Episode 4 Recap and Review, and a Discovery Update

Ripper might be my new favourite character!

“Ripper?”  Yep.  That cute, kinda scary, humongous tardigrade.

A lot of Episode 4 focused on Ripper this week and I think I might have fallen in love with the poor guy (gal?).  Burnham does refer to the tardigrade as a “he” part way through the episode, so we’ll go with that.

Tardigrade in Reaction Chamber

Before we get to Ripper’s antics and the news items, here are some basics:

The Facts
Episode Number: 104 (Season 1, Episode 4)
Episode Title: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”
Writers: Jesse Alexander and Aron Eli Coleite
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Quotable
Saru to Burnham: “My threat ganglia remain unconvinced.”

Burnham to Stamets: “The phaser will only piss him off.
Stamets to Burnham: “Think of it as a… placebo for my skepticism.

Stamets to Lorca and Doctor Culber: “The frontal lobe is overrated.  It only contains memory and emotional expression.  It’s completely unnecessary.
Doctor Culber, in response to Stamets: “Well, I’ll save it, you know, just in case you want to have a feeling one day.

Burnham to Landry: “You judge the creature by its appearance and by one single incident from its past.  Nothing in its biology suggests it would attack except in self-defence.  Commander, this creature is an unknown alien.  It can only be what it is, not what you want it to be.
Landry, in response to Burnham: “It’s amazing how much I hate Vulcan proverbs.

Georgiou to Burnham: “Take good care, but, more importantly, take good care of those in your care.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
–  Corvan II was first mentioned in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the episode “New Ground” from the fifth season.
– The USS Discovery has both a Warp Drive and a DASH Drive.  Displacement-Activated Spore Hub drive.

The Recap and Review
This is my favourite episode to date.  It didn’t start out that way, but my opinion shifted faster than a ship powered by a “spore-drive” can pop to another part of the galaxy.

The episode began with what, we eventually learn, was the creation of a uniform for Michael.

I don’t know if I had streaming issues at the beginning of the episode or not, but the effect looked pretty average.  It’s shot in a way that initially makes you wonder if it’s a planetscape you’re seeing, before pulling back to reveal it’s a Discovery uniform under construction.

After my Spock-like eyebrow-raise at that scene, everything got a lot better and pretty much instantly so.

Tilly walks in on Michael trying on her new uniform and examining herself in a very cool holographic mirror.  She’s her adorable awkward self as she delivers a bag to Michael.  The satchel beeps (constantly) and as Michael touches it, it’s revealed to be the last will and testament of Captain Philippa Georgiou.

Michael can’t bring herself to open it and Tilly is momentarily horrified, explaining that she’d not known about the contents of the bag.

The effect on Michael is telling, as she stashes the bleeping satchel under her bed.

Michael leaves her and Tilly’s room and heads to the bridge.  In the turbolift she meets Saru whose threat ganglia are out.  Saru isn’t happy she’s on the ship, nor is he is happy about not having been consulted by the captain.  Michael tries to assure him she’s only there to help.

They walk out onto the bridge into the middle of a confrontation with the Klingons.

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Obviously, this review contains spoilers.

The Klingon attack is a simulation – that the crew fail at, terribly.

As Lorca instructs Saru to keep running the simulation, Lorca takes Michael into the bowels of the ship where we learn why Lorca wants her on the Discovery.

They arrive at Lorca’s private sanctuary, which, thankfully, isn’t accessed via a breath scan.

The sanctuary contains a lot of weapons – and Ripper.  Lorca tells Michael that he wants her to weaponise the tardigrade.

I had an issue with that, but as the episode progresses we get a little bit more insight into Lorca which may be the start of an explanation for his actions.

All of that happens in the opening teaser.

Opening Credit Sequence 5

From there, we jump to the Klingons.

Snore.

The only things I like about the Klingons are L’Rell and Kol.  If it weren’t for L’Rell and Kol I’d fast forward through the Klingon bits.  They are painful.

I don’t mind the new look, it’s not that.  It’s the pacing and it’s the subtitles.

I get the language thing and the use of subtitles, but they are annoying and unnecessary.  I can’t stare admiringly at the incredible sets, I can’t fully appreciate the actors’ performance, and I can’t appreciate the remarkable makeup.  Makeup that, unfortunately, most of the actors have to fight through in an attempt to articulate their dialogue.  I’m still shocked this wasn’t picked up by the producers.

The Klingon scenes drag and drag and drraaagggg.

The set design, costuming and makeup is a tour de force of design brilliance, but who can enjoy it unless they watch the Klingon scenes multiple times?

I do watch them multiple times, but I don’t want to, because I don’t care.  There is no “in” for me with this species.  I don’t give a crap if the Klingon Houses unite, Voq is not an interesting character to me, and they ate Captain Georgiou which really pissed me off.

Captain Philippa Georgiou

This is going to sound ridiculous to some of you, but she is now my favourite Star Trek captain.  There was something about Michelle Yeoh’s performance that spoke to me, and I’m annoyed she’s gone.  I get the drama of it all, but the same thing could have been achieved with Michael thinking she was dead and her disappearing until Season Two.  Then we’d have the additional drama of Michael picking up the pieces all over again, and being forced to analyse what she did in the aftermath of Georgiou’s perceived death.  We’d also have Georgiou’s recovery from her journey as a prisoner of war to reflect on, which would have been a nice mirror to Ash Tyler’s experience.

I thought that was where the creative’s were going, but I was wrong.

Anyway… if it weren’t for L’Rell and Kol, I would not pay any attention to the Klingon scenes.  I don’t know how Mary Chieffo does it, but she conveys such powerful emotion underneath all of that makeup.  The subtlety of her performance is astounding and she articulates the language effectively.

There’s a mystery set up in the episode between L’Rell and Voq and what looks like the start of a romance, but that’s not enough to make me want more Klingons on my screen.

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I’ll leave the Klingons there.  I just don’t care enough to return to their scenes – but for the sake of accuracy:
– No dilithium.
– Fight between Voq and L’Rell about the Shenzhou‘s dilithium.
– Kol pops in and wants the cloaking device.
– They take the dilithium from the “vermin’s” ship.
– Kol turns Voq’s people against him with food, because they’ve been stuck in the debris field of the battle (from episode 2) that whole time and were starving.
– L’Rell pulls a swifty.
– Voq gets dumped on the Shenzhou.
– L’Rell rescues him and convinces him to join House Mokai.

Sounds exciting, but no.  Just a lot of growling, subtitles, and poorly paced action intermixed with beautiful visuals you can’t notice because of the subtitles, and outstanding performances from Mary Chieffo and Kenneth Mitchell.

After the first Klingon scene, we return to Discovery.  Commander Ellen Landry walks in on Michael as she applies the scientific method to Ripper (this is the scene where Ripper gets his name).

Landry isn’t interested and takes a pot shot at Michael’s idealism, saying she was sent to keep Burnham on track.

Next we visit Lorca, eating at his standing desk.

His meal is interrupted by a Starfleet Admiral who isn’t an idiot and we learn about Corvan II and a Klingon attack.

In a tried and true (and annoying) Trek trope, the Discovery is the only ship that can get to Corvan II… despite the fact it’s one of Starfleets most valuable dilithium processing areas.  I mean, why protect something that supplies dilithium to 40% of your fleet?  That’d be silly.

Lorca assures the admiral they are ready, and Lorca wanders off to have a verbal joust with Stamets, as Saru looks on.

Lorca tells Stamets to make the DASH drive work because if he doesn’t, people will die.

They activate the DASH-drive, and Michael notices that the tardigrade responds to it.  As the ship does a weird spinny-thing, it pops out of existence and into the gravity well of a star.

Not awesome!  But looks beautiful and is a wonderfully tense scene.

For his troubles, poor old Stamets gets his nose broken and his brain almost punctured by one of the bones.

While Michael tells Landry what she observed, in another scene we get to finally meet Doctor Hugh Culber as he heals Stamets’ injury.

Doctor Hugh Culber

He’s going to be a character I will fall in love with, though we didn’t get to see too much of him.  Regardless of his brief screen time, he had presence and I felt a connection to the character.

It’s clear he loves Stamets, but not in an obvious way, and likewise you can see Stamets soften when he speaks with his partner.

Lorca is there, and just gives it to Stamets who gets a little prickly about his drive and his spores.

Lorca pretty much says get in line, or get off.

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Lorca is either a complete ass, or a man who has been broken and has come back from that, but as someone different.

I want to believe he cares, and cares deeply, but doesn’t know how to express it anymore.  As he asks the computer to play the audio from the attack on Corvan II you can see something haunted in his eyes.

Something horrible has happened to Lorca, and he’s trying to cope the only way he knows how.  By being a soldier and saving lives.

I’m not great at predictions, but I’m going to call it now – Lorca isn’t making it out of season one alive.

A quick observation.  The saucer section of Discovery spins – fast – in spore-drive, an effect I hated on my first watch of the episode.  Why?  Common sense.  Science.  Canon.  Stuff like that.  Something spinning that fast that had biological entities inside it, would cause those life forms to turn to soup.  There’s not an inertial damper strong enough in existence to stop that from happening.  If there were, no one would get jostled about when the ship hit or got hit by stuff.  On my second viewing, I’m now 99% certain it’s only the plating on the hull that spins – because the windows in the body of both rings stayed still.  That assuaged my frustrations a little, but I am not a fan of the spinning hull.  Why does it spin?  It casts off the heat generated by the spore/DASH drive.

Anyway… as the crew digests what they’ve heard from Corvan II, we visit with Landry, Burnham and Ripper.

Landry is pissed after hearing the recording and wants to do something.  So she pushes a button on the side of her head and ejects her brain (I’m joking, but she might as well have), picks up a phaser rifle she knows Ripper is immune to and a knife of some sort, and tries to cut off Rippers hand.

That goes down about as well as you would expect it to.

No security officer with Landry’s experience would do what she did.  Everything about that scene was silly.  It was filmed beautifully, the effects were awesome, Sonequa and Rekha acted the shit out of it, but it was poor story-telling.

It’s been obvious from the moment we met Landry that she was a dead security officer walking.  That’s lazy writing.  That’s an unforgivably bad use of an actor as good as Rekha Sharma.  Go check out Battlestar Galactica and you’ll see how amazing Rekha is.

If you’re going to kill off characters, don’t do it for the sake of a bit of gore and an MA rating.  Don’t make one-dimensional characters.  Landry’s death could have had so much more of an impact.  It was surprising, but I’m pretty sure no one in the audience cared.  I wanted to like Landry, but never got the chance and her character remained a flat stereotype for her all too short a stay on the Discovery.

So… scratch two red/bronze shirts (one died last episode on the Glenn).

The only good thing about that scene was that we got to see Hugh again.

Oh, and some nice TOS sound effects in sickbay.  That was a beautiful touch.

Not long afterwards, Saru and Burnham have a conversation in Lorca’s sanctuary of horrors.

It’s been said by some that Michael Burnham isn’t a sympathetic character.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Yes, some of the stuff she says and does is a little cold, but she’s a human being struggling to regain her humanity after a life raised as a Vulcan.  More than that, she’s a human being in pain, seeking redemption.

I’ve had moments in my life where decisions I’ve made have led to completely unexpected and sometimes awful outcomes.  Maybe because of that I relate to Michael.  I can see her struggle and appreciate what it’s like to lose everything and try to regain it.  She’s not a perfect human-being, and she’s not a “super” character.  She is very human, and all of her faults are shining out at us every week.  I like this imperfect human, and I’m loving being a part of her journey to “becoming.”

I wish people would give her more of a chance, and try to walk a kilometre (or mile) in her fancy silver-soled boots.  Sonequa Martin-Green’s performance alone should warrant that.  I am totally engaged every time she’s on screen.

Michael upsets Saru by trying to kill two birds with one stone – apologise to him, AND lull him into a contemplative state to see whether or not his threat ganglia react to Ripper.  She doesn’t handle this too well, but I don’t believe she set out to be cruel.

Saru takes it as if she is using him and gives no thought to her apology, but I feel he misjudged her.

In a quick scene cut, Tilly delivers some stolen spores to Michael so she can test an hypothesis.

Tilly gets to show us, once again, that she is bad-ass.  To test her hypothesis, Michael needs to open Rippers containment pen.  Tilly could have gotten out of there, but she stayed with Michael, wanting to help her, despite knowing what happened to Landry.

With Saru, Michael’s cold, Vulcanesque dismissal of his reaction showed us that she’s still struggling to get this whole human thing right – but the empathy she so obviously feels for the tardigrade shows that she is both emotional and capable of compassion.  Her and Saru’s interactions are interesting and, it would appear, full of misunderstanding and miscommunication.

In a very touching scene that had me hugging the crap out of my dog, Ripper kind of hugs Michael as a way of thanking her for feeding him.

Michael takes her findings to Stamets, and as it becomes clear how brilliant she is, we see Stamets’ attitude toward Burnham shift.

They take Ripper for a walk in Stamets’ field of mushrooms and Michael realises the tardigrade can communicate with the spores, possibly making Ripper the perfect navigator for Discovery.

They test their hypothesis and make a successful jump to Corvan II.

It seems to hurt Ripper, which surprises and upsets Michael.

I’m not a fan of the effect where Discovery spins like a coin as it jumps because, again, inertial dampers aren’t that good and everyone on board would have been turned to a splash of red.  It looks great, but is silly.  It’s just another thing where a writer thought “that will look cool”, like that bloody delta in the sand scene in the pilot.  And it doesn’t.  It looks pretty and that’s it.  It has me wondering… is there a teenage boy on the writing team?  It’s makes me think of the Transformers movies – all spectacle, no substance.

The spinning is unnecessary.  A special effect for special effects’ sake is a waste of money.

TBKCNFTLC1

The episode ends with Corvan II being saved in what is one of the best battle scenes I’ve ever seen in televised Star Trek, and Michael trying to let Ripper know that they never meant to harm him.  Ripper retreats from the overture, leaving Michael saddened.

The battle scenes are pretty awesome – fantastic camera work, brilliant effects, excellent performances, beautiful editing, great dialogue. The tension builds effectively and the interspersed cuts between the battle and Ripper in pain are poignant.

The last scenes feature Tilly, Michael and a holographic representation of my new favourite captain.

After telling Michael that she’s starting to develop a different kind of reputation, Tilly gently challenges Michael, telling her that she’s not afraid of anything and should open the package.

Tilly is, right now, the heart and soul of this show.

Tilly leaves, and we close on Michael opening up Captain Georgiou’s last will and testament in a very moving, beautiful scene that just makes me miss Michelle Yeoh even more.

Curiously, Georgiou gifts Michael with an ancient family heirloom, a telescope, telling her that she is like a daughter to her.  The last time we saw that telescope it was on the Shenzhou.  It would appear that after the battle, Starfleet went back to retrieve bodies and wills and, it would appear, that telescope.

I have no issue with that.  Voq’s ship was damaged so he and his crew would have stayed hidden, and it makes sense that Starfleet would treat it’s dead with such respect.  They would also want to see if there were any survivors they had missed.

“The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” is a very strong hour of Star Trek, and it’s the most Star Trek like episode yet.

Scorecard
Acting: 10/10
Direction: 10/10
Writing: 8/10
Editing: 10/10
Special Effects/VFX: 9/10
Story: 8/10.

Overall, four Starfleet deltas out of five.
4 Deltas

The News
– The names of all remaining episodes for this season have been released, for more information visit TrekMoviehere.
– Production on Star Trek: Discovery has just finished!  All that is left now is for the episodes to have their effects completed and the music scored.
– Photos from Episode 5 are online.  Harry Mudd makes his first appearance!  For more information and to see the photos visit TrekMovie again here.
– The first half of Season 1 will end with episode 9 now, instead of 8… and…
– According to Les Moonves, another season is “likely.”

The next episode is “Choose Your Pain.”  I get the feeling that may be a Klingon episode.  Great Bird of the Galaxy help me!

Until next week, Live Long and Prosper.

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