Thursday, October 26, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery episode S106


    STAR TREK: DISCOVERY is a show which is consistently improving the more it continues but it's also doing so by moving away from what made you unique. The pilot introduced the possibility of a Star Trek "war" show which showed the Klingons and Federation in roughly equal measure. It promised space battles and a new look at Klingon culture. Unfortunately, we got waylaid with the "Spore Drive" plotline that was less than satisfying.

    The past two episodes, however, have been classic Trek with the "Captain kidnapped by aliens" and now "An ambassador needs to be rescued" mission. In short, Discovery is moving back to what made Star Trek great but that isn't necessarily something I fully support. I feel like it's pulling back from it's firm commitment to trying something new in order to do something safe--no matter how much I enjoy said safe option.

Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham have great chemistry.
    The premise for this episode is Sarek (James Frain) is on a mission of peace to the Klingon Empire when his aide is discovered to be a "logic extremist" that amounts to the Vulcan ISIL. His aide blows himself up but Sarek survives, barely, due to getting his ship's interior shields up in time. Michael Burnham, due to being his adopted daughter, senses his distress and compels her captain to help find him. This is the final straw for Starfleet, however, because it compels Commodore Cornwell to investigate Lorca's recent decisions. Lorca attempts to rely on their past relationship as friends as well as lovers but it only exposes just how damaged his past actions have made him.

    The most interesting plot for this episode is definitely the Sarek-Michael Burnham one. It is the first storyline which makes it necessary for Michael to be the previously-unknown sister of Star Trek's most iconic character (even exceeding Kirk). Sarek raised Michael to be the perfect Vulcan despite her being human and assumed that would be proof of how much potential humanity possesses. At least, that's my read on the character.

I like Frain's Sarek who is (ironically) human and flawed.
    Instead, Sarek finds out for a supposedly logical race that old habits like prejudice die hard. He's given an impossible choice by the Vulcan Expeditionary Force (which I take to be the all-Vulcan version of Starfleet): You can have Michael or Burnham take a position with us but not both. Fans of Star Trek will know it's a meaningless choice because Spock chose Starfleet. However, for Sarek, it is a choice for which of his children mean the most to him and it's not hard to guess which he picks. A choice which crushes Michael's dreams and yet is entirely pointless. It's a wonderful explanation for why Sarek and Spock didn't speak for 10 years.

    This episode, by this bit, does an excellent job of justifying Discovery's existence as part of the original timeline's continuity. It's not the only acknowledgement this takes place in the "Prime" universe as we find out the Constitution-class starship is already in service as well as the Enterprise in particular. This opens up the possibility of Christopher Pike showing up on the show and possibly a recast Spock (albeit I'd hope they'd get Zachery Quinto for the role if possible). Discovery broke a lot of rules and continuity at the start and while I was okay with this, I think these nods will help bring more continuity-obsessed Trekkies to its table.

An age appropriate romance in Star Trek!
    The biggest change in character is the discovery Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) isn't playing with a full deck. After the destruction of his previous command, at his own hand, we suspected he was feeling tremendous guilt but we discover now he's actually got full-blown PTSD. A disorder which means he shouldn't be commanding the Discovery, which Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) decides after he pulls a phaser from under his pillow and almost disintegrates her. The fact she's both his ex-lover and a old academy friend who has been covering for him explains a great deal but also makes his decision at the end of the episode all the more reprehensible. It will take a lot to redeem Captain Lorca from it if he's redeemable at all.

    So, do I think the character of Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) is actually Voq the Klingon? Yes, I'm pretty much certain of it unless Captain Lorca somehow turns out to be him. There's a lot of little hints which general audiences would miss like, "You fight like a Klingon" and him having met Michael Burnham before. I think the fact he's probably going to sleep with Michael Burnham is going to make the revelation all the more disturbing in the long run but I also believe it's going to seal the fake-Tyler's fate. Thankfully, this show doesn't seem to hesitate in killing off characters.

The Vulcan haircut needs to be modified for women.
     Some people have issues with the depiction of the Vulcans in the show, apparently not happy there's now a bunch of terrorists in a species known for its pacifism. I, on the hand, remember "Amok Time" showed there was a dark side to the Vulcan race which they kept hushed up but was always there. Basically, I both love as well as admire the Vulcan race both from an in and out of universe perspective but I also think it's important not to paint with too broad of a brush. Tibet is a country which has many wonderful qualities but it also had a dark side and so do the Vulcans. Besides, not all Vulcans are racists or terrorists, we know that.

    In conclusion, this was an excellent episode but raises more issues than it resolves. My biggest complaint is the fact the Klingons take an opportunity of peace talks to once more engage in an act of deception as well as murder. I know Klingon honor has been flexible before but this is getting to the point it's observed more in breach than obedience. We really need someone who has some code of behavior to show up soon.

8/10

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