Star Trek: Discovery: Light and Shadows
March 1, 2019 9:43 AM - Season 2, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Burnham returns to Vulcan in search of Spock, while Discovery continues to investigate the events near Kaminar.

Memory Alpha's thin again at this early date:

Background information
Cast
> Wilson Cruz is not credited as a main cast member and does not appear in this episode.

Continuity
> Captain Leland refers to Spock as commander. However he has the rank of lieutenant.

To maybe pad that out a bit:
IGN review

Den of Geek review
posted by mordax (56 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
...Did the USS Discovery really just provoke a timey wimey blender tsunami in orbit around Kaminar that seemed poised to engulf the planet in an either very brief or very eternal nightmare, and then just casually leave? With its captain congratulating himself on a moment of introspection on obvious suicidal tendencies that everyone but his psychiatric-ally trained Admiral could see? ...What?

No concern at all for Kelpians or the Ba'ul? I could almost forgive many of the flaws of the last episodes, as tritely fixing the complex problems of a planet with simple platitudes before moving onto the next episode is pretty classic trek, but what the hell is this?
posted by Blasdelb at 10:13 AM on March 1 [11 favorites]


I don't really understand how main cast works in this show. It doesn't appear to mean anything, which is... not how television works? Also, they have SO MANY producers listed in the opening credits.

I guess me talking about this indicates how much I liked this episode, which is to say... I didn't like it at all.
posted by Automocar at 10:20 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Pointless STO Comparison: Vulcan can be visited in Star Trek Online, but there's very little to do there.

Poster's Log:
* When we rewatch this in twenty years, I'm keeping a counter for 'dumb, half-cocked plans.'

So last time, we had the crew decide to put the entire Kelpian population through the Vahar'ai after all of ten seconds of deliberation.

This time, Pike and Tyler got into a shuttle and flew it into a wibbly time thingy after another ten seconds' deliberation even though taking Stamets might have kept them safe from the jump. Moreover, as Blasdelb points out, they do this without any concern for what might happen to the population below.

Also, bringing Tyler at all seems like the very worst idea, even if he did help in the end.

I like Discovery. I do. I've just sat through all of VOY and am presiding over the current ENT rewatch, and in many ways, DSC is a breath of fresh air after so much unambitious mediocrity. However, it never stops to breathe, and the characters do a lot of dumb stuff as a result. I really wish they'd think stuff through a little better, both on and offscreen.

* So I dunno why anybody would trust Leland/Section 31.

OK, I guess I get why Sarek would. Sarek was always depicted as a pretty bad dad. However, it probably shouldn't have taken Mirror-Georgiou to point out 'by the way they're going to peel his brain like a banana and discard whatever's not Red Angel-related.'

I mean, I grew up with a strong theme of 'don't trust cops,' and I guess Starfleet are military, but Section 31 are basically the CIA.

* The time war stuff is giving me a bad Temporal Cold War vibe.

I don't really want future people mucking around in Trek's past after the last time. The probe thing was pretty goofy - there's gotta be a better way to attack people 500 years in the past than 'turn their own probe into a robot squid monster.'

Anyway, yeah. Pretty frustrated, even though I'm still on board here.
posted by mordax at 10:22 AM on March 1 [7 favorites]


Despite the fact that the Search For Spock (er, the other search for Spock) is over, this felt like a bunch of set-up for On The Next Episode Of... in which very little actually happened, other than Kaminar being hit by a time-tsunami.

Newly opened questions: what's up with Airam? What's up with that future drone? Why is no one at all surprised by time travel? Why is everyone acting like we all know the Red Angel is a time-traveller, despite the show being at pains to posit time travel as one of many possible explanations for tachyons, etc? Why would 'advanced technology' necessarily mean the Red Angel was from the future (the borg from the future? the Organians?) What's up with Leland and Burnham's parents? What's up with the Talosians? What's up with the future of Kaminar? Where did Jet Reno go? Why does Pike suddenly have an established plot arc of being driven to take suicidal risks out of guilt for not being present in the war, despite that being mentioned briefly in S02E01 and then immediately dropped and forgotten? Why would Sarek ever think turning his son over to Section 31, rather than Starfleet Medical, be the appropriate option here? Why didn't Section 31 already find Spock, given that he was...in a nearby cave? What? Will Leland fire the Section 31 brain-extraction guy for bringing his brain-extraction apparatus into the room with Burham, rather than waiting, like, twenty minutes and thereby avoiding her asking questions?

Reader, I did not like this episode. Almost every part of this felt horrifically un-earned: Spock was pretty easy to find. Just ask Amanda! We know the Red Angel is a time-traveller. Don't ask how! (I think this was made clear as a possibility to the viewer, but never actually logiced through by the crew). Pike has a death wish, and has always had a death with. Don't ask why this didn't come up previously! (His pod-racing back in the first ep felt a lot more like an attempt to action-up the show than something the show intended to be scene as a bad idea, even though it was obviously a bad idea).

Things that were great:
- Vulcan looks sumptuous and the shuttle scenes with Burham were a great melding of set design and scenery.
- The acting, as always.
- "Now, I'm going to give you to the count of ten to --" WELL EARNED PUNCH
- Great-for-trek fight choreography
- No stomach-churning cinematography
- Holding out the possibility that the Calypso Short Trek ends up actually integrating into the season somehow, rather than being a fun one-off.

I'm still looking forward to the rest of the season (and to season 3!), but, yes, this was a frustrating episode. It's also weird watching it knowing that they changed up the production and writing in the second half of the season, but now knowing exactly how that will play out -- we know the butterfly has been stepped on, but we're not yet back to the present to see what changed.
posted by cjelli at 10:47 AM on March 1 [6 favorites]


Some possible (and some speculative) answer to your questions:

what's up with Airam?

Got hacked by future!drone. I assume that this will be followed up in an episode in the near future. Hey, they're doing something with a bridge crew who isn't one of the usual suspects!

What's up with that future drone?

It's from the 28th century ("500 years in the future" IIRC). According to Memory Alpha, that's when the mysterious humanoid figure that was aiding the Suliban in ENT was from. If there was a physical war between the mysterious figure's people (whoever they were, we never found out) and the Federation, there could be sabotage drones whose purpose is to find Federation technology, subvert it, and reprogram it to attack Federation ships.

Why is no one at all surprised by time travel?

Because of the Temporal Cold War in ENT.

Why is everyone acting like we all know the Red Angel is a time-traveller, despite the show being at pains to posit time travel as one of many possible explanations for tachyons, etc?

I... didn't get that impression?

Why would 'advanced technology' necessarily mean the Red Angel was from the future (the borg from the future? the Organians?)

Again, I'd need to rewatch the episode to see where everyone decided that the Red Angel was from the future. Memory Alpha says that Section 31 thinks that it's from the future, and Section 31 may have all sorts of info that they're not revealing yet.

What's up with Leland and Burnham's parents?

Obvious set-up for next week, going by the preview.

What's up with the Talosians?

No idea, although, again, we'll see them next week. This establishes DSC's time as after "The Cage", at least.

What's up with the future of Kaminar?

Who knows?

Where did Jet Reno go?

Can she find her way home, back to the open arms of a love that's waiting there? Discovery is not a small ship, although its crew is significantly smaller than Enterprise's (136, vs. 205 at the moment and eventually over 400); Reno could be off fixing shit that breaks every time they have a space action scene. Or maybe they dropped her off to fix Enterprise and forgot to tell us. Who knows?

Why does Pike suddenly have an established plot arc of being driven to take suicidal risks out of guilt for not being present in the war, despite that being mentioned briefly in S02E01 and then immediately dropped and forgotten?

...because not everyone gets significant character development every single episode?

Why would Sarek ever think turning his son over to Section 31, rather than Starfleet Medical, be the appropriate option here?

Because last time he was under the care of Starfleet Medical, he allegedly killed a bunch of people. They may not be too kind toward him at this point. Section 31 might at least get some answers, as intelligence gathering is their ostensible function. (Remember that they are not the completely-covert operation that they are in the 24th century; there was someone with a black badge in S1E3 who was not hiding at all. That's not to say that they don't do completely un-Federation-like things--like, say, employing a parallel-universe dictator who is pretending to be her dead prime-universe counterpart--but for the time being, they seem to have an aboveground component, and Sarek may believe that they wouldn't screw over the son of the Vulcan ambassador. He's probably wrong.)

Why didn't Section 31 already find Spock, given that he was...in a nearby cave? What?

Their sensors may not have picked him out from all the other Vulcans. Although everyone talks about Spock being half-human, his physiology seems to be mostly Vulcan, going by "Journey to Babel", in which he donates blood to Sarek for a transfusion. And, again, this is not necessarily the hyper-competent and all-knowing Section 31 of DS9.

Will Leland fire the Section 31 brain-extraction guy for bringing his brain-extraction apparatus into the room with Burham, rather than waiting, like, twenty minutes and thereby avoiding her asking questions?

Maybe? Not all people working for intelligence services are intelligent, and not all intelligent people are intelligent all the time.

Look, I get your main point--lots of unanswered questions in this episode and things that don't make a lot of sense at first glance--but it makes a whole lot more sense than the Kelpien Solution, at least to me. My main quibble was Tilly's characterization: she comes off as less very intelligent and a bit hyper and more flighty and not getting it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:55 AM on March 1 [4 favorites]


Section 31 are basically the CIA

Starfleet Intelligence is already a thing--probably a closer equivalent. Section 31 is a CIA within the CIA--the ones doing the truly nasty shit.
posted by duffell at 12:01 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


I'd need to rewatch the episode to see where everyone decided that the Red Angel was from the future.

It's in the very first paragraph of the voiceover that starts the ep:
"The past, the present, and the future -- that's where the Red Angel is from. We now have confirmation, thanks to Mr. Saru. The angel is humanoid, and wearing an exosuit, made of future technology we've never seen. But whose future? And why?"
In the first actual dialogue following that, Pike says that they're staying by Kaminar to analyze the tachyon particles left behind to see "when in the future [the red angel] came from."

There's more dialogue, but that springs to mind.

I mean, I might have missed some piece of the last episode where they decided this, but they absolutely started this episode having already decided it -- the decision/analysis isn't made within the episode itself.
posted by cjelli at 12:44 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


When you see technology that you've never seen before in your current temporal reality, doesn't that actually mean the technology is here, now, and that given what we know about time's arrow IRL, doesn't Occam tell us that the technology was most likely constructed sometime in the past and that therefore that technology IS NOT FROM THE GOL DANG FUTURE and if not, how, especially if you are confidently able to assert that as such technology is way beyond anything you've ever seen before it must be, er, 'from the future' and I uh

aw geez, Show

Also apparently Vulcans have ancestral crypts with Roman-ish ancestor masks

AND AND AND

Let us PLEASE take note that the character tasked with doing the emotional labor, yes, the actual emotional labor here in this episode was a) a woman b) a person of color and c) an adoptee.

Fuckin' a, Show.

FWIW Suicidal Pike seems like a not-completely stupid way to build the character, I mean what the everlovin' fuck was will he be doing screwing around with that baffle plate after his sidegrade to Fleet Captain? Try to keep the dude away from frontline service, throw hm a bone on a Class J training vessel and what does he do? That right there is some technology that not only have we ever seen, it is technology from the future, right, see, of the plot, see. Right.

Spock as a dyslexic is sort of interesting, actually. I have skepticism they'll do much of interest with it, though.
posted by mwhybark at 1:17 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


And oh yeah, we meet the Talosians next time! That sounds... fun, maybe!
posted by mwhybark at 1:20 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Airiam is about to become an object lesson in why you should always update your virus protection program when that little pop-up reminder tells you to.

Otherwise...um. There did seem to be a theme about deferring to authority, or not--Amanda rejecting Sarek's authority, Sarek insisting on respect for authority, Burnham going along until a different authority warns her off, Voqler resisting Pike's authority on the shuttle. Unfortunately, this also meant that I yelled "Sarek, you dingbat!" at the screen. Sarek has always been Exhibit A for Bad Parenting, but not for Egregious Reasoning.

As a Victorianist, I have no objection to Alice allusions, so there's that.

Saru was more captain-y than Pike this time around. But the explanation for "why is the captain doing this thing a red shirt should be doing?" was psychologically plausible.

Burnham wasn't under the impression that Talos IV was a Forbidden Planet, which makes me think that the series may be about to come up with an explanation for the whole death penalty thing. That was probably the most interesting part of the episode (all five seconds or so of it).
posted by thomas j wise at 1:24 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


Dyslexia and mirror writing are not the same thing, show. Argh.

On the other hand, I think I'm finally starting to look forward to some of the insane left-field stuff that comes out of this show. Space tardigrades! Mushroom dimensions! Probes that come back as squid! I want them to start doubling, no, tripling down on this silliness.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:45 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


Literally the only thing I liked in this episode was the well-written, well-acted, very Vulcan, superficially-calm-but-subtextually-heated argument between Sarek and Amanda.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:15 PM on March 1 [8 favorites]


I acknowledge all the flaws in this episode, but I loved it anyway. I thought that everything finally came together, and it felt like this was finally the start of the main story arc of the season.

For a while now I've been concerned that in response to fan complaints the writers had gone back to a more episodic storytelling format with a paper-thin seasonal framing device. And I didn't like it. I really enjoyed that some plotlines in the first season took many episodes (in some cases the entire season) to pay off.

This episode feels more like that, and I really hope that this trend continues.
posted by confluency at 3:25 PM on March 1


Sarek: “I am not prepared to lose both of our children on the same day.
Michael: ::furrows brow::
Spock: ::mumbles::
Sybok: ::coughs pointedly::
posted by Seeba at 4:36 PM on March 1 [12 favorites]


Sybok: ::coughs pointedly::

How much older is Sybok than Spock? Sarek might just be speaking literally, not claiming Sybok as a child with familial connection both Sarek and Amanda.
posted by nathan_teske at 4:51 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Not abusing the edit window, the STV script does say that Sybok and Spock were raised as brothers:
McCOY: Let me get this straight. You and Sybok have the same father but different mothers.
SPOCK: Exactly. That is correct. Sybok's mother was a Vulcan princess. After her death, Sybok and I were raised as brothers.
posted by nathan_teske at 4:56 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Our children- not my children, thus excluding Sybok.
posted by freethefeet at 5:13 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Adolescent Sybok: "You're not my mother!"
Sarek: "My son, logic dictates..."
A.S.: "Fuck your logic, mannnnn, I mean Vulcannnnn! EMO is where it's at!"
/A.S. storms off, steals Vulcan shuttle, finds the Space Hippies
Sarek: "One son, Amanda. We shall parent but one child."

later

Sarek: "Amanda, this is Michael. She is a war orphan."

much later

Pops Rodchenko: "Mama Rodchenko, this is Worf. He is a war orphan."
posted by mwhybark at 5:24 PM on March 1 [5 favorites]


I for one will not complain if they retcon the Talosians so their heads aren't so gross looking. That'd be bucking the established trend, but a trekkie can dream.
posted by duffell at 6:15 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


This establishes DSC's time as after "The Cage", at least.

It is known. Although given the blasé way that time travel and Section 31 are treated as common knowledge, it’s a little surprising that canonically the only capital crime in the Federation is apparently obscure. I would have thought when Burnham orders the computer to set course for Talos IV, there would have at least been a Do you want to proceed Y/N moment before the computer accepted the order. I can’t get my laptop to stop asking me about updating my drivers.

Given the lack of drama with regard to abducting a high value prisoner off a Section 31 ship and flying away, I am glad to see a venerable Trek tradition is carried on; how many times did we see Sulu look at the (sole?) blinking light on his console, tell Kirk that someone was opening the shuttle bay doors, then sadly report that it was too late, the shuttlecraft had left, too bad so sad? At the risk of cross-franchise referencing, I cannot help but think of Leia saying, “It’s the only explanation for the ease of our escape.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:55 PM on March 1


duffell, you got a physical snort out of me. =)


Again STD just keeps laying down the maximum ante/ bid (this time, time travel and cybernetic organisms that can be hacked) without knowing/ understanding what cards they're holding.

Looking forward to being shown what the robot-like bridge-crew-bioroid is about.

Time travel stories, unless extraordinarily well thought out, ultimately devolve into monkey's paw presents (realistically) or complete junk (any time travel tv show with anything other than a terrible ending).

A counterexample might be The 12 Monkeys series has one of the least completely terrible endings yet fulfill the happy-ish ending too.
posted by porpoise at 10:00 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


I for one will not complain if they retcon the Talosians so their heads aren't so gross looking.

I actually think the physical appearance and representation of the Talosians was one of the better points of “The Cage.” I am not crazy about the light-bulb-shaped head cliché, but using female performers and having their breasts taped down, hiding them in shapeless robes, and having male actors dub their dialogue gives them a degree of alienness mostly unheard of at the time, when production values meant “you can tell this guy is alien because he has a Mylar jumpsuit.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:02 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Sarek: “I am not prepared to lose both of our children on the same day.
Michael: ::furrows brow::
Spock: ::mumbles::
Sybok: ::coughs pointedly::


Sarek: “Young man, you will stay quiet until you are fully canonical!”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:34 AM on March 2 [13 favorites]


And as if to further my nerd cred, did anyone else, when seeing the prodigal probe comeback all upgraded, think of Nomad and Tan Ru? No? Okay, I will be over here with my James Blish novelizations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:37 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]


Shuttle dashboard has references to other series.
posted by blueberry at 1:18 AM on March 2


As usual, this was a mess, but with some promising bits. I was hoping for a lot of development of Amanda in this series, and that seems to be happening more or less effectively. And when the Talos reveal happened, I said "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?" and very nearly smacked myself.

Where did Jet Reno go?

Clearly, she's DISCO's Ensign Sonia Gomez.

It's from the 28th century ("500 years in the future" IIRC). According to Memory Alpha, that's when the mysterious humanoid figure that was aiding the Suliban in ENT was from.

Oh -_-

SPOCK: Exactly. That is correct. Sybok's mother was a Vulcan princess. After her death, Sybok and I were raised as brothers.

Guys, guys: I've got it.

Sha Ka Ree was Talos IV all along. Sybok battling Fake-God was actually Sybok battling a manifestation of his inner demons w/r/t having fucked things up with his family. The outcome of that? He decides he needs a second chance, but as an entirely different person, and one who permits Spock to be the "favored son." The Talosians sent him back as a young Human girl to a point in spacetime where Sarek can adopt her. Michael was Sybok all along. It's the Sybok-verse! And the Red Angel is Michael from the Sybok-verse's future, following her trip to Talos IV where the horrible secret is revealed: "You used to be a maudlin old white dude. Sorry. Here, take this winged hypertech exoskeleton as compensation."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:02 AM on March 2 [14 favorites]


You almost owed me a new keyboard there, Cheeses.
posted by mordax at 2:32 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


I actually think the physical appearance and representation of the Talosians was one of the better points of “The Cage.”

I had to read more on the Talosians after that. The original concept had them as small, scuttling crablike beings that communicated with claw clicks. The use of taped-down women with men’s voices and giant heads was Plan B for budgetary reasons.

Clicking crab Talosians swarming over people as they control their mind would be way cool.
posted by cardboard at 3:56 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]


I honestly can't figure out whether I like this show.

I mean, I'm still watching – so I clearly don't hate it. But I still can't get a bead on what it's trying to do.

One clear thing I can say against it: I wish everything wasn't so freaking epic, all the time. Not everything has to to be a galaxy-shattering event, you know?

The characters of the TNG era worked because we got to see them doing things other than desperately saving the universe from the Borg. Hanging out in Ten Forward, talking to each other about personal problems, raising kids, going on vacation, struggling with career dilemmas, playing cards, being bored on long shuttle flights, etc. Yeah, it doesn't always hold up so well by today's standards – but at least they were trying to create well rounded characters.

Of course, Discovery doesn't need to be the same show as TNG. But it also doesn't need to be Game of Thrones. Give the plot room to breathe. Give us a chance to see who the characters are when the bridge consoles aren't exploding. Have the characters talk about the moral, personal, and political dimensions of what's going on.

I mean, consider "Schisms" (TNG S06E05). For the first fifteen minutes of that episode, the only conflict is: Geordi is struggling to find a tactful way to tell Data that his poem about his cat sucked; Riker is having trouble sleeping; and Worf is getting a haircut.

Again, not saying that Discovery needs to be TNG – but that demonstrates the difference in pacing and tone. "Schisms" was still developing a story amidst the mundanities. Because the writers knew how to do that without relying on wall-to-wall action sequences.

Also, I hate the spore drive. It's dopey, hand-wavey, science-fantasy nonsense. That's apropos of nothing; I just had to get it off my chest. (Yes, I realize that Trek has never exactly been hard SF. But the spore drive is a whole new level of not-giving-a-fuck.)

Honestly, The Orville – for all its flaws – is the best Trek show on TV right now. Especially since they've basically ditched the jokes, and gone full-bore TNG pastiche. It's campy, but apparently I prefer campy and earnest over grimdark and leaden.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:22 AM on March 2 [10 favorites]


There's one show that I feel really mastered the balance between high-stakes plotty action and low-stakes character development (which raised the stakes for the rest of the show, because you got to know and care about the characters). That show is Steven Universe.

Granted, it's probably easier in some ways to pull that sort of balance off when your episodes are just over 10 minutes long--that way you can focus an entire episode on little interpersonal dramas and people won't grumble.
posted by duffell at 4:45 AM on March 2 [4 favorites]


Leaving aside the question of whether or not Discovery is a good tv show (it’s not): For me, what really gets me down on Discovery as Trek is that it thinks it’s doing all this amazing new stuff while DS9 is just chilling in the corner with a wry smile on its face.
posted by Automocar at 8:48 AM on March 2 [7 favorites]


I gave some consideration to what escape from the potato planet said, and I think that maybe one of the problems that people have with DSC is that they're not only comparing it to all of Trek, but in some cases the best of Trek, or at least its better parts. I hate to say that you're cherry-picking, EFTPP, but you're cherry-picking; you're reaching out to S6 of TNG, and they had to go through quite a few mediocre episodes, and some staggeringly bad ones, to get this far. Put it this way: the total number of DSC episodes produced thus far (not counting the Short Treks, although I think that, even if you did, you wouldn't increase the count by much) are less than the total number of episodes in TNG S1. Do you remember how shitty that was? I mean, really? For my money, TNG S1 had one really good episode--"Heart of Glory", which neatly set up Worf's character arc, not an insignificant accomplishment when you consider that he's the single character with the most appearances in the franchise--and one pretty good and underrated one, "11001001". And, really, that's about it. S2 wasn't much better; lots of people like "The Measure of a Man", but I have real problems with the idea that Starfleet would consider vivisecting not only one of their officers, but a highly-decorated one, and the season ends with "Shades of Grey", sad and bad even for a clip show.

I think that the thing that people get hung up on is that they really do judge each new show by the standards of the best of its predecessors, as if, once a show has reached a decent level of quality, its successors should start at that level. But it doesn't work that way, because each successive show tries to reinvent the show, to greater or lesser extents, and can't simply rely on the well-known characters and relationships of its predecessor. There's also the expectation that each episode will be different from any of the well over seven hundred episodes preceding it in the franchise, while at the same time hewing to continuity, even if that continuity refers to one of the worst iterations of the franchise. I mean, people are going "Where's Sybok?" Sybok was one of the shittiest things about the shittiest movie in the franchise (with the possible exception of Into Darkness), a hoary old cliche--the long-lost, never-mentioned sibling--who presented as a bog-standard post-hippie cult leader; "The Way to Eden" without the ameliorating presence of the groovy, jamming space hippies. Who in the ever-loving space fuck cares about this guy? None of his family refers to him because they think he's off smoking space weed and playing "Wonderwall" on the Vulcan lyre. There you go.

I've ranted long enough. Try to have a great Saturday and also try to be a little kinder to this show which is still in its early days, please.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:24 AM on March 2 [17 favorites]


I think that maybe one of the problems that people have with DSC is that they're not only comparing it to all of Trek, but in some cases the best of Trek, or at least its better parts.
...
try to be a little kinder to this show which is still in its early days


On the one hand, I think that's a totally fair criticism: TNG had some atrocious episodes in the first two or three seasons. TOS had its share of incredibly bizarre premises ('they have the American flag here, for Reasons') that just wouldn't work on TV today. Asking every episode of DSC to be as good as the best episodes of prior Star Treks is setting the bar pretty high.

But on the other hand, speaking for myself, there is so much good television right now. If I want a big intrigue-y show, GoT has been doing that better than DSC's Klingon arc; if I want some philosophizing about what is good and how people should act, I'd go watch The Good Place (or maybe Russian Doll); I have not enjoyed The Orville, for hating-McFarland's-humour-reasons, but obviously that's also been a big draw for a lot of people. How does the show stack up to other shows currently in production? And does it -- in isolation -- have a strong first season? A strong second season? Are these great early days, or are these the early days we have to get through for an amazing season 3+?

Like: if its early days could be better, I don't see why it's unfair to say they could be better. I am thrilled they're getting a third season to continue to build the show out, I am (mostly) enjoying watching it, and there have been such production problems behind the scenes that I'm impressed it is as good as it is, considering. There's a tremendous amount about it that's already great.

There's also a lot that's rushed and kind of penciled in: this season is trying to build out a big narrative arc, but it's kind of skipped the internal justifications for that: as I noted above, for example, I don't think they did a good job establishing the time-traveling nature of the Red Angel -- I mean, I am watching this show fairly closely and I was incredibly confused to see everyone just acting like this was a completely proven thing. It's clearly been planned since the first episode of the second season -- they mention time travel as a possibility to the viewer -- but the show has been a bad job at getting from 'one possibility' to 'only possibility.' Likewise, look back at the ending of episode 6 -- Pike and Ash are looking at the Red Angel footage.
Pike: So, it's someone. And whether human or alien, it has extremely advanced technology.
Ash: Someone who is manipulating the fates of entire species...a time-traveling being pursuing its own agenda.
I missed that the first time through; it's the entirety -- as far as I've seen -- of the show's establishing that the Red Angel is definitely 100% (a) a single person and (b) a time-traveler.

That does not follow as a conclusion from the evidence or premises established within the episode, and it's one of the core narrative dramatic bits that the entire season has been hyping up. That is, I would submit, a problem.

That there's someone in this suit doesn't mean there aren't, like, a dozen suits; it doesn't rule out that there's a whole team of Red Angels, and we've seen a different one each time. Now: clearly, there's only one, because the show keeps saying YES JUST THIS ONE RED ANGEL. But to get from 'we saw one person, therefore only one person can exist' is a basic logic error and a basic writing problem. And it does not follow that 'advanced technology' means 'future technology.' That's not a Star Trek problem, that's a 'this doesn't make sense' problem: Ash shouldn't be worried about a time-traveling single person, he should be worried about a whole species of iron-suit wearing aliens. They didn't do anything, that I've seen, to clearly show that this is always the same Red Angel, have they? That's the issue I have with the show, in a nutshell: it doesn't deliver on the promises that the show establishes internally.

Does this make any less sense than an episode with an entire planet of literal Nazis, because the props department happened to have some cheap costumes? No, I think DSC as a whole fares pretty well in a comparison test. But as its own show, it could still be better -- and it is showing a lot of promise that it's getting there. The cast is incredibly strong; the visuals are amazing; it has its footing in the right place; and it's absolutely sold itself, to me, as a show I want to keep watching.
posted by cjelli at 10:36 AM on March 2 [10 favorites]


Honestly, The Orville – for all its flaws – is the best Trek show on TV right now. Especially since they've basically ditched the jokes, and gone full-bore TNG pastiche. It's campy, but apparently I prefer campy and earnest over grimdark and leaden.

Apart from hating Seth McFarlane - which I do, with some fiery intensity - I haven't given The Orville a shot because 'more TNG' isn't really what I want out of the Star Trek franchise.

IMO, the best non-Star Trek take on Trek is actually Stargate SG-1: interpersonal chemistry between the leads is the main selling point. Each character represents a specific point of view about 'how should we approach life and resolve conflicts,' with them debating the ethics and consequences of choices sometimes. They punch out false gods every other week. They run into frequent debates about whether they should help less advanced people, or be helped by smug technologically advanced races. There's even an undercurrent about 'do we trust AI?' that feels super Trekkian to me.

It's basically very TOS to me as viewing experience, except with much more modern sensibilities. (I consider it a better successor to TOS than TNG, though I expect that's a controversial take.)

/end derail

About DSC: I think my perspective is close to cjelli's.

Jack's right in that it holds up pretty well compared to prior Trek shows, especially so early in the run. I feel like DSC is actually going to end up my second favorite Trek after DS9, if only because it's making such an effort to stop being so gross about women. DSC is making a visible effort to correct stuff like that which really bothered me in all other Trek, DS9 included, and I do appreciate that a lot. I will also take batshit madcap energy over ENT's 'dumb road trip' vibe any day.

However, it's competing in the actual Golden Age of TV, and it's really hard to overlook all the narrative shortcuts they're taking. The complaint that nothing is being given time to breathe and nobody just talks is fair, and a major source of frustration to me because it's making these characters look so dumb. Logical leaps are happening, and it feels like they're coming faster now.

I still like this show, and I'm going to watch the whole thing (unless they did something super bad, like making Culber straight), but this isn't the same landscape everybody was competing on even back when stupid JJTrek was coming out. (It's sort of like how I kept coming back to B5 when we were talking about VOY - VOY was trying to be TNG-like in an era that had already moved on for me.)
posted by mordax at 12:17 PM on March 2 [12 favorites]


the total number of DSC episodes produced thus far (not counting the Short Treks, although I think that, even if you did, you wouldn't increase the count by much) are less than the total number of episodes in TNG S1. Do you remember how shitty that was?

SO. MUCH. BEIGE. I was quite excited at the time because in my entire cognitive life, there had been four Star Trek movies (two-and-a-half of which were good) and a minimally animated TV series in my childhood that even I didn't trouble to watch regularly. The prospect of it being back on TV regularly was dazzling, although it took about a year and a half for it to start running on all cylinders.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:31 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]


people are going "Where's Sybok?"

good sha-ka-ree, we're joking! at least I am. I do sort of cringingly expect them to do something with him though.

also try to be a little kinder to this show

as I have noted previously this is literally our first time, as a community, that we have had the opportunity to riff and roll with Show in real time, and I am thoroughly enjoying both the experience of watching DISCO and reading everyone here write about it. I don't think we're being unkind, although certainly being kinder is always possible and a worthwhile goal.

I think mordax summarizes much of my view above. They are absolutely getting full marks for consistently foregrounding women, for example, and working to be aware of and avoid many of the blind spots in prior Treks; it's the places where they are falling down we naturally notice. You are absolutely correct that it's only S02 and that S01 & 02 of TNG were disappointing. With luck, Show will work thru their struggles with presenting justifications for the crazy SFF plotium device of the week. In a way, I think, they are trying to find the show's voice with regard to that issue - last season it was narratorial exposition scenes in Engineering, this season they've reduced the technobabble exposition to simple straightforward assertions, which maybe has gone too far. Who knows? Maybe next season it will be Shakespearean battlefield emissaries breathlessly giving verbal reports of offscreen events (Saru: "Captain, I have just received Section 31's analysis of the Red Angel, and they tell me that it is a technology well beyond anything we've ever seen - that combined with these recent tachyon field analyses lead them to conclude it is from the future!") or some wacky thing we can't even imagine, it being, um, well beyond any narrative technique we've ever seen. hopefully.

I mean, I think what they are trying to do is emulate the narrative compression of comic books, to a degree, and wacky and fantastic stuff presented as declared plot data in character speech is exactly how you do that. They're just a little green at it. Is that what we want from Trek? Well, I prefer a little more discussion and reasoning, I guess, but I'm open to considering this approach, and it surely is of the moment.
posted by mwhybark at 2:11 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]


Another thing that I think is interesting: I don't think one of us has even mentioned the amusing bit of fan service in the episode in which Pike depletes the shuttle's deuterium as a locator beacon, roughly the same tactic that Spock will later employ in the TOS episode The Galileo Seven.
posted by mwhybark at 2:28 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]


On a somewhat lighter note, on a trip to my local comics/memorabilia shop, I found a bargain that represents what may be the absolute apex of Peak Action Figure.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:01 PM on March 2 [8 favorites]


So where did Spock come from to show up in the sacred family crypt? Did Mom find him in the Motara Sector & bring him home?
posted by scalefree at 7:07 PM on March 2


On a somewhat lighter note, on a trip to my local comics/memorabilia shop, I found a bargain that represents what may be the absolute apex of Peak Action Figure.

Does it come with a car for reenactment purposes?

(Too soon?)
posted by duffell at 7:42 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]


(Too soon?)

That would depend on the Guardian of Forever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:16 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


it’s a little surprising that canonically the only capital crime in the Federation is apparently obscure.

Were we ever told when exactly that crime was placed on the books? Maybe it's the fallout from the Red Angel Crisis that was the prompt for it, and not Pike & the Enterprise's original visit.

----------
Where did Jet Reno go?

Clearly, she's DISCO's Ensign Sonia Gomez.


She can't be, because Tilly already is. Can we make her Lieutenant Commander Argyle? (Minus the actor's fanletter campaign scandal, that got him booted off of the show, of course.)
posted by radwolf76 at 5:49 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


So who else figures the Talosian illusory-realm for Michael is gonna be Wonderland?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:30 AM on March 3 [4 favorites]


So who else figures the Talosian illusory-realm for Michael is gonna be Wonderland?

Oh, that's a great call; if they do, I hope they go in for a physical-costume homage to the Shore Leave rabbit while they're at it.
posted by cjelli at 11:43 AM on March 3 [6 favorites]


Starfleet Intelligence is already a thing--probably a closer equivalent. Section 31 is a CIA within the CIA--the ones doing the truly nasty shit.

So Section 31 is B613, then. ("What if Scandal but it's Star Trek" is a great premise that somebody should do something with.)
posted by tobascodagama at 4:34 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Really liked this episode. But Vulcan is, like, right next door to Earth. How does Burnham get there so fast? And then she's flying to Talos IV in a shuttle craft? Whatever. Did this opening shot of the Discovery remind anyone else of this shot of the Enterprise from Where No Man Has Gone Before? Rarely saw the Enterprise from this angle in TOS, looks beautiful. Also, Talosians!
posted by jabah at 5:15 PM on March 3


So Section 31 is B613, then. ("What if Scandal but it's Star Trek" is a great premise that somebody should do something with.)

I will watch this, but only if Mirror Barclay is running it.
posted by duffell at 5:16 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


There's a real visceral thrill to seeing a new Trek episode a week with world-class special effects and fantastic acting, but I'm struggling to enjoy the actual story for all the reasons outlined by others (too fast, too many things left unexplained or just assumed, too many shocks). I grant that the first ~20 eps of previous shows have been equally if not more dire, but I really expect more these days from a production that evidently has all the money in the world.

I suppose the problem is that Star Trek, as an IP, is far too big and important to be entrusted to a single showrunner; CBS is always going to stick their oar in and try and make it into a tentpole for a whole bunch of other shit, like spin-off shows and their subscription service. In the process, schedules get shifted, showrunners get fired and hired, new storylines and backdoor pilots are unceremonially shoved in, and we end up with this exceptionally well-funded and well-cast mess of a plot.
posted by adrianhon at 2:41 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


The writers seem to have forgotten that Star Trek's an adventure show, not an action show.  There's a pretty significant difference in my estimation.  This is fun overall, but the breathless pace never lets any ideas sit and percolate.  It's all sweets, no savory.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:25 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Cool!: According to Memory Alpha, the Talos coordinates come from the 1986 RPG book "The Federation".
"The digits of these coordinates are given in the FASA RPG book The Federation on page 31, where they are instead arranged as 7.49S 1.48E, placing the star group 74.9 parsecs to the south and 14.8 to the east of the center of Federation space."

And here I thought it was just about sneaking in a 47.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:27 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


... I will be over here with my James Blish novelizations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:37 AM on March 2 [3 favorites −] [!]


You've prompted me to dig them out. Just now cracking V01 E01, "Charlie X". Such space navy!

I think I last read them via digitial bootleg copies, uh, mmmaybe ten years ago? I remember blowing thru them and moving on to the Foster TAS books which surprised me by being much better than I had recalled from childhood. Basically Foster was a 1099 contractor who gave psychological depth and indelible images to BOTH Star Wars and Star Trek.

Still looking forward to a reread of Blish. I have many encomiums for him, just not always as a Trek contributor.
posted by mwhybark at 12:16 AM on March 6


Man, Michael just can't help herself can she? All the assaulting of superior Starfleet officers. The very same officer for that matter, the one that originally got her on a prison ship. Surely there's gonna be significant consequences for her this time right?

Also now that we all know Pike is suicidal he's immediately going to be stripped of command and sent to therapy, right? I guess he's relying Tyler to keep his secret? Saru's no dummy, and even if he can't sense all the death hovering around Pike anymore he's certainly already figured it out.

Speaking of Tyler, re-injecting him in the show this way is really working out terribly badly. Why is he on that shuttle? What is with this split-authority on the Enterprise bridge? What does he do in his downtime, does he have awkward non-conversations with Michael? Why doesn't Stamets rip his throat out? For that matter, why hasn't Tyler gotten a goddamn haircut yet?

Snark aside, I'm really liking this show. This episode was very entertaining. And Trek has always had a goofy side that meant that it did not stand up to close examination. (Except maybe DS9, that was mostly harder scifi). I even liked this episode despite all the problems cjelli points out.

try to be a little kinder to this show which is still in its early days

This is episode #22 and halfway through season 2. If they haven't found their way yet, it's not for lack of time and resources. But I agree they haven't found their way yet. The frequent changing of showrunners and the sheer number of producers really is a problem, IMHO. They need to pick one concept team and stick with it. Particularly shows in this episode and I think is responsible for the annoying thing that the show keeps taking 40+ years of Trek Canon and then Accelerating it to Warp Factor 11 in ways that don't make sense.

Why is no one at all surprised by time travel?
Because of the Temporal Cold War in ENT.


And here I've been politely pretending that the Temporal Cold War story arc never happened (nor, honestly, most of Enterprise). If Disco dissolves into more timey-wimey bullshit I may have to check out. And so far it's looking not great. I'm fine with a mysterious space angel coming from the future to drive Spock insane and give vague warnings that also draw people to the danger. But the modified probe, the time rift, all that crap does not lead to interesting sci-fi.

PS: if you, like me, don't remember all the details of 1965 Star Trek episodes you might want to read a plot summary of The Cage and The Menagerie. Cuz Captain Pike is going back to Talos IV, which certainly gonna end well for everyone involved.

Baby Spock doo doo doo doo doo doo
posted by Nelson at 7:43 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Everyone needs so much therapy on this show. Culber, Stamets, Tilly, Saru, Pike. So. Much. Therapy.

I've been watching Discovery with a guy who seems to absolutely hate it, but also has wrong opinions about everything (he thinks the way to fix Discovery is to bring back the war and have them kill more Klingons and thinks DS9 is the worst Trek, seriously he is wrong about everything). So I think his influence means that I reactively like it a little more than I think I would otherwise. I still wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:45 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


The arguments about tonal consistency with this show are pretty funny to me. For better or worse, I use TNG as my benchmark for what makes a good Trek series. That show is wildly inconsistent in tone, theme, writing, and a million other things, especially in seasons 1 and 2. Go back and watch the TNG episode conspiracy, where at the end they full on horror movie explode a guy full of parasitic bugs and then an alien bug hand puppet pops out of his guts.

Season 2 of Disco is definitely less consistent than season 1, but I actually think that makes for a better or at least more interesting show overall. The main problem with inconsistency is that they're also trying to have season long ongoing arcs, so it's really glaringly obvious when actors/characters like Tig Notaro or Wilson Cruz just disappear, or they explode a giant time sphincter next to the planet they just saved last episode. I do hope they can pull together some of the dangling threads like that by the end of the season.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:56 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Why is the captain flying the shuttle into the anomaly?
Why is ANYONE flying the shuttle into the anomaly?
Why do you even need to launch the probe from a shuttle??
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:12 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Why is the captain flying the shuttle into the anomaly?
Why is ANYONE flying the shuttle into the anomaly?
Why do you even need to launch the probe from a shuttle??


This is addressed in the text of the show. The probe needs to be launched close to the anomaly because it's playing havoc with the ship's sensors. When Discovery gets too close it almost gets sucked in so they want to use a shuttle instead. Pike pilots the shuttle because he says he's the best pilot. It's later revealed that Pike also has a kind of need to prove himself because he didn't fight in the war.

Of course, I don't think it's ever explained how Pike knows Discovery's shuttles better than anyone on board. He says he was a test pilot, but I find it suspect that no one else on board is more familiar with the shuttles than him. May have just been bravado on his part so he could play hero. I also don't remember why it was okay to launch a shuttle closer to the anomaly but not Discovery. Maybe something about mass or maneuverability.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:01 PM on March 7


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