Will You Take My Brain?

…because I’d really like to enjoy the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery!

At last! This long rollercoaster ride has come to a stop. And I think I might have to vomit.

Don’t get me wrong–I enjoyed the ride. It was thrilling! Lots of ups and downs and twistarounds, with more than a few unexpected twists and turns. But now that the ride is over… I just feel sick.

If you haven’t yet watched the season finale, “Will You Take My Hand?”–what are you waiting for? The entire season of Star Trek: Discovery is now available on CBS All Access! And if you’re one of those cheap-ohs who don’t like paying for television, then now’s your chance! With the Olympics pre-empting every good TV show for the next 2 weeks, there’s never been a better time to check out their 1-week free trial offer! You can binge the entire show in a week! Just don’t be surprised if it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Seriously though, for the most part, I enjoyed about 90% of this season. The visual effects are better than most of the Star Trek movies, the acting is 100x better than Shatner, and the writing is… well… they did alright.

But I just can’t seem to get past that other 10%. There were a lot of missed opportunities, in my opinion–great moments that weren’t fully realized. The whole season felt rushed. I understand the need for dramatic action-adventure pacing, but Star Trek: Discovery is a bit extreme. It felt like they were trying to do the same type of thing Star Trek: Enterprise did in its third season (the war arc with the Xindi): Telling one overall story, with a bunch of other little stories intertwined with the main story. And that’s fine. Enterprise pulled it off effectively. But they did it in 24 episodes, not 15, and they had the benefit of 2 seasons worth of backstory and character development to draw upon.

The problem with doing an epic arc like this in the first season is two-fold: First off, it sets a pace that will be difficult to match in the second season. The producers will either have to slow down the pacing, which may alienate some of their newer, younger fans, or try individual episodes–with each episode being its own, self-contained story. In an era where practically every dramatic series on television is serialized, that idea almost sounds inventive! The only other option would be to come up with another season-long story arc that can match the intensity of the first season–and I’m not sure the franchise can handle much more of that!

The other problem with doing an epic non-stop story arc over the first season is that we still–after 15 episodes!–don’t really know much about our main characters. Michael Burnham aside, there really wasn’t a whole lot of character development throughout the season. What do we know about Tilly’s past other than the fact that her mother was constantly criticizing her hair? Is that really the defining quality of Sylvia Tilly? Her hair? Honestly, we know more about “Captain Killy” from the Mirror Universe than we do about our own Cadet Tilly.

What have we learned about Lt. Stamets? The writers spent all their time developing this love story between Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber–and then they killed the good doctor off! WTF?!?

Here’s a little known fact about Saru: His species is able to sense the coming of death by use of their threat ganglia. Did you know that obscure little factoid? Did you even watch one episode of the show? It is quite literally the only thing we know about Saru!

Who else is even in the main cast? Lorca’s dead (in both universes)–so there goes one of the most interestingly dark and complex characters Star Trek has ever seen–and Shazad Latif’s character… I don’t even know what to call him! Voq? Ash Tyler? Doesn’t look like it matters, since he’s leaving the show to go sing kumbaya with the Klingons!

The lost art of character development. That’s what I miss. Silly me for thinking that a TV show should dare to take the time to develop characters, share their backstories, and forge relationships with one another. The only relationship that was developed this season was Michael Burnham and “Ash Tyler”–and what good will that do us next season?

I may sound like an old fogie, but I remember the days when TV series would utilize their episodic format effectively by focusing on a single character or pair unlikely duos together. As the viewer immersed themselves in the world of those characters, and learned about those characters, the viewer might be forced to reflect and learn something about themselves. Nowadays, its all about the story. No time to dwell on those people who are telling the story–its gotta be boom!smash! Onto the next plot point!

But I digress. Let’s talk about the season finale. There were quite a few enjoyable moments. Michael Burnham making her case to Admiral Cornwall with the entire crew of the Discovery willing to risk their careers by backing her up? That’s what Star Trek is all about! L’Rell as the new leader of the Klingon Empire? Love it! Tilly inhaling some kind of space dust with Clint Howard? Classic!

Of course, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t remind everyone that Clint Howard first appeared in Star Trek nearly 52 years ago! That gives him the distinction of being the longest-running recurring actor in Star Trek history, having also appeared as a Ferengi in Enterprise and even a human in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

We also got to spend quite a bit of time on Qo’noS! In fact, I’m not sure that we’ve ever seen this much of the Klingon homeworld. Canonically, the first time we saw Qo’noS was in Star Trek: The Next Generation–but we usually only saw the Great Hall of the Klingon High Council. In fact, this was one of the very few times that we’ve seen anything other than the capitol of Qo’noS.

The Orion “flea market” was a lot of fun! Best known for their weapons dealers, Tilly spent her last day as a cadet learning first-hand about some of the other things the Orions have to offer on their outpost: Drugs, for one–powerful enough to knock you out–Sex (although Tilly chose not to participate in that orgy), and the best-tasting Gormagander on all of Qo’noS! I guess now we know why the “space whale” is so endangered! They’re delicious!

I’m going to ignore the implications made by that Klingon taking a piss in the alley (at least for now–I’m not sure I can let that go). So long for Star Trek being a family show!

I’m struggling to come up with more good things to say about the finale… I like that they at least tied up the spore drive issue. Of course Starfleet is putting the project on hold until they can find a non-human interface (and, presumably, non-Tardigrade interface). This explains why Kirk, Picard and Sisko never used a spore drive on their ships. But I still have a hard time believing that Captain Janeway, after stranding the crew of the Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, never even considered building a spore drive to jump back home in a flash! And trust me, they came up with some pretty far-fetched ideas to try to get home. Here’s hoping that the second season of Discovery reveals that all of Stamets’ research has been classified top secret. That would at least make Janeway less of an idiot.

Since I’m making a wishlist for season 2, let me add this plea to the writers of Star Trek: Discovery: Please stop making episodes where the entire dramatic element hangs on the possible death or destruction of something we, the fans, know will survive into at least the 24th Century! It may seem like an exciting way to raise the stakes in your season finale by posing the imminent destruction of the Klingon homeworld–except that we know that isn’t going to happen! This is the same exact problem as “Lethe”–one of the weakest episodes to date, primarily because the entire premise of that episode is that Sarek might die! Will they find Sarek in time to save his life? YES! We know this already! Stop wasting our time!

And last, but not least, please do not EVER show the “USS Enterprise” ever again! Unless you enjoy wiping your ass with The Original Series, because that’s exactly what it smelled like!

Look, I enjoy Star Trek: Discovery–I really do! But I enjoy it as its own thing. Honestly, the only way I could enjoy this season at all was by thinking of it as a really high-budget fan film. That has allowed me to get past the multiple canon issues and just get swept up in this amazing story being told. But the only way I can do that, is by ignoring the fact that this series takes place in the same universe/approximate timeframe as The Original Series.

I accepted the fact that Sarek’s voice and face has changed dramtically from his appearance in 1967’s “Journey to Babel”. Amanda too. And I accepted the fact that Spock has an adopted human sister that he never, ever talked about. Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd was a stretch, but I accepted that, too. The Klingons look nothing like they’re supposed to, but hey–it’s just a TV show, I should really just relax!

Listen, I understand that when the writers of Star Trek: Discovery wrapped their first season, they had no idea if they’d be coming back for a second season or not. And I understand the temptation to anchor everything you’ve just written–all 15 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery–firmly into the canon of the franchise as a whole. I get it. I really do. And, although I’d like to think that if I were the showrunner I would resist that temptation to do such a cornball ending to the season, I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to or not. But I do know one thing: If I were able to cast all my doubts aside and say “Fuck it, let’s do it!” about showing the USS Enterprise in the final frame of the season, I’d at least say “Let’s make sure that the Enterprise actually looks like the Enterprise” for fuck’s sake! There’s already a CGI-Enterprise in CBS’ files–just use the one created in 2006 for the re-mastering of The Original Series! Or, if you must, use the one from the “Kelvin-timeline” movies (which, to the best of my knowledge, there’s still no canonical explanation about why that Enterprise looks so different from the original Enterprise, inside and out). But, whatever you do, do not create yet another inconsistency by redesigning the original Constitution-class Enterprise again!

I have never missed Deep Space Nine as much as I do now. Not only were their epic storylines easy to follow and rich with character development, but while making their nod to The Original Series, they painstakingly built a brand new model of the original USS Enterprise for “Trials and Tribble-ations”–knowing that every fan would be scrutinizing every centimeter of that ship to see if it’s consistent with the original. It’s that attention to detail that I sorely miss.

The sad part is, the Discovery writers are probably really proud of their inclusion of the Enterprise in their show. Even after the series was renewed for season 2, they had four months to think better of that ending and take it out. They could have easily edited the final episode to end with the obligatory warp-out of our solar system. That would have made for a fine ending that would have made this Trekkie very happy. But the sad truth is, the producers of Star Trek: Discovery actually thought that it would be a good idea to include a distress signal from Captain Pike and the USS Enterprise. And they probably thought fans would love the 2000th redesign of the original starship Enterprise. Which just goes to show you how out of touch the makers of Star Trek: Discovery really are. They don’t really give a damn about canon or making a good Star Trek series. They just want to get paid to write their fan fiction. I guess it’s hard to blame them–afterall, they do make a shitload of money to produce this crap. That’s a lot of isiks!

For the record, an isik is a monetary unit of the Vlugtan government, as revealed in the Deep Space Nine episode “Rivals”. Why nobody in the 23rd Century seems to know what an isik is is beyond me.

At any rate, I feel that the last 2 episodes of Discovery probably would have been better as originally conceived: As one episode. Well into the production of season 1, it was announced that the season would consist of 15 episodes instead of the originally announced 14. Initially, I assumed that was because of the 2-part premiere set aboard the USS Shenzhou, but that theory didn’t really make sense since those episodes would have already been “in the can” by the time the announcement was made. Now it makes sense: The expansion came about because there were too many loose ends to tie up in the finale. I think that originally they had planned for only 1 post-Mirror Universe episode to tie things up and end the war with the Klingons. But, for whatever reason, they decided to make it a 2-parter. That meant that they needed a little bit of filler. This explains why Michael Burnham “rescues” Emperor Georgiou from the Mirror Universe and brings her to the prime universe, and why Admiral Cornwell put Georgiou in command of the Discovery: They needed a hook for the second part! I’m pretty sure all of that was added in after they decided to expand the season. I also think they added in the element of Discovery returning from the Mirror Universe 9 months “too late” for the same reason: They needed to make it harder for Discovery to win the war.

All the mis-steps aside, I still enjoyed most of the season. I will be eagerly awaiting season two by reading all the books and graphic novels about the show, most of which are being considered “canon” by the writers of the TV show! Hell, maybe some of those will fill in some of the backstory of our regular characters! A good example of this is in the novel Desperate Hours, where we first learn about the fate of Michael’s birth parents and why she harbors so much guilt about it. Until this week, the only way to know that story is if you read the book. But, when Michael tells the story to “Ash Tyler” towards the end of this week’s episode, it officially became canon and I felt all cool for already knowing that fact about the lead character.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan to dive into the expanded Star Trek universe in print. Keep checking back to The Trekaissance, where I plan to write similar musings for each book and comic series!

But if season 2 of Discovery literally picks up where season 1 ended: With the USS Enterprise–I’m out! I’m sorry, there’s only so much I can accept. Unless they can get Zachary Quinto to reprise the role of Spock, or better yet use stock footage of Leonard Nimoy and generate his role via-CGI (like how Carrie Fisher will live forever in Star Wars!), I will not accept another actor as prime Spock. No. Just don’t do it!

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll still watch. Who doesn’t love the sight of a bloody trainwreck?!?

The War Without an End

But sadly, the season ends next week.

Standard disclaimer: Spoilers. Watch “The War Without, The War Within”, then come back and read some of my thoughts on this week’s episode…

Well, I hate to keep saying it, but I totally called it! Last week, when Michael Burnham jumped onto Emperor Georgiou while transporting (still doesn’t seem safe to me–can someone on the Discovery writing staff tell me why they keep thinking that this is plausible?), I knew that the writers wouldn’t be able to resist putting Georgiou back into the captain’s chair. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast!

Desperate times require desperate measures. I get that. Sarek even said something similar to that when he mind-melded with Saru. After 9 months of war, I get that Admiral Cornwell is desperate to end the war by any means necessary. But is it really a good idea to give command of the Discovery to an evil Terran with enough ambition to rise to the position of Emperor in her universe? Is Starfleet really so naive that they think Georgiou will help defeat the Klingons and than clap her hands and say “Looks like my work here is done, take the conn, Captain Saru”?? Or does Starfleet really think it is better to have an emperor rule over them than be annihilated by the Klingons? I mean, who in Starfleet really wants to die by their ideals anyway?

Or maybe Starfleet isn’t really in control? Maybe Starfleet Command has been taken over by a bunch of hack writers who think it would be “cool” to end the first season of Discovery with Georgiou again in the captain’s chair? One thing’s for sure: Michael Burnham is going to have to kill or at least let this Georgiou die, as with the real Georgiou. Mark my words, because more often than not, the writers have proven that this show can be very predictable.

At any rate, is anyone aboard the Discovery really buying that Phillipa Georgiou came back from the dead? Obviously Burnham and Saru know better, but even if the transporter officer kept quiet about Georgiou’s true identity, I think the crew is smart enough to figure out what’s going on here. It remains to be seen if they’ll follow any of her orders.

We also saw the return of Ash Tyler this week… or at least the most human version of Ash Tyler we’re likely to ever see on the series. I thought he had a pretty good moment with Lt. Stamets. Paul was right: As long as Ash Tyler is feeling remorse for Voq’s crimes, we know that he is, in fact, human.

Can Michael and Ash reclaim their love? Only time will tell. After Tilly’s public shaming of Michael’s avoidance (seriously, couldn’t they have had this private conversation in their quarters instead of talking loudly in engineering?), Michael decides that it is fair to at least say goodbye to him. But, as with any breakup, everyone is likely to choose sides. I’m glad I don’t have to chose sides… on the one hand, I think that just because Michael had to reclaim her life alone, doesn’t mean it is fair to make Ash take his journey alone. Even after he confessed that she is the only reason he didn’t “give in” to Voq, she doesn’t seem to want to finish the job and help him reclaim his sense of identity. That’s pretty cold. Then again, when she talks about how she “felt [his] hands around [her] neck” and looking into his eyes and only seeing Voq… well I think that’s something that, sadly, a lot of women can relate to. At any rate, it was a very touching scene, and clearly the only scene in the entire episode that the writers bothered to work on.

After the Battle of the Binary Stars I was so lost. I had to sit with myself. I had to work through it. I had to crawl my way back. I’m still not there, but I’m trying. That kind of work reclaiming life–it’s punishing and it’s relentless. And it’s solitary.

At least she admits that it is “not easy” to let him go.

There are other aspects of this poorly conceived episode that I’m going to just let go–and boy, that’s not easy. As “cool” as the mycelial genesis sequence was–I’m going to let it go. The canonicity of the whole “Klingons have taken over the Alpha Quadrent and basically won the war” storyline–I’m going to let that go, as well. Why both Sarek and Cornwell separately admit that the Emperor’s “resemblance” to their Georgiou is “remarkable” within the same scene–you know what? I’m going to let that bad bit of writing go, too!

…at least for now. Next week is the season finale, and there is no possible way they can spore jump inside the Klingon homeworld(WTF?), win the war, and satisfyingly resolve all these dangling plot threads in under an hour. Look out, blogosphere, because next week I’m going to have a much harder time letting these types of things go.

What Has Passed is Prologue

…And everything yet to come is only just the beginning!

And so, with this week’s episode, “What’s Past Is Prologue”, our time in the mirror universe is through. As always, big spoilers in the paragraphs ahead… you have been warned!

Not only is the crew of the Discovery out of the mirror universe, but their “captain”, the evil Terran Lorca, is dead. Seeing as how they only revealed who Lorca really is last week, it seemed pretty sudden to kill him off. There’s still 2 more episodes of the season, so I was expecting more of a hunt. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to settle for the most epic fight sequence in the history of Star Trek!

Seriously, that fight sequence was so long, it could have been it’s own episode! But, I guess the writers felt that 4 episodes was long enough to spend in the mirror universe (5 episodes if you count the final scene of “Into the Forest I Go”). Of course, technically, since Lorca was from the mirror universe all along, you could say that there were 11 episodes in a row featuring characters from the mirror universe. Before Star Trek: Discovery premiered, there were only 8 episodes dealing with the mirror universe across all Star Trek series and movies (out of 729!)–9 if you count “The Tholian Web”.

Speaking of which, I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get to see the Tholians! For the last month, they’ve been teasing us with “the Defiant files” that was supposed to be their key to getting back home. Instead, we were all of a sudden introduced to this giant ball of mycelial energy which was harvesting the mycelial network and simultaneously threatening to destroy the universe (and all multi-verses). It may have provided a way home for the crew, but it just raises more questions. Was the mycelial energy connected to the network? And if so, wouldn’t that mean that Lorca’s still alive inside the network? Kind of like how there’s an echo of Dr. Culber inside the network. And how exactly did Lt. Stamets find his way out? “There’s a clearing in the forest, that’s how they go.” Where? What forest? The mycelial jungle? I didn’t see any clearing.

But, in all fairness, it was a pretty trippy sequence that I’m sure they’ll explain with some kind of technobabble on next week’s episode. Of course, it looks like they’ll have their hands full. Stamets managed to get them back to their universe, but not quite in the right timeline. For a moment, when he said that they over-shot by “about 9 months”, I thought he meant 9 months before they left, which would have been before the war with the Klingons began. Turns out they were 9 months too late–the Klingons have already won the war!

Obviously, we know that the Klingon Empire expanding into Federation space is not canon. So this is apparently an alternate timeline caused by the Discovery‘s disappearance. They’ve still got a couple of episodes to fix the timeline, though, and if Stamets can take the ship into the future, then he should be able to take them to the past, right? Maybe even to a time before the war started–before Lt. Ash Tyler was transformed by the Klingons–before Captain Lorca was replaced by his Terran counterpart–and before Dr. Hugh Culber was killed? Look for the giant “RESET” button!

Something tells me it is not going to be that easy. The first problem, of course, is that they don’t have any spores left! But, since they destroyed the ISS Charon and its mycelium-harvesting machine, that means that the mycelial network should regenerate. It may take a while, but assuming Stamets still has all of his original research, he should be able to start over from scratch and plant a new crop of mushrooms, right? Or is Cadet Tilly the key to getting them back? That mycelial spore that landed on her shoulder was obviously a seed for some future plot point!

One of the best parts of the episode was getting to see the Discovery crew work together in a way that we couldn’t see before–not with Lorca calling the shots! Acting Captain Saru handled the no-win scenario well, although I’m not sure if his speech in engineering was entirely believable. He starts by saying “It is well known that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death. I do not sense it today.” I’m sorry, but Saru’s threat ganglia have proven to be unreliable: Early in the season, he keeps feeling threatened by Michael Burnham who, so far, has not killed Saru or anyone on the ship; Only once did he detect “Ash Tyler” as being a threat; Never did he sense Lorca’s dark nature (who would, no doubt, kill anyone and everyone who gets in his way); And even the mirror version of Saru had no idea last week that he was about to be chopped up and served as stew! So, no, it is not “well known” that Kelpians have the ability to sense death, no matter how many times Saru keeps saying that!

Speaking of death, let’s talk about the return (and second death) of Landry. As you may recall, I was no fan of the Landry character when she was first introduced. In fact, I rejoiced when they killed her off the first time! I called her the most “un-Starfleet” character we’ve ever seen and that her presence aboard Discovery would make Gene Roddenberry roll over in his grave. Of course, this was before we got to know Lorca, but since he was from the Terran Empire, we can forgive his sins. I still stand by my statement that the Landry of the Prime Universe had no business being in Starfleet. In fact, after last week’s episode, I speculated that maybe she was also from the mirror universe. Then we met mirror Landry and… well… I actually kind of liked her! So what happened? Did actress Rekha Sharma get her universes mixed up? More likely, I think the blame is with the writers. According to Jason Isaacs, he knew from Day One that he was playing a mirror universe character. So perhaps the writers told Rekha Sharma that Ellen Landry was also from the mirror universe, but then changed their minds after the fact? I don’t know. But it was weird seeing Landry smile on this week’s episode, whereas the prime Landry seemed to have a permanent scowl on her face.

One last thing about Lorca: According to the devil himself, mirror Lorca arrived in the prime universe via transporter accident–one very similar to the one depicted in the original “Mirror, Mirror” episode. In both cases, it seems that an ion storm was what facilitated the crossover. Since Lorca was beaming up to the ISS Buran, but ended up on the USS Buran, it can be assumed that mirror Lorca was the one who destroyed the USS Buran and its entire crew. I still maintain that there should have been an episode depicting the crossover and showing the destruction of the Buran. Perhaps Lorca killed the crew along with the ship because they were onto him or they had some kind of evidence that would blow his “cover”. Since they didn’t do that episode, I’d say be on the lookout for a novel about the final mission of the USS Buran, coming soon from Pocket Books!

Speaking of which, Pocket Books is releasing the second novel based on characters from Star Trek: Discovery next Tuesday. It will be titled Drastic Measures and the story is set a full decade before the TV series even begins! Lorca and Georgiou are on the cover, and it’s safe to say that we will finally meet the real Gabriel Lorca of the prime universe. It remains to be seen whether or not we’ll ever see Lorca prime on the TV series–Jason Isaacs is being unusually quiet about whether he’s involved in Season 2 or not.

The final thought I have for this tremendous episode is about “Emperor” Georgiou. She seemed strangely out of place for the mirror universe. By which I mean, she actually seems like a decent human being. The fact that she not only survived the episode, but has now been transported back to the prime universe means the writers have something planned for her. Maybe it’s just Michael dealing with her guilt for causing Georgiou’s death in the first place–now she’s brought her back to life! I see one of two things happening: Either Georgiou will be rehabilitated, enrolled in Starfleet and given command of the Discovery next year, or she’ll still turn out to be evil and Michael Burnham will have to kill her mentor twice in one season! I think Michelle Yeoh is fantastic, but I’m kind of hoping for the latter… seems like a more dramatic way to bookend this season.

One thing’s for sure: With only two episodes left in the season, they’ve got a helluva lot of loose ends to tie up!

Vault of Ambition

You can bet Lorca’s got some secrets hidden in there!

SPOILER ALERT!! Please do not read this if you haven’t seen the episode “Vaulting Ambition” yet. There is such a wonderful surprise in it that will make you want to go back and watch all the episodes again!

From the beginning, it was clear there was something different about Gabriel Lorca. He’s no Kirk and he’s certainly no Picard. In fact, as I’ve mentioned several times on this very blog, he’s the most un-Starfleet-like captain we’ve ever seen on Star Trek. And now we know why. Because he’s not from Starfleet.

It was also clear that Lorca had some kind of an obsession with Michael Burnham. The writers of the show brilliantly played it as “Lorca needs Burnham because he thinks she’s the key to winning the war”. But that was just a ruse.

In fact, the only Starfleet-like thing to ever come out of Lorca’s mouth was when he manipulated Lt. Paul Stamets into continuing to use the spore drive, even after it was clear that the lieutenant’s health was at risk. Lorca played Stamets like a fiddle when he said that after they win the war, they could use the spore drive to explore the universe–and maybe even explore some of these parallel universes that he just happened to notice.

Turns out Lorca was just looking for a way home.

We’ve seen people from the mirror universe pose as their prime universe’s counterparts before. I seem to recall Deep Space Nine did that a couple of times. Even in the original “Mirror, Mirror” we briefly see the Kirk of the Terran Empire being put into the brig of the USS Enterprise. (Funny how the bright lights aboard the ship didn’t seem to bother him.) But this is definitely the first time in Star Trek history where we’ve been introduced to the mirror-version of a character before we’ve even met the prime version!

Which begs the question, what happened to Lorca prime? I have a feeling we’ll have an answer to that soon, but I think it’s safe to assume that the Lorca of the Terran Empire would have disposed of his doppelgänger as soon as he arrived in our universe. Otherwise, if that Lorca were discovered tied up in a closet somewhere, that would blow his cover. Besides, these Terrans are ruthless killers. Rest assured, the real Starfleet Captain Lorca is dead. Which means that Jason Isaacs might not return to the show next season.

Then again, I said the same thing about Shazad Latif’s character. After the less-than-surprising reveal that “Ash Tyler” is actually Voq the Torchbearer last week, it was nice to actually be surprised that another one of our regular characters isn’t who they claim to be. (Who’s next? Tilly? Will she turn out to be Lt. Barclay who got a sex change and traveled back in time?) But, after watching this week’s episode, it looks like the writers have decided to keep Shazad Latif around for a while. Even though L’Rell did the Klingon death howl when she supposedly erased whatever was left of Voq from Ash Tyler’s mind, I somehow doubt we’ve heard the last word from Voq. I think all she did was put the genie back in the bottle.

Also in this week’s unusually short episode, Paul Stamets works with himself to get out of the mycelial network. No doubt the mirror-Stamets is up to no good, but at least the good Stamets got to say goodbye to his dead lover, Hugh Culber. This scene also helps explain that lingering shot of Stamets in the mirror at the end of “Choose Your Pain”. All-in-all, it was a lovely, touching scene.

As for the disease that has destroyed the Discovery‘s fungal forest, I guess that helps explain why we’ve never seen a spore drive on any of the later Star Trek series. My guess is that the mycelial plane will be rendered inert by the end of the season. Which means that the data from the Defiant files is still their best bet for getting back to their universe. But they’ll have to get through the Tholians first!

Kelpien soup

Did Georgiou just feed Burnham a piece of Saru!?! Yeah, that happened.

But the best part of this week’s episode was the ret-conned explanation as to why it’s so dark in the mirror universe. Not just metaphorically, but literally! Burnham’s remark last week that “even the light is different” in this universe should have been a major hint that Lorca is native to the mirror universe. And even though, as I pointed out above, it does create more than a few inconsistencies about how these evil Terrans are able to walk around unnoticed in our universe, it does finally explain why nobody in the Terran Empire knows how to turn on the damn lights!

Next week’s episode is titled “What’s Past is Prologue”, which makes me think we may finally meet the prime Lorca of our universe, probably through the use of flashbacks and non-linear storytelling. The best case scenario would be to set the next episode aboard the USS Buran, just after the start of the war, and we’ll see if it was the “real” Lorca who destroyed his own vessel, or if it was the mirror Lorca who did the deed. After that, the crew of the USS Discovery will only have 2 episodes left to get back to their own universe before the season is over. And, although it’s probably too early to start making predictions for next season, I have a feeling that we may someday see a Captain Michael Burnham who doesn’t work for the Terran Empire.

The Fire Wolf Inside…

…Ash Tyler! SPOILER!!

Okay. Let me take a minute to gloat. We all pretty much knew that “Ash Tyler” is Voq, and I’m not going to claim that I called it first. But, in figuring out how the writers would reveal it to the audience, I speculated:

“Another interesting way of revealing his true identity would be to meet the mirror version of Voq. Perhaps he’s even leading the Klingon-Vulcan-Andorian alliance…”

Called it! Read my full blog post from last week to see how awesome I am at predicting these kinds of things.

Then again, it was a painfully predictable “plot twist”. The thought also occurred to me that Georgiou would be the Emperor, but I decided not to put that in last week’s post because I thought it was a little too predictable.

Putting all that aside, “The Wolf Inside” is actually a pretty good episode. There’s enough going on in it that even the predictable storylines were still entertaining: The reveal at the end of the episode where Emperor Georgiou shows up to clean up Michael’s mess was well executed, and Shazad Latif’s acting made the Voq/Tyler storyline enjoyable to watch.

In fact, Shazad Latif is so good, he did manage to fool me. On After Trek, he revealed that he also played Voq, and that “Javid Iqbal”, the actor credited as playing Voq, is actually the name of his deceased father. He did such a convincing job, that I assumed that the producers had cast a different actor as Voq, in order to throw the fans off the scent. Well played.

Sure enough, the mirror version of Saru showed up. And, although I had predicted he would be in a cage, I wasn’t that far off… In the mirror universe, Kelpians are enslaved, forced to bathe their masters. In fact, Michael Burnham shared some pretty intimate moments with her Kelpian, so much so that she even named her “pet” Saru!

We also met the mirror Paul Stamets, albeit briefly. After our Stamets “dies”, he appears in the mycelial forest, then the other Stamets shows up and says they’ve got some work to do. So, it would appear that the two Paul Stamets’s will be working together to get both of their Discoverys back to their native universes. Oh what fun those guys will have! (Get it? Fungi?)

Meanwhile, Tilly all of a sudden is a doctor?!? I know she’s worked closely with Stamets all season, but is the cadet really the most “qualified” person for the job, as she claims? And even if she is, shouldn’t there still be an actual medical doctor there as well? Seems like a sensible precaution that Acting Captain Saru must’ve overlooked (it’s not like he’s a cautious fellow or anything!) Or was Hugh Culber literally the only doctor aboard the Discovery?

Lorca didn’t have much to do in this episode. And, although I find it hard to believe that he would acquiesce to “Captain” Burnham’s desire to make peace in the mirror universe, I’m glad that he did. In fact, Burnham and “Tyler” beaming down to the planet and facing the Rebellion was one of the most Starfleet things any of them have done in the series thus far! It was worth it to see Klingons and Vulcans and Andorians working together. It’s ironic that the mirror universe would have a coalition stronger than any of the Federation characters we’ve seen on Star Trek: Discovery thus far.

I thought Sarek’s goatee was a bit much. I get that it’s a callback to 1967’s “Mirror, Mirror”, when Spock famously sported a similar goatee, but it just felt kind of pointless. Star Trek: Enterprise did the same thing with their Vulcan male character, Soval, in the 2-part “In a Mirror, Darkly”. I guess, since Spock and Sarek are related, it at least makes a little more sense here than it did in Enterprise, but it does make one wonder the logic behind why every male Vulcan in the mirror universe has a beard.

Facial hair aside, I thought it was a clever approach to include Sarek in the story. Fire Wolf Voq is smart enough to know how useful Master Sarek’s mind-melding techniques can be as a very trustworthy and reliable tool. When he mind-melds with Burnham, he also caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, since Sarek’s katra is a part of her mind.

The last thing I’ll comment on for now is the badass scene towards the end of the episode, when Michael Burnham, having learned of “Ash Tyler”‘s true identity, beams him into the vacuum of space! After completing the transport herself, she walks away from the empty transporter pad and, for a moment, we actually believe that she murdered whatever was left of the man she loved in cold blood. Of course, mere seconds later, the Discovery beams “Tyler” aboard, thus saving him and the Defiant files. I thought this moment worked well because Michael Burnham no doubt feels betrayed by Tyler/Voq, and after being swept away by the murderous Empire of which she is pretending to be a part of, the audience truly believes that she was willing to sacrifice him. Besides, there’s little reason at this point to think that Shazad Latif will be returning for another season anyway, so why not kill him off here? [Although, as I speculated last week, I think there’s a chance we may meet the mirror Ash Tyler, assuming such an individual ever even existed in the first place.]

I can’t wait to see what happens next. I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be spending the rest of the season in the mirror universe. And with the Tyler/Voq reveal behind us, we can hopefully look forward to some unexpected twists and turns in the coming weeks. There’s also this “palace” scene that they’ve been hyping up, ever since Stamets started babbling a couple of episodes ago. I have a feeling that the only way they’ll be able to retrieve the full classified Defiant files is by going to the Emperor’s palace (methinks Burnham will have to kill Georgiou) and taking them by force in order to find the exact coordinates of the spatial interphase between the two universes.

SPOILER ALERT: The spatial interphase is located in the Tholian sector. But we hardcore Trekkies already knew that!

In Spite of Ourselves…

…We’ll end up a’lookin’ in a mirror, against all odds

Happy New Year! And, of course, happy new Trek! Yes, “Chapter Two” of Star Trek: Discovery is underway, and it looks like we’re in for a bumpy (but thrilling) ride!

As always, I will be giving spoilers to not only this week’s episode, “Despite Yourself”, but also on upcoming plot points, which should be all too predictable anyway. You’ve been warned.

Let’s start with the good…or rather the evil. The mirror universe is back and I couldn’t be more excited! It looks like we’re in for at least a couple of weeks in the mirror universe, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Discovery crew doesn’t make it back to their universe until the season finale. But that’s okay. The last mirror episode was almost 13 years ago, on Star Trek: Enterprise. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should go watch it now. “In a Mirror, Darkly” was a 2-part episode that took place entirely in the mirror universe. In fact, it is the only mirror universe story that doesn’t involve a direct crossover (ie, no one from the “prime” universe crosses into the mirror universe, or vise versa). The only “crossover” in that story was the USS Defiant from the original series episode “The Tholian Web”. Now, it appears that the Defiant‘s presence in the mirror universe is going to be a major plot point in this season of Discovery.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the first spin-off series to return to the mirror universe. Actually, they returned to the mirror universe 5 times, spread out over the 7 seasons of that series. I predict that Star Trek: Discovery will beat that record in its first season, at least in terms of number of episodes in the mirror universe.

But, of course, none of it would be possible if not for that transporter accident in the original series’ “Mirror, Mirror”, which aired just a bit over 50 years ago. It seems to me that the makers of the prequel series Enterprise took very careful steps to make sure that no one from our universe crossed into the mirror universe because it would create a very obvious continuity error. If Captain Archer and his crew had caught even a glimpse of their mirror counterparts, they’d be damn sure to file a report about it. And while nobody expects every captain to memorize every mission from a century earlier, I think it would be hard to forget the fact that there’s an evil version of myself running around out there somewhere, even if it is in another universe.

So, either Discovery never makes it back home, or they “forget” to file a report to Starfleet (unlikely), or Captain Kirk doesn’t give a damn about studying history. Already, in just this one episode, the Discovery crew has gathered a lot of information about the mirror universe, courtesy a destroyed Klingon-Vulcan computer database. Are we supposed to believe that in the 10 years between this story and Kirk’s trip to the mirror universe all that intelligence gets lost?

Putting all that aside, I think its going to be a fun run of episodes. How can it not? That’s always been the appeal of the mirror universe–it gives the writers a chance to do things with the main characters that they wouldn’t get to do otherwise. Captain Michael Burnham in command of the Shenzhou? It’s about time! A renegade Captain Lorca? Sounds about right. But just wait until “Captain Killy” of the real ISS Discovery finds out that someone has been impersonating her! I have a feeling she’s not going to be flattered.

Now, I hate to be a negative Noah, but let’s talk about the “Lt. Ash Tyler” storyline. I was not the first person to guess that “Ash Tyler” is actually Voq, the albino Klingon. The origin of that spoiler was the CBS Casting department who botched their announcement of actor Shazad Latif playing a Klingon! It reminds me a lot of how Paramount screwed up Star Trek Into Darkness by originally announcing Benicio del Toro in the role of Khan 2 years before that movie even came out. (Not that the movie didn’t have several other flaws of its own.) Then JJ Abrams came out screaming “FAKE NEWS! There’s no Khan in this movie!” And then there was. Whatever.

Technically, they still haven’t confirmed that “Ash Tyler” is Voq. However, if you put a good pair of headphones on and listen to the Klingon voice inside “Ash Tyler”‘s head, you’ll hear that the voice is actually that of Javid Iqbal, the actor who played Voq. That, along with his interactions with L’Rell and the assessment by Dr. Hugh Culber that “Tyler” has had major “bone crushing” surgery and another personality has been overlaid on top of his own, all seem to confirm that Voq has been literally transformed into “Ash Tyler”.

My theory is this: There was a Lt. Ash Tyler in Starfleet who was captured by the Klingons and tortured. After all, Captain Lorca said he did extensive research into “his” background before offering him the position of security chief in “Lethe”. Part of the reason I had trouble believing the fan “theory” about Voq/Tyler is because I don’t believe that Lorca could be that sloppy in his research. So, rest assured, there was an Ash Tyler at one point. When L’Rell needed to hide Voq, she sent him away to the matriarchs of the House of Mo’Kai, where they performed the “bone crushing” surgery in order to make him look exactly like the captured Ash Tyler. But, it wasn’t enough to make him look like a human–they needed him to talk, act and think like a human, presumably to better understand their enemy, and to send him back to gather intelligence. So, they took whatever remained of the real Ash Tyler’s memory and personality, and grafted it onto Voq’s brain. Then they put Voq/Tyler into Captain Lorca’s cell and “let” them escape. But something went wrong. Ash Tyler is a survivor, so whatever remains of his “soul” is desperately trying to survive inside this new shell. Clearly, L’Rell is confused about why Voq’s own memory and personality haven’t re-surfaced… because there’s a war going on inside his head. Voq and Tyler are fighting for control. It seems as though Tyler is winning that battle, but Voq is still able to assert his control when necessary… like when a Hugh-man doctor is about to blow his cover.

So the question is this: Is the original Ash Tyler still alive? Probably not. The Klingons would have disposed of the corpse, or whatever was left over with it when they were done. But my prediction is that we will meet the “real” Ash Tyler soon, perhaps in the mirror universe. Maybe that Ash Tyler is killed and the Discovery crew take his corpse back to their universe and somehow reverse the procedure–placing the real Tyler’s consciousness back into his own body and reviving him. Or, since sex=death, and we saw Michael Burnham and “Ash Tyler” gettin’ it on, maybe Shazad Latif’s contract was only for one season. It would make for a tragic love story. Michael’s first true love turns out to be a Klingon and she has to kill him.

Another interesting way of revealing his true identity would be to meet the mirror version of Voq. Perhaps he’s even leading the Klingon-Vulcan-Andorian alliance, having taken over for the slain T’Kuvma of that universe? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Of course, the other major plot development of the week was the death of Dr. Hugh Culber. Although I didn’t see that coming, it may be an indicator that Lt. Paul Stamets may survive this ordeal yet. After all, the writers love a good tragic love story cut short. For Stamets to have to live with the pain of watching his loved one die in front of him without being able to do anything about it…what writer could resist pulling on that thread? If only Stamets wasn’t such a bumbling idiot while on shrooms. “The enemy is here”. Thanks, that’s really helpful.

Unfortunately, as anyone who suffers through the post-show After Trek can tell you, Wilson Cruz kinda spilled the beans about the fact that his favorite scene that he’s ever done in his 25 years of acting is yet to come on Star Trek: Discovery. So, maybe Dr. Culber isn’t so dead after all? Then again, this is Star Trek we’re talking about, and they are in the mirror universe. Most likely, we’ll encounter the mirror version of Dr. Culber in an upcoming episode. Either that or a farewell recording, like the one that Captain Georgiou made for Michael.

Speaking of Georgiou, is there a chance that she may show up in the mirror universe? I don’t see why not. They already resurrected one fallen crew member of the Shenzhou (and then killed him off again). I thought that was pretty clever. In “Battle at the Binary Stars”, Michael Burnham watched helplessly as Ensign Danby Connor was blown out into space. Then, in “Despite Yourself”, she had to kill Captain Danby Connor after he pulled a knife on her. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for her, but it was totally worth it. What a badass entrance: No one who was on the bridge of the ISS Shenzhou when the turbolift doors opened and saw Connor’s fresh corpse fall out onto the bridge deck will ever doubt that Michael Burnham isn’t really their Michael Burnham. As far as they’re concerned, Captain Burnham is back and deserving of that round of applause they gave her.

I’m excited. I hope the Tyler storyline doesn’t turn out as predictable as I fear it will be, but I know that no matter what, there’s bound to be a lot of fun in the next few episodes. Will the mirror version of Lorca show up to kick some ass? Is the mirror version of Michael Burnham really dead? And what about mirror Saru? Will he be in a cage as a pet, or do the Kelpians in the mirror universe actually have some balls?

I, for one, can’t wait to find out!

Break

No new Discovery tonight? No need to worry. Star Trek: Discovery returns on January 7th.

I may make a few little posts during the hiatus, but probably not anything too major. I am, however, writing a story about Stamets’ journey in the mycelial network, but I probably won’t be publishing that any time soon.

In the meantime, I might suggest to anyone who’s going through Discovery withdrawal, check out David Mack’s novel Desperate Hours, the first in a series of novels about the world of Star Trek: Discovery. I’m finally getting around to reading it now, and I’ll probably make a proper blog post about it in the near future.

Also, check out the comic book series, released by IDW Publishing. The first issue comes out later this month, and will be chronicling the Klingon’s point of view in the war against the Federation. Should be pretty good!

And, as always, I’ll be here in January when the new episodes start coming out again, offering up more of my observational tidbits. So stay tuned…

Into the Fungus I Go

Stamets eats a bad mushroom and sends Discovery on a bad trip

After last week’s set-up, I was expecting another trip to the surface of Pahvo. Given this week’s title, “Into the Forest I Go”, I just assumed there’d be a forest involved somehow. Silly me.

Alright, so apparently it’s a quote by John Muir: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” I suppose, in this context, the Klingon Sarcophagus ship is the forest, where Lt. Ash Tyler loses his mind, and Michael Burnham finds Admiral Cornwell (still alive and well!). Or, perhaps it’s a reference to the Lt. Paul Stamets storyline, and the mycelial network is the forest? I guess, since it’s a cliffhanger, we’ll have to wait to find out if he loses his mind and/or finds his soul.

There were a few major milestones in this week’s episode. Some are more obvious than others. As I proudly wrote on Memory Alpha, “This episode is the first Star Trek episode or film to feature a romantic kiss between two men. It aired over twenty-two years after the first romantic kiss between two women in DS9: “Rejoined“. ” Of course, that lesbian kiss was between Jadzia Dax & Lenara Kahn, and it wasn’t really even a “lesbian” kiss, since neither of those characters identified as homosexual. The only way Star Trek was able to pull that off in 1995 was by having their Trill character say that she was married to Kahn in a previous life, when the Dax symbiont was a male named Torias Dax. That clever work-around managed to “fool” the censors because God forbid we see two members of the same sex kissing on television!

Of course, now its 2017, so no “clever workaround” was needed. Paul Stamets & Hugh Culber are two gay men who love each other. And they kissed. Deal with it.

Another major Star Trek milestone, which I not-so-proudly wrote about on Memory Alpha, “This episode is the first Star Trek episode or film to show female nipples on-screen, albeit briefly in a character’s nightmare.” I’m also truly sorry that I was the first person on Twitter to use the hashtag #KlingonTits. But for all the times we had to sit through Kirk taking his shirt off, or being exposed to Picard’s saggy ass, it’s nice to get a little equality here. #Feminism

Here’s another first: This was the first time a Star Trek series has had a true “Fall Finale”. Back in the days of 26 episodes per year, there’d only be a few weeks off during the Christmas break. Of course, the show was also a lot less serialized back in those days, so there was less of a reason to make a big deal about it being the final episode of the calendar year. In this case, CBS All Access has called this the end of the first “chapter” and that “Chapter 2” starts January 7th. But if CBS thinks I’m going to continue to pay for All Access during the hiatus then they’ve got another thing coming.

Oh, and there was a nice little sub-reference to Rent! Actually, it’s a reference to La bohème, which served as the basis for Rent. In the Broadway show, Anthony Rapp’s character sings a song called “Viva La Boheme”. In this Discovery episode, Anthony Rapp’s character offers to take Wilson Cruz’s character out to see a production of La bohème. And, of course, Wilson Cruz played Angel at one point during Rent‘s long Broadway run. I still think Discovery should do a musical episode one of these days. Maybe in Season Two?

But, of course, the big deal with this episode that everyone’s talking about, is the “rape scene”, which is really just a series of quick cuts and flashbacks. I’m not going to go too in depth about it, but I applaud the producers for pushing the boundary on this issue. Sadly, sexual abuse has been in the news a lot lately, usually about women who were abused by powerful men. And, as Anthony Rapp exposed to the world, men can be victims of sexual abuse, as well. But in every story that’s come out over the last month, it’s always a man doing the abusing. No doubt that men are doing a majority of the abusing, but I think it’s only a matter of time before a powerful woman will be accused of the same crime. It’s rare, but I believe it does happen.

What bothers me though, and the reason I hesitate to give too much applause for the producers, is the odd little scene towards the end of the episode after Lt. Tyler wakes up from his nightmare/flashbacks, goes to the brig where L’Rell is locked up, and falls to his knees. It’s hard to tell if she has a psychological hold on him, which is possible given their supposed history, or if the fan theories circulating the internet are correct. According to those fans, they believe that “Ash Tyler” is actually Voq, the albino Klingon that went into hiding in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”. This theory, I had always assumed, was based on nothing more than the confusion over the original casting announcements. Shazad Latif, who plays Ash Tyler, was originally cast as the Klingon protégé of T’Kuvma. If that casting announcement came before the writers decided to make Ash Tyler an “undercover Klingon”, then that might explain why they ended up re-casting the role of Voq–to make it less obvious. The problem is, the damage had already been done. Fans were convinced that Shazad Latif would be playing a Klingon. Furthering the fans’ belief, Ash Tyler finally makes his debut in the episode immediately after Voq goes into hiding. It probably didn’t help that when his character finally shows up, he’s been supposedly living in a Klingon prison cell for 7 months.

Again, it all seems a little too obvious. So, until last night’s episode, I just assumed that there was no merit to the theory. However, in that scene where “Ash Tyler” is on his knees in front of L’Rell, she says something along the lines of “it’s not time yet”, which would seem to suggest that they are in cahoots. I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to be sure.

The problem with this theory, though, is that it completely undermines the scene between Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham in which he tells her what L’Rell did to him. If he’s really Voq, then he wasn’t raped by L’Rell. On the contrary, I saw a few sparks fly between Voq and L’Rell when they were aboard the USS Shenzhou, so if they had sex, it was most likely consensual. I don’t want to go down that road and say that the victim lied about sexual assault, and I really hope the producers don’t go down that road either.

Also, there’s the fact that in last week’s episode on Pahvo, Saru (under the influence of the Pahvans) was able to detect Tyler’s deception when they touched the green-glowing stone together. The deception in that case was that Michael Burnham had sneaked off to the transmitter. But I would think that if Saru could detect that lie, then he should have been able to detect the much bigger lie about who Ash Tyler really is. (Not to mention Saru’s “threat ganglia” that goes off every time he thinks Burnham is a threat–they should be flailing in overdrive if Tyler is an undercover Klingon, right?)

Hopefully, we’ll get some answers on January 7th. The most pressing concern, I suppose, is what the hell is going on with Stamets? After successfully completing 133 spore jumps in a very short period of time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s possessed by some kind of tardigrade-like creature or some other being that is native to the mycelial network. One thing’s for sure: They’re not in Kansas anymore.

Si Vis Bonum Star Trek, Para Malus Star Trek

If you want good Star Trek, prepare for bad Star Trek

This week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery is called “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”, which is Latin for “If you want peace, prepare for war”.

But the title of this blog entry describes how I feel about Discovery as a whole: If you want good Star Trek, prepare for bad Star Trek.

Last week’s episode got me really excited. It was the best one yet. There’s no way they can make two good episodes in a row, is there? Maybe. I’ll have to reserve judgement on this week’s episode until after next week’s fall finale. But I will say that the potential for a kick ass finale next week is there, and judging just this one episode by itself, I would say it was pretty decent. But it’s hard to judge part 1 of a 2-parter until the second part airs, in my opinion.

At last, we finally got to see what happened to Admiral Cornwell! And although it appears that she is dead, don’t count her out quite yet. Just because she was added to a heap of Klingon corpses, doesn’t mean she’s dead. But it also doesn’t look good for her.

About that pile of dead Klingons: is that really the best way to honor the dead? I mean, in the premiere, we saw this whole death ritual the Klingons go through, and even though it’s not quite consistent with the rest of Star Trek canon, I just assumed these “Klingons 3.0” of Star Trek: Discovery would remain consistent within their own series, but the writers can’t even seem to keep their own canon consistent. I suppose it’s possible that the writers were trying to show that Klingons can forgo the full death ritual in times of war–that the bodies are coming in faster than one can say “Sto-vo-kor“. But, as with many of the inconsistencies within Discovery, a simple line of dialogue could have explained that easily. I call it lazy writing.

For that reason, it’s hard to tell if Discovery‘s first “planet show” was intentionally similar to certain episodes of the Original Series (homage), or if it’s just more of their “lazy writing”, but I definitely had a feeling like I had seen this one before. Non-corporeal lifeforms have been seen countless times in Star Trek, and Saru being controlled by one may be a new experience for him, but not for longtime Trek viewers. I also feel that this week’s episode sets up for a “Day of the Dove“-like episode next week, where these non-corporeals are going to set the Klingons and Federation straight. In fact, the first appearance of the Klingons in the Original Series had a similar plot (“Errand of Mercy“). Well, third time’s the charm, right?

We finally got to see the process that allows Lt. Stamets to activate the spore drive. He looks less like an engineer and more like a junkie trying to get his next fix. After failing to save the USS Gagarin from being destroyed, he is injected with a needle and bam!–they’re out of harm’s way. I really like how they juxtaposed the chaotic-ness of war one minute, with the eerie calm peace the next minute. But all these spore jumps are clearly taking its toll on Stamets. He calls Tilly “captain” after the jump, as he’s stepping out of the chamber. Clearly, he’s disoriented, but it may be a bit of not-so-settle foreshadowing on behalf of the writers. He made it pretty clear why he doesn’t want to worry Dr. Culber about it, but why not go straight to the chief medical officer? There must be someone with some kind of medical training aboard the ship that he can count on to keep it a secret. If he’s willing to confide in Tilly, then why not an actual doctor? Do they not have doctor-patient confidentiality in the future? Either way, this will no doubt come back to bite him in the ass and Culber will be mad at Stamets for keeping it a secret.

My favorite part of the episode was the Pahvan transmitter. It doesn’t have any electronic components that we can see–it’s made up entirely of roots & crystals. Then, when Michael Burnham sets down the Starfleet equipment next to it, you get a sense of just how alien this planet really is. And then, out of nowhere, Saru comes running down at lightning-fast speed. Run, Saru, run!! Usain Bolt would be jealous.

Overall, I thought it was an okay episode. Not as good as “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”, but still better than “Lethe”. But with an invitation to join Discovery at Pahvo, next week should be pretty exciting when the Klingons show up. Judging by the episode title for next week, “Into the Forest I Go”, it looks like they’re going to meet somewhere on the planet. The stage is set for a new “Day of the Dove”. Let’s just hope they don’t start singing “Into the Woods” together.

Music to Make the Sanest Man Go Mudd

Stamets gets stuck in his own private Disco hell!

In June of 2017, the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery hunkered down for their hardest shoot yet: a full week of shooting the same scene over and over again. And, imagine the luck, that scene just happened to be the hippest space party the 23rd century has ever seen!

Now we know why Burnham and Tilly were wearing their “DISCO” shirts in last week’s episode. It was a warning. If you don’t like disco music, then don’t watch “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”.

But you should watch “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”. It’s arguably the best episode of Discovery yet! And, okay, after last week’s episode, you might think that’s a pretty low bar to pass. So let me make a bold statement: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” may be one of Star Trek‘s best time travel episodes ever! Well… it makes the top 10 best time travel episodes, at least.

I suppose the reason I enjoyed this one so much is because it reminds me of the episode that got me hooked on Trek: “Cause and Effect”. In that Next Generation episode, the Enterprise is caught in an endless time-loop that resets every time the ship is destroyed by the star of NBC’s Frasier! (Well, not really Dr. Frasier Crane, but Kelsey Grammer played the captain of the other ship they crash into.) And, of course, nobody can remember the previous time-loop, except for a strong feeling of deja vu. In the Discovery episode, the Discovery is caught in an endless time-loop that resets every time the ship is destroyed by a star of NBC’s The Office! Yes, as predicted, Rainn Wilson is back as Harry Mudd to get his vengeance on Captain Lorca.

So, the real question here is, why do NBC sitcom stars enjoy destroying the ship? Is Sean Hayes going to destroy the Enterprise in the next Star Trek movie?

Of course, like all time travel episodes, there were a few flaws. But I won’t get too nit-picky. After last week’s episode, I’m all griped out. That being said, the problem I have with this one is the pacing…

The pacing starts out great. Michael is very nervous about attending the party, which is something I can more than relate to. Then she gets called to the bridge, runs into a shroomed-out groovin’ Lt. Stamets, and beams aboard a giant “space whale”, which turns out to be Harry Mudd’s hiding place. Once he opens fire, the pacing gets cranked up a notch. After the ship is destroyed the first time, we get thrown back to the party, with the same “Stayin’ Alive” remix we heard in the previous loop, and it all starts over again. But since Stamets is the only one of the crew who can remember the previous loops, he’s the one that keeps the pacing of the episode up throughout most of it.

Then, at the risk of sounding like a boy, the episode gets a bit too mushy. I understand that Stamets needed Burnham to help him save the ship, and she, in turn, needed Lt. Tyler’s help. And I get that trust is a major issue, since they’re all still a pretty new crew (and, in all fairness, Stamets has sounded like a blabbering idiot for the last 2 weeks now). But after Burnham fails to get Ash Tyler’s help before he’s called to the bridge, she stays behind and dances with Stamets?! They dance, Stamets tells a lovely story of how he and Dr. Culber first met, and just wait for the ship to explode! On the next loop, Burnham dances with Tyler (to an Al Green song) and they have their first kiss before getting called to the bridge.

The problem is, with each loop, Harry Mudd gets closer and closer to figuring out how to steal the ship. I know, with a time travel episode like this, it’s a bit trite to say that time is of the essence, but can they really afford to just waste 2 of those loops dancing instead of, you know, trying to stop Harry Mudd? Don’t get me wrong, character development is important, and I’m glad that Michael and Ash were able to deflate some of that sexual tension, but what’s the point if neither of them are even going to remember any of it? At any rate, it really slowed down the pacing of the episode and erased all sense of urgency after that. (Not to mention the fact that Al Green is inexplicably playing in that one time loop, even though its the Bee Gees in all the other loops.)

I won’t even get into the problems with the resolution to the episode. All I can say is damn did they learn their lines fast!

What can I say? I’m a sucker for these time-loop episodes. Even though we learned there are limits to Saru’s death-predicting ganglia (seriously, everyone dies at least 56 times and not so much as a twitch from his ganglia the whole time?), I thought it was an enjoyable episode. It definitely highlights the potential of the series, and was a great way to show some of the characters letting loose. Hopefully, they can do more of these stand alone episodes in the future.

Speaking of which, whatever happened to Admiral Cornwell? One of Starfleet’s top diplomats has been kidnapped by the Klingons and the Discovery crew decides to throw a party? Stone cold!

At least we’ve seen the last of Harcourt Fenton Mudd (hopefully).