Star Trek: Discovery: The Examples
December 16, 2021 9:12 AM - Season 4, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Burnham and Book race to evacuate a group of stranded colonists in the anomaly's path as one of the Federation's brightest scientists comes aboard the USS Discovery to do high-stakes research with Saru and Stamets.

We're gonna need a bigger Memory Alpha:

- The civilizations listed as possible creators of the DMA include the Metrons, the Nacene, the surviving members of the Iconian Empire, and the Q Continuum, with which there's been no contact for the previous six centuries.

- Zora (the ship's Sphere Data-created AI) feels emotions; "it is a recent development."

- The camera lingers on a scar on the back of Ruon Tarka's neck; I'm not sure what it signifies, but I vaguely recall there being something like it last season, connected to the Emerald Chain.
posted by Halloween Jack (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I thought I remembered what the scar was and then I realised I was thinking about The 4400. So, yes, someone please enlighten me.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2021


Look, it's the actor who played Errinwright in The Expanse. With that voice it's proving hard for my brain to accept and trust this new character....

...oh.
posted by ewan at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Yesss, I was delighted to see Shawn Doyle, playing a probably secretly evil character (again!).
posted by confluency at 5:08 PM on December 16, 2021




Ruon Tarka was way too Elon Musk for my liking.

I really enjoyed the start of this season, but the show is spending a lot of time on creating great character beats but aren't telling an interesting story to justify it.
posted by crossoverman at 6:19 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Tarka could have just waited 2 hours or tried a starship or starbase that wasn't 1000 years old if he needed 5% more power for his stupid experiment. what a cry-baby.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 6:34 PM on December 16, 2021 [15 favorites]


That was certainly an episode.
posted by Marticus at 11:37 PM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Speculation incoming... there's this DMA, which my genre head kinda wished they had called TMA-3. and to try and understand it they have created a small DMA... what if they're the same DMA? And it (allegory goal) has escaped from this laboratory and is killing everything in its path.
posted by ewan at 3:33 AM on December 17, 2021 [6 favorites]


I really don't get why they had to run that stupid experiment on the Discovery. In the middle of a crisis. And Elon Mus.... er Ruoan Tarka's comment on being on the ship was like stepping into an antique. Yep. Nice lampshade of the ridiculousness of starfleet keeping a 1000-year-old ship on the front lines.

I found the insane high-security prison with death beetles everywhere and crazy force fields to keep . . . 8 low risk prisoners contained . . . . highly improbable. Okay, so one of them murdered someone a couple decades ago. But really, that is an odd choice in resource allocation. You would think a simple iron bar and concrete cell would be good enough, rather than a crazy over-the-top system that wouldn't be out of place in a Doctor Who episode.

This show just seems to be so many unearned feels, interspersed with pointless and unbelievable actiony bits. And everyone is always talking in INTENSE EARNEST WHISPERS. Or yelling.

Did they ever explain why the best people to send on the prison rescue mission from a ship with a crew of hundreds was the captain and her civilian boyfriend? Maybe I missed that urgent intense whisper. Goodness knows, it makes perfect sense to send the captain of the ship off with a civilian in the middle of a crisis. Maybe the rest of the crew is completely incompetent?
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:30 AM on December 17, 2021 [4 favorites]


If the DMA is being operated by an intelligence, at least it makes some sense of the extremely unlikely trajectories (e.g., just right to push a space station into the sun, or a moon into a planet or whatever exactly happened with Book's planet), even if the extreme rapidity of things is still implausible.

Aurelio is an ex-Chain scientist and we have the implication that Tarka is as well, via that neck scar. "Tarka just invented a control module capable of creating a mini-DMA" feels implausible to me, but I don't know whether that's the "we'll understand why later" kind of implausible or the "it's a shortcut in storytelling" kind of implausible. If it's the first kind, then my speculation is that Tarka had previously developed this tech for Osyraa, or at least gotten it close to completion before the destruction of the Chain's flagship last season. Either Osyraa is still alive and directing it herself, or some remnant of the Chain is doing it.

It's not exactly how you'd use a second strike / dead man's weapon (anyway I'd start on federation HQ) but starting with Kweijan (especially if Book is there at the time) makes sense if the goal is to hurt Burnham, which seems like the kind of thing a surviving Osyraa would want to do (as well as the kind of things the showrunners would do). But then why this second target? I don't feel like any good clues were dropped. It's not a very smart way to use your super-weapon.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:44 AM on December 17, 2021


I found the insane high-security prison with death beetles everywhere and crazy force fields to keep . . . 8 low risk prisoners contained . . . . highly improbable. Okay, so one of them murdered someone a couple decades ago. But really, that is an odd choice in resource allocation. You would think a simple iron bar and concrete cell would be good enough, rather than a crazy over-the-top system that wouldn't be out of place in a Doctor Who episode.

Not to be rude or anything, but did you actually listen to any of the dialogue? (Or "INTENSE EARNEST WHISPERS", if you prefer.) They're being made an example of; it's right in the episode title. Yeah, it doesn't make sense if you're simply trying to confine people, but the Emerald Chain was being deliberately cruel and ostentatious in their punishment. It's a very pointed allegory for our own (American, anyway) penal system, down to the former colony administrator totally buying into it, even to the point of expecting Burnham to confine the former prisoners on her ship.

Did they ever explain why the best people to send on the prison rescue mission from a ship with a crew of hundreds was the captain and her civilian boyfriend?

OK, sorry, you must be really new to Trek.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2021 [4 favorites]


OK, sorry, you must be really new to Trek.

Yeah you can complain about plenty of things new trek does differently than old trek, but that particular sort of nonsense goes all the way to the beginning.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2021 [3 favorites]


OK, sorry, you must be really new to Trek.

Over the last 50 years I have happily enjoyed hate-watching every episode of everything Trek ever made.

Doesn't make it less stupid.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:50 AM on December 17, 2021


Not to be rude or anything, but did you actually listen to any of the dialogue?

When you have to couch what you are saying with "Not to be rude or anything", you are being rude.

Yes, I was aware of the title, and the fact that they were "being made examples of", it was super hard to miss in an episode that kept calling them "the examples".

The prison plot was still stupid. A nasty, damp, dark, bug-infested hole in the ground would be cruel. The ridiculous over-the-top security was just stupid. It was stupid for stupid plot's sake and to have stupid CGI special effects all over the place. The whole prison break plot was overly-contrived Kelvin-timeline-esque stupidity.

At least in old Trek, the captain of the ship wouldn't be doing all the security system hacking. A specialist would be tasked with that.

I will still, however, continue to enjoy yelling at the screen while hate-watching Star Trek.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:00 PM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]


You do you, but if you are putting forth a not-great argument in a public forum, expect it to be criticized.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:03 PM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]


I feel like the specific set-up of the prison was more designed to facilitate action sequences that didn't really do much for me, vs trying to shed light (even if clumsily) on the question of crime, punishment, & rehabilitation. Especially as Burnham has recently had this thrust in her face due to the whole J'Vini thing. In fact, this whole thread from Burnham's own sentence of life imprisonment at the start of the show itself through now is really .. just flubbed. It makes me wish for the more thoughtful show that nobody's going to make.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 1:01 PM on December 17, 2021 [4 favorites]


did you actually listen to any of the dialogue?

I did! It was dreadful! Burnham & Book's relationship is rooted almost entirely in nostalgia, even though they have only been together a year.

Also

Rhys: thanks for putting me in charge of the evacuation! Once my family had to be evacuated, blah, blah, blah. (So why am I taking time out to chat instead of doing my job?)

Also

Felix: I want to do penance, to help others (so why am I dicking around and wasting time when everyone needs to get to the transport point?).

Also

Burnham: 'We have to respect his agency' ( Federation policy is not to interfere with suicide?)

Also

The computer can pick up sorrow from micro inflections but has made no progress with tact?

Also,

The hologram tree was utterly pathetic. All the emotional resonance of an Amazon start up's idea of a breakthrough in family albums.
posted by biffa at 1:55 PM on December 17, 2021 [6 favorites]


I liked this episode more than the previous. It had some actual sci-fi plots. I thought Ruon Tarka was great and I loved Stamets' interactions with him, that kind of jealousy is very relatable for me. There wasn't too much Feelings Trek, but enough to ground the show in some humanism. I also found the scene of Stamets and Culber in bed talking really touching. Mostly as gay representation, it felt so ordinary and domestic, but also just as a nice moment of quiet.

Also want to give a shout out to Michael Greyeyes as Felix. Interesting character, great performance. Yeah it's a little strange the Federation protocol supports him choosing to risk his life in this particular situation. But Booker was there to represent the view he should be forcibly saved, and Felix himself admits it's possible, so at least the dilemma was explicit. Also it matters that it wasn't certain that the asteroid was doomed; he had a chance.

I've got no defense for why they're doing a ship-endangering experiment at the exact same time they are doing an rescue operation. Maybe it's a problem that the Spore Drive means they never spend any time warping anywhere. The Enterprise's schedule is literally full 24/7 so they have to multitask. Eh, it's a classic Star Trek trope. I enjoyed Shawn Doyle's performance and the writing. At first he was too annoying (and yes, Elon Musky) but as he and Stamets got to a working relationship and we learned some more nuance of his character I got intrigued.

David Cronenberg as asshole therapist without time for your bullshit was hilarious.
posted by Nelson at 7:02 AM on December 18, 2021 [4 favorites]


Also want to give a shout out to Michael Greyeyes as Felix.

I love how whenever there's an indigenous character or actor, they overlay the scene with that "mystical flute music" whether it's appropriate or not (cf. Chakotay).
posted by jabah at 7:54 AM on December 18, 2021 [5 favorites]


(So why am I taking time out to chat instead of doing my job?)

Because this is Discovery, where ticking clocks toward imminent disaster can always be ignored for earnest discussions of someone’s personal drama.

If Generations were made with Disco’s approach, the sequence of the saucer separation/destruction of the secondary hull when the warp core detonates/ impact of the primary hull on the planet’s surface would have included a tense discussion in the ready room then a log entry or two.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:39 PM on December 18, 2021


Also:

Burnham: 'We have to respect his agency' (Federation policy is not to interfere with suicide?)
I'm surprised she didn't have to look this up, like the concept of asylum. Speaking of which, whose idiot idea was it to put the political asylum seekers in with the people who may have unjustly imprisoned them? But, it had to be thus, otherwise the largely useless conversation between Burnham and the magistrate at the end wouldn't have occurred.

PS why not tow the whole thing left/north/up with tractor beams or something, since it was just a "single degree" into the dangerzone.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 5:04 PM on December 19, 2021 [2 favorites]


I constructed a model of the DMA controller at a scale of 3.22 times 10 to the negative 17th
In an earlier episode, we were quoted that the DMA is 5 light years across. 5 light year × 3.22e-17 is 1.4 meters, which is in the range of the size of the model. I guess they really intend that it's that big, despite how external shots make it look small -- maybe even millions of km but not light years.

Interestingly, the average distance between any two stars in our galaxy…turns out to be about 5 light years so it's hard to pop this thing into the galaxy without hitting SOMETHING. Maybe they came from the outside of the universe, made a slight mis-estimation of size, and now are having trouble finding a place to park.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 5:29 PM on December 19, 2021 [5 favorites]


The 5 lightyears figure was given as the size of its gravitational distortion iirc, not the visible object that they show on screen. Besides that, Trek has always. Always been a show where external shots are not to scale. Two dots on opposite sides of the screen aren't exciting so we get to see Romulan warbirds one or two ship-lengths away from the Enterprise and understand that they've just entered phaser range. It's a puppet show.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 2:09 AM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


The density of the Milky Way is highly variable, though--really packed in tight in the core, a lot less in the outer arms--and especially between the arms, I'd imagine that there are some pretty big gaps where the DMA could hide. (Assuming that it's even a persistent phenomenon. If it is, my primary suspect is V'Ger.)

Speaking of the Milky Way, and Trek sometimes not really grasping the scale, my favorite example is the VOY episode "The 37's".
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:03 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think if I'm sort of deciding on a single big thing that kind of bugs me about Discovery, it isn't necessarily the big heartfelt emotional speeches or the discourse, it's sort of the misuse of the A-B plotting. Like, great, I think it's worthwhile for a sci-fi show to explore themes of emotional wounds and burden and how to discuss them - shit I don't think I've ever really heard Star Trek discuss agency _as_ agency ever before, and that's probably good? (I mean, trek is all about agency, but I don't think I've ever heard it explicitly called out that way...)

But they're not doing a good job of balancing it out with any secondary plot. Like this week the A plot was the prisoner rescue and the B plot was the DMA testing on ship, and they were both big emotional rides, and that's kind of exhausting, I think? I want something lighter with my heavy emotional drama. Maybe a little Quark, or some Q, a holodeck malfunction that produces 50lbs of tapioca pudding per second, anything.
posted by Kyol at 1:07 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


“Tarka’s not rude — he’s just Dutch”
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:55 AM on December 21, 2021


Besides that, Trek has always. Always been a show where external shots are not to scale.

My favourite was an episode of Picard where our heroes’ ship is being dogged by a mysterious pursuing vessel that is explicitly “just at the edge of sensor range.” External shots show it as being maybe three hundred metres aft of them.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:07 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


The Trek technical manual says phasers have a range of 300,000 kilometers, which is over 75% of the way from the Earth to the Moon. Photon torpedoes can go 2.5 million kilometers. Realistically, every single Trek battle should involve ships firing off into the darkness and hitting targets invisible to the naked eye.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:32 AM on December 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


Did they ever explain why the best people to send on the prison rescue mission from a ship with a crew of hundreds was the captain and her civilian boyfriend?

OK, sorry, you must be really new to Trek.


I am most definitely not new to Trek, and I said the same damn thing out loud while watching this episode. There are other crew members! Picard didn't go on every away mission. It would make more sense not to send the Captain into an area with no comms during a crisis, even in the world of Trek. Send the security officer (I don't even know who that is now) and some other bridge person.

Really (extra) disappointed that the potential critique of the carceral state was so toothless. I feel like having actual murderers, or political prisoners, or any more grey-area cases would have made an interesting episode. Instead we got prisoners that stole an orange or whatever, so of course it's a no-brainer that they shouldn't be in prison; and clockwork beetles for a bit of suspense.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:53 PM on December 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


overall this season has felt pretty bad to me? I think I'm still kind of hatewatching it out of a sort of fascination with the specific ways in which it has become bad, but man, like… this show loves to tell us about things but never actually show them. Michael and Book have a relationship that continues to be defined by "remember the time" rather than pretty much anything ever happening in the present, and Mrs. Fedora yelled at me for being late to declaring that the guy who came with on the away mission was going to die as soon as they started establishing backstory, because she was certain he was going to beef it as soon as he even showed up.

I think part of it also comes down to the fact that, while Star Trek has a half-century-long history of "dumb and goofy," it's not yet known for this brand of "dumb and Important," so the incredible seriousness of every single moment of heightened emotions and speechifying is just exhausting to watch. There's no pressure release valve. It's like the Loudness Wars of '90s radio, as applied to emotional stakes, but it kind of boils down to "when all of the text is underlined, none of it is."

The dialogue has also been pretty bad too? Like at this point it feels like the writers are just sort of speaking directly to the audience via the characters, to either deliver plot summaries or Insightful Observations, but mostly it just feels like in Future Society nobody ever just has a conversation like people. Only ever speeches! Hushed, important whispers! Forever!

Separately, the one mystery that I really wish they'd dug into a little deeper: when they gave the Golden Snitch to the one lady at the end, why was she above her own father in the family tree
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:35 PM on December 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


looking forward to next season when they recast Calculon as the lead of Feelings Trek
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:46 PM on December 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


I would kill for a season of Discovery where there wasn't any big overarching threat, and each episode was about a standalone problem where:

1) We get to see what a familiar species is up to in the 32rd century.
2) We see more than two main characters work together to solve a problem with cleverness and ingenuity.
3) There's a mostly unconnected B-plot involving minor characters and lower stakes because Star Trek is supposed to be a show with an ensemble cast.

"We're rebuilding the Federation in a time when all the Star Trek you know is ancient myth" is such a cool concept for a new Star Trek show and I just don't get why they're pissing it away like this. It just seems like the folks in charge have their own ideas for what a Sci-Fi TV series needs to be these days and it just doesn't fit with what Star Trek has traditionally been about. This show has floundered for a coherent vision from the very beginning, and I still think it hasn't found one, though changing the setting to the even farther future was a step in the right direction.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:09 PM on December 21, 2021 [13 favorites]


yes holy moly yes I would love an episodic story-of-the-week series that takes place in the far future of a fragmented Federation as they gradually rebuild trust across the galaxy — when I said a couple weeks ago that I want ten episodes of basically just the scene where they delivered dilithium to skeptical moth people, I absolutely meant it
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:07 PM on December 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I think that's the other problem I'm having. I mean, I love a good long story arc with setup and resolutions - DS9 and Bab5 are some of my favorite shows because they _aren't_ episodic. But, I think the writers either have to have a singular vision of what they want to accomplish like Babylon 5, or they have to be writing in such a well established universe that they can simply reference prior art to establish a scene like DS9, rather than try to do all the heavy lifting and integrating into the arc in a single episode.

I was sort of hoping that this season would be rebuilding the federation, and monsters of the week, and Michael and the Good Ship Discovery going off to solve mysteries and fight crime and on the one hand putting it that way - it's been close? But I think because they can't just focus on an A-B or maybe an A-B-C plot because they only have 10-13-ish episodes to keep everybody working, so it gets muddy. Like if the first episode was just DMA+Space Station and maybe the B plot was what the impact of starting up the federation had on the galaxy, sure. But no: Mothmen, Saru talking to the Kelpien (and his duties to his people), Michael speechifying at the Academy (and the Federation's duties to the galaxy), Space Station Hijinks! (halfway through the episode!), Book's Kwejian ceremony and the President explaining the current reality to Michael - it's overstuffed. And I'm probably skipping over some even smaller plots because this is getting wordy already.

Like, ok, I know technically we're only in the middle of what, the beginning of the third season of a "normal length" show's series at 48 episodes, and yet... Ok, there's Michael and Saru and Culber and Stamets and Book and Tilly and ... uh... if I think _really_ hard there's Owosekun and Detmer and Adira and Tal and every now and then we get Tig MF'in Notaro... and those other two dudes on the bridge.. and uh that blonde woman who used to be like a robot or something? I mean I know that this show is focused on Michael, and I don't begrudge that, but at times it feels like they're trying to keep too many ensemble characters active (13!) but with so much of the story focusing on Michael, I dunno that they're managing it.
posted by Kyol at 8:15 PM on December 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


MRS. CHEESES: I wonder what that thing on the back of Tarka's neck is.
ME: *pause, then loooong slow gasp*
MRS. CHEESES: Stop making that awful sound.
ME: IT'S HIS BLUEGILL SCAR! TNG "CONSPIRACY"! HE'S A REMMICK!

Well, I was probably wrong about that one, but I wasn't wrong that we've seen the Akaali before.

"Exhausting" is a good word for DISCO, past and present. If they had twenty-some episodes per season to play with, this show might be a lot stronger, for the reasons discussed above.

Case in point: the Culber scene was really good IMO but I keep feeling like I missed something about Dr. Cronenberg. Why do you go that route casting-wise if he's not gonna turn out to be some kind of villain or antihero or chaos agent or something? What's he doing just popping in as a utility characterization-deliverer?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:20 AM on December 22, 2021


I do wonder if the pandemic was a direct cause of some of this season’s… challenges. Discovery hasn’t been a terribly cohesive show, but I also wonder where this is headed. I’m still pretty concerned that the 32nd century isn’t being explored as much as I’d like it to be.
posted by hijinx at 6:21 AM on December 22, 2021


"We're rebuilding the Federation in a time when all the Star Trek you know is ancient myth" is such a cool concept for a new Star Trek show

That IS such a cool concept for a show! In this show, however, it is somehow just one of many things going on.

I enjoy this show for what it is, but sometimes I watch ideas zoom by that I'd like to spend more time with.
It's odd to type it, but it's a lot like Rick and Morty that way.
posted by Acari at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2021


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