“You may still choose to walk away from this future.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Through the Valley of Shadows” s2e12

Pike and time crystal
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 12
“Through the Valley of Shadows”
Teleplay by Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt
Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski
Review by Clinton

Upfront, I will state  tha I try to stay as spoiler-free about yet-to-be-aired episodes as possible. As such, by the time you read this, some of my speculations may be proven to be completely false.

On the verge of the final two episodes of season two, I want to focus on two aspects of this episode that struck me in unusual ways.

The first area I want to discuss involves an inanimate object — a simple piece of crystal. That is to say, a time crystal. There are so many questions I have about these structures. Why would the Klingons abandon research on them? How are they actually guarded on Boreth? And how reliable is that protection method? After all, Harry Mudd somehow “got his hands on” a crystal. And so did Gabriella Burnham.

However, the biggest question I have about the crystals is, how early were they conceived as part of the “Star Trek: Discovery” universe? You see, since “The Vulcan Hello,” I have wondered about the crystals that flowed around U.S.S. Discovery in the opening credits. They fly about the screen like snowflakes as the starship takes form. Why?

I never thought the objects were dilithium crystals. Even though Discovery has a warp engine, its primary method of propulsion is the spore drive. Besides, we have seen pieces of dilithium a few times on “Star Trek.” It is usually depicted as a milky white or amber color, not emerald green.

Were the hovering crystals simply random graphic elements added to give the title sequence some kinetic energy? Possibly. But most everything else shown in the credits is either a literal or symbolic representation of an event or concept on the show.  So, that explanation seemed unlikely.

These crystals gave me pause every time I saw them drift by on the screen. What were they?

Crystals.

In “Through the Valley of Shadows,” I may have received an answer. Which only leads to more questions. During his mission to Boreth, Pike, along with the time keeper Tenavik, enter a chamber filled with time crystals, or, as the Klingons call them, poH qut. When we see them in closeup, they looked exactly like the floating crystals in the opening credit sequence. Discovery is literally surrounded by time crystals.

Coincidence? Possibly. But I suspect they indicate something more. The question is, if they are time crystals, how long has that “something more” been lurking in the background? Is this a long game, where a clue has been right in front of our faces the entire time? It gives me pause to wonder about the possibilities. Has time travel always lurked around the corner on this show? Has the production team been telegraphing a message that we can only now decrypt?

Here’s hoping the final two episodes of this season provide clarity to the crystal mystery.

The other thing that struck me about “Through the Valley of Shadows” was the turn Pike’s character takes — by not taking a turn — in that very same chamber.

In a recent interview, actor Anson Mount, speaking about the script for this episode, said “It turns Pike’s third act, which we already know about and have established, it makes it more of a triumph than a tragedy.” I agree. But it’s not just this episode that does that. This is just the culmination of that newly-illuminated second act.

Going into his appearance in “Discovery,” we knew little about Pike. We saw him as an exhausted, frustrated, even angry Captain in “The Cage,” the very first pilot for the original “Star Trek” series. Then, in “The Menagerie,” we saw him as a figure locked inside his own mind, trapped in a body that no longer functioned. We, of course, did have sympathy for the man. After all, he dove into danger, charging into a chamber flooded with radiation to rescue cadets trapped inside. But, as Mount points out, that’s Pike’s third act. For the past 50 or so years, it lived in a bit of a vacuum.

Over the course of this season, we have gotten to know more about Christopher Pike. We have seen him as a man of principle, ideals, flaws, and compassion. He has human doubts, but always tries his best to find his way back to his moral compass and his belief in his duties. Admiral Cornwell sums it up when she has to confess why the Enterprise was not recalled from its five-year mission during the Klingon war.

“You sat out the war because if we’d lost to the Klingons, we wanted the best of Starfleet to survive. And as this conversation makes clear, that was you and all you represent.”

Now, with Pike’s inevitable departure from Discovery at hand, it has been a bit harder to accept the fate that awaits him. That is what is brilliant about this episode. It snatches victory from the hands of defeat — a defeat that has not yet happened, but has been written in stone.

Pike

In the vision of the future, Pike sees the accident that leaves him disfigured and helpless, but he does not get to focus on the lives he will save by pulling survivors out of danger. Then, he is told he can alter this fate by simply leaving the crystal behind. As horrified as Pike is by what he has seen, he knows that to walk away without the crystal would mean he had failed his mission and turned his back on everything he believes in, everything we have seen him demonstrate time and again. That is something he simply can not do.

Intellectually, we always knew that a Starfleet captain would risk their life to save their crew. But now we fully understand why Pike will make the choice to expose himself to delta-rays in order to rescue those cadets. It is in the core of his very being. It is who he is. It is the embodiment of “The needs of the many.”

The fact that the time crystals and Pike interact in this episode, in this way, is amazing..

Next episode: Such Sweet Sorrow

Episode 041: Daystrom Saving Time

Listen below or click here for full show notes

Subspace Chatter

18  additional stories we didn’t have time to cover:

Main Mission

This time around we’ll be discussing the second two episodes of season two of “Star Trek: Discovery” — “Project Daedalus” and “The Red Angel”

Warpspeed Roundtable

Last time answered a listener question:

Why didn’t they just use the shuttlecraft to get Sulu (in the TOS episode) “The Enemy Within”

This time: If you could eliminate one piece of Star Trek technology from the franchise, what would it be?

End Of Show

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“Don’t put on the red shirt!”

“It was unexpected.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “The Red Angel” s2e10

Burnham and Spock
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 10
“The Red Angel”
Episode teleplay by Chris Silvestri and Anthony Maranville
Episode directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper
Review by Clinton

This episode contains a number of revelations. But do they make sense? Do the “shocking twists” grow out of things we’ve been told, or do they come out of left field and leave us feeling cheated. I’m going to try to figure this out. Let’s begin.

To start, let’s admit that we really don’t know anything more about the red signals than we did in episode one. This episode speculates that the Red Angel is creating them and then using them to get Starfleet’s attention. That seems to be a stretch. The Red Angel does not appear to be present every time the signals appear. The signals are still a mystery.

Okay, what about the Red Angel? After all, it pretty quickly began to supercede the Red Signals in the story.

As the episode begins, we find out that Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has come across code that was implanted in Airiam’s system by a digital parasite. It is here she finds a file labeled “Project Daedalus.” The file contains a bio-neural signature from the Red Angel, which is a match for Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). That’s a shocking revelation.

Side bar: Was Tilly working in a sandbox environment? Given the nature of the future AI, it would seem that any trace of its code would be be extremely dangerous. In fact, Saru (Doug Jones) points out that Section 31 ships had all performed scans to make sure that the future AI had not infected their systems. Presumably Discovery ran the same scan. Apparently those diagnostics couldn’t detect code injected by a digital parasite. And Leland  (Alan Van Sprang) might agree. If he survives being stabbed in the eye.

But, back to the Red Angel. Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) performs tests on Commander Burnham and says that every test shows a 100% match between Burnham and the bio-neural signature found in the Project Daedalus file. He assures Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) that he could detect if the signature had been artificially created. This assures us, the audience, that this is a fact we can build on. Yet, the information we have by the end of the episode would lead us to believe it was not Michael Burnham’s signature, but that of Burnham’s mother. Was Culber incorrect? Is the signature so broad that it covers both parent and child? That would certainly make the tests next to useless. Or have we been mis-directed once again?

Analyzing information supplied by Section 31, Stamets (Anthony Rapp) explains that the time travel suit works by creating a micro wormhole that the suit can go through. He explains that, because wormholes are inherently unstable, the suit generates a protective membrane that travels with the suit. Essentially, the suit is tethered to its starting point — a point in the future. And that this is how the future AI is slipping through to the past. We also learn that Michael Burnham’s parents created the Red Angel suit. But, since the suit was created several years in the past by Burnham’s parents, just how far in the future could its origin point be?

As mentioned, Leland reveals to Burnham that her birth parents were the ones who developed the Red Angel suit. He also says that he was inadvertently responsible for their deaths at the hands of the Klingons on Doctari Alpha. For years, Burnham has lived with the belief that she was responsible for their deaths, as she had begged them to stay on the planet to see a nearby supernova explode. Burnham has, in the past, recounted the story of how she, hiding in a closet, had heard the Klingons kill her father, then her mother, then sit down to enjoy the dead family’s meal. So, we, the audience, should accept the fact that young Burnham actually heard her mother being killed. In fact, she recalls the Klingons taking their time to commit the crime. But now that may not have been true.

Finally, Spock (Ethan Peck) believes he has uncovered the secret to determining when and where the Red Angel will appear. The Vulcan surmises that Burnham is the variable. Spock and Burnham explain to Captains Pike and Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) that the Angel appears when Burnham is in danger. Therefore, putting Michael in mortal peril will cause the entity to appear. However, this conclusion does not appear to have any logical backing.

Consider the Angel’s first appearance to young Spock. Burnham was in danger and the Angel appeared to show Spock the young girl’s gruesome end, then showed him where to find young Burnham in order to save her. This would have been the least efficient and even least maternal route to take. Since the Forge creature was scared off by the light and sound of the Vulcan shuttle, there’s a very good chance it would have been scared away simply by the appearance of the Red Angel.

But, you say, perhaps Spock reasoned that the person in the Angel suit thought it would be best if Burnham did not see them. Why, then, did it appear to Burnham when she is injured and trapped on the asteroid?

The Red Angel Burnham falls from the suit.

Another thing odd about the appearance to Burnham on the asteroid is that Captain Pike instantaneously appeared in that same spot where the Commander was looking at the Angel. He would have seen the Angel, too.

But, you say, perhaps it can, for some reason, only be seen by one person at a time. This is not the case. Everyone in the church on Earth saw the Red Angel. And it was seen by both Saru and Siranna when it appeared on Kaminar to disable the Ba’ul ship. Speaking of that appearance, there was also no indication in this appearance that Michael Burnham was in any immediate danger. She was on board Discovery.

In the end, when the Red Angel is trapped on Essof IV and Michael Burnham’s mother (Sonja Sohn) emerges from the suit, it is shocking. But I don’t see how it was earned. Perhaps, in the remaining episodes, we will see the pieces turn in a different direction, so they can ultimately fit nicely into place.

Next episode: Perpetual Infinity

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • The Red Angel guided Spock to a remote planet and showed him a vision of armageddon on a galactic scale. Why the long trip?
  • During the funeral scene, we see that Discovery is capable of running on autopilot. Is this a foreshadowing of the events in the “Short Treks” episode “Calypso”? There, the unmanned ship has maintained position for a thousand years.
  • Aspects of Airiam’s funeral were very reminiscent of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” That movie continues to be a major touchstone for Trek productions.
  • Are we stuck in a time-travel loop? The AI sneaks in from the future, infects Airiam and used her to upload information from the sphere into Control, so that Control can evolve. Does that mean the future AI is an evolved Control? If so, why does it need to come back to get information into this version of the system?
  • Saru says that Control was only used by Section 31. In the previous episode Admiral Cornwell said Control was not accepting her input. She said that once the red signals started to appear, Admiral Patar lobbied Starfleet to have decision-making turned entirely over to Control. One would assume that Control was issuing threat assessment decisions to Starfleet. If it were not, wouldn’t all of Starfleet be concerned?
  • What is Georgiou up to with Stamets and Culber? Is she just amusing herself?
  • It was a nice beat to have Spock forgive Burnham and watch her take a breath, as a weight is lifted from her shoulders.
  • Burnham’s parents believed that certain technological leaps, including ones on Earth, were not the result of happenstance, but time travel. That sounds like an Erich von Daniken “Chariots of the Gods” line of reasoning.