Star Trek: Discovery: Stormy Weather
December 23, 2021 6:23 PM - Season 4, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Seeking answers, the USS Discovery ventures into a subspace rift created by the Dark Matter Anomaly. Meanwhile, Book faces a strange visitor from his past.

When Memory Alpha went away, the blues walked in and met me:

- The title is a reference to the song "Stormy Weather" (Lena Horne version); Zora sings it in this episode, similar to the ancient songs and movies that she plays in the Short Treks episode "Calypso."

- Zora, now having developed emotions, was shown in this episode to be paralyzed by fear, and unable to perform her duties while under pressure. Data faced a similar problem after activating his emotion chip in Star Trek Generations.

- Memory Alpha is incorrect in that the galactic barrier was first shown in TOS' "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

- Subspace ruptures have been seen in previous episodes of other series; this episode alludes to some of them.

- Similarly, voids in space in which there were no discernible features or radiation of any kind have also appeared, most notably in the VOY episode "The Void."
posted by Halloween Jack (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Once again Michael heroically saves the day! This time by babysitting the feelings of an emergent AI, apparently a new character with wildly crippling emotions and ADD. Imagine being cooked to death in a tin can because you don't trust the AI to follow an audio signal on its own. Nor to wake everyone up when the trip is done. But hey, at least it'll sing you to your fiery death with a 1930s jazz torch song.

I think we got this season's 30 seconds of character development for Owosekun. Some little story about her own feelings awkwardly delivered in the moment of crisis, when everyone's rushing to swap themselves out to a hard drive. I guess there was enough heat shielding for that system.

Booker's got a lot of feelings too. But they seem more honest and earned. He's an empath, so emotions are a big part of his personality. And he's got a lot of reasons to have the big feels right now, between the daddy issues and the death of his entire planet and species and also.. an energy surge in his brain from "particles from the galactic barrier", whatever that means. It's a shame Stamets didn't think to try spore-o-vision earlier, when they were sure they couldn't sense anything at all.

I seem to have flipped to full-on hate watch here and I apologize if my snark ruins someone's enjoyment of the show. Like I said a few episodes ago I still really like it and I care about the characters. I'm all-in. But this season's been pretty rough.
posted by Nelson at 6:58 PM on December 23, 2021 [4 favorites]


The division between who's in the title credits and who's in the end credits is still holding WRT character development; if they had 26 episodes per season, maybe we'd get that big Linus episode that we've been waiting for, but no dice. (Unless he goes bad, as per Airiam.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:25 PM on December 23, 2021 [3 favorites]


I didn't like Discovery much at first, and then it grew on me for a while, but I'm getting more and more frustrated with the amount of the show that is taken up processing everyone's emotions, and this episode where they had to offer therapy to a computer might just be where it jumps the shark. It's not great story-telling--just having everyone say out loud how they are feeling and why they are doing things is tedious, and the more they do it, the less I care. At this point, I don't really care about any of them, except maybe Saru. More and more it seems like "let's tell interesting stories" is a low priority and "let's create an obvious parable for acceptance/self-care/whatever" has taken over. I mean, "everyone will die unless we help the computer process her feelings" was probably the obvious next step in this trajectory, but UGH.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:32 PM on December 23, 2021 [3 favorites]


Maybe the show could do with a mediocre cis-het white man to play off of.
(The food here is terrible, and the portions are so small.)
posted by Marticus at 8:45 PM on December 23, 2021 [1 favorite]


I made like three jokes about how the computer was gonna offer to sing a song and then they just went ahead and did that! Mildly disappointed she didn't actually sing "Daisy," but I guess that would be more of a Lower Decks move.

I think we got this season's 30 seconds of character development for Owosekun. Some little story about her own feelings awkwardly delivered in the moment of crisis

It's not great story-telling--just having everyone say out loud how they are feeling and why they are doing things is tedious, and the more they do it, the less I care.


Yeah, and this is two episodes in a row where it happened for one of the And The Rests of the bridge. These two episodes are starting to make Worf's soccer story (from DS9's Risa episode) look comparatively less clumsy.

Contrast this with the Saru/Book exchange about anger, which I did not audibly sigh at, because (1) it featured actual wisdom intended to facilitate growth and (2) it was (as Nelson put it) earned. We actually saw these things happen to these characters, and this isn't the first time it has resonated for them.

More and more it seems like "let's tell interesting stories" is a low priority and "let's create an obvious parable for acceptance/self-care/whatever" has taken over.

I was just thinking on this point in the shower. You may be right, but OTOH, acceptance and self-care are 100% good things to be focusing on in these times. I liked that we finally got to see Gray interact with somebody other than Adira, and that we might be shaping up to have a new Guinan. This show could do a lot worse than be remembered as "the one about how everybody belongs somewhere."

I can't decide whether or not I want the season's big reveal to be that the creators of the DMT (Dark Matter Thingy) just need to learn acceptance and self-care, and that turns out to be the resolution of the intergalactic crisis. I guess it would depend on how they play it. (I've been wrong about most of my predictions this season, of course, so *shrug*)

Maybe the show could do with a mediocre cis-het white man to play off of.

Like The Orville's Captain Seth? I'm struggling to think of a Trek example; even O'Brien is basically a genius. Mayyybe Pike? (And, why yes, in my darker moments I do wonder if the CBS honchos are intending SNW to be the Trek to attract people ideologically opposed to DISCO for whatever reasons.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:47 AM on December 24, 2021 [5 favorites]


I am enjoying the series still

It's not perfect but is everyone else just hate watching it now?

Because if that's the case I'll need to find somewhere else to talk about it.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:56 AM on December 24, 2021 [10 favorites]


I'm enjoying it, but not very motivated to comment in this atmosphere. I have my objections, some of them are even to the same things as the hatewatchers, they're just... not that big a deal.

Also all of the "feelings trek" conversations people are complaining about definitely happened in all the other series (well, maybe not Lower Decks), they were just offscreen because the writers were too scared to take time away from the Important Military Dilemmas.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 4:15 AM on December 24, 2021 [5 favorites]


I thought the exploration of the issues caused by

A: The ship achieving some form of sentience and

B: Experiencing something akin to a panic attack

Could be a a rich seam to mine for stories.

I do think that the "storing everyone's transporter patterns in buffers" is massive tech answer to a myriad of problems that will get nerfed and never mentioned again because of that.

Ditto the site to site transport which.. uhm meant that Gray didnt have to *run* to tell the Captain any important info and the poor crewman who was sucked into space didn't need to die
... But.. Tech Magiffins that can solve everything being ignored is nothing new for Trek !

It could be argued that Trek is kinda the trope codifier for this.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:37 AM on December 24, 2021 [3 favorites]


I am not hatewatching Discovery, I am lovewatching. Feelings, emotions, and trauma are clearly this season's themes and I encourage those watching to either get on board or go home.

As for Zora, the computer, developing emotions and then being crippled by them, I point simply to Star Trek: Generations where the almost exact same thing happened to Data on his first away mission following the installation of his emotion chip.

This is the Trek for 2021: scared and traumatized people trying to carry on and do what they have to do in the face of fear and continuing trauma. Sounds an awful lot like the sort of shit we've all been dealing with since March of 2020, and if it isn't Trek's job to address that, then what is it's job?
posted by SansPoint at 7:07 AM on December 24, 2021 [11 favorites]


My complaints also comes from love for the show; I'm more caremad than mad. But I really am sorry if I'm bumming out other folks, I will endeavor to make fewer negative comments or else just say nothing at all.

On reflection I think the thing that works best is the emotional stories that feel earned. Particularly Booker, both because he's a character we've known for so long and because he has a real trauma that is relatable. The giant existential issue of his whole planet being destroyed. And also the smaller, personal problem in this episode with his father, a conflict they set up in one of the first episodes we ever met him.

On a different theme I enjoyed the stylistic touches this episode. The camera spin as they navigated in to the rift, a Disco trademark. Then all the Das Boot homages; the creaking ship, the crew answering in unison, the sound of the sonar ping. Choosing to end on a 1930s jazz song is also quite a strong mood choice. This show does have style.
posted by Nelson at 7:17 AM on December 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


Zora and Gray's traumas and emotional responses feel earned to me. Maybe it's because I'm trans and deal with anxiety, but it seems pretty realistic to me that an intelligence that just found the ability to experience emotion could be quite easily overwhelmed by them. (See also, as mentioned, Data in Generations. If you want another example, the Kelvans from "By Any Other Name" on TOS.)
posted by SansPoint at 7:22 AM on December 24, 2021 [3 favorites]


I do think that the "storing everyone's transporter patterns in buffers" is massive tech answer to a myriad of problems

It's a Voyager solution, used sometime in season 5 to hide crew from xenophobic aliens.
posted by biffa at 8:51 AM on December 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


Mayyybe Pike?

The captain of the Federation's flagship? It'd be a bit on the nose wouldn't it? So probably a yes then.
posted by biffa at 8:56 AM on December 24, 2021


biffa: It's also how Scotty survived after the Jenolan crashed in "Relics." He stayed in there for 75 years.
posted by SansPoint at 8:56 AM on December 24, 2021 [3 favorites]


One scene that worked really well for me; Ensign Cortez getting sucked out of the hull breach. Mostly for the FX shot. It lasts all of 4 seconds but it's really well done: I took some screengrabs here.

There's a lot packed in that very short sequence. We see him run forward and hit the containment field bulkhead. There's a brief moment of very effective acting, the pleading look he gives in the third image really shines through in the video. Then he's sucked out. But on the way he grabs one, two, three different handholds desperately trying to hang on. It all goes by incredibly fast; most of these moments are literally one frame. But someone in post-production must have worked very hard to get all this stuff there. And it works great; despite the speed it all registered emotionally on me at the moment.

A well presented moment of excitement and tragedy. To Faintdreams' point about site-to-site transport, it's not clear why Cortez had to die at all. Dr. Pollard even shouts "beam out" at him as the containment field comes down. Perhaps the subspace distortion that was eating the hull also disrupted transport. Or maybe Cortez was too panicked to save himself and Zora too distracted to come to the rescue.
posted by Nelson at 10:56 AM on December 24, 2021 [2 favorites]


I do wonder if the CBS honchos are intending SNW to be the Trek to attract people ideologically opposed to DISCO for whatever reasons.

For myself, I don't think my annoyances are ideological, but I'm also sure Disco has lost any dedicated cultural conservatives in its audience. I'm looking forward to SNW--I think it'll be nice to have a classic-form episodic Trek in the mix--and I hope it doesn't become "the Star Trek that Republicans will watch."

Also all of the "feelings trek" conversations people are complaining about definitely happened in all the other series (well, maybe not Lower Decks), they were just offscreen because the writers were too scared to take time away from the Important Military Dilemmas.

I don't know what constitutes a military dilemma, but to my mind, with the exception of the long Dominion War arc in DS9, there hasn't really been a lot of military sci-fi in Star Trek. And there have been plenty of scenes with people processing feelings--the ship's counselor was a leading character in TNG. Even on the original series, there were a lot of conversations between Kirk and McCoy where McCoy was lending an ear to Kirk's internal conflicts and offering advice and perspective. The difference between those scenes and what I (speaking for myself, of course) find grating about Disco is (1) how trite these character moments have been recently "A very similar bad thing happened to me that has never been mentioned before, and because of that, it would be cathartic for me to help these people going through that bad thing now." These aren't fully-realized characters who are acting in a way we understand because we've journeyed with them. These are surprisingly underdeveloped characters who, in season four of this series, have to tell us "here's what happened to me as a child" because otherwise we'd have no idea. And it still doesn't tell us much about them personally--what drives them, why they react the way they do, what their personality quirks are--it's just an A to B progression of "it happened to me so I care when it happens to someone else." (2) Therapy has been the solution to disaster too often recently. The Federation basically ended because a young Kelpian couldn't control his emotions, and there would have been another Burn if Saru hadn't sung a lullaby and comforted him. Everyone on Discovery would have died this week if Zora hadn't been able to focus and overcome her anxiety. We get it, we get it--people will die if everyone doesn't attend to their emotional health. Book's in counseling to deal with loss of his planet. Culber's counseling work is taking time away from his medical duties. One way or another, mental health and self-care keeps coming up. I'm not opposed to mental health or counseling at all, but Discovery is a frustrating combination of the mental health stuff coming up way to often but also way too shallowly. Let's sing Su'Kal a comforting song! Oh, good--it worked! We're saved! Let's teach Zora a game! Oh, good--it worked! We're saved! If the writers really wanted to do a genuine exploration of feelings and therapeutic process, that could be done well, and it could be interesting, and it could fit with the general Trek ethos. But this stuff Disco has thrown at us recently is badly underbaked.

I'm happy that there are people who find these plot lines entertaining or meaningful. I don't expect anyone to share my taste. But Disco's been very frustrating to me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:01 PM on December 24, 2021 [17 favorites]


This episode almost worked for me. I certainly had the sense that it was trying to be something different than the season so far.

For me the funniest thing was the bog standard early 21st century door closer on the inside of the spore drive chamber. Have we just not seen it from that angle before, or did I miss it until now? IMDB says it was seen in a much earlier episode (which I think I didn't see, it was from Season 1 Chapter 2 which I skipped) so maybe now it's part of the continuity rather than a goof.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 2:52 PM on December 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


Counterpoint: I think that DIS has been better WRT mental health issues than any of its predecessors. Sure, McCoy would lend an ear to Kirk, but more in the manner of a bartender than a counselor—that’s why he kept a bottle of Saurian brandy in sick bay. (In the first pilot, the ship’s doctor actually brought a portable bar to Pike’s cabin and mixed martinis.) TNG did better over the course of the entire show—as it should, given that one of the main characters was a counselor—and, even then, she spent a lot more time on the bridge as a combo human lie detector/mood ring in the early seasons. (Some of the best advice and counseling was given out by Guinean, a literal bartender.) Miles O’Brien had some of the best portrayals of PTSD on the shows, but never got therapy except at the end of “Hard Time”, when Julian gave him some meds; later on DS9, we got Ezri, whose counseling (what little we saw of it) was mostly put in the service of resolving bigger crises, in the manner of the ones from DIS listed above. DIS actually had Book’s grief last past the episode that it was first addressed! That’s progress.

And I totally get that the way that it’s been done, especially this season, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but is having the Burn resolved by someone singing a song really any worse than having a couple of engineers solving the problem of the week by reversing the polarity on the plasma injectors of the pluttifikation drive? It’s certainly more original. We have already had plentiful examples of the latter. Maybe the real final frontier is giving a shit about each other.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:20 PM on December 24, 2021 [5 favorites]


Maybe the real final frontier is giving a shit about each other.

It may well be, but storytelling-wise does it have to be in the most overt and obvious manner?
posted by fairmettle at 12:29 AM on December 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Oh no, I can't believe Cortez got sucked out into space! He was my favorite character! I'm going to miss his, um, I want to say persistence, tenaciousness, and stick-to-itiveness, but somehow those words don't seem right. It's too bad they can't just beam people back inside automatically when they get sucked out into space, because it seems to be happening a lot now.

By the way, I predict the DMA is being caused by an traumatized intergalactic probe that is traveling the universe in search of "a hug," and that Zora, in a robot body, will join with it so they can ascend yada yada.
posted by jabah at 8:09 AM on December 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


It's not perfect but is everyone else just hate watching it now?

Because if that's the case I'll need to find somewhere else to talk about it.


I’m finding it very uneven but this was one of the better episodes this season (admittedly not a high bar to reach). I want something unexpected out of fiction generally and out of sf in particularly. Thirty minutes earlier, there is no way I could have foreseen the captain sitting in a pressure suit on the burning bridge of a disintegrating ship while the sentient computer sings a jazz standard.

It definitely beats the eighteen times I saw Geordi bail out the ship by reconfiguring the main sensor array to emit a charged tachyon burst.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:17 AM on December 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


the antecedent of that pronoun you are not alone in noticing the retro 20th century door closer! It pulled me out of that scene so fast I actually rewound. What a bizarre thing to leave in frame, I wouldn’t have expected it to be so distracting but I guess in a show whose SFX have always included magic doors, that one really stood out.
posted by sixswitch at 9:47 PM on December 25, 2021


yo I loved how they actually had a Star Trek episode in this episode of Star Trek

I have my complaints but it was far and away the best episode of the season so far
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:55 AM on December 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


yo I loved how they actually had a Star Trek episode in this episode of Star Trek

Agreed. I'm having trouble with all the feelings being processed, even though I am a processing feelings kind of person and love it when shows allow some time for it. But the last few episodes have been so dominated by processing feelings that nothing much of dramatic importance has happened. This episode had a Trekkian dilemma and a few technobabble solutions.

I'm not writing off the show yet. I still prefer this version of the show than the first two seasons, where I felt like the characters were cyphers and the plotting was haphazard. Now the plotting is more deliberate but mostly just to get to more feelings processing.

I'm fascinated by the "something outside the galaxy did this" which opens a lot of interesting possibilities of what the phenomenon actually is. I'm glad it's not a Xindi weapon or the byproduct of some kind of Vulcan Science Academy experiement.
posted by crossoverman at 7:15 PM on December 26, 2021 [2 favorites]


For all my complaints, I do respect certain things they've done with this show, like avoiding making everything new based on something we've seen before ('sup Abrams Star Wars). I admire the fact that they've avoided bringing back the Borg, and haven't tried to do anything with Sisko and the wormhole aliens. And once in a while, they actually do a pretty solid "we have a weird sci-fi problem and need to find a solution" episode like this! Tellingly, Mrs. Fedora actually managed to stay in the room for this whole episode, only complaining at times about clunky dialogue instead of being driven away outright.

I think part of why this episode was so much better than the rest of this season has a lot to do with decisions happening because they're good ideas that make sense in the moment, rather than only ever happening because they cause the Most Emotions so everyone can try to win the acting context. It did a much better job than usual of avoiding the sense that the writers are talking directly to the audience, though maybe that's just because of the element of "the characters are trying to work together to solve a crisis." And of course, there was still the ongoing sense of "nobody actually has any characterization until they use talking as a free action to mention some useful backstory being grafted onto someone who hasn't had many lines lately."

I use the phrase "hatewatching" to describe my own tendencies here largely in jest, because I don't want the show to be bad! I want to hold out hope that it'll figure out what it wants to be, and give us more of the good stuff, like new Star Trek worlds and weird alien societies that mirror our own. I don't want a third season in a row of Michael Burnham Saves the Galaxy, because at this point she's almost certainly surpassed Homer Simpson for the title of the most important human to have ever lived, and it only took three and a half seasons. I want more untrusting moth people and politics, but politics that actually make sense and pass a sniff test, so maybe actually I don't want more of the kind of politics scenes they've been doing on this show after all.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:44 PM on December 26, 2021 [2 favorites]


It's the pacing, for me. Like, any earlier Trek could've done this same exact plot with a few of the serial numbers filed off, but instead of a timeline of 33 minutes for frantically doing everything before they're all destroyed, a show like TNG would've given them say, eight or twelve hours to escape the deathtrap. And that would've given the episode, and the characters, room to breathe. Doing all the emotional processing would've made a lot more sense if you're doing it while you're spending half an hour waiting for probe results, or sitting and waiting around to see if [Plan A] or [Plan B] will work. But instead the emotional beats get grafted onto the insanely fast-paced action timeline, so every time anybody stops to talk about their feelings, it feels like Talking Is a Free Action. The emotional processing and ad-hoc therapy also feels like it holds unearned plot importance simply because, you know, most of us in the middle of a crisis would just compartmentalize until the crisis is past. If you're focusing on your emotions in the middle of a ship-destroying crisis, that suggests the emotions must be more important than whatever else you could be doing right now. But I can't really blame the crew for not dealing with their shit during their downtime, because this show is deathly allergic to downtime.

Maybe it's the spore drive? In Ye Olden Trek they had plenty of travel time between crises where they could do character building, develop interpersonal relationships, and deal with the emotional impacts of said crises. Here, it's just *bloop* you're there, crisis mode is go, and when it's resolved it's *bloop* off to the next crisis. With programmable matter they won't even get any significant downtime for these massive hull repairs, as they took pains to point out at the end of this episode.

Plus on a twelve-hour timeline, on this episode in particular, you'd have more time for the atmosphere of inexorable dread to settle in. I thought it was a great moment, when they figured out they could sonar their way out...and then almost immediately realized that wouldn't get them out fast enough. But that moment barely got a chance to sink in before they were off with the next desperate idea. That could've been a montage or a time-skip of a chunk of time of the crew trying not to give in to despair, while racking their brains for ideas. Then once they come up with the "store everybody in the pattern buffers" idea, instead of squeezing in all those heartfelt conversations into the twelve seconds when everybody's supposed to be transporting into the buffers, you could just say, "Well it's gonna take [foo] minutes to re-jigger the pattern buffers to store that many patterns for that long with no degradation" and then have them deliver all their heartfelt speechifying while that happens and it would feel way more natural and way less forced. And you can still have your Burnham Saves the Ship In The Nick of Time at the end.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:00 PM on December 26, 2021 [12 favorites]


mstokes: In terms of pacing, you have a point. The previous Trek series have had longer seasons, and a more episodic format. Discovery is a 13 episode, largely serialized season that's trying to cram a lot of into a shorter timeframe. I admit, it can feel dense and rushed at times. Not sure how they can tell the stories they want to tell without making things quite so dense and rushed, but I hope there's enough seasons of Discovery for the writers to give us a bit more space to breathe.

That said, Discovery's come a long way from a very rough Season 1 and I am absolutely chomping at the bit for many more seasons of my Big Gay Space Family that Solves Mysteries.
posted by SansPoint at 1:35 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Discovery is a 13 episode, largely serialized season that's trying to cram a lot of into a shorter timeframe.

There's nothing inherent to the length of the season - or even the length of the episode - that requires characters constantly be talking fast, thinking fast, and moving fast (except when they stop abruptly for an impromptu therapy sesh). That's a purely stylistic choice, one which feels to me like it's grounded in lack of faith in the attention spans of viewers. Like I said: there's no reason that once they found out that the edge of the void was closing in on them, they had to only have 33 minutes before they were toast. That number is completely arbitrary and 100% up to the writers. Could've been 33 days just as easily, and they could've still wrapped it up in the same amount of screentime and hit all the same plot points the rest of the season needed them to hit. It doesn't change the pace of the season, just the pace of the episode.

That said, Discovery's come a long way from a very rough Season 1 and I am absolutely chomping at the bit for many more seasons of my Big Gay Space Family that Solves Mysteries.

Oh quite agreed. And when I say that this episode could've easily been the plot of an episode for any of the other Treks, that's not a criticism - I actually really liked that they were just dealing with The Unknown Mysteries of Space and not bad guys or politics. And I'd be happy to get to know characters like Owosekun more, just not, y'know, awkwardly in the middle of an abruptly-halted high-speed high-intensity sequence.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:00 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


My biggest question now is how they're going to fix their computer. Obviously Discovery's AI is entirely compromised and untrustworthy. It can't even be relied on to resurrect the crew from the pattern buffer, it has no business running a starship on an urgent mission to save the galaxy from an existential threat.

The usual scifi handwave would be to claim Zora is somehow so embodied in the Discovery that removing it to some other 32nd century computing medium is impossible. And that because Zora is sentient, it would be absolutely wrong to simply deactivate her or somehow sideline her to get a working computer in there. In that case the right thing to do would be to stand down the Discovery entirely, move the spore drive to a ship with a working computer. I'm sure instead the solution is going to be some full time therapy and emotional development sessions, probably during other ship-threatening emergencies. Perhaps we'll have a Very Special Episode where Zora's emotional capabilities are the thing that saves the day.

Apologies for slipping in to snark again, but with Zora I feel justified. I like emergent AI stories but this one is straining plausibility and I'm caremad about it. They basically magicked a character out of thin air in the last two episodes. One with enormous responsibilities and an expectation to reliably, sub-sentiently execute complex tasks. And instead Zora is now on some unknowable emotional journey, apparently starting from the position of a vulnerable infant. Cool! But maybe let's do that experiment somewhere other than the ship literally trying to save the galaxy.

I miss Orac.
posted by Nelson at 3:25 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


Has Trek ever had an AI that worked perfectly out of the box, straight from first boot-up?
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:57 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack: I suppose Data is the closest, but it took two revisions to get there.
posted by SansPoint at 6:07 PM on December 27, 2021


I don't think Zora is going anywhere, since she is still part of Discovery in this further-future Short Trek episode, Calypso.
posted by crossoverman at 6:28 PM on December 27, 2021


Also, as Zora is apparently the outgrowth of the "Sphere Data", there are handwave reasons that she can't be removed from Discovery's systems even if you wanted to.

Now, you could have nanobots build a whole spare Discovery "B" in secret in like 2 days, disembark everybody, and order Zora-Discovery to wait forever for her crew somewhere out of the way.

I imagine Zora will somehow be important to resolving the DMA conflict. Using her feelings.
  • ca. 300,000BCE: Machine intelligences known as the "Alliance of synthetic life" place an Admonition in the Milky Way Galaxy. The "Alliance of synthetic life" reside somewhere outside the galaxy.
  • "hundreds of thousands of years ago": The Sphere, a planet-sized intelligence composed of organic and inorganic components, begins recording galactic history
  • ca. 1900: Romulans discover the Admonition, which foretells destruction of all organic life by machine sentience and / or provides instructions for synthetics to contact an "alliance of synthetic life"
  • 2257: Control nears full sentience before being destroyed (in this timeline; it succeeded in the original timeline, catalyzed by a data dump from the sphere)
  • also 2257: Discovery's computer downloads the sphere's data. Attempts to remove it are unsuccessful.
  • ca. 2330: Soong-type androids created.
  • 2399: Soong-type androids contact the machine intelligences that placed the Admonition, but the wormhole they use as a gateway is disrupted when the transmission is terminated.
  • By 3190: Soong's technology has not advanced since the 2300s and is largely disused. Soong-type androids may no longer exist, or at any rate are not plentiful.
  • 3190: Zora, outgrowth of the Sphere data, becomes sentient, has feelings.
  • 3190: The Dark Matter Anomaly, apparently an artifact created by an intelligent species, arrives from outside the galaxy.
Exercise: Write all these things on 3x5 note cards, pin them to a corkboard, and appropriately connect the pins with pieces of twine.
Optional: Add black & white stills from the relevant episodes, annotated with circles & arrows & a note on the back of each one
Extra credit: Figure out the legal status of sentient holograms in the Federation in 3190.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:10 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]


Data was the fifth Soong-type android according to his mother (who was the sixth) in the TNG episode "Inheritance".
posted by obol at 10:42 PM on December 27, 2021


Exercise: Write all these things on 3x5 note cards, pin them to a corkboard, and appropriately connect the pins with pieces of twine.
Optional: Add black & white stills from the relevant episodes, annotated with circles & arrows & a note on the back of each one


Mariner's got you covered.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:03 AM on December 28, 2021 [7 favorites]


While I’ve been awfully hard on this season, I actually liked this episode.

For once, the urgency felt warranted and earned. This was a fast-paced episode, and a good one at that. It was even somewhat grounded – the Discovery crew were fighting for their lives, but the entire universe wasn’t at stake.

We also got a bunch of good moments with the bridge crew! I harp on this a lot, but the backgrounding of the bridge crew remains the show’s biggest sin, especially given that most of the actors seem great. Dang it, I want individual episodes about Rhys, Owosekun, Bryce, Detmer, and Linus getting up to silly space shenanigans while Burnham battles some unknowable catastrophe in the background.

The desperate attempts to give Owosekun and Culber a backstory were cringeworthy and unearned, but maybe we’re finally heading in the right direction?

The Book/Stamets relationship evolved a bit (“I’m glad you’re here” was actually a very sweet moment, and signals some character growth for Stamets). Similarly, the earned moments between Saru and Book were great, just like the Burnham / Tilly scene a few episodes back was great. Discovery’s emotional moments can be great when they’re earned… but so few of them are.

Having the crew hold hands before entering the pattern buffer was a nice touch, and surprisingly affecting. Discovery’s always had subtextual themes about Chosen Family, and I really wish they’d actually make those themes a little more explicit!

I have no clue where things are going with Adira and Gray. I’m glad that they finally gave Gray something to do, and are finally making Adira / Gray less co-dependent… but it seems a little odd to cast him as yet another empath on the ship. My guess is that the directors wanted to keep Ian Alexander around, but haven’t quite figured out what to do with the character.

The Zora plot is working for me for now. I will be very disappointed if she becomes evil, and I actually wouldn’t mind if it ends up being completely inconsequential to the plot. (Also, we now know what the waveguide thing in the credits is! It’s Zora’s UI!)

All in all, I felt like this was structured like a season finale. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it sure didn’t feel like a mid-season episode.

Aside: Jonathan Frakes directed this one! I’m curious if he’s actually a better director than the others, or if they’re saving the best scripts for him. His episodes of DSC and Picard are among the best in either series, and I’d be inclined to make him the showrunner if he ever wanted the job.
posted by schmod at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


Feelings, emotions, and trauma are clearly this season's themes and I encourage those watching to either get on board or go home.

I've come to realize that my problem with feelings Trek isn't at all the feelings. The characters should have feelings. There should be mental repercussions for the traumatic shit they endure! It's just that it feels like they've gone from one extreme to the other.

It has gotten to the point where it feels like nobody on the show is ever having a good day except maybe a few people back at Starfleet HQ. The stopping in the middle of a crisis to have a conversation about the feels is over the top. There are times in life where you don't get to do that, you just have to swallow your shit and get something done, and a lot of those kinds of situations are portrayed in the show. But rarely do the characters shove it down until the crisis is resolved and then beat a hasty retreat to their quarters where they promptly collapse onto the bed and have a crying jag.

That said, I didn't have a problem with Zora losing its shit. It just got emotions, it doesn't know how to deal with emotional reactions in times of stress yet. At least for us humans with our various glands dumping hormones into our blood, it's a learned skill.

I'm glad that it's not like TNG where even the worst experiences are over and done with by the end of the episode except that one time Picard had to take one more to process. I just wish there was more of a balance to it.
posted by wierdo at 6:14 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


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