I’ve been really worried about my inability to find adjectives when reviewing Star Trek: Discovery. I shouldn’t have been concerned. This latest episode added a new one to my frequently used list: chilling.
There are moments in “The Wolf Inside” where I went cold watching Shazad Latif’s performance. Not in a bad way, in a good way. He was completely compelling and it was unnerving.
But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. First…
Episode Number: 111
Episode Title: “The Wolf Inside”
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: T.J. Scott
Ash to Michael: “You’re my tether. You bring me back. You did it before we were stranded in this place, and you’re still doing it now.”
Saru to Michael: “An oppressive regime is by nature a fearful regime.”
Lorca to Michael: “You have to do it. Give the order. You have to wipe them out.”
Michael: “But I can’t send hundreds of rebels to their death to save myself.“
Lorca in response: “What about your crew? The Federation? Our universe? Be a massacre by Klingons. Sometimes, the end justifies… the terrible means.“
Michael: “Permission to speak freely sir?” Lorca nods. “I fear that your suffering has influenced your judgement. I will find a way to get what we need to Discovery, But in the meantime, lives are hanging on my command – here and at home. And this rebellion against the Terrans, it’s an unshakeable union of species. Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites. It’s the closest to a Federation this universe may ever see.”
Lorca, in response: “What’s your point?”
Michael: “My point is that a Klingon leads the alliance. A Klingon! They rally behind him. If we can walk away from this with the means to successfully negotiate with the Klingon race… that’s real hope for finding peace at home. Please, sir, I no longer have my pips but I’m still Starfleet. Don’t force me to slaughter this coalition of hope.”
Mirror Voq: “Master Sarek sees all. His wisdom pierces minds. If you truly come in peace, he will find it in your heart.”
Tilly to Saru: “The laser photon emissions are comprised entirely of exotic matter found in the mycelial plane, and when that matter integrates with Stamets’ own neural materials, it should restore his cognitive function.”
Saru in response: “A scientist saved by his own specimens.”
Tilly: “The veins and muscles of the universe. Fungi are the only organism with the biological apptitude to link death with life.”
Though there will obviously be spoilers here, please keep in mind that this is a big, spoilery episode just like the last one and I need to put up that graphic one more time.
Despite the fact most of the spoilers below have been predicted by fans and have been out there for a long time, I’m going to respect those of you who have been avoiding fan speculation and spoilers and give you a chance to click away now…
The Recap and Review
Star Trek: Discovery has become so much more than a science fiction drama commenting on the sociopolitical landscape of our times. It’s now a tragic love story for the ages.
That sounds quite melodramatic, but I think it’s true: Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, and now Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler/Voq. Perhaps even L’Rell and Voq?
It’s also a show that comments on family. Star Trek has always done this, but none quite as blatantly as Star Trek: Discovery.
We explore family through the lense of adoption with Michael, Sarak and Amanda. We explore it through the older role models we all take on in life, with Michael, Philippa Georgiou and Gabrielle Lorca. We explore it through the discussions the crew have about their own families – most particularly Tilly and her troubled relationship with her mother. And, of course, we explore it through the fact that this is a crew of people who are close knit out of necessity and have become like family. That last one we’ve seen in every Star Trek incarnation, and we have had glimpses of some of the others in every series, but I’d argue none have done some of these quite as well as Star Trek: Discovery.
Each previous series will always hold a very special place in my heart, because I love them all, particularly Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Star Trek: Discovery is now my favourite series because of it’s complexity.
Is it perfect Star Trek? There will never be a perfect anything, but it is Star Trek and it’s the right Star Trek for now. We live in difficult and, you could say, dark times and this is a Star Trek that responds to that. For a long time now the creatives behind the series have promised us that we will see the cherished values of the Federation on display, and we have, intermittently, but with this and the last episode they have started to shine.
These adventures in the Mirror Universe will define this crew, I think, in so many ways.
Let’s take a look. Rather than do a blow by blow recount, which I personally hate (though I do them a lot), here are the important facts:
– Stamets is discovered holding the body of his own personal Imzadi.
– The crew suspects Stamets killed Culber in a spore-induced fit of disorientation.
– Tilly believes that Stamets’ condition is a ‘spore’ related issue and not a medical one, and petitions Saru to let her tend to him.
– Michael reflects on the nature of darkness in all of us, and wonders how long it will take for the Mirror Universe to change them all, irreparably.
– Ash declares Michael is his “tether” to everything good.
– Saru asks Burnham in a secret communication whether or not she has found a Mirror version of him, because in the Prime Universe there are so few of his kind. She has, and he’s her “servant,” but she can’t bring herself to tell him that so says that she hasn’t. Saru, for his part, is also a little dishonest and doesn’t tell her that her friend, Hugh Culber, has been murdered. During that conversation she let’s Saru know she has the information about the USS Defiant that they’ve been looking for.
– The Empress orders the Shenzhou to destroy the alien alliances base of operations.
– Michael “adjusts” those orders and beams down with Ash to “obtain information”, while in reality seeking the help of the Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites. She wants to know why and how these Klingons have all come together to stand against the Empire with a coalition of aliens. Her other equally important goal is to warn them so they can escape.
– We get to see a Vulcan with a goatee, and wouldn’t you know it… it’s Sarek! He is called the Prophet in this universe.
– The leader of the alien resistance, nicknamed “FireWolf,” is Voq Son on None.
– Sarek convinces the resistance that Michael isn’t lying and laying a trap for them.
– Tilly looks like she’s having some success with her treatment of Stamets… until he flatlines. I wasn’t sure if he was dead, or, as she warned might happen, was lost in the mycelial network. All hope, however, is not lost as after a while he shows signs of recovery.
– As Michael negotiates with the resistance, the personality overlay that L’Rell tried to remove from Tyler last episode almost completely dissolves and Voq pushes his way through the Ash personality. He shouts at Mirror Voq and attacks him.
– This goes as badly as you’d expect, with Ash’s actions almost getting he and Michael killed.
– Sarek brings peace to the explosive moment, and Michael tells Mirror Voq she can give him and his followers an hour to escape before she has to carry out her orders, but she needs something in return to justify her trip to the surface. He provides locations for various coalition assets, saying they will be safe by the time the Empire deciphers the data.
– Michael and Ash beam back to the Shenzhou. Michael orders Ash into her quarters where we finally receive 100% confirmation he is Voq. This is the chilling scene. The change in Tyler is eerie, unsettling and beautifully acted. The Ash personality is erased as he remembers Burnham killing T’Kuvma. Even though I’ve been on the Ash is Voq team for a while, the shift in personality was so menacing it hit me and I was on the edge of my seat. If this scene had been performed with a lessor actor, it would not have worked. Shazad Latif is brilliant as is Sonequa. Her reaction and shock to his revelation takes the scene to an entirely new level and makes it so real.
– Michael doesn’t believe it at first. Then Ash/Voq tells her something only he could have known and then tells her he killed Doctor Culber.
– Ash/Voq attacks Michael and overcomes her. She’s so deeply shocked she can’t fight this man that she thought she new and has fallen in love with. Moments before he can deliver the death blow, Mirror Saru saves her life and calls for security. Boy, that Kelpien is STRONG!
– Ash/Voq is dragged to the transporter room to be beamed into space, and Michael slips the Defiant data into his belt without him knowing. Then, with a subtle change of coordinates, hits energise.
– The Discovery rescues Ash/Voq, Saru grabs the disc and places him in the brig.
– A little while later Michael tells Lorca she feels adrift in this horrible universe after Tyler’s revelation, and that she has nothing to keep her grounded, or, to use Ash’s words, tethered to the real her. Lorca tells her she’s wrong. She has him. It’s perhaps the most touching scene between these two strong characters yet. For once, Lorca is not all bluster. In fact, it’s almost a very different Lorca to the man we’re used to. I found myself wondering if the Agony Booth had broken him. I also found myself thinking they should take an Agony Booth back to the prime universe to cure Lorca of his grumpiness.
– Our Stamets meets Mirror Stamets somewhere on the mycelial plane in an enigmatic moment that suggests these two will get up to some mischief.
– The Empress arrives and it’s Philippa Georgiou, and she is not happy with Michael. She bombs the crap out of the resistance base before the allotted time frame Burnham had given them for their escape, and then gets all Empressy with our hero. How does this version look? Cruel and forbidding!
And that’s the episode in a nutshell.
So… next week?
Who knows. We knew this big reveal about Voq was coming and we knew it would be devastating, but I can’t even begin to anticipate how this will unravel or play out over the next few episodes left in Season One.
Before I finish this review, I want to commend the designers of Star Trek: Discovery for the new Andorian and Tellarite look. These are the best looking Tellarites I have ever seen, and the Andorian design is beautiful. Yes, there are changes to what we know, but they are far more subtle than the changes made to the Klingons. Strangely, when you see the new Klingons side by side with the Tellarites and Andorians they look ‘right.’
Another thing I want to mention is I was wrong about the Empress image in my last review. The image I posted, thinking it was the Empress arriving, was actually a crew member stumbling over Stamets and Culber. Sorry about that. That’ll learn me!
“The Wolf Inside” did not feel as crammed as the last episode, in fact, just the right amount of everything went into this episode. It was overwhelming because at its heart it was a very emotional story, but everything was wonderfully executed and handled so well by all parties involved.
A few final observations:
– We saw more of the Saru under the Starfleet uniform, and the makeup is exceptional.
– Death by transporter is something these Terrans are quite fond of! Those scenes were handled very well.
– I loved seeing the USS… sorry, ISS Shenzhou again. I love the design of both the exterior and interiors of that vessel.
– This episode we felt something that so few episodes of any series ever manage to evoke. A real sense of jeopardy. Was Ash going to die? Was he going to kill Michael? Was Stamets’ story finally over?
I feel like a broken record, but this is now my favourite episode.
I am desperate for episode 12.
1. I still think our Lorca originates from the Mirror Universe.
2. The Discovery leaves the Mirror Universe next episode, right at the very end, after a particularly devastating personal and physical throw down between Michael and the Empress. The Mirror Universe has done what it needed to do. It’s challenged our heroes, it’s outted Voq, it may still out Lorca, and it looks like it will resolve whatever it is that is happening with Stamets.
3. We’ll see a lot of Michelle Yeoh in Episode 12.
4. Stamets and Stamets will save the Discovery from the Mirror Universe.
5. This will be the beginning of the end for the spore-drive. I believe it’s going to have something to do with the Mirror Universe and the fear the Terran Empire could sweep through, into our Prime Universe, and wreck havoc on an already overwhelmed Federation.
6. Someone will die, and someone will be reborn. I believe Lorca is going to bite the dust, and Culber will become infused with mycelial “stuff” and brought back to life.
I don’t have any predictions about Ash/Voq at the moment. I have no idea what is going to happen there. If you’d asked me before seeing “The Wolf Inside,” I would have thought that his love for Burnham would see him overcome whatever it was that was happening to him (remembering that we still weren’t 100% sure last episode if Voq had been overlaid on Ash, or if Voq had been surgically altered to pass as human).
Ash/Voq seems so completely Voq now, I don’t think there’s any space for Michael’s love to win the day. I could be wrong. I doubt that Ash/Voq calling Michael his “tether” was a throw away line, but it could also have been a line designed to highlight to us just how much this is going to hurt her.
Respect to Lisa Randolph. This is the best written episode to date this season, and that’s saying something because there has not been a clunker among them.
Tips for the Producers
Just one, in this new section I hopefully never have to use again.
Please, no more Klingon titties.
We get it. You’re on a streaming service now and you can be a little more risque, but we don’t need it. The gore I’m okay with. You’ve pushed it a bit, and it’s sad that the use of gore means it excludes children from discovering this show until later in life, but it has always served the story. The Klingon breasts we’re seeing every few episodes don’t. I know this sounds prudish, but hear me out. These shots feel like you’re trying too hard to be Game of Thrones and, frankly, it’s a little pathetic. Showing them in bed on top of each other (which I seem to remember from a few episodes back) is enough. We’re not stupid. Showing Klingon breasts doesn’t enhance the story. If anything it detracts.
If we want to watch Game of Thrones, we’ll go watch it. If we want to see breasts, we’ll use Google and find them. We know Voq/Tyler and L’Rell had sex and constant reminders are little more than shameful and unnecessary titillation. If you think this will attract people to the show, you’re mistaken. People don’t watch Star Trek for titties. They watch it for challenging story lines, beautifully crafted characters, intelligent dialogue, and hope.
Please consider this feedback.
My issue with the above notwithstanding, this is an intelligently crafted episode that is entertaining, thought provoking, inspiring and moving.
I loved it.
I want to make special note of the music this episode. It was so subtle, but so clever and emotionally charged. I don’t know if I’ve heard such a careful score before for a television show? The music was at times threatening and ominous, and then deeply moving. Jeff Russo outdid himself this outing. His music has been wonderful the whole series long, but this episode it was so right in every way.
More and more this show is affecting me – in good ways, but often profound ways. I love that a show can do this to me at this stage in my life.
I’ve accidentally found myself quoting lines of dialogue at people – recently I provided professional supervision to some allied health workers, and without meaning to, I quoted Philippa Georgiou: “…take good care of those in your care.”
A few weeks later, I accidentally quoted Tilly to my boss after completing a psychological test to measure my ability to be empathic and compassionate. I was off the chart, and in response said: “I love feeling feelings!”
There have been more instances, but I won’t bore you with them. I’ve also found myself contemplating the actions of the characters at random moments, wondering what I would have done if I were in their shoes. I have never done that with any of the J.J. Abrams movies.
This show has swept me up in its embrace and I don’t want it to let go.
If you haven’t checked out Star Trek: Discovery, or if you’re still clinging to a misplaced dislike because of how different it is to past Treks, I implore you to let go and give it a shot. This is a quality show, and they’re doing good things.
Share this journey with us. I doubt you’ll regret it.
Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes appearing on Sundays at 8:30pm ET. In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET, also on a Sunday. Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday at 8:00am in the United Kingdom and usually at either 6pm or 7pm in Australia.
See you in about a week for another review.
Live long and prosper.