‘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 – What’s Past Is Prologue’ Aspires to Shakespeare But Achieves Stupidity

Jesus Fucking Christ. Just when I think I might be running out of things to complain about with ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, another episode comes along and provides an abundance of new material to tear apart.

My cup runneth over with stupid.

Okay then. ‘What’s Past Is Prologue’ has arrived. It smells like wet dog and it just took a shit on the floor. If it has value, then that value is derived solely from the image of Michelle Yeoh putting her martial arts background to full use on Jason Isaacs’ face.

First off, random observations:

  • What happened to Tyler? Where the fuck is Tyler? What happened with his mind-lasers? Is he okay? Tyler, buddy, are you alright?
  • All of the not-quite anonymous crew get some actual lines this episode. Some of them even get polysyllabic words to say. Airiam gets two lines, I think; Detmer gets another couple; Owosekun actually gets a miniscule side story of her own! None of them speak to Burnham or Tilly, or each other, obviously. Mirror Owosekun does get to speak to Mirror Georgiou, though, so that’s a plus point.
  • Oh, we also get Landry back. Or at least Mirror Landry. I don’t think she speaks to any other women. She also seems precisely as evil as the Landry who got Tardigraded way back in Episode Four. Like, the character is in no way noticeably different to her prime version. Whatever.
  • Landry has now appeared in three episodes and been killed in two of them, which puts her at equal rank with Ensign ‘Shitbird’ Connor.
  • Neither of them match Captain Lorca, however, who has now been killed more times than he’s been in episodes, I believe, if you count his repeated slaughter in the Harry Mudd episode.

What's Past Is Prologue

  • Well I sure am glad we introduced Mirror Stamets, it was great to see the enormous role he had to play in the storyli- oh. Oh well.
  • Lorca gets disintegrated on his way towards a massive fiery ball of fungal energy. Which is a fate too good for him, I feel.
  • That same fiery fungal football apparently had no effect on the Discovery, which flew through it unharmed.
  • The mighty Terran Empire, militaristic to a fault, has apparently never heard of the term “Naval Escort”.
  • And Captain Lorca apparently had no idea that Emperor Georgiou was capable of an “emergency transport”. Which seems to just be a standard transporter. But used in an emergency. And which can apparently be shut down remotely… which seems rather to defeat the purpose, somewhat.
  • Saru confirms that his “threat ganglia” are, in fact, simply magic. Or just bogus. They will accurately flare out when he can’t see Burnham not boarding a shuttlecraft, but they don’t get set off when he literally has his own death confirmed as a safe bet, or even just when surprising things happen suddenly. It’s almost as though this show is written inconsistently…
  • He even uses his non-firing threat ganglia to reassure the crew that everything will be okay. If I were one of them, I’d have stapled his ganglia to a table and jumped in the next escape pod.
  • I mean, he points out twenty minutes earlier that his threat ganglia very specifically failed to spot the very obviously traitorous Lorca, thereby somewhat bringing into question their use in any capacity whatsoever.
  • Jesus, you know, I don’t really care when this show violates Trek canon, but IT CAN’T EVEN STICK TO ITS OWN FUCKING CANON.
  • FROM THE SAME FUCKING EPISODE.
  • SHITTING HELL.

charon

  • Yet another space battle occurs in which the Discovery faces little-to-no threat. Seriously, every time this ship gets in a fight it suffers no damage and its enemies do literally nothing to catch the crew off guard or force them to change their plans. The closest we got was when the Gagarin got nailed in the face at the beginning of Episode Eight, but even then the Discovery just warped out without any damage or casualties. Great to know there’s so much at stake. Such tension. Many danger. wow.
  • Lorca gets Agonised for three days, and looks like shit throughout this episode.
  • Landry was Agonised for A YEAR and comes out looking like shit, as you’d expect. Then she walks into a different room and looks just like an attractive actor in normal TV makeup. I guess in the future, women aren’t allowed to look the way they feel.
  • Speaking of which, Lorca’s army of revolutionaries have literally just spent the best part of a year in Agonisers. A year. Of unrelenting torment, throughout their entire bodies. So obviously they’re all in good enough shape and possess sufficient mental cognizance to overthrow a fresh, well-equipped defensive force that knows they’re coming. They’re sprightly enough to fight Burnham and Georgiou on equal terms in a hand-to-hand fight, Burnham being a demonstrable master of Vulcan martial arts and Georgiou being Michelle Yeoh.
  • They arrive nine months into the future, and can’t get in touch with any part of Starfleet. But they apparently can get a full map of Federation and Klingon territory using the “War Map” app (“War Mapp”?) on their viewscreen. Except, if there’s no Starfleet to contact, who the hell is supplying them with comprehensive tactical information? Wouldn’t that, by definition, have come from Starfleet? Or do the Klingons just post up valuable strategic info on the web? Huh, maybe the Klingons just realllly buy into Net Neutrality.
  • Fucking hell, how does this show manage to be so STUPID? ALL OF THE TIME? CAN’T IT LET UP A BIT? JUST A BIT? FOR ONCE?
  • AAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH
  • FUCK

Fuck.

Also, I guess that really was the last we’ll see of Mirror Voq and Mirror Sarek, eh? Wow, talk about a disposable story line. They turn up to trigger Ash, then get killed off-screen. Neat.

beardsarek
He’s not even in this episode, but any excuse, y’know?

How Not To Write A Story

Joy! The hapless crew of the Discovery have discovered a method of defeating the Evil Terran Empire, which will prevent the Terrans from accidentally wiping out all life in the Multiverse.

(Yes, accidentally. And it’s such a significant plot development that it features as the topic of roughly six lines of dialogue in this entire episode, and is resolved before the credits roll.)

But – Calamity! Defeating the Evil Terran Empire will result in Discovery‘s almost-certain destruction! Never mind, now is the time for Inspirational Speeches! We don’t believe in the No-Win Scenario!

No, wait, we actually don’t believe in the No-Win Scenario. Because half an hour before the Discovery arrives at its doom, Tilly realises that there’s some Magic Space Bullshit which means they can totally survive! And go straight home!

Yay! I sure am glad we didn’t have to go into that final battle with any sense of danger or tension. That would have ruined it.

I mean, literally, the Discovery turns up, isn’t hit once, flies through the orb thing, and at no point are we worried because we already know they’ve figured it out.

Y’know, I thought I was pushing it a bit when I spent two thousand words trying to convince people that dialogue is a bad thing. But it turns out I was right. They literally go from “Certain Death” to “Probably Fine” in the space of a conversation. There’s no moment in the final battle where it seems like the crew might not make it, because they’ve already got the cheat codes.

WhatÕs Past Is Prologue

Oh, also, the Spore Drive now travels through time. Which is great, because we no longer have any ability to build up any tension for the entire rest of the series. Because we already know what the solution will be: travel back in time to before this all started, bring the dead back to life, etc.

On a more personal note, this episode was written by my good buddy Ted Sullivan. Which adds an extra dimension of personal interest for me. Because it really was hot garbage. Sorry, Ted (are you still okay with me calling you Ted?) but it was hot, fiery garbage. A hot garbage fire. That was this episode.

On the plus side, we now know that this entire season is going to time-travel itself out of the canon. So, y’know, silver linings and all that.

Fuck.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is a Show About People in Rooms, Talking

This is a subtle issue. Subtle to the point that I may just be making it up. I could be completely wrong. I’m just going to throw it out there and see if it sticks.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is a show full of people in rooms, talking.

I can already hear your objections, and your cries to the effect “so is basically every show, dickwad, what were you expecting?”

The best way to explain this is by example. And for once, I’m going to compare ‘Discovery’ to itself. I’m not going to bring in external sources, and I’m not going to hold it up to the standard of previous Trek shows. Just ‘Discovery’ – it’s best, versus its worst.


Storytelling Done Right

The very, very opening of ‘Discovery’, waaaaay way back when Captain Georgiou was a role model and not a cliché, before we even had that fucking awful opening theme song inflicted upon us, had a great little scene. A few parts of that cold-open were a bit shonky, but there was a great bit at the end where, unable to communicate their location to the ship, Georgiou starts walking randomly in the sand.

As she and Burnham walk, they talk about how they would react to being stuck on the planet, but there’s a dynamic to the scene created by the fact that Georgiou is clearly up to something, and Burnham can’t understand what it is. There’s a power tilt, which ultimately ends in the reveal of the Shenzhou and Georgiou’s plan all along – to trace out the Starfleet emblem in the sand.

It’s a good moment.

Here are some other good moments throughout the series:

  • In the second episode, Burnham negotiating her escape from the destroyed brig with an impassive, disembodied computer that is bound by simple rules. She’s clearly smarter than the supercomputer, but also completely at its mercy.
  • When the away team boards the Glenn in the third episode, ‘Context is for Kings’, and meets the shushing Klingon, followed by the tardigrade chase. The scene shifts from muted tension to dramatic action via a bit of humanising light-heartedness.
  • The final Mudd scene in ‘Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad’ is total garbage because of the “And now your punishment – a girlfriend!” element, but the lead-up to it, with Mudd strolling the corridors with the three Starfleet officers, completely confident of his own dominance, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath him, makes for a great shift in authority.
  • If I’m being honest, most of the structure of ‘Magic to Make…’ is fantastic, with lots of interplay, lots of interaction and lots of development happening within the scenes themselves. It’s just the content that ends up being dumb.

The thing that makes these scenes great is that they develop and change in their own right – specifically, the characters’ states are different at the end of the scene to at the beginning. Following in order:

  • Burnham and Georgiou go from being lost on an abandoned planet, to Burnham having learned more about Georgiou’s ingenuity in a time of crisis.
  • Burnham goes from being imprisoned, helpless, with eight minutes of oxygen, to having conned her way out of the brig to freedom.
  • The away team goes from calmly exploring a dead ship to literally running for their lives.
  • Mudd goes from being a cunning, sadistic criminal in total command of the situation to falling for a con himself, with the Starfleet officers transitioning from being hostages on their own ship to being back in control.

Now, not every scene has to have these changes in state – it’s perfectly fine to have a more sedate bit of exposition every once in a while. And sometimes, characters don’t change physical state or power state at all – it can just be an emotional change that they experience.


Storytelling Done Wrong

The end of Episode Twelve, ‘The Wolf Inside’ (Jesus Christ these episode titles are trash – I never thought it was possible to sink lower than ‘Operation: Annihilate!’, but apparently I was wrong. ‘The Wolf Inside’ just sounds like a lycanthrope’s memoir, or maybe a new computer processor company. Fuck me, I mean, reading the episode list is like reading the back of a power metal concept album, look at this shit:

  • ‘The Vulcan Hello’ – a slow-paced melodic ballad about a village blacksmith and his various creations.
  • ‘Battle at the Binary Stars’ – a grand, orchestral operatic piece about the triumph of Azanog, Champion of the Star League.
  • ‘Context is for Kings’ – Drums and heavy vocals dominate this tale of two warring kingdoms and the plight of their peasant soldiers.
  • ‘The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry’ – Slow-tempo mystic piece describing the dark rituals done in the name of Unholy Maganoth the Despoiler.
  • ‘Choose Your Pain’ – High-energy thrash song with a great hook and chorus.
  • ‘Lethe’ – A soldier lost in a strange land of fairies and elves, with no memory of who he is or where he came from. Some great bass riffs.
  • ‘Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad’ – Wonderful operatic piece with guest vocals by Christopher Lee.
  • ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ – A cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, with Latin lyrics sung in Gregorian chant.
  • ‘Into the Forest I Go’ – Yet another fucking song about ‘Alice in Wonderland’, seriously, that’s like twelve this year already. Nice guitar solo at the end.
  • ‘Despite Yourself’ – Duet between the lead band’s singer, and the frontman of Axebite; could’ve done without the flute segments.
  • ‘The Wolf Inside’ – Literally just a song about a werewolf.
  • ‘Vaulting Ambition’ – Weird, spoken-word track covering the rise of Azanog and his subsequent descent into Lovecraftian madness. Should’ve stayed on the B-side.

Where the fuck was I? Oh, rubbish scenes, right.)

So anyway, at the end of ‘The Wolf Inside’ Ash Tyler the Human reveals that he was actually Mr Lammers, the theme park manager all along. Sorry, no, that he was actually Voq the Klingon all along. Which is fine. But the scene itself is so dull, and it’s difficult to describe why, but here goes:

At the beginning of the scene, Burnham is angry and confused that Ash started speaking Klingon and attacked Mirror-Voq. At the end of the scene, Burnham is angry and confused that Ash said he was Voq. Somewhere in the middle he attacks her and gets knocked out, but most of the scene is just the two of them talking, with some sporadic cut-aways that are indicative of Ash losing it, and that we’ve already seen.

The thing is, nothing in the scene is surprising – particularly because Ash’s reveal is so heavily telegraphed, but also because once it happens, of course he’s going to attack Burnham and start doing evil shit. And of course he’s not going to get away with it because of that meddling Kelpian (also the fact he’s on a ship literally full of genocidally xenophobic arseholes).

The alternative seems, to me, to be obvious – have him actually do something, not just stand there talking. Maybe he and Burnham are in a firefight with the alien rebels when Ash gets set off, leaving Burnham stuck between her once-lover-now-traitor and a bunch of Vulcans and Andorians who want to kill her.Maybe she’s in a stand-off with a murderous subordinate keen to advance up the Terran ranks by assassinating her; at first, Ash has her back, giving her the upper hand, before he goes completely rogue and starts attacking all of the humans that he sees.

There are lots of ways that Ash’s revelation could have been explored in a more interesting fashion, and the same goes for Lorca’s big reveal in ‘Vaulting Ambition’. Sure, there’s the bit where Lorca breaks out of the Agony Booth, but the actual reveal, the revelatory bit for Burnham, is just another scene of her and the Emperor in a different room, talking. Why not have Burnham figure it out as Lorca is being brought to the Emperor, right after she’s convinced the Emperor to release Lorca because she thought he wasn’t his mirror counterpart?

Christ, all this subterfuge makes these sentences hard to parse.

This kind of flat, dull non-scene is sadly endemic throughout the series. Here are a few more examples:

  • In ‘Choose Your Pain’, the bridge crew watch Lorca’s fighter escaping the Klingon ship whilst Saru says some stuff, then they beam Lorca and Ash aboard.
  • Also in ‘Choose Your Pain’, Burnham and Tilly “heal” the Large-igrade by saying a prayer over it.
  • Christ, also in ‘Choose Your Pain’, rather than any actual experiments being done, the solution to navigating without the Large-igrade is explored by three people standing in a line, talking.
  • Also in ‘Lethe’, multiple playfights between Sarek and Burnham are punctuated with conversation, but ultimately change nothing.
  • The finale of ‘Into the Forest I Go’ is an “epic fight” between Burnham and Kol, two people who have never met and who have no relationship, and the fight itself ends in stalemate.
  • In ‘Despite Yourself’, we get one scene of Burnham explaining the Mirror Universe to everyone, followed by another scene, after everyone has just rushed to the bridge, in which Burnham continues to explain that Tilly is the captain. Surely a much more fun way to do that would have been to simply have the other ship ask to speak to Captain Tilly? Have a mad rush to find her, get her on the bridge, brief her along the way? This scene also ends up failing to advance the plot.
  • In ‘The Wolf Inside’, Burnham talks with Lorca by having the brig cleared out and taking him out of the booth – not that we see any of that. Why not have her try to talk to him whilst making it look like an interrogation in front of her crew?
  • Also in ‘The Wolf Inside’, Burnham and Tyler beam down to the rebel planet, establish a tense ceasefire, maintain a tense ceasefire, Ash and Voq fight which changes nothing, everyone stays sat down in the tent, the scene ends in a tense ceasefire.
  • ALSO in ‘The Wolf Inside’, after spacing TyVoq, Burnham has Lorca brought to her ready room so she can “interrogate” him. They sit at a table, talking.
  • In ‘Vaulting Ambition’, Burnham meets Emperor Georgiou in the latter’s Throne Room. They talk. Then they go up to the Emperor’s dining room, and talk. Georgiou decides to kill Burnham, so they go back down to the Throne Room, and talk some more. A few nameless people we’ve never met get murdered. Followed by more talking. The ultimate outcome of the entire episode is that Georgiou probably won’t kill Burnham, for now.
  • Also in ‘Vaulting Ambition’ (there’s been a lot of shite in just three episodes) Stamets and Mirror Stamets wander around an imaginary spaceship. Talking. Then Stamets meets the mushroom-ghost of his dead husband. They do kiss (for the third time in ten episodes) but mostly they talk. After enough talking, Stamets wakes up from his mushroom coma.

These scenes all contain perfectly good performances, fine acting, some really ropey dialogue (but that’s forgivable) and some nice-ish sets and costumes. But the scenes themselves are just straight-line, A-to-B affairs: get in, deliver the necessary plot information / characterisation, get out, onto the next.

This is way too subjective a topic for the nearly-nineteen-hundred words I’ve already written, and your mileage may absolutely vary, but I spend so much time watching ‘Discovery’ just bored, waiting for the next plot development to get shat out by whichever character happens to be talking at the opportune moment.

The same is true of the action scenes, some of which I’ve included above. Action scenes are great when they radically change a situation and allow us to learn a lot more about our characters. When they’re just inserted in there to break up the talking scenes, they end up being just as boring, no matter how flashily they’re choreographed.

The test is this – what are the characters actually doing? Are they just talking? Or are they negotiating, bargaining, teaching? Are they outsmarting or tricking or even conning? Are they threatening, or defying?

The same with fights – what are they fighting about? What are they fighting for? What are the stakes? What’s the history between the fighters? Who wins the fight, and why do they win the fight?

These questions outline, for me, ‘Discovery’s greatest weakness so far – so much of the dialogue is info-dump. So much of the action has zero consequences. More of the story is driven by things that happen off the screen, or out of our characters’ hands – but that’s another article for another day.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Vaults Ambition and Common Sense with its Third Mirror Universe Episode

Credit where it is due.

The writers of ‘Discovery’ did an excellent job of setting up Lorca’s SURPRISE TWIST REVEAL. I mean, they actually put the ground work in, and now all that stuff I said about him being the worst captain ever bears true by design, Fair enough, bravo.

But that’s about as far as I’m happy to go in terms of credit. Here are the immediate observations:

  • Why does the Terran Empire, possessing no knowledge of functional Spore Drives, have a ship identical to the U.S.S. Discovery, a vessel custom-designed with moving saucer segments specifically for the Spore Drive? Did they build it just to hedge their bets, in case they one day discovered an as-yet unknown technology which would require that exact design? THIS IS WHY THE MIRROR UNIVERSE IS DUMB, AND GOOD ONLY FOR NOVELTY ONE-OFF EPISODES.
    • Don’t get me wrong, the Mirror Universe ships appearing identical to their Prime counterparts is still nonsensical, but at least it’s semi-rationalised by them at least being based on the same tech – they all have warp drives, and shields, and phasers and torpedoes, for example. It just doesn’t work with tech that’s unique, like the Spore Drive.
  • Emperor Georgiou’s little spinning DRAMATIC-REVEAL podium was just cheap and ridiculous enough to be adorable. It doesn’t even have a chair, she just had to stand there until she’s been hyped up enough.
  • No Detmer this episode. Or any other women. Just Georgiou, Burnham, L’Rell and Tilly. Tilly is back on form, talking about Stamets’ “dewy skin” and contributing literally nothing else.
  • Saru has gone from “Scared of everything” to “Indifferent to everything.” But then, he’s got to deal with two sub-plots on his own (Stamets and AshVoq) so maybe he don’t got time for fear.
  • Michelle Yeoh was on form again, serving to remind us that she really ought to have been in this show throughout.
  • Emperor Georgiou calls Burnham up to her dining room to feed her stewed Kelpian, call her a traitor and then send her back down to the throne room for a private execution. I honestly think this was just another chance for the writers to mess around with cannibalism.

emperorgeorgiou

  • I really miss the days where the Mirror Universe was a chance for the regular actors to have fun – it was great seeing Mirror Kirk screaming his head off in the Prime Brig, or Mirror Sulu being the slimiest red-piller in the central finite curve, or Mirror Kira trying to fuck anything with a pulse. It’s less fun when everyone is just as boring as their regular selves, but slightly more sadistic. Michelle Yeoh and Anthony Rapp give great performances this episode, but it would’ve been nice to see them chewing the scenery a bit more.
  • Lorca’s reveal is played for dramatic weight, much as with Ash’s reveal. And, just as with Ash’s reveal, a lot of that weight turns out to be insubstantial, as the audience was already aware of the twist and was merely waiting for the reveal.
    • Both of these arcs are very similar, and I find it strange that they were both included. It would have been much more interesting if their duplicitous natures were made clear from the onset, and then used throughout the series to add tension to pivotal scenes – e.g. will this be the moment that they reveal who they are, and how will the crew react to that? Instead, Lorca is just a terrible captain and Ash is just a troubled Human, both depicted as a result of mental health issues, and both ultimately explained in reasonably dull reveal scenes.
    • For reference, see the mid-2000’s reboot of ‘Battlestar Galactica’. Boomer, the Cylon sleeper agent, is revealed for what she is at the end of the pilot. Throughout the entire rest of the first season, they use this to lace otherwise-pedestrian scenes with a huge degree of tension. It culminates with an incredibly shocking finale, in which Boomer attempts to assassinate Admiral Adama, who subsequently spends the first three episodes of Season Two fighting for his life on a hospital bed, with Boomer herself locked in the brig, completely unaware of what she had done. For every action, multiple consequences. Jesus, talk about great television.
  • The Klingon war gets brought up this episode, but to all intents and purposes that entire plot thread is irrelevant to these three episodes in the Mirror Universe – and presumably will be until the end of the season. Which means we had this huge storyline which was barely explored, got a flaccid finale with a non-antagonist, only for it to be ditched in favour of something silly and unrelated.

That’s enough bullet points for now. Further analysis to follow sometime soon.

What the Hell is Up With Lorca? A ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Mystery

Lorca.

Lorca Lorca Lorca.

Lorca.

Looooorrrrrca.

To pay lip service to brevity, here is a summary of what we’re going to cover today:

  • Gabriel Lorca is a complete fucking toerag.
  • Y’know who else is a complete fucking toerag? Everybody in the Mirror Universe.
  • Lorca’s old ship was the Buran, named for the old Russian space shuttle that never launched.
  • Lorca’s new ship is the Discovery, named for the old American space shuttle that launched several times.
  • Is it possible that the Buran was conducting transdimensional travel experiments similar in principle to the Discovery?
  • If so, is it possible that Lorca, or indeed the whole Buran, swapped universes, just as the Discovery did?
  • And is it therefore possible that Evil Lorca subsequently destroyed the ship to conceal his identity?

Find out answers to all of that and more, by reading on! Or don’t, I don’t fucking know, I’m guessing at this as much as the writers are.

lorcadesk


Broken Soul or Arsehole?

There’s an argument to be made that Lorca is suffering from PTSD, or at least a condition with symptoms similar to PTSD. I’m no psychologist, so I won’t delve into this too much, I am happy to acknowledge it as a possibility and let someone more qualified than me review and rate that possibility.

Certainly, following a traumatic wartime event in which Lorca was forced to murder all of his crew, and suffer a debilitating injury, the possibility of him developing PTSD is a reasonable one. And this would explain things like his paranoia (keeping a phaser in his bed) and his emotional issues, although it’s notable that he does not seem to suffer avoidance – indeed, he willingly and frequently places himself and his crew in battle situations.

The PTSD angle doesn’t explain his apparent malignance, or his willingness to manipulate and emotionally abuse others to achieve his goals. As I understand it, PTSD can make a person’s behaviour more problematic than it otherwise would be in certain situations, but it doesn’t turn them into a bad person. Again, though, I’m not a mental health professional, so please don’t take these statements as medically sound.

But, if Lorca was actually his own Mirror Counterpart, we can see a stronger pattern:

  • Mirror Captain Tilly won her position by stabbing her captain whilst he was recovering in bed. Lorca sleeps with a phaser.
  • The next time we see Lorca with a phaser, he’s staring at his own reflection:

lorcareflectionphaser

  • The Terran Empire operates under coercion and fear. Lorca’s only demonstrable leadership techniques so far are berating, bullying and emotional manipulation.
  • Right before overriding Discovery‘s jump co-ordinates, Lorca delcares “Let’s go home.” This is a few hours after explaining to Stamets the concept of parallel universes and the possibility of accessing them via the Spore Drive.
  • “No matter how deep in space you are, I always feel like you can see home,” is Lorca’s first ever line, again on the subject of home, and delivered as he is staring at his own reflection:

lorcareflection

  • Lorca’s line in Episode Ten “There’s me hoping I’d find a better version of myself here,” in response to finding out that his Mirror Counterpart is dead.
  • Lives in the Terran Empire are entirely disposable, with assassination being the most common path to promotion. Lorca intentionally interferes with Discovery‘s jump coordinates, not knowing what it might do to the already unwell Stamets.
    • He also abandons Cornwell to likely ambush (and later refuses to try to rescue her) when she confirms that she’s going to report his unsuitability for command.
  • There’s also all the stuff that’s already been covered way back before Episode Seven.

The Theory

Alright, here’s the theory:

  1. Lorca and Mirror Lorca were respective captains of the U.S.S. Buran and the I.S.S. Buran, respectively.
  2. Both vessels were trialing experimental drives or transporters when there was some kind of accident. (Or, Klingons attacked causing something strange to happen, possibly linked to experimental tech).
  3. EITHER:
    1. Only Lorca himself swapped realities, and Mirror Lorca found himself in Prime Universe, on the U.S.S. Buran, and scuttled her and killed all her crew to protect his identity.
    2. The entire Buran swapped realities, and Mirror Lorca destroyed his own ship and all his crew because he realised they would never all be able to successfully remain incognito – this would be a one-man job.
    3. The Buran was destroyed in the accident, and Mirror Lorca miraculously survived in the Prime Universe.
  4. THEN Mirror Lorca manages to con his way into captaining this new, experimental ship he’s heard about that can transcend space and time with it’s incredible drive system. OR the fact that Lorca and the Buran were involved in the project to begin with game him the leverage to get the assignment.
  5. It also gave him leverage to pick his own crew – Tilly, who he knew to be the Mirror Discovery‘s captain. Saru, who he knew to be Mirror Burnham’s slave. Detmer, who he knew to be Burnham’s first or second officer, and so on.
  6. Mirror Lorca uses the Discovery to both chart the Mycelial Network, and win enough victories to keep him in command until he can collect enough data to chart a way home. (“Apparently, the 133 jumps we made filled in the gaps.”)
lorcanarrowpicnarroweyes
I’d be lying if I said this article was anything more than an excuse to post lots and lots of pictures of Jason Isaacs.

The matter of the attempted assassination on the Terran Emperor Georgiou is up for discussion. Either it was a ploy by the ambitious Mirror Lorca to seize power for himself, and the destruction of the Buran led to the reality-swapping accident, or it was a ploy by the Prime Lorca who was trying to oust an evil tyrant and shine a bit of Utopia on Shadesville.

Either way, it seems more and more compelling that Lorca is in fact Mirror Lorca, and that he’s been up to no good all along. Which seems strange, given that we’ve already got one Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing plot with Ash Tyler the Human. This is another, related story thread, which just seems weird and out of place.

The alternative is that this will be some kind of redemption arc for Lorca, who will see the evil around him, have a light cast on his own decisions and subsequently sacrifice himself for the crew of the Prime Discovery, thereby undoing all of the terrible things he had already done and making him a good guy all along.

Because that’s how it works.


Shit, I promised you answers.

Erm.

Shit.

Okay.

Lorca is from a Mirror Universe, but he’s actually from the Mirror Universe where Watermelon-flavoured Calippos exist (everybody knows that watermelon-flavoured things are the best flavour of things). Now, he’s on a mission to return to some other universe where he can get a whole freezer full of Watermelon Calippos and spend the rest of his days in fat-free bliss.