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Star Trek Dis - Season 1

Star Trek Dis - 1x01 - The Vulcan Hello

Originally Aired: 2017-9-24

Synopsis:
While patrolling Federation space, the U.S.S. Shenzhou encounters an object of unknown origin, putting First Officer Michael Burnham to her greatest test yet.

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 5.99

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 11 3 0 2 4 3 4 9 24 8 4

Problems
- The holo-communicator featured in this episode was portrayed as a new piece of technology in DS9: For the Uniform. We have to assume that the technology came in and out of fashion several times throughout the 23rd and 24th centuries to justify its continual appearance and disappearance. Indeed, even in DS9 the technology didn't stick around long and was quickly abandoned shortly after its first appearance.
- The warp drive effect in this episode has been altered in such a way that is extremely difficult to square with other Star Trek series.
- It is established in TOS: Turnabout Intruder that women cannot be captains in Starfleet. Likewise in TOS: The Cage Captain Pike was quoted as saying, "It's just that I can't get used to having a woman on the bridge." This kind of sexism was a difficult thing to suspend disbelief on at the time, but since women were shown to be captains not much later during the TOS films, it was assumed this sexism existed prior to the late 23rd century only. Star Trek: Enterprise further complicated this by depicting female captains in the 22nd century, narrowing the window of time for this sexist period in Star Trek's history to only the 23rd century. With Star Trek: Discovery, the issue is complicated even further by depicting a female captain (Georgiou) grooming a female subordinate (Burnham) to rise to the captaincy only a decade prior to TOS: Turnabout Intruder and only two years after the sexism of TOS: The Cage. This narrows the window of this sexist period of Star Trek's history to only a small number of years, making the episode even more difficult to rationalize.
- When Burnham places the call to Sarek, he picks up the phone almost immediately. Like within seconds. Was he waiting at the holo-communicator or something?
- Spock states in TOS: The Tholian Web that there is no record of a mutiny on a starship before. We have to assume that this event somehow goes unrecorded.

Factoids
- This episode establishes that there are 24 warring houses in the Klingon Empire at this time.
- This episode takes place on May 11th, 2256. A Sunday. This is two years after TOS: The Cage.
- Lieutenant Commander Saru is the first member of the Kelpien species to appear on Star Trek. His world "does not have food chains" and refers to his "species map" as binary: either the hunter or the hunted. His species, the hunted, was similar to livestock at some point in its history. He says his species was "biologically determined for one purpose: [...] to sense the coming of death."
- There is an Andorian colony at Gamma Hydra.

Remarkable Scenes
- T'Kuvma's impassioned speech stoking fear about the Federation.
- Burnham: "You do understand that being afraid of everything means you learn nothing? There's no opportunity to discover. To explore."
- Burnham accidentally taking out the Klingon and being launched into space unconscious.
- T'Kuvma's memorial for the fallen Klingon. That howl! So chilling.
- The flashback to Burnham's childhood attending a Vulcan school under Sarek's tutelage.
- A Klingon ship decloaking in front of the Shenzhou.
- T'Kuvma honoring the albino Klingon, Voq.
- Burnham's phone call with Sarek.
- Burnham Vulcan neck pinching Georgiou and attempting to assume command.
- Saru accusing Burnham of mutiny.
- Georgiou pulling a phaser on Burnham and reassuming command.
- A Klingon fleet arriving.

My Review
Before discussing the story itself, the elephant in the room needs to be acknowledged right at the start: this is the third Star Trek prequel in a row and like the others it introduces a litany of continuity problems, perhaps more than ever before. That aspect of the premise is quite problematic, but this review will dwell on that as little as possible, focusing instead on reviewing this series primarily on its own merits, rather than on how it impacts and possibly diminishes the rest of Star Trek's canon. For more on that, see this article.

With that out of the way, The Vulcan Hello is without a doubt the strongest Star Trek pilot so far. This touching and compelling story weaving Burnham's traumatic and quirky childhood with Klingon nationalism is some of the richest drama portrayed yet on Star Trek. This terrific shift in tone for Star Trek is captured brilliantly by the significant departure in the style of the opening theme as compared to previous Star Trek series. This new opening theme is stylized more like a James Bond film than previous Star Treks, and that's a good thing, as this is a different kind of Star Trek; one which grapples directly with the dark side of exploration: sometimes fantastic new discoveries lead to fantastic new terrors. Generations ago, the invention of warp drive led to the discovery of the Klingon Empire and the commencement of a cold war that lasted a century.

This contrast is best captured when Burnham explores the Klingon beacon. She has no idea what it is, nor does she understand the danger it represents, but is nevertheless awestruck by the beauty of its architecture. Her sense of wonder at her discovery is palpable and infectious. And her precocious recognition of its threat due to her personal history with the Klingon Empire, a rare experience during this time period, is a powerful piece of foreshadowing of the danger the Klingons pose to the Federation of this time period. Her explanation of "The Vulcan Hello" also neatly foreshadows how the Federation eventually makes peace with the Klingons: "Violence brought respect. Respect brought peace." That quite accurately summarizes Federation-Klingon relations in the 24th century as depicted on TNG and DS9.

The portrayal of Klingon tribalism and nationalist unification was a particular highlight also. The decision to show lengthy scenes entirely from the Klingon point of view in their native language subtitled was a fantastic way to elicit empathy for them rather than depicting them merely as the violent, savage, one-dimensional antagonists they sometimes seemed like in some past Star Trek productions. Framing their xenophobia as an issue of "self-preservation" and seeing diversity as a threat to their cultural identity evokes powerful comparisons to real life nationalist movements all over the world, both historic and modern. This is a natural fit for Klingon canon and can even be seen rippling across the Empire as late as DS9: Tacking Into the Wind when Ezri Dax confides in Worf that she views the Klingon Empire as dying, and deservedly so; a judgment made in reference to a culture she saw as too attached to tradition for its own good. Worf was uncomfortable with that assessment, but seemed to agree.

Star Trek: Discovery's pilot is not without its flaws, though. For starters, the ship Discovery is nowhere to be found. Given that this is a serialized drama, it seems obvious that the story will get to it eventually, but it seems equally obvious that if you're going to name your show "Discovery," you should find a way to work the ship into the pilot somewhere, at least as a framing device to match the show title. Another rough edge was Burnham's spacewalk. It was pretty contrived to force her out there in a spacesuit. Not having a shuttle "maneuverable enough to navigate the ring" seemed like a pretty weak excuse for that. Similarly, drawing the Starfleet logo in the desert as a plan B rescue plan was pretty campy, as was Sanu's hair literally standing on end when he got scared, and frankly the whole concept of an alien species whose magic superpower is to "sense the coming of death" is the lamest thing since Wesley Crusher's sweaters.

We could have also done without Ensign Danby Connor's annoying airline pilot announcement joke, a piece of filler dialog that is so overused in space opera by this point that it's a genuine cliche; one that was never funny to begin with. Then lens flare is a likewise unwelcome aesthetic continued from the Kelvinverse films and while the subtitled Klingon scenes are mostly awesome, the subtitles fly by a bit too fast sometimes.

All things considered though, despite prequel fatigue among most Star Trek fans, this is a strong prequel. It doesn't quite have Rogue One levels of polish, especially with regards to careful treatment of continuity (visual and otherwise), but it comes close and delivers an exceptionally strong story so far.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Kail on 2017-09-26 at 6:00pm:
    "It is established in TOS: Turnabout Intruder that women cannot be captains in Starfleet. This was a difficult thing to suspend disbelief on at the time, but since women were shown to be captains not much later during the TOS films, it was assumed this sexism existed prior to the late 23rd century only. Star Trek: Enterprise further complicated this by depicting female captains in the 22nd century, narrowing the window of time for this sexist period in Star Trek's history to only the 23rd century. With Star Trek: Discovery, the issue is complicated even further by depicting a female captain (Georgiou) grooming a female subordinate (Burnham) to rise to the captaincy only a decade prior to TOS: Turnabout Intruder. This narrows the window of this sexist period of Star Trek's history to only a small number of years, making the episode even more difficult to rationalize."

    I have ALWAYS taken Lester's comment "Your world of Starship Captains doesn't allow women" as Kirk's obsession with becoming a Captain left no room for her, not that female Captains are not allowed.
  • From KosstAmojan on 2017-09-27 at 8:23pm:
    You're konwn as a reviewer not only of Star Trek series but also of some other SF series. Did you also planning reviewing of The Orville?
  • From Kethinov on 2017-09-27 at 11:48pm:
    I have been struggling with that question. I was leaning towards not reviewing it assuming it would be strictly parody, as I have no interest in reviewing things that feel like Galaxy Quest. But having seen some early episodes of The Orville, I'm starting to think it might be worth reviewing, as it's not strictly parody.

    FWIW, I am also planning to review The Expanse, Killjoys, Dark Matter, the Star Wars films, Stargate, Babylon 5, Extant, and update several of the old reviews with expanded content. So stay tuned for, uhh... years to come. As this will take time haha. This site will also be relaunching with the brand new design I've been promising Real Soon Now™️. It's close to being finished, but not quite there yet...
  • From KosstAmojan on 2017-09-28 at 9:43pm:
    Wow! Just wow. Nice to read :).
  • From John C on 2017-10-02 at 10:08am:
    Just to say..glad to see you keeping up with it all! Been looking at your reviews since we started watching TNG two or three years a go and now we're half way through Voyager. We had a peep at this episode also, my son liked it "because it was modern".
  • From Claus on 2017-10-02 at 2:25pm:
    Fantastic! This is the first time in history, that I have seen a Star Trek episode when it was brand new. TOS was never broadcasted in Denmark, and the other shows were broadcasted (or sold on DVD's) with years of delay.

    Star Trek Discovery looks amazing, and I really like the new darker tone. As one could expect, the pilot has a lot of action. And although it looks great, it is also a little bit boring. I would rather have all the characters introduced first in a slower paced episode. But is is certainly a very promising start.

    It is very clear that Kethinov LOVES continuity. Over the last 2 years I have seen/revisited all episodes in all the Star Trek series (TOS and DS9 for the first time). And after each episode I read all the comments in here. Often I agreed, but also many times an episode gets a much too low ranking, just because of some continuity problems.

    As for this new series, no one can expect that designs on spaceships, uniforms, weapons etc. would be consistent with the older series. Also, no one can expect that younger viewers have seen TOS. So I think it is very natural to update all of this and not take into account how klingons looked like 50 years ago when the budget was very limited. Furthermore, who really cares what Spock said back then about female captains or mutiny...
    In short, I think most of the issues in your "list of problems" should be rephrased "design and reboot updates".
  • From kevin on 2017-10-02 at 8:52pm:
    Some good, but overall was a bit hard to watch with how it was filmed. Odd camera angles, lens flares that were not even from the lens, and a lot of zooming in and out. Need to watch a few more to decide. Right now "The ORVILLE" seems to be closer to real Star Trek.
  • From Kethinov on 2017-10-03 at 11:10am:
    Claus, I strongly disagree that continuity problems should be papered over as "design and reboot updates." In fact, I just finished an entire article outlining why it is terrible storytelling to ask your audience to treat aesthetic canon as disposable here: http://kethinov.com/startrek_selectivenostalgia.php
  • From Claus on 2017-10-04 at 11:01am:
    Kethinov, I have read your article, and it's very well written. However, it is also a bit disturbing how seriously you view things. I think it's possible to be a Star Trek fan without being a fanatic. In the end it's all about entertainment, it's not a religion (even though many trekkies might see Star Trek as a kind of a religion).

    You are right about that there are too many remakes out there (especially regarding movies). But not all remakes are bad. I love it when somebody dares to break convention and try out a whole new path. Just look at the very much alternative X-Men series Legion. Incredible! Or Twin Peaks The Return. I salute you Lynch.

    In my mind nothing is sacred. To say otherwise is to restrict the creativity of the artists.
  • From Kethinov on 2017-10-05 at 10:16am:
    This disregard for aesthetic canon is bad storytelling, not "religion" or "fanaticism." If you think about it beyond the surface for just a few minutes, it's easy to see why.

    What if each season on Discovery they "updated" the uniforms with a new design? What if they redesigned the interior sets? Or the exterior design of the ship? What if they totally overhauled the makeup for Saru? What if these changes persisted in flashbacks?

    Wouldn't it eventually get to the point where your "nothing is sacred" attitude about aesthetic canon would reach its breaking point?
  • From Claus on 2017-10-06 at 4:40am:
    Well, we can discuss from now on and forever, but I don't think that will change anything. The main reason is, that I simply don't buy the concept of an "aesthetic canon". It's good fun to watch how the older series looked like, but that's it. I'm not attached to it. So if anyone wants to bring things closer to how it "should have looked", then go for it.

    Example: I'm a HUGE Game of Thrones fan. And of course I noticed that the look of the Children of the Forest was changed significantly from season 4 to season 6. I was like, ok, that is also a good interpretation. They looked good before, and now they look even better (but in a very different way).

    We are all glad that we now actually have a new Star Trek show. So let's enjoy what we have, instead of being upset about what we don't have.
  • From Kethinov on 2017-10-06 at 10:34am:
    That's a pretty good analogy, because visually rebooting the children of the forest in Game of Thrones is another good illustration of this kind of shoddy storytelling, and you're right that your indifference to it (whereas it bothered me and plenty of others) captures the core our disagreement pretty well. Where I'd quibble with you there is the visual changes there were pretty subtle. Nothing like the total overhaul we're seeing today on Star Trek.

    What's happening on Star Trek would be closer to if Game of Thrones suddenly totally reimagined the dragons to look more like European dragons (with four legs and wings) than the present Chinese-like dragons for no reason, or recast an actor to someone who looks totally different, e.g. what happened Daario Naharis. Sometimes this stuff is unavoidable (e.g. if actors become unavailable), but they could've at least recast him to a similar looking actor. They didn't even try.

    Those things are all good illustrations of bad storytelling because this is a visual medium, not a novel series. Good stories on visual mediums take visual continuity seriously. And a lot of people value it. Their anger at this is valid, and you should not go around telling people to stop caring about aesthetic canon simply because you don't see why it matters to so many.

    You said you shrugged when Game of Thrones made those minor visual tweaks, as if that sufficiently answers the question I asked you about when you'd reach a breaking point if the changes became more frequent and with greater magnitude. But that doesn't really answer my question. So I encourage you to reconsider the question, and take it more seriously this time:

    What if each season on Discovery they "updated" the uniforms with a new design? What if they redesigned the interior sets? Or the exterior design of the ship? What if they totally overhauled the makeup for Saru? What if these changes persisted in flashbacks?

    Wouldn't it eventually get to the point where your "nothing is sacred" attitude about aesthetic canon would reach its breaking point?

    Or, put another way:

    What if each season on Game of Thrones they replaced all the actors? Changed the anatomy of the dragons? Totally overhauled the makeup for the White Walkers? What if these changes persisted in flashbacks?

    Wouldn't it eventually get to the point where your "nothing is sacred" attitude about aesthetic canon would reach its breaking point?

    You tried to indirectly answer "no," but that's hard to believe. Most people have a breaking point with this stuff. Many Star Trek fans have reached theirs. And justifiably so.
  • From Claus on 2017-10-06 at 6:07pm:
    Sorry I didn't answer your questions. I just thought they were meant as rhetorical. Because, it goes without saying, that everybody has a breaking point to what they can accept. I'm just more flexible than you.

    If Discovery updated the uniforms, interior sets and exterior design each season, I would properly frown upon that. But if it was done nicely, I could certainly live with it. And as for Saru, they are very welcome to change his make-up. His current face does not really look alive. It should be improved.

    If the look of the dragons and the Others (White Walkers) in GoT were changed to the better, I also wouldn't mind. I think my breaking point would be if the dragons were changed so they looked like the fellbeasts from LOTR (the Nazgûl dragons). Or if Tyrion was replaced by a non-dwarf. :-)

    However, I don't think it's fair to compare changes BETWEEN tv series 50 years apart (from TOS to Discovery) to changes WITHIN a single tv series (from Discovery season 1 to the next season). It is obvious that the show runners have more freedom of creativity when a whole new show is being produced, than when producing the next season of an existing tv series.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the attitude of "nothing is sacred" is quite common in my country. I have never met anybody who would be upset by things from your "list of problems". We prefer to just enjoy the show and to shrug off inconsistencies.

    Apparently, you are also able to shrug off things, since you gave the first two episodes very high rankings at 8 and 9 respectively. That's kind of admirable. If it were me, and I was very annoyed by something in an episode, I would punish it by a low ranking ;-)
  • From Kethinov on 2017-10-06 at 8:46pm:
    It's important to note that the high ratings Discovery's pilot received here are not a tacit approval of how they're handling aesthetic canon. A good reviewer will separate critiques of the premise from critiques of the execution. Discovery is getting high ratings here because while the premise (with regards to setting and aesthetic canon) is bad, the story is good. Good reviewers should always give a good grade to a good story, even if it's just a well executed bad idea.

    Meanwhile, the critique of the premise as articulated in the separate article still stands. Throwing out two generations of painstakingly maintained aesthetic canon will serve only to damage the long term health of the broader Star Trek franchise for no real gain.

    Future generations who watch Star Trek in chronological order will be subjected to unnecessarily painful transitions, going from Enterprise, to Discovery, to TOS. Before Discovery aired, the transition from Enterprise to TOS was relatively smooth, due to context clues about the upcoming change in industrial design aesthetics that were foreshadowed in various episodes, most notably when Ent: In A Mirror, Darkly foreshadowed the transition by having 22nd century characters interact with (accurately portrayed) 23rd century technology and comment on the differences.

    Likewise in the Star Wars franchise, you can watch the prequels, then Rogue One, and then the original trilogy and it works incredibly well because the producers carefully managed the aesthetic transitions between episode 3, Rogue One, and episode 4. Three generations of Star Wars films can be watched in rapid succession, but they feel aesthetically consistent. What a remarkable achievement!

    That's an ideal Star Trek should've aspired to. But Discovery takes Star Trek in the opposite direction because the producers were too lazy to do this right like the Star Wars folks did with Rogue One, or even like Gene Roddenberry did with the original series films and TNG by setting them further in the future each time he wanted to update the look. The producers of each of the five previous series understood this and worked hard to integrate visually into their predecessors' aesthetic canon. After fifty years of doing it right, Discovery comes along and demolishes all that hard work in a single episode for absolutely no coherent reason whatsoever.

    I think that sad and unnecessary decision has irrevocably damaged the Star Trek franchise's future. And I don't think history or future generations will look kindly on it whether Discovery's actual story turns out to be good or not.
  • From McCoy on 2017-10-25 at 10:25am:
    I've watched first 4 episodes and I'm done... Sorry.
    Wasn't expecting much after trailers but this is... Wow... I must admit, Discovery is better than Abrams reboots but it's still bad.
    I agree completely with every complain about continuity/design errors. I've studied literary theory and I know what a consequence in fictional worlds is. You can't "redesign" C3PO, because "hey, he looks and walks silly, nowadays nobody will take this kind of robot design serious". It's a matter of consequence inside fictional world. If they wanted "updated" visual style, they've should move timeline 10 years after Voyager and no one would complain. But nooo... Let's make prequel... Oh my...
    But even in after-Voy times nothing justify new look of Klingons. If you think Klingons looks not enough "alien", then make new aliens instead of messing with existing ones.
    And honestly, it's a boring show. I don't see much problems or curious sf ideas. Just generic shooting in space plus "modern" dark themes and killing characters to force tension.
    Don't want to spoil, but there is also a "mushroom" concept. And it's stupid as hell. Worse sf than legendary Threshold. I though for a moment they're kidding. Is this suppose to be a parody?
    What I like? Burnham, Georgiou, Saru and Lorca are well played. But it's not enough. Good actor won't save the show, if he won't get good scenario and dialogues.

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Star Trek Dis - 1x02 - Battle at the Binary Stars

Originally Aired: 2017-9-24

Synopsis:
Face to face with Klingon vessels, the U.S.S. Shenzhou prepares for the possibility of war if negotiations fail. Amidst the turmoil, Burnham looks back to her Vulcan upbringing for guidance.

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 5.8

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 12 5 0 1 2 5 2 5 12 17 4

Problems
- Just when we think the Klingon forehead problem is solved, it turns out that just a decade before every Klingon is shown to be human-like, the entire Klingon high council is shown to have bumpy foreheads and no hair. At this point the best rationalization is to say that Klingon fashion is mercurial...
- The phasers are quite a visual departure from both the 22nd century, later 23rd century material, and the 24th century. Like the Klingon forehead problem, we might have to chalk this one to fashion as well. Perhaps phaser blasts (as opposed to sustained beams) became trendy during this decade for some arcane technobabble reason...
- In keeping with our fashion problems, the uniforms shown in this series are quite problematic. This series takes place two years after TOS: The Cage, and yet the uniforms look nothing like either The Cage or any of the material aired in later TOS episodes. To rationalize this one, we have to assume that like the uniform confusion in ST VII: Generations, Starfleet was playing around with different uniform designs and different ships got different uniforms...
- Which brings us to the ship interiors! Like the uniforms, we have to assume that Starfleet was experimenting with different industrial designs along with different uniform fashions. Notably, the Shenzhou is stated to be an older design. Indeed, it looks more like Star Trek: Enterprise than TOS. Perhaps all the ship interiors seen on this series are the older design along with the uniforms too?
- A member of the Klingon high council was depicted as female. This seems pretty unlikely given that in DS9: The House of Quark it was established that Klingon females cannot lead Klingon houses without a special dispensation. Likewise, the Duras sisters on TNG used a puppet male heir to control the House of Duras, as females were not allowed to lead a great house. It's possible the Klingon female in this episode did indeed possess a special dispensation though. It's also possible that Klingon culture was less sexist during this time period.
- Burnham's chance of survival for that decompression was probably much higher than 43%. So long as she exhaled first to prevent injury caused by holding her breath, there was little reason to doubt her survival absent perhaps the radiation concern from the binary stars.

Factoids
- Burnham arrived on the Shenzhou in 2249, seven years prior to the start of the series.
- This episode establishes that Burnham is the only human ever to attend the Vulcan Learning Center and the Vulcan Science Acadamy.
- The Shenzhou is stated to be an old ship.
- This episode establishes that T'Kuvma invented the modern Klingon cloaking device.

Remarkable Scenes
- Burnham's flashback to her awkward first meeting with Georgiou.
- Georgiou relieving Burnham of duty for insubordination.
- T'Kuvma summoning the entire high council to the beacon.
- The Klingons attacking.
- Connor: "Why are we fighting? We're Starfleet. We're explorers, not soldiers."
- Connor being suddenly blown out into space by battle damage.
- Sarek rescuing Burnham with a mind meld in a flashback. One wonders if Picard acquired Sarek's memories of Burnham from TNG: Sarek?
- Burnham observing the space battle through the brig forcefield into open space.
- The Shenzhou being rescued by the Europa.
- The Europa being bisected by a kamikaze strike from a Klingon vessel.
- The Europa self-destructing to take out the Klingon ship that rammed it.
- T'Kuvma leaving survivors only to serve as witnesses to his victory to spread fear throughout the Federation.
- Burnham talking the computer into letting her jump through a vacuum. While Kirk talks computers to death, Burnham talks computers into saving lives!
- Georgiou bombing T'Kuvma's ship using a dead Klingon body being retrieved.
- Georgiou and Burnham attempting to capture T'Kuvma only to see Georgiou killed by T'Kuvma and T'Kuvma killed by Burnham.
- Burnham being court martialed, convicted, stripped of rank, and sentenced to prison.

My Review
Star Trek: DiscoveryShenzhou kicks into high gear in this thrilling followup to the pilot's cliffhanger at the end of the first episode. It's nice to see lasting, painful consequences result from Burnham opening pandora's box with the Klingons. Georgiou is tragically killed, T'Kuvma is martyred, and Burnham is in prison for starting a war! Having the main character's life permanently upended in this way sets the stage for a kind of drama never before seen on Star Trek, a welcome change of pace.

This skillfully-written episode makes good use of foreshadowing and parallelism. Burnham's character is shaped by a traumatic attack by the Klingons which killed her parents, leaving her a ward of Sarek. While not depicted in as much detail, it turns out a parallel story played out for T'Kuvma as well, as he apparently lost his parents at a young age too and likewise engaged in a process of self-discovery after "discovering" his father's ship and vowing to restore honor to his house.

Their similar childhoods ironically make them particularly hostile to each other: Burnham fears the Klingons as much as T'Kuvma fears the Federation. Burnham is afraid that the Klingons could take something or someone else dear to her and T'Kuvma sees the Federation as an existential threat to Klingon identity.

Indeed, both of them suffer exactly that which they fear most. T'Kuvma succeeds in provoking a war with the Federation, but in addition to costing him his life, we know from other Star Trek productions that the war doesn't end well for the Klingons. Likewise Burnham watches Georgiou die at T'Kuvma's hands. Then in her moment of grief with her self-esteem at perhaps an all time low, she declares, "We are at war and I am the enemy," shortly before being stripped of rank and sentenced to prison. All this was nicely foreshadowed in the previous episode when Georgiou said to Burnham, "I trust you with my life, but it doesn't change the fact that you're lost." Georgiou's trust was misplaced and Burnham is even more lost now than she may have been before.

Another interesting piece of perhaps unintentional foreshadowing from the previous episode is when Georgiou asked Burnham in the desert how long the storm would take to come crashing down on them. She estimated one hour, 17 minutes, and 22 seconds, or roughly 77 minutes. If you think of the coming of a storm as a metaphor for the battle with the Klingons, the grimmest part of the battle for our heroes is roughly 77 minutes into the screen time of the Star Trek: DiscoveryShenzhou series so far.

While this episode is terrific overall, there are some flaws to take note of. Aside from the copious continuity problems introduced here and noted above, Sarek's mind meld across a thousand light years of space due to some kind of subspace katra bond strains suspension of disbelief pretty hard. And what was with that ridiculously dark room the court martial was conducted in? Shadowy figures convicting our hero isn't dramatic, it's dumb. Do judges in the real world turn off all the lights for dramatic effect when sentencing criminals? No. So turn on some frigging lights!

Those are small nitpicks for the most part though and by and large this was a fantastic piece of drama. Putting Burnham in such a dark place (the figurative part anyway...) is an incredibly compelling way to set up a gripping story about how she grapples with both her personal losses and her responsibility to Federation society for having started the war with the Klingons. It seems clear that Star Trek: DiscoveryShenzhou is not at all interested in repeating Star Trek: Enterprise's mistake of failing to depict the single most important event in the historical canon of the era that it is depicting. Enterprise failed to depict the Earth-Romulan war even with four seasons. But this series started the war with the Klingons in episode two. And that's awesome.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Mike Chambers on 2017-09-25 at 10:57am:
    Here I am the morning after Discovery debuts, thinking "I wonder if there's a review on kethinov.com yet", and of course there is! You're definitely on top of things.

    I've had my worries about how this show would turn out for multiple reasons, and I'm happy to report that so far, my fears have largely been allayed! I am extremely impressed with the first two episodes. It feels very much like Star Trek, but perhaps with a bit of a darker tone than previous series. I may be disappointed in the future if it turns out that the entire series is this dark, as Star Trek is supposed to be optimistic overall.

    There is excellent drama here, and they have done a fantastic job so far with building these characters. I'm looking forward to seeing how their situations evolve from this point, and I am now officially excited to see future episodes.

    My only real problem is political in nature. They appear to be using the Klingons as an allegory for nationalists, but are mishandling it. They seem to be ascribing a bit of a racial purist motive to it, rather than the cultural and civic nationalism ideals to which the vast majority of nationalists actually adhere to. It's annoying, but this is a product of the entertainment industry, after all. It would be asking a bit much for them to understand the country outside of their bubble, so I'm not letting it ruin my experience.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed Discovery so far, and I want more!
  • From Rick on 2017-09-25 at 5:56pm:
    Star Trek being all about war is not Star Trek to me. It appears that this series will be about as far from Roddenberry's vision as possible, as all new productions since Enterprise have been. I understand that these type of stories are the modern tv way, but that way is not for me and apparently Star Trek no longer is either.
  • From Matthew on 2017-09-26 at 3:16pm:
    I found this gripping, particularly the last act of this part which sums up both my excitement and concern for how this series could go.

    It features principle and bravery plus the protagonists' plan not going their way with (crucially) very real consequences - that feels quite liberating in that it opens up a rich seam of story-telling. Even 'In the Pale Moonlight' (DS9) doesn't quite go that far (though that's a great episode and I bet the writers took some inspiration from that great 'It's a FAAAAKE' moment!) That could be the foundation of a great series. On the other hand, I worry slightly about the world-building and tone being undermined by aesthetic choices about it being a 'darker' show. That crass scene with the judges' faces in shadow was seriously grating and I'm glad it didn't just bother me.

    We'll see how it evolves - I'll definitely be watching (and I'm glad that we don't have to pay 6 dollars a month on top of Netflix to get it in the UK - my other big worry is that the economics don't work out for CBS and that it dies a death nothing to do with its creative merits!)

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Star Trek Dis - 1x03 - Context Is for Kings

Originally Aired: 2017-10-1

Synopsis:
Burnham finds herself aboard the U.S.S. Discovery where she quickly realizes things are not as they seem, including the mysterious Captain Gabriel Lorca.

My Rating - 4

Fan Rating Average - 5.84

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 6 4 1 1 4 2 5 6 5 11 4

Problems
- This episode establishes that the Discovery is a "brand new starship," further complicating any possible future rationalization to explain the visual continuity errors outlined in the past episodes. The Shenzhou was an "old ship" which could explain why the Enterprise looked so different. But if that is so, why does the Discovery, which is presumably newer than the Enterprise, look more like the Shenzhou than the Enterprise?
- Landry refers to Burnham as "Starfleet's first mutineer," but Spock states in TOS: The Tholian Web that there is no record of a mutiny on a starship before. The only way to rationalize that is that the event somehow went unrecorded, but it's hard to imagine how that could be possible given that Burnham was in prison for six months and seemingly everyone, including common criminals, knows who she was and of her mutiny. She is infamous in fact for having started the war.
- When Burnham asks Stamets whether they're dealing with biology or physics, he asks her, "Are you really so naive as to see them as different?" When he asks that question, his hands are on his lap and he's making a confused, grimacing expression. She then asks, "Sir?" and less than a second later it cuts back to him with his whole expression instantly changed and with him making a complex hand gesture to explain his prior bemusement. It was a sloppy cut. It strains credibility to believe that his facial expression changed and his hands moved so quickly.
- So if Burnham and Spock grew up together in the same house at the same time, then where was Burnham in TAS: Yesteryear?

Factoids
- Elias Toufexis, who plays the prisoner Cold on this show, also played Kenzo Gabriel on The Expanse.
- Rekha Sharma, who plays Commander Ellen Landry on this show, also played Tory Foster on Battlestar Galactica.
- When Burnham is working on the coding problem, the display she is viewing is actually displaying decompiled code from the infamous real world Stuxnet virus.
- Tilly asks Burnham, "Wow is that a book?" which heavily implies that paper books are pretty rare in the 23rd century.

Remarkable Scenes
- Burnham's convenient rescue by the Discovery.
- Captain Lorca has a pet tribble, hah.
- Lorca to Burnham regarding his fortune cookies: "It was a family business a century ago. That was before the future came and hunger, need, and want disappeared. Of course they're making a comeback now, thanks to you!"
- Saru: "I believe you feel regret. But in my mind, you're dangerous. Captain Lorca is a man who does not fear the things normal people fear. But I do. And you are someone to fear, Michael Burnham."
- Lorca: "Number One, you served with Burnham aboard the Shenzhou. What is your assessment of her abilities?" Saru: "Her mutiny aside, she is the smartest Starfleet officer I have ever known." Lorca, turning to Stamets: "Huh. And he knows you!"
- Saru: "You were always a good officer. Until you weren't."
- The Discovery destroying the Glenn.

My Review
The Discovery finally makes its debut in this episode in a remarkably shady fashion. The apparently highly corrupt Captain Lorca orchestrated a prisoner shuttle emergency to capture Burnham and manipulate her into joining his crew. Did he end up killing that shuttle pilot that came loose from the tether in the process? It's best not to dwell on such minutia... the episode certainly doesn't. What's important is Captain RansomLorca of the Federation starship EquinoxDiscovery has found a way to travel through space really really fast by experimenting on the protomolecule from The Expansesome mysterious alien stuff we've never seen before.

We have seen this basic story outline many times though. The Expanse's protomolecule notwithstanding, we've seen instantaneous travel technology on Star Trek many times. Beyond Voy: Equinox, there are a handful of other examples, but the one this episode most closely resembles is the Iconian gateways featured on TNG: Contagion and DS9: To the Death. The presentation of rotating landscapes is so similar to those portrayals in fact, it's legitimate to wonder if Iconian technology was in fact based on the same stuff that Lorca has discovered. We'll see.

What is clear though is this research project is definitely not going anywhere. Since this is a prequel, we know that nothing based on this technology ever gets developed and mainstreamed by anybody, so it's all going to go horribly wrong at some point, making it kind of hard to care about this research project at all.

In addition to that though, the coarse, sneering cynicism oozed by just about every character except for Saru also makes it difficult to sympathize with any of the people engaged in this research. It's hard to imagine why Saru, a person of clearly upstanding and incorruptible moral character, would choose to work in this den of snakes. It's sort of fuzzily implied that Saru understands the necessity of the shady secret research they're engaging in, but so far the narrative just isn't selling it. The title of the episode "Context Is for Kings" hints at what they were going for though. That and several other emotional beats in the episode are evocative of this moving exchange from BSG: Pegasus:

Adama: "Wait for all the facts. Context matters." Tigh: "Context? That woman shot an officer right in front of the crew." Adama: "We shot down an entire civilian transport with over a thousand people on board. Says so right there." Tigh: "That was completely different. And we don't know there were people on that ship." Adama: "Which is why I hope the admiral reads the complete log and understands the context."

It seems this episode is going for a similar vibe: that Lorca's actions, morally questionable as they may be, are justifiable to some degree given the context they're operating from. But that's hard to see at this moment. From what we've seen so far, Captain Ransom of the Equinox was easier to sympathize with than the borderline megalomaniacal Captain Lorca. Ransom had real, desperate reasons to act with such cruelty. Lorca seems more like a mad scientist gone batty with power.

Perhaps the worst parts of the episode though were the obligatory space monster horror scenes. Anything that resembles Ent: Impulse is definitely not going to win a lot of points. Between that and the murky character writing, this episode is a pretty significant step down in quality from the pilot. Notably though, Captain Lorca's character has some potential. The comparisons to Captain Ransom from Voyager have the potential to be quite flattering: Ransom was awesome. With a bit more careful writing, Lorca could develop into a very interesting character. They've also got some potential to connect him to Section 31 in some interesting ways here too, which could help with containing some of the continuity problems that are starting to pile up.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Claus on 2017-10-02 at 3:49pm:
    Amazing episode! Much better than the double pilot.

    Discovery looks fantastic, and we get to see a lot of different areas on the ship without any rush. The episode builds up to a story arc which seems very interesting so far. It reveals things little by little, but at the same time we don't know whether the explanations we get are true or not. It feels more like a sci-fi thriller than of old school Star Trek. And perhaps this is the new way to go.

    As for the monster scenes aboard the Glenn. Yes, we have seen these kind of "boarding incidents" many times before. But I felt the whole episode was very exhilarating and a little creepy in a good way.
  • From Matthew on 2017-10-02 at 5:41pm:
    Great review, loved the Expanse references. I feel a bit kinder towards them on the 'problems' especially on design - there are some real buttons on the engineering consoles and there are bits that look like the Enterprise-A if not original Enterprise, but let them have some leeway on continuity with 60s set design (like we would the dodgier bits of 60s writing - no female captains!) I also can forgive the Spock mutiny thing. Yes Burnham is guilty, but it's going a bit far to say there was a mutiny on board since she never had full control of the ship, or at least we never properly found out.

    Some things had me groaning, namely Monster of the Week (double groan for it surviving til next week) and the general horror vibe (never something Trek does very well). But I find many reasons to be cheerful
    1) Sonequa Martin-Green is doing a great job
    2) Her character is intriguing as is the interpersonal conflict (very anti-Roddenberry) her backstory generates with most everyone - individual reactions to her in this episode helped us get to know other characters really quickly
    3) Saru's threat ganglia are great just for the name
    4) Tilly - fun, vulnerable, potential both to be kickass and have mismatch buddy comedy with her roommate while offering her a redemptive connect with your humanity arc
    5) We haven't even met Clem Fandango yet (Google it, then watch all of Toast of London immediately)
    6) Lorca is verging crazy in a fun 'which way will he go' way. Those fortune cookies make him seem a bit like Harvey Dent before the fall, and I guarantee the foreshadowed affair with Tory from BSG will not go well. (Given her absence from the credits, perhaps most of all for her.) I'll be disappointed if he is just a bit unorthodox / freewheeling since I strongly suspect that...
    7) ...the Section 31 angle will be massive - those mysterious black badges and the 'whatever it takes' brief given to Lorca. That is usually good news for quality as it has been a good story firewall, enabling Trek to get into entertainingly shady areas and still do optimism, all in one show; with fruitful clashes of ends justifies the means vs do what is right, to paraphrase Sloane.
  • From JD on 2017-10-03 at 3:39am:
    I really enjoyed this episode, thought it was much better that the prologue episodes.
    I think discovery is definitely a Section 31 ship and Lorca is an agent.
    I didn't mind the Alien sequence on the Glenn, I thought it was well done and the "Helical injuries" were creepy too.
    I don't think Lorca is crazy as such, he's just given a free reign to do whatever he likes to win the war.
    I think there were some references to Iconian technology and it will be interesting if the research completely fails or disappears inside Section 31.
  • From Connor on 2017-10-04 at 8:22am:
    "Landry refers to Burnham as "Starfleet's first mutineer," but Spock states in TOS: The Tholian Web that there is no record of a mutiny on a starship before."

    That's true, but Spock himself led two mutinies in TOS; the problem therefore seems to arise from the fact that TOS did a poor job keeping track of its own continuity.

    If we're to ignore his error and assume that he was speaking factually, it may be possible that Burnham's mutiny is removed from records at a later point. Perhaps this will be dealt with in the show (though, I doubt it will). Spock was after all specific in that there are no "records" of a mutiny, not that there has never been one.
  • From Coihue on 2017-10-09 at 11:49am:
    Well, starting from the dreamy angles in the first episodes, and this kind of new travel technology. I will asume that all of this will end up in a time travel reboot. Micheal will not start the war, she will not mutiny, and maybe shecan also save her parents avoiding end up being Spock's sister.

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Star Trek Dis - 1x04 - The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry

Originally Aired: 2017-10-8

Synopsis:
With tensions and stakes high as Starfleet continues in their efforts to end the war with Klingons, Burnham begins to settle in to her new position aboard the U.S.S. Discovery.

My Rating - 2

Fan Rating Average - 5.39

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 5 4 2 2 2 2 1 5 7 4 4

Problems
- When the spore drive dropped them too close to a star, as soon as they regained control of the ship, Lorca immediately ordered them to jump to warp. To where? Did they even know where they were or where they were going?
- The star is also mentioned to be an "O-type star." O-type stars are blue-white, but the star shown is more Sun-like.
- Elon Musk is referenced as a figure alongside the Wright brothers and Zefram Cochrane. Irrespective of the ludicrousness of the comparison (covered in the review below), even mentioning Musk's name verges on a continuity error, given that the timeline of Star Trek splits off from the real world in the late 20th century, well before any of Musk's real world achievements (such as they are) came into being.
- Discovery hovering not far above the ground of Corvan II seems hard to rationalize given how treacherous in-atmosphere flight has been shown to be for starships in virtually every other Star Trek production. Perhaps a quirk of the spore drive allowed them to do this...?

Factoids
- The title of this episode is the second longest in Star Trek so far, only slightly shorter than TOS: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.
- This episode establishes that Discovery is the only ship with a "displacement activated spore hub drive" now that the Glenn is destroyed.
- This episode establishes that the cloaking device on T'Kuvma's ship was unique and one of its kind, thus the need for Kol to steal it.
- This episode establishes that Kol is a member of the House of Kor.
- This episode establishes that Philippa Georgiou was born in 2202 and attended Starfleet Academy from 2220 to 2224.
- This episode establishes that Michael Burnham was born in 2226 and attended the Vulcan Science Academy from 2245 to 2249.

Remarkable Scenes
- Voq: "To fuse its [the Shenzhou's] technology with our own would be blasphemy." L'Rell: "You had no such outrage when we ate its captain. I saw your smile when you picked the meat from her smooth skull."
- Discovery jumping too close to a star when the spore drive misfired.
- The Klingons assaulting Corvan II and Discovery's rescue.

My Review
In the next installment of Captain Ransom'sLorca's quest to capture creatures to power his experimental propulsion drive, the mad scientist captain astonishingly forgets what the creature was for and becomes inexplicably obsessed with its murky potential to be turned into a weapon somehow, despite its obvious and much more useful connection to the parallel spore propulsion experiments that were being conducted on the Glenn. It wasn't just Lorca who missed the obvious though. Literally everyone seems oblivious to this connection for half the episode for seemingly no reason. Burnham eventually figures it out, but not before Landry gets herself killed in the most embarrassingly stupid and unnecessary way imaginable in a reckless beyond words attempt to harvest its body parts to turn into weapons of some kind. If she had succeeded in killing the creature, she would've permanently destroyed its potential to be exploited for propulsion in exchange for weapons of questionable value at best.

Meanwhile Lorca and Stamets get into perhaps one of the pettiest arguments ever seen on Star Trek when Stamets whines again that he's a scientist, not a soldier, after which Lorca rhetorically invites Stamets to leave the ship. Stamets, evidently a bit dense, takes the rhetorical suggestion literally and threatens to "take everything" with him, after which Lorca has to literally remind him that the ship and all its contents are the property of Starfleet, so he can't really take his ball and go home. Ultimately, the only thing that convinced Stamets to go back to his job was Lorca passive aggressively broadcasting the death and carnage going on at Corvan II over the entire ship's intercom, in a seeming act of public humiliation directed at Stamets. Basically Stamets threw a temper tantrum and Lorca gave him a spanking in front of his schoolmates. But the narrative portrays it as though it ought to be compelling interpersonal conflict. Like super deep stuff, man!

Indeed, the episode is laced with similar false profundity everywhere. Some of it is in the small details, like Lorca casually name dropping Elon Musk alongside the Wright brothers and Zefram Cochrane, as though Musk's accomplishments, impressive as they may be, are even remotely comparable to inventing airplanes or inventing warp drive. They aren't. Other cringeworthy dialog included casually mentioning that Corvan II produces 40% of the Federation's dilithium, while also mentioning that there are no ships in range to protect it. These two facts are trotted out for dramatic effect, but all it really does is beg the question as to why the Federation would leave such a valuable asset so poorly defended to begin with. A related issue has to do with why the Discovery left Corvan II so quickly afterward. You'd think they'd stick around to provide relief to the colonists, but of course that wouldn't be anywhere near as cool as a dramatic exit, now would it? Likewise the uniform synthesizer scene put some seriously overwrought visual effects on display for seemingly no reason other than to go for a wow factor that falls flat.

The biggest offender in terms of false profundity though was the writing surrounding Burnham. Two scenes stick out like a sore thumb. First, the scene when she manipulates Saru into borrowing his threat ganglia as a means to see if the tardigrade was dangerous. Setting aside how overwhelmingly cringeworthy the entire concept of threat ganglia is to begin with, manipulating him into coming down there and then offending him with trickery was unnecessary. She could've just asked to borrow his threat ganglia. But, see, then it wouldn't be laced with unnecessary melodrama! Likewise, the second big Burnham scene that reeks of false profundity is Georgiou's letter to Burnham in her will. While it's always nice to see more of Georgiou, one of Star Trek: Discovery's few likable characters so far, hamming up the irony that Burnham became the opposite of what Georgiou imagined in her letter added no value to the story. All of that was made quite clear in the Battle at the Binary Stars. Repeating it all in a video will is just, well... repetitive. And closing the episode on a redundant scene wasn't a strong choice, especially when they could've depicted her struggling with the morality of inflicting pain on the tardigrade to save lives instead.

Also, they really need to slow down those Klingon subtitles.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Shani on 2017-10-09 at 7:12am:
    I don't like replicators were around during the TOS era. How are they replicating food and uniforms?
  • From Shodanbot on 2017-10-09 at 7:03pm:
    Landry's death was very silly and forced. Especially given her interactions with Michael up to that point, as I got the impression she was to be this series "Worf". But it is how forced and unnecessary this death was that I found difficult to over-look. Couldn't they have used the transporter to "harvest" a claw from the beast? Cruel and very out of place at Starfleet, but I don't see any reason a transporter couldn't do it. Landry would've avoid getting within mauling distance with the beast with a quick transport.

    Oh well. Whatever. They needed the beast alive and in one piece to get the plot moving, and added a bit of silly blood letting to keep the peanut gallery from falling asleep. I wonder if the star trek universe's 23rd century has an equivalent of The Darwin Awards?

    Another bit of an annoyance for me, and to be fair a pedantic one at that, is "Xeno-Anthropologist". Just what is a Xeno-Anthropologist?
  • From matzieq on 2017-10-10 at 4:46am:
    I just can't get used to the new look of the klingons, if only they had hair, or ANYTHING that made them look like klingons! Also, the need to constantly read subtitles while they bark at each other unintelligibly is so annoying... even though I'm used to reading subtitles since English is not my first language. And every time someone says "T'Kuvma" I want to reply "Gesundheit!"
  • From Rob UK on 2017-10-15 at 7:08pm:
    Ahhhhhh man we've been all waiting so long.

    I do not know about you folks but I thought they were going to give us a TV series with the new adventures of new Spock n Kirk n crew down the new old timeline, so I already have sand in my vag before we start but here we go.

    I am trying my best to ignore all the things I am not liking about this new show and failing miserably, it is taking me multiple sittings just to get through a single episode, I put it on with the best intentions and then twenty minutes later find myself in the mancave pottering about as I am clearly bored out of my gourd.

    So I am trying my best to be ignoring all cannon foe-pars, ignoring all timeline blunders and everything like the redesign of things and species that really didn't have the gaps in their chronology to fit like the Klingons going from how they look in the OS to Next Gen (we had a explanation for that) to squeezing how they all look in this into that between the Eugenics experiments that make them all look as they do in Next gen.

    Deep breaths

    So even when I do all that and make myself sit down and leave the bong alone long enough to actually get through an episode in it's entirety in one attention span (I can sit through ten episode off the belt of any previous Star Trek in any order and hardly blink) I sadly come to the same conclusion of

    WORST STAR TREK EVER

    and I definitely include the animated series in that statement.

    I am still going to keep watching and hoping it improves as I am a bloody Star Trek fan, speaking of that

    Absolutely loving every second of The Orville, surely it can't just be me, are you Trek-heads on board?

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Star Trek Dis - 1x05 - Choose Your Pain

Originally Aired: 2017-10-15

Synopsis:
While on a mission, Lorca unexpectedly finds himself in the company of prisoner of war, Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler and notorious intergalactic criminal, Harry Mudd. Burnham voices her concerns about the repercussions of the spore drive jumps on "Ripper."

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 5.68

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 5 1 2 0 2 4 4 8 4 5 2

Problems
- The ship that abducts Lorca is stated to be a D7 class battle cruiser, but looks nothing like previous depictions in other shows. It should have looked more like this.
- When Culber is using a tricorder on Stamets, the screen misspells his name as "Staments."

Factoids
- Saru asks the computer to list Starfleet's most decorated captains, which are as follows: Robert April, Jonathan Archer, Matthew Decker, Philippa Georgiou, and Christopher Pike.
- The Buran, previously commanded by Captain Lorca, was ambushed about a month into the war. The Klingons boarded it and Lorca managed to escape, after which he destroyed the ship to prevent his crew from suffering at the hands of the Klingons.

Remarkable Scenes
- Mudd: "I used to have a life, captain. A good one. A respectable business. That all got blown up because of your goddamn war." Lorca: "Starfleet didn't start this war." Mudd: "Of course you did. The moment you decided to boldly go where no one had gone before. What did you think would happen when you bumped into someone who didn't want you in their front yard?"
- Tilly: "You guys this is so fucking cool!"
- The tardigrade going into some kind of protective hibernation to save itself.
- Saru ordering Culber to force the injured tardigrade into powering the spore drive one more time. Culber's response: "I will not be party to murder."
- Stamets subjecting himself to the spore drive to save the tardigrade's life.

My Review
This episode does much to recover from the missteps of the previous two. Opening with Burnham struggling with the morality of exploiting the tardigrade to gain a tactical advantage over the Klingons taps into the stuff that made Voy: Equinox so good. It took longer to get here than it should have, but it's still good stuff nonetheless. Ultimately, this is a fairly uplifting episode compared to the others so far. Burnham gets to free the creature, Lorca gets to atone for past sins to some degree, and Stamets gets to be a genuine hero. And when the science nerds are geeking out over their research, the story nearly breaks the fourth wall when Tilly exclaims her excitement with Star Trek's very first "fuck," as though the characters themselves are glad the writers finally let them do some real science and tapped into the spirit of Star Trek in a real way for the first time since the opening moments of the pilot.

There are only shades of it though. Turns out Starfleet is hunting for more tardigrades and doesn't seem all that interested in wrestling with the ethics. Even Saru refuses to hear out Burnham about the harm they were doing to the creature; a surprising development for a character who thus far has seemed beyond reproach at all times. He later comes around and pleads with Burnham to "go save its life," which was a nice piece of character development, but the payoff was a bit lackluster as the immediate consequence was for Burnham to recklessly dump it into space without the slightest clue as to whether she would be saving the creature or inadvertently executing it.

While it's certainly true that real life tardigrades are pretty hardy and it's reasonable to assume a macroscopic one that lives in space can probably survive a vacuum, just because an animal has tolerance for extreme conditions doesn't mean that such extreme conditions are in fact its ideal habitat. They never figured out how the tardigrade got aboard the Glenn to begin with and never got any hard information about what exactly the tardigrade's natural habitat actually was. So when Burnham saved its life, the whole thing amounted to a lucky guess based on a hunch. Happy endings are nice, but happy endings that just as easily could've been hubris aren't quite what the spirit of Star Trek is all about. Except of course when Janeway flies head first into a binary pulsar. But at the time in Voy: Scientific Method she was pumped up on drugs by bad guys to keep her dopamine levels high specifically to make her act erratically. Plus she hadn't slept in four days and had been in constant pain the whole time. Janeway's recklessness was an act of desperation. Burnham's was just reckless.

There were other, smaller deficiencies in the story as well. Saru's anger and/or jealousy directed towards Burnham regarding her closeness to Georgiou wasn't at all compelling. And we're treated to Stamets getting into yet another petty argument with someone. This time it was Burnham over whose idea it was to use a living creature as a navigational tool. It was also distinctly odd that we never got any real details about what exactly Tyler went through with that Klingon female captain. Luckily these weak storytelling beats were far less numerous and distracting this time than in the past two episodes.

Perhaps the most notable piece of storytelling in this episode is the breadth of character development we get for Lorca. It turns out Lorca was such a valued officer that after losing his previous ship with all hands that he was swiftly given another command and given free rein to fight the war however he saw fit, to such an extent that he frequently goes on unsanctioned missions that are only just now being reined in. The reason for his light sensitivity is revealed here too. Interestingly Lorca lied to the admiral about why he doesn't get his eyes fixed, citing a supposed distrust of doctors. He later reveals to Tyler during their escape on the Klingon space peacockraider that he doesn't want to fix his eyes because the pain helps him remember what he did to his previous crew.

The backstory of the Buran sets up Lorca as a tragic character in ways very reminiscent to Burnham. Both of them inadvertently caused the deaths of people they care about, but in many ways Lorca appears to be struggling with his version of this far more, despite being arguably less culpable. Besides his generally unhealthy obsession with the study of war and his masochistic desire to not fix his eyes, it was also particularly disturbing to see him throw Stuart, Harry Mudd's innocent pet against the wall, nearly killing it, for no other reason than to upset Mudd. This kind of completely unnecessary casual cruelty and indifference towards life are indicators of Lorca's poor mental health. As was Lorca's prior eagerness to capture and experiment upon the tardigrade. Likewise, while perhaps an intentional homage to Kirk's actions in TOS: I, Mudd, it was pretty horrifying to see Lorca leave Mudd in the hands of the Klingons; striking him even on his way out. Earlier Mudd tried to remind him that there are billions of civilians at risk on the ground while Starfleet makes war in the skies above them. Ultimately, Lorca's first duty is to protect civilians like Mudd, but he seemed all too willing to forget that simply because Mudd was selfish and obnoxious, as though that should deprive him of his human rights as a Federation citizen.

The surprising star of the show this episode though was Stamets. After a weak start at the beginning, Stamets enlists fully in Burnham's quest to unlock the full potential of the spore drive without causing further harm to the tardigrade. Then he bravely risks his own life to save both the tardigrade and his ship when he pilots the ship out of danger by taking the tardigrade's place as the spore drive's navigator. Shortly thereafter, Stamets also gets the distinction of depicting the first gay romantic relationship in a Star Trek TV series in the episode's closing scenes. Seeing Stamets and Culber in private together was a nice piece of character development that would've been nice to have gotten earlier. It makes them both suddenly feel far more relatable. We could've done without that sinister hangover effect from piloting the spore drive cliffhanger though. It felt forced and wasn't really needed. It would've been far more touching to end on Culber begging Stamets not to put himself in danger like that again, leaving the threat of lasting side effects from piloting the spore drive to be more of an implied threat rather than hamming it up like they did with that cliffhanger.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Rob UK on 2017-10-18 at 4:19am:
    Talk about mudding the waters of continuity.

    I apologise i couldn't resist the pun

    We all know the spore drive has to fail so embarrassingly that it is bad luck to even talk about it, it's like watching paint dry waiting for the cliffhanger/impending disaster to happen, this is why we have never bloody heard of it before, well unless you are a fan of the real Paul Stamets like myself, if you don't know google Paul Stamets Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World and educate yourself

    Still struggling to watch an episode in one take
  • From Matthew Kay on 2017-10-18 at 4:52pm:
    My main beef with this show is that everything happens so damned fast. Like the Kelvin films, it feels like it's been scripted by someone who watches TV on fast forward, despite the streaming format allowing for more in depth exposition.

    As Eric has said I think, the 'show don't tell' principle is one of the consequent problems. Like the Saru scene where he admits to jealousy - we have just been handed that bit of character exposition on a plate. We don't deserve it yet and it feels unreal.

    Likewise the progress of the spore drive / tardigrade storyline. Over in a blink. No up front discussion of the glaringly obvious moral issues, but suddenly Saru's conscience is on full show at the end and the whole thing is resolved in two minutes behind Lorca's back. And of course by an unexplained Burnham shortcut - basically magic, which is becoming too common and an unwelcome part of the show's makeup. It's not inconsistent since she's always like that - it just undermines suspension of disbelief. Tory from BSG is wasted in a similar display of implausible fast-forward plotting.

    I'm aware that the fact these guys are at war is a massive narrative factor. But we don't know them any other way. When Sisko or even Sloane act ruthless and ends-justify-the-means in DS9 you know the character through long burn earlier development or because there's a long and meaningful section of dialogue. Even the interplay between Sisko and Garak in that one episode is about 10 minutes longer than the genuine character development time we've had on this whole series. (The glib BS you get when characters like Lorca and Stamets are grandstanding is just superficial nonsense, not plausible character time.)

    Discovery people - please stop trying to skip to the end, build your characters, build your world, earn your payoffs!

    One last thing - I feel like this time period has been done to death. It's full of hokey continuity built on 60s/70s terrible production values and now pretty backward social values. Leave it alone'
  • From Kethinov on 2017-10-18 at 5:06pm:
    Well said, Matthew. I completely agree.
  • From BSHBen on 2017-10-19 at 4:20pm:
    Kethinov - thanks for continuing to post your detailed reviews! I'm still on the fence about the show, as I think are many people. I wish it would slow down and better earn its character and plot development. So far it has established the groundwork to make Stamets, Burnham, Lorca, and particularly Saru all multifaceted and memorable characters, but I'm worried that it won't deliver properly upon the setup. We'll see. There's plenty of potential here and "Choose Your Pain" is my favorite episode so far.

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Star Trek Dis - 1x06 - Lethe

Originally Aired: 2017-10-22

Synopsis:
The U.S.S. Discovery crew is intrigued by new addition, Lt. Ash Tyler. Sarek seeks Burnham's help, rekindling memories from her past. Admiral Cornwell questions Lorca's tactics.

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 6.72

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Problems
- When Sarek gets aboard his ship, two large planets/moons are visible in the sky. It's heavily implied that he is departing from Vulcan, which was said in TOS: The Man Trap to not have a moon, though it may be a Vulcan colony on another planet.

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- That gorgeous shot of a Vulcan city.
- The Vulcan extremist blowing himself up in an attempt to kill Sarek. Interesting that the technology closely resembled Ent: Chosen Realm.
- Burnham's flashback to her past via Sarek's memory.
- Lorca defying orders to stage a rescue of Sarek.
- Cornwell: "You launched an unauthorized rescue mission using a convicted mutineer! Not to mention a POW who has barely had time to recover! Can you even trust this guy?"
- Lorca freaking out at Cornwell and pulling a phaser on her out of nowhere when she touched his scar.
- Lorca: "Don't take my ship away from me! She's all I got. Please, I'm begging you."

My Review
A straightforward, but touching story. The attack on Sarek and his rescue is dramatically compelling, the deeper window into Burnham's backstory with Sarek is intriguing, and the insight into Sarek's conduct as a father not just of Burnham but of Spock also is fascinating. It's nice to see that Vulcans aren't exactly a totally unified society after the events of Enterprise. It always made sense that the nativism the Romulans exploited would've originated as a homegrown phenomenon that the Romulans merely fanned the flames of, rather than something they conjured up from whole cloth. A demagogue can't succeed without some demand for demagoguery. Even a hundred years after the demagogic (for a Vulcan) leader and secret Romulan collaborator V'Las was removed from power in disgrace, those nativist feelings are still simmering on Vulcan. There is still a group which sees humans as inferior, and even views the Federation as a failed experiment. This sentiment apparently extended far enough to deny Burnham a job in the Vulcan Expeditionary Group based entirely and explicitly on race rather than merit. This resentment of outsiders was so intense that it was the reason for the bombing of the Vulcan Learning Center. Burnham was the target of the terrorist attack; the extremists were trying to assassinate her.

Meanwhile, the nature of Lorca's psych issues becomes a bit clearer here in a quite creepy way. Cornwell stages a much needed intervention on Lorca, whose erratic behavior should rightly be a cause of concern for Starfleet. After psychoanalyzing him, she concludes that his behavior is pathological and manipulative. During a particularly chilling scene, she admits that she can't tell whether or not Lorca is being emotionally honest with her or just pretending to feel the things she expects him to feel. And in one of the most chilling scenes yet aired, Lorca jumps at the chance to manipulate Cornwell into taking Sarek's place for the meeting with the Klingons, almost as though he knew she would be captured. Did he know somehow? Or was he just trying to get her off the ship temporarily while he figured out what to do? Or worse yet, did he tip off the Klingons somehow? All to keep Cornwell off his back? These are disturbing things to ponder. Regardless, he is certainly taking advantage of her absence, given that he is now all too willing to drag his feet rescuing her by uncharacteristically (as Saru explicitly makes note of) going through proper (slow) channels to get a rescue mission authorized. Clearly Lorca is in no hurry to see Cornwell again, a person that is supposed to be his friend. Like Harry Mudd, Cornwell is left at the mercy of the Klingons because Lorca is apparently a sociopath. Given all that, Burnham's line, "I'm grateful to serve under a captain like you." was a pretty nice piece of irony.

While this episode is overall quite good, there are a few wrinkles in the story. Despite Cornwell's concerns about him, Ash Tyler seems to be coping far too well with his ex-POW status. Aside from his overwhelmingly contrived interruption of Burnham's attempt to reach Sarek seemingly for no other reason than to dispense seasoned veteran advice about how people going through near death experiences dwell on what they wish they would've done differently, Tyler was a picture of good character and perfect conduct, which is not something one generally expects from someone who just spent the better part of a year being tortured. Perhaps the most annoying feature of the episode though was seeing them using the spore drive with impunity now, seemingly without additional costs. At least no costs other than Stamets acting weird again and being oddly cheerful in a creepy way. It's like the annoying cliffhanger from the last episode never happened. This episode doesn't deal with the consequences of having Stamets pilot the spore drive at all, which is a pretty big dramatic oversight. Although Cornwell's remark that Starfleet knows about Stamets' illegal eugenics work is delightfully ominous. As we know from other Star Trek shows, augments are rarely treated well.

Also of note, it is pretty neat to see Kol dolling out cloaking technology in exchange for loyalty oaths. Using new technology as leverage to dominate the other great houses feels very authentically Klingon and it adds a nice piece of texture to Klingon history.

No fan commentary yet.

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Star Trek Dis - 1x07 - Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Originally Aired: 2017-10-29

Synopsis:
As the U.S.S. Discovery crew attempts to let loose at a party, an unwelcome visitor comes aboard bringing about a problematic and twisted sequence of events.

My Rating - 6

Fan Rating Average - 6.88

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Problems
- Burnham's log entry cites the stardate as 2136.8, which would incorrectly place this episode during the middle of TOS.
- One of the time loops goes something like this: after some brief coaching from Stamets, Burnham tries to talk to Tyler about the time loop. It doesn't go well and Tyler gets immediately summoned to the bridge and wanders off. The scene then cuts to the corridor, where apparently more than half of a loop (some 20+ minutes) has gone by, because by the time Stamets and Burnham are done dancing, the time loop ends. What happened during those ~20 minutes they cut over? Did Stamets and Burnham really wander the corridors for all that time discussing her failed attempt to have a conversation with Tyler offscreen before their dance scene together?
- There is a typo on one of the computer screens, which reads "Security Protocals."

Factoids
- The Gormagander is an endangered species. There have only been 57 cases of near miss encounters with starships over the last 10 years.
- Mudd's line about his "multilegged friend" Stuart is a reference to an awkward, but funny line from Spock in TOS: A Taste of Armageddon: "Sir, there's a multilegged creature crawling on your shoulder."

Remarkable Scenes
- Stamets: "You are astonishingly grounded for having endured seven months of torture!"
- Harry Mudd emerging from the Gormagander and shooting people.
- Mudd's rant to Lorca followed by his immediate suicide bombing of the ship.
- Mudd somehow kicking off a time loop.
- Stamets' inartful attempts to explain the time loop.
- Mudd: "There really are so many ways to blow up this ship. It's almost a design flaw!"
- The Mudd-kills-Lorca montage.
- Mudd belittling the unnamed bridge officer as "random communications officer man."
- Mudd getting tricked by Burnham and blowing up the ship in frustration to reset the time loop.
- Mudd being doublecrossed and reunited with Stella.

My Review
This episode is an awkward attempt to rehash previous entertaining standalone time travel episodes like TNG: Cause and Effect or Voy: Relativity sandwiched in the middle of an otherwise totally serialized story. Let's do a time loop episode while Admiral Cornwell is a prisoner of the Klingons! Ugh. That said, for the most part this is a skillfully done rehash. And even more notably, Burnham's personal log at the start of the episode makes some things explicit that were left too vague in previous episodes. The most significant is the revelation that Stamets is indeed capable of piloting the spore drive sustainably now. Likewise, many on the crew have noted the changes in Stamets' personality, but largely don't think much of it or find it all that concerning. Ditto with many on the crew noting Tyler being surprisingly well adjusted for someone who spent seven months being tortured. It's important to have dialog making note of these things, lest the audience think the narrative intends to portray such things as unremarkable. Better late than never for the story to get around to that. It's still pretty annoying that they're not dealing with the whole evil-Stamets-in-the-mirror cliffhanger though.

The real star of the show this episode is Mudd. He was hilariously entertaining in nearly every scene he was in, which is a bit of a surreal thing to take in given that most of his scenes in past episodes (including his previous appearance in this series) were mostly cringeworthy. And while it is pretty annoying to have a largely filler episode right after the cliffhanger with Cornwell captured by the Klingons, one kind of weird silver lining about the otherwise awkward timing of this episode is that Lorca faces real consequences for abandoning Mudd despite not seeming to face any for abandoning Cornwell in a similar fashion. The way the narrative is structured this doesn't seem like an intentional irony, as nothing in the plot draws any attention to the parallelism whatsoever, but it was nevertheless fairly satisfying to see anyway. As was seeing Lorca die repeatedly.

The sheer force of Mudd's hysterical personality can't carry us through weak plot logic, however, and there was quite a bit of that here. For starters, Mudd's time loop device was quite an overwrought piece of technology. He reportedly acquired it prior to his imprisonment, as he had used it to rob a Betazoid bank. He then somehow reacquired it after somehow escaping the Klingons. He then somehow located an endangered space whale, somehow buried his ship inside it, and somehow positioned the space whale in the path of the Discovery. And as if all that weren't difficult enough to swallow, the time loop device itself was apparently a stable, reliable piece of technology and Mudd just so happened to be the first person to get ahold of it by virtue of encountering "a four dimensional race" who "perfected the technology" supposedly on Mudd's behalf. Seriously?

Another pretty weak moment was when Burnham confronted Mudd about her value as a hostage in an attempt to get him to loop time one more time. As she's discussing it all with him, she stands in front of a table full of those purple death balls easily within reach. Mudd then turns his back to Burnham, giving her ample opportunity to snatch one and assassinate him with it. Instead she waits until Mudd is much closer to the table and then much more riskily snatches them up while Mudd is watching and promptly kills herself instead of him. It's a powerful scene, and especially amusing given that Mudd kills himself out of frustration to reset the time loop immediately afterward, but there was no reason Burnham couldn't have just cut to the chase and taken Mudd out to accomplish the same goal, just as Stamets did in a previous loop. The scene perhaps would've been less entertaining that way, but it would've made a lot more sense.

In addition to those flaws, the second half of the episode is just generally a lot less charming than the first half. Instead of focusing on gradual, hilarious refinements to the time loop as TNG: Cause and Effect did, the story begins to lazily cut over most of Stamets explaining things to people over and over, better each time, and instead shows the crew magically becoming more informed with each time loop. By the time they reach the last time loop, Stamets has somehow found a way to organize a conspiracy against Mudd that involves several crew members acting in a coordinated fashion. It's hard to imagine how Stamets could've crammed all that prep of so many people into a five or so minute elevator pitch so effectively. It seems the writers couldn't imagine such a scene either, choosing instead to cut over it rather than try to write it.

On balance though this odd, mostly filler episode still succeeds in being more fun than it is flawed. And as a result is one of the stronger stories so far.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Coihue on 2017-10-30 at 12:55pm:
    Hey, there is the time travel. As I said in the previous episode, they will reset time till the time previous Georgiu's death. They can not be able to stop the war, but everything else will be reset.

    Also, there was a Q homage when Mudd says "Mon capitain!"
  • From Matthew on 2017-10-30 at 6:00pm:
    There were fun bits here but I think you're being very kind Eric! The extent to which they hid Stamets setting things up (which could have been some fun interactions with characters other than Burnham) bothered me too. The Cornwell angle not so much since I think it's a justifiable (in fact good) command decision from Lorca even if for the wrong reason - they can afford to lose her more than the Discovery. And he has asked Saru to inform Starfleet so any negative consequences will be deferred until Cornwell comes back (if she does).

    I hope this really is the end of Mudd, since I didn't find him hilarious at all. The character talks like he's stuck in a tediously self regarding, totes not amazeballs, sarcastic social media feed. I'm getting the feeling that the whole writer's room has a bit much of that, and a banterish style that is either snarky or plays to the echo chamber. His violence towards Lorca is justified in character terms because of Lorca keeping him locked up but that stops making sense, and becomes tonally really odd, when presented in ha ha comedy montage. Fishing for laughs out of someone dying in different ways is, in my book, not really Trek. (Trek can and should do comedy - though it tends to work better when the characters are really established, like that DS9 baseball one - Take Me Out To The Holosuite? - that should really be lousy filler but is actually great.)

    Oh and 4D race we've never heard of and no-one seems that curious about? How the jiggins did that get through script review? Must have been someone who watched Interstellar and thought the Tesseract bit was really good but needed more Deus Ex Machina factor.

    Lethe was v good though - especially the properly grownup acting, writing and subject matter in the Cornwell / Lorca scenes. More please!

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Star Trek Dis - 1x08 - Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Originally Aired: 2017-11-5

Synopsis:
The U.S.S. Discovery is tasked with a high priority mission to planet Pahvo and learn the science behind the Klingon's cloaking technology.

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 5.05

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# Votes: 1 3 1 3 1 1 3 3 1 4 0

Problems
- Burnham says the stardate is 1308.9. In the previous episode it was 2136.8.
- Saru is stated to be capable of running 80kph or faster, which would put him on par with a cheetah. But given that Saru is humanoid and lacks any of the anatomy necessary to give him that kind of speed, this seems pretty unlikely.
- Cornwell says there is no death penalty in the Federation, but this is contradicted both by TOS: The Cage which is set only two years prior to this episode and TOS: The Cloud Minders which is set ten or so years later. She isn't necessarily completely wrong though. Past Star Trek series have made a point of insisting the death penalty is mostly extinct and that it only exists as an exceptional (albeit cruel and unusual) punishment for certain obscure laws in niche corners of the Federation.
- The hand phasers are shown to fire pulses instead of beams in this episode, further compounding the visual continuity issues raised by previous Discovery episodes depicting phasers on ships firing pulses rather than beams as well.

Factoids
- The Gagarin was named for Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person ever to go to space.
- Saru's threat ganglia can sense predators from a distance of as much as 10km.

Remarkable Scenes
- The battle to save the Gagarin in vain.
- L'Rell pretending to torture Cornwell to get a moment alone to talk with her and expressing her wish to defect.

My Review
This episode had a promising start. In addition to the cool space battle, we finally see Stamets is suffering from some concerning consequences of piloting the spore drive again, L'Rell is conclusively revealed to have been the same Klingon female captain who held Tyler, Mudd, and Lorca captive (the scar matches the injury she suffered during Lorca's and Tyler's escape), and L'Rell engages in some kind of plot to overthrow Kol. But none of these plots get a chance to sufficiently develop. The Stamets stuff is swept under the rug quickly and the L'Rell plot dangles several loose threads in the most annoying possible fashion. For instance, is Cornwell really dead? It looked like L'Rell intended to deceive Kol and revive her after staging the fight where she killed her. But if so, then did she succeed in deceiving Kol about Cornwell being dead? And if that was her intent, then she sure took her time reviving Cornwell, what with that lengthy scene mourning her dead comrades and then seemingly getting her cover blown by Kol anyway. Instead of coming off as a dramatic cliffhanger as the narrative seemingly intended, it just comes off as annoyingly vague.

Meanwhile, on Pahvo, AKA Disney's Pocahontas planet of perfect balance and absolute harmony, every tree, rock, and blade of grass vibrates with its own specific tone. Together these combine to form a kind of music. Nobody on the landing party could quite tell what song it was, but obviously it was Colors of the Wind. After all, according to Saru everywhere you go you can feel the symbiosis between nature and the living spirit. Groovy, man! Perhaps every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name! Perhaps if Saru meditates hard enough, he'll be able to paint with all the colors of the wind!

Even setting aside awkward aesthetic similarities to one of Disney's less savory films, just about every detail of the away team plot is cringeworthy from start to finish. For starters, as soon as they discover the swirly alien spirits, Saru immediately abandons the mission of directly examining the giant transmitter thing to study the alien life form despite the fact that they're on a ticking clock. Even if they were making good time as they said, you'd think they'd want to stay focused on their primary mission of investigating this technology for the war effort rather than exhibit this "oh look, a squirrel!" degree of distractibility. Compounding this irrational decision-making process, Saru immediately insists that his risky behavior couldn't possibly bear any risk because, which he proclaims with total certainty, if the aliens meant them any harm, then his threat ganglia would surely sense it. The overwhelming stupidity of the concept of threat ganglia notwithstanding, everyone seeming to just tacitly accept the notion that threat ganglia are straight up infallible adds yet another layer of cringe.

Saru isn't the only one smoking the peace pipe though. Burnham prattles off a range of reckless, dumb lines insisting on following first contact protocol rather than use the transmitter tech, even after Saru is compromised. Tyler has to argue with her to try to talk her down from all that. Ultimately he seems to fail to convince her and resorts to simply ordering her to do her job and complete their mission to use the alien tech to build a cloaking device unmasker. And even Tyler doesn't seem immune to the planet's numbing effects on rational thinking when he idiotically equivocates when reciting the famous Vulcan idiom "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," reversing it to "so are the needs of the few or the one." He basically says to Burnham let's not complete our mission and let lots more people die so we can have our forbidden love. What uninspired melodrama.

Then when Saru goes to stop Burnham, Burnham looks up, sees Saru coming, and instead of pulling out her phaser to stun Saru, she turns her back to him, continues to fiddle with the computer, and ultimately allows Saru to disarm her and destroy her work. Only after that does she realize hey it might be a good idea to grab that phaser and stun Saru after all. A bit slow on the uptake there, huh? In any event, all is well. The aliens then conveniently transport Tyler to Burnham, conveniently fix the broken computer, and Discovery then conveniently arrives instantly to pick them up. Behold, everything moving at the speed of plot!

But the cringe doesn't end there. The annoying Pahvo plot isn't done making the characters act like morons. Because it turns out Saru wasn't under some kind of alien coercive influence at all. Burnham gives him that out when she says "you weren't yourself," but Saru will have none of that. "But I was!" he insists, determined to destroy all credibility he has as a character. "My whole life I've never known a moment without fear!" You see, the narrative expects us to find it believable that Saru would try to trap his comrades on that planet forever on a whim and forget all about the war and his responsibilities to the Federation simply because he's learned the bliss of painting the colors of the wind. But then perhaps that is par for the course for an episode which pretentiously names itself Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (a latin adage which translates to "if you want peace, prepare for war") with only the loosest attempts in the plot to justify the false profundity of such a title. What a mess.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From ismellofhockey on 2017-11-07 at 6:00pm:
    It's unfortunate that Trek shows have often done away with facts from previous episodes, sometimes even within the same series. It's annoying, I don't understand why they aren't more big picture focused, but that's how it's always been.

    What I dislike most about Discovery so far is the ultra fast paced plot, which you point out. Oh look! The tower sonar was fixed just in time for Discovery to beam them up! How convenient! How lazy! Had the show actually taken time to exploit its various devices, we would have had the chance to build an emotional bond with the admiral as she was tortured by the Klingons. We could have developed a stronger enmity towards Mudd during Lethe's incarceration. We could get a feel for what Stamets is actually going through. But nope! Who needs character development anyway? The answer to that being: not Saru... please stop trying.

    I'm also disappointed that the show doesn't deal with more philosophical concepts like what humanity's morals and values look like in the 23rd century. TOS showed us a female second in command, a black woman on the bridge, a Russian and a Japanese at the helm. There was a vision of the future that inspired, promising better things to come. TNG built on that with an unabashedly atheistic captain, the prime directive (introduced in TOS), Barclay's holosuite problems...etc. It would have been nice to delve deeper into this topic, or at least renew it. You can still have grey characters in a society whose values and morals have progressed far beyond where we are today. Stamets's augmenting and inability to ask for his doctor/lover's help could be a door towards this, but seeing how little anything gets developed in this show, I'm not holding my breath.

    Still, this episode was perhaps the most beautiful visually so far, and losing the Gagarin was a great opening.
  • From tigertooth on 2017-11-20 at 9:04am:
    Note: if you've watched 1x08 but not 1x09, this message contains a minor spoiler, but one you'd probably guess. If you've seen 1x09, you're good.

    I didn't understand the Klingon part at all. Who killed L'Rell's people? I assume it was Kol - who else would it be? But if he killed her people and left them there for her to find them, that's a pretty clear message, right? "I know your game. You're screwed."

    But then L'Rell goes to the bridge and tries to play it cool. What? She knows Kol killed her people, and he intentionally let her know that he did. How do you bluff your way past that?

    And why would Kol leave the Admiral there in the dead body room? A Starfleet Admiral is valuable property! You don't just leave her lying around, and if you just told a traitor that you figured them out and they're screwed, you don't let the traitor grab this Admiral and take her hostage (which would have been the only logical thing for L'Rell to do... but she didn't)

    On top of that, you've got Burnham and Tyler reacting to Saru nonsensically.

    I can take a lot of science fiction wackiness, but when your characters act in ways that make no sense, you lose me.

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Star Trek Dis - 1x09 - Into the Forest I Go

Originally Aired: 2017-11-12

Synopsis:
Bypassing Starfleet's orders, Lorca uses the U.S.S. Discovery crew's ultimate asset, the ship itself, in an effort to end the war with the Klingons once and for all.

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 7.81

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Problems
- Since It seemed clear that Lorca didn't know there was anyone aboard the ship of the dead who needed rescuing, then if Lorca's intent was to destroy it rather than take it over, why not just beam a bomb onto the ship instead of an away team? Some technobabble about the ship having explosion suppression tech would've been nice here.

Factoids
- The title of this episode is a reference to a quote by John Muir: "And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul."

Remarkable Scenes
- Tilly idiotically blowing Stamets' cover to Culber.
- Discovery engaging the ship of the dead.
- Burnham discovering Admiral Cornwell still alive while Tyler encounters L'Rell again.
- Burnham revealing herself to Kol to distract him to prevent him from ordering the ship of the dead to go to warp.
- Burnham provoking Kol into a duel.
- Discovery destroying the ship of the dead.

My Review
A fantastic story from start to finish with only minor things to quibble with. The most important thing this episode needed to clarify was just what was going on with L'Rell and Cornwell in the last episode and we thankfully got that clarification. Well, mostly. Was Cornwell really dead? Nope. Did L'Rell intend to deceive Kol and revive her after staging the fight where she killed her? Probably. Did she succeed in deceiving Kol about Cornwell being dead? Unclear. Also unclear is how exactly she managed to revive Cornwell. The most interesting revelation in this episode though was that Tyler was repressing the trauma he experienced from L'Rell's prior torture and that she continues to have some sort of hold over him. At the end of the episode, she says to him, "Do not worry, I will never let them hurt you. Soon..." which strongly implies that she has some kind of plan for him.

Given the conspicuous absence of Voq since L'Rell informed him he would have to sacrifice "everything" in order to go on and then the sudden appearance of Tyler directly afterward who also just so happens to seem to have some deep connection to L'Rell, either there is some kind of connection between the Voq and Tyler, or the narrative is deliberately misleading us. We should hope for the former. Even so, unfortunately the exact nature of this connection if it exists is still being withheld both from the audience as well as the characters, a weak narrative choice.

While we can't know the precise nature of any such connection yet, a reasonable guess would be that Voq was surgically altered to look human and brainwashed into thinking he is Tyler. Tyler is thus just Voq acting as a sleeper agent, waiting to be activated by L'Rell. But if that is the case, Discovery would do well to learn from how Battlestar Galactica did this. In BSG's pilot, we learned that Boomer was a sleeper agent at the start of the series. This information was withheld from the characters, not from the viewers. That narrative approach would've made the drama in Discovery much more satisfying. Instead, Discovery's approach of hiding this from both the audience and the characters too is just a recipe for cheap surprises down the road rather than great storytelling with true replay value.

Regardless of what ends up happening there, another weak beat in the story was L'Rell's insane luck. Whatever her plan really was aboard the ship of the dead in the previous episode, it failed miserably. Kol saw through her deception and she was imprisoned, presumably with no hope of escape. Sure was handy that Discovery showed up to blow up the ship and then rescued her by accident without at all planning to! If L'Rell really does turn out to be some mastermind sleeper agent puppeteer, she will also simultaneously only survive long enough to activate her sleeper agent due to incredibly dumb luck. There is no way she could've possibly planned to end up aboard the Discovery in this manner. And if all this was planned, subsequent episodes are sure gonna have to do a lot of work to fill in the gaps. Either way that's weak storytelling.

But all that said, this was otherwise a spectacular episode. Discovery battling the ship of the dead was cool. The military tactics leveraging the spore drive were clever and exciting to watch. And Burnham's duel with Kol was even cooler than the space battle! Overall a very satisfying episode that seems to have gotten the story back on track for the most part. The jump-to-the-middle-of-nowhere cliffhanger was a bit anticlimactic after such an otherwise strong episode though.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Matthew on 2017-11-15 at 2:25pm:
    I am feeling much better after this one - it's starting to come together, after a rather abrupt start.

    The cliffhanger is more meaningful where you consider where they probably are - i.e. the mirror universe, as covered around the web. I am completely convinced Lorca is actually Mirror Lorca, and that this will make sense of a number of things, like his sleeping with a phaser (consistent with the mirror universe love of shipboard assassination), praising the warrior aspect over science and exploration (his valedictory speech on the bridge was a weird bit in this episode, even taking the fact they're at war into account) and the fact that Cornwell finds him a stranger to her (with some unexplained scars).

    I've found myself thinking back to stuff he says in previous episodes in this context. What really strikes me is his attitude to Burnham. You can see that he's overridden the spore drive in a screengrab of his captain's chair console from this episode, so he clearly wants to get to one of the alternate dimensions that he talks Stamets through. But he clearly also wants Burnham, above all, to come with him. Nothing else explains his extraordinarily protective attitude to her in this episode - if he just wanted her on his team to help win the war, then her going over to the ship of the dead would just be her fulfilling that mission. But he doesn't want her there, he wants her safe until they jump dimensions. Also go back to the episode where he gets her on board and she's saying "I'm Starfleet, you can't break my principles" and he says "I know who you are, Michael Burnham" - my take is that while she obviously takes it as a figurative character assessment, he's being completely literal. He does know Burnham, very well, from the Mirror timeline. Tyler too, possibly, though who knows. A lot of his other random man management can be put down to him just being a bit of a do-whatever-it-takes merchant.

    My guess is that they have jumped to the Mirror universe but he's been out of stream for a while so is genuinely confused by what he's seeing when he gets there, rather than just putting it on.

    Maybe we are in for some juicy flashbacks with what actually happened with Lorca and the Buran - could have been Mirror Lorca engineering Prime Lorca's death then passing himself off as surviving Prime Lorca. BSG Razer style full episode flashback, anyone? Chance to bring BSG Tory back from the dead (also dead suspicious on the Mirror Universe front - would redeem her ridiculous death slightly if she was an aggressive xenophobic Terran Empire type). Also it would pay BSG back for giving us more Ro Laren!

    The whole Tyler/Voq thing is coming good, fingers crossed. L'Rell is just a fantastic actress and great character. Tyler appears totally confused and to have a split personality. I am inclined to think the nightmare flashback is not quite what it appears. Wild guess - L'Rell snatched Tyler and somehow implanted Voq's consciousness into him, which is now warring with the native mind. The flashbacks could imply an actual physical transformation (instead of torture) but I don't really see how that would pass the inevitable medical scans.

    Also let's not forget those weird black badges. I'm still hoping that's Section 31 though their role in this - who knows. Put themselves there to monitor Lorca given immense potential of the ship's technology; or even they are actually behind getting him from the Mirror universe because they saw the Federation might otherwise lose the war?

    Anyway - however these are resolved there is plenty to look forward to next season. There was some better character stuff in the later part of these episodes, particularly this one and Lethe. And I hope they keep variety - it's all a bit frenetic, and while the planet one before this was flawed in some ways I enjoyed the change of pace and tone.
  • From tigertooth on 2017-11-20 at 10:05pm:
    The "just one more jump" thing was painfully bad. So, so obvious - almost a parody. And they didn't even have a particularly good reason for it. Lorca didn't insist on it. They could have just used warp, but no -- we'll just do this incredibly dangerous thing ONE more time.

    Lorca was trying to unlock the secret of the cloak, not merely destroy the Ship of the Dead. If he beams a bomb over, that takes care of the one ship, but not all the others in the Klingon fleet. So that worked for me.

    Did they show how Burnham got onto the bridge? It seemed implausible that she could get on the bridge undetected and set up the machine. Then again, that huge bridge is quite unlike the small, simple bridges we're used to seeing on Klingon ships.

    So the Klingon ship cloaks and prepares to warp away. Then Burnham shows up and the entire bridge forgets that there's a Starfleet vessel popping from place to place all around them. Seems that would raise some alarms, but instead the entire bridge crew ignores their sensors and turns into the thunderdome. Ridiculous.

    I didn't like the "Tyler is the Manchurian Candidate" idea, but assuming that Voq is indeed related, I might come around on it.

    I hope they can start making the characters, especially the Klingons, act in ways that show some common sense.
  • From T. Buchholz on 2017-11-28 at 2:39pm:
    Hi there Mr Kethinov! Have you considered reviewing The Orville? I think it captures the spirit of classic Trek quite well though it can be a bit silly at times. is there any particular reason not to review it other than time constraints?
  • From Kethinvo on 2017-11-28 at 4:54pm:
    Time constraints is the only reason.

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