The SHIPS hit the FANS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST MY WAY OF SHOWING LOVE!

At first, I was thinking of titling this blog “The Big Good-bye” or “The Long Good-bye” or “We Get It Already—Everybody Is Saying Good-bye!” I also considered, “That’s Not Orange, Dammit; It’s Red!” But in the end, I didn’t want to sound harsh because it implies that I didn’t think this was a good episode.

The penultimate 13th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season, “Sweet Sorrow,” wasn’t a bad episode…far and away not! It finally showed us a redesigned bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 that didn’t feel like an Apple Store. In fact, I wanted to grab a Klingon time crystal, take this bridge back to 2007, kidnap J.J. Abrams, and shout: “THIS!!!!” In fact—looking at the uniforms, the handles in the Enterprise turbolift, the sounds of the bridge and the photon torpedoes, etc.—it might not be a bad idea to take a time detour to 2016, kidnap Bryan Fuller and whoever was the original production designer on Discovery, and shout, “THIS!!!!” even louder.

So yes, I liked the Enterprise and the people in it. And I just signed the Change.org petition to CBS trying to convince them to do a new CAPTAIN PIKE series on the Enterprise in pre-TOS. Serious no-brainer, CBS: don’t let Anson Mount get away!!!

But this episode also suffered from a number of weaknesses…many of them stemming from the fact that the season was originally set to be 13 episodes and, early on, a decision was made to stretch the finale into two parts. And there’s no doubt that the last episode will be an amazing, budget-blowing WOW!-fest. And about half of this episode was equally stunning. But there was also a lot—a LOT!—of filler. And ultimately, this episode felt (to me, at least), like being the passenger with a student driver who is constantly accelerating and then hitting the brakes hard and then repeating the process.

So for the next-to-last time this season, let’s dive into my thoughts on an episode of Discovery

A BRIDGE TO THE ORIGINAL SERIES…

See what I did there? There’s the Enterprise bridge and then there’s the bridge to transport the crew over to the Enterprise…aw, just appreciate the brilliant pun and move on!

Okay, let’s give credit where credit it’s due. The first 12 minutes (longest Trek teaser ever????) was VERY watchable and, in certain places, just a bit of a Trekkie-gasm for long-suffering fans who have been screaming “THIS ISN’T OUR STAR TREK!!!!” for the last two years.

Granted, for those wanting to see an exact replica of the the Desilu sets from 1965, there will never be acceptance. And there were other minor issues like the red alert animations being from the Trek movie era. And of course, that’s NOT the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 that we all grew up dreaming about one day traveling on to the stars. And the mammoth size of the Discovery next to her just brings home that, visually, this is a VERY different “prime” universe.

But then again, there’s the familiar TOS theme music played multiple times—and who doesn’t like that?—along with the whooshing doors, bosun’s whistle when Pike enters the bridge, and the familiar sound of the photon torpedoes firing….like coming home! And those space maneuvers by Detmer were cool…as were those unfolding walkways (Discovery is a veritable Swiss army knife!).

And of course, we get to see Number One again (this is only the second time this second that Rebecca Romijn has appeared—I feel like we were promised Number One and ended up only getting Number One-Half). And did you notice in the closing credits they list Yeoman Colt as appearing in the episode. I’m not sure which bridge officer she was, but Nicole Dickinson has been a ST: Discovery stunt woman and extra (she’s played Klingons and was the female Talosian, by the way). And for those who didn’t memorize useless trivia for a hobby as a kid, Yeoman Colt was the red-haired crew woman who beamed down with Number One into Pike’s “Cage” on Talos IV in the first pilot episode of Star Trek.

THE LONGEST LOG…

While the first 12 minutes were fun, Burnham’s log goes on for a nearly uninterrupted THREE MINUTES!!! The reason, of course, is that we’re wrapping up a dozen episodes of a complex, season-long story-arc with many moving parts. Just in case anyone missed something, has ADHD like Tilly, or simply decided to start watching at episode 13 of the second season, here’s the story so far…for three frickin’ minutes! And yes, class, this will all be on Friday’s test.

And as long as I’m kvetching, did anyone else notice that the auto-destruct seems to be able to be activated without speaking a code or getting a voice verification? This means that anyone coming on board and shooting the captain and first officer with a phaser on stun can blow up a starship just by dragging their bodies to those two consoles and putting their hands on the glass console. Just sayin…’

MOVING THE CHESS PIECES INTO PLACE…

I usually read a few different reviews before I write mine. Sometimes I’m looking for inspiration. Other times I’m trying to confirm that it’s not just me who noticed this or was bothered by that, etc. Most times, though, it’s just because I want to make sure I’m not just writing the same thing everyone else is writing.

But this time, the latter seems to be unavoidable because nearly every review I looked at pointed out that this episode was structured primarily to place the pieces on the board in such a way as to lead into the season finale. Unfortunately, this made the episode super-predictable—at least to me. Cases in point…

  • When Michael was left alone with the time crystal, of course she was going to touch it and get a glimpse into a horrible future because we have to know that what’s coming is bad so that we can be invested in avoiding it.
  • There was such a HUGE build-up to the self-destruction of the Discovery, so of course it wasn’t going to happen! And naturally, it was going to be due to the Sphere archive protecting itself. After all, Discovery needs to be around in 1,000 years for “Calyspo” AND we saw in the coming attractions from last week’s episode that Discovery is still around when the Section 31 ships arrive.
  • Fans have been predicting that the Red Angel is Michael Burnham since the beginning of the season. Granted, I thought it was the future Discovery, so I was wrong. But once I knew that Burnham’s mom (who shares most of Michael’s DNA) “fit the suit,” it was inevitable that Michael would don the suit. So no surprises there, either.
  • C’mon, ya just knew this was gonna turn into a one-way trip for the wearer of the suit! And what’s more, the fact that Discovery‘s spore drive would be inoperable for 12 hours (or however long it took to make sure they couldn’t jump away from the “big payoff” battle in the season finale) was also inevitable. That’s the problem with giving your starship a “superpower”—you sometimes have to find a way to neutralize the superpower or risk eliminating all the drama and suspense.

And that leads up to…

THE WRITERS DON’T UNDERSTAND THE SIZE OF SPACE!

I realize that Control is like Skynet and Leland like the Terminator—they just keep coming at you and won’t ever stop or give up. Fine. But Discovery has the Magic Mushroom drive and can go anywhere in known space. “Oops…here comes Section 31! Hey, let’s jump 25,000 light-years in that direction!” Then, 25 years later, here comes those Section 31 ships again. “I have you now,” says Control/Leland (Conland? Letrol?), as the 30 ships power up weapons. So Discovery simply jumps back to where they started. “Oh, crap…not again!” says Control. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Sometimes I think sci-fi writers on this show really have no idea how big space really is. I mean , you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space! So Discovery really could force Control to spend months or even years catching up with them, and then do it all again and again. And if the crew can’t figure out a way to power up that time crystal in all that…um…time, then they really need to find another sci-fi series to star in.

And speaking of space and time, apparently Vulcans have TARDIS technology or their own spore drive because Sarek and Amanda somehow manage to get from their Vulcan beach house to a spaceport and over to Discovery in record time! And remember, while they’re flying toward Discovery, Discovery jumps to Xahea. And somehow Sarek and Amanda get to Discovery BEFORE the Enterprise does at maximum warp??? C’mon, writers…THINK!

That scene would have been just as acceptable if Sarek had used his interstellar katra-konnection power with Michael to set up a mental conference call between her, himself, and Amanda. And hey, since when was Spock the one who told Sarek to stay away? I always thought Sarek was the schmuck….or maybe they both were. Oh, well…just more canon fodder.

My last big space/time credibility problem has been pointed out by many fans: why do the Section 31 ships all show up at the exact same instant??? If the United States suddenly needed all of our naval vessels in the Persian Gulf or the South China Sea, they wouldn’t all arrive simultaneously. Now, I realize that control is smart enough to want to deal a knockout blow with everything he/she/it has all at once, but those ships are still scattered across a very large amount of space. I just don’t think the writers get how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big space is.

THREE THINGS I REALY LIKED…

Now, before you start thinking that I really hated this episode, I didn’t! REALLY!! And to prove it, here are three things I really liked…

It wasn’t all predictable. I was actually surprised by two things this episode. The first was seeing Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po again (originally seen in the first Short Treks episode “Runaway”). Granted, the writers had said early on that the Short Treks would each work their way into episodes this season. We obviously encountered Saru’s people in an episode, and Mudd had used a time crystal in season one (though not in his Short Treks episode). And I still expect we’ll tie into “Calypso” next episode. So Po was definitely due for a visit. And while I didn’t really love the character in her previous introduction, actress Yadira Guevara-Prip made this outing a lot more fun. Which brings us to my second point of praise…

There was banter—you know how much I love banter! Granted, the banter was primarily in just a few key scenes, but where it happened, it was a lot of fun. And at one point, we get all of the “comic relief” in one room: Tilly, Reno, Po, and Georgiou. The latter seems to now be giving a voice to all the viewers who roll their eyes at certain scenes. And to be honest, as that’s often me, as well, I’m fine being represented by a psychopathic Chinese woman dressed in black leather.

And third, Stamets and Hugh did NOT get back together this episode. Hooray! Yeah, I know we’re all still rooting for them, and if it happens, it happens. But after last episode, I didn’t want Hugh going back to Paul for the wrong reasons. Now of course, it’s possible that the two star-crossed lovers will soon be permanently time-crossed, as well…more on that shortly.

THE MANY, MANY, MANY GOOD-BYES!

The one thing I really didn’t like this episode was all of the goodbyes. No, let me rephrase that because I can already hear the diehard faithful typing those angry comments calling me a hater of all things Discovery because I am not appreciating the emotional scenes now that I’m finally seeing them. So let me start again…

While some of the good-byes were done very nicely and added a nice, emotional impact to the episode, eventually I began to feel that there were just too darn many of them. Approximately 20% of the total episode screen time was dedicated to scenes involving good-byes!

How many goodbyes were there? Let’s count…!

Good-bye #1 – Pike has everyone on the bridge “eyes front” to salute Discovery before she self-destructs. Even though she doesn’t, it’s still a good-bye.

Good-bye #2 – Burnham says good-bye to everyone on the bridge. That was fine. Short, sweet. Next…

Good-bye #3 – Tilly says good-bye to Po…except she’s not leaving! So maybe that’s an “aborted” good-bye.

Good-bye #4 – A pissed-off Georgiou balls out Burnham…which is kinda like a good-bye.

Good-bye #5 – Sarek and Amanda…very touching and well-acted scene. Okay, are we done yet?

Good-bye #6 – Michael and Tilly say the “non-existent” good-bye because Tilly announces that the series regulars are staying with her on the ship because, well, that’s what friends do…and it’s either that or have season 3 feature only Michael Burnham as opposed to mostly Michael Burnham.

Good-bye #7 – Tyler isn’t coming along, so he and Burnham get their heartfelt good-bye…except I felt mostly nothing because I never quite connected with them as a couple in the first place. And of course, Tyler needs to be available for the new Section 31 series. So while I wanted to get emotionally invested in this seventh good-bye, nothing came…not even with the sad, majestic farewell music playing.

Good-byes #8, #9, #10, #11, #12 – Saru, Tilly, Owosekun, Detmer, and Stamets all get to record their good-byes into their iPhones for their loved ones…loved ones who, with the exception of Saru and Tilly, we’ve never seen or heard about before now. So no real emotional connection for me there, either. Okay, now we must be done with the good-byes, right?

Good-bye #13 – Captain Pike says good-bye (individually by name) to each of the bridge officers. Good scene except that the writers punt on giving command to Saru. Why? Well, if season 3 really does have Discovery off in the distant future (or past or both) away from Starfleet, then the fact that there is no clear captain allows for some drama between Saru and Burnham when they don’t agree…assuming that’s what happens in season 3.

Good-bye #14 – Now that Pike’s said his good-byes, the bridge crew gets to say theirs to him with heroic poses. And no one will miss that pepper-haired captain more than us fans! GIVE PIKE HIS OWN SERIES, CBS!!!

Good-bye #15 – This last one was the best of the bunch. Georgiou tries to give Pike one last psyche-out by telling him she’s Terran from “your mirror universe.” Pike smiles and says casually, “What mirror universe?” and then gives her a wink. Does that mean he always knew, that Burnham told him, or that he just doesn’t care? Now, for a moment, I was frustrated that the writers never showed the scene where Burnham tells Pike the truth about Georgiou (as Burnham promised Pike she would do). But while I would have liked to have heard that conversation, I’m okay with just allowing us fans to fill in our own answer…and I’m going with “Burnham told him.”

And now we can finally say good-bye to the good-byes! Take a breath, folks…

SO, ARE THEY REALLY ALL GOING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE?

To flee, or not to flee? That is the question! Or rather, to accompany or not to accompany?

With all those good-byes this episode, it would seem like more of an anticlimax than a head-fake for the Discovery crew NOT to all wind up “out of time” (far future or distant past) going into season 3. After all, we’ve now separated all of the “main” characters (including a token alien) into a “core cast” for next season…which lowers the cost for extras, make-up, and uniforms. All we’ve gotta do now is somehow get Spock to stay in the present and for Dr. Culber to need to rush onto Discovery to save Stamets or something (unless Hugh is leaving the series…again).

And so we have our last chance this season for fans to make their predictions, and most seem to have decided that season 3 will be the temporal-displacement equivalent of Star Trek: Voyager, just with the crew lost in time instead of lost in space (which is yet another sci-fi franchise). Actually, if the Discovery computer herself somehow becomes sentient, then this series might wind up being closer to Red Dwarf! I guess we’ll just have to wait to see if I’m right. I’m still waiting for the seven signals to be sent from the Discovery we saw in “Calypso.”

In the meantime, will this “solve” all of the discontinuities between Discovery and the previous Trek series? After all, Spock might never talk of an adopted sister who is never coming back (although that doesn’t explain the delirium sequence in TNG‘s episode “Sarek” where Michael is never mentioned). And will it adequately explain why Starfleet doesn’t use a spore drive? The only ship it ever worked on is now gone…along with the guy with the tardigrade DNA to plug into it. And of course, Starfleet would never try to recreate such silly technology, right? Uh-huh, yeah…

In other words, I don’t buy it. If flinging Discovery out of time is supposed to make all the continuity “reset,” it won’t…at least in my head. As for what’ll happen to the Discovery crew, well, one would hope that, if this idea works, then Starfleet will survive long into the future, just as it did in the previous Trek TV series. And so, a future Starfleet should welcome Discovery the same way we’d greet a time-displaced Leif Erickson or Magellan into the 21st century. Of course, we know from canon (if there is such a thing anymore!), that Starfleet eventually builds timeships. So if the future really is what it used to be, then the displaced crew can be sent back to their proper time faster than you can say deus ex machina!

Anyway, the best news is that all of our questions will (hopefully) be answered next week, and then I can finally get my Fridays back for the next nine months or so!

19 thoughts on “The SHIPS hit the FANS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)”

  1. Thank you so much Jonathan, a very good write up, I my self wait until 2 episodes are released then watch, I have a thrill coming my way it appears at the end of this coming week, SPOILERS are no big deal though you’ve amped me up lol, thank you for all you do for all of us both sides of the camera, so glad we all have you and your open to helping our little community thrive as you do

  2. This a very good review. While I don’t necessarily agree with all your criticisms, I do recognize that they are valid (at least to you).

    Except in regards to the canon issues.

    You have a tendency to make a mistake that many do when discussing such things, which is assuming that when a new piece of information is retconned into the timeline, it can’t be resolved because it was never brought up, mentioned, etc. You did it last week with the time crystals on Borath, assuming that because they existed, Worf automatically knew everything about them, and thus would immediately go running back to Borath to use them to bring Jadzia back to life. But, just because Worf was on Borath doesn’t mean he was shown the crystals at all. Just because you went on the White House tour doesn’t mean you sat in on a meeting in the Oval Office.

    And so it is this week. In Sarek, Sybok is never mentioned either in that sequence, and the writers had the benefit of knowing he existed!

    As for the spore drive, there are reasons-a-plenty for them not to use it once Discovery is done, one way or the other. The simple fact that Stamets would be allowed to take a post anywhere other than Discovery shows that they did not intend to keep using it.

    1. That’s the thing, Dave, it’s not credible. If Starfleet knew it had the ability to traverse hundreds of thousands of light-years in the blink of an eye, they would certainly pursue it at all costs. It might take years or decades or even centuries, but if mankind knew there was a cure for cancer or a way to eliminate famine, you’d better believe someone (likely many someones) would be pursuing it until they found the hidden solutions.

      If Starfleet weren’t doing this kind of research on spore technology, it needs to be explained to us why. Now, for a little portion of this season, it sounded like the Discovery going through the mycelial network was damaging the home dimension of the mushrooms. So that would have been a good reason not to boldly go there. But even AFTER the whole Mushroom May plot, the Discovery is still zipping its way from point A to point B using shortcut M. So obviously, Starfleet doesn’t seem to have a problem with spore jumps.

      As for the time crystals (which were NOT mentioned in Voyager “Endgame” by the way; I checked), the fact is that the time crystals were known about “in legend” throughout the Klingon Empire, but many Klingons seemed to know they were real–including Voq/Tyler, L’Rell, and whoever ordered the Klingons to experiment with the time crystals before and during the war. So the odds are that Worf would at least suspect the crystals might be real. If so, then he’d at least attempt to find out for certain in order to try to save Jadzia…who wouldn’t have died had she simply not been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      Now of course, the real reason Worf didn’t seek out the time crystals is because, at the time, there was no such thing as a “time crystal” in the Star Trek universe. That’s also why Sarek never mentioned Michael Burnham. (The reason he didn’t mention Sybok is that Sarek never had any regrets about his interactions with his elder son. Sybok was just a black sheep from day one.) But that’a the risk of doing a prequel–you run into a lot of places where you can introduce something that royally screws up established continuity. Now, if it’s small stuff, like a Klingon soldier gets killed or Saru invents a new kind of cheese, no big deal. But when you introduce technology that can allow your ship to travel instantaneously to anywhere in the known universe or giving the Klingons the potential power over time itself, then it’s a big thing, sir.

      That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

      1. Bravo!!! Completely Agree! I’m with you, great sci-fi, Trek origin, time periods or Alternate Universe’s, far from our Trek Tech time period, Pike removing Tech from Enterprise made me giggle, not our Universe, he used what he had to do what was needed, if it was there and helped he’d have used it, thanks for easing my disturbance of why I couldn’t fully engage, reason why I wait for 2 episodes, to be drawn into it, couldn’t watch 1 episode, felt disappointed, 2 episodes keep me engaged but not feeling it was a farce, great sci-fi of another Universe much like our own but far more advanced Tech

  3. A detail, at the end of the chapter we see the distribution of the ships before the battle and the phrase “we are surrounded” is heard; I sincerely remembered The Wrath of Khan and the lack of combat experience in three dimensions.
    Another point, I do not know if they noticed that the ships leaving the warp pass at zero speed? That is a detail that began to be seen in the films of JJ Abrams.

  4. The one thing that has annoyed me about Discovery is how predictable it has been. Season 1 fans correctly guessed that Lorca was from the Mirror Universe and we got treated to a several episode arc of Mirror Universe goodness (I am a fan). In Season 2 fans correctly guessed that Burnham is the Red Angel, the misdirect came in with Burnhams mother, which wasn’t one, but was one. Apparently the Red Angel is a 2 part act. And there is also a LOT of hints that this may lead to the creation of the Borg (also a fan). Sorry, those Nantes screamed Borg and that line from Leland was a beautiful homage to the Borg without the actual words “Resistance is futile”. And now it looks like they are going to do some time travel, and I won’t lie, part of me hopes next season is in the future or past. They could fix the timeline to something more familiar to what we all know if they go into the past. Or Knowing how cliffhangers are, The ship could end up in the future, someone gets a hair up their ass and tries to go to the past and they end up in the “prime” universe. This next episode could go in so many different directions that it is nuts. So, we will know what happens (most of it anyway) next week, unless they pull another cliff hanger to keep us all waiting. I just hope it isn’t a full year until we see Season 3

  5. “Actually, if the Discovery computer herself somehow becomes sentient, then this series might wind up being closer to Red Dwarf!”
    I just imagined ST:D with Norman Lovett doing the ship’s computer voice.

  6. If Burnham’s mother is somehow successful at removing Micheal and her husband from the station before the Klingon attack, it would remove her from Spock’s life, but would alter the timeline so she wouldn’t be on Discovery in the first place! If they had it happen after the Discovery is flung into the future, they could invoke some crystal mumbo jumbo that makes Discovery impervious to causality!

  7. Yup – with you all the way on that one Jonathan, and liked the HitchHikers references. Not so keen on the rather unlikely ship-to-ship walkways. However, I did love the Enterprise sets – some fantastic detail there. Little things like the grilles in the corridors and the offset turbolift. Did they really splash out on all of that for just two episodes? Kinda suggests we’ll see more of the Enterprise in the future, unless it was GCI trickery or an end-of-season splurge with the budget.

    I’m not sure how the next series will unfold. If the volunteer crew is indeed meant to adventure through time, Doctor Who style (please, no), then it’s an awfully big ship for just a handful of people to operate. And that’s assuming they’d have time to actually do anything at all with all the inevitable touchy-feely group-hugging and speechmaking that seems to be going on lately.

    I feel another script coming on…

    1. It might have been an end-of-the-season splurge with the intention to helping to convince CBS to green-light a Pike series. “See? We’ve already got a couple of sets done!” I wouldn’t put it past them. 🙂

  8. Jonathan, I always enjoy your reviews. I don’t always agree with some of what you write but I do find them informative and entertaining. I consider what you write to be pretty darn unbiased and good reading. Thanks for putting the time and effort into an excellent blog.

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