Episode 9, Mid-Season Finale Recap and Review

Episode 9 Recap and Review Banner

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 8 Recap and Review

Episode 8 Recap and Review

Episode 8 is a welcome return to form, and is the most Star Trek episode of Star Trek: Discovery to date in story and theme.

It feels nice saying that, because I’ve said it almost every review now, which means (to me, anyway) that the writers are on the right track and the show is growing stronger every week.

It needs to be said, Kirsten Beyer wrote the crap out of this episode.  Kirsten is a Star Trek novelist, and this is her first television writing credit.

You couldn’t tell.

If this episode has a flaw, it’s in its run time.  There was so much story and not enough time was given to some aspects of it, but, more on that later.

The Facts
Episode Number:
108
Episode Title: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”
Written By: Kirsten Beyer
Directed By: John S. Scott

Quotable
Lorca to Rhys
: “Mr Rhys, could I trouble you to fire at something?

Stamets to Tilly: “What are you doing down here, captain?

Michael to Ash and Saru: “We can’t touch that transmitter now.
Ash to Michael: “General Order One?
Michael, in response: “No, Order One restricts us from revealing ourselves to sentient beings that aren’t warp capable.  We’re well beyond that.  Now our duty is to follow First Contact Protocol, and we can’t borrow or alter their property without them understanding our objective, and agreeing to it.

Michael to Ash: “The needs of the many…
Ash to Michael: “Are worth fighting for… are worth dying for… but so are the needs of the few.
Michael, in response: “Or the one?

Tilly to Stamets: “Okay.  What is going on with you?
Stamets, in response: “Excuse me?
Tilly back to Stamets: “At first, the tardigrade DNA booster seemed like a good thing, but now you’re back to your old persnickety, grumpy self.  So what’s the deal?

L’Rell to Cornwell: “What happens to those who Starfleet captures?
Cornwell, in response: “In war?  They’re imprisoned.  Interrogated – humanely.  Eventually, they’re returned to their people as part of any final peace settlement.
L’Rell, in response: “So, you do not… execute them?
Cornwell: “The Federation has no death penalty.
L’Rell: “I wish to defect.

L’Rell: “First, I am ensuring the end of Kol’s days.  He neglected T’Kuvma’s message.  He desecrated this vessel with his fetid presence.  Before we depart, I will set the ship’s warp core to overload.
Cornwell: “He really disappointed you!
L’Rell: “He disgusts me.  My only regret is that I will not be able to see his pretty painted face as he takes his final breath.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
– “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was originally slated to be the last episode of the first half of the first season.  Episode 9 was made the last episode for the first half a few episodes into the current run.
– The USS Gagarin, we assume, is named for the Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.
– Kelpiens can run at up to 80 kilometres per hour!
– This was Kirsten Beyer’s first professional television or film credit, as mentioned above.  Prior to being recruited by Bryan Fuller to work on Star Trek: Discovery, she was (and still is) the author of 10 Star Trek novels, with two more on the way.  Eight of those novels are based on Star Trek: Voyager.  For information on Kirsten, see her Memory Alpha page here.
– We get some insight into what is happening to Lieutenant Paul Stamets via an exchange in the mess hall with Tilly:
Okay.  I’ll admit that something has been happening to me.  One minute I know where I am, who you are, what I’m doing, and then, all of a sudden, what I know… changes… it gets jumbled…

The Recap and Review
We kick off with a bang after another cold open (no teaser before the credits), with a brand new Starfleet vessel, the USS Gagarin, in a fierce battle with the Klingons.

Sadly, the Gagarin is getting its warp nacelles kicked.

The USS Gagarin

The Discovery drops in to save the day… but can’t, and the Gagarin is blown to pieces.

It’s a demoralising moment for the crew as they engage the spore drive and jump out of the battle to safety, with Lorca (almost showing a drop of compassion) telling them there will be a time to grieve, but later.

Star Trek: Discovery throws together a nice battle sequence.  The effects are always top notch, though at times there are some unusual direction choices that are made that don’t quite allow the scenes to ‘pop’ as much as they could.

I do miss the more traditional phaser fire of past series – sustained beams of light rather than the more Star Wars like bolts of energy, but that’s a small thing.

This entire opening shows Lorca in his element.  He’s a dynamic captain who looks like he wants to jump through the viewer into the midst of the battle, and physically beat the Klingon ships into oblivion.  This is no Kirk or Picard, calmly or with restrained intensity, commanding an engagement from the captain’s chair.  Lorca paces like a caged animal, unleashing the fury of his ship on the enemy.  Jason Isaacs makes you believe it’s personal and he is convincing as a man who has lost a lot to the Klingons and wants to deal them a decisive blow.  He is such an excellent choice for this new Starfleet captain.

Even though Lorca doesn’t get a lot to do in this episode, every shot he’s in adds to his character – and that’s all thanks to Jason’s acting ability.  Last episode he was the fall guy for Mudd’s craziness, but every line delivery imbued Lorca with personality.  I love watching this very talented man work.

If Ash is Voq, Lorca is going to lose it and watching Jason Isaacs chew the scenery over that one will be an Emmy-winning moment.

Stamets Connected to the Spore Drive

After the destruction of the Gargarin, we visit with Stamets and Tilly and quickly learn that the spore-drive has more of an effect on Stamets than we were initially led to believe.  He staggers out of the reaction chamber like a man waking from sleep.  He’s confused, disoriented and says to Tilly “what are you doing here, captain?

Is he jumping timelines?

Tilly has stated that she intends to be a captain.  Has becoming “unstuck” in time thanks to the tardigrade DNA allowed Stamets to see or even actually visit future or alternate timelines?  He’s in a chamber infused with spores… is he actually IN that chamber?  Is something else mysterious going on while he’s hooked up to the machine?  This brief scene was very nicely set up last episode, and you can bet this one is also planting a seed or two that will bear fruit in episodes to come.

As Paul pulls himself together, he goes from confused to snappy in a heart beat.  Shroom-happy, huggy Stamets is gone.  Not-so-happy and eternally grumpy Stamets is back.

We leave Tilly and Stamets to visit with Lorca and a Vulcan admiral, where Lorca once again shows his disdain for the chain of command, walking through the hologram image and speaking abruptly, even dismissively, to the Vulcan (sometimes he’s more respectful with his subordinates).

The Vulcan admiral tells Lorca that they need to find a way to defeat the Klingon cloaking technology, or all might be lost.

We quickly leave the ship and FINALLY visit a planet, Pahvo, where a Landing Party of Saru, Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham are trekking through a forest that gives a slight nod to the very first episode of Star Trek ever, “The Cage”, with blue tinted foliage and an eerie, ethereal, ever-present background musical noise that sounds like it incorporates old school Trek sound effects.

Ash, Michael and Saru on Pahvo

This is the first planet a Landing Party has visited since the Shenzhou Landing Party in the very first episode… and it is beautiful.  Everything about Pahvo is interesting and thought provoking.  I had a really visceral reaction, and was swept away and engaged on every level by the scenes on the mystical world.

The team are trekking through the wilderness in search of a giant crystal spire that ‘sings’ in the hope it can help them detect cloaked Klingon vessels.  Saru is a bit annoyed, because, compared to a Kelpien, human’s are physically quite slow – also, the constant hum and vibration of the planet is doing Saru’s head in.  His senses are more refined than a human’s and he’s struggling through the background ‘noise’ of Pahvo.

We eventually learn that the whole planet may be sentient, as that sentience manifests itself as a beautiful, slowly undulating and swirling cloud of blue/white energy.  The manifestations/emanations choose to communicate with Saru and end up having quite an effect on the Kelpien First Officer.

Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham on Pahvo

More on that later!

Alongside this main plot, we have a secondary plot that involves the Klingons (with the odd visit back to the Discovery).

Yes.  When I saw the Klingons I groaned and looked away, wondering if I should just hit pause and come back to the episode later or go grab a coffee while they growled and pontificated at each other, but thankfully the stilted dialogue and posturing ended quickly and we got to see Admiral Katrina Cornwell again, a character I’ve really come to enjoy.

The Klingon scenes start with L’Rell convincing Kol she can be of use to him as an interrogator, and he sets her the task of getting information out of the Admiral.  She pays a visit to Katrina with a collection of nasty looking weapons in tow, and after getting the Admiral to scream, quite quickly asks to defect.

L'Rell and Cornwell Face Off

L’Rell and Admiral Katrina Cornwell need their own spin-off.  Both Mary Chieffo and Jayne Brook are excellent together.  The scenes between both women sparkle.

In the first exchange between L’Rell and Cornwell, we learn L’Rell hates Kol.

I mean really HATES Kol.

I believe her.  I believe the character’s contempt is genuine.

Does she want to defect though?  That, I’m not so certain of.  I want her to.  I’d love to see more of her and I’d love her to hate Kol so much she works with the Federation to destroy him, then double-crosses our heroes in an attempt to rebuild the Empire.

L'Rell and Cornwell Bond

I don’t know if that could ever happen… but it’s a tiny little fanboy fantasy I have!

Sadly, the exchanges between these two powerful women are too brief, and eventually end with the apparent death of Admiral Cornwell.  In the last half of the episode, L’Rell is taking the Admiral to her ship when they’re discovered by Kol.  In that moment, there’s yet another nice exchange between both as they confirm neither is what the other expected, and then Katrina grabs a weapon from L’Rell’s belt, attacks her, and L’Rell pushes her into a power conduit after some nifty hand-to-hand combat.  Being held against the conduit as it sparks and flashes seems to kill the Admiral.

I’m hoping, desperately, that Cornwell isn’t dead, but I’m honestly not sure.  L’Rell’s statement to her when Kol sees them together in the corridor suggests otherwise – “At least you won’t die in a cage, Admiral.”  So either she killed her, or she’s alluding to their eventual escape that is yet to come.

It is telling that L’Rell offers to get rid of the body… so, who knows?

The scenes between L’Rell, Kol and Cornwell are the best scenes to feature Klingons to date.

Back on the planet Saru gets high on sparkly happy dust and, we eventually learn, loses all fear.  Sort of.  He seems to maintain the fear of losing his loss of fear – if that confusing sentence makes sense?

Saru is Given a Gift From the Pahvo

I don’t know if Saru goes native or not, but he definitely changes.  He crushes communicators, deceives his colleagues, and donkey-kicks Burnham in an attempt to stay on the planet.

Very un-Saru behaviour, and definitely not behaviour that is becoming of an officer.

Before that craziness though, we see Burnham and Tyler take a step closer in their relationship in what is ultimately an awkward scene.  This was a perfect example of how this episode needed more time.  A few scenes needed just one more minute each to make this entire episode something outstanding.

With Ash and Michael, one minute they’re talking about trout, the next Burnham is saying she’s probably going back to prison, and then there’s a touching exchange that evokes Suraks’ teachings (and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), that turns into a kiss.

The scene works, and our head-canon can say that stuff has been building off-screen, but it would have been so much better to see that build.  As it was presented, the scene seems wedged in because the writers thought we needed to have these characters kiss because their last kiss got wiped out of existence.

Thanks, Harry!

Ash and Michael Kiss

So, nice moment, then craziness.  It all ends in Saru once again expressing his frustration and anger at Burnham for, in his opinion, ruining his life.

It’s a powerful moment, but not as powerful as it could have been.

This episode was touted as an immensely emotional outing, and wasn’t.  While it was emotional it didn’t live up to the hype – which made me certain I’d shed a tear or two.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t quite rise to the occasion.

The episode starts to wrap up with a beautiful scene between Saru and Michael that continues the theme of healing that’s been subtle but present in most of their interactions since Burnham’s invitation to join Discovery.  It takes place in Sickbay and goes a little something like this:
Saru.  Please look at me.  Are you alright?
I lied to you… and Lieutenant Tyler.  I attacked you.  I could have killed you.”
“You weren’t yourself.
But I was.”  Beat.  “We are born afraid, we Kelpiens.  It’s how we survive.  As such, my whole life I have never known a moment without fear.  The freedom of it.  Not one moment… until Pahvo.

This is what I meant when I mentioned earlier that Saru found himself devoid of fear, but ultimately still acted out of fear.

This scene also makes me wonder about Saru’s suitability for command.

The last scene is an exchange on the bridge where they learn that the Pahvo have invited the Klingons to come chat… and they take up the invitation, warping in.  The Pahvo are dedicated to harmony, and want to make Starfleet and the Klingons play nice together.  I think we know that that isn’t going to end well!

Saru in Sickbay

So… all in all, a really satisfying episode.

Next week’s episode is “Into The Forest I Go.”

Predictions
I don’t think Lorca and Stamets are going to make it out of the series alive.  A few weeks ago I said I didn’t think Lorca would be alive by the end of the season, and now I’m no longer sure about Stamets.  He’s “unstuck” in time.  His story feels like it’s going to end in tragedy.  He might make it into the next season, and possibly others, but we know the spore-drive doesn’t work and no doubt Paul’s fate will be tied to it.

I am now almost completely convinced Ash is Voq.  Listening to Ash’s voice, listening to Voq’s.  The vague similarity in facial features.  The simple fact that this would really hurt Michael and writers like to torture their main characters!  There would be no more cruel or shocking way to torment Michael than to have her fall in love with a representative of the race that killed her parents – AND her surrogate mother (Georgiou).

Saru will step down as First Officer.  Ash will succeed him (because Lorca makes non-traditional choices, as we’ve seen).  Ash will be revealed as Voq, Burnham will receive a battlefield promotion and her sentence will be commuted, and she’ll become the new First Officer.

In the wishful fanboy category… Cornwell is alive.

Scorecard

4 Deltas

This was an exceptional episode, whose only weakness was in its length – it needed to be longer, and not just because I loved it.

It loses a delta for how “crammed” the story felt.  The story was excellent, and by and large the pacing was good – we just needed more in some scenes because really big things happened in this episode… the possible death of Admiral Cornwell, the kiss between Michael and Ash, L’Rell wanting to defect, the exploration of Saru and the healing journey he and Burnham are on… these are all huge, and just as important, the dynamic between all of these characters, like Michael and Ash, Cornwell and L’Rell and Michael and Saru, deserved more time.

The episode was only 41 minutes long.  That might be the shortest live-action Star Trek episode in history?  They could have included more.  I don’t know if they thought they’d bore us if they extended those scenes, but if so – hear us, oh writers room, you wouldn’t have!  Trek fans love that stuff.  We’re not paying to see this show to watch special effects, we’re paying to be a part of these characters’ journeys.  What’s more, modern viewing audiences love character and story too.  Excellent production values are important, but we want to know and walk side by side with these characters.  Don’t rob us of the opportunity.

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 of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix with new episodes dropping in the UK at 8:00am BST Monday mornings, and in Australia at 6:00pm AEDT, Monday evenings.

One more episode left before the mid-season break.

By the way, what torturous, horrible person thought up mid-season breaks?  Not a fan.

Join us in a few days time for another review, the last one for a few months.  Until then (and always), Live Long, and Prosper.

LCARS Interface

Episode 6 Recap and Review, and an Announcement from CBS

Star Trek Discovery Recap and Review Banner 27102017

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

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

Thank you CBS.

Okay.  Let’s dive into this weeks episode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarek Looks Across Vulcan - Lethe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lorca and Ash - Lethe

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

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

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

Lorca then affirms Ash’s appointment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Tilly and Ash

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

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

Then, Michael collapses in pain!

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

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

Mia Kirshner as Amanda Grayson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lorca and Ash on Shuttle - Lethe

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

Daw… friendship.  I LOVE IT!

Lorca agrees, and then assigns Ash Tyler to help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarek - Lethe

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

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

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

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

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

They’re reminiscing.

Lorca and Cornwell - Lethe

She tells him she’s worried about him.

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

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

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

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

And we’re back on the shuttle.

Michael is deeply affected by the memory she keeps seeing.

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

Michael dives back into the katra-connection.

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

He does.

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

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

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

Sarek has to choose between Michael and Spock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She loses her shit… and rightfully so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is his reflection smiling?

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

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

USS Discovery in Flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scorecard

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

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

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

LCARS Interface

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.

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WTF, CBS?

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

And it’s driving me nuts!

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

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

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

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

Damon is coming on board as a Klingon named Ujilli.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Crews.

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

Your guess is as good as mine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously.  WTF, CBS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There’s Klingons on the Starboard Bow!

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Things are definitely amping up!  CBS has made another casting announcement in the last few hours, presenting us with three new faces – all of them playing Klingons.

New crews indeed!

As reported recently, Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp have joined Star Trek: Discovery.  Now, so too have Chris Obi, Mary Chieffo and Shazad Latif.

Who will they be playing?

All three actors will be portraying Klingons.

Before we get into the characters they’ll be playing (and a little speculation), if you’d like to learn more about these actors check out Chris’s IMDb page here, Mary Chieffo’s here, and Shazad Latif’s here.

Chris will be playing T’Kuvma, a Klingon leader who is trying to unite the Klingon Houses – which gives us an interesting insight into the political dynamics at play at this point in the history of Star Trek.

This could be a hint that there’s some sort of resurgence of the angst that happened post the Klingon Augment Virus.  As some of you may recall, Star Trek: Enterprise finally answered the question of why some Klingons had a ridged forehead, and some didn’t (post the original series).  A virus was responsible.  Even worse, it was a virus the Klingon’s themselves created as they tried to engineer a stronger, better warrior.  Initially, the virus threatened to wipe out the Klingon species, but timely intervention by Doctor Phlox stopped that – but did leave the Klingons “horribly disfigured”… which was a Klingons ‘polite’ way of saying “human looking.”

While that angst did settle, so much so human-looking Klingons rose to the top of Klingon society, the virus was still a stain on the Klingon psyche in the time of Picard, Sisko and Janeway.  It might be back as a plot device to help orient new-Trekkers to the series (in case they want to explore all incarnations of Star Trek).  That’s all only guess work!  I have zero inside knowledge.  The way Klingons are, I could see the Houses falling out with each other over the Augment Virus even though 101 years have passed since the virus first emerged in 2154.  Power struggles often beg some sort of rationale and why wouldn’t one of the older Houses, one unaffected by the virus, not use it as a political football?  It would also be nice allegory as we continue to debate genetic intervention and stem cell research.  What I’d really like to see is a mixed Klingon crew – those with a ridged forehead serving alongside human-looking Klingons.  That would be a great homage to Treks past and ‘future’.

But I digress.  A lot.

Mary will be playing L’Rell, who is the Commander of the Battle Deck of a Klingon vessel.

Shazad will be playing Kol, the Commanding Officer of the Klingon vessel in question.  He’s a protege of T’Kuvma’s.

That’s all we really know for now.

No news on the story yet?

No.  All we’ve been told is that the series will start in the year 2255.

Looking at the known timeline of events that happened ten years before James T. Kirk’s historic five-year mission starts in 2265, we know that the Talosian encounter was a thing, we know that a relatively unknown incident happened on Rigel VII, and we know that the Sheliak Corporate broke off contact with the Federation in 2255 (as mentioned in the ‘Ensigns of Command’ episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation).

There’s no mention of a war or diplomatic incident between the Klingon Empire and the Federation during that time period that I can find.

If someone pointed a phaser at me and said “GUESS or DIE!”  I’d say it’s either something to do with Rigel VII or it’s the Sheliak Incident.

The inhabitants of Rigel were a pre-warp civilisation and it is conceivable the Klingons were somehow involved in whatever happened there.  I really feel like it’s the Sheliak… but I have nothing to base that on other than the fact they appeared to be a really interesting species – what we saw of them.

The Sheliak were non-humanoid and xenophobic but capable of travelling between worlds.  The Sheliak felt that humanoids in general were unintelligent and an inferior lifeform which is why they wanted nothing to do with them.  There is no mention of the Klingons by the Sheliak in the ‘Ensigns of Command’, but we did learn that the Federation ceded certain worlds to the Sheliak Corporate back in 2255 and maybe one of those worlds was a planet the Klingons felt was theirs?

As more news comes to light, it will get reported here!

Bring on May 2017.  I’m having fun speculating, but I just want to KNOW!

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