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