‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Finishes Its First Season Not With A Whimper But With A Chorus of Long, Uninterrupted Fart Noises

By the time I finished ‘Will You Take My Hand’ I was laughing.

How the hell do you make a season finale that is “simulaneously” filler and a rushed mess? That shouldn’t even be possible outside of a Star Wars prequel.

Nevertheless, ‘Discovery’ manages to drop the ball so comprehensively with its finale that I was equal parts amazed, appalled, amused and astounded.

It’s difficult to wrap my head around just how peculiar this episode was, but I’ll try.


The Catalogue of Stupid

  • Women talk to each other! A lot! This is great! We end up with three different leaders between Cornwell, L’Rell and Georgiou who are all women. Of course, L’Rell is a cannibalistic torturer, Georgiou is a genocidal xenophobe, and as of this episode Cornwell is a genocidal xenophobe, too, but still, women! Talking! To each other!
  • We open with the Klingon fleet approaching Earth. I say “fleet” – it’s like, five ships. But they’re approaching Earth. Which is tense. There’s a lot at stake. I really can’t wait to see the climactic final battle, even if it’s only five ships, who knows what will happen?
georgiouintense
*swoon*
  • Burnham puts a weird emphasis on the “she” part of her opening speech. Like she’s trying to make a point. “THIS SOLDIER WAS A WOMAN. HAH! GOT YOU! YOU THOUGHT SHE’D BE A MAN BUT SHE WAS ACTUALLY A WOMAN! TAKE THAT, MISOGYNISTS!” Meanwhile, Detmer, Owosekun and Airiam get eight words between them, four of which are either “Aye” or “sir”.
  • Saru’s all like “She does not embody Federation ideals. We’re supposed to follow her orders?” HEY SARU BUDDY, WHICH FEDERATION IDEAL INCLUDES BEATING UP YOUR SHIPMATES SO’S YOU CAN STAY ON HOLIDAY ON THE PEACE PLANET? WHICH FEDERATION IDEAL INCLUDES KILLING A TARDIGRADE SO THAT YOU CAN RESCUE YOUR CAPTAIN WHO KEEPS A ROOM FULL OF ILLEGAL WEAPONS? WHICH FEDERATION IDEAL INCLUDES BEING A DIPSHIT? EH? EHHHH?
  • Knowing that her freedom, and potentially her survival, relies on her successfully assuming the identity of her Prime Universe counterpart, Emperor Georgiou does literally nothing to try to blend in.
    • “Well, gee, we just came from a mirror universe full of evil clones of ourselves, and now, right after that, we’ve just had this legendary captain returned to us from the dead! Except she’s acting all mean and evil. Well, nothing to read into there! I best continue blindly following her orders.”
  • “Scared Kelpien makes tough Kelpien.” Which edgy fourteen-year-old on work experience in the writers’ room produced this calibre of dialogue? Whoever it is, they have a promising career ahead of them in the DC cinematic universe.
    • “Either way, I can tell you require seasoning.”
  • Burnham tries to catch Georgiou out by asking her which part of Malaysia she was born in. Except she’s from the Mirror Universe. They literally have identical names, ships, computer interfaces. Wouldn’t she just be from the same part of Malaysia? Only evil? Evilaysia?
    • Also, if Burnham wants to out her that badly, couldn’t she just point to Georgiou being a sadistic tyrant, and then tell everyone “She’s from the Mirror Universe. Y’know, that place we literally just came from about six hours ago.” Christ, Tilly figured it out in seconds, I’m sure the rest of them would get with the program pretty quickly.
  • Speaking of Tilly, her adorable little Nazi salute is the best part of this entire episode.
  • I lied, the best part is Georgiou in full Space Pirate getup. God damn.
  • God damn.
pirategeorgiou
More like Captain Phillipa Smokeshow, amirite?
  • But no, Tilly, no. You don’t get to be the “supportive best friend” now, stepping in between Burnham and Ash, when it was only twenty minutes ago that you were guilt-tripping your bestie into forgiving the impostor who had just tried to kill her.
  • This new brand of Star Trek is gritty and brutal enough to bring us throat-slittings, graphic burns, the word “fuck” (twice!), but can’t show a scene in a brothel without covering up all the female nipples. G-strings are apparently a-okay, however – we get quite a few close-ups of pert buttocks clad in nothing more than two pieces of wire. Then Georgiou throws a naked woman across a room but the wispy bit of gold cloth remains superglued just above the nipple. Of course, male nipples are fine. Because they’re on men. And men have nothing to be ashamed of in this universe. Definitely not their nipples.
  • Okay, so Admiral Cornwell (and Starfleet in general) is now implicated in a genocide conspiracy. Like, she tried to commit genocide, and tried to hide it. Genocide. Conspiracy. Burnham got a life imprisonment for turning on her captain and trying to start a war, so naturally the series bookends with Admiral Cornwell facing a trial of her own, and presumably a stricter punishment.
  • NAH JUST KIDDING, MEDALS FOR EVERYONE.
  • L’Rell has a data pad with some writing on it. The rest of the Klingons fall into line in fear of her blowing up her own planet by using said datapad. Christ, L’Rell, next time just get a big red button that’s not wired to anything. Or even better, try to sell them some volcano insurance. Or some snake oil.

tillygorgeous

  • The mean, evil Klingon fleet of five ships is pretty much in lower Earth orbit. And just decides to float away as soon as L’Rell gives her speech. This was the point that I started pissing myself with laughter. All of the build-up and tension, and it culminates in a pretty five-second special effects shot. That’s it! That’s the end of the war! No daring ploys, no chase sequences, no fleet engagements, no difficult decisions. Just a data pad, and a room full of stupid Klingons.
    • I also just want to take this moment to talk about the plan. So, Starfleet’s plan is to blow up Qo’Nos, right? But last episode, they establish that the Klingons aren’t currently united. And yet, with a Klingon fleet spitting distance from Earth and facing no defending ships, Starfleet decides to blow up the Klingon homeworld? Jesus, well, it’s a good thing Klingons aren’t known for grudges, vengeance or retaliation, otherwise I’d be worried that you might just be encouraging them to do something rash.
  • Sarek also admits to conspiracy to genocide. Burnham lets him off with “you were having a bad day.” BURNHAM, OF A SPECIES OF EMOTIONLESS ETHICS NUTS, HE IS FAMOUS FOR BEING ONE OF THE MOST DISCIPLINED. BEING “DESPERATE” IS NOT SUFFICIENT EXCUSE FOR GENOCIDE.

genocide

  • We get a schmaltzy medal ceremony, in the best traditions of Star Wars, only this time the wookiee would totally have had a medal because this is Starfleet, hence equality.
    • So, Burnham’s giving a speech. To, I dunno, to the room? Except she’s facing the panel of commanders, with Cornwell, Sarek, etc. And she’s giving a speech about them keeping their principles. To the people she just called out for trying to commit genocide. And they’re the ones giving out the medals. That’s like stopping Hitler, and then getting a medal from Hitler for stopping Hitler, and then giving a speech about why Hitler’s wrong and having Hitler applaud you for it. What the hell was going through the writer’s head when they put this scene together?
  • I love how the only people present at the ceremony are the actors they’d already paid to appear in the last episode. The Andorian’s there, and the Tellarite, and Cornwell, and a couple of the other captains from the holobriefing, and then all of the bridge crew who at some point got a name, even if they didn’t get any lines.
  • “Oh, yeah, no, Bryce or Rhys or whoever, they definitely deserve a medal equivalent in merit to Stamets’. I mean, they gave such good status reports. And they put up with Lorca AND Saru. All Stamets did was risk his life to save his Captain, and then risk his life again to crack the Klingon cloak, and then risk his life again to get them all back from a parallel universe, oh and he also lost his husband. That’s about the same as giving some status reports.
tillysalute
I’d probably be a lot less liberal if the Third Reich had been this adorable.
  • We never got a funeral for Culber. Just a weird mushroom-ghost thing and then Stamets being passive-aggressive with VoqAsh. Tarrah, Culber! And thanks for all the medical exposition.
  • Fine, I was wrong, they didn’t time travel their way out of the plot holes. Which amazes me. Also no return of the Largeigrade. I was wrong. D’you hear!? I was wrong!
  • For some reason, they end with the Original Series theme song. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ten times better than ‘Discovery’s theme song. It’s just weird. I thought we were all above that cheap 1960s TV stuff:


Loose Threads

This episode was exhausting in its absurdity, so rather than further analysis, here’s some more bullet points on unanswered questions and narrative dead ends from throughout the series.

  • What the fuck was up with those black badges? In the first episode there are Starfleet officers wearing black badges. We never see or hear of them ever again.
  • What happened to the Largeigrade? It fucked off into space and then never came back. I don’t blame it, I’d be hightailing it out of this fiasco as quickly as I could. But what was it, exactly? Where did it come from? Are there more of them? What do they do? WHAT’S UP WITH THE TARDIGRADE???
  • What happened to Prime Lorca? Is that really it? He died off screen? We don’t even hear how? What the shit? What happened with the Buran? Did Mirror Lorca just blow it up? What the shit? Was that all just so’s they could have the big reveal?
  • And I guess that was all we get for Captain Killy, too, who remains a debris cloud in the Prime Universe.
  • What happened to the Pahvans? Did the Klingons go back to wipe them out?
  • What happened to Lorca’s Tribble? No, really, what happened to Lorca’s Tribble? Is it okay? Is the Tribble okay? That Tribble better be okay. If it isn’t I’m going to shit.

Star Trek: Discovery’s Third Episode Draws Its Inspiration From Everywhere Except Star Trek

As the legendary Mr Spock is fond of saying, I like to think that there always are… possibilities. ‘Discovery’ is offering us many possibilities, but I want to look at just two for now:

The first is that Burnham’s journey will bring her into conflict with her new captain, who is revealed to be a war criminal conducting illegal, or at least immoral research. She will confront him, he will give some speech about “making hard decisions” because “we’re at war” and “if somebody doesn’t do the bad stuff, there won’t be anyone left to do the good stuff.” Burnham will refute this, and attempt to incite another mutiny, this time succeeding, and redeeming herself following her actions at the Binary Star System.

The second option is that Captain Lorca’s apparent immorality is a double-bluff – that he really is an ethical and conscientious commander in the best traditions of Starfleet officers, and that the air of malevolence about him is due to Burnham’s negative view of the world following her failures. Burnham’s journey will bring her into conflict with her own preconceptions, and she will finally come to the realisation that she needs to trust others around her – not just their character, but their judgement.

If we pretend, for the moment, that ‘Discovery’ is a live show, entirely improvised, that it has not already been filmed and that either of these options remain viable at this point in time, then we currently sit at a potential split in reality. Down one path lies Burnham’s redemption, and down another, her enlightenment. Either is equally possible, if not equally probable, and as such we can consider that there are two (or more) futures which are yet to manifest.

With that metaphysical wankery established in the most pretentious way possible, let’s explore those futures.


Redemption

Burnham’s redemption is the journey that best fits what we have explicitly seen so far, based on the behaviour of the show’s new authority figure, Gabriel Lorca, captain of the Discovery. Straight off the bat, he’s presented with shady vibes; literally, his very first appearance he’s cast as a silhouette in a darkened room. He explains that this is due to some war injury to his eyes, making him sensitive to sudden changes in light. Which is a trait which is immediately forgotten within this very episode, when we later see him beaming from one room to a more brightly lit one without discomfort, and pressing his face up to a forcefield which glows sky blue on contact with his hand.

georgeou.jpg
She’s not even in this episode, but she remains the closest approach this series has made towards actual quality.

I mean, Trek is defined by its lack of technological discontinuities between episodes, but to screw up character traits within thirty minutes of their introduction is a new low. Unless Lorca was lying to Burnham, in which case he intentionally made such a sinister introduction just to fuck with her, I guess.

Dramatic lighting aside, Lorca also seems to fall well into the ‘Trashy Evil’ D&D character alignment, given his role as, apparently, leader of all Forbidden Science in Starfleet. His character traits include:

  • Pointlessly mysterious.
  • Severe-looking.
  • Dismissive of socialism.
  • Likes fortune cookies.
  • Manipulative.
  • Outwardly dishonest.
  • Literally owns a literal secret creepy laboratory literally full of literal skulls and literal alien skeletons and a literal enclosure for a literal alien monster.

By his side is his security chief, That-One-From-Battlestar, or “Landry” as she likes to be known. Landry (played by Rekha Sharma) has a similarly diverse array of qualities, such as:

  • Aggressive.
  • Hostile.
  • Suspicious.
  • Severe.
  • Has hair.
  • Wears clothes.
  • Woman.

Together, they conduct sinister experiments with some kind of space fungus which may be the origin of all life in the universe and which is definitely a rip-off of the protomolecule from ‘The Expanse’. If you’ve read my previous article, you may have picked up on that point. And in fact, this episode marks itself as being entirely derivative of multiple different films and series – none of them Star Trek.

Now, this is a tricky subject. On the one hand, I don’t want to get a series that is constantly winking and nodding towards previous installments in the franchise just to please nostalgia junkies. On the other hand, just taking elements from other franchises isn’t any more preferable, especially when those franchises did it better originally.

So when Burnham, Landry and her new room-mate, Cadet “Happy-Go-Ginger” Tilly, go on an away mission to the Discovery‘s mysteriously crippled sister ship, the Glenn, I wasn’t too fussed about us suddenly getting a xenomorph chase through jeffries tubes. It’s not the first time Trek has “drawn inspiration” (putting it charitably) from other sources, but this is the third episode of a new series, and is really a second pilot, given that it’s introducing a new ship and crew. I would hope that this would be too soon for a brand new series to have run out of original ideas.

torches
At least one of these people will be dead in just a few moments. Spoiler alert – it’s not one of the three people whose names appear in the opening credits.

Getting back to the point at hand, if Lorca, Landry and their research efforts are as sinister as they seem – if we are to take them at face value – then the narrative will inevitably go down the path of Burnham discovering Lorca’s crimes, inciting mutiny, the crew picking sides, a lot of tension, shouting, speech-giving and appeals to varying shades of morality, followed by some climactic confrontation and resolution. Basically, most episodes of ‘Battlestar Galactica’.

I can probably even write the speech that Lorca will give. Hmm, let’s see…

“I thought you understood, Burnham, I thought you were capable of seeing the bigger picture. Don’t you get it? If we lose this war, if the Klingons beat us, we lose everything, every code, every law, every bit of good that Starfleet has ever done will get wiped clean. If someone doesn’t make the hard choices, if people like you and me weren’t willing to do what no one else wanted to get their hands dirty doing, then we’d have already lost, and all those things you think the Federation stands for would be ashes.

“Do I you think I like this? Do you think I enjoy getting my hands dirty? Do you think anyone wants to betray their ethics like this? It’s not about doing what’s right, Burnham, it’s about doing what’s necessary, for those people out there, for Starfleet, for the Federation. We all wish we could win this war the clean way, the nice way, the honourable way, but sooner or later somebody has to open their eyes and see the reality of the situation. I thought you were smart, I thought you could do that – see the context, and do what needs to be done.”

“You’re a monster, Lorca,” Burnham says, “I learned the hard way what happens when you break your oaths, and I lost everything. But I’m not going to let it happen again.”

“Then you must have worse eyes than I do. Landry, take her to the brig.”

Landry draws her phaser on Burnham, prompting Saru to draw his own weapon nervously, his frills extending in anxiety. Across the bridge crew members stand, weapons in hands, eyes darting across the room. In the background Bear McCreary conducts an array of non-diegetic djembe in an escalating rhythm, whilst a Jedi uses her lightsaber-armed mechsuit to fend off a glowing blue xenomorph. Admiral Dutch (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) swaggers onto the bridge and commands everyone to “Git to da shuttles!” whilst a black-suited Will Smith cracks wise whilst neuralysing a Klingon spy and a brown-coated Nathan Fillion punches Klaatu in the face. Off-camera, I vomit myself to death, and my parents later find my body and conclude that, of all the possibilities, this was the most probable and the most fitting way I could have gone.

My primary concern with Burnham’s redemption arc is that it means that Lorca, Landry, any of their supporters and whoever in Starfleet signed off on their mission are all villains. And if there are groups of immoral people in Starfleet, that means the future isn’t really much brighter than the present. The whole point of Star Trek was to portray a vision of humanity united by its principles.

Now I may be a hypocrite – okay, I’m absolutely a hypocrite – but Deep Space Nine also toyed with this idea with its introduction of “Section 31”, a shadow agency within Starfleet, bent on subterfuge and incredibly unethical activities in the name of defending the Federation. And that never bothered me as much. Maybe it was because it was well handled, maybe it was because it wasn’t the focus of the entire show, just three episodes.

Or maybe it was because Section 31’s presence in DS9 seems more fitting with the Federation engaged in a deadly war with The Dominion. As the series wound on, the war became more and more desperate, with entire episodes devoted to just how badly Starfleet was getting its arse roundly kicked by the Jem’Hadar over the course of four years.

Of course, Starfleet is also at war in ‘Discovery’, but the difference here is that we are provided no insight into the state of the conflict. There isn’t a single line in the third episode to indicate how the war might be progressing, six months after it began. A cadet talks about her career aspirations without any apparent anxiety over her survival. Burnham is accused of starting the conflict, but only blamed for the lives lost in the opening battle. The war itself is only mentioned a handful of times, and never with any context to inform the danger it poses.

And that’s a problem, because if the war is going terribly, why aren’t we feeling that tension? And if the war is going well, why is it necessary to start conducting shady research? Lorca mentions – literally mentions, off-hand – that hunger, need and want are returning to the Federation, and yet we see first hand that they possess technology that can synthesise food and clothing – and it’s implied that the same synthesising technology exists in prisons.

We see okudagrams with meaningless territory maps, so the war is definitely occurring. And we get told that over eight thousand people died during the battle at the Binary Stars – but, as in the first two episodes, we have no concept of how significant a loss that is in the greater Starfleet. Is that half the fleet? Or a hundredth?

Now bear in mind, the fucking title of the episode is ‘Context is for Kings’, and the one thing the episode offers us none of is, very specifically, Context. Without it, it’s impossible to get a bead on the severity of the war, and hence the justification of Lorca’s actions.

burnham-mess.jpg
At least three of those people are trying to figure out why she decided to go with a side-parting.

And that might be the point: this could all be to highlight Burnham’s disconnection from the outside world, her own ignorance of what’s going on due to her imprisonment. But even still, we don’t get any hint of how things are going from her interactions with the crew. She even bumps into Saru, who is now the first officer of the Discovery, and even though the ship is stationed “far from the front lines”, his entire character is based around him being afraid of everything, even just the sound of a shuttle taking off. And yet he casually strolls the corridors, eating synthetic blueberries and chatting shit.

In any case, if Lorca is just another morally dubious villain who believes too much in the ends justifying the means, that’s actually a fairly dull story. It’s been done. Repeatedly. On just about every single sci-fi show since the 1930’s. There’s very little tread left on that tyre, and if that’s all we get out of the whole narrative, I’ll be disappointed.

If revisiting old ideas is a necessity to make up for a creative scarcity, then why not reach a little further? What about focusing on the Klingon war, but ‘Darmoking’ it, making it an issue of communication? Where there are certain concepts that just don’t translate via language, and Burnham has to use her skills as a xeno-anthropologist to find commonality between these two cultures?

Or maybe run with the theme and rip off ‘Redemption’? Have the mission be to infiltrate the Klingon homeworld to find Klingon dissenters who are against the war, and try to work with them to forge a peace effort? Or follow ‘In The Pale Moonlight’s example, send the Discovery on a diplomatic mission to find other races who might ally with the Federation – again, we get to use Burnham’s background (which has already been forgotten, it seems) and we get to explore new worlds and new civilisations. Each new race would present a different challenge, have different demands, different principles.

There’s lots of possibilities, and it galls me that the show seems to have committed to the worn-out “do the ends justify the means?” schtick, especially given that we already know that in the world of Star Trek, they never should.


Enlightenment

Of course, the redemption path is just one possibility. The path of enlightenment remains open, and this is arguably the more interest direction the show could take.

As I discussed at some length above, this episode is entirely and ironically devoid of context, which acts against it if the presumed redemption are is to be followed. But that same lack of context means that I may be jumping to conclusions regarding Lorca. As pointed out to me by others, we haven’t strictly seen Lorca do anything clearly villainous yet – he simply acts in a really shady manner. And whilst Security Chief Landry is clearly a sack of arse, even she is yet to get her hands dirty.

With the exception of beaming aboard the xenomorph at the end of the episode, and keeping it in a confined cell in Lorca’s creepy evil laboratory full of fucking ALIEN SKELETONS. Hey, do you think he might be the baddies? He’s got skulls in his cabinet, is he the baddies?

lorca-lab.jpg
Wow, all these rapidly changing lighting conditions, good thing there’s nobody around who, twenty-six minutes previously, was established as being sensitive to that.

But morbid interior decoration aside (who knows, maybe his background-Trek-hobby is Phrenology?), Lorca’s yet to cross any lines in the sand as far as ethics go. Which means all of the sinister presentation may be a function of Burnham’s distrust of him, and her own self-doubt over what the right thing even is anymore.

And this is the more interesting path to follow, I believe. Having Burnham coming to terms with her actions, and hence being able to put into context Lorca’s, could be a fascinating character arc. Her constantly perceiving villainy and having to reshape her preconceptions, challenging herself to see the actual truth of the matter, could be really rewarding.

Indeed, Burnham learning to put faith in other people again would be a redemption in its own right – and in so doing, learning to put faith in herself. This would be the ‘Trekkiest’ journey for her to take (which sadly also kills off any probability of it manifesting given recent Trek trends).

For instance, we see Lorca imprison the xenomorph at the end of the episode, which means Burnham will probably find out soon, as well. And at first, she will probably jump to the conclusion that Lorca’s doing it to figure out if it can be used as some kind of weapon – this was my conclusion, too.

But as was pointed out to me, he may have saved it so as not to condemn it to death aboard the Glenn. Maybe he recognised it was dangerous, but chose to bring it aboard to study it because it’s a new form of life they’ve never encountered before. Maybe he’s still cleaving to the Starfleet way, looking for new opportunities for discovery and exploration – hence the show’s title.

And Burnham would require some convincing. She would probably go to Saru, try to bring him on side, try to alert him to Lorca’s sinister activities – only to find that she once again jumped to the wrong conclusion, that she assumed the worst in people and assumed the worst-case scenario.

The problem with this potential story arc is that it lacks the hyper-dramatic, emotionally turbo-charged conflict that seems to be mandatory for Trek productions these days. By its nature, it’s a much more sedate, meditative journey, and whilst there’s room in there for a bit of shouting and speech-giving, this still makes it the least likely option, even if it is the most interesting one.

The other issue with it is that Lorca has already validated Burnham’s ludicrous actions in the first episode. He actually told her she was right when she tried to attack the Klingons first, and this is really problematic. Because if he’s lying, then it undermines the potential benevolence of his character and defines him as manipulative; and if he’s not lying, then it again comes around to the show supporting Burnham’s mutiny and her attempt at cold-blooded murder, and the idea that her inherent prejudices were correct.

(And whilst he wasn’t present himself, given he’s got Saru as his first officer and other members of the Shenzhou‘s crew aboard the Discovery, he’s not likely to be mistaken.)

So, if Lorca is the virtuous Starfleet captain then he’s also someone who, like Burnham, adheres to bigoted views. Or he’s one who lies to get what he wants and doesn’t hold people accountable. Either interpretation is problematic if he is ultimately presented as being a “good” person. If he’s not, then it looks like we’re back on the relatively dull “stop the war criminal” redemption path outlined previously.

This also doesn’t address Landry’s fairly awful behaviour throughout this episode. Lorca aside, Landry is definitely a nasty piece of work based on her bigotry towards Vulcans and prisoners alone. It was Dostoyevsky who said:

“The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

Which is basically another way of saying “nobody cares how fancy your clothes are or how high your skyscrapers soar, if you can’t even be bothered to treat the worst of your criminals with basic decency.”

landry
“I did one of those ‘Which D&D Alignment Are You’ quizzes on Spacebook. What does ‘True Shithead’ even mean?”

So, I dunno. Burnham’s enlightenment is the path I’d like to see, but it’s already had a few holes poked in it, and it really doesn’t seem a probable candidate. Time will tell.


Other Considerations

I feel like I’ve made enough predictions for now, so here are a few things that seem open-ended enough that I’ll enjoy just seeing them play out.

Saru seems mostly clued in about the “Black Alert” experiments (the fungal space-jumping), but it appears that Landry is Lorca’s de-facto second-in-command. Certainly, Saru’s involvement in the shady stuff has not yet been explored, and I’m happy to see where he fits into all this. Is he an ignorant patsy, happy to be stationed far away from the front lines? Or is he fully on-board with all of the dark science that’s going on right under his nose?

Saru also mentions that the Discovery can perform three hundred experiments at once. It would actually be fascinating to see what these might be, and I’m certainly hoping they aren’t just a precursor to the research of McCoy’s ‘Into Darkness’ brand of medical testing. “Hey, doctor, why does lab 206 require thirty gallons of ‘mixed variety’ blood?” “Oh, yeah, don’t worry about it, I’m just trying to breed space vampires, I think it’d be neat.”

Cadet Tilly is charmingly dense and has already been given the start of a strong character arc, and by definition as a cadet she has the most potential to grow and adapt her personality. That being said, if I was in Burnham’s position, I would probably have already smothered her to death in her sleep. I mean, I’m already serving a life sentence, why put up with some snoring, dribbling arsehole for a whole night?

tilly.jpg
I swear to Christ, if she ends up being a ginger Wesley I’m going to shit.

Assorted Annoyances

In a handy list:

  • I am super, super uncool with Landry referring to the prisoners as “garbage” and “animals”. Even nowadays, there’s a growing awareness that rehabilitation rather than punishment is the best way to handle prisoners, and dehumanising them just feels gross for a setting that’s apparently so advanced the socio-economic causes behind most crimes have been eliminated over a century ago.
  • Speaking of, why did the bald prisoner speak as though he was from a lower socio-economic status? How is socio-economic status a thing in a post-scarcity society? I’m conscious of the fact he was a murderer, but that doesn’t explain why he’d speak like he grew up on the rough streets of a 20th-century American city.
  • And staying on this, why did the three prisoners just suddenly decide to shank Burnham? That literally came out of nowhere, went nowhere, and seemed to exist only to show off her “Vulcan martial arts” – and subsequently Landry’s racism towards Vulcans. How enlightened.
  • And how did none of the Discovery‘s crew step in? Okay, they all hate Burnham, and okay, Landry held one of them back from intervening, but the rest? I mean, even nowadays, in a reality as shitty as ours, the military understands its duty of care to its prisoners. The only other time in Trek that we see prisoners being allowed to brawl is on Rura Penthe, the Klingon moon which the Klingons themselves describe as a “gulag”. Christ, I mean, I know there’s a war on, but how about some fucking standards, at least?
  • And, just sticking with this, but in a post-scarcity society, which we know the Federation was at the time these people were incarcerated, how do you get criminals at all? There’s literally no necessity-born reason to turn to crime when everything is provided for free. Which means if these people were committing crimes, it was presumably due to some kind of mental or emotional stability. In which case, why weren’t they kept in pyschiatric care, being treated for whatever mental disorders caused them to go on murder sprees? Even if it’s only to study them to spot the signs in other potential offenders before they can harm anyone? Do the show’s creators really just see post-scarcity humanity as 21st-century United States but with spaceships instead of obesity?
  • I don’t understand why the prison shuttle pilot’s tether broke and she floated off into space like, exactly 0.7 seconds before the autopilot randomly malfunctioned. That seems like peculiar bad luck.
  • I’m find with characters having quirky character traits, but Burnham’s reciting of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ whilst fleeing the xenomorph was distracting. It’s one of those traits that only TV characters have, like calling siblings “brother” or “sis”, or of being intentionally cryptic when a simple explanation would literally solve the entire conflict of the episode. Like, I’ve never met a human raised by Vulcans after her parents were murdered by Klingons, so I dunno, maybe it’s more realistic than I realise, but it definitely shattered my immersion and was an instant reminder that I was watching a TV show.
  • Okay, so, this show seems to be ripping off ‘The Expanse’, we all get it, but they even called the fucking fungus prototaxites stellaviatori”. Jesus, don’t shows have teams dedicated to checking this shit these days? Why not just call it “protomoleculus rippofficus” and call it a day?
  • They spent, like, a full minute running away from a xenomorph in darkened, strobe-lit corridors, with the outcome being a pseudo-redshirt getting eaten and them ending up in a room. It’s a good thing that was such a necessary part of the plot, as otherwise we might have wasted valuable seconds on pointless world-building and character development elsewhere in the episode.

Occasional Positives

In another handy list:

  • The head scientist of the creepy fungus project wound me up to my tits with all of his fucking poetic pseudo-scientific horseshit, BUT I liked the fact that he cleaved to the traditional pacifistic aspects of the Federation, disgruntled over the use of his research in a military context.
  • In general, the increased diversity of species aboard the Discovery was a good step forwards. In the words of Azetbur, the Federation has always been portrayed as a “homo-sapiens-only club”, and seeing multiple alien races was great.
  • During Burnham’s little fungal projection, we see multiple scenes, one of which looked like the original artwork for the subterranean refinery from the Original Series episode ‘The Devil In The Dark’ (which is the one with the Horta). This is a neat little easter egg, even if it does fuel my fears of the show relying more and more on call-backs to previous works.
  • The Klingon “shushing” Tilly and the resulting dialogue was a nice moment, I will admit.