Episode 13 Review

Star Trek Discovery Episode 13 Banner

I’m a little late with the review this week, thanks to contracting a beautiful Aussie summer flu.  Gotta love those unexpected little life hiccups!

It’s almost not worth doing a review for Episode 13, because Episode 14 drops in about an hour here in Australia, but I’m a completionist so here goes.

The Facts
Episode Number: 113
Episode Title: “What’s Past Is Prologue” or “Lorca Chews The Scenery” or “Michelle Yeoh Kicks Ass.”
Written By: Ted Sullivan
Directed By: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca

Quotable
Mirror Stamets to Lorca: “Gabriel.  I really hoped you were dead.
Lorca, in response: “Well, you can’t always get what you want.

Burnham to Saru: “It’s good to see you, Saru.
Saru: “You as well, my friend.  It appears your situation has become dire.  Is the captain with you?
Burnham: “He’s one of them.  He’s Terran.  He used us, and the Discovery, to jump here to his own universe.  It was his plan all along.

Saru to the crew of the Discovery: “It is well know that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death.  I do not sense it today.  I may not have all the answers, however I do know that I am surrounded by a team I trust.  The finest a Captain could ever hope to command.  Lorca abused our idealism.  And make no mistake, Discovery is no longer Lorca’s.  She is ours.  And today will be her maiden voyage.  We have a duty to perform and we will not accept a no-win scenario.  You have your orders.  On your way.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Soars Through Space

Moments of Interest
Lorca arrived in the prime universe via an ion storm and a transporter accident that was very similar to the one that sent Kirk, Uhura, McCoy and Scotty to the Mirror Universe.

There are a few obvious parallels with real world issues woven through this episode, including a clever play on a recent US election promise, and a little dig at big industry and their sometimes… careless lack of concern for our environment.

The appearance of Lorca’s minions, as Georgiou goes to confront him, is very similar to the Borg reveal in Star Trek: First Contact.

The Review
I’ve dropped the recap, because if you’ve watched the episode you don’t need me or anyone else giving you a blow by blow description of what’s just happened.  It’s a bit redundant, and probably a little frustrating for the reader.

Instead, I’ll focus on some of the stand out moments of the episode.

The first thing I want to comment on is the direction.  Olatunde Osunsanmi is a very talented individual.  His ability with the camera is uncanny.  There are moments in this episode where it could have become unnecessarily melodramatic, but Osunsanmi never lets it get there.  He manipulates the performances of the actors and the motion and angles of the camera expertly, never allowing anything to go too far, and somehow shapes all of these almost over the top plot points into meaningful, character defining drama.

Ted Sullivan’s script is big.  Motion picture big.  The stakes are shockingly high, perhaps the highest they’ve ever been in any Star Trek episode or movie, and the little character moments are intimate but equally as big and oh so Star Trek.  This man loves Gene Roddenberry’s creation, and he tips his hat to past series’ wherever he can in really beautiful and meaningful ways.

As much as this episode is one big dramatic action piece that barely lets up, it’s also a little fun and self-deprecating and even a little batshit crazy, thanks, in large part, to Jason Isaacs’ scene stealing performance.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca Usurping The Throne

Jason Isaacs chews the scenery like a pro.  You can tell when an actor enjoys the role he or she is playing, and Jason must have loved playing this wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He goes for it, but instead of hamming it up and turning Lorca into a Bond-villain, he gloriously and lovingly portrays a man who is descending into madness and delusion.  Lorca doesn’t just want to be Emporer, he believes he is destined to rule – that the Universe wants him on the throne, and wants him to crush the aliens of the galaxy beneath his boot heel while keeping humanity in a choke-hold under him.

As well as Jason, we see exceptional performances from Michelle Yeoh, Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp who is pulling double duty up until the moment Lorca dispatches Mirror Stamets with a quip and a point blank phaser blast.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Stamets and Landry

This episode puts everything on the line, including the very fate of all universes, everywhere.  Somehow, through all of that, it also tells a couple of intensely personal stories.  We see Saru rise beyond his species’ limitations to abandon fear and embrace hope and courage, and we see Burnham try to redeem herself by saving the woman she loved like a mother, despite the fact that woman is a dark and ruthless reflection of the hero she knew.

There are layers upon layers in this episode, and this is not an episode you should just watch once.

Absent from this action-packed 43 minutes are L’Rell and Tyler, and we barely get to see Tilly, but that’s not a bad thing.  The story needed to narrow down on these characters for a bit and it felt right that this climax be very much about Stamets, Burnham, Saru, Georgiou and Lorca.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou Gets Ready To Kick Ass

While Ash and L’Rell are missed, we do get to see a little bit more of the crew of the Discovery, working together and becoming a team.  Finally.  With Lorca gone, it seems they can at last be at their best and they more than rise to the occasion.  We also get to see the return of Commander Ellen Landry, which was welcome.

Amusingly, Mirror Landry is very similar to Prime Landry, just a little more trigger happy (believe it or not) and blood thirsty.  She’s also completely committed to Gabriel Lorca in this universe too.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Old Friends Reunite

Every character featured prominently gets a moment to shine, but none more so than our favourite Kelpien.  Saru goes nova in this episode and steals the entire season.

In “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” we were shown a Saru who was not ready for command, but once in the Mirror Universe was forced into it. We’ve seen him grow in the position of acting captain, but he hasn’t really been a leader.  In this episode he is, and delivers one of the best speeches we’ve seen in Star Trek in a long time.  It’s above, in Quotable, if you want to check it out.

I really love how Ted just gets these characters and organically advances their personal stories while giving us an hour of entertainment that is just awesome.

It’s no secret I love this show, despite my odd, minor issue.  Two of my biggest issues have been the death of Philippa Georgiou and something I haven’t mentioned to date.  We hardly ever get a really good look at the Discovery.

With Georgiou back, albiet as the Mirror version of herself, we get to feast on Michelle Yeoh’s performance and it’s excellent.  In this episode she gets to rock some of those incredible martial arts moves that she’s known for, and she grabs and holds our attention in every scene she is in.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca and Burnham

This series has some of the finest actors on television in it, and for anyone to stand out in such talented company should be hard, but Ted Sullivan, Olatunde Osunsanmi, and the generosity of each actor in the series lets it happen – whether it’s Sonequa, Jason, Anthony, Doug or Michelle.

On top of the wonderful performances and having Michelle back in such a substantial way, we finally do get to see the Discovery in action and it is excellent.  It’s a special effects tour de force, and just plain satisfying as our gorgeous new vessel shoots the crap out of the Emporers city-ship.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Attacks

in Star Trek this series namesake vessel (or outpost) is a character, and Discovery is a character we haven’t seen enough of.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

I could keep raving about this great episode, but I won’t, because I want to go and watch the next one.

To wrap up, what I will rave about is the climax.  It is everything you want it to be.  Excellent effects, emotional and intense music, beautiful editing, fast paced and sensitive direction, outstanding acting, phasers, photon torpedoes and explosions galore, and a completely unexpected double twist!

In the climax, as Michael presents Georgiou to Lorca in a faux attempt to save the Discovery, we get to see Georgiou enact her revenge and skewer Lorca with that big ass broadsword of hers, we get to see everyone kick the living crap out of each other (none with as much style and grace as Georgiou), we get to see the mycelial destroying globe of energy at the heart of the Charon blow up, we get to watch Landry die, again, and we get to see Michael save Georgiou, and Paul interacting with Hugh one more beautiful time.

It’s those last two moments that deliver the double twist.

Georgiou returns to the prime universe aboard the Discovery (and isn’t too happy about it), and the Discovery makes it home, but doesn’t make it back in time to save the Federation.  She makes it back nine-months later and the Klingons have won the war.

It all works.

The trip through the mycelial network is beautiful and wonderfully realised by the Visual Effects team, and gives us a moment with Hugh that is meaningful and sweet.  The saving of Georgiou is satisfying, and the unexpected time-jump is surprising in a way that some of the twists on this show haven’t been.

It wraps everything up beautifully and leaves us hungry for more.

Predictions
In the After Trek preview, we see Admiral Katrina Cormwell and Sarek boarding the Discovery, but not too much else is given away.  I can’t begin to imagine what they will do with Georgiou, but whatever it is, I doubt the Emperor will be survive the season. I see her sacrificing herself for Michael.

A tiny spore lands on Tilly at the end of the episode. Is it, somehow, Hugh? Will it allow Paul to stay in touch with his beloved?

Is this the end of the Mirror Universe in Star Trek: Discovery? It feels like it should be, but I doubt it.

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou and Burnham

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

This was a great episode, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the last two episodes this season.

See you in a day or two with a more prompt review.

Live long and prosper.

LCARS Interface

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.

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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.

Episode 3 Recap and Review

Star Trek Discovery Update 22062017

I am so conflicted.

I really enjoyed this episode, but there were a couple of things that gave me pause.  More on that later in the review.  First… the basics:

The Facts
Episode Number
: 103 (Season 1, Episode 3)
Episode Title: “Context Is For Kings”
Writers: Aaron Harberts, Gretchen J. Berg and Craig Sweeny
Story: Bryan Fuller, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg
Director: Akiva Goldsman

Interesting Bits and Pieces
We get to see our first Jefferies Tube!
There is a different Starfleet delta badge worn by some officers on the Discovery.  It’s all black.
A boarding party is a boarding party, not an away team (like on TNG).
Amanda is mentioned, and Spock is hinted at when Burnham talks to Tilly about her childhood.
Lorca has a Tribble.  That is hopefully neutered!
Lorca has a Gorn skeleton in his private area.  This is a little annoying, because I’m pretty sure we don’t officially meet the Gorn until the TOS era?
The robot is called Airiam and appears to be a Lieutenant Commander or full Commander?  I hope they explain this soon.  It looks like Data may have been the first “human-looking” android and not the first android in Starfleet.
The Discovery uses “breath” ID scans to access sensitive parts of the ship.  It actually looks kind of silly.
Last, but not least, Lorca and Landry are up to something together, and seem to have a relationship that goes back a while.

The Recap and Review
The first few minutes of “Context Is For Kings” did not grab me on the first watch.  On the second watch, I was far more interested because I knew what was coming and the scene made more sense.

We start on a prisoner transfer shuttle six-months after the events of “Battle At The Binary Stars.”

Burnham is in old school command mustard-gold, though it’s not a Starfleet uniform she is wearing, it’s prison garb.  She’s not in a good head space.

Sharing the shuttle with her are three not very nice individuals, one woman, two men, all human.  They’re unpleasant in every way, and this works.  The scene does a few things.  It shows us we’re not yet in the utopia that the Federation will become in the Picard-Sisko-Janeway era and it shows us that, as a species, humanity is still working itself out and is still trying to cast off some of its less desirable traits.

We quickly learn that Burnham is infamous as one of the prisoners tells her, with considerable anger, that she lost a family member in that battle.

Before things get violent, some kind of life form that feeds on energy starts to drain the shuttle of all power.  The pilot does an emergency EVA to try and fix the problem, but her tether breaks and she shoots off into the distance.  It’s all a little weird.  The scene is filmed in a very flat and undramatic way.  It’s devoid of intensity and energy.  Even the pilots death lacks drama.  She just shoots by a window.  I think that’s Akiva (the Director) helping us to climb into Michael’s mind – but initially I didn’t like it.

The prisoners go into a panic but Burnham sits there, quietly, almost with an air of relief, accepting her fate.  Perhaps even looking forward to it.

That, the second time around, was actually quite powerful.  It’s as if Burnham wanted to die and thought she deserved it.

Suddenly, a beautiful looking starship drifts languidly into shot, tractor beam extended, to save them.

USS Discovery

After two episodes, we finally get to see the USS Discovery.

I know the Discovery‘s design has divided fandom, but I love it.  It’s recognisably Starfleet, but is it’s own thing – and it’s stunning.  It’s design influence is a little alien, and I wonder at that.  I don’t recognise any particular Star Trek race’s ‘fingerprints’ on the design, but find that I want to know who developed her and whether or not they were guided by an alien aesthetic.

That’s the Trek geek in my coming out!

From the moment Discovery sails in to save the day, the episode kicks into high gear and we finally get to meet most of the principle cast.

Rekha Sharma as Commander Ellen Landry is entirely unlikeable.  She doesn’t seem to like or dislike Burnham, but treats everyone with what feels like contempt.  Equally.  Except for Gabriel Lorca.

Jason Isaacs plays our new Captain and you never know, from one moment to the next, whether or not Lorca is a good guy or a bad guy.  He is entirely mysterious, almost menacing, and completely compelling.

Mary Wiseman’s Ensign Sylvia Tilly is fantastic in every way.  She’s someone a lot of us can relate to.  This show is serious and tense, and Tilly brings a lighter touch which is needed.  I admit, I adore her.  She’s awkward, a ball of anxiety, allergic to almost everything, and is just a really good and really sweet human being.

Anthony Rapp’s Lieutenant Paul Stamets is arrogant, dismissive and entirely obsessed with his work.  He’s going to be an amazing character.  He doesn’t seem to like Lorca, and I’m not sure if he’s Starfleet or civilian?  It seems, from his dialogue, that he might have been drafted.

We reunite with Doug Jones’ Saru, and there’s also a brief, dialogue free reunion with a cybernetically altered Lieutenant Keyla Detmer from the Shenzhou, played by Emily Coutts.

Neither reunion goes well.  Gone is the brother/sister vibe between Saru and Burnham.  Saru is now the first officer of the Discovery, and he makes it clear that he considers Michael dangerous.

Keyla?  She just stares at Michael with barely constrained hatred and turns away.

Michael is temporarily put to work in Engineering with Stamets and Tilly while the shuttle is repaired.  It’s made clear she’ll ship out with the other prisoners and resume her journey when the transport is fixed.

As she gets to work, and gets a little break-and-entery, the mystery that is Discovery and her mission starts to unfold.

We learn that the Discovery has a sister ship, the USS Glenn, and the Glenn goes silent after upping their mycelial propulsion experiment.

Discovery shoots off to investigate.

Burnham, Tilly, Stamets, Landry and our first red-shirt (sorry… bronze-shirt), Ensign Ricky, shuttle over to what turns out to be a ship of horrors.

The experimental propulsion system on the Glenn has done something terrible to the biological lifeforms on the ship, and we go from Star Trek to horror-Trek in a matter of moments.  Disfigured, dismembered crew litter the ship, and it appears the Klingons tried to board her as we see one – before he’s quickly eaten by some kind of slug/beetle hybrid.

It’s a scene that is both amusing and horrifying.  One moment the Klingon is “shushing” the Discovery crew, the next he’s set upon by the monster and sucked into its toothy maw.

After a tense chase scene, that includes Michael reciting lines from an Alice in Wonderland book, our heroes escape, and, we learn, so too does the monster… though escape is probably the wrong word.  It ends up in some sort of menagerie aboard the Discovery thanks to Commander Landry.

The episode ends with Lorca asking Burnham to stay on as a consultant.  She declines, saying she committed mutiny and deserves her punishment, giving context to her despondency in the first scene.  She also doubts Lorca can over rule Starfleet.  He tells her he has a wide latitude in his mission, and insists she’s someone he needs.

She initially thinks its to engage in clandestine, barely legal activities in the name of the war effort and challenges him on this.

In a moment that gives us some welcome insight into Lorca’s cold and suspicious behaviour, he says it’s not.  He needs people who think on their feet, and are capable of doing what is necessary to save lives.

Burnham accepts his offer, affected by Lorca’s argument: “you helped start a war, don’t you wanna help me end it?”

What will her role be?  We’ll have to tune in to the next episode to find out.

“Context Is For Kings” is an excellent episode.  Akiva Goldsman really can direct.

The entire episode is tight, though there is a lot of treknobabble it doesn’t get in the way, and the exposition is light.

The performance of every single actor is superb.  There isn’t one weak actor in this show.

The writing… well, it feels like it’s been written by a committee and suffered as a result.  Previous Trek shows have an almost lyrical narrative flow, but Star Trek: Discovery hasn’t found that yet – and I think it’s because so many people have their fingers in each script.

That might eventually prove to be a good thing, but right now it is clear the writers are still trying to find their groove.

What gave me pause?

This new way of flying.  Unless I’m missing something, the Discovery appears to be mushroom-powered.  Which is okay.  In my day job, one part of the business I work for is looking into the science of mushrooms and how they can purify water and reclaim waste – and I am almost convinced mushrooms might save our planet, but there are four Trek series set in the future where there is zero mention of or reference to mushroom powered vessels.

Also, Lorca.  I admit I love his character, but I can’t work out if he’s a genius or a sociopath.

It rubs me the wrong way that Starfleet has given this man carte blanche to find a way to defeat the Klingons.

Context may be for kings, but I need more context.  We all do.  Is the war going so badly after six-months, that Starfleet is willing to consider chemical weapons or some other horrific tool as a means of stopping the Klingons?  Is this a Section 31 thing?  Are the black markings on the Discovery a symbol it is somehow different from other Starfleet vessels?

Lorca’s moral ambiguity is both fascinating and disquieting.

The shows writers and producers have gone to great pains to assure us it will all make sense, so I’m happy to suspend my concerns and enjoy the ride, but I do hope things become a little clearer soon.

Overall, this is an intense and enjoyable third episode… or actual pilot, if you prefer to see it that way.

Scorecard
This series is shaping up to be something very different and uniquely wonderful.  Four delta’s out of five!
4 Deltas

The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery has the second longest title in Trek history (I think).  It’s called “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry.”

The longest episode title in Trek history?  To my knowledge, it’s “For The World Is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky.”

We’ll be back with another review in a few days time.

Star Trek: Discovery continues to look incredible, and while the show still feels a little uneven I have no doubt it will find its voice soon, and its place in Star Trek canon.

Live Long, and Prosper.

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