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Star Trek Dis - Season 1 - Episode 15

Star Trek Dis - 1x15 - Will You Take My Hand?

Originally Aired: 2018-2-11

Synopsis:
With Georgiou at the helm of the plan to end the Klingon war once and for all, the U.S.S. Discovery crew struggles to fathom and tolerate her hostile tactics. Memories of past hardships are rekindled within Burnham.

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 3

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Problems
- An orbital shot of Earth clearly shows that Los Angeles still exists during this time period. However, Voy: Future's End established that it had sunk into the Pacific after an earthquake in the mid-21st century and became a reef.
- The simulation of Qo'noS being destroyed ends with the typo "END SIMULTATION."
- When Discovery leaves for Vulcan, we see it fly past Jupiter. Saru then asks if they have "cleared the Sol system." Detmer says they have, which is wrong because they then pass Neptune.
- It takes Discovery around ten seconds to travel between Jupiter and Neptune at subwarp speeds, which is far too fast, even if the planets were lined up. But even then, they wouldn't be lined up. In the 2250s, Jupiter and Neptune will be on opposite sides of the Solar System.

Factoids
- Clint Howard plays the Orion who gives Tilly drugs in this episode. He previously played Balok in TOS: The Corbomite Maneuver, Grady in DS9: Past Tense, Part II, and Muk in Ent: Acquisition.
- A shot of a urinating, presumably male Klingon in an alleyway would seem to imply that Klingons have either two penises or at least two organs capable of urinating. This would be consistent with previous continuity establishing Klingons to have numerous redundant organs. It is also the first time we've seen urination on screen in the franchise.
- A deleted scene from this episode depicts Georgiou being invited to join Section 31.

Remarkable Scenes
- Tilly's swift rude awakening to the fact that Georgiou is mirror Georgiou. The fearful, awkward salute is the best part.
- Georgiou, upon witnessing the Orion dancers: "I knew your whole universe couldn't be boring."
- Burnham: "The only way to defeat fear is to tell it no. No, we will not take shortcuts on the path to righteousness. No, we will not break the rules that protect us from our basest instincts. No, we will not allow desperation to destroy moral authority."

My Review
This is an extremely disappointing conclusion to a story that opened with a lot of potential in the terrific pilot. The pilot offered the potential for a story that articulated the deeper reasons for the Federation-Klingon cold war we see in TOS. The potential for a story about nationalist tribalism that both resonated with real world events and substantiated the unique quirks of Klingon culture that ripple across the chronologically later stories. The potential for a story that sets up a century-long struggle in vain to "remain Klingon" that ends on a tragic but dramatically compelling whimper when Ezri Dax correctly assesses that the Klingon Empire was dying and deserved to die a century later on DS9. How can one "remain Klingon" when one defines Klingon identity as blood and soil the way T'Kuvma, Voq, and L'Rell did? We always knew their ideology was destined to fade into the mists of history as the Klingon Empire was gradually subsumed into the Federation's inevitable hegemonic melting pot.

This theme isn't new. Non-Federation aliens have felt threatened by the Federation melting pot many times on Star Trek. Recall this quite revealing exchange from DS9: The Way of the Warrior. It begins with Quark, regarding root beer. Quark: "What do you think?" Garak: "It's vile." Quark: "I know. It's so bubbly and cloying and happy." Garak: "Just like the Federation."

As an important piece of context, normally neither Quark nor Garak would bother with experiencing Federation cultural trivia unprompted by others, but the Federation's expansion and its growing appeal to more and more Alpha Quadrant species had begun to make it harder and harder to ignore the Americana (so to speak) of the Federation.

Their conversation continued. Quark: "But you know what's really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to like it." Garak: "It's insidious." Quark: "Just like the Federation."

This is why the Klingons went to war with the Federation. They wanted to "remain Klingon" in the face of the frightening threat of the Federation's expansion due to the growing appeal of the Federation's values. T'Kuvma, Voq, and L'Rell rightly regarded the Federation as insidious. It posed an existential threat to their xenophobic values, which opposed diversity, inclusion, and assimilation.

But by the end of the season, all the potential for a deep meditation on Klingon nationalist tribalism had devolved into a set of motivations and events with layers of incoherence caked upon each other. Even setting aside the fact that the narrative lazily cut over most of the war using the mirror universe diversion, L'Rell's infiltration plan turned out to be ill-conceived and failed miserably. She easily could've died on numerous occasions—most notably when the ship of the dead was destroyed—and kept narrowly escaping death entirely due to dumb luck, rather than any kind of skill or planning. Her reprogramming of Voq turned out to be riddled with bugs and she never achieved her original objective of using him to gather intelligence about Discovery's spore drive.

The way she comes out on top in the end is likewise painfully incoherent on many levels. Burnham decides on the basis of seemingly nothing more than naive hubris that L'Rell could take over the Klingon Empire by brandishing an iPad with a claim that it can blow up the world. L'Rell idiotically agrees that is a workable plan and further agrees to end the war she just a short time ago was so deeply committed to that she was dropping lines like, "This war ends when we crush you." She even took a beating to prove her commitment to Klingon tribalism. But all those deep commitments suddenly vanished as soon as Burnham offered her a half-baked way to take over the empire. It turns out L'Rell was never a committed nationalist. Just power hungry.

She was also, as always, the beneficiary of incredibly dumb luck. It's not clear why the High Council would believe her when she said to them, "Hey guys, I've got this iPad that can blow up the world, so therefore I'm the leader of the Klingon Empire now." It's even less clear why they'd be so willing to just call off the war based on such an unproven threat when they had Earth itself on its knees. Nor is it at all clear why Klingons everywhere would all unanimously agree with this radical reversal instantly without the slightest hesitation. When all the Klingon ships just turn around and go home, the narrative expects us to celebrate it as a victory for peace, but it's hard to not just laugh at the absurd implausibility of the scene instead.

It's also ridiculous for the narrative to imply that everyone thinks L'Rell's hold on power could ever last. The Federation essentially effectuated a regime change in the Klingon Empire. L'Rell even did it holding a Federation PADD. It's hard to imagine that not breeding resentment among at least some Klingon houses, who might already be a bit annoyed that they had to call off the war on the eve of victory. Since the PADD is gene-locked, all they'd have to do to end the threat she poses to their homeworld is assassinate her. Or what if they just destroyed the PADD? Or how about the fact that L'Rell couldn't possibly monitor every Klingon on the planet? They could go spelunking for the bomb and dismantle it. Clearly, neither the characters nor the writers thought any of this through.

L'Rell and the war are just the tip of the iceberg of vacuous writing here though, as there are a litany of other stupid details in this episode. It's hard to accept that Burnham's and Saru's obnoxious behavior on the bridge wouldn't have immediately blown Georgiou's cover. It likewise strains credibility for Saru to be outraged about letting Georgiou out of confinement when he did exactly the same thing with L'Rell in an earlier episode. The height of absurdity here is letting Georgiou go in the end. There is no reason for this other than to make it convenient for the writers to bring her back randomly in the future. A bad story point motivated by lazy writing.

Also Georgiou said Cornwell told her that Tyler's "Klingon id has been neutered" and that he is "benign" and "useless to them." She also says he is somehow tarnished to the Federation. But these statements are contradictory on their face. If he's useless, then he's also harmless. But if he's useful, then clearly there's potential for harm. The latter is clearly shown to be the case by the events of the episode, as he seems to have access to all of Voq's memories. Thus, he seems far from useless, but don't tell Tyler. Because at the end of the episode, he idiotically agrees that he's "no good for either side." The narrative seems to idiotically celebrate this line as though he said something really deep. (He didn't.) Then Tyler undermines the point anyway by going to live on Qo'noS, which for those of you keeping score at home, happens to be picking a side. He might be "no good for either side" (which is wrong), but he's totally picking a side anyway (because it was a stupid line to begin with). Speaking of Qo'noS, it is stated in an earlier episode that no humans have been there in 100 years. And yet no one seemed to care about a whole bunch of humans being there during this episode. In fact, there seemed to be a whole bunch of them there already before the landing party even got there. Go figure.

And then there's Cornwell's absurdly swift caving on her plan to destroy the Klingon homeworld as soon as Burnham calls her up and says, "Hey, genocide is bad." Cornwell's response was basically like, "Golly, yeah, you're right, I didn't think of that!" On that note, it's hard to imagine a good reason why neither Cornwell nor Sarek appear to have been punished for attempting a genocide. And speaking of Federation policy on matters of great significance, it appears the Federation has put the spore drive in mothballs, in an apparent attempt to resolve the continuity issue of why we never see it again. It's good that they're trying to respect continuity, but as usual they did it in a terribly sloppy way. It's stated that Starfleet is working on a "non-human interface" to the spore drive, which implies that there are significant medical consequences for piloting it, but that doesn't actually seem to be the case. We've seen Stamets pilot it several times. Sometimes he had some medical problems, but they were always quickly resolved. It's not actually terribly clear precisely what danger the spore drive poses now or why they can't just keep using it.

It should be noted briefly that there are a handful of small details to praise in this episode. Georgiou enjoying herself on the Klingon homeworld was highly amusing. The depiction of a rich, reasonably diverse society on Qo'noS was nice to see too. We saw minority communities and non-warrior castes of Klingon society, which has been somewhat rare on Star Trek thus far. Also Discovery's jump into the underground caves showing the ship struggling against the planet's gravity was depicted in a much more satisfying way than the similar scene in The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry when Discovery appears to magically hover over Corvan II effortlessly. It's also nice to see that Discovery will soon get a new, presumably permanent captain.

Though that brings us to that neat trick the writers pulled at the end, whipping out that pretty shot of the fully reimagined Enterprise swooping in majestically, as though just begging us to forget about the incredibly unsatisfying episode we just watched because something better lies ahead. The audience pandering isn't even concealed, given that the emphasis of the scene isn't on the supposed emergency that brings Captain Christopher Pike to the Discovery, but instead on the nostalgic glee of seeing the Enterprise again. As for the reimagined Enterprise, we should all have mixed feelings about it. On the bright side, it's a great way for the writers to send a clear message to us about how they regard rebooting visual continuity. Previously it had been a bit more vague. They seemed to be respecting some visual canon, but not all of it, so it wasn't clear where their boundaries were. As such, for those invested in visual canon remaining consistent, watching Discovery has so far been a vaguely stressful exercise in "which canon will they crush this week?" Selectively respecting or rebooting canon is bad storytelling as has been previously discussed, but it would've been even worse if we never got a complete answer as to which visual canon they will and won't respect. With this episode, we've finally gotten a pretty clear answer to that. They'll reboot anything. They'll even reboot the Enterprise. Nothing is sacred. We can accept that now and move on, even if many of us may disagree with it.

What should give us pause about that though is by now it's clear that the writers' blasé regard for visual canon is merely a reflection of their blasé regard for all canon. This season has been riddled with continuity errors both internal to Discovery and external to other Star Trek shows. Their whole approach to canon in general is at best described as strained, and at times has been downright sloppy. So for those of you who are unconcerned with visual canon but are still hoping that the writers will build upon story canon respectfully, at this point the best advice would be to not get your hopes up too much. The track record so far hasn't been great. And unlike the illustrious Enterprise season 4, it seems unlikely that better writers will show up at the end of the show to clean it all up this time. We're witnessing the soft rebooting of all of Star Trek, not the careful stewardship of a timeless epic. Where once the whole of the story was treated with the literary rigor required to carefully interweave a chronology spanning centuries, now Star Trek is just being arbitrarily twisted and morphed with little regard for the finer details like a pulp comic book franchise.

And like a comic book franchise, we have a proportional reduction in internal storytelling depth. This season has repeatedly violated the principle of "show, don't tell" in its writing. Aside from obvious details like cutting over most of the war, there are more subtle violations of this principle as well. In this very episode, we have Burnham telling us how Klingons murdered her parents rather than the narrative showing us. The scene would've been dramatically improved by a flashback, but we didn't get one. The war would've been dramatically improved by showing it to us, but we didn't get that either. And most importantly, the terrific pilot offered us potential for the story to show us how the Federation learned to stop taking "shortcuts on the path to righteousness," to see how the Federation learned how "not break the rules that protect us from our basest instincts," and how to "not allow desperation to destroy moral authority." But we weren't shown any of that. We were told it in a speech the narrative didn't earn.

This season of Star Trek started out by asking a lot of difficult questions about the tension between identity and multiculturalism, and then merely pretended to answer them. It punted the deep questions with shallow platitudes.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Abigail Chappell on 2018-02-20 at 5:47pm:
    I agree with everything you said, but I guess I'm not as profoundly disappointed as you -- primarily because I didn't have that high of expectations to begin with. And I still argue that it's a HUGE improvement over the last couple of movies, which were pure garbage. With my expectations set amazingly low by those films, this TV series has cleared the low bar. :)

    My thoughts on the final episode echo some of what you said. It's absurd that they let Georgiou out of confinement and in charge of a starship. That made no sense at all.

    I also thought the end of the war was incredibly abrupt. I mean, it didn't make much sense anyway, the way the Klingon faction were all fighting with each other, unorganized and divided, yet they could easily overpower the Federation anyway. But it was like all the episodes showed them losing the war, and things just getting worse and worse -- and then BAM! Nevermind, war over, we won! It just left me feeling like, "Huh? What just happened?"

    But, having said that, I'm glad that the war ended, because I'd like for Season 2 to focus on something new and different. I didn't want the war to continue another season. So although I would like for them to have ended it more soundly, I'll take it.

    The minutes at the end with a voiceover by Burnham were pretty cheesy. It was trying to be deep and meaningful, but it just came off as ... well, cheesy!

    I'm also kind of stuck on how this series is supposed to take place around the same time as the original series (right?), but they are SO MUCH more technologically advanced, based upon the aesthetics of the bridge and the way monitors work (things popping up in the air -- like a magical touch screen?). Obviously this has to do with the era in which the show was produced, but it's odd.

    Despite all my grumbling, I actually am looking forward to season 2 and shall continue to watch.
  • From Claus on 2018-02-21 at 4:55pm:
    The second half of season 1 is very entertaining and far better than the first 9 episodes. It's kind of a copy of the "Agents of Hydra" part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4, complete with evil counterpart of the main characters and uplinking people to "The Network". It's extremely fun to watch, and I like that this "Mirror arch" consists of several episodes and not just one or two.

    Normally in Star Trek, phaser gun fights are a little boring, since you always know the outcome. Main characters are never killed, unless there are a reset button in the end. But hey, Star Trek Discovery is nothing like other ST series. They dare to do the unexpected. I love it then things are not predictable. Ok, you might argue that people behave irrationally, and that ST Discovery is far from the "real" Star Trek spirit. But I certainly prefer something fresh and unpredictable than just the usual stuff.

    Episode 13 is the best episode of the season, and I just love evil Georgiou.
  • From tigertooth on 2018-03-27 at 4:59pm:
    Everything about Starfleet's interaction with evil Georgiou was terrible. Besides what has already been mentioned, the entire crew of Discovery knows she was killed. The entire crew knows that there are mirrors of everybody in the mirror universe. But nobody could put two and two together to figure out this was mirror Georgiou?

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