Who Is The RED ANGEL? All Star Trek Discovery Theories RATED

Things are certainly cooking up on Star Trek Discovery! The show’s explosive second season has seen mystery after mystery! What are the red bursts? Who are the Ba’ul?  How did Leland get Burnham’s parents killed? What’s going on with Airiam???

Whilst some of the show’s puzzles have already been solved, there’s one BIG question that’s yet to be answered – just who is the Red Angel? And what are they up to?

Fans have come up with plenty of their own theories, so we’ve decided to go through the top ten and rate them by likelihood!

Who is the Red Angel? Maybe the answer is right in front of us…


Theory 1 – Sylvia Tilly

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Sylvia Tilly has been a fan favourite since we first met her all the way back in Season 1. Could she be the Red Angel?

With the revelation that the Angel is wearing a mech-suit from from the FUTURE, it seems unlikely – after all, how would Tilly even get to the future in order to get her own mech-suit?

BUT, we already know that Tilly has a special relationship with the time-defying mycelioid organisms called the jahSepp, whose realm exists outside of the known universe – maybe Tilly will use this connection to bend time and try to stop a terrible calamity by communicating with the only people she can trust – her Discovery colleagues.

PROBABILITY: 40%


Theory 2 – An Iconian

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The Iconians were discovered to be an advanced race long extinct in an early adventure of Jean Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D, in the Season 2 episode ‘Contagion’. Using advanced technology, they were able to travel vast distances in the blink of an eye. What’s more, their appearance in the video game ‘Star Trek Online’ is strikingly similar to that of the Angel as we’ve seen it so far.

HOWEVER, it turns out that the Red Angel is actually a time traveller from the future, not the past, as when Saru saw it up close, he noted that it was using technology that is much more advanced than Starfleet’s, meaning there was no other possibility than it being from the future – which means case closed on the Iconian theory!

PROBABILITY: 15%


Theory 3 – Emperor Georgiou

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Emperor Georgiou is shrouded in mystique, secrecy and suspicious motives. What does she really want? What’s her big plan? She has a complex relationship with Burnham, knowing more about the young officer and mirror of her protege than Burnham knows about herself!

With Section 31’s advanced technology that is much more advanced than the Starfleet’s, could Georgiou have found a way to leap across time, and be using such an ability in conjunction with an advanced mech suit to try and prevent a future disaster – and maybe earn her redemption in the process?

We’ve already seen Georgiou disguising herself with futuristic-looking technology on the Klingon homeworld – could that same level of technology service her time-hopping mission to redeem herself and save the Galaxy? We think this could be a strong possibility!

PROBABILITY – 80%


Theory 4 – Michael Burnham

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Michael Burnham has been at the centre of the whole Red Angel affair – from being the first member of the Discovery crew to witness the Angel itself, to her family ties to Spock, someone that the Red Angel has been visiting since an early age – even using him to guide his father Sarek to rescue an errant Burnham when she ran away from home, before she could be killed! This was after all of the advanced Vulcan sensor technology and tracking systems mysteriously failed under suspicious circumstances, preventing Sarek from finding the human child who was within a few hours’ walking distance of the family home – perhaps a sign of another mysterious force acting to harm Burnham?

If Burnham were the Red Angel, she would certainly have all the requisite knowledge of the events that transpire to show up at exactly the right time – some which is knowledge that only Burnham would have.

BUT, during the Red Angel’s mind meld with Spock, the Angel seemed to convey all of its visual information in a straightforward, unambiguous fashion, with no sign of any of Burnham’s characteristic long-winded monologues full of semantically-null musings and vague, nondescript allusions to the human condition. This seems like a pretty argumentk against the Burnham-Angel theory to us!

PROBABILITY: 5%


Theory 5 – T’Pol

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This one’s a bit out there, but long-running time travel plots are common to just two Star Trek shows: ‘Enterprise’ and, now, ‘Discovery’. One character familiar to all Star Trek fans is T’Pol, Enterprise‘s science officer and frequent time travel sceptic. She frequently butted heads with the rest of the (human) crew about the possibility of time travel, with her oft-repeated mantra: “The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that Time Travel is Impossible.”

Could it be that a long-lived T’Pol gained new-found faith in the theory of time travel? And that, upon its discovery, used it to travel through the ages, averting disasters and preventing catastrophes? Certainly she possesses the intellect and determination to take on such a monumental task – could it be the pointed ears of a Vulcan, not a human, that hide beneath the Red Angel’s futuristic helmet? We think it’s worth at least even odds.

PROBABILITY: 50%


Theory 6 – Will Riker

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If you thought that last theory was out there, just wait until you hear this one!

During Spock’s mind meld with the Red Angel, a keen-eyed redditor recognised one of the doomed planets in Spock’s vision as that of Risa – the luxurious, tropical resort planet which first appeared in ‘The Next Generation’, and which was a favourite shore leave destination for one William T. Riker.

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Top: Risa, as it appeared in Will Riker’s time period. Bottom: Risa’s new look, with new visuals established for ‘Discovery’.

That redditor, /u/bovis_stercus, further suggested that IF Risa was destroyed at some future point, could it be that a distraught Will Riker, moments away from arriving at the planet for a fun-filled weekend of sunbathing and no-strings-attached jamaharon, set himself upon a libido-driven rageful quest through time to save Risa and hence save his shore leave plans?

The only real votes against this one come from, yet again, the mind meld, where Spock didn’t see any visions of Deanna Troi taking a bath, prolonged close-ups of reflected images in Captain Picard’s head, or lists of reliable topically-applied antibiotic creams suitable for sensitive areas, so it seems unlikely that Riker’s bearded face lies beneath that helmet.

It’s a long-shot, but we don’t think it should be ruled out altogether!

PROBABILITY: 6%


Theory 7 – Spock

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Spock is more heavily entwined in the Red Angel’s machinations than any other character, having seen the Angel since very early in his life, and having clearly been chosen by it to assist in achieving its objectives. No reason has yet been alluded to for the Angel’s specific interest in Spock, but could it be possible that that it’s simply because the Angel is Spock himself?

This theory isn’t water-tight, as it seems like Spock would be well aware of the effect that the Red Angel would have on his mind, and it would seem… illogical to intentionally put himself through that madness, to the point that he required specialist psychic healing by the Talosians. Surely he’d find a more succinct way to communicate with himself? And would he not recognise his own consciousness during the mind meld?

We’re not ruling this one out, but we’re not ranking it highly either.

PROBABILITY: 10%


Theory 8 – Lorca

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The last time we saw Lorca, he was disintegrating under the force of the huge spore turbine at the heart of the Mirror Universe’s I.S.S. Charon. Could the title of the fourth episode of the series, ‘An Obol For Charon’, be a subtle hint at the identity of the Red Angel? Could it be that Lorca wasn’t disintegrated at all, but rather cast through the mycelial network, ending up in some distant future reality where planets are destroyed wholesale?

The other alternative is that the Angel is Lorca’s “Prime Universe” counterpart – the good, honourable man who was once a love of Admiral Cornwell, and who we never actually met during the run of the show. Maybe his journey into the Mirror Universe led him to some advanced technology, or some spatial phenomenon which granted him the ability to travel through time?

It’s not guaranteed, but it’s not impossible either!

PROBABILITY: 22.7%


Theory 9 – Airiam

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Airiam, Discovery’s spore drive officer, and a seemingly artificial, semi-robotic being of ambiguous, if not downright mysterious origins, has been acting weirdly. Ever since her interaction with the malicious code of the robotic cephalopod which attacked Pike’s and Tyler’s shuttle inside the Time Rift, Airiam has been behaving suspiciously and maliciously, doing sneaky things and seemingly under the influence of three sinister dots – some kind of advanced artificial intelligence.

Is it possible that Airiam will be sucked into this mess full-fold, and will end up taking on the identity of the Red Angel, her mechanical body changing form to adopt the advanced appearance of the Angel itself? Perhaps using knowledge of time rifts inherited from the malicious future robo-squid code to safely travel through time, causing the red bursts and guiding Discovery around the cosmos?

Might this also explain the change in casting for the character, from Sara Mitich to Hannah Cheesman in the second season? Maybe the Red Angel spells the end of Airiam as we know her, and the producers chose to change roles for Mitich to avoid writing her out of the show altogether?

This seems like a good bet to us!

PROBABILITY: 85%


Theory 10 – Titus

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Titus is a little-known character from the extended lore – a veteran Captain of the starship Fury of Descent, grizzled warrior and saviour of the planet Graia. He’s only ever appeared in one video game spin-off, voiced by the inimitable Mark Strong, which makes him a long shot for the Red Angel.

BUT, given that his story takes place nearly 40,000 years after the events of ‘Discovery’, and that he has been exposed to weird and twisted warp energy, AND that he’s already got his own mech suit, he’s a stronger candidate than you might think!

He’s even already dressed in ‘Discovery’-era colours – blue uniform with metallic gold command-division trim!

EVERYTHING ties together, from the time-altering affects of warp technology in the future, to his demonstrable dedication to self-sacrifice and his unerring determination to save humanity from enemies both without and within. He has both the means and the will to dedicate himself to such a selfless task of travelling through twisted time to save mankind from hostile alien threats. At multiple points, we even see him using jump-packs, allowing him to hover in the air, just as it seems the Red Angel is capable of doing – although it’s doubtful that time travel is an action which is supported by the Codex Astartes.

Titus is our “editor’s choice” of Red Angel identities!

PROBABILITY: 90%


Theory 11 – Elon Musk

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You’re gonna think we’re crazy, but hear us out on this one.

Elon Musk is already established as a part of Star Trek canon, identified by Lorca in Season 1 as a technological pioneer in the company of the Wright Brothers and Zefram Cochrane, and in Season 2 we find out that Ensign Tilly’s highschool is even named after him.

musk2

Elon Musk is curious figure in our present day – capricious and controversial, but undoubtedly intelligent, driven, and completely open to crazy ideas – who else would launch an electric sports car into the asteroid belt?

Within the context of Star Trek, it seems entirely possible that Musk went on a Zefram Cochrane-inspired journey. Perhaps during an early flight of Musk’s into the solar system, a radiation wave hits and he gets shot through a wormhole. Now he’s lost in some distant part of the universe on a ship, a living ship, full of strange alien life forms. “Help me!” he calls, in transmissions back to Earth, “is there anybody out there who can hear me?” Maybe he’s being hunted by an insane military commander, so now he’s doing everything he can – he’s just looking for a way home.

Then he finds some kind of a time portal and a mech suit and tries to stop planets from being blown up or something.

It’s the longest of long shots, a real Hail Musk, but we think it might be worth a flutter! If so, could we be in store for a cameo by the world-famous entrepreneur and rocketeer?

PROBABILITY: 42%


Well, those are our guesses! Got theories of your own? Think we’re completely off the mark? Let us know in the comments! Or stop by Facebook or Twitter to leave us your opinions!

The truth is out there!

The ULTIMATE Crossover: The Hogwarts Houses Of Your Favourite Star Trek Characters!

The results are in! The Sorting Hat has spoken! Starfleet’s best have been Sorted!

In the world of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, students at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry get sorted into one of four houses – brave Gryffindor, cunning Ravenclaw, caring Hufflepuff or ambitious Slytherin.

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If you’re a Harry Potter super-fan, you probably already know which house you’d be in – but what about some of your favourite fictional characters?

For all of you Star Trek-lovers out there, we decided to try and figure out just which Hogwarts House some of the most iconic Trek characters would be sorted into. Will they Gryffindor-ly go where no Wizard has gone before?

Let’s find out!


Sylvia Tilly

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Tilly has been a big hit with Star Trek fans since her introduction in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, and has established herself as a firm fan favourite! But how would she get on in Hogwarts?

Well, we think Tilly is a classic Hufflepuff! She’s warm, kind, and she loves to look out for her friends. She’s always optimistic and thoughtful, and she always works hard and treats everyone she meets fairly.

The Sorting Hate Says: Hufflepuff!


Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

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Bones has been a grumbling, grouchy, lovable icon of Star Trek since the very beginning, and almost everyone is familiar with his forthright demeanour and his oft-recalled catchphrase “I’m a doctor, not a…”

McCoy’s medical credentials make him a firm fit for Ravenclaw. But his devotion to healing, his unswerving loyalty to Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise, and his fondness for just sitting down with a good bottle of something strong and shooting the breeze with and old friend make him the perfect candidate for one house in particular.

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Benjamin Sisko

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Ben Sisko is the third captain (or should we say commander?) to get his own series, and he’s one of the more popular captains owing to his complexity and the strong values he represents.

On the one hand, Sisko’s incredibly brave, like a Gryffindor, but he also has an intellectual side, and a degree of cunning. But ultimately, his most defining traits were his love of his family and his friends, his passion for cooking, and a tireless work ethic coupled with generosity and a firm belief in playing fair and being honest. Which leads to only one real choice…

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Kathryn Janeway

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Captain Janeway was Trek’s first female captain to get her own series, and she made quite the impression. Her cool head, focused intellect and ingenious solutions to complicated problems made her stand out as one of Starfleet’s finest.

Janeway was fearless under fire, and never afraid to confront an injustice. That said, we often see her enjoying her homely comforts – a good pot of coffee, a nice hot bath, an intriguing period holonovel. She always made sure to take care of all of her crew, even going so far as to personally take time out to help three lower decks officers who were struggling to fit in. It’s these kinds of traits that really left a mark, and that defined her most as a character.

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Jean Luc Picard

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With his fine, clipped accent, assertive leadership style and unwavering determination, there is no equal to the likes of Jean Luc Picard. Captain of the Enterprise through all of The Next Generation (and now getting his own show!) Picard is one of the most recognisable and widely-loved characters from all of Star Trek.

Picard really could go to any House- he’s bold and courageous like any good Gryffindor, but also ambitious, and calculating when necessary, as would be expected of a Slytherin. He’s academic, studious and focused. But at heart, he’s a noble gentleman with refined tastes. From classical music to his favourite drink – tea, Earl Grey, hot! From his dedication to archaeology to his tireless diligence, from his speeches on honesty and fairness to his absolute and flawless loyalty to his crew, there can only really be one House where Picard would truly find his potential.

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Spock

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If there is one character that is synonymous with Star Trek, it’s got to be Mr. Spock. Every aspect of his appearance, from his ears to his hair to his eyebrows, is woven into the legacy of Star Trek. His philosophies and his Logic are part of Star Trek’s soul, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

A being of logic, learning, ingenuity and rationality, it’s pretty clear straight away where Spock belongs in Hogwarts. Whether he’s playing his Vulcan lute to entertain his shipmates, decorating his quarters with beautiful artwork, or just sitting around a campfire and singing old songs with old friends, you probably don’t need us to tell you to which House Spock belongs…

The Sorting Hat Says: Hufflepuff!


Quark

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Arguably one of Trek’s most successful break-out characters, Quark is a bit of an oddball. A Ferengi to the core, Quark is defined best by his bar aboard Deep Space Nine, and by his family – Nog, Rom and Ishka (or “Moogie”) who frequently drive him up the wall – but whom he nevertheless remains loyal to.

Quark’s a bit devious at times, and ambitious to a fault. But he works hard, and is dedicated to the comfort and enjoyment of his customers.

But with all that said, at his core, Quark is bold, and ready to stand up for what he truly believe is right. Time and again he overcomes his fears, sticking his neck out to save the Ferengi economy, fighting for his Klingon bride, even taking on the brutal Jem’Hadar when he needs to. For all of these reasons, we think there’s only one place for Quark.

The Sorting Hat Says: Gryffindor!


That’s all we’ve got time for today! We hope you enjoyed our take on Star Trek Hogwarts Houses!

Didn’t see your favourite character here? Think a different House would suit one of the characters above? Let us know in the comments section! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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.

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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-

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Wait, shouldn’t that be Eight Red Bursts? Wasn’t the one in last episode a new one?

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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”:

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urgency

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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:

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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

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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:

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informed

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  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:

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Oh, wait, she set a new course record, too:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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

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

removethepaintash

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Later, according to Kol-Sha:

begged

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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:

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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

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Spock, Chewbacca and The Prequel Paradox

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ brought us Han Solo’s origins as a young scoundrel. As I covered in my earlier review, it was kind of alright, if you overlook the odd bits about race and feminism.

But one thing that stood out was the scene where two Storm Troopers talk about Chewbacca eating people. Sure, technically it’s not cannibalism, but we don’t have a word for one sentient being eating another sentient being from a different species, so to satisfy all you bloody pedants out there, and for the sake of brevity, I’m going to call it “Shmannibalism”.

There’s also a scene where Chewie literally dismembers a person. He physically, actually pulls their arms from their body.

Chewbacca is a violent sociopath.

So, you watch ‘Solo’, and then you go and watch ‘A New Hope’ and you’re like… Oh. Han Solo kept the shmannibal as his co-pilot. His co-pilot eats people. And that comment he makes to C-3PO, about Chewie pulling people’s arms out of their sockets when he loses… that wasn’t a joke. Han was talking literally.

Wait, Han Solo’s ship’s computer is a former civil rights activist, who was literally stripped of her bodily autonomy and forced into servitude as the Millennium Falcon‘s satnav?

solo-a-star-wars-story-trailer-1
“This is my friend Chewie. It’s cool, he hasn’t eaten anybody in, like, three days.”

And suddenly, that lighthearted space adventure with laser swords and magic and starfighters duelling over an enormous space station – it all has a bit of a different tone. Because one of our heroes – our heroes – eats people, and violently dismembers them. He’s as violent and gruesome as Hannibal Lecter.

And also the most famous ship in the franchise is run on slave labour.

And this is the problem with prequels. Prequels change the way we see existing characters, such as:

A lot of the time, a known (and often popular) character from a franchise will appear in that franchise’s prequel, and a lot of the time it kinda works, either because the character is kept consistent with their original appearance, or because the prequel is divorced enough from the original that it doesn’t quite feel like “canon”. For example:

  • Obi Wan Kenobi feels like a consistent-enough character from ‘The Phantom Menace’ all the way through to ‘Return of the Jedi’.
  • Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’ is completely compatible with, even complimentary to, Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
  • ‘Prometheus’, as much as I like to whinge, doesn’t really affect your experience of ‘Alien’, because the films are so radically different in tone and structure.
  • The 2009 remake of ‘Star Trek’ was drastic enough of a reboot, stylistically and otherwise, that it very effectively walls itself off from the rest of the franchise in its own little continuity.

For me, the Ur-Example of recent times is that of Sarek in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ (because of course it is, it wouldn’t be a Crude Review if I didn’t whinge about DISCO).

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Sheer poise and sophistication.

Sarek, a famously logical, ethical Vulcan renowned for having spent his life as a diplomat and advocate of peace, is revealed, in the finale of DISCO’s first season, to have been an active participant in a plot to destroy a planet with billions of people on it, before being publicly revealed as a conspirator.

Which makes it weeeeeeiiiird when we then see him in ‘The Original Series’, the movies and ‘The Next Generation’ being revered as a diplomat, even sat next to the president during fraught negotiations with the Klingons, the same race he tried to commit genocide against. It puts a bizarre spin on everything, with this weird, horrible genocide plot now hanging over every scene that Sarek is in.

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Ooh, awkward.

(By the way, destroying a planet in a surprise attack to “bring peace to the Galaxy” was exactly the plot of the original Star Wars, and, SPOILER ALERT, it wasn’t the good guys.

…It was Space-Fascists.)

Now, you may be thinking “But what about sequels? Don’t they have the same issues?” And to an extent, they may, when a familiar character is diminished or warped to fit the narrative of a commercially-driven sequel (*cough* Gimili *cough*). But the difference with sequels is that they, by definition, follow after what has come before.

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Awkwaaaaard.

When we see Luke choke Gamorrean Guards in Jabba’s Palace, that doesn’t overwrite the innocent farmboy we first saw on Tatooine – it just shows a different path for the character. If they ever made an origin story for Luke Skywalker, and we found out that a couple of days before ‘A New Hope’ he ethnically cleansed a village of Jawas in the Dune Sea, then we’d have a situation where all of his boyish enthusiasm takes on a different tone.

Similarly, Darth Vader’s redemption in ‘Return of the Jedi’ doesn’t change the nature of his terrifying authoritarianism in ‘Hope’ and ‘Empire’. However, finding out that Vader’s initial fall to the Dark Side was because he was pretty lamely duped into it by the Emperor does diminish a lot of his power and agency in the Original Trilogy, and the drama between him and Obi Wan.


It doesn’t, though. None of these prequels actually ruined anyone’s childhood. Any rational adult can divorce their mental association between a crappy cash-in prequel and an old classic. When I watch the Original Star Wars Trilogy now, I broadly don’t even think about the Prequel Trilogy. When I watch ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, the trash of the Hobbit trilogy doesn’t even enter my mind.

But, that brings us around to the self-defeating nature of these prequels. What do I mean by that?

Well, most media intended for mass consumption these days is motivated almost entirely by commercial concerns. Sure, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ genuinely feels like a passion project for just about everybody involved, but that’s a rare exception, and for every furious road there are five tired Melissa McCarthy vehicles rehashing a bunch of ideas that have already gone before. (I love Melissa McCarthy, by the way, I just wish we could see her doing something a little different for a change. Don’t even get me started on Will bloody Ferrell.)

Besides the bottom line, though, there’s always going to be a glimmer of artistry in almost any production. There will always be, you would hope, some desire by the cast and crew to entertain and intrigue their audience – to tell a story. At its very worst, you get the likes of ‘Transformers’ and ‘Into Darkness’, where commercialism completely dominates any creative imperative, but there would hopefully be a balance in most productions. The Marvel Universe films are all strong examples of commercially-driven movies that retain some artistic essence, if for no other reason than the fact they’re genuinely quite entertaining.

Let’s take another look at the Star Wars Prequels, this time focusing in on ‘The Phantom Menace’. As great a misstep as the plot contrivances may have been, Lucas was clearly intent on spinning some kind of politically intriguing tale set in the Star Wars universe. He failed. Badly. But there’s that little spark of the storyteller still shining through. You can at least see what Lucas was going for, no matter how wide he fell from the mark. He gets points for at least kind-of giving a shit, even if only for ‘The Phantom Menace’.

palpatine

Part of that artistic intent, with a prequel or a sequel, is to make this instalment a part of the larger series, or franchise or whatever. Put simply, most of the time the creators of these sorts of films want to add their creation to the existing canon, to contribute to a greater whole. The Prequel Trilogy was genuinely intended to be a canonical part of the Star Wars saga. ‘Enterprise’ really wanted to show us life before Starfleet. The Hobbit trilogy was designed to fit snugly into the Lord of the Rings movie-canon.

So then you create your new addition to the canon, where Darth Vader is a stupid whiny teenager or where Chewbacca actually eats people and then… it gets discounted. Because to maintain the image of Chewie as the lovable walking carpet, you have to keep the events of ‘Solo’ out of your head when you watch ‘A New Hope’. So now, ‘Solo’, which was meant to inform on the origins of the iconic Han Solo and Chewbacca duo… doesn’t. Because nobody* wants to think about it. Nobody* wants to see Darth Vader as a miserable Hayden Christensen, so they just… won’t.

And so, you hit the Prequel Paradox. You’ve pushed your own artistic creation out of the canon to which it was meant to contribute. It makes itself irrelevant in the minds of the fans*.

* By “nobody” and “fans” I am, of course, assuming that all audiences are identical to myself: angry fat men on the internet. In truth the majority of the audience likely don’t give a shit, and rightly so.

But how relevant do you even want it to be? How loyal do you need your new creation to be to the existing source material? Which leads into the ULTIMATE problem with prequels.


‘Rogue One’ was unique. For all of its flaws, at the very least it subverted our expectations. As we progress through the final act, we gradually come to realise that everybody is going to die. And it’s a great subversion. It’s the depressing, brutal ending that nobody really expected from a Star Wars movie.

rogueoneending

‘Solo’ gives us the opposite. We see Han and Chewie and Lando and the Falcon in all of these dangerous situations that we already know they will survive. The filmmakers do their best to use the supporting cast creatively, with double-crosses and casualties throughout. And tension doesn’t rely on not knowing what’s going to happen – you can still feel tense when re-watching a scene you’ve seen thirty times before. But from a story perspective, we already know that Han ends up with Chewie, and they both end up with the Falcon, and Lando lives through it all, and so we know that every scene in the movie will contrive to allow them to live.

The existing canon acts as a restraint on the narrative.

Now, let’s address the real reason I wanted to write this article.

Ethan Peck cast as Spock in Star Trek: Discovery

So, as I’ve previously covered, ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ has a new Spock in town. We knew it was coming. From the first time we saw Sarek in the show, we knew Spock would be dragged into this mess.

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Mr Spock, if The Original Series had been written by Stephenie Meyer.

And I want to make clear, right out of the gate, that I don’t give a shit about Klingon creature designs or the revamp of the Enterprise or the uniforms or any of that crap. Klingons have changed their appearance and culture so many times that there is no consistent version of the Klingon Empire anymore. Hell, the Klingons in ‘Deep Space Nine’ aren’t even the same Klingons we see in ‘The Next Generation’. The “Refit” Enterprise made no logical sense except as a way to make a nicer model for the big screen. And we’ve seen so many bloody uniform variations that I really don’t give a shit anymore (and besides, shouldn’t Pike’s uniform feature a polar neck? Jus’ sayin’).

But I do give a crap about Spock. Specifically, I give a crap about what will be at stake in the adventure to save him. Because ‘Discovery’ is part of the canon, right? And we know, canonically, that he’s going to be back with Captain Pike before long, and not long after that he’s going to team up with Kirk and McCoy, and then he’s going to try and re-unify Romulus and Vulcan, and THEN he’s going to fly a jellyfish-ship into a black hole and then travel back to an alternate reality where his younger self will beat up Benedict Cumberbatch with a lump of metal.

So we already know that Spock will probably be fine. But that’s okay, because we knew that all the way through the Original Series, too.

But we also know that Pike’s going to be fine, and that they will end up back on the Enterprise, which will also be fine, so the story’s going to have to contrive that particular conclusion, too.

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Well, I guess he’ll be sort-of fine.

We also know that we’re probably not going to get too many huge shake-ups to the wider world of Star Trek, because we know everything will still be there in a few years’ time once we get to ‘The Original Series’.

So it already seems as though this huge universal theory of bullshit that Burnham’s really, really cringey voice-over alludes to in the awful trailer is probably not going to amount to much, long-term.

And despite all of that, they could probably still make a decent-ish story with enough tension about Captain Pike commandeering the Discovery to save Spock and unravel the mystery of the Red Bursts.

And that is the main issue I have. Because isn’t this show meant to be about the crew of Discovery?


Lets talk about Burnham.

burnham

Burnham has two main problems as a character:

  1. She has no motivations throughout the first season. She refuses Lorca’s offer of redemption, only to be forced into it, and then just wanders around, bored. There’s even a scene where she tells Tilly directly just how unengaged she is. And that never changes. Burnham never makes any decision to engage with events and drive her life forwards – things just happen, and she responds to them.
  2. She is introduced as Spock’s foster-sister.

So, the first one is just a general complaint that I wanted to get off my chest, but the second is what I want to talk about.

And no, it doesn’t matter that Spock never mentioned her. There was literally an entire film about Spock suddenly having a brother that he’d never spoken about before and that he has never mentioned since. Hell, Kirk had a brother that he mentions in a single episode, who again never features outside of that episode. Data had Lore, and then B4. Burnham can still be canonically Spock’s sister and it really doesn’t change much.

But, what does matter is that it becomes part of Burnham’s identity. Burnham is now Spock’s sister. She’s Sarek’s daughter. Everything that happens is now connected to those two existing characters inextricably, and it also means Burnham’s pretty much stuck in their respective shadows. She’s not her own character – she’s just a relative of these other (male) characters that the fans will recognise.

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And it’s also pointless. Burnham is an interesting character in her own right. An orphaned human raised by Vulcans – cool. A traitor to Starfleet who “starts a war” (but doesn’t really) – also cool. She doesn’t need to be connected to Sarek and Spock, and arguably she shouldn’t be, because it ties her fate into that of those other two characters whose futures are already set in stone by previous installments.

Particularly when the plot of the second season (or at least part of it) is going to be Burnham searching for Spock. Specifically, Burnham’s investment in the plot, based on the trailer, seems to be to find her foster brother, and it was Spock who took a leave of absence to investigate the mysterious phenomena across the Galaxy. If this turns out to be true, then notice that Burnham won’t be motivated by her own curiousity or desire for discovery – the actual drive and ambition is all Spock’s.

Not to mention that there was already a Star Trek story about searching for Spock, called ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.’ Hell, TNG had it’s own Spock-hunt, called ‘Reunification’ (parts 1 & 2). In fact, this isn’t even ‘Discovery’s first search for Spock – they did one in the first season, called ‘Lethe’, where Spock was played by Sarek, his father.

And let’s take a look at ‘Lethe’ for a second, because it’s exactly what I’m talking about – Burnham tries to track down the dying Sarek, and she learns about his inner conflicts through the medium of dream-karate (the most Vulcan metaphor I can possibly think of, I mean, of course the rational, highly cultured and scientific Vulcans would characterise everything in the form of physical combat). But what you’ll notice is that all of the revelation and self-discovery is Sarek’s, not Burnham’s. Sure, her relationship with her foster father develops, but it develops through Sarek’s character growth, rather than Burnham’s.

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And the main reason this happens is because Sarek is the already-established character that the fans will recognise. If we imagine that James Frain was playing, I dunno, Sarevok (in this continuity Faerûn is in the Alpha Quadrant), some hitherto unknown Vulcan who fostered Burnham, then there might be less perceived need to make the story about him, and instead it might be Burnham who learns new things about herself as she struggles to save him.

This change would also have absolutely allowed the writers to have Sarevok participate in any kind of awful, genocidal atrocity, and therefore have him face more severe consequences for it, without violating the canon. Hell, they would have all the freedom they needed to flesh him out beyond the constraints set by Sarek in previous Treks.


All of this stems from the decision to make ‘Discovery’ a prequel, rather than a sequel. I should refer to this tweet, by on of the show’s writers, Ted Sullivan:

Writing for a franchise with as long and twisted a continuity as Star Trek is understandably daunting. Disney binned all of the Star Wars Expanded Universe stuff when they bought that franchise specifically for this reason (and also because a lot of it is garbage and they probably didn’t want to pay out royalties every time they mentioned Mara Jade). Continuing a series without breaking continuity is really fucking difficult, and most of the old Trek writers didn’t even bother to do it themselves a lot of the time.

But that is multiplied tenfold when you do a prequel. With a sequel, you’re creating new canon, and you can move away from established universe norms through the actions of your characters. Want to ditch the Prime Directive? Have a scene where two crew members discuss it being abandoned for political reasons. Want to make the Klingons a race of peaceful scientists? Explain the cultural shift, using a montage, or flashbacks, or even just basic exposition.

You can’t do that with a prequel, because every change has to be carefully explained and later on corrected to remain within canon. How is it that a war with the Klingons took the Federation to the brink of collapse, but that war is never mentioned in all of the dealings with the Klingons just ten years later? How is it that the Federation handed the means to destroy the Klingon homeworld to a renegade and yet the Klingons don’t constantly bring that up every time Kirk starts preaching about peace and co-operation?

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One of these two is the representative of an empire which uses weapons of mass destruction to coerce submission from its enemies. SPOILER ALERT IT’S NOT THE KLINGON.

And these things can be explained, there is no doubt about that, but you’re then forced to dedicate screen time to explaining them, rather than telling the story you actually want to tell. Sullivan accurately describes Trek canon as a set of “handcuffs,” but by writing a prequel, he’s really put himself in a straitjacket.

And all of this is at the expense of the show itself. This isn’t just me complaining about DISCO again*. As mentioned, I want the show to succeed – but I want it to succeed on its own merits, by telling original stories with interesting characters that bring something new to Trek, rather than just revisiting the same icons and cultural references like ‘Funkopops: The Series’.

* I mean, it’s mostly just me complaining about DISCO again.


Prequels can be fantastic. They can be a great way to learn more about a character or event in an established universe. ‘Rogue One’ succeeded because it took something we knew nothing about, the “daring raid” to seize the Death Star plans, and made a fun, clunky character piece out of it, with big spaceship battles and pointless cameos by R2-D2 and C-3PO. ‘Rogue One’ worked because of how little we knew about the subject at hand – a passing reference in the opening crawl of the first ever Star Wars film. And consequently, it could be its own entity, and tell the story it wanted to tell.

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‘Solo’ failed because of how much we knew about the subject at hand – specifically, two of the most famous sci-fi characters in modern times. And because we knew so much about where Han and Chewie were going, there was very little room to explore where they had come from. The film struggled to tell its own story, and where it deviated from what the fans knew, it ended up making itself obsolete (unless you’re a diehard Chewie-is-a-cannibal theorist).

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ failed for… well, for lots of reasons, but I think the main one was that it handcuffed itself to pre-ordained fates not just of its characters, but of its various nations and species and factions and technologies. They get a cool new mode of transportation, that we know won’t exist in the future. They go to war – a war whose consequences we know will be forgotten within a decade. Like with ‘Solo’, this isn’t just about narrative tension, it’s about having room to develop a story beyond rigid confines established by different writers half a century ago.

It’s about being able to tell the story that you want to tell, rather than the story that you are forced to tell.

If I were a writer stuck with the commercial decision to create a prequel to a much-loved, long-running franchised, I’d just get on with it and try to do my best, and I can only assume that’s exactly what all the writers of all the terrible prequels that have ever been made have done. Ultimately, when you have a job to do, you just do it.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Gets a Trailer for Season 2, And There’s Yet Another White Male Captain And No Surprises

Why am I even still writing about this stupid fucking show?

Nevermind. Let’s just get this over with.

THRILLING.

There’s a part of me that really, really hopes they made a point of putting that “Right, ladies?” line in the trailer because of this article I wrote last year. Like, I really, really doubt it. But I know that at least some of the writers saw it. So I can hope.


“We have always looked to the stars – to discover who we are. And hidden there was a message, made of space and time. Visible only to those open enough to receive it.”

Well gosh golly gee, that’s all very deep and provocative. And it’s accompanied by the image of what looks like some kind of sexy space spider lady in high heals. Is she delivering the message? Is she some kind of space courier? Cosmic FedEx?

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When you watch the trailer, this figure walks like it’s in high heels. Because of course it does.

“I’m here to take command of the Discovery under Regulation 19, Section C.”

But at the end of Season 1 of ‘Discovery’, wasn’t the Enterprise broadcasting a “Priority One Distress Call”? Then the Enterprise appears and she doesn’t look distressed. And this trailer doesn’t make it look like Pike was leaving a distressed ship, he only brings two or three people with him. Can you really put out a distress call and then as soon as someone drops by to pick you up, just take command of their ship?

Pike invokes regulation 19, section C. And then Saru says “Your directive is only instituted when an imminent threat is detected.” So, wait, so Pike knew he was taking command of the Discovery? Then why was the Enterprise broadcasting a distress call? It’s almost as though the writers needed a cliffhanger and some Enterprise fan service at the end of the first season, so just wrote a scene with no idea of what was going on and then just picked up where they left off for the second season. But I’m sure the writers are smarter than that.


redbursts

“Federation sensors picked up seven red bursts, spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.”

Hey, remember how in the 2009 J. J. Abrams reboot movie, they had “red matter”, and everyone thought it was the dumbest thing ever? I bring that up now for no reason.

Also, in space, I know they have “red shift” and that stars are classified by colour, but don’t scientists usually talk about stuff by its defining feature? Like, gamma-ray bursts, or neutron stars? When I’m ordering an ice slushy at the cinema I’ll ask for “the red one”, but if I was talking about a potentially life-threatening explosion in space I like to think a bunch of scientists in the future would be a bit more specific than just describing it by its colour.

“Sir, there’s an anomaly off the starboard bow!”
“Well, what is it, Data?”
“It’s red, sir! It’s red!”

Also, he mentions that these bursts are “spread out across more than thirty thousand light-years.” Which is between one third and one sixth the diameter of the Milky Way. Except that the CGI seems to show them across the whole Milky Way. Unless that’s not the Milky Way, but if it’s some kind of nebula or star system, it’d be way too big – an area of space with a diameter of thirty thousand light-years could contain as many as 30 billion stars. Ah, whatever.


“These mysterious signals are beyond anything we understand (except for colour theory). Is it a greeting? A declaration of malice? Let’s find out.”

Oh, okay, so that’s the mystery – what’s behind these weird signals? Except I’m guessing it’s whatever message Burnham was talking about in the opening of the trailer. So I guess that’s that mystery solved.


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This isn’t from the show, this was just a candid photo of Emily Coutts as she realised she actually had some lines to deliver this season.

“Trust us. Discovery has you. Right, ladies?”

There’s more dialogue between Burnham, Detmer and Owosekun in this two-minute trailer than there was in the first twelve episodes of Season One put together.


“This is the power of math, people!”

I am completely fine with everyone getting a bit more scientific and rational on this show. But god damn it if that line and its delivery and the little high five doesn’t make me want to murder literally every single person on this wretched fucking planet.

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“We’re quirky!”

Also, Commander Airiam doesn’t appear in the trailer at all except for this shot. Until I spotted her here, I honestly thought she’d just been dropped from the series and that nobody would mention her ever again. Also note how she’s the third-highest ranking officer on the ship (maybe fourth now that Burnham’s reinstated) but she’s still being bossed around by a lieutenant and a cadet.

Sara Mitich, if you’re reading this, you did a great job on ‘The Expanse’, nobody thinks any less of you because of ‘Discovery’.


“My foster-brother, Mister Spock.”

“He took leave. It’s as if he’d run into a question he couldn’t answer.”

“Spock is linked to these signals. And he needs help.”

Jesus, where to start.

First off, I never had a “canon” problem with Burnham being written as Spock’s foster-sister. After all, it’s not the first time Spock had a family member ret-conned into his backstory. The main issue with it is that it acts as a weight around Burnham’s narrative that just wasn’t required. You can have a human character with a Vulcan upbringing without making her a relative of the only Vulcan that anyone recognises from the franchise.

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“Relax, everybody. There’s still a man in charge.”

Now they’re bringing Spock in as a major plot point, and you just know it’s going to suck. He’ll be doing something stupid or out of character and unless they get Zachary Quinto in to revive his role, the whole thing will probably be garbage.

Fortunately, abusing an existing character doesn’t retroactively ruin that character. Watching Spock scream and roar as he beats Khan with a metal box in ‘Into Darkness’ doesn’t change how I view the character when I re-watch ‘Wrath of Khan’ for the ninetieth time – it’s possible to retain detachment.

The real problem, and the catastrophic misstep that ‘Discovery’ seems to be making, is of taking familiar, brand-reinforcing characters like Spock and putting them firmly in the centre of a story that ought to be about Discovery and its crew.

Trek has always had crossovers – from minor guest appearances in one-off episodes like TNG’s ‘Relics’ and Voyager’s ‘Life Line’, to full-on cast insertion with Worf joining the Deep Space Nine crew from season 4 onwards. But when it’s a single episode in a season of more than twenty, it’s relatively non-intrusive. And in the case of Worf, it was actually a boon, giving an existing character some much needed growth and adding an extra element to an ensemble cast of strong, compelling characters (and Jake).

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Oh look, the cast of ‘Discovery’, plus three female extras who they let join in the photoshoot.

And for all of ‘Discovery’s woes, its characters were arguably its strongest point. Tilly was a new take on the bumbling rookie. Saru had an interesting background, as poorly explored as it was. Tyler was a great vehicle for Shazad Latif, and even Stamets ended up rounding out nicely to be a thoughtful, tragic personality, quite distinct from the high-energy enthusiasm of the likes of Scotty, La Forge and Torres.

And the show should be about them. They’re the cast. It’s their stories that we want to care about. But now, in this season, we have Christopher Pike as the (white, male) captain – Christopher Pike, the man who was originally deeply uncomfortable with having women on his bridge, and who later became Bruce Greenwood, the fire alarm of contemporary actors – functional, but only remarkable if something’s going wrong. (I mean, he’s great and all, but try describing Christopher Pike based on his performance in the reboot movies. Do it. Tell me what his character is. Tell me what was distinct about his personality. I’ll wait.)

Then, we get to Burnham. Burnham suffered from a bad case of Gimmick Personality. Burnham is essentially an armature, onto which was layered the various hashtaggable statements that the writers thought were necessary to make the show interesting. She’s a human who was raised by Vulcans. She’s an orphan. She’s Spock’s sister. She’s Starfleet’s first traitor. Everything distinctive about Burnham comes from things that happened to her, or things that are incidental to her character. She began the first season with a series of actions that were baffling to the audience, and after that point all she really did was respond to stuff that happened to her.

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Stamets strives for scientific understanding of the fabric of the universe. Tilly is driven by her command ambitions. Saru tries to correct his past failures. But Burnham? Burnham gets coerced into serving on the Discovery, responds to threats as they arrive, and by the end we are told she has redeemed herself. She never sets out to seek redemption. She never pushes to make herself better, or discover new things about herself. When she takes the captain’s chair of the I.S.S. Discovery in the Mirror Universe, she doesn’t have that moment of “Alright, this is it, this is where I prove what I’m capable of.” She just sort of wanders over to it in confusion. The one decision we ever see her make is to save Mirror Georgiou.

Now, it looks like she’s just going to be on a mission to rescue Spock. Or as she calls him, “Mister Spock”, which is neither his name nor his rank. Also she’s older than he is. Which leads to the hilarious scenario that she grew up with a younger foster-brother who she called “Mister Spock.”

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But let’s put this in the perspective of people who might be watching this show with absolutely no prior knowledge of Star Trek (i.e. nobody). Are they suddenly supposed to care deeply about the fate of some rando who’s been mentioned by name twice in the first season? ‘Stranger Things’ made us care about the fate of Will by having us invest in his mother and her frantic, desperate need to find him. But Burnham doesn’t really seem to be very close to Spock at all, and Sarek is an emotionless Vulcan. So basically, the threat to Spock is palpable only to people who are already familiar with the franchise and who, therefore, already know that he’s probably going to be fine.

Just let these dweebs be the centre of their own story, for Christ’s sakes.


We also need to talk about the fact that Captain Pike takes over. This’ll be brief, but my points are thusly:

  • There is no compulsion to have Pike in charge to fit Trek’s history or canon. As far as we knew he only ever captained the Enterprise.
  • You could totally have had a badass woman in charge, like that one who appears in the wreckage in the trailer with the really stupid line about the pulsar thingy.
  • Why did they need to put another white man in charge of the ship?

It’s just really annoying, because it’s not even like Pike is some iconic part of Trek, he was in the first of two pilot episodes that nobody really remembers, and he was also in the reboot movies as a bland mentor character. And they’re not even using the same actor. So what’s the point? Could they not think of anything else in terms of storyline? Or anyone else to take command of the ship? Dullllll.


The rest of the trailer is pretty standard teaser-trailer fair. You get a few dramatic / amusing one-liners, some plug-in pop-rock (depending on which version of the trailer you watch, you’ll either get Lenny Kravitz for the CBS All-Access one or some painfully generic thumpy beats for the Netflix one).

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We also get a BONE-HURTINGLY FUNNY SCENE ABOUT SNOT at the very end, I think to try and convince the audience that this season won’t just be about torture, genocide and shouting, but honestly it comes across as cheap and dull. IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE THE SPACE PERSON HAS A COLD, HAHAHA, HUMANS GET COLDS TOO, HAHAHA, SUCH FUN.

What we’re left with is a lot of explosions and action, a lot of shots of white, male Christopher Pike in the captain’s chair (because what, do you expect a woman to do it? It’s the captain, of course he has to be white, and a man), and an overall feeling that this season will probably be less grim and dark than the first season, but not necessarily much smarter. I mean, the opening shots imply the secret to the universe will be delivered by a sexy space woman in high heals.

The really positive thing to come out of all of this is that there’s no mention of or reference to bloody Section 31. That being said, I wouldn’t put it past this collection of bumbling fuckwads to introduce it in some “SHOCKING CLIFFHANGER” at some point to surprise everyone. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

As an aside, try watching the Netflix version of the trailer and then watching the initial trailer for Justice League. The similarities in tone are disquieting, to say the least. Although that could just be because every trailer is the same these days.

The Daily Philistine – January 5th – Marc Chagall and Jocelyn Pook

Picture of the Day – Marc Chagall’s ‘Adam and Eve Expelled From Paradise’

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I first saw this piece whilst on a backpacking tour of all the most beautiful churches of France. I stopped off for a quick snack, a niçoise salad and a 1956 Domaine de Familongue Rosé, the best that Nice had to offer, when I glanced through the open shutters of a nearby window and spotted-

HA! Just kidding, I’ve never been to France. This is the painting Spock has in his quarters in ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’. It’s a reminder to him that things end. For me, I just like the vibrant colours.

Yup. That’s all I have to say about that.

EDIT: A friend and former colleague (and talented artist himself), Dave, had this to say about Chagall:

Favourite painter.
American Windows is my favourite. As an artist Chagall was always a painter until his 80’s when by chance he accepted a commission and went into stained glass. These works became some of his most influential and challenged the convention of traditional stained glass. This taught me that an artist is never too old to change and that an artist “should” change if that’s what is necessary. That no matter your age you can still challenge conventions. This literally made me believe that I will never be too old to create beautiful things.

You can find some of Dave’s own work here – he’s an actual talented creative person, unlike me, and has done some amazing pieces of art. I hate him.


Music of the Day – Jocelyn Pook’s ‘Blow the Wind / Pie Jesu’

Spotify Link: Jocelyn Pook’s ‘Blow the Wind / Pie Jesu’

My parents had loads of those compilation albums when I was a child. ‘Classical Chillout’, ‘Mystic Moods’, ‘Chillout Moods’, lots of chillouts and moodiness. This peculiar mash-up of an old Northumbrian folk song and Christian refrain is strange, haunting and beautiful – just like my sex life. It takes me back to afternoons spent in a rainy conservatory in Cheshire, surrounded by cats and a big dog and a wood-burning stove. It’s great.

Oh, and would you look at that? The Youtube clip is from a ‘Pure Moods’ compilation album!