‘Star Trek: Discovery – What’s Past Is Prologue’ Aspires to Shakespeare But Achieves Stupidity

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

My cup runneth over with stupid.

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

First off, random observations:

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

What's Past Is Prologue

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

charon

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

Fuck.

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

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

How Not To Write A Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WhatÕs Past Is Prologue

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

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

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

Fuck.

World-Building in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

So, recently I hit the highlight in my writing career – one of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s writers actually responded to me trash-talking their show.

This is huge. Partially because it’s the closest to show-business I’ve ever been, and partially because, if I’m being honest, it feels like validation. After six weeks of dedicating entire minutes of my spare time to pointing out all of the flaws in ‘Discovery’, having one of its writers directly insult me over Twitter is like… it’s like seeing an ex post a vague facebook status about you. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know you’ve gotten to someone.

Anyway, he hasn’t continued our brief four-tweet spat, sadly, but that’s for the best. As much as I like to whinge about the writing on ‘Discovery’, it’s obviously a tough and demanding job, trying to balance the need to produce new, exciting stories without betraying the source material, and I don’t want to berate a fellow creative just because I disagree with how they’ve done things.

No, what I really want to talk about is the world-building in ‘Discovery’, and how it shapes the show’s narrative. Setting’s really important, especially in a serialised narrative such as ‘Discovery’, and this is a topic I’ve wanted to cover for a while.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I could continue the twitter argument with Mr Sullivan. It would hardly be difficult to address the fact that he used the phrase “big budget” to make himself seem more important. And it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that maybe a little more of that budget should’ve been spent on the writing staff.

But I don’t want to make comments like that. I want to take the high road, and keep this civil. I want to talk about high-brow things, like how a show’s setting informs the decisions of its characters. I don’t want to get into a petty tit-for-tat, where I sarcastically thank him for sarcastically praising my knowledge of television writing, and then suggest that we have so much in common and that we truly are brothers in creative arms.

Exchanges like that are petty, and beneath me. I mean, I COULD point out the delicious beauty of the fact that his profile picture is him sat in front of a pair of two-dimensional characters, and ask him if he intentionally wrote ‘Discovery’s characters with the same level of depth. I’m just saying, that’s a thing I COULD do, but I won’t. ‘Cause I’m classy.

And the temptation is there. It’s there in force. Oh! how I crave to sink to the level of pointless rebuttals and insult-slinging. But that isn’t me. That’s not something I’d do. I feel the urge to ask if substituting “clueless” for “crude” is the kind of wordplay that qualifies a person to write for a Star Trek show. I pine to request a job on the writing staff, based on the fact that I once rhymed “Lorca” with “Orca“, and must therefore be in the running for a top-tier script job. But that’s an awfully pedestrian way to conduct myself.

No, I won’t make fun of him. Maybe he was just sticking up for his colleagues when he lashed out. No, I won’t make fun of him! Do you hear? You’ll have to get your entertainment someplace else! I’m not about to sully my own website with some tawdry, crass and adolescent smack-talking session, I’m not that… ah… crude. Oh.

And let’s just be honest with ourselves, the insult tree is ripe for picking when it comes to the writers of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. Hell, I wouldn’t even need to reach beyond the confines of the Star Trek universe itself to let them know what I really think of them. Sure, I could quote Mr Sullivan on his ‘After Trek’ experience, when he claimed that the next episode will be on par with ‘Balance of Terror’. I could ask him if he actually meant ‘Spock’s Brain’, or ‘The Outrageous Okona’. I could suggest that I’m glad to see such diversity in modern Star Trek shows, and congratulate him on being the first Pakled to hold a regular writing position on a major TV series.

And sure, I could question how he has time to respond to a two-bit twitter troll like me when there are still episodes of ‘The Expanse’ that remain unplagiarised. Or maybe I could just send him a link to the Merriam-Webster definition of subtext and suggest he instead devote his time to understanding it. Hell, I could have just sent him the Amazon link to ‘Children of Dune’ with the tagline “Hey, I just found a great documentary about Discovery’s spore drive!” but I wouldn’t do something like that.

These are such trivial, quotidian matters, when there are much grander themes to discuss! Wouldn’t you rather me engage in a more academic exploration of why the political and social background of a story gives it the structure it needs to truly resonate with an audience? Would you not prefer me to detail why the nature of a fictional civilisation adds context and meaning to the actions of its inhabitants?

Surely you’d prefer that to me throwing playground insults at a poor, overworked writer? Insults like “Well the big budget might buy special effects but it clearly can’t buy a compelling narrative,” or “If you’re so worried about adhering to canon, try not writing for a franchise with almost 800 previous instalments,” or “Don’t worry, nobody thinks this is a real Trek show anyway.” Aren’t we all above that? Are we not all better than that?

No, let me focus on the real matters, let me write about the important subjects, the subjects which matter to me, as a writer. Let me enthuse about my craft, and in so doing shed light upon the manner in which careful, considered world-building can lay the foundation for a truly fantastic story.

Because, you see, there’s hardly any world-building in ‘Discovery’, and there really should be more. It’s such a shame.