“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.

“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.

“Frankly, I’m still stuck on the ‘not dead’ part.” — Star Trek: Discovery Review — What’s Past Is Prologue

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 13
What’s Past Is Prologue
Posted by Clinton

“Perhaps we could cover a little philosophical ground. Life, death — life. Things of that nature.”
Dr. Leonard McCoy speaking to Captain Spock, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

Lorca falling into the orb
source: burnhamandtilly.tumblr.com

Death is no stranger to “Star Trek.” Neither is rebirth. In this episode of “Discovery,” written by co-executive producer Ted Sullivan, we get more than our share of both.

Certainly mirror Lorca’s (Jason Isaacs) demise is the most spectacular death in this episode. However, long before the battle in the Emperor’s throne room, the mutineer had already sealed his fate. At no point did he show any sign of redemption. There was no moment of remorse. Gabriel Lorca had been given a chance to start his life anew when he crossed over into the prime universe. He squandered that opportunity by using the time to plan his revenge. As he disintegrated, ripped apart by his fall into the mycelium orb, he was already long dead.

Mirror Stamets
source: burnhamandtilly.tumblr.com

Elsewhere in the story, life and death play out in no less significant ways. For instance, when Lorca rescues his band of loyal followers from their imprisonment, the act signals the rebirth of the mutiny against the Emperor. Yet something tells us that most of the Terran soldiers will not survive to fight another day. Lorca had proven time and again that he had little regard for others, including those most loyal to him. They may not have been wearing red shirts, but the troops who followed Captain Lorca and his blind ambition were destined to join the ranks of those nameless minions killed in battle.

Mirror universe Commander Landy (Rekha Sharma) is a bit more of a mystery. Earlier, her prime universe counterpart had been killed on board the Discovery, mutilated by the tardigrade, Ripper. It was a senseless death, the result of Landry’s desire to follow her Captain’s orders without question. Would the scales of justice attempt to even themselves by allowing this version of the Commander to live? When Lorca helps her out of her agonizer booth,  one might say she is reborn. Perhaps so, but her resurrection is short lived. She dies in the fiery explosion that destroys the I.S.S. Charon. It seems her devotion to Lorca sealed her fate in both universes.

The elimination of the Emperor’s palace ship undoubtedly also sent political shockwaves throughout the Terran Empire. The news that the throne is empty will most likely result in a bloody battle for power by countless factions. The Emperor is dead. Long live the Emperor.

Terran Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is another character whose future is at first unclear. Points in his favor are that he previously betrayed Lorca and he worked to help prime Stamets escape entrapment in the mycelial network. Escaping the network himself at the end of the previous episode, it’s conceivable that his rebirth has made him a survivor. Unfortunately, we soon discover that he is developing a bioweapon for the Emperor, and that it is his reckless abuse of the mycelial network that is threatening the multiverse. He is also far too quick to cave to Lorca’s demands, placidly aiding the Captain in his fight against Georgiou. It is simply an attempt to prolong his own life. Eventually, Landry’s request, “Can we kill him now?,” is granted and she vaporized the hapless Terran.

Burnham

Mirror Georgiou
source: first-officer-michael-burnham.tumblr.com

But there is also rebirth that offered a glimmer of hope. To us, the death of Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) at the battle at the binary stars feels like a lifetime ago, but not to Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Burnham’s mind tells her that Emperor Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius is not her Captain. However, Michael’s heart sees Philippa reborn in the Terran Emperor. Likewise, Philippa can not help but see some of her beloved Michael in the prime universe Burnham. This is made crystal clear when the two women sit across from one another and speak of their lost companions, all the while holding treasured mementos of the their departed friends.

In the end, Georgiou is willing to buy Michael time to escape, paying with her own life. It is an act of love. Burnham, however, also leads with her heart and rescues the fallen Emperor. For now, mirror Georgiou is in limbo, no longer the ruler of a savage empire, yet also not comfortable with the tenents of the Federation and Starfleet. Will she take better advantage of her second chance? Or will she scheme to return to her side of the mirror?

It is not only Philippa who experiences a successful rebirth in “What’s Past Is Prologue.” As mentioned, we learn that the mycelial network is dying. The Terran Empire has been exploiting it for their own selfish needs, not only depleting the mirror universe’s network, but also threatening all life in multiple universes. Working together, the crew of the Discovery and Emperor Georgiou are able to destroy the Charon’s mycelium orb. This allows the network to live anew; replenish itself at amazing speed. At the same time the network sweeps the Discovery towards home.

Mycelial network
source: greenjimkirk.tumblr.com

In fact, the Discovery itself is also reborn. Once the crew is made aware of Lorca’s true nature, they shake free of his influence and begin to function as an effective team. We see an open, honest discussion of the mission to destroy the mycelium orb. When the crew comes to realize that the plan could mean the destruction of the Discovery, Commander Saru (Doug Jones) forcefully states his belief in the competence of the team, “The Discovery is no longer Lorca’s,” he explains, “She is ours. And today will be her maiden voyage. We have a duty to perform, and we will not accept a no-win scenario.”

Of course, the no-win scenario is a riddle that Spock once solved by sacrificing himself to save the many. Only to find himself reborn.

Next episode: The War Without, The War Within

 

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • It was a cheat to have the floor in the throne room open early in the episode. Yes, it established that the “trap door” gave direct access to the mycelium orb, but it was also obvious that we were seeing it to foreshadow its use later in the episode.
  • Why is Lorca able to fall through the containment field of the Charon’s mycelium hub? That would seem to imply that anything can penetrate the containment field, including photon torpedoes.
  • A leap of nine months places “Star Trek: Discovery” that much closer to the time of Kirk and Spock. I estimate we are now within 8 and a half years of the 10-year gap separating “Discovery” and TOS.
  • It was nice to see the use of screens rather than holograms not once, but twice, in this episode.
  • Where is prime Lorca? In the mirror universe? Did he die on the Buran?

“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

“You had no such outrage when we ate its Captain.” – Star Trek Discovery Review – The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry

Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 4
The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry
Posted by Clinton

Star Trek Discovery Klingons

In a show that is clearly taking risks, how “Star Trek: Discovery” is dealing with women and Klingons may be the most disquieting.

The concept of Klingons being a warrior race with a deep sense of honor runs strong through through the veins of the “Star Trek” franchise. When you have Klingon-centric episodes with titles such as “A Matter of Honor” and “Heart of Glory,” that becomes obvious. On “Discovery,” that Arthurian level of nobility is as thick as Klingon grapok sauce. The holy quest of now slain T’Kuvma (Chris Obi), and his designated successor, Voq (Javid Iqbal), is set against a backdrop of war and endless infighting amongst the 24 Klingon houses.

Even so, this can all feel familiar. Let’s face it — however epic the quest, it can be easy to forget that the Klingons, portrayed by humans, are not human. How do you resolve this dilemma? “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was first to solve the problem. When the movie premiered, suddenly Klingons had pronounced ridges on their foreheads, their teeth look carnivorous, they dressed in military garb and they spoke an alien language with subtitles. For the first time,  the sons and daughters of Qo’noS truly felt alien.

Klingons from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"

But, over the decades that followed, the Klingons were slowly softened. They were integrated into Starfleet, they quoted Shakespeare, we saw hybrid species appear, such as B’lanna Torres (Klingon/Human) and Ba’el (Klingon/Romulan), and they often defaulted to speaking English, save the occasional phrase, such as “Qapla.”

A new coat of paint was needed to cast the Klingons as aliens once more. If the production was going to delve into Klingon culture, there needed to be a way to telegraph to the viewer that they needed to pay close attention; that everything they knew about Klingons was of no use here. And what better way to do that than to follow the template of that first shocking retooling of the species in “The Motion Picture”?

There are many who feel that the pacing of the Klingon scenes in “Discovery” is slow. Yes. It should be. Klingons are not human. People complain that they have to read on-screen translations.Yes. They do. Klingons are not human.

Treated almost in passing, this episode contained probably the most alien statement of them all. L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) was speaking to Voq and mentioned the fate of Shenzhou’s Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), who had been killed aboard T’Kuvma’s ship:

“You had no such outrage when we ate its Captain. I saw you smile when you picked the meat from her smooth skull.”

This was not cannibalism. Klingons are not human.

But Georgiou’s fate also brings me to my other point. “Star Trek: Discovery” publicity played up the fact that women of power were going to play a significant role in this new series. But how has that worked out so far?

Landry with phaser rifle
source: discovernow.tumblr.com/

It is true that we have seen several women in positions of power on “Star Trek: Discovery,” but  things have not gone well for them. For instance, although she survived the attack on the Shenzhou, Conn Officer Lt. Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) now appears to be severely injured, resulting in the need to wear implants. Next, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) fell from the position of First Officer on the Shenzhou to that of convicted mutineer. Then consider Commander Ellen Landry (Rekha Sharma), U.S.S.Discovery’s Chief of Security, who let devotion to her male Captain cloud her judgement. This lead to her being mauled to death by the giant tardigrade-like creature she had named “Ripper.”

And then there is Captain Philippa Georgiou. Not only was she attacked and betrayed by her female First Officer and soon after killed aboard T’Kuvma’s ship, but her remains were unceremoniously devoured by the Klingons, as described above.

What woman of power are left? Not Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). At this point she is still a Starfleet cadet. And, yes, Burnham will eventually rise, but her position is currently “rank: none.” There’s Admiral Katrina Cornwell (Jayne Brook). We haven’t seen much of the Admiral up to this point. Right now she’s just a holographic projection in Lorca’s ready room. Although we will see more of her in episode 5, that leaves one female: L’Rell, the Klingon of both House T’Kuvma and House Mókai — a house she describes as “The watcher clan, the deceivers, the weavers of lies.” She confesses to Voq that she does not wish to be a leader, but someone who can stand behind Voq and act as an enforcer and campaigner. I hope this does not mean that the only woman of power currently on the show can best be described as “scheming.”

Hopefully the most shocking thing about “Star Trek: Discovery” will not be that you have to be truly alien to be a woman of power.

Next week:  “Choose Your Pain”

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • That first scene. Who knew that the replicator was such a violent environment?
  • What was Captain Lorca eating at his stand-up desk?
  • Why was the Shenzhou left intact and not set to self-destruct?
  • While we may understand why Lorca is comfortable with the way RIpper is being treated, why is this acceptable to the science-based crew?
  • A package that keeps chirping until you open it is pretty darned annoying.
  • What will Voq need to sacrifice? Will it involve compromising his core belief?
  • It’s a good thing the ship has an excess energy cavitation system< to compensate when they engage the displacement-activated spore hub drive. I love Star Trek #technobabble.
  • Stamets says he would have noticed a supercomputer on board the Glenn. How big would a supercomputer be in the 23rd century? Perhaps the size of the M5 computer? Smaller? Bigger?
  • How was Tilly able to simply remove one of the spore containers from the engineering test bay?
  • I am enjoying the adversarial relationship between Saru and Burnham.