Star Trek: Short Treks: The Brightest Star
December 7, 2018 1:11 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Saru has an origin story.

Memory Alpha only has a few details right now, but I expect that to fill out later.

We do learn a few things though: the Kelpians are pre-warp, they're being exploited by a post-warp power and Starfleet is not helping out, (per many prior discussions we've had on Fanfare concerning the nature of the Prime Directive).
posted by mordax (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
This seems to change the backstory a bit, as the Kelpien death-sensing skill would seem to be a lot more useful if they weren't calmly heading off to die.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:24 PM on December 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


A couple thoughts come to mind about that:

1) The Kelpian death-sense may not be psychic. It may just be Saru's senses being pretty advanced, making him skittish. (The whole 'deer should not have radar' discussion about humans and news maybe applies?)

2) The Kelpians that get taken away probably aren't just killed outright. I bet they're used for slave labor or something else that's horrible but not murder-horrible.
posted by mordax at 12:30 PM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Were the Kelpiens farming actual kelp? That seemed a bit too on the nose.

I'm hoping that this serves as a set-up for Saru to return to his homeworld someday, Georgiou's downplaying of that possibility non-withstanding.
posted by cjelli at 11:46 AM on December 10, 2018 [3 favorites]


Were the Kelpiens farming actual kelp? That seemed a bit too on the nose.

I don't think it's any worse than the Bynars always working in pairs, and communicating via an audio binary code. Or the Caitians who were basically humanoid cats. And don't get me started about the Remans.

Sooner or later pop sci-fi always ends up with groaners of alien species names, and at least Star Trek only occasionally succumbs, unlike other franchises that have Star as the first word of their name, which seem to go for the silly name like every third alien.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:33 PM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


Our planet is named "Earth." Kinda mundane and unimaginative.

Most sentient aliens in the Star Trek universe are named for their planets. But Saru's planet name is Kaminar.
posted by zarq at 9:47 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I was kind of meh on this one until Lt. Georgiou showed up.

I found it unsatisfying to know so little about the Ba'ul (spelling per Memory Alpha). I get leaving things unanswered for later exploration, but to learn next to nothing takes that too far.

Also, what stage is Kelpien civilization at? From what we see on-screen here, they appear to be not just pre-warp, but pre-industrial. But would a member of a pre-industrial society even be able to recognize that advanced tech could be used as a communication device?

I did like that we a got a bit of a glimpse into the functioning of the universal translator when Saru and Georgiou first met.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:52 AM on December 17, 2018


I hate everything about the Kelpians, so the best part of this episode was that we might never meet another Kelpian again. That'd be great! The funny thing is I like Doug Jones as an actor and I love Saru's cringing, prissy, awkwardly tall presence. Just it's a dumb idea for a whole species of sentients and this episode didn't make them any more compelling. Bonus points for reinforcing the "religion is the enemy of science" trope, too.

Also a bit confused on Starfleet ethics. Surely at least some people were concerned about the effect on the society if you took away their brightest star, their most masterful scientist and tinkerer? Imagine if aliens had plucked away Da Vinci or Tesla?
posted by Nelson at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Just it's a dumb idea for a whole species of sentients

I've really been enjoying how much thought probably went into the entire concept.

Most animal species are involved in some sort of predator-prey relationship. They may be predators, prey or both. Typically, those relationships are way more complicated than the whole Planet of Hats thing Star Trek has going on for Saru and his people.

But, in a predator-prey environment, prey animals species do often evolve certain predator-avoidant traits over time. That's how the species survives -- adaptation. The ability to be vigilant of one's surroundings is one such trait. Speed, agility and stamina to outrun a predator are others. Also, the ability to blend in with one's environment through coloration or scent. The writers have endowed Saru with most of these, unless Saru has chameleon-like abilities we haven't seen yet.

Here's the fun part: when a prey animal population moves from an environment rich in predators to one where few or none are present, those evolutionary traits can become deprecated over generations in favor of others that are better suited to their new environment. The speed at which this happens is usually dependent on how costly those adaptations are in the species' new surroundings.

Sometimes, this means a body part becomes vestigial. Birds that only live on islands may lose the ability to fly over generations, simply because flight is no longer a positively-selected trait. Stickleback fish who live in freshwater environments may have evolved out of growing spiny armor for the same reason: it's a less predator-heavy environment and the spines requires a lot of energy to grow and maintain. They also make the sticklebacks slower and less streamlines. But in salt-water environments, those spines are a positive survival trait, so they remain.

Saru is an individual member of his species, and he himself is not going to biologically evolve over generations. But we can see how some of the behaviors and body parts Kelpians developed on their home planet that were positive survival traits may be disadvantages in a more peaceful Starfleet. He's been plucked from his original environment and placed in a new one. This is normal. He'll need to learn to adapt.

What makes humans less warlike, suspicious and xenophobic in the Star Trek universe than they are in the present day? What if those traits are genetic and are in Trek are slowly being evolved out of the human genome? It's a fun idea to ponder.
posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also a bit confused on Starfleet ethics. Surely at least some people were concerned about the effect on the society if you took away their brightest star, their most masterful scientist and tinkerer? Imagine if aliens had plucked away Da Vinci or Tesla?

Over in the VOY/ENT threads, we've batted around Starfleet ethics quite a bit, (I can offer some particularly fun discussions if anybody's curious and doesn't want to wade through literally years of that).

Based on that larger body of discussion, it seems to me that the deal is: history, evolution and progress in general are on a forward-moving path. Jumping ahead in the queue is inherently wrong, with examples including:
- Riker offering gifts when he temporarily had the powers of a Q.
- Suliban trading their services for genetic enhancement in ENT.
- Franchise wide Borg tech/body piracy to attain perfection.

Taking unearned advancement is... cheating, for lack of a better word.

However, a person or race can 'earn' their way up the ladder. The closest prior example to Saru that comes to mind this second is Wesley Crusher going with the Traveler: the choice is basically the same. He's more 'advanced' than his peers, and he can go to a new level of being provided he agrees not to share the fruits of this with the unworthy.

Saru proved himself with the comm, so he is personally entitled to move forward, as long as he won't help anybody else do it - they gotta use their own bootstraps.

So... that would be the logic, IMO. (I'm personally still sort of processing this notion about Trek, even though I came to it around Dear Doctor.)

What makes humans less warlike, suspicious and xenophobic in the Star Trek universe than they are in the present day? What if those traits are genetic and are in Trek are slowly being evolved out of the human genome? It's a fun idea to ponder.

I like Khan's take that humanity really hasn't changed much, although it is indeed fun to consider what centuries of post-economic scarcity might do to us as a species.
posted by mordax at 12:20 AM on December 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


A late thought: in "What's Past is Prologue" (DSC S1E13), Saru begins his inspirational speech with "It is well-known that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death."

But if Saru is the only Kelpien that anyone in the Federation has ever encountered, and the rest of the Kelpiens are still off-limits due to the Prime Directive, just how "well-known" a fact would this be?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:43 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Saru was breaking the fourth wall there. "It is well known among Star Trek fans that my species..." because the only thing anyone remembers about the very first Star Trek reveal trailer was the "I sense death" thing, like the world's most minimalist Deanna Troi. IIRC that was when the show creators started explaining all about the Kelpians and their single species perq trait.
posted by Nelson at 1:22 AM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


Doug Jones really carried this one, I think it might be the strongest of the four. I wonder if Saru was in line for high priest?

Also, what about Siranna- Saru makes it sound like they had a big falling out in Brother,- except, he just left.
posted by freethefeet at 11:48 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


This is the kind of story that leads my spouse & me to start talking about Dr. Phlox's ethical choice in the ENT episode Dear Doctor. ;-)

(also: I cannot help but, every few minutes of Doug Jones being onscreen, joke about how "wow this is a really long campaign video" or make some similar jape based on the premise that this is the same Doug Jones as the Senator from Alabama.)
posted by brainwane at 7:20 AM on February 5


This is the kind of story that leads my spouse & me to start talking about Dr. Phlox's ethical choice in the ENT episode Dear Doctor. ;-)

There's a fanfare ENT re-watch currently happening, and more Phlox thoughts are always welcome -- we just talked about Dear Doctor a few months ago.
posted by cjelli at 7:32 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I never really cared for this species from the start, but with this short, and now S02E06, it's like the various writers are playing Chinese Whispers with their back-story. There are so many races in the Alpha Quadrant already, that they don't need to invent one for every series. This series takes place before TOS, and Denobulans are one of the first Species that humans encountered after Vulcans, so they could have made him a Denobulan. Or even better, they could have made him an Edosian like Arex from the TAS. That would have been perfect. Heck, they could have even made him an Andorian and it would have been more believable. They already changed the Klingons beyond recognition, did they really need to bring in another species into this crowded Galaxy? And if this series takes place between ENT and TOS, why do we never see these guys in the future? Sorry fans, I really like this series, but Saru and his story is my least favorite part.
posted by ambulocetus at 2:51 PM on February 27


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