“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.

“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


“This regret you have for what you did, it weakens you.” — Star Trek: Discovery Review — The War Without, The War Within

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 14
The War Without, The War Within
Posted by Clinton

Emperor Georgiou as Captain.
source: spockvarietyhour.tumblr.com

In the “Star Trek” universe, the galaxy is teeming with life. In fact, on one planet, Gideon, overcrowding is such a problem, the inhabitants attempt to become deathly ill to reduce their own numbers. Despite this, in “The War Within, The War Without,” we find a universe filled with little more than isolation and loneliness.

The war has not gone well for our side during Discovery’s nine month absence. Without the information that would have rendered the Klingon cloaking device useless, the Federation finds itself in retreat and on the verge of collapse. Vice Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) orders the Discovery to Starbase One, calling that outpost Starfleet’s last remaining sanctuary. Unfortunately, upon arrival, we learn that the station has fallen to the Klingons. The Discovery must flee, isolated in its own universe.

In a  way, the same can be said for the Klingons. The 24 houses that T’Kuvma hoped to unite have once again fractured. Each house is now acting in its own best interests, not for the benefit of the Klingon empire. In this context, the Federation has become little more than collateral damage in the fight for faction dominance. T’Kuvma’s dream of unification, a vision shared by Voq and L’Rell, is now a distant memory.

Of course Voq the Torchbearer is also now little more than a shadow. The Klingon’s essence has been disconnected from the body that also houses the personality known as Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). Stripped of this dual identity, Tyler finds himself a stranger in his own body. He is left to wonder who he is and how he can move forward, knowing the horrific things he has done. He tries to apologize to Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) for the death of Dr. Hugh Culber, but Stamets offers no hint of absolution. Worse still, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who had become his tether to humanity, no longer feels comfortable in Tyler’s presence. “I know in my head that you couldn’t be responsible for Voq’s actions,” Burnham explains, “but I felt your hands around my neck, and I looked into your eyes, and I saw how much you wanted to kill me.” She tells Tyler that he must work his way through his pain on his own, facing the demons of his actions as she once did.

Tyler speaks to Burnham
source: talk-nerdy-to-me-thyla.tumblr.com

The one person who feels compelled to connect with Tyler without judgement is Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). She sees that Tyler is being shunned by the crew the same way Michael Burnham was shunned when she first came aboard Discovery. Tilly, however, has grown in the months since Burnham arrived. While the Cadet first tried to distance herself from Burnham, she now makes the effort to sit with Tyler. This act draws out the compassion in others, who come to sit with Tyler.

Meanwhile, alone in her cell, L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) must reflect on the fact that she has lost Voq, her lover and inspiration, and that her dream of a unified Klingon empire appears to be crumbling around her.

The only visitor L’Rell receives is Vice Admiral Cornwell, a commander who has also lost practically everything. On a personal level, Cornwell is trying to come to terms with the loss of Gabriel Lorca. As a commander, she is facing the collapse of Starfleet and the Federation. Her inability to respond when she sees Starbase One laid waste signals how alone and desperate she feels.

Fortune Cookies
source: pixiedane.tumblr.com

In the end, only one individual seems to be functioning normally: Emperor Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius (Michelle Yeoh). Plucked unceremoniously from her own reality, the Emperor is well aware of her isolation in this universe, but she never resigns herself to her fate. She acknowledges that she is now on her own, then begins looking for a way out of her situation. Georgiou pokes, looking for weaknesses in those around her. She maneuvers like a figure totally accustomed to the idea of operating solo. It is how one survives in the Terran Empire. By the end of the episode, she has managed to manipulate those around her into giving her what she needs to feel whole again: Power. She is still alone, but she doesn’t care.

It would seem that Discovery may have escaped the unbearable isolation of the mirror universe, only to bring it with them.

Next episode: Will You Take My Hand?

 

Random Notes and Observations:

  • Dr.Pollard! At last, another doctor on the Discovery. All it took was the death of Culber. Oh, and is Pollard the CMO?
  • Once again we have a ship approach the Discovery (the one carrying Cornwell and Sarek) and we never get a glimpse of it.
  • Starbase One is said to be 100 AUs from Earth. That places it outside our solar system, but not by much. It would take the Klingon fleet almost no time at all to arrive at Earth from that location, yet our home world has apparently not yet been approached.
  • Also, why were fighter ships not immediately deployed to intercept Discovery when it appeared at Starbase One?
  • Nice touch to have Cornwell vaporize the bowl of Lorca’s fortune cookies.
  • How does the rest of the crew feel about the appearance of “Captain Georgiou”? They have all just returned from the mirror universe, so you would imagine their first thought is, “That’s Emperor Georgiou!”
  • While it was subtle, we did see the “I” on “I.S.S. Discovery” being restored to a “U.”
  • Was there any practical reason story-wise for the Discovery to be in such a poor state of repair when it arrived back in the prime universe? That did not seem to play out as a plot point.

“You don’t know me.” — Star Trek: Discovery Review — Vaulting Ambition

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 12
Vaulting Ambition
Posted by Clinton

Mirror Georgiou with sword.
source: greenjimkirk.tumblr.com/

“Vaulting Ambition” exemplifies the duality of this first season of “Star Trek: Discovery.” Not just in terms of its characters who continue to shed their hidden identities, but also the way in which it handles story elements. When things are handled with care, the show is magic. When pieces are slapped together, the end product suffers.

Let’s start with what is good.

The acting is this episode is excellent. It is clear that the cast is now very comfortable with their characters. Over these many episodes the idiosyncrasies of each role have been refined. Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has become a just a wee bit less chatty. Commander Saru (Doug Jones) is a bit more in control. And Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) is…well, Lorca has pretty much always been on point. More on that in a second. The supporting players in “Vaulting Ambition” were also tone-perfect. Dwain Murphy’s turn as the torturous Captain Maddox left us with mixed emotions when he was ultimately slain by Lorca.

A long-game character plot line also came together beautifully this week. Last week, we dealt with the revelation that Tyler and Voq (Shazad Latif) are two personalities that share the same modified body. This week, we learn that Captain Lorca is, as some fans suspected, actually from the mirror universe. This is the type of twist that sends you reeling. Part of what made the reveal so satisfying is that Jason Isaacs knew where this character was headed from the very beginning. His discussions with the producers meant he knew things about Lorca that perhaps even individual episode directors did not know. This allowed the acting to reinforce the character’s backstory. Isaacs’ performance differs from Shazad Latif’s portrayal of Tyler/Voq because Lorca was always well aware of who he was and what he wanted. It is the kind of twist that makes you want to go back to the beginning of the season and closely watch the character in every scene.

We are treated to a lovely moment where Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) gets to say goodbye to Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). It helps soften the blow of the doctor’s untimely death and leaves us wondering if this truly is the end. It brings to mind Spock’s words, “There are always possibilities.”

Stamets and Culber
source: twyllodrus.tumblr.com/

“Discovery” also continues to shock and surprise in other ways. We recoiled when we learn that the Kelpien that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) had selected in the Emperor’s throne room was the main course at her dinner with Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Bonus points to Martin-Green for her reaction to being offered the Kelpien’s ganglia. In addition, Georgiou’s use of a flying disc as a killing weapon was inspired.

Then there are the elements that seem to fall off the rails.

Shall we begin with the I.S.S. Charon? The Emperor’s palace is a ship ridiculous in both size and design. It dwarfs virtually everything we have previously seen in “Star Trek,” save the occasional starbase. Its dimensions only serve to reinforce the belief that the people in charge of “Star Trek: Discovery” think that bigger equals better, and that insanely bigger is best.

I.S.S.Charon
source: twyllodrus.tumblr.com/

Meanwhile, after last week’s brilliant revelation about Tyler’s true identity, L’Rell’s (Mary Chieffo) reaction to Tyler/Voq’s torment feels unnecessarily rushed. It plays out like something we simply need to get through in order to hit the next plot point. All the elements are there — love, regret, sorrow — but we ultimately get too little of any of them to justify her actions. Likewise the medical procedure that L’Rell uses to supposedly “kill” Voq is another low point. It feels too simple. The process to merge Tyler and Voq was long and painful. This operation took mere seconds.

Then there is the laziest piece of writing in the episode: the reveal that mirror universe humans have eyes that are sensitive to light. This characteristic immediately informs Burnham that Lorca is not who he claims to be. The only problem is, we have been in this mirror universe several times and light sensitivity has never before been an issue. It is simply not true. There were other ways in which the same failing of Lorca’s eyes could have been used to reveal the Captain’s deception, but writer Jordon Nardino chose the easy way out. Nardino simply made something up, even if it contradicted what we already know to be true.

The duality of “Star Trek: Discovery” is diminishing over time, as both the characters and production crew find their way to their true selves. But episodes like this demonstate that there is still some room to improve.

Next episode: What’s Past is Prologue

“I’m going to have nightmares about myself.” — Star Trek Discovery Review — Despite Yourself

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 10
Despite Yourself
Posted by Clinton

Tilly as Captain Killy
source: burnhamandtilly.tumblr.com

A friend of mine recently Tweeted “Going to a mirror dimension in the first season is a terrible idea because we barely know these characters.”

If the crossover had happened earlier in the season, I might have agreed. But I think we now have some basic ideas about each of our lead characters. To me, it is the familiarity with this crew that is actually the issue when it comes to the so-called “Mirror Universe.” With one exception.

Up until now, we’ve seen how stoic, seasoned characters handle being thrust into this unfamiliar universe. Whether it was Kirk and company or the crew of Deep Space Nine, our heroes have been quick to ponder, analyze and adapt. That is to be expected. It is why they hold positions of authority. We’ve also seen how “the other half” lives, particularly aboard Archer’s I.S.S. Enterprise. (RIP Archer, All hail Empress Sato!) But what about the crew of the Discovery? The ship is captained by a man with questionable morals, it is seconded by a Kelpian who lives with constant fear, watched over by a chief of security who may be some sort of spy, and has a specialist convicted of mutiny. It all sounds pretty dark even before they go to the mirror universe.

Lorca speaking to the crew.
source: greenjimkirk.tumblr.com

Enter our surrogate “every person,” Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Tilly is, we must remind ourselves, still a cadet. She has been serving as a theoretical engineer on board the Discovery, working with Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp). It has certainly been quite a unique internship. For starters, she was given a mutineer as a roommate. Then she had to watch as Starfleet officers knowingly harmed a lifeform (the tardigrade) to serve their own purposes. She has been forced to accept the fact that she has died — multiple times (“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”). And she struggled to keep the knowledge of her superior officer’s illness a secret, only to have that illness eventually lead to catastrophic consequences for Stamets and the entire crew.

But, through it all, Tilly has remained wide eyed and optimistic. She confesses that she loves feeling feelings. When she, Stamets and Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green) discuss finding an alternative to using the tardigrade in the spore drive, she enthusiastically exclaims “You guys! This is so fucking cool!” She also played matchmaker between Burnham and Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif).

Tilly and Stamets.

Cadet Sylvia Tilly’s eyes are also focused on the future. In “Context is for Kings,” she tells Burnham, “I’m going to be a captain someday. The thing is that there are still some things I need to learn.” At which point. she takes on Burnham as a mentor. And when Burnham has reservations about the advice she has been giving Tilly, she tells the cadet to seek her own way to the Captain’s chair. Tilly smiles and replies “I have.”

So, when the Discovery finds itself in the Mirror Universe, and it is revealed that its Sylvia Tilly is the bloodthirsty Captain of the I.S.S. Discovery, her world is turned upside down — as is ours. Lorca’s advice is to “Defy your every instinct.” Which is all too true.

Our avatar, our surrogate, has met her darkest side. And she takes it about as well as we would. She does not enjoy any aspect of her “Captain Killy” counterpart.

As Tilly prepares to communicate with Captain Connor of the I.S.S. Shenzou, Burnham comments, “You are a captain now.” But Tilly realizes this situation is a mockery of her goals. Tilly rejects the statement. “No, I’m not. She is. I’m nothing like her, Michael. She’s terrifying. She’s like a twisted version of everything I’ve ever aspired to be. I’m going to have nightmares about myself now.”

Tilly has to put on the same show as the rest of the prime universe crew, masquerading as cutthroat servants of the Empire. Reluctantly, nervously, she sits in the Captain’s chair, but there is no satisfaction in her ascent to this position. She wants nothing to do with this universe. Which is as it should be. We need Tilly to stay true to herself.

Others on board the Discovery may be on the road to redemption (or ruin), but Tilly needs to stay on the path to greatness. Let’s hope the darkest timeline does not claim her.

Burnham talking to Tilly
source: twyllodrus.tumblr.com

Ultimately Michael Burnham does offer one insight that helps Tilly, and can help us hang on, too: “I’ve been trying to understand them better. And Terran strength is born out of pure necessity, because they live in constant fear. Always looking for the next knife aimed at their back. Their strength is painted rust. It’s a facade. But you have the strength of an entire crew that believes in you. Fortify yourself with our faith in you. That’s what a real captain does.”

Next episode:  The Wolf Inside

 

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Yes! I called it on the cloak-defeating data. The Discovery did not transmit the information before it was pulled into the mirror universe.
  • Saru is supposed to trust his threat ganglia, but seems to pay it little mind when it reacts to Ash Tyler’s appearance on the bridge.
  • How loyal is Lorca to Ash Tyler? Tyler is late to the bridge for yellow alert, freaked out in the work bee, and takes his time getting to the transporter room, but Lorca lets all that slide.
  • My prediction is that Philippa Geourgiou is the mysterious Emperor
  • Stamets is clearly giving clues as to events unfolding around the crew. But are the clues always as literal as we think they are?
  • Why is there never anyone else in the brig? Or sickbay?
  • Why wasn’t Culber wearing a Terran version of a medical delta shield?
  • Spoiler: There is a theory floating out there that Lorca is actually from the mirror universe. Nothing that happens in this episode would negate that theory. In fact, putting emphasis on the fact that Lorca plucked Burnham (his would-be killer in the mirror universe) out of prison and bringing her on board the Discovery, then ultimately into this dark universe could clearly be part of a plan.

“One last jump then.” — Star Trek Discovery Review — Into The Forest I Go

Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 9
Into The Forest I Go
Posted by Clinton

The Discovery spore drive in action.

I loved where this show arrived by the end of “Into The Forest I Go.” Yet, I hated some of how we got there.

First, the love.

This episode, which concluded what the producers are calling “Chapter One,” was paced to a T. During the critical 133 jumps, editing perfectly drew out Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) ordeal. A sequence that involves this many repetitive steps would typically move from jump one to somewhere around 60, then to jump 131. Not in this case. We cut from from exterior views of the spore drive in action to closeups of a disoriented Stamets, to a readout of the jump numbers, then the loading of more spore canisters. The action is chaos in motion. Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz), monitoring Stamets’ deteriorating condition, asks, “Tilly, how many jumps do we have left?” Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) replies, “96 more.” We are heartbroken. Tyler’s (Shazad Latif) PTSD flashbacks are also expertly done. They seem to reveal everything, but don’t necessarily tell us all we need to know. The entire episode slipped seamlessly between frenetic action and slow, quiet character moments. Special shoutouts to episode writers Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, as well as episode director Chris Byrne and editor Jon Dudkowski.

Coupled with last week’s “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” this part of the story was sweeping in its scope. We joined a planet-side exploration, made first contact, battled the Klingons, uncovered revelations about major characters and ended up someplace completely unexpected.

We are left to wonder if Discovery had a chance to transmit the cloak-defeating data before her fateful jump. Captain Lorca (Jason Isaac) makes a point of telling Admiral Terral (Conrad Coates) that it will take eleven hours to refine the equations for fleet-wide use. It is unclear how long after that the ship disappears. Has Starfleet’s secret weapon vanished with the one piece of information that would turn the tide of the war? That would be rather devastating, wouldn’t you say?

The main characters on “Star Trek: Discovery” are slowly reaching that point where we think we know what makes them tick. We feel accustomed to the way Gabriel Lorca, Saru (Doug Jones), Sylvia Tilly, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Ash Tyler behave. Dr. Hugh Culber hasn’t had enough screen time to foster this sense of familiarity, but one gets the feeling that will change sooner rather than later. Imagine if we had had a chance to spend this much time with Captain Georgiou or T’Kuvma. How much more of an impact would their deaths have had on us?

Stamets in chamber saying "I love you."
source: lesbianphilippa.tumblr.com

“Discovery” has clearly started to hit its stride. That’s a good sign. Chapter Two now has the task of raising the bar even higher.

Now, about that hate I mentioned…

While the main characters have been fleshed out over the course of these first nine episodes, we know virtually nothing about most of the bridge crew. Yes, it’s true that we didn’t get to know every crew member who took a station on the bridge in classic Trek or “The Next Generation,” but those were mostly interchangeable extras. The bridge crew on board Discovery has been a constant. We also know nothing about the Discovery’s Chief Medical Officer. Remember, Dr. Culber is not the CMO.

We also did not get a chance to really know the Klingons to any great extent. Much like his makeup, Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) was painted with a pretty broad brush. In the end, he came across as simply a villain interested in power. He was not even the Klingon who killed Captain Georgiou. In fact, Kol points out that he never met the Captain. This made his defeat less satisfying than it could be.

There were also plot points in Chapter One that seemed to go nowhere. What happened to those mysterious security personnel who wore black delta shield insignias. We saw them momentarily in episode three, but never again. What happened to Harry Mudd when he left Discovery with knowledge of how the ship works? Is he going to try to sell that information? Every moment of screen time should mean something. If it is not paid off, we feel cheated.

L’Rell’s (Mary Chieffo) long game is another sticking point with me. At the mid-season break, we still are very much in the dark as to what she is planning. While it is fine to have some mystery left, her motives are so vague, it is hard to either love or hate her. Or love to hate her. She simply exists.

L'Rell in brig saying "Soon."
source:: klchaps.tumblr.com

The producers have promised that as we get closer to Kirk’s five year mission, there will be a bit more dovetailing with the aesthetics of classic Trek. It is unclear where we are in that timeline. If the battle of the binary stars took place ten years before “The Original Series,” and Burnham arrived on Discovery six months later, once you add in the amount of time it took to get to the incidents at the battle at Pahvo, we are roughly 9 years out from TOS now.

Overall, I think the pluses far outweigh the minuses with regards to Chapter One. We know that virtually every Trek series has had an awkward start; each struggling to find its unique voice. “Discovery” is no different. The characters are evolving as the writers and actors get more familiar with how this particular part of the Trek universe works. I think the rushed nature of Chapter One is something that will smooth out in future episodes. Of course, that vision may not be fully realized until season two, but that only give us one more thing to look forward to 2019.

Next episode: Despite Yourself

 

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • I loved the huge sensor devices Tyler and Burnham had to place on board the Ship of the Dead. The fact that they lit up and talked felt so classic Trek.
  • Very happy that Admiral Cornwell survived. In a previous article, I wrote about women of power on “Discovery”. Nice to see this one could possibly return.
  • Why is it always so easy to sneak around on Klingon ships? Why are there so many corridors and rooms for so few crew members?
  • Speaking of Klingon ships, why do their commanders always just watch, dumbfounded, while torpedoes hit their vessels at the end of a battle?
  • Lorca clearly has no desire to return to Starbase 46. Did his desire to avoid that option cause him to feed new coordinates into the spore drive controls?

“I’ve learned how to choose wisely.” — Star Trek Discovery Review — Choose Your Pain

Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 5
Choose Your Pain
Posted by Clinton

Animated GIF of Lorca saying "Not on my watch."
source: discovernow.tumblr.com

With episode 5 of “Star Trek: Discovery,” (“Choose Your Pain”), we’ve reached the one-third mark in our season 1 story arc. Do we know where we are? Do we know where we are headed? Since “Discovery’s” story line is shrouded in secrecy, there is no way of telling. Or is there? If we accept the supposition that this season is about Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) journey toward redemption, there may be some clues.

Writers often turn to Joseph Campbell’s classic 12-stage “Hero’s Journey” story structure when crafting sweeping sagas such as this. So, how well does Burnham’s story track to the classic structure?

Stay with me, now. Think of this as, well, a journey.

Episodes 1 and 2 (“The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars”) would be our first step along the hero’s 12-stage path. At this stage, we first see Michael Burnham as having the ideal life. She lives in what Campbell would call stage 1, the “Ordinary World.” She is being mentored by one of Starfleet’s most decorated Captains and is about to be offered a command of her own. Life is good.

Suddenly, the Klingons arrive and her paradise is lost. She has entered stage 2, the “Call to Adventure” stage. This situation requires Burnham choose between two paths: she can either obey her Captain, or do what she feels is logical. She does not choose wisely. Her Captain dies, she starts a devastating war and she is sentenced to life in prison. The universe has called out to her in a most violent way.

In episode 3 (“Context is for Kings”), the so-called “second pilot,” we are deep into Burnham’s despair. She has withdrawn into herself, ready to accept her fate. She is so far removed that, offered a chance to serve aboard Discovery, she would rather go back to prison. Not that Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) cares about her opinion, of course. This would be stage 3, her “Refusal of the Call.” In fact, even though she is forced to accept the position working for Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp), she constantly reminding everyone she is “just there to help.” She has no real commitment to the cause. No purpose. Her assignment doesn’t connect her to her ship. In “Choose Your Pain” she confesses to Tilly that “I barely have a job here. I’ve never been less busy.” She is rank: None.

Animated GIF of Tilly saying "I love feeling feelings"
source: michaelburnhamfanclub.tumblr.com

It is at this point Burnham should enter stage 4 and “Meet the Mentor.” Now, while this mentor could mean Lorca, Stamets or even Tilly (Mary Wiseman), I believe it is someone else. I believe it is Ripper, the tardigrade.

The mentor often offers advice, insight into the dilemma, or even presents an object of importance. Ripper does not speak and offers no material objects. It is simply a creature that has the unique ability to travel the mycelial network. But the mentor can also offer self confidence. This offering is not apparent at first. The creature is hostile, even deadly. Yet Burnham sees past that reactionary behavior. She empathizes with the creature and re-engages with the real world to fight for its life. Ripper is the one who provides Burnham with what she needs to overcome her doubt and accept the quest.

Burnham looks up and smiles.
source: aryainwinterfell.tumblr.com

Which brings us up to the end of episode 5. Burnham sets Ripper free. At this point she is also free; ready to take the next step and “Cross the Threshold.” That yet-to-be-taken step would be stage 5 of the 12-stage hero’s journey. And, if my math is correct, that means we are one third of the way through the stages.

Of course, a story can have more than one character on a journey:

Saru also saw his world ripped apart. His flight response and jealousy of Burnham made him a first officer who ran solely on protocol, with no ability to grow. But his performance in the rescue of his Captain has given him confidence. The confidence to not unfairly measure himself against Starfleet’s most-decorated Captains. He appears staged to “Cross the Threshold” as well.

In addition, “Choose Your Pain” offered us insight into Captain Lorca’s past. His refusal to have his eyes repaired is his constant reminder of the crew he lost and his vow to not let it happen again. In a way, he may be the farthest behind in his journey. He has not accepted the challenge of change. He is stuck at the gate.

The questions we are left with at the end of “Choose Your Pain” are many. What information have the Klingons gleaned about the U.S.S. Discovery? How will L’Rell’s injury affect her decisions? Why did Stamets’ reflection persist in the mirror? Do we trust Lt. Tyler? How will Harry Mudd attempt to exact his revenge? But, more importantly, if we are indeed following the hero’s journey, what is the the threshold Burnham — and, by extension, Saru — must cross? For this is the step that will define the actual path ahead.

Next episode: “Lethe”

 

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Sorry, folks. The future will not solve snoring.
  • Did we get all the swearing out of the way?
  • Can I get one of those futuristic toothbrushes?
  • How did L’Rell find her way to the Klingon ship so quickly?
  • How did the Klingon ship know where to find Captain Lorca? The Klingons called him by name in the shuttle.
  • Love that Lt. Stamets uses the pronunciation of a mushroom variety as an alternative to the “To-may-to” “To-mah-to” saying.
  • We can assume that not everything Harry told Lorca about his past is true.
  • There are three lights.
  • Nice to be reminded that eugenics experiments are still forbidden.