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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A Star Trek Update

Star Trek Update April 2018

A lot has been happening in the Star Trek universe of late – including the start of production on Star Trek: Discovery season two, and news on not one but two Kelvin-universe films in development.

Let’s start with Star Trek: Discovery!

In episode three of the first season, when the first half aired last year, we were all suddenly captivated by one tiny, fleeting little moment on screen – a moment that inspired a passionate and excited debate online.

The appearance of the mysterious “black delta.”

Section 31 Black Badge

For a long time, the leading theory was that it and the USS Discovery itself were somehow connected to the enigmatic and paranoid Section 31.

Finally, after months of speculation, one half of that leading fan theory was confirmed by actor Alan Van Sprang.

Alan appeared in the last episode of season one of Star Trek: Discovery, in a scene that was ultimately cut.  That scene appeared online as both a “bonus scene” and a teaser for season two.  The video has disappeared from a few places, but is still available on YouTube.  You can find it here.  Check it out, it is well worth a look.

The scene in question had Alan appearing as a “fake” Trill.  His character, Leland, recruits Mirror Universe Georgiou at a Klingon bar she now seems to be running, and hands her the black badge.  He tells her he is from Section 31 and that they could use someone like her.  So… someone megalomaniacal, devoid of compassion, morally bankrupt and vicious to the core?  Gotta love Section 31!

According to Van Sprang at an appearance he made at WonderCon earlier this year, his character will be featuring prominently in season two, alongside Section 31 and, we can only presume, former Emperor Philippa Georgiou.

So excited by that.  Any opportunity to get Michelle Yeoh back makes me very happy.

The only other piece of information Alan offered was via a later Instagram post where he stated that Leland “heads up” Section 31.

Alan Van Sprang Instagram Post

That’s not all.

With Star Trek: Discovery now about a month into production on season two, more news has come out and it is exciting.

Not one but two casting announcements have been made.

The first, and the one I’ve been waiting for, is that Anson Mount has been cast as Captain Christopher Pike, commanding officer of the original USS Enterprise.

To the joy of many a fan (myself included), Anson took to social media to share his feelings.  Using clips from “The Cage” and even an image of a Pike action figure, Anson showed the world that he is a fan of Trek and super excited to be a part of the family.

You may know Anson from Marvel’s Inhumans and the AMC series Hell on Wheels.

And yes, that is a version of the original series uniform that Anson is wearing in a shot I’ve screen capped from a “production has started” video that CBS released.  Is that Spock in blue off to the side?  Not a clue, we don’t get a good enough look at that character.

Before we get to that video though, click here to visit TrekMovie for more information on Anson’s casting.

The second casting announcement was that Tig Notaro, primarily known for her comedy work, has been cast as Chief Engineer Denise Reno of the USS Hiawatha.

Tig Notaro

Chief Engineer?  Does that mean Discovery gets an engineer?

We don’t know – we still don’t know who her captain will be!  I suspect, however, that something will happen to make Denise Reno board the Discovery and stay there.

In other news, Jonathan Frakes, our very own Commander William T. Riker, will return to direct two episodes this season, and he has let slip on social media that the scripts he has read so far are AMAZING!

Jonathan also had a visit from his former onscreen wife, Marina Sirtis, while on the set of Star Trek: Discovery where he was directing episode two of the second season.

Jonathan and Marina

As you would expect, this set the internet on fire.

Is Marina appearing in Star Trek: Discovery?  Is it just a coincidence?  No one knows, and that’s casting information the production team behind the show would keep close to their chests.

In some of Marina’s social media she called out to Mary Wiseman, which made some fans wonder if she might be following in Majel Barrett-Roddenberry’s footsteps and playing the mother of a major character (Tilly).  Tilly has mentioned her curly-hair-hating mother on more than one occasion, and both Mary and Marina’s comedy-chops are pretty damn good (watch Star Trek: First Contact to see just how hilarious Marina is).  Star Trek: Discovery could get a lot of play out of Mary and Marina on screen together.

My take?  We have a new ship popping up – the USS Hiawatha.  I would love for Marina to be playing that ship’s captain, and for that captain to be Tilly’s mum.  Alternatively, she could be a prominent member of the Enterprise crew who is Tilly’s mum. She could beam over for some quality time with her daughter while the Discovery and Enterprise are hanging around together.

Staying with Star Trek Discovery for the moment, the last thing I want to mention is a recent video treat courtesy of CBS All Access showing us some of what’s going on with the production.

Season 2 First Look 1

One thing, in particular, that was in that video should thrill every fan.  The appearance of the traditional gold, red and blue uniforms.

They have been modernised, but to me they appear to be quite faithful.  Still with a Star Trek: Discovery flair, but familiar and pleasantly so.

You’ll also notice that the rank braids are back, as is the solid badge.

The video also adds in to what Alan Van Sprang has said about Section 31 playing a prominent role in the second season.

The video briefly shows a shot of a sheaf of production drawings labelled “Section 31.”

Section 31 bridge, lab.  At least two designs for that.  An upper floor plan for something that may or may not be Section 31 related.

Season 2 First Look 3

Interesting.

Will we see a Section 31 starship?

The final takeaway from that video is what appears to be a computer interface from the much loved, fan favourite vessel the USS Enterprise.

It’s a graphic, and the style seems to draw a lot from the movie period of Star Trek V, Star Trek VI and Star Trek: Generations (the Kirk, Chekov and Scotty part of that film).

Season 2 First Look 4

There is a very gentle colour nod (one orange and one red touch button) to the original series in the display, but otherwise it is very Star Trek: Discovery with a hint of earlier films.

Last but not least, for some time now Quentin Tarantino’s name has been attached to the fourth Kelvin-verse film.

Quentin Tarantino, you say?  Yes.  He is a big Trek fan and would love a shot at directing one of the films.

Quentin Tarantino

As this story has played out, it appears more likely he wouldn’t be able to do the fourth Kelvin-verse film, but would instead be ready for a fifth were it to be green-lit.

No matter when, I am really excited to see what Tarantino would do with a Trek movie.  Hopefully nothing too bat-shit crazy, but he is a creative and visionary director with a gritty and stylistic approach that is engaging. And sometimes polarising.

The CEO of Paramount Pictures, Jim Gianopulos, has confirmed that not one but TWO Star Trek films are currently in development.

We have absolutely no information on what those two films are about, and to the best of our knowledge neither does anyone else – except for those people actually developing the two ideas.

What we do know is that the Tarantino idea is being written by Mark L. Smith, and the other is being written by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay and is most likely the much-rumoured return of George Kirk movie.

Mark L. Smith wrote The Revenant, and J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay were apparently uncredited writers on Star Trek: Beyond and did some work on the original Roberto Orci idea that was eventually scrapped in favour of Doug Jung and Simon Pegg’s script.

If you want more information on any of these stories, you can track down a variety of articles through Variety and Deadline, or head on over to TrekMovie or TrekCore – both fan sites have had some excellent coverage on all of the exciting events happening in Star Trek news!

We’ve got some amazing things to look forward to as fans.  Still no news on when season two of Star Trek: Discovery will air, but it looks like it could be later this year.

No news on the release date for the next movies either.

As news unfolds, we’ll chat about it right here.

Live long, and prosper.

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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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Episode 13 Review

Star Trek Discovery Episode 13 Banner

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Soars Through Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca Usurping The Throne

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Stamets and Landry

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou Gets Ready To Kick Ass

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Old Friends Reunite

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca and Burnham

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Attacks

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

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

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

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

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

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

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

It all works.

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou and Burnham

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

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

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

Live long and prosper.

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Episode 12 Recap and Review

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A good episode with some outstanding moments, some unnecessary ones, and far too short a runtime.

If I was allowed to write only one sentence to describe this Star Trek: Discovery episode, that would be it.

Of those three comments, the one that irks me the most is the “too short” one.  There was a single exceptionally weak scene in this episode that could have been fixed by another two or three minutes of dialogue and action, and I don’t know why they didn’t give us more?  They certainly had time to because “Vaulting Ambition” is the shortest episode yet in live Trek history, coming in at only 37 minutes.  Prior to that, the shortest live Trek episode had been “Battle at the Binary Stars” which was 39 minutes long.

What’s going on guys? Did the editor get slash happy?

But, as per usual, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

The Facts
Episode Number: 112
Episode Title: “Vaulting Ambition” or “They Eat Kelpiens Here”
Written By: Jordan Nardino
Directed By: Hanelle Culpepper

Vaulting Ambition - The Empresses Court

Quotable
Lorca to Burnham
: “What are you afraid of?
Burnham: “Georgiou.
Lorca: “You mean Emperor Georgiou.
Burnham: “Logic tells me she’s not the woman that I betrayed.  But this feels like a reckoning.
Lorca: “Your Georgiou is dead.  She’s a ghost.
Burnham: “Haven’t you ever been afraid of a ghost?

Tilly to Saru, about Stamets: “I know it’s subjective, but he really does look better.  I mean, just look at his skin, it’s so dewy.

Stamets to Mirror Stamets: “Is this the afterlife?  Are you some sort of narcissistic Virgil leading me to judgement?
Mirror Stamets: “Yes, Paul.  You’ve been wrong about everything.  There is a God, and She’s very very mad at you right now.”  Beat.  Scoffs.  “I totally had you for a second there, you can’t deny it.  You should have seen your face!  I mean, our face.

Saru to the Doctor treating Toq (Tyler/Voq): “Burnham said he claimed to be a Klingon, but… how could that be possible?
Doctor: “His genome matches the one we have for Lieutenant Ash Tyler in our Starfleet database.  His brainwave patterns, however, are highly irregular.  Unless someone can tell me how they put a Klingon inside a Starfleet officers body, I don’t know how we can treat him?

Burnham to Georgiou: “I earned my command on the Shenzhou.
Georgiou: “You were hesitant to use it back at Harlak.  Those rebels could have escaped, I had to dispatch them myself.
Burnham: “I had it under control.
Georgiou: “You’ve grown soft.
Burnham: “And you’ve grown cruel.  If you missed me, then say it.  Otherwise let me be.

Georgiou to Burnham: “I do love you, Michael.  I would never grant anyone else in the Empire the mercy of a quick death.
Burnham: “You don’t love me.  You don’t love me because you don’t know me.  Before today, you and I have never met.  I am Michael Burnham, but I am not your Michael Burnham.  I’m from another universe…

Burnham to Georgiou: “Our bond, it seems, is strong enough to cross universes.

Saru to L’Rell:I do not know where your Voq ends and our Tyler begins, but they are both in jeopardy.

Stamets to Hugh: “Are you caught in the network too?
Hugh: “No.  I’m gone.
Stamets: “Gone?
Hugh: “You don’t know, do you?  Paul, I’m so sorry… but I died.

Georgiou to Burnham: “Your people are dangerous.”  Scoffs.  “The Federation.  I know it well from the Defiant‘s files.  There is a reason why they’re classified.  Equality.”  Scoffs.  “Freedom.  Cooperation.
Burnham: “Cornerstones for successful cultures.
Georgiou: “Delusions that Terrans shed millennium ago.  Destructive ideals that fuel rebellions, and I will not let you infect us again.

Vaulting Ambition

Moments of Interest
The guys added to canon in the subtlest, most appropriate way yet.  It was a nice moment and added a little something new to the now 50 year history (almost 51 year history) of the Mirror Universe (“Mirror, Mirror” aired in 1967, in the second season and will turn 51 in October of this year).

What did they do?  If you remember back an episode or two, Michael was narrating her personal log and commented on how different the light was in the Mirror Universe.  Light has played a big part in this series so far, with Lorca constantly reacting to bright light, and with the Discovery’s corridors and work spaces almost always shrouded in shadow.  In this episode, Georgiou reacts to an unexpected bright light and tells Michael that its one of the only real differences between her people and the people of our universe.

This addition to canon does not detract from or contradict anything that has gone before it, and gives more substance to this ‘reality.’

If you look back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise Mirror Universe episodes, all of them were visually darker in both tone and lighting when compared with normal episodes.  It makes sense, and it makes you smile.  It’s just a real nice touch.

The Recap and Review
“Vaulting Ambition” is, in many ways, the calm before the storm.  Despite the short length of the episode, a lot happened in it.  Possibly too much.  Let’s take a quick look at everything our favourite heroes and villains were subjected to:

  • Michael and Lorca head off to the ISS Charon on a shuttle.  She’s going to present him to the Emperor.  On the trip, they learn that the USS Defiant information they thought would save them, won’t.  Heaps of it has been redacted.  They hope they can find the unedited version on the Emperors big palace-ship.  As they get closer, Michael zaps Lorca with a pain inhibitor so he can better withstand the Agony Booth.

Vaulting Ambition - Off to See the Empress

  • Tilly and Saru are monitoring Stamets, and Tilly believes he’s getting better.  He’s still in a coma, but instruments show a lot is going on inside his mind.
  • Is it his mind?  We cut to Paul and Mirror Stamets somewhere in the glowy mycelial network.  That quickly changes to the shadowy corridors of the Discovery.  In this scene, we learn that something is wrong with the network.

Vaulting Ambition - The Mycelial Forest

  • We skip over to the Emperors unnecessarily huge, small-star-powered palace-ship.  Michael presents Lorca to the Emporer, who promises him a lifetime of pain.  While there, Georgiou asks Michael to choose a Kelpien from three who are standing off to the side.  Unsure of what’s going on, she picks one who looks like Saru, but isn’t Mirror Saru.  Mirror Saru is still on the Shenzhou, waiting to scrub Michael’s finger nails.  As Lorca is dragged away after a beat down by Georgiou, Burnham is invited to dinner and called “daughter” by the Emperor.

Vaulting Ambition - Georgiou and Burnham

  • We visit with Saru and Toq (Tyler/Voq) in Sickbay, where Toq is loosing his proverbial shit.  For one brief moment, Ash comes through, begging for help.
  • Over on the palace-ship, Lorca is thrown into an Agony Booth.
  • We don’t spend too much time with Lorca and his screams, and instead pay a visit to Georgiou and Burnham at dinner.  We and Michael quickly realise that the Kelpien she chose back in the throne room wasn’t so a slave could be set free.  That Kelpien was dinner.  Because that’s how evil these guys are. This scene nicely echoes something Saru said many episodes ago, about his species being like cattle.  When Michael finds out what she’s eating, she struggles heroically to not vomit.
    Was it just me, or did anyone else think Georgiou was going to push the chopsticks through the back of Burnham’s throat when she fed Michael the threat ganglia?
    Apart from the unpleasantness of eating another sentient species, dinner takes an even worse turn when Georgiou accuses Burnham of trying to usurp her and sentences her to death.
  • Then we’re back with Stamets and Stamets.  We discover that the mycelial network is taking over Mirror Stamets because he’s been in there too long.  We also get a glimpse of a familiar person… Hugh is haunting the corridors of the mycelial created Discovery.
  • We jump to the throne room where Michael reveals she and Lorca are from another universe.  She hands over Captain Philippa Georgiou’s Starfleet badge and encourages the Emperor to scan it.  Emperor Georgiou quickly discovers that Michael is telling the truth, and to stop any information from leaking kills everyone in her Council, except for a guy called Lord Eling, with an evil flying fidget-spinner.  He is sworn to say nothing, and granted governorship of Andor for his troubles.
  •  Back on Discovery, Saru is visiting L’Rell.  He tells her what is happening with Voq and asks for her help.  L’Rell channels her Bond-villain self and tells Saru what they did to both Ash Tyler and Voq:
    • The real Lieutenant Ash Tyler was captured at the Battle of the Binary Stars.
    • The Klingons harvested his DNA.
    • They reconstructed his consciousness.
    • They rebuilt his memory.
    • They modified Voq to make him appear human, inside and out.
    • They grafted Voq’s psyche onto Tylers.
    • Voq gave his body and soul to Klingon ideology.

Vaulting Ambition - L'Rell

  • L’Rell refuses to help, telling Saru that this is war.
  • We go back into the mycelial network where Paul finds Hugh.  In a heartbreaking moment, Hugh tells his love that he’s dead.
  • After the loveliness of Hugh and Stamets, we return to the Emperor and Michael.  Burnham begs the Emperor to help them, but she’s not interested.  In a really unwise move, Michael discloses the existence of the DASH drive and Georgiou wants it.
  • Next we visit with Saru and L’Rell.  He shows her images of Toq trying to rip his heart out of his chest.  L’Rell appears unmoved, so Saru beams Toq into her cell.  As Saru leaves her craddling Toq, she screams out to him that she can undo what has happened to him.
  • We skip back to the Agony Booth and Lorca screaming.  He’s being tortured by the brother of a woman Lorca used to be with and discarded, and the brother ain’t happy.
  • We don’t spend much time there before we go to the worst scene, possibly, of the entire series: L’Rell removing the Voq personality from the Ash Tyler personality.  So, she kills Voq, even though it’s his body, and leaves Ash.  We think. The scene is too short, there is no explanation for the Klingon brain wipe device, and her actions make no sense.
  • Back in the mycelial network, we’re with Paul and Hugh again as Hugh tries to help Paul come to terms with his death.  These scenes are beautiful, and just make me miss Hugh even more.  And I was already missing him a lot.  The big thing to happen in this scene was that Hugh snapped Paul out of his coma.
  • The next scene confused me a bit, and that’s probably what the producers wanted.  I’m not sure which Stamets is where? It looks like our Paul woke up on the ISS Charon.  The Mirror Stamets, I believe, woke up on the USS Discovery.  That Paul rushes with Tilly to the cargo bay that holds the spores… to find they are dying.

Vaulting Ambition - Empresses Starship Palace

  • On the Charon, Georgiou insists Burnham bring the Discovery to her, and Burnham complies.  Saru is a little doubtful, but she convinces him it’s the only way.
  • We do a series of quick inter-cuts between Lorca and his torturer going at each other, and Georgiou and Burnham sort of facing off.
  • In one of these quick mini-scenes, Georgiou reacts to some bright light.  This shocks Michael as she realises Lorca has been lying all along.  He’s really from the Mirror Universe.  He was also Georgiou’s lover. To put the boot in, Georgiou pretty much says that Lorca groomed Burnham.  He feigned affection for her as a fatherly figure, then seduced her, turning her into his lover, all for the Terran throne.
  • We wrap everything up with Lorca over-coming his torturer and telling him that he liked the guys sister, but found someone better.  He then stomps the guy’s head in and we cut to black.

Vaulting Ambition - Lorca is Not a Nice Man

Like I said, a lot happened in this episode, and some of the plot points didn’t get the time they deserved and actually needed.

The big take aways: Paul is back, finally.  Lorca is from the Mirror Universe, which many of us had expected.  The Mirror Universe guys are so evil they eat Kelpiens.  Ash might be back, but he’s now Klingon body Ash.

Yes, I know that last one is a confusing sentence.

I enjoyed this episode, but one thing really annoyed me.  The scene where L’Rell removes the Voq consciousness.

First, where did she get the device that enabled her to do that?
Second, why would she essentially kill Voq?  And it appears that’s what she’s done.  She even gives the Klingon death roar to announce Voq’s arrival in Sto’Vo’Kor.  She loved him.  Why not erase Ash?

Those two issues above could have been resolved with a few simple words… “Voq would not want to live in this weak body…” or “The Tyler personality was too strong.  Voq was weakened by the surgery and now he has been usurped.”  Something like that.  It would have also made more sense if the device she had used to eradicate Voq’s consciousness looked like it had been jury-rigged out of Federation medical tools.  You wouldn’t have needed to explain that, because it would be obvious.  Now it just looks like she was carrying the personality-wiping device around in her space purse, and all Saru had to do was get someone to go fetch it from wherever they keep prisoners’ belongings.

With a 37 minute run time, they could have fixed that.

The brevity of the episode and these plot issues are why this episode doesn’t get a five.  The Mirror Universe episodes have been wonderful, but this one lets the season down by not using everything at its disposal to tell its part of the story.

The dialogue was great, the direction was great, everything worked – the episode just comes off as lazy and unnecessary in places because of the lack of explanation (shown, not told – not exposition) and time given to scenes that didn’t need to be there.  Speaking of which.  Eating Kelpiens.  Did we need to go there?

Burnham’s psyche is screwed up enough.  She lost her parents as a child.  She discovered her adoptive father lied to her, making her feel second class for no reason for at least seven years of her adult life.  She betrayed someone she loved in an attempt to stop a war from starting.  She lost an mother-figure because of her actions, and many other people she cared for.  She lost her rank and position in Starfleet, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.  She’s been isolated and hated ever since.  Now she’s eaten a sentient being, a sentient being that reminds her very much of someone she cares for and feels like she also betrayed.  How will she face Saru after this?

I don’t think that scene was necessary.  With the evil flying fidget spinners, Agony Booths and ruthless bombardment of planets, we already know the Terran Empire is ruthless and evil.  Eating a Kelpien added nothing to this but fucked-up-ness.

There is something some fans are taking exception to, though it doesn’t bother me too much.  It unsettles me, but I get.  It’s the “Lorca is a dirty old man” thing.

I think it’s in keeping with his character.  He will do anything to achieve his desired goals.  While it’s not insinuated he had an intimate relationship with Michael when she was young, it is distasteful that he even went there when she was older – especially after being a father figure.  Lorca has done heinous things throughout the run of the show, so this isn’t so shocking to me.  I’m better able to accept his manipulations than I am the magic brain wiping device, or feasting on Kelpien, because the groundwork has been laid for that reveal.

The one question that remains with Lorca is… does he love Michael?  We’ve seen his over protectiveness in almost every episode.  Was it because of love, or was it need?  Did he keep her safe because he knew that through her he could get the crown, and kill the Emperor, and was that the only reason he worried after her?

This episode raised one or two new questions for us, while revealing a twist or two and confirming at least one more fan theory, but it didn’t do much more.  It was good, but it could have been better.

Something the writers might want to remember as they prep Season Two: We the fans have been two steps ahead of you this entire time. We picked Lorca and Ash back in episodes three, four and five and have been patiently waiting. We love Star Trek. We don’t love Star Trek like a Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead fan loves their show. We love it like a football or baseball fan loves their sports. Like a sports fan knows the batting averages for a particular team back through the ages, we know Star Trek just as intimately. We’re intelligent. We’re educated. We’re passionate and we are devoted. As this series has shown you, we will get behind you if you treat us with respect, which you have. You do, however, have to work a little harder if you want to surprise us because we will dissect every frame and obsess over it if we need to. You guys have done an incredible job, but I think you’ve underestimated us a bit. This isn’t a challenge, twists for the sake of a twist are dull and disappointing so we don’t need them, but to your credit you did keep us guessing and wondering “are we right?” and we have loved it.

I really prefer this long story form version of Star Trek.

Thank you for what has been, so far, an exceptional first season of my favourite television series.

Predictions
At least one of my predictions was proven right with this episode, the Captain Lorca we know has been the Mirror Universe Lorca all along.  A few online reviewers have thought this for a long time, and with our suspicions now proven right what’s left to speculate on?  For me, it’s Lorca’s longevity.  As brilliant an actor as Jason Isaacs is, and as compelling and intriguing a character as Garbriel Lorca is, I still don’t think Lorca is making it out of Season One alive.  That’s prediction one.

Prediction 2?  Lorca and Burnham will have it out in a big fight next episode.

Prediction 3?  Lorca and Empress Georgiou will die at each others hands in an insane battle to the death.

Prediction 4?  I think Mirror Stamets is working with Lorca, and is part of the rebellion to unseat Emperor Georgiou.  I think he engineered Lorca’s escape to our universe.

Any more?  Yep.

Hugh has been “consumed” by the mycelial network and will only appear to Stamets when he’s hooked into it.  The supposed death of the mycelial network, as commented on by Mirror Stamets this episode, will impact significantly on Stamets’ loss because if the forest dies, he won’t get to see Hugh again.

They will leave the Mirror Universe at the end of Episode 13.

Episodes 14 and 15 will wrap up the Klingon war, and signal a few things for the coming season which I think will still be all about redemption, but also new beginnings.  New beginnings for the Federation post war.  New beginnings for Michael, who Starfleet has to think differently of now.  New beginnings for Ash.  New beginnings for L’Rell.  Perhaps even a new beginning for the Klingon Empire.  Most importantly, a new beginning and a new mission for the Discovery.

Scorecard
4 Deltas

Next week’s episode is called “What’s Past is Prologue.”

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes becoming available 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 UK and at 7pm in Australia.

See you next week for another review.

Live long, and prosper.

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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.

LCARS Interface

Episode 5 Recap and Review

Episode 5 Recap and Review

Episode 5 went by in a flash.

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

Every week this show gets better.

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

Quotable
Tilly to Michael
: “I love feeling feelings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lorca with the Admirals - Episode 5

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

Lorca is not happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then we jump to the main title sequence.

Admiral Cornwell - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mudd - Episode 5 Recap and Review

Harcourt Fenton Mudd, played by Rainn Wilson.

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

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

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

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

We quickly learn why this officer is so broken.

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

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

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

Lorca - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mudd and Tyler - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tilly - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saru and Burnham - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Culber refuses to participate.

Saru Culber and Barnham - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The USS Discovery

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

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

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

They jump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, now, their healing can begin.

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

Culber and Stamets - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

Stamets Reflection - Episode 5 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will we see Ripper again?

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

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

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

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

There is no question.  I LOVE THIS SERIES.

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

Overall, five Starfleet deltas out of five.

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

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

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

LCARS Interface

Episode 4 Recap and Review, and a Discovery Update

Ripper might be my new favourite character!

“Ripper?”  Yep.  That cute, kinda scary, humongous tardigrade.

A lot of Episode 4 focused on Ripper this week and I think I might have fallen in love with the poor guy (gal?).  Burnham does refer to the tardigrade as a “he” part way through the episode, so we’ll go with that.

Tardigrade in Reaction Chamber

Before we get to Ripper’s antics and the news items, here are some basics:

The Facts
Episode Number: 104 (Season 1, Episode 4)
Episode Title: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”
Writers: Jesse Alexander and Aron Eli Coleite
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Quotable
Saru to Burnham: “My threat ganglia remain unconvinced.”

Burnham to Stamets: “The phaser will only piss him off.
Stamets to Burnham: “Think of it as a… placebo for my skepticism.

Stamets to Lorca and Doctor Culber: “The frontal lobe is overrated.  It only contains memory and emotional expression.  It’s completely unnecessary.
Doctor Culber, in response to Stamets: “Well, I’ll save it, you know, just in case you want to have a feeling one day.

Burnham to Landry: “You judge the creature by its appearance and by one single incident from its past.  Nothing in its biology suggests it would attack except in self-defence.  Commander, this creature is an unknown alien.  It can only be what it is, not what you want it to be.
Landry, in response to Burnham: “It’s amazing how much I hate Vulcan proverbs.

Georgiou to Burnham: “Take good care, but, more importantly, take good care of those in your care.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
–  Corvan II was first mentioned in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the episode “New Ground” from the fifth season.
– The USS Discovery has both a Warp Drive and a DASH Drive.  Displacement-Activated Spore Hub drive.

The Recap and Review
This is my favourite episode to date.  It didn’t start out that way, but my opinion shifted faster than a ship powered by a “spore-drive” can pop to another part of the galaxy.

The episode began with what, we eventually learn, was the creation of a uniform for Michael.

I don’t know if I had streaming issues at the beginning of the episode or not, but the effect looked pretty average.  It’s shot in a way that initially makes you wonder if it’s a planetscape you’re seeing, before pulling back to reveal it’s a Discovery uniform under construction.

After my Spock-like eyebrow-raise at that scene, everything got a lot better and pretty much instantly so.

Tilly walks in on Michael trying on her new uniform and examining herself in a very cool holographic mirror.  She’s her adorable awkward self as she delivers a bag to Michael.  The satchel beeps (constantly) and as Michael touches it, it’s revealed to be the last will and testament of Captain Philippa Georgiou.

Michael can’t bring herself to open it and Tilly is momentarily horrified, explaining that she’d not known about the contents of the bag.

The effect on Michael is telling, as she stashes the bleeping satchel under her bed.

Michael leaves her and Tilly’s room and heads to the bridge.  In the turbolift she meets Saru whose threat ganglia are out.  Saru isn’t happy she’s on the ship, nor is he is happy about not having been consulted by the captain.  Michael tries to assure him she’s only there to help.

They walk out onto the bridge into the middle of a confrontation with the Klingons.

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Obviously, this review contains spoilers.

The Klingon attack is a simulation – that the crew fail at, terribly.

As Lorca instructs Saru to keep running the simulation, Lorca takes Michael into the bowels of the ship where we learn why Lorca wants her on the Discovery.

They arrive at Lorca’s private sanctuary, which, thankfully, isn’t accessed via a breath scan.

The sanctuary contains a lot of weapons – and Ripper.  Lorca tells Michael that he wants her to weaponise the tardigrade.

I had an issue with that, but as the episode progresses we get a little bit more insight into Lorca which may be the start of an explanation for his actions.

All of that happens in the opening teaser.

Opening Credit Sequence 5

From there, we jump to the Klingons.

Snore.

The only things I like about the Klingons are L’Rell and Kol.  If it weren’t for L’Rell and Kol I’d fast forward through the Klingon bits.  They are painful.

I don’t mind the new look, it’s not that.  It’s the pacing and it’s the subtitles.

I get the language thing and the use of subtitles, but they are annoying and unnecessary.  I can’t stare admiringly at the incredible sets, I can’t fully appreciate the actors’ performance, and I can’t appreciate the remarkable makeup.  Makeup that, unfortunately, most of the actors have to fight through in an attempt to articulate their dialogue.  I’m still shocked this wasn’t picked up by the producers.

The Klingon scenes drag and drag and drraaagggg.

The set design, costuming and makeup is a tour de force of design brilliance, but who can enjoy it unless they watch the Klingon scenes multiple times?

I do watch them multiple times, but I don’t want to, because I don’t care.  There is no “in” for me with this species.  I don’t give a crap if the Klingon Houses unite, Voq is not an interesting character to me, and they ate Captain Georgiou which really pissed me off.

Captain Philippa Georgiou

This is going to sound ridiculous to some of you, but she is now my favourite Star Trek captain.  There was something about Michelle Yeoh’s performance that spoke to me, and I’m annoyed she’s gone.  I get the drama of it all, but the same thing could have been achieved with Michael thinking she was dead and her disappearing until Season Two.  Then we’d have the additional drama of Michael picking up the pieces all over again, and being forced to analyse what she did in the aftermath of Georgiou’s perceived death.  We’d also have Georgiou’s recovery from her journey as a prisoner of war to reflect on, which would have been a nice mirror to Ash Tyler’s experience.

I thought that was where the creative’s were going, but I was wrong.

Anyway… if it weren’t for L’Rell and Kol, I would not pay any attention to the Klingon scenes.  I don’t know how Mary Chieffo does it, but she conveys such powerful emotion underneath all of that makeup.  The subtlety of her performance is astounding and she articulates the language effectively.

There’s a mystery set up in the episode between L’Rell and Voq and what looks like the start of a romance, but that’s not enough to make me want more Klingons on my screen.

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I’ll leave the Klingons there.  I just don’t care enough to return to their scenes – but for the sake of accuracy:
– No dilithium.
– Fight between Voq and L’Rell about the Shenzhou‘s dilithium.
– Kol pops in and wants the cloaking device.
– They take the dilithium from the “vermin’s” ship.
– Kol turns Voq’s people against him with food, because they’ve been stuck in the debris field of the battle (from episode 2) that whole time and were starving.
– L’Rell pulls a swifty.
– Voq gets dumped on the Shenzhou.
– L’Rell rescues him and convinces him to join House Mokai.

Sounds exciting, but no.  Just a lot of growling, subtitles, and poorly paced action intermixed with beautiful visuals you can’t notice because of the subtitles, and outstanding performances from Mary Chieffo and Kenneth Mitchell.

After the first Klingon scene, we return to Discovery.  Commander Ellen Landry walks in on Michael as she applies the scientific method to Ripper (this is the scene where Ripper gets his name).

Landry isn’t interested and takes a pot shot at Michael’s idealism, saying she was sent to keep Burnham on track.

Next we visit Lorca, eating at his standing desk.

His meal is interrupted by a Starfleet Admiral who isn’t an idiot and we learn about Corvan II and a Klingon attack.

In a tried and true (and annoying) Trek trope, the Discovery is the only ship that can get to Corvan II… despite the fact it’s one of Starfleets most valuable dilithium processing areas.  I mean, why protect something that supplies dilithium to 40% of your fleet?  That’d be silly.

Lorca assures the admiral they are ready, and Lorca wanders off to have a verbal joust with Stamets, as Saru looks on.

Lorca tells Stamets to make the DASH drive work because if he doesn’t, people will die.

They activate the DASH-drive, and Michael notices that the tardigrade responds to it.  As the ship does a weird spinny-thing, it pops out of existence and into the gravity well of a star.

Not awesome!  But looks beautiful and is a wonderfully tense scene.

For his troubles, poor old Stamets gets his nose broken and his brain almost punctured by one of the bones.

While Michael tells Landry what she observed, in another scene we get to finally meet Doctor Hugh Culber as he heals Stamets’ injury.

Doctor Hugh Culber

He’s going to be a character I will fall in love with, though we didn’t get to see too much of him.  Regardless of his brief screen time, he had presence and I felt a connection to the character.

It’s clear he loves Stamets, but not in an obvious way, and likewise you can see Stamets soften when he speaks with his partner.

Lorca is there, and just gives it to Stamets who gets a little prickly about his drive and his spores.

Lorca pretty much says get in line, or get off.

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Lorca is either a complete ass, or a man who has been broken and has come back from that, but as someone different.

I want to believe he cares, and cares deeply, but doesn’t know how to express it anymore.  As he asks the computer to play the audio from the attack on Corvan II you can see something haunted in his eyes.

Something horrible has happened to Lorca, and he’s trying to cope the only way he knows how.  By being a soldier and saving lives.

I’m not great at predictions, but I’m going to call it now – Lorca isn’t making it out of season one alive.

A quick observation.  The saucer section of Discovery spins – fast – in spore-drive, an effect I hated on my first watch of the episode.  Why?  Common sense.  Science.  Canon.  Stuff like that.  Something spinning that fast that had biological entities inside it, would cause those life forms to turn to soup.  There’s not an inertial damper strong enough in existence to stop that from happening.  If there were, no one would get jostled about when the ship hit or got hit by stuff.  On my second viewing, I’m now 99% certain it’s only the plating on the hull that spins – because the windows in the body of both rings stayed still.  That assuaged my frustrations a little, but I am not a fan of the spinning hull.  Why does it spin?  It casts off the heat generated by the spore/DASH drive.

Anyway… as the crew digests what they’ve heard from Corvan II, we visit with Landry, Burnham and Ripper.

Landry is pissed after hearing the recording and wants to do something.  So she pushes a button on the side of her head and ejects her brain (I’m joking, but she might as well have), picks up a phaser rifle she knows Ripper is immune to and a knife of some sort, and tries to cut off Rippers hand.

That goes down about as well as you would expect it to.

No security officer with Landry’s experience would do what she did.  Everything about that scene was silly.  It was filmed beautifully, the effects were awesome, Sonequa and Rekha acted the shit out of it, but it was poor story-telling.

It’s been obvious from the moment we met Landry that she was a dead security officer walking.  That’s lazy writing.  That’s an unforgivably bad use of an actor as good as Rekha Sharma.  Go check out Battlestar Galactica and you’ll see how amazing Rekha is.

If you’re going to kill off characters, don’t do it for the sake of a bit of gore and an MA rating.  Don’t make one-dimensional characters.  Landry’s death could have had so much more of an impact.  It was surprising, but I’m pretty sure no one in the audience cared.  I wanted to like Landry, but never got the chance and her character remained a flat stereotype for her all too short a stay on the Discovery.

So… scratch two red/bronze shirts (one died last episode on the Glenn).

The only good thing about that scene was that we got to see Hugh again.

Oh, and some nice TOS sound effects in sickbay.  That was a beautiful touch.

Not long afterwards, Saru and Burnham have a conversation in Lorca’s sanctuary of horrors.

It’s been said by some that Michael Burnham isn’t a sympathetic character.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Yes, some of the stuff she says and does is a little cold, but she’s a human being struggling to regain her humanity after a life raised as a Vulcan.  More than that, she’s a human being in pain, seeking redemption.

I’ve had moments in my life where decisions I’ve made have led to completely unexpected and sometimes awful outcomes.  Maybe because of that I relate to Michael.  I can see her struggle and appreciate what it’s like to lose everything and try to regain it.  She’s not a perfect human-being, and she’s not a “super” character.  She is very human, and all of her faults are shining out at us every week.  I like this imperfect human, and I’m loving being a part of her journey to “becoming.”

I wish people would give her more of a chance, and try to walk a kilometre (or mile) in her fancy silver-soled boots.  Sonequa Martin-Green’s performance alone should warrant that.  I am totally engaged every time she’s on screen.

Michael upsets Saru by trying to kill two birds with one stone – apologise to him, AND lull him into a contemplative state to see whether or not his threat ganglia react to Ripper.  She doesn’t handle this too well, but I don’t believe she set out to be cruel.

Saru takes it as if she is using him and gives no thought to her apology, but I feel he misjudged her.

In a quick scene cut, Tilly delivers some stolen spores to Michael so she can test an hypothesis.

Tilly gets to show us, once again, that she is bad-ass.  To test her hypothesis, Michael needs to open Rippers containment pen.  Tilly could have gotten out of there, but she stayed with Michael, wanting to help her, despite knowing what happened to Landry.

With Saru, Michael’s cold, Vulcanesque dismissal of his reaction showed us that she’s still struggling to get this whole human thing right – but the empathy she so obviously feels for the tardigrade shows that she is both emotional and capable of compassion.  Her and Saru’s interactions are interesting and, it would appear, full of misunderstanding and miscommunication.

In a very touching scene that had me hugging the crap out of my dog, Ripper kind of hugs Michael as a way of thanking her for feeding him.

Michael takes her findings to Stamets, and as it becomes clear how brilliant she is, we see Stamets’ attitude toward Burnham shift.

They take Ripper for a walk in Stamets’ field of mushrooms and Michael realises the tardigrade can communicate with the spores, possibly making Ripper the perfect navigator for Discovery.

They test their hypothesis and make a successful jump to Corvan II.

It seems to hurt Ripper, which surprises and upsets Michael.

I’m not a fan of the effect where Discovery spins like a coin as it jumps because, again, inertial dampers aren’t that good and everyone on board would have been turned to a splash of red.  It looks great, but is silly.  It’s just another thing where a writer thought “that will look cool”, like that bloody delta in the sand scene in the pilot.  And it doesn’t.  It looks pretty and that’s it.  It has me wondering… is there a teenage boy on the writing team?  It’s makes me think of the Transformers movies – all spectacle, no substance.

The spinning is unnecessary.  A special effect for special effects’ sake is a waste of money.

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The episode ends with Corvan II being saved in what is one of the best battle scenes I’ve ever seen in televised Star Trek, and Michael trying to let Ripper know that they never meant to harm him.  Ripper retreats from the overture, leaving Michael saddened.

The battle scenes are pretty awesome – fantastic camera work, brilliant effects, excellent performances, beautiful editing, great dialogue. The tension builds effectively and the interspersed cuts between the battle and Ripper in pain are poignant.

The last scenes feature Tilly, Michael and a holographic representation of my new favourite captain.

After telling Michael that she’s starting to develop a different kind of reputation, Tilly gently challenges Michael, telling her that she’s not afraid of anything and should open the package.

Tilly is, right now, the heart and soul of this show.

Tilly leaves, and we close on Michael opening up Captain Georgiou’s last will and testament in a very moving, beautiful scene that just makes me miss Michelle Yeoh even more.

Curiously, Georgiou gifts Michael with an ancient family heirloom, a telescope, telling her that she is like a daughter to her.  The last time we saw that telescope it was on the Shenzhou.  It would appear that after the battle, Starfleet went back to retrieve bodies and wills and, it would appear, that telescope.

I have no issue with that.  Voq’s ship was damaged so he and his crew would have stayed hidden, and it makes sense that Starfleet would treat it’s dead with such respect.  They would also want to see if there were any survivors they had missed.

“The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” is a very strong hour of Star Trek, and it’s the most Star Trek like episode yet.

Scorecard
Acting: 10/10
Direction: 10/10
Writing: 8/10
Editing: 10/10
Special Effects/VFX: 9/10
Story: 8/10.

Overall, four Starfleet deltas out of five.
4 Deltas

The News
– The names of all remaining episodes for this season have been released, for more information visit TrekMoviehere.
– Production on Star Trek: Discovery has just finished!  All that is left now is for the episodes to have their effects completed and the music scored.
– Photos from Episode 5 are online.  Harry Mudd makes his first appearance!  For more information and to see the photos visit TrekMovie again here.
– The first half of Season 1 will end with episode 9 now, instead of 8… and…
– According to Les Moonves, another season is “likely.”

The next episode is “Choose Your Pain.”  I get the feeling that may be a Klingon episode.  Great Bird of the Galaxy help me!

Until next week, Live Long and Prosper.

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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