‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Courts Chaos With ‘An Obol For Charon’

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I believe it was William Shakespeare who said:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Well, I would like to offer a complimentary notion:

“Restraint is the heart of genius.”

What does that mean?

Allow me to explain.

As this is another long article, I’ve added an abstract (AKA a synopsis, a summary, or a TL:DR) below. The rest of the article follows it.

‘An Obol For Charon’ contains many interesting story ideas, many of which have been explored in previous Star Trek series. Sadly, it packs too many of these concepts in, such that no one story arc receives adequate focus. This lack of narrative focus leads not only to many significant plot holes, but also to several crucial oversights in the relationships between characters.


Chaos By Parts

My initial review of ‘An Obol For Charon’, the fourth episode of the second season of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, was going to be a breakdown of each of the many subplots of the episode, exploring each one separately. It seemed like a sensible way to tackle the chaos of such a busy episode, barely 50 minutes long.

But then I realised that what I want to talk about is the chaos. Not the in-universe chaos, as the ship shuts down and everything goes wrong, but the narrative chaos, caused by inexpert hands duct-taping six contrasting narratives into a big, quivering, unstable blob that wants to collapse under its own weight like a beached whale.

analogyducttape

In a previous article, I commented on the similarities between ‘New Eden’ and TNG’s ‘Q Who’. I try very, very hard not to compare DISCO to other Trek series in terms of aesthetics, technology, canon and the like because those things just aren’t as important to me as the stories themselves. But when DISCO itself invokes the comparison, I’ll take it and run with it.

‘An Obol For Charon’ is, on the surface, directly comparable to TNG’s ‘Disaster’ – in both episodes, the ship (Discovery, Enterprise) is rendered helpless by some cosmic phenomenon and chaos ensues, leaving the crew separated, imperilled, and without access to any of the technology they would usually rely on to help them out.

‘Charon’ is also directly comparable to TNG’s ‘Ethics’ – in both episodes, a character (Saru, Worf) is left with some kind of debilitating and incurable medical condition to which their cultural response is suicide, and they must request the assistance of other crew to help them kill themselves.

‘Charon’ is ALSO reasonably comparable to DS9’s ‘Heart of Stone’, in which a character (Tilly, Kira) is trapped by a strange, lumpy lifeform and another character must find a way to save them, whilst cut off from any help or medical assistance.

This plotline itself invokes elements of both of the TNG episodes ‘Evolution’ and ‘Force of Nature’, where, respectively: the crew channel the communications of an alien race through a “possessed” crew member (Tilly for the JahSepp and Data for the Nanites) in order to negotiate a kind of truce; and where the crew discover that their heretofore vital engine technology is unknowingly causing environmental damage which is affecting an alien race.

JahSepp

In addition to these narratives, we also have the meta-plot of the Red Bursts and the Red Angel, the meta-subplot of Spock’s escape, and the meta-sub-subplot of the rift between Burnham and Spock preventing them from reuniting.

Finally, we have the A-plot of this episode, which is a massive, quivering, unstable blob that wants to die, but not before it sends someone its internet search history. This borrows elements from TNG’s ‘Tin man’ and ‘The Inner Light’, the first about a massive, living vessel seeking to die, and the second about a an ancient probe forcibly passing on the history and cultural legacy of  to the first ship it encounters.

Got all that?

Good! Now let’s talk about why it doesn’t work.


Disaster

‘Disaster’ is probably not one of the finest episodes of TNG, but it’s far from the worst, and manages to be memorable thanks to some fun and touching moments throughout.

Structurally, ‘Disaster’ is essentially a collection of B-plots. There isn’t really an “A-plot” – that being, a story arc which serves as the main focus of the episode, and that’s actually fine.

The Enterprise randomly strikes two quantum filaments – a kind of string that is cosmic but that is definitely not a cosmic string.

differentphenomenon

This occurs at the end of the four-minute opening teaser, following a sequence of scenes in which we see the crew in “status quo” – the unborn Molly O’Brien is torturing Keiko by kicking, Beverly is torturing Geordi by begging him to sing, and three children are torturing Picard by existing.

Everyone is separated off into little groups: Beverly and Geordi are in a cargo bay; Riker, Data and Worf are with Keiko in Ten Forward; Troi and O’Brien are on the bridge; and Picard is in a turbolift with the three children – for those of you not aware, Jean Luc Picard hates children as much as Michael Burnham hates making sensible decisions.

The Enterprise is hit with the filaments, and the following things happen:

  1. Worf is left in charge of Ten Forward, which has become a makeshift medical bay, and must assist Keiko as she goes into labour.
  2. Troi and O’Brien are joined by Ro Laren in an isolated bridge, cut off from the rest of the ship and uncertain about the next steps to follow.
  3. Picard faces his own Kobayashi Maru, being trapped in a turbolift with a broken leg and three useless fucking children. Everyone thinks that ‘Chain of Command’ is the episode about Picard getting tortured, but this is actually the greatest torment he ever faced.
  4. Riker and Data set out to reach Engineering in order to regain control of the ship, but must find away around damaged corridors and passageways.
  5. Bev and Geordi are trapped in the cargo bay and discover a plasma fire, which is steadily poisoning them with radiation.

The key thing with all of those subplots is that they’re all actually pretty basic. Riker’s and Data’s journey is mostly just functional, and serves as the resolution to the overall peril, and Beverly and Geordi’s subplot is mostly just generic danger plot to give them something to do.

justtryitonce

The other three stories are more interesting:

  1. Keiko’s labour is fairly standard, but it presents Worf a problem that he can’t fight, shoot or stab – if Beverly were around the issue would be solved.
  2. Troi struggles with the burdens of command, having to get the other officers into line and make difficult decisions. She really just needs a command officer like Riker or Picard around to sort the problem out.
  3. Picard has to find a way to stop the children from panicking or giving up or succumbing to fear – he needs Troi, someone who can reach the children on an emotional level and keep them calm.

And that’s basically it. None of these things would be major problems on any other day – they’re only challenging because of the complete failure of all of the ship’s systems. Without those issues: Geordi and Beverly could just beam out of the cargo bay; Data and Riker could just take the turbolift; an actual doctor could take care of Keiko rather than Worf; Troi could just get guidance from a more senior officer; and Picard could just pistol-whip those little shits right in the face find someone, anyone, to take those children off his hands.

kidsscreaming

For the Worf, Picard and Troi stories, it’s just a chance to see our characters out of their comfort zones, facing new challenges that could be easily dealt with otherwise. And we even get nice little arcs out of it:

  1. Worf learns to embrace his softer, more sensitive side as he coaches Keiko through the birth of Molly.
  2. Troi gains confidence dealing with life-or-death decision-making, and asserting herself within the Starfleet hierarchy.
  3. Picard realises that children probably aren’t all that bad, and even comes to appreciate the hidden strength youth or whatever.

firmlybutgently


Disarray

There’s an old joke about how unlucky each vessel bearing the name Enterprise must be. Every week the crew meets some new, terrible, or just plain weird phenomenon which fucks everything up, and it seems to happen like clockwork.

Well, Enterprise got nothin’ on Discovery. In this episode alone:

  1. The crew are on a mission to investigate a weird galaxy-wide phenomenon.
  2. Number One comes aboard to give Pike an update on the investigation into Spock, who is wanted for murder after allegedly losing his mind. Number One points out how fishy this investigation is.
  3. Burnham doesn’t want to meet Spock when they do find him, due to a previous falling out.
  4. The ship runs into a giant living entity which completely mangles the computer –
  5. – which leads to all of the crew speaking different languages because of a Universal Translator function.
  6. The only way to free the ship is to accept a massive download of 100,000 years’ worth of information, because the living entity wants to die, but not before it passes on its legacy.
  7. The encounter with the living entity causes one of the crew members to enter their own death cycle –
  8. – which requires another crew member to help them commit suicide.
  9. Three crew members get trapped in Engineering with no way to escape.
  10. The compartment is charged with 100GeV of energy (that’s about 0.000000016J, or roughly the kinetic energy of a grain of sand travelling a speed of 1 millimetre per second) and the people inside have to discharge it somehow.
  11. One of those trapped crew members becomes infected with an inter-dimensional fungal parasite.
  12. One of the others drills a hole into the infected crew member’s head with a cordless drill so that they can communicate with the infecting organism.
  13. The organism infected the crew member in order to force the ship to stop using its special engines, which are devastating the organism’s ecosystem.

That’s not even a list of events, that’s just a list of plot threads. Now, in a longer, multi-episode narrative like DISCO’s, you can get away with running parallel stories which take longer to resolve, so for clarity, I highlighted all of the stuff that’s introduced in this episode in red.

You’ll notice that’s nearly all of it.

flicktheswitch

What’s more, hardly any of these things are small problems. They’re all major issues which could warrant major exploration. Hell, most of them could be A-plots for a single episode.

Instead, we rush through each one without paying any level of notice to it. Here’s a few problems that are NOT adequately dealt with in the course of the episode (numbered correspondingly):

  1. We barely spend any time on the Red Angel / Red Burst phenomenon beyond a single scene in a conference room in which everybody makes clear that, after four episodes, they still have no idea of what they’re dealing with.
  2. Where did Number One come from? Did she leave the Enterprise and travel all this way to have a two-minute conversation with Pike, hand him a data pad, eat a Happy Meal and then leave again? Where did she go after she left?
  3. Burnham refuses to meet Spock because of the rift between them. Rather than introspecting and exploring her feelings on this, or how the rift occurred, she simply decides to see Spock because a dying Saru told her to.
  4. What is the nature of this living cosmic entity? What kind of creature is it? What is its purpose? Is it a vessel? Was it built, or did it evolve naturally? What does the existence of this kind of creature mean scientifically? Is it unique or are there more of them out there? How has it not been discovered before this episode?
  5. Can the Universal Translator really change the lip movements and intonations of the person who’s speaking? And why isn’t the solution to simply deactivate it across the ship so that everyone can at least understand what they themselves are saying?
  6. Why does the entity want / need to die? What is its motivation behind ending its own life? If its death cycle is out of its own control, then is there any way to save it?
  7. Saru starts dying because the entity triggers some sort of death process in Kelpien anatomy, and yet the first symptoms of this process occur at least several minutes before the Enterprise even sets out on a course that would intercept the entity – before Number One even sets foot aboard Discovey with the co-ordinates to which they are heading.
    discomfortthismorning
  8. Burnham has to help Saru kill himself, but although she get upset and they have several long conversations, at no point does she question the ethics of her actions, or indeed whether Saru can be saved. Saru says that that his death is certain, but nobody even doubts him – they all just take him for his word and allow him to continue dying.
  9. Reno, Stamets and Tilly, all highly-qualified engineers, get trapped in the Spore chamber and never seem to think of trying to get out – they make mention of the room being completely isolated, but even when Tilly has a fungus attached on her arm, drugging her with hallucinogenics, they never thing to just cut the door open to get her to sickbay – or even just find a way to get a doctor in with them.
  10. The compartment is charged with electricity, threatening to kill them all by incineration as a result of their oxygen igniting. To solve this, they improvise a technique to discharge the energy – which creates a massive blast and electrical bolt. Which would surely ignite the oxygen in the room, which is precisely what they’re trying to avoid.
  11. At the end of last episode, Stamets extracted the parasite from Tilly with the Dark Matter chamber. For some reason, that never emerges as another possibility, even though it seemed to work pretty well.
    cutitoff
  12. The situation is so bad that Reno and Stamets decide to improvise brain surgery on Tilly by drilling a hole in her head. This entire scenario is so awful that I was laughing uncontrollably – Stamets’ delivery of the line “We’re gonna do this old school. We need to sterilise that drill bit,” is delivered with perfect comic timing. Even at this drastic stage, neither one of them considers even trying to get Tilly in front an actual doctor.
  13. Discovery‘s Spore Drive is wreaking havoc on an ecosystem in another dimension. What kind of havoc is it wreaking? Why would the organism emotionally manipulate Tilly and mess with her head so much just to “build up trust” in order to “persuade her to deliver [the] message” to Stamets instead of just telling Tilly what was going on? If it can read Tilly’s mind and memories so accurately, would it not be able to recognise her concern for alien life forms? If it understands Tilly well enough to know how to manipulate her sympathies, why would it then choose to appear as a ghost in order to build trust? Would it not be obvious that Tilly, indeed any human, would immediately mistrust visions of a dead person?

Narrative focus is important. Not just to stop assholes on the internet from pointing out plot holes in your story, but because it enables a deeper exploration and examination of the themes that your story covers.

There’s a single line in this episode that is really interesting to me, which is from Saru, regarding his own species:

submits

Now, that’s a fascinating a concept – that the Kelpiens simply submit to death, that they lack the desperate drive for survival that exists in nearly all other species.

It’s an intriguing philosophy! And this is all the screen time it gets this episode. In the similar story ‘Ethics’, from TNG, Riker can’t bring himself to accept that Worf would seek to take his own life when he was physically handicapped, and that drove a lot of the debate of the episode.

To her credit, Burnham simply accepts that Saru is submitting to death, which makes her a considerate friend and which also fits her expertise as a Xenoanthropologist. But it also robs the storyline of the drama it needs! It would be a great point of conflict to see Burnham struggle to come to terms with Saru on this, unable, at first, to accept his perspective on his own situation.

tentothesixth
It’s alright Burnham, it’s just us, and we already know you’re smart, you can just say “a million”.

On a similar note, at one point Burnham stops by Engineering to “see if we can find a way to boost power to shields.” She can’t get in, because the doors won’t open. Nobody suggests breaking through them, or finding some other way in or out. Then Stamets says something that helps Burnham realise the solution to the Catastrafuck Of The Week and the point is that:

Tilly is Burnham’s best friend.

However, Burnham shows barely more than cursory concern for Tilly’s plight because she has to go back to being concerned about Saru. Because this episode is a mess.

gladyoucame
Little-known fact: this line was originally written for Riker.

Saru is dying. Tilly is being poisoned by an inter-dimensional fungus. The whole ship is on its arse. Burnham doesn’t have time to be worried about Tilly. But she should, because this is one of the most important relationships between two characters in the show so far – the one that we, the audience, have been following since Season 1. But now Tilly’s just the latest entry on Burnham’s list of “Today’s Bullshit.”

To the point that once the cosmic machine entity has released its hold on Discovery, Burnham doesn’t hurry to Engineering to try to help Tilly – she walks Saru back to his quarters so he can take his shirt off and lie down on a bed of moss.

 

And when it then turns out that he’s fine as his condition just suddenly corrects itself, Burnham still doesn’t go to check on Tilly, but instead follows the now totally-fine Saru to sickbay to congratulate him on not being dead. Then Burnham still doesn’t go to check on Tilly, but instead heads to Pike’s ready room to tell him that she will, at least, decide to speak to Spock when they finally meet, and by this point Tilly has been dragged into a fungal cocoon and off into the Phantom Zone, and Reno is slapping the magic mushrooms out of Stamets as they trip balls.

uninsultable

By this point, the ship is working again, so there’s absolutely no need for Reno and Stamets to be dealing with Tilly’s situation alone. It just seems that nobody else can be arsed to come help – particularly not Burnham, who is off talking to Pike about her family issues.

This is all a result of the episode’s writers trying to cram so many storylines into one place that everything starts falling apart.

And I haven’t even come close to talking about the weird edits and scene transitions as Burnham just seems to teleport around the ship as needed, nor the complete abandoning of the Universal Translator problems which would themselves have been a great storyline.

Or indeed why Pike sees fit, during a period of crisis where the ship might be destroyed, to abandon the Bridge and visit Sickbay to get a status report, the very definition of an errand which could be left to pretty much anyone except the captain. Or why he then chooses to remain in Sickbay for a prolonged period to act as an unqualified nurse.

situationinsickbay
Ah yes, Pike, that certainly sounds like a captain-worthy task. Couldn’t they just write you a note?

On the surface, this was a fun episode that seemed like a throwback to classic Trek. But again, as with all things ‘Discovery’, it doesn’t take much scrutiny before it starts to dissolve into abstraction and nonsense.

The wrtiers’ inability to restrain themselves is their own undoing, and it allows them to turn some fascinating story concepts into rushed, glossed-over narrative dead-ends. This episode should just have been about the massive cosmic entity and the effect that it’s dying had on Saru – it didn’t need all of the other gumpf, fluff and nonsense to make it interesting.

The only outstanding positive element of this episode was Jet Reno, who remained wonderful throughout. But sadly, she wasn’t enough to single-handedly turn everything around.

fixherupducttape


Okay, I’ve talked about all the serious, in-depth issues with the episode. Now for more nitpicking:

Burnham comments that the attack is “slow” and therefore “inefficient”, even though the entire ship was multi-spectrally fucko’d seconds after arrival and they’re now completely helpless. SEEMS PRETTY EFFICIENT TO ME.

Stamets asks Tilly to sing her favourite song, so she starts singing ‘Space Oddity’… half-way through. Like, in the middle of a verse. Presumably she knew how cramped the episode was, and so decided to just skip to the most dramatically fitting part of the song.

It really, really bothers me that Stamets claims the Federation is completely dispassionate about the problems caused by dilithium mining. Sure, this is a (really hamfisted) analogy for anthropogenic climate change, but you expect a nation of genius scientists to be a little more switched-on than that.

Reno says that the computer sealed the doors because of the power overload… even though the lightning bolts are shown, clearly, four times over, striking the control panels. Which is both weird for them to do that, and directly contradictory. Neither explanation explains why they can’t leave the room later, beyond the general systems malfunction, except that YOU’RE ENGINEERS, JUST FIND A WAY TO OPEN THE FUCKING DOORS, NUMB NUTS.

lightning2

No, seriously, where the fuck did Number One come from and where did she go? Was Discovery really in transporter range of Spacedock where Enterprise is being repaired?

What the fuck is a “digital antibody” anyway? ‘Cause it sounds fucking stupid.

Why was the Spore Drive room completely unaffected by all of the ship’s malfunctions? Isn’t it an integral part of the ship? It makes sense that it’d be firewalled off, but then why aren’t other vital areas?

Linus the Saurian is an annoying fucking dweeb and it really bothers me that these futuristic space scientists talk like American teenagers. “That cold I had sucked.” Yeah, so do you, Linus, you god damn scaly-skinned piece of shit.

Pike was bound by his “oath and conscience” to honour the dying wishes of the mechanical entity – risking his ship and all of his crew getting ultra-fucked out of existence in the process. Fuck you, Pike.

oathancconscience

Christ, I’m still barely done, but I’m nearly at 4000 words. This’ll have to do for now. Good night.

Star Trek: Discovery’s ‘Point Of Light’ Returns To Fractal Stupidity

CONTENT WARNING – The bottom portion of this review contains disturbing images of mutilated infants. A second warning will be put up, but please proceed with caution.

And no, I can’t believe I have to write that warning on the review of a Star Trek episode, either.

Ohhhhh my God. Jesus. I was just, just, warming up to this show, and then BAM, it covers itself in stupid-sauce and jumps into a nest of stupid-wasps and then tries to numb the pain with a hefty dose of stupid-pills.

Did any of that make sense? No? Then I’ve set roughly the correct tone for a review of this toasty, grisly mess of a story.

This episode, ‘Point Of Light’, is what I’d call Fractally Stupid – it’s stupid on a basic, high level, but as you dig further into it, you realise that the stupidity extends to a greater and greater level of detail. It’s stupid all the way down – the closer you look, the more stupid you see.

It’s painful.

recruitment

My first complaint with this episode is that it’s nearly 50 minutes long and has roughly 90 billion storylines, none of which overlap. Given that fact, I’m going to make it easy for myself and break each one down, and carefully explain why each story is dumber than a bag of hammers.

Please note that there is so much stupid in this episode that I had to trim out a lot of it from this article. There’s also a lot of stylistic stuff, such as camera angles, dutch angles, terrible lighting, Klingons speaking English unintelligibly, the complete abandoning of several plotlines from last season, most notably the planet-destroying bomb that L’Rell controlls, L’Rell naming herself Khaleesi – the list goes on and on.

For now, I just want to focus on the chunkiest narrative aspects. Let’s dive in.


Michael Burnham: An Accessory To Spock

Alright, so we open with Burnham’s personal log, where she explains that she is yet to figure out the significance of the Seven Red Bursts-

sevensignals

Wait, shouldn’t that be Eight Red Bursts? Wasn’t the one in last episode a new one?

anothersignal

Did the writers just try to Shelby us again?

Anyway, Burnham can’t make any headway on the Red Bursts, not even with the help of Spock’s notes.

Where is Spock? Why, he’s in the psychiatric unit aboard Starbase 5. Which is precisely why Discovery went straight there after the end of last episode, where they established the absolute primacy of their mission, over and above Spock’s privacy or even Starfleet’s “General Order One”:

spocksprivacy

urgency

firstrule

Oh, wait, they didn’t go to Starbase 5. They were just flying around or something, I guess, because their mission probably isn’t that important.

Instead, Amanda, the 43-year-old mother of a 32-year-old Spock arrives after having just been to Starbase 5 and nicking Spock’s medical records, which leads to Pike getting in contact with Starbase 5 and learning that Spock allegedly murdered three people, escaped, and is now on the run.

Why wasn’t Discovery told about this? Because it was classified, or something. Which is why Starbase 5’s commander didn’t answer any of Pike’s calls. Except that he’s telling Pike now, because… Well, I can’t really figure out why he would tell him now, and not before.

He says:

signals

No, they do, asshole, they’re the whole reason Pike took command of Discovery, the reason he was able to violate the embargo on the Spore Drive as well as violate the Prime Directive. But now Starfleet has sort-of-but-not-really classified Spock’s case because:

files

Except that, the files only went missing because Amanda stole them. And Amanda only knew Spock was at Starbase 5 because… wait, hang on, nobody except Pike seemed to know he was at Starbase 5. Certainly neither Sarek nor Amanda knew, nor did Burnham. So how did Amanda know?

parentsnottold

spocksaidno

So:

  1. Did Pike radio in to Starfleet to ask about Spock, and they ignored him until…
  2. … Amanda found out, flew to Starbase 5 herself (faster than Discovery could instaneously spore-drive it’s way there from New Eden)…
  3. … and stole Spock’s records, causing Spock’s status to become classified?

Why would Starfleet obstruct the mission that they gave to Pike? If they have ulterior motives, then why assign him the advanced starship with the experimental drive that would facilitate his mission? If they don’t have ulterior motives, then why would they obstruct the mission?

But this is just a contradiction between a narrative that occurs over two episodes. Check out the contradiction in just these three lines of dialogue:

youknow

informed

anxious

  1. Burnham has to ask if Amanda knows about the signals, implying that they are not common knowledge.
  2. Amanda answers that Sarek told her specifically.
  3. Amanda then follows up by explaining that people are anxious to know what they are, implying that the signals ARE common knowledge.

This level of stupidity is so overwhelming that I genuinely find it quite taxing to get my mind around it. The writers of this show genuinely cannot maintain a single, coherent train of thought across three fucking lines of dialogue.

The rest of this story arc pretty much goes nowhere, beyond establishing that Spock had a vision of the Red Angel when he was a child, and that Burnham did something truly awful to him when he was younger as a means to protect him – which tracks true for Burnham’s mutinous “Chaotic Stupid” character alignment as established at the very start of the show.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is that the entire Burnham sub-plot was all about Spock, and not Burnham. We learn virtually nothing new about Burnham, beyond the fact that she was a colossal fuck-up as a youth as well as when she was a first officer. Also that she ran away one time. We sacrifice any opportunity to properly examine her own character, in lieu of exploring Spock, a character who is yet to appear in this show.

This narrative is dull, heavy on exposition, and does very little to advance the plot beyond sending Amanda on her merry way to find Spock herself. I’ll cover more of this narrative in my next character piece, which will be looking at Burnham specifically, but for now, we’re done with this little cul de sac of a story.

Onto the next.


Damn It, Tilly, I’m A Mycologist, Not A Spine Surgeon

Tilly is on the Command Training Program’s half-marathon exercise. One of many, because she apparently scores a PB:

personalbest

Oh, wait, she set a new course record, too:

courserecord

If she set a new course record, why is Burnham not mentioning that? Isn’t that the bigger achievement, as well as making the other two things obvious? Like, is it’s possible to set a course record and not beat your personal best on that course, and at the same time win? Whatever.

So, Tilly’s running with three other command trainees, and their coming is heralded by the computer announcing it like it’s fucking Red Alert or something, shutting off all the lights to boot:

marathonapproaching

This makes absolutely no fucking sense. I mean, it’s not as though they’re running on rough terrain, like an obstacle course or something, where the flashing lights might kind-of make sense, this just seems to be a fitness test on flat corridor floor panels. So the only reason for the lights to go out is to add dramatic, disorienting tension to Tilly’s confrontations with a ghost that’s haunting her.

Which is fine, if it’s something that happens solely within the context of Tilly struggling with the ghost. Except that the lights go out on Burnham, too, which means they’re actually getting switched off for some reason, which doesn’t make sense, which-

ARGH, WHATEVER

The point is, we later see Tilly wigging out on the bridge as this ghost, May, torments her, until Tilly shouts at her and then runs off in a nervous panic, which is understandable.

What isn’t understandable is the exchange that follows, where Tilly goes to her quarters, where Burnham is waiting, who explains that Saru has apparently been looking all over for Tilly despite the ship having internal sensors but WHATEVER, and then Tilly has a conversation with Burnham whilst being tormented by May the Ghost.

Tilly starts crying, and the ghost says that her eyes are dripping. Tilly then explains to Burnham that the ghost doesn’t know what tears are, to which Burnham responds:

whataretears

Exactly.

How can this ghost, which was able to extrapolate the image of an adult version of Tilly’s friend from high school that she knew for six months, and bring up a nickname (“Stilly”) that Tilly had forgotten, not know what crying is???

Especially given this line from when the ghost was introduced:

scary

How can it possibly know so much about Tilly’s life, and yet know know what crying is?

This leads Tilly to seek help from Stamets, who examines her and finds an interdimensional fungal infection attached to her nervous system:

mutlidimensionalfungalparasite

Look at that thing! All up and down her spine, her lungs, her… is… is it infecting her tits, too? Ah, whatever.

Stamets’ reaction to this?

Grab the nearest cask of dark matter, open the lid and just point it at Tilly, hoping it’ll suck the parasite out.

Y’know how it’s really difficult to safely remove parasites like ticks and leeches and even just athelete’s foot, because they root themselves into the outer layers of our bodies and need to be carefully removed just to avoid scarring?

This parasite is rooted in Tilly’s fucking brain stem and Stamet’s just yanks it out of her like an evangelist purging a demon. I mean look at this, he’s not even got the dark matter mounted to anything! He’s just holding it and waving it in her general direction, hoping for the best!

sucking

Bear in mind that it was exposure to dark matter that prompted the appearance of May in the first place, so what if this just fed the parasite instead of removing it?

What if as this parasite is removed, it rips a chunk of Tilly’s spinal column out with it? Or just fucks up her internal organs?

The point is, Stamets had no way to know, because there are literally, literally

37 SECONDS

between those two screenshots.

37 seconds between Stamets seeing a never-before-seen multidimensional fungal parasite, and him improvising a handheld solution to extracting it from Tilly’s central nervous system.

This thing is so wired into Tilly’s brain that it can conjure up images from the deepest parts of her long-term memory, and Stamets just casually tears it out of her without even speaking to a doctor first.

suck

This is, without a doubt, the STUPIDEST moment from all of Star Trek history. ALL of Star Trek history. I have never seen something this idiotic in my entire life.

So Stamets pulls a big snotty blob of goo out of Tilly’s spine and just throws it up into the air where Saru puts a forcefield up around it and…

… That’s it. That’s the last we see of the Discovery crew this episode, before we switch back to the Klingon Empire and the re-introduction of Section 31.


 

Klingon Power Struggles Klingons Struggling With Power

Do you like political intrigue? Drama? Difficult choices and forced compromises?

Then go watch some other show.

The Klingon plotline of ‘Point of Light’ tries so hard to be ‘Game of Thrones’ that damages itself in the process. It manages to be what ‘Game of Thrones’ would be, if everyone in Westeros was either Joffrey or a Pakled.

I’m going to try and cover this as succinctly as possible:

L’Rell is the High Chancellor. She is holding onto power through a few loyal family members and Ash/Voq, who acts as her de facto second-in-command.

The head of a rival Klingon House, Kol-Sha (whose son was Kol, the General of last season but whatever), seeks to challenge L’Rell and take the chancellorship away from her.

Kol-Sha shows up with red paint on his face, a sign of the old ways he represents:

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L’Rell asks him to remove it, and he ignores her:

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So Ash tries to violently wipe the paint from Kol-Sha’s face:

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Later, according to Kol-Sha:

begged

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But… you didn’t beg her, Kol’Sha. She ordered you to remove it, and you refused.

Even if he’s just being metaphorical (a bit of a stretch) – was this his plan? To seize power? To turn up wearing paint filled with listening devices, so that L’Rell would ask him to remove it, he’d then refuse, and then her boyfriend would try to remove it himself?

What if L’Rell just didn’t give a shit about the paint?

What if she was like, “Huh, still wearing paint, I see. Anyway, here’s my economic recovery plan so that we don’t all starve to death after that immensely costly war.”

What was his next step?

Right, whatever, maybe he would just be to try something else, so, whatever. Whatever.

Whatever.

So then Kol-Sha uses these sensor thingies to learn two things:

  1. That Ash betrayed the Council to Burnham and the Federation.
  2. That Voq and L’Rell had a child.

With this knowledge, Kol-Sha decides to murder L’Rell and publicly release the recording of Ash betraying the Klingon Empire, taking L’Rell’s place on the grounds of treason committed by her second-in-command/lover/sworn protector.

Oh, no, wait, none of that happens.

Instead, Kol-Sha kidnaps L’Rell’s baby (a baby she cared so much about that she’s never met it) and then blackmails her into signing a form that would hand power over to him.

Klingons.

Kidnapping defenceless babies.

So they can blackmail their rivals.

Into signing a form.

Remind me again of how much ‘Discovery’ has done to explore Klingon culture and offer a new perspective.

sign

This then leads into a fight, in which L’Rell and Ash fight a bunch of Kol-Sha’s anonymous mooks for nearly ninety seconds of over-choreographed, poorly-lit swordplay, at the end of which more mooks arrive and they’re back where they started, making the whole thing completely fucking pointless anyway.

Seriously, these two images are before and after a massive, complex, poorly choreographed fight scene:

afterfight

beforefight

Except that they aren’t, I actually put them in the wrong order – the bottom one is the before shot. And if you couldn’t spot that, then that’s exactly my point.

Just to hammer the pointlessness of this fight home, Kol-Sha then just paralyses both L’Rell and Ash anyway:

stunning

He then proceeds to take the hand of the paralysed L’Rell and places it on “Transfer of Chancellorship Oversight Form P-627-B” and completes the process anyway:

signing

All of which means he could have just done that to begin with.

Why not just stun her before the fight?

When you go to steal the baby and leave L’Rell’s uncle hanging there, why not just lie in wait and ambush L’Rell, and then stun her?

Kol-Sha’s hologram was waiting for her to arrive, so he knew she was coming:

awaiting

So… Just stun her then?

To quote Mr. Plinkett:

Forcing someone to sign a [document] sort-of contradicts the purpose of a signature on a document. You might as well just forge it if you’re going to make her sign it.

I mean, Kol-Sha has the ability to hide sensors in paint and to paralyse two people who happen to be stood exactly either side of him, so I can assume he has the tech to just forge L’Rell’s thumb-signature. And even if he doesn’t, why both with kidnapping the baby if you’re just going to paralyse L’Rell anyway and then physically press her thumb onto the document anyway?

Which means the entire plot with the baby was utterly pointless. It didn’t need to be there, and could have easily been omitted in an episode that already had too many sub-plots.

Which leads me onto my next, distressing, point…


CONTENT NOTICE – This next section contains discussion and images of harm done to children, which may be distressing. Please do not proceed any further unless you are confident that you won’t be upset by it.


Dead Baby Jokes

I grew out of telling dead baby jokes about ten years ago. It happened when a friend pointed out that they’re actually pretty insensitive, and could be hurtful to people who have had to cope with the loss of a child. And even then, I didn’t stop immediately, it still took a while to phase that kind of joke out of my lexicon.

Now, I want to share with you a quote I included in an article I wrote waaaay back when:

nudity

So, nudity “just doesn’t feel right” for Trek. And let’s be clear, there are topless men all over the place. So what Aaron means is “female nudity.” Women’s nipples is apparently the thing that Trek isn’t ready for.

What Trek apparently IS ready for is images of decapitated babies.

We know this because such images appear in this episode, the penultimate scene of which involves High Chancellor L’Rell holding aloft the severed heads of both Ash and her infant child:

heads

head2

The one saving grace of this image is that it wasn’t *quite* as graphic as it could be.

The second is that technically, this is a genetically-perfect recreation of a baby’s head created by the sick fucks in Section 31, and not the baby itself.

The absolute condemnation of this scene is that is was completely unnecessary, and in no way required by the narrative.

Which is the definition of “gratuitous.”

L’Rell’s baby is brought into this story as an afterthought – a sub-sub-plot to the sub-plot of the Klingon power struggle. There’s nothing inherently wrong with introducing a child to the (already-problematic) relationship between L’Rell and Ash. But to introduce it, then use it for a gory and distressing visual, and then for the actual baby to just be put on a bus at the end as it’s transported down to some insular monastery, is just exploitative and really, really grim, and says a lot about what the creators of this show want to achieve with their story – which is, apparently, to shock and distress, rather than to provoke and inspire.


Section 31, Starfleet’s Most Famous Secret Undercover Intelligence Agency

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There is so much I could talk about with Section 31 on an over-arching, meta level, but for the purposes containing the sheer volume of this already overly-long article, let’s just focus on what’s in this episode, and this episode alone.

So, Emperor Georgiou appears at the exact moment that Kol-Sha is about to execute Ash. She seems to phase through a wall, so it’s possible that she was there all along, watching the fight happen.

She reveals herself in order to kill Kol-Sha, L’Rell’s would-be usurper, and reinforce L’Rell’s position as a puppet tyrant installed by Starfleet using weapons of mass destruction.

staysintheseat

If Georgiou only just arrived, then it’s an awfully convenient coincidence that she turned up exactly at the split-second that Ash was about to get stabbed. That would be a rubbish bit of TV-writing.

If Georgiou had been there the whole time and was waiting for the right moment… Why didn’t she step in before Kol-Sha paralysed L’Rell and forced her signature out of her, thereby transferring her power to him?

In fact, why didn’t Georgiou step in during the massive fight when, L’Rell could have been easily stabbed in the face or decapitated or something?

If she didn’t want to risk getting hurt herself and needed the element of surprise, then why didn’t she step in just before the fight, when everyone was in the exact same position as they were before?

None of her motivations match her actions. Which makes this whole thing stupid.

But that’s not the only thing that’s stupid.

Section 31, a highly clandestine, super-secret, xenophobic intelligence agency within the Federation. They rely on absolute secrecy to achieve their objectives.

Absolute secrecy.

To maintain their veil of secrecy, they take the following actions:

  1. Hiring “misfits” and “freaks”, i.e. people with atypical behaviour which by definition makes them stand out.
  2. Hiring one of Starfleet’s most highly-decorated and presumably recognisable captains, Philippa Georgiou.
  3. Hiring Ash Tyler, someone guilty of treason against both the Federation and, now, the Klingon Empire.
  4. Wearing distinctive black badges marking them out as Section 31.

This… is just stupid. Just so, so stupid. The Archer comparison above is being generous.

misfits

The whole purpose of a secret agency is to remain secret. If you starting bringing along people who stand out from a crowd, and you have your own publicly-recognisable insignia… aren’t you defeating the point?

decorations

Section 31 should be made up of all of your most average-looking, run-of-the-mill, ruthless sociopaths. People who blend into a room, who are remarkable for being unremarkable.

freaks

They shouldn’t even have insignia badges, they should have either standard Starfleet badges, or none at all. They should just make themselves look like a civilian organisation. Or not even an organisation at all. They should be small cells, maybe just a few independent agents, compartmentalised and scattered across the galaxy.

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But now, they have a distinctive-looking badass starship with big folding nacelles and its own crew. Hell, they’ve probably got a fleet of them. That’s just how secretive they are.

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I mean, why even bother with the intentionally ambiguous and nondescript name “Section 31”? You may as well just calls yourselves “Starfleet Black Ops” or “Swastika Squadron” at this point.


Stupid All The Way Down…

This episode may have broken me.

It was so dumb in so many ways, I could write another three articles at least this long just about Burnham’s and Tilly’s sub-plots.

More than anything, this episode was just kinda boring. It didn’t excite or thrill the way you might expect from a high-budget, dumb-but-fun blockbuster-style story. It just shocked and distressed.

I’m worried now that ‘New Eden’ was a fluke, that the glimmer of hope it offered was just a mirage, or worse, an intentional tease, of what this show will never be.

We’ll have to check in next week to see.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 2 Premiere ‘Brother’ Jumps The Shark By Being Pretty Good, Actually

Having just finished ‘Brother’, the first episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, I can confirm that my entire identity as a blog writer has been shattered.

I didn’t hate it.

This is a chaotic “first impressions” article as I pull my thoughts into coherence following a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I’m going to follow it up later in the week with a more cohesive look at what we’ve seen so far and where it fits within the show, as well as some of the “meta” problems that sit around it.

First, though, stray observations:

  • “Sometimes it’s wise to keep our expectations low, Commander. That way we’re never disappointed.” – Now that’s just not fair. If the show’s going to make fun of itself, then all the joy of doing so is gone for me.
  • Vulcan interior design! Brought to you by Ikea!
    • At first I thought Sarek’s home looked horribly un-Vulcan. Then I realised “Duh! Of course it does! He’s the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, this’ll be in North America somewhere!” Then Amanda promises to take Michael to Earth, where she’s never been, and I groaned with frustration.

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  • Tilly has somehow forgotten every bit of character development she had in the last season and is now back to being disturbingly awkward and socially incapable.
  • Airiam, still the ship’s third-highest ranked officer, doubles her line count TO DATE by speaking her name. And then triples it when talking about a power cable.
    • Also, I can only assume that her first name is “Lieutenant Commander”, or she just ignored Pike when he asked them all to forget their ranks.
  • Pike and the Enterprise crew got the new uniforms (although he still changes into the old DISCO-style ones at the end of the episode) but hasn’t Discovery literally just left Earth? And Enterprise has been on its mission? So, why didn’t Discovery’s crew get the uniforms before they left? How did Enterprise get them first? Ah, whatever.
  • Detmer and Owosekun get lines! Multiple lines! They even talk to each other! Such progress! It is 2019.
  • “Red thing! Where’s my damn red thing?” How did you become a captain exactly, Pike?
  • The “interstellar asteroid” is travelling at “5000 km/s”. Voyager 2 is currently travelling at roughly 16 km/s. Which means… no, that actually checks out. Wait, did ‘Discovery’ just get a science measurement roughly correct?
  • One of Discovery’s design features is apparently “telescopic cameras,” and the line delivery implies that this is a non-standard feature. That’s right! Starfleet’s most advanced ship has reached an equivalent technology level to 1960’s paparazzi!
  • They then have to get Saru to look at the crashed ship’s registry with his superior eyes because this is ‘Discovery’ and all prior information is rendered null and void as soon as we cut to the next shot.
    • Which… he’s looking at an electronically-enhanced image on the viewscreen anyway, so… what, do his eyes multiply the pixels on a viewscreen? Guy could’ve been a champion professional gamer in that case.
  • “Really? Are you surprised?” asks Saru, as a bridge officer looks at his extruding threat ganglia. Well, yes, actually, Saru, your bloody threat ganglia never shot off all those other times you were about to die in Season One, so, yes, I am pretty fucking surprised.
  • Also, Saru briefly transmorphs into C-3PO for some “The odds of surviving…” banter.
  • I adore Commander Reno and I would like to have her babies – and she seems to have the capability to make that happen biologically. She had better be a recurring character or I may have to take drastic action.
  • Michael’s helmet-hair is adorable.
    • And, I know I’m trash, but I still really miss her lovely fringe (or “bangs”) from ‘The Vulcan Hello’. That was such a nice hairstyle on her.
  • Apparently, the first couple of episodes of this season blew more than half the budget for the entire season, and with Burnham’s desperate escape from the exploding wreckage, I can see how. Jesus, that was an extravagant scene.
  • There’s problem-solving! And obstacles to overcome! What is this, a Star Trek show all of a sudden?
  • Poor old Enterprise, busted up and being towed home. Farewell, sweet princess, we shall see you at some plot-convenient point later, I can only assume.
  • There were NO LONG, POINTLESS FIGHT SCENES. Hell, there wasn’t even any shooting! It’s almost as though compelling science fiction doesn’t need people stabbing each other to be good.
  • Spock’s quarters aboard the Enterprise have some lovely little nods to the old sets of ‘The Original Series’. Those brass circle-pattern screens particularly.

quarterscomparison

Right, that’s enough bullet points. Let’s get down to business.


What’s Going On?

Good question.

So, despite the Enterprise flying up to Discovery at the end of last season under its own power and with all its lights on, in the time it takes Tilly to be a bumbling dickhead apparently Enterprise shuts down completely. Almost as though the writers had no idea what they were doing last season and just jammed the Enterprise in at the end for a fanservicey cliffhanger.

But that’s okay, because Pike says the Enterprise was sent here to take command of Discovery. Even though the Enterprise’s systems were down so completely that they could barely transmit their registry number, they nonetheless conversed with Starfleet Command, located on Earth, from where Discovery had moments earlier departed, and got orders to intercept Discovery on her way to Vulcan, despite all her systems going completely offline with no explanation at some random point, and, with her systems still offline, flew up to Discovery, broadcasting a Priority One distress call, but then died completely, but they still picked up the colourful new uniforms along the way, and then…

I’ve lost track.

enterprisecollage1

Look, the first half of this 60-minute episode is a mess. In fact, that doesn’t do it justice. It’s a complete fucking Kurtzman is what it is. A massive steaming Kurtzman, with a magnitude of about 16.3 Lindelofs.

None of it makes sense, and it seems like there were a lot of re-writes and re-shoots to make it even nearly comprehensible. None of the writers really seem to know how to get Pike onto Discovery to achieve the appropriate level of fanservice demanded by their studio overlords, so they just keep throwing plot points out like narrative diarrhoea in the hope that the audience will gloss over it all and just keep drooling into their laps.

They also, clearly, have no idea of what to do with Sarek, as he has a moment with Burnham where he explains that he’s going to leave Discovery as soon as she drops out of warp, but then they drop out of warp into a Dark Matter debris field and immediately get the shit smacked out of them but Sarek still never appears again, but we never see him leave, so didheleaveordidhestickaroundforabitandwherewashisshipdidhetakeashuttleorIdon’tknowwhat’sgoingonpleasehelpmeJasonJasonJasonJasonJasonJasonJasonJASONjasonjasonJasonJASonJasonJaSON.

Let’s move on.


Commander Reno

Ah, Commander Jet Reno.

Just like Captain Georgiou before you, you are FAR too good for this show.

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First off, “Jet Reno” is the best name ever.

Second, God damn you are one competent motherfucker.

I’m a bit skeptical of “the body’s just a machine and I read a lot” explanation for an engineer carrying out BRAIN SURGERY but y’know what? Fuck it, maybe she’s just that smart. I love her. I love her so much.

She responds to Pike’s “You stayed behind?” with exactly the right amount of contempt and fuck-youery to cement her as a fundamental Starfleet disciple.

jetrenocollage1

She delivers every line with the perfect degree of deadpan pragmatism.

I haven’t done any research on whether or not we’ll see her again, and I don’t intend to, as the hope of seeing her returning and bossing all of these simpletons around will be the one thing that keeps me going through this entire god damn season.

For those who aren’t watching the show: we meet Jet Reno on a wrecked hospital ship, stranded on an asteroid eleven months earlier in the opening stages of the war with the Klingons. When the ship was wrecked, most of the crew and the patients left in escape pods, but some of the wounded were in too bad of shape to leave that way.

So Jet Reno, star commander and steel-hided badass, stays behind, on her own, to keep the ship’s systems going and look after the patients. In that time, she improvises floating worker drones to help her with manual labour, and somehow figures out how to run a human off a Bolian heart.

She keeps the beating heart in a jar.

jetreno1

She fits Star Trek’s optimistic vision of humanity’s future so perfectly that I can barely believe she appeared in ‘Discovery’. She’s tough, capable and compassionate, and I am completely fine with her becoming the template for all future characterisation within this show.


Emotional Attachment

The acting was another wonderful element to this episode.

I liked Alan Tudyk’s Anthony Rapp’s performance in Season One. And I loved it here. He brought a fantastic degree of pathos and thoughtfulness to the recently-bereaved Stamets, struggling to cope with living in a claustrophobic environment in which his partner was recently murdered. I felt genuinely sorry for him, and shared in his grief.

Sonequa Martin-Green was variable. There were some great touches, such as her grinding her teeth as she thinks about her troubled relationship with Spock. But later in the episode, she seems to suffer from the bobble-head syndrome that plagues so many actors. That may have been a result of the director, however, and I’ll not condemn her for it unless it becomes a pattern.

Anson Mount gave a lovely turn as Captain Pike. We’ll talk about the more general issues with Pike in a bit, but from an acting perspective he was pretty much spot-on. He’s casually likeable and seems like a nice guy to talk to at a barbecue or to be stuck in a turbolift with.

Detmer and Owosekun (Emily Coutts and Oyin Oladejo) can actually act! I know you would never have guessed it given the eight-and-a-half “status update” lines they had between them in the first season, but here they get at least that many lines each, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. Keep it up, ‘Discovery’, and soon you’ll almost be an actual feminist show!

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Burnham and Tilly have a lovely moment in sickbay. They seem like genuine friends, with real affection for one another, and they excitedly talk about science shit, and they seem almost exactly like what you’d expect to see in a good Star Trek show made within the last ten years. And, Tilly gets her terrible “The power of maths!” line out of the way with in this episode, and it is terrible, but at least it’s out of the way with early on and I don’t have to spend the next few weeks dreading its arrival


What is this? It’s like I’m having feelings about ‘Discovery’, but they aren’t bad, horrible feelings that burn like a smouldering, fitful rage. They’re nice feelings, almost like I’m rooting for these characters and want to get to know them better. I didn’t finish the episode depressed. I actually want to see more.

I’m scared.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Gets a Trailer for Season 2, And There’s Yet Another White Male Captain And No Surprises

Why am I even still writing about this stupid fucking show?

Nevermind. Let’s just get this over with.

THRILLING.

There’s a part of me that really, really hopes they made a point of putting that “Right, ladies?” line in the trailer because of this article I wrote last year. Like, I really, really doubt it. But I know that at least some of the writers saw it. So I can hope.


“We have always looked to the stars – to discover who we are. And hidden there was a message, made of space and time. Visible only to those open enough to receive it.”

Well gosh golly gee, that’s all very deep and provocative. And it’s accompanied by the image of what looks like some kind of sexy space spider lady in high heals. Is she delivering the message? Is she some kind of space courier? Cosmic FedEx?

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When you watch the trailer, this figure walks like it’s in high heels. Because of course it does.

“I’m here to take command of the Discovery under Regulation 19, Section C.”

But at the end of Season 1 of ‘Discovery’, wasn’t the Enterprise broadcasting a “Priority One Distress Call”? Then the Enterprise appears and she doesn’t look distressed. And this trailer doesn’t make it look like Pike was leaving a distressed ship, he only brings two or three people with him. Can you really put out a distress call and then as soon as someone drops by to pick you up, just take command of their ship?

Pike invokes regulation 19, section C. And then Saru says “Your directive is only instituted when an imminent threat is detected.” So, wait, so Pike knew he was taking command of the Discovery? Then why was the Enterprise broadcasting a distress call? It’s almost as though the writers needed a cliffhanger and some Enterprise fan service at the end of the first season, so just wrote a scene with no idea of what was going on and then just picked up where they left off for the second season. But I’m sure the writers are smarter than that.


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“Federation sensors picked up seven red bursts, spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.”

Hey, remember how in the 2009 J. J. Abrams reboot movie, they had “red matter”, and everyone thought it was the dumbest thing ever? I bring that up now for no reason.

Also, in space, I know they have “red shift” and that stars are classified by colour, but don’t scientists usually talk about stuff by its defining feature? Like, gamma-ray bursts, or neutron stars? When I’m ordering an ice slushy at the cinema I’ll ask for “the red one”, but if I was talking about a potentially life-threatening explosion in space I like to think a bunch of scientists in the future would be a bit more specific than just describing it by its colour.

“Sir, there’s an anomaly off the starboard bow!”
“Well, what is it, Data?”
“It’s red, sir! It’s red!”

Also, he mentions that these bursts are “spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.” Which is between one third and one sixth the diameter of the Milky Way. Except that the CGI seems to show them across the whole Milky Way. Unless that’s not the Milky Way, but if it’s some kind of nebula or star system, it’d be way too big – an area of space with a diameter of thirty thousand light-years could contain as many as 30 billion stars. Ah, whatever.


“These mysterious signals are beyond anything we understand (except for colour theory). Is it a greeting? A declaration of malice? Let’s find out.”

Oh, okay, so that’s the mystery – what’s behind these weird signals? Except I’m guessing it’s whatever message Burnham was talking about in the opening of the trailer. So I guess that’s that mystery solved.


detmer
This isn’t from the show, this was just a candid photo of Emily Coutts as she realised she actually had some lines to deliver this season.

“Trust us. Discovery has you. Right, ladies?”

There’s more dialogue between Burnham, Detmer and Owosekun in this two-minute trailer than there was in the first twelve episodes of Season One put together.


“This is the power of math, people!”

I am completely fine with everyone getting a bit more scientific and rational on this show. But god damn it if that line and its delivery and the little high five doesn’t make me want to murder literally every single person on this wretched fucking planet.

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“We’re quirky!”

Also, Commander Airiam doesn’t appear in the trailer at all except for this shot. Until I spotted her here, I honestly thought she’d just been dropped from the series and that nobody would mention her ever again. Also note how she’s the third-highest ranking officer on the ship (maybe fourth now that Burnham’s reinstated) but she’s still being bossed around by a lieutenant and a cadet.

Sara Mitich, if you’re reading this, you did a great job on ‘The Expanse’, nobody thinks any less of you because of ‘Discovery’.


“My foster-brother, Mister Spock.”

“He took leave. It’s as if he’d run into a question he couldn’t answer.”

“Spock is linked to these signals. And he needs help.”

Jesus, where to start.

First off, I never had a “canon” problem with Burnham being written as Spock’s foster-sister. After all, it’s not the first time Spock had a family member ret-conned into his backstory. The main issue with it is that it acts as a weight around Burnham’s narrative that just wasn’t required. You can have a human character with a Vulcan upbringing without making her a relative of the only Vulcan that anyone recognises from the franchise.

pike
“Relax, everybody. There’s still a man in charge.”

Now they’re bringing Spock in as a major plot point, and you just know it’s going to suck. He’ll be doing something stupid or out of character and unless they get Zachary Quinto in to revive his role, the whole thing will probably be garbage.

Fortunately, abusing an existing character doesn’t retroactively ruin that character. Watching Spock scream and roar as he beats Khan with a metal box in ‘Into Darkness’ doesn’t change how I view the character when I re-watch ‘Wrath of Khan’ for the ninetieth time – it’s possible to retain detachment.

The real problem, and the catastrophic misstep that ‘Discovery’ seems to be making, is of taking familiar, brand-reinforcing characters like Spock and putting them firmly in the centre of a story that ought to be about Discovery and its crew.

Trek has always had crossovers – from minor guest appearances in one-off episodes like TNG’s ‘Relics’ and Voyager’s ‘Life Line’, to full-on cast insertion with Worf joining the Deep Space Nine crew from season 4 onwards. But when it’s a single episode in a season of more than twenty, it’s relatively non-intrusive. And in the case of Worf, it was actually a boon, giving an existing character some much needed growth and adding an extra element to an ensemble cast of strong, compelling characters (and Jake).

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Oh look, the cast of ‘Discovery’, plus three female extras who they let join in the photoshoot.

And for all of ‘Discovery’s woes, its characters were arguably its strongest point. Tilly was a new take on the bumbling rookie. Saru had an interesting background, as poorly explored as it was. Tyler was a great vehicle for Shazad Latif, and even Stamets ended up rounding out nicely to be a thoughtful, tragic personality, quite distinct from the high-energy enthusiasm of the likes of Scotty, La Forge and Torres.

And the show should be about them. They’re the cast. It’s their stories that we want to care about. But now, in this season, we have Christopher Pike as the (white, male) captain – Christopher Pike, the man who was originally deeply uncomfortable with having women on his bridge, and who later became Bruce Greenwood, the fire alarm of contemporary actors – functional, but only remarkable if something’s going wrong. (I mean, he’s great and all, but try describing Christopher Pike based on his performance in the reboot movies. Do it. Tell me what his character is. Tell me what was distinct about his personality. I’ll wait.)

Then, we get to Burnham. Burnham suffered from a bad case of Gimmick Personality. Burnham is essentially an armature, onto which was layered the various hashtaggable statements that the writers thought were necessary to make the show interesting. She’s a human who was raised by Vulcans. She’s an orphan. She’s Spock’s sister. She’s Starfleet’s first traitor. Everything distinctive about Burnham comes from things that happened to her, or things that are incidental to her character. She began the first season with a series of actions that were baffling to the audience, and after that point all she really did was respond to stuff that happened to her.

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Stamets strives for scientific understanding of the fabric of the universe. Tilly is driven by her command ambitions. Saru tries to correct his past failures. But Burnham? Burnham gets coerced into serving on the Discovery, responds to threats as they arrive, and by the end we are told she has redeemed herself. She never sets out to seek redemption. She never pushes to make herself better, or discover new things about herself. When she takes the captain’s chair of the I.S.S. Discovery in the Mirror Universe, she doesn’t have that moment of “Alright, this is it, this is where I prove what I’m capable of.” She just sort of wanders over to it in confusion. The one decision we ever see her make is to save Mirror Georgiou.

Now, it looks like she’s just going to be on a mission to rescue Spock. Or as she calls him, “Mister Spock”, which is neither his name nor his rank. Also she’s older than he is. Which leads to the hilarious scenario that she grew up with a younger foster-brother who she called “Mister Spock.”

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But let’s put this in the perspective of people who might be watching this show with absolutely no prior knowledge of Star Trek (i.e. nobody). Are they suddenly supposed to care deeply about the fate of some rando who’s been mentioned by name twice in the first season? ‘Stranger Things’ made us care about the fate of Will by having us invest in his mother and her frantic, desperate need to find him. But Burnham doesn’t really seem to be very close to Spock at all, and Sarek is an emotionless Vulcan. So basically, the threat to Spock is palpable only to people who are already familiar with the franchise and who, therefore, already know that he’s probably going to be fine.

Just let these dweebs be the centre of their own story, for Christ’s sakes.


We also need to talk about the fact that Captain Pike takes over. This’ll be brief, but my points are thusly:

  • There is no compulsion to have Pike in charge to fit Trek’s history or canon. As far as we knew he only ever captained the Enterprise.
  • You could totally have had a badass woman in charge, like that one who appears in the wreckage in the trailer with the really stupid line about the pulsar thingy.
  • Why did they need to put another white man in charge of the ship?

It’s just really annoying, because it’s not even like Pike is some iconic part of Trek, he was in the first of two pilot episodes that nobody really remembers, and he was also in the reboot movies as a bland mentor character. And they’re not even using the same actor. So what’s the point? Could they not think of anything else in terms of storyline? Or anyone else to take command of the ship? Dullllll.


The rest of the trailer is pretty standard teaser-trailer fair. You get a few dramatic / amusing one-liners, some plug-in pop-rock (depending on which version of the trailer you watch, you’ll either get Lenny Kravitz for the CBS All-Access one or some painfully generic thumpy beats for the Netflix one).

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We also get a BONE-HURTINGLY FUNNY SCENE ABOUT SNOT at the very end, I think to try and convince the audience that this season won’t just be about torture, genocide and shouting, but honestly it comes across as cheap and dull. IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE THE SPACE PERSON HAS A COLD, HAHAHA, HUMANS GET COLDS TOO, HAHAHA, SUCH FUN.

What we’re left with is a lot of explosions and action, a lot of shots of white, male Christopher Pike in the captain’s chair (because what, do you expect a woman to do it? It’s the captain, of course he has to be white, and a man), and an overall feeling that this season will probably be less grim and dark than the first season, but not necessarily much smarter. I mean, the opening shots imply the secret to the universe will be delivered by a sexy space woman in high heals.

The really positive thing to come out of all of this is that there’s no mention of or reference to bloody Section 31. That being said, I wouldn’t put it past this collection of bumbling fuckwads to introduce it in some “SHOCKING CLIFFHANGER” at some point to surprise everyone. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

As an aside, try watching the Netflix version of the trailer and then watching the initial trailer for Justice League. The similarities in tone are disquieting, to say the least. Although that could just be because every trailer is the same these days.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 7

The previous installment can be found here.


Aboard the Shenzhou, Saru strides onto the bridge, Detmer in tow. She hurries forwards to the helm station and relieves the stand-in. As she sits down, the navigation officer leans over to her. “Are you sure you should be flying the ship? Weren’t you unconscious ten minutes ago?”

Detmer shrugs. “Well, I feel like I spent the night sleeping inside a warp coil, but the doc gave me a stimulant and cleared me. I’ll be fine.”

Saru steps up behind the captain’s chair and grips the back of it with both hands. “Status report, please.”

The ops officer responds. “Still no word from the captain, sir. We’ve detected some strange readings from the object, even through the scattering field. Tachyon emissions, building up over time.”

“Tachyon?” Saru queries, baffled. His threat-ganglia sprout from the sides of his head. “What could possibly-”

He’s interrupted as the bridge fills with blinding white light, and a painful shriek fills the air.


On the Klingon station, Burnham moves slowly into the main hall. It’s dark, lit only by the torches on the walls scattered between huge statues of Klingon warriors. On the main floor of the hall, there are piles of Starfleet torpedoes. Past them, at the far end of the hall beneath a great window into space, is a raised dais, and on it is T’Kuvma, with Georgiou on the floor beside him. Her hands are cuffed and her shoulder is still bandaged, but she is otherwise unharmed.

In front of T’Kuvma is a raised control panel. He cries out something in Klingon, and then he activates it. The hall fills with a dull hum, which gradually increases in pitch and volume. Burnham covers her ears, as does Georgiou, but T’Kuvma merely spreads his arms in triumph.

As the noise reaches its most deafening point, the entire hall disappears in a burst of white light. Burnham looks around, but she can barely make aything out beyond faint outlines. As her eyes adjust, other details slowly render into view, and the shape of the hall becomes apparent again – except now it is pure, brilliant white, with no refuge for the oppressive, murky shadows by which it was previously characterised.

Burnham, in her blue uniform, now appears as a glowing azurite idol in the brilliant light. Georgiou’s shoulder wound shines red and vivid, her uniform darkened by the blood. T’Kuvma, with his onyx Klingon skin and ornate, jet armour remains untouched by the light.

T’Kuvma stands facing the window, staring out at the darkness of space. The stars have vanished, unable to compete with the light from the station. The rocks and asteroids around the station, however, are bathed in the light, each one shining brighter than the full moon as they tumble and roll past the window.

Burnham takes the opportunity to move forwards, towards Georgiou and her captor. She advances up the middle of the hall, directly behind them both, darting from cover to cover.

As she reaches the half-way mark, the deafening shriek abates, followed immediately by a single loud, low, thudding pulse.

On the dais, T’Kuvma turns to Georgiou. “Time for the Galaxy to hear our truth,” he says.


On the bridge of the Shenzhou, the crew struggle to maintain their duties whilst blinded and deafened. Information and updates are shouted from one station to another, whilst Saru stands in the middle of it all, baffled. His ganglia stand proud on the sides of his head.

The noise abates whilst the light remains, and many of the bridge officers sag with relief at this respite. Saru doesn’t move, but stammers out a request. “Status report? Anybody?”

The ops officer volunteers an explanation. “A massive subspace disturbance, sir. That was a bang that the whole quadrant could hear.”

“What kind of a bang, lieutenant?”

“Single-frequency, massive amplitude. It…” The officer processes the data. “Wow.”

“’Wow’, lieutenant?” Saru’s expression is one of confusion and frustration.

“No, it’s, it’s one thousand, four hundred and twenty megahertz, sir. The Wow signal.”

Saru ponders for a second or two, before the comms officer chimes in. “Mister Saru, there’s an incoming transmission. From the station.”

Saru turns his head to her. “They’re hailing us now?”

“No, sir. They’re broadcasting everywhere. Putting it on screen.”

The image of T’Kuvma fades in on the main screen, stark against the brilliant white background. He holds his arms out before announcing himself. “Warriors of the Empire, and lesser nations across the stars, I am T’Kuvma. I am the appointed emmissary of Kah’less, Steward of His Holy Beacon, on which I now stand. Inheritor of ancient tradition, and guardian of the faith of my people.”


Aboard the Buran, Lorca, Tyler and crew watch the same transmission, silent and perplexed.

T’Kuvma continues, “A short time ago, this sacred shrine was assaulted by Starfleet soldiers. They sought to continue their campaign of cultural vandalism, by destroying this beacon and assassinating me.”

His image is replaced by footage from the internal sensors of the station’s hangar, as Burnham’s shuttle flies in and wipes out the squad of waiting Klingons. T’Kuvma speaks over the footage. “These operatives failed in their mission to erase yet more of our traditions, our way of life.”


Aboard a Klingon ship, a commander in vibrant armour decorated with gruesome trophies watches in outrage as the footage switches to Burnham, shooting the wounded Klingon and stepping over the body.

T’Kuvma’s voice continues. “Despite Starfleet’s brutality, my fellow warriors and I were able to counter this traitorous and dishonourable sneak attack, but the Empire must know – Starfleet means to end us. Klingon honour and Federation sensitivities cannot co-exist, and so they seek to pre-emptively gain supremacy.”


Back on the Shenzhou, Saru, Detmer and the others are still watching. T’Kuvma’s image returns to the screen. “I cannot abide such treachery!” he roars. “I am Klingon! We all are Klingon, and we cannot allow such trespasses against us!”

He reaches down and hauls Georgiou to her feet by her neck. “The Federation must pay for its transgressions! Starting with this one, this assassin and spy!” He shakes her. “Tell them! Tell them who you are! Tell them what you came here to do!”

Georgiou, visibly in pain, does her best to retain her composure. The harsh light amplifies the dirt on her face, and the wound on her shoulder. T’Kuvma’s hand chokes her, but she fights to speak audibly. “My name is Captain Phillipa Georgiou. We came here in a spirit of peace. We intend no harm to the Klingon Empire, we seek only-“

“FEDERATION LIES!” T’Kuvma roars, screams. He squeezes Georgiou’s neck tighter, and with his free hand draws a Klingon dagger. “In the name of the Empire!” he shouts, as he plunges the dagger into her chest, straight through her heart.

The crew of the Shenzhou gasp, and cry out. Saru staggers backward, aghast. Detmer shudders, her hands over her gaping mouth, her eyes wide in fright and shock.


In the main hall, behind T’Kuvma, Burnham watches as he releases his grip on Georgiou and lets her body drop limply to the floor.

Burnham doesn’t respond at first. She stays motionless, knelt behind cover. Her breathing grows deeper, and more ragged. She stares at Georgiou’s body. Silence pervades.

Burnham closes her eyes.


Saru is still stood up, but only in the strictest sense. His entire upper body hunches over, his head low and held in his hands. One of the officers weeps quietly. Detmer’s hands are still covering her face.

T’Kuvma starts talking again. “Such is the price of dishonour. My fellow Klingons, you already know the true face of the Federation. You are familiar with the beast that. To the rest of the galaxy I say this: the Federation has too long hidden its fangs behind the false nobility of its own enlightenment. At its heart, it is a crueller, more violent tyranny than even-“

He chokes, and then shudders. The centre of his chest glows, and then disintegrates. Red particles cascade across his body leaving grey dust in their wake. T’Kuvma’s body vaporises, vanishing to reveal behind it the figure of Michael Burnham, a phaser in her hand and her face twisted in anger and grief.


On the station, the blinding white light fades away, and the hall returns to its torch-lit murk. Burnham drops her phaser and sinks to her knees besides the body of Georgiou. She cradles her captain’s head in her lap and begins sobbing, overcome with everything that had come to pass so far.

Burnham gathers Georgiou’s body in her arms and awkwardly gets to her feet.


Aboard the unknown Klingon vessel, the Klingon commander, in her ornate armour covered in trophies, watches as the image of Burnham, phaser in hand, fades away. One of her subordinates approaches her. “Your orders, General L’Rell?”

L’Rell’s eyes narrow. “Set course for the binary star system.”


Let’s talk about the above events as they’re portrayed in the show.

Nothing that the crew does has any impact on what transpires. More specifically, none of Burnham’s actions change any of what happens. All of the drama around her mutiny is nullified, because she’s apprehended before she can actually do anything. The war is started because T’Kuvma gives the order to fire. That’s it.

In my version, T’Kuvma’s gambling. And the truth is, his plan may not have worked. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have worked at all. Until Burnham goes rogue – twice. First, by attacking the Klingon squad with the shuttle, and then sealing the deal by revenge-killing T’Kuvma. Now, there is clear, definitive evidence of Starfleet wrongdoing – even if it was all precipitated by T’Kuvma’s own violent actions, it casts the Federation, with its reputation for temperance, in a very new light.

Is this new version of the story perfect? No, absolutely not. But at least it ties things in together a little more. Now there is some justification for the crew’s hatred of Burnham – she may have avenged a beloved captain, but she has also bound them all into a war with the Klingons.

Also, L’Rell makes an appearance. It never made sense to me to have L’Rell as such a low ranking member of the Klingon Empire. It turns her into a bit of a spare wheel, and makes her arc of becoming leader of the whole Empire nonsensical. If she’d had her own ambitions, I’d buy it, but she spends all of her time in support of either T’Kuvma or Voq, which means that when she is simply handed leadership at the very end, it’s somewhat unsatisfying.

So now, she’s a General. It means she has much more scope to interact with the story around her, and in my mind, sets up much better any leadership arc upon which she may later find herself.

Also, L’Rell refers to “the binary star system,” as if there’s only one. Obviously, there are many binary star systems in the galaxy. But the Klingons certainly wouldn’t use an Earth designation for it, and using a different name means explaining somewhere in a story that’s already overly long just what the Klingons call the star system in question. Referring to it as The binary star system means that everyone, including the audience, understands exactly what she’s referring to, in the fewest possible number of words.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 6

The previous installment can be found here.


On the bridge of the Shenzhou, Saru paces anxiously in front of the captain’s chair. He taps his fingers together in a variety of rhythmic patterns, a Kelpien stress behaviour. He addresses the Ops officer. “Mission elapsed time, lieutenant?”

“Forty-seven minutes, sir.”

Saru keeps pacing. “Any further data on that object? Have you pierced the scattering field?”

“Negative, sir, but- hang on. Mister Saru, I’m picking up two incoming objects, they’ve just left the field’s area of influence.”

Saru’s threat ganglia sprout from the side of his head in alarm. He gently presses them down, and does his best to maintain his composure. “What objects? What are they?” He strides over to his science station.

The Ops officer keeps studying her console. “Sir, they’re life pods, from the shuttle! Two human life signs, it’s…” The Ops officer looks up in shock. “It’s Detmer, sir, and Furlan.”

Saru taps away at his console. His mouth drops open as he reads the display. “Con… confirmed. I, I don’t, does that mean…”

“Sir, those pods have been beaten up pretty badly on their way out of the debris field. Permission to beam them aboard? Sir?” Saru is non-responsive for moment. “Sir? Mister Saru?”

Saru stirs. “Yes. Yes, beam them directly to sickbay. And…” He pauses. “I will meet them there.” He leaves the bridge without another word. The captain’s chair remains empty.


Saru enters sickbay to Detmer sat on a biobed, and Furlan prone on another. The ship’s surgeon attends Furlan, treating a blast wound to his chest.

Saru surveys the situation. “Detmer, what happened? Where is the captain? Where is Captain Georgiou?”

Detmer is rubbing the side of her neck, where Burnham gripped her. “I don’t know, sir. She’s on the station, I think. They both are.”

“Both?”

“Burnham wanted to go back for her. For the captain. She… she shot Furlan, and she, I don’t know, she must have taken the shuttle back, but the Klingons…”

“Klingons?” Saru’s ganglia sprout again. “That’s a Klingon station?”

Detmer nods awkwardly. “They attacked. They attacked the shuttle, we had to fly out of there. We beamed Burnham out, but it was a mistake, it was meant to be the captain.” She shakes her head, as if to clear it. “Saru, she said it was a trap. The captain said they want to start a war, that we can’t let them. She told us not to do anything, to keep the peace, she said. Keep the peace.”

Saru ponders this new information. “Wait, where is Burnham?”


Inside the Klingon station, Burnham moves slowly, silently, along a dark corridor. She has her phaser drawn and held in front of her, ready to fire. Her eyes dart about, watching every nook and cranny.

She can hear guttural voices from down one corridor. She peeks her head around the corner to see a group of Klingon silhouettes in the distance. Their rough, alien speech is incomprehensible, so Burnham pulls Georgiou’s slim-line communicator out.

“… really work?” one Klingon voice asks.

“We are a strong people,” another responds. “T’Kuvma will remind us how much stronger we can be united. And we will help him.”

A  third voice interjects. “The last of the explosives have been loaded, captain. They have been linked to the detonator.”

“Good! Then we are ready. Let us rejoin the fleet. I am tired of waiting, and of carrying things.” This silhouette produced some kind of instrument, and spoke into it. “This is the captain. We are ready. Energise.”

The whine of a transporter fills the corridor, and the Klingons disappear in glowing red flares of light. As they do, Burnham sees another, identical transporter beam, in the courtyard of a Federation settlement. She’s a child, and she watches from behind cover, watches as the Klingons open fire as soon as they materialise, indiscriminately murdering colonists. Outside the courtyard, explosions detonate, and flames fill the sky, as do screams and wails and angry roars of triumph.

As an adult, Burnham hyperventilates, her eyes wide in fright. She’s back in the corridor, now empty. The Klingons are gone, but she can still hear the screams, and her mother’s voice calling out to her.


In the main hall of the station, Georgiou sits on the floor with her hands cuffed in rigid metal clasps. There is no one else in the hall except T’Kuvma, who watches on a console display as Burnham flies the shuttle into the hangar and wipes out the Klingon soldiers waiting there. He zooms the feed in on her as she shoots the wounded warrior and steps over him. T’Kuvma laughs. “Your soldier is fierce, Captain.”

Georgiou is unimpressed. “She is no soldier, she’s a Starfleet officer.”

“We are all soldiers, Captain, in the great cultural war of our age. You should accept that fact, and embrace it.” He gestures at the image of Burnham. “She has. She moves with cold puprose, as though in the shadow of death.”

“The Federation is not at war with the Klingon Empire, cultural or otherwise. We seek only peaceful coexistence and cooperation.”

“THAT IS A WAR!” T’Kuvma roars, furious. “Cooperation,” he spits, “co-existence. These words mean one thing: assimilation. Tell me, Captain: were we to coexist and cooperate, would the Federation stand by whilst the Klingon Empire pursued our destiny of conquest? Would you sit idle whilst we took from weaker cultures what our strength entitles us to take?” he asks, clenching his fist. “No, you would step in, force us to lay down our weapons, and police the galaxy, as you do. The Federation are conquerors, worse than the Klingons, for whilst we conquer with ships and weapons, you, you, conquer with lies and manipulation, one hand outstretched, the other holding a chain of bondage.” He holds his arms out, as though addressing a crowd. “We Klingons are beings of conflict, and we must be allowed to seek conflict, or else we are nothing, just more Federation pawns like the Vulcans, the Andorians and the Tellarites.”

Georgiou remains defiant. “If this is a war of cultures, as you say, then you must be losing. You’re already speaking our language; you use it more than you use your own.”

T’Kuvma rounds on her and grabs her by the throat.  “I use your delicate, frivolous words because I must.” He releases her. “Many of my people honour Kahless as the greatest warrior who ever lived, but they are fools.” He walks up to an old bronze statue of a Klingon warrior and gazes up at it. “Kahless did not unite our people because he was the mightiest warrior, he united our people because he was the greatest communicator. His words carried such power and meaning to our ancestors that he was able to forge a new empire, the grandest empire this Galaxy will ever know.”

“And you think you can follow in his footsteps? Unite your people and lead them to victory?” Georgiou asks, incredulously.

“No,” T’Kuvma answers, turning to face her. “I will not lead my people, Captain, another will have to carry that burden. But I shall unite them. My name will burn for a thousand lifetimes in the hearts of my people – yours will not. Which is unfortunate, Captain, because you, and your soldier,” he says, nodding at the image of Burnham again, “will be making the same sacrifice as me.”

Georgiou shakes her head. “Michael is too smart to make a martyr out of the likes of you.”

“Maybe,” T’Kuvma concedes. He hits a button on a control panel, and dozens of metallic containers are beamed into the hall. He gestures at them. “My ships have been collecting Federation weapons for some time,” he says, “and now they deliver them here, to this holy sanctuary.” He taps one of the torpedoes with a fingernail. “Very simple to modify, for such advanced technology,” he says. “Rigged for proximity detonation.”

He strolls through the piles of torpedoes. “I believe that your soldier will come here to kill me,” he explains, “but even if she does not, it will not matter, because as soon as your ship approaches, we will all be destroyed. And when my people arrive to find the wreckage of their ancestral temple scattered in the shadow of a Federation warship, they will not hesitate to strike back, united in their outrage.”

A Klingon voice sounds over the comm system. T’Kuvma responds with a few guttural words. Georgiou can’t understand any of it, nor can she loosen the cuffs around her wrists, despite her best efforts.

The Klingonese conversation ends. T’Kuvma inhales deeply, exhales slowly. He salutes the statue he was previously regarding, before addressing Georgiou. “The preparations are complete. It is time to light the beacon.”


This segment was far longer than I intended it to be, and way more talky than I wanted it to be, but there’s a lot going on here that needs setting up before we get to the juicy bit.

Most importantly, we need to understand T’Kuvma’s plan. We’ve had a lot of T’Kuvma talking in these last two parts of the story, but this all hangs on his plans to start a war, so we need to clarify it as much as possible. In short, if the audience isn’t bought into what he plans to do, and if it isn’t all as clear as possible, then no matter how climactic and exciting the final stretch is, it’s going to ring empty.

We also need to understand T’Kuvma’s motives. He’s a complex character with complex beliefs, so I did the best I could to break it down: he sees friendship with the Federation as a trap, not an opportunity, and so war is the only option for him.

It’s also important for us to understand a little more of what’s going on in Burnham’s head. She clearly has some past trauma around Klingons, and that’s vital knowledge if you’re to understand why she reacts so violently to this new situation.

We start off this part of the story with a catch-up with Saru. Here, he represents the Shenzhou in general, and its detachment from what’s going on aboard the station. When he finally gets some news about what’s happened, he’s just as confused as he was before, if not more so.

Next up, we’re going to finally see the start of that battle that makes up the title of this story, by way of a little bit of murder and quite a lot of revenge. Exciting times.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 5

The previous instalment can be found here.


Burnham awakes. Georgiou sits in front of her, cradling her arm, a bloody bandage wrapped around her shoulder. They’re both sat on the hard metal floor of a prison cell, formed out of the same dull bronze as the rest of the Klingon installation. On the other side of the bars there is a large hall, filled with burning torches and a whole host of Klingons.

“Philippa, your arm!”

Burnham struggles to get to her feet, but Georgiou raises her hand to stay her. “Sit down, Michael. You were concussed. I’m fine, the Klingons stapled the wound.”

“You’re not fine, Captain, you need medical treatment.” She groans and gently massages her head. “As do I, it seems. How long was I out?”

“About ten minutes. The same Klingon that treated me used some kind of device on your head. I think it was to treat your concussion.”

“It feels like they spun my brain around in a centrifuge.”

Georgiou smirks. “I imagine it would be more suited for Klingon brains.”

“They kept us alive,” Burnham ponders, “but they killed Tallman. What do they want with us?”

“That’s a good question. If you speak Klingon you could ask them.”

“Well, if I had a communicator,” Burnham says, “I could use the universal translator. Of course, if I had a communicator I could have contacted Detmer and gotten you out of here already.”

“Assuming Detmer is still able to receive. Besides,” Georgiou says, glancing at the Klingons near the cell door, “I’m sure the guards would confiscate any equipment. Which is why I’m waiting for them to get distracted.”

“Distracted? Why, do you have some way of getting out of here?”

“To paraphrase your father again,” Georgiou says, smiling, “I like to think that there are always possibilities.”

Burnham raises an eyebrow. “You know, it wasn’t actually my father who first said that.”


In the expansive Klingon hangar bay, Detmer sits on the boarding ramp of the shuttle, casually leaning against the side wall. Furlan stands on watch on the hangar floor, phaser in hand.

Detmer picks at a loose thread on her uniform. “It’s been twenty minutes. Do you think we should contact them, or…?”

Furlan keeps his gaze on the internal entrance to the hangar as he answers her. “They’ll contact us if they need to. Just stay alert.”

Behind them both, in front of the shuttle, a small hatch in the floor slides open silently. A lithe Klingon warrior slips out, followed by another, and then a third. They draw daggers, and slowly, quietly, creep towards the shuttle.

“Did you hear they’re developing a new BT-16?” Detmer asks. “They say it’s going to be quite the thing to see. I’ll bet that baby flies like a humming bird.”

Furlan roles his eyes. Behind him, the three Klingons continue to creep toward the shuttle. Ahead of him, in the corridor to the hangar, a full squad of Klingon warriors lurk out of sight, firearms in hand. The leader peeks out around the bulkhead, holds his hand out to steady the squad.

Detmer raps her fingers on the metal floor of the shuttle. “Have you ever flown the old version? It was great, you could turn that thing on the head of a pin, but the rear thrusters used to burn out all the time, it was a pain in the-”

As one of the Klingons behind her nears the shuttle, alarms sound, and the voice of the shuttle computer calls out “Proximity Warning! Proximity Warning!” Lights flash inside the shuttle.

Detmer starts, and tumbles back inside the craft, whilst Furlan spins on his heels. As he sees the three armed assailants heading towards him, he looses phaser bolts at them, dropping two. The third charges him, but he gets his phaser to bear and lands a shot in the centre of its chest.

Behind him, the squad of Klingons in the corridor flood into the hangar, loosing off energy blasts from their weapons. Furlan hunkers down and dashes into the shuttle. “Get her in the air!” he shouts, “get us out of here!” He hammers the door control, and the ramp swings up behind him. Klingon weapons fire strikes all over the shuttle.

Detmer hyperventilates as she hurries towards the controls. “Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.” She makes it to the seat and starts tapping commands into the console. “Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.” Klingon disruptor bolts scorch the window next to her. “Crapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrap,”

“Detmer!” Furlan shouts, “Breathe! And then get us the hell out of here already!”

Detmer glares back at him angrily, then activates the engines.

The shuttle lifts off the deck. Its engines flare and it rockets away from the advancing Klingons and out into space.


In the cell, Burnham sits, defeated, with her back against the wall. “Go on then, Captain, what do you have up your sleeve?”

“Nothing up my sleeve,” Georgiou says, pulling her sleeve back to prove her point. “See?”

“Well, then how do we get out of here?” Burnham presses.

Georgiou shrugs, then grimaces at the pain in her shoulder. “Just wait.”

Outside the cell, in the main hall, there’s a disturbance. The Klingon squad leader from the hangar storms in, shouting in the incomprehensible Klingon language. The other Klingons, including the guards, turn to watch as the squad leader marches up to an impressive-looking Klingon male, adorned in regal, black armour armour.

“We didn’t have to wait too long,” Georgiou says. She slams the heel of her foot into the floor, hard, but the guards don’t notice. On the edge of the sole of her boot, a panel pops free. She hooks her finger into the gap and slides out a small, compact electronic unit.

Burnham watches with interest. “A communicator?”

“I modified it myself,” Georgiou explains. “Shorter range, had to remove one of the power packs, but it works.”

“Contact the shuttle,” Burnham insists, “we have to get out of here.”

“We have to remember our mission,” Georgiou says. “We need to figure out what’s going on here.” She adjusts some of the controls on the slimline communicator.

The Klingons start clamouring, shouting in protest at the black-armoured chieftan in the middle of the hall. He raises his arms to silence them, and begins speaking himself. As Georgiou adjusts her communicator, his guttural Klingonese resolves into English. Georgiou and Burnham look on as he speaks.

“- fly away if they wish, it matters not! One shuttlecraft cannot hinder our great, blessed work! And truly, we must be blessed,” he says, spreading his arms to address the whole hall, “for look at the gift Kahless has brought us! Not a lowly repair crew, but a Starfleet captain! And her first officer!” He gestures towards the captives, but the Klingons pay them no heed, and instead cheer their leader.

“Truly we are in his favour! Kahless, The Unforgettable, First King, Greatest Warrior of All Warriors!” Heavy boots stamp and raucous cheering echoes through the hall. “We shall unveil the Federation’s deceit! Expose their inner barbarism!”

There are more cheers, but one warrior steps forwards in challenge. “You speak as though our fate is decided, but what if they do nothing? What if the Federation simply turns and flees?”

The chieftan turns to the warrior. “Then, my sister, we shall have exposed them for the witless cowards that they truly are! And the Klingon Empire shall re-unite not under the banner of war but to the sound of the hunter’s horn! When the Galaxy sees them scatter and flee in the face of adversity, we will be there to carve up their territory and chase them across the cosmos!”

Cheering, stomping. The hall fills with noise. “But hear me now, proud warriors of the Empire. The Federation are nothing but beasts, wearing the hides of philosophers. They believe that their technological achievements elevate their culture above ours, but toys and contraptions cannot replace Honour, or Courage, or Pride. When they see their own slaughtered like the targs they are,” he gestures again at Georgiou and Burnham, “the Federation will lift the mask from its face to show the slathering maw of the animal within. And I, T’Kuvma, Bearer of the Torch of Kahless, last member of my house, will have brought the Great Houses of the Klingon Empire together once again, and united we shall slay the beast!”

Georgiou and Burnham lock eyes, and share a look of common understanding – and horror.

As the Klingons chant and clamour, Georgiou flips a switch on the communicator. “Georgiou to Detmer, Georgiou to Detmer, do you read?”

Detmer’s voice answers. “Captain! Captain, I read, I’ve been trying to contact you. Are you okay?”

“We’re fine. Detmer, status, where are you?”

“We’re in space,” Detmer answers from inside the shuttle, “near the station. We had to lift off, we were attacked. Why are you on this frequency?”

Georgiou ignores the question. “Detmer, listen, this is important. Head straight for Shenzhou, go straight there and warn Starfleet – the Klingons mean to bait us into a war. Go back, now, tell Saru and the others not to engage, don’t fire a single shot, no matter what happens. You hear me, Detmer? It’s a trap. Tell them to maintain the peace, that’s all that matters.”

“But what about-”

“Keep the peace, Detmer! At all costs. That’s an order, Detmer. Keep the peace.”

Without warning, Burnham lunges across the cell and snatches the communicator from Georgiou. She shouts into it. “Detmer! Beam the captain out now! Lock onto the Viridium signal and get her out! Now!”

Georgiou looks on, unsurprised, and a little sad. One of the guards hears Burnham shouting and turns to see what’s going on. Aboard the shuttle, Detmer taps the ‘Energise’ command on one of the consoles.

In the cell, the blue shimmering of the transporter engulfs Burnham. Her face twists in horror as she realises what’s happening.

“I’m sorry, Michael,” Georgiou says, as Klingons rush into the cell. “I will see you soon.” The Klingons grab her roughly. Some try to get hold of Burnham, but she has already dematerialised.

Georgiou is hoisted to her feet as T’Kuvma, the chieftan, strides into the cell. He growls at Georgiou, then turns away and speaks in Klingon. “This changes nothing! Get to your ships! I will prepare the beacon!”


Aboard the shuttle, Burnham materialises, the same look of horror on her face. She cries out as though in agony. She reaches over her shoulder and pulls a small, thin, dark patch of shiny fabric from her uniform. She examines it for a moment, then lets it fall to the floor.

Furlan rushes to her side. “Commander, are you alright? Where’s the captain? Commander Burnham, where is Captain Georgiou?”

Burnham seems stunned. She ignores Furlan and reaches up to an overhead locker, and takes a phaser from it. She moves forwards to Detmer. “Beam me back.”

“I can’t, Commander, there’s too much interference.”

“Beam me back!” Burnham shouts. “I have to get her, we have to save her!”

“I can’t! I can’t get an accurate fix, you could die!”

“Then turn the shuttle around! Take us back! That’s an order!”

Detmer doesn’t relent, even facing Burnham’s intensity. “That hangar bay was a Klingon murder party when we left, they’ll cut us to bits!”

Burnham’s tone goes flat. “Keyla, turn this fucking shuttle around and take us back to that station.”

Detmer’s face turns to shock, but Furlan steps forwards. “We can’t. You heard the captain, she gave us an order to get back to the Shenzhou and warn Starfleet. Now, calm down, take a moment, and-”

Burnham raises the phaser and shoots Furlan in the chest. He collapses in a heap. Detmer gasps, but Burnham grips the side of her neck and presses hard. Detmer quickly passes out.

Burnham sags, as though her strings had been cut. She stares at nothing for a few moments, trance-like. She slowly sits down in the co-pilot’s seat and sets a new course.


The shuttle banks back towards the station, as two small pods detach from its underside and ignite thrusters. As the shuttle drifts into the hangar, a group of armed Klingons rush in, aiming their weapons at the advancing craft. The shuttle’s phasers burst into life, blasts of amber energy sweeping across the deck, wiping out the warriors.

The shuttle settles on the hangar deck and the rear ramp opens. Burnham steps out. One of the Klingons on the floor groans, wounded, and reaches up with his disruptor. She fires her phaser at him, and he falls silent again.

Burnham steps over his body and heads for the main corridor into the rest of the station, phaser in hand.


On to Part 6.


There’s a lot going on with this story. The determined narrative for ‘Discovery’ is complex – a Starfleet officer mutinies, and starts a war with a politically unstable empire in the process. This is where I had to make the most radical changes from the show, which I’ll go through below.

First off, Burnham’s a career officer. She’s smart. She’s raised by Vulcans, who are a peaceful, highly rational culture. Which means that her mutiny has to have a hell of a lot of emotional drive behind it, and that means it has to be immediate. Burnham’s mutiny in the show is incredibly muted, emotionally. She just sort of reaches a conclusion based on a story told to her by Sarek, and I never felt like she reached the emotional peak that was necessary to humanise her actions. In essence, she acts like a weirdo, and so I found it really difficult to empathise with her as a character.

The other issue is that so much is made of her starting the war, but she doesn’t. At all. She gets stopped and thrown in the brig before she can fire on the Klingons, and they then start the war themselves when they choose to open fire. By the time she kills T’Kuvma, the battle is over and the war is in full swing.

Which is another issue, namely that the Klingons from the other houses turn up, T’Kuvma says “Let’s attack,” and they all just attack. Really, if this is going to be some massive interstellar war, I feel like you need a little more to it than that.

There’s one other problem, which only becomes a problem in hindsight, which is all of T’Kuvma’s backstory. It’s good for your villains to have motivations and complexity, but T’Kuvma will be dead by the end of the pilot episodes, and ultimately his most important aspect is that he wants to start a war that will unite the Klingon Empire. All of his tragic childhood ends up contributing very little to the actual story of ‘Discovery’.

So, how do we fix all these things?

Simple. We bring them all together.

  1. Here is T’Kuvma’s plan: lure a Federation ship out here by sabotaging a satellite.
  2. When they investigate what happened to the satellite, capture them.
  3. Use the beacon’s immense signalling power to broadcast the execution of the prisoners. Then, either:
    1. The Federation retaliates, precipitating full-blown war.
    2. The Federation refuses to act, proving their weakness
  4. Either way, Qa’plah! The Klingon Empire can all pull together, in war against a hypocritical enemy or in conquest of a weak empire.

That’s T’Kuvma’s plan. We can embellish it a little with some Klingon spirituality and mythos and whatnot, but that’s what it comes down to. Whatever happens, T’Kuvma succeeds in uniting the Empire.

Of course, it’s also important for him to cover his bases with a few tricks up his gauntlet, but we’ll get to that.

Then, we bring Georgiou, Burnham, and the Shenzhou into the mix.

We set Georgiou and Burnham up as having an unhealthy relationship. That’s the first thing. Michael’s idolisation of Philippa, her crippling fear of abandonment, and with Philippa’s unwitting indulgence of that insecurity, means that Michael will literally do or give anything to protect her maternal mentor.

Then, they get taken captive. This might not be too much of an issue for the Vulcan-raised Michael under other circumstances. But with Klingons in the mix, Michael’s childhood trauma is getting twisted in exactly the right way to send her off the rails.

Which finally happens when they get separated. Georgiou would never let one of her crew – especially Michael – suffer in her place, so she obviously swaps the Viridium patch. And so now Michael is separated from her mother-mentor, who she knows is going to be executed. And that’s not based on a story from two hundred years ago.

I even tried to fold in what would be Star Trek’s first “fuck” into this pivotal scene. It struck me as odd that they drop the f-bomb during a fairly standard conversation of Treknobabble, but never again throughout the series. They use it at one of the lowest points of emotion, and never at the highest. Here, it’s a sign that Burnham has finally cracked – her swearing like that shows us a Starfleet officer over the edge, falling apart – and about to do something really stupid.

So, now we have an evil plan to start a war that hangs around the fate of our beloved captain and first officer. The first officer is driven to betrayal of her crew mates to save her captain, currently being held by the evil warmonger.

And what’s more, here we have a chance for Burnham to save the day. If she can rescue Georgiou, she might just stop the war from ever starting.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Here are just a few plot holes in my own damn narrative:

  • Detmer just forgets to use the transporter. She should’ve done it as soon as the Klingons attacked the shuttle. My excuse? She was panicked. She’s not a coward, but she is green.
  • So, what happens if the Federation don’t investigate the creepy temple station that’s almost definitely a trap? Well, in my head T’Kuvma would just keep busting up satellites until they had no choice but to investigate, but his plan is flawed in relying on the Federation to behave a certain way.
  • His plan also relies on the other Klingon houses behaving in a certain way, but for me, that’s his test of his own people. If they can’t unite for war or conquest, then they probably aren’t worthy in the first place, and his cause is truly lost.
  • Scattering fields, how the shit do they work? Who knows? My theory: it’s kind of a chaos membrane – you can’t beam or communicate from outside into it, or vice versa, but if you’re inside of it, you can kinda beam around and communicate inside of it, with some limitations. It’s a plot device, okay? It’s a cruddy one, but it does what it needs to – walls all of this action off from the Shenzhou.

I wish I had a simpler set of plot points to aim for. But I don’t. If I’m doing this properly, I have to start from the same place as the show, and finish in the same place as the show, and roughly touch upon the major plot points along the way.

Also, can we have a quick lament for Furlan, whose fellow redshirt dies and for whom no one mourns? Furlan who keeps telling women to calm down, and gets phasered in the sternum for his trouble?

He had it coming, if you ask me.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 3

The previous instalment can be found here.


The shuttle alights on the bronze, ornate landing deck of the alien station, dimly lit by yellow lights. As the shuttle comes to a halt its ramp descends, and Georgiou, Burnham and the two security officers disembark, phasers drawn, tricorders out, eyes narrowed and darting around for danger.

Georgiou turns to one of the bodyguards. “Furlan, stay here, guard the shuttle. Burnham, Tallman, with me.”

They move furtively towards a corridor and head down it. Burnham surveys the walls and their decoration. “Ornate detailing across every surface. Intricate patterns, carved into the metal by hand, judging by the uneven finish.” She runs her hand over one wall section, letting her fingers brush across each groove and ridge. “It’s cold, and solid. This entire structure might be a single piece of metal, sculpted into shape.”

Georgiou keeps her eyes forwards, checking every alcove and corner for potential threats. “Sounds like a slow way of building a station. You’ve told me what the scientist inside you can see: what does your anthropologist make of this?”

Burnham keeps her gaze on the structure around them. “Captain, this is ritualistic, ceremonial in design. I don’t think it’s a station, I think it’s a temple.”

They enter a circular room, with corridors leading off in multiple directions. At the centre of the room stands an obelisk, covered in arcane symbols. As Burnham examines the obelisk, one particular emblem catches her eye. She’s seen it before – an image of an armoured warrior flashes through her mind, the symbol engraved on his helmet, striding through flames towards her. Screams and explosions echo all around. The warrior holds a vicious blade in his hands, which he lifts over his head and then swings down towards her.

“Michael? Commander Burnham!” Georgiou shouts.

Michael keeps her gaze locked on that symbol. “Klingons,” she says. “This is a Klingon hieroglyph. A sign of one of their Great Houses. Captain, we have to leave.”

“Not without making contact. If this is a Klingon station then there’s a reason they put it here, and we need to know what that reason is.”

“Aye, captain,” Burnham concedes. She scans the room and the corridors leading away from it with her tricorder. “The solid mass of the structure is making it hard to get a topograhical reading. I have no idea of which way we should go.”

Georgiou walks up to one corridor entrance. “Down this one.”

“Why that one, captain? Do you know what’s down there?”

“We don’t know what’s down any of them. Sometimes, you just need to make a decision.” Georgiou starts down the corridor, Tallman following her. Burnham joins them, and they move steadily onwards.

They reach the next room, circular again, this time with vaulted alcoves all along the walls. Deep channels run from each alcove to a grate in the room’s centre.

Georgiou squats down to examine one of the channels, following it to the grate. “Analysis, Number One?”

Burnham surveys the chamber. “The grooves in the floor, clearly intended to carry fluid. Alcoves at the side, big enough to hold a single humanoid.”

“You think this was a shower room?” Georgiou asks with a smirk.

“Captain, I think this was a sacrifice chamber.”

Georgiou catches Burnham’s eye. They share a look, and then turn for the exit.

An armoured warrior drops into each alcove from above. They each dash forwards as they land, roaring. Georgiou and Tallman open fire, dropping a couple of them, as Burnham grabs her communicator and flips it open. Before she can speak into it, one of the warriors smashes it out of her hand and swings for her head. She ducks, and strikes him back with both hands clasped together.

The Starfleet officers are surrounded. Georgiou takes down one warrior with a flurry of high kicks and rapid punches. Tallman keeps firing his phaser, but is grabbed from behind thrown into a wall. Burnham fends off one of the armoured foes with steady, precise attacks, each blow delivered with Vulcan-like accuracy.

But they are outnumbered. Georgiou has to dodge the powerful sweeps of a Bat’leth, getting backed up against the wall as she does. Two warriors lay into Tallman, beating him to the ground, before they each produce vicious daggers which they plunge into his back. Burnham’s elegant poise meets its end as her adversary hunkers down and then charges forwards like a bull, grabbing her around the abdomen and then diving, plunging her backwards into the floor.

Burnham, dazed, looks across to see Georgiou stabbed through the shoulder. Burnham screams out. “Captain! Philippa!” she bellows, but it does no good, as Georgiou sinks to the floor. The last thing Burnham sees is an armoured gauntlet, striking her full in the face.


On to part 4.


Finally, some action! Narratively, this isn’t far off filler. It’s a means of getting the characters into the hands of their Klingon captors. We see a little Klingon culture along the way, but not a great deal.

And poor old Tallman – he gets no lines, just a couple of stab wounds to prove that these Klingons aren’t messing around.

I lack a great deal of imagination, so all of the side characters get names taken from actors. Furlan is named for Mira Furlan, of Babylon 5 fame, as is Tallman. Patricia Tallman is actually a Trek alumnus – most notably from ‘Starship Mine’, but has appeared in plenty of TNG, DS9 and Voyager episodes.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 2

The previous instalment can be found here.


“Captain, I must once again register my severe objections to this course of action!” Saru insists as he strides down the corridor alongside Georgiou, Burnham and Detmer. “With the scattering field in place we will be unable to contact you or beam any of your back to the ship. And we still don’t know what the object is – it could be a Tholian web trap for all we know.”

Georgiou remains relaxed. “It might also be an entirely new species, Saru, a new civilisation. Would you really like to pass up a first contact opportunity?”

“Yes, absolutely, if it means putting my captain at risk.” Saru’s gestures become more frantic, his speech more hurried. “Captain, that object may not be a ship, but it remains a complete mystery to us.”

“And that is precisely why I want to go, Mr. Saru. I never could resist a good mystery.”

“Come on, Saru”, Burnham says, “you wouldn’t want to disappoint your captain, would you? Don’t worry,” she puts her hand on Georgiou’s shoulder in reassurance, “The captain will in in safe hands.”

They enter the shuttle bay and proceed up the boarding ramp of one of the Shenzhou‘s many shuttles. Detmer heads to the helm console at the front, whilst Georgiou and Burnham are joined by two security officers in tactical armour in the shuttle’s main hold. Georgiou turns to face Saru, who stands anxiously at the foot of the ramp. “Take good care of the ship, Mr Saru. And remember – take no unprompted action without consulting me or Starfleet Command. The last thing we want is to precipitate a conflict out here.”

Saru nods, and disappears from view as the shuttle’s ramp closes up. One of the security officers hands Georgiou a phaser as Burnham proceeds forwards to the front of the shuttle.

She leans down to Detmer. “Lieutenant, once we’re inside of the scattering field the shuttle’s transporter should be able to function. I just slapped a Viridium patch on the captain’s back – that will let you keep a lock on her. As soon as anything happens, you beam her back aboard and you set off for Shenzhou, do you understand? You don’t ask questions, you don’t hesitate, you just start flying.”

“Yes, Commander,” Detmer says, “but what about the rest of you?”

“The shuttle can only beam one person at a time,” Burnham explains, “and I don’t want you transporting the wrong person accidentally. We’ll be alright. Just keep her safe.”

Detmer looks back at the flight controls. “Well, now I feel a lot more worried.”

Burnham smiles. “You’ll do fine. I picked you for this mission specifically, Lieutenant. The captain asked me to fly at first, but it’s been two years since I last flew one of these things. We need someone who actually knows what she’s doing.”

“I won’t let you down, Commander.”

“Are we ready to launch yet?” Georgiou calls from the back of the shuttle, “or do you two need a little longer to conspire?”

“Ready, captain!” Detmer responds. “Course laid in. Just give me the word.”

“Lieutenant, the word is given – engage.”

The shuttle lifts off from the deck and drifts out of the shuttle bay. Once clear of the rear doors, Detmer brings it about and heads straight for the debris field, and the distant, mysterious object.


“Michael,” Georgiou says, as they sit opposite each other, “do you know why I’m here?”

Michael raises an eyebrow. “This is a critical situation. Normally, a captain’s place would be on her bridge. But with comms down, command decisions cannot be made remotely. If there are Klingons out here, you will need to be calling the shots.”

“And if there are Klingons out here, Michael, how would you feel about that?”

“If you’re referring to my childhood trauma, then you know I have it under control. Vulcan mindfulness techniques are a powerful tool. Philippa, I have your back. And I always will.”

Georgiou lays a gentle hand on Burnham’s shoulder. “Michael, in seven years together, the most important thing I’ve learned is that I will never regret putting my faith in you.”

“You talk as though this is a parting of ways.”

Georgiou shakes her head. “Not yet. But Michael, you are reaching the point where there isn’t much more I can teach you.” She waves her hand to quiet Burnham’s protestations. “If I could keep you as my XO for another twenty years, I would, but you are capable of so much more than that. You could end up as an admiral, or an ambassador, or even a regional governor – but the first step towards any of those things is getting your own command.”

Burnham looks down at the floor, hiding her face from her mentor. “I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”

Georgiou grips Burnham’s shoulder tightly. “You are not ready yet. But very soon you will be, and when the time comes, you can’t hesitate, you can’t second-guess yourself. Do you know what the first duty of every Starfleet officer is, Michael?”

“Of course: to the truth.”

Georgiou laughs. “Nearly. That’s the slogan, but the correct answer is that it’s to your own truth. We must always remember who we really are, Michael. Always.” She gestures out of the window to the mystery structure, steadily growing closer. “If there are Klingons out there, and they do mean us harm, we can’t allow ourselves to get drawn into their game. We’re Starfleet: we fight when we need to, but always we must seek the peaceful solution. That is our truth, and that’s my truth. I have to believe that every encounter is a step towards friendship and co-operation, even with those who call themselves our enemies.”

Burnham looks up at her captain. “My father said that ten years ago, at Khitomer.”

“Your father is a profound individual.”

An alarm sounds from the flight console, and Detmer calls back “One minute to contact, Captain. I’ve found an entrance into the structure, looks to be pressurised, too.”

Georgiou stands and smooths out her uniform. “Take us in, Lieutenant. Let’s get to the bottom of this.”


On to part 3.


One thing that always struck me as odd was that Detmer and Burnham shared so much together, and yet never interacted. This seemed like a hugely wasted opportunity – Burnham and Saru get plenty of time to explore their relationship, but Burnham and Detmer never even have one.

Also, whilst I have criticised ‘Discovery’ for resolving so much of its plot in the form of two people stood in a room talking to each other, early on in the show there’s a powerful need to set up the world, and the relationships, that will define the narrative. So whilst a scene between two people sat in a shuttle talking about philosophy isn’t the kind of high-octane action you’d expect of a Transformers movie, it’s important for adding additional significance to the events that do follow.

Georgiou contradicts Picard here on the subject of first duties, and that’s not something you want to do lightly. But whilst broad statements work well for delinquent cadets, command-level officers need to operate with a little more nuance than that.

Burnham’s backstory, as a human raised by Vulcans, and as an orphan as a result of a Klingon raid, is all perfectly fine. But that is exactly the kind of backstory that, I feel, can be revealed in small bites, rather than all at once. Hints to it are made in this conversation, but hints are all that is needed – who is her father, exactly? What happened in her childhood that might cause her to struggle with facing Klingons? Stay tuned in to find out!

Hey, and how about that Viridium patch and all the shoulder-touching? Don’t worry, that’s just background detail, it definitely won’t turn into a plot point or anything.

Six Things to Love About ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Okay, in my relentless denigration of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, I keep getting the same feedback from fans of the show:

“Why do you have to be so negatiiiive? If you don’t like it, don’t watch it! Real fans would be glad to see Star Trek back on TV! Why can’t you just be positive for a change?”

Well guess what, sperm-nozzles, I’m going to be positive. Maybe because I’m alone on Valentines’ Day, maybe because I’ve necked a bottle of wine and have impaired my judgement, maybe because I just want to shove it in the faces of all the fans of this awful, awful show, here’s some stuff I actually like about god damn ‘Star Trek: Discovery’.

livelongandfuckof.gif
Source: ‘Veep’, by Armando Iannucci

1. Phillipa Georgiou

You may or may not have guessed that I love Phillipa Georgiou. Honestly, I was actually disappointed with Mirror Universe Emperor Georgiou, because as fun as it was to see Michelle Yeoh be evil and sadistic, Emperor Georgiou was ultimately quite a simplistic character – she’s evil, and she cares about Burnham, but she’s basically just evil.

georgiou

Captain Georgiou, on the other hand, was wonderfully complex. She had the easy confidence of James Kirk with the statesperson-like dignity of Jean Luc Picard. I loved the fact that she was playful, and smart, and thoughtful. One of my favourite moments from the series was one of the crew noting Burnham’s elevated heart-rate during a daring E.V.A. mission. Georgiou’s response? “She’s having fun.”

Needless to say, I was sad when she only lasted two episodes, and I was outright upset and offended when L’Rell started describing her cannibalisation. But Georgiou was a great character to start the series – bright, optimistic, but simultaneously grounded and sincere. If the entire show had just been a rehash of ‘Next Gen’ story lines but with Georgiou in command, I’d have been so happy.


2. The Rest of the Cast

Okay, I hate most of the characters in ‘Discovery’. But I really like most of the cast. Sonequa Martin-Green did a fantastic job as an emotional human with a Vulcan upbringing. Mary Wiseman was completely endearing as Cadet Tilly, with great comic timing. Jason Isaacs was sublime as the slimy Lorca, and Anthony Rapp was wonderfully earnest as the frustrated scientist-turned-human experiment. Shazad Latif was occasionally heart-breaking in his angst.

beardsarek

Even the guest actors were great. Another favourite moment of mine is Admiral Cornwell, played by Jayne Brook, chastising Lorca and his self-inflicted suffering: “Why don’t you get your damn eyes fixed??” And let’s not forget James Frain: I actually think it’s a shame he was playing a Vulcan in ‘Discovery’, because he did a fine job, but he was so wonderful as the despicable Ferdinand in ‘Orphan Black’ that I really wish he’d had a greater emotional range to play with than is available to Vulcans.

However, I couldn’t really tell how good a job Mary Chieffo did as L’Rell, because one of the missteps of the series was covering the Klingons in such heavy prosthetics, and distorting their voices so completely, that it was difficult to gauge the performance of the actors beneath all the latex and behind the subtitles. The likes of Martok, Chang, the Duras Sisters, Gowron and and Kurn are great because there is still a great deal of humanity to them – they might be aliens, but they’re human enough for the actors’ talents to shine through.


3. Thirty-Nine Minutes And Fifteen Seconds

adored ‘Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad’. I loved it. Right up until the finale. Thirty-nine minutes and fifteen seconds of what was almost some of the best Trek material ever made.

groupshot

I know that sounds like hyperbole, but there was so much that was great going on. The cheesy party (they’re space nerds, of course their parties are lame), the animal-friendly policy around space whales, the time-looping, the scenery-chewing by Rainn Wilson, the unrelenting sadism towards Lorca, Engineer Stamets’ transition from panic to realisation to calm resolution. This episode was delightful.

The ending ruined it. I mean, it really ruined it, from the “Here’s your punishment: a woman,” to the “You go right ahead and keep all those technical details about this advanced warship, don’t even worry about it,” the conclusion to the story was completely piss-poor. It was a waste. But until then, it was magical, and I would’ve paid foldin’ money for the entire show to be of this quality.


4. A Couple That Happened to be Gay

Stamets and Culber. Two people, in love. They’re weren’t really a gay couple – they were just a couple. I really liked the understated relationship they had – supportive, occasionally contradictory, but in general full of concern and love. That’s great. I liked that. It’s too easy to “play it gay” or to try to make a point about inclusiveness, but Sta/lber didn’t, they – well, they played it straight.

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That being said, I genuinely feel that the lack of physical affection between them was awful. We first see them as a couple when they’re in the quarters, brushing their teeth before bed. They brushed their teeth, for Christ’s sakes! They told each other how much they cared about each other! They were in private! Why wouldn’t they kiss?

This was a smudge on an otherwise really positive portrayal of a same-sex relationship: it felt for all the world like the creators just wanted to save “Trek’s First Gay Kiss” for their mid-season finale. I wish they hadn’t. But I’m glad they got the rest of it right.


5. Female Competency

Burnham is a competent, versatile officer. Her suspension-of-disbelief-breaking fuckup in the pilot episode notwithstanding, she’s portrayed as just being good at stuff, the way Kirk was good at stuff, and Picard, and Janeway.

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I love the remake of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and I love Starbuck in it, but I didn’t half get pissed off when Starbuck was “The Best” at everything. The best pilot, the best sniper, a would-be professional space-football player, a great strategist, a great musician, an artist, an angel, and on and on and on.

Burnham doesn’t get that fanfare. Saru describes her as “the smartest officer” he’d ever known, but in general she’s just shown as being capable and adaptable and determined. This is good. It’s too easy to try to empower female characters by over-stating their abilities; Burnham was smart, but I never felt that she was better than everyone – she was just a good officer. Until she wasn’t.


6. Women in General

Look, ‘Discovery’ has issues with representation. We can’t escape that. But I will give it some, some, credit for having women actually in the show. Don’t get me wrong, I am appalled that so many women like Detmer, Owosekun and Airiam are included merely as set-dressing, but I am also glad that they’re there in the first place. And, as dreadful as the finale might have been, it was cool to see that all the most powerful people involved were women.

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There’s still a long way to go. And it’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking that ‘Discovery’ is doing better than other shows – there are many, many better examples of more proportional representation, even going all the way back to ‘Voyager’, ‘Farscape’ and ‘Babylon 5’. But I will grant that ‘Discovery’ is at least trying, even if it’s not trying hard or successfully enough, to make women a bigger part of the Star Trek canon.

(In fairness, the only reason I rake it over the coals so much in terms of female representation is because it’s putting itself on that path, just not well enough, and congratulating it for tokenism would be wrong.)


‘Discovery’ is more failure than triumph, but it does occasionally shine. Most of my gripes focus on its writing, the flaws in its narrative that prevent it from ever excelling. And that’s the real tragedy, because the story is the one thing you can get right before you ever get anyone else involved.

If one of your actors is piss-poor, or your director just doesn’t grasp the theme of the episode, or the sets look like Styrofoam and poster-paint, that can be a shame, but it doesn’t necessarily ruin a good story – for example, the aforementioned ‘Babylon 5′, which was plagued with terrible acting and embarrassing scenery but was still endearing because of the story it told.

So many small elements of DISCO were great, and they were wasted by an unfocused narrative that relied too heavily on twists and cliffhangers and plots, it actually breaks my heart a little, and all for the sake of a little more work in the writers’ room.

Such a shame.