Star Trek’s DISCOVERY RECOVERY continues! (editorial review)

Admiral, there be SPOILERS here!

At first, I was going to title this blog “Has STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Finally Got Its Groove Back?” Then I realized that it never really had a grove during season one…at least for me.

But the series does seem to have found a new groove that began with the first episode of season two and has continued now into its fourth episode, “An Obol for Charon.” And for anyone wondering what the heck that means, an Obol is an ancient Greek coin that was put in the mouth of a corpse before burial to be taken down to the underworld and used to pay Charon, the Ferryman, for a trip across the River Styx. (Speaking of which, how awesome was this song from 1982?)

Now, the episode itself wasn’t as good the second episode of season two, but it was better than the third episode. And it felt infinitely more Star Trek-like than nearly the entire first season. In fact, let’s take a look at how Star Trek is working its way back into Discovery

CANON RESTORATION TOUR 2019

The Star Trek: Discovery “Canon Restoration Tour 2019” continued this week as we watch the writers valiantly trying to extricate themselves from many of the headaches they created for the show in season one by asking the innocent question, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?”

For example, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had holograms for communications? No more just seeing a face on a flat view screen; we can have the whole person standing right there on the bridge!” Cool? Yes. Canon? Um, no.

Now, I doubt all but the most hardcore Trekkies would have objected to a little reasonable “updating” of what 1966 considered to be future tech. But while some Trek fans had no problem with holographic communications ten years before Kirk, others felt like it was an unnecessary introduction of a communications technology that wasn’t seen even a century later in TNG, DS9, or Voyager. Dare I say it…a bridge too far? (Ouch! Sorry.)

And so now the writers are trying to write themselves out of these apparently failed attempts to “future up” the past (the past from Kirk’s perspective). For instance, the familiar TOS three-color uniforms with the black collars are apparently Starfleet’s “new” uniforms, which Enterprise crewman get to wear while Discovery is stuck wearing the old style. “Uniform problem fixed! Now to tackle the next anachronism.”

While I appreciate their effort putting right what once went wrong, I do still have the occasional “Man, but that is just so dumb!” reaction from time to time. So please indulge me a brief airing of the grievances before I let it go and move on…

Last week, we discovered that the Klingons cut their hair when they go to war and let it grow back when they stop fighting. Really? Unless battles are fought by pulling hair, this seems like a lot of wasted effort to shave all body hair and wax during wartime. Me? I’d cut my hair when there’s NO fighting going on and, therefore, more free time. Also, we’ve seen the Klingons of TNG and DS9 go to war with lots of hair on their bumpy noggins.

This week, it was those darn holographic communications. Pike said they looked too much like ghosts; and he prefers view screens. (Hey, I prefer a computer mouse and satellite TV. But I’m old.) So the writers tried to explain away a century of Starfleet not using holograms for communications…or rather, just the original USS Enterprise from TOS. T’see, apparently the holographic communications system cascaded through ALL of the systems on the Enterprise and “Old Man Pike” didn’t like holograms anyway and had them permanently removed. (Yep, just like my telephone breaks my microwave and shuts down the power to my refrigerator! We’d all better stop using phones, people!!)

Of course, we now ALSO have to believe that Captain Kirk was the same kind of technophobe and never asked that bungling engineer Scotty to reinstall the holograms to keep up with the latest technology. And the brand new Galaxy-class flagship of the Federation a century later…Picard didn’t like holograms either? Oh, wait, he loved the holodeck. Man, don’t get me started!!!

Anyway, the storytelling contortions aren’t all quite that ridiculous. The fact that Burnham was so awful to Spock during his developmental years could conceivably explain why he never talked about his human adopted sister in over 100 hours of Star Trek episodes and movies. Hopefully, they don’t kiss and make up by the end of this current season…although I actually want them to.

Also, I pretty much expected a “the magic mushroom drive is tearing apart the mycelial network” plot line to explain why Starfleet in future centuries doesn’t use the most effective form of interstellar and intergalactic travel EVER! Although one might still wonder why, once the Voyager was found, Starfleet didn’t build one more Discovery-class ship (ancient tech by that point) to mount a one-time rescue mission? Maybe they could have found a way to ask the mushroom beings for permission for just two quick jumps to the Delta Quadrant and back.

As you can see, violating canon for a show with nearly 700 hours of established episodes and movies is rife with a cascade of plot holes. If only they’d set Discovery in the future, like they will with the new Picard series….but they didn’t.

However, this episode did do something positive for Trek canon that I didn’t even realize needed fixing. Remember all those episodes of TNG and DS9 where the library computer has records of planets and civilizations and empires that existed hundreds of millennia ago? How exactly does the Federation database have such thorough information? I mean, sure, archaeologists of today can tell us about societies from 5,000 or 10,000 years ago. But 100,000 years? That’s a looooong time. Well, now we know where all that Federation historical information came from. So score one for the writers.

Oh, and did folks notice that this latest episode finally establishes that Stamets is NOT the chief engineer of the Discovery. That kind of makes sense (although I think many of us had assumed it) because Stamets was originally brought into the project only to develop the spore drive, not because he was an expert in warp propulsion or fixing the turbolifts. That said, one wonders why, after 17 episodes (not counting the first two), we have NEVER once seen or heard from the chief engineer of the USS Discovery. Shouldn’t he have been talking to Stamets and Captain Lorca constantly…just like Scotty or Geordi did to their captains?

And speaking of engineers…

BANTER’S BACK BIG TIME, BABY!

In my opinion, the following scene could NEVER have happened last season…

This is not to say that Discovery needs to become a comedy or even try for gags as often as The Orville does. But Star Trek has always had at least one EPS conduit plugged directly into humor. Whether it was “The Trouble with Tribbles” or simply making fun of Spock at the end of an episode—whether it was “Mr. Adventure” locked in a closet or “A double dumb-ass on you!”—whether it was Data growing a beard to look like Riker, Q’s latest quip, Quark’s latest scam, or Neelix’s latest culinary experiment, Star Trek was always able to laugh at itself, giving the audience a chance to laugh along.

Now, I understand that season one was all about a hard-fought war (although we saw surprisingly little of it in the show)…but then again, so was M*A*S*H. In fact, some might say that humor is one of the ways soldiers have of staring down the soul-crushing horrors of war. Just watch Good Morning, Vietnam. Heck, even Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers had at least a little bit of light banter between the shooting and explosions. Keeping banter mostly out of season one was, I feel, a huge mistake by the writers, and I am ecstatic that they’ve not only brought it in for season two, but they’ve embraced it and injected into the life support vents of the ship itself.

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

Why, yes…yes we can! Remember back when Michael Burnham first came aboard Discovery and everyone hated her? No one would talk to her except Tilly…mainly because no one talked to Tilly either. Ah, look at all the dysfunctional people. The chief of security was a heartless witch (not much different than her Mirror Universe counterpart, come to think of it). Saru had deep-seeded issues with Burnham, blaming her for Captain Georgiou’s death, the loss of his mentor, the major speed bump in his expected career path, etc. Saru didn’t trust Burnham, and he was actually rather afraid of her (as he seemed to be afraid of almost everything–although at least we now know what that whole “my people sense the coming of death” mishegoss from season one was all about).

Compare those screwed up officers from last season to the crew in this episode and the ones just before it. With the exception of one snarky comment from Stamets to Tilly when she tires to talk to him about his dead lover/doctor, Pike’s misinterpreting the bridge crew’s reaction when he wants to mount (pun unintended) a rescue attempt in the asteroid field, and Saru’s irritated scolding of Tilly when she went all May-nic (manic) on the bridge and yelled at Pike…there have been no harsh confrontations or frictions between any two crew members this season. No interpersonal angst, no social dysfunction. It’s so unlike season one as to be an almost unrecognizable show now!

That’s not to say that everyone is a shining, happy person all the time. Burnham still mopes and frets about Spock. Saru had his whole “I accept I am going to die” storyline this episode. Tilly needed to deal with her May-levolent May-nifestation, and Stamets is still getting over the murder of his pajama buddy.

But the show has evolved. That resentment that Saru had for Burnham seems to have all-but-disappeared…to be replaced with a brother/sister closeness so intense that Saru even asked Michael to euthanize him because Saru himself was too weak. Granted, I’m not exactly sure when those two traded in their swords for plowshares—must’ve happened sometime between the episode where Saru had his freak-out and the end of last season—but I much prefer crewmates helping and supporting each other (even if that support means filleting them with a ritualistic knife). The same thing goes for Stamets’ tender moment with Tilly (also involving a sharp instrument next to her head—what IS it with this episode????). But their musical Bowie duet was a magical moment that would have seemed like an alien language to the writers of season one.

Granted, it’s not as though the crew doesn’t occasionally have their little tense moments or disagreements. The difference is that this season, they don’t last long. Just 45 seconds after the above scene where Stamets and Reno get into a short flame war, the following happens…

Snarkiness and resentment quickly turn into teamwork and mutual respect. And really, isn’t that what we want to see on a starship? Isn’t Star Trek the ideal we all want to aspire to?

IT’S BEGINNING TO FEEL A LOT LIKE STAR TREK

Well, I should probably say “feel a lot MORE like Star Trek.” Although no one wants Star Trek to just be the same all the time, it’s still nice to touch base with the familiar from time to time. And this episode had four VERY familiar storylines…all woven into one.

The first, of course, was the sick or dying main character, like Spock in “Amok Time” or McCoy in “For the World Is Hollow…” The second was the ship being slowly destroyed by a spatial anomaly or a cosmic string or an alien entity. Much like the TNG episode “Disaster,” parts of the ship were cut off, forcing characters into crisis situations where they had to work together or call on their inner strength to save themselves and each other. Third, there was the misunderstood alien lifeform who appears to be attacking the ship but is really just trying to communicate or something. And fourth, there’s the mysterious alien entity trying to take over the mind of one of the main characters.

The first three ended in typical Star Trek fashion. The dying officer drew on his inner strength to help save the day…and he ultimately survives. The crew manages to save the ship through a combination of ingenuity, bravery, and some technobabble. And finally, the crew needs to overcome their impulses to simply shoot and kill the alien entity because we’re better than that, right? Granted, Pike was ready to pull the trigger, but once confronted by Burnham and Saru, Pike chose to trust his crew and make his ship vulnerable to avoid killing. It was total Star Trek.

Then again, the fourth plot line did NOT end as typical Trek. Rather than rescuing Tilly from the Mycelial May-ssenger of May-hem (seriously, I need ti stop with the May-puns!), Stamets and Reno fail, and the spores Tilly-nap our second-favorite Star Trek crazy red-head. So 75% familiar and expected, and 25% unexpected. That’s a healthy ratio.

The last thing this episode did that made me say, “Now THAT’S a Star Trek!” was the focus on Saru. Discovery usually just focuses on Burnham (or maybe Tilly), leaving many, MANY other characters mostly unexplored. At best, they’d get a B-story or else be a part of Burnham’s A-story. But back in the other Treks, there would be a Scotty episode or a Troi episode or an O’Brien episode or a Tuvok episode. Each character got their chance. And this time it was Saru, with magnificent performances by Doug Jones (yet again!). Perhaps there were a touch too many slow-talking scenes with Burnham, but the actors carried them. And not everything on this show needs to flash by at ludicrous speed…unlike season one!

My one complaint about this episode was very minor: “We interrupt our search for Spock to bring you another captivating episode of Star Trek: Discovery.” I realize it’s only been four episodes—and not even that—but doesn’t it feel like we’ve been tracking down Spock for much longer? I know we’ll see him in episode 7, but will there be yet another two Spock-less episodes? I hope not!!!

So this season, we’ve now gone four for four as the series fixes more and more things that were so wrong in season one. The Discovery Recovery continues…!

28 thoughts on “Star Trek’s DISCOVERY RECOVERY continues! (editorial review)”

  1. C0ncerning cutting hair for battle, it is not a new idea. It makes sense in hand-to-hand combat. The Romans noticed that many literally lost their heads in battle when their hair was grabbed by the enemy and used as a handle. Hair facilitates cutting off the head in a battle. That could be a beard or head hair. Romans invented clean-shaving as part of their military routine.

  2. 100 better season 2 but i can never get over negatively the starship discovery and its holo communications and spore drive aaagggg
    Michael Burnham aaagggg and those klingons aaaaggggg

  3. Also noticed that little tie is to the enterprise under Pike with his “Number 1” that they wrote in. Even the Actress they chose was a close ringer for the original that we know of.

  4. My part, after seeing the great report that the guys from Midnights Edge did: Star Trek Discovery: The Prime Deception. I feel liberated ,,, I no longer have the need to see that everything fits ,,,, there is nothing to fit …. Now I can see Discovery as an independent series ,,, still not liked, but I no longer get angry.
    But I still feel cheated by CBS and Kurtzman ,,, they have let me believe that I bought a Chevrolet and it is not more than a Daewo with the logo changed, is it legal? ,, yes. It’s my fault for not reading the fine print of the contract? ,,, if ,,,, but even so I feel cheated and that tarnishes everything that they sell me from now on

    1. CBS is still claiming that Discovery is the prime timeline…hence, the rush to try to re-canonize it in season two. For me, it’s too little, too late, but I’m still fine with thinking of the show as an alternate timeline.

      1. I feel the same way. The show runners really did not look back at what Star Trek was and just went with JJ’s everything has to be bigger and look cool aspect and to hell with past ascetics. One of the things that irked me the most was in Star Trek 2009 when Kirk and Bones go in search of Uhura, she is a room with large tanks. What actual purpose do they even server? I mean I could understand if it is an engineering section, but Uhura is a linguist and communications specialist. That one scene just really gets me every time I see it, and Discovery just takes stuff like that and multiplies it by ten.

        Honestly what they are doing with these retcons has more to do with trying to appease the fans that were criticizing the show. I have actually been a little surprised with this season. There have been a couple of episodes where I did not fast forward through parts of the episdoes.

        1. You have GOT to be kidding.
          The monumentally consistantly horrific BAD BAD writing, on Star Trek Discovery, makes it almost unbearable to even watch.

  5. Lets go back almost 25 years (yes a quarter of a century) when Star Trek Generations came out, If you remember correctly they had 2 different types of uniforms on the bridge. The TNG style that showed up in the beginning of DS9 and the ones I call the Voyager style. And if you remember the DS9 Season 4 Episode 1 Way of the Warrior you had the uniforms you saw the crew of DS9 where the division colors were on the shoulder and the TNG type that Worf wore. (Am I making any sense?)

    It seems that even in the 24th century Starfleet used 2 style uniforms for a short period of time to see the reaction, and that could explain the Uniforms that we saw at the end of DS9 and the TNG movies.

    Apparently dual uniforms is a Starfleet tradition.

    1. Unfortunately, this is where logic gets in the way of Trekplanation. I’m all for trying to Trekplain away incongruities in Star Trek lore. But here we’ve got a major problem. Y’see, the USS Discovery was just back on Earth moments before rendezvousing with the USS Enterprise (which had been out in deep space). If anyone would have had the NEW uniforms, it would have been Discovery’s crew coming straight from Starfleet HQ and a medal ceremony with the top brass. Enterprise, more likely, would be stuck still wearing the OLD uniforms, since that crew had been away from Earth for longer. Unless that crew had just come from Earth, in which case, I’m sure they would have got new uniforms there. Except, that still begs the question of why Discovery and the admirals weren’t wearing the new uniforms. Did Starfleet run out after outfitting the 203 crew members of Enterprise? Seems strange the admirals wouldn’t grab a few for themselves, don’t it?

      Now, I suppose you could conjecture that Starfleet uniforms are not made on Earth but rather on some planet that Enterprise just happened to be visiting. But that still doesn’t explain why Pike switched to the old uniform, since it was established in Generations that some crew members change their uniforms earlier than others. But they don’t change back. Well, Worf did in “Way of the Warrior,” but I think that was more of a production goof.

      Anyway, I just don’t buy the Discovery crew not getting new uniforms while at Starfleet HQ. What…they don’t having sewing machines on Earth in the future?

  6. It could be because the Enterprise was on a 5 year mission or they were a test case. It may have been the latter. Why? If they were the test case then why didn’t the admiralty have the new uniforms in the episode “Will you take my hand”. Yes, granted that could be chalked up to inconsistent writing. I did hear one theory those that makes a bit of sense. Perhaps the Alpha Quadrant had different uniforms than the Beta Quadrant. I know it is a bit of guess work. Maybe they will explain that too

  7. About uniforms It just looks like a candy for the old fans. It is nothing as colored version of the blue version of season 1, with references of TOS but not to The Cage or NMHGB.
    From an aesthetic point of view I do not discuss design choices on tunics, they are purely subjective, even if I do not like them, but I say that there are strong inconsistencies of
    continuities. Such as this is all this ST series. All the aesthetics are out of the prime line, I understand the production will of change but not of distortion. On a French forum, one person wrote this Star Trek Discovery is like Canada Dry ………………… I think he’s right.
    This serie is unique for difficulties, because we know the past and we know the futur in
    all parts ! Thisis the reason why the attention of the production must be different !

  8. When they said that the USS Enterprise was the first ship to receive “the new uniforms”, I couldn’t keep thinking that if you want to change the uniforms of the full Starfleet, there is no need to send them physically to each starship. You just need to send an update for the database of the replicators, adding the pattern for the new uniforms, and each ship will be able to build their own set of uniforms. I think that one of the first episodes of Season 1 showed us an uniform being built by a replicator (if I’m remember correctly, it was for Burnham’s to replace her convict orange suit). So we even had en episode showing that using replicators to build uniforms is an standard procedure.

  9. I will say this when it comes to uniforms. Since “The Cage” first hit the airwaves, it seems Starfleet’s can not make up it’s mind on a Uniform.
    1. Enterprise Jump Suits
    2. Discovery Era Uniforms
    3. TOS style Uniforms
    4. Phase II style in TMP
    5. TOS WoK – IDC Uniforms (My favorite BTW)
    6. Enterprise C Era Uniforms (without collar)
    7. TNG style without collar (and that includes the man skirt)
    8. Main TNG style with Collar
    9. Generations/Voyager Style Uniforms
    10. Dominion War Era Uniforms
    11. 20 years after TNG era ???????

    It’s a confusing mess to be honest.

  10. DS9 did introduce holographic communications in the episode for the uniform. Also the think tank lead from the voyager episode think tank did have an isomorphic projection.

    1. On DS9, they were a brand new technology, not one that had been installed on Starfleet vessels for a century. So new, in fact, that Voyager didn’t have them and was surprised by the Think Tank using such advanced technology.

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