Star Trek: Discovery: Whistlespeak
May 2, 2024 10:02 AM - Season 5, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Burnham and Tilly participate in a pre-warp culture's religious ceremony violate the Prime Directive in a bid for the next piece of the Progenitor's puzzle.

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Memorable Quotes:

"Body in motion remains in motion" - Burnham and Tilly, encouraging each other

"Wow, you can take the 'xeno' out of the anthropologist, but you can't take the anthropologist out... Huh. No, I lost it." - Tilly, marveling at Burnham's investigation of the Halem'nites' language

Personal log:

I'm not sure how well Culber's hologrammatic abuela will help with his post-Trill PTSD. Also, Black Mirror, anyone?

Show us Denobula, you cowards.

I joked elsewhere, after "Red Directive", that Kovich's Infinity Room was too much like the place Q took Picard in TNG: "Tapestry" for him NOT to be a Q. Something about this appearance solidified that feeling for me.

I was not at all expecting the Nora Proving to be part of the puzzle chase.

"Sure, we'll consume this random thing handed to us by a native without scanning it" is definitely a long-held Starfleet tradition.

The tr-eye-corders are a weird new "we'd rather CGI than prop" thing.

This was an OK outing, but I felt a little let down after "Mirrors".
posted by hanov3r (20 comments total)
I think I liked this more than Mirrors. I mean, it's a particular type of Star Trek episode, but I thought it was a respectable example of that type of episode.

* These undercover-in-a-pre-warp-culture stories live and die by the worldbuilding of the planet, and while there was nothing groundbreaking here I thought that the visuals and backstory and local characters were pretty neat.
* Hooray, a flagrant Prime Directive violation! Star Trek just isn't Star Trek without these.
* I liked the approach of investigating the scientists themselves to figure out the clue, and I liked the callback to the Denobulans.
* Yet another episode with Adira being overly apologetic and lacking confidence in themselves. At least it was directly addressed in this episode, so maybe it means less of this in the rest of the season? Please. Just let Adira be good at stuff, and do something interesting with their symbiont memories, and not look like they're on the verge of bursting into tears.
* I'm still not sure what the writers are doing with Culber's meandering exploration of spirituality, but it was somehow less annoying than last week, holo-abuela notwithstanding.
* I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually wish that Michael and Tilly's conversation about Tilly's time at the academy hadn't cut off so abruptly. There could be an interesting plot thread here about Tilly seriously considering returning to a position on the ship, but this is probably going to be resolved in a single perfunctory pep talk.
* I can't help considering how various character interactions in this season were setting up the Starfleet Academy show, and wondering how much of that setup is going to change dramatically given that the season was filmed before the cancellation. How many Discovery characters are going to end up in the new show?

Overall I continue to have a positive impression of this season. It certainly has flaws, but I find myself genuinely enjoying and looking forward to something that I was expecting to be hatewatching. So of course they cancelled it!
posted by confluency at 10:32 AM on May 2 [3 favorites]

"So, uh, maybe beam me in around the corner from dad and he won't know any better. How about that, whaddya think? Could we work on that next time, maybe? Meanwhile, let's get Leo the Cleaner on speed dial, we've got another problem for him to deal with...."
posted by Kyol at 7:36 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]

I’m kinda surprised that the whistling never became relevant to the plot.

Cool bit of worldbuilding, and I generally liked the episode, but it’s also very weird to see DSC have enough breathing-room to actually accommodate an unnecessary detail.

I’ve been one of Discovery’s biggest defenders, but even I was starting to be weary of it by the start of this season. I’m pretty happy with how the final season is turning out, and I’ll be sad to see the show go.

I’m also liking the addition of Rayner more and more. I feel like his character could actually have provided a good mid-series course-correction that kept the show alive for several more seasons. But alas…
posted by schmod at 7:49 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed this one more than Mirrors, too. I liked the plot and the world and the characters and the offhand remark about the world having three genders and was also puzzled the whistlespeak didn't end up meaning anything, especially when it's the name of the episode! I'm okay with details not being plot relevant, but this was a very strange choice.

With all this talk about Starfleet Academy, I wish we had a better idea about what the show is going to be and when we might see it. Knowing that might help losing this show sting less. (I actually love that we will get Tilly on another show with the possibility of other Discovery characters showing up. Not sure I want Michael to go there as a teacher, but let her take the kids out on a field trip and end up inside some anomaly.)

I cannot believe there are only four episodes left.
posted by crossoverman at 10:08 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]

Phew this felt like an old fashioned Star Trek episode, or maybe Strange New Worlds. I liked it okay but it was a little flat. This kind of episode always seems so thin when they want you to imagine a whole planet but in the end you just meet 20 folks out for a hike.

Whistled languages are a real thing. They tend to be used only for special purpose communication and often are variants of the culture's primary language. Not quite sure what it had to do with this episode other than giving the planet some flavor in lieu of more complex forehead prosthesis. Personally I liked the comments about the different vocabulary more. They have 30 words for snow dust!

What I liked best was the horror of a culture sacrificing its best youth to a technogod they don't understand. So much for the original well-meaning effort to not interfere. I liked that the older woman we met early on ended up being the key to the society changing. She's all "chill, you can find god all sorts of ways you don't need to go run up that hill". The wisdom of the elders.

PS: the next episode released a week early in Canada, maybe by accident. There's spoilers online and full downloads from unlicensed sources. Please don't discuss it here!
posted by Nelson at 8:30 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]

There wasn't a single fistfight, so it's already been than last week, but this season has been a fucking slog and I'll be happy to put DIS in the rearview mirror.
posted by rhymedirective at 9:11 AM on May 3

And yeah, I kept kind of joking with my wife that, no actually the rain making chemicals actually needed a biological component to work, it's just that historically that would've been a bison or something and only in the last dozen generations did it turn into human sacrifice.

And since they'd already broken the prime directive, could they have super duper broken it to fix the other 4 dang rainmakers too?
posted by Kyol at 1:39 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

And since they'd already broken the prime directive, could they have super duper broken it to fix the other 4 dang rainmakers too?

Seriously! They're going to allow for the population to stabilize and possibly grow without giving them the intended space for them to do so.

I also enjoyed this episode a lot more than last week, which, to be honest, I just didn't care that much for our doomed lovers' backstory. They might as well be the Nikki and Paolo of Discovery, okay, that's harsh, but it was time spent on characters that essentially made them out to be Bonnie and Clyde or something - which wasn't really necessary.

We are 100% going to get more about Tilly and the Academy situation. Why? Because this show is going to end with a soft nod to that up and coming show.

The spirituality discussion with Culber just feels odd. The writers wanted to show some kind of impact from two weeks ago (something which never reportedly happen to the folks on DS9 - or did I forget something?) and they went with Culber having a anti-existential crisis? Have we seen anything about Culber up to now that would make this some kind of surprise or major deal for him? This really felt like something that was discussed in the last five minutes of an episode versus the B storyline. I speculate that this will have some kind of impact down the road, but what, I'm not sure. And why did Culber bring Book the mofongo instead of Stamets? Is that something? Am I reading into that too deeply?

But overall, this episode felt very old school Trek, between the pointless deaths of a society the ship comes along to breaking that good ol' Prime Directive.
posted by Atreides at 2:29 PM on May 3

I just realized that Tilly was prepared to take the hint about the clue with her to the grave.

She still had comms when she figured out that the scratches on the vial were connected to the ancient writing system.
posted by schmod at 2:43 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]

I appreciate the throwback to old Trek where they give the characters super clunky on-the-nose dialogue. On the other hand, maybe nothing bugs me more than translations that just casually rhyme in English. Come on guys

I did find it very funny how they’re like GOTTA WORRY ABOUT THE PRIME DIRECTIVE and then they just kind of chat a bunch openly about Starfleet and the like. Maybe it counts as out-of-character table talk.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:17 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]

also I kept hearing them saying “kumpir” like the Turkish street food made of a baked potato topped with a bunch of stuff and it is delicious
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:24 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]

These sugar cubes are making me thirsty!

I'm kind of glad the titular whistle-speak wasn't a major thing. Trek doing wacky linguistic whatevers is a real mixed bag, but they keep going back to it, probably inspired by (or trying to out-do?) "Darmok."

The draw for me here was witnessing the "First Contact"-style reveal, which is always fun, and I liked how Daddy McSacrificepants reacted to it.

How has this show not yet employed Betazoid characters? Talking about feelings is literally their whole thing. I imagine we may get clarification on some of these character arcs in the next ep for that reason.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:35 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]

this episode felt very old school Trek... breaking that good ol' Prime Directive

It's a grand Federation tradition passed down from captain to captain.

But bonus points for also getting the Whistlespeakers to break their own spiritual prime directive.
posted by fairmettle at 7:49 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]

I imagine Culber's spirtual crisis will feed into the ethics of the Progenitor's technology when it's eventually found. They seeded the galaxy with lifeforms and while the alternate future showed that the Breen used the technology as a weapon, it can also be used to create life. So a crisis about using it or destroying it is somewhat foreshadowed by Culber not knowing whether spirituality can explain his feelings when science cannot.
posted by crossoverman at 9:13 PM on May 4 [2 favorites]

I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Culber will use the Progenitor’s technology to recreate his abuela’s mofongo.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:36 PM on May 4 [12 favorites]

This is my least favorite kind of Trek episode. TNG could make them work, but anytime someone says “surely the gods sent you!” I just wanna pound the NEXT EPISODE button and skip.
posted by Servo5678 at 1:47 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]

Show us Denobula, you cowards.

I want this on a tshirt
posted by td2x10e3 at 2:30 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]

I’m kinda surprised that the whistling never became relevant to the plot.

I’m kinda angry that the whistling never became relevant to the plot.
Ravah, for whom whistling is literally a language, couldn’t remember the words to a song, and so they… HUMMED IT!‽?

Also, I felt it was a huge writing miss not to bring back the joke about abuela replicating the mofongo. When Culber brought it to Book, why didn’t he say, “Just like my abuela used to replicate”?
posted by LEGO Damashii at 11:17 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]

This was very much a TOS episode with the ancient alien tech being deified by the natives who don't understand it and the Starfleet types coming in to fix it and/or free the natives from their superstitions so that they can worship at the altar of science instead. (Something tells me that Gene Roddenberry fully expected some archaeologists in Judea to open up a nondescript tomb somewhere and find Jesus at a computer console with keys in Aramaic, muttering, "one sec, just trying to get this darn Armageddon program to boot... wait, what do you mean two thousand and twenty-four years 'after me'?")
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:47 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]

I was fully sobbing at the dad trying so hard to accept what he believed he had to accept, and saying to himself that it was delusional to grasp for a reason why he wouldn't have to sacrifice his daughter. Utterly wrenching.
posted by brainwane at 4:51 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

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