Episode 13 Review

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Soars Through Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca Usurping The Throne

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Stamets and Landry

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou Gets Ready To Kick Ass

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Old Friends Reunite

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Lorca and Burnham

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Discovery Attacks

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

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

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

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

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

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

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

It all works.

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Past Is Prologue - Georgiou and Burnham

Five Starfleet Deltas

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

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

Live long and prosper.

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Episode 12 Recap and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaulting Ambition - The Empresses Court

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.

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.

4 Deltas

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

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

See you next week for another review.

Live long, and prosper.

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Episode 11 Recap and Review

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I’ve been really worried about my inability to find adjectives when reviewing Star Trek: Discovery.  I shouldn’t have been concerned.  This latest episode added a new one to my frequently used list: chilling.

There are moments in “The Wolf Inside” where I went cold watching Shazad Latif’s performance.  Not in a bad way, in a good way.  He was completely compelling and it was unnerving.

But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  First…

The Facts
Episode Number: 111
Episode Title: “The Wolf Inside”
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: T.J. Scott

Ash to Michael
: “You’re my tether.  You bring me back.  You did it before we were stranded in this place, and you’re still doing it now.

Saru to Michael: “An oppressive regime is by nature a fearful regime.

Lorca to Michael: “You have to do it.  Give the order.  You have to wipe them out.
Michael: “But I can’t send hundreds of rebels to their death to save myself.
Lorca in response
: “What about your crew?  The Federation?  Our universe?  Be a massacre by Klingons.  Sometimes, the end justifies… the terrible means.
: “Permission to speak freely sir?”  Lorca nods.  “I fear that your suffering has influenced your judgement.  I will find a way to get what we need to Discovery,  But in the meantime, lives are hanging on my command – here and at home.  And this rebellion against the Terrans, it’s an unshakeable union of species.  Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites.  It’s the closest to a Federation this universe may ever see.
Lorca, in response: “What’s your point?
Michael: “My point is that a Klingon leads the alliance.  A Klingon!  They rally behind him.  If we can walk away from this with the means to successfully negotiate with the Klingon race… that’s real hope for finding peace at home.  Please, sir, I no longer have my pips but I’m still Starfleet.  Don’t force me to slaughter this coalition of hope.

Mirror Voq: “Master Sarek sees all.  His wisdom pierces minds.  If you truly come in peace, he will find it in your heart.”

Tilly to Saru: “The laser photon emissions are comprised entirely of exotic matter found in the mycelial plane, and when that matter integrates with Stamets’ own neural materials, it should restore his cognitive function.
Saru in response: “A scientist saved by his own specimens.
Tilly: “The veins and muscles of the universe.  Fungi are the only organism with the biological apptitude to link death with life.

Though there will obviously be spoilers here, please keep in mind that this is a big, spoilery episode just like the last one and I need to put up that graphic one more time.

Despite the fact most of the spoilers below have been predicted by fans and have been out there for a long time, I’m going to respect those of you who have been avoiding fan speculation and spoilers and give you a chance to click away now…

Spoiler Alert

The Recap and Review
Star Trek: Discovery
has become so much more than a science fiction drama commenting on the sociopolitical landscape of our times.  It’s now a tragic love story for the ages.

That sounds quite melodramatic, but I think it’s true: Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, and now Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler/Voq.  Perhaps even L’Rell and Voq?

It’s also a show that comments on family.  Star Trek has always done this, but none quite as blatantly as Star Trek: Discovery.

We explore family through the lense of adoption with Michael, Sarak and Amanda.  We explore it through the older role models we all take on in life, with Michael, Philippa Georgiou and Gabrielle Lorca.  We explore it through the discussions the crew have about their own families – most particularly Tilly and her troubled relationship with her mother.  And, of course, we explore it through the fact that this is a crew of people who are close knit out of necessity and have become like family.  That last one we’ve seen in every Star Trek incarnation, and we have had glimpses of some of the others in every series, but I’d argue none have done some of these quite as well as Star Trek: Discovery.

Each previous series will always hold a very special place in my heart, because I love them all, particularly Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Star Trek: Discovery is now my favourite series because of it’s complexity.

Is it perfect Star Trek?  There will never be a perfect anything, but it is Star Trek and it’s the right Star Trek for now.  We live in difficult and, you could say, dark times and this is a Star Trek that responds to that.  For a long time now the creatives behind the series have promised us that we will see the cherished values of the Federation on display, and we have, intermittently, but with this and the last episode they have started to shine.

These adventures in the Mirror Universe will define this crew, I think, in so many ways.

Let’s take a look.  Rather than do a blow by blow recount, which I personally hate (though I do them a lot), here are the important facts:

– Stamets is discovered holding the body of his own personal Imzadi.
– The crew suspects Stamets killed Culber in a spore-induced fit of disorientation.
– Tilly believes that Stamets’ condition is a ‘spore’ related issue and not a medical one, and petitions Saru to let her tend to him.

The Wolf Inside - Saru and Tilly Examine Paul

– Michael reflects on the nature of darkness in all of us, and wonders how long it will take for the Mirror Universe to change them all, irreparably.
– Ash declares Michael is his “tether” to everything good.

The Wolf Inside - A Tragic Romance

– Saru asks Burnham in a secret communication whether or not she has found a Mirror version of him, because in the Prime Universe there are so few of his kind.  She has, and he’s her “servant,” but she can’t bring herself to tell him that so says that she hasn’t.  Saru, for his part, is also a little dishonest and doesn’t tell her that her friend, Hugh Culber, has been murdered. During that conversation she let’s Saru know she has the information about the USS Defiant that they’ve been looking for.
– The Empress orders the Shenzhou to destroy the alien alliances base of operations.
– Michael “adjusts” those orders and beams down with Ash to “obtain information”, while in reality seeking the help of the Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites.  She wants to know why and how these Klingons have all come together to stand against the Empire with a coalition of aliens. Her other equally important goal is to warn them so they can escape.

The Wolf Inside - Michael Negotiates with Mirror Voq

– We get to see a Vulcan with a goatee, and wouldn’t you know it… it’s Sarek!  He is called the Prophet in this universe.
– The leader of the alien resistance, nicknamed “FireWolf,” is Voq Son on None.
– Sarek convinces the resistance that Michael isn’t lying and laying a trap for them.

The Wolf Inside - Houston, We Have a Goatee

– Tilly looks like she’s having some success with her treatment of Stamets… until he flatlines.  I wasn’t sure if he was dead, or, as she warned might happen, was lost in the mycelial network.  All hope, however, is not lost as after a while he shows signs of recovery.
– As Michael negotiates with the resistance, the personality overlay that L’Rell tried to remove from Tyler last episode almost completely dissolves and Voq pushes his way through the Ash personality.  He shouts at Mirror Voq and attacks him.
– This goes as badly as you’d expect, with Ash’s actions almost getting he and Michael killed.
– Sarek brings peace to the explosive moment, and Michael tells Mirror Voq she can give him and his followers an hour to escape before she has to carry out her orders, but she needs something in return to justify her trip to the surface. He provides locations for various coalition assets, saying they will be safe by the time the Empire deciphers the data.

The Wolf Inside - Voq vs Voq

– Michael and Ash beam back to the Shenzhou.  Michael orders Ash into her quarters where we finally receive 100% confirmation he is Voq.  This is the chilling scene.  The change in Tyler is eerie, unsettling and beautifully acted.  The Ash personality is erased as he remembers Burnham killing T’Kuvma. Even though I’ve been on the Ash is Voq team for a while, the shift in personality was so menacing it hit me and I was on the edge of my seat.  If this scene had been performed with a lessor actor, it would not have worked.  Shazad Latif is brilliant as is Sonequa.  Her reaction and shock to his revelation takes the scene to an entirely new level and makes it so real.
– Michael doesn’t believe it at first.  Then Ash/Voq tells her something only he could have known and then tells her he killed Doctor Culber.
– Ash/Voq attacks Michael and overcomes her.  She’s so deeply shocked she can’t fight this man that she thought she new and has fallen in love with.  Moments before he can deliver the death blow, Mirror Saru saves her life and calls for security.  Boy, that Kelpien is STRONG!
– Ash/Voq is dragged to the transporter room to be beamed into space, and Michael slips the Defiant data into his belt without him knowing. Then, with a subtle change of coordinates, hits energise.
– The Discovery rescues Ash/Voq, Saru grabs the disc and places him in the brig.

The Wolf Inside - A Conflicted Lorca

– A little while later Michael tells Lorca she feels adrift in this horrible universe after Tyler’s revelation, and that she has nothing to keep her grounded, or, to use Ash’s words, tethered to the real her.  Lorca tells her she’s wrong.  She has him.  It’s perhaps the most touching scene between these two strong characters yet.  For once, Lorca is not all bluster.  In fact, it’s almost a very different Lorca to the man we’re used to.  I found myself wondering if the Agony Booth had broken him. I also found myself thinking they should take an Agony Booth back to the prime universe to cure Lorca of his grumpiness.
– Our Stamets meets Mirror Stamets somewhere on the mycelial plane in an enigmatic moment that suggests these two will get up to some mischief.
– The Empress arrives and it’s Philippa Georgiou, and she is not happy with Michael.  She bombs the crap out of the resistance base before the allotted time frame Burnham had given them for their escape, and then gets all Empressy with our hero.  How does this version look?  Cruel and forbidding!

The Wolf Inside - Empress Philippa Georgiou

And that’s the episode in a nutshell.

So… next week?

Who knows.  We knew this big reveal about Voq was coming and we knew it would be devastating, but I can’t even begin to anticipate how this will unravel or play out over the next few episodes left in Season One.

Before I finish this review, I want to commend the designers of Star Trek: Discovery for the new Andorian and Tellarite look.  These are the best looking Tellarites I have ever seen, and the Andorian design is beautiful.  Yes, there are changes to what we know, but they are far more subtle than the changes made to the Klingons.  Strangely, when you see the new Klingons side by side with the Tellarites and Andorians they look ‘right.’

The Wolf Inside - New Andorian and Tellarite Designs

Another thing I want to mention is I was wrong about the Empress image in my last review.  The image I posted, thinking it was the Empress arriving, was actually a crew member stumbling over Stamets and Culber.  Sorry about that.  That’ll learn me!

“The Wolf Inside” did not feel as crammed as the last episode, in fact, just the right amount of everything went into this episode.  It was overwhelming because at its heart it was a very emotional story, but everything was wonderfully executed and handled so well by all parties involved.

A few final observations:
– We saw more of the Saru under the Starfleet uniform, and the makeup is exceptional.
– Death by transporter is something these Terrans are quite fond of!  Those scenes were handled very well.
– I loved seeing the USS… sorry, ISS Shenzhou again.  I love the design of both the exterior and interiors of that vessel.
– This episode we felt something that so few episodes of any series ever manage to evoke.  A real sense of jeopardy.  Was Ash going to die?  Was he going to kill Michael?  Was Stamets’ story finally over?

I feel like a broken record, but this is now my favourite episode.

I am desperate for episode 12.

1. I still think our Lorca originates from the Mirror Universe.
2. The Discovery leaves the Mirror Universe next episode, right at the very end, after a particularly devastating personal and physical throw down between Michael and the Empress.  The Mirror Universe has done what it needed to do.  It’s challenged our heroes, it’s outted Voq, it may still out Lorca, and it looks like it will resolve whatever it is that is happening with Stamets.
3. We’ll see a lot of Michelle Yeoh in Episode 12.
4. Stamets and Stamets will save the Discovery from the Mirror Universe.
5. This will be the beginning of the end for the spore-drive.  I believe it’s going to have something to do with the Mirror Universe and the fear the Terran Empire could sweep through, into our Prime Universe, and wreck havoc on an already overwhelmed Federation.
6. Someone will die, and someone will be reborn.  I believe Lorca is going to bite the dust, and Culber will become infused with mycelial “stuff” and brought back to life.

I don’t have any predictions about Ash/Voq at the moment.  I have no idea what is going to happen there.  If you’d asked me before seeing “The Wolf Inside,” I would have thought that his love for Burnham would see him overcome whatever it was that was happening to him (remembering that we still weren’t 100% sure last episode if Voq had been overlaid on Ash, or if Voq had been surgically altered to pass as human).

Ash/Voq seems so completely Voq now, I don’t think there’s any space for Michael’s love to win the day.  I could be wrong.  I doubt that Ash/Voq calling Michael his “tether” was a throw away line, but it could also have been a line designed to highlight to us just how much this is going to hurt her.

Respect to Lisa Randolph.  This is the best written episode to date this season, and that’s saying something because there has not been a clunker among them.

Tips for the Producers
Just one, in this new section I hopefully never have to use again.

Please, no more Klingon titties.

We get it.  You’re on a streaming service now and you can be a little more risque, but we don’t need it.  The gore I’m okay with.  You’ve pushed it a bit, and it’s sad that the use of gore means it excludes children from discovering this show until later in life, but it has always served the story.  The Klingon breasts we’re seeing every few episodes don’t.  I know this sounds prudish, but hear me out.  These shots feel like you’re trying too hard to be Game of Thrones and, frankly, it’s a little pathetic.  Showing them in bed on top of each other (which I seem to remember from a few episodes back) is enough.  We’re not stupid.  Showing Klingon breasts doesn’t enhance the story.  If anything it detracts.

If we want to watch Game of Thrones, we’ll go watch it.  If we want to see breasts, we’ll use Google and find them.  We know Voq/Tyler and L’Rell had sex and constant reminders are little more than shameful and unnecessary titillation.  If you think this will attract people to the show, you’re mistaken.  People don’t watch Star Trek for titties.  They watch it for challenging story lines, beautifully crafted characters, intelligent dialogue, and hope.

Please consider this feedback.

Five Starfleet Deltas

My issue with the above notwithstanding, this is an intelligently crafted episode that is entertaining, thought provoking, inspiring and moving.

I loved it.

I want to make special note of the music this episode.  It was so subtle, but so clever and emotionally charged.  I don’t know if I’ve heard such a careful score before for a television show?  The music was at times threatening and ominous, and then deeply moving.  Jeff Russo outdid himself this outing.  His music has been wonderful the whole series long, but this episode it was so right in every way.

Personal Resonance
More and more this show is affecting me – in good ways, but often profound ways.  I love that a show can do this to me at this stage in my life.

I’ve accidentally found myself quoting lines of dialogue at people – recently I provided professional supervision to some allied health workers, and without meaning to, I quoted Philippa Georgiou: “…take good care of those in your care.

A few weeks later, I accidentally quoted Tilly to my boss after completing a psychological test to measure my ability to be empathic and compassionate.  I was off the chart, and in response said: “I love feeling feelings!”

There have been more instances, but I won’t bore you with them.  I’ve also found myself contemplating the actions of the characters at random moments, wondering what I would have done if I were in their shoes.  I have never done that with any of the J.J. Abrams movies.

This show has swept me up in its embrace and I don’t want it to let go.

If you haven’t checked out Star Trek: Discovery, or if you’re still clinging to a misplaced dislike because of how different it is to past Treks, I implore you to let go and give it a shot.  This is a quality show, and they’re doing good things.

Share this journey with us.  I doubt you’ll regret it.

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes appearing on Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET, also on a Sunday.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday at 8:00am in the United Kingdom and usually at either 6pm or 7pm in Australia.

See you in about a week for another review.

Live long and prosper.

LCARS Interface

Episode 10 Recap and Review

Despite Yourself

Well.  Holy crap.  That was one intense episode.

It should be obvious by now that these recaps are full of spoilers, but just to be on the safe side… be warned, there are some major spoilers ahead!

If you haven’t seen Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10 “Despite Yourself” and want to remain unspoiled, do not read on.  You’ll regret it.  Really big stuff happens in this episode.

First things first:

The Facts
Episode Number: 110
Episode Title: “Despite Yourself”
Written By: Sean Cochran
Directed By: Jonathan Frakes

Michael to Tilly, Lorca, Saru and Ash: The Terrans appear to be the antithesis of us in every way.  They’re an oppressive, racist, xenophobic culture that dominates all known space.  And they’re ruled by a faceless Emperor.”

Lorca to Michael, Tilly, Saru and Ash:No way we’re asking these neighbours for a cup of sugar.

Tilly to everyone, at one major reveal in the episode:Tha… ah… that’s me.  That’s me!
Lorca in response:That’s absurd.

Lorca to Tilly:You just get rid of them as fast as possible, and you talk as little as possible.
Tilly to Lorca:That’s ah… that might be a little hard.  Have you noticed that I talk a lot?
Lorca in response:Defy your every instinct.

Tilly to the USS Cooper:Hello, this is Captain Tilly.  What the heck?  Heck?  Hell… what the Hell?  Hold your horses!

Michael to Tilly and Saru as she reads off Captain Tilly’s nicknames:And finally…
Saru, reading over Michael’s shoulder:Captain ‘Killy’?  Well that’s not very clever.

Burnham to Lorca:Destiny didn’t get me out of prison, captain.  You did that.

Burnham to Tilly: “…You have the strength of an entire crew that believes in you.  Fortify yourself with our faith in you.  That’s what a real captain does.

Tilly as Captain Tilly, to Captain Danby Connor: “The only pleasure I take is from the blood of my enemies staining my uniform.

Tilly as Captain Tilly, to Captain Danby Connor:If you greeted me that way, Connor, I’d cut your out tongue and use it to lick my boots!

If you hadn’t noticed, Tilly gets all of the best lines this episode.

And now… RED ALERT!

Spoiler Alert

Interesting Bits and Pieces
– For the first time, Saru’s threat ganglia respond to Ash Tyler.
– The Agony Booths we see on the Shenzhou look like a natural evolution of the ones we saw on Star Trek: Enterprise.
– It looks like the starbase they were meant to be jumping to is in orbit of a famous Star Trek planet, Organia!

The Recap and Review
After a quick look back at the season so far, we pick up right where Episode 9 concluded with an intense, emotional, sometimes funny and at times tongue-in-cheek episode.

In case the events of last episode are a little fuzzy in your head after the two-month hiatus, at the end of Episode 9 Lorca meddled with the spore jump coordinates, things went bad for Paul in the reaction chamber, and the USS Discovery found itself lost after an “incomplete” jump.

We're Not In Kansas Anymore

As the crew try to figure out why they’re where they wanted to be after the jump from Pahvo, but nothing else is, Vulcan rebels appear and attack the ship!  Taken by surprise, they’re rescued by the starship Cooper.  We quickly learn something is up thanks to a testosterone laden message from the captain of that vessel.  We also learn that Stamets is stable but unresponsive and the spore-drive is down, stranding the Discovery.

It’s then that Saru discovers that the quantum signatures of that ship and the Vulcan vessel are off.

That’s not possible,” Burnham says.  “All matter native to our universe resonates with the same quantum signature.  Nothing can change it.

Saru agrees with her as Lorca quickly states the (to us) obvious: “Unless… this is not our universe.”  And we jump to the opening credits.

We rejoin Lorca, Burnham and Saru in Lorca’s Ready Room where Lorca shows them the same map he revealed to Stamets last episode to convince him to make the 133 jumps.

The Mycelial Network

Meanwhile, in Sickbay, Paul has regained consciousness.  He still has his Gary Mitchellesque eyes, and is talking to himself about a ‘palace’ as Tilly tries to “annoy” him into being a little more coherent.

Culber gently tells her that Paul is in a state of neurological-dysregulation, the like of which he’s never seen.

Paul gets up and as Hugh tries to get him back into bed, he mumbles about the palace again and throws Doctor Culber across the room.

Lorca comes in soon after and Tilly takes that as her cue to leave, and Hugh very calmly and very directly tells Lorca off, asking him if he’d planned all of this?

Is Hugh the smartest and most perceptive person on the ship?

Lorca takes Hugh off Paul’s case, much to Hugh’s annoyance, and leaves.

Culber and Lorca

We cut to Ash in a cool little pod thing with arms and he’s trying to extract a data core from one of the wrecked ships.

Now is probably a good time for a little diversion.

Some die-hard Star Trek fans have taken exception to the modernising of vessels and equipment in Star Trek: Discovery.  Some of it I agree with, like the rampant use of holograms and, though I love the new uniforms, I am still a little bewildered by just how different they are.  But, some I don’t agree with.

The creatives behind this series had to update everything otherwise Star Trek would lose all relevance and be nothing more than a homage to a very old television show that was great for its time, but not so much so now.  In 1966 Star Trek was cutting edge. In 2017/2018 it isn’t. That doesn’t mean we dismiss it, but as reasonable human beings it does mean we make some understandable allowances.

To make Star Trek: Discovery more than just a quaint homage, the team had to push everything up a notch.  On The Expanse we have people using their mobile/cell like communications devices for everything – they’re projecting 3-D images from the devices that they can manipulate with their fingers, and they have worker pods that are a step or two up from what we see in the first few Star Trek movies.  We have similar technological advances in Killjoys, Supergirl, the sadly now cancelled Dark Matter and more.

Star Trek: Discovery had to push further, because as much as Star Trek is known for it’s philosophy, excellent characters, ethical approach to everything, inclusion, positive future, and challenging story lines, it’s also known for its future-forward technology.  It set the bar and inspired generations.

This pod that Tyler is flying, is, like many other ‘leaps’ on Star Trek: Discovery, a necessity, and is in keeping with the original series’ ability to imagine the future by extrapolating on the present.  We’re so far beyond what Gene Roddenberry and most everyone else involved with that first Star Trek could have dreamed of in their present, that it is so very right the new people shepherding this series forward, be equally as future focused.

We’ll always have the original series, and many of us will continue to love it, but Star Trek won’t exist for our children and their children, if we don’t adapt it for today.  I, personally, would not want to take that away from future generations.  Star Trek is more important than that.  Very few, if any, millennials, are going to be interested in checking out the original series.  That’s sad, but most likely true. For a generation or two more, the first few films might still hold their attention, but that too will eventually fade because we’re living in the future now and we’re already using devices that appear far more powerful than the communicators and PADDs of Trek’s yesterday.

Enough of my sermon.  I feel passionate about this, because Star Trek has shaped my life.  I want it to help shape the lives of the children of today and tomorrow, because it’s one of the few things we have left that teaches compassion, inclusion and hope.  We need Star Trek more than we ever have.

Back to Tyler and his cool little worker pod.

As he glides between the debris toward his destination he starts to hallucinate, and we see a little more of his torture (?) at the hands of L’Rell.

As the bridge crew watch his pod wobble around, confused by his sudden inability to fly stuff, he snaps out of it and successfully retrieves the data core.

As with everything Star Trek: Discovery does, the entire sequence is slick and looks beautiful.  It’s also carefully and thoughtfully directed by Jonathan Frakes, who uses a series of angles and cuts to show us the intensity of Ash’s experience.

Back on Discovery, Ash confronts L’Rell and this is where things get very interesting.

L'Rell Triggers Ash

As Ash asks L’Rell to tell him what she did to him, she suggests he opens the cell… and he does!  WTF Chief Security Officer?!

Mary Chieffo, throughout her time on the show, has shown she is an incredible actor, but in this simple scene she blows all of her other performances out of the water. It’s subtle and pitch perfect.

How any actor, under that much makeup and that many prosthetics, can convey the seductiveness and complicated emotions of the character in that moment is beyond me.  Why haven’t we heard of this incredible young woman before now?  She may be one of the most under rated actors around.

As she seduces Tyler, he grabs her by the throat.  Her response?  She utters the first few words of T’Kuvma’s prayer: “Who do we seek?

Suddenly Ash is not Ash anymore.  In a perfect copy of Voq’s voice, Ash recites the prayer with her.

Then he snaps out of it.  Much to L’Rell’s shock.  It’s clear she didn’t expect that.

You have another name.  Say it.”  She encourages him.

I know what my name is!” he screams back as he brings his phaser to bear on her.  Looking a little unhinged, he continues with: “If you don’t tell me what you did to my mind, to my soul, I’m going to make you scream it as you die.

The prayer should make you remember, something is wrong!” L’Rell says, sounding surprised, confused and perhaps even a little frightened.

You’re damn right something’s wrong,” he yells.  “Now tell me!

He shakes himself out of it and runs from the Brig as L’Rell affirms to herself that he will return to her.

So, Tyler is Voq.  Now we just need to know one of two things: has he been surgically altered with Ash’s memory engrams layered over the top of his original personality?  Or, has Ash had Voq’s memory engrams layered over his personality and all the torture flashbacks are just that.  Flashbacks?

Starcrossed Lovers

We visit with Ash and Michael for a brief, intimate moment, as Ash tells her that his flashbacks are worse and asks for her help to get through it all.

She suggests he come clean about his PTSD but he begs her to let him handle things his own way.  For now.

She tells him she’ll trust him, and is called away to engineering.  We linger on Ash for a few seconds as he shatters a glass in his hand.  That boy ain’t controlling shit!

In engineering, Tilly shows Michael the now open data core.  They work out they can read it and Michael gets to work.

Next scene, Michael informs Saru, Tilly, Ash and Lorca that they are indeed in a new universe, one where a Terran Empire, not a United Federation, is the greatest power and one where a bunch of non-human species have entered into a rebellion against the Terrans.

They’re all called to the bridge because the Cooper has come back.

As they prepare to respond to the Cooper (because if they don’t, it’s threatening to blow the crap out of them), they learn that the Terran Universe Discovery is most likely now in their universe.

And here, we finally have a Star Trek character refer to the Mirror Universe as the Mirror Universe, as Burnham tells Lorca he can’t respond to the Cooper because he’s not the captain of the “Mirror Discovery.”

Tilly is.

Captain Killy

This is where the fun begins!

Up to this point the episode has been deadly serious.  It maintains its air of intrigue and tension, but from here on in merges it with a taste of the camp and wild abandon we’re all familiar with from the Mirror Universe.

Lorca guides Tilly into the Captains chair and gives her a few handy tips.  She is obviously terrified.

Then, in a scene that shows the brilliant comedy timing of both Mary Wiseman and Jason Isaacs, we’re treated to one of the most unique greetings between starships ever, and what may have been an homage to James Doohan and Scotty with Lorca assuming a Scottish bur.

I laughed out loud at Tilly’s greeting, and I admit my hands went to my face in both shock and amusement because I both felt terrible for her and was just plain delighted by every word she said and every facial expression she conveyed.

Kudos to the casting directors of Star Trek: Discovery.  Did they know how amazing these guys would be in EVERY single episode?  I swear this is the best ensemble cast on television anywhere – and I just came off holidays where I binge watched more television series than is probably healthy.

After they deal with the Cooper, Lorca instructs Saru to get everyone ready – especially Tilly.

We’re treated to a fun montage as they prep Tilly and the Discovery and her crew to pass unnoticed in this strange universe.

Star Trek: Discovery looks cinematic every episode.  It’s production values are outstanding, and everything about the show is beautiful.  This episode it took another step up because it was being directed by someone very familiar with directing major motion pictures.  If “Despite Yourself” has a fault, it’s that too much was packed into its run time, but despite that, Jonathan makes it flow and everything he does is just right.  His direction is dramatic when it needs to be, increasing tension and making the stakes feel high, and he flawlessly meshes in the camp and corn when needed using wonderful devices to transition certain scenes.

Commander Riker Gives the New Guys Some Tips

So how does this version of the Mirror Universe hold up to those seen on Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Original Series?

Really, really well.

In fact, it looks how it should.  Rather than just a belt and a cut off uniform to show more mid-rift, they give the uniforms a wonderful makeover with leather and gold plating, and update the Terran Empire logo just enough to make it look gaudily magnificent but still like the symbol we’re used to.

There’s a whole slew of badges and medals and the agony booths look perfect and, I was pleasantly surprised to see, very much like the prototype we saw in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly.”

Back in Lorca’s Ready Room, we learn that Michael was the Captain of the Shenzhou and is presumed dead, and that Lorca is a fugitive wanted for her murder.  Lorca was the Captain of the Buran in this reality also, but lost his crew in an attempted coup against the Emperor.

Lorca asks about the Emperor, but Michael tells him the Emperor is shadowed in mystery.

For those of you who have seen Star Trek: Enterprise, you may remember that Hoshi Sato took over the USS Defiant at the end of “In a Mirror, Darkly,” and laid waste to her enemies using it’s advanced technology and became Empress.  Interestingly, in one of the teaser images from episode 11, it looks like the ‘Emperor’ arrives, and is most definitely an Empress – though we don’t see her face.

The Empress of the Terran Empire

You have no idea how happy I will be if it was Hoshi!  She’d be pretty old, close to 130, but humans in Star Trek are long lived. I’d love to see Linda Park back on Trek, but I admit it is unlikely.  I would, however, settle for Hoshi being mentioned.

We cut to a scene where Lorca talks about the USS Destiny.  Data from the rebels lets the Discovery team know that the Destiny arrived in the Mirror Universe sans spore-drive, but it doesn’t give any specifics.  That data is only available to command level officers.  Lorca and Burnham have hatched a plan, however.  They will lure the Shenzhou to their location, and Lorca, Burnham and Ash will beam over with Ash serving as Michael’s personal guard.  Lorca will be her prisoner.  Michael will try and obtain the information they’re after because that will be their ticket to getting home.

Saru is not happy, but Lorca is insistent.

During this scene we get a look at a wireframe graphic of the USS Defiant.  In shape, she is very similar to the Constitution Class vessels we’ve come to know and love over the years.

USS Defiant Wireframe Image

There have been changes – the saucer has some alterations to it and the warp nacelles have been “enhanced.”  It’s hard to tell if the unusual blocky bulge on the main drive is an addition, or part of the other nacelle.  It will be interesting to see if we actually get to experience the ship on screen as something other than a graphic.

Next we visit with Culber and Ash in Sickbay.  Ash is concerned.  His flashbacks are getting worse and he’s worried.  He wants Culber to do a more detailed examination of him.

Ash is a little volatile but seemingly rational.  Culber starts the deeper scans as Paul shouts out from a nearby bed “Stay out of the palace!

As Culber goes over to soothe his beloved, Paul’s eyes revert to normal and he seems coherant for a moment.  He looks at Hugh and says: “Be careful.  The enemy is here.

This spooks the good doctor.

We jump to Tilly and Michael getting ready for their new roles as Mirror versions of themselves.

Tilly, as per usual, is adorable.

Lorca walks in on both women and seems strangely comfortable and even slightly too knowledgeable about how people act in the Mirror Universe.

I’m still a little on the side of “this is Mirror Universe Lorca,” but admit to not being entirely convinced.  It feels like the Mirror Universe is a huge part of this new Star Trek, but I know we’ll have to wait and see.


Lorca, Tilly and Michael go the bridge where Tilly starts snapping out orders, getting herself into character so she can successfully play this harsher, crueller version of herself.  She orders her crew to hail the ISS Shenzhou and we get to see Ensign Danby Connor again – only he’s not an Ensign anymore.  He’s now Captain of the Shenzhou.

Secluded in Lorca’s Ready Room, Burnham is shocked to see Connor.

As Tilly sets up Burnham’s return, Lorca smashes his face into the door to bloody himself up and they enter the bridge.

Connor doesn’t seem too happy to see ‘Captain’ Burnham back.

She pushes Lorca ahead of her and makes him kneel as they further elaborate on their story, telling Connor she faked her death so she could hunt Lorca down.

Despite Yourself

After some snappy reparte between Captain “Killy,” Connor and Burnham, the Shenzhou heads their way.

After the above unfolds, Ash returns to Sickbay for an update from Doctor Culber.  As some of you may remember, I mentioned how he was becoming a favourite character of mine a few reviews ago.  In this episode, he gets a lot of screen time.  Which was wonderful, until this now infamous scene.

Hugh questions Ash about some skeletal and neurological issues he’s found, and Ash can’t recollect anything along those lines having happened to him in the past.  Hugh pushes a little more, talking about the massive scarring to his organs and suggesting there has been a personality “overlay”, and before we know it our beloved Doctor is dead.

With L’Rell’s voice echoing in his head, Ash has snapped Doctor Culber’s neck.

It’s one of the more shocking scenes to ever appear in a Star Trek episode, because it’s entirely unexpected.  You start to sense that Hugh is in danger, but your head doesn’t go straight to the “he’d dead, Jim” thought.  Then… he’s dead, Jim, and you’re left stunned.

Culber’s death created something of a furour.  One of the first openly gay characters in Star Trek, in a meaningful relationship with another crew member, and a gay man of colour as well… lots of accidentally wrong messages being sent there.

It became such a thing – and the writers knew it would be a ‘thing’, so much so they talked to GLAAD about it – then on After Trek they pretty much told us that Culber wasn’t quite dead.  We were told to look into the real Paul Stamets’ work on the mycelial network for some clues about what is to come.

From this shocking moment, we start the wrap up of the episode – and it happens fast.

Captain Burnham and her Bodyguard, Ash

Michael, Lorca and Ash beam to the Shenzhou.

It doesn’t go according to plan.  Lorca gets thrown into an Agony Booth, Connor shows Michael how unhappy he is about her being alive and tries to rectify that by attacking her in the turbo life.

In one of the best staged Star Trek fights ever, Michael is forced to kill Connor, and we’re left wondering if any Danby Connor in any universe anywhere is allowed to live past his early to mid-twenties?

Burnham Faces Off Against Connor

It was great to see Sam Vartholomeos again, and just as sad to see his character wiped off the face of existence.  Again.

“Despite Yourself” ends with Michael sitting in the Captain’s chair of the ISS Shenzhou. It’s quite forbidding and begs the question, just how long will they be there?

This episode is wonderful.  As I said earlier, it’s only real fault is in how much it tries to pack in to less than an hour of viewing.  Somehow, with all of these plot points, and the differing yet complementary tonal shifts, Jonathan Frakes weaves it all together beautifully.

Every performance is excellent, every effect spot on, every music cue perfect, every camera angle carefully thought out and evocative.

It’s the best episode to date (despite Hugh’s death).

This is a terrible prediction, because the producers have all but told us Culber isn’t dead.  So, I predict Paul has some special spore-driven power that brings his beloved back.

Ash, if the above prediction is correct, is found out and we start to finally deal with the complexities of this character, and the actual PTSD someone would have whether they were the survivor of Klingon torture or were a Klingon who had been through what Voq has apparently been through.

The Empress of the Terran Empire is Philippa Georgiou (if the ruler in actually female).

The Discovery goes head to head with the Defiant.

Our Lorca is the Mirror Universe Lorca, and the Prime Universe Lorca is a homocidal maniac.

Captain “Killy” gets more awesome lines in Episode 11!

We see a goatee.

Five Starfleet Deltas

The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery airs tonight in Australia, and should have just aired in the US and UK.  It’s called “The Wolf Inside.”

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 United Kingdom, and usually at 6:00pm AEDT in Australia, but last week the episode dropped at 7:00pm so it might arrive later than usual again.

See you in a few days for another review.

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

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.”

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.


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.

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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

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?


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

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.

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

Overall, five Starfleet deltas out of five.

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

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

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

LCARS Interface

Episode 4 Recap and Review, and a Discovery Update

Ripper might be my new favourite character!

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

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

Tardigrade in Reaction Chamber

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

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

Episode 3 Recap and Review

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I am so conflicted.

I really enjoyed this episode, but there were a couple of things that gave me pause.  More on that later in the review.  First… the basics:

The Facts
Episode Number
: 103 (Season 1, Episode 3)
Episode Title: “Context Is For Kings”
Writers: Aaron Harberts, Gretchen J. Berg and Craig Sweeny
Story: Bryan Fuller, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg
Director: Akiva Goldsman

Interesting Bits and Pieces
We get to see our first Jefferies Tube!
There is a different Starfleet delta badge worn by some officers on the Discovery.  It’s all black.
A boarding party is a boarding party, not an away team (like on TNG).
Amanda is mentioned, and Spock is hinted at when Burnham talks to Tilly about her childhood.
Lorca has a Tribble.  That is hopefully neutered!
Lorca has a Gorn skeleton in his private area.  This is a little annoying, because I’m pretty sure we don’t officially meet the Gorn until the TOS era?
The robot is called Airiam and appears to be a Lieutenant Commander or full Commander?  I hope they explain this soon.  It looks like Data may have been the first “human-looking” android and not the first android in Starfleet.
The Discovery uses “breath” ID scans to access sensitive parts of the ship.  It actually looks kind of silly.
Last, but not least, Lorca and Landry are up to something together, and seem to have a relationship that goes back a while.

The Recap and Review
The first few minutes of “Context Is For Kings” did not grab me on the first watch.  On the second watch, I was far more interested because I knew what was coming and the scene made more sense.

We start on a prisoner transfer shuttle six-months after the events of “Battle At The Binary Stars.”

Burnham is in old school command mustard-gold, though it’s not a Starfleet uniform she is wearing, it’s prison garb.  She’s not in a good head space.

Sharing the shuttle with her are three not very nice individuals, one woman, two men, all human.  They’re unpleasant in every way, and this works.  The scene does a few things.  It shows us we’re not yet in the utopia that the Federation will become in the Picard-Sisko-Janeway era and it shows us that, as a species, humanity is still working itself out and is still trying to cast off some of its less desirable traits.

We quickly learn that Burnham is infamous as one of the prisoners tells her, with considerable anger, that she lost a family member in that battle.

Before things get violent, some kind of life form that feeds on energy starts to drain the shuttle of all power.  The pilot does an emergency EVA to try and fix the problem, but her tether breaks and she shoots off into the distance.  It’s all a little weird.  The scene is filmed in a very flat and undramatic way.  It’s devoid of intensity and energy.  Even the pilots death lacks drama.  She just shoots by a window.  I think that’s Akiva (the Director) helping us to climb into Michael’s mind – but initially I didn’t like it.

The prisoners go into a panic but Burnham sits there, quietly, almost with an air of relief, accepting her fate.  Perhaps even looking forward to it.

That, the second time around, was actually quite powerful.  It’s as if Burnham wanted to die and thought she deserved it.

Suddenly, a beautiful looking starship drifts languidly into shot, tractor beam extended, to save them.

USS Discovery

After two episodes, we finally get to see the USS Discovery.

I know the Discovery‘s design has divided fandom, but I love it.  It’s recognisably Starfleet, but is it’s own thing – and it’s stunning.  It’s design influence is a little alien, and I wonder at that.  I don’t recognise any particular Star Trek race’s ‘fingerprints’ on the design, but find that I want to know who developed her and whether or not they were guided by an alien aesthetic.

That’s the Trek geek in my coming out!

From the moment Discovery sails in to save the day, the episode kicks into high gear and we finally get to meet most of the principle cast.

Rekha Sharma as Commander Ellen Landry is entirely unlikeable.  She doesn’t seem to like or dislike Burnham, but treats everyone with what feels like contempt.  Equally.  Except for Gabriel Lorca.

Jason Isaacs plays our new Captain and you never know, from one moment to the next, whether or not Lorca is a good guy or a bad guy.  He is entirely mysterious, almost menacing, and completely compelling.

Mary Wiseman’s Ensign Sylvia Tilly is fantastic in every way.  She’s someone a lot of us can relate to.  This show is serious and tense, and Tilly brings a lighter touch which is needed.  I admit, I adore her.  She’s awkward, a ball of anxiety, allergic to almost everything, and is just a really good and really sweet human being.

Anthony Rapp’s Lieutenant Paul Stamets is arrogant, dismissive and entirely obsessed with his work.  He’s going to be an amazing character.  He doesn’t seem to like Lorca, and I’m not sure if he’s Starfleet or civilian?  It seems, from his dialogue, that he might have been drafted.

We reunite with Doug Jones’ Saru, and there’s also a brief, dialogue free reunion with a cybernetically altered Lieutenant Keyla Detmer from the Shenzhou, played by Emily Coutts.

Neither reunion goes well.  Gone is the brother/sister vibe between Saru and Burnham.  Saru is now the first officer of the Discovery, and he makes it clear that he considers Michael dangerous.

Keyla?  She just stares at Michael with barely constrained hatred and turns away.

Michael is temporarily put to work in Engineering with Stamets and Tilly while the shuttle is repaired.  It’s made clear she’ll ship out with the other prisoners and resume her journey when the transport is fixed.

As she gets to work, and gets a little break-and-entery, the mystery that is Discovery and her mission starts to unfold.

We learn that the Discovery has a sister ship, the USS Glenn, and the Glenn goes silent after upping their mycelial propulsion experiment.

Discovery shoots off to investigate.

Burnham, Tilly, Stamets, Landry and our first red-shirt (sorry… bronze-shirt), Ensign Ricky, shuttle over to what turns out to be a ship of horrors.

The experimental propulsion system on the Glenn has done something terrible to the biological lifeforms on the ship, and we go from Star Trek to horror-Trek in a matter of moments.  Disfigured, dismembered crew litter the ship, and it appears the Klingons tried to board her as we see one – before he’s quickly eaten by some kind of slug/beetle hybrid.

It’s a scene that is both amusing and horrifying.  One moment the Klingon is “shushing” the Discovery crew, the next he’s set upon by the monster and sucked into its toothy maw.

After a tense chase scene, that includes Michael reciting lines from an Alice in Wonderland book, our heroes escape, and, we learn, so too does the monster… though escape is probably the wrong word.  It ends up in some sort of menagerie aboard the Discovery thanks to Commander Landry.

The episode ends with Lorca asking Burnham to stay on as a consultant.  She declines, saying she committed mutiny and deserves her punishment, giving context to her despondency in the first scene.  She also doubts Lorca can over rule Starfleet.  He tells her he has a wide latitude in his mission, and insists she’s someone he needs.

She initially thinks its to engage in clandestine, barely legal activities in the name of the war effort and challenges him on this.

In a moment that gives us some welcome insight into Lorca’s cold and suspicious behaviour, he says it’s not.  He needs people who think on their feet, and are capable of doing what is necessary to save lives.

Burnham accepts his offer, affected by Lorca’s argument: “you helped start a war, don’t you wanna help me end it?”

What will her role be?  We’ll have to tune in to the next episode to find out.

“Context Is For Kings” is an excellent episode.  Akiva Goldsman really can direct.

The entire episode is tight, though there is a lot of treknobabble it doesn’t get in the way, and the exposition is light.

The performance of every single actor is superb.  There isn’t one weak actor in this show.

The writing… well, it feels like it’s been written by a committee and suffered as a result.  Previous Trek shows have an almost lyrical narrative flow, but Star Trek: Discovery hasn’t found that yet – and I think it’s because so many people have their fingers in each script.

That might eventually prove to be a good thing, but right now it is clear the writers are still trying to find their groove.

What gave me pause?

This new way of flying.  Unless I’m missing something, the Discovery appears to be mushroom-powered.  Which is okay.  In my day job, one part of the business I work for is looking into the science of mushrooms and how they can purify water and reclaim waste – and I am almost convinced mushrooms might save our planet, but there are four Trek series set in the future where there is zero mention of or reference to mushroom powered vessels.

Also, Lorca.  I admit I love his character, but I can’t work out if he’s a genius or a sociopath.

It rubs me the wrong way that Starfleet has given this man carte blanche to find a way to defeat the Klingons.

Context may be for kings, but I need more context.  We all do.  Is the war going so badly after six-months, that Starfleet is willing to consider chemical weapons or some other horrific tool as a means of stopping the Klingons?  Is this a Section 31 thing?  Are the black markings on the Discovery a symbol it is somehow different from other Starfleet vessels?

Lorca’s moral ambiguity is both fascinating and disquieting.

The shows writers and producers have gone to great pains to assure us it will all make sense, so I’m happy to suspend my concerns and enjoy the ride, but I do hope things become a little clearer soon.

Overall, this is an intense and enjoyable third episode… or actual pilot, if you prefer to see it that way.

This series is shaping up to be something very different and uniquely wonderful.  Four delta’s out of five!
4 Deltas

The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery has the second longest title in Trek history (I think).  It’s called “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry.”

The longest episode title in Trek history?  To my knowledge, it’s “For The World Is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky.”

We’ll be back with another review in a few days time.

Star Trek: Discovery continues to look incredible, and while the show still feels a little uneven I have no doubt it will find its voice soon, and its place in Star Trek canon.

Live Long, and Prosper.

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Pilot Episode Recap and Review (Parts One & Two)

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It’s been 12 long years, but finally Star Trek is back on television.  Sort of.  It was on television in the US for a night, and then switched to a streaming service… but you know what I mean!

The event also coincides, give or take a few days, with the 30th anniversary of another Trek show that gave birth to 18 years of science fiction adventure – Star Trek: The Next Generation.

TNG was a ground breaking series for its time and gave birth to a shared universe before the Marvel movies made the idea popular.  Though beloved now by most Star Trek fans, back in the day people were swearing they would not give it a chance because of how different it was: the command uniform colour was red, red-shirts were suddenly gold-shirts, the ships only looked vaguely familiar and Klingons were on the bridge.  Some Trek fans do like to get their knickers in a twist and make a fuss.

A fuss most certainly has been made about Star Trek: Discovery.  For those of us who were in our teens (or older) when the new series was first in production, all this ‘noise’ is annoyingly familiar.  We also saw it when Star Trek: Enterprise went into production.

I’ll give the more rabid among us this though, the job is harder when the new show is a prequel, especially one that is set in a timeframe we all already know so much about.

In Australia, “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle of the Binary Stars” dropped on Netflix only a few hours after they had premiered in the United States and Canada.  I quickly downloaded both episodes, finished up work for the day and headed to my car, fully intending to watch both episodes when I got home… only I couldn’t resist taking a peek.

Promising myself I’d only watch the first 15 minutes, I turned the car engine on, left it in park, hooked my phone into the car’s speakers, cued the first episode up on my pone and 40 minutes later I had to stop and just drive.

I eventually finished both episodes later that night in the comfort of my own home, with a nice warm feeling inside.  This was the new normal.  Star Trek on tap once a week, once again.

What did I think of the two-part premiere?

I enjoyed them.  I didn’t outright love them.  I was fully prepared to love them, I wanted to love them, but I didn’t quite get there.  I loved a lot of what I saw and I could see with ease the promise of an amazing series (which you might doubt when you read the review below), but it wasn’t there yet.  Nor should it be, it’s a pilot and every series has to find it’s feet, however, having just written that, I loved “The Emissary.”  With that pilot, I was sold.  It remains my favourite introduction to a new Trek series ever – and boy was that series different!

It was the same for Star Trek: Voyager.  I loved “Caretaker.”  That was an excellent pilot and ranks second on my list.

Star Trek: Enterprise‘s “Broken Bow” I enjoyed but had issues with.  The soft porn gel rub down in the decon chamber struck me as gratuitous and ruined that pilot for me.  It still does.

Next Gen?  Well, I was 15.  I loved it, but the adult me now sees how touch and go it was.  I still enjoy it (thanks nostalgia) but we all know it had a lot of issues.

“The Cage” vs “Where No Man Has Gone Before”… I love “The Cage.”  It wins out for me.  I loved Pike and I loved Number One.  Of course, I love Kirk and his crew too, but “The Cage” resonated with me when I first saw it when it was finally released on video many years ago.

Star Trek: Discovery?  I still don’t know.  It’s a little telling that I haven’t watched the two parter since that first night, I will, I just haven’t yet.  I strongly believe it will be an amazing series, but it upsets me that I didn’t immediately love it.

Why didn’t I love it?

I think they made a few mistakes that were avoidable – not Kelvin timeline level mistakes, but mistakes that shouldn’t have happened with that many executive producers nurse-maiding the series to air.

Before I go any further, it’s only fair I give you this warning:

Spoiler Alert

The Recap and Review
Now that that is out of the way, I’m going to go a little spoiler crazy.  This won’t be a blow by blow review, but I will highlight some of what gave me pause.

The first episode starts with the Klingons, and I think that was a mistake.

They look fantastic.  Yes, they are different from the Klingons we’ve known and loved (or been sick of for years because they’re so over used), and that is a little jarring, but they are recognisably Klingon, a more ornate version with very ornate costumes and intricately detailed sets, but they are without doubt Klingon.

The problem is that the makeup/prosthetics are so heavy I couldn’t work out what they were saying.  I don’t understand Klingon, but there is a cadence and familiarity we all have with that language, which was absent.

I wasn’t engaged by any of the Klingon scenes.   Not that opening scene or any subsequent scene.   They were laborious.  Slow, plodding and full of mangled guttural sounds.  I don’t believe that was the fault of the actors, but of the heavy prosthetics, the producers and the two director (part one and two had different directors).

It wasn’t a smart way to start a series.

The second misstep was the scene on the desert world with Georgiou and Burnham.

It was the second scene and it served no purpose.  We weren’t given a chance to be invested in the aliens they’re secretly helping, and though we were given an insight into Georgiou and Burnham’s relationship we get better examples of that later on.  Watching it, it felt like an excuse to mention “General Order One” to reassure us they were playing by the rules, and to set up Burnham’s fall from grace – being told she’s ready to command her own ship, only to have that all fall apart later on.

The worst part of that scene was the Starfleet delta in the sand.  I had hoped it was an insert by CBS that was used only for promos, but no.

Georgiou and Burnham walk a delta in the sand to help the Shenzhou spot them from orbit.

Let’s not even talk about how big that delta would have needed to be.  The biggest sin, besides the stupidity of the delta, was showing the Shenzhou break through the clouds only to jarringly cut to a shot of her hovering over the desert floor.  They wasted what would have been a stunning shot.

BUT, from there, the show really took off.

After a ‘different’ kind of opening credits sequence that is good but derivative, with music that is almost perfect (it dips in the middle which shifts the whole theme from awesome to average) and a list of credits that has us all asking “just how many Executive Producers does one show need?” we jump straight to the Shenzhou and their encounter with a mysterious object.  Suddenly, you forget all the executive producers, the muffled Klingons and the sand-delta because the show becomes Star Trek.  Everything starts to click.

The bridge and design of the Shenzhou owe more to the ships of Star Trek: Enterprise or to the USS Kelvin and USS Franklin of the J.J. Abrams films than to any TOS ship, and the uniforms are unlike anything we’ve ever seen in any Star Trek, but suddenly, for me, it all fit.

The designers have linked the old with the new in a way that works.  They couldn’t ignore the Kelvin timeline, because a smidge of it takes place in the Prime timeline – so it suddenly made sense that we’d see a mix of TOS and Kelvin and Star Trek: Enterprise design aesthetics in the show, mixed harmoniously together.  There wasn’t enough TOS, but we have been told that will come.  We’ve even been told we’ll see the original uniforms in some version.  On that, apparently the new uniforms, as seen on Pike and his crew, are being phased in, like the DS9 and Voyager uniforms were phased in, in Star Trek: Generations before they changed entirely for the eighth film.

It wasn’t just all of those things clicking in my head that made the show take off – it was everything that happened in those first scenes on the Shenzhou.  It worked.  The cast were great.  I’ve read a review or two that suggest the acting was wooden, but I didn’t see it.  There were a couple of moments where I questioned a performance or two, but it was the first episode and that sort of thing is going to happen.

From there, pretty much everything was excellent.  There was one more misstep, and that was in episode two where things happened too fast.  The actual battle with the Klingons and the appearance and almost instant annihilation of the USS Europa and Terry Serpico’s character were a wasted opportunity.  The episode was really building and then suddenly it felt like everything was over far too quickly.

If I have one major issue with these two opening instalments, it’s their pacing.  In places it’s off.

But that’s okay.  By the end of both episodes you realise you haven’t actually seen the pilot.  You’ve seen a prequel to the prequel.


The Shenzhou does not make it out.  Georgiou and most of the other characters we’ve been getting to know don’t live.  There is no resolution for the main character, there is life imprisonment for mutiny.  There is no USS Discovery and we don’t meet most of the actual main cast.

I liked that.  I hated it because I was really liking Georgiou and Danby Connor, but I liked it because it was unique and a wonderful device for getting exposition out of the way.

The real pilot we’ve since been told, will be episode three.

So… everyone dies?  Almost.  But yeah, most of the characters we meet don’t make it to the last act.

There are two impactful deaths in this two parter, for me, and both were handled beautifully.

I fell for Georgiou and Ensign Connor immediately, thanks to all the lead up about their characters, and they both go out in style.  Connors’ death is a shock.  But it’s what would happen in a space battle.  It’s so jarring and unexpected I forgot to breathe for a few moments.

Georgiou’s death we knew was coming, there was no way she was making it out alive, but it still surprised me, and Burnham’s reaction was perfect.  It was a heart-breaking, emotionally powerful scene.  Throughout the episode there were hints Philippa Georgiou was like a surrogate mother to Michael Burnham, and we see that play out meaningfully in her death.

Sonequa Martin-Green was incredible.

I won’t go any further into the episode because you need to watch it.  There is one more major death which is completely unexpected, but I don’t want to spoil that one.  It surprised me.

Yes, I’ve been critical of this two-part opener for the new series, but it really is excellent science fiction and it IS Star Trek.  I know I’ve spoiled quite a bit, but there are many more things to discover (no pun intended) that I haven’t talked about.

To wrap up:

Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones (as Burnham and Saru).  AMAZING.  10 out of 10.

Michelle Yeoh.  Why did they kill her off?  She is one of the best Star Trek captains I’ve seen on screen.  10 out of 10.

James Frain as Sarek.  He does it.  He honours Mark Leonard meaningfully, while making the character his own.  The only issue I had with Sarek was when his hologram sat on something in Burnham’s quarters from thousands of light years away, but that’s a nit pick I don’t have the energy to go into.  It’s one more thing the executive producers should have picked up on and didn’t.  Seriously… what do they do on the show?  The sitting hologram is not James’ fault and it didn’t detract from his performance.

The rest of the cast.  Just kick-ass.  I wanted to spend more time with them and am disappointed I didn’t get to.  We were promised “new ships” and got them, but I would have liked to see them stay around for longer.  10 out of 10.

Costumes and sets.  Blew my mind.  These surpass anything we’ve ever seen before on film or television.  10 out of 10.

Writing.  Needs a bit of work.  Some simple plot structure mistakes were made, some dialogue was a bit clunky, and some of what we saw on screen was silly.  Which ever writer or producer thought the delta in the sand was a good idea and that immersing us in the political nonsense of the Klingons was going to be interesting needs to sit out the rest of the season.  7 out of 10.

The overall story.  It’s great.  Personally, I love it and I have no issue with the Spock connection.  10 out of 10.

Music.  The opening theme is beautiful, but strays in the middle which does affect it. The music throughout the show was brilliant.  9 out of 10.

Direction.  Good.  I don’t know why they had to tilt the camera angle all the time, it annoyed the crap out of me.  6 out of 10.

Special Effects.  BEAUTIFUL.  10 out of 10.

Pacing.  Needs a bit of work, especially in the Klingon scenes.  They rushed stuff they shouldn’t have rushed, like most of Episode Two, and set far too languid a pace for some scenes that they should have just smashed through.  7 out of 10.

Editing.  I’ve separated this from pacing, because I think the pacing was a writing, directing and producing issue.  The editing was perfect except for that one scene in the opening with the Shenzhou.  I didn’t feel thrown out of more than that one scene by the editing choices made.  9 out of 10.

Tone.  This was Star Trek.  It felt like Star Trek, it looked like Star Trek, it sounded like Star Trek.  So much so, the strangeness of the uniforms and the Kelvin timeline like effects and sounds faded into the background.  9 out of 10.

4 Starfleet Delta’s out of 5.
4 Deltas

There is room for improvement, but they kicked a goal and I really pleased to say “Star Trek is back.”  I’m proud of what these guys have accomplished and I believe Star Trek is in the right hands.  I’m putting all of what annoyed me down to the reality that this is a new series finding its feet.

Bring on Monday!  I can’t wait for the third episode.

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