Star Trek: Discovery: Kobayashi Maru
November 18, 2021 3:10 PM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

[Season premiere] After months spent reconnecting the Federation with distant worlds, Captain Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery are sent to assist a damaged space station – a seemingly routine mission that reveals the existence of a terrifying new threat.

Before we get into the episode/season beginning proper, I think that it would be good to throw out something that dropped right before the season premiere (and the timing of that, by itself, is an eyebrow-raiser): DIS was pulled from Netflix in every market but the US and Canada, where Paramount+ is available. This is widely regarded as a shitty move, given that the show is a big hit overseas, and it's now unavailable in the rest of the world... legally, that is. (Paramount+ plans to bring its streaming service to many countries in 2022... but not every one, which is basically where Netflix is available.) Lots of people think that this is stupid, and DIS actor Anthony Rapp had this to say on Twitter.

As per usual, the Memory Alpha page hasn't filled in yet, so I'll put a few random things here:

- This episode takes place about five months after the end of S3.

- The Federation president, Laira Rillak, seems to be part-Cardassian.

- The Archer Space Dock, at Federation headquarters, is probably named after Jonathan Archer; "Archer's Theme", which was originally written to be the theme music for ENT, and played over the end credits, is heard when the dock is opened.

- Book's nephew is named Leto, a possible Dune reference.
posted by Halloween Jack (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Federation president, Laira Rillak, seems to be part-Cardassian.

It was revealed in early promotional material that she is a combination of three different races, but I'm not sure if that constitutes a spoiler here?

I really liked the Archer Space Dock moment, for the reference but also for the fact the Voyager J was stationed there AND because Trek has a long history of really celebrating ships in space dock with long, generous looks at them. This felt like a real Trek moment.

I'm not sure I love Burnham's arc is - again - proving herself to be right for the Captain's chair. I get that she has quirks and the President's read on why she does the things she does is really interesting. I get that the series is a lot about her growing into the position but it feels like we've trod this ground for three seasons. And I'm not seeing any appreciable problem with her current approach. (The optics of the first black female lead on a Trek series needs to prove herself, when every previous Captain has been mostly competent and flawed in ways that don't make them bad Captains most of the time.)

I really enjoyed the opening with the butterfly people. And the overall drama of the space station was a solid way to show the crew working together.

I wish this show wasn't so visually dark all of the time. Please land on planets in the daytime. Spend more time at Federation HQ, where they have shiny hallways and bright lights. But this is a minor issue.
posted by crossoverman at 3:44 PM on November 18, 2021 [6 favorites]

Oh, and as for DISCO disappearing from International Netflix, I have become reacquainted with a bit of torrents to solve this issue. (I suspect the same will happen with Picard next year, which is on Amazon in Australia.)
posted by crossoverman at 3:49 PM on November 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm excited for this show still but this first episode was pretty rough going. The intro section is just ridiculous. Seriously, they figure out how to diagnose the problem with the alien equipment and refuel an entire planet's GPS constellation in 5 minutes while Our Heroes are under active aerial laser fire? Ugh. It recalled the opening scenes of all the Kelvin movies which also have ridiculously over the top action sequences. Fun and exciting but dumb.

Fortunately the main plot is smarter. And ironically, relies heavily on heroic actions being impossible because they'd take too long: down to something taking 5 minutes when they only have 4.

My favorite thing was setting up the President to be a grandstander just in it "to check a box" and then for her to turn out to have hidden values and strengths. And also that she learned all that stuff as a freebooter and not Starfleet at all. Optimistic she'll be a good character. Also the Starfleet Academy creation ceremony was so nicely spare and empty, just a few people. Poignant moment, that.

I dunno, I sure wish they went back to the main timeline. This set-far-in-the-future just feels like there's no stakes to anything that happens.

(Also what's up with Kwejian accents? Booker has a British accent but his hot buddy Kyheem has a Cuban accent? The Universal Translator that allows us to understand them in their own language makes some amazing choices.)
posted by Nelson at 6:04 PM on November 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I was excited…and afterwards I wanted to cry from disappointment. That ridiculous Kelvin-verse intro (or was it Star Wars?). Thinly written characters dying that I'm supposed to feel sad about. And I'm so tired of the flashing lights, the showers of sparks, the belching flames. The hyper-twitchy direction punctuated by stifling dialogues. And they sure have gotten cavalier about destroying whole planets lately. Maybe the Lexx can guest star and blow up a whole bunch more. And the smarmy technobabble: blah blah blah Heisenberg compensators blah blah blah *wink wink*.
posted by jabah at 6:52 PM on November 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

I liked it. The end was dark, but that's how this Trek rolls.

Let's talk about the episode title and that last chat!

1. At one level, it's Captain Burnham needing to prove herself again. Annoying! She's done that already!
2. But ... the President is conveying the classic Starfleet philosophy (even though she's not Starfleet, although I'm not totally sold by the "my dad was just a hauler" thing.) But she's completely correct in her assessment of the intent of the classic Kobayashi Maru test. Sometimes you can't save everyone, and part of leadership is accepting that.
3. But ... Captain Burnham is conveying the other classic Starfleet philosophy. The James T. Kirk one that says "Fuck you, I can so save every one." As symbolized by his breaking Kobayashi Maru.
4. So this season's drama is (once again) the classic Star Trek synthesis of those two poles, as embodied by the KM test. Excellent.
5. But ... time stuff makes this a little weird. I'd have to do more wiki-checking than I feel like, but Captain Burnham and the crew very likely left their time before Kirk solved KM. So they might well not know about that. Burnham is Kirk before Kirk!
6. But ... the President knows her Starfleet history. And her history, even at this remove, probably includes a lot of Kirk Lore and almost certainly would include the Kirk KM story as part of that lore. And it's possibly that she knows this other meaning of KM and also knows Burnham does not know it. But could, y'know, look it up or something.
7. So that's weird.
posted by feckless at 8:57 PM on November 18, 2021 [6 favorites]

Having come to the realization that there's very little, if any, of Discovery that I've enjoyed despite watching all three of the preceding seasons, I was relieved to learn that it's no longer easily available to me here in Japan. The friction of having to obtain it by other means is probably sufficient to overcome my feeling of obligation to (hate)watch.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 10:56 PM on November 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

I was pleasantly surprised overall and honestly I really thought it was nice for Burnham to get a dressing down or two. I like the Moth aliens, that was cooler than some new type of face bumps. Not the first time I've said this at a season start, but I'd take this as the pilot premiere if we could. The biggest thing I didn't like is them Alderaanning a planet at the end, we don't need those kinds of stakes to know something bad going on that needs to be solved. And what the hell, a whole planet, after a movie and Picard are already kind of all jacked up dealing with that, just casually doing it here was an off-putting choice.

I don't agree Burnham's proved herself to be captain, she's certainly extremely heroic, but she seemed way more naturally suited to being a courier/bounty-hunter/chaotic-good-rogue type. As far as captain goes though, her career track of good step-vulcan model officer --> failed mutiny --> escape from legal punishment via recruitment by evil captain --> eventually get real captain --> disobey order risk lives, disobey order risk lives, disobey order risk lives, obey order a little for a bit then disobey order, disobey order risk lives --> captain needs a freakin break after putting up with all that, burnham gets gig... doesn't exactly hit me as "Captain."

Plus, I don't think the arc is "prove worthy as captain" so much as "grow in important ways for one in command." It's a joke trope of captains going away on dangerous away missions, but Burnham's messiah complex takes it to another extreme, gotta be addressed. She gets the benefit of being right so many times as main character and because of various plot devices that orbit around her, but that kind of hubristic approach really begs for something to finally go wrong and learn why others practice caution and follow orders
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:36 AM on November 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I liked it well enough once the cold open was done, but I did think the cold open did show Burnham's dedication to the cause, so I didn't think it was entirely terrible.

The rest was mostly bland, but I did think Burnham deserved the mild criticism even if she didn't.

It'll be interesting to see where the gravitational anomaly ends up taking us, but I agree that it destroying an entire planet was unnecessary and over the top. It would have been quite enough to put the planet in some kind of survivable(ish) peril.
posted by wierdo at 1:33 AM on November 19, 2021

This episode should have come with a pre-teaser text warning about Wacky-Gravity Camerawork: Inebriated Persons Should Not Watch.

Sometimes (and I'm not just talking about camerawork here, but also about the flow of the stories) this show reminds me of the experience of riding one of those unpleasant roller-coasters that you only ride once. There's thrill and awe, but it gets so drowned out by the herky-jerky, tooth-rattling ride that by the end, your main emotion is fatigue.

Still!: I'm relieved and happy that Saru is coming back.

It was revealed in early promotional material that she is a combination of three different races, but I'm not sure if that constitutes a spoiler here?

Nah; I'm pretty sure I saw Bajoran nose ridges.

It would have been quite enough to put the planet in some kind of survivable(ish) peril.

I sort of agree, but OTOH, Book's home planet got some development last(?) season, so it's not like I felt nothing when it got Alderaaned. I can imagine the writers' room concluding that merely endangering the planet wouldn't engage viewers or motivate the Disco crew enough—not like if it were, say, Kaminar (which I think it's safe to guess WILL be next on the gravitic-whatever's path).

What was much less forgivable was the obviousness of the boy running away from the camera. "That kid's so dead," I said to Mrs. CoB immediately.

the President knows her Starfleet history. And her history, even at this remove, probably includes a lot of Kirk Lore and almost certainly would include the Kirk KM story as part of that lore.

Maybe, but I mean, he did cheat. Plus, this being the Trekiverse, there've probably been at least like a hundred other Legendary Starfleet Captains in the intervening years. The Kirk-focus may have really been specific to only about three generations. Not that she wouldn't have heard of Kirk.

Plus, I don't think the arc is "prove worthy as captain" so much as "grow in important ways for one in command." It's a joke trope of captains going away on dangerous away missions, but Burnham's messiah complex takes it to another extreme, gotta be addressed.

Agreed. This is a show that has come to know itself, at least w/r/t characterization. Though w/r/t naval tradition, I did raise my eyebrow slightly at Burnham implying that President Ziyal had some kind of authority over whether Burnham is in command; isn't that one of those deals where the captain is in charge, notwithstanding the consequences of failing to comply with the president's requests once you're back in spacedock?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:24 AM on November 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

The president stuff in general threw me off. Starfleet isn't quite just a military and the Federation isn't quite a hacky 20th century plutocracy or oligarchy masquerading as a republic, but I suppose it makes sense for their to be an elected leader of sorts and for them to have hierarchy over the not-military military.

I've been rewatching a lot of Stargate SG1, expressly US military and they seem to call the president a lot, like, it's almost a meme whenever Hammond has to be like "brb gotta call The President." Maybe the President gets a bigger role when dealing with intergalactic military shit?

IIn Disco S4's case, the Federation has been basically down and out for so long, so many plants joining, former or otherwise, like, IRL it seems like it'd be total chaos (but i guess we don't have many of the tech boons, programmable matter, instant transmission, or AI to sort out the logistics of things, so maybe reconnecting really actually is quite simple). I guess it would be very anti-utopia if starfleet superceded civil governance even during this transition period, we all know how bad that can go anyway.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:00 AM on November 19, 2021

One other thing I forgot to mention:

The character of Nalas may have been named after another not-too-competent guy who somehow wound up in a command role on a space station, and died because of it. Right down to the spelling.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:48 AM on November 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Captain! We’re losing power! Pyrotechnics are barely functioning!
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:42 AM on November 20, 2021 [7 favorites]

it’s such a shame that the space station captain was just a week away from retirement
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:44 AM on November 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Those flames flaring out of the wall or console or whatever it was on the bridge of the Discovery. Oh my. Does their ship run on propane? That was worse than the usual Trek exploding control panels.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

they have an experimental oil refinery aboard for research purposes
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:44 PM on November 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Must be all that proflammable matter.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:11 PM on November 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Actually it's the spores; they are highly flammable. The Discovery is basically the Hindenburg.
posted by Nelson at 6:40 PM on November 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Just putting a nice sear on some spores for dinner
posted by sixswitch at 12:51 AM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’m curious to know what the “Pathway” drive being tested on Voyager will do - maybe a variation on the quantum slipstream drive from the novels?
posted by Roger Pittman at 3:41 AM on November 21, 2021

If that was a Voyager in the spacedock, i suspect the Pathway drive is a protostar, since the ship outline looked a lot like the Protostar from Prodigy to me.

I mostly felt sad that the world that was destroyed was previously shown to be a sanctuary for endangered species. Not a huge fan of needing a season-long crisis rather than just trying to rebuild the federation; there could be so many different types of stories just from that.
posted by Marticus at 6:34 PM on November 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had Thoughts watching this, but I see you folks got there before me w/r/t Burnham’s defining character trait of ignoring orders for the gutsy save and, on a meta-level, her once again having to prove to skeptical superiors that she has what it takes, as well as the weirdly swift repair to a global infrastructure issue. So let me restrict myself to three fairly mundane observations:

1. I watched the recap before the episode, and I think those uniforms they wear in the final scene when they first become part of Future!Starfleet have the shortest lifespan of any uniforms in Starfleet history. At least the TMP grey pyjamas lasted a whole movie. This was one scene.

2. For what it’s worth, Discovery has never been on Netflix in Canada. I watch it on a 🇨🇦 service called Crave.

3. Tilly gets promoted to lieutenant! After 935ish years as an ensign... Harry Kim now gets bumped into second place.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:19 PM on November 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

1. I watched the recap before the episode, and I think those uniforms they wear in the final scene when they first become part of Future!Starfleet have the shortest lifespan of any uniforms in Starfleet history. At least the TMP grey pyjamas lasted a whole movie. This was one scene.

Well, maybe that explains why they were tailored _so terribly_ in the last scene of S3 - they were only going to be used for that one scene. Or maybe they got to trying some camera tests with them over the break and discovered the grey uniforms folded in hilariously unflattering ways. Anyway, I'm thankful for the change.

Honestly, I'm going to be surprised if Kwejian stays black hole'd through the end of the season, or if they discover Yet Another Time Romper Room to blip through and rewind the season's destruction. Or maybe that will be Burnham's Kobayashi Maru moment - choosing between Kwejian and her ship.

I was sort of annoyed by the direction on the cameras - too many uncomfortably tight closeups and short reaction cuts, not enough time spent enjoying the scene the characters were in. That said, I liked the topsy turvy cameras on the station, so it wasn't all a wash.
posted by Kyol at 6:13 PM on November 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I haven't had chance to check this yet but apparently Season 4 is supposed to be available from the Pluto channel for free, with ads, from 9pm today. Pluto seems to show a lot of old Baywatch, and doesn't have a lot of info about this if its true. You can get Pluto through a bunch of routes, mine is via an app on the TV section of my PS4. Fire sticks etc also have it. See here.
posted by biffa at 8:03 AM on November 26, 2021

Disco is scheduled for 9 on Pluto, it's not clear to me how on demand it is. Do I have to sit down at 9pm? Baywatch is just starting (again) so it already feels super retro.
posted by biffa at 10:19 AM on November 26, 2021

I can't let this go. Can we talk about the Kelpien High Council? How 800 years the Ba'ul are apparently equal and accepted members along with the Kelpiens?

The Ba'ul literally treated the Kelpiens like livestock. They ignored their sentience, pretended to be gods, and raised generations of Kelpiens to eat. In the 23rd century the Kelpiens are liberated, discover their gods are false and predatory. And we're to believe 800 years later they're all A-OK with that and are making nicey nice and having political debates?

I get that Roddenberry Star Trek has this ideal of all sentient peoples getting along, reconciling differences. But I think centuries of being treated as food might be a bit much to get past.
posted by Nelson at 8:24 PM on November 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Perhaps once they could replicate Kelpien, the Kelpiens realised how delicious they were and forgave them?
posted by biffa at 4:02 PM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've enjoyed the previous seasons of Disco, and was excited for this, but wow, I couldn't get very far into this episode before rushing here to see if others thought it's bad as well.
Reading the comparisons to the Kelvin Treks rings very true. I never made it through the final movie either.
I guess the butterfly people's navs were so bad that in the time it took for the ship's crew to {smugly) figure out the problem, send out Eva's (from Wall-E) to fix all those satellites and then tell Burnham, they couldn't fly around the mushroom and shoot from the other side? and then Burnham gets to be smug toward Booker, Booker gets to be smug to the butterfly leader and then Burnham gets to be smug to Booker again.
I guess each captain and crew have their own vibe, and smug is this one's, especially if you and your bridge crew get to be the special guests at commencement where everybody gets to be smug about how great starfleet is.
They all just smile knowingly at each other and nod. and then someone smugly says "Let's Fly"
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:00 PM on December 10, 2021

This episode gave me a glimpse of how it must feel not to like sci fi. After the ridiculous intro scene, it did not feel like anything was at stake. Saru's long farewell, Burnham's PIP, random planet destruction all felt like replayed shadows of things we have already seen.

I am still rooting for the cat to not be a cat, but otherwise I don't think I have it in me to watch another season while they try to triangulate the mysterious origin of the gravity anomaly.
posted by haemanu at 2:25 AM on December 11, 2021

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