Saturday, October 7, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery S103 review


   My first thought upon finishing this episode was, "Wow, Star Trek has been invaded by Alien and Event Horizon." My second thought upon finishing this episode was, "This is actually what would normally be in the pilot." It's a bit like the fact "The Cage" was meant to be the pilot for Star Trek but the executives kinda-but-not-really liked it so they ordered to be remade with the cast of Star Trek as we know them.

Being a prison laborer is not a fun job even in the Federation.
     Basically, the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery gave us the backstory for Michael Burnham but don't have the titular starship actually  show up. Indeed, only Michael and the alien Saru show up as part of the crew which will presumably be the regulars. "Conviction is for Kings", however, finally introduces the premise of the show as well as its cast. I think you could actually have watched this episode with Burnham's backstory given in later episodes with nothing lost. It arguably would have been less confusing for viewers.

    The premise of the episode is Michael has been sentenced to life imprisonment for mutiny, assault on a superior officer, and martyring the leader of the Klingon Jihadists. You know, things which normal Starfleet captains get off doing because it usually has good results. It's notable there's never apparently been a mutineer in Starfleet before and Michael is considered the Benedict Arnold of the Federation. It doesn't help over 8,000 Federation officers have died in the opening salvo of the war with more presumably dying every day.

Whining about the government stealing your work.
    Michael's prison transport is sabotaged and she ends up on the NC-1031 U.S.S Discovery, which is a ship engaged in some shady research as well as populated by Starfleet officers with black badges. For longtime fans of the series, this seems to be setting up the Discovery as a front for Section 31. For those unfamiliar with the organization, it is a secret branch of Starfleet Intelligence which long ago went rogue and is meant to be the "evil" side of the Federation which we normally needed a renegade Admiral or Captain for. I hope I'm not making a huge spoiler here but if they were planning to do this, perhaps they shouldn't throw clues like this at Trekkies.

    Much of the episode is devoted to how unsettling and troubling Michael finds the Discovery with its layers upon layers of secrecy as well as a secret project which has involved drafting civilian scientists plus experimenting with weird organic technology that apparently functions on H.P. Lovecraft principles. Michael, despite having a Zero Percent Approval Rating (See TV tropes), isn't willing to trade Starfleet's principles to work with a bunch of blackshirts. Michael gets forced into investigating a derelict ship with monsters on it in a fairly classic Trek plot (or just the plot of Aliens and Event Horizon mashed together).

Fire in starships is never good.
    I'm a big fan of Section 31 but they're villains who work best when used sparingly. Much like the Borg, they got overused in both Star Trek itself as well as the Expanded Universe. Still, if you're going to do a War on Terror analogue, then you need someone to do the down and dirty elements of the Western side. Part of what made Enterprise's early seasons embarrassing was they tried to do their own analogue for the War on Terror but had our heroes uncompromised by it. Ironically, Deep Space Nine did it much better and it ended in 1999. That is why it's a timeless classic with widespread applicability and the last "great" Trek show.

    I may be jumping the gun in assuming Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) is evil because he does an excellent job of pointing out the technology they're working on, while it does have military applications, will also be vital to spreading the Federation across the galaxy. Assuming this is still the main timeline and the Temporal Cold War, Q, or writers haven't utterly borked it--this technology is not going to work out in the long run but that doesn't mean it can't be interesting in the meantime. Certainly, it already has reasons its not in widespread use with the fact it turns crew into cubist art and invites Yog-Sothoth to exist in this dimension.

Yeah, he's not a bad guy at all.
    Honestly, I'm less fond of Michael Burnham in this series than I am deliberately irritating character Tilly. She's a character meant to be brought over from another Star Trek show and reminds me strongly of Barclay. The fact she's an idealistic and happy girl about to enter a horrifying war is a good set up. The fact she's also awkward to the point of some believing she's neuroatypical (and might be) also makes her more sympathetic than the usual super intelligent demigods on the bridge. I'm not sold on either Saru or Commander Landry as neither has yet made a strong impression on me.  The engineer might be the first openly gay character in Star Trek's main timeline but Sulu rang that bell in Star Trek: Beyond and it's 2017 not 2000 when it might have been relevant.

    In conclusion? I'm here with the series and am interested in where it's going. The biggest problem with this story, sadly, is Michael Burnham who is still far too smug for a character which should have been broken by her experiences.

9/10

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