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?

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“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 adiplomat 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’.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.


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“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 Expanse: The Fallen World’ Is Just A Show About People In Rooms, Talking

A little while ago, I wrote an article about how ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is just a show about people in rooms, talking. Needless to say, even people who didn’t like the show were not convinced by my arguments. But I stand by them, and the latest episode of ‘The Expanse’ is the reason why.

Spoilers for Season 3 of ‘The Expanse’ from her on out, along with gratuitous comparisons to ‘Discovery’. You Have Been Warned.

Last week’s episode, ‘Dandelion Sky’, was pretty explosive from a narrative perspective. We got a pretty huge, if vague, infodump on the origins of the Protomolecule; Holden made it to the centre of the mysterious station; we got to see Gunny again; we had a lot of backstory for Melba, the tacky rich bitch who needs to get some respect for herself; every ship in the region got frozen in place; and in general the whole storyline advanced significantly.

This episode, ‘The Fallen World’, is nearly the exact opposite. We learn virtually nothing new, most side plots stand still, and very little of the story develops in a significant way.

And it was my favourite episode so far.

Of the entire run.

To explain why, we need to look at probably the story that takes up the bulk of this episode: Drummer and Ashford, the captain and first officer, respectively, of the Belta battleship Behemoth.

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First off, you’ve got great performances by Cara Gee and David Strathairn. Strathairn is almost unrecognisable with his sheriff’s moustache, burn scars and thin, scruffy hair – roughly 22 astronomical units from his appearance in ‘Good Night and Good Luck’. Strathairn is also typically brilliant, and as much as I love Gee’s tough, uncompromising performance as Drummer, the august Strathairn steals most of the scenes in which they appear together.

Immediately following their confrontation at the end of last episode and then the sudden deceleration of all ships in the area, in this episode Drummer and Ashford are pinned at opposite ends of a farming… machine… thing, and are both suffering from painful and potentially lethal injuries. The machine is mag-locked in place, so even though there’s no gravity they can’t move it to free themselves.

Cue some wonderful hateful cooperation between the two as they work together to save themselves. It’s almost entirely just the two of them talking (and occasionally singing), and this is where the first comparison to ‘Discovery’ comes in.

Because Ashford and Drummer aren’t just talking – there’s a mountain of context to what’s going on between them. For the last half of the series, since Ashford’s introduction he and Drummer have been circling and snapping at each other like dogs competing to be the Alpha of the pack. And that tension shapes every exchange between them as they’re stuck here, slowly dying, attempting to escape a painful death. The physical peril is more of a framework from which the real drama between the characters is hung.

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In contrast, most of the scenes in ‘Discovery’ lack that tension, and the drama usually comes from the situation rather than from the characters. And I hate to say it, but that is a Star Trek trend that started way, way back in the days of ‘The Next Generation’ and, later, ‘Voyager’. It’s unfortunate that so much of the plot progression occurred in those shows, around a conference room table, where a group of people who are all friends discuss some made-up problem, and what drama there is is squeezed out of the imaginary peril in which our crew finds themselves.

Here, aboard the Behemoth, not much even happens, but we learn so much about these two characters as nothing happens. They tell us about their pasts, their motivations, hell, they spend five minutes just talking about clothes, and we still discover more about them than we did about Beverly Crusher by the end of ‘All Good Things’. We also get to see how resourceful these two Belta leaders really are, as they try a whole variety of jury-rigged and desperate solutions to their situation, and that leads me onto the next comparison to ‘Discovery’.

Do you remember in the first season of ‘Discovery’, when the crew are faced with a really, really difficult task that they’ve never done before, and they spend a few minutes talking about how dangerous it is beforehand, and then they try it and it works first time with no problems? You should, because it happens on at least six separate occasions.

  • Early on, Lorca has a plan to jump into combat with the Klingon ships bombing the dilithium planet, bait them into attacking Discovery and then jump away, leaving a load of bombs which completely destroy every Klingon ship. They try it once and it works flawlessly without them taking any damage or casualties.
  • Shortly after, Burnham is given the task to save the Tardigrade, so as her first resort she launches it out of the airlock. This works flawlessly and the tardigrade immediately rejuvenates itself before fucking off.
  • Later, the crew needs to get the cloaking calibrations off of the Klingon Ship of the Dead, which they do without getting hit or damaged.
  • Then, they need to fly a perfectly-timed manoeuvre through the middle of the Mirror Universe’s Emperor’s flagship, which they manage flawlessly without getting hit or damaged.
  • Then, they need to instantly terraform a planet into a spore-plant farm, something never done before, and they manage it flawlessly with a five-minute special effect.
  • And finally, they need to end the war with the Klingons by having an low-ranked Klingon torturer threaten Qo’Nos with a super-bomb, and this plan works flawlessly and with no resistance from anyone, resulting in an immediate end to the war.

This is absolutely Not a Trek trope, where the usual scenario involves the first solution failing horribly and resulting in LaForge shouting excitedly with his head tilted up by thirty degrees ; Riker putting his foot up on the side of Data’s console to get maximum camera coverage of his crotch; Picard denying Worf’s request to fire the torpedoes and Troi gasping a few times for good measure.

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The point is, it’s more exciting when something doesn’t work than when it does. In ‘The Expanse’, everything is on the European Extreme difficulty setting. Need to move a space farm tractor thing? Someone’s going to have to die. Forget to lock your toolbox properly? You’re going to end up with a power drill as a permanent part of your anatomy. Want to bone some rich racer chick that you’ve never met? Well I hope you like Venus, my friend, as well as crashing into Venus at relativistic speeds.

And that’s what I love about this show – the writers are not afraid to draw from the enormous pile of deadly situations that can occur at literally any moment in space. In point of fact, every single problem encountered by our heroes in this episode is a result of a very simple, very basic principle of physics – that things in motion like to stay in motion, and making them stop means applying a force. A very large force, if the things are moving very fast.

A few episodes ago I wrote this article, covering how well ‘The Expanse’ nails its storytelling, and in it I predicted that the events in that episode were setting up a dramatic event for a character later in the series. Well, I was nearly right – I just didn’t anticipate it being a setup for large chunks of the Earth, Mars and Belt navies getting their crews pancaked to death all at once.

But it’s true that thanks to the second episode of this season setting up momentum and Newtonian physics as major antagonists early on, we now get to see what happens when alien magic-tech gets involved. The alien station brought every fast-moving object to a halt at the end of last episode, and the results are not pretty. Not only do we see scenes of first-law carnage in the corridors of the U.N.N. Thomas Price, but we learn that the M.C.R.N. Xuesen lost a third of its crew instantly due to the near-instant deceleration, with another third badly injured. Alex is left napping in a cloud of his own lasagne, and Amos is finally revealed to be a mere mortal when Naomi finds him with a gorgeous shiner and a concussion in the Rocinante‘s engine room.

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What’s worse is that now that none of these ships can use their engines to accelerate, the clean-up has just become that much harder. A U.N.N. doctor tells Anna that without gravity, artificial or otherwise, blood can’t drain from wounds and all sorts of things that usually happen when a body heals stop happening, and whilst I’m not a space doctor, I assume that this is a realistic medical concern in zero-g. This kind of attention to detail is charming and grisly, and again emphasises just how horrific space travel can be.

We get a tragic example of just what weightlessness means when Anna attends the wounded Tilly. As Tilly cries in pain and anguish, the tears cling to her eyes instead of falling. It’s a beautiful, very subtle visual effect, and a mark of the real love that goes into even the smallest detail when making this series.

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Unrelated ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ still. Look, all I’m saying is, ‘The Expanse’ pays attention to the tear ducts of a minor character, where other shows don’t even use a spellchecker.

(I also feel the need to bring up the character Tilly, here, and the fact that the same name is used in ‘Discovery’. It seems like the sort of thing that might just be a coincidence, but it’s such an unusual name, and she first appeared in the book ‘Abaddon’s Gate’, which was released in 2013, which leaves me thinking this is just another example of the latest Trek series “paying homage to” and definitely NOT “plagiarising” ‘The Expanse’.)

And speaking of Anna, we again get more scenes of her just wandering around being a generally decent person. And this feeds back into my earlier point, because a lot of what Anna does is be in a room, talking with someone, and yet there’s always more to it than that. She offers her assistance as a nurse to the above-mentioned U.N.N. doctor, who promptly tells her to bog off before explaining the gruesome fate awaiting casualties in zero-g. It’s an expository conversation wrapped in a grim and hopeless medley of suffering.

We then follow Anna on her pursuit of Melba, the manifest avatar of wealthy privelege. Melba murders people just so she can murder other people, and whilst her ultimate target is James Holden, that doesn’t allow me to forgive her for going on a violent crusade of sabotage just to impress her war-criminal father. She’s a goddamn uptight sack of tasteless trash and whilst I’ve greatly enjoyed her story so far, if I met her at a barbecue at a mutual friends’ house I’d secretly wipe every burger bun on my smelly arse just in the hope that she might eat one of them.

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Anyway, Melba “Shithead” Mao (that entire family is a train wreck, by the way) EVAs her way to the Roci just so’s she can ruin more things for everybody, thinking that Holden might actually be there, and she runs into Naomi (the real hero of the show when Gunny isn’t on-screen) and we get the one action scene for this episode, and it’s very quick and it’s very brutal.

Melba attacks Naomi with her ‘Aliens’-esque powerloader spacesuit, and it’s a very one-sided fight between a walking crane and an unarmed Belta. Naomi barely manages to evade Melba’s attacks, using the lack of gravity to attempt an escape, but Melba catches her and begins choking her to death. She gets interrupted by Electric Anna, but this whole scene is another great example of the superior action sequences of ‘The Expanse’.

First off, it’s dynamic. Every action changes the nature of the fight. Melba launches herself at Naomi. Naomi dodges, and uses a mag-lock to pin Melba in place. Melba rips herself free as Naomi deactivates her mag-shoes to leap across the room and up to the exit hatch. Melba grabs her, and drags her back down to the floor, and that’s it, the fight is now over, and Naomi’s nearly killed. Now compare that to this trash:

In the above, Lorca, Burnham and Georgiou all fight in what is a very technically impressive bit of choreography, except that they spend nearly three full minutes beating, punching and stabbing each other and at the end, they’re all still just standing there, seemingly on full hitpoints, and nothing about their situation is radically different from when they started. Lorca even gets a knife thrown in his back at one point – he takes a moment to pull it out, then goes right back to fighting at full effectiveness. There are explosions, swinging swords, knives, phasers, and the scene is ultimately resolved by Lorca getting stabbed in the back whilst standing still.

Then we look back to ‘The Expanse’, and the fact that Holden has a bloodied nose for, like, three episodes after getting in one brief fistfight. Every action in ‘The Expanse’ has consequences, and as such every action in ‘The Expanse’ has weight.

In ‘Discovery’, if you scroll back up to that bullet list I made of the impossible tasks that they achieve flawlessly, you’ll notice something odd – not one of those tasks is relevant in any subsequent episode. The dilithium planet is saved and never seen again; the tardigrade is healed and vanishes for the rest of the season; the crew get the cloaking calibrations, then return at a point where the data is irrelevant anyway; the Emperor’s ship is destroyed, and we never revisit the Mirror Universe; a planet is terraformed, and then never mentioned; a new dictator is installed in the Klingon Empire, and that’s at the end of the season, so we’ll have to wait and see if that one gets any further look-in.

And if you think it’s petty of me to keep bringing up ‘Discovery’ in my reviews of ‘The Expanse’, then I need to explain that first, ‘Discovery’ invites the comparison through all the “homages” it pays to ‘The Expanse’. And secondly, the two shows are like mirrors of one another. They’re both futuristic, serialised sci-fi adventures following small crews in larger universes, both to the background of cosmic war with unknown technologies.

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But every stumble ‘Discovery’ makes highlights every triumph that ‘The Expanse’ achieves. The crew of the Rocinante follow a richly compelling narrative that is propelled not by numerous secret identities and shocking plot twists, but by simple character-driven decisions and interactions, and by the unflinching application of long-term consequences to short-term actions.

My fascination with ‘Discovery’ was driven by how succinctly it captures so many pitfalls and shortcomings of modern storytelling – a microcosm of “narrative by hashtag”. My fascination with ‘The Expanse’ is driven by how expertly it tells a story without resorting to cheap tricks and flashy effects – in fact, it’s very, very difficult to highlight any small part of ‘The Expanse’ because so much of it is layered and built off of what has come before.

My absolutely favourite single moment of this entire season was shortly after Amos spaced the reporter and her creepy camera guy, and he says to Holden quite casually “I’m sorry I put them out the airlock, I should have told you first,” and Holden responds with a very off-hand “That’s alright.” That exchange had me in stitches, just because of all the disagreements Amos and Holden have had in the past, and all the weird shit they’ve been through now means that Amos apologising for spacing two people is handled as though he’s apologising for leaving the kitchen light on all night. And I absolutely cannot explain to anyone how much joy those two lines of dialogue brought me because NOBODY WOULD UNDERSTAND.

There’s a load more I could talk about in episode, and the season so far, such as Gunny remaining the best character, or the continued beautiful visuals, or the fact that this episode is nearly entirely female-led, or just the fact that Alex listens to country music because OF COURSE Alex listens to country music. But I’ve gone on enough. Now I just want to wait patiently for the next episode, which I have no doubt will somehow be even better than this one.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Is Now Being Run By an ‘Into Darkness’ Writer and We Should All Be Afraid

Right off the bat, I need to express some sympathy for the writers of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ who, it turns out, were not only hostage to the whims of their capitalist overlords but were also working in a pretty fucking hostile work environment, according to this Hollywood Reporter piece.

I would also like to personally apologise for this piece of trash that I wrote a while back, for which I now feel quite guilty.

But here’s the thing with ‘Star Trek: Discovery’: it was a deeply flawed finished product that grew from a seed of warmth and greatness. If it had stayed true to its conceptual heart, it could’ve been magnificent, but it was a victim of either its writers’ ambitions or, more likely, the meddling of arrogant executives.

Take Captain Lorca, the Mirror Universe interloper. That is a fantastic and fun storyline that could very easily be a classic episode of Star Trek. It’s a great subversion; normally, we follow our heroes trying to blend into the brutal Mirror Universe, and seeing the twisted mirror of a Prime Universe captain trying to do the same would have been wonderful – for one episode, or a two-parter at best.

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But any writer worth their salt should have known that it lacked the substance for a series-long subplot. If you have to do it that way, at least show the aftermath. Show Admiral Cornwell dealing with the betrayal, or Saru questioning all of his loyalties and the lessons he had learned. Don’t just ditch it and move onto the next GRIPPING PLOT TWIST.

Or have a look at the series as a whole, and the casting of a black woman as the main character, and a Malaysian woman as her mentor. That would have been fantastic, if they had not then literally cannibalised Michelle Yeoh and given Sonequa Martin-Green an unsympathetic character with no personal goals or motivations. And then made conversations between women a rare treat for the audience.

The show even gave us Trek’s first on-screen gay couple – and then kept them celibate for nine episodes before treating a kiss between them as a mid-season emotional climax. Almost as though two men in love kissing each other should be a strategic missile deployed for maximum twitter hashtags rather than a normal, everyday occurrence.

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My point is that I genuinely believe that ‘Discovery’ was germinated with a soul of progressive love. I can only assume that it is that soul that the show’s die-hard fans cling onto, despite the fact that only mere glimmers of it appear in the finished product.

Which brings me around, rather circuitously, to my main point:

Alex Kurtzman, one of the writers of ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’, has just taken over ‘Discovery’ as its show-runner, and I have never been more worried about the franchise.

If ‘Discovery’ was a failure born with a spark of good intentions, ‘Into Darkness’ was a nightmare destined to malice from its very conception. ‘Into Darkness’ possessed no virtuous intent nor hidden beauty, neither from its beginning nor through to its very end.

If you haven’t read my previous treatise on ‘Into Darkness‘, or if you have and would like a reminder, this was the film that:

  • Constructed a two-minute scene to end with Alice Eve undressing, so that a shot of her in lingerie could be included in the trailer.
  • Cured death by having Dr. McCoy inject a tribble with human blood (and then, obviously, never revisited that concept or its repercussions).
  • Had a Sikh character with an Indian name, originally portrayed by a Mexican, played by a British white man (the cultural distaste of which can be understood by typing “British Empire” into Google).
  • Featured Spock, a character famous for remaining in control of his emotions, ragefully beating a man with a lump of metal.
  • Established James Kirk as someone who sexually harassed a member of his own crew into relocating to a distant part of the galaxy.
  • Followed the most mind-numbingly stupid plot that has ever been written, featuring six dozen torpedoes which either are or are not deadly weapons depending on which scene you’re watching.
  • Turns both Uhura and Spock into a bickering teenage couple willing to jeapordise a mission for the sake of having an argument.
  • Refers to the iconic, expository speech “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise,” as an “oath”. Like when a U.S. President gets sworn in with the oath that goes “America: the big country. These are the times of the United States.”
  • Is generally just so painfully stupid that thinking about it again has me burning with a hot anger that I usually only feel when I stub my toe or when I watch scenes featuring Captain Holt from the first half of the second season of ‘Brooklyn 99’. HE WAS A THREE-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTER, DAMN IT, AND THEY TRIED TO FLANDERISE HIM, THE BASTARDS.

(As a side note, I once had someone tell me that ‘Into Darkness’ is a great film, but you need to read the accompanying comicbook to appreciate it. Which was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard, until the same person said in the next sentence that the comic book was amazing because it also featured a crossover storyline with DC’s Green Lantern.)

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No, really.

One thing to bear in mind is that Alex Kurtzman has written for some well-loved projects, including many JJ Abrams collaborations such as the first Trek Reboot film, ‘Fringe’, ‘Alias’, and even ‘Xena’.

He has also written for such classics as ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ (the second Andrew Garfield one), ‘Transformers’, ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’, ‘The Island’ (“You’re a v-v-v-v–virgin?”) and the Star Trek video game.

It’s also important to remember that he’s been involved with ‘Discovery’ since the very beginning with both “Creator” and “Executive Producer” credits, but crucially not involved in the day-to-day creative elements except for the pilot, and now as a director of the first episode of the second season.

Now, however, he’s apparently heading up both the show itself as well as the writing team. And I genuinely, and with the greatest of sympathy, hope he creates a much more positive atmosphere for the people of ‘Discovery’. But it’s still a scary development for a fan, such as myself, who wants to see Trek shift away from ten-minute long fight sequences and back towards a marginally more intellectual pursuit.

Because the Star Trek that Kurtzman seems to insist on creating is a creature with no soul. The 2009 reboot film just about managed to get away with it by keeping its ambitions grounded – it was created to be a lightweight action adventure film, and it broadly succeeded. It didn’t need to be meaningful or deep, it just needed to be inoffensive.

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Then ‘Into Darkness’ comes along, and decides against finding any kind of meaning in the rebooted franchise, but instead goes for the “Shocking Plot Twist Every Minute” trope that would be picked up by ‘Discovery’ (but curiously not by ‘Beyond’, its cinematic successor). John Harrison is secretly Khan; Dr Wallace is secretly Dr Marcus; Admiral Marcus is secretly evil; the torpedoes are secretly people; McCoy is very obviously an evil Nazi scientist.

And it was this kind of storytelling that really torpedoed ‘Discovery’s first season. We could never have an episode without a shocking cliffhanger or a surprising reveal. We could never sit back and enjoy the universe, watch the characters really grow and develop, without shaking everything up every five minutes with a shocking and ultimately predictable “surprise”.

And that was a real shame, because the cast of ‘Discovery’ is fucking on-point. None of the performances are lacking and the characters are all solid foundations for development. And, despite my clear reservations about what we know of Season 2 so far, I was genuinely, and very deep down, hopeful that the show would somehow move on from its crass and ill-made beginnings and find something positive to do with itself.

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But Kurtzman’s track record destroys that hope. He is not a master of nuanced storytelling, and has demonstrated that repeatedly in the projects he has worked on. And that’s alright, that can work for a two-hour movie or the odd episode. But an entire season of high-octane emotional shouting and fistfights is absolutely the last thing ‘Discovery’ needs to become.

A character like Saru, for instance, is never going to grow past being “the guy who is scared all the time until he isn’t” until we get a more sedate, thoughtful story that can show us a more rounded character in less intense situations.

A character like Tilly is never going to be able to grow fully into a capable and responsible officer if she only has experience at dealing with betrayal and explosions.

And Burnham is never going to turn into the compelling protagonist we need her to be if all she can do is get outraged at and then solve every new devastating problem the crew faces before getting thrown into the next exciting action climax.

We didn’t fall in love with Spock because he once fought Kirk with big fancy blades. We fell in love with Spock because he finally cracked into a broad smile when he realised his best friend was still alive before immediately regaining his composure.

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We didn’t fall in love with Data because he was a metal badass who broke Borg necks. We fell in love with Data because we watched his friends debate in a quiet courtroom his autonomy. And also because he tells his cat that he is pretty and good.

We didn’t fall in love with Sisko because he could punch Jem’Hedar. We fell in love with Sisko because he loved baseball nearly as much as he loved his son, and because when we first meet him he resents his posting to a backwater like Bajor, and by the time he leaves us he’s planning the house he’s going to build there.

We didn’t fall in love with Harry Kim. And that’s okay, because as soon as he opened his mouth we could just tune him out and think about The Doctor instead.

And this is it. Right now, I don’t really care about any of the crew of the Discovery. But I think I could, if they were to get a few decent stories under their belt with plenty of time to wander around and simply be. It was great to see Burnham and Tilly chatting shit whilst on a run through the corridors – it was a simple scene that didn’t need to go anywhere or be plot relevant. But it was nearly unique in that regard, because you can’t leave room for scenes like that when you’ve got so many “secret identity” plotlines and brutal killings to squeeze into a limited number of episodes.

It would be great if we could get an episode in Season 2 where, I dunno, where they’ve got to transport some sound-sensitive alien ambassador to a summit or something. And everyone has to go around the ship unable to shout or scream, they just have to have normal conversations with one another and emote at a reasonable volume. And nothing much really happens, but Saru meets the ambassador and they talk about their shared sensitivity, and Stamets tries to teach Tilly how to calibrate the engine but Tilly starts teaching him because she clearly knows more about it than he does, and Burnham and Detmer sit down to finally reminisce over a bottle of whisky about their time on the Shenzhou whilst getting steadily more drunk, toasting fallen shipmates and singing ‘Jerusalem’, and then they get carried away and end up getting shouted at for being too loud.

But with Kurtzman now firmly at the creative helm, I doubt we’d even get a quiet scene in a turbolift. I doubt a character could even pour themselves a hot earl grey without something bursting into flames or a war being declared or the earl grey revealing that it was evil mirror-universe fruit tea ALL ALONG.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 7

The previous installment can be found here.


Aboard the Shenzhou, Saru strides onto the bridge, Detmer in tow. She hurries forwards to the helm station and relieves the stand-in. As she sits down, the navigation officer leans over to her. “Are you sure you should be flying the ship? Weren’t you unconscious ten minutes ago?”

Detmer shrugs. “Well, I feel like I spent the night sleeping inside a warp coil, but the doc gave me a stimulant and cleared me. I’ll be fine.”

Saru steps up behind the captain’s chair and grips the back of it with both hands. “Status report, please.”

The ops officer responds. “Still no word from the captain, sir. We’ve detected some strange readings from the object, even through the scattering field. Tachyon emissions, building up over time.”

“Tachyon?” Saru queries, baffled. His threat-ganglia sprout from the sides of his head. “What could possibly-”

He’s interrupted as the bridge fills with blinding white light, and a painful shriek fills the air.


On the Klingon station, Burnham moves slowly into the main hall. It’s dark, lit only by the torches on the walls scattered between huge statues of Klingon warriors. On the main floor of the hall, there are piles of Starfleet torpedoes. Past them, at the far end of the hall beneath a great window into space, is a raised dais, and on it is T’Kuvma, with Georgiou on the floor beside him. Her hands are cuffed and her shoulder is still bandaged, but she is otherwise unharmed.

In front of T’Kuvma is a raised control panel. He cries out something in Klingon, and then he activates it. The hall fills with a dull hum, which gradually increases in pitch and volume. Burnham covers her ears, as does Georgiou, but T’Kuvma merely spreads his arms in triumph.

As the noise reaches its most deafening point, the entire hall disappears in a burst of white light. Burnham looks around, but she can barely make aything out beyond faint outlines. As her eyes adjust, other details slowly render into view, and the shape of the hall becomes apparent again – except now it is pure, brilliant white, with no refuge for the oppressive, murky shadows by which it was previously characterised.

Burnham, in her blue uniform, now appears as a glowing azurite idol in the brilliant light. Georgiou’s shoulder wound shines red and vivid, her uniform darkened by the blood. T’Kuvma, with his onyx Klingon skin and ornate, jet armour remains untouched by the light.

T’Kuvma stands facing the window, staring out at the darkness of space. The stars have vanished, unable to compete with the light from the station. The rocks and asteroids around the station, however, are bathed in the light, each one shining brighter than the full moon as they tumble and roll past the window.

Burnham takes the opportunity to move forwards, towards Georgiou and her captor. She advances up the middle of the hall, directly behind them both, darting from cover to cover.

As she reaches the half-way mark, the deafening shriek abates, followed immediately by a single loud, low, thudding pulse.

On the dais, T’Kuvma turns to Georgiou. “Time for the Galaxy to hear our truth,” he says.


On the bridge of the Shenzhou, the crew struggle to maintain their duties whilst blinded and deafened. Information and updates are shouted from one station to another, whilst Saru stands in the middle of it all, baffled. His ganglia stand proud on the sides of his head.

The noise abates whilst the light remains, and many of the bridge officers sag with relief at this respite. Saru doesn’t move, but stammers out a request. “Status report? Anybody?”

The ops officer volunteers an explanation. “A massive subspace disturbance, sir. That was a bang that the whole quadrant could hear.”

“What kind of a bang, lieutenant?”

“Single-frequency, massive amplitude. It…” The officer processes the data. “Wow.”

“’Wow’, lieutenant?” Saru’s expression is one of confusion and frustration.

“No, it’s, it’s one thousand, four hundred and twenty megahertz, sir. The Wow signal.”

Saru ponders for a second or two, before the comms officer chimes in. “Mister Saru, there’s an incoming transmission. From the station.”

Saru turns his head to her. “They’re hailing us now?”

“No, sir. They’re broadcasting everywhere. Putting it on screen.”

The image of T’Kuvma fades in on the main screen, stark against the brilliant white background. He holds his arms out before announcing himself. “Warriors of the Empire, and lesser nations across the stars, I am T’Kuvma. I am the appointed emmissary of Kah’less, Steward of His Holy Beacon, on which I now stand. Inheritor of ancient tradition, and guardian of the faith of my people.”


Aboard the Buran, Lorca, Tyler and crew watch the same transmission, silent and perplexed.

T’Kuvma continues, “A short time ago, this sacred shrine was assaulted by Starfleet soldiers. They sought to continue their campaign of cultural vandalism, by destroying this beacon and assassinating me.”

His image is replaced by footage from the internal sensors of the station’s hangar, as Burnham’s shuttle flies in and wipes out the squad of waiting Klingons. T’Kuvma speaks over the footage. “These operatives failed in their mission to erase yet more of our traditions, our way of life.”


Aboard a Klingon ship, a commander in vibrant armour decorated with gruesome trophies watches in outrage as the footage switches to Burnham, shooting the wounded Klingon and stepping over the body.

T’Kuvma’s voice continues. “Despite Starfleet’s brutality, my fellow warriors and I were able to counter this traitorous and dishonourable sneak attack, but the Empire must know – Starfleet means to end us. Klingon honour and Federation sensitivities cannot co-exist, and so they seek to pre-emptively gain supremacy.”


Back on the Shenzhou, Saru, Detmer and the others are still watching. T’Kuvma’s image returns to the screen. “I cannot abide such treachery!” he roars. “I am Klingon! We all are Klingon, and we cannot allow such trespasses against us!”

He reaches down and hauls Georgiou to her feet by her neck. “The Federation must pay for its transgressions! Starting with this one, this assassin and spy!” He shakes her. “Tell them! Tell them who you are! Tell them what you came here to do!”

Georgiou, visibly in pain, does her best to retain her composure. The harsh light amplifies the dirt on her face, and the wound on her shoulder. T’Kuvma’s hand chokes her, but she fights to speak audibly. “My name is Captain Phillipa Georgiou. We came here in a spirit of peace. We intend no harm to the Klingon Empire, we seek only-“

“FEDERATION LIES!” T’Kuvma roars, screams. He squeezes Georgiou’s neck tighter, and with his free hand draws a Klingon dagger. “In the name of the Empire!” he shouts, as he plunges the dagger into her chest, straight through her heart.

The crew of the Shenzhou gasp, and cry out. Saru staggers backward, aghast. Detmer shudders, her hands over her gaping mouth, her eyes wide in fright and shock.


In the main hall, behind T’Kuvma, Burnham watches as he releases his grip on Georgiou and lets her body drop limply to the floor.

Burnham doesn’t respond at first. She stays motionless, knelt behind cover. Her breathing grows deeper, and more ragged. She stares at Georgiou’s body. Silence pervades.

Burnham closes her eyes.


Saru is still stood up, but only in the strictest sense. His entire upper body hunches over, his head low and held in his hands. One of the officers weeps quietly. Detmer’s hands are still covering her face.

T’Kuvma starts talking again. “Such is the price of dishonour. My fellow Klingons, you already know the true face of the Federation. You are familiar with the beast that. To the rest of the galaxy I say this: the Federation has too long hidden its fangs behind the false nobility of its own enlightenment. At its heart, it is a crueller, more violent tyranny than even-“

He chokes, and then shudders. The centre of his chest glows, and then disintegrates. Red particles cascade across his body leaving grey dust in their wake. T’Kuvma’s body vaporises, vanishing to reveal behind it the figure of Michael Burnham, a phaser in her hand and her face twisted in anger and grief.


On the station, the blinding white light fades away, and the hall returns to its torch-lit murk. Burnham drops her phaser and sinks to her knees besides the body of Georgiou. She cradles her captain’s head in her lap and begins sobbing, overcome with everything that had come to pass so far.

Burnham gathers Georgiou’s body in her arms and awkwardly gets to her feet.


Aboard the unknown Klingon vessel, the Klingon commander, in her ornate armour covered in trophies, watches as the image of Burnham, phaser in hand, fades away. One of her subordinates approaches her. “Your orders, General L’Rell?”

L’Rell’s eyes narrow. “Set course for the binary star system.”


Let’s talk about the above events as they’re portrayed in the show.

Nothing that the crew does has any impact on what transpires. More specifically, none of Burnham’s actions change any of what happens. All of the drama around her mutiny is nullified, because she’s apprehended before she can actually do anything. The war is started because T’Kuvma gives the order to fire. That’s it.

In my version, T’Kuvma’s gambling. And the truth is, his plan may not have worked. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have worked at all. Until Burnham goes rogue – twice. First, by attacking the Klingon squad with the shuttle, and then sealing the deal by revenge-killing T’Kuvma. Now, there is clear, definitive evidence of Starfleet wrongdoing – even if it was all precipitated by T’Kuvma’s own violent actions, it casts the Federation, with its reputation for temperance, in a very new light.

Is this new version of the story perfect? No, absolutely not. But at least it ties things in together a little more. Now there is some justification for the crew’s hatred of Burnham – she may have avenged a beloved captain, but she has also bound them all into a war with the Klingons.

Also, L’Rell makes an appearance. It never made sense to me to have L’Rell as such a low ranking member of the Klingon Empire. It turns her into a bit of a spare wheel, and makes her arc of becoming leader of the whole Empire nonsensical. If she’d had her own ambitions, I’d buy it, but she spends all of her time in support of either T’Kuvma or Voq, which means that when she is simply handed leadership at the very end, it’s somewhat unsatisfying.

So now, she’s a General. It means she has much more scope to interact with the story around her, and in my mind, sets up much better any leadership arc upon which she may later find herself.

Also, L’Rell refers to “the binary star system,” as if there’s only one. Obviously, there are many binary star systems in the galaxy. But the Klingons certainly wouldn’t use an Earth designation for it, and using a different name means explaining somewhere in a story that’s already overly long just what the Klingons call the star system in question. Referring to it as The binary star system means that everyone, including the audience, understands exactly what she’s referring to, in the fewest possible number of words.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 6

The previous installment can be found here.


On the bridge of the Shenzhou, Saru paces anxiously in front of the captain’s chair. He taps his fingers together in a variety of rhythmic patterns, a Kelpien stress behaviour. He addresses the Ops officer. “Mission elapsed time, lieutenant?”

“Forty-seven minutes, sir.”

Saru keeps pacing. “Any further data on that object? Have you pierced the scattering field?”

“Negative, sir, but- hang on. Mister Saru, I’m picking up two incoming objects, they’ve just left the field’s area of influence.”

Saru’s threat ganglia sprout from the side of his head in alarm. He gently presses them down, and does his best to maintain his composure. “What objects? What are they?” He strides over to his science station.

The Ops officer keeps studying her console. “Sir, they’re life pods, from the shuttle! Two human life signs, it’s…” The Ops officer looks up in shock. “It’s Detmer, sir, and Furlan.”

Saru taps away at his console. His mouth drops open as he reads the display. “Con… confirmed. I, I don’t, does that mean…”

“Sir, those pods have been beaten up pretty badly on their way out of the debris field. Permission to beam them aboard? Sir?” Saru is non-responsive for moment. “Sir? Mister Saru?”

Saru stirs. “Yes. Yes, beam them directly to sickbay. And…” He pauses. “I will meet them there.” He leaves the bridge without another word. The captain’s chair remains empty.


Saru enters sickbay to Detmer sat on a biobed, and Furlan prone on another. The ship’s surgeon attends Furlan, treating a blast wound to his chest.

Saru surveys the situation. “Detmer, what happened? Where is the captain? Where is Captain Georgiou?”

Detmer is rubbing the side of her neck, where Burnham gripped her. “I don’t know, sir. She’s on the station, I think. They both are.”

“Both?”

“Burnham wanted to go back for her. For the captain. She… she shot Furlan, and she, I don’t know, she must have taken the shuttle back, but the Klingons…”

“Klingons?” Saru’s ganglia sprout again. “That’s a Klingon station?”

Detmer nods awkwardly. “They attacked. They attacked the shuttle, we had to fly out of there. We beamed Burnham out, but it was a mistake, it was meant to be the captain.” She shakes her head, as if to clear it. “Saru, she said it was a trap. The captain said they want to start a war, that we can’t let them. She told us not to do anything, to keep the peace, she said. Keep the peace.”

Saru ponders this new information. “Wait, where is Burnham?”


Inside the Klingon station, Burnham moves slowly, silently, along a dark corridor. She has her phaser drawn and held in front of her, ready to fire. Her eyes dart about, watching every nook and cranny.

She can hear guttural voices from down one corridor. She peeks her head around the corner to see a group of Klingon silhouettes in the distance. Their rough, alien speech is incomprehensible, so Burnham pulls Georgiou’s slim-line communicator out.

“… really work?” one Klingon voice asks.

“We are a strong people,” another responds. “T’Kuvma will remind us how much stronger we can be united. And we will help him.”

A  third voice interjects. “The last of the explosives have been loaded, captain. They have been linked to the detonator.”

“Good! Then we are ready. Let us rejoin the fleet. I am tired of waiting, and of carrying things.” This silhouette produced some kind of instrument, and spoke into it. “This is the captain. We are ready. Energise.”

The whine of a transporter fills the corridor, and the Klingons disappear in glowing red flares of light. As they do, Burnham sees another, identical transporter beam, in the courtyard of a Federation settlement. She’s a child, and she watches from behind cover, watches as the Klingons open fire as soon as they materialise, indiscriminately murdering colonists. Outside the courtyard, explosions detonate, and flames fill the sky, as do screams and wails and angry roars of triumph.

As an adult, Burnham hyperventilates, her eyes wide in fright. She’s back in the corridor, now empty. The Klingons are gone, but she can still hear the screams, and her mother’s voice calling out to her.


In the main hall of the station, Georgiou sits on the floor with her hands cuffed in rigid metal clasps. There is no one else in the hall except T’Kuvma, who watches on a console display as Burnham flies the shuttle into the hangar and wipes out the Klingon soldiers waiting there. He zooms the feed in on her as she shoots the wounded warrior and steps over him. T’Kuvma laughs. “Your soldier is fierce, Captain.”

Georgiou is unimpressed. “She is no soldier, she’s a Starfleet officer.”

“We are all soldiers, Captain, in the great cultural war of our age. You should accept that fact, and embrace it.” He gestures at the image of Burnham. “She has. She moves with cold puprose, as though in the shadow of death.”

“The Federation is not at war with the Klingon Empire, cultural or otherwise. We seek only peaceful coexistence and cooperation.”

“THAT IS A WAR!” T’Kuvma roars, furious. “Cooperation,” he spits, “co-existence. These words mean one thing: assimilation. Tell me, Captain: were we to coexist and cooperate, would the Federation stand by whilst the Klingon Empire pursued our destiny of conquest? Would you sit idle whilst we took from weaker cultures what our strength entitles us to take?” he asks, clenching his fist. “No, you would step in, force us to lay down our weapons, and police the galaxy, as you do. The Federation are conquerors, worse than the Klingons, for whilst we conquer with ships and weapons, you, you, conquer with lies and manipulation, one hand outstretched, the other holding a chain of bondage.” He holds his arms out, as though addressing a crowd. “We Klingons are beings of conflict, and we must be allowed to seek conflict, or else we are nothing, just more Federation pawns like the Vulcans, the Andorians and the Tellarites.”

Georgiou remains defiant. “If this is a war of cultures, as you say, then you must be losing. You’re already speaking our language; you use it more than you use your own.”

T’Kuvma rounds on her and grabs her by the throat.  “I use your delicate, frivolous words because I must.” He releases her. “Many of my people honour Kahless as the greatest warrior who ever lived, but they are fools.” He walks up to an old bronze statue of a Klingon warrior and gazes up at it. “Kahless did not unite our people because he was the mightiest warrior, he united our people because he was the greatest communicator. His words carried such power and meaning to our ancestors that he was able to forge a new empire, the grandest empire this Galaxy will ever know.”

“And you think you can follow in his footsteps? Unite your people and lead them to victory?” Georgiou asks, incredulously.

“No,” T’Kuvma answers, turning to face her. “I will not lead my people, Captain, another will have to carry that burden. But I shall unite them. My name will burn for a thousand lifetimes in the hearts of my people – yours will not. Which is unfortunate, Captain, because you, and your soldier,” he says, nodding at the image of Burnham again, “will be making the same sacrifice as me.”

Georgiou shakes her head. “Michael is too smart to make a martyr out of the likes of you.”

“Maybe,” T’Kuvma concedes. He hits a button on a control panel, and dozens of metallic containers are beamed into the hall. He gestures at them. “My ships have been collecting Federation weapons for some time,” he says, “and now they deliver them here, to this holy sanctuary.” He taps one of the torpedoes with a fingernail. “Very simple to modify, for such advanced technology,” he says. “Rigged for proximity detonation.”

He strolls through the piles of torpedoes. “I believe that your soldier will come here to kill me,” he explains, “but even if she does not, it will not matter, because as soon as your ship approaches, we will all be destroyed. And when my people arrive to find the wreckage of their ancestral temple scattered in the shadow of a Federation warship, they will not hesitate to strike back, united in their outrage.”

A Klingon voice sounds over the comm system. T’Kuvma responds with a few guttural words. Georgiou can’t understand any of it, nor can she loosen the cuffs around her wrists, despite her best efforts.

The Klingonese conversation ends. T’Kuvma inhales deeply, exhales slowly. He salutes the statue he was previously regarding, before addressing Georgiou. “The preparations are complete. It is time to light the beacon.”


This segment was far longer than I intended it to be, and way more talky than I wanted it to be, but there’s a lot going on here that needs setting up before we get to the juicy bit.

Most importantly, we need to understand T’Kuvma’s plan. We’ve had a lot of T’Kuvma talking in these last two parts of the story, but this all hangs on his plans to start a war, so we need to clarify it as much as possible. In short, if the audience isn’t bought into what he plans to do, and if it isn’t all as clear as possible, then no matter how climactic and exciting the final stretch is, it’s going to ring empty.

We also need to understand T’Kuvma’s motives. He’s a complex character with complex beliefs, so I did the best I could to break it down: he sees friendship with the Federation as a trap, not an opportunity, and so war is the only option for him.

It’s also important for us to understand a little more of what’s going on in Burnham’s head. She clearly has some past trauma around Klingons, and that’s vital knowledge if you’re to understand why she reacts so violently to this new situation.

We start off this part of the story with a catch-up with Saru. Here, he represents the Shenzhou in general, and its detachment from what’s going on aboard the station. When he finally gets some news about what’s happened, he’s just as confused as he was before, if not more so.

Next up, we’re going to finally see the start of that battle that makes up the title of this story, by way of a little bit of murder and quite a lot of revenge. Exciting times.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 5

The previous instalment can be found here.


Burnham awakes. Georgiou sits in front of her, cradling her arm, a bloody bandage wrapped around her shoulder. They’re both sat on the hard metal floor of a prison cell, formed out of the same dull bronze as the rest of the Klingon installation. On the other side of the bars there is a large hall, filled with burning torches and a whole host of Klingons.

“Philippa, your arm!”

Burnham struggles to get to her feet, but Georgiou raises her hand to stay her. “Sit down, Michael. You were concussed. I’m fine, the Klingons stapled the wound.”

“You’re not fine, Captain, you need medical treatment.” She groans and gently massages her head. “As do I, it seems. How long was I out?”

“About ten minutes. The same Klingon that treated me used some kind of device on your head. I think it was to treat your concussion.”

“It feels like they spun my brain around in a centrifuge.”

Georgiou smirks. “I imagine it would be more suited for Klingon brains.”

“They kept us alive,” Burnham ponders, “but they killed Tallman. What do they want with us?”

“That’s a good question. If you speak Klingon you could ask them.”

“Well, if I had a communicator,” Burnham says, “I could use the universal translator. Of course, if I had a communicator I could have contacted Detmer and gotten you out of here already.”

“Assuming Detmer is still able to receive. Besides,” Georgiou says, glancing at the Klingons near the cell door, “I’m sure the guards would confiscate any equipment. Which is why I’m waiting for them to get distracted.”

“Distracted? Why, do you have some way of getting out of here?”

“To paraphrase your father again,” Georgiou says, smiling, “I like to think that there are always possibilities.”

Burnham raises an eyebrow. “You know, it wasn’t actually my father who first said that.”


In the expansive Klingon hangar bay, Detmer sits on the boarding ramp of the shuttle, casually leaning against the side wall. Furlan stands on watch on the hangar floor, phaser in hand.

Detmer picks at a loose thread on her uniform. “It’s been twenty minutes. Do you think we should contact them, or…?”

Furlan keeps his gaze on the internal entrance to the hangar as he answers her. “They’ll contact us if they need to. Just stay alert.”

Behind them both, in front of the shuttle, a small hatch in the floor slides open silently. A lithe Klingon warrior slips out, followed by another, and then a third. They draw daggers, and slowly, quietly, creep towards the shuttle.

“Did you hear they’re developing a new BT-16?” Detmer asks. “They say it’s going to be quite the thing to see. I’ll bet that baby flies like a humming bird.”

Furlan roles his eyes. Behind him, the three Klingons continue to creep toward the shuttle. Ahead of him, in the corridor to the hangar, a full squad of Klingon warriors lurk out of sight, firearms in hand. The leader peeks out around the bulkhead, holds his hand out to steady the squad.

Detmer raps her fingers on the metal floor of the shuttle. “Have you ever flown the old version? It was great, you could turn that thing on the head of a pin, but the rear thrusters used to burn out all the time, it was a pain in the-”

As one of the Klingons behind her nears the shuttle, alarms sound, and the voice of the shuttle computer calls out “Proximity Warning! Proximity Warning!” Lights flash inside the shuttle.

Detmer starts, and tumbles back inside the craft, whilst Furlan spins on his heels. As he sees the three armed assailants heading towards him, he looses phaser bolts at them, dropping two. The third charges him, but he gets his phaser to bear and lands a shot in the centre of its chest.

Behind him, the squad of Klingons in the corridor flood into the hangar, loosing off energy blasts from their weapons. Furlan hunkers down and dashes into the shuttle. “Get her in the air!” he shouts, “get us out of here!” He hammers the door control, and the ramp swings up behind him. Klingon weapons fire strikes all over the shuttle.

Detmer hyperventilates as she hurries towards the controls. “Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.” She makes it to the seat and starts tapping commands into the console. “Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.” Klingon disruptor bolts scorch the window next to her. “Crapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrap,”

“Detmer!” Furlan shouts, “Breathe! And then get us the hell out of here already!”

Detmer glares back at him angrily, then activates the engines.

The shuttle lifts off the deck. Its engines flare and it rockets away from the advancing Klingons and out into space.


In the cell, Burnham sits, defeated, with her back against the wall. “Go on then, Captain, what do you have up your sleeve?”

“Nothing up my sleeve,” Georgiou says, pulling her sleeve back to prove her point. “See?”

“Well, then how do we get out of here?” Burnham presses.

Georgiou shrugs, then grimaces at the pain in her shoulder. “Just wait.”

Outside the cell, in the main hall, there’s a disturbance. The Klingon squad leader from the hangar storms in, shouting in the incomprehensible Klingon language. The other Klingons, including the guards, turn to watch as the squad leader marches up to an impressive-looking Klingon male, adorned in regal, black armour armour.

“We didn’t have to wait too long,” Georgiou says. She slams the heel of her foot into the floor, hard, but the guards don’t notice. On the edge of the sole of her boot, a panel pops free. She hooks her finger into the gap and slides out a small, compact electronic unit.

Burnham watches with interest. “A communicator?”

“I modified it myself,” Georgiou explains. “Shorter range, had to remove one of the power packs, but it works.”

“Contact the shuttle,” Burnham insists, “we have to get out of here.”

“We have to remember our mission,” Georgiou says. “We need to figure out what’s going on here.” She adjusts some of the controls on the slimline communicator.

The Klingons start clamouring, shouting in protest at the black-armoured chieftan in the middle of the hall. He raises his arms to silence them, and begins speaking himself. As Georgiou adjusts her communicator, his guttural Klingonese resolves into English. Georgiou and Burnham look on as he speaks.

“- fly away if they wish, it matters not! One shuttlecraft cannot hinder our great, blessed work! And truly, we must be blessed,” he says, spreading his arms to address the whole hall, “for look at the gift Kahless has brought us! Not a lowly repair crew, but a Starfleet captain! And her first officer!” He gestures towards the captives, but the Klingons pay them no heed, and instead cheer their leader.

“Truly we are in his favour! Kahless, The Unforgettable, First King, Greatest Warrior of All Warriors!” Heavy boots stamp and raucous cheering echoes through the hall. “We shall unveil the Federation’s deceit! Expose their inner barbarism!”

There are more cheers, but one warrior steps forwards in challenge. “You speak as though our fate is decided, but what if they do nothing? What if the Federation simply turns and flees?”

The chieftan turns to the warrior. “Then, my sister, we shall have exposed them for the witless cowards that they truly are! And the Klingon Empire shall re-unite not under the banner of war but to the sound of the hunter’s horn! When the Galaxy sees them scatter and flee in the face of adversity, we will be there to carve up their territory and chase them across the cosmos!”

Cheering, stomping. The hall fills with noise. “But hear me now, proud warriors of the Empire. The Federation are nothing but beasts, wearing the hides of philosophers. They believe that their technological achievements elevate their culture above ours, but toys and contraptions cannot replace Honour, or Courage, or Pride. When they see their own slaughtered like the targs they are,” he gestures again at Georgiou and Burnham, “the Federation will lift the mask from its face to show the slathering maw of the animal within. And I, T’Kuvma, Bearer of the Torch of Kahless, last member of my house, will have brought the Great Houses of the Klingon Empire together once again, and united we shall slay the beast!”

Georgiou and Burnham lock eyes, and share a look of common understanding – and horror.

As the Klingons chant and clamour, Georgiou flips a switch on the communicator. “Georgiou to Detmer, Georgiou to Detmer, do you read?”

Detmer’s voice answers. “Captain! Captain, I read, I’ve been trying to contact you. Are you okay?”

“We’re fine. Detmer, status, where are you?”

“We’re in space,” Detmer answers from inside the shuttle, “near the station. We had to lift off, we were attacked. Why are you on this frequency?”

Georgiou ignores the question. “Detmer, listen, this is important. Head straight for Shenzhou, go straight there and warn Starfleet – the Klingons mean to bait us into a war. Go back, now, tell Saru and the others not to engage, don’t fire a single shot, no matter what happens. You hear me, Detmer? It’s a trap. Tell them to maintain the peace, that’s all that matters.”

“But what about-”

“Keep the peace, Detmer! At all costs. That’s an order, Detmer. Keep the peace.”

Without warning, Burnham lunges across the cell and snatches the communicator from Georgiou. She shouts into it. “Detmer! Beam the captain out now! Lock onto the Viridium signal and get her out! Now!”

Georgiou looks on, unsurprised, and a little sad. One of the guards hears Burnham shouting and turns to see what’s going on. Aboard the shuttle, Detmer taps the ‘Energise’ command on one of the consoles.

In the cell, the blue shimmering of the transporter engulfs Burnham. Her face twists in horror as she realises what’s happening.

“I’m sorry, Michael,” Georgiou says, as Klingons rush into the cell. “I will see you soon.” The Klingons grab her roughly. Some try to get hold of Burnham, but she has already dematerialised.

Georgiou is hoisted to her feet as T’Kuvma, the chieftan, strides into the cell. He growls at Georgiou, then turns away and speaks in Klingon. “This changes nothing! Get to your ships! I will prepare the beacon!”


Aboard the shuttle, Burnham materialises, the same look of horror on her face. She cries out as though in agony. She reaches over her shoulder and pulls a small, thin, dark patch of shiny fabric from her uniform. She examines it for a moment, then lets it fall to the floor.

Furlan rushes to her side. “Commander, are you alright? Where’s the captain? Commander Burnham, where is Captain Georgiou?”

Burnham seems stunned. She ignores Furlan and reaches up to an overhead locker, and takes a phaser from it. She moves forwards to Detmer. “Beam me back.”

“I can’t, Commander, there’s too much interference.”

“Beam me back!” Burnham shouts. “I have to get her, we have to save her!”

“I can’t! I can’t get an accurate fix, you could die!”

“Then turn the shuttle around! Take us back! That’s an order!”

Detmer doesn’t relent, even facing Burnham’s intensity. “That hangar bay was a Klingon murder party when we left, they’ll cut us to bits!”

Burnham’s tone goes flat. “Keyla, turn this fucking shuttle around and take us back to that station.”

Detmer’s face turns to shock, but Furlan steps forwards. “We can’t. You heard the captain, she gave us an order to get back to the Shenzhou and warn Starfleet. Now, calm down, take a moment, and-”

Burnham raises the phaser and shoots Furlan in the chest. He collapses in a heap. Detmer gasps, but Burnham grips the side of her neck and presses hard. Detmer quickly passes out.

Burnham sags, as though her strings had been cut. She stares at nothing for a few moments, trance-like. She slowly sits down in the co-pilot’s seat and sets a new course.


The shuttle banks back towards the station, as two small pods detach from its underside and ignite thrusters. As the shuttle drifts into the hangar, a group of armed Klingons rush in, aiming their weapons at the advancing craft. The shuttle’s phasers burst into life, blasts of amber energy sweeping across the deck, wiping out the warriors.

The shuttle settles on the hangar deck and the rear ramp opens. Burnham steps out. One of the Klingons on the floor groans, wounded, and reaches up with his disruptor. She fires her phaser at him, and he falls silent again.

Burnham steps over his body and heads for the main corridor into the rest of the station, phaser in hand.


On to Part 6.


There’s a lot going on with this story. The determined narrative for ‘Discovery’ is complex – a Starfleet officer mutinies, and starts a war with a politically unstable empire in the process. This is where I had to make the most radical changes from the show, which I’ll go through below.

First off, Burnham’s a career officer. She’s smart. She’s raised by Vulcans, who are a peaceful, highly rational culture. Which means that her mutiny has to have a hell of a lot of emotional drive behind it, and that means it has to be immediate. Burnham’s mutiny in the show is incredibly muted, emotionally. She just sort of reaches a conclusion based on a story told to her by Sarek, and I never felt like she reached the emotional peak that was necessary to humanise her actions. In essence, she acts like a weirdo, and so I found it really difficult to empathise with her as a character.

The other issue is that so much is made of her starting the war, but she doesn’t. At all. She gets stopped and thrown in the brig before she can fire on the Klingons, and they then start the war themselves when they choose to open fire. By the time she kills T’Kuvma, the battle is over and the war is in full swing.

Which is another issue, namely that the Klingons from the other houses turn up, T’Kuvma says “Let’s attack,” and they all just attack. Really, if this is going to be some massive interstellar war, I feel like you need a little more to it than that.

There’s one other problem, which only becomes a problem in hindsight, which is all of T’Kuvma’s backstory. It’s good for your villains to have motivations and complexity, but T’Kuvma will be dead by the end of the pilot episodes, and ultimately his most important aspect is that he wants to start a war that will unite the Klingon Empire. All of his tragic childhood ends up contributing very little to the actual story of ‘Discovery’.

So, how do we fix all these things?

Simple. We bring them all together.

  1. Here is T’Kuvma’s plan: lure a Federation ship out here by sabotaging a satellite.
  2. When they investigate what happened to the satellite, capture them.
  3. Use the beacon’s immense signalling power to broadcast the execution of the prisoners. Then, either:
    1. The Federation retaliates, precipitating full-blown war.
    2. The Federation refuses to act, proving their weakness
  4. Either way, Qa’plah! The Klingon Empire can all pull together, in war against a hypocritical enemy or in conquest of a weak empire.

That’s T’Kuvma’s plan. We can embellish it a little with some Klingon spirituality and mythos and whatnot, but that’s what it comes down to. Whatever happens, T’Kuvma succeeds in uniting the Empire.

Of course, it’s also important for him to cover his bases with a few tricks up his gauntlet, but we’ll get to that.

Then, we bring Georgiou, Burnham, and the Shenzhou into the mix.

We set Georgiou and Burnham up as having an unhealthy relationship. That’s the first thing. Michael’s idolisation of Philippa, her crippling fear of abandonment, and with Philippa’s unwitting indulgence of that insecurity, means that Michael will literally do or give anything to protect her maternal mentor.

Then, they get taken captive. This might not be too much of an issue for the Vulcan-raised Michael under other circumstances. But with Klingons in the mix, Michael’s childhood trauma is getting twisted in exactly the right way to send her off the rails.

Which finally happens when they get separated. Georgiou would never let one of her crew – especially Michael – suffer in her place, so she obviously swaps the Viridium patch. And so now Michael is separated from her mother-mentor, who she knows is going to be executed. And that’s not based on a story from two hundred years ago.

I even tried to fold in what would be Star Trek’s first “fuck” into this pivotal scene. It struck me as odd that they drop the f-bomb during a fairly standard conversation of Treknobabble, but never again throughout the series. They use it at one of the lowest points of emotion, and never at the highest. Here, it’s a sign that Burnham has finally cracked – her swearing like that shows us a Starfleet officer over the edge, falling apart – and about to do something really stupid.

So, now we have an evil plan to start a war that hangs around the fate of our beloved captain and first officer. The first officer is driven to betrayal of her crew mates to save her captain, currently being held by the evil warmonger.

And what’s more, here we have a chance for Burnham to save the day. If she can rescue Georgiou, she might just stop the war from ever starting.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Here are just a few plot holes in my own damn narrative:

  • Detmer just forgets to use the transporter. She should’ve done it as soon as the Klingons attacked the shuttle. My excuse? She was panicked. She’s not a coward, but she is green.
  • So, what happens if the Federation don’t investigate the creepy temple station that’s almost definitely a trap? Well, in my head T’Kuvma would just keep busting up satellites until they had no choice but to investigate, but his plan is flawed in relying on the Federation to behave a certain way.
  • His plan also relies on the other Klingon houses behaving in a certain way, but for me, that’s his test of his own people. If they can’t unite for war or conquest, then they probably aren’t worthy in the first place, and his cause is truly lost.
  • Scattering fields, how the shit do they work? Who knows? My theory: it’s kind of a chaos membrane – you can’t beam or communicate from outside into it, or vice versa, but if you’re inside of it, you can kinda beam around and communicate inside of it, with some limitations. It’s a plot device, okay? It’s a cruddy one, but it does what it needs to – walls all of this action off from the Shenzhou.

I wish I had a simpler set of plot points to aim for. But I don’t. If I’m doing this properly, I have to start from the same place as the show, and finish in the same place as the show, and roughly touch upon the major plot points along the way.

Also, can we have a quick lament for Furlan, whose fellow redshirt dies and for whom no one mourns? Furlan who keeps telling women to calm down, and gets phasered in the sternum for his trouble?

He had it coming, if you ask me.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 4

The previous instalment can be found here.


Aboard the U.S.S. Buran, in orbit over a vibrant, colourful planet, Gabriel Lorca sits in the captain’s chair in the middle of the bridge. Around him, officers carry on with business as usual. The door to the main turbolift slides open, and a tall, skinny young officer steps out, wearing a crisp, clean Ops uniform.

Lorca turns in his chair to face the new arrival. “Lieutenant Tyler! Is it third watch already?”

“It is, captain, nearly. Thought I’d get here early for once.”

“Well, we’re just about to launch exploratory carto-drones, which is my favourite bit. You wouldn’t mind if I kept the chair for a little longer, would you?” Lorca asks, with a wink.

Tyler chuckles. “I suppose not, sir, I think I can let you off this once.”

“Great!” Lorca says, and turns back to face the viewscreen. “Whilst you’re here, we can talk about the quality of your tactical reports.”

“Sir?”

“You ever proof-read these things?” Lorca asks, waving a datapad at Tyler. “Sixteen spelling errors on the first page alone. You put so many commas in each sentence that it looks like the damn things are growing out of the text themselves. And listen, just listen, to this: ‘Phaser array efficiency rates, are decreasing at an increasing rate, through increasing rate cycles, but not at a rate, that would cause increased concern, over an increasing time period, within the same time period. We need to identify how to get these rates back to green rating, and how we will achieve this.’ It’s garbage, Tyler, you can do better.”

Some of the crew on the bridge watch in amusement. Tyler hangs his head. “I’m sorry sir. I didn’t realise it was that important.”

“That important? Tyler, this is written language we’re talking about here, the greatest tool in all our history. Shakespeare, Melville, Joyce, Austen, Lennon, Knowles, Lincoln, Obama, and that’s just English! Descartes, Confucius, Nanak, Tolstoy, Mann, Surak, T’Pau. We know their names because of how they used language, Tyler, so how about a little more respect for your words?”

Tyler stands straight. “Yes sir!”

Lorca smiles. “Good! Now get to your station.”

Before Tyler can move, the comms officer pipes up. “Captain! I’m receiving a priority one request for assistance. It’s the Shenzou, sir, she’s called for reinforcements at System JWST-86690.”

“The Shenzhou? What’s Philippa gotten herself into now?” he ponders, leaning forwards and clasping his hands together. “Send a response, acknowledge request and give them our anticipated time of arrival, which is, helm?”

“Roughly one hour and twenty-seven minutes, captain,” the helm officer answers. “Course already laid in.”

“Good job. Recall the drone – it looks like our little cartography mission will have to wait.” He runs a hand through his hair. “JWST-86-whatever. You ever noticed, Tyler, how these emergencies and distress calls are always somewhere remote and bleak? There’s never a towel shortage on Ryza, never a whisky surplus on Islay. I dream of the day we get called out to somewhere like Threnixis IV.”

“Threnixis? I’ve never been, sir.”

“Never, Tyler? Now that is a shame. Best sailing in the quadrant on the southern ocean, you’d be in heaven.”

Tyler grins. “Well, then the next shoreleave I get, I’ll be sure to spend it at sea.” He gazes view on the main screen. “Do you think the Shenzhou is in trouble, captain?”

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll be alright,” Lorca answers, smiling. “I know Captain Georgiou. She doesn’t like to lose.”


On to Part 5.


The biggest revelation of this scene: Lorca is well into Beyoncé. That should be canon. I may send a letter to the writers asking them to write it into season 2.

Not much going on here, but with Georgiou and Burnham having just been knocked out (or maybe killed? Probably just knocked out) following a dramatic fight scene, now is a good moment to take a quick breather and have a look at what everyone else is doing, prior to the inevitable war.

I just started my fifth re-watch of the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ re-imagined series, starting with the miniseries from 2003. We don’t spend lots of time seeing pre-war Colonial life, but we see enough to get a grasp on what’s been lost once the nukes have landed. I felt an issue with ‘Discovery’ was that we didn’t see enough of life in Starfleet before the war to appreciate the impact on life during the war. This is an attempt to rectify that a little.

This is also an attempt to bring forward the introduction of two of the most important characters to the very beginning of the story. Having Tyler and Lorca know each other just seems right to me – demonstrate in them a mentor/mentee relationship that can mirror Burnham and Gerogiou’s, except that this time, it’s the student, Tyler, who will be lost to the war, rather than the teacher.

Although I wanted to include the Mirror-Lorca plotline for the sake of proving my point, as I go through this re-write I’m realising more and more how difficult that is to implement. It just comes out of nowhere from a narrative perspective. The story is and should be about the war, and Burnham’s path to redemption.

Tyler’s role as a sleeper agent actually fits perfectly into the war arc, because it follows naturally that the Klingons would try infiltration as a means of attacking their enemies. But the Mirror Universe just has so little to do with it, that it really ought to be in its own series-long narrative, separate to any war with the Klingons.

And I am realising, as I write the interaction between Lorca and Tyler during peacetime, that there’s so much more drama and meaning that could be derived from Lorca being a grief-stricken captain who lost his crew, and subsequently loses his way, than there is from him being replaced by his evil clone in a random accident.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 3

The previous instalment can be found here.


The shuttle alights on the bronze, ornate landing deck of the alien station, dimly lit by yellow lights. As the shuttle comes to a halt its ramp descends, and Georgiou, Burnham and the two security officers disembark, phasers drawn, tricorders out, eyes narrowed and darting around for danger.

Georgiou turns to one of the bodyguards. “Furlan, stay here, guard the shuttle. Burnham, Tallman, with me.”

They move furtively towards a corridor and head down it. Burnham surveys the walls and their decoration. “Ornate detailing across every surface. Intricate patterns, carved into the metal by hand, judging by the uneven finish.” She runs her hand over one wall section, letting her fingers brush across each groove and ridge. “It’s cold, and solid. This entire structure might be a single piece of metal, sculpted into shape.”

Georgiou keeps her eyes forwards, checking every alcove and corner for potential threats. “Sounds like a slow way of building a station. You’ve told me what the scientist inside you can see: what does your anthropologist make of this?”

Burnham keeps her gaze on the structure around them. “Captain, this is ritualistic, ceremonial in design. I don’t think it’s a station, I think it’s a temple.”

They enter a circular room, with corridors leading off in multiple directions. At the centre of the room stands an obelisk, covered in arcane symbols. As Burnham examines the obelisk, one particular emblem catches her eye. She’s seen it before – an image of an armoured warrior flashes through her mind, the symbol engraved on his helmet, striding through flames towards her. Screams and explosions echo all around. The warrior holds a vicious blade in his hands, which he lifts over his head and then swings down towards her.

“Michael? Commander Burnham!” Georgiou shouts.

Michael keeps her gaze locked on that symbol. “Klingons,” she says. “This is a Klingon hieroglyph. A sign of one of their Great Houses. Captain, we have to leave.”

“Not without making contact. If this is a Klingon station then there’s a reason they put it here, and we need to know what that reason is.”

“Aye, captain,” Burnham concedes. She scans the room and the corridors leading away from it with her tricorder. “The solid mass of the structure is making it hard to get a topograhical reading. I have no idea of which way we should go.”

Georgiou walks up to one corridor entrance. “Down this one.”

“Why that one, captain? Do you know what’s down there?”

“We don’t know what’s down any of them. Sometimes, you just need to make a decision.” Georgiou starts down the corridor, Tallman following her. Burnham joins them, and they move steadily onwards.

They reach the next room, circular again, this time with vaulted alcoves all along the walls. Deep channels run from each alcove to a grate in the room’s centre.

Georgiou squats down to examine one of the channels, following it to the grate. “Analysis, Number One?”

Burnham surveys the chamber. “The grooves in the floor, clearly intended to carry fluid. Alcoves at the side, big enough to hold a single humanoid.”

“You think this was a shower room?” Georgiou asks with a smirk.

“Captain, I think this was a sacrifice chamber.”

Georgiou catches Burnham’s eye. They share a look, and then turn for the exit.

An armoured warrior drops into each alcove from above. They each dash forwards as they land, roaring. Georgiou and Tallman open fire, dropping a couple of them, as Burnham grabs her communicator and flips it open. Before she can speak into it, one of the warriors smashes it out of her hand and swings for her head. She ducks, and strikes him back with both hands clasped together.

The Starfleet officers are surrounded. Georgiou takes down one warrior with a flurry of high kicks and rapid punches. Tallman keeps firing his phaser, but is grabbed from behind thrown into a wall. Burnham fends off one of the armoured foes with steady, precise attacks, each blow delivered with Vulcan-like accuracy.

But they are outnumbered. Georgiou has to dodge the powerful sweeps of a Bat’leth, getting backed up against the wall as she does. Two warriors lay into Tallman, beating him to the ground, before they each produce vicious daggers which they plunge into his back. Burnham’s elegant poise meets its end as her adversary hunkers down and then charges forwards like a bull, grabbing her around the abdomen and then diving, plunging her backwards into the floor.

Burnham, dazed, looks across to see Georgiou stabbed through the shoulder. Burnham screams out. “Captain! Philippa!” she bellows, but it does no good, as Georgiou sinks to the floor. The last thing Burnham sees is an armoured gauntlet, striking her full in the face.


On to part 4.


Finally, some action! Narratively, this isn’t far off filler. It’s a means of getting the characters into the hands of their Klingon captors. We see a little Klingon culture along the way, but not a great deal.

And poor old Tallman – he gets no lines, just a couple of stab wounds to prove that these Klingons aren’t messing around.

I lack a great deal of imagination, so all of the side characters get names taken from actors. Furlan is named for Mira Furlan, of Babylon 5 fame, as is Tallman. Patricia Tallman is actually a Trek alumnus – most notably from ‘Starship Mine’, but has appeared in plenty of TNG, DS9 and Voyager episodes.

‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 2

The previous instalment can be found here.


“Captain, I must once again register my severe objections to this course of action!” Saru insists as he strides down the corridor alongside Georgiou, Burnham and Detmer. “With the scattering field in place we will be unable to contact you or beam any of your back to the ship. And we still don’t know what the object is – it could be a Tholian web trap for all we know.”

Georgiou remains relaxed. “It might also be an entirely new species, Saru, a new civilisation. Would you really like to pass up a first contact opportunity?”

“Yes, absolutely, if it means putting my captain at risk.” Saru’s gestures become more frantic, his speech more hurried. “Captain, that object may not be a ship, but it remains a complete mystery to us.”

“And that is precisely why I want to go, Mr. Saru. I never could resist a good mystery.”

“Come on, Saru”, Burnham says, “you wouldn’t want to disappoint your captain, would you? Don’t worry,” she puts her hand on Georgiou’s shoulder in reassurance, “The captain will in in safe hands.”

They enter the shuttle bay and proceed up the boarding ramp of one of the Shenzhou‘s many shuttles. Detmer heads to the helm console at the front, whilst Georgiou and Burnham are joined by two security officers in tactical armour in the shuttle’s main hold. Georgiou turns to face Saru, who stands anxiously at the foot of the ramp. “Take good care of the ship, Mr Saru. And remember – take no unprompted action without consulting me or Starfleet Command. The last thing we want is to precipitate a conflict out here.”

Saru nods, and disappears from view as the shuttle’s ramp closes up. One of the security officers hands Georgiou a phaser as Burnham proceeds forwards to the front of the shuttle.

She leans down to Detmer. “Lieutenant, once we’re inside of the scattering field the shuttle’s transporter should be able to function. I just slapped a Viridium patch on the captain’s back – that will let you keep a lock on her. As soon as anything happens, you beam her back aboard and you set off for Shenzhou, do you understand? You don’t ask questions, you don’t hesitate, you just start flying.”

“Yes, Commander,” Detmer says, “but what about the rest of you?”

“The shuttle can only beam one person at a time,” Burnham explains, “and I don’t want you transporting the wrong person accidentally. We’ll be alright. Just keep her safe.”

Detmer looks back at the flight controls. “Well, now I feel a lot more worried.”

Burnham smiles. “You’ll do fine. I picked you for this mission specifically, Lieutenant. The captain asked me to fly at first, but it’s been two years since I last flew one of these things. We need someone who actually knows what she’s doing.”

“I won’t let you down, Commander.”

“Are we ready to launch yet?” Georgiou calls from the back of the shuttle, “or do you two need a little longer to conspire?”

“Ready, captain!” Detmer responds. “Course laid in. Just give me the word.”

“Lieutenant, the word is given – engage.”

The shuttle lifts off from the deck and drifts out of the shuttle bay. Once clear of the rear doors, Detmer brings it about and heads straight for the debris field, and the distant, mysterious object.


“Michael,” Georgiou says, as they sit opposite each other, “do you know why I’m here?”

Michael raises an eyebrow. “This is a critical situation. Normally, a captain’s place would be on her bridge. But with comms down, command decisions cannot be made remotely. If there are Klingons out here, you will need to be calling the shots.”

“And if there are Klingons out here, Michael, how would you feel about that?”

“If you’re referring to my childhood trauma, then you know I have it under control. Vulcan mindfulness techniques are a powerful tool. Philippa, I have your back. And I always will.”

Georgiou lays a gentle hand on Burnham’s shoulder. “Michael, in seven years together, the most important thing I’ve learned is that I will never regret putting my faith in you.”

“You talk as though this is a parting of ways.”

Georgiou shakes her head. “Not yet. But Michael, you are reaching the point where there isn’t much more I can teach you.” She waves her hand to quiet Burnham’s protestations. “If I could keep you as my XO for another twenty years, I would, but you are capable of so much more than that. You could end up as an admiral, or an ambassador, or even a regional governor – but the first step towards any of those things is getting your own command.”

Burnham looks down at the floor, hiding her face from her mentor. “I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”

Georgiou grips Burnham’s shoulder tightly. “You are not ready yet. But very soon you will be, and when the time comes, you can’t hesitate, you can’t second-guess yourself. Do you know what the first duty of every Starfleet officer is, Michael?”

“Of course: to the truth.”

Georgiou laughs. “Nearly. That’s the slogan, but the correct answer is that it’s to your own truth. We must always remember who we really are, Michael. Always.” She gestures out of the window to the mystery structure, steadily growing closer. “If there are Klingons out there, and they do mean us harm, we can’t allow ourselves to get drawn into their game. We’re Starfleet: we fight when we need to, but always we must seek the peaceful solution. That is our truth, and that’s my truth. I have to believe that every encounter is a step towards friendship and co-operation, even with those who call themselves our enemies.”

Burnham looks up at her captain. “My father said that ten years ago, at Khitomer.”

“Your father is a profound individual.”

An alarm sounds from the flight console, and Detmer calls back “One minute to contact, Captain. I’ve found an entrance into the structure, looks to be pressurised, too.”

Georgiou stands and smooths out her uniform. “Take us in, Lieutenant. Let’s get to the bottom of this.”


On to part 3.


One thing that always struck me as odd was that Detmer and Burnham shared so much together, and yet never interacted. This seemed like a hugely wasted opportunity – Burnham and Saru get plenty of time to explore their relationship, but Burnham and Detmer never even have one.

Also, whilst I have criticised ‘Discovery’ for resolving so much of its plot in the form of two people stood in a room talking to each other, early on in the show there’s a powerful need to set up the world, and the relationships, that will define the narrative. So whilst a scene between two people sat in a shuttle talking about philosophy isn’t the kind of high-octane action you’d expect of a Transformers movie, it’s important for adding additional significance to the events that do follow.

Georgiou contradicts Picard here on the subject of first duties, and that’s not something you want to do lightly. But whilst broad statements work well for delinquent cadets, command-level officers need to operate with a little more nuance than that.

Burnham’s backstory, as a human raised by Vulcans, and as an orphan as a result of a Klingon raid, is all perfectly fine. But that is exactly the kind of backstory that, I feel, can be revealed in small bites, rather than all at once. Hints to it are made in this conversation, but hints are all that is needed – who is her father, exactly? What happened in her childhood that might cause her to struggle with facing Klingons? Stay tuned in to find out!

Hey, and how about that Viridium patch and all the shoulder-touching? Don’t worry, that’s just background detail, it definitely won’t turn into a plot point or anything.