Season 2 Excitement Grows

Michael Enters Spock's Quarters

The much anticipated Star Trek: Short Treks has kicked off, with the first episode airing last week in the United States and Canada.

If you’re an international viewer about to reach for your Netflix account to go check it out, don’t bother.  We’re still waiting, and sadly, it looks like we’ll be waiting for a while.

Netflix, the international streaming rights holder for Star Trek: Discovery, have no plans to carry the between-seasons mini-episodes at this time.

If, like me, you’re not happy about that, I recommend you let Netflix know by visiting this link and requesting the show.

The first episode of Short Treks is a Tilly-centric adventure called “Runaway.” Reviews online have been a little mixed but mostly positive.  What I’ve read is enticing, and I really want to see one scene in particular where Tilly apparently explains away a ruined mess hall by blaming it all on an hyperactive and destructive hormonal space rabbit!

Tilly from the Episode Runaway - Star Trek Short Treks

If you don’t want to wait for Netflix to pull their finger out and stream Short Treks, and want more information on the episode, you can check out a spoiler free review here, by Anthony Pascale from the wonderful TrekMovie website.

In other news, there has been an avalanche of Star Trek: Discovery related reveals in recent days, with most of them coming hot on the heels of CBS releasing the Season Two promo poster and a new trailer for the show.  The poster features the mystical “red angel” that we learn more about in the new trailer, which appears to have a link to Spock – and, it would appear, Michael.

Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Logo

The poster is simple, and features the seven lights that Captain Pike mentions in the first trailer, with the Angel right in the very centre of the Starfleet Delta.  The poster is minimalist, beautiful, evocative and appropriately mysterious.

For those of you who don’t remember, this new season is meant to be an exploration of science and faith and the poster presents that effectively.

As mentioned, there is a new trailer out and it is awesome and packed full of excitement and surprises.  We get our first glimpses of Ethan Peck as Spock and Rebecca Romijn as Number One.

I really expected them to hold those two particular surprises over until just before the season launch.

I’m glad they didn’t!

We also get a lot more of Captain Christopher Pike.

Want a closer look at Spock, and another look at Number One?

We’re here to please.

Spock is sporting a more rugged look than usual, foreshadowing his future Star Trek: The Motion Picture Kolinahr look.

I haven’t heard any backlash from fans about Spock’s dishevelled appearance yet, which is good.

I like the foreshadowing and how it adds more depth to this iconic character, in a way that is consistent with things we will see Spock do in the future.  He’s always been a character adrift, seeking somewhere and some way to belong, and, despite his adherence to logic, has always been a deeply spiritual individual.  He left Starfleet to undertake the rigorous Kolinahr ritual, and didn’t continue his quest for pure logic when he failed, even though the Masters would have probably let him, because his soul/heart/intellect felt the pull of something “greater.”

At heart, Spock is a scientist with an insatiable curiosity, but he’s also a seeker, someone open to exploring space and the inner most depths of his own complicated psyche.

As stated above, alongside Spock we get to see the new Number One, and Rebecca Romijn looks perfect in the role.  There were times while watching the trailer that I thought Majel Barrett-Roddenberry had come back, magically 50 years younger.

Rebecca is channeling the essence of this fan-favourite character, building on the work of Gene and Majel superbly.

In the brief moments we get to see Number One, she is poised, exuding obvious intelligence while also expressing compassion and concern. There is a level of measured maturity present that was also there in Majel’s portrayal and all I can say is the producers chose well.

I know some fans are a little disappointed that the Enterprise crew play a role in this season, but I am incredibly happy they’re included. Star Trek is the original shared universe, made so famous in recent times by Marvel, and it doesn’t hurt to remind Geekdom that we did it first, and we still do it really well.

I maintain my original prediction that this entire season is a sort of backdoor pilot for a Pike Enterprise series, and I really hope I’m right.

I’d watch that show.

Apart from the Spock and Number One surprises, the trailer treads familiar ground while still managing to throw the odd curve ball.

The Klingons appear, as does former Empress Philippa Georgiou.

As hinted in recent months, the Klingons have had something of a redesign and now come with hair.  All of them.  The in-universe explanation for this is that, traditionally, Klingons shave their heads for war.  Obviously, come Picard’s era, that tradition has been done away with.

What I’m about to write is an incredibly unpopular view, but I never liked the soft rock/soft metal look of the movie and Star Trek: The Next Generation era Klingons.  Their flowing locks never made sense.  All that beautiful hair waving around on a battlefield, to me, was just asking for an intergalactic hair-pulling fight of titanic proportions.

The streamlined, more predatory Klingons of Star Trek: Discovery Season One look dangerous.  They don’t look like they’re about to launch into a Bon Jovi cover.  Yes, there were issues with the heavy makeup and prosthetics, but the bald look made sense for a warrior race.

Still, this in-universe logic they’ve created makes sense and I’m happy to buy it.

L'Rell With Hair

Georgious’s appearance was of course alluded to in the deleted scene that made the rounds at the conclusion of Season One.

As that scene suggested, she would return as a part of the covert Section 31.  Not everyone knows that, and only a select few know that this Georgiou is from another universe.

Captain Pike?  He is completely unaware.  So… that should be interesting!  Mirror-Georgiou is most definitely not the rationale, reasoned, compassionate Starfleet officer Captain Pike will remember and it remains to be seen what he will make of this different version.

Last season’s cover story is still being used.  Georgiou was rescued from a Klingon prison at the end of the war.

Maybe Starfleet is hoping her quirks can be explained away as trauma, and not the actions of a frustrated former Empress who is a sociopathic megalomaniac from another universe.

Georgiou Returns

The last bit of news is that the new season will premiere January 17th in the United States and Canada, which means it will come to Australia January 18th.

There’s more news on Season Two thanks to the New York Comic Con, but I won’t spoil it here.  If you want to learn more, visit TrekMovie and read this article.

If you haven’t seen the new Season Two preview yet, watch it here.  This is the international trailer available from Netflix.

We don’t have long to wait now.

Season Two looks like it’s going to be quite different, in a good way, from what was (in my opinion) an excellent first season.

Star Trek: Discovery is available in the United States on CBS All Access, and is available on Space and CraveTV in Canada.  For international viewers, the series is available exclusively on Netflix.

Remember, if you’re one of those international viewers, put a little pressure on Netflix so we can enjoy Short Treks too.

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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.

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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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