‘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.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is Shockingly Predictable with ‘The Wolf Inside’

This is a summary, rather than a full article, as there’s so much that I want to cover right now that if I were to fully explore my thoughts on ‘Discovery’ so far, I would be writing until I died from ice-cream-induced heart attack (so about three weeks).


  • Well, it turns out the real Klingon was inside of Ash all along.
  • Who.
  • Would.
  • Have.
  • Guessed.
  • Certainly not me.
  • Okay, maybe I guessed a little. I think my suspicions started when, at the end of Episode Four we saw L’Rell telling Voq that he was “about to go through some changes”, and in Episode Five we see L’Rell with some rando human sex slave on her prison ship. And then we didn’t see Voq for the entire rest of the series.
  • Still though, WHAT A TWIST.
  • For a “faceless” leader renowned for her anonymity, Emperor Georgiou really likes to micromanage.
  • But it is nice to see Michelle Yeoh back
  • Even if it’s not surprising.
  • “We still live and die by Federation law,” says Saru, in full knowledge of the fact that Lorca has been tortured for seventy-two hours straight whilst Burnham and Ash make bumpies with their pelvises and sleep in silk sheets.
  • And, they’re going to take Ash to a tribunal. Except he’s either A) Been brainwashed, so get him to a medical facility, or B) he’s literally a Klingon spy in disguise. Those are the only options, there is no “He suddenly decided to turn traitor on his shipmates, learn fluent Klingon and dedicate himself to a foreign religion in the space of a day” option.
  • I will concede, I was really, really glad to finally see Tilly being plot-relevant after a painfully long period of her barely counting as comic relief.
  • Sarek’s goatee was a cheap means of winning over the fans. It also totally worked, I loved it.
beardsarek
Your loins are no match for sexiness of this magnitude.
  • Burnham poses as the captain of the Shenzhou so she can get the files on the Defiant. Except that the files are encrypted. Even though she’s the highest-ranked officer on the ship. So if nobody is to read the files, why are they even on the ship? Or if the captain is meant to have access to them, why doesn’t she? If she can’t remember (never knew) any of the access codes, how would she even be able to do anything on the ship at all?
  • Burnham and Tyler intentionally beam down to the hostile planet five hundred metres away from the rebel stronghold. Into open terrain. And then act surprised when they get ambushed.
  • Probably the most boring “I-was-an-evil-agent-all-along” reveal scene I’ve ever witnessed. Just two people in a room, talking. So much of ‘Discovery’ features two (occasionally three) people just stood around talking about something that the audience hasn’t even seen. There are so many more interesting ways Tyler could have revealed himself to Burnham, instead he just monologues awkwardly at her for five minutes then tries to strangle her. Thrilling.
  • Apparently ‘The Expanse’ isn’t enough, they now also need to steal execution methods from ‘Battlestar Galactica’. (Okay, now I’m just whinging.)
  • No, wait, the whole Tyler arc is just Boomer’s from BSG. Jesus Christ.
  • HOLY CRAP, AND THE WHOLE POINT WAS THEM HAVING A PLAN WHEN THEY REALLY DIDN’T ALL ALONG. I mean, seriously, what exactly was Voq supposed to do? All he did was shag Burnham and be an incredibly suspicious liability. What the hell was the point of him turning into Tyler at all? Besides to have a “big surprising twist reveal”?
  • As outraged as I am, I am still happy to meme the shit out of it for internet points:
  • TYLON
  • The Andorians get yet another overhaul in aesthetic. As do the Tellarites. At this point, it’s only humans and pointy-eared humans who have not been hit with the update stick. But we can’t be more than one or two reboots away from seeing bumpy-headed Vulcans.
  • Seriously, three days. He was getting tortured for THREE. DAYS. Here’s what Burnham got up to during those three days:
    • Was bathed by an actual body slave.
    • Spectated on some good old fashioned capital punishment.
    • Shagged her boyfriend.
    • Slept.
    • Gave moody monologues.
    • Downloaded some data onto a USB stick.
  • Mirror Mind-Stamets appears. Because the one thing we need right now, between the Klingon spy, his imprisoned Klingon mate, the probable Mirror Lorca, Burnham meeting all her dead friends, and also some other bullshit, is yet another weird and metaphysical plot thread.
  • How come we still haven’t seen the tardigrade? Oh, right, he’s going to come back and Tardigrade Machina them back home, isn’t he?
  • Detmer and Burnham finally, finally, have an actual conversation. They talk about Burnham’s (presumably ex-) boyfriend. This is the eleventh episode in which these two bridge officers have both appeared in the same room.
  • There are still four more episodes. I’m not sure how well I will hold up.
  • Probably not well.

A Lament for Tilly: The Biggest Waste of Material in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

There are possibly as many as two thousand articles I could write about all the issues with ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, and as I slowly work my way up to that number, a new issue has arisen with the latest episode.

We discover that in the Mirror Universe, Cadet Tilly’s counterpart is captain of the Discovery, in a revelation that is painfully predictable based on previous lines of dialogue (predictable, but not in the sense of a story that follows a logical path but rather of a dangerously unimaginative narrative).

My worry is that the writers have mistaken this event in the story for character development for Tilly, when in actuality it is really just making fun of a social awkward young woman.

I always liked Tilly, because she felt like what Reg Barclay should have been – a more ordinary human being on a ship full of near-superhuman futuristic heroes. Sadly Reg Barclay ended up as a bit of a creepy neckbeard who seemed like a caricature of Trek’s own fandom. Tilly, on the other hand, felt to me like someone just entering adulthood and still figuring themselves out in a reasonably sympathetic manner.

There were specifically two elements of Tilly’s character that I really liked:

  • She is determined to be a captain one day.
  • She is theoretically the best engineer on the ship.
  • Nope, sorry, fucked that one up: she’s the best theoretical engineer on the ship.

Because of Tilly’s scientific ability, she was in fact fast-tracked through the Academy, to serve on the most advanced science and research vessel in Starfleet (an organisation made up almost exclusively of scientists and engineers); in short, on a vessel full of extremely clever people, she is the cleverest.

firstboardingparty
Pictured: a hapless loon and the most capable scientist in the fleet (the scientist is on the left).

And so, what tasks are befitting the best theoretical physicist on the ship, and probably in the entirety of Starfleet?

  • Boarding a ransacked vessel to retrieve a few hard drives.
  • Moving canisters of sparkly goo from one hole to another hole.
  • Dropping Trek’s first ever strategic F-bomb.
  • Sending Thoughts and Prayers to a dying space teddy-bear.
  • Providing moral support for her roommate (not even kidding, that’s literally what they say in the show).
  • Moving more canisters around.
  • Running.
  • Scanning a large space whale with a tricorder.
  • Counting down from 133, whilst moving canisters from one hole to another hole.
moralsupport
Well shit, the one mission for which Deanna Troi might literally have been qualified, but she won’t be born for another seventy years.

Now, I’m not specifically saying that any of these physical tasks are beneath a theoretical physicist. What I am saying is that they’re probably beneath the best theoretical physicist on the ship, particularly when that ship is literally propelled by an engine whose mechanisms exceed humanity’s understanding of the universe.

What I honestly hoped for after Tilly told us her credentials was that cool scene where they encounter an entirely new scientific problem, and so turn to the genius cadet to see if her younger, more open mind can reach a solution that they’d never consider. Y’know, that combination of expertise with a fresh perspective.

But that never happens. We get a hint of it when Tilly, Stamets and Burnham try to figure out an alternative to using the tardigrade in Episode Five, but Tilly’s role in that conversation is to just repeat information that everybody already knows and then say “fuck”.

For example, in Episode Ten, when they all arrive in the mirror universe, in an environment where every particle of matter behaves slightly differently and things that were previously thought to be impossible are now seen to be possible, you might think that would be an incredible opportunity for a young scientist to weigh in intellectually and offer some insight, particularly given that she’s just spent years of her life living in what is essentially a space university for super-nerds (Starfleet Academy being the Federation’s primary academic centre).

Instead we get a picture of her in boob-armour with straightened hair, playing for laughs the idea that her mirror counterpart might be someone who wields any degree of power or ambition. We then get a reasonably painful sequence of “Force The Nerdy Girl To Be Confident”, followed later by “Now The Nerdy Girl Has Sexy Hair She Is Both Confident And Sexy”.

sexyeviltilly
Guys, don’t worry, she has straight hair, it’s okay to be attracted to her now.

Now, way back in Episode Three, when Tilly announces her command ambitions, I honestly thought it was great, like, genuinely. And I was glad to see her and Burnham training for Tilly’s career in Episode Six, running around the ship looking like massive dorks in their DISCO t-shirts.

But we never saw anything else. We never saw Burnham trying to teach Tilly how to understand alien cultures (fittingly for a xenoanthropologist) or deal with difficult political and diplomatic situations, or even train in tactics and strategy, or any of the other things that a Starfleet Captain might be expected to understand. In fact, besides two scenes involving running, we never see any more of Tilly’s training.

Indeed, Tilly’s last major appearance in the first half of the season is in the 70s-themed DISCO party in Episode Seven. She staggers about drunkenly, gets hit on, tries to set her roommate up with a Kling 100% Human Being, and then scans a whale. In the final two episodes of the demi-season, she gets a total of about three scenes – one, talking to Stamets about his increasing reliance on hallucinogenic mushrooms, and a couple more scenes where she’s once again lugging canisters of galactic semen around a room.

But it’s not like Tilly is a minor character – Mary Wise is one-sixth of the main cast (plus Sonequa Martin-Green, Anthony Rapp, Shazad Latif, Doug Jones and Jason Isaacs) and one half of the main female cast (the other being Martin-Green). She should be up there getting arcs of her own, particularly given that this is a serialised narrative – it’s not a huge stretch to get a enough scenes over eight episodes to give a main character at least a little depth.

partytilly
You may think I have used too many pictures of Tilly in this article. You are definitely wrong.

Episode Ten shows us that there’s a little promise in Tilly’s future, that she may aspire to become more than just Burnham and Stamets’ dweeby sidekick. But I really, really hope she does that through positive character qualities, and not because she only just now discovered the existence of hair straighteners.

(As a side note, the “featured image” for this article, appearing at the top of this page, is notable for showing Tilly without the mole on her forehead. It’s a shot from within the show, but has visibly been airbrushed to be used for promotional purposes. It was taken from the CBS website, which as you can see here, features another screen capture, once again with that mole removed.

A curious reminder of this show’s “positive attitude” towards women. Just remember girls, there’s a place in the stars for you too – so long as your skin remains featureless and womanly.)


(As a further side note, I called the reveal of evil Tilly “painfully predictable,” but as one commenter correctly pointed out, I made no such prediction on this website. I did, however, make it on a time-stamped Facebook post on my personal profile about twelve hours before seeing the episode, which I have screen-shotted below:)

predictions

A Mirror Lorca, a Human Voq: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Twists, Spoilers and Fan Theories

Just a quick one tonight, ahead of the next episode of ‘Star Trek: What Could Have Been’. I want to cover some of the possible plot threads we face for the show, based on the past six episodes. I’ve done something like this previously, but that was a broader view of the direction the show itself might take. Suffice to say, I did not predict the show becoming the specific problem child it has turned into.

But enough of the past, let’s look to the future.


Ash the Human, Voq the Klingon

So, it’s more-or-less confirmed at this point that Ash Tyler, played by the British actor Clem Fandango, is in fact Voq in disguise. From the fact that Voq’s listed actor literally doesn’t exist, to the fact that Voq’s competent lampshade L’Rell, three weeks after joining Voq in exile, is suddenly now the captain of the battlecruiser on which Ash Tyler is kept. Or the fact that everyone keeps saying that Ash the Human fought like a Klingon. Or the fact that-

Look, whatever, let’s just talk about the trouble the creators went to so they could disguise this TOTALLY UNTELEGRAPHED MASSIVE PLOT TWIST OH WOWIE.

Because as soon as we see L’Rell without Voq, there’s a good chance that means Voq’s up to something, given L’Rell told him literally in the very last episode that her matriarchal House of Spies And Deceivers (Oh? Really? The women get to be in charge of lying and treachery? Nice one, that’s a progressive change of pace) would totally help him out or whatever.

So why bother with the out-of-universe subterfuge for such an obvious revelation? Especially if we’re going to have it teased in the dialogue throughout? If you’re not going to particularly try to hide the twist, what’s the point in even having a twist?

What’s worse is that Voq attempting to integrate into a human ship, disguised as a human, would actually be an amazing long-running character arc. You could ramp up the tension with every scene, you could have awkward little moments, you could do all sorts of things to explore the human condition in an intellectually engaging manner.

And there’s the rub. “Intellectually engaging.” My guess is, the show’s writers decided that having a big, dramatic reveal would be more commercially successful than introducing a complex scenario that would actually tax the brains of the viewers. Because then everyone would run to twitter with the hashtag #didntseethatcoming and #wowwhatagreattwist and #ifklingonsarentrealthenhowarepeoplereal. And y’know what? They’re probably right. A big GOTCHA twist is much more likely to “trend” or “go viral” or whatever than anything remotely interesting.

Of course, I could be wrong, and it could be that once he was captured, it was actually Lorca who was replaced by / brainwashed to be a spy for the Klingons. Maybe it will turn out that all this messing around with Voq is a huge double-bluff, and that actually the REAL SPY WAS TILLY ALL ALONG or something stupid. And this could be okay, but it’s sort-of just the same thing as above – it’s a slightly more complex twist that nevertheless derives its value from being a A TOTALLY UNPREDICTABLE AND SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT.

Of course, if Ash Tyler the Human really is Voq the Klingon, then it raises the question of how he managed, in the space of three weeks, to not only alter his voice but also gain enough proficiency with the human language of English to be able to speak it with a North American accent, including idioms, inflections, etc. etc. I mean, I can buy there being some advanced technology to radically alter his physical attributes in a small space of time, maybe even some kind of rapid memory implantation, but an entire new way of speaking? An entire new way of thinking? In three weeks?

And how does L’Rell feel about getting half of her face disruptored off? Was her merely getting wounded part of the plan? Did they know that Lorca would suffer a sudden accuracy failure after vaporising two other Klingons with no difficulty just moments earlier? I mean, she personally interrupted Ash and Lorca’s escape attempt, which wasn’t even necessary: she could have merely been elsewhere on the ship during the escape. Intervening herself makes it 100% necessary for her to be violently incapacitated (and, as a reminder, SADISTICALLY FUCKING MUTILATED) in order for Voq’s plan to work.

Maybe it’ll be explained with the usual amount of detail and care that the series devotes to all of its other topics, i.e. none at all. We’ll see.


Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Worst Captain Of Them All

(JUST KIDDING, OBVIOUSLY IT IS LORCA)

Lorca’s now pretty much the most evil Starfleet character we’ve ever seen. Even Sloan, of Section 31, could at least argue he was acting to preserve the Federation, regardless of how ruthless and unacceptable his methods were.

Lorca, on the other hand, has now been revealed to be motivated entirely by self-interest, attempting to sexually manipulate the otherwise-fantastic Admiral Cornwell into ignoring his obvious and plentiful personality disorders and later abandoning her to become at best a hostage of the Klingons and at worst, just another torture victim, which, bear in mind, just one week earlier was a fate he himself had endured. So, that’s pretty much unforgivable. Hell, the sex thing was unforgivable in its own right. Hell, everything else Lorca has done has been almost entirely unsympathetic and abominable.

narrowlorca

Given all the forced mirror imagery, the presence of Stavros’ mirror ghost (which, by the way, is absolutely not how mirrors work in any capacity), Lorca’s status as the lone survivor of a disaster, his awkwardness with former lover Cornwell, and the fact that at this point, it’s about the only explanation for Lorca’s behaviour that even comes close to being satisfying, it seems almost guaranteed that Lorca is a Mirror Universe version of himself. He even has an Evil Laboratory, full of Evil Weapons and Skulls in Display Cases, which is about as Mirror Universe as you can get.

Which, again, whatever, okay, fine, so he’s from the Mirror Universe. But there’s a problem.

The Mirror Universe makes no sense.

I mean, I know that most of the stuff in Star Trek makes little sense, but the Mirror Universe really makes no sense, even just from an in-Universe perspective.

Now don’t get me wrong, because I love the Mirror Universe episodes. They’re silly fun, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. They’re a brilliant chance for the regular cast to have a lot of fun twisting their usual roles around, and we, the audience, get to have fun with them. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the isolated MU episodes we get are great little diversions. They’re high-camp and brilliant.

But they still make no sense. As stand-alone episodes (or as their own separate little continuity in ‘Deep Space Nine’) they can present us with a story of their own, and move on before we have to think about any of it too much.

But when they’re folded into a series-long narrative that seems to be one of the main stories / themes of an entire show, Mirror Universe arcs are just too problematic. Here’s why:

The Mirror Universe is established in ‘Enterprise’ to have stemmed from a key change in how Zefram Cochrane handled First Contact with the Vulcans, which makes sense – the radical cultural differences would require a historical change to come about.

But that was multiple generations before most of our characters were even born. So with the “Prime” Starfleet focusing on peaceful exploration, and the other focused on aggressive expansion, for many decades, there’s hardly any chance that the parents of our characters would even meet. And if they did, and if they also eventually hooked up, it’s almost impossible that they would end up matching the same egg with the same sperm to produce the same person that we see in the show.

And even if that happened, with such different cultures, those two babies, genetically identical, would surely not share the same names? With such a drastic cultural difference, wouldn’t names be different too? And hell, wouldn’t the uniforms be different? Like, radically different? Because they’re made for different purposes, right? And the ships, surely they’d differ more than in their paint jobs – I mean, one’s built for long-term exploration, the other for outright war. They’d be completely different.

And even if all of that was the same, as it’s presented in the show, there’s still no way that the same babies would grow up to be the same people holding the same positions on the same ship. How would Mirror Spock happen to be Mirror Kirk’s first officer? How could Mirror Sulu, who’s the head of Mirror Security, still be sat at the mirror helm of the mirror ship?

And all of that is fine for one-off episodes. Like, it doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s just one episode, and it’s all for fun anyway. The main message of the original, ‘Mirror Mirror’, was to show, in Spock’s words, that:

“It was far easier for you, as civilised men, to behave like barbarians, than it was for them, as barbarians, to behave like civilised men.”

– Spock, on being asked how he could spot the Mirror Universe interlopers so quickly.

That’s a nice, simple point to make, and the episode works perfectly to demonstrate it.

But let’s look at that possibility in ‘Discovery’, shall we?

If it’s true that Lorca is indeed from the Mirror Universe, then all of the problems listed above become narrative issues not just for a single episode of silly fun, but for the whole series. It means that Star Trek really does present a universe separate from our own, because it means that things like genetics, cultural development, even language, all of those things fail to function in the same way that they do in reality.

And, again, that’s been the case before. From Next Gen’s ‘Genesis’, to Voyager’s interminable ‘Threshold’, and everything in between, Star Trek’s science has been, at best, ropey. But that was all with stuff that was actually fairly complex and niche and, again, was all contained within individual episodes.

And, to put my storyteller hat on again for a moment, getting Lorca revealed as a Mirror Universe version of himself is all well and good, but again, wouldn’t the more interesting story have been to have that revealed from the beginning? Like with Voq, show his struggles with integrating into this new universe in which he finds himself. That’s exactly what ‘Mirror Mirror’ did, as did DS9’s various MU episodes. It’s the cross between the “fish out of water” story and the “false identity” story, which can provide a load of narrative possibilities.

It would also have been interesting to see Lorca as just the “broken man”, as Cornwell described him, someone psychologically wounded by his ordeals in war, now struggling to cope with the situation in which he finds himself. I mean, it would be problematic, as it would suggest that people with mental health issues should be viewed as villains, but it would at least be a chance to revisit a topic that Trek has already dealt with (rather beautifully) before.

Sadly, though, neither of those offer up a potentially viral SUPER TWIST REVEAL OH MY GOD, and so we find ourselves here.


Will I be right? Will I be wrong? Who knows with this fucking flaming train wreck of a series. I’m sure there’s a good probability that I will end up with egg on my face by tomorrow evening (after the episode airs, and presumably proves me wrong with some amazing in-depth story development; I won’t just be eating egg for no reason, I’m a fucking vegan).