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Star Trek Dis - Season 3 - Episode 02

Star Trek Dis - 3x02 - Far From Home

Originally Aired: 2020-10-21

After the U.S.S. Discovery crash-lands on a strange planet, the crew finds themselves racing against time to repair their ship. Meanwhile, Saru and Tilly embark on a perilous first-contact mission in hopes of finding Burnham.

My Rating - 3

Fan Rating Average - 5

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- This episode establishes that Discovery currently has a crew of 88, down from 136 in Choose Your Pain.
- Linus, the Saurian character, says that he can see a spectrum of 74 micrometers which would mean that he can see some infrared radiation as visible light.

Remarkable Scenes
- Discovery crashing into the planet.
- Tilly's barely contained glee at seeing the programmable matter technology.
- Saru: "We are an older model." Zareh: "Aren't we all."
- The slow death torture gun.
- Burnham rescuing Discovery and revealing that she had been stranded in the future for a whole year.

My Review
It seems all that's left when you strip away the hyperactive manic pacing of Discovery's first two seasons is a boring, banal caricature of Star Trek. While the previous episode at least had some compelling exposition and a reasonably interesting new character for Burnham to bandy about with, this second introduction to the 32nd century mostly just repeated exposition we already knew for the benefit of characters that hadn't experienced it yet, except in a much less compelling way. While the manic pacing may be gone, the excessively contemporary slang is not. Here we're treated to such pseudo-witty dialog as "all I got was this lousy t-shirt" and "Brace! Brace! Brace!" along with "cleanup on aisle five." Plus Reno and Stamets spend basically the entire episode constantly trying to outdo each other's snide one liners. Starfleet is supposed to be an aspirational presentation of humanity at its best, but instead Discovery consistently portrays it as full of acerbic and at times downright obnoxious people that are hard to relate to because if you met any of them in real life, you'd hardly want to be friends with someone who acted like that all the time. It's certainly not unrealistic or unprecedented to portray Starfleet as having a few obnoxious people here and there like so many admirals of the week, or the occasional awkward misfit like Barclay, but while previous portrayals presented such characters as atypical and unacceptably unprofessional, Discovery seems to have nearly everyone act that way and the narrative celebrates such behavior as normative and acceptable.

Also out of step with the spirit of Star Trek was Saru's bizarre take on the Prime Directive somehow applying to this situation. Nhan correctly points out that nearly every society they encounter will be more advanced than they are, so how could the Prime Directive possibly apply? If anything, it's a violation of the Temporal Prime Directive for anyone from this time period to interact with Discovery's crew. But Saru seems to have it backwards, arguing that it would somehow contaminate the culture of future societies for people from the past to suddenly appear. He justified this by making the nonsensical argument that "we carry with us a knowledge of certain past events that we cannot share." In other words, Discovery's crew are living witnesses to ancient history. It's like saying we should not be delighted to meet a person frozen in stasis from ancient Rome and revive them so that we could get a direct recounting of history from someone who lived through those events because knowing more about our history from a living witness would somehow contaminate our culture. This kind of pseudo-moralizing has become alarmingly common on Star Trek lately with high-minded-sounding principles being spouted by characters in very confident, grandiose terms that are totally devoid of any philosophical coherence whatsoever, the most recent and egregious example before this being Picard and Data suddenly becoming death worshippers in the Picard show's first season finale. Besides, Saru violates his own dumb principle when immediately after his Prime Directive speech, he goes and interacts heavily with the locals up to and including divulging who they are and where they came from.

Another notably odd preoccupation of the story is its constantly contrasting Saru's instincts with Georgiou's, with the apparent narrative purpose to establish Saru's high-minded principles as being ultimately more beneficial to the marooned crew than Georgiou's ruthless pragmatism. To that end, Saru idiotically decides to make the landing party consist solely of himself and—of all people—Tilly, arguing—laughably—that Tilly would make a wonderful first impression in any first contact situation. Yes, it is clear that the narrative intent was to focus on Tilly's positive qualities, like her boundless enthusiasm, optimism, and eagerness, but those aren't the qualities of Tilly that are the most memorable. The most memorable qualities of Tilly are her incredible lack of emotional regulation and therefore her impulsiveness and unpredictability. That quality is so memorable in fact that Burnham immediately thought of Tilly when she was drugged in the last episode, insisting that it would be very bad indeed if Tilly's eccentricities were ever magnified by that same drug. As such, bringing Tilly into any high stakes, sensitive situation without proper supervision is a recipe to get themselves all killed, which Georgiou correctly pointed out is exactly what would've happened to them had she not disobeyed orders and followed them so she could save their lives just in time while Saru literally ordered Tilly to hide behind the bar during the fight because even he recognized her total uselessness in that moment. Meanwhile, perhaps the most irritating aspect of that narrative failure is how it requires us to praise Georgiou, who is a truly awful character concept because she glorifies Section 31, which should never be glorified. We should all want the narrative to convincingly portray Saru's commitment to Starfleet principles as always superior to Section 31's amoral cynicism in any situation, but in that the narrative completely fails to deliver in this story.

There are some bright spots in the episode though. Detmer appears to be experiencing either some sort of malfunction with her implant or perhaps much more interestingly a form of PTSD after the crash landing. Perhaps she's feeling some survivor's guilt and blames every injury and death that happened on her piloting skills. The episode doesn't get into precisely what's going on with her, but whatever it was it was presented in a compelling way that certainly piques one's curiosity. Another curious detail was Zareh referring to Saru as a "V'draysh" captain. The term "V'draysh" was used to describe the enemy that Craft had fought against in Calypso, which seems to imply that Craft had fought against some remnant faction of the Federation left over after The Burn perhaps. Also notable was Zareh being surprised that Saru doesn't know "pidgin," a language that the universal translator can't translate for some reason. Saru encourages everyone to speak "the common tongue" which is a lingual concept that would seem to be unnecessary in a world with universal translators, but whatever. It wouldn't be the first time the UT was presented as more than a little confusing conceptually. The ending of course was perhaps the biggest highlight of the episode. Having Burnham stranded for a whole year away from Discovery is a bold storytelling choice and a welcome one. Hopefully it means Burnham will be able to help along the exposition about what this "V'draysh" thing is exactly so we can keep the story moving in the direction of suspense rather than mystery.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From FH on 2020-11-14 at 3:57pm:
    For what it's worth, I thought "V'draysh" is simply the future slang name for the "Federation", that is, a slightly shortened version of the same word if pronounced quickly and sloppily enough.

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