Star Trek: Discovery: Choose to Live
December 2, 2021 2:36 PM - Season 4, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Burnham and Tilly hunt the killer of a Starfleet officer as Stamets and the science team race against the clock to prevent the anomaly from killing anyone else.

Do take care not to touch the Memory Alpha while it is in bloom:

- "Choose to live" is a Qowat Milat saying regularly spoken by Elnor on Star Trek: Picard.

- Latinum, which is part of Abronian physiology, was established in DS9 as a medium of exchange.

- Arie'mnu, the Vulcan term for the mastery of emotions, was first mentioned in the non-canon novel The Wounded Sky by Diane Duane.

- zhian'tara, the Trill rite of closure, was first shown in DS9's "Facets", as practiced by Jadzia Dax.

"When we say 'choose to live,' it's an abbreviated form of a longer saying: 'The path you are on has come to an end. Choose to live.' If you find yourself at the wrong end of a Qowat Milat sword, it's pretty easy to see that particular path is over for you. You either move on to a new path and live, or you stay and die."

- Dr. Gabrielle Burnham, to Tilly
posted by Halloween Jack (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow vulcan scientists are worse than useless.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 5:34 PM on December 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

I know how they must feel.
posted by biogeo at 9:45 PM on December 2, 2021

Hologram Monk would make a great band name.

The Vulcan swords have a classical Chinese look in them to my eyes.
posted by porpoise at 10:55 PM on December 2, 2021

While this episode had some annoying holes (WHY couldn't mz. lost cause simply say "hey here's a civilization asleep, dilithium please" rather than going on a killing spree) I'm still enjoying Discovery and the season so far.

Mostly prompted by discussion here on MeFi, our enjoyment of Discovery increased once we realized and accepted:
• They will always make the most _emotional_ choice for the characters/plot (in this episode, that was Book needing to mind-meld and relive his trauma to help the scientists; also see, everything regarding Michael's mom)
• Their favorite thing is when a dilemma can be solved by a heartfelt speech.
posted by Zephyrial at 6:59 AM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I liked a lot about this one but I was SEVERELY DISAPPOINTED that the clue about Cherenkov radiation being present wasn't THE BLUE LENS FLARE that they ACTUALLY FREEZE-FRAMED upon. HUGE wasted opportunity. >:(
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:23 AM on December 3, 2021 [15 favorites]

For real I'm like "she's revisiting his trauma to look for blue. There's some blue! Yay!". I'm normally fine with the lens flare embellishments but that was a big failure this time.

Still having trouble this season. I was primed to like this episode by a friend who said "oh, this is the first good one!" but that was not my reaction. I don't want to bum people out harshing on our favorite band here and I do still like the band. Just hoping they find their groove.

I did kind of like the three part plot though. And sorta liked each individual plot. Showing us the 32nd century Vulcan Ni'Var Science Academy in their native environment was a lot of fun. It looked like the board for Space 3d Chess! Also when I put my cynical part aside I enjoyed both Booker and Adira/Gray getting some character advancement, they seemed to deliver pretty well emotionally on those stories.
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2021

I think there was a giant thread on reddit (r/scifi ?) last week about this show being too emotional. I hadn't seen the second episode of the season, but after I did I totally understood. So. Much. Feelings. This one was an improvement, I thought, maybe because it was more honest with being about the feels.

My favorite part of this show is still Doug Jones as Saru, and I will watch it just for him, I think. His performance still stuns me to watch.

I think the Qowat Milat is the best thing they've added to the franchise in a long time. I hope they show that Burnham's mom isn't the only non-romulan one this far in the future.
posted by Catblack at 1:38 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

"When we say 'choose to live,' it's an abbreviated form of a longer saying: 'The path you are on has come to an end. Choose to live.' If you find yourself at the wrong end of a Qowat Milat sword, it's pretty easy to see that particular path is over for you. You either move on to a new path and live, or you stay and die."

This really irritated me, and for once, not in a way where I'm mad at the writers. I'm mad at this group of assholes and their shallow self-justification for horrible things while trying to make it sound poetic or thoughtful. They're just bullies, fascists, cruel and wicked jerks. Why are we supposed to respect their culture or values, obviously they would not return the favour.

Their ethos is "I will fucking kill you if you do not obey me immediately, without any explanation, reason, or anything indicating that I am a reasonable person or that I respect life in any way or would even keep my word." which is short for "I will fucking kill you if you do not obey me immediately, without any explanation, reason, or anything indicating that I am a reasonable person or that I respect life in any way or would even keep my word -- and think I'm cool and right for doing this." There's nothing to respect there, nothing mystical or sacred, they are bullies and justify it to themselves to feel better about being bullies.

The ridiculousness of the planet-explode tragedy came to a head with Book healing after getting some confirmation that somebody he loved acknowledged that before dying. Uhh, ok, seems like you don't need to kill a planet for that moment and since you did, feels a bit hollow.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:00 PM on December 3, 2021 [7 favorites]

This was pretty good!

It’s interesting for me (a queer male) to realize how Grey and Saru both are well outside the range of “traditionally masculine”-coded performances, and how I have an easier time appreciating Doug Jones than the actor playing Grey. I want to be all “awwww the kids are alright” (I feel like I ought to be feeling the sort of warm avuncular elder-gay vibe that Wilson Cruz absolutely nails) and yet… something’s not quite landing with Grey and Adira, for me.

I have to reflect on this more, but I’m curious about others’ feelings about it. (I am so thrilled at the queer representation on this show! Please don’t jump on me… it’s really a luxury to get to consider and compare such a range of gay / enby / non-butch* male performances in a mainstream show for sure!)

*I didn’t want to use traditionally-derogatory words like fey or swishy but, ha, there’s a weird hole in my vocabulary for positive adjectives along those lines, I guess my reflection is starting there…
posted by sixswitch at 9:14 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Sixswitch, I feel similarly about Adira and Grey – I like the idea of the characters and their relationship, but the chemistry between them does read as a bit off. However, on reflection they probably should have an odd chemistry, what with being partners who then become a symbiotic-fusion-of-personalities/sort-of-haunting kind of deal, with bonus trauma from the symbiosis occurring under less than ideal circumstances. For a series that's very focused on emotion, maybe this is a clever bit of characterization of a super-complex emotional journey? That's my optimistic reading anyway.
posted by threecheesetrees at 11:52 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I share that optimistic reading, threecheesetrees (and great username btw). What may be adding some of that undefinable strangeness is that the writers are being fairly opaque with those characters in a way that doesn't seem to happen with others on this show*. I have to keep reminding myself about the worm—and I've seen every non-DISCO Trill episode multiple times!!

(* = Then again, the same could be said for Tilly this season. I mean, that opaqueness does keep things interesting. I actually expected to be sick of Adira/Tal by now and I'm not at all.)

My best guess is that they're taking this storyline into an area where Adira gets jealous at now having to "share" Tal with the outside world, and then starts to more generally go off the rails without Tal's steadying internal influence—DS9 showed us how messed-up Trill-joining stuff can get—but since this is DISCO, who TF knows.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:04 AM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm glad you said something about Adira and Gray, sixswitch, because I've felt it too. Even though I'm queer I don't really relate to either Adira or Gray. I take that mostly as a failure of my own imagination. And hey, not all queer people are the same. My experiences are pretty old school gay cis-male. I can appreciate learning about a fictional character's experience that are not my own.

I feel like they've done a good job of that with Adira. Their awkward coming out. Also their general social awkwardness that is more to do with being a brilliant nerd than their sexuality or gender. That story I understand.

Gray's story is harder for me to get. I think that's partly about gender. It's also just a structural problem; up to now Gray hasn't exactly been an independent character.

But the interesting thing about Adira and Gray is the sci-fi part of the two characters, their weird Trill symbiont thing. Across three Star Trek shows the Trill have been a huge and complicated concept that the writing is just barely capable of living up to. Disco is a big improvement on the mess that was The Host on ST:TNG. In some ways I think DS9 handled it best; Dax is just one of the crew and for most of the show other than making the occasional ribald joke about being a lusty man in the past or a lusty woman today, her conjoined personality was not a big thing.

But they're trying to do more with Adira and Gray; the Trill conjoinment status is literally the only thing Gray has done on the show. Trying to make a shared consciousness / two-bodies-joined / gender swapping / haunted by a previous host person work at all is pretty hard. Trying to then map it into a contemporary American framework of the current struggle for acceptance of diverse expressions of gender and sexuality, well, it's a lot to try to do. I admire they're even trying.

We're talking about Octavia Butler over on the blue right now and I'm intrigued by the contrast between Adira and Gray's story vs her writing in the Xenogenesis series. Butler writes about some very alien and twisted concepts of human sexuality and bodily autonomy, some very disturbing. But I've never even tried to read Xenogenesis as an allegory for contemporary America. I understand it as just her exploring some really extreme ideas that may be informed by her real world experiences but are not any sort of direct analogy. By contrast the Adira / Gray story is pretty strongly rooted in contemporary culture and politics. There's a lot written about how their characters are a landmark in transgender representation and non-binary representation. Also about the gender identities of the actors themselves in real life. That attempt to be explicitly relevant to contemporary culture raises the stakes and makes it much more personal for us watching the show.
posted by Nelson at 7:31 AM on December 4, 2021

I love all the characters on Discovery, but really am tiring of their need to have their feelings and deal with their feelings all the time, even in urgent, crisis situations. In a show full of made-uppery, that rings least true: seasoned Starfleet officers in the middle of a life-or-death crisis have to sort out their feelings before they can deal with everything happening around them? Isn't that sort of dangerous? And isn't it a normal part of adult life, the need to sometimes put aside your feelings in the moment so that you can deal with what is actually happening in that moment?

(And also, why are the stakes always so amazingly high on this show? Would be nice to have some low-stakes episodes, without an entire inhabited planet being destroyed or the whole galaxy at risk or the entire future of sentient creatures being threatened. You know, find a mcguffin or solve a lil mystery or something. The real world is high-stakes enough right now, could really use the balm of the inconsequential in a few ST episodes.)
posted by LooseFilter at 7:57 AM on December 4, 2021 [11 favorites]

Loosefilter, I concur on both your paragraphs. I mean, really they needed to send Tilly on a team to arrest a wanted violent fugitive because they thought it would be good for her? She nearly died multiple times!

As for Tilly, my takeaway from the episode is that the character is preparing to leave Starfleet (dunno if Mary Wiseman is going to leave the show). I like Tilly a lot, but it's at least more setup than most other departures get.

Stamets' efforts to be protective of Book's emotions are an enormous distance from the asshole he was in S1. Character growth!
posted by suelac at 8:07 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Really liked this episode! Significantly better than the breathless scattershot that was the first two episodes of the season. Felt like real Star Trek for a change.
posted by jabah at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2021

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