Star Trek: Discovery: Context Is For Kings
October 1, 2017 7:43 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Michael boards the USS Discovery, and quotes Alice In Wonderland a whole lot.

Before I get rolling, here's the (currently pretty thin) link to the episode on Memory Alpha, the AV Club Review (Zach Handlen liked it) a brief recap/assessment on Forbes (who felt it was bait-and-switch relative to the pilot).

We begin the episode with Micheal being transferred to a new penal colony after a pocket of dilithium at her old prison 'went piezoelectric.' The other convicts aren't her biggest fans either - one of them lost a relative in the Battle of the Binary Stars. The shuttle is set upon by power-eating space bugs Micheal recognizes as 'GS-54,' the shuttle pilot is killed trying to remove them and the entire shuttle is tractored aboard the Discovery, where things work differently than on previously seen Starfleet vessels: we have black insignia, black alerts and a Captain who literally cannot step into the light due to a wartime injury, the last of which seems a little on the nose.

The Discovery is currently working on a project in fungus-based transwarp, which will tell us something about where the show is headed: this technology has never been seen in Trek before that I've ever heard of and we're in a prequel, which means that if it's successful, we're officially in alternate continuity. If this conforms to the TOS/TNG timeline, the Discovery is doomed to failure in at least this part of its mission.

Most of the action takes place aboard the Discovery's sister ship, the USS Glenn, where we get a horror movie atmosphere, down to the maimed corpses of the original crew and the Klingons who came to loot the derelict before Discovery arrived. There's a monster hunting them, but Micheal cleverly lures it away and performs another one leap to get aboard the shuttle and elude it.

Walker convinces her to take a permanent position on the crew, claiming he's only interested in boosting their drive and not in bioweapons.

Random observations:
* Micheal is a practitioner of Vulcan martial arts, like her adoptive father Sarek. She also talks to herself in times of extreme stress.

* Landry is played by Rekha Sharma, a BSG alumni who looks to be in her element here.

* Saru senses death

* We have a draftee! Our transwarp project head doesn't want to be here. His research appropriated by Starfleet. He doesn't like them, and the Captain doesn't much like him.

* "Did that Klingon just shush you?"

* Captain Lorca and Landry are up to more than he claims, keeping the monster from the Glenn aboard in secret. It seems that he wants to both master transwarp and research terrifying bioweaponry.
posted by mordax (147 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Poster's log:
I liked this one considerably better than the pilot, although it was still a bit uneven. I feel like giving her a socially awkward roommate was a bit too sitcom-ish in the middle of a more tense, BSG-like environment.

I did like the attitudes everybody had about her, and how Micheal didn't ever even bother to defend herself. Her attitude came across as a lot more Vulcan here than in the pilot, IMO.

I also liked how Saru talked to her: he came across as less of a buzzkill this time, and more just... prudent. His feelings about her apology and her general trustworthiness seemed fair.
posted by mordax at 7:45 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


So, did Cadet Tilly become a Top 5 Star Trek character in her first scene for anyone else?!? I love her!


This felt like the actual pilot, with the first two episodes functioning as prologue.
posted by dry white toast at 7:55 PM on October 1 [11 favorites]


There's a first for me in this episode: of all the Star Trek I've seen, this episode gave the sense that there's so much more breadth to the Federation than is visible. Every other series always gave the sense that they were all, at heart, Federation weenies, except where individual conflicts with the larger Federation culture made for the storyline.

Between Lorca, Saru, Tilly and the variety of alien species referenced obliquely, it finally feels like the Federation isn't a happy family. Aliens behave in alien ways. There are more widespread philosophical differences between captains and officers than just "They killed my family!" "You're a Starfleet officer!" The morality play isn't all the conflict.

One of the most annoying moments in TNG was when Wesley was at Starfleet Academy, and he runs into a species that views politeness as insulting, so Wesley curses him out, defusing the situation. An instructor congratulates him on his fine grasp of cultural differences. Moments like that, even at the time, just felt sophomoric.

Discovery might be a real breach with Roddenberry's vision, but it feels like it's got the complexity that always eluded even DS9, and that kind of excites me.
posted by fatbird at 8:16 PM on October 1 [10 favorites]


This is a darker, rougher, uglier Federation, which makes sense in a time of war, but I worry that we'll miss the underlying optimism of Trek. This isn't (and shouldn't be) BSG.

I mean, nobody even gave a second thought to the dead transport pilot (dead due to Lorca's rerouting).
posted by leotrotsky at 8:25 PM on October 1 [7 favorites]


Oh, and that monster looked like a giant tardigrade. Maybe we're in for more Alice in Wonderland like shrinking and growing due to magic mushrooms (well, spores at least)?
posted by leotrotsky at 8:27 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


I think I love this.

I still don't like the new (old?) lumpy-headed Klingons, but I really like the show.

Dark Trek is the best Trek.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:43 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


Can we just go straight to calling it "grimtrek"?
posted by fatbird at 8:45 PM on October 1 [6 favorites]


Did anyone else get a strong Doctor Who vibe when the crew was on the Glenn?
Dark hallways? Check
A command to run? Check9
Barely seen alien monster? Check
Clever escape? Check

If Tennant had randomly been included in a few frames, I would have been totally fine with that. Trek and Who, two great tastes . . .

I liked the first 2/3rds of this ep. The last bit with the captain conning (?) Michael into joining bothers me. I don't quite buy the captain's glib assertion that Starfleet gave him free rein with regards to Michael. Which means she's effectively working under the table. A contractor with no Starfleet rank in the "real world" outside of Discovery? That's not cool. It is very not cool.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 8:45 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I'm concerned that Lorca keeps such a dangerous species as a tribble so close to a source of food.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:59 PM on October 1 [24 favorites]


I noticed the tribble straight away and couldn't understand why no one was freaking out.

Why is Lorca cooking up all manner of bioweapons when he can just send in the tribbles?
posted by dry white toast at 9:02 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


I assume one of Lorca's mad science experiments resulted in a way to spay Tribbles.
posted by tautological at 9:05 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


Oh, yeah, A+ for the cooing tribble.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 9:16 PM on October 1


That was very cool, and the (grim)darkness of the ship is a nice contrast to the lens flares of the last episode.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:36 PM on October 1


I think you all are skipping over the real shocker in this episode. Did anyone else pause at the scene where they they show the incorrect code in the science lab? It turns out they are all programming in low level C. :[

This is grim trek indeed. Though it could explain why the holodeck and other equipment malfunctions so frequently and spectacularly.
posted by Balna Watya at 9:50 PM on October 1 [17 favorites]


On the Glenn... what was up with dead crewmember's "The Scream" faces? Byproduct of a particular method of spine removal?

The visuals: very WH40k/Space Hulk.

I like that they have physical knobs and buttons (that look like they're from modern high end audio equipment), and that the away team wears body armour and that backpacks exist.

Remember how Q tries to embarrass Picard et al. at Farpoint by bringing up brutal Terran authoritarian governments (1980's, 1990's Eugenics Wars, 2026 - 2053 WWIII)?

Maybe ST:Discovery is saying that the Federation did many horrible things that TOS+ were embarrassed to admit leading to the sanitized Federation of TNG (although with some dark regretables*; kinda like a modern day Germany who quashes Nazi activities with prejudice).

"Biology is just physics on a quantum level" isn't wrong, but the spore thing feels kind of silly. Although wasn't there a TNG episode where an alien world had a control room with windows/doors that lead to a rotating cycle of different very far away places?

*I feel like there are at least a few examples, but the only one that comes to mind is the "phasing cloaking device" in contravention of treaty against developing cloaking technology, the episode that gave us Thomas Riker. Or maybe sending Picard, Worf, and Crusher to destroy a Cardassian bioweapons facility (which is complete nonsense) that gave us "There. Are. FOUR. Lights."
posted by porpoise at 9:50 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


what was up with dead crewmember's "The Scream" faces?

I liked that part. It implied that the disaster that befell the Glenn was some quantum effect of spore travel. The spiral marks on the ship were echoed in the spiral distortions of the bodies, implying that there was some sudden "whoops!" and everyone was looking at their own asses.
posted by fatbird at 9:54 PM on October 1 [8 favorites]


I do love that this early Federation is well, ugly. It's messy and weird and dark and no one gets along cause they're literally establishing all the rules and best practices that other people will follow in the benign utopia of a hundred years later.

Like that feels super utopian and uplifting to me, in the reality where we have to maybe set the guidelines to avoid complete collapse that we wont see the outcomes of.
posted by The Whelk at 10:44 PM on October 1 [6 favorites]


I haven't watched the episode yet, but

If this conforms to the TOS/TNG timeline, the Discovery is doomed to failure in at least this part of its mission.

Not necessarily! We could be in for more space newts! Oh, wait, Braga's over at the Orville now. No salamander babies in Discovery's future I guess.

I do love that this early Federation is well, ugly. It's messy and weird and dark and no one gets along cause they're literally establishing all the rules and best practices that other people will follow in the benign utopia of a hundred years later.

That struck me as what Fuller wanted to do with the anthology structure he planned, use this season to establish the basis of all the other stories to come. But now it'll be a more extended take on the theme instead now I guess.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:53 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Although wasn't there a TNG episode where an alien world had a control room with windows/doors that lead to a rotating cycle of different very far away places?

Iconians, 'demons of wind and fire.' They never worked out how those worked, but the technology was fundamentally and catastrophically incompatible with TNG-era computers, causing them to self destruct.
posted by mordax at 11:40 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


fundamentally and catastrophically incompatible with TNG-era computers, causing them to self destruct

TNG Trek Federation had (top secert) proscription against executing the kind of physical manipulation that we see here (remember when Fed ships were restricted in speed because warp drives were tearing instabilities in the fabric of the universe?).

Nah.
posted by porpoise at 12:09 AM on October 2


Half way through and I'm really enjoying this episode so far. Lot's of excellent little touches, most notably just making a Trek Starship feel lived in, full, and of greater purpose than can be noted from the bridge alone. Touches like having the ship PA make announcements of non-plot driven purpose that show the workings of a whole crew, security details actually functioning as such as background and calling attention to the attitude of the ship, crew members that aren't all cut from the same cloth with simply quirky details added for flavor and so on.

These are the kind of things that the old Trek shows couldn't really do for budgetary reasons, but were sorely needed to give better sense of the Federation and Starfleet. It, necessarily, takes some of the brightest optimism from the show, since some of that came from the narrowness of focus in the previous shows, but it builds a better sense of the difficulties and complexities of seeking those kinds of value.

Some of the dialogue was quite enjoyable as well. Saru's walk and talk with Michael being pleasant in an appealing manner, then he drops the hammer with his "I intend to protect my captain better than you did yours." line on Michael, without added emphasis or even malice to really give it weight.

The multi-character exchange between Lorca, Saru and Stamets also drew a smile on Saru's calm appraisal of Burnham that has to start with "Her mutiny aside" but got an actual laugh after Saru says "She's the smartest Starfleet officer I have ever known." when Lorca volleys that to Stamets saying, "and he knows you." I'm always a fan of multi-character/multipurpose writing like that.

Now to finish the episode...
posted by gusottertrout at 1:23 AM on October 2 [7 favorites]


Can we just go straight to calling it "grimtrek"?

In the grim darkness of the 23rd century, there is only war (if peaceful negotiation fails).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:33 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Such a great idea to have had Burnham know Alice in Wonderland through Amanda. Really clever writing to have that be the book Amanda would choose to read to Michael and "her son" since it so perfectly shows the way logic can be twisted and shouldn't be trusted as a end of its own. That adds a wonderful layer of depth to an old character, Amanda, in seeing that need, and is a more than welcome touch for a character coming from Vulcan like Michael. Top grades for that idea.

I'm more ambivalent about some of the attempts to maintain a sense of current moment for the show, referencing things like The Beatles, temps, assigned seats and so on, and just in some general demeanor moments like the security chief addressing the prisoners in terms like "garbage" more suited to current pop culture than one might like. These kinds of things, more attenuated to "now", seems both purposeful in tying the show more tightly to our own era and distracting in feeling a bit too close to be on point for a show set in a future Federation. It feels a little too loose for Trek in that manner, even as the fluidity of the dialogue is welcome. It's a minor but noticeable bother at the moment, but with some concern felt that it may grow, particularly with Tilly and Stamets, who have been the most "current" seeming characters so far.

Both those characters though are more in line with our usual perspective of Starfleet as seen in the previous shows, so there is some sense they are using currency to further build connection with those two characters and show the growth and importance of their values. Both characters are, by the way, still enjoyable, I just would like them to dial back the emphasis a bit. I worry Tilly will dip too far into cliche if they don't pull back a bit. Stamets is less concerning in that regard, though, as with Saru, you don't want to see him become too much a one note character. I suspect they'll avoid that, but it's still a bit worrisome. Is Stamets gay? I'm getting the sense that might be something they're also hinting at. I also continue to enjoy Saru, so no complaints about him other than them needing to continue to pull back from the "worries about danger guy" thing now that they've established that.

A "redshirt" taken out first episode! I'm figuring that was both done for the sake of the redshirt concept in addition to any suspense it might have generated. I don't think they'll shy away from deaths on the show, obviously, but I'm guessing they won't be quite so clearly demarcated going in from now on.

I'm liking the Michael and Lorca relationship quite a bit, but I do hope they won't go too far into Lorca being a horrible man since that would dull the edge of the tension between values by making it too easy to see the lines. I'm hoping for the kind of moderate subtlety shown in their conversation when Lorca convinces Burnham to stay becomes the guideline.

Space fungus tying the universe together is a lot of fun. They sort of gesture towards Dune in this and have a bit of Alien already in the creature on the ship. Nodding towards influences but not overdoing it is where I hope they remain, but it could get close as in the pretty conventional prisoners fighting among themselves and Burnham kicking butt thing.

I just have to wonder now if their experimenting with transwarp enabling space fungus actually does change people into beastly creatures now. Is it amphibious? Maybe Braga's influence isn't forgotten! And I thought I was joking earlier.

Still a lot of questions to be answered and maybe some character issues to nitpick, like would Burnham really break into that sealed off lab area given what else we'd seen of the character in her depressed state? I mean she's obviously still going to be curious, but that kind of action runs against her I can't do anything attitude of the moment. Wouldn't she also be a bit more concerned about how Lorca got her onto the ship? It'd be one thing if it were just the prison ship being waylaid, but it did seem to kill their shuttle pilot too. Might want to get that part straightened out before joining.

It's a bit of an odd crew for Lorca to choose with Saru not only coming from Georgiou's ship, but being the dedicated, completely honest seeming, danger worrying guy he is feels like an odd match for Lorca, Tilly too, but she's, I guess, the best in her field, so maybe it will all make more sense once we get to know more about Lorca.

Lot's of really nice visual moments in this episode, Lorca's intro was good, the prisoner shuttle, some of the scenes of and on the other starship, the name of which I've forgotten for the moment, also were really strong. I'm liking the look of the show, at least in the more stable moments, quite a bit so far.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:38 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I have nothing of real value to add except to say that I am intrigued. I'm glad they managed to pull off a strong third episode as I know not everyone was sold with the first two pilot episodes.
posted by liquorice at 3:22 AM on October 2


Ah, I see they'd already established Amanda read Spock Alice, of course they would have, so no points to Discovery for the invention, but I'll still give them full credit for realizing the use of the follow through.

Just goes to show show my Trek memories aren't up to hardcore Trekkies standards I guess. But, hey, at least I googled it to check once I thought about it some more, so maybe I won't get kicked out of the viewing club yet?
posted by gusottertrout at 3:58 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Was it just me, or did the clear room that Michael was placed in to illustrate the potential of the spores, look and feel very much like a proto holodeck?

I liked this episode a lot more than the pilot, but am a tad uncomfortable with the new Cadets disability status.

The two pilot Eps do feel more like an extended prologue now. glad I watched them, but it feels like 'I had to show you *this* for you to understand *this*."

Context is for kings Indeed.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:01 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I liked this episode a lot more than the pilot, but am a tad uncomfortable with the new Cadets disability status.

She didn't say see was disabled; she said she had 'special needs'. Specifically, she's allergic to polyester, so she snores.

In an age of replicators, it's hard to see why anyone would be sleeping on polyester sheets though.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:14 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I apologise. The way it was said it felt to me as if the Cadet's Special Needs are not necessarily related to her material allergies.

I guess we shall see if that aspect of the Cadet is explored / expanded upon on in later episodes. I just hope it's not a 'All Neuro-atypical people are comically quirky' character.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:28 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I apologise. The way it was said it felt to me as if the Cadet's Special Needs are not necessarily related to her material allergies.

Well, it's possible that her grimdark colleagues are allergic to earnestness.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:35 AM on October 2 [10 favorites]


Orange is the New Redshirt
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:12 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


It's a bit of an odd crew for Lorca to choose with Saru not only coming from Georgiou's ship, but being the dedicated, completely honest seeming, danger worrying guy he is feels like an odd match for Lorca

Perhaps Lorca recognizes he needs a complementary first officer. ...like Spock served for Captain Kirk.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:40 AM on October 2 [1 favorite]


Can we just go straight to calling it "grimtrek"?

Dark Trek, surely
posted by leotrotsky at 6:41 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Perhaps Lorca recognizes he needs a complementary first officer. ...like Spock served for Captain Kirk.

Maybe, but if Lorca is doing things that skirt the boundaries of accepted law or Federation standards, then a bunch of goody-two-shoes types as his crew would seem to pose a problem, though it was said that Lorca doesn't fear what most people do, so the gung ho bit might account for it too.

I forgot to add earlier that it was also interesting that Lorca's family was in the fortune cookie business, not only for the basic irony involved for Michael, but how that perhaps signals a faux option compared to the more authentic values set by Captain Georgiou aboard the Shenzhou. That's a bit of a touchy analogy they'd be making, but it seems like that's the idea.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:12 AM on October 2


Worse than low-level C, it referenced the NT kernel. There's grim dark and then there's..
posted by joeyh at 7:18 AM on October 2 [10 favorites]


Too Dark Trek for my tastes. Whatever this is, it is not very Star Trek-y. I guess I will have to make do with The Orville for optimistic utopian space opera. I know that everything is grim-dark nowadays and the general consensus seems to be that between global warming, renewed cold-war bullshit, and social upheaval and havoc world-wide, that the future is going to be dark and grim. But dammit, Jim, I miss the happy post-scarcity utopia of Star Trek. Do we really need an evil Star Fleet that is willing embrace war crimes (that really seems to be the way it is going) and forbidden weapons? Abuse of prisoners? Star Fleet personnel who are willing to turn a blind eye to prisoners beating the snot out of each other? Complete lack of care about the shuttle pilot being lost? (couldn't they even had a throw-away line about attempting a rescue, or recovering the body?).

Anyways, aside from my annoyances at the general idea of weather this is in the spirit of Star Trek or not, I enjoyed this episode as a space opera show. It just seems to be more at home in the Expanse, BSG, or B5 universes. I thought the space-fungus was dumb. The programming thing was super-dumb. They still need people to hand-edit and error-check basic shit like that in the future? Shouldn't A.I. be able to handle low-level stuff like that? We are pretty well on the cusp of having A.I. do that now.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:37 AM on October 2 [4 favorites]


So, here is my crazy, off-the-wall theory... The space fungus is what they call midichlorians in the Trek Universe. They are finally going to link the long-long-ago of Star Wars with the future of Star Trek!
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:40 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I liked this episode OK, particularly the production and implicit world building. I'm fine with Grim Trek. I'm excited for Lorca. He and his security officer are a bit too mustache-twirling so far. Earnest science boy is already too much and Tilly is kind of a weird nuWesley. Presumably they'll all calm down into their roles. The setup with Michael is exciting and reminds me of the tension that Star Trek Voyager started off with, with the Maquis. But Voyager only kept that up for, what, seven episodes?

The part of this show I hated was the climax action sequence on the other ship. Really, a scary monster in the dark? Flashing strobe lights? That's the best they could come up with? Also I like the whole "Lorca staged a jailbreak to get his officer" thing except.. Didn't they murder a prison shuttle pilot? That seems like a bit much.

Screenshot of the code; it's worse than you think. It's not just C, it's not just the NT kernel. It's the 32 bit NT kernel, and complete with Hungarian notation.
posted by Nelson at 9:05 AM on October 2 [6 favorites]


Complete lack of care about the shuttle pilot being lost? (couldn't they even had a throw-away line about attempting a rescue, or recovering the body?)

Or that it was an empty space-suit, all part of the theatre needed to have the shuttle rescued by the ship.... They could retcon the problem away in a later episode if they really wanted to.
posted by cardboard at 9:18 AM on October 2 [1 favorite]


My feeling was that the first two episodes existed primarily to drive home the point that what we're getting is different--set-up a starship situation that seems like typical star trek, promote the series with the Shengzhou and Georgiou, pull the rug out from under us.

I still feel that all of this would have worked really, really well and actually been pretty cool if it were a normal network (or even netflix or hulu) show but from what I've seen, 90% of the chatter online is about how all access sucks* and nobody will be paying for it. I can only imagine how the buzz would have been about spoilers and twistiness and Trek building something innovative--and it is, I feel like the closest comp-title moodwise is, like, Westworld? But as it is, I have convinced like none of either the Trek fans or the general scifi fans I know to watch, and that's a damn shame.


*All access continues to crash on our roku, which is really fucking annoying. We're watching on our laptop and I sure am grumpy about it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 AM on October 2 [3 favorites]


I really enjoyed this episode (except for much of the Glenn portion) and I liked it a lot more than the first two.

The grimtrek thing is interesting to me because I am not sure what I think. I do feel, though, that DS9 established a more gritty tone in this franchise and that's many years later than this. I agree that optimism is essential to Trek, but on the other hand I looked forward to and enjoyed DS9 because I wanted some more realism and less plastic, shiny, happy TNG.

In other words, I have some hope that this show threads that needle, but I understand why people have concerns.

Nevertheless, the interpersonal tension is very compelling to me, most of why I think this episode worked.

I, too, was upset that nothing was said about the shuttle pilot. I would have thought Micheal at least would have asked if they'd beamed the pilot aboard.

I really like Tilly. A lot. She doesn't give me Wesley vibes -- he was annoying because he was both a prodigy and smug about it. Tilly's social insecurity offsets that. I was totally charmed by her awkward "here's something most people don't know about me: I'm going to be a captain". If Wesley had said that, it would have been insufferable. But Tilly is the very model of the good-hearted maladroit, confident in her abilities and ambitions but not confident about how to assert or even express herself.

Also, I felt that Tilly is a more Trek-like element in the mix. I guess in terms of both some light comedy, but also just her sunniness.

The first obvious redshirt was kind of funny. I agree that this was deliberate -- the writers knew we'd all be saying "That guy? He's going to get killed". And he was.

The ostentatiously twinkling stars seen in space annoyed me . . . but, again, Trek isn't about scientific plausibility. Space energy fungus. Uh-huh. Okay.

I would have expected the TOS phasers to seem like the 60s SF props they are. But somehow, they look fine to me.

The tribble is intriguing. In TTwT, they seemed unknown to the Federation and I'm thinking that Lorca has gotten ahold of one because he knows that Klingons freak out around them. Just another thing he's collected in his fighting of this war. And all of Lorca's stuff is, in the end, going to be shoved down a Starfleet memory-hole when this is all said and done.

I know Nu-Trek included an Andorian, but I want one on this show.

I was surprised that the killer convict didn't somehow remain on the ship. He was a familiar actor and the show for some reason had him deliberately not involving himself in the fight, which I thought was revealing.

All in all, I'm pretty excited about Discovery. The theme song and opening credits are growing on me. All it will take to make me love it is to include some more exploration and wonder and optimistic stuff now and then, while also following this wartime story. That mix would work very well for me and would feel very in keeping with the Trek tradition, given DS9.

PhoBWanKenobi did you get my memail about your Roku problem?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:28 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I was surprised that the killer convict didn't somehow remain on the ship

I was sure the convict who started the fight was going to figure more (*). Too lazy to look up his name, but he was also on The Expanse for two-three episodes, a minor but important recurring character. They wrote him off though.

(*) WTH? "We're in a crowded mess hall full of military officers. Let's start a fight with a badly thrown punch across a table!"

90% of the chatter online is about how all access sucks

Yeah. The other thing to worry about is Bryan Fuller's unceremonious departure as showrunner. CBS really has done everything they can to fuck this show up. And yet somehow, the first three episodes are all pretty good.
posted by Nelson at 10:38 AM on October 2


I did, Ivan, thank you! I appreciate the offer. Right now we're going to try to continue to duke it out with All Access but if it becomes untenable I'll probably take you up on it.

Mostly I'm just going to continue complaining about it because I think at this rate, with this reaction from fans and viewers, this is very likely to get what is a very strong show writing-wise and premise-wise canceled.

The darkness here feels in line with DS9 and also certain entries in the movie franchise (II, VI, hmm, Nemesis?). I think it's interesting to have both this and The Orville simultaneously because The Orville really is doing what was comforting about TNG, and I appreciate it. I'm hoping it will end up like TNG with a greater nod to continuity (I feel like it's already doing more soapy stuff with Bortus and his husband than we got with several seasons of the O'briens), while meanwhile we'll get a series with a deeper potential for art and innovation in Discovery. "Context is for kings" is a beautiful deconstruction of the moral simplicity of a lot of Trek.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


It's very much in line with what DS9 explored. The difference is that DS9 had outsiders slowly discovering the darker side of the organization they worked for, and that darker side stayed on the periphery. Here, the darker side seems to be the main characters and the main plot.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:23 AM on October 2 [4 favorites]


I really enjoyed this episode. Burnham finally took shape for me. It feels like Discovery is exploring the Federation's other face, a la DS9 -- and I think when Lorca says Starfleet gave him carte blanche, he's really talking about Section 31. Something about Lorca's mannerisms reminds me of Sloan; he exudes that same menacing confidence, but it's entirely possible he doesn't know who's really backing the Discovery's project.

So I think Section 31 is in play and I'm not convinced that fungus isn't also a bioweapon. Its transwarp function is a great cover for seeding the quadrant with it, after which its more nefarious properties could be activated when enemy ships pass through the net. And the project isn't necessarily doomed to failure; the tech could just be banned by the end of the war. (It would also possibly explain how Section 31 extracted Bashir from his quarters without leaving any detectable transporter signatures in "Inquisition.")

The notion that the Federation maintains/ed a shadow org like the Obsidian Order or the Tal Shiar is really compelling. It'll be a hard line for the show to walk, but I'd like to see how Section 31's rationales stand up against Burnham's principles and Vulcan logic. If Section 31 isn't already entirely underground (I thought that shiny black badge might have been one of theirs), I suspect whatever goes down in this war will force them there.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 11:28 AM on October 2 [10 favorites]


Fish, Fish, have you noticed the Naval Construction Contract number for Discovery?

The ship is NCC-1031.
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on October 2 [16 favorites]


The tribble is intriguing. In TTwT, they seemed unknown to the Federation and I'm thinking that Lorca has gotten ahold of one because he knows that Klingons freak out around them.

Yes! That occurred to me as well.

The continuity in this episode and call backs to other series were fantastic. From Sarek's wife Amanda to the Vulcan martial art Sus Mana (first mentioned on Enterprise) to the list of locations when Burnham is in the box (including the mining facility on Janus VI! Horta! TOS' "Devil in the Dark!") it's obvious that the writers know the Trek universe very well.
posted by zarq at 12:20 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


I read somewhere that the writers really, really care about this working with the existing canon, and it shows. I got a little shiver at the idea of Michael growing up with young Spock. He's about 4 years off from joining Starfleet right now, right?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:23 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


No. Spock is most likely already serving on the Enterprise at this point.

I don't remember the current year in Discovery. But per memory alpha Spock served with the Enterprise under Captain PIke for over 11 years before Kirk took command in 2265. If this show is supposed to be take place about 10 years prior to the events of TOS, then Spock is already an officer on the Enterprise NCC-1701. (No bloody "A", "B", "C" or "D".)
posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


Hmm, checking, Memory Alpha says that this is set in 2256, and that Spock joined Starfleet in 2250. Which means that the flashbacks with Sarek delivering Michael to the Shengzhou are set in 2249. Seems weird to shit a brick when one child joins Starfleet a year after handing over your other to the same people.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:45 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


The ship is NCC-1031.

We're down the rabbitwormhole, people!
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:45 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


The grimtrek thing is interesting to me because I am not sure what I think. I do feel, though, that DS9 established a more gritty tone in this franchise and that's many years later than this. I agree that optimism is essential to Trek, but on the other hand I looked forward to and enjoyed DS9 because I wanted some more realism and less plastic, shiny, happy TNG.

I've talked about this before, but I like the grimmer, grittier Trek because I love Trek for its optimism. All too often, Trek posits that the future is bright and shiny - racial equality! No hunger! No money! No rat race, just personal development! - and I want to live in that future... but they don't show how we're supposed to get from here to there, not even within the fantastical constraints of the Trek universe. Like... sure, these people are great, but what's the map?

One of the running themes in DS9 was how we're supposed to reject authoritarianism and paranoia even in the face of the sort of conspiracy stuff that crazy right-wingers believe in: there were literal doppelgangers conducting bombings on Earth proper, and some people wanted to use that to establish martial law, and our plucky heroes were against that, and still successful through a mix of war and diplomacy. They got their idealistic conclusion: peace, understanding, renewed alliance with the Klingons, and they got it the right way even though others wanted to take shortcuts and commit genocide with bioweapons.

To me, grappling with that is better and richer storytelling than just handwaving the road to utopia, and more honest about what even a supposed paradise might look like. Even in a place like the Federation, there are going to be people like Sloan or Lorca, and it's our job to oppose them. I like that.

tl;dr: Michael rebuffing Lorca over bioweapons was the moment when Discovery won me over, but having that moment required Lorca to be morally gray. If they all got along, I admit I'd still be pretty meh over this show.
posted by mordax at 1:09 PM on October 2 [15 favorites]


(At the same time, if they took the position that Lorca was right, I would hate it too - that's too BSG/40K/etc. for me to enjoy as part of Star Trek. Wrong message.)
posted by mordax at 1:11 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


Seems weird to shit a brick when one child joins Starfleet a year after handing over your other to the same people.

Delivering a woman he fostered from a child back to her own people was probably somewhat easier than watching his son reject all things Vulcan, I'm guessing.
posted by zarq at 1:11 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


(At the same time, if they took the position that Lorca was right, I would hate it too - that's too BSG/40K/etc. for me to enjoy as part of Star Trek. Wrong message.)

I suspect we're going to see a lot of shades of gray from this point forward. Burnham's actions started a war and resulted in her Captain's death and (at least at this point,) that of 8000 other people. She's clearly conflicted about what happened.

Lorca wants to win the war. He may not be developing a weapon, but if perfected it can be used as one. So what happens when the opportunity arises?
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


I was sure the convict who started the fight was going to figure more (*). Too lazy to look up his name, but he was also on The Expanse for two-three episodes, a minor but important recurring character. They wrote him off though.

It's the protomolecule, all the way down. :D

The person you are referring to is Elias Toufexis. He played a character on The Expanse named Kenzo Gabriel.
The second convict's name was Stone. He is Conrad Pla, and played Colonel Janus on The Expanse.
Grace Lynn Kung played one of the other convicts. named "Psycho" in the credits. She was also in The Expanse. (She played Doris in a very memorable set of scenes in Season 2.)
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on October 2 [12 favorites]


Grayness will surely be something they work with as it helps define the conflicts Michael will be facing. Making them too clear would steal the tension from them and/or lend the show a sense of weightlessness that isn't coming from being set in space. Some of the worst of the old Trek came their preachy didactic side, where moral dilemmas meant mostly correcting aliens of the error of their ways and the uniformity of perspective and often simplicity of character could really grate on the nerves at the worst of times.

In the best of times, however, there was more complexity in character and situation, with many of the episodes people tend to claim as their most loved from the franchise being fairly gray or even downright grim in their outlook. Discovery is more an extended multi-part episode then it is like the Trek seasons in the old sense.

If this show does end darkly, with Michael rejecting the ideals of the other series, then I'd think it'd be wrong for Trek and grimdark just to follow trends. If, on the other hand, things are building towards a similar sense of optimism the other series had as their base, then I wouldn't see Discovery necessarily as grim unless only compared to the lightest of the old episodes.

Discovery has broadened the focus from the older shows set on a ship's bridge where we followed a handful of strongly delineated characters with minimal flaws. Expanding the point of view requires added complexity of perspective which will certainly make the show seem less unified than the older series, but with characters like Georgiou, Tilly, Saru, and Stamets already showing much of the old Trek values as central to their characters I don't see the grimmer scenario happening, too much Trek history and purpose seems already baked in for Michael or the show to turn away from that.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:42 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


In the bit where Lorca was talking to Burnham in the box full of blue bits there was a bit when I really felt that Jon Hamm could have stood in for Isaacs and done a better job of selling the ideas to get Burnham on board. Oddly, after the episode my SO said something similar.

I felt they made a better fist of Saru in this episode, he seemed more interesting and more credible as a character.

A fracking cylon on the crew?

Will we get to learn more about Officer Daft Punk?

No one has mentioned the breath print as yet. Which surprises me as it seemed particularly rubbish.
posted by biffa at 2:03 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


Wait no I should have called it Orange is the New Trek

what was I thinking
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:50 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


I still feel that all of this would have worked really, really well and actually been pretty cool if it were a normal network (or even netflix or hulu) show but from what I've seen, 90% of the chatter online is about how all access sucks* and nobody will be paying for it.

Agree. People will not let it go that they have to pay to see it, and I think it particularly grinds gears because the rest of the world gets it through Netflix. That in combination with Orville starting around the same time has really screwed around with the atmosphere of a debuting new Trek show.
posted by liquorice at 3:21 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


The person you are referring to is Elias Toufexis. He played a character on The Expanse named Kenzo Gabriel.

He's also the voice actor for Adam Jensen in the more recent Deus Ex games.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:57 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I liked how Michael's prison jumpsuit was command gold. Orange is the new command color, apparently.
posted by surlyben at 5:12 PM on October 2


Did lorca have a gorn skeleton in his monster keeping office?
posted by Ferreous at 5:54 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


This show feels a lot like Mass Effect to me, and I don't think it's just the lighting and the sound track. It's a bit more military, they're on a secret spaceship with a lot more non-human aliens around, there was a chase scene with a scary monster....

I'm not complaining at all; I'm enjoying the show. It's just a little bit different of a flavor.
posted by JDHarper at 6:06 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


After a long tradition of evil admirals, it's about time we had an evil captain. After all, the admirals had to come from somewhere, right?
posted by speicus at 6:17 PM on October 2 [15 favorites]


Delivering a woman he fostered from a child back to her own people was probably somewhat easier than watching his son reject all things Vulcan, I'm guessing.

Also, Burnham joined Starfleet after graduating from the Vulcan Science Academy, while Spock declined an invitation to the Vulcan Science Academy (at least in the Abrams-verse, not sure if that was ever made explicit in the main timeline) to attend Starfleet Academy instead. That may play into Sarek's differential feelings judgment regarding the two.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:45 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I was also kind of annoyed that Saru referred to the events of the previous episode as "the battle of the binary stars" (which, I know was the title of the previous episode, but I didn't mind quite as much when it was only an episode title, and it's only in this episode that it's described as such on screen).

There are many many many binary stars in the galaxy. In fact, it was until recently thought that binary star systems could make up a majority of star systems in the galaxy. More recent analysis has reduced the estimate percentage, but they still make up a significant number of star systems in the galaxy — possibly in the billions. Given that, wouldn't the binary star system in question have a name, and the battle referred to by that name?

"Battle of the Binary Stars" is like if, instead of referring to the Battle of New Orleans, we called it "Battle of the City."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:00 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


Well, the Klingons call it the "Battle of Manassas."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:08 PM on October 2 [8 favorites]


So yeah, I enjoyed it. I'm sort of torn on the timeline being more or less concurrent with recent TOS history, on the other hand it's a fun, not quite so domineering time for the United Federation of Planets. I know people have this weirdly platonic idea for Trek, who would be happy as could be to consume series after series of Extruded Trek Product in which the crew discusses the true meaning of flower arrangement on tau ceti B before having a flute concerto in ten forward, but to deny that Trek has had numerous wars and conflicts, and to see how Starfleet manages to retain whatever semblance of identity it has developed in challenging circumstances? Yes please, give me more.
posted by Kyol at 7:25 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


Complete lack of care about the shuttle pilot being lost? (couldn't they even had a throw-away line about attempting a rescue, or recovering the body?).

I can't help but feel that in any setting – past, present, or future – if a prison transport leaves one prison with four prisoners (one of whom is a notorious criminal responsible for thousands of deaths) and turns up at its destination with only three and a different pilot, questions would be asked.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:24 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


This show feels a lot like Mass Effect to me

Pity that they couldn't have gotten Martin Sheen to play Lorca; drink in one hand, cigarette in the other...
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:33 PM on October 2 [6 favorites]


... yeah Lorca does seem a little over the top.

The thing is - are we expecting the role of The Captain (Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisko) to be Lorca for this series?

or Michael Burnham?

I don't think anyone has mentioned it here, William Gibson's Neuromancer ends with a description of a woman named Michael for some reason.

... or is this to get around retcon and have female Federation heroes - they just happened to have names that we (now) erroneously presumed to be gender indicating.
posted by porpoise at 10:11 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


are we expecting the role of The Captain to be Lorca

I've seen it expressed elsewhere that this show is purposefully supposed to be not about a captain, but about a first officer. I guess the best approximation would be The West Wing: Lorca shows up periodically to unfuck the crew but retains an air of narrative superiority.

Whether or not this approach is accurate or works? Who knows, but it seems worth trying.
posted by fatbird at 10:31 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Well, at least so far it's definitely not an ensemble show like other Star Treks, where various characters often have their own independent plotlines and episodes that barely intersect. This show seems mostly concerned with Michael's journey and character arc and how the other characters fit into that. I'm not really complaining, but it's definitely a very different storytelling style than we've come to expect.
posted by speicus at 10:43 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Did lorca have a gorn skeleton in his monster keeping office?

without a doubt. I think the tribble thing is both a fan service breadcrumb intended to signal that this guy's all about boojums, damn the regs, and a direct anchor for the eventual, we-know-it's-coming Harry Mudd episode (or episodes).

Could Stamets be Betazoid? He's got some mighty dark eyes.

good spotting of the NCC-1031 number!

My wife and I were so distracted by Isaacs' presumably inadvertent Hamm-iness that we've started to call Captain Lorca "Don". We might just go with that, but as a title of authority, Don Lorca.

Given the clear attention to literary antecedent in the story structure - space mushrooms and Alice - one must assume the captain's name is intended to direct us to the works of his namesake, Federico Garcia Lorca, a poet who was asassinated by Franco's Nationalist (fascist) forces early in the Spanish Civil War.

The other structural thing I noticed is that the space mushrooms are, literally, the fairy roads of European mythos, roughly as seen in pop-culture works over the past 75 years in places such as Moorcock and Susanna Clarke - Lorca here is the erlking, offering Michael the chance to walk between worlds on hidden silver strands, to come dance with him in his majestic and eternal ballroom.

I did not dig the shushin' Klingon. Where is his ship? Was he the only one? Apparently. Weak.
posted by mwhybark at 11:38 PM on October 2 [8 favorites]


There were dead Klingon on the ship.
posted by liquorice at 11:43 PM on October 2


yes, I did see that. to clarify: was he the only survivor? apparently. weak.
posted by mwhybark at 11:47 PM on October 2


On the Glenn... what was up with dead crewmember's "The Scream" faces?

That reminded me of both Futurama Boneitis guy and the Drrrr-Drrrr people in roughly equal and unsettling proportion.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:52 PM on October 2


Note that earnest-scientist Stamets shares a name with real-world-mycologist Paul Stamets. I'm kind of wincing at how they're going to gay him. I mean yay for LGBT representation! But so far he's so annoying, well, maybe they'll soften that.

Speaking of identity politics, was I the only one getting a strong racism vibe from how they played the scenes of Michael trying to integrate with the Discovery crew? Particularly the horrible scene where Tilly tells her the engineering station is taken. In the story there's plenty of non-racist reason for the Federation folks to hate her. But I was thinking the director sort of also used the racial distinction as a way to sell the emotion a bit more strongly.
posted by Nelson at 11:59 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


Worth linking: Gorn at Memory Alpha.

I first linked into the Memory Beta Gorn entry, which goes into non-canon detail about Gorn biology including egg-based sauroid reproduction and realized... there are two dead Gorn babies lying on one of the worktables in the lab where we see the skeleton, in the right foreground of the shot.
posted by mwhybark at 12:06 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Lorca is being established so much like one of the franchise's Evil Officers (e.g. Pressman from TNG: "The Pegasus" or Ransom from VOY: "Equinox") that, if his storyline is resolved by Captain Pike showing up and giving a speech, I will laugh and applaud the show's chutzpah.

Speaking of stylistic callbacks: did y'all catch the name of the next episode?: "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry." Still not the longest Trek episode title, but well played nonetheless.

So after seeing this one, I'm still firmly in the camp of "I'll watch it if I don't have to pay for it." As I mentioned in the last thread, All Access begged me to stay for a free month, so I figured what the hell. Unfortunately, I almost exactly predicted the whole Lorca hook; fortunately, they seem to have gotten all of that out of the way pretty quickly, and the rest of the season feels a lot less predictable now. I like, for instance, that I have no friggin' clue how they're gonna bring in Harry Mudd.

But while it's become a more interesting sci-fi show as of this episode, it's still not living up to TV Trek standards IMO. (Of course, neither did Enterprise for most of its run, and I have to give DSC points for being bolder than ENT.) Anthony Rapp (Stamets) has said "that he thought Discovery shared "DNA" with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Yeah, we'll see. So far, I'm still getting a Generic Network Drama vibe overall.

was I the only one getting a strong racism vibe from how they played the scenes of Michael trying to integrate with the Discovery crew?

I didn't get that at the time—the episode made it very clear how infamous she is—but now that you mention it, it probably would've been good to have more highly-visible non-white Discovery crewmembers among those glaring and whispering.

I'm kind of wincing at how they're going to gay him. I mean yay for LGBT representation! But so far he's so annoying, well, maybe they'll soften that.

This I agree with. And I will fucking punch this show in the face if it turns out that Stamets' much-touted openly gay relationship was just with his dead "friend" on the Glenn. That's the sort of panicky and prejudiced network interference that would, well, induce a showrunner to quit.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:38 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Oh, and a couple of continuity things:

The continuity in this episode and call backs to other series were fantastic. From Sarek's wife Amanda to the Vulcan martial art Sus Mana (first mentioned on Enterprise) to the list of locations when Burnham is in the box (including the mining facility on Janus VI! Horta! TOS' "Devil in the Dark!") it's obvious that the writers know the Trek universe very well.

And yet she also sees Romulus, as indicated by Lorca. Starfleet shouldn't recognize Romulus. No human even knows what a Romulan looks like; that was the whole big reveal of TOS: "Balance of Terror." For Lorca to have this foreknowledge would require some very delicate retconning that I can't imagine the writers spending time on, unless the Romulans themselves are to become a faction in this story. Which could happen, I guess.

And regarding the tribbles: given Discovery's bio-science focus, it's entirely possible that tribbles are not yet the ferocious eaters-and-breeders that we will meet later. Perhaps Lorca engineers them to be that way, as stealthy ecological weapons for use against the Klingons (see Worf's tribble discussion in DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations"). Then, of course, Mudd steals one.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:50 AM on October 3 [10 favorites]


I'll throw in my two cents.

I've enjoyed the last three episodes...

But seriously. The writing is abysmal. And it seems to be a function of the writers attempting to sound more literate/intelligent than they are (or are willing to show). Language...

"Reconcile these two suites of code" Um. What?
"I'm struggling with these equations. I thought I was dealing with quantum astrophysics, but as I got deeper in, biochemistry came into play." ... no really, what?
"This line here... ::gestures to 7-8 lines of red-highlighted code, 4-5 of yellow in a sea of blue::" ... for someone who prides herself on precision...

"You mentioned the term "bloom", that typically refers to..." "Are you trying to show everyone how smart you are?" ... where is she using language, terms or inference that's anything other than blindingly obvious here? Is the word bloom now considered a marker of particular eloquence?

"At the quantum level, there is no difference between biology and physics..." ... I'm not sure how to begin deconstructing this. But as a quick sideswipe: they're studies of two different disciplines. ... I'll give the engineer a bit of leeway because he's a Trek engineer explaining "science" and he's supposedly grieving, but still, his dialogue is pretty horrible. "I'm afraid your intentions are less than moot."

"Don't worry about Starfleet, they gave me discretion to fight this war however I saw fit"... really? Who? And under what legal framework? Obviously the writers can find some way to explain this later, but it's the equivalent of a modern prisoner under transport being told by the commander of a Cruiser (one not actually on the front lines, come to think of it) "don't worry, the government told me I can do whatever I want".

Also, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the computer's interjections, aside from "the writer needed to inject exposition and assumed that it would be less jarring from an "electronic" voice. I mean. "The recently departed shuttle is cleared for launch" is something that would be announced in the crew mess? (And I say this agreeing with the poster from the last episode who noted that hearing normal messages randomly in corridors - "Crewman Whoever to the bridge", or what have you - over the Space-1MC made sense... but between "arguing" with the brig in the opener, and the random computer-exposition... ugh)

... and since I didn't make the comment on the last episode, but there's a difference between a "more realistic" or "gritty" tone... and "this doesn't make sense from a practical perspective." ... I'm looking at you, pointlessly-evil-looking-tribunal. (Where was counsel? And if no counsel, why was the room so large? Shanghai'd shuttle bay? Then why the mood lighting?)

... and final complaint (no, really, I am enjoying it. I bitch because I love)... was there a rush to get this produced that nobody learned their lines? Every line of dialogue seems to have a flow of clause... pause... response... pause... response... pause... even while monologuing.
posted by Seeba at 3:26 AM on October 3 [7 favorites]


I would love to see the Tribble actually factor into the ongoing story, but I see no reason to assume it's anything other than a Trek injoke meant to amuse fans. The show is largely shaping up to be Michael's Story and all the other characters are depicted as they relate to Michael. So Lorca isn't the show's captain, he's the shadowy obstacle that Michael has to figure out. Tilly isn't Eager Young Officer, she's a foil for Michael. This is very unlike Trek's ensemble origins and I think that's the main reason it rubs me the wrong way.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:21 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


I gotta say I'm a bit surprised by the reaction to Stamets so far. I enjoyed the character, other than some of his dialogue seeming a little too 2017. He's the only one who isn't buying what Lorca is selling and, as far as he's concerned, Lorca represents Starfleet, and therefore Michael probably does too, so he isn't very warm to her at their meeting. I like his assertiveness and willingness to call out Lorca to his face, and also Lorca's attitude towards Stamets. It's more interesting to me than Tilly's introduction as the character meant to be liked. (Not that I don't like Tilly, I just find her much less interesting than the other crew we've met so far, save the security chief.)

That's a taste thing though, so I get there can be differences of opinion on it. The perceived racial subtext around Michael getting lunch though is harder to figure, not because I don't think it could be there, though I admit I didn't notice it at the time given how close the scene stuck to the good prisoner gets into a fight conventions but that undercurrent was hinted at in Michael's introduction to the lab with Stamets, Tilly, and the others giving her the cold shoulder. That though makes perfect sense for both textual and subtextual understanding of what seem to be the themes of the show so far.

The show has had several scenes suggesting a racial component to the reaction to the Klingons and has played that against Michael's dealings with Starfleet. So the audience can, if they choose, see some alignment between racism of our time and that of theirs. When the Starfleet Admiral chastises Michael for thinking in terms of racial essentialism, it should, I'd think, be jarring as a white guy lecturing a black woman on the concept, but for the text its about Michael being raised by the Vulcans, allowing both our perception of the reality of white and black align with the story as we identify with Michael and feel sure she'll ultimately be in the right. With the mess hall scene the same dynamic is in play. We identify with Michael, so we "know" the distrust of her is misguided, so, if anything, its calling out the wrongness of the initial perception not agreeing with it.

As to Lorca's collection of Gorn, Tribbles and whatnot and how it fits with Trek lore/continuity, I figure this is something like a black ops, off the book vessel, so they are suggesting Lorca's been places and done things that have never made official reports purposefully.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:29 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


I liked the episode. It gave some much-needed meat to the show after the interminable spectacle / origin story of the pilot.

It's definitely more actiony and grimdark than I wanted - but it's kinda working for me. It does seem like the final nails in the coffin for OptimistTrek, though, which makes me sad. At least we have The Orville, imperfect though it may be.

There were some glimmers of (attempts at) humor in this ep - Tilly's awkward earnestness, Michael stealing her snore-drool, a bit of witty repartee. So hopefully it won't be all grimdark, all the time.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:55 AM on October 3


I feel like I don't yet trust this show enough to believe that Lorca will get his comeuppance. I don't yet trust that this show, which calls itself Star Trek, has the core Trek values firmly set enough. I worry that this is a show that thinks the problem with the Pegasus was that not enough of the crew trusted Captain Pressman.
posted by brainwane at 6:01 AM on October 3 [4 favorites]


I don't yet trust that this show, which calls itself Star Trek, has the core Trek values firmly set enough.

If Star Trek were a literal religion, and I was a believer, this might be a concern for me. As it is, there's enough there that's intriguing that will keep me watching for the time being. I'm not really looking for TOS or TNG with somewhat better special effects. For that matter, I think that TOS and TNG could be a lot darker than people remember through the haze of nostalgia.

The show is largely shaping up to be Michael's Story and all the other characters are depicted as they relate to Michael. So Lorca isn't the show's captain, he's the shadowy obstacle that Michael has to figure out. Tilly isn't Eager Young Officer, she's a foil for Michael. This is very unlike Trek's ensemble origins and I think that's the main reason it rubs me the wrong way.

Go back and watch the first few episodes of TOS and see how ensemble-y it was. There have been three episodes of DSC so far, and the first two were on another ship that lost most of its crew, including the captain.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:39 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


I figure this is something like a black ops, off the book vessel.

My concern with the whole grim Dark Trek line this show is taking is that it is going to morph into Dr. Mengele's Flying Space Laboratory. The bits and pieces of dead creatures and zoo collection in Lorca's room are not helping.

That probably was Chekhov's Tribble and will tie into the the upcoming Mudd episode and the Klingon hatred for the critters.

I'm betting the great interstellar linked space fungus is actually some sort of interstellar brain creature, and messing with it for travel will trigger some sort of extinction-level retribution from the space fungus, which is why we never see it again.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:37 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


I'm reserving judgement on exactly what to think of Discovery in terms of the Central Tenets of Star Trek, because we're clearly in the earliest part of a season-long arc about personal judgement and moral clarity in the face of larger-than-life events. It feels like we're headed to a personal-slash-ethical crisis seven to nine episodes from now where Michael is going to have to decide whether to mutiny again ('I'm a mutineer, aren't I? I mutiny.'), and Saru, Tilly, etc, are going to have to revisit their assumptions about when such actions might be warranted or unwarranted.

Or not. But Saru's comment about planning to protect his Captain felt a little Chekhov's Gun to me; maybe someone else will mutiny and Michael will be forced into siding with them or not -- maybe there'll be no mutiny at all, and that will stay a simmering undercurrent.

Those are interesting possibilities to be thinking about, and a strength of the move from Trek's traditional Episode of the Week to this more modern sequential storytelling. Not that we're quite there yet -- this felt like the real pilot, not like a third episode.

Speaking of pilots: the pilot's death in the opening scene felt incredibly dissonant. Not so much in a 'this isn't Star Trek' sense (horrible deaths happened on TNG with regularity), but in a real-world people reacting to things sense -- no one on the Discovery even comments on the pilot's absence? There wasn't even a throw-away line? Michael doesn't even ask if they tried to rescue the pilot? It felt like they threw the death (as opposed to, say, incapacity) in to give us the contrast between the panicked other prisoner's and Michael's stoicism -- was she prepared to die? Or did she simply see escape as impossible, and therefore not worth attempting? Was that logic, or was that emotion informing her resigned response? It felt less like the prisoners and crew didn't care about the death -- which I'd be fine with -- than that the show didn't care about the pilot's death, which I'm very much not okay with. It's not as though they were short on time: you could have cut a lot out of the same-as-ever-other-chase-sequence Glenn trip and had room for a brief funeral.

I have some other quibbles with this (breath sensor? Michael just...getting into a booth where spore tests happen, when directed by the captain, after accusing the captain of using the spores to develop bio-weapons? the whole code sequence? the whole mushrooms-but-in-spaaaace tech in general?) but: overall I like where they're going with this, and it felt like a pronounced improvement over the prologue. They even fixed two big gripes I had, viz: unnecessarily swooping cameras / D R A M A T I C angles (we're back to actually letting the camera linger on people talking), and holograms everywhere (we're mostly back to viewscreens, which makes sense and doesn't involve nonexistant people leaning on existant chairs). And they brought Saru back, which, death-sensing aside, I'm stoked for.

(Death-sensing not aside: did anyone else interpret that scene as the prison shuttle being sabotaged to hide Michael's transfer, or similar? Lorca faking Michael's death via shuttle explosion would certainly be one way of getting her off the books, but maybe I misread that, or missed a line that explained Saru's reaction?)

I'm liking Saru; I'm liking Tilly (though I'm worried about where they'll take her character); I'm liking Samet and particularly the slide from 'person who dislikes Michael' to 'person who dislikes this entire situation and therefore is taking it out on everyone,' which felt like an interesting inverse to Michael, who is disliked by everyone. And I'm really digging Michael in this, and particularly -- at least so far -- the slowly-evolving sense of who she is. She's repentant for her act of rebellion, and wants to go back to prison -- and yet immediately breaks into the science lab. I'm hoping that's good writing about a conflicted person, and not bad writing about an inconsistent person; and right now it's feeling like the former.

(I'm not going to go into CBS All Access criticism here, beyond saying, once, that it is some right nonsense and I hope the decision to go all-in on All Access doesn't doom what is proving to be a promising, yet not yet wholly proven, show.)
posted by cjelli at 7:43 AM on October 3 [6 favorites]


Screenshot of the code; it's worse than you think. It's not just C, it's not just the NT kernel. It's the 32 bit NT kernel, and complete with Hungarian notation.

Sometime in the next decade or so we learn that all those extra bits are what is actually warming the planet, so we went back to 32 bit computing and stayed there. Since a century or more had passed before First Contact and Earth was devastated, knowledge of greater bitness has been lost and is not regained until after TOS. Nobody realized before then that once off world, the extra bits aren't in fact a problem since there are magic radiators to dissipate the massive amount of heat generated by the warp drive anyway.
posted by wierdo at 9:02 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


(Death-sensing not aside: did anyone else interpret that scene as the prison shuttle being sabotaged to hide Michael's transfer, or similar? Lorca faking Michael's death via shuttle explosion would certainly be one way of getting her off the books, but maybe I misread that, or missed a line that explained Saru's reaction?)

Cripes, I dunno how I missed that.

*facepalm*
posted by mordax at 9:52 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


To say nothing of the evidently biological nature of the phenomenon that forced the pilot to go EVA in the first place.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:56 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


was I the only one getting a strong racism vibe from how they played the scenes of Michael trying to integrate with the Discovery crew?

I didn't get that at the time—the episode made it very clear how infamous she is—but now that you mention it, it probably would've been good to have more highly-visible non-white Discovery crewmembers among those glaring and whispering.


I am not sure I agree with you folks on this: the scene where her notoriety is referenced directly (Saru is escorting her to her first day of work on Discovery and he comments, "You're famous. They all want a peek."), we see a shot from Burnham's POV, and the two crew gawking at her are definitely POC.

That probably was Chekhov's Tribble

Not to be confused with Chekov's Tribble.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:05 AM on October 3 [4 favorites]


Idle thought: if the away team had actually been quieter, would Shushy Klingon still be alive? That's not a great track record for Michael on accidentally getting Klingons killed (even if the experiments are the Glenn are ultimately more to blame).
posted by cjelli at 11:01 AM on October 3


Chekov's Tribble

Well played!

When the Starfleet Admiral chastises Michael for thinking in terms of racial essentialism, it should, I'd think, be jarring as a white guy lecturing a black woman on the concept, but for the text its about Michael being raised by the Vulcans, allowing both our perception of the reality of white and black align with the story as we identify with Michael and feel sure she'll ultimately be in the right.

I think this specific tension between script-as-story and our 21st-century viewpoint on the script-as-text, which contains gestures and references to things completely outside the world of the show (as do all science fiction and fantasy works, whether by intent or not), must be deliberate.

In particular, while the introduction of the presumably Section-31-specific "Black Alert" occurs as a story beat in-world that primarily serves to imply that the "fireflies" on the prison shuttle could have been associated with the Discovery's secret research, the placement of the phrase itself comes just after Michael has turned her head to bestow a long, cool gaze on Tilly in silent confirmation that she is indeed *that* Michael Burnham, and thus *also* functions as a commentary on the nervousness that *Tilly* has just felt, if understood through our 21st century lens of recieved ideas: the Dangerous Black Person is in the room: "Black Alert!"

This cannot be unintended. It's a pretty complex theme. We'll see how they do.
posted by mwhybark at 12:04 PM on October 3 [4 favorites]


I didn't like the Glenn sequence. If you think about it, though, the problem was probably the direction and not the script. They blundered their way in there, while the writers probably intended a lot more caution. But, whoever is at fault, that just rang false to me. The twisted stuff was cool, though. And the idea of the lone surviving Kilingon getting killed because they forced him out of cover is not a bad idea. But the execution of it was poor. (Though I thought the "shushed" line was funny.)

Lorca is definitely not a "captain" in the sense that previously on Trek the captain was the show's narrative and moral center. I see no reason why there's anything wrong with this, excepting the break from tradition. As people have mentioned, the shady admirals have to come from somewhere. Lorca is one of them. And it makes sense to try to center the show on a lower-ranked character (that doesn't mean it's not going to be ensemble) because the captain-centric approach has some big limitations.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:05 PM on October 3


I didn't like the Glenn sequence. If you think about it, though, the problem was probably the direction and not the script. They blundered their way in there, while the writers probably intended a lot more caution.

What I can't understand, if you're entering a ship full of tiny spores that kill people horribly when you look at them wrong, why the hell aren't they wearing biocontainment suits of some sort?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:09 PM on October 3 [6 favorites]


And yet she also sees Romulus, as indicated by Lorca. Starfleet shouldn't recognize Romulus. No human even knows what a Romulan looks like; that was the whole big reveal of TOS: "Balance of Terror."

I was curious about this, so I looked it up on Memory Alpha. United Earth did fight a war with the Romulans 100 years before the TOS episode. It's just that nobody had seen a Romulan ship since then. (Nobody except maybe for Section 31?)
posted by tobascodagama at 12:10 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


United Earth did fight a war with the Romulans 100 years before the TOS episode.

Yes, but all interactions with Romulans themselves during that war (and thereafter) was done audio-only, as Spock explains in "Balance of Terror." This suggests that no Federation personnel ever went to Romulus—if they had, Earth folks would have known that they shared ancestry with Vulcans. Section 31, of course, could know all sorts of stuff that nobody else does—that's pretty much their bag. But in the "Michael's suddenly on Romulus" shot, it might have been nice for her to clearly acknowledge her shock at seeing Romulus specifically.

Between that and the premature Klingon cloaking device, I don't know what to think: either the show is deliberately trying to make us THINK it's stumbling over (some pretty important bits, really, of) continuity and will amaze us all by tying it together, or, per Occam's Razor, it's stumbling over continuity. I mean, say what you want about Enterprise, but IIRC it was quite scrupulous in its continuity.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:32 PM on October 3 [4 favorites]


So here's a thought re Section 31, the space-dust-mushroom-fairy roads, etc:

Section 31 is pretty definitively shown in DS9 to have double-plus-sooper-seekrit ways of getting into and out of given locales, a-la MASH's Colonel Flagg. These DS9 scripts appear to have deliberately used the Flagg convention of never describing how S31 operatives appear and disappear. The space mushrooms offer an explanation. This implies the possibility of transtemporality, I think. I sure hope that Discovery doesn't get bogged down in a bunch of bottle-episode story loops, but having S31 maintain and operate a seekrit transwarp system which can also act transtemporally also ties into the Department of Temporal Investigations.

Which does bring us quite close to Whovian spacetime, I think.
posted by mwhybark at 12:41 PM on October 3 [6 favorites]


Between that and the premature Klingon cloaking device, I don't know what to think: either the show is deliberately trying to make us THINK it's stumbling over (some pretty important bits, really, of) continuity and will amaze us all by tying it together, or, per Occam's Razor, it's stumbling over continuity.

There was some specific mention of this by the folks making it along the lines of "Every time you think you're noticing a continuity error, trust that we noticed it long before you did and have a plausible explanation. Here's something along those lines:

“You’ve got a roomful of people with very different and very devoted relationships to Star Trek in that writers room. And that carries on a pretty proud tradition of Trek being written by fans. You have to respect canon as it’s being written. You can’t say, ‘That never happened.’ No, no no, you can’t do that, they would kill you. Star Trek fans would kill you. No, you have to respect canon. You have to understand the timelines and what the different timelines were and what the different universes were and how they all worked together. You have to keep very meticulous track of who, what, where, when and why. And we have people in the writer’s room whose sole job is to say, ‘Nope, can’t do that!’”
posted by leotrotsky at 12:42 PM on October 3 [4 favorites]


(sorry about the comment truncation, fumblethumbed it. thankfully I was able to activate my transtemporal space mushroom wormhole and repair the fabric of spacetime)
posted by mwhybark at 12:47 PM on October 3


"You can’t say, ‘That never happened.’ No, no no, you can’t do that, they would kill you. Star Trek fans would kill you. No, you have to respect canon. You have to understand the timelines and what the different timelines were and what the different universes were and how they all worked together. You have to keep very meticulous track of who, what, where, when and why. And we have people in the writer’s room whose sole job is to say, ‘Nope, can’t do that!’”

This is exactly what Mrs. Cheeses and I were wondering about. Good to see.

And given that, I don't see how it's NOT Section 31 at this point.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:25 PM on October 3 [4 favorites]


More on the spores and canon:

Well, we’ve got 10 years. The fact that Kirk doesn’t know about it, or that it was buried somewhere in Area 51, or…. There are a lot of storylines to be played out. There are wars and peacetime adventures, characters’ lives and deaths, before you need to worry about where that technology is stored or what memories of it are kept. You know it’s no longer used, but trust me, they knew that before they wrote it. They’re very clear, in not a cop-out way, to both incorporate this stuff which is exciting and very visual, to make sure that it didn’t rankle canon.

posted by leotrotsky at 1:34 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


(sorry about the comment truncation, fumblethumbed it. thankfully I was able to activate my transtemporal space mushroom wormhole and repair the fabric of spacetime)

PUT. THE TOASTER. DOWN.
posted by zarq at 2:11 PM on October 3


I am missing the 'found family' element of Star Trek. I wouldn't consider Star Trek to be my religion, but yes, a lot of the values normally espoused by the show align pretty closely with my own values. One thing that has drawn me back to Trek over and over again is a cast of characters that I had fondness and respect for, seeing them work together, grow together and interact has always been the backbone to a good Star Trek show for me.

Having said that, I feel (hope?) that is maybe where this show is going to end up. Possibly not with Lorca, but the rest of the crew, and that's great, and I'm looking forward to seeing that develop. But this show IS taking me out of my comfort zone in terms of what I expect from Trek and that's going to take a bit of getting used to.
posted by liquorice at 3:36 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


I think that's where they are going with Burnham and Tilly, certainly, and probably Saru and Stamets. But definitely not Lorca. Maybe Landry and maybe that other former Shenzhou officer.

Recall that no one really liked each other at the beginning of DS9. These will be friendships found in hardship and (hopefully) wonder.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:31 PM on October 3 [4 favorites]


More stray thoughts.

M-A provides sourceless confirmation that one of the sites seen by Burnham in the mycological transporter observation booth was a Preserver obelisk. That does not necessarily imply that the obelisk was the same one seen on Miramanee's planet by Spock and Kirok, of course. The script itself in spoken dialog cited panspermia as a particular scientific mystery of the Trek universe, which is of course true. The "ancient hominids" of course figure here, as do the TAS crossover Kzinti stories, and even Odo's people. So possibly they aim to have Section 31 actually solve the greatest scientific mystery of Trek's many eras... and keep it secret?

um.
posted by mwhybark at 4:50 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


I love the Section 31 theories here!

Wikipedia states (as does Memory Alpha), though, "Its operating authority stems from a provision of the original Earth Starfleet charter—Article 14, Section 31, from which its name is derived—that makes allowances for "bending the rules" during times of extraordinary threats."

However, this doesn't preclude assigning NCC ship numbers ending in 31 to ships that will be assigned to Section 31 activities.

But that'd be pretty bad spycraft.
posted by porpoise at 7:27 PM on October 3


@Annaleen: Dealing with the loss of Star Trek's optimism - "a mysterious fungal structure that underlies the universe" :P cosmic fungus!
posted by kliuless at 9:41 PM on October 3


there are two dead Gorn babies lying on one of the worktables in the lab where we see the skeleton, in the right foreground of the shot
Ooh, actually those critters on the table are Cardassian voles. They are going for a grimmer Trek, but not that grim! Though between those and the tribble, he seems to have a troubling lack of care about invasive pest species. He probably puts his luggage right on the floor at seedy hotels, bedbugs be damned.
posted by Poogle at 9:55 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


He probably puts his luggage right on the floor at seedy hotels, bedbugs be damned.

Well, Saru did make it clear that "Captain Lorca is not a man who fears the things normal people fear". So, yeah, and he probably doesn't even wear flip flops in communal shower areas either.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:11 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Heck, that may even be where the fungus idea came from; his feet.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:12 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Here's a list of episode 3 easter eggs, including an inventory of the places Michael goes with the spore drive. Preservers Obelisk, Starbase 11, Janus VI mining facility, Romulus. Also not shown but mentioned, the moons of Andoria. I sure hope there's no accidents in what was shown, much less clumsy continuity. (Also shout out to the City at the Edge of Forever.)

Oh god, the Preservers and the Planet of the Noble Savages. I'd forgotten just how awful some of TOS is.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 PM on October 3 [5 favorites]


Ooh, actually those critters on the table are Cardassian voles

Phew! I do kinda wish M-A would source their production leaks, though. But yes, I'll take invasive vermin over sentient juveniles please!
posted by mwhybark at 12:49 AM on October 4


Recall that no one really liked each other at the beginning of DS9.

Hey, we had Ben Sisko's friendship with Dax, and Ben Sisko's strong paternal relationship with Jake! But I take your point about practically all the rest of the relationships.
posted by brainwane at 7:26 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]


After Trek interviewed co-showrunner Aaron Harberts, who noted that Lorca's tribble is spayed and neutered. That didn't go so well last time.
posted by zarq at 7:29 AM on October 4


So on the one hand, my Star Trek fandom didn't really survive ENT and the first two reboot movies, and I generally don't like Fuller productions, but.

Something that really, really impressed me about this episode is the scene when Michael makes him that speech to him about getting back on the transport -- it's the most Vulcan shit ever, right? The delivery! The bluntness! The straight-up emotional brutality! The principle, carried out to the end of the space-time continuum no matter what the personal cost! Sonequa Martin-Green fucking NAILS it.

That would be impressive enough to me, but then, I really like how the show has Lorca shift gears. He realizes he's going to have to deal with Michael's Vulcan righteousness, even if she hasn't used the l-word. So he responds directly to the Vulcan-ness. First, he transports them down to the fungus. He points out that one of her premises is wrong. Then, crucially to me, he plays on Burnham's curiosity.

Because like, this is a thing with Vulcans, right? Vulcans claim to have rejected emotion as a guiding motivation. But they still explore. They investigate. They research. They still ask what's on the other side of the nebula. They might claim pride isn't emotion they let guide their actions, but Vulcans are really fucking proud to be home of the Vulcan Science Academy, one of the greatest scientific institutions in the known universe. This is more explicitly established in some of the extended universe novels, but even if you look at the in-universe stuff, wanting to know is still something you can talk about in polite Vulcan society.

So yeah, toss in stuff about the higher good, and Lorca is throwing Burnham that is baited not only for her as a human and someone who has a past she wants to atone for, but as the Vulcan she was raised to be.

tl;dr: the nods to tribbles and Cardassian voles are cool, but I'm pretty impressed by how the show is doing Vulcans, even if this kinda blows the extended-universe stuff about Vulcans not approving of violence/Spock and Sarek being estranged because Spock chose to serve on a Federation ship with weapons, and I was also like WTF WTF WTF to the brain-beam Sarek stuff. They got a really interesting emotional beat right.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:12 AM on October 4 [14 favorites]


Also, I really want Tilly to be a plant, specifically tailored and prepped to drop hints about an exploitable trait to test just how ruthless and resourceful Burnham could be, while also looking soft and young and idealistic with THIS IS WHAT THE FEDERATION LOOKS LIKE TO THE REST OF THE UNIVERSE written all over her.

Best case scenario, Burnham takes Tilly under her wing, and Tilly can inform on her. Worst case scenario, they have eyes and ears on Burnham in quarters.

And Tilly's awkward, but genuine-seeming comment that she wants to be ambitious? You can see how somebody who can convince a Vulcan-raised daughter of Sarek to help with secret weapons-development might be able to persuade somebody like Tilly, right?
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:18 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]


Also, I really want Tilly to be a plant, specifically tailored and prepped to drop hints about an exploitable trait to test just how ruthless and resourceful Burnham could be, while also looking soft and young and idealistic with THIS IS WHAT THE FEDERATION LOOKS LIKE TO THE REST OF THE UNIVERSE written all over her.

That's be a great turn, but I'm not sure I want this to be the "Everyone's an Asshole" ship.

Wait, no, actually that's exactly what I want. I want this to be the cynical, burnout, conscripted, battle-scarred, Machiavellian crew. The idealism seared off in the fire of the first space battle. The joy of scientific discovery warped and twisted into the service of battle. Like the Equinox, but better and grayer. And I want the last real idealist on the crew, who believes in the core of her being the principles of the Federation, be the one everyone thinks is a mutineer. This could be War Trek, and just like the War Doctor, it requires a different set of skills. That'd be awesome.

...but also depressing as hell.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:48 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]


So, when they call a "black alert" and turn off all the lights, nobody else immediately thought that it must work on the same principle as Peril Sensitive Sunglasses? Just me then, Internet? One of us must be weirder than I thought.
posted by sfenders at 5:40 PM on October 4 [6 favorites]


The whole biology / physics thing fits in perfectly well with Trek canon, given the existence of near-omnipotent energy-based beings. TOS had the Organians (who eventually force a kind of peace between Klingons and the Federation) and Metrons for example, and TNG had Q, and the Traveler, and Kevin Uxbridge, and so on.
posted by Pryde at 10:18 PM on October 4


Also, I really want Tilly to be a plant,

or perhaps a fungus
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:06 PM on October 5 [6 favorites]


Hello to Jason Isaacs.

I enjoyed this a lot more than the first two, partly because it was now worth their while to give the characters characters.

Though, to be honest, all I ask of media at the moment is that it distracts me from the dismal reality we find ourselves in. I'm pretty ruthless in rejecting things that don't meet that (quite low) bar, and this clears it easily.

As a person who fucks up quite a lot, and has spent a lot of time in a fug of shame and remorse, I do have a lot of sympathy with Michael, and understand the way she feels. Although I've never started an interstellar war. Yet.
posted by Grangousier at 3:47 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Just a quick thought on the shuttle pilot: I mentioned how brutal her death was dealt with and mrfeet said "what about the page to medical over the PA?" Maybe they beamed her direct to sick bay. Who flies the shuttle onward?
posted by freethefeet at 2:35 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


I read this Fanfare post before seeing the episode, and when the shuttle pilot bit came up I thought it was obvious they would have just beamed the pilot back on-board. We're on the shuttle at that point not on the bridge - thus only saw what was happening from the prisoners' POV.

My only issues with this episode:
- Where TF did that monster come from? (Do all the captains have a private menagerie?)
- Why are the cadet quarters so massive? Do they not have antihistamines and/or hypoallergenic sheets in the grim darkness of the 23rd century? Is there not some anti-snoring tech?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:47 AM on October 6


- Where TF did that monster come from? (Do all the captains have a private menagerie?)

FWIW, my immediate reading was that that was the monster, which he'd secretly beamed on board, and that whether or not captains have private zoos, Lorca certainly does. Because he's a sneaky bugger.
posted by Grangousier at 2:52 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, I meant where did it come from on the derelict ship - did the other captain have it as a pet and it escaped?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:59 AM on October 6


Of course. I seem to be having an obtuseness day, because I thought the point of both ships was to create bio-tech of one kind or another, and it's a weapon they came up with. I suspect now that that's not right.
posted by Grangousier at 5:48 AM on October 6


Yeah you'd think the Discovery's captain would be aware of it ahead of time. And "make a weird monster" seems like small fry compared to "invent fungus-warp".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:07 AM on October 6


My theory was that the monster got accidentally brought back from the Beta Quadrant during one of their fungus-warp experiments.

Also:

- Yes, the cadet quarters seem pretty big, but that's more or less par for the course in most Treks; junior officers rarely have to share quarters. (One of the rare exceptions was in Star Trek VI, which showed some crew not only sharing quarters but having bunk beds; this was also shown in a scene in VOY's "Flashback", set in the same era.) Ensign Harry Kim had his own room.

- Tilly has hypoallergenic sheets, that's why she (hesitantly) asked Burnham to switch to the other bed. And the usual Trek thing WRT diseases and conditions is that they've cured a lot of the old diseases, only to find new ones that they don't have a treatment for, at least as far as their species is concerned; they cured cancer, but now there's space cancer. I'd be shocked if only one crew aboard a ship powered by warp fungus had some sort of reaction to it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:30 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


Tilly has hypoallergenic sheets, that's why she (hesitantly) asked Burnham to switch to the other bed.

I've been listening to Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast, and in the episode recapping "Context Is for Kings" they bring up the possibility that Burnham surreptitiously switched pillows with Tilly to get her to snore/drool - an idea which had not occurred to me, but makes sense.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:57 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


- Tilly has hypoallergenic sheets, that's why she (hesitantly) asked Burnham to switch to the other bed.

I don't think I buy this. She said she was in solo quarters because she snored as a response to her allergies. I do agree that the likeliest response to this in a matter-replicator society is to provision hypoallergenic bedding, but her spoken line implies that they could not make that adjustment, and for all the weird access Don Lorca has to stuff we know was previously down the road in-canon, I don't think we've seen replicator technology here yet.
posted by mwhybark at 12:41 PM on October 6


I don't think we've seen replicator technology here yet

We have, in this episode; Burnham's blue uniform is evidently replicated. (We see her zipping it up in front of a screen showing two uniform options, as the computer voice says 'matter synthesis complete').
posted by Major Clanger at 3:34 PM on October 6 [5 favorites]


a hearty hat doff to Major Clanger given the cold open of the next episode!
posted by mwhybark at 11:49 PM on October 8


"Grimtrek"?

I think that's getting this all wrong. The heart of the show is that even in the face of grim, awful war, even in the wake of her entire life coming apart, Michael Burnham still absolutely believes in the ideals of the Starfleet. Her speech to Lorca makes that crystal clear.

They're not setting this up to be a Trek show that tosses aside Trekkian ideals in favor of grimdark. They're setting it up to be a show in which those ideals are victorious over grimdark.

I thought this episode was awesome. Can't wait to see the new one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:33 AM on October 9 [6 favorites]


Hmm. This is a really cool show. Lots of clever lower decks stuff one always wonders about if one watches too much Star Trek. Some things felt 'Trek-y' (prisoners eat with officers!) but some didn't (security officer calls prisoners 'garbage'). I think it would have been possible to show what the Federation looks like to everyone else without making them so... mean.. but they also made it much more realistic. The Star Trek universe seems to imply that the Federation has somehow cured the weaknesses of human nature. Which makes for some light escapist fun but is pretty hard to believe if you look at it straight. Agree with many that it's a bit of a BSG mashup or, if BSG was the dark sequel to TNG, then this is the sequel to that.

Having said that, it is a loss to lose the optimism of Star Trek. This may be too Dark Trek for me and my Trekkie daughter right now, given how dark the world is. I suspect you're right DirtyOldTown: the aim of this show may be to make us care about idealism again, to take us on the journey from night to daylight, but it's pretty harsh so far.

I think if this wasn't branded as Trek, but was clearly an answer to Trek, I might feel easier watching it.
posted by latkes at 8:02 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


PEEVE: Head of engineering was... gay? But called his husband his friend? That seemed like the implication to me and it was annoying. Is CBS still living in the 90s?
posted by latkes at 8:03 AM on October 9


Is CBS still living in the 90s?

*looks over at CBS' vast catalog of multi-camera sitcoms with laugh tracks*

Yes.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:10 AM on October 9 [7 favorites]


In addition to Discovery I've been watching/rewatching TOS lately in a slow way, and the most recent one had the Enterprise pay a visit to a penal colony, exchange some cargo, and end up exposing the rogue administrator who was using some kind of ray to control everyone's minds—including the doctor who had originally been responsible for the ray.

The point is not just that this rogue (Federation!) administrator existed, and that TOS was already just as grimdark a world as Discovery, just not as often onscreen and with Kirk and Friends uncovering the rogues. But also bits of dialogue that the new happy-and-friendly penal system was itself fairly new for the Federation at all; Kirk seemed to think prisons were a necessary evil and not much different in his time from the sort of place we'd have here in 2017 Earth.

Which is to say, it's canon in TOS Trek that prisons, prisoners, and their treatment/behavior are probably just like what we've seen here, in this stage of the Federation. I think people just have TNG-colored glasses.
posted by traveler_ at 9:18 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


PEEVE: Head of engineering was... gay? But called his husband his friend?

No.

Chief Engineer Lt. Stamets is Star Trek's first openly gay character. Lt. Cmdr Hugh Culber is the medical officer and according to the character bios that were circulated by the studio, his love interest. Which I guess would make him Star Trek's second openly gay character. Culber will appear in a future episode.

I haven't seen anything official to confirm Culber is Stamets husband, but might have missed something.

Stamets did not refer to Culber as a friend in this episode.
posted by zarq at 8:11 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


Oh cool. I didn't know he was going to be an out character. I thought he referred to the guy who died on the other ship - his old colleague from engineering - as his best friend, who I presumed to actually be his husband. Glad he will have an alive husband instead! In the form of Wilson Cruz!! My favorite!
posted by latkes at 8:21 AM on October 11


Glad he will have an alive husband instead!

Me too!

Yeah, the dialogue on it was a little confusing and threw me off too at first. When he talks to Burnham, he refers to that old colleague as someone with whom he "partnered" to work on the spore drive. It's a perfectly good use of the word, but I thought they were that kind of partner. :)

The producers have said they want Stamets' sexuality to be only one aspect of his character, not something he is solely defined by. So they are going to introduce it slowly and naturally as the series goes on, rather than make him a token.
posted by zarq at 8:30 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]


Speaking of identity politics, was I the only one getting a strong racism vibe from how they played the scenes of Michael trying to integrate with the Discovery crew? Particularly the horrible scene where Tilly tells her the engineering station is taken. In the story there's plenty of non-racist reason for the Federation folks to hate her. But I was thinking the director sort of also used the racial distinction as a way to sell the emotion a bit more strongly.

I was immediately thrown by this and I didn't think it played very well in '17 let alone whatever date this newtrek is set. (I miss captains logs and stardates tbh). I totally agree that those scenes seemed tonedeaf to people who might experience these types of micro-agressions every day.

I like the efx so far, but not so much the pacing. Couldn't we have had just a bit of Burnham as a prisoner to establish her character arc? Why was she being transported even (6 months later smh)?
No way do I buy her just being offered a place on Lorca's ship; so much so that i was expecting a battle scene and officers dying so that she could be given a field commission or something at least militarily plausible. She will undoubtedly be given a rank at some point...why would anyone follow her orders?

It's certainly good enough to keep watching.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:58 PM on October 12


Why was she being transported even (6 months later smh)?

It's heavily implied that she is being transferred because Lorca wanted to recruit her. That's why the Discovery intercepted her shuttle.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:41 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]


Which is to say, it's canon in TOS Trek that prisons, prisoners, and their treatment/behavior are probably just like what we've seen here, in this stage of the Federation. I think people just have TNG-colored glasses.

There are penal colonies mentioned in TNG and Voyager. Tom Paris is extracted from one for Voyager's maiden mission. I think they send Tom Riker to one after his mutiny.

Hell, in Voyager they show sentient holograms being used to mine stuff; the Federation uses AI slaves! In TNG they try to declare Data as a non-person so they can take him apart to study him. That's pretty fucking dark. And Section 31 in DS9 does a fair amount of dodgy stuff, including assassination. And then there's the Federation's attempted bio-warfare genocide of the Founders.

So yeah, TNG-era Trek is hardly all sunshine and roses. It's possible that their prison system is totally fucked. So who know how bad it was in the Kirk days.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:16 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


I just got around to watching this last night (the series premiere left me super cold, but friends I trust said "it gets better!"), so I'm just now getting to this thread.

PEOPLE. HARRY MUDD HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH TRIBBLES IN TOS.

The trader who introduces tribbles to the Federation at Space Station K-7 is Cyrano Jones, "a licensed asteroid locator and prospector" who has "never broken the law, at least not severely". In the seven years prior to TTwT, Jones, "obtained a marginal living by engaging in the buying and selling of rare merchandise, including, unfortunately, tribbles".
posted by hanov3r at 12:56 PM on November 2 [4 favorites]


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