Episode 14 Review

Star Trek Discovery Recap and Review Banner Episode 14

With possibly one of the best and tensest openings since “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II” or “The Year Of Hell, Part Two,” Star Trek: Discovery takes a deep breath before the upcoming season finale, but makes sure we don’t get too comfortable in this emotional and, once again, twisty episode.

The Facts
Episode Number: 114
Episode Title: “The War Without, The War Within” or “Cornwell Takes Charge”
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: David Solomon

Quotable
Saru: “Admiral!
Cornwell: “Where’s Captain Lorca?
Burnham: “Sarek… please!
Cornwell: “Stand down, specialist.  Now!”  Beat.  “Computer, initiate command level override.  Authorisation: Admiral Katrina Cornwell, pi beta six.
Computer: “Override confirmed.

Cornwell: “The Lorca I came up with was measured, he was reasoned.  I couldn’t have imagined…
Sarek: “That Lorca was an impostor from an alternate universe was not the most obvious conclusion.  We were all deceived.

Cornwell: “All evidence of your recent journey will be classified and destroyed.  We cannot risk the knowledge of this alternate universe leaving the confines of Discovery.”
Burnham: “I don’t understand?
Stamets: “There would be… too many possibilities.
Sarek: “Indeed.  Our people have suffered terrible losses.  What would you do if you thought that your dead wife, your lost child, your murdered parents might be alive on the other side and that the technology exists for you to see them again?  This knowledge must be buried.
Cornwell: “Command will want this locked down.
Saru: “Of course, Admiral.

Cornwell: “I want to be truthful with you.  Your side is winning.  When we met, you had nothing but contempt for the crumbling leadership of the Klingon Empire.
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma sought to strengthen and unify the Great Houses.  If he has succeeded in only this, it is cause for celebration.
Cornwell: “Your ‘Great Houses’ are carving up Federation assets among their factions.  A captured starbase bears the insignia of House D’Ghor, not of the Klingon Empire.  Is that the kind of ‘unity’ your messiah proclaimed.  They think nothing of the collateral damage caused by their brutal attacks.  They target civilians, hospitals, food conveys.  They slaughter innocents, and inspire terror across the quadrant.
L’Rell: “This is war, not a child’s game with rules.  We fight to preserve Klingon identity.
Cornwell: “No one is looking to destroy your culture!  Our laws are founded in equality, freedom.
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma taught us that the Federation cannot help itself.  It seeks universal homoginisation and assimilation.
Cornwell: “T’Kuvma was an ignorant fool, and your people are moving closer and closer to my home planet.  What are you looking for?  More territory?  Conditional surrender?  I mean, your people won’t even make demands.  Why?  How does this war end?
L’Rell: “It doesn’t.  Klingons have tasted your blood.  Conquer us, or we will never relent.
Cornwell: “Thank you.

Georgiou: “Your child is lost.
Sarek: “Do not confuse my ward with yours.
Georgiou: “My daughter was a singular example of brilliance until one foolish choice doomed her world.  Sound familiar?
Sarek: “If I understand correctly, my ward saw through the man who brought down not just your child, but your empire.  Perhaps best not to make comparisons.”  Beat.  “Why have you requested my presence?
Georgiou: “You were summoned, Vulcan, for one reason.  I want to help you end this war.

Sarek: “During my mind meld with Saru I learned of your attachment to the Klingon spy and what he did to you.  Such events are clearly troubling.
Michael: “I’m fine, Sarek.
Sarek: “I remain unconvinced.  There is irony here, of course, the man you fell in love with was a Klingon.
Michael: “He… I don’t know what he was.
Sarek: “There is also grace.  For what greater source for peace exists than our ability to love our enemy.
Michael: “I’ve made foolish choices.  Emotional choices.
Sarek: “Well, you are human.  As is your mother.  There is no telling what any one of us may do where the heart is concerned.  We are at war, logic dictates that each farewell may be our last.”  Beat.  “Do not regret loving someone, Michael.

Disco S1E14 Cornwell Brings Discovery Up To Speed

Moments of Interest
We know from Star Trek: Enterprise that mind meld’s are, in Vulcan years, still relatively new by the time we get to Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: The Original Series, but we also know, thanks to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and multiple TOS episodes, that they’re an intimate and private thing.  Forcing a mind meld on someone can be damaging for both the person undergoing the procedure, and the person initiating it.

In times of war and what sounds like the threat of extinction, it appears they also become a tool for quickly assessing a situation.

Sarek, at Cornwell’s behest, initiates an uninvited mind meld with Saru at the beginning of this episode.  It’s not something any of us would expect of Sarek, but I think it’s a device that’s being used by the writers to let every Star Trek fan know how desperate the Federation’s situation is it at this point in the war.

Another interesting moment is when Admiral Cornwell mentions Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the USS Enterprise NX-01 during the episode, reminding everyone that Archer’s trip to the Klingon Homeworld was the only time humans had set foot on that world.  Nice bit of continuity, and one I appreciated (being a Star Trek: Enterprise fan).

The Review
This episode is an acting tour de force for Jayne Brook and Michelle Yeoh in particular.  Both women are outstanding.  In every way.  They drive the plot forward, add remarkable nuance to every scene, and carry the episode effortlessly.

That’s not to say everyone else wasn’t good.  They were, as we’ve come to expect, and as per usual special mention needs to go to Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo and Shazad Latif.  They shine in every scene and Mary Chieffo in particular is electric whenever she shares the screen with Jayne Brook.

For me, it’s all of these performances and the little moments that make the episode something special.

Some critics have said they’re not overly fond of “The War Within, The War Without,” and that the writers “dropped the ball” because the episode slowed the momentum of the last third of the season.  I couldn’t disagree more.  This episode was not only necessary as the inevitable prelude to the season finale, it was necessary for our characters as they start to process what has happened to them, and to process the fact that the war has gone terribly in their absence.  I guarantee you that if the writers hadn’t explored some of these issues before the end of the season, many critics would have be up in arms about that.

“The War Without, The War Within” allowed us to see where Tyler and Michael are at after the horrific shocks of a couple of episodes ago – and it’s not a good place.  It also allowed us to enjoy seeing L’Rell and Admiral Cornwell go at each other again, and it allowed us to see more of Emperor Georgiou.  For me, the real pleasure in the episode was watching Georgiou.  Michelle Yeoh was electric and menacing and she owned every scene she was in.  Seeing the character interact with Michael, Sarek and Cornwell left me thinking no one in the Prime Universe would ever stand a chance against her if she chose to act up.

Another highlight of the episode was seeing Katrina Cornwell in the Captain’s chair.  She looks good in it!  Hey, sometimes it’s the small things that make a fan happy.

Disco S1E14 Cornwell Takes Command

The episode began right where the last one ended, with Saru somewhat shocked by the appearance of the Mirror Georgiou in his transporter room.

Georgiou, for her part, is far from impressed an alien is giving orders and quips to Burnham that yesterday they were eating a Kelpian, and now Burnham is taking orders from one.

Yep.  That’s one way to leave an impression!

A not too happy Saru challenges Burnham on her lie (in an earlier episode she had told him she had not seen any Kelpiens in the Mirror Universe), but quickly pushes through that without, thankfully, bringing up the eating bit!

Saru tells Burnham that Tyler is doing well, and that Voq seems to be gone.  Michael tells Saru she’s not ready to see the spy.  And then shit gets serious as phaser wielding Andorians and Tellarites beam aboard, followed by Sarek and Admiral Katrina Cornwell.

It’s a tense, wonderful scene where Cornwell takes control, literally, and brings the Discovery under her command.

Disco S1E14 Sarek and Cornwell Beam Aboard

We quickly learn that the Federation hasn’t lost the war, as Saru initially thought at the end of the last episode, but they are getting smashed.

Cornwell advises certain members of the crew that 20% of Federation space has been lost, and the Klingons have – without rhyme or reason, as Michael points out – slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents.

As the episode progresses, the action quickly subsides (without ever completely losing the underlying threat of the defeat of the Federation) to focus instead on meaningful character moments, with one of the most intense being the briefest.  Stamets coming face to face with Ash.

It’s a scene that I’m not sure I’m happy with.  Stamets responded in a very Stamets way, and Ash certainly looked upset, even devastated, but it didn’t resonate with me.  It felt somehow hollow.  I didn’t want Stamets to bop Ash on the nose, but a quick scene of Paul rounding the corner and leaning against a bulkhead with a lone tear trailing down his cheek would have made the moment work.  Hugh and Paul’s relationship has been played up as this great love story, but we haven’t spent enough time seeing the effect on Stamets and I think we need to.  Anything less diminishes that love and Hugh’s time on Discovery.

The majority of the remainder of the episode deals with Georgiou and her manipulations.

Before we look at that though, there were two other important moments where enough time was given to the characters and their plight, that need to be mentioned.

The first is between Michael and Ash.  After initially refusing to see Tyler, at the prompting of Tilly she finally goes to him.

Disco S1E14 Michael Wants To Trust Georgiou

Things don’t start well, and lead Ash to a moment where he lashes out at Michael, pretty much telling Burnham that she got frightened and all of this is a convenient way for her to back out.  She doesn’t take that and fires back, reminding him he had his hands around her throat, and that she looked into the eyes of the man she loved to see nothing but hatred there and a desire to kill her.

That puts him in his place.

She very poignantly ends everything by telling him that his road to redemption, much like hers, will be a solo journey.

It’s a beautiful scene.  I’m constantly astounded by how much meaning Sonequa Martin-Green can squeeze into one sentence, even one word, through a simple change in tone, an unexpected inflection, or the quirk of her mouth.  Shazad Latif is similar.  While Sonequa’s delivery is always very controlled, as you would expect from someone who is playing a character who has been raised by Vulcan’s, Shazad’s delivery is very open with every emotion crossing his face.  What you would expect from someone who is essentially Klingon, a species not known for hiding their emotions.

The juxtaposition of the two is perfect.

The other meaningful moment didn’t play as well.

Before all of this, Ash visits the mess and everything goes quiet.  He grabs his meal and sits down alone while people whisper behind his back and cast him sidelong glances.

Disco S1E14 Tilly Brings Tyler Back Into The Fold

Tilly, echoing how she befriended Michael, moves from her table to sit with him.  He tells her she doesn’t have to, and she sets him straight.  Then Keyla Detmer joins them, offering Ash a warm “welcome back.”  The scene would have been perfect if it ended there, or with Lieutenant Bryce (the Communications Officer) joining them right after Detmer.  But, after Bryce, a whole bunch of people come over and it all seems a bit much.  It crossed from special to corny in seconds.  I want Ash to be forgiven, because we all know it was Voq who did all of those horrible things, but would so many people so easily welcome him back that quickly?  How has he redeemed himself?  He hasn’t?  Has he?  Has the crew had time to process what he did and grieve Doctor Culber’s death?  I don’t think so.  That moment, for me, felt forced and false.

And now, back to Georgiou.

Starfleet in the Prime Universe doesn’t have a chance.  If they don’t keep a close eye on her she’ll be ruling the Federation inside a decade.

There’s not much more I can say about Emperor Georgiou in this episode that I haven’t already.  She walks circles around every character.  While they innocently and naively (and a little warily) attempt to understand her, she is calculating in every moment and looking for an advantage or a way to manipulate things to her will.  And it’s constant.

Disco S1E14 The Emporer Is Unimpressed

Michelle Yeoh is not just a ‘moustache’ twirling villain in this episode, though.  She also shows compassion and even, dare I say, a smidge of love, to Burnham.  It’s fleeting, but it’s there.  Michelle conveys it all perfectly.  Complex characters are so rewarding for the viewer, and they show good writing, and this Georgiou is definitely complex.

Like most people in the western world, I fell in love with her watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Now I’ve fallen in love with her all over again, first because of her portrayal of Captain Georgiou, and now because of her portrayal of Emperor Georgiou.

I think the joy here is that Georgiou is now a character who has represented the very best of Starfleet, and now the absolute worst in the visage of her Mirror Universe self.

I love how the writers have done that!

Out of all of the interactions between Georgiou and those characters who know she is on board, the best is her private meeting with Sarek.

Disco S1E14 Michael, Cornwell, Georgiou and Sarek

The first time we see her interact with Sarek is after Michael confesses what she’s done.  Cornwell and Sarek go with Michael to visit the Emperor, and Sarek is surprised (as much as a Vulcan can be) by how alike this Georgiou is to his now dead friend.

That quick interaction, though, gives Georgiou an idea.  She picks up on the bond between Sarek and Michael and logs that in her memory for future use.

She sets about setting her trap.  The first step is helping Michael formulate a plan.  Michael shares that plan with Cornwell, who is excited.  Cornwell convinces what’s left of Starfleet’s leadership it will work.

The second step is taking the plan to the next level.  A dark and horrible level.  Georgiou “summons” Sarek and shares her complete idea with him.  It’s something she wouldn’t tell Michael because she didn’t think her “daughter who is not her daughter” could handle it.

During all of this we learn that Starbase One has been occupied by the Klingons (House D’Ghor to be exact) and that all of the Starfleet vessels and personnel are gone, presumed dead.  It’s an horrific moment for Admiral Cornwell, and Jayne Brook plays it oh so well.  I felt terrible for the character.  She obviously lost so many people that she cared for, and in that moment was probably thinking she would lose the Federation too.

It’s this last act by the Klingons, I think, that pushes Sarek to take his next step.

All of this leads to another big twist.  Yes, another twist, because apparently that’s what modern television is all about.

Sarek leaves the Discovery to make some “arrangements” and then, in the penultimate moment of the episode, we see what those arrangements are.

Emperor Georgiou becomes Captain Georgiou and is given command of the USS Discovery for a risky mission to Qo’noS.

She is introduced to the crew of the Discovery as the recently rescued Philippa Georgiou, much to the shock and joy of Keyla Detmer, and the shock and worry of Saru and Michael.

This twist actually took me by surprise.  Of all the things they could have done with the character, this one I did not expect – though it makes so much sense.

Disco S1E14 The Emporer Becomes A Captain

The look that Georgiou gives Michael just before the episode wraps should make us all worried, and it should petrify Burnham.  It’s obvious Philippa is playing them.

This episode works.

It’s not the fastest paced or most action packed, but it is character heavy and full of remarkable performances.

While some of the scenes don’t play out perfectly, the episode is strong and it deserves to be thought of favourably.

Predictions
I don’t know if I can even hope to work out what the producers’ plan is for this wonderful new Philippa Georgiou, but I’d like to think they will try and make this work.  It’s a brand new take on “the outsider” looking in and commenting on humanity.

Logic suggests Emperor Georgiou won’t live for long, but I hope, in this instance, the logical conclusion does not come to pass.

In other predictions, I firmly believe L’Rell is still up to something with Tyler and that he’s not as free of the Voq personality as we would like to believe.  The producers of Star Trek: Discovery seem to like avoiding happy endings!

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

An excellent episode, an important breather between the conclusion of one arc and what, we’ve been told, will be the conclusion of the war arc, and a nice episode for character development.

I can’t wait for the finale, which, if the previews are anything to go by, looks outstanding.

Bring on ass-kicking Emperor Georgiou!  I loved Captain Philippa Georgiou, but am really coming to adore this slightly twisted version of her.  Someone give Michelle Yeoh her own Star Trek spin-off.  Now!

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Episode 13 Review

Star Trek Discovery Episode 13 Banner

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Soars Through Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca Usurping The Throne

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Stamets and Landry

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou Gets Ready To Kick Ass

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Old Friends Reunite

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca and Burnham

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Attacks

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

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

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

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

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

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

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

It all works.

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou and Burnham

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

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

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

Live long and prosper.

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Episode 12 Recap and Review

Star Trek Discovery Recap and Review Review Banner 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaulting Ambition - The Empresses Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaulting Ambition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaulting Ambition - Off to See the Empress

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

Vaulting Ambition - The Mycelial Forest

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

Vaulting Ambition - Georgiou and Burnham

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

Vaulting Ambition - L'Rell

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

Vaulting Ambition - Empresses Starship Palace

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

Vaulting Ambition - Lorca is Not a Nice Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any more?  Yep.

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

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

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

Scorecard
4 Deltas

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

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes becoming available on Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET, also on a Sunday.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday at 8:00am in the UK and at 7pm in Australia.

See you next week for another review.

Live long, and prosper.

LCARS Interface

Episode 4 Recap and Review, and a Discovery Update

Ripper might be my new favourite character!

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

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

Tardigrade in Reaction Chamber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TBKCNFTLC5

Obviously, this review contains spoilers.

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

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

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

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

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

All of that happens in the opening teaser.

Opening Credit Sequence 5

From there, we jump to the Klingons.

Snore.

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

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

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

The Klingon scenes drag and drag and drraaagggg.

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

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

Captain Philippa Georgiou

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

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

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

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

TBKCNFTLC7

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

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

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

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

Next we visit Lorca, eating at his standing desk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor Hugh Culber

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

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

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

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

TBKCNFTLC4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TBKCNFTLC1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, four Starfleet deltas out of five.
4 Deltas

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

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

Until next week, Live Long and Prosper.