The latest episode of ‘Star Trek Discovery’ is called “The War Without, The War Within”. I can only presume that title is missing the words “Consequences” and “All Expectations”, because nothing that happens seems to affect any of our characters, and nothing that happens seems in any way surprising.
Take the beautiful way the show handles the fate of two interesting, unseen characters: Mirror Tilly, and Non-Mirror Lorca.
- Expecting that the Mirror Universe I.S.S. Discovery presumably arrived in the Prime Universe and started wrecking face, we instead find out that she got immediately annihilated by Klingons, along with Cadet Tilly’s more successful counterpart, Captain Killy. That was fun! A load of buildup for a character who lives and dies off screen.
- We establish the status of Prime Lorca, the presumably non-evil version of the Lorca with which we’re familiar, with Admiral Cornwell stating of her former friend and lover: “There’s no way he survived over there, so I guess he’s dead.” And that’s it. That is literally all she spoke. It’s like a line out of ‘Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place’, I’m not even kidding:
Dagless: I just can’t believe the Temp is dead.
Reed: It’s alright Rick, we’ll get another one.
(Except that the Temp in the ‘Dark Place’ actually got more character progression and a more emotional death scene than anyone in ‘Discovery’. I even learned the difference between a principality and a dependent territory.)
Before I dig in, here are a few other stray observations:
- Lots more women talk to other women this episode, which is good. I haven’t had chance to catalogue it yet, but I know we get Owosekun-Georgiou, Burnham-Georgiou, Burnham-Tilly, Burnham-Cornwell, Cornwell-Georgiou and Cornwell-L’Rell. Just in general women are talking and doing more this episode, and the men take much more of a backseat.
- I love that the first priority on returning to the Prime Universe, now overrun with Klingons, is to change the “I” back to a “U” on the ship’s nameplate. Wouldn’t want anyone getting confused, would we?
- Yet another Federation ship approaches Discovery without being seen. Does anyone else remember the days of neat little establishing shots of Excelsior-class ships cruising alongside the Enterprise-D? Now it all just happens off-screen. Which makes me wonder what happened to that massive budget the writers keep talking about.
- Saru’s Ganglia shoot off when the ship is about to arrive at a ruined Starbase and not be attacked, but don’t even twitch when a bunch of armed aliens beam aboard the ship right in front of him and shove phasers in his face. Making them actually pointless. They really are good for nothing but eating.
- Saru decides not to throw Tyler in the brig. Because Tyler might be capable of redemption. Which I really like. Except, he’s also definitely still not right, and also definitely admitted to killing Doctor Culber whilst not in control of his actions. So, I dunno, Saru, do you maybe want to keep the potentially murderous enemy sleeper agent locked up for a bit until after you’ve saved the Federation? I mean, I’m not saying he deserves punishment, but if he does go all Smeagol again there’s a good chance that billions of Federation citizens might die, so you might want to take that into consideration.
- On the subject of Ash’Voq the Hugon, it turns out that he’s a next-level dickhead. He insists that Burnham forgive him and accept him back so that he can “heal”, making no allowances for how she might feel about having unknowingly had sex with a Klingon agent, and then being strangled by that same agent. I was actually really, really glad when she decided to walk away – if she’d taken him back, I would have shat myself with rage.
- What’s worse is Tilly, Burnham’s “best friend”, pressuring Burnham to talk to Ash’Voq in the first place. Yeah, Tilly, I’m sure he’s hurting too, but Burnham also just came back from a week-long stint of murdering people, being betrayed repeatedly and eating Kelpien, so maybe give her more than an hour to pull herself together, yeah? Or just fuck off?
- Ash gets a big bunch of people standing around him and validating his existence. I guess nobody but Stamets had any kind of connection with Culber, whom Tyler murdered just over a week ago. I mean, Christ, if this was regular Trek I might buy into it, but this is the same crew that ostracised Burnham for a war that she didn’t start – and that, by all counts, is still ostracising her.
- Jesus Fucking Christ, I’m actually feeling sorry for Burnham.
- Burnham once again confirms that She Started The War. Like, that seems to be canon within the show. Except that SHE GOT ARRESTED BEFORE SHE COULD FUCKING DO ANYTHING. Why does everyone keep banging on about her starting this war? Even people who were there keep blaming her for it, even SHE keeps blaming herself for it, and yet she ultimately DID NOTHING. Did the writers not watch their own fucking show? Are they just those assholes who drop a nauseating fart at the exact moment they step off a crowded lift, spewing noxious filth that they know they won’t have to endure themselves? JESUS, GET YOUR FUCKING STORIES STRAIGHT.
- Burnham observes of the Klingon war efforts, “There’s no pattern to these attacks, no logical progression to their targets.” Oh, sorry, Ms. Xeno-Anthropologist whose parents were killed in a “Terror Raid”, did you expect that a culture of warriors who steal all their clothes from Lordi and cover their ships in coffins would prosecute a logical, well-thought-out military campaign? Did you think the Klingons had, like, a Group Strategy Meeting at the beginning of the war, where they put a Powerpoint together highlighting the various pros and cons of igniting a planet’s atmosphere?
- “Well, on the downside we’d lose the ability to use the planet as a base of our own, but on the plus-side, that’s a lot of pre-cooked meat, which is really going to reduce our charcoal costs for this quarter.”
- I’m no longer feeling sorry for Burnham.
- The writers of this show literally can’t get anything right.
- Okay, here’s the doozy. Distances. Actually, no, fuck it, this gets its own fucking section:
HOW NOT TO WRITE TECHNICAL DIALOGUE
I’m confident that ‘Discovery’s writers are now trying to troll me. Genuinely. There’s no other way to explain this next bit beyond them hating me personally, figuring out the one thing that would flip all of my nerd-rage switches, and then intentionally getting all the cast back together and re-shooting the briefing room scene just so I’d spend the entire rest of the week angry.
Okay, listen up, here’s the thing. If you don’t understand what you’re talking about, YOU SHOULDN’T FUCKING TALK ABOUT IT.
Rich coming from me, I know, but it should be obvious to anyone with a fraction of a cerebral cortex left in their skull that as soon as you start making shit up, you massively amplify the exposure of your own incompetence. For reference, see literally anything I’ve ever written.
What this means is that when Stamets starts talking about the distance between objects in space, it is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE for him to say:
“Starbase I is a long way from Earth, and it is an even longer way from our current position.”
That’s your first level of detail. Literally nobody has a map of Starfleet installations relative to Earth, so you can say whatever the fuck you like and nobody will give a shit.
The next level of charlatanism is to make shit up in a very non-specific way. So, if Stamets had said:
“Starbase I is dozens of light-years from Earth, and hundreds of light-years away from our current position.”
NOBODY can pick their way through that to find a fault. It’s still so generalised that it tells you nothing, but it adds a bit of space-flavour to this space-based show.
The next level is to add some actual numbers. This is tricky, but you can get around that by making the numbers BIG:
“Starbase I is forty-seven light-years from Earth, and six-hundred-and-twelve light-years away from our current position.”
Now, I’m a bit of a space nerd, but I have no idea of how I would start picking holes in that. Except, none of those versions of the line are used. Instead we get this:
“Well, [Starbase I] is, uh, 100 AUs from Earth, and over a light-year from our current position.”
Now, that may not mean much to you, and that’s fine, but let me make something clear: 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Here’s another thing that’s pretty fucking common knowledge: The closest star to Earth (besides the Sun) is more than 4 light-years away.
Here’s Starbase I:
D’you see that lush, terrestrial planet in the background? The one with clouds, and oceans, and continents? And see how it’s brightly illuminated by a nearby star?
Well, 100 AUs from Earth? That’s roughly three times the orbit of Pluto (or twice Pluto’s greatest distance from the Sun). On Pluto, the Sun is a dim star that nearly blends in with all the other stars in the sky. The next nearest star, Alpha Centauri? That’s more than 4 light-years away, or nearly 270,000 AUs.
All of which means that the writers of ‘Discovery’ created a new star with a new planet literally within the outer reaches of our solar system, just because they couldn’t be bothered spending one minute of their lives using Google.
Literally, one minute. Sixty seconds.
And I know that Trek is hardly ever scientifically accurate, but this is a rare example of Trek writers being MORE specific than they need to be just so’s they can shoot themselves in the foot.
It’s a bizarre display of dedicated self-destruction for absolutely no creative gain. Nothing, nothing, is added to the story of this episode by making up random numbers, and I’m baffled by their decision to do so. Just how little do you have to care about your work to not even put in a pedestrian level of research?
For reference, y’know the damn parsec thing in ‘Star Wars’? Here’s an actual excerpt from the original script (the one that’s still sub-titled “Journal of the Whills” i.e. before the cameras even started rolling) covering that precise moment:
Han Solo. I’m captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me you’re looking for passage to the Alderaan system.
Yes, indeed. If it’s a fast ship.
Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?
Should I have?
It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!
Ben reacts to Solo’s stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation.
And if you think that’s been retconned in after the fact, here’s Obi Wan’s expression as he remains singularly unimpressed by Solo’s rampant bullshit:
So here’s the thing: everyone harps on about ‘Star Wars’ getting something this basic so wrong, when it’s actually one character lying to another.
Which means that unless Stamets was, for some reason, lying to everyone (which we know he wasn’t because they make the journey), Star Trek is now worse at doing sci-fi than Star Wars.
Especially when you take into account Saru’s magic Ganglia, Stamets’ magic spore drive, a Mirror Universe which makes no fucking sense, and an enemy sleeper agent plotline that relies on every single doctor on a futuristic space ship being drunk or incompetent.
So essentially, the next time you try to claim that Trek is somehow “more sci-fi” than Wars, just remember the moment that Trek writers cared so little for their craft that they couldn’t be bothered googling what a “light-year” was.