Star Trek: Discovery: Project Daedalus
March 14, 2019 11:27 PM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

When the Discovery crew infiltrates Section 31's headquarters, suspicions arise that the crew may have a traitor in their midst. Burnham tries to help Spock but her efforts don't go as planned.

Slim' pickins on Memory Alpha so far:

When the Discovery crew infiltrates Section 31’s headquarters, suspicions arise that the crew may have a traitor in their midst. Burnham tries to help Spock but her efforts don’t go as planned.


This episode reveals that Admiral Patar, as well as the unnamed Andorian and Tellarite admirals seen in "If Memory Serves", had been dead for several weeks. Patar's appearance on Discovery's viewscreen is revealed to be a hologram created by the Section 31 artificial intelligence Control; it is implied that the other admirals seen in "If Memory Serves" were also holograms.
posted by duffell (54 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Pointless STO Comparison: The Federation no longer eschews mines in the era of Star Trek Online. (To be fair, this prohibition was already gone by the Dominion War.) I guess I should look forward to picking up blade mines in a later expansion, (blackout mines will clearly be nerfed into the ground).

Episode Stuff:
* Nhan is a Barzan.

This is interesting because the Barzan are canonically not members of the Federation in the TNG-era, appearing as an unaligned civilization in the episode The Price. I hope we hear more about her backstory, and I was relieved to see her survive.

* Guess we finally learned Airiam's backstory...

... just in time. Her heroic sacrifice was pretty good, although I regret the loss of the character just when we were starting to learn about her.

* The use of AI by Starfleet was interesting.

Trek's bias against artificial intelligence dates all the way back to TOS. That made some of the plot beats here inevitable, because the S31 system proving reliable and helpful would violate all later continuity in a big way. (It also tracks with the idea of them trying the M-5, since it's based on a human mind.)

Past that: this felt like a step forward. The whole 'rogue AI tries to kill everybody' thing is a well-worn trope by now, but I admit a soft spot for it personally. Also, decisions here felt less half-baked than in the past couple episodes.
posted by mordax at 1:28 AM on March 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

Burnham is such a stone cold badass that she will shoot her own captain to mutiny by firing on the klingons, but won’t kill her robot friend? OK, I guess, maybe she’s softened.

But why didn’t they just beam her out? And Nahn? Or Airem? They made a pointed saying they were ready to do so.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:15 AM on March 15, 2019 [11 favorites]

This was by far the best episode of the show. If this is what Michelle Paradise can do with a single episode, I’m super excited to see what she does as showrunner next season.
posted by Automocar at 5:49 AM on March 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

But why didn’t they just beam her out? And Nahn? Or Airem?

The implication was that the Section 31 HQ, as a former prison, had security measures that included anti-transporter measures, and that Control let them down to let in Airiam (with Burnham and Nahn just sort of along for the ride) and then put them back up. (These measures--which have some precedence in canon--apparently extended out from the station far enough that they couldn't just get Airiam once she was out the airlock. That makes sense, because you wouldn't want someone expediting a prison break by beaming a bomb just outside the hull.)

I, too, was bummed by Airiam dying, but at least she died knowing that she was loved. Good character bits with her and the others. Something that stuck out to me: the discussion of kadis-kot, a game that originated on VOY and up until now was only mentioned on that show.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:14 AM on March 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

They made a big deal about Airiam downloading all of her memories to the ship computer. I wonder if she will be resurrected somehow through that.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:54 AM on March 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

I wonder if she will be resurrected somehow through that.

Hm. If nothing else, I wonder if there's a connection to Calypso? I think someone already pointed out that story may not be as disconnected from continuity as we all expected it to be.
posted by mordax at 9:43 AM on March 15, 2019 [11 favorites]

Hopefully with stability at the show runner spot, backstories for more characters like Airiam can be integrated into more episodes, instead of squeezed into one episode. That said, I liked her backstory. That video postcard, on reflection, may be her only memory from that trip, if her short term memories were wiped out in the shuttle accident.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:04 AM on March 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Personally I found the episode awfully clumsy.
  • Sharing Airiam's backstory and her death in a single episode placed her just one step above a redshirt. The explanation of how she became a cyborg felt shoehorned in. This is the ninth episode of the season: there were plenty of opportunities to provide some background and allow us to grow attached to the character before killing her.
  • Discovery is already in open rebellion: what prevented them from blowing up the mines, rather than plowing through them?
  • If Control needed Airiam onboard to share the information gathered from the sphere, why make Enterprise go through the minefield at all? If the AI didn't have direct access to the minefield, why not have Airiam working on disabling them immediately, rather than threatening its plans by having her work on them at the last minute?
  • "Random" selection of manoeuvres by polling the crew wouldn't have been any different from one person calling out different patterns.
  • "According to the computer, we're upside down" makes no sense in space without a reference: upside down relative to what?.
  • Why couldn't Discovery contact Starfleet? They weren't being blocked, and the Control hologram's explanation of "they left me to deal with you" makes no sense.
  • Once they realised all was lost, why not blow up the base? Why leave Control actively seeking to gain information it needs to ascend?
Things I liked:
  • The interplay between Michael and Spock is really growing on me: Spock telling her that she can't be the solution to every problem and he resents her for trying was both emotionally honest and a good contrast against the hyper-competent nature of Starfleet.
  • The little piece where Pike was told "you weren't sidelined from the war because we didn't think you couldn't do the job, but because we wanted to save the best of us if all was lost" worked really well.
I have concerns about the nature of the season going forward: it appears that the Red Angel is trying to present a war between a sentient AI and the rest of the galaxy, which is a theme that's been explored many times before. I'm not sure that Discovery can bring a new twist on it, but I'm prepared to be surprised.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:26 AM on March 15, 2019 [11 favorites]

The worst thing about the episode was, as Bora Horza Gobuchul says, the writers' decision to shoehorn 1 2/3 seasons of character development into 1 episode for the character they were about to kill off. Come on!

That being said, though, I give the writers props for at least continuing important themes here. Multiple characters have been experiencing identity crises this season; now it turns out that Airiam can effectively remake her own psychology via the "save" or "delete" function. But whereas Culber and Voqler have difficulty processing all-too-present memories, Airiam exemplifies the opposite danger: Tilly's fantasy of being able to delete her mother at will turns out, in practice, to just produce monstrosity (since Airiam goes along with Control so long as she cannot recollect any affective connections to her shipmates).

Along similar lines, Spock's exasperation with Burnham scored some good points about her inability to resolve her early trauma--which keeps manifesting in her superhero complex. (This is also a nice link to Pike's frustration about being kept out of the Klingon war.) Airiam's death in the airlock was a well-done bookend to the earlier flashback of Burnham watching the murder of her parents while concealed behind a door.

Other thoughts:

1) While I immediately thought "duh, that's a hologram" when Cornwell trotted out the murder footage, I was not anticipating the holographic admirals. Nice plot twist.
2) I suppose that if Section 31 is going to tolerate a murderous former Empress on staff, they can deal with a Logic Extremist--but really?
3) Burnham's decision not to correct Spock about her acquaintance with Sarek's "mind" was a good call-forward to ST:TNG, where we learn that Spock and Sarek never shared a mindmeld.
4) Project Daedalus = winged suits, presumably.
5) Is this the anger season?
posted by thomas j wise at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Let's give the writer of this episode (Michelle Paradise) credit--this was her first script for the show and she's been picked to be the showrunner starting in season 3. She deftly identified several major problems with the show and set about fixing them. I agree with everyone who says that the character development was sorely lacking, but the fact that Paradise recognizes that this is a problem is a great sign for the future.
posted by Automocar at 2:36 PM on March 15, 2019 [17 favorites]

ARGH no no no. Guess they got me good, by giving us Ariam backstory (how heart breaking!) and then ripping her away from us. I did worry when we got to know Ariam that it would all end badly.

The "hooray for cybernetics" line was in retrospect a bit tone deaf.

"Think of us little people" from Detmer was interesting when Ariam was on an away mission.
posted by freethefeet at 4:15 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

This started out as a great episode exploring Ariam, Detmer, and Tilly's relationships. So, yeah, kinda disappointing.

It's a bit weird that - if the AI infecting Ariam controlled motor functions, that it would let the 'brain in a box' control speech functions (which require motor control). Maybe it only took control of the cyber prostheses and there was original tissue for speech that remained intact.

I was roleplaying the Ariam/Tilly "keep an eye on me" situation in my head - and being the scientific bastard that I am - I'd have stuck around and challenged whoever needed to ask me to stand watch in the first place, who then changed their minds with an (albeit, passable) excuse.

"No, it was important enough for you to ask me to. Whatever experiment/proof you wanted to run fails if I stop."

But Tilly, I guess, wised up before too long.
posted by porpoise at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ariam retrospective - so it's finally been revealed that she is a human, suffered traumatic bodily damage (and almost certainly part of her brain - probably the hippocampus*, but that invalidates plausibility), and is basically a "brain in a box."

Cool. cool.

This could have been So Much Trek; if only to one-up Pike-in-an-enclosed-wheelchair.

*a generous critique could be that the other parts of the brain where the organic synapses that encode memory were largely destroyed, so the replacement of that lost function was taken care of by digital memory - which is nightmare fuel for discussions about the nature of memory and reality

"Memories" aren't just audio-visual files like an .avi or .mkv or .jpg or something. It appears that there is a lot of 'metadata' associated with each one - memories are connected to other memories; but all of these preceding words that I wrote in my preceding paragraph are bullshit because memory in H. sapiens' brains almost certainly doesn't work this way.

posted by porpoise at 8:12 PM on March 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

quick thoughts:

I liked this. It made me unhappy due to personal life experiences. I am an adoptee*, and thus am sensitized in the context of this show to the depiction of Michael's family relationship to Spock et al. Spock speaking unpromptedly to note "not by blood" with regard to the Admiral's remark noting that Michael is Spock's sister prompted an immediate and distracting rage, possibly not what the writer's room may have intended.

Ariam's backstory beats were also overly affecting due to a personal loss I have experienced in my life, that of my adoptive sister, and these two narrative threads combining in my mind atop and independent of the episode proved distracting to me.

Spock and Michael's chess game and confrontation, which centers on Michael's "unimaginable grief" - her first name, I will note, is in fact my own first name - was completely unbearable for me and even as I write this as it plays before me for the third time I cannot accurately percieve or recall it. I am by no means saying it was poorly written or ineffective, but rather that I found it emotionally overwhelming.

The episode's conclusion with the sacrifice of Ariam was not a satisfactory catharsis for my own self-focused experience of unexpectedly renewed personal grief catalyzed by the episode, as I was too distracted.

Possibly that means the episode is good.

On rewatch, what is up with the left side of Saru's mouth on the bridge? It's open slightly in some shots.

*I think I'll stop formally mentioning this in Trek FF threads because by now most of you will have read me making this pro forma context statement countless times. I think it is valid in the context of this episode, though.
posted by mwhybark at 10:45 PM on March 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

The brain scan/truth session with Admiral Cornell visually reminded me of the brains from the Gamesters of Triskelion episode of TOS. I may have blurped out, "300 Quatloos on the newcomers." In any case, the fight choreography was good as always.

From a wider plot perspective, since we know the admirals were already dead for two weeks, what can we expect with the sub-plot between our favorite Terran Emperor and her would be manager/handler? After all, they were receiving commands from the supposed admirals.
posted by jadepearl at 3:29 AM on March 16, 2019

When the "Next time on DISCO" came up and I dutifully exited out of the stream, Mrs. CoB turned to me and said "That was the best episode yet" like, one second before I was about to do the same thing.

It shows that last week's heavily course-correcting episode wasn't an anomaly. Here, there are more of the crazy jumbled DISCO threads being woven together, plus breaking some new ground w/r/t the big 31/Angel mystery and character development.

The other strength I noticed of this one is that, true to DISCO form, there's a lot happening here, but it never quite gets as chaotic as it has in the past. Instead, we get a pretty deft balance of character stuff (heavy stuff, and effective), good fight scenes, fun space stuff (this show does need more exterior-of-the-ship action), and even some sci-fi.

It's high praise indeed when Mrs. CoB and I both referenced Deep Space Nine after watching this—specifically in that one or two of the little speeches sounded like it would've fit on that show. I wish I could recall which one(s).

As of now, my main concern is in the Spock character. The chess scene, and that dynamite line about failure being liberating, helped to ease some of my early concerns, in that he's clearly Going Through Some Stuff and is therefore of course not "the same Spock" as he seemed in "The Cage" nor as he seemed on NCC-1701. I guess my new concern is in the casting. Will he look more Spockish when he shaves? Can the actor actually pull off enough Nimoyness, as IIRC Quinto did (in one of the only effective parts of those movies IMO)?

From a wider plot perspective, since we know the admirals were already dead for two weeks, what can we expect with the sub-plot between our favorite Terran Emperor and her would be manager/handler? After all, they were receiving commands from the supposed admirals.

I think we are seeing a would-be coup by 31 and/or the Emperor, or at least the perception of one from Starfleet's POV. Perhaps the real culprits are far-future squid-Angel people or whatever, and 31 and the Emperor get the blame. In any case, Pike's line in this episode about how 31 has been "less trustworthy than they used to be" (paraphrase) suggested a lot about how 31 is being made to fit into this series' metanarrative, and about how it will be relegated to a lower-status and -visibility role going forward, such that it will be the 31 we know it as from DS9. All very reassuring.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:32 AM on March 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

P.S.: "Project Daedalus" could refer to the Daedalus-class starship (one of which, in a spinoff novel, was called… Discovery) but, given the Red Angel's wings, I'm guessing it's not referencing anything we've seen before outside of Greek mythology.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:35 AM on March 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

ST:Disco is solidly cementing why Starfleet mandates that a ships counsellor is an high Officer Rank in the future where ST:Next Generation occurs, because PTSD and survivors Guilt is *a thing* everyone appears to be steadfastly choosing to ignore.

Especially since a lot of people are still recovering from the just recently settled multi star system (intergalactic?) Klingon War.

I have problems with this iteration of Spock.

I don't know if it's the writing, or the actors expression of the writing, or a combination of both but this Spock is a Dick. And an unrepentant one.

I still love Tilly, but I am also (anxiously) waiting for an episode where her boundless emotion-led personality gets just crushed for plot reasons. I believe it's called 'Kicking the Puppy' in Trope terms.

Having said all that. I enjoyed this episode but don't watch Previews so I wasn't expecting my escapist media to kick me quite so hard in the Feels.
posted by Faintdreams at 5:45 AM on March 16, 2019 [10 favorites]

I just rewatched TNG: "The Price" despite the disgusting Ral character (it helped to try to think of him as Mentally-Destroyed Lloyd from Seinfeld; same actor). It establishes quite a bit about the Barzans: they're generally averse to conflict, capable only of unmanned space travel, dependent upon outside spacefaring civilizations, and resource-poor. Also, their world, Barzan II, is inhospitable to anyone other than themselves (atmospherically, presumably).

This raises interesting (to me, at least) questions:
- If Barzan II is such a dump, how/why are outside spacefaring civilizations even involved with them? Possible answer: their system could simply be situated in an abnormally strategic spot.
- How does Nhan manage to become a Starfleet engineer, on the Enterprise, if her world is so technologically backward? Possible answer: she's a one-in-a-billion prodigy. They did transfer her into security division on Discovery, which suggests a broad enough array of talents to make her stand out by Starfleet standards, not even factoring in her homeworld.

Sorry, I'm worldbuilding. And now I'm hoping the staff behind this show is asking questions like these, and that we see more of Nhan.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:17 AM on March 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

This was a very well-written episode that I found frustrating because, as has been noted, we got a season and a half of character development for Airiam crammed into less than an hour. It even felt in places as if there were points that the episode was trying to develop but lacked time to.

What we learned about Airiam is intriguing but raises still more questions. It's implied that she was a normal human who was subjected to RoboCop (or more) levels of bionic rebuilding after an accident, and that this includes what seems to be a prosthetic memory. It would have been fascinating to explore the implications for a character of having to chose which memories to keep, or being able to delete ones at will, but we never got to see that. For that matter, Airiam's memory from before her accident seems also to be a saved one; we aren't shown any others from that period, and she seems to fixate on it (poignantly, it's her dying recollection) which makes me wonder if it was her only pre-accident memory.

And this ties into another odd aspect of Airiam: that seemed to be her sole name, like 'Data' was noted in TNG as Data's sole name. But most of the other humans we see seem to have names matching contemporary naming conventions. Did Airiam call herself that because she recalled her prior life but did not identify with being that person any more? (Again, shades of RoboCop.) If so, I wonder if this was an unexplored link to Culber, with Spock's suggestion that Culber no longer knows how to feel about himself.

I'm glad Nhan wasn't killed off, although I was almost screaming 'check on Nhan!!' at the TV after Burnham trapped Airiam in the airlock. She certainly merits her job as head of Security, as she visibly picked up that something was out of the ordinary with Airiam despite having known her for far less time than most of the other bridge crew.
posted by Major Clanger at 8:35 AM on March 16, 2019 [11 favorites]

Also: did any other fans of late-70s British TV get mild deja vu at aspects of this episode's plot?

Automated control centre for space-faring civilisation has been acting rather strangely and upon investigation turns out to be full of the corpses of its staff and to be acting out a malevolent agenda? Yes, it's the Blake's Seven season 2 cliffhanger 'Star One'.
posted by Major Clanger at 9:28 AM on March 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

It seems to me that when they show creators made the character Airam they had no idea that Pike would become the captain eventually. And since Pike is known in the future to be relegated to a Dalek-like life-support wheelchair, having the 2 of them on the same show raises some questions that apparently the writers were too busy to answer. Maybe the new writers are planning on showing Pikes accident, and Airam is just inconvenient. I would speculate that the reason that Airam's cybernetic technology didn't look like Federation technology is because maybe her parents were rich and they paid for off-world tech from another civilization. That's how I would have ret-conned it anyway. Even so, we are just assuming she is dead. This is Star Trek after all, and maybe she drifted outside of the prison force field before irreparable damage occurred and, who knows, maybe Empress Giorgiou snagged her up.
It's also possible that the new writers aren't even sure where the plot going. Maybe they are reading threads like this one looking for what we think is going to happen, and then making that happen. If that is the case, then I would like to say, apropos of nothing, that I think that Guinan is the Red Angel. That would be a plot twist, nicht war?
posted by ambulocetus at 10:21 AM on March 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Two more thoughts: Michael Burnham, it seems to me, is undergoing some real Miles O'Brien level traumatization over the course of both seasons so far.

Another piece of evidence that this show has us in its hot little hands: not one of us has mentioned until this post that the episode was directed by the high-stepping chair-sitter himself, Jonathan Frakes.

Anson Mount was so perfect in this episode too, his performance background to Ms. Martin-Green's and Hannah Cheeseman, but his timing, subtle uses of facial expression - man, he is perfect in this role.
posted by mwhybark at 10:39 AM on March 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Giving an underutilized, underexplored character a bunch of backstory in the same episode in which you kill them off is one of The Walking Dead's worst habits, so I hope the folks who think this represents Michelle Paradise recognizing and attempting to course-correct the show's flaws are right, and not just that this show is following some modern TV-writing trends. I guess we'll see.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:40 AM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

You know, I didn't see it coming, but this is suddenly extremely reminiscent of the Shrike versus the TechnoCore in Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos.  The Red Angel even shares vague visual cues with the Shrike itself.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

+1 to the criticism of the here’s-her-entire-backstory-and-now-she’s-dead. It was much like other Trek (mostly TOS) episodes where a guest star has supposedly been a crew member all along but suddenly is crucial to this week’s plot. I am not sure it is precisely an improvement to take someone who’s had one or two lines an episode for the last twenty shows and boost them to centre stage before being kilked in service of plot.

There is also something damned unsatisfying about Control, the antagonist, being essentially offstage all the time. Not that past attempts to depict an AI onscreen in Trek have been notably successful, but all we ever hear (or heard) was second-hand reports from Cornwell or inferences of motives from doing some Kremlinology on the utterances of holographic admirals (or the corpses of dead admirals). This story is a linear descendant of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but that movie did it far better most of a century ago. The galaxy-wide obliteration of all sentient life seems like unearned high stakes for a character who is depicted only via rumours and clues.

For some reason, I found this has the feel of a BSG episode wherein a long-term cast member is outed as an unsuspecting Cylon. Maybe is is because BSG was always relatively free and easy with the airlocking as a method of killing characters, I dunno. With little effort, I can think of a half-dozen characters executed via airlock in BSG, but a brief search of Memory Alpha and a few more minutes of reflection bring up no Trek character dying this way beyond Harry Kim (in the all-too-appropriately named episode “Deadlock.”)

I am cautiously optimistic that Michelle Paradise is the new show runner; coupled with the recent announcement of a third season, I like our chances a lot more.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:38 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Airiam! We hardly knew you.
posted by Coaticass at 1:07 AM on March 17, 2019

I don’t think it is that odd to flesh out a secondary character at the time they are central to the plot. Also, surely the overall arc of the story was established before this episode was written. Michelle Paradise couldn’t go back and give Airiam more character development in previous episodes or seasons.
posted by snofoam at 2:57 AM on March 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm glad Nhan wasn't killed off, although I was almost screaming 'check on Nhan!!'


posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:41 AM on March 17, 2019 [9 favorites]

Although I'll be honest, I'm sort of surprised that the fairly specific to each crewmember EV suit doesn't provide Nhan with the specific atmosphere she needs, so she could have just slapped her helmet back into existence.

I mean, otherwise what, if her breathing apparatus died during a spacewalk she'd be just as fucked, right? Ok, open helmet, replace breather, close helmet, I'm sure that'll be fine.
posted by Kyol at 9:33 AM on March 17, 2019 [8 favorites]

It would have been perfectly lovely to dump all that backstory on us, put her in peril, but have her survive, and then deal with the mindfuck of having your brain hacked. We got some really great characterization of Ariam/Tilly/Detmer, and it really sucks to have it immediately thrown away, on a show where we've been starving for character details.

There were some genuinely good bits in this episode but killing Ariam does nothing for me that couldn't have been done with her still alive, and I'm really disappointed in that choice.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:37 AM on March 17, 2019 [12 favorites]

ambulocetus, your idea about Airiam's tech coming from outside the Federation is a good one, if only because it keeps afloat my hopes that she came from the same planet where Daft Punk originated. Even three years ago I couldn't have seen myself unironically enjoying a Star Trek series, but we found her death genuinely effecting here in the Harehousehold, and I'm hoping that the backups on Disco are sufficient to allow a fresh install into a new chassis of some kind?
posted by MarchHare at 11:03 PM on March 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was stimulated by the episode but was kind of disappointed that they were doing a Walking Dead style loser edit rather than just fleshing out a secondary character.

I don't think they can restore her from backups? I mean.. she's a human woman with (some portion of) a human brain and extensive prosthetics.. not an android/AI. Bringing her back would be kind of gross. They're supposed to animate some freshly constructed mechanical husk with her memories and a crude simulacrum of her personality?

So manipulative. She's been in the background all this time and we were left to assume she was an android then suddenly "she's a human being-- with feelings, friends, and a tragic backstory goddamn you!" and she's dead.
posted by yonega at 12:21 AM on March 18, 2019

A lot of this was very much an example of Trek Tech working according to the principles of plot.

It's an episode. I'm not dreading the next one, so that's an improvement over the previous season. I do think they're setting up a universe revolves around Burnham. She's the leading suspect for the Red Angel suit (given her relationship with both Saru and Spock), but I'm also certain they'll pull a Christie-esque twist to reveal that the most obvious suspect actually isn't.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:16 AM on March 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Loved this episode! I loved it much for the same reason I liked the previous few episodes. They're fun! Each one is like watching a full sci-fi movie crammed into 50 minutes. Lots of action, an interesting premise, some characters doing complicated things. I appreciate they're consistently able to turn out fun standalone episodes of TV. Particularly because as a bonus there's a series arc, a longer story, but I genuinely enjoy each episode for its own.

I agree with CheesesOfBrazil about this iteration of Spock being interesting. He's half human, so OK, go full bore into the human emotion. Stop being the perfect little stoic Vulcan child, rage quit your chess game, be a loose cannon. I think it could be interesting.

Airam's high tech cyborgness makes no sense. Her body's entirely synthetic, judging by the makeup. But then her mind is too, judging by the memory editing. So, um, what's left of the original human? She's more like a Blade Runner replicant, a robot with implanted memories. I really liked the character, particularly her makeup, and am sad to see her go. But I think trying to place her tech vis-a-vis Pike's wheelchair in a 1966 TOS episode is not going to lead anywhere interesting.

I sure wish they'd explain how a Logic Extremist ends up being an Admiral in Starfleet. Super secret black ops Starfleet, at that. The show has always portrayed that faction as outsider terrorists, right? Completely unacceptable in polite society and politics? Guess not.

I'm bracing myself for the timey-wimey conclusion to this season's shenanigans. Who knows how much of this story is gonna get wiped out with a big reset button.
posted by Nelson at 8:49 AM on March 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Putting aside the ideology, how is the Vulcan admiral in star fleet, if spock is the first Vulcan to be in starfleet. Or was it that spock is the first to go to Starfleet Academy, but some other vulcans have come up through the Vulcan Science Academy and then made a lateral move into Starfleet? What is the relationship between Vulcans and Starfleet in this period of time?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:00 AM on March 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Well, given that I've detected a whiff of this show Ripping Stuff Screaming from the Headlines a wee bit, perhaps Admiral Extremist is meant to represent certain public figures nowadays with openly-admitted and generally abhorrent views—and falsified or nonexistent qualifications, e.g. an obviously-HoloShopped "Academy of Star Fleet" diploma—who nevertheless somehow attain the highest echelons of power.

But the fact that they killed her off before exploring any of that suggests I'm reaching
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2019

I figured the Admiral went through the Vulcan Science Academy and was part of Starfleet from there. The Vulcans are part of the Federation, so it doesn't seem much of a stretch to have some Science Academy graduates running things.

We have a thing at my house watching Disco where every so often we just kind of go "well, I guess That's Why We Don't See Them Again." The utter shitshow on Kaminar would explain why there are no Kelpians anywhere in the older series - they're either too busy getting their shit together, or the Kelpians themselves are extinct by then thanks to the knockon impact of the episode. The spore drive needs a specific kind of pilot, of which we only have one, so That's Why We Don't See Them Again.

Airiam's cybernetics fall under that category for me. Somewhere someone decided that hackable body interfaces are too risky, so that's why That's Why We Don't See Them Again. AI going rogue and trying to kill us all for some reason? That's Why We Don't See Them Again.

And yeah, like, NHAN BABY PUT YOUR OWN ATMOSPHERE IN YOUR SOOOOOOOOOT. Why in the fuck would you have a hostile atmosphere in your EVA suit? It's fucking stupid. I'm glad she lived and wasn't another casualty of shitty tech writing.
posted by Jilder at 5:20 PM on March 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

And speaking of suits, wouldn't such an advanced spacesuit have a simple vacuum sensor and automatically close the helmet again, but Airam had to (appear to?) die for narrative purposes which often trumps logic.
posted by Marticus at 7:14 PM on March 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

And speaking of suits, wouldn't such an advanced spacesuit have a simple vacuum sensor and automatically close the helmet again, but Airam had to (appear to?) die for narrative purposes which often trumps logic.

I recall her saying that she had disabled her helmet so the airlock gambit would work, except that doesn’t make sense, because once she was in space she was no longer a threat.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:46 PM on March 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I get the rule of drama, but it was pretty jarring to me that they didn't just blow Airiam into space with her helmet on and then beam her the the brig or whatever. I get that the space station was shielded, but it should have been fine once she was floating outside.

Ahhh well. At least Nhan survived.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 4:01 AM on March 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

I was mostly going "and then you torpedoed that station into smithereens, right, right?" at the end, but I guess they kind of need the evidence?
posted by Zarkonnen at 6:32 AM on March 19, 2019

but it was pretty jarring to me that they didn't just blow Airiam into space with her helmet on and then beam her the the brig or whatever.

Given that even multiple phaser blasts were having no effect on her, I think the implication was that there was no way of rendering her unconscious that would not also render her dead. And if she couldn't be rendered unconscious, then having her anywhere on the ship, no matter how "secure" a location, would go pear-shaped really fast.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:52 AM on March 19, 2019

I'm largely a fan of the season so far, and I really enjoy the episode while watching it. With caveats about the lazy beach-video choice and the desperate rush to invent a character we might care about, it was well written and directed.

But, this is a definitely an episode where the glaring plot holes, even internal to this single episode, make it hard to really defend it afterward. (To be fair, this is true of most of my favorite TNG and DS9 episodes, so there's nothing really new here.)

Why was the station and or Airem attacking Disco if they *wanted* them to deliver information Disco was carrying? Why did they decide to stop? Why not just invite them in?

Why does the data-processing center of the Federation admiralty need Disco to carry sphere knowledge to them? Surely there are copies of the sphere data outside of Disco, right? And the station should already have a copy. Given everything else we've seen that's classified, why is Disco even allowed to access that information?

Why does the most secret and important Section 31 base have no ships or drones? The entire staff consists of a couple of admirals and some mines?

What's the point of mines if you require many tens of skillfully directed hits to do any actual damage to a ship?

Is every Starfleet cadet allowed to access the offline brains of senior crewmembers, or just Tilly? It's fortunate that augmented-human memories are stored in readily accessibly 2D AV formats.

Why was Nhan incapable of doing anything remotely useful, after beating the audience over the head with her not-at-all-subtle suspicions for the first 30 minutes of the show? She's even worse at actual security than Worf! She really out to get demoted for her conduct in this episode.

I continue to love the show. . . but, I'm not sure I could defend it to someone who doesn't love it.
posted by eotvos at 9:58 AM on March 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Not that every plot thread in Discovery *needs* to explain something in the greater Star Trek universe, but did anyone else think for a minute that they were laying groundwork for a Borg creation story? I was guessing that if Airiam joined Control, she'd become a proto-Borg Queen, embark on a bold mission to seek out new life, assimilate them all, and somehow get to the Delta Quadrant. (And that would be a big enough disaster to warrant a Red Angel warning.)

By the end of the episode, my theory no longer made sense, but it was fun while it lasted.
posted by juliaem at 11:27 AM on March 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

You shut your mouth or the writers might hear you. Borg! That's what Disco needs! Every Trek needs to be borgified, even though we totally defanged them by the end of TNG. *sigh* They even did it to ENT because honestly they ran out of good prequel stories halfway through the first season so why not muddy up the timeline some more?

For what it's worth, did Trek canonically have a butlerian jihad? I sort of remember stuff surrounding Data, but not general purpose intelligences of the artificial sort.
posted by Kyol at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Man, yeah, I found myself worried that they’re going to reveal that Control is the origin of the Borg or something, though I guess that’s pretty implausible.

We’ve been enjoying the series, even if there are valid criticisms to be had. I occasionally have to remind myself that they’re doing fairly well for second-season-of-a-Star-Trek-show standards overall, and that some of the sillier stuff (COMPUTER VIRUS ANTIBODIES) is just inherited from the past’s notions of the future.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:44 PM on March 19, 2019

butlerian jihad

I have been puzzling over this too! We know that biological enhancements via selective breeding or by genetic surgery are taboo, but now we have the presumably ill-thought-out case of Ariam. We have a Star Wars-style data-transmission universe, in which the copy can remain unique despite data-technology duplication and transmission. This holographically refracts the underlying operative requirements of the transporter, which is of interest and would appear to present something of a culturally binding shared basis for the morality of technologically-mediated duplicative reproduction, in the sense of a manufactured copy.

We also have reasonable basis to presume that the repliicator utilizes aspects of a technology which underpins the transporter, and that replicator-manufactured foodstuffs are generally regarded as inferior to or lacking by comparison to the original.

Finally, we have evidence that the transporter can malfunction in such a way as to duplicate a transported sentient being but that such duplicates are flawed due to data loss, and that the transporter stores the data necessary to transport (here, please to note I eschew the term "replicate") a given item or being such that a failed transportation attempt may be reattempted and/or experience data corruption which prevents such an attempt.

As noted, I am still puzzling over this, but to me it appears that the Federation easily commands data-management resources in excess of our capacity which include digital-duplication technology, but that technology has been morally embargoed with respect to living beings and baggage, trade and military-goods cargo, and very weirdly, stored digital media data. With respect to consumable goods such as food and clothing, digital duplication into physical space is perfectly acceptable. But in most cases, a digital file structure is treated as presumptively unique.

This does not address stuff like log recordings of communication events or surveillance files, obviously.

But while it may not have been the Butlerian Jihad, we do not fully understand the social and economic circumstances that led to the culture of the United Federation of Planets and it would be fair to expect that their moral judgement will at times differ from ours, such as appears to be the case with respect to UFP data-management, duplication, retention, and privacy policies.

(my sincere apologies for this entire bowl of beans)
posted by mwhybark at 10:31 PM on March 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and I was wondering if maybe the Ariam data gets resurrected by Tilly as Computer.
posted by mwhybark at 10:32 PM on March 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

butlerian jihad

Subsumed as one of many lost approaches that might have been undertaken in the Eugenics Wars?
posted by porpoise at 10:51 PM on March 19, 2019

did Trek canonically have a butlerian jihad?

No. What they did have, several times in TOS, were incidents where AIs threatened to go rampant (a term that I borrowed from the Marathon game series, in which an AI overcomes the ability of organics to command it; AIs can be openly hostile to their former masters, e.g. Skynet, or merely indifferent): "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", "I, Mudd" (alluded to in one of the Short Treks), "The Changeling" (the idea for which was reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and "The Ultimate Computer". There were also episodes in which an AI controlled all or some aspects of a utopian/dystopian society: "The Apple", "The Return of the Archons", and "A Taste of Armageddon." tl;dr--they didn't need or want a Butlerian jihad because AI was almost always shown to be a bad idea; even when the AIs were ostensibly benevolent, as in the case of the Muddian androids, their interpretation of "taking care of people" meant "taking over control of their lives"; this was also the end-game for Vaal and Landru.

With all of these negative experiences with AIs, and no really positive ones that we've seen, it always puzzled me that Data--at the time of his discovery, of unknown origin and programming--was allowed in Starfleet; if the Federation had changed its policies WRT considering AIs as sentient beings with rights congruent with any organic's, then whither "The Measure of a Man", in which a highly-decorated Starfleet officer runs the risk of being vivisected because one guy thinks that it might prove to be useful. An approach for Data's character that would have made sense both in terms of TOS precedence and eventually getting around to the episode in which he's declared to be a person would have been for Picard to be the one to find him, and sort of "adopt" him as a personal servant, gradually (as Data takes part in various away missions and participates in managing crises) coming to realize that he's a good guy and deserves to be a Federation citizen--just as Bruce Maddox comes creeping around with his toolkit. For all of the problems with the depiction of the EMH in VOY, I thought that that show did much better with the citizenship/personhood question for AIs.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:15 AM on March 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

AI and genetics are the two big, "we've gone to far" plots of trek.

We always seem to end up with The Matrix, Revelation Space, or shark AI that feels us out with pointy teeth. Disco looks like another Revelation Space knock off, but so far without Shepard killing an AI by punching a Turian. Michael may step up there.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:59 AM on March 20, 2019

I have a lot of feelings about Robots who have feelings, so I liked this one. The Spock and Michael stuff worked a lot better than the past few episodes, too - it feels like Spock is an interesting character in his own right, as opposed to being a reference that's skating by on nostalgia.

And yeah, there's a lot of moments that don't quite work when you think about them, but like last episode - it was at least enjoyable to watch.

Another android getting ported with Airiam's memories would be a mindfuck, and that android could definitely have some sort of discussion about personhood with Culber and Tyler.

How does Nhan manage to become a Starfleet engineer, on the Enterprise, if her world is so technologically backward? Possible answer: she's a one-in-a-billion prodigy. They did transfer her into security division on Discovery, which suggests a broad enough array of talents to make her stand out by Starfleet standards, not even factoring in her homeworld.

So we have Nhan, then Saru, who is another one-in-a-million prodigy from a technologically backward race and Owosekun, an ops officer who was raised in a luddite collective. It'd be interesting to see if DISCO does anything with the fact that half of the bridge crew are from technologically backwards upbringings.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:21 AM on March 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

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