Episode 9, Mid-Season Finale Recap and Review

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Holy crap.

What an episode!

Lorca is a… PIG.  A manipulative, sociopathic ass!  I had to stop myself from hurling my phone across the room toward the end of this episode because of his actions.

Last week’s “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was touted as the ’emotional’ episode for the first-half season, but for me it was this episode.  I shed tears three times, twice because of the tragedy of a particular situation, and once out of surprise and anger.

“Into the Forest I Go” was (for me at least) a roller coaster ride – and I loved it.  Eight out of nine of the episodes this season have been my favourite for at least a week, but now this and “Lethe” hold equal first place for this ‘chapter’ of the story.

Some reviewers have had issues with the episode, or have been unimpressed.  I was the exact opposite.

It was so so good.

Let’s get into it.

The Facts
Episode Number: 109
Episode Title: “Into the Forest I Go”
Written By: Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt
Directed By: Chris Byrne

Quotable
Culber to Lorca
: “Well I’m not ready to play roulette with his brain.

Stamets to Lorca: “You want me to make 133 jumps?!

Lorca to Stamets: “I know what drives you, lieutenant.  You’re not just a scientist, you’re an explorer.  You could’ve just stayed in a lab on Earth, but you chose to go where no one has gone before.” *squee!*

Stamets to Lorca: “You’ve been accumulating this data from my jumps the whole time?  And these scattered pockets of negative mass… it’s… they could indicate alternative parallel universes connected to the mycelial network… and with more jumps we could find a pattern – perhaps even the coordinates to reach them!
Lorca to Stamets: “You showed me this invention could take us to places that we never dreamed we could reach.  This is far beyond our preconceptions of time and space.
Stamets to Lorca: “Captain, I didn’t know you cared.
Lorca to Stamets: “We have to win this war.  But then…
Stamets to Lorca: “Then the journey continues.  (*squee* again)  If we can save Pahvo, defeat the Klingons and do all this… 133 jumps it is.

Lorca to his crew: “We are about to face the most difficult challenge we have ever attempted.  Today we stare down the bow of the Ship of the Dead.  The very same ship that took thousands of our own at the Battle of the Binary Stars.  When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists.  Now, I look at you, and you are fierce warriors all.  No other Federation vessel would have a chance of pulling this off.  Just us.  Because mark my words, you will look back proudly, and tell the world you were there the day the USS Discovery saved Pahvo and ended the Klingon War.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
– In this episode we get the first real indication of the existence of the Mirror Universe for this series.
– Starfleet has ‘pattern simulators’ that can mimic the life signs of other species’.  This is a great idea.  New tech for Trek, but tech that makes sense!
– The 133 jumps are an homage to the Battlestar Galactica Episode “33,” source: After Trek.”
– When the Discovery does it’s ‘last’ jump, for a moment, the ship is split in two, evoking a scene from the TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror.”

The Recap and Review
Before jumping into the episode I need to correct something, last week I wondered if “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was the shortest live-action Trek episode ever, coming in at only 41 minutes.  It wasn’t.  The shortest is actually “Battle at the Binary Stars,” which runs only 39 minutes.

Okay… after a brief orientation to what’s happened across the last few episodes, we go into a teaser!  No cold open this episode.

The Discovery is still at Pahvo, and Lorca is arguing with Vulcan Admiral Terral (via hologram) on the bridge.

Lorca and Admiral Terral

I don’t think that’s a great move.  If I were Terral I would have demanded privacy because he knows how insubordinate Lorca can be.  Discovery‘s bridge crew get to watch their captain argue with a senior officer which doesn’t seem wise to me.

Terral wants Discovery to leave Pahvo and return to Starbase 46.  Lorca wants to stay and protect the Pahvo.

Lorca, eventually, seemingly complies, to the surprise of his crew.  But, this is Gabriel Lorca, he does exactly what he wants to do – and is smart enough, in this circumstance, to at least give the appearance of obeying orders.

He has Discovery warp to Starbase 46, rather than jump using the DASH drive.  At warp, the Starbase is three hours away.  He wants to use those three hours to devise a plan to save the Pahvans.

Using the excuse that Stamets is having issues with his interface for the spore-drive (if only Lorca knew), he rationalises his choice to go to warp, delaying their return.

Lorca orders Stamets to Sickbay for a full examination, so that there is a data trail backing up the decision.

Stamets is not happy to comply, but he does, obviously concerned to discover what Hugh will find.

Doctor Culber Delivers Bad News to Stamets and Lorca

After the opening credits sequence, we return to the bridge where the crew, using some very Trekkian technobabble, find a way to crack the Klingon cloak.

The problem?  To get their attempt to work, they have to beam someone aboard to plant sensors.

Another problem?  It will take days to collect enough data to succeed.

Lorca decides the spore-drive is their best bet because, with enough jumps, they can gather the data at speed.

He leaves the bridge and goes to Sickbay where Culber tells him that Paul Stamets’ brain is being changed by his interaction with the spore-drive.  The scans show that the tracts within the white matter of Paul’s medial temporal lobe are being restructured.

Culber doesn’t want the captain to play games with Stamets’ brain, Lorca is less than concerned with what the doctor wants and orders a report. He’ll decide whether or not to risk Stamets then.

Prick.

Hugh Culber is not a happy doctor and Lorca’s all no nonsense and captainy.  He takes Stamets with him to implement stage one of his heinous efforts to use and manipulate this overly dedicated and naive scientific genius.

Lorca Tempts Stamets

In his private chamber, he shows Paul what they need to do, telling him he needs him to make 133 jumps so they can map the cloak, break it and save the Pahvans.

Stamets is a bit overwhelmed, so Lorca swoops in for the kill, showing Paul a map full of data from every jump made that shows scattered pockets of negative mass that could indicates alternative, parallel universes.

More jumps might let them access these universes.

Paul, like a junkie, is hooked.  Lorca has convinced him to put his life at risk.

Jason Isaacs is amazing in this scene.  So is Anthony Rapp.  Jason is so manipulative and uses his voice so well, you can hear him weaving a spell just for the lieutenant.  He’s both mesmerising and contemptible all in the same moment.

Anthony, for his turn, plays the wide-eyed naive explorer and self-sacrificing scientist to absolute perfection.

It’s a great scene.

Back on the bridge, Lorca orders a boarding party of two, there’s a little back and fourth around who should go, and it ends up being Michael and Ash.

Some fans have been annoyed by this scene, because Michael’s argument is that she is familiar with the vessel.  Of course, she only spent minutes on it in episode two – however, the Shenzhou was taking detailed scans when they first encountered the vessel, and she probably is pretty up on its specs and is able to use her personal memory of the bridge of the Klingon Ship of the Dead and those scans, and any Discovery has made since, to be an effective navigator.

Planning to Attach the Klingon Ship of the Dead

It’s a non-point, and people just need to let go a little and accept that she was trained on Vulcan to survive and thrive in a Vulcan educational institution, and she was accepted into the Expeditionary Group meaning she would have to have an incredible memory and capacity for reasoning.  She was also raised by a species who knows a lot about the Klingons, and has probably done her own research because they killed her parents.  Though she says she’s the right person for the job because of her time on the ship, that’s probably just a quick way for her to circumnavigate a lengthy argument with Lorca because he doesn’t actually know how long she and Georgiou were on the Sarcophagus ship.  This slight bending of the truth doesn’t derail the fact that she most definitely is the best person for the job.  Seriously people, deal with it.

Star Trek: Discovery has gone out of its way to focus on character, and everything we’ve learned about Michael says she is extraordinary in every way – except, of course, for all the emotional stuff.

Lorca’s expression, after giving Burnham permission to go, has me wondering (again) what does Michael mean to him?  It’s clear he doesn’t want to risk her, and despite denying that when she challenges him, it is obvious she is valuable or meaningful to him in some way.

Tilly is Concerned for Stamets

We leave the bridge and visit Engineering where Tilly accidentally lets the Stamets cat out of the spore-drive bag as Hugh hooks a medical-cuff to Paul to allow him to treat the lieutenant while he’s in the chamber.

Symptoms?  What symptoms?  Oh yeah… THOSE symptoms…

Hugh is going to stay and monitor the jumps.

Back on the bridge, Lorca gives a rousing speech which is beautifully inter cut with reaction shots from the crew, the process of readying the DASH drive, and Paul Stamets bravely facing what he knows is a series of jumps that could literally shred his brain.

Far out does Anthony Rapp sell those moments!

The Toll of Jumping Discovery Begins to Show on Stamets

They detect the signature of a cloaked Klingon vessel entering the Pahvo system, and jump back.

We switch to the Klingons.  They do their Klingon thing.  Growl a lot.  Act arrogantly.  Talk about destroying stuff, and decloak to face off against the Discovery.

Michael and Ash beam over, wearing pattern simulators that will mask their human life signs, and carrying the sensors needed to win this engagement and hopefully provide information that will help the war effort.

After placing the first unnecessarily large, bright and vocal sensor, Michael detects a human life sign!  Yay!!  Admiral Katrina Cornwell is alive.  Wasn’t just a fan boy wish after all.

They revive Katrina but she can’t feel her legs.  Not great.

Unfortunately, for Ash, L’Rell is there too and this triggers a pretty devastating Post Traumatic Stress episode for our favourite head of security, and we get the first of some very disturbing flashbacks to his torture (?) at L’Rell’s hands.

Ash See's L'Rell

Burnham shoots L’Rell as she slowly approaches Ash, who is frozen in place, unable to act.

Poor Ash has a total meltdown and collapses, and Michael is forced to leave him in the care of the Admiral, who, thankfully, is a psychiatrist.

Shazad Latif is incredible in this scene.  He so sincerely and so effectively shows Ash’s distress.  The scene affected me with its intensity.

In the real world, I work two jobs, one is as an actor, the main one is as an allied health professional working with people who have mental health issues.  I do a lot of work with people facing trauma, and who are having psychotic breaks right there in front of you.  It’s tough for them, it’s rough for you as their support person, and it’s just not pretty or sane or easy in any way.

I was so impressed by Shazad (and, later, Cornwell) and was happy with Star Trek and how they were handling this issue.  A lot of people experience PTSD in the real world, police officers, soldiers, emergency services personnel, doctors, nurses, teachers, youth workers, social workers, psychologists, and more.  The very fact the writers were finally focusing on Tyler’s PTSD at all impressed me.  We’ve gone here before in the history of Trek (most memorably with Picard), and it’s right we visit this issue again.

Another interesting part of this scene was Cornwell’s reaction to Burnham.  She seemed both surprised to see Michael there, pissed Michael was there, and then impressed with the new science specialist.  You were left with the distinct feeling Michael was not what Cornwell was expecting.

While this is happening, the Discovery is trying to keep the Klingons occupied by engaging them in battle.

Back on the Klingon Ship of the Dead, Burnham has activated the last unnecessarily large, bright and vocal sensor and is listening in to the Klingons.  To the writers’ credit, they have Burnham activate the Universal Translator which means we don’t have to listen to the Klingons growl, and the actors can focus on acting and not on getting their Klingon lines right.

All of these scenes build the tension perfectly.  They’re beautifully paced and as a result you’re on the edge of your seat.

We cut to Stamets at one point and he is not having a good time.  The toll is shown with some remarkable visuals and disturbing camera angles.

I did not think Paul would survive.

Back on the Klingon ship, Cornwell is trying to walk Ash through his episode as he suffers more terrifying flashbacks.  She uses the exact same techniques we use in real world de-escalations, which is great.  If only Deanna Troi had gotten this much meat in her role as a psychologist.

We visit with Culber, Tilly and Stamets as Culber tries to reason with Lorca, begging him to stop the jumps as he watches his partner writhe in the spore chamber.

It’s heart breaking, and one of the times I felt my cheeks get wet from the emotion of it all.

Michael Confronts Kol

We switch back to the Sarcophagus ship.  To buy the Discovery time to complete its 133 jumps, Burnham blows her cover and gets all wonderfully mouthy with Kol.

Kol is arrogant and over confident, Michael challenges his honour, he pretty much tells her human’s don’t understand honour, so Michael goes in for what she knows will be a powerful blow.  She tells Kol she is the human who killed T’Kuvma.

Back in the cell with Katrina and Ash, the Klingons discover them and Admiral Cornwell has to try to protect herself and Ash with a phaser Michael left behind, but unable to feel her legs she can’t move as much or as swiftly as she needs to, to take down both warriors.

Cornwell Defends an Almost Comatose Ash

She implores Ash to get up, and finally breaks through his PTSD episode.

He acts, and helps take out the last Klingon.

Back on the Klingon bridge, Kol thanks Burnham for killing T’Kuvma telling her that when he kills her it will seal his power.

She challenges him to a fight and he takes her up on it.

Throughout all of this, he taunts her with Georgiou’s Starfleet badge and it’s clear Michael wants that last artifact of her friend, captain and mother figure back.

The fight between Kol and Michael doesn’t go well for Michael, but she holds her own, proving that she paid attention while studying Vulcan martial arts.

Michael and Kol Go Head to Head

Kol grabs Michael and for a moment it looks like it’s all over for her.

He growls about becoming absolute ruler of the Klingon Empire, because killing Burnham will make everyone happy, but Michael isn’t too interested in Kols delusions of grandeur.

He pushes her back to cleave her in two, but she takes advantage of this and keeps her balance and fights back, stabbing him with a non-fatal blow, but a blow strong enough to make him stagger.

On Discovery, they locate their crew and start to beam them back.  L’Rell takes advantage of this and hitches a ride on Tyler’s back.

Burnham is Beamed to Safety

Back on the Klingon Ship of the Dead Kol gets over confident.  As he advances on her, Michael is contacted by Discovery and told to get ready to beam out.  In a daring move she lunges forward and grabs Georgiou’s Starfleet Delta badge from Kol, and throws herself over a railing and falls as Discovery‘s transporter beam takes hold and beams her to freedom.

With confirmation everyone is safe, and with the surprise that both Cornwell and L’Rell are on board his ship, Lorca orders a photon torpedo strike on the now cloaked Klingon vessel.

Lorca lets loose the dogs of war, and in a very surprising turn, Kol and the Sarcophagus ship explode.

The Klingon Ship of the Dead Explodes

I did not expect that, I didn’t think Kol would die so early and I didn’t think we’d lose the Klingon Ship of the Dead at the mid-point of the season.

That just leaves L’Rell as our main antagonist… but, what an antagonist she is!

This surprising turn of events gives us a beautiful moment between Saru and Michael.  I think this may have finally given the both of them the closure they needed.

As Michael watches the ship explode in a blinding flash of light, the look on her face is perfect.  Sonequa Martin-Green evokes so many emotions in this scene, relief, shock, satisfaction, regret, sorrow, confusion… it’s a big moment for her character.

Lorca’s reaction to her and Ash’s return is strange.  He doesn’t look happy.  He doesn’t look disappointed.  He looks angry.

I need to make a special mention of the music in this episode, but particularly this scene.  It is epic.  Evocative.  Moving.  Just beautiful.

As the Klingon ship gives it’s last dying shudder, Michael realises Ash isn’t behind her anymore.  She looks worried as we cut to a conversation between Lorca and Admiral Terral, who is telling Lorca that Cornwell’s emergency medical shuttle has arrived safely at Starbase 88.  She’s going to be fine!  Yay!!

Lorca tells Terral to send her his best (yeah, right), and then rattles off his successes, including the almost completed cloak-breaking algorithm to be sent fleet wide once it’s finished.

Terral tells Lorca to get back to the Federation where he’ll receive the Legion of Honour.

Lorca doesn’t look thrilled, even thought this probably means he’ll be able to keep his command, even with Cornwell arguing he needs time to heal.

Meanwhile, Michael has gone to find Ash.  She tracks him down to his cabin, and in a beautiful scene that is full of emotion gets him to talk about his experiences on board the Klingon prison ship.

The interaction between Michael and Ash is handled with such care by the director.  If anything, this first half of the season has been defined by that word.  Care.  Though a lot has changed from what we’re used to as Trek fans, we cannot deny how much care has gone into every aspect of this production.

Michael Comforts Ash as He Comes to Terms with His PTSD

As Ash and Michael sit together, Ash admits he cultivated a relationship with L’Rell to survive.  From the way he glances at Michael throughout the scene, it is clear he is unsure if she will understand what he did and why, or if she will condemn him.

For him, it’s laying everything to do with this new relationship on the line.

Shazad Latif and Sonequa Martin-Green play this perfectly.

Michael gives him the absolution he doesn’t seem to have been able to give himself, and we leave them, holding each other, to visit with Stamets and Lorca in the shuttle bay as the mycelial network traveling scientist stares into space in deep thought.

It’s this scene that made me loathe Lorca without reservation.

Up until now I’d been able to forgive or find a way to understand his machinations, not this time.  To so recklessly and possibly selfishly use another life, one already in pain and one that has already given so much, is reprehensible.

Lorca Manipulates Stamets

Lorca knows what the spore-drive is doing to Stamets, and after setting up the new dangers faced by an approaching Klingon fleet, paints a picture that has Stamets offering to facilitate one more jump to keep the crew safe.

Lorca thanks him, then starts to rabbit on about what they’ll be able to do with the spore-drive once the war is over.

Stamets stops him and tells Lorca that this jump will be it.  The last one.  Disappointment is etched in every line on Lorca’s face.  Eventually, he masks it, knowing it won’t be the last jump.

We cut to Ash, deep in a nightmare.  It’s a series of inter cut scenes that are quite confronting and appear to show Tyler being sexually assaulted by L’Rell.

Tyler wakes with a start.  He was asleep on a couch in his quarters, with Michael.  He leaves her and finds his way to the brig where he approaches L’Rell.

Another flashback causes him to collapse to his knees.

What did you do to me?”  He asks her.

L'Rell Has Something Over Ash

Do not worry, I will never let them hurt you.”  She responds seductively.

This is interrupted by the ships computer calling people to their command stations.

As Ash gets to his feet, L’Rell utters an ominous “Soon.

We cut to Stamets and Culber in Engineering where they are preparing for what both hope is the last jump the lieutenant will ever have to make.

Stamets walks up to Culber and clasps his partners face in both hands, giving Star Trek it’s first ever gay male kiss.  Can you believe that has taken 51 years?

The scene is handled perfectly.  There’s no fuss to it.  There’s no build, there’s no excessive use of emotion or reaction, it’s just there.  It’s just like two straight people kissing before the next part of a big adventure.

Though, for Trek, this is a history making moment, it was treated just right by everyone involved.

Finally, the First Gay Kiss on Star Trek

As Paul enters the spore chamber with Hugh watching on, we cut to Lorca over riding navigation and entering new coordinates into the DASH drive.  The image shows a list of spore-jumps, with the last three entries being:
SPORE-JUMP 132: 071-MARK-898
OVERRIDE-LORCA, G.
SPORE-JUMP 133–UNKNOWN

They jump, Stamets screams, something weird happens in the spore chamber as the walls appear to crystalise.

Tilly announces the computer is calling it an incomplete navigation sequence.

Paul opens the door to the spore chamber and collapses on the floor of engineering as Tilly and Culber rush to his side.

Hugh says Paul is starting to crash.  Paul opens his eyes and they’ve gone white with his pupil and iris barely showing through.  He’s rambling, making no sense, and we’re left wondering if he will survive.

On the bridge, they don’t know where they are.

The camera pulls back, through the bridge window, through a debris field of destroyed ships and fades to the closing credits.

Now that is a cliff-hanger.

Predictions
Weeks ago, Jonathan Frakes (yes, Commander William T. Riker himself) let slip that the Discovery goes to the Mirror Universe this season.  It would seem safe to assume that is where they are now.  I don’t think Lorca realises that, and it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

That’s not really a prediction, I know, but I only have one for this episode.

Up until I saw “Into The Forest I Go” I had become convinced Ash was Voq.  I don’t believe that anymore.  I think it’s still a possibility, but one that seems less likely.  When I think about it, was there enough time between L’Rell sending Voq away and Ash’s discovery by Lorca on the Klingon prison ship, for Voq to have been fully transformed?

Could he have been surgically altered and healed in that short a space of time and then indoctrinated into Federation culture and taught it’s language, flawlessly, so quickly?

I’m thinking two things now.  Either Voq is meant to replace the real Ash – who is currently on Discovery – at some point, or Ash is a sleeper agent who has been brainwashed to work for the Klingons, who will be triggered later in the war?

Last episode and this episode, L’Rell was keen to get on board the Discovery.  Was it to reunite with Voq, or was it to trigger her sleeper agent?

I think this storyline will play out this season, and I can’t wait to find out what the heck is going on.

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

This episode was excellent.  I really enjoyed it.  It had me in suspense, it had me in tears, it had me smiling, gasping and even looking away at points.

Excellent acting (as always), incredible music, outstanding directing, brilliant effects, and perfect editing and pacing.

I don’t know if people would have tuned back in with as much excitement as I’m hearing out there in the fan community, if the last episode for this half of the first season had been “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum.”

This episode was the right choice to wrap up what the producers are calling ‘chapter one.’  “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was a great episode, but it’s cliff-hanger ending wasn’t big enough.

One of the really pleasing things about this episode, is that we’ve discovered two new bright and shining lights in the writing world.  Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt.  What an outstanding story and beautifully crafted script.

Star Trek: Discovery returns to CBS All Access on the 7th of January, and returns to Netflix on the 8th of January.

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 Sundays.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday – 8:00am BST in the UK, and 6:00pm AEDT in Australia.

I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did!

Star Trek: Sentinel‘s recaps and reviews will return in early January.

I can’t wait for the next episode.

Until then, and always, live long, and prosper.

LCARS Interface

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Episode 7 Recap and Review

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Episode 7 is the first Star Trek: Discovery episode I’ve not loved.

It’s not bad… parts of it are even great, but it’s not excellent – and for me, the quality of everything to do with Star Trek: Discovery so far has been exceptional.

This episode was a step in the wrong direction.

“Magic to Make The Sanest Man Go Mad” was saved by it’s amazing director, a brilliant editor, an excellent cinematographer and some outstanding acting.  The writing was good, but the plot was… wanting, and it’s conclusion was banal and disappointing.

This episode’s ending is so full of cracks, if it were a glass it wouldn’t hold much water.

The Facts
Episode Number: 107
Episode Title: “Magic to Make The Sanest Man Go Mad”
Written By: Aron Eli Coleite and Jess Alexander
Directed By: David M. Barrett

Quotable
Tilly to Michael
: “Well, I used to exclusively go for soldiers, but I’m kind of going through a musician phase right now.

Doctor Culber to Ash and Michael: “I deeply apologise for my partner, lately he’s been um… different.

Harry Mudd to Lorca: “There really are so many ways to blow up this ship, it’s almost a design flaw.

Stamets to Michael: “Love isn’t logical.

Stamets to Michael: “Never hide who you are, that’s the only way relationships work.

Mudd to the ship’s computer: “Computer, reduce volume, so we can have a normal adult conversation.
Ship’s computer: “Yes, Captain Mudd.

Mudd to a communications officer, while threatening to kill random crew members: “…including you, random communications officer man.

Mudd to Michael: “I’m neither one for following orders nor giving them.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
– The helmet Mudd is wearing when he emerges from the Gormagander is Andorian (source: After Trek).
– There’s a little something called a Time Crystal in this episode, that enables someone to travel short ‘jumps’ back in time and stay there for limited periods.
– Stamets now exists outside of normal time, thanks to the Tardigrade DNA he injected into himself a few episodes ago.
– Harry Mudd robbed a Betazoid bank thanks to a ‘nonequilibrial matter state’ – a Time Crystal.
– You can weaponise dark matter, and it will rip the molecules of a victim apart at the subatomic level.  Charming!

The Recap and Review
The episode opens with “previously on Star Trek: Discovery” and then goes straight into the opening credits.  The last time that happened on Star Trek was back in the TNG days with that series’ pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint.”

The first scene is perfect.  It’s a slice of life look at an average day for Michael Burnham via a personal log as she reflects on her experiences and her colleagues.

It’s a brilliant opening that segues nicely into what Michael describes as “one of my greatest challenges so far…” a party.

The party makes sense.  Some fans have complained about it, thinking it’s not very Starfleet, but when you’re in the middle of a war there has to be a way for people to blow off steam in a safe and controlled environment.  Our current military does it.  Militaries throughout history have done it.  I don’t have an issue with them letting their hair down, and I think Lorca would be okay with his people celebrating their successes.  So long as he doesn’t have to participate.  In his mind, such a thing would refocus his crew on their mission.

My only complaint with the party is the music.  I get why current popular music is used in science fiction episodes, it grounds things for the audience, but it’s odd.  Something new and completely unfamiliar woven in with songs we (in the 21st Century) know would make more sense, but that doesn’t happen.  It would seem music doesn’t progress much beyond the early 21st Century and the same hits will be played ad nauseam into the future!

The party is also a nice device that gives Tilly, Michael and Ash time to bond.

Tilly was a bit different this episode.  Gone was the socially awkward girl, and in her place was a beer pong playing, slightly amorous woman doing everything in her power to set Michael and Ash up, but we all act a little differently when we’re drunk.

Unfortunately, we’re not given much time to enjoy all of this before Michael and Ash are called to the bridge.

On their way to answer the summons they (well, Michael) collide with Lieutenant Stamets and Doctor Culber, and Stamets gets all huggy with Michael – much to Michael and Hugh Culbers’ surprise.

There’s some nice banter here that very clearly shows Stamets is almost a completely different person now.  Then we cut to the bridge.

The Discovery has come across a Gormagander, an almost extinct space faring species.

According to Federation law, they have to beam it aboard and take it to a sanctuary.  Much to Lorca’s annoyance, they do.  The Gormagander is big, beautiful, and has a case of indigestion, thanks to a mouthful of Mudd.

Gormagander in the Shuttle Bay

After detecting some abnormal readings from inside the creature, the rabbit from Donny Darko exists and starts randomly killing people.  Michael calls the bridge, Lorca orders a lockdown, and the rabbit takes its helmet off to reveal Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

He’s there for revenge and he wants to punish Lorca.  He’s also there to make some money, by working out how the ship does what it does and then stealing it to sell to the Klingons.

In this scene, he drops a hint about them being in a time loop…

Lorca says to him, “I don’t see this ending with you taking my ship.

Mudd responds with… “Not this time, but I have all the data I need for the next, so… I will see you later, or, rather… earlier.

He activates a device and explosions start happening, followed by a hull breach, followed by the destruction of the Discovery – which shocked the crap out of me!

Then we’re back at the party, and it’s clear the Discovery is definitely in a time loop.  That’s not what spoiled the episode for me, in case you were wondering.  One of my favourite Star Trek episodes of all time is “Cause and Effect.”  As I mentioned earlier, it’s the ending that annoys and lets the whole series down.

Anyway…

We retread familiar ground up until the point Stamets calls out to Ash and Michael in the corridor (on their way to that bridge summons).  Stamets knows something is off, and he tries to get Ash and Michael to believe him but they think he’s lost it.  He tells them it all starts with a Gormagander.

When Ash and Michael make it to the bridge, there’s a Gormagander on the screen and they both do a double take.  Something is off.  They recommend caution and go down to the shuttlebay together.

Suddenly, the ship goes to black alert.

Back on the bridge, Lorca tries to find out what’s going on in Engineering but the computer won’t let him.

Michael and Ash enter Engineering to discover Mudd, who is trying to work out the spore-drive.  He’s erected a forcefield and they can’t get to him.

The computer issues a warning about the drive going critical… and Stamets pops up and shoots Mudd.  He was hiding in the area Mudd cordoned off.

Ash and Burnham Investigate

There’s nothing anyone can do, the engines hit critical and they all blow up… and we’re back at the party.

Then on the bridge with the Gormagander on screen.

Then, as Michael goes to beam the Gormagander aboard, this time without Ash, Stamets pops up, explains that the ship is in danger and in a time loop that resets every 30 minutes, which always ends with the ship exploding and everyone dying, which is okay… so long as the time loop resets.

Michael has the same reaction any of us would, and tries to convince Stamets to go to Sickbay.

Stamets responds by reciting everything she is saying at the same time, proving he’s heard it all before.

She seems to believe him, and they go to Engineering.

Meanwhile, Lorca is called to Sickbay but his turbolift is stopped by Mudd.  The message was false and sent out by Harry who now has control of the ships computer.  Our vengeful little sociopathic mercenary wants to get into Lorca’s secret room.

We jump back to Stamets and Michael, as Stamets explains more about what’s going on.  We learn that Ripper (and all of his species of Tardigrade) are multi-dimensional creatures and as a result of having Tardigrade DNA in him, Stamets is immune to the effects of the time loop.  So, Stamets remembers everything.

Stamets realises this loop is set to end soon and asks Michael to share a deep, personal secret with him so that he can convince her faster next jump – and do it with enough time to stop Mudd.

We change scenes again, and go back to Mudd and Lorca.  They’re in Lorca’s private sanctuary.

Harry Eats While Killing Lorca

Here, we get a fantastic scene that is beautifully crafted – it’s just Mudd killing Lorca over and over and over and over and over and over again.  We eventually learn Mudd’s killed the Captain 53 times already.

Then it becomes 54 as Lorca is vaporised by a very nasty little gun.

And time resets.

We’re back at the party, and Stamets approaches Michael there.  He convinces Michael, using her secret – which is she’s never been in love – and asks her to help him recruit the security chief to help them because in past loops Ash refuses to believe him.  Stamets hopes that Ash knows something about Mudd from his time sharing a cell with him on the Klingon prison ship.

She asks “… but what if he won’t talk to me either?”  Stamets replies with “oh, he will.  He likes you.

She tries, but blows her chance.

Stamets consoles her with a waltz in the corridors and a bit of friendly relationship advice.  He also shares how he and Hugh met.  It’s kinda beautiful and it’s played perfectly by Anthony Rapp.  Both men were in a cafe on Alpha Centuri when Stamets heard a “hideous huming.”  It was Hugh.  He told Hugh to “stiffle it or sit somewhere else,” and instead of going away Hugh sat with him and, as Stamets says, “…he’s been there ever since.

It’s a wonderful, character-driven scene that ends tragically, but also beautifully.  Stamets and Michael hold hands together and turn to face an oncoming explosion as time resets.  Again.

Party time!  Michael is getting up close and personal with Ash.

Feelings Bloom Between Ash and Burnham

Sonequa Martin-Green and Shazad Latif have great onscreen chemistry, by the way.

Michael cuts right to the point, and tells Ash Mudd is on Discovery.  She fills him in on Stamets and everything else she has learned, and he decides to believe her but asks why it’s not Stamets trying to convince him.

It goes a little something like this:

Wait, is this Vulcan humour?
I wish it were.
And why didn’t Stamets come to me himself?
He tried, in previous loops, but he felt like you’d have an easier time trusting me.
And why is that?
Because I like you.  And he thinks you like me too.
Tonight’s gotten weird… but also very interesting.

And they kiss.

We eventually learn that Mudd used a device that Michael recognises as a Time Crystal, which is something she learned about at the Vulcan Science Academy.

She tells Ash they’re unstable, and that a four-dimensional species must have succeeded in fixing that design flaw and Mudd stumbled across one of the altered ones.

This kind of makes sense.  Nature is amazing and mysterious.  Maybe something like that could evolve somewhere.  It’s better than the actors reciting paragraphs of technobabble about yet another anomaly!

From here, we reset time again after Lorca gets sent to the brig and Ash gets vaporised by weaponised dark matter.  To stop more people dying, because Stamets has had enough of all the death he’s witnessed, the spore-driven scientist confesses he’s the missing piece of the puzzle and that Mudd needs him to make it work, and then Michael kills herself to force Mudd to reset the time loop one more time so Ash can live.  Why would he reset the time loop?  Because Michael tells Mudd who she is, and Mudd realises how much the Klingons would give him for her.

We go through the paces again, with Ash, Michael and Stamets finally convincing the captain.  They rewire the captains chair and trap Mudd.

Killing Lorca... Again and Again and Again

Yay Starfleet!

Mudd ends up with Stella and her father, despite his crimes, and Michael and Ash end up… feeling a little awkward and feeling a little warm and fuzzy because Stamets told them what happened.

The end.

As I mention at the top of the article, this isn’t a terrible episode, but it’s an episode that ends poorly.

Let’s start with the subtle, probably unintended sexist subtext that it’s better to go to prison than spend time with your wife/fiancé.

Mudd kills people.  Lots of them.  Over and over.

Being stuck with his intended is worse than imprisonment?  WTF?!

That’s a really repugnant message.  One the writers should be embarrassed by.

Not only that, Mudd is in the clutches of an arms dealer and he knows the secrets of the Discovery.  Letting him go is STUPID.

This ending is absurd.

Where it does work is in the possible tragedy of Michael and Ash.  If he is Voq, Michael’s first love is going to end horribly.  That’s going to break my heart because I’ve really connected with Michael and I like Ash Tyler, but it’s going to be dramatic.

This episode is only worth watching for Rainn Wilson and our regular cast, who act the shit out of it.  Jason Isaacs is wonderful as cranky Lorca and Mudd’s straight man, and Sonequa Martin-Green and Shazad Latif really sell their scenes together, adding layers of meaning to each little advancement in their relationship.  Anthony Rapp finally gets something to do and brings real emotion and depth to every moment he has on screen – from his exhaustion and trauma at watching people die each time jump, to helping Michael understand love.  This crew is coming together, and I am so deeply invested in their relationships now.  THAT, for me, was what was great about this episode.

Hopefully next weeks’ episode will keep evolving these relationships, and hopefully it’s story will be more deserving of being called Star Trek.

Scorecard3-Deltas

The three Starfleet Deltas are more for the acting, directing and editing than the story.

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

There’s only two more episodes to go before the mid-season break.  Keep tuning in.

Next week’s episode looks a lot better, and is apparently (according to Anthony Rapp) a very moving and emotional outing for the crew.  It’s called “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”, and when translated from Latin to English, is “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Ominous.

Keep watching this incredible new show (that was bound to have at least one stumble – hopefully this is the only one), and we’ll see you in a few days time 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.