little and contact the Kelpiens.

The issue I see here is that we have no idea why the Kelpiens would know about space flight. The Ba’ul are native to Kaminar. Kelpiens would have no reason to assume the Ba’ul are taking trips to the stars, unless the Ba’ul are bragging about it. The same holds true for knowledge of warp technology. Why would the Kelpiens know about this? How would they see it? As a general rule, in “Star Trek,” you don’t engage warp near a planet..

Next, Captain Pike assigns Burnham, a human xenoanthropologist, to be the one to beam down and make first contact. Again, there is that damned Prime Directive. Pike does not wish to openly break first contact protocol, yet he is prepared to send a non-native species to the planet to initiate conversations. This appears to make no sense. We do, however, get to understand why Pike is reluctant to send Kelpien Lt. Commander Saru (Doug Jones) on the mission. The confrontation between the two officers borders on outright insubordination. Still, Pike finally agrees to allow Saru to accompany Burnham on the mission.

Once on the planet, Saru introduces Burnham to his sister, Siranna (Hannah Spear). The commander identifies herself as being a human from Earth. That sharing of information is not a surprise. Burnham looks and sounds nothing like a Kelpien, so there would be no reason not to do so. Still, this does now make our pre-warp society aware of 1) warp technology, 2) space flight and 3) other worlds with other intelligent life forms. By Starfleet’s own definition, this mission has thrown the Kelpiens into the pool of species they can now freely contact.

How much does this border on Starfleet creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

But we are not finished here. After Saru returns to Discovery, the Ba’ul demand that the Kelpien be returned to them. We know, at this point, that the Kelpiens are spirited away from their villages by the Ba’ul when they experience vaharai — a transition believed by the Kelpiens to be fatal. Saru knows that this is a lie. Discovery refuses to surrender Saru, causing the Ba’ul to activate devices that could wipe out the entire Kelpien population. This chain of events is one of the reasons the Prime Directive exists in the first place. When Starfleet inserts itself into the affairs of others, things have the potential of going very, very badly.

As it turns out, the Red Angel also intervenes, avoiding outright genocide against the Kelpiens. But we only have Saru and Siranna’s feeling that Kaminar’s two sentient species can work things out to create a new balance rather than engage in all-out war. That seems a thin thread to hang one’s hopes on. Especially since Saru returns to Discovery and will not be present to help temper the understandable rage of his fellow Kelpiens toward the Ba’ul..

This type of scenario is not unique to “Discovery.” Other iterations of “Star Trek” have wrestled with the issues General Order One creates. And the solutions have often proved muddy at best. If we return to Kaminar at a later date and see the aftermath of this intrusion, that will be a fascinating addendum to one Prime Directive dilemma.

Next episode: Light and Shadows

Random Thoughts and Observations

In the “Short Trek” episode “The Brightest Star,” we clearly see “SHN 03” on the bow of the shuttle Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) uses to land on Kaminar. That would indicate it was a shuttle from the Shenzhou (the shuttles aboard Discovery have a “DSC” prefix). “Wait,” you say. “In this episode they say that the Archimedes was the starship that first made contact.” And, indeed, in the flashback scene, the image of the shuttle now simply sports a large “03.” Not sure why they felt it was necessary to do all that extra work.

Comparison shots

In the last few episodes, I have noticed that Dr. Pollard has graduated from the role of a walk-on character dishing out disgruntled one liners, to a regular player. I look forward to learning more about her.

Ash Tyler is hugging his paranoia over the red signals and Red Angel extremely tightly. At first glance, it might seem this is simply because he has fully indoctrinated himself into the threats-are-everywhere mindset of Section 31. However, in the last scene with Pike, where the Captain shares Saru’s description of the Red Angel, Tyler’s motivations are made a bit clearer. He seems to live in fear of the outbreak of war. He tells Pike, “The last war, sir, took a toll on those who fought it. Some of us are still torn apart.” Given the fact that Pike had orders to keep Enterprise out of the war, this hits the Captain hard. In addition to still feeling his own scars, does Tyler feel that someone who did not participate in the conflict has no business being the one in charge of this threat assessment?

The data collected from the dying sphere proved to be of value to the crew of Discovery in this episode. However, the writers would be wise to not dip into that well too often. What Tilly (Mary Wiseman) calls “a delicious slice of galaxy pie,” could turn into a writer’s magic bullet to provide Discovery with answer to all sorts of difficult questions.

“Always.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Saints of Imperfection,” s2e5

Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 5
“Saints of Imperfection”
Review by Clinton

“Star Trek” has always been about family.

At first, family was implied. The relationships between Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu and Scotty defined an unbreakable unit that transcended shipboard comradery. It led them, at various times, to sacrifice virtually everything for their friends. Then, with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine,” the introduction of characters such as Wesley Crusher, Alexander Rozhenko, Jake Sisko, Rom, Nog and Molly O’Brien, the association of “Star Trek” and family became grew stronger.

This is one of the reasons that season one of “Star Trek: Discovery” felt “off.” Captain Lorca did little to promote family. He was only interested in fostering, or downright demanding, loyalty and devotion to his mission. We did not get a sense of how all the other characters were bound together. We barely even met many of them or knew their names. Yes, there were isolated connections, such as Stamets and Culber, Burnham and Tyler, but there was no underlying feeling that Discovery was a single, extended family.

With Discovery under the temporary command of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), season two is finally beginning to bring out that element of family. Even if the show can be heavy handed about driving the point home.

In “Saints of Imperfection,” written by Kristen Beyer and directed by David Barrett, virtually every action is predicated on feelings of connection. Burnham and Stamets (Sonequa Martin-Green and Anthony Rapp) know they must try to rescue Tilly (Mary Wiseman), even if the risk is high. Tilly’s connection to “May” (Bahia Watson) binds her to the promise to not only slay the monster that threatens the JahSepp, but to “pinky swear” she will find a way to reach May again someday. Even Section 31 operatives Leland and Philippa Georgiou (Alan Van Sprang and MIchelle Yeoh) give indications that they would sacrifice something for the greater good.

But the strongest way this sense of family is brought home is not the struggle to return Culber (Wison Cruz) to “normal space,” as powerful as that is, but the sacrifice Discovery herself appears to be willing to make in order to save Ensign Sylvia Tilly. The ship and her crew will literally be digested alive if the decision is made to enter the mycelial network. Pike ponders the risk. Then he, Stamets and Burnham encapsulate all that being a “Star Trek” family means in these three lines:

Pike:
From what I know of that young woman, she’d put her life on the line for any one of us.

Stamets:
That she would, sir.

Burnham:
In a heartbeat.

Pike goes on to address the crew, speaking of the promise of Starfleet. But it is almost a mute point. The connection between Tilly and the rest of the crew is already made. It is the key.

Of course, we are also reminded that family is complicated. While Burnham is pleased to see Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) aboard Discovery, there is major distrust by Captain Pike of the Klingon Torchbearer who now works as a Section 31 agent. And Tyler has yet to confront one of his darkest moments, facing the man he murdered — Dr. Hugh Culber.

Emperor Georgiou is also problematic to the concept of family. She is literally not from this universe and often exhibits, at the most, mild amusement over the creatures in our galaxy. But there is that spark, that underlying urge to protect Burnham, and, by extension, Discovery that makes a part of us want to believe she is family, too.

There is also a danger in showing how the crew is connected. And that is our reaction to the appearance of an outsider. In the previous episode, “An Obol for Charon,” Engineer Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) figured prominently. She was there when Tilly went through her torment. She even eventually worked with Stamets on solutions. But now, she is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she left the ship for another assignment, but her obvious absence rings of someone who said “Wow. That’s a tough break. Good thing it’s not my problem. Later!”

The creative team behind “Star Trek: Discovery” has done a good job so far of reversing the damage Lorca inflicted on Discovery’s crew. My only request is that they begin to back off a bit on having the characters say that they are family and use the overall story to simply show it. It’s how we grew to love the TOS family, and it can work here, too.

Next episode: The Sounds of Thunder

Random Thoughts and Observations:

Pike demonstrates that he is no fool. We witness Burnham’s understandable reactions upon seeing Georgiou, and then Tyler. Some scripts would have that as more of a moment for us, the audience. However, Pike tells the Commander that he made note of both of her reactions and that he knows she is keeping something from her Captain.

We also avoided a predictable set up to prolonged confrontation between Leland and Pike when Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) tells them “Come on, fellas, cut the manlier-than-thou bullshit.” To their credit, they appear to do exactly that.

How do you portray the concept of being half-in and half-out of the mycelial network? Hats off to the effects team for giving a visual voice to the concept.

Tyler’s use of a badge-based communicator did somehow feel appropriate. Section 31 is not very open to sharing secrets. I think they might even find it amusing that Starleet needs to work though handheld communicators, and even ones worn on the wrist (“Star Trek: The Motion Picture”) before they figure out how to put the tech in a badge.

My wife, Bonnie, pointed out that Burnham’s first encounter with Tyler in this episode takes place in the mess hall, which is the same place they first met in season one.

“All library computers are processing at 20% above maximum.” — Star Trek Discovery review of “An Obol for Charon”, s2e4

Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 4
“An Obol for Charon”
Review by Clinton

In “New Eden,” Discovery saved the inhabitants of the planet Terralysium by drawing away radioactive debris through the use of an extremely dense asteroid. It’s a shame. If they had been able to wait a bit longer, the crew could have used this script instead. To put it another way, there is a lot going on in “An Obol for Charon.”

Consider what happens in the cold open — a common name for the action that takes place before opening credits. Enterprise’s first officer, referred to simply as “Number One,” (Rebecca Romijn) beams aboard Discovery. The officer is there to brief Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) on the status of his malfunctioning ship. Number One has also been doing some unauthorized digging into the murder charges leveled against Mr. Spock. Presumably the sensitive nature of this information is the reason for her visit, as all other news she shares with the captain could have been handled via subspace communications. She physically gives Pike a PADD containing data that will allow Discovery to pursue Spock’s shuttle.

That would normally be just about enough for a teaser. But next we move to Engineering Test Bay Alpha, where Lt. Paul Stamets and Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Anthony Rapp and Mary Wiseman) have quarantined the organism previously removed from the ensign. The organism has grown to resemble an undulating  six foot cocoon. Without warning, the mass reaches for Tilly’s hand, forming its own human-like digits. Tilly recoils in shock.

Again, we could cut to opening credits here, but the story setups continue. We move to a command staff briefing where we are reminded that not only is Discovery attempting to solve the mystery of the red signals, it has now taken on the secondary challenge of determining the purpose of the so-called Red Angel. During the briefing, Enterprise’s Commander Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) appears, as if from nowhere, saying she has rejoined the crew of Discovery. Also, First Officer Saru (Doug Jones)  is not feeling well. One can guess that Saru’s condition will continue to play a part in the episode.

But wait. There’s more. Without warning, Discovery is violently plucked out of warp by a giant glowing red sphere. Not to be confused with the red signals. The starship is trapped.

Okay, now we cut to opening credits.

If that seems like a lot, it is. With a story by Jordan Nardino, Gretchen J. Berg and and Aaron Harberts, and a teleplay by Alan McElroy and Andrew Colville, “An Obol for Charon” is so solidly packed, it’s hard to absorb everything in a single viewing. This has the unintended consequence of making an important story taking place in the test bay feel more like a throwaway subplot.

Tilly’s excruciating experience feels like a concept grafted onto another script. It appears to have little to no connection with everything else taking place on the ship. The entry of Commander Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) does not change that vibe. Her sudden appearance and subsequent sparing with Stamets feels forced. Her jabs seem a bit hollow and her “trippy” encounter with Stamets is awkward, It’s as if the writers felt she needed to be there to add something to the scene. But I still can’t tell what that “something” was supposed to be. We simply end up with one more person in this rambling series of events. When Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) attempts to enter the lab, she almost seems like part of a different universe.

None of this should be the case. Tilly is just collateral damage in an episode overflowing with plot. Think about that. Tilly is consumed by an interdimensional organism, has a hole drilled in her head, and then vanishes. And yet, that is not the main thrust of this episode.

Truth be told, the connection between the stories of Saru and the sphere would be more than enough for a single episode of this show. We should see the crew constantly coming up with clever plans that almost allow them to break free from the sphere — but in ways not too reminiscent of the TOS episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.” It would also have been nice to get more of a sense of connection between Saru and the sphere, since their fates are so intertwined. That would make the divergence of each resolution all the more poignant.

Speaking of Saru, did I mention that in the process of his not dying, we pick up a new story thread to track? Now that Saru realizes his people are living (and possibly dying) under a false assumption, I’m sure the commander will attempt to communicate with his homeworld.

It’s time for “Star Trek: Discovery” to stop picking up new plot lines and mysteries like it was a giant katamari rolling through Agatha Christie’s library. We need to start getting some answers.

Next episode: Saints of Imperfection

Random Thoughts and Observations:

The story is making a habit of having characters simply appear in a scene. First there was Tilly’s “ghost,” May Ahern and now, in this episode, Commander Nhan and, to a large extent, Commander Jett Reno.

We get one more reminder that there is no place for holograms on Enterprise. It makes me begin to wonder just how extensive the “repair work” will be while the ship is in spacedock.

The writers are too dependent upon reference to 20th century Earth music. Last season Stamets said that his uncle played in a Beatles cover band. In this episode Reno mentions Prince and we find out that Tilly’s favorite song is “Space Oddity” by David Bowie. Not only would that song be more than 280 years old, but it’s hard to believe that both Tilly and Stamets know the lyrics. The show needs more original songs, like “Beyond Antares” and references to Kasseelian opera.

“Now, you are my children.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Point of Light”, s2e3


Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 3
“Point of Light”
Review by Clinton

“No language can express the power and beauty and heroism of a mother’s love.”
-Edwin H. Chapin

It is not unusual for “Star Trek” to put an emphasis on family. Most often, it is not about blood relations, but the emotional connections that bind a group together. In this episode, written by Andrew Colville and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, the more intimate connection between mother and child is front and center.

While still in pursuit of the red signals, USS Discovery receives an unexpected visitor — Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner), adoptive mother to Lt. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). We learn that Grayson failed in an attempt to see her son, Spock. The half-Vulcan had committed himself to a psychiatric unit on Starbase 5 for reasons unknown. Denied access to her son or his condition, Grayson unashamedly steals his encrypted medical file and needs Burnham to unlock it. The lieutenant’s reaction to this act of thievery reads like a child embarrassed by the behavior of a parent.

Burnham is reluctant to violate orders. But Grayson presses forward. With the lieutenant by her side, Grayson meets with Captain Pike (Anson Mount):

Pike:
I can’t open this file. If I did, I’d be in violation of the rules and my mother wouldn’t like that.

Burnham:
There is precedent; in Starfleet case law, for a captain to invoke —

Pike:
Was she this bossy as a kid?

Grayson:
On Vulcan we call it “persistent,” and yes, she was. She learned that from me.

Contacting Starbase 5, Pike is told that Spock fled the facility after killing three of his doctors.

Her son is in trouble. Grayson presses forward.

Sitting with her adoptive mother, Burnham decrypts the files. The records state that Spock has exhibited signs of “extreme empathy deficit.” It is in this moment that we learn of Grayson’s regrets over the upbringing of her half-human son.

Grayson:
I can’t deny that possibility. He didn’t have a normal childhood. Sarek wanted Spock raised in the Vulcan manner, and any display of emotion was strongly discouraged. And in order to not confuse my son, I began to hide my own. I was not a real mother. I wasn’t what he needed.

Burnham:
You gave us love — every second.

Grayson:
It was different with you, Michael. I gave you all my joy and my affection that I was not permitted to give to him. But Spock is half human. If he’d have been permitted to embrace the human feelings that I know he has inside of him, it would have saved him from all the trouble that he’s in now.

Of course, family dynamics are hard. In the files, the two women come across Spock’s drawings of the so-called “Red Angel”. Grayson reveals that when Burnham ran away from home, young Spock claimed the angel came to him and told him where Burnham was. Grayson says that Spock changed after that day. He withdrew into himself. This revelation hits Burnham hard.

Burnham:
It wasn’t because of a vision. It was because of me. My presence was a danger to the family. If the logic extremists couldn’t get to me, they would try to get to him. And he was my little shadow. So I had to wound him deep enough to keep him away from me.

Burnham tries to tell Grayson what she did, but she cannot bring herself to say the words. Amanda now realizes that her family is broken and it is up to her to pick up the pieces. Taking the data disk, she leaves to find her son.

Grayson pressing on.

This, of course, will not be the only time Grayson has to confront Spock’s upbringing. In the classic “Star Trek” episode “Journey to Babel,” a transfusion from Spock can save Sarek’s life. But Spock is in temporary command of Enterprise and refuses to relinquish his post to assist.

Grayson:
Nothing is as important as your father’s life.

Spock:
Can you imagine what my father would say if I were to agree? If I were to give up command of this vessel — jeopardize hundreds of lives, risk interplanetary war, all for the life of one person.

Grayson:
When you were five years old, and came home stiff-lipped, anguished, because the other boys tormented you, saying that you weren’t “really Vulcan,” I watched you, knowing that inside, the…the human part of you was crying. And I cried, too. There must be some part of me in you. Some part that I still can reach. If being Vulcan is more important to you, then you’ll stand there, speaking rules and regulations from the Starfleet and Vulcan philosophy and — and let your father die, and — and  I’ll hate you for the rest of my life.

Years later, it appeared the House of Sarek was still in need of some repair.

Meanwhile, on Qu’noS, things are not going well for newly-appointed Chancellor L’Rell (Mary Chieffo). She is struggling to unite the 24 Klingon houses as one family, as T’Kuvma envisioned. However, the patriarchy is resistant to her radical ideas. They are also openly hostile towards the Torchbearer, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). The warriors do not see the Klingon, Voq, buried beneath Tyler’s human appearance. And none is more combative than Kol-Sha (Kenneth Mitchell), whose son, Kol, died at the hands of the Federation during the war. He sees the red signals as a sign that L’Rell’s changes will bring the empire to doom. But L’Rell presses on.

The chancellor defends Tyler against all that oppose him. Voq, in Klingon form, was her lover. But now, she senses that Tyler is conflicted; that his feelings for Michael Burham are stronger. This is born out in a subspace communication Tyler has with the lieutenant. Then Tyler reveals that he associates L’Rell with his gruesome transformation, making her every touch feel like a violation.

To make matters worse, we learn that while Voq was undergoing his surgery, L’Rell gave birth to a son. It is a son she has never seen and also kept secret from Tyler. To her own sorrow, she wished to give Tyler the freedom to return to the human world without him feeling racked with guilt.

But all these sacrifices amount to nothing. Eventually, to save them, L’Rell must let Tyler and their son flee Qu’noS. She is left with no lover, no child. But the Klingon presses on, and vows to serve as mother to the entire Klingon race.

Next episode: An Obol For Charon

Random Thoughts and Observations:

This episode also gave us partial resolution on the mysterious crewmember, May Ahern, that only Tilly has been able to see. Tilly is put through the emotional ringer, to the point of jeopardizing her path towards command, before she seeks help from Burnham. We still do not know why the inter-dimensional fungus wanted to speak with Stamets. Tilly also mentions that it was grooming her for something. There is more to this organism than meets the eye.

It might just be me, but I swear I keep hearing a tribble in the background of various Discovery scenes. Is that Lorca’s tribble? Is it multiplying?

We get at least two acknowledgements of the discrepancies between “Discovery” and classic “Star Trek.” First, the Klingons now sport hair, apparently because they shave their heads in times of war (I guess that custom faded long before the Dominion War). And two, Pike prefers flat screens to holographic images.

I am sure that many will appreciate the Klingons expanded use of English, rather than Klingon with subtitles.

Playing his Klingon father, Kenneth Mitchell has now died twice on “Star Trek: Discovery.” Apparently you are required to die twice to remain dead on this show. Also, having one actor play two characters in a Klingon bloodline is not unheard of. In “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” Michael Dorn played the role of defense attorney Colonel Worf, grandfather of his TNG/DS9’s character.

That Klingon baby model really did not hold up well in close ups.

Is this the last we will hear of the child of Voq and L’Rell? I doubt it.

It looks like Tyler has found a home in Section 31. However, the scenes with Georgiou now feel like a backdoor pilot for her spinoff series.

Episode 37: Achieving Pike Performance

Listen below or click here for full show notes

Subspace Chatter

Additional stories we didn’t have time to cover:

Main Mission

CLINTON

This time around we’ll be discussing the first two episodes of season two of “Star Trek: Discovery” — “Brother” and “New Eden”

Warpspeed Roundtable

Which of the four “Star Trek: Short Treks” episodes was your favorite?

  • Runaway
  • Calypso
  • The Brightest Star
  • The Escape Artist

End Of Show

CLINTON

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Don’t put on the red shirt!

“Context…can alter our perspective” — Star Trek Discovery review, “New Eden,” s2e2

Burnham, Pike and Owosekun on Terralysium
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 2
“New Eden”
Review by Clinton

This week’s offering, “New Eden,” feels like a story severely hobbled by arbitrary time constraints. Conversations are truncated, introductions are brief or non-existent. However, even with a running time more than 15 minutes shorter than last week’s episode, the script does deliver on many levels.

In what I would call the “A” story, Discovery attempts to intercept a second red signal. This involves using the spore drive to jump to a location over 50,000 light years away, in the Beta Quadrant. When the ship arrives, the signal has once again disappeared. However, Discovery does find something at the location — an M-class (Earthlike) planet, surrounded by rings comprised of radioactive debris. Even more intriguing, the planet is inhabited by humans who have been on the planet 200 years, long before Earth discovered warp drive.

The Red Angel appears on Earth.

At this point, the viewer might begin to wonder if the signals are leading Discovery around the galaxy on some “Quantum Leap” type adventure. Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), meeting with First Officer Saru and Commander MIchael Burnham (Doug Jones and Sonequa Martin-Green), wonders much the same thing. And thus begins an impromptu debate between science and faith.

Pike:
Why did that second signal want us to come here?

Burnham:
As science officer, I would advise restraint in ascribing motivation to what are now simply unidentifiable energy bursts.

Pike:
There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio…

Burnham:
I know my Shakespeare, Captain. Are you suggesting that some kind of divine intervention put those people on the planet?

But there appears to be more to Pike’s musings than he lets on. When the Captain learns that the “First Saved” were transported from Earth to the planet, which the inhabitants call Terralysium, he seems transfixed by their decision to combine all of Earth’s major religions into one doctrine. Later, even though he holds fast to his decision that General Order One (AKA, the Prime Directive) applies to Terralysium, meaning Starfleet cannot interfere with the natural development of the society, he beams down to the surface. Dressed in his Starfleet uniform, he speaks with Jacob (Andrew Moodie), a New Eden citizen whose family had always sought to learn the truth about the events surrounding the First Saved. Pike tells Jacob, “I lied, to protect the others from the truth. The truth is, you were right about us. I know what it’s like to live with doubt, and I guess I didn’t want that for you.” Pike hands Jacob a power source that allows the truth seeker to, once again, fill the town’s church with light.

Is the doubt Pike lives with something about his command? His relationships?  Or, perhaps, it is an internal conflict concerning science and faith? Earlier we learn that Pike’s father was a science teacher who also taught comparative religion. As Pike puts it, “It was a confusing household and we didn’t agree on a lot.” Did the debates in the Pike household mirror his conversations with Burnham?

Tilly working to slice off asteroid section.

In the episode’s “B” story, Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is struggling to find a way to use the metrion-charged asteroid Discovery captured to develop an alternative interface for the spore drive. Lt. Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) has confessed to her that he had previously seen his deceased partner, Dr. Hugh Culber, inside the mycelial network. The experience shook Stamets, who is now very reluctant to interface with the drive.

When Tilly slices off a piece of the asteroid, she is hit by a charge of unknown energy, knocking her unconscious. Later, in sickbay, Tilly is greeted by an unfamiliar woman in a Starfleet uniform. We later learn that the woman, May Ahern (Bshia Watson), was a junior high school classmate of Tilly’s. And Ahern died in 2252.

The fact that Stamets and Tilly have both seen manifestations of the departed should not be a surprise. At the end of season 1, we saw a small particle of spore material land on Tilly’s shoulder. It would seem that whatever connection is allowing Stamets access to another realm is also affecting Sylvia. Stamets tells Tilly, “Astromycology has taught me that nothing is ever really gone. Fungi are the universe’s recyclers. This is how termination begats creation. It’s why life is eternal. And my place is on this side of that cycle.”

The “manifestation” appeared to be pushing Tilly forward, acting as a catalyst to help the ensign realize how she can use the asteroid to save the planet. Whatever the entity’s purpose, it appeared genuinely delighted to observe Tilly’s unorthodox thought process.

Do the two main stories create a unified theme for this episode? Not quite. But they may yet intersect as the season progresses.

Discovery releases the asteroid.

Elsewhere, this episode continued last week’s trend of letting secondary members of the bridge crew shine. Lieutenant Junior Grade Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) joined the landing party and showed that she is more than capable of improvising solutions to problems. We also learned that she was raised in a luddite collective. How she found her way to Starfleet could be an interesting story. Meanwhile, on the bridge, Lt. Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) demonstrated her outstanding piloting skills. Her “Donut” maneuver with Discovery was impressive.

Next episode: Point of Light

Random Thoughts and Observations

The inhabitants call their planet Terralysium. This is a reference to Elysium. In Greek mythology Elysium is the final resting place of the souls of heroes and those of great virtue. Those deemed worthy were conveyed there by the gods.  Could the name have been chosen by the settlers as a non-Christian way of saying a heavenly version of Earth (Terra)?

Favorite bits of dialog —

May (appearing as if from nowhere):
Can I help you with something?

Tilly:
Yes. Yes, thank you. I’m supposed to be on bed rest, but that is practically an affront to my very existence, ’cause the ship’s in high alert, the captain, Burnham, Owo, not to mention an entire planet might be nuked, and that is not happening! Why are you looking at me like that? You’re May, right? Am I talking too fast? I’m problem solving. I’ve had espressos.

May:
In sickbay?

Tilly:
Yeah!

*****

Burnham:
You wanted to see me?

Pike (nursing broken ribs):
Yes. And don’t make me laugh.

Burnham:
Fortunately for you, I was raised on Vulcan. We don’t do “funny.”

Pike laughs, then winces in pain.

Burnham:
Maybe I should just shut up.

“An enormous letter in a bottle, made of space and time” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Brother”, s2e1

Burnham at Spock's cabin door.
Star Trek: Discovery, Season 2, Episode 1
“BROTHER”
Posted by Clinton

With “Brother,” we find ourselves off on a whole new set of adventures with the crew of U.S.S. Discovery. And there are a few “new” characters along for the ride as well. How does this premiere compare to last year’s opener, “The Vulcan Hello”? This episode appears to go by faster, even though it is a whopping 61 minutes, compared to the 43 minute run time of “Hello.” It is brighter, wittier and more accessible. It lights up every inch of the new cinematic 2:35 : 1 aspect ratio of the frame. But it does rely on a series of standard “sequel” setups that it has to work its way through.

One of the fastest ways to get a sequel rolling is to shake up the lives of the characters in the story. In some cases, that means the people we saw together are now far apart and someone has to “put the band back together.” Admiral Kirk had this task in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” He needed to reunite with McCoy, Spock and Enterprise itself.

Of course, the distance between does not have to be a physical one. It can be an an emotional chasm that needs to be crossed. At the beginning of “Jewel of the Nile,” Joan Wilder and Jack Coulton do not appear to be living the carefree life that was promised at the end of “Romancing the Stone.”

Another way to jumpstart the story is by having things not turn out as we assumed they would. For instance, at the beginning of “Ghostbusters II,” the guys are not living the life of fame and fortune we assumed they would. They find themselves performing at children’s birthday parties. Or what about Sarah Connor? After defeating the Terminator, she finds herself in a mental institution, believed to be insane. And wait, we thought Luke and friends defeated the evil empire in the original “Star Wars.” Sorry. “The Empire Strikes Back” nixes that assumption.

In the season two premiere of “Star Trek: Discovery,” all these challenges, and more, are brought into play. And it is the job of “Brother” to set all the wheels in motion.


For starters, Dr. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) has decided to leave Discovery for a position at the Vulcan Science Academy. The ship is simply too full of painful memories. “Hugh is everywhere I look, Tilly,” Stamets tells Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). “How much am I supposed to take?” Then there is the issue of Spock, who, we learn, is not on board Enterprise. He has taken an extended leave. Pike is sad. Burnham is sad. Oh, no! Someone needs to get the band back together!

Speaking of our favorite Vulcan, the backstory about his childhood encounters with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) paints a picture of less-than-ideal sibling relationships within the house of Sarek and Amanda (James Frain, Mia Kirshner). Although we already knew that this was not the most fun-loving of households, the chasm between Burnham and her foster brother appears to be extremely wide. That needs mending.

And then there is the status of the ship itself. One might have assumed that Discovery would only be rendezvousing with Enterprise, or maybe going on a joint mission. Instead, we learn that Enterprise has experienced a sudden series of ship-wide systems failures and will be towed back for a full set of diagnostics. Captain Pike (Anson Mount) takes temporary command of Discovery to investigate one of a series of seven mysterious red bursts that have appeared in the galaxy.

That’s a lot of setup. But Director/Co-Creator/Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman and teleplay authors Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts (both former Executive Producers) and Co-Executive Producer Ted Sullivan manage to put all the pieces into place.

Pike asks Detmer to "fly good."

As the episode ends, Captain Pike has donned a Discovery uniform, we have been properly introduced to the bridge crew for the first time, and Burnham is on a personal mission to save Spock. Looks like it’s time to book an arena tour. The group is getting together again!

Random Thoughts and Observations:

The fortune Pike finds on the floor of Lorca’s ready room reads, “Not every cage is a prison, nor every loss eternal.” This seems too on point to be taken literally. As you may know, the character of Christopher Pike was in the original pilot of “Star Trek.” The episode was titled “The Cage.” And it was not a prison. Then there is the loss of Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). Is that the loss that will not be eternal?

The producers have mentioned that this season will touch on various matters, including religion. The so-called Red Angel appears to be a manifestation of this theme. It is noted that, unlike other iterations of Trek, this episode in particular was conspicuous in its use of dialog such as “I bless you, Michael,” and “Oh, thank Christ you guys are here.” Trek has had takes on religion in the past, in fact it was a major factor on “Deep Space Nine.” It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

There were a few scenes that appear to indicate all is not as it seems. For instance, Pike is genuinely confused by the way Enterprise experienced system-wide failures while attempting to investigate the red signals. Then there is the fact that, in the middle of a hectic situation, we specifically hear Pike ask Commander Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) if she knows anything about the signals. She says she knows nothing. I doubt that is true.

In the opening voiceover, Burnham recounts the ancient African story of the girl who stuck her hands into the wood ash and threw them into the sky to create the Milky Way. Burnham says that there was a message hidden there, among the stars. “An enormous letter in a bottle, made of space and time, visible only to those whose hearts were open enough to receive it.” I was able to track down the story, but could find no reference to this secret. You are welcome to read the story yourself and draw your own conclusions: The Girl of the Early Race, Who Made Stars

Next episode: New Eden