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 14 Review

Star Trek Discovery Recap and Review Banner Episode 14

With possibly one of the best and tensest openings since “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II” or “The Year Of Hell, Part Two,” Star Trek: Discovery takes a deep breath before the upcoming season finale, but makes sure we don’t get too comfortable in this emotional and, once again, twisty episode.

The Facts
Episode Number: 114
Episode Title: “The War Without, The War Within” or “Cornwell Takes Charge”
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: David Solomon

Quotable
Saru: “Admiral!
Cornwell: “Where’s Captain Lorca?
Burnham: “Sarek… please!
Cornwell: “Stand down, specialist.  Now!”  Beat.  “Computer, initiate command level override.  Authorisation: Admiral Katrina Cornwell, pi beta six.
Computer: “Override confirmed.

Cornwell: “The Lorca I came up with was measured, he was reasoned.  I couldn’t have imagined…
Sarek: “That Lorca was an impostor from an alternate universe was not the most obvious conclusion.  We were all deceived.

Cornwell: “All evidence of your recent journey will be classified and destroyed.  We cannot risk the knowledge of this alternate universe leaving the confines of Discovery.”
Burnham: “I don’t understand?
Stamets: “There would be… too many possibilities.
Sarek: “Indeed.  Our people have suffered terrible losses.  What would you do if you thought that your dead wife, your lost child, your murdered parents might be alive on the other side and that the technology exists for you to see them again?  This knowledge must be buried.
Cornwell: “Command will want this locked down.
Saru: “Of course, Admiral.

Cornwell: “I want to be truthful with you.  Your side is winning.  When we met, you had nothing but contempt for the crumbling leadership of the Klingon Empire.
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma sought to strengthen and unify the Great Houses.  If he has succeeded in only this, it is cause for celebration.
Cornwell: “Your ‘Great Houses’ are carving up Federation assets among their factions.  A captured starbase bears the insignia of House D’Ghor, not of the Klingon Empire.  Is that the kind of ‘unity’ your messiah proclaimed.  They think nothing of the collateral damage caused by their brutal attacks.  They target civilians, hospitals, food conveys.  They slaughter innocents, and inspire terror across the quadrant.
L’Rell: “This is war, not a child’s game with rules.  We fight to preserve Klingon identity.
Cornwell: “No one is looking to destroy your culture!  Our laws are founded in equality, freedom.
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma taught us that the Federation cannot help itself.  It seeks universal homoginisation and assimilation.
Cornwell: “T’Kuvma was an ignorant fool, and your people are moving closer and closer to my home planet.  What are you looking for?  More territory?  Conditional surrender?  I mean, your people won’t even make demands.  Why?  How does this war end?
L’Rell: “It doesn’t.  Klingons have tasted your blood.  Conquer us, or we will never relent.
Cornwell: “Thank you.

Georgiou: “Your child is lost.
Sarek: “Do not confuse my ward with yours.
Georgiou: “My daughter was a singular example of brilliance until one foolish choice doomed her world.  Sound familiar?
Sarek: “If I understand correctly, my ward saw through the man who brought down not just your child, but your empire.  Perhaps best not to make comparisons.”  Beat.  “Why have you requested my presence?
Georgiou: “You were summoned, Vulcan, for one reason.  I want to help you end this war.

Sarek: “During my mind meld with Saru I learned of your attachment to the Klingon spy and what he did to you.  Such events are clearly troubling.
Michael: “I’m fine, Sarek.
Sarek: “I remain unconvinced.  There is irony here, of course, the man you fell in love with was a Klingon.
Michael: “He… I don’t know what he was.
Sarek: “There is also grace.  For what greater source for peace exists than our ability to love our enemy.
Michael: “I’ve made foolish choices.  Emotional choices.
Sarek: “Well, you are human.  As is your mother.  There is no telling what any one of us may do where the heart is concerned.  We are at war, logic dictates that each farewell may be our last.”  Beat.  “Do not regret loving someone, Michael.

Disco S1E14 Cornwell Brings Discovery Up To Speed

Moments of Interest
We know from Star Trek: Enterprise that mind meld’s are, in Vulcan years, still relatively new by the time we get to Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: The Original Series, but we also know, thanks to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and multiple TOS episodes, that they’re an intimate and private thing.  Forcing a mind meld on someone can be damaging for both the person undergoing the procedure, and the person initiating it.

In times of war and what sounds like the threat of extinction, it appears they also become a tool for quickly assessing a situation.

Sarek, at Cornwell’s behest, initiates an uninvited mind meld with Saru at the beginning of this episode.  It’s not something any of us would expect of Sarek, but I think it’s a device that’s being used by the writers to let every Star Trek fan know how desperate the Federation’s situation is it at this point in the war.

Another interesting moment is when Admiral Cornwell mentions Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the USS Enterprise NX-01 during the episode, reminding everyone that Archer’s trip to the Klingon Homeworld was the only time humans had set foot on that world.  Nice bit of continuity, and one I appreciated (being a Star Trek: Enterprise fan).

The Review
This episode is an acting tour de force for Jayne Brook and Michelle Yeoh in particular.  Both women are outstanding.  In every way.  They drive the plot forward, add remarkable nuance to every scene, and carry the episode effortlessly.

That’s not to say everyone else wasn’t good.  They were, as we’ve come to expect, and as per usual special mention needs to go to Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo and Shazad Latif.  They shine in every scene and Mary Chieffo in particular is electric whenever she shares the screen with Jayne Brook.

For me, it’s all of these performances and the little moments that make the episode something special.

Some critics have said they’re not overly fond of “The War Within, The War Without,” and that the writers “dropped the ball” because the episode slowed the momentum of the last third of the season.  I couldn’t disagree more.  This episode was not only necessary as the inevitable prelude to the season finale, it was necessary for our characters as they start to process what has happened to them, and to process the fact that the war has gone terribly in their absence.  I guarantee you that if the writers hadn’t explored some of these issues before the end of the season, many critics would have be up in arms about that.

“The War Without, The War Within” allowed us to see where Tyler and Michael are at after the horrific shocks of a couple of episodes ago – and it’s not a good place.  It also allowed us to enjoy seeing L’Rell and Admiral Cornwell go at each other again, and it allowed us to see more of Emperor Georgiou.  For me, the real pleasure in the episode was watching Georgiou.  Michelle Yeoh was electric and menacing and she owned every scene she was in.  Seeing the character interact with Michael, Sarek and Cornwell left me thinking no one in the Prime Universe would ever stand a chance against her if she chose to act up.

Another highlight of the episode was seeing Katrina Cornwell in the Captain’s chair.  She looks good in it!  Hey, sometimes it’s the small things that make a fan happy.

Disco S1E14 Cornwell Takes Command

The episode began right where the last one ended, with Saru somewhat shocked by the appearance of the Mirror Georgiou in his transporter room.

Georgiou, for her part, is far from impressed an alien is giving orders and quips to Burnham that yesterday they were eating a Kelpian, and now Burnham is taking orders from one.

Yep.  That’s one way to leave an impression!

A not too happy Saru challenges Burnham on her lie (in an earlier episode she had told him she had not seen any Kelpiens in the Mirror Universe), but quickly pushes through that without, thankfully, bringing up the eating bit!

Saru tells Burnham that Tyler is doing well, and that Voq seems to be gone.  Michael tells Saru she’s not ready to see the spy.  And then shit gets serious as phaser wielding Andorians and Tellarites beam aboard, followed by Sarek and Admiral Katrina Cornwell.

It’s a tense, wonderful scene where Cornwell takes control, literally, and brings the Discovery under her command.

Disco S1E14 Sarek and Cornwell Beam Aboard

We quickly learn that the Federation hasn’t lost the war, as Saru initially thought at the end of the last episode, but they are getting smashed.

Cornwell advises certain members of the crew that 20% of Federation space has been lost, and the Klingons have – without rhyme or reason, as Michael points out – slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents.

As the episode progresses, the action quickly subsides (without ever completely losing the underlying threat of the defeat of the Federation) to focus instead on meaningful character moments, with one of the most intense being the briefest.  Stamets coming face to face with Ash.

It’s a scene that I’m not sure I’m happy with.  Stamets responded in a very Stamets way, and Ash certainly looked upset, even devastated, but it didn’t resonate with me.  It felt somehow hollow.  I didn’t want Stamets to bop Ash on the nose, but a quick scene of Paul rounding the corner and leaning against a bulkhead with a lone tear trailing down his cheek would have made the moment work.  Hugh and Paul’s relationship has been played up as this great love story, but we haven’t spent enough time seeing the effect on Stamets and I think we need to.  Anything less diminishes that love and Hugh’s time on Discovery.

The majority of the remainder of the episode deals with Georgiou and her manipulations.

Before we look at that though, there were two other important moments where enough time was given to the characters and their plight, that need to be mentioned.

The first is between Michael and Ash.  After initially refusing to see Tyler, at the prompting of Tilly she finally goes to him.

Disco S1E14 Michael Wants To Trust Georgiou

Things don’t start well, and lead Ash to a moment where he lashes out at Michael, pretty much telling Burnham that she got frightened and all of this is a convenient way for her to back out.  She doesn’t take that and fires back, reminding him he had his hands around her throat, and that she looked into the eyes of the man she loved to see nothing but hatred there and a desire to kill her.

That puts him in his place.

She very poignantly ends everything by telling him that his road to redemption, much like hers, will be a solo journey.

It’s a beautiful scene.  I’m constantly astounded by how much meaning Sonequa Martin-Green can squeeze into one sentence, even one word, through a simple change in tone, an unexpected inflection, or the quirk of her mouth.  Shazad Latif is similar.  While Sonequa’s delivery is always very controlled, as you would expect from someone who is playing a character who has been raised by Vulcan’s, Shazad’s delivery is very open with every emotion crossing his face.  What you would expect from someone who is essentially Klingon, a species not known for hiding their emotions.

The juxtaposition of the two is perfect.

The other meaningful moment didn’t play as well.

Before all of this, Ash visits the mess and everything goes quiet.  He grabs his meal and sits down alone while people whisper behind his back and cast him sidelong glances.

Disco S1E14 Tilly Brings Tyler Back Into The Fold

Tilly, echoing how she befriended Michael, moves from her table to sit with him.  He tells her she doesn’t have to, and she sets him straight.  Then Keyla Detmer joins them, offering Ash a warm “welcome back.”  The scene would have been perfect if it ended there, or with Lieutenant Bryce (the Communications Officer) joining them right after Detmer.  But, after Bryce, a whole bunch of people come over and it all seems a bit much.  It crossed from special to corny in seconds.  I want Ash to be forgiven, because we all know it was Voq who did all of those horrible things, but would so many people so easily welcome him back that quickly?  How has he redeemed himself?  He hasn’t?  Has he?  Has the crew had time to process what he did and grieve Doctor Culber’s death?  I don’t think so.  That moment, for me, felt forced and false.

And now, back to Georgiou.

Starfleet in the Prime Universe doesn’t have a chance.  If they don’t keep a close eye on her she’ll be ruling the Federation inside a decade.

There’s not much more I can say about Emperor Georgiou in this episode that I haven’t already.  She walks circles around every character.  While they innocently and naively (and a little warily) attempt to understand her, she is calculating in every moment and looking for an advantage or a way to manipulate things to her will.  And it’s constant.

Disco S1E14 The Emporer Is Unimpressed

Michelle Yeoh is not just a ‘moustache’ twirling villain in this episode, though.  She also shows compassion and even, dare I say, a smidge of love, to Burnham.  It’s fleeting, but it’s there.  Michelle conveys it all perfectly.  Complex characters are so rewarding for the viewer, and they show good writing, and this Georgiou is definitely complex.

Like most people in the western world, I fell in love with her watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Now I’ve fallen in love with her all over again, first because of her portrayal of Captain Georgiou, and now because of her portrayal of Emperor Georgiou.

I think the joy here is that Georgiou is now a character who has represented the very best of Starfleet, and now the absolute worst in the visage of her Mirror Universe self.

I love how the writers have done that!

Out of all of the interactions between Georgiou and those characters who know she is on board, the best is her private meeting with Sarek.

Disco S1E14 Michael, Cornwell, Georgiou and Sarek

The first time we see her interact with Sarek is after Michael confesses what she’s done.  Cornwell and Sarek go with Michael to visit the Emperor, and Sarek is surprised (as much as a Vulcan can be) by how alike this Georgiou is to his now dead friend.

That quick interaction, though, gives Georgiou an idea.  She picks up on the bond between Sarek and Michael and logs that in her memory for future use.

She sets about setting her trap.  The first step is helping Michael formulate a plan.  Michael shares that plan with Cornwell, who is excited.  Cornwell convinces what’s left of Starfleet’s leadership it will work.

The second step is taking the plan to the next level.  A dark and horrible level.  Georgiou “summons” Sarek and shares her complete idea with him.  It’s something she wouldn’t tell Michael because she didn’t think her “daughter who is not her daughter” could handle it.

During all of this we learn that Starbase One has been occupied by the Klingons (House D’Ghor to be exact) and that all of the Starfleet vessels and personnel are gone, presumed dead.  It’s an horrific moment for Admiral Cornwell, and Jayne Brook plays it oh so well.  I felt terrible for the character.  She obviously lost so many people that she cared for, and in that moment was probably thinking she would lose the Federation too.

It’s this last act by the Klingons, I think, that pushes Sarek to take his next step.

All of this leads to another big twist.  Yes, another twist, because apparently that’s what modern television is all about.

Sarek leaves the Discovery to make some “arrangements” and then, in the penultimate moment of the episode, we see what those arrangements are.

Emperor Georgiou becomes Captain Georgiou and is given command of the USS Discovery for a risky mission to Qo’noS.

She is introduced to the crew of the Discovery as the recently rescued Philippa Georgiou, much to the shock and joy of Keyla Detmer, and the shock and worry of Saru and Michael.

This twist actually took me by surprise.  Of all the things they could have done with the character, this one I did not expect – though it makes so much sense.

Disco S1E14 The Emporer Becomes A Captain

The look that Georgiou gives Michael just before the episode wraps should make us all worried, and it should petrify Burnham.  It’s obvious Philippa is playing them.

This episode works.

It’s not the fastest paced or most action packed, but it is character heavy and full of remarkable performances.

While some of the scenes don’t play out perfectly, the episode is strong and it deserves to be thought of favourably.

Predictions
I don’t know if I can even hope to work out what the producers’ plan is for this wonderful new Philippa Georgiou, but I’d like to think they will try and make this work.  It’s a brand new take on “the outsider” looking in and commenting on humanity.

Logic suggests Emperor Georgiou won’t live for long, but I hope, in this instance, the logical conclusion does not come to pass.

In other predictions, I firmly believe L’Rell is still up to something with Tyler and that he’s not as free of the Voq personality as we would like to believe.  The producers of Star Trek: Discovery seem to like avoiding happy endings!

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

An excellent episode, an important breather between the conclusion of one arc and what, we’ve been told, will be the conclusion of the war arc, and a nice episode for character development.

I can’t wait for the finale, which, if the previews are anything to go by, looks outstanding.

Bring on ass-kicking Emperor Georgiou!  I loved Captain Philippa Georgiou, but am really coming to adore this slightly twisted version of her.  Someone give Michelle Yeoh her own Star Trek spin-off.  Now!

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Episode 11 Recap and Review

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I’ve been really worried about my inability to find adjectives when reviewing Star Trek: Discovery.  I shouldn’t have been concerned.  This latest episode added a new one to my frequently used list: chilling.

There are moments in “The Wolf Inside” where I went cold watching Shazad Latif’s performance.  Not in a bad way, in a good way.  He was completely compelling and it was unnerving.

But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  First…

The Facts
Episode Number: 111
Episode Title: “The Wolf Inside”
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: T.J. Scott

Quotable
Ash to Michael
: “You’re my tether.  You bring me back.  You did it before we were stranded in this place, and you’re still doing it now.

Saru to Michael: “An oppressive regime is by nature a fearful regime.

Lorca to Michael: “You have to do it.  Give the order.  You have to wipe them out.
Michael: “But I can’t send hundreds of rebels to their death to save myself.
Lorca in response
: “What about your crew?  The Federation?  Our universe?  Be a massacre by Klingons.  Sometimes, the end justifies… the terrible means.
Michael
: “Permission to speak freely sir?”  Lorca nods.  “I fear that your suffering has influenced your judgement.  I will find a way to get what we need to Discovery,  But in the meantime, lives are hanging on my command – here and at home.  And this rebellion against the Terrans, it’s an unshakeable union of species.  Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites.  It’s the closest to a Federation this universe may ever see.
Lorca, in response: “What’s your point?
Michael: “My point is that a Klingon leads the alliance.  A Klingon!  They rally behind him.  If we can walk away from this with the means to successfully negotiate with the Klingon race… that’s real hope for finding peace at home.  Please, sir, I no longer have my pips but I’m still Starfleet.  Don’t force me to slaughter this coalition of hope.

Mirror Voq: “Master Sarek sees all.  His wisdom pierces minds.  If you truly come in peace, he will find it in your heart.”

Tilly to Saru: “The laser photon emissions are comprised entirely of exotic matter found in the mycelial plane, and when that matter integrates with Stamets’ own neural materials, it should restore his cognitive function.
Saru in response: “A scientist saved by his own specimens.
Tilly: “The veins and muscles of the universe.  Fungi are the only organism with the biological apptitude to link death with life.

Though there will obviously be spoilers here, please keep in mind that this is a big, spoilery episode just like the last one and I need to put up that graphic one more time.

Despite the fact most of the spoilers below have been predicted by fans and have been out there for a long time, I’m going to respect those of you who have been avoiding fan speculation and spoilers and give you a chance to click away now…

Spoiler Alert

The Recap and Review
Star Trek: Discovery
has become so much more than a science fiction drama commenting on the sociopolitical landscape of our times.  It’s now a tragic love story for the ages.

That sounds quite melodramatic, but I think it’s true: Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, and now Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler/Voq.  Perhaps even L’Rell and Voq?

It’s also a show that comments on family.  Star Trek has always done this, but none quite as blatantly as Star Trek: Discovery.

We explore family through the lense of adoption with Michael, Sarak and Amanda.  We explore it through the older role models we all take on in life, with Michael, Philippa Georgiou and Gabrielle Lorca.  We explore it through the discussions the crew have about their own families – most particularly Tilly and her troubled relationship with her mother.  And, of course, we explore it through the fact that this is a crew of people who are close knit out of necessity and have become like family.  That last one we’ve seen in every Star Trek incarnation, and we have had glimpses of some of the others in every series, but I’d argue none have done some of these quite as well as Star Trek: Discovery.

Each previous series will always hold a very special place in my heart, because I love them all, particularly Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Star Trek: Discovery is now my favourite series because of it’s complexity.

Is it perfect Star Trek?  There will never be a perfect anything, but it is Star Trek and it’s the right Star Trek for now.  We live in difficult and, you could say, dark times and this is a Star Trek that responds to that.  For a long time now the creatives behind the series have promised us that we will see the cherished values of the Federation on display, and we have, intermittently, but with this and the last episode they have started to shine.

These adventures in the Mirror Universe will define this crew, I think, in so many ways.

Let’s take a look.  Rather than do a blow by blow recount, which I personally hate (though I do them a lot), here are the important facts:

– Stamets is discovered holding the body of his own personal Imzadi.
– The crew suspects Stamets killed Culber in a spore-induced fit of disorientation.
– Tilly believes that Stamets’ condition is a ‘spore’ related issue and not a medical one, and petitions Saru to let her tend to him.

The Wolf Inside - Saru and Tilly Examine Paul

– Michael reflects on the nature of darkness in all of us, and wonders how long it will take for the Mirror Universe to change them all, irreparably.
– Ash declares Michael is his “tether” to everything good.

The Wolf Inside - A Tragic Romance

– Saru asks Burnham in a secret communication whether or not she has found a Mirror version of him, because in the Prime Universe there are so few of his kind.  She has, and he’s her “servant,” but she can’t bring herself to tell him that so says that she hasn’t.  Saru, for his part, is also a little dishonest and doesn’t tell her that her friend, Hugh Culber, has been murdered. During that conversation she let’s Saru know she has the information about the USS Defiant that they’ve been looking for.
– The Empress orders the Shenzhou to destroy the alien alliances base of operations.
– Michael “adjusts” those orders and beams down with Ash to “obtain information”, while in reality seeking the help of the Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites.  She wants to know why and how these Klingons have all come together to stand against the Empire with a coalition of aliens. Her other equally important goal is to warn them so they can escape.

The Wolf Inside - Michael Negotiates with Mirror Voq

– We get to see a Vulcan with a goatee, and wouldn’t you know it… it’s Sarek!  He is called the Prophet in this universe.
– The leader of the alien resistance, nicknamed “FireWolf,” is Voq Son on None.
– Sarek convinces the resistance that Michael isn’t lying and laying a trap for them.

The Wolf Inside - Houston, We Have a Goatee

– Tilly looks like she’s having some success with her treatment of Stamets… until he flatlines.  I wasn’t sure if he was dead, or, as she warned might happen, was lost in the mycelial network.  All hope, however, is not lost as after a while he shows signs of recovery.
– As Michael negotiates with the resistance, the personality overlay that L’Rell tried to remove from Tyler last episode almost completely dissolves and Voq pushes his way through the Ash personality.  He shouts at Mirror Voq and attacks him.
– This goes as badly as you’d expect, with Ash’s actions almost getting he and Michael killed.
– Sarek brings peace to the explosive moment, and Michael tells Mirror Voq she can give him and his followers an hour to escape before she has to carry out her orders, but she needs something in return to justify her trip to the surface. He provides locations for various coalition assets, saying they will be safe by the time the Empire deciphers the data.

The Wolf Inside - Voq vs Voq

– Michael and Ash beam back to the Shenzhou.  Michael orders Ash into her quarters where we finally receive 100% confirmation he is Voq.  This is the chilling scene.  The change in Tyler is eerie, unsettling and beautifully acted.  The Ash personality is erased as he remembers Burnham killing T’Kuvma. Even though I’ve been on the Ash is Voq team for a while, the shift in personality was so menacing it hit me and I was on the edge of my seat.  If this scene had been performed with a lessor actor, it would not have worked.  Shazad Latif is brilliant as is Sonequa.  Her reaction and shock to his revelation takes the scene to an entirely new level and makes it so real.
– Michael doesn’t believe it at first.  Then Ash/Voq tells her something only he could have known and then tells her he killed Doctor Culber.
– Ash/Voq attacks Michael and overcomes her.  She’s so deeply shocked she can’t fight this man that she thought she new and has fallen in love with.  Moments before he can deliver the death blow, Mirror Saru saves her life and calls for security.  Boy, that Kelpien is STRONG!
– Ash/Voq is dragged to the transporter room to be beamed into space, and Michael slips the Defiant data into his belt without him knowing. Then, with a subtle change of coordinates, hits energise.
– The Discovery rescues Ash/Voq, Saru grabs the disc and places him in the brig.

The Wolf Inside - A Conflicted Lorca

– A little while later Michael tells Lorca she feels adrift in this horrible universe after Tyler’s revelation, and that she has nothing to keep her grounded, or, to use Ash’s words, tethered to the real her.  Lorca tells her she’s wrong.  She has him.  It’s perhaps the most touching scene between these two strong characters yet.  For once, Lorca is not all bluster.  In fact, it’s almost a very different Lorca to the man we’re used to.  I found myself wondering if the Agony Booth had broken him. I also found myself thinking they should take an Agony Booth back to the prime universe to cure Lorca of his grumpiness.
– Our Stamets meets Mirror Stamets somewhere on the mycelial plane in an enigmatic moment that suggests these two will get up to some mischief.
– The Empress arrives and it’s Philippa Georgiou, and she is not happy with Michael.  She bombs the crap out of the resistance base before the allotted time frame Burnham had given them for their escape, and then gets all Empressy with our hero.  How does this version look?  Cruel and forbidding!

The Wolf Inside - Empress Philippa Georgiou

And that’s the episode in a nutshell.

So… next week?

Who knows.  We knew this big reveal about Voq was coming and we knew it would be devastating, but I can’t even begin to anticipate how this will unravel or play out over the next few episodes left in Season One.

Before I finish this review, I want to commend the designers of Star Trek: Discovery for the new Andorian and Tellarite look.  These are the best looking Tellarites I have ever seen, and the Andorian design is beautiful.  Yes, there are changes to what we know, but they are far more subtle than the changes made to the Klingons.  Strangely, when you see the new Klingons side by side with the Tellarites and Andorians they look ‘right.’

The Wolf Inside - New Andorian and Tellarite Designs

Another thing I want to mention is I was wrong about the Empress image in my last review.  The image I posted, thinking it was the Empress arriving, was actually a crew member stumbling over Stamets and Culber.  Sorry about that.  That’ll learn me!

“The Wolf Inside” did not feel as crammed as the last episode, in fact, just the right amount of everything went into this episode.  It was overwhelming because at its heart it was a very emotional story, but everything was wonderfully executed and handled so well by all parties involved.

A few final observations:
– We saw more of the Saru under the Starfleet uniform, and the makeup is exceptional.
– Death by transporter is something these Terrans are quite fond of!  Those scenes were handled very well.
– I loved seeing the USS… sorry, ISS Shenzhou again.  I love the design of both the exterior and interiors of that vessel.
– This episode we felt something that so few episodes of any series ever manage to evoke.  A real sense of jeopardy.  Was Ash going to die?  Was he going to kill Michael?  Was Stamets’ story finally over?

I feel like a broken record, but this is now my favourite episode.

I am desperate for episode 12.

Predictions
1. I still think our Lorca originates from the Mirror Universe.
2. The Discovery leaves the Mirror Universe next episode, right at the very end, after a particularly devastating personal and physical throw down between Michael and the Empress.  The Mirror Universe has done what it needed to do.  It’s challenged our heroes, it’s outted Voq, it may still out Lorca, and it looks like it will resolve whatever it is that is happening with Stamets.
3. We’ll see a lot of Michelle Yeoh in Episode 12.
4. Stamets and Stamets will save the Discovery from the Mirror Universe.
5. This will be the beginning of the end for the spore-drive.  I believe it’s going to have something to do with the Mirror Universe and the fear the Terran Empire could sweep through, into our Prime Universe, and wreck havoc on an already overwhelmed Federation.
6. Someone will die, and someone will be reborn.  I believe Lorca is going to bite the dust, and Culber will become infused with mycelial “stuff” and brought back to life.

I don’t have any predictions about Ash/Voq at the moment.  I have no idea what is going to happen there.  If you’d asked me before seeing “The Wolf Inside,” I would have thought that his love for Burnham would see him overcome whatever it was that was happening to him (remembering that we still weren’t 100% sure last episode if Voq had been overlaid on Ash, or if Voq had been surgically altered to pass as human).

Ash/Voq seems so completely Voq now, I don’t think there’s any space for Michael’s love to win the day.  I could be wrong.  I doubt that Ash/Voq calling Michael his “tether” was a throw away line, but it could also have been a line designed to highlight to us just how much this is going to hurt her.

Respect to Lisa Randolph.  This is the best written episode to date this season, and that’s saying something because there has not been a clunker among them.

Tips for the Producers
Just one, in this new section I hopefully never have to use again.

Please, no more Klingon titties.

We get it.  You’re on a streaming service now and you can be a little more risque, but we don’t need it.  The gore I’m okay with.  You’ve pushed it a bit, and it’s sad that the use of gore means it excludes children from discovering this show until later in life, but it has always served the story.  The Klingon breasts we’re seeing every few episodes don’t.  I know this sounds prudish, but hear me out.  These shots feel like you’re trying too hard to be Game of Thrones and, frankly, it’s a little pathetic.  Showing them in bed on top of each other (which I seem to remember from a few episodes back) is enough.  We’re not stupid.  Showing Klingon breasts doesn’t enhance the story.  If anything it detracts.

If we want to watch Game of Thrones, we’ll go watch it.  If we want to see breasts, we’ll use Google and find them.  We know Voq/Tyler and L’Rell had sex and constant reminders are little more than shameful and unnecessary titillation.  If you think this will attract people to the show, you’re mistaken.  People don’t watch Star Trek for titties.  They watch it for challenging story lines, beautifully crafted characters, intelligent dialogue, and hope.

Please consider this feedback.

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

My issue with the above notwithstanding, this is an intelligently crafted episode that is entertaining, thought provoking, inspiring and moving.

I loved it.

I want to make special note of the music this episode.  It was so subtle, but so clever and emotionally charged.  I don’t know if I’ve heard such a careful score before for a television show?  The music was at times threatening and ominous, and then deeply moving.  Jeff Russo outdid himself this outing.  His music has been wonderful the whole series long, but this episode it was so right in every way.

Personal Resonance
More and more this show is affecting me – in good ways, but often profound ways.  I love that a show can do this to me at this stage in my life.

I’ve accidentally found myself quoting lines of dialogue at people – recently I provided professional supervision to some allied health workers, and without meaning to, I quoted Philippa Georgiou: “…take good care of those in your care.

A few weeks later, I accidentally quoted Tilly to my boss after completing a psychological test to measure my ability to be empathic and compassionate.  I was off the chart, and in response said: “I love feeling feelings!”

There have been more instances, but I won’t bore you with them.  I’ve also found myself contemplating the actions of the characters at random moments, wondering what I would have done if I were in their shoes.  I have never done that with any of the J.J. Abrams movies.

This show has swept me up in its embrace and I don’t want it to let go.

If you haven’t checked out Star Trek: Discovery, or if you’re still clinging to a misplaced dislike because of how different it is to past Treks, I implore you to let go and give it a shot.  This is a quality show, and they’re doing good things.

Share this journey with us.  I doubt you’ll regret it.

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes appearing on Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET, also on a Sunday.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday at 8:00am in the United Kingdom and usually at either 6pm or 7pm in Australia.

See you in about a week for another review.

Live long and prosper.

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Episode 6 Recap and Review, and an Announcement from CBS

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Before we jump into everything, CBS made an important announcement earlier in the week: Star Trek: Discovery has been renewed for a second season!

Congratulations to everyone involved.  So much love, time, care and attention to detail has gone into the show and this is a fitting reward for all of that exceptional effort.  As a fan, I am over the moon happy!

Thank you CBS.

Okay.  Let’s dive into this weeks episode.

Lethe was the mystical underworld river of oblivion, and the Greek Spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion, after which the river was named.

The shades of the dead used to drink from her waters to forget their mortal lives.

Star Trek: Discovery, episode six, “Lethe”, draws from that inspiration as it plays with the idea of memory and the things we might want to forget.

This was another episode that went by in a flash.  It’s also another episode that will challenge those Trekkers among us who choose to stick rigidly to perceived canon.

I say perceived, because canon doesn’t mean “this is it, and this is all there can be,” it means “this is what we know for now.”  In Star Trek, canon is what we see on screen.

Personally, I enjoy having my own perceptions of canon expanded and in most cases Star Trek: Discovery treads just this side of going too far.  Where they have crossed the line, most of the time they’ve had to.  What worked in 1966 will not work in 2017.  Choices had to be made, and while some of those choices are a bit mystifying right now we’ve been told they’ll make sense.  Eventually.  Of course, having said that, there are some things we’ll just have to deal with – the most noticeable being the design aesthetic of the 21st Century vs the design aesthetic of an era where colour TV was brand new, and the world had never heard of things like the internet, cloud computing, and 3D printing.

After watching “Lethe”, I found myself both excited by the things I had learned in the episode, and I found myself thinking back over an article I wrote a few months back where I wondered if CBS was purposefully rebooting the entire television franchise, just like Paramount rebooted the movies.

Back when Star Trek: Discovery was still teasing us with a non-committal release date, I began thinking “is this a reboot of everything, using Star Trek: Enterprise as the jumping off point?

I’m pretty sure that’s not an original thought, by the way.

Now and again, watching this new iteration of Star Trek, I wonder if that is indeed what is happening.  Back when I first wrote about that idea, I encouraged the new creative team behind Star Trek to take the 15 best episodes of each season of the existing Treks (post Star Trek: Discovery) and redo them.  That’s sacrilege to a lot of Trekkers, I know, but I keep thinking of how deeply Star Trek both changed and defined my life, and keep hoping that it will do the same for children in this and following generations.  I grew up with TNG and its impact on my life and the way I live it is still significant today.

I also keep worrying that the earlier versions of Star Trek will become niche memories for a faithful few.  When we look back at the older iterations of Trek we see moments of sexism and we see a visual style that is… kind of flat and boring.  Even TNG and more recent Trek’s fail to live up to the dynamic and visual style of today’s event television.  Using Star Trek: Enterprise as a jumping off point, and then rebooting the entire franchise from there, isn’t a terrible idea if the reboot is faithful to the original.  So… not a Battlestar Galactica reboot.  Not even a J.J. Abrams Kelvin-timeline reboot.  An update of the original where certain things can be ‘tweaked’, like the sexism, like the ship’s computer in TOS which has already been surpassed by Siri, and like many of the props and effects that just don’t hold up today.  As much as many of us probably don’t like admitting it, Star Trek: Discovery is a more faithful imagining of the future than we were capable of in the 1960s.  Even the 1980s.

What made me think back over those things?  The Holodeck (?) battle simulation Ash and Lorca went through, and the simple realism of the set of the Discovery and the shows props and visuals.  We see things in this episode that are going to give the more strict among us reason to complain, but they make sense when held up against the reality and wider audience expectations of today.

Sometimes I think these changes come down to one question: do we want Star Trek to live long and prosper?

But, enough of my musing (heretical ramblings?).  Let’s get into the recap and review.

Sarek Looks Across Vulcan - Lethe

The Facts
Episode Number: 106
Episode Title: “Lethe”
Written By: Ted Sullivan and Trek alumni Joe Menosky
Directed By: Doug Aarniokoski

Quotable
Sarek to his assistant
: “In times of crisis, ignorance can be beneficial.

Tilly to Michael: “It’s been my experience, that what I lack in athletic ability I more than make up for in intelligence and personality.  We may want to focus on those attributes.
Michael to Tilly: “Everyone applying to the command training program will be smart.  Personality doesn’t count.
Tilly, in response: “That’s just something people with no personality say… wait!  Which in… which in no way means you… ah… you, you absolutely have a personality!

Tilly to the computer: “Computer, green juice.  Extra green.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
In the second scene of the episode, Michael is trying to help Tilly achieve her dream of one day becoming a captain.  In that scene, she name drops the Constitution Class and the USS Enterprise, recommending that Tilly aim to get on a ship like the Enterprise to help with her career aspirations.

In this same scene, both women are wearing an awesome little t-shirt with one word printed on it: Disco.  Disco has long been an internal production nickname for the show.

According to After Trek, the producers had no idea the t-shirts were going to appear!  Now, they’re canon, and you can bet you’ll be able to buy them some time soon.  That is, if you can’t already!  I admit, I haven’t done that search on the official website, eBay or Amazon yet.

In this episode, we also learn that the food synthesiser likes to comment on the nutritional quality of your order!  I like that… though I could see me telling the computer to shut up after a while!  I can’t stand my fridge beeping at me when I’ve had the door open for too long.  If my fridge started talking to me I’d probably unplug it.

We also learn, thanks to Admiral Cornwell, that the Discovery is the most advanced starship in the fleet.

The Recap and Review
After “last time on Star Trek: Discovery,” the episode jumps into a scene on Vulcan, which is beautiful.

The visuals are evocative of past glimpses of the planet, while bringing something new.  There is no doubting it’s Vulcan you’re visiting.  We find Sarek is looking out across a dessert locked, red tinged city scape as a ship hovers into view.

Sarek and an assistant board the vessel and take off across the surface of the planet, into space.

The ship is a new design but looks Vulcan, and, like Starfleet vessels, has an excellent heads up display that I really like.

We don’t know where Sarek and his companion are going.

That scene transitions beautifully into a shot of the Discovery sailing through the void, and then moves seamlessly to an interior shot of Michael and Tilly jogging along one of the spokes that connects the two halves of the saucer section of the Discovery.

Michael is helping Tilly develop some strategies and habits that will benefit her in her pursuit of command.

According to After Trek, this scene took eight hours to shoot because the corridors were only long enough to permit ten seconds of dialogue as the actors ran the full length.  So, the slight exhaustion you see on Sylvia Tilly’s face might actually be more than good acting.

The interchange between both characters is wonderful.  These two actors play off each other really well, and the chemistry is so easy to see on the screen.  While the dialogue is excellent, you can’t fake chemistry.  I often find myself silently congratulating everyone involved in the casting process.

As Tilly responds to Michael’s mentorship, dashing on ahead of the show’s leading lady, we cut to a scene of Lorca and Ash Tyler zapping Klingons.

Lorca, being Lorca, has a deep and meaningful (D&M) with Tyler as they run around in armour shooting stuff.  Seriously, this ship needs Deanna Troi.  If these two men ooze out any more testosterone and repressed rage the whole ship will drown in it.

In their macho-D&M session, we learn that Ash is from Seattle and has lost both parents.  He had a challenging relationship with his father, which might hint at Lorca being a bit of a surrogate for him – just like he seems to be for Michael.

Lorca and Ash - Lethe

In an interesting exchange where Ash lies to Lorca to help his captain save a bit of face we learn that Lorca really does want to be surrounded by the best.  And probably needs a hobby like knitting or yoga to avoid going absolutely batshit crazy.  This guy is wound so tight he’s going to snap at some point and Michael is going to have to trot out the mutiny card again.  Lorca chews Ash out and tells him he wants his Chief of Security to shoot better than he does.  Chief of Security?  Ash, DO NOT take that job!  The last one got mangled by an unhappy tardigrade!!

This exchange surprises Ash, who asks Lorca if he’s giving him a job?  In a potentially telling moment (if you go by the Ash is Voq theory), Lorca says: “Well, I figure I’ve seen you fly, shoot… fight like a Klingon…”  Fight light a Klingon.  Way to screw with our heads, Star Trek: Discovery writing team.

Ash brushes that off, saying that he learned a thing or two from the Klingons beating on him for seven months.

Lorca then affirms Ash’s appointment.

We jump back to Sarek and his assistant, who shoots himself up with a funky little needle that starts tracing a burning pattern up his arm.

Sarek quickly realises that his assistant knows just what it is he’s planning to do and isn’t happy about it.

The assistant turns out to be a fanatic – a “logic extremist” who believes that humans are inferior.

It’s a nice tip of the hat to Star Trek: Enterprise and the less than pro-human sentiment often expressed by the Vulcans of that era, and it’s a nice nod to what we’re going through as a world today with extremists threatening our way of life, and the pro-nationalist views of some.

The assistant’s mission?  To draw attention to Vulcan purity, and to encourage Vulcan as a world to withdraw from the “…failed experiment known as the Federation.”  With that, he blows himself up.  Sarek erects a forcefield between the two men just in time, but that doesn’t stop the explosion from sending Sarek’s shuttle spinning out of control, and it doesn’t stop Sarek from being wounded.

We cut to the credit sequence.  Which, I have to say, is really growing on me.

And then we return to the Discovery where Tilly is ordering a green juice.  That’s extra green.

She and Michael order breakfast, with Michael over ruling Tilly’s choice.  The ships computer backs Michael up, reading out the nutritional value of burritos.

Ash Tyler walks in, and the girls have a bit of a gossip about how he kicked Klingon ass.  Six asses, to be exact.  It’s an interesting exchange because Michael makes the same comment many of us have been making since the last episode… Klingons are tough.  How could one human over power so many single handedly?  This is such a throw away comment in the context of the scene that you just know it means something.

Tilly also observes that Lorca wants to adopt Ash.  Michael challenges that, but Tilly reminds her that Lorca did the same to her.

Michael Tilly and Ash

Tilly, proving she has no filter, then sits down at Ash’s table and blurts out “Scuttlebut is that you took out six Klingon warriors in hand to hand combat.

Ash tells her not to believe everything she hears, and then asks Michael to sit.  We have an exchange between Ash and Michael that is really nice as he refuses to judge her on her past actions, and prefers instead to make up his mind based on what he sees.  That impresses Michael and makes her look at this new crew member in a different light.

Then, Michael collapses in pain!

In a katra-contact moment, Michael is plunged into one of Sarek’s memories.

We’re on Vulcan watching Vulcan’s wander serenely through a pristine plaza.  It’s beautiful, and full of familiar little touches, including examples of the Vulcan alphabet.  We zero in on a family gathering and finally meet Amanda, played beautifully by Mia Kirshner.  She’s arguing with Sarek over what appears to be Michael’s rejection from the Vulcan Expeditionary Group.  A young Michael watches on.  As does the current Michael, observing the memory as an outsider.

Mia Kirshner as Amanda Grayson

Sarek becomes aware of the older Michael, and challenges her, forcing her out of the memory.

They appear in a neutral mental space, where Sarek tells her that ever since the bombing of the learning centre his Katra has been with her.

She wakes up in Sickbay before we get to go any deeper into that little addition to canon.

Doctor Culber is trying to work out what is wrong as Lorca watches on.  Michael opens her eyes.

She tells them Sarek is in trouble.  Lorca challenges her, and she reveals that she shares part of Sarek’s katra.  Lorca wants to know more, so she reminds him that after her parents were killed at a Vulcan outpost that was attacked by the Klingons, she was raised by Vulcans to be Vulcan.  She says that Sarek hoped she could serve as a bridge to show other Vulcan’s the potential in humanity.

She then reveals something new.  A group of logic extremists, who did not want humans in their culture, attempted to kill her a few years later, while she was at the Vulcan Learning Academy.  It was then, to save her life, that Sarek shared his katra with her.

She was dead for three minutes.  Sarek’s katra had healing powers and his life force saved her life.  She tells them it is a rare procedure, and frowned upon.  It’s this gift that enables a form of long term telepathy between both Sarek and Michael.

She tells Lorca that Sarek is in danger and asks him to rescue her adopted father.

Lorca checks the facts with Starfleet, and they confirm Michael’s claims.  Sarek was on a diplomatic mission to try and stop the war.

Lorca says he’ll rescue Sarek, but Starfleet forbids it.  Lorca, being Lorca, ignores them.

They jump to the nebula that was the last known location of Sarek’s shuttle.  Saru tells them that they can’t scan for the shuttle because of all of the interference in the nebula and that it will take months to search it because of its size.

Lorca and Michael visit Stamets to see if he can help by creating a device that will enhance Michael’s connection to Sarek.

Stamets says “yes” – and it is clear we have a brand new Stamets.  His interaction with the spore-drive has really changed him.  He’s more relaxed, almost euphoric.

After some discussion, he says he can create something for Burnham and gets to work.

We also learn he has a bit of an implant that enables him to safely (?) engage with the drive.

Lorca tells Burnham to get a team ready to help her with locating Sarek.

Lorca and Ash on Shuttle - Lethe

Michael asks Lorca to assign Tilly to help her, because she’s a genius, and, in a telling moment, because Michael needs her emotional support.

Daw… friendship.  I LOVE IT!

Lorca agrees, and then assigns Ash Tyler to help.

As Tilly, Ash and Michael load up the shuttle and get it ready to enter the nebula, Lorca visits Ash and orders Ash to bring Michael back in one piece… or to not come back at all.

Hmmm… what does Lorca want from Michael?  She’s brilliant.  She’s extraordinary in many ways, but what are Lorca’s plans for her?

We leave our intrepid rescuers for a moment to cut to Lorca examining a star chart as Admiral Katrina Cornwell warps in for a visit.  She boards the Discovery and proceeds to rip Lorca a new one for disobeying orders.

She’s also not happy that one of his crew experimented with eugenics.

Behind all of this anger from Cornwell, we learn, is genuine concern for an old friend.  Lorca is not the Lorca Cornwell remembers.

We leave them in that moment and jump to the shuttle where Michael is preparing to send a katra ‘jolt’ to Sarek to wake him up so that he’ll activate his ships transponder so that the Discovery can find him.

In a nice character moment, Michael is nervous and anxious.  She shares her feelings with Tilly and Ash and tells them how affected she is by the memory she was dragged into in her initial psychic contact with Sarek.  She believes he is reliving that memory in his dying moments because she is his greatest disappointment.

As she goes under, she tells them not to pull her out of the katra connection, no matter what happens.

And… we’re back in the Vulcan plaza, in the same memory.

Sarek - Lethe

Young Michael is talking to Amanda, who gives her a gift – an old fashioned copy of Alice in Wonderland.  Going back to “Context is for Kings”, it’s obvious Amanda had as much of an impact on Michael as Sarek did.

Sarek intrudes and tells them that Michael’s application to the Expeditionary Group was rejected.

Older Michael interjects, and Sarek breaks from the memory to do some kick-ass Vulcan martial arts on Michael.

Back in the shuttle, Michael is showing the effects of being psychically beaten up.

Ash orders Tilly to wake Michael, and as she comes to with a gasp we jump to Discovery and a dinner between Lorca and Cornwell.

They’re reminiscing.

Lorca and Cornwell - Lethe

She tells him she’s worried about him.

He justifies his behaviours using the excuse of war.  She’s not going to be put off and tells him he’s unfairly pushing his crew.

Eventually, she tells him that he’s changed since the destruction of the Buran.

He says he’s passed every test and is fine.  She’s smarter than that and suggests that maybe he’s suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  So… he seduces her, because he’s either got PTSD or there’s something else going on.

She falls for it.  Maybe?  I’m not sure if Katrina lets it happen in a calculated attempt to further test Lorca, or lets him seduce her because she still carries a flame for this complicated man, but she takes off her badge and smiles at him…

And we’re back on the shuttle.

Michael is deeply affected by the memory she keeps seeing.

Ash gives Michael a reality check, and says that maybe the memory isn’t about her failure – but Sareks?

Michael dives back into the katra-connection.

We’re back in the same memory and Michael has had enough.  She challenges Sarek on the memory-scape, asking him what he’s hiding.  He attacks her and she holds her own.  She asks him what he doesn’t want her to see, and begs him to let her in.

He does.

He also affirms what Ash said.  He’s not fixated on Michael’s failure.  He’s focused on his own.

We learn that Michael was accepted into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, but that the Vulcan’s were concerned.  Were Spock to apply and be accepted, there would be two non-Vulcans in what had once been a Vulcan only institution – one human raised to be a Vulcan, whom Sarek says he has crafted into a being of exquisite logic, and one half-human, half-Vulcan who is still (it seems) at school.

The Vulcan elder tells Sarek that what he has done is extraordinary, and that he applauds Sarek’s efforts to integrate humans into Vulcan culture, but that his attempts need to be titrated.

Sarek has to choose between Michael and Spock.

Michael learns that Sarek chose Spock.  This adds a beautiful, extra layer to the historic distance between Sarek and Spock.  It always seemed petty that Sarek was so ‘pissed’ with his son for choosing Starfleet, this adds another welcome dimension and gives that history more impact.

Michael tells Sarek that her rejection from the Vulcan Expeditionary Group hurt her deeply.

Sarek says he didn’t realise the impact then, but does now.  He apologises, as only a Vulcan can: “I failed you, Michael Burnham.”

As he collapses on the memory-scape, he admits his shame.

Michael asks him to show her how to save him, like he saved her.  He helps her initiate a mind-meld and she wakes Sarek up.  He activates the transponder.

We cut to Lorca and Cornwell in bed.  She traces the scars on his back, which wakes him up.  Instead of snuggle time, he grabs a phaser from under his bed and rolls on top of her holding it to her face.

She loses her shit… and rightfully so.

She tells him he lied on his psyche evaluation and that his behaviour is pathological.  She finishes with the worst thing she could say: “I can’t leave Starfleets most powerful weapon in the hands of a broken man.

This illicits a genuine response from Lorca as he begs to keep his ship.  He admits his lie, admits that he needs help.  She tells him that she hates that she can’t tell if this is the real Lorca or not, and leaves.

Saru interrupts to tell Lorca that the crew are back from their mission.  Sarek is going to be alright, but he can’t finish his mission of peace.  Lorca says that Cornwell can.

Burnham thanks Lorca and in return he gives her a real assignment.  On the bridge.  She’s now the science specialist.

As Lorca leaves, she goes to visit Sarek.  He initially tries to dodge her question about what he remembers of the rescue, but she’s not having any of it.  Michael asks him to help her understand why he did what he did, so that they can come closer rather than be pushed further apart, because that’s what families do.  He says that technically they’re not related, and she tells him he can do better than that, but she won’t push him.  She tells him “We’ll have this conversation one day… father,” and leaves Sarek, looking a little lost, perhaps even a little shamed, in Sickbay.

Admiral Cornwell takes up the challenge of completing Sareks mission.  Lorca is waiting for her in the shuttlebay as she gets ready to leave.  She tells him that she doesn’t want to ruin his career, but adds that when she returns they will talk about how he steps down.  There’s compassion in her voice and it’s clear she believes her decision to be the right one – for Lorca, for the Discovery and her crew, and for Starfleet.

Lorca can’t find a response, and instead wishes her luck in her negotiations.

Just a side note, I love the new shuttlebay.  It’s magnificent.  It looks real, and it looks used.  It looks like it belongs on a ship like Discovery that has been busy both with a mission of science and exploration (previously), and now a mission of defence. The shuttle bays on the original Enterprise and Enterprise-D always bugged me because they looked… plastic and totally unused.  Even with transporters, those ships would have been busy with freight transfer and various visitors but they just looked lifeless.

We change scenes at this point to an interaction between Tilly and Michael.  Tilly is running through the corridors again.  Michael tells her, “I gave you bad advice.  There are a million ways to get to the captain’s chair.  Find your own.”  Tilly responds with, “I have,” and keeps running.

We follow Michael to the mess hall where she sits down with Ash Tyler.  Michael, obviously affected by her chats with both Sarek and Tilly, is in a reflective space.  She opens up to Ash, and we see a woman who is slowly coming to terms with the complicated relationship she has with her adopted father, and maybe even the internal conflict she feels as a human who has spent a great deal of her life trying too hard to be a Vulcan rather than a balanced amalgam of both.

To close the scene, Michael introduces herself to Ash, who is a bit confused at first because they know each other, but then gets it.  Michael has had an epiphany, or perhaps even a little bit of a rebirth and with a smile he takes her extended hand.

We leave this budding friendship? romance? to visit with Admiral Cornwell.  Let’s just say things go bad.  Her guards are killed.  The meeting hosts are killed.  Kol pops up as a hologram and Cornwell is taken prisoner.

In the last scene, Saru reports to Lorca, telling him Cornwell has been captured.  Prick-Lorca is in full swing as Saru tells Lorca they can start to calculate a jump to rescue her and Lorca says no.  Saru is taken aback.  Lorca rationalises his sudden “by the book” caution beautifully.

He orders Saru to notify Starfleet Command and to seek guidance.  Saru is surprised, but no doubt relieved by this change in his captain.  Saru is awesome, but he’s not a great first officer.

As he leaves to follow orders, Lorca closes the door of his quarters and the episode ends with him staring out the window as we focus on his reflection.

Is his reflection smiling?

Is this another hint at the upcoming Mirror-Universe episode?

I just know we’re going to have to wait a while and see.

USS Discovery in Flight

I really enjoyed this episode on so many levels.  I love the additional context to Sarek’s disappointment with Spock’s decision to go into Starfleet, as I mentioned earlier in the recap, and I’m intrigued by where the whole cloaking technology thing is going with the Klingons.

Historically, according to canon, the Klingons obtained their cloaking technology from the Romulans.  So… did T’Kuvmar negotiate that and then Kol meter it out through the Empire as he demanded loyalty from the various Houses?

Quite a few questions were raised in this episode.  Is the need for eugenic experimentation on humans what kills the spore-drive?  Does that mean we’re going to lose Stamets?

Is Ash Voq?  I keep trying to determine from Shazad Latif’s performance if he is, but can’t yet.

One the things I like most about this series, is the growth we’re starting to see in the characters.  They’re not fully realised.  They’re “becoming.”  We’re really seeing it in Michael’s character – and it’s a beautiful thing and very measured.  The writers have paced it beautifully, certainly a lot better than Star Trek: Voyager‘s writing team paced the integration of the Maquis and Tom Paris back into Starfleet.

Lorca’s character also continues to grow (or perhaps, more appropriately, be revealed), and it is evident he is a very damaged human being.  Did he recommend Admiral Katrina Cornwell go to the Klingons because he was hoping she’d be captured or killed?  Does winning the war mean that much to him?

We haven’t seen much of Saru recently, which is a little disappointing, but I get it.  The writers needed to set up Ash Tyler.  This will change, I believe, with Michael now on the bridge.

I like the addition to canon of the katra-communication.  There’s a parallel here to the mycelial network.  If there’s a bunch of spores spread throughout the universe that can be used as a source of navigation, why couldn’t a psychic ability have that kind of range?  I’m just not sure what the writers are getting it?  There’s a definite but very subtle spiritual aspect to this show, that hints at the interconnection of life.  Starfleet represents that and always has.  We’re all ‘star stuff’ and our commonalities are more interesting and meaningful than our differences, and so we should come together and celebrate that infinite diversity in its infinite combinations.

Though the Vulcan’s are best known for that philosophy of diversity, it’s interesting to see them still struggling with Surak’s teachings.  It is a nice echo from Star Trek: Enterprise, and I loved seeing Sarek be the main proponent of that concept with his attempts to unite the Vulcan people and humanity.  He will, of course, continue to do that kind of work throughout the history of Star Trek as he seeks to unite other disparate peoples.  Spock, of course, will eventually follow in his father’s footsteps.

All of this stuff also gives merit to Sybok.  Imagine being the oldest child growing up in such a mixed household?  You have a human step-mother, a human adopted sister and a half-human younger brother.  You can imagine Sybok sitting back and observing the strengths in both as his father seeks to bring two important worlds together.  All of this actually helps make sense of Sybok, but it also paints Sarek, always one of my favourite characters, as a vital part of the Federation.

By the time we really get to know Sarek, in the movie-era and in TNG, he’s an elder statesman who is held in high regard by everyone.  Star Trek: Discovery is helping us see why and how – despite his stubborn streak!

It’s just one opinion, but my opinion is that Star Trek: Discovery gives more to Star Trek than some of the other spin-off series.  It’s giving the entire collection of series’ and films a level of depth that I really appreciate.

Last but not least, there is not one bad performance.  Again.  Particular praise needs to be heaped on Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs and James Frain.

How lucky are we to have such amazing actors bringing these characters to life?

Scorecard

Five Starfleet Deltas
Five out five Starfleet Deltas.  This was another exceptional outing.

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access with new episodes available Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET.  Outside the USA and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix with new episodes dropping in the UK at 8:00am BST on Mondays, and in Australia at 6:00pm AEDT, also on Mondays.  We only have three more episodes until the mid-season break, so make sure you tune in.

Live long, and prosper.  See you next episode for “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.”

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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Lorca and Burnham

Star Trek Discovery Update 22062017

One of the biggest questions to pop up after the most recent Star Trek: Discovery trailer was… where was Captain Lorca?

It seems he was a special surprise being kept for Entertainment Weekly, who have an article on the new series coming out in their next issue.

But before we get to that…

Yesterday, the star of Discovery spoke about something a lot of us have been contemplating since the release of the trailer – what is Lieutenant Commander Burnham’s relationship with Vulcan?  And, in particular, Sarek.

Sonequa shared some information on her character’s arc with Entertainment Weekly:

I have an inner war and it’s a journey of self discovery and finding out what it means to be alive, to be human, to be a Starfleet officer, what it means to be a hero.

Yes.  The character is human.  Many of us wondered if she might in fact be a Vulcan.

We were wrong!

On her connection to Vulcan, she said, “I have the Vulcan conflict in my life from Sarek and Amanda so there’s always going to be that inner conflict with me.  But I think it’s relatable because we all have some kind of inner conflict going on – who we are versus who we present ourselves to be.  There’s a lot to be discovered.

It might seem a little wanky, but the thing I love about this show is that it feels like the title, Discovery, is about more than just the ship or some ‘meta’ sort of “we’re out here discovering things” vibe.  It seems like the title runs through everything, from the intimate lives of each character, to the ‘macro’ stuff of discovering strange new worlds, and new civilisations.

And Captain Lorca?  What about him?  Well, that’s Gabriel Lorca to you.  Yes, he finally has a first name!

We don’t know a great deal about him, other than his name (finally), and the fact that he’s a brilliant military strategist.

Does that give us a hint about the Discovery‘s mission?  Might that add something to the strange markings on the USS Discovery, as visible in the most recent image of the ship?

Close Up of the USS Discovery

Are those markings meant to differentiate the ship from others in Starfleet in some way?  Is the Discovery covert ops?  Was the Shenzhou also covert ops – and is that why the uniforms for both crews are slightly different to what we’re used to – which is, for want of a better term, the exploration arm of Starfleet?  We now know that the Shenzhou is an older ship, so it would be interesting to get a close up of it’s dorsal section to see if it bears similar markings to those on the Discovery.  Could they be from the same fleet… sub-fleet(?) of Starfleet?  There are way too many ‘fleets’ in that sentence!

There is precedent – for there being more than one fleet (that’s an historic precedent) and for differing uniform designs (within Star Trek).

Fleets first… at the moment, the United States maintains seven fleets in its Navy, according to Wikipedia:
– United States Fleet Forces (formerly the Second Fleet, and both Homeland Defence and taking care of the North Atlantic);
– United States Third Fleet (East Pacific);
– United States Fourth Fleet (South Atlantic);
– United States Fifth Fleet (the Middle East);
– United States Sixth Fleet (Europe);
– United States Seventh Fleet (West Pacific), and;
– United States Tenth Fleet (Fleet Cyber Command, and formerly the anti-submarine warfare coordinating organisation).

If Discovery is set in 2255, as has been indicated, that’s 100 years after the events depicted in Star Trek: Enterprise (Seasons 1-4 happen between 2151 and 2155 – with the season 4 finale taking place in 2161), and there could still be a hangover from that pre-Federation era where we had Starfleet and the MACO (Military Assault Command Operations) – both answerable to the government of Earth, but one more militaristic than the other.  Do we know what happened to them?  I know that at some point their responsibilities were passed on to Starfleet Security… but did something survive?  Did the MACO have a new life in between the time of Archer and the time of Kirk?

The uniforms… well, the MACO had a completely different uniform to our friends in Starfleet.  Obviously, two different organisations, but serving the same government.

If the MACO continued in a slightly different form, as a part of Starfleet – as a specialist fleet, might they not have a different uniform?  That’s way out there, because if we were to use the US military as an example, the different fleets mentioned above don’t have different uniforms but this is the 23rd Century!

To me, Starfleet and the MACO are kind of like NASA and the US Military.  NASA is an independent agency of the executive branch of the US Federal Government and is in essence civilian, but it recruits from the military to fill some of its positions.  The US Military are the federal armed forces of the United States and, like NASA, are answerable to the government.  Do we have something similar going on in this era of Star Trek?  Could Burnham, Lorca and Georgiou be part of a new (or old), more military arm of Starfleet?  Hey, I’m doing what fans do.  Divining explanations from random sources to create ‘head-cannon’.

Ah… speculation, my old friend…

But I digress.  We were talking about Captain Lorca before I went on a flight of fancy.

Entertainment Weekly have very generously released the first official image of Captain Gabriel Lorca, on the bridge of the USS Discovery.  We don’t get to see much of the bridge, but we do get Lorca looking every bit a Captain and every bit a man who could most definitely be a military genius.

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca.jpg

He looks good, hey?

It’s been a really exciting week for news on Discovery.  If any more pops up, we’ll be sure to share it with you here.

If you’d like to check out the Entertainment Weekly exclusive, and subscribe to EW for the actual article when it comes out, click here.

Of interest to some of you, Kirsten Beyer and Ted Sullivan have been getting pretty active on Twitter recently, running non-spoiler Q&As.  If you want to check them out – and I recommend you do – follow @StarTrekRoom (the Star Trek: Discovery Writers Room) and @karterhol (Ted Sullivan).

If you’d like to read the most recent exchange, visit TrekMovie, here.

Now that we’ve seen Jason as Lorca, I am hanging for a new trailer so we can watch him in action and see how he and Sonequa bounce off each other!

I am so excited for this series!  What a cast.  How beautiful does it look?

Star Trek: Discovery airs on CBS (first episode only), CBS All Access, and Space (in Canada) on the 24th of September, and on the 25th of September for Netflix and international audiences.

It stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones, Terry Serpico, Maulik Pancholy, James Frain, Anthony Rapp, Chris Obi, Shazad Latif, Sam Vartholomeos, Mary Chieffo, Kenneth Mitchell, Mary Wiseman, Rekha Sharma, Damon Runyan, Clare McConnell and Rainn Wilson.

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CBS Delivers the Goods

Star Trek Discovery Banner May Update

CBS All Access has finally delivered a brand new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, giving the world it’s first significant glimpse at the highly anticipated new Star Trek series.

It’s beautiful… surprising… and a little jarring in places, and has me thinking CBS might be up to something completely unexpected.  More on that a little later.

First, an important question was answered by the trailer.  Swimming amongst all of the incredibly beautiful visuals was an announcement from CBS.  The series will air in Autumn (in the United States, which is some time in Spring here in Australia).  The latest word since the trailer went live is that the pilot will be on our screens in September.

Fan reaction to the trailer has been mixed.  Some love it, some don’t, and some were underwhelmed but intrigued.

Why is this trailer dividing fandom so?

I guess because it is unexpected.  We’re often told that it’s never wise to have expectations, but we’re human and whether we consciously realise it or not, we often have them.  I think a lot of us were expecting the new Trek series to look more familiar, and for things to resemble (in a modernised way) what we saw in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie”, which fall in the specified time period.  FYI, “The Cage” was set in 2254 and the year 2255 has often been bandied about when discussing when this new show takes place.

That’s not what we got.  There are slight similarities in the overall design of the sets, and there is an echo of Star Trek: EnterpriseStar Trek: The Original Series and even the first six films in the look of the ships, but everything (except for the uniforms) is a little more ‘Kelvinesque’ than I think any of us expected.  Looking at this trailer, you wouldn’t automatically place the new series between the first prequel and the original 1960s show.

As much as I hate to admit it, that’s probably a wise choice because modern audiences are more familiar with the Kelvin-universe Trek.  To survive, our beloved Star Trek needs to keep attracting new fans (and younger fans) and to do so it needs to appeal to a 21st Century aesthetic.  The uniforms and starship sets we saw in “The Cage” or even Kirk’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” don’t cut it.

The good news is, the sets do look like they belong in the Star Trek universe.

The uniforms?  I don’t know.  They echo, slightly (very slightly), those from Star Trek: Enterprise, but in no way resemble Pike or Kirk’s era.  I have to admit, I love them.  I think they look incredible and are my favourite uniform design to date, but they are very different.  I think many of us were expecting an approach similar to the one taken by J.J. Abrams and his design team when they updated the original uniforms for the 2009 reboot, but… no.

All of these adjustments have me wondering “is CBS planning to reboot Star Trek entirely?”

Lieutenant Commander Burnham - Environment Suit in Deep Space

Those of us who have been fans of Star Trek for a long time love the original 1960s series, and we accept without issue that it’s dated.  We forgive, for example, the sexism, knowing Gene wasn’t a sexist, and we understand that the series was a product of its time.  New viewers not steeped in Star Trek history would find some episodes of TOS quaint at best and mildly offensive at worst, and they would find the ‘look’ of the series silly.  Even Star Trek: The Next Generation and it’s spin-offs are dated now.  Some of the episodes are a little on the sexist side and their desk top computers, for example, are bigger than our current iPads and tablets, and the graphics we see every day on our smartphones are better than the graphics presented in TNG, DS9 and VOY.

Sadly, sometimes science fiction just ages poorly.  One of the few exceptions to that rule is 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Kubrick went to extreme lengths to project forward into the future, and he and his design team did an incredible job.

What I’m about to suggest is pure speculation and I have no evidence or inside information to suggest my theory holds water, but what if they were thinking of rebooting everything?

What if they wanted to modernise Trek in its entirety to ensure it remained relevant well into the future?

Star Trek: Discovery could be the first step.  We’ve just heard that the show’s first season has been extended to 15 episodes (from 13), so if it gets seven seasons (which was once the average for a Star Trek series), that’s a total of 105 episodes if each season is granted 15 episodes.  The creative team could then jump forward to the TOS era, recast Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, Chapel and Rand (again), select 15 of the best episodes from each of the three seasons, update everything in alignment with this new design aesthetic, and make the original crew’s stories more relevant or at least more palatable to a 21st Century audience.

I know, heresy, but bear with me.  Next, they could do another 30 episodes (two seasons) so Kirk and Co. could finish their historic five-year mission.  That’s not seven seasons, but if the creative team wanted to, they could take a look at what happened to the crew in the years between the end of that mission and the crew confronting V’Ger.  There’s another 30 episodes equalling a unique two seasons of Trek, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Then the creative team could jump the series ahead to the USS Enterprise B and look at the adventures of Captain John Harriman, First Officer Janice Rand, and Demora Sulu.  I’d watch that and I’d love it.  Next up, we could finally spend some time with Captain Rachel Garrett and the USS Enterprise C, a captain and a ship that has captured the imaginations of Trek fans since they both first appeared in the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.

By then, we might be ready for a new look at TNG era Trek.  The creative team could select 15 of the best episodes from each season of TNG, DS9 and VOY with new actors playing our favourite characters, and give us something intense and mind-blowing.  Could you imagine DS9 starting out with the necessary world-building required of a series that is still unique when compared with its companion shows, and in those first 15 episodes introduce us to the station and the tragedy of the Bajoran occupation (which is still timely and relevant in today’s terrorism affected world) before shifting into the arrival of the Dominion and that eventual war?  Watching that war build over 90 episodes would be amazing.  Can you imagine correcting some of the mistakes of Star Trek: Voyager?  We could have more conflict with the Maquis as they try to unite the crews, we could redo the Kazon and make them a decent nemesis (with better hair), and we could even dedicate an entire 15 episode season to some of the stronger stories like the “The Year of Hell”.  Finally, just imagine for a moment what the writers could do with Picard, Beverly, Riker, Deanna, Worf, Data, Geordi, Wesley and Guinan in a more condensed and focused set of episodes season after season?  That’s exciting.  Such iconic characters, who often weren’t given the best treatment or the best stories.

Star Trek: Enterprise?  I don’t think they’d need to touch that.  I think it still stands the test of time and fits in with this new vision that is being presented to us.

After that?

As Jean-Luc Picard says in Star Trek: First Contact, “plenty of letters left in the alphabet.”

It’s an intriguing idea.  At the risk of having multiple Trekkies boycott Star Trek: Sentinel forever, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

However… I digress.

Back to Star Trek: Discovery.

First Impressions?
I seem to be one of the few fans who out and out loved the two trailers I saw.  Two?  Yep.  The first trailer I was able to watch was the CBS All Access version.  I went back to watch it a second time and grab some screencaps only to discover it had been region-blocked.

Just as an aside, region-blocking really pisses me off.  This is the 21st Century.  I should be able to access the content I want to access, regardless of where I am in the world.

In its place, international audiences could watch the Netflix version which came with subtitles.  At least the one I saw did.

That’s the trailer I’ll primarily be reflecting on, because it’s the one I’ve been able to watch multiple times (and grab screencaps from).

With both trailers I was blown away by the cinematic visuals.  They are beautiful and this show looks like a lot of money has been spent on it.  As grumpy as I got with CBS in my last post, I can now see that the extra time has been well spent.

The big thing that grabbed me with both trailers was Sonequa Martin-Green.  Holy %#*@!  She is incredible.  She can and will carry this series and make it something special.  I watched the second trailer multiple times because of her.  Yes, I loved a lot of what I saw, but every time she was on screen I was captivated.

So, having disclosed that I loved the trailer, I do need to say that it was… jarring.

STDSC Screenshot 1

We don’t see the Discovery, but we do get to see a few exterior shots of the Shenzhou and a corridor and the bridge of that ship.  There are, as I mention above, some design elements that place it in the prime timeline, but graphics wise it evokes the Kelvin timeline more than Pike’s era.

In what I think is a clever move, they’ve grounded these changes with a few old school Trek elements – the original communicators are back, we have a jazzed-up original series transporter effect, and desert robes reminiscent of those worn by Sisko and Dax in season seven of DS9.  That’s not original series, but it is Star Trek.

Some critics are saying the desert robes are a bit Star Wars, and they do have a point, but when I first saw the trailer and the below image, I immediately went to season seven of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in my head.

IMG_5539

The new Statfleet uniforms are beautiful, but instead of the familiar gold, red and blue/teal that we’ve seen in every incarnation of Star Trek, it appears a more metallic theme will delineate the various departments in Starfleet, with gold, silver and bronze shoulder stripes, shirt side panels and pant stripes all the rage ten years before Kirk.

That’s quite a change!

The uniforms and vessel design choices aren’t the most jarring thing though.  They didn’t ‘break’ me out of the trailer.  The Klingons did, and Lieutenant Saru did.

Discovery 27

Lieutenant Saru and Lieutenant Commander Burnham

The Klingons are familiar, but far more bestial than we’re used to.  They look mean and I loved this deepening of their look. Their outfits/uniforms/ceremonial wear(?) is far more elaborate than what we have ever seen before and I didn’t like them.  I hope that what they are wearing is ceremonial only, and that we get to see something appropriately vicious and lethal for their regular uniforms.

Lieutenant Saru?

He looks amazing.  My first thought was “poor Doug”, because that makeup looks like it would take hours.

My second thought, thanks to the dialogue spoken by Saru, was… WTF?!

The dialogue I remember was from the first trailer.  My memory may be a bit off, but Saru tells us that his race was genetically engineered for one purpose, to sense the coming of death.

Why?  Seriously, why??  There is no point to that.

It’s the only part of the trailer that really disappointed me.  Why would someone engineer a race to detect the coming of death?  How limiting is this going to be for the character?  I love Deanna Troi, but is this going to be another case of “Captain… I sense… (cue ominous music) the coming of death!” episode after episode?

I hope they reloop that dialogue to be “one of the things my species was designed to detect is the coming of death…” which still sucks, but sucks way less than the almost nonsensical “we were made to sense death, dude.”

How is that even possible?

Anyway.  I think you get that I don’t like that!  I actually can’t believe that slipped through, considering the quality of the creative team involved.

The Story?

Not a clue.

It seems like it will be epic.  There’s a big Klingon sarcophagus thing, Klingon ships attacking, Sarek training or mentoring our heroine, and the insinuation something big is happening out on the edge of known space.

The only thing we can guess at is that the Shenzhou awakens something that I assume Discovery will have to deal with.  I am worried that whatever the Shenzhou awakens will kill Captain Georgiou.  I hope not.  That would be a waste of such an incredible actor.  Watch the trailer, you’ll see why I’m concerned.  Think about what and who we don’t see.

It looks like it’s the Klingons that have been ‘awakened’ out on the fringe, so I’m wondering if this is a special type of Klingon… perhaps a genetic experiment gone wrong?  Or maybe it’s an exiled colony?  That might explain the different look and the unusual costumes.

The Effects?

Outstanding.  I don’t need to say anything else.  They are feature film quality.  Bravo CBS.  There’s nothing like that on TV right now.

The Characters?

We don’t get to see a lot of them.  We see Captain Philippa Georgiou, Saru, Connor, Burnham and Sarek, and a few of the Klingons, but that’s it.

The only character we get any insight into is Burnham, and then there are only insinuations.

I was left wondering is she Vulcan?  Is she a human adopted by Vulcans?  She seems to have a very close relationship with Sarek.

She also seems a lot more impulsive than your standard Starfleet officer.

Is it True to Star Trek?

I think it is.

There are design choices that are a little disorienting, but overall it ‘feels’ right.  From the tiny bit of dialogue we get, it seems like the writers and producers have tried very hard to honour Gene Roddenberry’s legacy.  You’d expect nothing less with Rod Roddenberry involved.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, watch it.  You’re in for a treat.  Try to let go of your expectations, and once you do, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

One more little note, CBS All Access has announced an “aftershow” special that will air after every episode of the series.  It’s called “Talking Trek“.

Now… screencaps.

In the screencaps below, it’s implied that the child Sarek is talking to is Burnham.  The child has a Vulcan haircut, but I don’t know if she’s Vulcan.  We never really get a good look at her ears.

As you can see below, the bridge looks a little Star Trek: Enterprise and a little USS Kelvin too.  The graphics?  Very Kelvin timeline.

Check out how awesome Saru looks!  In the CBS All Access trailer Saru says the thing about his species being designed to sense the coming of death.  Then he pauses for a bit and says “I sense the coming of death.  I sense it coming now.”

The first image below is a Klingon hand.  Nice and savage looking.  Check out the Klingon uniforms… really ornate and unusual.  They look super uncomfortable and not something you’d wear into battle.

That’s it.

It ends with the logo we’ve come to know and love.

In addition to the trailer, CBS have released an official poster for the series.  If you look closely, you’ll see the Discovery.

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If you haven’t seen the trailer or want to watch it again, you can check it out on YouTube here.

It’s so exciting to be getting something concrete from this production.  We should be in for an interesting next few months.

One last thought.  If you look at the poster, it indicates the Vulcans are going to play a big part in this series.  I don’t think Burnham doing the Vulcan salute is without meaning.  Is it a clue to her heritage?  Is it an indication this new series will pick up on some elements from around Archer’s time?

There is still so much to learn about this show, and the trailer has definitely got me primed for more.

As news breaks, we’ll post about it.

Now do what I’m doing and heave a big sigh of relief.  Star Trek: Discovery is really happening.

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WTF, CBS?

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We have more casting news out of CBS, but still no news on when the next Trek series will air.

And it’s driving me nuts!

With these latest casting announcements, the group of actors closely associated with the new show grows to 18.

First, before I have a wee bit of a whinge, the casting news – which includes one existing actor changing roles!

CBS have announced that Rekha Sharma, Damon Runyan, Clare McConnell and Kenneth Mitchell have joined the cast of Star Trek: Discovery.

Rekha is well known to genre fans, having put in an outstanding performance in SyFy‘s phenomenal Battlestar Galactica re-imagining from a few years ago.  Rekha will be playing Security Officer Commander Landry.

Damon is coming on board as a Klingon named Ujilli.

Kenneth has joined the cast as Kol, the Klingon Shazad Latif was originally slated to play.  Don’t worry, if you’re a fan of Mr Latif, he’s still in the show.  He will now be playing a Federation Science Officer called Lieutenant Tyler.  Why this change?  That’s a really good question, and one that will hopefully be answered at some point.

Last, but certainly not least, Clare McConnell has joined the team as another Klingon, Dennas.

Um… do you get the feeling the Klingons are going to play a really big part in this show?

Of the 18 actors announced over the last few months, we’re not sure who will be members of the regular cast, other than the obvious, and who are guest stars like (I assume) James Frain and Rainn Wilson.

It’s starting to look like the Klingons will be regulars, but we don’t know how regular.  Chris Obi gave us a hint about that recently when he posted to social media about leaving Canada until he was needed on set again.

If we attempt to apply some logic to what appears to be a very chaotic process, six out of the 18 actors are well known, with four having a considerable following.  It’s safe to assume they will have sizeable roles.  In the past, the main casts of Star Trek have been made up of between seven and nine main characters, so it’s possible those four could make up part of that group, mixed in with some of the less famous faces to round it out.  The big question is, can we assume that this show will focus on a similar sized group of characters?  If we do, does that mean that all of the other actors are only filming guest spots?

The original announcement for the series promised “new crews”, and many of us wondered what that might mean.  It’s starting to look like it could mean at least two Federation vessels, and one Klingon ship!

New Crews.

If that’s so, then maybe all of the actors that have been announced, with the exception of James Frain and Rainn Wilson, will be main characters based on three different vessels and that we will be following three main stories that interweave and intersect throughout each episode or every couple of episodes.

Your guess is as good as mine!

Creatively, having three interweaving stories is smart.  As an audience, we’ll be exposed to different perspectives, unique insights and entertaining character dynamics.  It will also give the writers something fresh and innovative to play with every week, increasing the possibility of the series lasting past its first season.

It will be interesting to watch this series unfold.  Right now, using past Treks as a template, the cast is too big so I don’t think we can judge this series on anything that has gone before it.  Big casts can work.  Babylon 5 juggled an enormous cast, as did Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica, and each of those shows was excellent.

We can probably bet that this series will not be your run-of-the-mill Star Trek with an A-Plot and B-Plot story and a ship encountering a new “challenge of the week” every time the show airs.

That’s exciting, but the excitement is starting to dampen a little for me with the lack of information around a release date.

I read a tongue-in-cheek article on io9 recently where one of my favourite writers from that site, Katharine Trendacosta, was saying that she and many of her colleagues were starting to think the series was never going to happen.

I read the article and chuckled, not yet at that point.  I was patiently waiting and believing they’d nail down a date soon but they haven’t.  It’s taken me a long time, but I am now officially concerned.

Seriously.  WTF, CBS?

I get that they want to make this the best Star Trek it can be, but there’s one element to this Trek that has never existed before: they’re asking people to pay to see it, rather than view it via more traditional media.  I was fine with that, as an Australian I’ve been paying to see Star Trek most of my life because it would take forever to reach our screens, and then would often disappear.  Those Trekkers who aren’t used to paying and weren’t keen on the idea, were slowly coming around, but the date changes or refusal to set a date is starting to get us all worried.

It’s been suggested that CBS suspected the possible upcoming Writers Strike, and that that is why they’re being so coy.  They’re safeguarding the series.  If that is so, then tell us.

CBS, PLEASE.  Get it together.  Either explain why all of these delays are happening, and be open and honest with the people you’re asking to pay for this, or just set a date and stick to it.

A new rumour that has sprung up in recent days suggests that CBS All Access has bitten off more than it can chew.  Star Trek is nothing like regular television, and it’s only vaguely similar to most other science fiction television.  Maybe the new rumour has substance to it, and CBS are being forced to go slow because of how complicated the series is.

Let’s hope that the next media release from CBS includes a firm release date or at the very least an explanation as to why the goal posts have shifted so often.

Star Trek: Discovery is being produced by CBS All Access and stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Michelle Yeoh, Jason Isaacs, Chris Obi, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Doug Jones, Mary Chieffo, Mary Wiseman, Rekha Sharma, Damon Runyan, Kenneth Mitchell, Clare McConnell, Maulik Pancholy, Sam Vartholomeos, Terry Serpico, James Frain and Rainn Wilson.

It’s due to be released some time this year.

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