“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
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.”


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.

“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.


“Tilly, what the hell is going on on this ship?” – Star Trek Discovery Review – Context Is For Kings

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episode 3
“Context is for Kings”
Posted by Clinton
Source: Giphy.com

In a series where flawed heroes will either rise or fall, the U.S.S. Discovery may be the most flawed of all.

The U.S.S. Discovery is a doomed ship. At least its mission appears to be. After all, the biotechnology research that Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is conducting bears no resemblance to anything we have seen before, or since, in the “Star Trek” universe. That would indicate one of two things: the experiment is a catastrophic failure, or the experiment is a resounding success which places the ship out of this universe, if not time itself. Either way, Discovery, or at least members of its crew, are most likely doomed.

Discovery’s sister ship, the U.S.S. Glenn, has born witness to the volatile nature of the so-called “spore drive.” That ship’s attempt at a “Speirein 900” displacement apparently propelled it to the edge of Klingon space, but also killed every crew member on board. Stamets’ friend and colleague, Straal (Saad Siddiqui) spoke of the advantages of “not growing your own,” possibly hinting at the involvement of the creature that rampaged through the corridors of the Glenn. That creature is now aboard Discovery.

And what do we know of Discovery? We know that she is “right off the assembly line” new. We see that her Captain, Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) not only wants to win the Federation-Klingon war, he is willing to do anything at all to make that happen. We see indications that Discovery’s security officer, Comdr. Ellen Landry (Rekha Sharma) has no use for Vulcans. And there are indications that the science being conducted aboard Discovery is probably not something the United Federation of Planets would approve.


As we learned in episodes one and two, each character on “Star Trek: Discovery” is presented to us with a potentially fatal flaw and will be defined by how they act over time. That could very well include the Discovery herself.

Last week I spoke of the journey of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). How far she had fallen, and what heights she must scale to reach redemption. In “Context is for Kings,” she had to run the gauntlet of scorn, ridicule and rejection to finally begin the long climb up, both figuratively and literally.

It has been six months since Burnham was sentenced to life in prison for her crimes. Crimes she confesses to Saru (Doug Jones) that she thinks about every single day. She has withdrawn into herself, defaulting to her swallowed-emotions Vulcan upbringing. She is so far removed she does not even struggle against the impending destruction of her prison transport shuttle. In fact, she seem calm in the face of near-certain death.

It seems nothing in this universe can break through that wall. Nothing, save one thing: the relentless, unbridled, enthusiasm of Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Not at first, of course. This relationship starts off as icy cold as space itself. Then tension turns to an uneasy truce. By the end of the episode, Burnham shares not only a book with Tilly, but something more precious — a memory. It seems that Tilly will play a key role in Burnham’s journey.

Source: ezrisdax.tumblr.com

TIlly, in return, offers Michael Burnham something the others can not, an actual connection with her humanity. Saru can offer an alien’s cautious respect and Captain Lorca can give Burnham purpose while still hiding secret agendas. But Tilly cares. Yes, she wants to be mentored, but she is honest and up-front about it. She is not afraid to admit she is wrong. Her wide-eyed optimism is an exaggeration of what many have come to associate with “Star Trek.”

So now we must also carefully watch Cadet Sylvia Tilly. She may be our canary in the coal mine. If her enthusiasm sours, or something untoward happens to her, Michael will surely stumble.

And on board the U.S.S. Discovery, a stumble can be a very, very dangerous thing.

Next week: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry

Random thoughts and observations:

  • Is Lorca so badass he can actually stop a tribble from reproducing?
  • We have our first two “red shirt” deaths, as “unnamed prison shuttle pilot” tumbles away in space and non-speaking role security office Kowsky is killed by the creature on the Glenn
  • The [threat ganglia] on the back of Saru’s neck have flipped open again, this time as the prison shuttle departs. The first time we saw this, the Klingon ship decloaked in front of the Shenzhou.
  • Captain Lorca is very into standing desks and stand-up meetings
  • We continue to see eye close-up shots
  • Is a black badge special ops or something else? I don’t believe it’s Section 31, as they are more discreet about their operations
  • Nice re-imagining of the TOS square data tape
  • The engineering test bay has a vibe that actually feels like a step towards the TOS aesthetic, with hints of “Enterprise”
  • Nice collection of twisted memorabilia in Lorca’s science lab

“To think I knew you so little.” – Star Trek: Discovery Review – The Vulcan Hello | Battle At The Binary Stars

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
“The Vulcan Hello” & “Battle at the Binary Stars”
Posted by Clinton
Michael Burnham received a mind meld.
source: burnham-michael

I have a confession to make. Back in 1993 I made a mistake. I watched the first few episodes of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” then gave up.

Sisko shakes his head in disbelief

Hey! I had some pretty common complaints: The show didn’t take place on the Enterprise. Heck, it didn’t take place on a starship at all! The surroundings looked all wrong. The “action” took place on a space station someone else built and vacated. These people weren’t going off exploring new worlds every week. They just sat there, spinning, reacting to things that came to them. The show was dark, not uplifting. Starfleet was not the hero. The Cardassians were one dimensional. And the pacing was. so. damned. slow.

It wasn’t until years later that I went back and gave the show a second chance. I pushed through episodes like “Move Along Home” and kept going. I was rewarded with probably the best overall Star Trek series of them all (at least so far).

I mention this because I watched the first episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS network television and was almost tempted to stop watching. I was not overly impressed. Yes, there were aspects that were intriguing and familiar, but things were moving much too slow. Some of the actors in Klingon makeup appeared to be struggling to speak through their appliances. There were tech aspects that were bothering me — the holographic technology being the biggest head scratcher. And Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) did not seem to have the gravitas I felt a starship captain should have. I began to feel like people were right when they said “The Orville” was a better reimagining of “Star Trek” than this new CBS series — even though, in my heart, I knew that Seth’s series was really a loving look back at a specific point in Trek’s 51-year history. Trek had grown since TOS and TNG, much like The Empire Strikes Back shed the simple Buck Rogers feel of A New Hope.

T'Kumva says "You dishonor only yourself."
source: annasgif

When the episode ended, I had to switch to the CBS All Access service to watch episode 2. I did. And, thankfully, things got better.

In many ways, “Battle at the Binary Stars” is a better pilot episode than “The Vulcan Hello.” Not only do we get the prerequisite opening battle out of the way, we get backstory on our lead character Michael Burnham  (Sonequa Martin-Green). We learn that she is the victim of one (and possibly two) alien attacks. We learn about her special connections with Sarek and Captain Georgiou. And we see why she has such an internal conflict between logic and emotion. It is not the same as Spock’s dilemma. Or even, dare I say, Sybok’s. .Instead of struggling to repress one path of existence, she is trying to integrate both. In fact, this revelation helps define the essence of “Star Trek: Discovery” — how do you make utopia interesting?

It appears that “Star Trek: Discovery’s” answer to this question is to have heroic figures with major flaws. T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) and his dedicated follower Voq (Javid Iqbal) are outcasts, obsessed with the notion of Klingon identity and passionate visions of the legendary Klingon unifier, Kahless the Unforgettable. Lt. Saru’s (Doug Jones) genetic instinct to flee danger too often appears to hold him back. And Michael Burnham is the most damaged of all. She enters our story already damaged by an attack that killed her parents and by the cultural disorientation.

I would expect our characters to work through their flaws over the course of the season. What they learn, or do not learn, will alter or simply affirm how we defined them. And, once again, Michael Burnham has the farthest to go. She has now been stripped of her rank, sentenced to life in prison and bears, rightly or wrongly, the weight of beginning the Klingon-Federation War of 2256.

Michael Burnham looks around the brig.
source: talk-nerdy-to-me-thyla

Regarding the overall story, we have only seen the prologue. I don’t believe we will get a true sense of the scope of what we are dealing with until episode 3, “Context is for Kings.” Yes, we know there is a great war in progress, but how does the U.S.S. Discovery figure into this conflict? Is she some sort of prototype ship from Section 31? Episode 3 is often referred to as a second pilot for “Discovery.” I think it may be more a case that it is Chapter 1.

Does all this complexity and intrigue overcome the fact that the starships don’t look quite right for this point in the timeline? Or the fact that the delta shields are in use across Starfleet too soon? Not entirely. There will always be a part of me that wishes the look of “Discovery” meshed better with the 1966 series. But I also wish the look of the uniforms in Star Trek: The Motion Picture meshed better with the ones in The Wrath of Khan and “The Next Generation.” How important those aspects are to you will definitely affect your ability to enjoy “Star Trek: Discovery.”

I made a mistake in 1993. I gave up far too soon. I did not have faith that things can get better when everyone is more secure in their roles, both behind and in front of the camera. I am not about to repeat that mistake in 2017. I am all in on “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Next episode: “Context is for Kings”

Special thanks to the whole gang at Head Over Feels for guiding this noob through the world of episode blog posts!