Episode 15 Review

Star Trek Discovery Review Banner Episode 15

It’s taken me a long time to write this review, because, sadly, I didn’t like this episode.  I was so disappointed by it that I didn’t know how to put my feelings into words and I wasn’t inspired to put fingers to keyboard.

To be fair, I should point out that there are elements of “Will You Take My Hand?” that are great, but only elements – and only two or three that I can easily recall.  As a whole, it just doesn’t work and it is not a fitting end to what has been a remarkable season, and an outstanding first season.

As usual, the acting is brilliant and the special effects are impressive and these are the things that carry the episode.  The story doesn’t, and the writing is some of the worst this season has seen – which is surprising, considering who wrote it and the quality we know they can produce.

The other thing that really lets this episode down is the boring and suspense-less resolution to the Klingon war arc. This resolution makes you question the entire season and how well it was thought out, and it makes you question everything the writing team has been telling us because so many things seem unfulfilled.

Before I dive in further, spoilers ahead.  I’m only putting this warning up because of the last few scenes… so, Red Alert!

Spoiler Alert

The Facts
Episode Number: 115
Episode Title: “Will You Take My Hand?” or “Wasted Opportunities”
Written By: Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts
Story By: Akiva Goldsman, Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts
Directed By: Akiva Goldsman

Quotable
Georgiou to Saru: “What’s wrong?  Are you scared, Number One?”  Beat.  “Where I’m from there’s a saying: ‘scared Kelpien makes for tough Kelpien’.  Have you gotten tough since we served together on the Shenzhou, Mr Saru?
Saru: “Affirmative, captain.  Very tough.  So much so that many find me simply unpalatable.

L’Rell: “You?  How!?  Our Lord pierced your heart… House T’Kuvma feasted on your flesh.
Georgiou: “You have the wrong Philippa Georgiou.
L’Rell: “Either way, I can tell you require seasoning.

Michael to Cornwell: “Is this how Starfleet wins the war?  Genocide?!
Cornwell: “You want to do this here?  Fine.  Terms of atrocity are convenient after the fact.  The Klingons are on the verge of wiping out the Federation.
Michael: “Yes, but ask yourself, why did you put this mission in the hands of a Terran, and why the secrecy?  It’s because you know it’s not who we are.
Cornwell: “It very soon will be.  We do not have the luxury of principles…
Michael: “That’s all we have, Admiral!”  Beat.  “A year ago, I stood alone.  I believed that our survival was more important than our principles.  I was wrong.”  Beat.  “Do we need a mutiny today to prove who we are?
Saru: (Standing) “We are Starfleet.
The entire bridge crew stands to join Michael and Saru.

Moments of Interest
Familiar Aliens
The Orions make an appearance in this episode and they’re just as fond of debauchery and hedonism as ever!  Though… they do appear a little paler than we’re used to!

Familiar Faces
Clint Howard, who made his first Star Trek appearance in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Corbomite Maneuver,” makes another appearance in Trek, this time playing a very stoned Orion who tries to dupe Tilly.

Clint Howard DISCO

If you’re thinking Clint looks familiar, he has also appeared in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Past Tense, Part II” and the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Acquisition.”

Clint is also the brother of actor and legendary director Ron Howard, and is a regular at Star Trek conventions.

A Klingon Moon
During a confrontational moment on the Discovery after Michael works out what Starfleet is up, we see a hologram of Qo’nos blowing up (thanks to bad science and a lack of research around volcanos), and, I’m pretty sure, orbiting Qo’nos there in the background might be Praxis.

Extra Appendages
Speaking of Klingons, it would appear our favourite ridge-headed aliens have a little more going for them than redundant internal organs.  In another attempt to leave their  mark on Star Trek canon, the producers have given Klingon males two penises… peni?

Does this disturb anyone else?  I can’t help but think of poor Deanna and Jadzia!

Please believe me when I say I’m not being prudish here, merely practical.  How the heck does that work?  I get redundant internal organs, that has been canon since Star Trek: The Next Generation, but why would those redundancies also be external?  If we follow that logic, Klingon women should have two vaginas and four breasts and all Klingons should probably have two heads (and brains), two anuses and an extra arm each.

This addition to canon feels poorly thought out and completely unnecessary.

Will You Take My Hand - Planning to Infiltrate Qo'Nos

The Review
As I’m typing this, I’m watching the episode to catch quotes and re-familiarise myself with what happened, and for the first time I’m not paying rapt attention to the screen, forcing myself to type.  I’m listening, half-heartedly, and that bothers me.  It bothers me because I wish I didn’t have to re-watch this episode, and it’s rare that I want an episode of Star Trek to be over.

We begin this particular voyage with a look back at what’s come before, with L’Rell providing the “last time…” announcement in Klingon.

After the flashbacks, we go to an absolutely terrible scene on the bridge that serves no purpose whatsoever.  In it, Empress Philippa Georgiou does everything in her power to show everyone around her that she is not Captain Georgiou, devolving from a nuanced, intelligent villain into a stereotype – complete with clunky dialogue and bad attitude as she snaps at everyone from Owosekun to Detmer.  Michelle Yeoh is wonderful to watch, usually, but I didn’t enjoy these scenes.  Michelle did not do a bad job, but she was given rubbish lines that were silly and a waste of a talented actor.  We did not need to be reminded that this Georgiou is evil.  I can’t help but think that if she had pulled off a good impression of Captain Georgiou it would have been chilling – for us, and in particular for Michael and Saru.  To add insult to injury, she has a go at Michael for trying to expose her when she’s been doing everything she can to say “I’m not your Georgiou” – short of wearing a sign.

Evil Elmo

These first few scenes would have been better used showing us some of the war we’ve heard about but rarely seen.  Wasn’t it meant to be amping up this episode?  Or, it could have been used to show Cornwell and Sarek, back at Starfleet Headquarters, agonising over their decision to enlist a Mirror Universe tyrant to do the unthinkable.  Instead, we get moustache twirling and scenes that insult our intelligence as an audience.

From that dump of disappointment we head into the opening credits sequence and then a delightful little visit with L’Rell, where Georgiou continues to remind us of just how evil she is.

It was nice to see L’Rell again, but this is another scene that we didn’t need and the time would have been better spent addressing some of the loose threads from throughout the season – like what’s going to happen with the spore drive?  Has Vulcan been attacked?  Has Andor or Tellar fallen to the Klingon advance?  How is Stamets going with the death of the love of his life?  Is he miraculously healed now or is he still having mycelial inspired flashbacks?  Is Mirror-Georgiou a three-dimensional human being, or just a cardboard cut-out bad guy?  How are some of the lower decks guys we were supposed to be seeing more of coping with the whole war/Mirror Universe/war/stabby-McStabby-neck-snappy Ash?

We get none of that, as another missed opportunity passes us by at warp 8.

Fresh off watching Georgiou kick L’Rell around, we visit with Ash in what might be the worst scene of the entire season.  Georgiou gets her moustache out again and twirls it, as Michael looks on and Ash talks about knots.

Ash does share some useful stuff but really, all I can remember is the knots?  Knots.  He’s not even Ash.  Really.  Can we have this guy deal with being a Klingon in a false body-suit with a set of memories that have overridden who and what he originally was before we talk about a false memory from another guy who is probably dead?  There’s real meat in that.  But no.  We can’t.  Because knots.  Perhaps that’s a metaphor I’m not clever enough to get?

Disco S1E15 Tilly in the Orion Quarter

With Ash’s info in hand, we cut to the briefing room and the plot to jump inside the Klingon Homeworld so they can “map” it.  *Wink wink.*

Georgiou chooses her landing party, which consists of knot-loving Ash, Michael and Tilly, giving Mary Wiseman a chance to show off her incredible comic timing again, and then tells the guys to go dress like reprobates.

How do you do that?  You don black or dark brown leather and straighten your hair.  Nothing says evil like leather and people who usually have curly or wavy hair suddenly having straight hair.

The scene isn’t terrible.  Thanks to Mary Wiseman, it’s actually pretty good.  She takes what would have been an info dump, and turns it into something delightful.

Seriously, someone give the casting directions a pay rise.

From there we jump inside Qo’nos in one of the best special effects shots of the season.  It’s beautiful, and Discovery looks magnificent!  As you know, I’ve been in love with this ship and its design since before we saw the finalised model, thanks to being a fan of Ralph McQuarrie’s original NCC-1701 refit sketches for Star Trek: Phase II and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Seeing Discovery inside one of the Qo’nos caverns was pretty damn special and it gave us a really good look at this graceful, gorgeous ship.

The Discovery Inside Qo'nos

After that breathtaking moment we visit with Georgiou’s team as they beam into the Orion sector on Qo’nos.  FYI, the Klingons allow the Orions to have space (an ’embassy’) on their world, inhabiting an area that was once a shrine to a Klingon deity prior to Kahless’s rise to power.  Why?  Well, it actually makes sense.  Every country (more or less) has embassies, so too would most, if not all, worlds in space that had some sort of a relation with other planets.  If anyone was going to take that offered space and turn into a bizarre, sexy, over the top mess, it would be the Orions.  Or the Ferengi!

Sadly, this was more stuff we didn’t need.

I don’t know if I just have my cranky pants on or what, but really, was any of this necessary?  Couldn’t we have spent the time better?

We play around in Orion town for a good chunk of what’s left of the episode, watching Ash gamble with Klingons (freaking Michael out in the process), Georgiou getting her sexy on in a bisexual romp that plays into the “all bisexuals are evil” trope we’ve seen in way too many movies and television series, and Tilly getting stoned.

Disco S1E15 Georgiou Teaches the Orions a Thing or Two

*Yawn.*

All the while, Michael looks serious and none too happy with what’s going on.  We do get some character development for Michael, though, as we learn what happened to her parents in an unpleasant and disturbing disclosure to Ash that helps us (and him) understand why she is struggling with what has happened to (been revealed about) him.

It’s a moving scene, but one that’s a little out of place.  I wish we’d learned these facts earlier, perhaps in the second episode of the Mirror arc.  We would have felt the impact of Ash’s betrayal more if that had been the case.

Eventually, we learn what we already knew was true.  The probe is a bomb and Georgiou is super evil (SURPRISE!) and is out to blow Qo’nos into tiny little pieces.  All with the blessing of Starfleet.

This leads to a face off between Michael and Admiral Cornwell that produces one of the best scenes in the entire episode.  The face off almost turns into another mutiny, led by Michael, because… “book end.”  I was okay with that but wonder if we needed it?  Book ends are nice, but a little uncomfortable when you’re beaten over the head with them!

The best thing about the confrontation is that it provides a nice moment for the crew of Discovery, taking what we saw last episode and building on it, and showing just how close this team has gotten, and how much of a family they have become.

I think it’s my favourite scene in the episode and it’s played beautifully by everyone.  It makes Cornwell look weak and frightened, which isn’t great, and it makes Starfleet and the Federation look completely inept, which is really disappointing, but Jayne Brook plays it perfectly and sells it with genuine emotion, adding in enough bluster and eventual shame and regret to show us that no one is happy with the steps Starfleet has taken.  Sadly, it’s not enough to explain why this decision was agreed to in the first place, but at least they tried.  I guess.

After that strong scene we jump back to Georgiou twirling her moustache as she and Michael face off over the probe that’s not a probe, and was always a bomb.

Michael wins.  L’Rell beams down.  L’Rell gets the bomb.  L’Rell gets convinced to go bring the Klingon High Council to it’s knees under her rule.  Ash decides to stay with L’Rell.  The Klingons call off their fleet as it’s within striking distance of Earth.  We all live happily ever after as the Discovery heads home.

And Georgiou?  She’s let go.  Set free by Starfleet to wreak havoc in the Prime Universe.  Which is ridiculous.  But, it means she’ll be in season two and I do love Michelle Yeoh, so I can’t really complain too much about that moment.

As we cruise toward the end of the episode, we go to Earth and visit with Amanda and Sarek in Paris.  Which I appreciated.  Mia Kirshner does the role of Amanda proud and is just perfect as the strong human woman who exists in both Michael and Spock’s lives to remind them that though being Vulcan is something to be proud of, so too is being human.

Will You Take My Hand - Amanda, Michael and Sarek

After Michael’s oh-too-brief but beautiful moment with her mother, Sarek steps in to come clean about his role in helping Starfleet make the universe’s stupidest decision.  He’s not just there, though, to show that wise-older-Vulcan’s are fallible too, he’s there for another reason.  He tells Michael her record has been expunged and she has been reinstated as a Commander.

From there we go inside, to Michael and the Discovery crew getting medals for their part in the war.  Which is weird.  Because they were barely in it.  They obtained vital intel, this is true, but then were abducted and taken to an alternate universe to return nine-months later to a devastated Federation.  Their intel didn’t end up doing much, because the Klingons had advanced quite a way into Federation space… and yet they got medals.  They deserve them, because they did end the war thanks to Philippa and her probe-come-bomb, but somehow it felt… unearned?

Will You Take My Hand - Michael Gives A Speech

Throughout the awards ceremony Michael is giving a speech, which, it seems, has actually been going on since the beginning of the episode in snatches that you would have been forgiven for thinking were log entry voiceovers.  The scenes of her giving this speech to the Admiralty are inter cut with the medal presentations and it’s all a little disjointed and questionably put together.  I found it confusing and jarring the first time I saw it, and annoying the second.

I will admit, though, that I felt a tear come to my eye as Michael was embraced back into the arms of Starfleet.  Sonequa Martin-Green conveys so much emotion in those last moments in Paris that you can’t help but be swept away in her moment.  Far out that woman is a great actor!

Now we come to the end of the episode, and the season.

It’s a doozy.

The very last scenes reveal one of the biggest twists (another freaking twist for the season), if not the biggest twist for any Star Trek series.

After Paul talks about why they’re warping to Vulcan instead of jumping, Sarek joins them on the bridge as they clear the Sol system.  There’s some nice banter, everything feels a little weird though – but that’s probably because there’s more light on this bridge than ever before (thank you Mirror-Lorca for all the shadowy stuff), when Lieutenant Bryce announces he’s receiving a distress signal.

Will You Take My Hand - NCC1...

The call is coming from another Federation starship, but Bryce is having some trouble getting a clear signal.  As the communications officer deciphers the vessel’s call sign we see it start to form on one of his displays: N… C… C… 1… 7…

The Discovery drops out of warp, Saru sends a message and we are suddenly told the hail is from Captain Pike.  Captain Christopher Pike.

Disco S1E15 Enterprise Arrives

Michael works it out first and has a knowing look with Sarek as she says… “It’s the USS Enterprise.

Disco S1E15 Enterprise NCC-1701 Approaches

And we see that iconic ship appear.

She’s beautiful.  But, she’s not quite the ship we’re used to.

Disco S1E15 Enterprise and Discovery Meet

As the Enterprise and Discovery come nose to nose, we cut to black.

That moment brought a smile to my face!  If I’m to be completely honest, that, not Michael’s standoff with Cornwell, is my favourite moment of the episode.

Then, to drive the impact home, the closing title sequence features a beautiful and brilliantly faithful rendition of Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek theme.

The episode ended on a high, but it took a really disappointing road getting there.

When we compare this season of Star Trek: Discovery with any other first season of a Trek show, there is no doubt this is the strongest launch out of the gate any previous series has ever had.

Somewhere, though, it went wrong.

Star Trek: Discovery, up until episode three of the four episode long Mirror arc, was building beautifully and seemed to sail by on a clear path toward a massive reckoning and inevitable redemption that would culminate in a devastating clash between the Federation and the Klingon empire.

Only it didn’t.  They spent one or two episodes too many in the Mirror Universe, and then short changed us on the Klingons and the war.

We were promised we would get a deeper insight into the Klingons.  It didn’t happen.

We were told this season was a war-story arc… and it was, we just didn’t get to see more than a few flashes of the war.

We were told so much, and they didn’t deliver on about half of it.

I think what pissed me off the most though, was watching After Trek and seeing the writers so pleased with themselves, and watching Matt Mira avoid any sort of conversation around “so, what happened guys?  Where was the war?”

Is “Will You Take My Hand?” a terrible episode?  Probably not.  Is it the weakest and worst of the season?  You bet.  Is it a wasted opportunity?  Criminally so and it casts a bit of a shadow over the entire season.

All I can do is hope the writers are reading everyone’s reviews.  I’ve read a few, and some people love the episode, but quite a few are just as disappointed and disheartened as I am.

Will I be tuning in for season two?  HELL YES.  As much as I have complained about this episode, the thing I am taking away from this season is how amazing it was.  Most of the time.  It has delivered characters I care about.  Some of the writing has been Emmy level worthy.  The effects have been staggering.  The direction has been beautiful.  The music has been moving.  There’s so much to love about Star Trek: Discovery.  I won’t let “Will You Take My Hand?” ruin the season for me, but I also won’t say “yay!  It was great!” when it wasn’t, just because I love Star Trek and am so happy to have it back.

When I push away my frustrations over this episode, I can’t help but think that two average episodes out of 15 is pretty great.

I should probably talk about the 430 crew strong starship in the room before I go, hey?  What do I think of the redesign?

I like it a lot.  Its a pretty faithful update. It’s a mix of the original design and the refit model from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  But, despite liking it, I don’t think the changes they made were necessary.  The USS Enterprise is THE most iconic starship in the world, and it is definitely the most iconic starship in science fiction.  No matter what, they had to render the new ship in the Star Trek: Discovery lighting design and colour scheme, and with the level of detail we now expect, but they could have done that without changing the original design as much as they did.

USS Enterprise NCC-1701 Fan Render

To prove that, check out the above incredible render by Carlos Daniel, and visit that same render, in flight, on his Vimeo page here.  Thanks to TrekMovie for sharing this with Trek fandom.

Apart from the spinny bits on the nacelle in the fan version, you have to admit everything else looks beautiful and shows that the original model, with maybe a little more texturing and some spotlight effects like we see on other ships in the show, would work beautifully with the design aesthetic of Star Trek: Discovery.

As I said, I like the new version, but it does make me think, once again, that CBS is thinking of rebooting everything and only leaving Star Trek: Enterprise intact.  If that’s so, I’m not against that – just do it respectfully.  With a little more respect than the creatives behind Star Trek: Discovery have shown.  They’ve been pretty good, but they have taken one or three liberties that they didn’t need to, and they’ve walked a very fine line that they might want to pull back from a bit come season two.

Predictions
1. It would appear the crew of Christopher Pike’s USS Enterprise will play a role, however large or small, in the next season.

How long will the Enterprise stay around?  I’m giving it four episodes.

2. Georgiou?  She’ll resurface for the mid-season finale.

3. The new Captain?  I have no idea.  I heard someone suggest it might be Number One from “The Cage.”  YES.  PLEASE.  MAKE IT SO!

The Crew of the USS Discovery Season 1

Scorecard
3-Deltas

What a roller coaster of a season.  I’ve loved more of the episodes than I’ve disliked, and as I said above there are only two episodes I’m not thoroughly happy with – and one of them I actually enjoyed, except for the unintended (I believe) sexist undertone (“Magic to Make The Sanest Man Go Mad”).

I’ve fallen in love with this crew and can’t wait for season two, but I hope it’s a little tighter and does what it tells us it will do.

I admit feel a little cheated over the Klingon war, and a little disappointed over the rushed ended.  The Klingons are not my favourite Star Trek species, but I was looking forward to an in-depth look at them, juxtaposed with a nascent and growing UFP.

I really enjoyed most of the Mirror Universe arc, but I would have preferred it not happen at all if it had meant seeing a moving story about the horrors of war.  I don’t enjoy war movies, but I am a fan of commentaries on war and with us facing an uncertain future thanks to tensions between the USA, China, Russia and North Korea, now is the right time for those types of stories.

Maybe next year.

As we hear news on Star Trek: Discovery, we’ll update you here.

Until then, and always, Live Long and Prosper.

LCARS Interface

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