Star Trek: Discovery: Through the Valley of Shadows
April 5, 2019 7:56 PM - Season 2, Episode 12 - Subscribe

A fourth signal leads the U.S.S. Discovery to an insular world, where Pike is forced to make a life-changing choice. Burnham and Spock investigate a Section 31 ship gone rogue, leading to a discovery with catastrophic consequences.
posted by DirtyOldTown (42 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Like every other Klingon episode in ST:D, this one is a real momentum-killing turd.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:58 PM on April 5, 2019

Do you think the Klingon monks will be able to help Captain Pike protect the One Ring from Control, or

ok, I'm fucking lost
posted by duffell at 8:13 PM on April 5, 2019 [12 favorites]

Who knew that Klingons also had a Gothic period? Maybe they have some folios of Shakespeare in the original Klingon somewhere in the monastery library.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:56 PM on April 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

Really, folks? Is that seriously, honestly, all you got out of this episode?

By way of contrast, let's take a look at the currently top-rated comments on this episode's thread on /r/startrek:
This episode cements Captain Pike as having both the most epic, and the most tragic, character arc of anyone in Star Trek. Truly an incredible person.

5 more seasons with Anson Mount please and thank you

Going to say it again here. IMHO, Pike is the greatest of all the Starship Captains. He's a badass. He chose THAT future, in order to save everyone else's.
Wow, how about that. It's as if I've been somehow transported into the mirror universe, where the hatewatching is done here and fucking reddit, of all places, gets the emotional focus of the episode.

And, if you go back over some of my many, many posts and comments in this and other Trek series, it's not like I'm exactly uncritical of the franchise and its many iterations. But, holy crap, people. Half the show doesn't even take place on or near Boreth.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:57 PM on April 5, 2019 [27 favorites]

Memory Alpha episode link

Who knew that Klingons also had a Gothic period?

I dunno, I always assumed they did. The design of the Sword of Kahless (from the titular DS9 episode) alone, plus a lot of their ancient lore from TNG, suggested as much. Actually, this is the first episode of this series where I felt like these were our Klingons, weirdly enough.

And while I hated the fact that I predicted the onset of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome for L'Rell and Voq's kid, they certainly came up with a plausible in-universe way to pull it off. I am curious whether they intend for G'aNDal'pH to become a regular character or something, though, otherwise what's the point of including him here? Yes, no doubt, they wanted to show this future Pike Stuff somehow, but that could've been any Timey-Wimey Klingon character. (Truly? I expected the child to grow up to be the Albino from the aforementioned DS9 episode. He lived in a vaguely Boreth-like castle.)

This episode cements Captain Pike as having both the most epic, and the most tragic, character arc of anyone in Star Trek. Truly an incredible person.

Amen, rando Reddit brother! I'd praise this episode for giving me a snazzy new profile background pic if nothing else. I also loved that moment where he doesn't want to turn around and look at the Pike Chair: top work by the actor, director, lighting crew. Chef kiss to that scene.

One of my favorite scenes was in the mess hall, though. Hooray, Jet Reno still exists! Hooray, this crew does stuff other than Stare Intently During Crisis Mode sometimes!

I think Shenzhou Guy was in this because Leland and Georgiou were needed on the set of their spinoff.

The theory going 'round the Internet has been that Control might somehow be connected to the Borg. I feel like this episode may, thankfully, demonstrate that the Borg aren't a part of this. No Borg was ever shown to be able to pull off the Grey Goo move that Shenzhou Guy does here. (Yes, yes, it could be Future Borg…) I'm feeling like the black Borgish veins

Good interactions between Michael and Spock, as always. I'm still not dissuaded from my feeling that Michael should have been related to literally any other Vulcan, but the relationship is being handled well.

But: Beardo Spock really needs to stop pronouncing "the" with a long E so damn often. It sounds snottily feaux-intellectual (i.e. Vulcan) when it occurs ON OCCASION; when it's at least every other "the," it's grating (to me anyway).

And lastly, maybe I was right in my prediction that we're gonna get a Discovery-A soon.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:29 AM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I’m with Halloween Jack, this was a good episode! Except for the very ending.
posted by sixswitch at 4:56 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I also liked the episode! (Mostly.) The Klingon pseudo-mysticism was sort of what ST tends to do with religion, but OK.

Besides the emotional impact of the scene, Pike's decision to choose the canonical future appears to be a reminder to fans that we are, in fact, in the original timeline. It was also an interesting take on the identity theme that has been running through the season--whereas Culber and Voqler are still trying to figure out who they are, Pike's choice is explicitly an act of self-affirmation. Strong work by Anson Mount there.

I suspect that the weird temporal effects around the crystals may have some ramifications for the season finale.

Still enjoying the sibling dynamics between Burnham and Spock, including her "arrrgh!" response to his insistence on accompanying her on the shuttle.

I have not always picked up on the twists (see: holographic admirals), but surely it should have been obvious to somebody--e.g., Spock, if not Burnham--that the One Miraculously Living Guy in the sea of corpses should be, I don't know, treated with extreme suspicion?!
posted by thomas j wise at 5:39 AM on April 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I was happy to see her, but I got a weird vibe from Jet Reno this episode, both from the suddenness of her appearance, and some of the language used (a lot of "we" do "x") that made me start thinking perhaps she's another fungus ghost/symbiote, or some other similar interloper. Anyone else get that vibe? I wouldn't be happy about it after the stuff with Culber this episode, which I found pretty effective, but it's something that occurred to me...
posted by threecheesetrees at 5:39 AM on April 6, 2019

I also enjoyed the episode, and was surprised to see the first couple of comments here hating on it. Yes, as always, there were some weak spots. I actually didn't hate L'Rell this episode, which was unusual. Agree the not using the spore drive at the end seems dumb (though maybe they're saving that for the next episode). The whole scene in the mess hall felt off and contrived, but as step in (re-)building the Reno/Culber/Stamets relationship, it was useful.

I agree I like the direction they're taking Pike, though I think the "he's the most badass captain in trek" talk might be a bit hyperbolic. (Picard will always be the most badass captain. ;-) )

I also hated the whole Spock and Burnham side trip, it was an obvious trap from the beginning - kind of like a horror film where people keep making stupid decisions and you just want to keep screaming at them "no, that's stupid! Don't do that!" ... but I liked the character development that happened as a result. So ... *shrugs*.

Where was Tilly?
posted by jferg at 9:07 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Pointless STO Comparison: Weaponized time travel is a recurring theme in the Star Trek MMO, to the point where at least one episode features some discussions about the ethics of Starfleet using it too.

I'm with Jack here too. Week's been a little busy to give this one the time and thought it deserved, but generally speaking, this episode is hewing to my current take about DSC: the plot beats are pretty nonsensical, but the emotional beats are good.

Captain Pike's story resonates very well emotionally, as discussed above. He may be a goofball, but he's a heroic one who definitely believes in his values, and the deliberate parallel to Spock's death felt earned to me.

Burnham and Spock definitely fall for the horror movie cliches, but to the show's credit, they still feel like real siblings to me. (The only concerning touch there was that Control continues to feel pretty Borg-y, and I'm team #BetterNotBeBorg.)

Reno's trip to sickbay was both funny and touching. I like that she and Stamets have become friends, especially since neither of them would be willing to admit it aloud.

Also: the auto-antonym game is hilarious, and probably worth actually doing in Metatalk sometime. So many Trek shows just have these super badass Starfleet guys with multiple degrees relaxing the way normal people do in modern times. Props to DSC for inventing something nerdy enough that Geordi should've been doing it on TNG.
posted by mordax at 9:45 AM on April 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

Why would vegan steak be a hard thing to arrange for a wedding? All the steak is vegan in star trek, no?
posted by biffa at 10:10 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

A fetish for 'real' food over replicated has been a big deal in Trek for awhile - pretty much since the replicator was an established piece of hardware, IIRC. Presumably, this makes vegan steaks difficult because they would need to actually arrange the services of a skilled chef for them, (or suffer the consequences if the chef is not so good).
posted by mordax at 10:17 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

What would a vegan steak would be in that instance?

The problem with steak in ST is that there seems to be a pretty firm social taboo on eating meat that isn't there for things like Romulan ale.
posted by biffa at 11:10 AM on April 6, 2019

It makes sense though, the taboo isn't so much against eating meat, it's against killing animals to get that meat. I've always gotten the impression that replicated meat is replicated as closely to real meat as possible, and not as any sort of analog.

Though, that being said, there are also references to field rations and food shipments, so clearly there are still some people living mostly on real food, so one would assume that with the taboo on killing animals, vegan products would be the norm.
posted by neonrev at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

The only concerning touch there was that Control continues to feel pretty Borg-y, and I'm team #BetterNotBeBorg.

I forgot to complete part of my post on this topic: I'm feeling like (and hoping) that the black Borgish veins are a purely visual callback to the Borg. Like, DISCO's way of trying to communicate to us that Control is as bad and as ruthless as the Borg.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:35 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

For the record, I love love loved Pike's storyline. Best five minutes of the episode. But I continue to be viscerally turned off by the Klingons... because of the over-the-top not-even-Doug-Jones-could-emote-in-this-shit makeup, the endless patches of subtitled, guttural, growling Klingon*, the played-out "They're a warlike people!" characterization of the Klingons, Ash fucking Tyler... all of that. And I'm not a huge fan of the Control storyline either.

I would have been 100% on-board had they done an entire episode on Pike's choice. That was some heroic stuff. I didn't need it buried like it was. And I sure didn't need it served alongside another stinking heap of Klingon.

I'm not an old school Trekker. I'm someone whose knowledge of Trek is bog standard Gen X sci-fi nerd, non-devotee level. I know the basics. I was never a fan until this series. But while non-Klingon episodes of this show are maybe my favorite thing currently on tv, the Klingon stuff just stinks like roadkill. I end up in such a bad mood from how awful it is, that sometimes (like in the case of this episode) I have to go back and re-watch skipping over those segments, just to make sure I'm not distractedly grumbling my way through good non-Klingon stuff.

*I can understand if you have a knee jerk at that phrase and wonder if maybe I'm someone who just can't hang with subtitles. Check out my other FF posts. I'm not turning my nose up at subtitles. I just fucking cannot stand all this bullshit Klingon.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I forgot to complete part of my post on this topic: I'm feeling like (and hoping) that the black Borgish veins are a purely visual callback to the Borg. Like, DISCO's way of trying to communicate to us that Control is as bad and as ruthless as the Borg.

I wish I could expect subtext from this show.
posted by Automocar at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

please don’t be borg please don’t be borg PLEASE DON’T BE BORG PLEASE DON’T BE BORG PLEASE! DON’T! BE! BORG!
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:30 AM on April 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

I am starting to think that the Captain's chair of the Discovery is going to be like being the drummer of Spinal Tap.

Pike's more profound portrayal in the series and this particular episode gives extra poignancy to why Spock in TOS risks court-martial for him. In TOS it was not shown how or why Pike would engender such loyalty from Spock. I am glad that Pike gets his due.

Did anyone get the weird echo of Pike's future when trapped behind the glass door barrier and the way his hand moved reminiscent of Spock's in Wrath of Khan? A motif of death and courts-martial. If there is a standard crucible in Trek, it always seems to be courts-martial. Judgment and court figures resonate for the writers.
posted by jadepearl at 4:12 PM on April 7, 2019 [13 favorites]

I am starting to think that the Captain's chair of the Discovery is going to be like being the drummer of Spinal Tap.

Oh for sure. 100%.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:46 PM on April 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am starting to think that the Captain's chair of the Discovery is going to be like being the drummer of Spinal Tap.

In that case I'm looking forward to the episode when Capt. Mick Shrimpton's time in the chair comes to an abrupt end.
posted by duffell at 5:06 PM on April 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

the way his hand moved reminiscent of Spock's in Wrath of Khan

can’t cite offhand but I wanna say that is at least the third time in Disco they’ve retroquoted it.

Staying out of the the threads here, generally, until Michael’s disastrously traumatic maternal reunion is sensibly resolved. I am enraged and cannot write in response to it. Four Lights was more than enough trauma theater for me, thirty years ago, you fuckers. Fix your shit.
posted by mwhybark at 9:57 PM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have not always picked up on the twists (see: holographic admirals), but surely it should have been obvious to somebody--e.g., Spock, if not Burnham--that the One Miraculously Living Guy in the sea of corpses should be, I don't know, treated with extreme suspicion?!

Spock said that Control spoofed his tricorder. Presumably it also spoofed the shuttle sensors. This appears to be a new ability.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:11 AM on April 8, 2019

So, I really appreciated them bringing Pike full circle - and, in particular, showing him be afraid, terrified of his awful future, and face his fear and accept it anyway. Accepting a painful death in slow motion to save the universe. Now that’s some Star Trek.

I do wonder why, in a world where they can put brains in full prosthetic bodies, why they would put Pike in the scary chair of doom. I’m sure there’s a handwavy reason.

It does seem bonkers that they wouldn’t use the spore drive to run away, but they didn’t just trigger the self destruct - Pike ordered the evacuation of Disco. Perhaps they’re going to jump to Enterprise, ditch the crew, and then jump somewhere else to attempt blow the ship. I suspect the Sphere data will not permit the self destruct.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:17 AM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I suspect (based on one of the DISCO shorts) that the evacuation won’t go plan and the Discovery will end up either flung forward or trapped in time, and that the Ships (current AI) will evolve on its own.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:23 AM on April 8, 2019

I wonder if the Sphere data likes the color red.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:22 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Previous episodes I commented how much fun I had watching the show as long as I didn't think too hard about it. But this episode was just so dumb and full of plot holes I couldn't really suspend disbelief.

Burnham and Spock and the redshirt go on the AI-infested ship to try to learn something from it. And all along they're like "I sure hope this AI doesn't notice us, maybe we can hide what we're doing as a diagnostic procedure". Like, are they whispering to each other so the AI that controls the entire ship can't hear them? Hoping the AI didn't notice three people beaming aboard, walking around, shining lights around, using the systems? Hell, I've thrown away laptops because some dumb malware got infested enough into the system enough I didn't trust the BIOS. Why would you possibly trust a spaceship fully taken over by the evil all powerful AI?

But then they conquer the AI! They trap it in a little fake system; I guess the AI didn't hear them whispering The Plan afterall. They kill the gray goo. Hooray! And then.. they leave and arrive back at Discovery in their shuttle. What happened to the super powerful Section 31 spaceship, the one with the AI still bottled up in a corner of it? Did they just sort of leaving it figuring some Space Scavengers would take care of it?

Meanwhile, on Klingon Mont St. Michel, Pike wants a time crystal. There's absolutely no way they're giving him a time crystal. The monks guard the crystals fiercely and would never give one to anyone. Strong Klingons have died or suffered worse trying to take crystals. But then Pike walks in and.. they give him a time crystal? They do the scary Circus Fortune Teller routine first, so now he's suffering from dread, but then they just sort of pluck a giant rock off like it's a flower and hand it to him. Good job, human! Say hi to Mom and Dad for me!

When an episode works I cheerfully ignore all this dumbness and go with it. This episode didn't work for me. I think its main problem is they shoved both plots into one hour. Either one could have filled an hour itself, given more time to breathe.

I did sort of like Tig Notaro's therapy moment though, particularly her rapport with Hugh (rhymes with Poo) as fellow homosexuals whose partners demand vegan steaks. No, honestly, I liked that. It felt like a moment of honest LGBT representation. Kinda Sense8-ish.

I'm also kind of digging Spock. Mostly because his role makes no damn sense. He just sort of wanders around and then pops up right in the right place and time to do his annoying brother thing. Odd that the mentally disturbed guy is the only one thinking clearly.
posted by Nelson at 7:31 AM on April 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

This episode inspired my wife & I to rewatch TOS The Menagerie. Which inspired a lot of thoughts.

* It's super Trekky to have big plot holes. We may pick at these things too much.
* The Menagerie was really inspired in its reuse of otherwise unusable footage.
* I wish we'd got a season of Number One instead of Spock.
* The TOS short skirts were the network's idea; in the original pilot the women wore pants.
* Shatner is weird in just the right way. Original Pike was too chisled and boring.
* This season makes Pike more interesting BUT
* They are seriously working a nerve with the prequel shtick. Season One's continuity tricks were interesting. This season's are meh. But they can't keep doing this indefinitely. I like the characters but the puzzle-box plots feel claustrophobic and orchestrated.
posted by rikschell at 11:31 AM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

One explanation for not spore-driving - aren't they supposed to not use it anyway, because it's ruining the lives of all those spore fairies from the start of the season?

(Which is why I was annoyed when they just popped into orbit using it this episode)
posted by coriolisdave at 6:46 PM on April 8, 2019

aren't they supposed to not use it anyway, because it's ruining the lives of all those spore fairies from the start of the season?

Shades of Force of Nature!
posted by mwhybark at 9:31 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

aren't they supposed to not use it anyway, because it's ruining the lives of all those spore fairies from the start of the season?

No, I don’t think that’s right - they’re not supposed to use it because the Federation has a prohibition on genetic manipulation, and Stamets augmented himself to be the navigator.

Disco using the spore network doesn’t hurt the spore fairies - it was Culber who was fucking them up. They were mad that Culber had been introduced to their plane by Disco.

I think? I may have to rewatch that episode.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:38 AM on April 9, 2019

I just rewatched the Short Trek Calypso trying to see if there's any hints there about the time travel / Control plot of Season 2. We've had a lot of speculation about that in recent discussions and it certainly seems like it should be related. Discovery inexplicably abandoned in the 33rd century? Sentient and self-evolved AI? Was this some sort of sly foreshadowing?

But even looking for those connections it doesn't work. Yes there's an evolved AI but she's completely passive and kind. She's been in control of the ship for 1000 years and never gone anywhere. All she wants is a friend on board, to help our protagonist Craft. She doesn't have any eyeball needles filled with gray goo. Sure doesn't sound like Control.

There's a small subtheme in Calypso about media archives. The episode starts with clips from Betty Boop, and the film Funny Face plays a big role in the Short Trek. But all the archives are human archives "from the Long Ago" (ie: 20th century Earth). There's no hint of omnipotent 500,000 year alien sphere archives.

So some overlap in themes but with entirely different moral valences. I couldn't really find any connection that seemed meaningful to me.
posted by Nelson at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

My favourite part of the episode was when Burnham was like "hey, I have this wild plan" and Saru is like "yeah sure!" And Burnham goes "wait what- seriously?"
posted by freethefeet at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

There's a lot that I'm still iffy about on Disco, but the character interactions were fantastic. I liked the Jet Reno and Culber convo, the spot on Sibling-ness of Michael and Spock (I felt Michael's 'AAARRGH' down in my soul, let me tell you), and the sitting around shooting the shit in the mess hall.

The Boreth set design seemed extremely LoTR/Moria-like to me.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:16 AM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seems odd that Daleks were created talking in 1963/1964, and Pike's penultimate fate, then and now, is to end up with one beep for yes, two beeps for no.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:19 AM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

one beep for yes, two beeps for no.


Ooh, double yes!
posted by Servo5678 at 5:42 PM on April 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

Better fix-it fic for "The Cage" than my version where Number One and Colt look at each other, then look at the big headed alien, and say, "you grabbed the wrong women." One part of my Star Trek crankery is that ToS is deeply heterosexist, with spontaneous heterosexual attraction a more frequently abused plot device than the warp drive.

That is kind of relevant because The Cage/The Menagerie pivot on the notion that able-bodied Pike would choose duty over love with slavery, but disabled Pike would choose love with slavery over infirmity and duty, and that really doesn't need to be explained. As with practically every single episode of ToS it's just assumed that the audience would accept that kind of emotional conflict with minimal development. Kirk unfairly gets reframed as a Don Juan in satire, but Spock, Bones, Chekov, and even Scotty all get crushes on single-episode women that threaten to compromise them.

And then there's Spock, who is motivated to sacrifice his own life and career to bring Pike to the Talosians through a convoluted plot for, reasons? Spock's justifications are the same mission logs that we assume led the Federation to make Talosian contact a capital offense. And that's just handwaved away to give both Pike and Spock an ambiguously happy ending. It's an idea that could work, but doesn't within the provided frame.

These episodes expand that frame a bit.

I also have thoughts about the time crystal choice. Strong Klingons fail because acceptance and loss of control are cultural taboos within Klingon culture. The time crystals break Klingons because awareness of the indifference of time is antithetical to the Klingon narrative of self-determination at any cost. Pike passes the test because he willingly accepts a fate that in Klingon culture would be considered damnation, both in this life and the afterlife. And this is a hard test for humans as well, but the Time Crystal test isn't about being badass in Klingon terms, it's about surrender to the inevitable.

Another analysis compared this to the Kobayashi Maru test that Kirk failed (a failure that comes back at the end of Wrath of Khan).
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:25 AM on April 11, 2019 [9 favorites]

Handwavium and plot holes aside, one of the more interesting things for me this season is that earlier I thought we were going to get another "faith in faith" apologia. (I have a deep loathing of bad apologetics pretending to be fiction.) Instead, I think we're getting something a bit more complex, which is how do you find meaning in the face of indifferent deep time. Of course they still might fall back on "faith in faith" by the end, but Pike and Spock's insistence that it's the moral choices now that have meaning and not future results is interesting.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:35 AM on April 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, that's the article ZeusHumms.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:35 AM on April 11, 2019

I liked everything Pike in this episode, but really Burnham, you don’t question why the only one to survive was the one you had an emotional connection to?
posted by corb at 6:05 AM on April 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

This was a pretty good episode; certainly much better than the one that came before it (although, yes, obvious trap was an obvious trap.) I'm really liking what they're doing with Captain Pike's storyline, and the Michael/Spock relationship continues to be one of the best things about the season.


ASH TYLER: The signal can't have come from Dr. Burnham!

NO ONE IN THE ROOM: But ... time travel.

ASH TYLER: Right! She can't time travel anymore!

NO ONE IN THE ROOM: No, I mean ... time travel means she could have made this signal whenever. Before the suit was broken. Years ago, in her personal timeline. Do you not understand how time travel works?

THE PEOPLE ACTUALLY IN THE ROOM: Well, if Dr. Burnham can't do it anymore, it must be someone else!

ME: [yells at screen]
posted by kyrademon at 1:46 PM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

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