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:

oldway

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

removehtepaint

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

removethepaintash

removepaint

Later, according to Kol-Sha:

begged

sensors

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

stayanonymous
worldsgreatest
canthelp

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.

blackbadges

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.

s31ship

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: 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.

The Moral Lesson of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’: We Should Use Super Weapons To Install Despots in Foreign Nations

You’re faced with a choice. Allow your own species to become the victims of genocide, or commit genocide against your enemies to stop them. Then a third option becomes apparent: hand a weapon of mass destruction to a religious militant and install them as a dictator, ending the war that is about to end your civilisation.

What would you do?


The season finale of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, titled ‘Will You Take My Hand’, was touted by many as a “return to Starfleet’s ideals.” A lot of the dialogue focused on principles, on morals and ethics and standing by what’s right, not what’s convenient or easy.

This is an article about lots of boring but important geopolitical stuff, but there’s a side-note that I want to bring up first that I didn’t include in my initial article about the season finale. And I should have, because it’s also important.

In ‘Will You Take My Hand’ Ash Tyler, the victim of L’Rell’s imprisonment, torture, rape, and Mengele-esque medical experimentation, chose, freely, to join his abuser on her adventures, rather than linger with Starfleet.

I don’t really have any more I can add to that. I hope that that fact speaks for itself, and I hope that it brings to light just how offensive this show really is.

But it gets worse.

Much worse.

Let’s talk about L’Rell for a moment.

As mentioned above, L’Rell is a torturer. She even claims that as her profession. I dunno, maybe she uses the word “interrogator” but she definitely tortures people. She also definitely rapes people – she admitted herself that she sexually abused Ash during his captivity, either before or after he was transmuted with Voq’s essence.

Speaking of, she also subjected Ash, against his will, to a grotesque series of experimental medical procedures that literally imbued him, forcefully, with the suppressed consciousness of another sentient being.

Oh, and she eats people.

As of ‘Will You Take My Hand’, L’Rell is unrepentant for all of these crimes. And they are crimes. They’re so ghastly in nature, and she was personally, directly involved in all of them. Not only is she unrepentant, she actually seems proud of the things she has done.

A bit of background: L’Rell is a religiously-motivated militant. We first meet her as part of T’Kuvma’s movement of Kahless-inspired renegades. She is present when T’Kuvma opens (unprovoked) fire on the Federation fleet, and remains loyal to T’Kuvma’s cause throughout – that cause being the unification of the Klingon Empire by any means necessary.

T’Kuvma’s movement is heavily implied to be suggestive of Islamic fundamentalist movements in the Middle East – motivated by religion, with extreme views against “outsider influence”, particularly the U.S. and Western European nations, and using violence and military action to prosecute their agenda.

Indeed, the whole Klingon Empire falls into this allegorical pattern – scattered nations and tribes, called “houses”, connected by shared cultural history but ultimately divided, the Klingon Empire is almost an embodiment of the Western world’s anxious perception of the Middle East – a collection of aggressive, socially regressive cultures united only in their hatred of the West.

This view of the Middle East is a grossly simplified caricature shaped and reinforced by a frantic news media, but in ‘Discovery’ it is borne true of the Klingons. They do wage a war against the Federation, they do so for religious reasons, they commit “terror raids”, they take prisoners and hostages and subject them to torture. Just as the Klingon’s of ‘The Original Series’ were stand-ins for Russia at the height of the Cold War, the Klingons of ‘Discovery’ are stand-ins for Islamic extremists in the second phase of the ‘War on Terror’.


A Simple Plan

In ‘Will You Take My Hand’, the crew of Discovery discover that Starfleet has secretly sanctioned a mission of genocide.

An evil agent is recruited by Starfleet and sent to Qo’Nos, the Klingon homeworld with a population of billions, to destroy it. She is given a drone-mounted bomb powerful enough to set off the planet’s volcanoes, pouring lava across the surface and generating enough fumes, smoke and ash to render the planet uninhabitable, slaughtering countless sentient beings in the process.

The crew, our protagonists, react to this by threatening mutiny and refusing the mission. Instead of genocide, they find a third way.

They reprogram the bomb’s detonator, and give it to L’Rell.

Certainly, that’s preferable to genocide. As a result of this action, L’Rell appeals to the Klingons to end the war. When they mock her, she threatens them with the destruction of Qo’Nos and the presumptive end of their civilisation. They fall into line. The war ends.

Our protagonists go home, to peace. They are awarded medals. They are pardoned of their past crimes. They are celebrated as heroes. And it’s certainly true that in the artificial scenario with which they are presented, in which the only options are genocide or a threat of genocide, they chose the lesser of two evils.

So far, so Starfleet.

Except for the fact that Starfleet sanctioned genocide in the first place. But let’s move past that.


Doomed to Repeat

This is an article from 1999. This was written about Osama Bin Laden nearly two years before the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Here is a key excerpt:

“Three years ago, [Hampton-el] was convicted of planning a series of massive explosions in Manhattan and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Hampton-el was described by prosecutors as a skilled bomb-maker. It was hardly surprising. In Afghanistan he fought with the Hezb-i-Islami group of mujahideen, whose training and weaponry were mainly supplied by the CIA.

He was not alone. American officials estimate that, from 1985 to 1992, 12,500 foreigners were trained in bomb-making, sabotage and urban guerrilla warfare in Afghan camps the CIA helped to set up.”

That CIA involvement was part of ‘Operation Cyclone’, a CIA project under President Carter and later President Reagan to supply aid, weapons, equipment and training to religious militants (mujahideen) who were engaged in fighting the USSR and the communist government of Afghanistan. The USSR’s defeat in Afghanistan led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent end of the cold war.

It also fed directly into the acceleration of Islamic extremist advancement in and around the Middle East. Weapons meant for the mujahideen were instead sold on the Pakistani black market. Guerilla training camps were quite easily repurposed into terrorist training camps – guerillas and terrorists having often employed similar tactics and strategies. Cyclone ended the Cold War and arguably began, or at least prologued, the War on Terror.

The United States has always had a troubled history with regime change. From the Iran-Contra affair, a conspiracy to secretly fund the terrorist group known as the Contras in Nicaragua via weapons sales to Iran, to the failed attempt to overthrow Castro with the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the United States’ attempts to force regime change in foreign nations, either covertly or overtly, has almost invariably landed the U.S. on the wrong side of history.

(Here’s a starting point for a little further reading.)

Not just the U.S., mind. Fans of ‘The Crown’ ought to be familiar with the Suez Crisis, but Britain has a long and shameful history to its foreign policy, often times in concert with the United States, but frequently in its own right. In fact, almost every Western nation has a troubled history in its relations with foreign powers.


A Brighter Future

With all of that history behind us, what do the writers have our so-called heroes choose as their heroic, principled solution to a war in space?

They hand a weapon of mass destruction to a religious extremist, and install her as a dictator over her own people.

I’ll repeat myself from earlier in this article:

… L’Rell is a torturer. She even claims that as her profession. I dunno, maybe she uses the word “interrogator” but she definitely tortures people. She also definitely rapes people – she admitted herself that she sexually abused Ash during his captivity, either before or after he was transmuted with Voq’s essence.

Speaking of, she also subjected Ash, against his will, to a grotesque series of experimental medical procedures that literally imbued him, forcefully, with the suppressed consciousness of another sentient being.

Oh, and she eats people.

And they hand her a planet killer.

Sure, it may kill her own planet. But that’s the lives of billions of people, placed in the hands of someone who could easily have been based on one of the most evil people ever known in human history.

What happens if there’s a revolutionary counterculture on Qo’Nos? What happens if, following a costly war with an embarrassing end, Klingon culture takes a radical shift towards democracy and social progression? Would L’Rell have any incentive to permit such an event? Who would be willing to challenge her, to risk the entire Klingon Empire? And if they could challenge her successfully – doesn’t that mean that the plan has failed?

Back when thunderstorms and earthquakes were the most powerful events on Earth, we submitted ourselves to the Gods, in whose hands we believed our fates were held. Then, the first atom bombs dropped, and we realised that the old Gods were dead.

cornwellsevere

What followed was fifty years of paranoia, deceit and hate-mongering. Yes, in that time we had civil rights, Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and even the beginnings of the Information Age. But we also had McCarthyism, missile crises, proxy wars, the Vietnam War, and nuclear proliferation. That sheer, existential terror gave rise to Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Milošević, Pinochet.

On Qo’Nos, L’Rell now holds the power of life and death over an entire planet. She is the new God Emperor. What sort of world will Qo’Nos become? How will its people react to their new situation, hostages on their own world, held captive by this new monster? This torturing, raping, cannibalising monster, who wields the power of absolute destruction over an entire civilisation.

And she was given that power by our heroes.

Our Heroes, who were honoured and decorated not only by their fellows, but by their creators, the writers and producers who decided that the ultimate message, the ultimate lesson, of this series of Star Trek, would be that genocide is wrong, but only if it’s your finger on the button.

As I previously mentioned: yes, this was absolutely the preferable alternative to direct and immediate genocide by Starfleet’s hand. But the fact that these were the only two options is because the writers of the show deliberately set up the scenario that way. It’s the no-win scenario, sure, but it’s the no-win scenario within an entirely artificial environment.

The principal reason that things have gotten to such an extreme point is because the Discovery returns to the Prime Universe after skipping nine months accidentally. There is no cause-and-effect here; there’s no reason for the ship to have skipped that much time, except that the writers needed to squeeze a genocidal story line into two episodes. They wrote themselves into this corner, and produced this ultimate, horrible solution, this violent and corrupting path down which Our Heroes must walk.

medals

So many references are made this episode to principles, to morals and ethics that make us who we are, that define us. Which means that this solution is what defines Starfleet: imposing autocracy on our enemies, under threat of extinction, so that we can preserve our own way of life.

Those are the morals that ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is trying to teach us. That we need not consider the consequences of our actions beyond their immediate effect. That we need not concern ourselves with the well-being of our enemies so long as we get to go home and pick up our medals.

That, so long as you can make a nice speech at the end, you don’t need to worry too much about the mess you made in getting there.

That the ends justify the means.