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

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


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.

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


What a roller coaster of a season.  I’ve loved more of the episodes than I’ve disliked, and as I said above there are only two episodes I’m not thoroughly happy with – and one of them I actually enjoyed, except for the unintended (I believe) sexist undertone (“Magic to Make The Sanest Man Go Mad”).

I’ve fallen in love with this crew and can’t wait for season two, but I hope it’s a little tighter and does what it tells us it will do.

I admit feel a little cheated over the Klingon war, and a little disappointed over the rushed ended.  The Klingons are not my favourite Star Trek species, but I was looking forward to an in-depth look at them, juxtaposed with a nascent and growing UFP.

I really enjoyed most of the Mirror Universe arc, but I would have preferred it not happen at all if it had meant seeing a moving story about the horrors of war.  I don’t enjoy war movies, but I am a fan of commentaries on war and with us facing an uncertain future thanks to tensions between the USA, China, Russia and North Korea, now is the right time for those types of stories.

Maybe next year.

As we hear news on Star Trek: Discovery, we’ll update you here.

Until then, and always, Live Long and Prosper.

LCARS Interface

Episode 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

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.

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

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.

LCARS Interface

Episode 11 Recap and Review

Star Trek Discovery Recap and Review Banner 27102017

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

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.
: “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.

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.

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