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

Episode 5 Recap and Review

Episode 5 Recap and Review

Episode 5 went by in a flash.

I started watching it, ‘girding my loins’ for way too many Klingons and subtitles, and before I knew it the credits were rolling.  The episode flew by in what felt like 20 minutes, not 47.

Every week this show gets better.

The Facts
Episode Number: 105 (Season 1, Episode 5)
Episode Title: “Choose Your Pain”
Story: Aaron Harberts, Gretchen J. Berg and Kemp Powers
Writer: Kemp Powers
Director: Lee Rose

Quotable
Tilly to Michael
: “I love feeling feelings.

Stamets to Michael: “What are you doing with your mouth?
Burnham, in response: “I am swallowing the urge to set the record straight.

Mudd (in reference to his pet arachnid): “Apologies, Lieutenant.  Stewart has boundary issues.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
Some people called it fan service, I thought it was awesome.  Context?  When Saru is having a bit of a command crisis, he calls up a list of some of Starfleets most decorated Captains.  Who?
– Captain Robert April
– Captain Matt Decker (later, Commodore Decker and the father of Commander Willard Decker from Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
– Captain Philippa Georgiou
– Captain Christopher Pike

Also, we saw a map that included some very familiar locations:
– The K-7 Space Station
– Rura Penthe
– the Mempa Sector
– Khitomer

I didn’t see Khitomer, but according to some fans it can be seen up in the corner of the map.

These call outs work – a lot better than the Gorn skeleton, the Horta in the corner, and a neutered Tribble on Lorca’s desk.  They’re nice additions that link directly to continuity and make sense in the context of the episode.

If the team behind Star Trek: Discovery want to reward us fans, this is the way to do it.  It’s not gratuitous.

The Recap and Review
We kick off the episode with a dream sequence and it quickly becomes clear our favourite mutineer has been deeply affected by Ripper the tardigrade’s situation.

Michael wakes to Tilly’s gentle snores and decides to pay Doctor Culber a visit.  She needs Hugh’s help to determine whether or not they really are causing the tardigrade pain.

Hugh points out that they can’t know whether or not they’re hurting Ripper, because they simply don’t know enough about his biology – Michael agrees that she could be anthropomorphising Ripper, but when the doctor says he’ll help she is thankful for his assistance.

Ripper’s reaction to the spore-drive was one of the most troubling things about last week’s episode and I personally found it difficult to watch.  It was a relief to see them dealing with the ethics of using another life form against its will.

Credit where credit is due, the animators did an incredible job of showing us Ripper was in pain and confused, Ripper came to life under their care.  Sonequa Martin-Green’s performance added to the impact and made every scene she shared with Ripper meaningful and let us know that maybe we weren’t misinterpreting his reaction.

While Hugh starts his tests, we jump over to a space station located somewhere near the Klingon border where Lorca is addressing a small group of Admirals.  Starfleet is impressed with the DASH drive (Displacement-Activated Spore Drive) and the success Discovery has had with it since the disaster on the Glenn.  They want to roll it out to every ship in the fleet, but they need more tardigrades.

Lorca with the Admirals - Episode 5

Until they find more, they want Lorca to pull back on his attacks because they believe the Klingons now know about the DASH-drive and are super keen to take the Discovery no matter the cost.

Lorca is not happy.

Back on Discovery, Tilly and Michael have lunch.  Tilly, as usual, is being adorable and Michael is unusually distracted.  Tilly takes Michael’s distraction to be a rejection of her friendship in a telling exchange of dialogue that gives us some interesting and simultaneously heart-breaking insight into her character.  The subtext is that people find her a bit too much, and as a result she doesn’t have many (or any) friends.  Michael slowly realises what’s going on, and assures Sylvia that that is not what is happening.

Michael brings Tilly into her confidence and tells her about her concerns regarding Ripper.

Back on the Starbase/Space Station, Lorca and Admiral Katrina Cornwell (Jayne Brook) discuss Michael Burnham.  Cornwell expresses her concerns around Lorca taking Michael on board, and he pretty much tells her to take a leap into a matter/antimatter reactor.  He reminds Katrina that Starfleet gave him “the fullest latitude” to fight the war his way… and he isn’t all that nice about it.  Katrina reminds him they’re friends, but Lorca brushes it off.

We also learn, in this exchange, that Lorca and Cornwell might have been something more than friends.

Thanks to AfterTrek we also find out that Cornwell was a psychiatrist in her previous Starfleet life.  This is alluded to on screen when Katrina and Lorca have a tense exchange about doctors, after she suggests he get his eyes fixed.  Lorca pointedly tells her he “doesn’t trust doctors.”

Leaving the Admiral, Lorca boards a shuttle to return to his ship but the Klingons have other ideas.  They’d like to invite Lorca to a party where every time a Klingon says “choose your pain” you have to take a shot of blood wine.

A D-7 Klingon cruiser that doesn’t look like a D-7 Klingon cruiser warps right in on top of the shuttle, and things go from bad to bloody in a matter of moments.

The Klingon’s board Lorca’s shuttle, pretty much gut the shuttle pilot and leave us with the revelation that there are now two jobs in Starfleet that you don’t ever want to do – security AND shuttle pilot.

Then we jump to the main title sequence.

Admiral Cornwell - Episode 5 Recap and Review

After the main titles, we return to Discovery where a holographic Admiral Cornwell tells the bridge crew that Lorca has been captured – and they’re tasked with rescuing him.

Starfleet believes the Klingons have learned about the new drive, and are after Lorca to get more information.

Saru, the acting-captain in Lorca’s absence, sets to work issuing orders when, suddenly, his threat ganglia poke out.  The turbo-lift doors open – revealing Michael.  She tells Saru that she’s looking for the captain, and Saru fills her in.  She cuts right to the point, and expresses her concerns about Ripper.  Saru, as someone who once described his species as, essentially, “cattle”, is surprisingly unsympathetic.

He retreats to Lorca’s ready room and consults the computer about leadership, with issues about Burnham at the forefront of his mind.  This is where we get the shot of Starfleets’ most decorated captains, mentioned above in our “Interesting Bits and Pieces” section.

During Saru’s introspection, the computer pretty much suggests he jettison Burnham out an airlock.  Thankfully he doesn’t.

It’s really interesting how much Burnham effects Saru.  We’re not given long to think about that, because we jump to the Klingon ship and meet…

Mudd - Episode 5 Recap and Review

Harcourt Fenton Mudd, played by Rainn Wilson.

Way too much fuss was made about Harry Mudd’s inclusion in Star Trek: Discovery, with some people thinking it was unnecessary and some having an issue with Rainn Wilson stepping into the role.

I hope all of that fuss has now been put to rest, because it works, and Rainn is excellent.

Thanks to Harry, we learn that the Klingon vessel is a prison ship.  We also learn that the Klingons like to group their prisoners into shared cells.

Lorca asks Harry what a civilian is doing on a Klingon prison ship, and Harry tells him he has no idea and that his only crime is the crime of love – then, in a nice monologue that evokes the original series, talks about his beloved Stella.  As Mudd waxes lyrical, Lorca checks out their cell and finds a Starfleet officer broken and huddled in a corner.

We quickly learn why this officer is so broken.

The Klingons walk in and ask Harry to “choose his pain.”  He points at the huddled Starfleet officer and the Klingons go to town on him, beating him senseless.  They end his life with a brutal and shocking, skull cracking stomp to the head and then drag the body out.

Lorca stares on in shock as Harry tells him the rules.  They can either accept the beating themselves, or pass it to someone else in the cell.

Lorca is stunned, and, judging by the look on his face, disgusted.

Lorca - Episode 5 Recap and Review

We leave Lorca and Harry to visit with Stamets, Culber and Burnham.  Burnham wants to enlist Stamets’ help with Ripper and tries to charm him… which doesn’t work.  Hugh takes the more direct approach and tells Stamets that they’re there to talk about the effects of the spore-drive on the tardigrade.

They convince Stamets and he agrees with the both of them.  They need a solution, and can’t continue to use a potentially sentient life form against its will.

It’s taken this version of Trek a while to give us this side of Starfleet.  It’s so indescribably wonderful to see these conversations taking place, and to see a glimpse of the Starfleet and Federation I love.

If I have one issue with Star Trek: Discovery, it’s that since the death of Captain Georgiou we haven’t seen anyone expressing or ‘living’ the ideals of Starfleet and the Federation.  Yes, Star Trek fans love special effects and compelling story lines and new species, but a lot of us are dreamers too: we want to believe that this shitty period in history that we’re all stuck in will end, and that something beautiful and amazing will come out of the mess of the last few centuries.  Our new Trek has kind of been saying… yeah, everything is still sorta shit.

Back on the prison ship, Lorca continues to explore his cell, probably in an attempt to stay as far away from Harry Mudd as he can.  He stumbles across Lieutenant Ash Tyler.

Tyler is excited to see a Starfleet captain, and tries to feed Lorca, who refuses, while Stewart, Harry Mudd’s cute little arachnid pet, steals the food for Harry who smugly eats it in front of both men.

Mudd and Tyler - Episode 5 Recap and Review

Mudd is entirely unsympathetic.  He’s a prick and I love Rainn’s gleeful but restrained portrayal of the character.

We learn that Tyler was on board the USS Yeager and has been on the prison ship since the Battle of the Binary Stars.

We also learn that L’Rell, the captain of the prison ship, has taken a… liking to Tyler.  There is subtext here that suggests he has been sexually assaulted by her.

Tyler and Lorca end up in an argument with Mudd, who challenges both men, telling them that they started the war by bothering to “boldy go”.  He tells them he can understand why the Klingons don’t want them in their ‘front yard.’

At this point, our overly bloodthirsty Klingons return.  They take Lorca to L’Rell.  No “choose your pain,” they just drag him out.

We probably need to talk about Tyler here – because fandom has gone bonkers about his character.

On my first watch, a few things Tyler said didn’t ‘drop’ in my mind.  I didn’t find myself analysing it all too deeply until my second watch.

In my first watch, I came away thinking “Manchurian Candidate.”  Klingons are crazy-strong.  It’s canon.  We see it in this episode.  They throw their human victims about like they’re sacks of potatoes, and the human skull is pretty strong.  One stomp shouldn’t shatter a grown man’s head – but one Klingon stomp does.  But, a tortured Lorca and an exhausted, repeatedly beaten, undernourished Tyler take a few out in a couple of scenes time.  Not once, but twice, and then they steal a fighter and escape.  Everything pointed to them being let go.

Inbetween my first and second watches of the episode, I listened to a podcast where it was suggested Ash Tyler was Voq, our Albino Klingon.  I’m now 98% convinced he is.  This article, from TrekMovie, was what pushed me from my Manchurian Candidate theory to the Ash is Voq theory.  Visit TrekMovie here.

There’s only one fault with the analysis – nothing in the episode tells us how long L’Rell has been in command of the prison ship.  She could have taken a liking to him in recent days, or of course it’s all a lie to deceive Lorca.  Time will tell, as will whether or not we see Voq in any future episodes.

One last thing, was the officer who had his head stomped the real Ash Tyler?

Back on the Discovery, Tilly, Stamets and Burnham are working together, trying to find a solution to Ripper’s dilemma.

Tilly - Episode 5 Recap and Review

Tilly suggests creating a virtual Ripper.  Stamets talks about his earlier research and how he tried to use software to fix the problem but it only enabled small jumps.  He points out that things only started to work to their fullest potential when a sentient creature was interfaced with the mycelium network.

He suggests they find something or someone else, who is willing and can fully understand the choice they’re making.

It’s at this point we have another first for Star Trek.

Tilly says: “You guys, this is so fucking cool!”  She quickly realises that might not have been the best or most professional thing to say in front of her boss.  Stamets stares at her, eyebrow raised for a moment, and then with a small sly smile, agrees.  “No cadet, it is fucking cool.

So… the f-bomb.  I admit it grated, but in that scene it worked.  It would have worked better if Stamets hadn’t used the f-bomb too.

We leave our intrepid trio of Ripper-savers to jump over to L’Rell, who has captain Lorca strapped into a nasty looking chair.

She talks to him about torture, he compliments her English, she talks about being descended from spies and then asks him about his ship and its mode of transport.

Mary Chieffo is, as per usual, extraordinary.  I don’t have words to describe how much I admire this young actor.  What she can do under all those prosthetics is amazing.

L’Rell tells Lorca in an almost seductive way, that she knows about his photo-sensitivity and then forces his eyes open with a device straight out of a horror movie and uses bright light to torture him.  Some fans have suggested this scene is reminiscent of Picard’s torture at the hands of the Cardassians in the episode “Chain of Command.”  It did pop into my mind briefly when I was watching, but I don’t really see a similarity past the fact it featured bright lights.

I’ve been heavily critical of the Klingons, primarily because of the distracting subtitles and heavy makeup that makes their vocalisations hard to understand.  So how about a positive?  This episode was, from memory, subtitle free and it made a difference.  It let me really pay attention to the Klingon scenes within the flow of the episode – no rewinding and rewatching, breaking me out of the moment.  I came away from that simple experience excited by them.  What I do love about these Klingons is how deep we’re going into their culture and the effort the writers are going to, to make these guys feel real and not just ‘different.’  They’re starting to come across like a real, multifaceted species, rather than the stereotype and caricature they turned into in the TNG era.  They’re more nuanced in this Trek.  That’ll probably piss off some fans, but after an intriguing start with Worf, everything became “honour” this and “honour” that and “I’ll drink blood wine on the corpses of my enemies.”  In this show they have so many different dimensions to them.  Different houses with different perspectives and physical characteristics – just like us and the many different races that make up humanity, and this very real and very current fear of multiculturalism.  I love this aspect.  The Klingons are interesting and forbidding again and they are finally starting to grow on me.

We leave Lorca, screaming, in the capable and malicious hands of L’Rell to return to the Discovery.

Staments, Burnham and Tilly are unable to find a compatible species in the database that is capable of working the spore-drive.  At that point, Saru walks in, and he’s pissed.

Michael tells Saru that they have a sample of tardigrade DNA and could use it to empower a human to work the spore-drive.  Saru reminds her that Eugenics is not allowed.  The discussion quickly goes down hill, heating up when Saru accuses Michael of treating him like one of her anthropology subjects.

Refusing to hear anymore, he orders Stamets to bring the drive on line and to use the tardigrate.  Turning on Burnham, he confines her to quarters.

Saru and Burnham - Episode 5 Recap and Review

We jump back to the prison ship where Lorca confronts Mudd and accuses him of being a spy for the Klingons.  Lorca sprinkled some things in his initial conversation with Mudd which was parroted back at him during his interrogation, making it likely Mudd told his jailers and is working with them.  But was it Harry or Ash?

Mudd goes in for a very distracting attack and turns the tables on Lorca.  He brings up Lorca’s last command, the USS Buran.

It’s here that we start to get a deeper glimpse into Lorca, and some indication of why he’s as hard-ass as he is.  We learn that Lorca survived a Klingon attack, but his crew did not.

Rather than let Mudd continue, Lorca takes back control of the conversation and in an unusually candid moment tells Mudd he only knows half the story.  He tells Mudd and Ash Tyler that he blew his crew up to avoid them being captured by the Klingons.

Ash Tyler lowers his head and the scene switches to a black alert on the Discovery.

Stamets beams the tardigrade into the reaction chamber.  Tilly watches, distressed, as Michael, in her quarters, worries about Ripper.  It is obvious Stamets is not happy with how things are transpiring either and in a nice, beautifully filmed moment we watch our heroes realise that they really have been thoughtlessly torturing Ripper.

As they jump, the tardigade screams in pain and collapses.

Stamets and Tilly rush into the chamber, but they’re too late to do anything.  Ripper curls into a ball, shedding all of his water and breaking my heart in the process.  We quickly learn, thanks to Doctor Culber, that Ripper has gone into a state of extreme cryptobiosis.

Saru dispassionately orders Doctor Culber to rehydrate the tardigrade and hook it back into the engine.

More than anything, from stomped heads to tardigrade torture, this was one of the most shocking scenes in this episode.  Saru knows what it’s like to be used against his will by a more powerful predator, yet he mercilessly orders his crew to commit a crime, telling them that if they’re right, and Ripper is sentient, he’ll be judged in accordance with his actions.

Culber refuses to participate.

Saru Culber and Barnham - Episode 5 Recap and Review

Saru doesn’t appear to care.  I expect he does, and I expect, deep down, this is hurting him quite badly.  Saru orders Stamets to do it.  There’s a quirk in Paul’s voice as he agrees to get the drive working.

Back on the prison ship, the Klingons turn up in the cell and ask Lorca to “choose your pain.”  Ash tells Lorca to choose him.  Lorca, after some resistance, does.

It’s a trick.  Ash and Lorca overpower the Klingons all too easily.

Both men dash out of the prison, with Harry begging to be taken with them.  Disgusted by Mudd, Lorca doesn’t let him come.  Harry angrily tells Lorca he hasn’t seen the last of him.

In a nearby corridor they have another fight with the Klingons, and these ones are also surprisingly easy to defeat.

Ash gets injured in the scuffle and Lorca uses a disrupter to blow a Klingon into a cool looking green smoke before the lieutenant is killed.  Ash can’t continue and suggests Lorca come back for him.  Lorca hesitatingly agrees and disappears.

Suddenly, L’Rell is there and Ash finds some kind of inner strength and gets up and starts to punch her.  He lets loose, and it looks like she’s taking one heck of a pummelling.  If this is all a ruse to deceive Lorca and the Federation, is Voq (Ash) unleashing on L’Rell because he has been surgically altered to look like the very species he hates?  The species that killed his Messiah?

In the middle of this very violent act, Lorca returns, melts off half of L’Rell’s face with a disruptor blast and drags Ash to a Klingon raider.

The next scene is both men in the fighter, and they’ve escaped.  Way too easily.

As they fight off their pursuit, we learn that Lorca’s sensitivity to light was caused by the destruction of the Buran, and that he suffers through the pain of damaged eyes in memory of his former crew.

The escape scene is beautifully directed and acted and is visually stunning.  The space battle scenes look GREAT!  Everything Star Trek: Discovery is doing is feature film quality.  This series looks better than the Kelvin-timeline films.

The USS Discovery

We don’t spend nearly enough time with Lorca, Ash and the space battle and find ourselves back on the Discovery.  They detect the raiders and Saru works out Lorca is on one of them.

Discovery contacts him and beams both he and Ash aboard, just as their fighter gets blown apart.

Saru asks Stamets if the tardigrade is hooked up.  Stamets noncommittally advises they are “able to jump.”

They jump.

In the transporter room, Lorca helps Ash up and welcomes him back to the war.

On the bridge, Saru is trying to get in touch with Stamets.  He’s advised Stamets’ life signs are in distress and in a scene reminiscent of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Saru races to engineering and finds Stamets collapsed in the reaction chamber.

Tilly tells Saru that Stamets injected himself with the tardigrade DNA.

For a fleeting moment it looks like Paul Stamets is dead, but suddenly, Stamets comes to and starts to laugh hysterically.

We cut to Burnham’s quarters.  Saru comes in and they finally have it out.  Saru tells Michael that’s he’s angry with her and that she’s taken a great deal from him.

Saru wanted what Michael threw away.  He had hoped Michael would get promoted to her own command, and that he would become Georgiou’s first officer.  He’d hoped to learn under Georgiou’s guidance.  He’s angry at Michael for destroying her own life, for destroying his dreams, and for, in his opinion, getting their captain killed.

Michael takes it and apologises.  Then, in a sweet moment, she tells Saru that he did well as acting captain, and gives him Georgiou’s telescope.

Hopefully, now, their healing can begin.

Michael finds Tilly and together, in what is a beautiful scene, they set the tardigrade free.  He uses some spores Michael poured over him and jumps toward a distant nebula.

Culber and Stamets - Episode 5 Recap and Review

The episode ends with Stamets and Culber together in their bathroom, brushing their teeth in what is a very simple but poignant scene.  Culber is worried about the DNA injection, and gently lectures his partner.

Stamets tells him that he had to do something because Culber was in danger.

He tries to describe his experience with the spores, but can’t quite find the words, describing it as “unspeakably beautiful.”

Hugh tells his partner to never do that again, because though Stamets might not care about Stamets, he does.

As Culber goes to bed, Stamets lingers for a couple of seconds and then turns away.  As he does, his reflection stays in the mirror and smiles.

Stamets Reflection - Episode 5 Recap and Review

It’s a wonderfully creepy way to finish the episode.

This is the most Star Trek episode to date.  I loved it.  It was action packed, it was full of drama, the performances from every cast member were outstanding.

It was shocking, revelatory and poignant.  My only complaint is that it went too fast.  I do not know how they squeezed all of that in.

This series is really taking flight.  It didn’t exactly have a bumpy start, but it did take it’s time bringing us to the mystery – and it feels like we’re finally there.

Is Ash Voq in human disguise?  There is precedent for this.  In the original series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”, the character of Arne Darvin was revealed to be a Klingon.

What did Lorca do?  Why didn’t he go down with his ship?  What’s the story behind him killing his crew, but somehow surviving?

Will we see Ripper again?

Have Saru and Michael finally started their path toward becoming friends again?

What is going on with that reflection in Hugh and Stamets’ mirror?

Most people out there in fandom think this is hinting at an upcoming Mirror Universe episode.  We do know one is coming.  Will it be next episode?

I don’t care.  I’m just enjoying the ride.

There is no question.  I LOVE THIS SERIES.

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

Overall, five Starfleet deltas out of five.

The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery is called “Lethe”.

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access with new episodes released Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET.  Outside of the USA and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix with new episodes dropping in the UK at 8am BST Mondays, and in Australia at 6pm Mondays AEDT.

Live long, and prosper.  See you in about a week.

LCARS Interface

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.

LCARS Interface

Pilot Episode Recap and Review (Parts One & Two)

Review Banner

It’s been 12 long years, but finally Star Trek is back on television.  Sort of.  It was on television in the US for a night, and then switched to a streaming service… but you know what I mean!

The event also coincides, give or take a few days, with the 30th anniversary of another Trek show that gave birth to 18 years of science fiction adventure – Star Trek: The Next Generation.

TNG was a ground breaking series for its time and gave birth to a shared universe before the Marvel movies made the idea popular.  Though beloved now by most Star Trek fans, back in the day people were swearing they would not give it a chance because of how different it was: the command uniform colour was red, red-shirts were suddenly gold-shirts, the ships only looked vaguely familiar and Klingons were on the bridge.  Some Trek fans do like to get their knickers in a twist and make a fuss.

A fuss most certainly has been made about Star Trek: Discovery.  For those of us who were in our teens (or older) when the new series was first in production, all this ‘noise’ is annoyingly familiar.  We also saw it when Star Trek: Enterprise went into production.

I’ll give the more rabid among us this though, the job is harder when the new show is a prequel, especially one that is set in a timeframe we all already know so much about.

In Australia, “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle of the Binary Stars” dropped on Netflix only a few hours after they had premiered in the United States and Canada.  I quickly downloaded both episodes, finished up work for the day and headed to my car, fully intending to watch both episodes when I got home… only I couldn’t resist taking a peek.

Promising myself I’d only watch the first 15 minutes, I turned the car engine on, left it in park, hooked my phone into the car’s speakers, cued the first episode up on my pone and 40 minutes later I had to stop and just drive.

I eventually finished both episodes later that night in the comfort of my own home, with a nice warm feeling inside.  This was the new normal.  Star Trek on tap once a week, once again.

What did I think of the two-part premiere?

I enjoyed them.  I didn’t outright love them.  I was fully prepared to love them, I wanted to love them, but I didn’t quite get there.  I loved a lot of what I saw and I could see with ease the promise of an amazing series (which you might doubt when you read the review below), but it wasn’t there yet.  Nor should it be, it’s a pilot and every series has to find it’s feet, however, having just written that, I loved “The Emissary.”  With that pilot, I was sold.  It remains my favourite introduction to a new Trek series ever – and boy was that series different!

It was the same for Star Trek: Voyager.  I loved “Caretaker.”  That was an excellent pilot and ranks second on my list.

Star Trek: Enterprise‘s “Broken Bow” I enjoyed but had issues with.  The soft porn gel rub down in the decon chamber struck me as gratuitous and ruined that pilot for me.  It still does.

Next Gen?  Well, I was 15.  I loved it, but the adult me now sees how touch and go it was.  I still enjoy it (thanks nostalgia) but we all know it had a lot of issues.

“The Cage” vs “Where No Man Has Gone Before”… I love “The Cage.”  It wins out for me.  I loved Pike and I loved Number One.  Of course, I love Kirk and his crew too, but “The Cage” resonated with me when I first saw it when it was finally released on video many years ago.

Star Trek: Discovery?  I still don’t know.  It’s a little telling that I haven’t watched the two parter since that first night, I will, I just haven’t yet.  I strongly believe it will be an amazing series, but it upsets me that I didn’t immediately love it.

Why didn’t I love it?

I think they made a few mistakes that were avoidable – not Kelvin timeline level mistakes, but mistakes that shouldn’t have happened with that many executive producers nurse-maiding the series to air.

Before I go any further, it’s only fair I give you this warning:

Spoiler Alert

The Recap and Review
Now that that is out of the way, I’m going to go a little spoiler crazy.  This won’t be a blow by blow review, but I will highlight some of what gave me pause.

The first episode starts with the Klingons, and I think that was a mistake.

They look fantastic.  Yes, they are different from the Klingons we’ve known and loved (or been sick of for years because they’re so over used), and that is a little jarring, but they are recognisably Klingon, a more ornate version with very ornate costumes and intricately detailed sets, but they are without doubt Klingon.

The problem is that the makeup/prosthetics are so heavy I couldn’t work out what they were saying.  I don’t understand Klingon, but there is a cadence and familiarity we all have with that language, which was absent.

I wasn’t engaged by any of the Klingon scenes.   Not that opening scene or any subsequent scene.   They were laborious.  Slow, plodding and full of mangled guttural sounds.  I don’t believe that was the fault of the actors, but of the heavy prosthetics, the producers and the two director (part one and two had different directors).

It wasn’t a smart way to start a series.

The second misstep was the scene on the desert world with Georgiou and Burnham.

It was the second scene and it served no purpose.  We weren’t given a chance to be invested in the aliens they’re secretly helping, and though we were given an insight into Georgiou and Burnham’s relationship we get better examples of that later on.  Watching it, it felt like an excuse to mention “General Order One” to reassure us they were playing by the rules, and to set up Burnham’s fall from grace – being told she’s ready to command her own ship, only to have that all fall apart later on.

The worst part of that scene was the Starfleet delta in the sand.  I had hoped it was an insert by CBS that was used only for promos, but no.

Georgiou and Burnham walk a delta in the sand to help the Shenzhou spot them from orbit.

Let’s not even talk about how big that delta would have needed to be.  The biggest sin, besides the stupidity of the delta, was showing the Shenzhou break through the clouds only to jarringly cut to a shot of her hovering over the desert floor.  They wasted what would have been a stunning shot.

BUT, from there, the show really took off.

After a ‘different’ kind of opening credits sequence that is good but derivative, with music that is almost perfect (it dips in the middle which shifts the whole theme from awesome to average) and a list of credits that has us all asking “just how many Executive Producers does one show need?” we jump straight to the Shenzhou and their encounter with a mysterious object.  Suddenly, you forget all the executive producers, the muffled Klingons and the sand-delta because the show becomes Star Trek.  Everything starts to click.

The bridge and design of the Shenzhou owe more to the ships of Star Trek: Enterprise or to the USS Kelvin and USS Franklin of the J.J. Abrams films than to any TOS ship, and the uniforms are unlike anything we’ve ever seen in any Star Trek, but suddenly, for me, it all fit.

The designers have linked the old with the new in a way that works.  They couldn’t ignore the Kelvin timeline, because a smidge of it takes place in the Prime timeline – so it suddenly made sense that we’d see a mix of TOS and Kelvin and Star Trek: Enterprise design aesthetics in the show, mixed harmoniously together.  There wasn’t enough TOS, but we have been told that will come.  We’ve even been told we’ll see the original uniforms in some version.  On that, apparently the new uniforms, as seen on Pike and his crew, are being phased in, like the DS9 and Voyager uniforms were phased in, in Star Trek: Generations before they changed entirely for the eighth film.

It wasn’t just all of those things clicking in my head that made the show take off – it was everything that happened in those first scenes on the Shenzhou.  It worked.  The cast were great.  I’ve read a review or two that suggest the acting was wooden, but I didn’t see it.  There were a couple of moments where I questioned a performance or two, but it was the first episode and that sort of thing is going to happen.

From there, pretty much everything was excellent.  There was one more misstep, and that was in episode two where things happened too fast.  The actual battle with the Klingons and the appearance and almost instant annihilation of the USS Europa and Terry Serpico’s character were a wasted opportunity.  The episode was really building and then suddenly it felt like everything was over far too quickly.

If I have one major issue with these two opening instalments, it’s their pacing.  In places it’s off.

But that’s okay.  By the end of both episodes you realise you haven’t actually seen the pilot.  You’ve seen a prequel to the prequel.

Huh?

The Shenzhou does not make it out.  Georgiou and most of the other characters we’ve been getting to know don’t live.  There is no resolution for the main character, there is life imprisonment for mutiny.  There is no USS Discovery and we don’t meet most of the actual main cast.

I liked that.  I hated it because I was really liking Georgiou and Danby Connor, but I liked it because it was unique and a wonderful device for getting exposition out of the way.

The real pilot we’ve since been told, will be episode three.

So… everyone dies?  Almost.  But yeah, most of the characters we meet don’t make it to the last act.

There are two impactful deaths in this two parter, for me, and both were handled beautifully.

I fell for Georgiou and Ensign Connor immediately, thanks to all the lead up about their characters, and they both go out in style.  Connors’ death is a shock.  But it’s what would happen in a space battle.  It’s so jarring and unexpected I forgot to breathe for a few moments.

Georgiou’s death we knew was coming, there was no way she was making it out alive, but it still surprised me, and Burnham’s reaction was perfect.  It was a heart-breaking, emotionally powerful scene.  Throughout the episode there were hints Philippa Georgiou was like a surrogate mother to Michael Burnham, and we see that play out meaningfully in her death.

Sonequa Martin-Green was incredible.

I won’t go any further into the episode because you need to watch it.  There is one more major death which is completely unexpected, but I don’t want to spoil that one.  It surprised me.

Yes, I’ve been critical of this two-part opener for the new series, but it really is excellent science fiction and it IS Star Trek.  I know I’ve spoiled quite a bit, but there are many more things to discover (no pun intended) that I haven’t talked about.

To wrap up:

Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones (as Burnham and Saru).  AMAZING.  10 out of 10.

Michelle Yeoh.  Why did they kill her off?  She is one of the best Star Trek captains I’ve seen on screen.  10 out of 10.

James Frain as Sarek.  He does it.  He honours Mark Leonard meaningfully, while making the character his own.  The only issue I had with Sarek was when his hologram sat on something in Burnham’s quarters from thousands of light years away, but that’s a nit pick I don’t have the energy to go into.  It’s one more thing the executive producers should have picked up on and didn’t.  Seriously… what do they do on the show?  The sitting hologram is not James’ fault and it didn’t detract from his performance.

The rest of the cast.  Just kick-ass.  I wanted to spend more time with them and am disappointed I didn’t get to.  We were promised “new ships” and got them, but I would have liked to see them stay around for longer.  10 out of 10.

Costumes and sets.  Blew my mind.  These surpass anything we’ve ever seen before on film or television.  10 out of 10.

Writing.  Needs a bit of work.  Some simple plot structure mistakes were made, some dialogue was a bit clunky, and some of what we saw on screen was silly.  Which ever writer or producer thought the delta in the sand was a good idea and that immersing us in the political nonsense of the Klingons was going to be interesting needs to sit out the rest of the season.  7 out of 10.

The overall story.  It’s great.  Personally, I love it and I have no issue with the Spock connection.  10 out of 10.

Music.  The opening theme is beautiful, but strays in the middle which does affect it. The music throughout the show was brilliant.  9 out of 10.

Direction.  Good.  I don’t know why they had to tilt the camera angle all the time, it annoyed the crap out of me.  6 out of 10.

Special Effects.  BEAUTIFUL.  10 out of 10.

Pacing.  Needs a bit of work, especially in the Klingon scenes.  They rushed stuff they shouldn’t have rushed, like most of Episode Two, and set far too languid a pace for some scenes that they should have just smashed through.  7 out of 10.

Editing.  I’ve separated this from pacing, because I think the pacing was a writing, directing and producing issue.  The editing was perfect except for that one scene in the opening with the Shenzhou.  I didn’t feel thrown out of more than that one scene by the editing choices made.  9 out of 10.

Tone.  This was Star Trek.  It felt like Star Trek, it looked like Star Trek, it sounded like Star Trek.  So much so, the strangeness of the uniforms and the Kelvin timeline like effects and sounds faded into the background.  9 out of 10.

Scorecard
4 Starfleet Delta’s out of 5.
4 Deltas

There is room for improvement, but they kicked a goal and I really pleased to say “Star Trek is back.”  I’m proud of what these guys have accomplished and I believe Star Trek is in the right hands.  I’m putting all of what annoyed me down to the reality that this is a new series finding its feet.

Bring on Monday!  I can’t wait for the third episode.

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A Brave New Adventure

Star Trek Discovery Premiere Eve Banner

We’ve been a little quiet here at Star Trek: Sentinel because there has been so much Star Trek: Discovery news coming out that we kind of just wanted to enjoy it and let it wash over us, and didn’t feel the need to comment on it.

Now we stand on the eve of the launch of a brand new series and a bold new experiment in Star Trek.

Since the new series was first announced and up until today, we’ve all seen people expressing hope and excitement for the show and people nit-picking everything and heaping disdain on this new series every Trek fan should be looking forward to.

Georgiou and Burnham

It’s probably no secret that I am incredibly excited about the show.  I love Sonequa Martin-Green as an actor, I’m a huge fan of Kirsten Beyer, Akiva Goldsman and many other behind the scenes creatives, and I admire the risks everyone has taken to make this version of Star Trek relevant.

I’ve been disappointed, even upset by some of the negative coverage coming from some sites.  The amount of it coming from one particular sci-fi site (not a Trek one) has caused me to delete it from my favourites and move on.

Now that we’re literally only hours away from the first brand new episode of Star Trek television in 12 years, I thought it might be a good idea to point you guys toward a handful of excellent articles out there right now on websites staffed by professionals who are genuinely excited to see Star Trek: Discovery.

There are two sites in particular that have had extensive and exceptional coverage over these last few weeks:

TrekMovie and TrekCore.

TrekMovie, in particular has suddenly become one of the best, if not the best, Trek site ever.  Their coverage of Star Trek: Discovery has been spectacular.

TrekCore have always been amazing, and though they may be following a close second behind TrekMovie, their coverage has still been excellent.

Inside the Discovery

Here are some great articles from both sites.

Let’s start with the coverage of the recent Premiere, held a couple of days ago in Los Angeles – attended by many of the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek royalty, Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner.

Nichelle, Sonequa and Bill

Sonequa and the cast get a blessing from one of the most significant women in modern science fiction, Nichelle Nichols.

TrekMovie gives us some photos from the Hollywood Premiere.

TrekCore‘s coverage of the Premiere.

For more on the “blue carpet” premiere event, visit both TrekMovie and TrekCore and look through their most recent articles.

Of particular interest to fans, the Season One Press Kit for Star Trek: Discovery has finally been released.

It’s beautiful.  The images above, and one a little earlier on in this article are from that kit.

TrekCore got the scoop on this one, so go check out their article focusing on the kit here.

Some of the things we’ve learned over the last few weeks are that the Klingon War with the Federation will play a major part in Season One of Star Trek: Discovery.

We’ve also learned that the war story will be wrapped up by the end of the 15 episode first season arc.

We don’t know what Season Two might hold, but it’s interesting that the Klingon conflict will fade out to be replaced by something else.

I think that’s a good idea.  Multiple years focusing on a war might get a bit a much – plus, there’s a lot more to Star Trek than Klingons and the war-arc has already been done and done well in Trek’s illustrious history.

Star Trek Discovery EW Photoshoot 1

If you want to catch up with all of the Star Trek: Discovery news, visit those two wonderful sites.

Right now, I am eagerly counting down the hours to Star Trek: Discovery‘s release on Netflix.

If I could have one wish over these next few days, it would be for my fellow Trek fans to give this show a chance.

A great deal of incredible talent has been brought together to bring this show to us, and a lot of love and care has gone into it.  Yes, it looks different to Star Trek: The Original Series and probably shares more in common with Star Trek: Enterprise and the J.J. Abrams Trek movies, but that’s superficial and necessary if we want to attract new viewers and keep Stat Trek alive.  The show and it’s producers are doing everything they can to be faithful to canon and to make us something we will love.

The internet has become an horrifically nasty place where people seem to think it’s acceptable, even ‘cool’ and funny, to be negative and sometimes even abusive, but Star Trek fans are better than that, and the worst of us are nothing more than a vocal minority.

I hope other fans who love all things Trek for everything that the shows stand for, and respect and attempt to live the ideals of Star Trek, embrace this new show and love it and ensure it continues for many years to come.

We’ll be back in a couple of days with a review of the pilot episode, which is titled “The Vulcan Hello.”

Until then, may we all and may Star Trek: Discovery especially, live long and prosper.

In the United States, Star Trek: Discovery premieres on CBS on the 24th of September with all subsequent episodes airing on CBS All Access.  In Canada Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on the 24th of September also, on Bell Media’s CTV and the Space Channel.  For the rest of us, Star Trek: Discovery will launch on Netflix on Monday the 25th of September.

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Discovery Launch Date Confirmed

Star Trek Discovery Update Banner June 20

CBS All Access have finally revealed the launch date for the highly anticipated Star Trek: Discovery.

September 24… this year!

They did it in style, with a little animated image on Twitter, via the official Star Trek CBS Twitter feed.

STDSC Launch Date

Best thing about that Twitter post?

Apart from finally knowing when we’ll get to see the show, we are given our clearest look yet at the USS Discovery.

Even better than that?  The incredible team at TrekMovie have grabbed themselves as high a resolution version of that image as they could find and embiggened the crap out of it to show us this…

Close Up of the USS Discovery

That, my friends, is a sexy ship.

It still looks a lot like the vessel we saw in that very first teaser trailer way back when Bryan Fuller was still heavily involved in the show, but check out the markings on the ‘wing’ like nacelles.  They’re new.  I’ve re-watched that original trailer and those bold stripes are no where to be seen.

I like it.  I’m certain there’s a reason for them.  I am starting to doubt that the Discovery will be on any sort of ‘normal’ Starfleet mission and I’m so excited I think I might have to go run a kilometre or ten to calm down!

Alongside the announcement of the release date, there was new poster and… a tiny little bit of disappointing news.

The series will air in two halves – which we were all pretty much guessing anyway.  It just seems to be the way of things with shows these days.

The first half of Season One will be eight episodes long and will air through November.  Then, we get December off and episodes 9-15 will air starting in January.

New STar Trek Discovery Poster

Not long after releasing all of this information, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts had a chat with Entertainment Weekly to further address all of the delays.

In brief… waiting for Sonequa Martin-Green to finish up her commitments on The Walking Dead made things slow down a bit, but, the challenge of building this new world played a massive part in all of the rescheduling.  I’m so glad they have admitted to this, because any Star Trek series is a huge undertaking, and none more so than a prequel.

In that interview it was also revealed that we haven’t seen the bridge of the Discovery yet… which I think a lot of us knew.  I think most fans, myself included, realised that the bridge in the most recent trailer was that of the Shenzhou.

What we didn’t know is that Shenzhou is an older vessel, and an entirely different one to the Discovery.

If you’d like to read the Entertainment Weekly article, the link is above (see the pretty blue highlighted ‘Entertainment Weekly‘.

If you’d like to check out TrekMovie‘s embiggened Discovery image, click here.

At that link, you’ll also see the Netflix animated announcement which is pretty cool.

Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green, and will air in the US and Canada on the 24th of September 2017 via CBS (and then CBS All Access) in the States, and Space in Canada.  It will air on the 25th of September in Australia and everywhere else in the world, on Netflix.

Apparently the second episode will air that same night, though only on CBS All Access – so the pilot will air on CBS and CBS All Access, with episode 2 only on CBS All Access.  I can’t work out if the second episode will be available straight away on Space or Netflix for those of us not in the States, but I assume so.  As soon as we know, we’ll post about it.

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