“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?

“Is this what harmony and balance look like?” — Star Trek Discovery Review — Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 8
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
Posted by Clinton

Saru interacts with the Pahvans.

In this episode, Saru (Doug Jones) succumbs to the call of the Pahvans, and Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) must try to convince him to complete the landing party’s mission. Two things struck me about the story: first, the episode reminded me of another classic “Star Trek” adventure and, second, it made me ponder the likelihood of achieving happiness in the “Star Trek” universe.

In “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” Saru, Burnham and Tyler (Shazad Latif) beam down to the surface of the planet Pahvo in an attempt to figure out how to utilize the planet’s unique resources in the war against the Klingons. Trying to communicate with the planet’s essence, Saru has a transformative experience. He abandons the mission in favor of his his own agenda.

You might be tempted to draw parallels between this story and the classic “Star Trek” episode “This Side of Paradise.” In that story, the crew of the Enterprise is affected by spores native to the surface of Omicron Ceti III. The crew abandons ship and plans on living in virtually eternal harmony on the planet surface.

Saru is similarly affected by contact with the native entities on Pahvo. Or is he? It does not appear that Saru is actually under any type of spell. Instead, he has been freed from the genetic burden carried by every Kelpien. For the first time in his life, he is no longer afraid. Clearly he can still reason for himself. He can lie to his fellow crewmen or even attack them and destroy their communications equipment.

Burnham sets her phaser to stun and attempts to subdue Saru. This is not the same as Kirk provoking Spock in order to free the Vulcan of the Omicron Ceti spores. Burnham’s goal was to immobilize Saru. Attempting to reason with the Kelpien was secondary.

I submit that Saru’s actions are more like those of another “Star Trek” character: Dr. Tolian Soran from “Star Trek: Generations.”

Saron at the energy ribbon.

In “Generations,” Soran was exposed to a place outside of normal space-time called The Nexus. Guinan, who had been inside the Nexus at the same time as Soran, describes it is asa place of pure joy. “As if joy was something tangible and you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket. And never, in my entire live, have I been so content.” Guinan, Soran and others were then unceremoniously ripped away from the Nexus. While Guinan realized the impracticality of attempting a re-entry, Soran pressed on. He was driven by a singular desire to regain that bliss. Eventually he devises a way to get back to the Nexus. The fact that his plan includes destroying suns and would mean the deaths of hundreds of millions of souls was of no importance to him. That was just collateral damage.

It might seem to be a stretch to equate Soran’s actions with those of Commander Saru, but is it? After all, as Tyler pointed out, if their mission on Pahvo was unsuccessful, the Klingon-Federation war would rage on. Saru was well aware of this. He purposely prevented Burnham and Tyler from contacting the Discovery, crushing their communicators and smashing the uplink device.

Later, in sickbay, Burnham tries to comfort the First Officer. “You weren’t yourself.”

“But I was,” Saru replies, with sadness in his voice.

Emotion, not infection, drove both Soran and Saru to do what they did. And Saru must now live with that knowledge.

But the second question raised here is, can anyone in the “Star Trek” universe actually be happy? Saru realizes that he cannot have both his freedom from fear and do what is needed of him to save the Federation. Likewise, Captains Picard and Kirk prevent Soran from reaching the bliss of the Nexus. The same Nexus Picard begrudgingly ripped himself from, convincing Kirk to do the same.

Kira and Odo saying their goodbyes..

This is a repeating scenario in “Star Trek” – a character or species or civilization seems to achieve peace only to have it taken from them. McCoy finds happiness on the asteroid spaceship Yonada, but loses it due to the actions of Kirk and Spock. Kirk finds happiness with Miramanee, only to see her stoned to death while carrying their unborn child. Picard finds fulfillment on Kataan, then discovers it was all in his mind. Benjamin Sisko loses his wife in the battle at Wolf 359. He finds happiness again with Kasidy Yates, but must leave her and and his son, Jake, because the prophet in the Celestial Temple still has much left for him to do. Kira loses Odo. T’Pol loses Tucker. And they both lose their child. Data also loses a child. And so on and so on.

The loss of paradise is such a recurring theme in “Star Trek,” one begins to wonder if anyone in this universe can truly be happy? So much so, that when a character does ultimately find happiness, it seems to be an extraordinary event.’

Is the lesson that the only way to be happy is to struggle towards that as an unobtainable goal? Or is it just a reminder that the human adventure is just beginning?

Maybe Kirk was right, in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” when he told McCoy, “Damn it, Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us. The things that make us who we are. If we lose them we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away. I need my pain!”

Saru sad in sickbay.

Or was it best summed up in the musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”?

“For us there can be no happiness.”

“We must learn to be happy without it.”

 

Next episode: “Into The Forest I Go”

 

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Is Admiral Cornwell dead? A slip of the tongue during “After Trek” seems to indicate we will see the character again.
  • Was L’Rell’s interest in knowing how the Federation treats prisoners, and her desire to be brought aboard Discovery, related in ways we have yet to see?
  • Pahvo and Pandora: separated at birth?
  • We see Tyler getting a medical exam in sickbay at the end of the episode.
  • Burnham is well aware that her ultimate fate still leads her to a prison cell.
  • Is this Tyler and Burnham’s second first kiss? Time is so wibbly wobbly.
  • At first, I thought Stamets was having visions of the future when he referred to Tilly as “Captain.”
  • Several Klingon ships that survived the attack on the Gagarin have now seen Discovery simply spin and vanish. What Discovery is doing is certainly no longer a secret.

“As days go, this is a weird one.” — Star Trek Discovery Review — Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad

Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 7
Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad
Posted by Clinton
Mudd in Engineering
source: tillysfeelings.tumblr.com/

This episode of Discovery has been described as just another rip-off of “Groundhog Day,” or a rehash of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode, “Cause and Effect.” But that would imply that all time loop stories are the same. Can that be true? Well, yes and no. After all, they are all time loop stories, but it turns out there are variations on the theme.

To demonstrate this, I decided to look at five time loop stories to show how they compared in setup, execution and resolution. There are dozens of stories I could have used as examples. Not only are there several loop movies and TV shows, there are also novels, short stories and more. But, for purposes of this review, I concentrated on three well-known movies, bookended by two “Star Trek” episodes. The five stories are, in order of premier date:

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation. “Cause and Effect” (first aired 23 March, 1992)
  2. Groundhog Day (premiered 12 February, 1993)
    Inspired by the 1987 novel “Replay”
  3. “Edge of Tomorrow” (premiered 6 June,2014)
    Based on the 2004 novel “All You Need Is Kill”
  4. “Happy Death Day” (13 October, 2017)
  5. Star Trek: Discovery, “Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad” (first streamed 29 October, 2017)

Be forewarned — if you have not seen any of these programs, there will be spoilers.

“How did it happen? How did we get there?”
— Captain Jean Luc Picard, “Cause and Effect”

Enterprise spins in space and explodes.

It all starts with a bang.

Or an alarm clock.

How a time loop is initiated varies wildly from story to story. In “Cause and Effect,” the catalyst is revealed to us at the end of the first act: the crew of the Enterprise encounters a “highly localized distortion of the space-time continuum.” We know the “how” even before the crew figures it out.

Sometimes the loop is created by an antagonist for the purpose of using it against our heroes. In “Edge of Tomorrow,” invading aliens, the Mimics, create the loop to stay one step ahead of Earth’s defense forces. They appear to know what is about to happen, but that is simply because they have already experienced it. In “Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad,” Harry Mudd uses alien time technology to create the loop in order to learn the secrets of the U.S.S. Discovery.

In some cases, however, the loop’s origins are never actually explained. We have no idea how Phil Connors (“Groundhog Day”) or Tree Gelbman (“Happy Death Day”) became ensnared in their time loops. Was it the act of a higher power? The universe? We never get that answer. (Although “Happy Death Day” director Christopher Landon says he knows the answer and would use that information as the foundation of a possible sequel.).

“We have been here before. All of us. I cannot be the only person who recognizes this!”
— Lieutenant Paul Stamets, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

If our heroes simply kept repeating the same actions again and again, there would be no story. Well, at least not an interesting one. They must be aware that a loop is occurring. Again, this varies from story to to story.

In “Cause and Effect,” the entire crew slowly becomes aware of feelings of déjà vu (or, as Worf calls it, “nib’poH”). The previous loops are leaking through to the current one, providing a tiny window into the situation. This type of collective recognition is rare in a time loop story.

Typically only one or two characters are aware of the cycling of time. Understandably, they make attempts to convince others that time is repeating. The rub is that, even if they are believed, when the cycle starts anew, they must start the indoctrination all over again. Stamets feels this frustration in “Magic,” He looks and sounds more haggard with each successive retelling of the situation to Burnham. Even Mudd expresses his boredom with repeating his demands.

“Edge of Tomorrow” has a slight variation on this theme. Sergeant Rita Vrataski had the ability to see and even affect the loop, but loses her connection before we first meet her in our story. She then trains William Cage, another human who has gained the same type of powers she once possessed.

Edge of Tomorrow

“There isn’t any time. Or rather, there is time. Too much time.”
— Lieutenant Paul Stamets, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

If a loop took years to cycle, it might be difficult for our characters to recognize it. Imagine a cycle that started at birth and ended at the dusk of a long, full life. No, the loops in our stories are much shorter. In addition, they almost all have one thing in common — they are reset by the death of our main character(s).

In “Cause and Effect,” the Enterprise explodes, beginning and resetting the loop. We are taken back one day before the encounter with the space-time distortion. In “Edge of Tomorrow,” when Cage dies, the loop repeats. Again, it is to a point a day before his initial death .However, in this case, the longer (or shorter) he lives, the longer (or shorter) the total loop. One can speculate that the reason the loop is so long in these cases is because the person or persons aware of the loop must accomplish a great deal before time resets. Conversely, Tree in “Happy Death Day” and Phil in “Groundhog Day” are only sent back to the morning of the same day. They are not out to save a crew or a world, but only themselves.

The loop Harry Mudd must deal with is the shortest of all, only 30 minutes. He finds it frustrating, as he must blow up Discovery every half hour to maintain the loop. It makes his exploration of the ship slow and tedious.

I will note here that of the five examples mentioned, only “Happy Death Day” attempts to show the end of one loop fading into to the beginning of the next. It gives visual form to the idea that this is a never ending cycle for our protagonist.

Death Day

“…the only way is to get Mudd to reset time himself.”
— Michael Burnham, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

Everyone wants out of the loop. Right? Yes, eventually they do, but this can be a conditional statement.

Clearly, the crew of the Enterprise wants out as quickly as possible. They have to devise a way to prevent the explosion that keeps pushing them into the loop. Throughout the episode they are on a clear march toward that goal.

Phil Connors may be seen as marching toward a goal, but the journey becomes filled with side quests. In fact, he reaches a point where exiting the loop no longer appears to be his ultimate task.

But sometimes it is not that simple, even if our hero knows the way out. For example, while in what could potentially be the exit cycle of each of their loops, Tree and Burnham choose to kill themselves to reset their timelines. Why? Their respective companions, Carter and Tyler were killed during the cycle in progress, and exiting back to normal time would have meant that those deaths were permanent.

Likewise, in “Edge of Tomorrow,” Cage has every reason to stay looping for however long it takes to accomplish his goal. His exit is not voluntary or desired. In fact, it threatens mankind’s survival.

“Let’s see if we can find out how long we’ve been in this causality loop.”
— Captain Jean Luc Picard, “Cause and Effect”

Groundhog Day

Time, of course, is reset each time the loop begins again. As far as we can tell, that reset covers a wide area of space-time, with one exception — “Cause and Effect.” Remember, the Enterprise encountered a “highly localized” distortion.

We are rarely given an exact number of times a loop occurs, but sometimes we have clues. Mudd had to reset his loop every 30 minutes and it appears it was reset somewhere around 60 times. That would mean that pat of the universe was continually resetting for some 30 straight hours..

Tree tried various methods to discover who is killing her on her birthday. She relived the day somewhere in the area of 16 to 20 times. However, each time the loop repeated she carried forward internal damage from her previous deaths. Her days were numbered, even though each was the exact same day.

We don’t know how many times Phil repeated his Groundhog Day. But director/screenplay co-author Harold Ramis said that, because of the number of skills Phil acquired, it was in the area of 30 to 40 years.

That would seem to best “Cause and Effect,” where the crew determines they were in the time displacement for 17.4 days. However, the U.S.S. Bozeman, which was caught in the same rift with the Enterprise and was freed at the same time, had been in the cycle for 90 years.

The count for “Edge of Tomorrow” is virtually incalculable. We never see anything close to the number of incidents where Cage resets time. Nor do we see any of the times Vrataski turned back the clock while she possessed the power to do so.

Never get stuck in a time loop if you left the stove on. Or maybe that’s totally fine.

“Stamets told me that in a previous timeline, that we, um — danced.”
— Michael Burnham, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

Ultimately, there should be a lesson learned from, or victory achieved by being stuck in a time loop. The repetition of events should inform, reinforce or change something.

In “Cause and Effect,” the crew really learns nothing — other than the solution to the problem. The crew of the U.S.S. Bozeman is sure to be profoundly affected by a jump of 90 years, but they are not the protagonists in this story. At best, Captain Picard and company have discovered an area of space that others should avoid.

Conversely, Phil Connors learns to be a much better person by the end of “Groundhog Day.” He has grown emotionally and fallen in love. He has also added an untold number of skills to his resume.

Tree also learns to be a better person; she is kinder to those around her. She also finds herself reconnecting with her father, as well as with a young man she had too readily dismissed.

“Edge of Tomorrow” ends with the victory of Earth over an alien invasion and a final reset of time, sending Cage back to a point where all those who interacted with him, including Vrataski, have not yet died in the war, nor will they die. Only Cage has knowledge of the reset.

Burnham and Stamets dancing

Aboard the Discovery, exit from the loop is a bit more open ended. Tyler and Burnham are aware of their feelings for each other, but are somewhat at a reset. Stamets must relay to them what transpired in previous loops — their first dance, their first kiss. We also are left with the question as to what may happen now that Harry Mudd actually gained knowledge of how the Discovery’s spore drive works.

What does it all mean? If someone tells you this episode of “Discovery,” or any other story, is just a rip-off of “Groundhog Day,” you can know that that is probably not exactly true.

— Explosion —

What does it all mean? If someone tells you this episode of “Discovery,” or any other story, is just a rip-off of “Groundhog Day,” you can know that that is probably not exactly true.

Next episode: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”

 

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • I cannot identify the piece of classical music Harry Mudd pipes onto the bridge. At first I thought it might be from Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” but that does not appear to be the case. If you know what it is, contact me!
  • Like others, I question the use of songs from the 1970’s and early 2000’s as party music for the crew. Maybe it’s a fad at this point in the future.
  • The crew must realize that they have let someone with knowledge of how the spore drive works leave the ship in the company of an arms dealer. Right?
  • Discovery is in desperate need of a jogging track.
  • Count of others who have been inside Lorca’s “secret” lab is now up to five. Six, if you count Ripper.

“Your fascination with humans can no longer be tolerated.” — Star Trek Discovery Review — Lethe

Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 6
Lethe
Posted by Clinton

Animated GIF of V'Latak raising hand with caption "Logic above all."

In Greek mythology, it is said the river Lethe flowed through the underworld. The souls of the dead would drink from its waters and forget their past. In the episode “Lethe,” it appears Sarek (James Frain) has also attempted to forget his past. Years ago he lied to Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). It is a lie that still haunts him. He wishes to drown this memory in the river of logic — but he can not.

Based on a discussion I had with a friend about the actions of Vulcans in this episode, I think it is important that we, the viewers, also not forget the past when it comes to Vulcans and “Star Trek” canon.

If one were to use a single word to represent Vulcans, it would be “logical.” It is only when we expand that vocabulary, that other, potentially disturbing characteristics begin to show through: cold, calculating, repressed, condescending, primal.

With that in mind, the fact that Sarek finds himself unwittingly in the company of a “logic extremist” who attempts to kill him, should not come as a total surprise. Vulcans can most certainly be fanatical. We need look no farther than Sybok, Sarek’s son by his Vulcan priestess first wife. Sybok is also the only fully-Vulcan child nurtured by Sarek.

In “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” we meet Sybok, a Vulcan who is filled with an all-consuming desire to reach Sha Ka Ree — the planet which Vulcan mythology claims is the source of all life, the Vulcan equivalent of Eden. It is a planet the location of which he claims came to him in a vision from God. To achieve his goal of reaching Sha Ka Ree and meeting God, Sybok takes hostages, steals a starship (the U.S.S. Enterprise) and threatens the safety of the crew of the ship by passing through the Great Barrier at the center of the galaxy. We eventually learn that Sybok was being manipulated by an evil entity. Nevertheless, the fact remains — Vulcans can be driven to do questionable things by their passions.

Animated GIF of Kirk and Sybok

Speaking of passion, let us not forget pon farr. This is the primal mating drive all Vulcans experience. During the height of their blood fever, plak tow, a Vulcan can blindly kill. While this most often involves another Vulcan, we see in the original series episode “Amok Time” that the target can be anyone — even a human.

Both of these instances are the result of internal or biological conflict. What about ideology? Admiral Terral (Conrad Coates) tells Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs), “Ambassador Sarek’s ship was sabotaged by logic extremists.” On board the shuttle, Adjunct V’Latak (Luke Humphrey) tells Sarek “Your fascination with humans can no longer be tolerated. Your obsession has blinded you to the truth — humans are inferior. My sacrifice will be a rallying cry to those who value logic above all. Vulcans will soon recognize and withdraw from the failed experiment known as the Federation.”

Woah! Where did that come from? Can Vulcan emotions run that deep? Are they willing to kill for such a xenophobic cause?

This sentiment is actually a direct outgrowth of the overwhelming Vulcan position we see demonstrated in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” After Vulcans made first contact with humanity and offered assistance, it appears they began to question their decision. They withheld their technology, holding back humanity. They did not even bother to mention the Klingons until one was killed in Broken Bow, Oklahoma in 2151, forcing their hand.

Soval speaking to Forrest

This Vulcan attitude towards humans was an undercurrent throughout “Star Trek: Enterprise.” It culminated in the bombing of the United Earth Embassy, just as the Vulcan High Command was preparing to render a decision on operating joint missions with Starfleet. The bombing killed 43 souls, including Vice Admiral Maxwell Forrest.

Just prior to the explosion, Ambassador Soval and Forrest walked the corridors of the embassy, discussing the upcoming High Command decision. When Soval explained some of the Command’s concerns, Vice Admiral Forrest replied, “Are Vulcans afraid of humans? Why?”

“Because there is one species you remind us of.”

“Vulcans.”

Soval states that, as we know, Vulcans had a savage past. They nearly destroyed their own civilization. Logic saved them, but it took almost 1500 years for them to rebuild their world and then travel to the stars. Humanity accomplished the same feat in less than 100 years. “There are those on the High Command who wonder what humans would achieve in the century to come. And they don’t like the answer.”

In addition, not only were Vulcans responsible for the embassy bombing, they fabricated stories to first blame the Andorians and then a fellow group of Vulcans, whom they later attempted to destroy.

But that’s “Enterprise,” you say. After 100 years the Vulcans settled down; humans and Vulcans were inseparable. Well, yes and no. Consider “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country,” which is set some 140 years after “Enterprise.” In that film, it is revealed that a group of humans, Romulans, Klingons and at least one Vulcan were involved in the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon. The group then framed the crew of the Enterprise for his death and attempted to assassinate the Federation President. In addition, the Vulcan, Lt. Valeris, is discovered to have hired, then killed the two human Federation operatives who assassinated Ambassador Gorkon. And all this was done because there was mistrust of impending peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. “Klingons can not be trusted.”

It might also be of interest to point out that Valeris was a protege of Captain Spock. The same Spock who was once court martialed for unlawfully taking control of the Enterprise. This would mean that Spock, Burnham, Sybok and Spock’s trainee were all responsible for acts of mutiny, treason or high crimes against the Federation. Clearly this is all Sarek’s fault.

As we continue to explore the world of “10 years before the time of Kirk and Spock,” keep in mind that “Star Trek’s” history is not flat colors, but subtle shades. It is not a shallow river, but a deep ocean.

Next episode: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Those remaining powerful women I spoke of in my review of episode 4? One of them, Admiral Katrina Cornwell, is purposefully sent into a trap by Captain Gabriel Lorca.
  • How is Dr. Culber dealing with “groovy” Stamets?
  • Speaking of Culber, he is the doctor we always see on Discovery, even though he is not the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). Why is that?
  • I appreciate how the look of Vulcan has remained fairly consistent through all the series and movies.
  • The “holodeck” is described by the computer as a “holographic battle simulation.” In the “Practical Joker” episode of animated “Star Trek” series, the Enterprise had a holographic projection room.
  • Lorca says that Ash Tyler “checks out.” Did Tyler get a physical examination, or was the extent of his exam Lorca’s questioning during the battle simulation?
  • Nice effects for the transition from Discovery, through the mind meld, to Vulcan.
  • The scene in sickbay, when Burnham first comes out of the mind meld, felt very “Trek.”

“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.