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Star Trek Dis - Season 2 - Episode 05

Star Trek Dis - 2x05 - Saints of Imperfection

Originally Aired: 2019-2-14

Synopsis:
Burnham and the crew navigate a dangerous alien landscape in a race against time to save Tilly's life, but Stamets is not at all prepared for what they find in the process. Section 31 is assigned to help track down Spock, much to Pike's dismay.

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 2.57

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Problems
- None beyond the ridiculous mycelial magic discussed at length in the review itself.

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- Georgiou showing up and Pike not knowing her true identity.
- Georgiou: "You're the one who brought me to this insufferable place. You don't get to be surprised I'm here."
- Tilly: Whatever you are, I am holding a Type 3 phaser rifle. Which is more powerful and generally larger than the Type 1 or the Type 2. I guess that's why they call it a 3."
- Culber suddenly appearing cowering and traumatized.
- Stamets' reunion with Culber.
- Tilly to May: "To him, you're the monster."
- Culber's rebirth of sorts in the mycelial cocoon.

My Review
Quoth Michael Burnham: "And if there is a greater hand leading us into an uncertain future, I can only hope it guides us well." It's as though she's begging the writers for fewer cringeworthy lines like, "Words define us," (like, whoa man!) and more coherent storytelling, because this episode is a bit of a clunker. What we have here is a story about some mushrooms kidnapping Tilly into their mushroom space via a mushroom transporter, but it turns out the mushrooms just need help defending themselves from a dead guy made of mushrooms who is then reborn using the mushroom transporter; meanwhile after a full search of the Mushroom Kingdom, it turns out your Spock is in another castle.

All joking aside, Stamets' reunion with Culber was legitimately touching and well-acted. This even aired on Valentine's Day. Aww! But the plotting is ridiculous even by Discovery's standards. The magic powers of the mycelial network approach Voy: Threshold levels of voodoo. The story is vague at best about precisely how Culber's "soul" was transported to mycelial network to begin with. We can maybe help the writers out here by cooking up some absurd rationalization that the story didn't give us: Let's assume that Stamets' connection to the network was the conduit by which he arrived there. Perhaps Stamets and Culber had a connection between them through some sort of special mycelial infection Stamets shared with Culber through intimate contact, such that Culber's consciousness was copied to the network before he died. But even so, there are still so many problems. Why did the jahSepp recreate Culber just to break him down again? Why would the jahSepp want to eat something that was made from their own matter when it was established that they only break down foreign matter? And for that matter why didn't Tilly ask May to stop the jahSepp from eating the ship once they forged an alliance to defeat the "monster?"

The writers simply weren't interested in rigorously sketching any of that out. They just wanted to turn up the urgency of everything to eleven and hope you wouldn't notice that these things don't make sense. Except of course when they painfully interrupted a countdown to have an emotional scene. This happens frequently on Discovery, but this episode was a particular offender. It felt like people were constantly warning the away team that they need to hurry because everyone's about to die, only to see the away team turn around and talk about their feelings for an excruciatingly long amount of time.

The most painful thing about the episode though is the retconning of Section 31. In the 22nd century Section 31 exists as a shadowy organization nobody knows about. They do super shady things and the very few people exposed to them react with horror and work to root them out. Now in the 23rd century Section 31 is basically the CIA, everyone knows who and what they are, not many people think what they're doing is particularly shady, and nobody wants to see the organization rooted out. Then in the 24th century Section 31 is somehow back to being a shadowy organization nobody knows about. They do super shady things and the very few people exposed to them react with horror and work to root them out.

Yeah, sure, we can concoct some tortured rationalizations for why Section 31 was widely known and fairly popular in the 23rd century but not in the 22nd or 24th, but—say—driving them underground after some incident during the events of Discovery doesn't erase the apparently widespread knowledge that they previously existed. What are we supposed to believe, that after they are driven underground they make everyone forget they ever existed, Men in Black style with a flashing amnesia device? Though that would be fitting given Discovery's track record of transforming Star Trek into a goofy comic booky MCU-tone story. As usual, Discovery is playing it fast and loose with canon and hoping we don't think about it too hard.

And that's exactly the problem: it takes extremely tortured rationalizations to make any of this Section 31 stuff make sense. And beyond that, the whole idea of the narrative itself treating Section 31 as a necessary evil rather than the total perversion of what the Federation stands for that it is is precisely the opposite of the spirit of Star Trek. The whole concept behind Section 31 has always been to depict them as monstrously evil. Such evil should not be glorified by Star Trek. We especially shouldn't glorify it by simultaneously glorifying a mirror universe character as some sort of antihero.

Bad mushroom science is one thing, but Star Trek has seriously lost its way with this Section 31 plot thread. It's an insult to Star Trek and everything it stands for.

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