Star Trek Discovery (DIS) Season 1 Guest Reviews
The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary StarsContext is for KingsChoose Your PainLetheMagic to Make the Sanest Man Go MadSi Vis Pacem, Para BellumInto the Forest I GoDespite YourselfThe Wolf InsideVaulting AmbitionWhat's Past Is PrologueThe War Without, The War WithinWill You Take My Hand?
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
I so badly wanted this to be good. I really wanted it and I was well prepared to overlook some inconsistencies and some visual updates. I was aware that it would be a pilot episode and I was willing to accept many things. As long as they have a vision, as long as they do something unique and special. I watched the trailers and I listened carefully to everything the producers said and to what they promised. I was looking forward to this.
Now, twelve years after the last Star Trek episode on TV my first reaction was: They didn't do something unique; instead, they wasted an opportunity.
Well, I don't know where to begin. I just finished watching it. The most obvious change is the complete (and I do mean COMPLETE) visual reboot of the franchise. In my opinion there is no point in creating a Star Trek show without any visual connection to the other shows. Yes, they had those phasers and flip-communicators, but that aside, there was almost nothing recognizable. Everything looks so generic and meaningless and they obviously weren't willing to give it some internal cohesion. The costuming, the designs, the visuals... everything is a mess. Not only didn't the ships in any way match the canon, they didn't even seem to be from the same fleet. They are completely out of proportion and their overall structure doesn't make much sense. Nothing fits together as if a dozen people worked at it who never ever spoke a single word with one another. It felt like they just threw around some buckets of paint.. There is no concept, no idea, no vision and almost nothing that LOOKS like Star Trek. There is no love for details and no sense for continuity and absolute no visual consistency. And I haven't even been talking about the Klingons yet who bear nothing in common with the Klingons I knew but the name. They are so far out of proportion that it is simply ridiculous.
A few days before the pilot aired the producers told us they would value the heritage of Star Trek and they would stick to the canon. We now know that this was nothing but a lie. Discovery is nothing but a reboot that has some very very remote borrowings from the original Star Trek. The whole story doesn't fit into the Star Trek canon and doesn't go along with what we know. It looks like they simply wanted to use (and exploit) an established brand to promote CBS All Access.
First of all: Why did they make a prequel when there was obviously no interest in making it fit? What is the point? ENT tried to make the show look like 100 years before TOS. They didn't always succeed, but at least they tried and on most instances I could recognize the effort and the thought they had given it. Not with all the will in the world can I say anything like that about Discovery. The look has no similarities with what we're used to and there's no way that anything could possibly lead from DIS to TOS which is sad, a missed opportunity and let's me doubt the creators sincerity. They randomly mixed some elements from the different shows (like some sounds, the badges, the Starfleet logo, Sarek etc.) but they got all of those things confused and it simply comes across as if they didn't care. So, if they didn't care, why in the world did they actually make it a prequel instead of going into the future where they would have had all the license in the world...
Second: Where is the light? Where is the optimism. I've heard producers and actors of DIS talking about what Star Trek is all about. I've heard them talking about the spirit of space exploration and about Star Trek's optimism. I didn't find any of that in this episode. On the contrary the overall atmosphere was very dark and very militaristic and even depressing. The lighting of the sets was so dark that it was almost impossible to recognize certain things. (The court scene in the end was just ludicrous!) They, hypocritically, tried to salvage it with lines like: "Starfleet doesn't fire first" and "Why are we fighting? We are Starfleet". This is purely a sledgehammer approach and comes across awfully incongruous compared to the story itself and the tone the show sets. A few contrived lines can't make up the overall setting and the maneuver is just to simple. In the end, they told a very simplistic and by times even dumb story that is meant to be epic and shoehorned some lines in of which they thought the fans would like to hear them... very disappointing. (and insulting). And, to add insult to injury they so openly and so obviously stole from other shows that almost nothing original is left... even more disappointing (considering the time they had).
Third: I could write a book about the Klingons but I think everyone who has seen some episodes of Star Trek will understand that there is absolutely no point in commenting what happened to them. There is no way to make any of this reasonable and those people are simply not Klingons. Not in the way they look and not in the way they behave. They are written as one-dimensional, cult-like freaks talking in preachy sermons and thereby creating nothing but hot air. There is no meaning and no motivation for what they do. They are simply meant to be epic but they are in fact pathetic. Very sad. And by the way: The subtitles soon became very annoying.
Fourth: I don't comment on the acting yet because that would be unfair unless we have seen all of the cast. I also think it is fair to give them some time. But, I liked Michelle Yeoh and her very specific acting. I also liked that most of the screen time went to the ladies without making it an issue even once. Unfortunately, Yeoh's fate was quite foreseeable (ever since she was credited "Special Guest"; not very clever!). I'm getting tired of those kind of killings because almost every show does it nowadays and it became predictable a long time ago. Nothing bold here but again an uninspired copy of other shows.
Fifth: The story itself. I know that it is fashion today to write stories like this and everyone tries to be cinematic and so on... But is it really necessary to insult the intelligence of people? Again, DIS has the same problems the Abramsverse films have. There are simply no cohesive ties within the story and one plot hole follows another. Everything feels like a random chain of scenes and sequences and you always get the feeling you've seen that before. Nothing is balanced, everything remains sketchy and no thought has time to evolve. (I think the very limited skills of Kurtzman, Berg and Haberts are more than obvious and notorious. It would be interesting to know what's left of Fuller's initial efforts.) The producers try to overtrump one another with "epicness" and with pathetic sermons and speeches but I don't see the vision here and I fail to see the point of the story. Star Trek was so strong (especially on TV) because it functioned as a metaphor and tackled real-world issues in allegories. Those qualities are completely absent from DIS and this is maybe the greatest letdown. This is a very generic, very disposable Sci-Fi story that heavily steals from successful shows. But it is not DIFFERENT. Different would have been to create a positive vision of the future, to emphasize what people have in common. That is the kind of Star Trek we need in a world like this and this is what made Star Trek unique. Unfortunately, that was immolated for an uninspired story and lots of action sequences. Granted, the series is in an early stage and there might be a slim chance that the writers show some awareness (and start to understand and value the chance that is offering here), but recognizing how heavily they copied other formats and simply followed the usual trends in todays TV, the glimpse is very weak...
Well, before the show started I was willing to watch the whole season regardless of what would happen in its pilot. I'm still willing to do so but, frankly, I have little hope. Star Trek, as I knew it, may have died today once and for all but I'm willing to give it a chance and just hope that the producers surprise me with a profound idea and something truly unique. I wrote a lot of negative stuff, but I still want it to be good. Nonetheless, after watching the first two episodes I simply feel very sad.
- Remarkable props: The phaser and the communicator seem to fit quite well into an era ten years before TOS. Unfortunately, nothing else does.
Rating: 0 (Kilian T.)
Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing
For this review I'm going to ignore the lack of visual continuity with previous Star Trek series, as that's basically the attitude of the producers, and ultimately it was unfortunately expected - especially after the JJ movies.
So as far as differences (or 'updates') to some of the look and feel of the show go, I'm not going to factor them into my appraisal of the episode and instead focus on the show as if it visually does fit in with established canon.
I'm very much left very ambivalent after finishing the opening two episodes of Discovery.
It's clear that Discovery has been strongly influenced by the changes in TV since Star Trek was last on air, and it's the intention to have a strong character story. And while the focus on character is not necessarily a bad thing, the execution of it in the first two episodes was terribly clumsy.
If we go back to the Voyager pilot, the conclusion of the episode required a specific set of circumstances to be put in place:
- There was a choice between the crew returning home immediately or the crew being stranded in order that a greater good be served.
- Janeway makes the decision to sacrifice their way home in order to achieve that greater good.
The problem was, the writers knew they needed to achieve this but ended up engineering a situation that was full of logical holes. Why not use timed explosives? Voyager warping off at the end without doing anything else meaning that the Ocampa would eventually be at the mercy of the Kazon anyway to mention but two.
The reason I bring this up is, is that the opening to Discovery seemed to be having this happen every other scene. The writers needed some set of events to unfold, but engineered it in ways that made no sense.
Michael's mutiny is the most obvious example. When she went into the captain's ready room for her dressing down, it was clear to the whole crew she was in all shades of trouble.
So when she emerged after doing the least effective nerve pinch in Star Trek history, telling the crew to get ready to fire - everyone should have been as suspicious as Saru... particularly when her reasoning for the captain not giving it directly was because she was on the phone. The ready room is literally right by the bridge, if the captain was about to completely change her decision so radically the crew would know she would do it in person, particularly when it involved breaking Starfleet's principles about not firing first.
The crew's lack of suspicion wasn't the biggest problem with this though, it was Michael's reasoning. She's meant to have the mind and logic of a Vulcan but the heart of a human, yet her actions were devoid of any logic. She would have known the crew should have been suspicious, so she should have known her plan was almost certain to fail. Her reasoning for carrying out the mutiny was because she viewed it fundamentally essential to fire first, whatever the cost, even if it meant going to jail for the rest of her life. She had plenty more options available to make it succeed.
She could have taken the phaser and stunned the entire bridge before they knew what had happened. She could have attempted to seize control of the ship via hacking the bridge, or by adjusting the environmental controls of the bridge to force the bridge crew to evacuate or to be rendered unconscious. She could have just tried to fire first without even telling the bridge crew what was happening - once the torpedo was launched or the phaser fired, the plan was in motion.
It was a case of the writers having to provide the following set up for the series:
- Michael is a character who over the period of 7 years has evolved to make friends and adapt to life on a starship.
- An event then happens that her logic determines is so big she has to mutiny against that.
- In the process, she ends up being blamed for triggering war with the Klingons.
- Her captain and mentor ends up dying as a consequence.
The writers needed that to happen for the starting point for the Michael's character in the Discovery series as a whole, yet they delivered it in such a hamfisted way it makes Janeway's reasoning from the Caretaker look like a masterclass of Spock logic.
Another major criticism of the opening episodes, is that it seemed so often that a character would say they can't/won't/shouldn't do something and then immediately do it a few moments later.
When T'Kuvma summons the 24 houses of the Klingon empire, they immediately reject him and ridicule him for being a nobody whom they will never listen to or follow. Yet they listen to him deliver a short speech and suddenly they are eager to go to war with the Federation. I was expecting some trickery, or events unfolding with the Starfleet vessels to trigger this rapid change of heart, but no, they just inexplicably change their minds.
When it's suggested that they plant torpedoes on the hull of the Klingon vessel, Michael states it's a terrible plan that would make things worse - yet moments later volunteers to be the person to do it.
Michael then states they mustn't kill T'Kuvma as he mustn't become a martyr, yet she lethally shoots him, and makes no attempt to bring him back to the Shenzhou to try and save his life as a prisoner. And where was the sense in sending only the two highest ranking officers from the ship on the boarding party, and how was Georgiou able to hold off a trained Klingon warrior in hand to hand combat using Klingon weapons for so long?
Criticising the differences in the Klingons makes little sense given the radical departure the show has decided to take, however I will point out that during this time, the Klingon Empire was far more dominant in the Alpha Quadrant politics compared to the 24th century, and consequently its internal politics was far less focused on warrior tradition. Yet the warrior culture depicted was very different still to that seen in TNG and DS9.
The opening sequence with them drawing the Starfleet insignia (let's not get into that canon argument here either!) with their footsteps made no sense either as there was clearly thick cloud blocking the view from orbit, but let's not pretend this was meant to make sense, it was just meant to be a cheeky VFX humorous introduction.
I have been very negative here, so I will say that I did enjoy watching it. But then I went into the show with low expectations, and I feel that it's very much a show that if you even slightly pick, it starts to quickly fall apart.
I like the idea to focus on character stories more, it's something Star Trek hasn't really done, not even in DS9. I think that the visual style is a lot better than in the new movies - although it does take it over the top at times, what was going on with the shady court martial scene - had the fuses blown for the lights?
I'm reserving my full judgement until the show begins properly, until the full set up for Michael on board the USS Discovery has been completed and we see exactly the direction the show is intending to take.
I just wish that more care had been taken with the internal logic of the writing of the show, rather than just seeing the goals they needed to achieve and jumping to them without applying reason to the character's actions.
Rating: 5 (Ben Dickson)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
I was very excited about seeing a new series of Star Trek but it was with some trepidation, I have to admit that I am not a fan of the Abrams movies and I suspected that the movie would not fit in with the established timeline of TOS.
"The Vulcan Hello" is entertaining to watch, but there is no way that this could be considered as Canon in the Prime Universe. The feel and technology is completely inconsistent with TOS, and why use the Klingons when they are so different in both culture and style? Why not just create a new alien species. Had this been set post-TNG I could have accepted the series more as the vast differences could be explained, but it just seems to be shoehorned pre-TOS just to include Sarek.
Compared to the web mini-series "Axanar" this pales, "Axanar" took what I loved about TOS and re-invented the visuals, it paid homage to TOS. Personally, I would have funded the "Axanar" team to produce a TV version of their web show.
The new series does have its merits as a stand alone show and I would expect fans of the Abrams movies to enjoy the series, I like the juxtaposition of Michael who is almost the reverse of Spock and the ret-conned phasers and tricorder look good. There is some good action in the show and on the whole I like the characters they have created. For me this is not Canon Star Trek and as such when I watch the show it is somewhat diluted.
I think that DIS has missed a trick on this one, it could have been so much better had continually been maintained, you can still have a show that rocks that still fits pre-TOS.
On a side note I have no problem that Michael is Spock's adopted sister, the fact that she has never been mentioned on screen doesn't negate her existence, we already know he is reticent to discuss family.
Rating: 3 (marcus handford)
Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing
I enjoyed this opening two-parter greatly, although it's not without its frustrations. This is a very different take on Star Trek than we've had before, although clearly inspired by earlier iterations of a franchise that has changed a great deal over the last fifty-one years. I'm not quite sure how it will develop as a series, and that's actually a great place to be. The last thing I want is something safe and predictable. This opener is cinematic, exciting and visually stunning. The binary star system is astonishing to look at - this looks like a huge science fiction movie, not a regular TV series. Burnham's spacesuited mission through the debris ring is obviously influenced by the skydiving sequence in the 2009 movie and the infiltration of the Vengeance in "Star Trek Into Darkness", but is portrayed as something of wonder, rather than a death-defying stunt. Still, there's a real sense that space, though wondrous, is a dangerous place to be, with Michael left scarred by radiation that will be fatal if she doesn't sit through immediate treatment.
Burnham is, for the most part, a great character. She has real horror in her past that she tries, not always successfully, to rise above. Her escape from the brig by logically talking the computer round to agreeing to releasing is a brilliant character moment for someone who is both human and Vulcan. She puts her convictions above her commitment to Starfleet principles. Sonequa Martin-Green's performance is excellent, she's a charismatic and interesting lead. It's just a shame that, in many ways, her character is so inconsistently written. She sticks to her convictions when it comes to firing first but changes her mind easily when it comes to everything else.
Both Michelle Yeoh and Doug Jones are excellent secondary leads, making a wonderful trio that has hints of the old Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship without being a slavish recreation, like Archer-T'Pol-Trip often was. Burnham is the logical voice in most respects, but also the more aggressive, with Saru being the cautious McCoy-like one, and Georgiou being the noble commander in the centre. There's an interesting backstory being hinted at for both Saru and Georgiou; unfortunately, we don't get to learn about the Captain's past before she's killed off. Although this is being billed as a prelude to the main series, there's a lot of time invested in establishing a relationship that is then cut short. There's also some very clunky expositionary dialogue early on that I really hoped we'd heard the last of by now.
Trailers for the upcoming episode suggest that Starfleet blame Burnham for starting the war, and Georgiou certainly does, but it's hard to see why that's the case. Yes, she killed the Torchbearer on the Beacon, but that was in self-defense and she had no way of knowing he would be there. Her insistence on shooting first looks like it would have been the right choice - Georgiou's "We come in peace" hail is what triggers T'Kuvma into opening fire - although it's hard to see how the outcome would have been different if the Shenzhou had fired first, as the Klingons were there for a fight regardless. In any case, blaming the war on Burnham's mutiny makes no sense as she was stopped before she could put her plans into action, and so her decision made no material difference to what happened.
I have no problem with the changes to the Klingons, the retroactive changes to the series' history, or the mixed bag visuals for this version of Starfleet. If it works for the story and it looks effective, that's fine. I'm happy to accept a revisionist 23rd century - it's not as if The Original Series was consistent in its own backstory - although, given the clear influence of the new films, I wonder why the producers and writers didn't simply set it in the new cinema timeline, thereby freeing themselves up a good deal more. It's hard to see exactly who this series is aimed at. It's quite right that they shouldn't slavishly stick to established canon or try to appeal solely to hardcore fans. On the other hand, one surefire way of alienating new and casual viewers is starting with five minutes of guys in latex, speaking Klingon with subtitles. Surely you'd want to hook viewers with amazing visuals first, and only later bring in the high geekery?
I'm very interested to see where this series will go. There's an interesting clash on display between the peaceful explorers that Starfleet claim to be, and the military organisation that they look, sound and act like. If the series explores this dichotomy, it could be very interesting indeed. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more of Michael Burnham and seeing how her character develops as the series goes on.
- Remarkable aliens: The Shenzhou bridge crew includes a turquoise skinned humanoid with a skin pattern or tattoo on his face, and a partly mechanical crewmember who flashes up red alert signs on its face panels!
- Remarkable starships: Starfleet ships that join the battle include the USS Shran (named for the Andorian captain from Enterprise?), the USS T'Plana-Hath (sharing its name for the Vulcan ship that made first contact with Earth in "Star Trek: First Contact"), the USS Clarke, the USS Yeager, the USS Kerala, the USS Edison, the USS Earhart and the USS Sue.
- Remarkable technology: The Shenzhou has outdated "lateral vector transporters," which use huge dishes situated behind the transportee, and use a lot of power. They're outdated way before the episode takes place. (We never saw anything like that in Enterprise, so they must have come in afterwards, then been superseded. The Rise of the Federation novels suggest early transporters caused genetic damage through long term use; perhaps this development was an initial method to overcome the pattern errors?)
Rating: 7 (Daniel Tessier)
Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing
After an absence of twelve years, Star Trek is back on TV. Despite a torrid production and against a lot of peoples' expectations, I found Discovery to be a highly entertaining and interesting addition to the Star Trek universe.
The opening scene with the characters walking to create the Starfleet delta in the sand was symbolic of the show's rebirth. And what a rebirth! The production values are top notch, the special effects are truly cinematic, the sets complex and believable and the musical score is perfect.
Regarding continuity, I wish that the producers had set this series in the Kelvin timeline, which would be a better fit stylistically and creatively. I understand that we can't go post-Voyager as the technology had become too elaborate and was used as 'magic' later on. I wouldn't be surprised to see an 'old style' Klingon as one of the other 'houses' - we didn't see all 24. To be honest though, their appearance is trivial and I preferred Worf's explanation to why Klingon appearance varies, rather than the convoluted explanation offered up in Enterprise.
Martin-Green's strong and nuanced performance carefully balances the cool Vulcan detachment with her PTSD damaged human side. I also enjoyed Michelle Yeoh's performance, and I hope we see more of her in flashbacks. I haven't formed an opinion on Saru yet, but he's certainly an interesting character.
Star Trek is, has been and probably should always be left leaning in its politics. I was pleased to see clear parallels drawn between Trump and T'Kumva as well as between the Klingons and religious fundamentalism. Hopefully Discovery will find interesting ways to explore current-day issues and not pull its punches.
On the negative side of things, the episodes felt a little rushed, and I thought the Sarek mind meld scene spoiled the flow during the battle scenes. I didn't like the dimly lit courtroom scene towards the end, nor the harsh sentence imposed. It reminded me of "The Menagerie" where Spock is sentenced to death, with a similarly black backdrop. I guess the point was to literally show Burnham's isolation and she was literally under a spotlight, which I thought was a little too 'on the nose'.
I'm excited, and am looking forward to see where they take the show. Enterprise was a very weak series and I'm optimistic that DSC can revive interest in Star Trek again.
Rating: 8 (James)
Stardate 1207.3: Synopsis in main DIS listing
Ok, where to start?
Not going to lie, I was bored watching the opening two episodes of Discovery, think it has to go down as the worst Star Trek pilot ever.
There were a lot of things that didn't impress me, and not just the canonical issues. I'm going to keep it short and just give my impressions, otherwise I'll go off on a full rant!
The whole first sequence is designed to introduce us to Burnham I suppose. The final part of the scene is just weird, the Shenzhou can't detect their bio signs but they can somehow detect a bloody great delta walked into the sand?
Then we meet the Klingons. Oh god! I thought they were gonna be crap just by looking at them, and I was right. I find the Klingons pathetic tbh. The whole flashy ceremonial Armour seems a little pointless. I do like Kol's outfit however, that fits in quite nicely with Klingon style we know.
The whole Klingon story is so dull and quite vague. I get bored very quickly in the Klingon scenes because they're soooo long! Reading subtitles is the biggest culprit, all "Klingons" speak Klingon. And let's face it, it's not a nice language to hear a lot! You also don't pay a lot of attention to what is going on in the scenes as you're constantly reading subtitles.
The whole Burnham scene going to investigate the unknown object was pretty boring. Don't have anything to say about that other than that Klingon was very easy to kill.
The Klingon ship reveals itself. Yup, Klingons have cloaks around 30 years too early!
Back on the ship Burnham talks to Sarek, via real-time holocoms! Oh, it gets worse!
He tells Burnham that the Vulcans kept the Klingons at bay by always firing first, even when, I'm assuming the Klingons were just passing by. This really opens a Pandora's box, because this is where thew story and Starfleet's morals and Gene's vision goes totally out the airlock! So, Burnham tells her captain they need to attack. Georgiou says Starfleet doesn't fire first.
Burnham then takes her captain into the ready room and promptly knocks her out, apparently humans can do Vulcan neck pinches now too. Obviously not very well though as Burnham has barely made it onto the bridge and barking out attack orders before Georgiou is back on her feet again! Probably the most pointless cause for a mutiny they could've come up with. It would've been better had she succeeded and fired, and that was the instigator of the war.
The ships of the 24 houses arrive after being signaled by the mystery object. Again, the whole Klingon plot and story surrounding this is very vague.
Burnham is sent to the brig and the rest of Starfleet arrive. Georgiou contacts the Klingons saying they come in peace, something which clearly T'Kuvma doesn't believe, although, to add to the numerous plot holes we have no sodding idea why!
He finally provokes the Klingons to attack and a rather bland space battle commences. All Starfleet ships are destroyed, The Shenzhou is severally damaged and evac'd. Another scene which I found hilarious, Burnham having a moral argument with the computer!
The admiral's flagship, the Europa arrives and saves the Shenzhou from hitting an asteroid; this ship is very quickly destroyed. CBS sending messages there? White admiral, ship called the Europa? Just saying.
And it all ends with Burnham being sentenced to life imprisonment for mutiny.
That's a pretty vague review of what happens, but no more vague that what actually happens in the episode. To sum up, I found the story dull and uninteresting, I thought the writing was poor and some acting in places too.
Hugely disappointing for Star Trek's return. Much more pew pew than interesting and thought provoking story lines.
- Remarkable scene: I've picked out just one scene which I enjoyed, which was the Shenzhou bursting through the clouds then hovering with the thrusters firing.
Rating: 0 (Jamie House)
Stardate 2256: This one is about Spock's sister who is the first officer on another ship called the Shenzhou which is commanded by Captain Georgiou. The Shenzhou goes to fix a satellite which was destroyed by the Klingons, and has to decide if they should fight them or not. Captain Georgiou doesn't want to fight but Spock's sister Michael does. She starts a mutiny!
I watched all the Star Treks but this is the first series I can watch when it comes out. I watched this one right after re watching "The Cage" since that one is set right before this one. This one looks a lot better because it's more modern, but it doesn't feel as much like Star Trek. I wish the episode had been about Michael and Georgiou on the desert planet giving the aliens water, because that's what Star Trek is about.
It was still cool to see the space walk, since the effects are so great, but once the Klingons came on it got less good. They look even sillier than the old ones!
I love Captain Georgiou (best Captain Ever except for Kirk and Picard) and Spock's sister Michael, and Saru, he's a good, silly character, but the new Klingons don't look or act like Klingons and I don't like reading the subtitles since I like to do other things while watching than just stare at the screen but its cool that they used the actual Klingon language which is real. I also like how they had Spock's father Sarek in this one! Its not like old Star Trek but I am excited that there is a new Star Trek that I can watch and for new fans!
- Remarkable errors:
- The Klingons look different.
- Starships can't land but the Shenzhou does.
- Remarkable prop/ship/set: The Shenzhou is really cool and so is the Klingon ship.
- Remarkable fact: Spock has a sister named Michael who is human.
Rating: 6 (ivy)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
So, following the prelude two-parter that opened the season, we finally got to meet the Discovery in this episode. Unlike the warm and fuzzy Enterprise D (or Voyager), which are homely and welcoming places, the Discovery is more like one of those weird, creepy ships that the Enterprise (or Voyager) encounters and has to solve the mystery of what killed everyone before it kills them too. It's more akin to what the D would've been like with Jellico in command.
What's great about this episode is the tone, it's quite creepy and suspenseful in places - and reminded me of 'The Tholian Web' and 'The Doomsday Machine' as the crew explored The Glenn.
Anyway, back to the Discovery - a science ship with a commander who has a hint of moral ambiguity. Jason Isaacs is instantly compelling and commanding. Saru and Tilly prevent the show's tone from slipping into BSG territory, the latter being a relatable and likeable character. There is also some nice, leavening humour. Saru has the mild mannered and cool headed appeal of Data and all his scenes were excellent.
Lorca has some cool things in his office and in his laboratory, is the Tribble there to identify Klingon agents who are augments? Is he Section 31, what's with his eyes? Lots for us to speculate about...
It is also great to see some actual science in Star Trek. The theory that organic life is spread throughout all of space via asteroids, meteorites or comets, panspermia is a sound one. That the building blocks of life could eventually prove to be extraterrestrial is something referenced in Trek before, specifically in 'The Chase'. It also links in wonderfully with the whole Alice in Wonderland book. Whilst not what I would call 'hard science', it's much better than the fake technobabble of TNG's worst excesses.
The instantaneous interdimensional doorway to the entire universe is also something that we've seen before, specifically in 'Contagion', but also to a lesser extent in 'All Our Yesterdays' - though that involved time travel. I wonder how they will deal with this 'breakthrough'.
All in all, it was a fascinating episode that took care to create believable characters. Lorca is full of charm, but also lizard like - there's a real sense of wonder and of exploring the unknown in this series. Discovery seems like it will be a show about Burnham's redemption, and I'm more confident after this episode that Burnham will be a character we will root for. Eventually.
I can't wait to see the next one.
- (Un)remarkable scene: The site to site transport scene was a bit blase, but maybe this will be explained later.
- Remarkable quote: "Is he shushing you?"
- Remarkable set: Lorca's laboratory, with the dissected Tribble and the Gorn skeleton.
Rating: 9 (James)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
Context is for Kings. What a cynical way to name an episode like that. Well, here is some context: The producers of Discovery were very vocal about how the show would value the canon of Star Trek and how it would implement the optimism of the original. After watching the third episode it is quite obvious to me that those statements were nothing more but a try to get sceptical fans to subscribe to CBS All Access. I can only speak for myself but I would never have subscribed to it if I had known that all I get is a complete reboot that doesn't seem to care about canon or the original Star Trek and that sports a dystopian vision of the future. There is a word for something like that: deceit!
Before watching this episode I still had some hope left that it would embrace more of the essence of Star Trek. Anyway it was labeled as the "real" pilot. But soon after the teaser it became very clear that this episode would be even darker than its predecessor.
The story even starts with a huge plothole: Everyone blames Michael for being the one who started the war with the Klingons. Well, that's simply not what happened in the first episode. Yes, she did mutineer, but it had no effect on the Klingons because they started firing after Georgiou spoke to them. But who cares? Kurtzman & Co. obviously don't.
This scene is followed by some racial slurs on the transport shuttle and lines like "Starfleet wants us to feed the animals" that I find simply disturbing on a Star Trek show and appalling in general. The graphic violence shown on the USS Glenn is also something I simply don't need to see on a Star Trek show. By the way, why didn't the away team leave when it became obvious that something is aboard that killed a whole Klingon landing party?
The rest of the story is completely out of proportion. The whole spore-drive-thing lets Voyager's "Threshold" look like brilliant writing and excellent science and there is absolutely no way to squeeze that into the history of Star Trek. Even if the writers should come up with excuses like: "it all was a very, very secret operation" or "it was all Section 31 in the first place."
What starts to annoy me is the random dropping of names and species. Nothing fits. The sounds they use don't match the era, the Tribble and the Gorn-skeleton don't fit into the timeline. The Starfleet-emblem doesn't fit in too, just to name a few things. This try to establish some weird kind of pseudo-continuity is nothing but insulting and shows again how little the producers care.
Again this episode lacks everything I used to like about Star Trek. The overall atmosphere has become even darker and it is dominated by some very questionable dialogue. The characters are shown as bitter veterans (or annoying cadets). There is not a single trace of the optimism and the spirit of the Original Series and its followers. Worst of all, Discovery lacks the dignity and the lightheartedness of original Star Trek.
In conclusion I have to emphasize the most pressing point again: Why did they make a prequel in the first place when there is absolutely no effort to make it fit? That doesn't make any sense.
- Remarkable species:
- The Tribble in Lorca's ready room doesn't procreate.
- According to established canon first contact with the Gorn took place in 2267.
- Remarkable security: The breath scan seems to be a very weak measure to keep a lab off-limits. But maybe it was intentional made easy for Michael?
Rating: 0 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
I have to admit that this episode was somehow better. On the other hand that doesn't say much...
The first thing that strikes me about "Choose Your Pain" is how the writers seem to alter the premise of the show every single week just to their convenience. In the Pilot (or Prologue) it was quite easy for the Klingons to receive reinforcements in a matter of minutes. The next week it was told that the remains of the fleet have been stranded for six month without relief. Then, a week later, L'Rell was left behind aboard the Shenzhou together with Voq. Now, we learn that Lt. Tyler is aboard the prison-ship for seven months and L'Rell is also aboard. Does any of that make sense? I am usually not much of a nitpicker when it comes to stretches of times and places but in this case the violations are so obvious (and simply a product of very, very lazy writing) and do hurt the plot in such a severe manner that it is impossible to overlook it.
The way Lorca is abducted by the Klingons is again bordering silliness as is the way he and Tyler escape from the ship. The raiders they use to escape are one of the most cringeworthy things in a long time on Star Trek (accompanied by surprisingly unconvincing special effects). Something a little bit more sophisticated would have been nice.
The scenes on the prison-ship itself are efficient and the introduction of Harry Mudd was quite a positive surprise. Rainn Wilson (who easily outperforms the main cast) is a capable actor who is able to portrait a convincing younger version of Mudd. (This becomes even more the case when we compare him to Sarek in the pilot.)
Again, the graphic violence is absolutely nothing I want to see on a Star Trek show.
The revelation that Lorca sacrificed his crew to spare them imprisonment on Qo'nos comes across as quite casual but I hope will not be forgotten. It reminds me about Jean-Luc Picard who killed a crewmember of the Enterprise in "Star Trek VIII" to spare him assimilation by the Borg. Frankly, I think of both instances as an example of extremely bad taste and hypocrite ethics. It is very hard to imagine a scenario in which Lorca killed off his crew (which requires some kind of action from him) and still escape as sole survivor. Also, I don't think it is very clever to give this character an even darker shade.
The story aboard the Discovery was convincing for the most part. For the first time we partially had a sense of cooperation among some of the crew and the story managed to make some emotional impact. Still, it was far from being flawless.
Saru was a big disappointment. He is a trained officer and serves as First Officer for quite a while. How can he not anticipate a situation that would force him to take command? How is he, of all people, capable of such a level of incompetence? When he has to take command he basically has to ask the computer for a job-description. What makes it even more annoying is that the real reason for him asking the computer is so obviously the casual name-dropping Discovery loves so much. But it hurts the character, as does the fact that he seems to have no authority. I'm also not very fond of how his relationship to Burnham is worked out. He seems to change his opinion about her on a weekly basis and again his character misses any stringency. Still, the telescope scene manages to make some emotional impact and that's a good thing.
The character of Lt. Stamets is explored a little in this episode and becomes more likeable which eases some of the tension. The creepy ending showing his image in the mirror after he left the room is perhaps setting the stage for episodes to come. There is plenty room for speculation.
The release of the "Ripper" was very cheesy and felt more like something out of any given Fantasy-franchise. By the way, what did Captain Lorca say about that?
A scene that I particularly liked was the homage to "The Wrath of Khan". It was nice for a change to see that the producers are capable of dealing with such a scene in a subtle and respectful way. Also, for maybe the first time in DIS a glimpse of Star-Trek's spirit could be felt. I really hope for more of that.
All in all, this was the most enjoyable episode of Discovery so far but it is still full of inconsistencies, bad writing and spoiled continuity that it his hard to legitimately watch it as a Star Trek series. Everything about it still cries reboot. But who knows, considering the foreshadowing in the final scene, we are maybe actually watching some mirror-universe-version of Star Trek.
- Remarkable laugh line : "They may look stupid, our Klingon hosts. They're anything but." (Harry Mudd). Well, the way way Lorca and Tyler escape from their ship suggests otherwise.
Rating: 3 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
It is very difficult to rate this episode. I have to say it has its moments and profits from overall more decent writing. Certainly because of the influence of Joe Menosky on the script, who is capable of giving the characters better and more natural sounding dialogue. I also appreciate that "Lethe" tells a self-contained story.
Still, the episode is full of annoyances. The most obvious is the portrayal of the Vulcans as xenophobic terrorists. It is stunning that DIS maintains something that didn't really work in DS9 and ENT and even puts it to an extreme here. Also, I think the one thing the show doesn't need at this point is another shade of darkness.
The Vulcan mumbo-jumbo is again bordering silliness like it already has in the pilot. The connection between Sarek's katra and Michael is far from being credible and could be right out of a fantasy novel. It is so over the top and so exaggerated that she can sense him through the galaxy while the basic concept is never really explained. Again, it bothers me that no one of the Discovery crew seems to be interested in learning about it. What makes the whole thing even worse is how casual Lt. Stamets can build his magic device just seconds after Dr. Culber explains that he doesn't even understand the basic concept. At times, it feels like no one is listening to one another on the Discovery.
The scenes on Vulcan are repetitive and put the Vulcans in a bad light. The outcome is rather disappointing and the "secret" itself makes me question if it was worth the effort. We are expected to believe that the Vulcans would refuse Michael access to the Expeditionary Group despite her excellent test results. This is far from being a logical decision and adds to the negative undertone towards them and lets Sarek look like a fool the second time in a row. Speaking of Sarek, I find James Frain's acting painful to watch. He comes across as a very bitter character and as a surprisingly emotional Vulcan. Frain's acting unfortunately lacks the stoic grace of Mark Lenard.
Three things are really starting to annoy me to an increasing extend from episode to episode:
First, the depiction of space in DIS looks like the explosion of a candy machine has caused the formation of the universe. It feels phony and looks somehow cheap and doesn't give me the feeling of being "out there".
Secondly, is it really necessary for the computer to comment absolutely everything and thereby even repeating what people just said?
Thirdly, I don't know anyone on the bridge and we never had time to explore the rest of the ship. That attributes to the feeling of watching strangers in a random assemblage of rooms. For me, the ship in a Star Trek show is an essential part of the cast.
Lorca's story was somehow the more interesting part of the episode. Although he is not very interesting as a character, mainly because I think we have seen enough mid-aged, traumatized white men on TV shows by now. Again Discovery follows the trend instead of producing something unique. (I really wish they had kept Captain Georgiou. She was way more intriguing and a really unique, well-played character.) While it is all in all convincing that Lorca suffers from PTSD his involvement with Admiral Cornwell seemed strange to me. It leaves too many questions unanswered. Discovery's missions so far have all been a success. They saved the mining colony, retrieved the Glenn's secret and Starfleet didn't bother questioning its Captain (and his decision to add Burnham to his crew). Cornwell's concerns come out of the blue and why exactly did she feel the need to tell him about her doubts in person. Just to get seduced by him? Frankly, I was more worried about her leadership-skills than I was about Lorca's at that point. Of course, the solemn purpose of this senseless effort was to bring Cornwell into the scene to allow her to take over the negotiations with the Klingons. Again, the show disregards earlier installments and common sense just to change the setting to the writers' convenience.
On a side note it is amazing how, again, nobody bothered to take into account that the Klingons could possibly have set up a trap. It is like the events of "Battle at the Binary Stars", that claimed the life of Admiral Anderson in a similar fashion, never happened. Poor writing.
On the bright side the relationship between Michael and Tilly is more convincing and feels more natural which is a positive surprise. It is also nice to see how the opening scene with the two of them running through the corridors is addressed and resolved in the end.
Another positive aspect is that this week's name-droppings at least didn't violate canon at all. The appearance of the holodeck of course is a different matter.
On a final note, the addition of Ash Tyler to the crew regrettably completes the effort to diminish the diversity of Discovery's cast that was meant to be an integral part of the show in the first place. For once, they managed to do something in a subtle way...
- Remarkable absence: While Spock is mentioned for the first time, no one bothers to mention Sybok, who is also a son of Sarek. But I think regarding the questionable status of ST:V that can be excused.
Rating: 2 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
This week's episode was entertaining on the surface but is severely damaged by lazy writing and some odd choices.
First of all, the episode doesn't seem to be in the right place. Is it possible that it was intended to air at a later time? It feels odd that Admiral Cornwell is not mentioned at all even though her abduction should be a great deal for the crew. Also, the timing for throwing a party seems to be quite inappropriate. There's still a war going on out there. This could be an attempt to lift the show's overall dark mood but it just feels out of place.
On a positive note the character of Michael Burnham gains some depth and she is shown as a more realistic person when she interacts with Tyler and feels uncomfortable at the party. I also like that she didn't come across as bitter as it was the case in previous episodes.
The story itself is interesting. Mudd tries to attempt his goals by using a time loop which is, initially, an intriguing idea and qualifies as a very "Star Trek"-concept we haven't yet seen on any of the other series. I also do not think of it as a rip-off of TNG's "Cause and Effect". The underlying technobabble on the other hand seems to be out of the fantasy-genre once again.
Unfortunately, the episode's execution is hurt by so many inconsistencies and stupidities that it is hard to enjoy it.
Many pressing questions are simply ignored by the script once again:
How exactly did Mudd escape from the Klingons? How was he able to find the Discovery when the Klingons obviously can't? How could he be certain that Discovery would run into him? How could he manipulate the computer in a way that no one was able to stop him? Why didn't they detect his ship in the space-wale earlier? (They easily detected it using a Tricorder at a later time, so why couldn't the ship's sensors).
And, the most striking one: Why didn't they simply destroy the wale and even beam it aboard AFTER they learned what's inside from a previous loop? Stamets knew what had happened in the previous loop and I refuse to believe that he could possibly be so stupid (or high). I think, he should have been the one to stop Mudd instead of his weird attempts to convince Burnham.
On top of all these questions it strikes me as quite a disappointment that Mudd wasn't able to find out Discovery's secret in over 50 loops. We are supposed to believe that he is able to manipulate the computer to seize control over the ship (which seems to be quite simple) but didn't learn from any data or logs or whatever that Stamets is the one who flies the ship? And why did he kill Lorca immediately instead of trying to get to the secret by interrogation or even torture? (something I would have expected from DIS).
Unfortunately, those problems are far beyond simple nitpicking. Again, we are faced with a story that immediately falls apart when we dig any deeper into it. In this regard DIS really feels like a time-loop.
I somehow enjoyed the presence of Mudd in "Choose Your Pain" and felt that it worked out surprisingly well. This time, the feeling is different. Mudd is characterized as a psychopath who is capable of mass murder and even finds joy in executing people. (even though Rainn Wilson again outperforms the main cast with ease). That has nothing to do with the Mudd we know and it again severely hurts continuity and adds some bad taste to the episode. It is quite obvious that the producers simply wanted to use Mudd, because the character enjoys some popularity among the fans but they again didn't mind to completely change him.
I have to admit, I would have been able to ignore most of the above mentioned problems; but what really kills the episode is the unbelievably stupid ending (I have no other words for it). We have a man who has shown his willingness to commit mass murder, who has sworn revenge to Captain Lorca and the entire Federation and who is obviously intended to be a very resourceful and hence extremely dangerous criminal, and all Discovery's crew can think of is calling his father-in-law and his wife. Come on! That's dense even by Discovery standards.
Of course, the real reason for this is again to maintain some kind of pseudo-continuity with TOS (while they interestingly didn't bother to change Mudd's basic character) and underlines once again the very basic problem of the show.
All in all, this episode COULD have been a good one but it is hurt by blatant laziness and an incredible level of incompetence on the writers' part. The amount of plotholes and inconsistencies is so high this time that I really wonder how the script was able to pass the preliminary stage and if it was shot without further supervision.
- Remarkable small world: Stella and her father seemed to be just around the corner as they could reach the Discovery almost immediately. Something like this happens frequently in DIS so what do they need a spore drive for?
- Remarkable secret: Burnham has never been in love? I would have been surprised if she had been. She was raised on Vulcan and taught to suppress her emotions. Not a very logical choice as a "password".
- Remarkable music: I refuse to believe that "Staying Alive" (at least in this version) is still a thing 250 years from now.
Rating: 1 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
Here we go again. This week DIS presents yet another unbelievably powerful new technology with striking similarities to the spore-drive. How the producers plan to shoehorn this into existing canon? Frankly, I don't think that's possible anymore...
"Sis Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" is a very odd episode and as it was the case last week, it seems to be somehow out of place (and I strongly dislike the esoteric undertones). The storyline seems to be rushed and the writers, once again, create an unexpected and unfitting Deus-Ex-Machina-moment at the end in an lazy attempt to alter the premise.
The episode starts with the USS Discovery fighting the Klingons in order to rescue the USS Gagarin. We see a little bit of the bridge crew and get some rushed CGI straight out of the JJ-Abrams movies. It is very hard to really see something and the scenes come across as sketchy at the best. But this seems to be the way it goes nowadays and is not a sole problem of DIS. It would have been nice to have some more memorable and detailed effects here.
We get a little background about Stamets connection with the spore-drive and how it influences his behavior. It certainly makes sense that Tilly wonders what's wrong with him and I like the interaction between the two, but it strikes me as quite a stretch that no one else aboard seems to bother. Where is the captain? Why is no one discussing the effects the spore-drive has on Stamets? Why are they not searching for a different solution? It feels like there is almost no connection among the crew. The characters seem oddly isolated from one another and everyone just cares about his own business. I think those are the main reasons why the characters feel so strange and alien.
The story on the planet is again full of contrivances and serves just again as vehicle to severely alter the series premise through some fantasy-like mumbo-jumbo. This time the similarities to "Avatar" are so obvious that DIS is bordering plagiarism.
The way the story unfolds in order to create some kind of cliffhanger is very constructed even by DIS standards. The Federation knew about the planet but never discovered the crystal that can be used as some kind of sensor-array to detect ships in the entire quadrant? (How does it work anyway?) Well, once again some care could have made this (halfway) work.
In the end the Pahvans feel it necessary to restore peace and order in the galaxy by using their phony device and calling the Klingons to the planet for talks. This comes out of the blue and is again a sudden change without any satisfying explanation. Is this meant as a certain kind of homage to the Organians in TOS?
A larger part of the story focuses on Saru who is influenced by the aliens. I don't think it was very clever to choose a character who has been shown as quite unevenly characterized as being possessed and turning against his shipmates. It makes him even more unsympathetic and adds to the question how someone who is driven by fear could have chosen a career in Starfleet at all. This weakens the character. The goal was, I presume, to show how Saru would act without his fears that holds him back. The problem here is, that he acts like a lunatic, free of common sense and loyalty and it never becomes clear what exactly the aliens gave him. I think, it would have been wise to give Saru a more profound basis before showing him like this.
On a positive note, the relation between Lt. Tyler and Michael Burnham feels quite natural which is a nice surprise and is another step in lightening the Burnham-character. Another thing I liked is that the crew, for the first time, actually explored something (despite all the story's shortcomings). I'm not sure if that should make me happy or sad...
Another thing I strongly disliked this week is how uneven L'Rell is characterized. It is such a mess that I don't have any clue how on earth the writers could possibly resolve her storyline. She doesn't seem to have a clear agenda and is more than willing to offer her loyalty to anyone coming across and it doesn't make sense to further comment it until we see how her story progresses.
In general, the Klingons once again act one-dimensional and stumble from one stupidity to another. The scenes between Kol and L'Rell didn't make any sense. Why does he apply the paint on her face just to throw her into prison seconds later?
In conclusion, "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" sports many of the basic problems DIS struggles from. Many of the characters don't have a profound basis, the plot is sketchy at best and full of plotholes and inconsistencies. There is no real connection between many of the crew and they don't work as a unity. A general thing that becomes frustrating is the lack care that goes into the scripts. Many things are not properly explained and "just happen" only to be explained or summarized at the end of an act or the episode (usually by Michael Burnham who lets all the others look like fool). I hope for the coming episodes to put more effort and more patience into the stories. The purpose of serialized television is to give stories more time to evolve not less.
- Nitpicking: The Pahvans wanted to make contact to the outer world for a long time. I wonder what kept them from doing so.
- Remarkable disinterest: L'Rell seemingly kills the admiral in the ship's corridor under the eyes of some guards. She claims that Cornwell wanted to get to her weapon which is very obviously a lie, as the guards should have recognized! Shouldn't they care more for that incident and the needless death of an allegedly valuable hostage?
Rating: 1 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
I have to admit, this was better than I expected it to be. Still, this week's episode wasn't free from flaws and contrivances but it benefited from an overall better rhythm and "flow".
First of all, I really liked that, for the first time, there was a real spirit of cooperation among the crew. An existing problem was properly discussed and all of the crew contributed to its solution. The show definitely needs more of that because it immediately makes the characters more realistic and sympathetic.
There are nevertheless some major problems in this episode. As much as I liked the interaction between the crew I hate to see that yet again a major dilemma is solved in a very simple way. The algorithm used to neutralize the cloaking device comes out of the blue and yet again a major threat has no way to really evolve but is neutralized in a Deus-Ex-Machina fashion. It seems that the writers have no other creative tools to resolve problems. Again, the story of the cloaking device is rushed to an end before it is even properly established. At least the underlining science was more satisfying and not some esoteric or fantasy-device.
I like the way Lorca acts as a captain. When he disobeys his orders to protect the planet of Pahvo he reminds me of Picard. I like this Lorca better because he acts more like a Starfleet captain than an unpredictable lunatic. As much as I welcome this change it strongly contradicts the way he was depicted in previous installments. Also, the way he manipulates Stamets is ethically problematic at best.
The scenes on the Klingon vessel including Burnham and Tyler were quite repetitive. We have seen things like this many times on DIS by now and it the lax security and the Klingon stupidity becomes more and more annoying. This week Burnham even manages to hide on the main bridge of the sarcophagus ship for quite a while. Come on... Her scenes with Kol were effective and the duel resembled the Klingon behavior a bit. Still, why should Kol engage in such a thing during a battle in the first place?
The scenes showing Tyler's PTSD were quite convincing but I think he should have received a more thorough examination in the first place. (But Culber doesn't make the impression of being very competent. See below.)
Another frustrating aspect is that sensors and shields once again seem to work or not work to the writers' convenience. This happens all the time on DIS but this time it stretched credibility too much.
L'Rell's story (again) took a turn to the worse this week. I see no way how she could have planned something in advance. There are to many things she could not have taken into account and to much relies strictly on the inability of her enemies. She is stumbling from plothole to plothole and I wonder how her story will be resolved.
Her connection to Tyler is hinted several times in this episode and I would really wish for more subtleness on the writers' part. This sledgehammer approach is really unsatisfying. (The whole mess reminds me about the "big secret" that was made about Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan in "Into the Darkness"). I don't expect much of a surprise here but I still hope that the writers manage to limit the damage to the Tyler character. In addition, there is probably no realistic way to resolve this storyline without major contrivances and continuity-breaches.
The story about Stamets use of the spore drive is full of contrivance as well. Culber has the inspiration to monitor him during the jumps. This idea is so great that I really wonder why no one else had it earlier. (I mean, come on...!) Again, it becomes apparent that until this episode everyone worked on his own agenda aboard Discovery.
Finally, it disappointed me that neither the storyline regarding the Pahvans nor the Cornwell/Lorca relationship were even addressed. It would have been nice to see some kind of reaction from both the Pahvans and Cornwell. I have a feeling that both is forgotten by the producers...
In conclusion, this was as close to a good episode as DIS could possibly come at this point. Regardless of the immense structural and creative problems the show suffers from I sincerely do hope that this is a turn to the better!
- The way the universal translator as depicted in this episode gives the device the appearance of being something new and unusual.
- After the sarcophagus ship is destroyed, Lorca decides to leave Pahvo. How can he be certain that no other Klingon ships follow the Pahvans' message? The Discovery was very lucky that the sarcophagus ship was the only Klingon ship in range at the first place.
- Why does L'Rell stay aboard Discovery? Wouldn't it make sense for Starfleet to bring her to a starbase for interrogation?
- Lt. Tyler gained some very intimate and thorough knowledge about Klingon ships for a prisoner. Shouldn't that cause some suspicion among his crewmates?
Rating: 5 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
Discovery returns and starts exactly where the first half of the season has ended a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, it also immediately sports the same problems that we are used to. The revelation that we are in the Mirror Universe now is not exactly a big surprise as it was hinted months before. That's a shame as it severely diminishes the impact of the twist. Same goes for the identity of Ash Tyler. In this case the writing is as subtle as a bull in a china shop.
It is open to debate if it is a good idea to enter the Mirror Universe anyways. Discovery is a very dark and gritty show so far and now we enter the gritty and dark Mirror Universe. The reason why the idea of the Mirror Universe is appealing is because of its contrast to the main universe. In that case this contrast is largely absent which makes all of this a questionable effort. Ironically, the visual differences seem to be minimal.
Even if we assume that it is actually a good idea to enter the Mirror Universe, it definitely comes too early. The show is still struggling with its own identity (to put it mild) and the characterizations of the crewmembers are still mostly sketchy and uneven. I am not really sure what to expect from their counterparts.
While I have doubts about this sudden change I still think that the episode itself benefited from Jonathan Frakes' directing. He added good flow and pacing to this week's installment and the use of non-stationary cams worked out quite nicely.
On the negative side we are once again faced with some major problems, severe plotholes and annoying contrivances concerning the writing:
- The crew learns almost everything about the Mirror Universe in a matter of hours through the Klingon "exposition-module" they find. This is a missed opportunity for some real drama as it would have been way more interesting if the crew had to put in some effort to adapt to the new situation. It is also a stretch that they are not only able to alter their, and the ships appearance within a few hours (they even manage to re-carpet the ship) but also learn (almost) everything from the module. Again, important steps of storytelling are simply brushed aside.
- It is also very annoying that yet again it is Burnham who knows everything, learns everything faster than everyone else, and explains everything to everyone. All the other crewmembers must feel like idiots by now. "Into the Forest I Go" showed some refreshing interaction among the crew but this episode provides a backslide to the usual "Mary Sue Burnham" storytelling that makes the character so unlikeable.
- The sudden change in Lorca's behavior is simply not credible as it comes more or less out of the blue. Also, I find it amazing that the man who slept with a superior officer some weeks ago to keep his command lectures Burnham about her relationship with Tyler. For the same reason it is somehow strange that he suddenly comes to the conclusion that Culber shouldn't be allowed to treat Lt. Stamets. This seems to be a very contrived try to build some tension with him. Again, the characterization of Lorca is far from being consistent.
- Discovery seems to be deserted. With Stamets in sickbay we see Burnham and Tilly working all alone in engineering. Tyler can temporarily release the prisoner (whose entire presence doesn't make sense at all) because no one is present to guard the prison. Then he can kill Culber without anyone noticing it because no one is present in sickbay, too. Still, the ship does not feel like an integral part of the show and the absence of extras in many scenes makes the environment feel artificial and damages the overall atmosphere.
- Dr. Culber's death isn't very surprising at all simply because he was never part of the main cast and his fate was foreseeable just like it was the case with Captain Georgiou (Yeoh was credited as "guest star" in the pilot which was extremely stupid) and Lt. Landry before. I just wish they had given him and Stamets more screentime and the relationship an opportunity to evolve. Again, we are faced with a rushed plotline that comes to an hasty end which is quite the opposite of what serialized storytelling is about. This is very frustrating (especially in contrast to the Ash-Tyler-identity-story that feels dragged on at times). On a side note Discovery, again, seems to further backtrack from the anticipated diversity. Sad.
- The decision to (once again) include the USS Defiant into a Mirror Universe-plot is problematic at best. I can live with the contrived explanation for the ship's presence (even though the contrivance, stupidity, and laziness of the writing is stunning here!), but the producers are seemingly about to open a can of worms by physically adding a part of TOS to Discovery. It seems that they largely stick to the original designs. This is a problem because it visualizes the severe and inexplicable differences. One of the very basic problems in Discovery's setup is the fact that the TOS-timeline is already present during DIS and that we have quite a picture of how it is supposed to look like. We will see if and how the producers are able to handle this delicate matter.
Despite all the negative I think this episode has some entertaining merits. In the only scene that actually takes advantage of the new setup we see Tilly acting as Captain of the ISS Discovery. Though it is a bit far fetched I still like how this lightens up the overall atmosphere, as does Lorca's Scott-impression. It is also a promising shift in the show's dynamic that should make for some good scenes.
It remains to be seen how the story concerning Tyler unfolds in the next couple of episodes. I don't expect much of a surprise there, but I still hope that the producers manage to limit the damage to his character, something that should be even harder after he killed Culber.
- Remarkable limitation: The crew learns about almost everything important from the Klingon data module (even classified intelligence reports), but it still seems to provide no information about who the Terran Emperor is? Really? Hm, I wonder who it could be...
- Nitpicking: Lorca wants to assign another doctor to treat Lt. Stamets. Is there even one? One who is equally qualified? Sickbay seemed suspiciously lonely today.
- Nitpicking: Speaking of qualification. Culber needs "special scans" to determine that something is wrong with Tyler. He describes the extensity of the surgical alterations involving crushing bones and leaving inner organs cluttered with scars and more... Sounds like something he should have noticed earlier.
- Nitpicking: While I'm at it: Shouldn't the scans be saved in the computer or shouldn't there be an entry to the medical log? Why did Culber not inform Lorca about his discovery?
- Remarkable (un)ability : We see Saru's threat-ganglia reacting to Tyler. Is this the first time they were in the same room during the last few months? Didn't they spend an entire away mission together just two weeks ago?
Rating: 3 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
Now, I did a review of the first two episodes which kind of turned into a rant. Sorry about that. I haven't bothered reviewing any of the other episodes because they all have the same problems and it would still turn into a rant.
Now we're into the Mirror universe on... DIS it has improved the general feel of the show whereby the dark, villainous Mirror Universe fits the general dark tone of the show. It has to be said, apart from the agony booths and killing superiors to get promotions, I really can't see a hell of a lot of difference between the two universes.
So, getting into it, as established in the previous episode the Discovery has jumped into the Mirror Universe. As Stamets is now in some sort of catatonic state the "Spore Drive" is now useless (Thank god!) so the crew have to find another way of getting home.
After finding the rebel data core they discover the history of the USS Defiant. Assuming they can maybe cross back the same way the Defiant got there.
In this episode, we can assume Burnham has been on the Shenzhou for "some time". She still hasn't found a way to transmit the classified info about the Defiant to Discovery when she receives orders from the Emperor to attack and destroy the head base of operations of the Rebel Alliance.
She manages to hold off destroying the base arguing with her crew that capture and info of all the rebel bases would be most valuable before laying waste to the surface and beams down with Tyler to learn what brings all these species, especially the Klingons together.
The leader of the rebels is none other than Voq and, anyone with half a brain cell could see what was coming next. Yep, Tyler's full memories and real personality resurface and he attacks Mirror Voq for not staying "pure Klingon."
Burnham persuades the rebels to evacuate and give her info which will be useless once the rebels evac. She returns to the Shenzhou and confronts Tyler, by now fully aware of who he is, Voq. yup, no one saw that coming.... Anyway he attacks her before Saru, who is a slave in this universe throws him across the room saving Burnham. She then orders his execution.
In the transporter room she gives him one last punch for good measure although this is to slip the data disk into his communicator holster, before beaming him into space. Tbh, considering her character so far, I wasn't surprised she went through with it, but then obviously the Discovery beams him back out of space. Now as far as I can tell, the Discovery hasn't moved which begs the question how they could beam Tyler on board if they're light years away. Guess it's another JJ-esque thing, they can beam at warp, between solar systems etc. Also, why didn't the data disk float out of the holster when Tyler was beamed into space?
So, Burnham thinks she saved the rebels until another ship arrives and bombards the planet. The Defiant?
And of course we get the reveal of who the emperor is, well Empress, but, yanno there's no such thing as gender anymore obviously. Also, really not a massive surprise, nearly everyone saw that coming since Georgiou was the only character in the Mirror Universe we hadn't heard about.
The B plot in the episode was fairly boring, just surrounded Tilly trying to help Stamets by pumping his brain full of more spores. He ends up in some sort of dream forest with his Mirror counterpart.
So to sum up, the show kinda feels better in the Mirror universe setting. At least we're getting some story progression even though it's the almost laughing predictable. The only if I dare say it, "intriguing" thing about Discovery is Lorca. I don't like the guy, mind you that's not saying anything as I don't like any of the characters really, but his character is the only one with some mystery, because let's face it, we still know virtually nothing about him. When Georgiou appears on the Shenzhou bridge, Burnham is shocked and Lorca gives a faint crooked evil smile.
So yes, a slight improvement although I still feel the writing is mediocre at best and I'm kind of getting tired of a fair bit of virtue signaling, which isn't surprising in a Hollywood show these days, but the way everyone gushes over Burnham is pretty irritating. When Mirror Sarek says she's trustworthy and is a compassionate person... yeah right. She's not shown any of those qualities so far.
It's one of thing's I hate about modern TV characters, Burnham is another of the popular Mary Sue type character, she's brilliant because everyone says she is, but none of her actions merit that. But I won't get into a rant over how outrageously left wing politics is influencing the show.
- Nitpicking: The new Tellarite design looks more like a generic background alien species.
- Remarkable inconsistency: The computer voice on board the Mirror Shenzhou is still the female voice, not the usual stark contrast male voice usually seen in the Mirror universe.
- Remarkable quote: "We are still Starfleet. We still live and die by Federation law, no matter how heinous your crimes..." -Saru to Tyler/Voq
- Remarkable scene: The [Defiant?] bombarding the planet's surface.
- Remarkable alien: I really dig the "new" Andorians. An alien they've got right!
Rating: 5 (Jamie H)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
I hoped for Discovery to take a turn to the better after the break. The opposite has happened so far. This week's episode is a fast paced, confusing mess that suffers from weak directing and especially cringeworthy dialogue.
But, good things first. It was good to see some familiar species in one of the reboots again and it came as a relief that at least the Andorians looked halfway credible. It is also good to see that they finally took their huge budget to use in creating a decent looking alien environment. I also liked Michael's interaction with Mirror-Saru which added some suspense.
Unfortunately, that's about it. "The Wolf Inside" is a (for the most part) nicely wrapped package that turns out to be a completely empty box when you open it. At this point the show suffers immensely from how little the characters work and how little development they went through in the first ten episodes. That becomes apparent when Tyler "confesses" his true identity to Michael. The scene fails to make the desired emotional impact on the viewer. Not only is the way it was executed quite cheesy, it also feels contrived that Tyler blows his cover so willingly. We have to ask what the initial idea was behind the effort. The fact that this "twist" was hinted by the writers with such insistence until even the blindest viewer got it way in advance doesn't help the final revelation. It just, again, opens a can of worms. So many questions are simply ignored by the writing that the whole plot has become frustrating from a certain point. This is typical for DIS doing things simply for dramatic effect without thinking it through. The writers seem so obsessed with twists and turns that they forget to lay the ground first. I could again have gone without the graphic violence, too.
By the way, something I noticed at the end of last week's episode continues here. I find it of quite bad taste how Michael and Tyler "enjoy themselves" while Lorca is tortured. Similarly, it strikes me how much effort and risk Michael puts into Tyler's rescue while she simply watches some nameless stooges die earlier in the episode.
Another symptom of Discovery's illnesses is Burnham's plan to warn the Alliance on the planet. Again, we have a two-person away team on a suicide mission and no one asks any questions. Conveniently, the soldiers on the planet are not very good at aiming (not a sole DIS-problem though). As much as I liked seeing the Andorians I despised the way the Alliance was pictured. They seemed like a cult with a weird spiritual mythology and the badly written, preachy dialogue was hard to bear. The involvement of Sarek into the plot felt out of place. This is something Burnham couldn't have taken into account but only due to this coincidence the whole plan works at all. What was her plan anyways? Beam down and hope not to be killed and then convince the rebels?
Burnham's wish to learn about how those different species managed to form an alliance as a template for a possible peace with the Klingons in her universe is painfully stupid in its contrivance. We have a bunch of species with a common (deadly) enemy, namely the fascist and xenophobic Terran Empire, that is determined to obliterate all of them with unstoppable brutality. Dear Michael, it shouldn't be too hard for your Vulcan mind to figure out what holds the Alliance together...
In general, I more and more come to despise the cheesy, contrived and preachy way this show is written. A lot of hot air is produced by the actors saying some pathetic lines. This pseudo-depth is one of Discovery's characteristics so far. All of this is especially true for the Klingons. Kahless was never depicted as a religious figure in the sense of a church-like movement like it is the case in DIS. The way the Klingons are depicted here has nothing to do with the Klingons we know.
For the scenes aboard the Discovery we can assess similar things. First, we have to accept the fact that it was indeed possible for Tyler to kill Dr. Culber without anyone noticing it which is a way too far stretch and another example of the writers ignoring common sense in favor of a twist. The fact that Saru assumes that Stamets is the murder adds insult to injury. There are so many reasons why all of this doesn't work that one should think that the writers would have encountered at least one of them... The following story about Stamets and the attempted healing by spores is once again complete nonsense. This time, the writers tried to cover their fantasy-hocus-pocus by so extensively using technobabble that it is even annoying to watch as well.
Similar to that is the use of the transporter in this episode. Again, an established technology (established with its limitations) shows miraculous abilities. How was Michael able to plan this in advance anyways? Did she simply hope that Saru would anticipate the maneuver or was she actually willing to let Tyler die? How was it possible to conduct the whole plan simultaneous anyways, how did they coordinate it? (etc. etc.). Like so many times before, given circumstances are simply ignored for plot-convenience. Things like this happened in Star Trek before, but on DIS they happen so frequently (almost every episode) and so blatantly that it is simply frustrating. It is also once again a good example for the producers' lack of creativity and their inaptitude to resolve certain plotlines in a different way.
The ending was not really a big surprise although I have to admit that I am glad to see Michelle Yeoh again. What stretches plausibility once again is Michael's surprise when she sees Georgiou for the first time. Are we really expected to believe that she didn't learn who the Emperor is until this point?
In conclusion, DIS came close to hitting rock bottom this week. The whole mirror-universe premise doesn't work, and the scripts are once again littered with contrived twists and plotlines that are bereft of sense and creativity. I also think that this week's episode suffered, more than usual, massive damage from aesthetically poor writing and amateurish directing.
- Remarkable presence: Nice to see that the Discovery has indeed a medical crew.
- Now that we know that there is a medical crew: Did anyone bother to examine Culber's body. It shouldn't be too hard to find Tyler's fingerprints or traces of his DNA on Culber's neck.
- Tilly states that she is the only qualified person to treat Stamets. Even if we believe that that's the case: Shouldn't there be a medical team present just in case the situation goes out of hand? (What is what of course happens and they do have to call a for a medical emergency...)
- It is strange how trusted Saru and Michael seem in this episode. When did that happen?
- Through the middle of the episode all crew members aboard the Discovery seem to switch back to their standard uniforms. Why? Isn't that risky? Isn't there always the possibility that they have to pose as their mirror counterparts spontaneously.
- Speaking of that. Doesn't the ship receive any orders from the Empire? They seem able to follow the ISS Shenzhou all the time.
Rating: 1 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
With "Vaulting Ambition", DIS finally hit the ground. But not the way I thought it would. The producers and writers of the show tried very hard to be edgy from Day 1. They tried very hard to make Star Trek unrecognizable in almost any way possible. You can like that or hate it. I do not like it because I still think that if you make a Star Trek show it should look and feel like Star Trek. Otherwise you are just taking advantage of an established brand name. I can understand the urge to make things different, to distinguish your work from the previous work that was done on the franchise. What I really hate is that all the producers of DIS can think of to distinguish their Star Trek from the Star Trek we know is to implement darkness, brutality and violence. That is nothing more but an expression of ineptitude and creative helplessness. We are in the season's final third and the show is lacking any coherence and continuity. Internal and especially in regard of the rest of the franchise.
As I mentioned the weeks before, the reason why the Mirror Universe is appealing is because of the playful and more or less lighthearted contrast it presented to our main universe. The whole premise doesn't work here because we simply do not have that contrast on DIS. What makes things worse is that the Mirror Universe was never meant to be too serious. On DIS it is dead serious in its brutality. It is pictured as a place inhabited by xenophobic, fascist and cruel characters. The level of underlying aggression in the episodes is hard to bear. There is neither any light nor any humor in this grotesque version of the Mirror Universe.
I generally despise the graphic violence on the show. I simply think it doesn't fit into the Star Trek Universe, but this week, the show eventually crossed the line. We have the scene in which Georgiou murders half a dozen people (sporting extremely bad effects) and the scene that shows us a guy having his head exploded with blood splattering all over the place. All of that wasn't very pleasant and showed just violence for the sake of showing violence which is poor. What really disgusted me was when Burnham ate a Kelpiam (Saru?) in her soup. I really have no words for that and I really think that the writers went too far this time. It is a graphic example of bad taste and a very transparent try to create a grim moment where darkness is present in abundance.
All of the above left me so stunned and angry, that it ruined the episode for me and (for now) destroyed much of the interest I have left for the show.
The story concerning Lorca was not a big surprise (as it again sported the writers' non-talent in being subtle) but is once again a good example for a sudden alteration of a character and the story in general. Lorca's plan heavily relies on coincident and contrivance (while we learn nothing about his motivations) and there is no way he could have planned any of it in advance. Like it is the case with the Ash Tyler-story. Like it is the case with the L'Rell-story. Like it is the case with the Klingon-War-arc. Like it is the case with the show's entire premise. The writers are so eager to create (pseudo-)dramatic twists that they do not bother with the basics of writing. We have vague plans (Lorca's plan to get to Georgiou, L'Rell's plan to infiltrate the Federation...), sketchy, to no motivations for the characters and a complete absence of logic to the stories. This is not even B-movie level of production!
At this point the plotholes are so tiresome because of their repetitiveness that the only positive thing about this week's episode was that it was over in less than 38 minutes.
As nice as it was to see Michelle Yeoh again, her whole interaction with Michael Burnham makes no sense. Again, the writers seem to forget what has happened an act or a scene before and there is no good reason why Georgiou should trust Burnham so readily, then sentence her to death out of the blue (after inviting her for dinner) just to once again trust her without gaining any benefit from letting her alive.
The story concerning Stamets was the more interesting part of the episode what doesn't say much. The whole spore-story is just a pale imitation of science fiction. The dialogue in his scenes with Culber was badly written and cheesy.
The subplot concerning L'Rell-Voq-Tyler-Saru seems to create some kind of weird setup for the coming episodes. Still, there is no good reason for Saru not to keep Tyler sedated until Discovery returns to normal space. The one thing he shouldn't have done is to let L'Rell perform her hocus-pocus procedure when no one knows what she's actually doing. The fact that Saru more or less begs L'Rell makes no sense at all.
Another striking point for this week is the overall design. Georgiou's ship has nothing to do with Star Trek and the set design seems heavily "inspired" by certain movies from certain comic franchises. Like it is the case with the story the producers try to adapt every inch of the franchise to whatever is successful on TV nowadays. DIS has nothing that stands out and no message of its own. On the contrary, the show borders plagiarism on many occasions. This, combined with the ineptitude to produce a halfway coherent story leaves a very sad impression. At this point, we would usually speculate how all of this could possibly fit into the franchise's continuity. But what's the point? There is clearly no effort and (even worse) no willingness to make DIS fit. And that is not only a question of canon...
- Burnham injects Lorca some kind of analgesic to numb the pain he suffers during torture. Why not two weeks ago? Maybe because this week it was necessary for the plot?
- What exactly was Culber in the network? If he was just a projection of Stamets's mind how could he give him new information or information about Mirror-Stamets?
- Where did L'Rell get her equipment to treat Tyler/Voq from? Did she have it all the time or was it just easy to replicate?
- The light-sensitiveness is of course just a lazy made up by the writers to resolve the plot. There was never a mention of this before.
- Logic 101: Georgiou states that Burnham should trust her because her counterpart in the main universe was trustworthy. Well, Michael, better think it through...
Rating: 0 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
If you have not seen an episode of DIS yet than you are lucky. It's your chance. What's Past is Prologue is the entire show in a nutshell. It is confusing, dense and bereft of creativity and inner logic. Many of the installments have been frustrating and weakly executed so far, but this time the producers add a good portion of insolence to their efforts. What they wanted to accomplish with that episode or the whole Mirror Universe story? We probably will never know...
I don't care for Lorca and his story at all, but I find it amazing that the writers came to the conclusion that it is a good idea to go from the "big" revelation to claiming his life in less than forty minutes. I'm sure that was meant to be shocking, but it doesn't work because the writers are simply unable to apply the simplest rules of storytelling to the character. I can live with the explanation of how he got to the Prime Universe but everything else makes absolutely no sense. We learn nothing about his motivation (his claims about how Starfleet endanger his universe are simply ludicrous), his agenda, how he managed to adapt to the Prime Universe so quickly (and gained command over an experimental ship) and why exactly Burnham was so important for his plan. This is simply to far-fetched and unbelievable. The way he gathered his allies and boarded the Emperor's ship was maybe one of the worst written parts of TV history.
In a certain ways DIS parodied itself this week. A good example is the whole plan of Discovery's crew to destroy Georgiou's ship and escape the shockwave (a common VOY-motif by the way). Usually DIS tends to summarize events that are not shown on screen at the end of an act or an episode which is quite unsatisfying for the most part. This time the plan was explained in every detail by Tilly and Stamets and we could even see it as a simulation just to see it executed exactly as planned and already shown. This is nothing else but an example of empty screen time and should simply not be possible on a modern show.
The whole spore network-nonsense was lifted to the next level by the revelation that destroying the network could destroy not only our universe and the Mirror Universe but ALL universes. Why do the writers feel the need to further exaggerate a plotline that already is far over the top? It all became even more ridiculous. Still, Culber's presence in the network doesn't make any sense and was simply ignored.
Speaking of ignored plots. The Tyler/Voq-story was completely absent from this episode which is quite frustrating because of all the fuzz that was made about it the weeks before. But then again, it shouldn't surprise anyone.
Frankly, I see no point in commenting on any of the stuff that happens aboard the Charon because nothing there makes any sense at all and clearly the writers didn't give it any thought at all. This might be the weakest part of the entire show. It was frustrating to watch and was just plain stupid not only concerning the story but also for its weird choreography. The contrivance of the week is that Georgiou assumes herself defeated. Why? She crushed the rebellion (again) and this time was even successful in killing Lorca. Could there be a greater victory for her? Of course, it once again was necessary for the writers to ignore all logic and common sense to make happen what they wanted to happen. I ran out of adjectives that express disdain for their skills by now...
The producers tried to imitate some Star Trek by adding dialogue about what's Starfleet (supposedly) about. That doesn't work at all. Not only because the lines are badly written but mainly because it has nothing to do with how the show presents itself. We simply don't believe Burnham when she talks about Starfleet's ideals, simply because we never see it. The maneuver the writers tried here is quite obvious, of course.
I'm a bit scared by the cliffhanger and the revelation that the Discovery went nine months into the future. The whole Mirror Universe exercise was completely pointless, because nothing that happened there has any influence on our universe. Now, we face another time-travel episode (or two) that will further cement that nothing that happens on DIS is reliable in any way. Instead the show is forced into more and more plot-twists just to have them resolved in a Deus-Ex-Machina or an unsatisfying and contrived fashion. The greatest weakness of DIS is that nothing is properly established and the writers seem to confuse speed with creativity. (I really don't want to think about how they plan to resolve the whole Georgiou-issue.)
It can be speculated that the writers try to set the clock back entirely (involving Georgiou sacrificing her life). That would be even more frustrating.
"What's Past is Prologue" also suffers severely from its comic-like appearance. The looks and the choreography were simply annoying and ridiculous and the whole thing looked more like an epileptic children's show than a legit TV-series.
All in all, DIS manages to disconnect itself from Star Trek almost entirely. It has become nearly impossible to watch the show as a legit part of the franchise. But the problems don't end there. The whole inner continuity and coherence of the show lies in ruins. Nothing makes any sense anymore, we have no reliable characters, the stories are rushed and the writers seem as careless as they could possibly be. I almost have the impression that they just try to get over with their whole mess. The good news is that in two episodes everything is over.
By the way, I remember the producers saying at several occasions that there will be no gratuitous killings on DIS. Guess I add it to the list...
The level of incompetence on DIS really makes me sad.
- Remarkable friendship: I mentioned it last week but it happens again. Saru calls Burnham "my friend". When exactly did that happen?
- How is it possible that no one in the TOS-era has any knowledge of the Mirror Universe? I can hardly imagine that the information was kept secret by Starfleet.
- Where is original-Lorca? We know from TOS: "Mirror, Mirror" that his counterpart should be alive and present in the Mirror Universe.
- Remarkable change of mind: Georgiou, rather quickly, comes to the conclusion that she is defeated and has no future as Emperor. Then, she decides to buy Burnham some time to escape. Both makes absolutely no sense from her perspective. So, why is that? Answer: To construct an excuse for her to enter the Prime Universe.
- Again the transporters seem to work to the writers' convenience. Georgiou can initiate a side-to-side transport but it never comes to her mind to use it against
- Lorca and his men. Why were Lorca's men left alive in the first place? Georgiou showed no mercy against her own people, what reason should she have to leave a great bunch of Lorca's people alive?
- Oh... and how exactly did he manage to free them without being caught or killed instantly?
- In the final scenes Discovery tries to reach Starfleet but gets no answer. Still, it seems to be no problem to get updated charts about the war. Who provided them? The Klingons?
- Wasn't the whole purpose of the spore drive to travel to places instantaneously. Of course, that wouldn't have allowed for the heartbreaking scenes with Culber (whose presence in the network still doesn't make any sense at all).
Rating: 0 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
"It's a mess, Jim."
That could be a good way to describe the overall state the show is in by now. We have only one more episode to go and "The War Without, The War Within" mainly delivers some setup for the season's final and seems to turn the clock back, which is a bit disappointing. I also disliked how casually the writers discarded the presence of the Mirror Discovery and the original Lorca.
But, positives first:
Surprisingly, this week's installment benefits from some slower paced scenes and some glimpses of character development which comes as a pleasant surprise. The first third showed the crew sorting out what has happened in the Mirror Universe and was largely free from contrivances and plotholes. I especially liked the encounter between Tyler and Stamets and the engineer's very realistic reaction to the man who is responsible for his lover's death. I also liked Tilly's try to comfort Tyler in the mess hall although the writers unfortunately went over the top when they showed all other crewmembers joining them. This comes definitely too quick and seems a bit unfair against Stamets. By the way, I still think it would make more sense to keep him isolated from the rest of the crew because no one seems to have an idea what L'Rell has actually done to him and the Doctor can't even tell if he is a Human or a Klingon at all. Shouldn't he be at least restricted to his quarters and further interrogated?
On another note, his scenes with Burnham seemed to come straight from a soap-opera and made little sense. Is Tyler really naive enough to believe that Michael would reconnect with him as if nothing had happened? That's pretty hard to believe. Also, I found the acting to be especially week in this scene, but that's just me.
Another thing I liked in general are the scenes in which characters actually interchange with one another. The scenes between Sarek (although James Frain is painfully bad in the role), Cornwell, and Georgiou were quite powerful as were the scenes in the briefing room. It made the viewers realize how much such normal interaction among the crew is missed from the show. Unfortunately, these scenes also underline a very basic problem DIS has. We would usually expect at least some of the department heads participating in such a meeting but I have no idea who Discovery's tactical officer is. Who is the science officer? Who is CMO? Who is the chief engineer? (Is it Stamets? Was that ever confirmed?). We see, for example, the robot-like crewmember taking command when Saru is not on the bridge. Is she his first officer? This might seem like a minor point but it is the symptom of one of DIS's major illnesses. Not only do ship and crew feel incomplete and strangely alien, it is also again Burnham who has all the good ideas, who comes up with a brilliant plan and who is exposition and execution in one person. Her universal brilliance has stretched credibility way too much by now. The point is: The writers don't seem to feel the need of installing a properly structured crew when they can use "Specialist Wunderkind" for absolutely everything. This depreciates all other characters and has become extremely boring and annoying by now. At least, this time Stamets is allowed to chip in a little bit to her plan.
I principally liked the involvement of Admiral Cornwell in this episode although her bit with L'Rell was a bit redundant and added nothing new to the narrative. It simply made obvious how lost the L'Rell character is within the show and how nonsensical her whole story is.
The plan to infiltrate Qo'nos using the spore-drive is quite questionable in its plausibility. I also don't know what kind of information Starfleet is hoping for but I have a bad feeling about what is going to happen next week. Additionally, the casual way in which Stamets is able to grow new spores caricatures former installments and makes no sense at all. It just helps to maintain a plot device that really should be long gone by now. I hate to mention it, but once again the writers alter a premise to fit the script which is quite poor.
A point that really hurts the episode severely is the contrived involvement of Empress Georgiou who is posing as her counterpart from our universe. There is no way that works as a credible storyline. (Still, I like seeing Michelle Yeoh. She is by far the best actor on the show). Are we really expected to believe that her asset to this mission could be so crucial that it justifies giving her full control over the ship? Are we really expected to believe that Starfleet has no competent officer to lead this mission? (Where are the Pikes, Deckers and Aprils?). Even if we answer these questions positive. Georgiou is a dangerous and unpredictable mass-murderer who is very resourceful and dangerous and would not hesitate to take advantage of the situation if it benefits her in any way. This, once again, feels more like a fanfiction-fantasy than a legit idea for an actual TV-show. Discovery's crew should really have learned their lesson.
The biggest problem and letdown does not only concern this episode though "The War Without, The War Within" is exemplary in this regard. We have never seen much of the war at all. If we were not told all the time how devastating and brutal it is we would barely recognize it in the show. (A good example of "show, don't tell"). This week, we experience a sudden shift in the Klingon's behavior that comes out of the blue and, once again, remains sketchy at best. This is a problem because the show lacks any emotional attachment to its most important storyline. This very basic flaw in the show's execution is even aggravated by the whole Mirror-Universe-exercise. The sole purpose of those four episodes was to bring Georgiou back and to discard Lorca who is barely mentioned this week which also disappointed me a great deal. Other than that, nothing what happened there seem to have a real impact on the war-story and we just missed most of it due to the nine-month jump. That lack of suspense is very unsatisfying. The producers wasted about one fourth of DIS's first season for complete nonsense where they should have given the narrative some desperately needed depth.
As I said in the beginning, this episode was all in all successful in building up for the season-final. Still, I think that there is little hope for a satisfying conclusion. Too many storylines are not properly developed and I expect either some Deus-Ex-Machina or a cliffhanger (or something even worse. Vulcan anyone?). I am not very keen of both options.
- Continuity: While Kirk mentions in "Errand of Mercy" that there had been aggressions between the Federation and the Klingons there is not a single hint later in the timeline of a devastating war that brought the Federation on the edge of annihilation.
- No one from the regular crew knows that Burnham brought Empress Georgiou aboard. That is quite a stretch because there was no reason to keep it a secret in the first place and Georgiou was escorted through the ship. But, the real question is, what happened to the guy who operated the transporter? He should have noticed...
- Is there a reason why we almost never see another Starfleet-ship? Admiral Cornwell arrived on a ship that we don't see.
- Cornwell orders the Discovery to Starbase 1 to meet with what's left of Starfleet Command. They find out that the Starbase is destroyed. Shortly after that Cornwell is able to contact the leftovers of Starfleet Command's leftovers. That whole segment makes little to no sense. How did Cornwell find these people?
- Why didn't the Discovery notice earlier that the Starbase is destroyed? What happened to long-range sensors?
- When Cornwell's ship is about to attack the Discovery, Saru orders to rise the shields. Still, it seems no problem for the boarding party to beam over.
- The Mirror Universe is declared a secret matter. While that makes sense and is reasonable the explanation is a bit corny. Cornwell's concern is that someone could look for a lost one in the Mirror Universe. How should that person be able to cross over without access to the spore drive?
Rating: 3 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
So, here it is the season finale. Considering the rest of the series I wasn't expecting anything special and I was I'm glad I was proven right.
Considering the events of the early episodes which were supposed to be about trying to win the war against the "Klingons" and the events now, the whole Mirror Universe mini arc seems even more pointless now. I get the distinct feeling that it's that typical Hollywood trope these days of "we need a straight white guy to be an asshole" because clearly that's how everyone in Hollywood thinks.
The whole bringing Georgiou from the Mirror Universe was pretty pointless too, she didn't really contribute much in the end and she's now free in whatever effing universe we're allegedly in.
I have a real problem with Starfleet green-lighting a genocide mission in this episode too. Now, we have of course seen Sisko attack a Maquis world which could've wiped everyone on that planet out, that was on his own personal vendetta however and not on the orders of Starfleet Command. We've also seen some rogue Starfleet Admirals like Leyton in DS9 "Paradise Lost", but none of these actions were officially sanctioned. The only time we actually see a real attempted mass Genocide is of course against the founders and they were actions taken by Section 31, again, not Starfleet, if they did know, then they chose to just look the other way.
Sarek has got worse as the show has gone on too, I believe Bernd touched on this in his review. This is really sad that one of the most iconic and best loved characters is being radically altered. Becoming a warmonger and all round asshole tbh. In the final scene he's far too emotional, he's smiling, I truly believe the creators of this show do not have a clue about their source material.
The scenes on Qo'nos are probably some of the best the show has managed to come up with, which isn't saying much, but at least we finally got to go to another planet instead of being bottled up on what is actually a pretty uninteresting ship. I've thought from the beginning the style of the sets don't really do anything for me. What is normally my favourite room on a starship, Engineering is very underwhelming in design and features which is a shame as it's a room we've spent much more time in than most series in a short time. Anyway, back to Qo'nos, the general back end of the universe vibe was good with dark dirty clubs etc and I liked the back leather civy/Marc costumes. Tilly was probably the best character in these scenes though with some of that awkwardness and confidence, she was probably the stand out performer in this episode. Finally we actually see some loud and merry Klingons which makes a nice change too!
I'm still having trouble coming to terms with how easily Burnham talks down everyone, especially the Emperor in the shrine scene. Only a few episodes ago, she was more than willing to kill what she thought was her universe version of Burnham, why would she hesitate in the slightest to kill "Prime" universe Burnham when she got in her way?
So, I assume the bomb is still under Qo'nos even in TNG era, which is just another thing that seems everyone just forgot. L'Rell manages to call off the war using the treat of setting the bomb off and I assume unite the houses, we don't know for sure and that's the end of the war. Just like that. Yet there's still no mention that the Federation nearly fell to the Klingon Empire just 10 years before Kirk? Also, surely it's just been a war between the Klingons and Starfleet since no other races except those serving in Starfleet were actually involved!
So, onto the final couple of scenes. I'm not going to lie, the "Big Speech" scene was cringe-worthy, not only do I think no one in Discovery had the right to give a speech about who the Federation is as no actions like anything said in the speech has been even remotely demonstrated in Discovery, they've all just been upstarts. I always knew Burnham was going to get reinstated, that was a given despite the fact she committed mutiny, but no, Burnham's perfect, she even got decorated when she hasn't really contributed that much. She's just been whining about this and that, other than anything else.
So yeah, that scene was genuinely cringe-worthy. Think they were going for something like Archer's speech in "Terra Prime", but Archer's speech had some true meaning and it had actions to support what he said.
So, we come to the final scene, warping to Vulcan... And... they did it, they brought the Enterprise in and as we suspected, they have redesigned it to fit the Disco aesthetic. I'm disappointed but not in the least bit surprised. It appears they've taken that fan made NX/Connie design and tweaked it a bit. The nacelles certainly looked NX like as did the pylons, the saucer is flatter like the JJ verse 1701 and the neck is shorter as well. I'm genuinely worried for what they'll do for the next season because if they've brought the Enterprise in as a cliffhanger, I can see them making it a big part of next season, it's another demonstration that they have to keep making cheap fan service like this because the show can't stand on its on two feet!
So my sum up of the first season of Disco is not in anyway favourable. A lot of Disco fanboys constantly compare how bad TNG's first season was, and I think on balance in the modern day, Disco is worse, it's got pretty good pace CG, but the more I've watched the show, the more I've thought the ships are pretty bad, they look unrealistic, they look CG'd. I think the ships in Enterprise looked more realistic, the lighting, colours and textures just looked much better.
The show suffered massively from poor writing, poor plot direction, I genuinely don't know what the story was really supposed to be about. Was about the Mirror universe and Lorca, was about the Klingon war, neither really made a massive impact on me and none of them had particularly good pay offs.
A pretty poor return for Trek in my opinion. Totally unrelated I suppose, but having watched Netflix's other new Sci-fi show Altered Carbon which had brilliant writing, story, effects and acting I have to ask myself, if they already had that in the pipeline why did they waste so many Millions on Discovery?
- Why did the Klingons not detect Discovery or the bomb inside Qo'noS? One of the Orions said the Volcano is actually active, so surely the Klingons would have senors there to monitor it?
- As already mentioned, Burnham being to talk down people far too easily.
- Humans managed to beam to Qo'nos despite being at war with the Klingon Empire, even as mercenaries, why were they not just killed on site?
- Remarkable scene: Discovery jumping into the cavern was kind of cool, nose diving before stabilizing.
Rating: 1 (Jamie H)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
The first season of Star Trek: Discovery is officially over and it did not end with a boom like I would have expected. Instead, it almost feels as if the producers ran out of budget for the last couple of episodes. In addition, this week's episode, once again, sports all the basic problems of DIS and adds some new inconsistencies to the canon. It felt like watching an uneven fanfiction-fantasy once again and strongly reminded me of the Abramsverse movies. The commemoration ceremony, for example, looked like an almost exact copy of the 2009 movie.
First of all: It was remarkably boring for a season-finale. I would have expected way more action and overall faster pacing. Instead, half of the episode is dedicated to mere exposition and to validate a premise that had no chance to work from the beginning. Unfortunately, the time was not used to give the characters more depth but was instead wasted with some bantering between Georgiou and Burnham and Georgiou and the rest of the crew. As I outlined last week, the crew does not really work as a credible unity (and makes little sense in its composition) and every storyline is boiled down to involve Burnham, while everyone else is just an extra.
Georgiou as captain of the Discovery is such a stretch that it affects the whole episode from the start. The fact that she engages in some kind of conspiracy with Admiral Cornwell is a bit lazy and hard to believe. What makes this part of the episode not only incredible but also annoying is, once again, how casually Burnham appeals to the Admiral's morals to make her rethink the plan to destroy the Klingon homeworld. I appreciate the try to show some symmetry of events though (regardless of how ridicules the mutiny-scene in the pilot was) but it does not really serve its purpose here. The producers let us believe that the Federation is facing total defeat and that the Federation is desperate. Why should Cornwell even listen to Burnham? That does not make any sense and comes across as very lazy and cheap writing and is a very contrived way out for the producers. It also, like it is the case in absolutely every episode so far, shows Burnham as moral superior to everyone else. It was probably felt that it might be way too easy for viewers to anticipate that Georgiou would not cooperate and betray the Federation. That is true, but still does not justify for the setbacks of the story. A minor point that bothered me here, even though it is a common thing in Star Trek generally, is that Cornwell does not have to face any consequences for her actions later.
The involvement of L'Rell in the episode just adds another nuance to a story that worked at absolutely no point of the show. This week it, again, strongly contradicts previous episodes. She is brought into power by the Federation through the backdoor because she has the detonator of a bomb capable of destroying the whole planet in her hands. Why should the Federation allow that to happen? What makes L'Rell a reliable ally all the sudden? What makes anyone think that she would not abuse her new powers to take revenge on her enemies, or even more likely, on the Federation (who is responsible for her being a captive for weeks)? All of that is quite grim and strikes me as very un-Starfleet thing to do but underlines perfectly how meaningless, arbitrary, and disposable all the phony and preachy dialogue of what Starfleet is all about and Federation values and so on really is.
Again, the story would have needed much more thought and logic to halfway work. Same goes for the story on Qo'noS itself. I cringed when Burnham uttered the line "You are nothing like the Philippa Georgiou from my universe." Well, did she really expect to find any similarities with her old captain. (I mean, logics and so on...) After four episodes in the Mirror-Universe she should definitely know better. Overall, the Orion market part of the story was simply pointless, and stretched out using some random scenes on the to somehow make it to 45 minutes for the final while the initial purpose was fulfilled with the usual casualness. The lack of creativity is striking here as the story felt like we have seen stuff like this a million times by now. Again, nothing bold, modern, or new here...
Like the whole show, the final suffers from the fact that DIS is not an ensemble-show. So far, Burnham played a key role in every story and every (sub)plot while everyone else is reduced to a mere stooge. Stamets has exactly two lines in the episode, Saru contributes almost nothing to the plot and Tilly serves solely as comic-relief (and liability) with no real function (even though Mary Wiseman successfully steals some scenes). That is frustrating because it adds to the impression of Burnham being a "Mary Sue" even more. At this point, I am so tired of her knowing everything, having every possible skill, and being morally superior to everyone (and letting everyone know). She is the personified Deus-Ex-Machina. The stories would definitely have benefited from adding more different perspectives. Having a lead like Burnham lets the storytelling of DIS feel like an 80s show but has nothing to do with the "modernness" the producers insisted on at various occasions.
Same goes for the fact that the writing fails to transport the tension of the war, mostly because we see nothing of it. I guess, the Mirror Universe episodes were meant to show that everyone could become evil under certain circumstances. This allegory failed to work, not only because of the painfully weak writing, but also because of the many plotholes that were added to the show during that excursion. It is also a far stretch (at best) that Burnham & Co. consider it an option that they can learn anything of consequence for their situation from an alternative universe (or even worse, that the Mirror Universe served as an eye-opener for them). No real person can be that na´ve and it especially contradicts the allegedly intelligent and logical thinking Burnham-character. (A good example is Burnham's wish to learn how an Alliance between different species was possible, when it is obvious that it is a common enemy who brought them together). Once again, these examples show how the producers try to give their stupidity some kind of pseudo-philosophical justification. Similar things can be said for the Klingons as allegory for Trump. If that really is the great message of DIS, it is thin, very thin...
The episode has, nonetheless, some redeeming qualities that save it from being a complete disaster. I, as usual, liked Michelle Yeoh's acting (as opposed to James Frain who once more presented a quite emotional Sarek on top of an overall very weak performance). She is easily the best actor on the show. I also liked, that she was not killed off even though this is very problematic. There is no reason to let her go and risk future trouble with her. Additionally, she is still a mass murderer and should be in prison. Her crimes are real regardless of the universe they took place in. Like the Mudd-story, this is ethically questionable at best.
The scenes between Burnham and Tyler were mostly enjoyable and made sense and I am simply glad that the producers did not litter the episode with epileptic action-sequences and did not destroy Qo'noS. I also appreciate the general try to end the season on a calmer level. The nod to TOS during the end-credits was quite touching, too. Same goes for some of the references to old Star Trek (Mintaka III, TOS: "Bread and Circuses", Betazed...).
As for the franchise's continuity, there are tries to shoehorn everything into Star Trek's canon, but most of it does not work and the introduction of the USS Enterprise is very problematic here. The ship looks at least halfway credible (certainly better than the JJ-version) but that just validates how little the rest of the show fits when it comes to the visuals. For everything else: I see no point to further commenting on something that is given little to no thought by the producers. At this point, DIS is nothing but a weak reboot of Star Trek.
In general, I find season 1 of DIS disappointing on almost all accounts as a show in general. What strikes me most is, that the question if one accepts this show as Star Trek or not has become secondary because of its very basic weaknesses in writing and execution. I am amazed how little thought went into the scripts and how many very essential plotholes and internal inconsistencies made it into production. Regarding the time and the budget they had there is no real excuse for that. In addition, I strongly despise how the producers lied so blatantly to the fans on many occasions. I wrote about this in detail in other reviews but I am still stunned by it.
As a Star Trek show, DIS fails almost completely. The producers seem not to understand what makes Star Trek so special and what distinguishes it from other shows. There is no real message, no working allegory to real-world problems, and no philosophical depth. Instead I found the show morally and ethically questionable on more than one occasion and at times unnecessarily violent. Many of the stories were disposable and just lazily copied things we see on other shows. In addition, the producers were very successful in making the show almost unrecognizable as a Star Trek-show, not only visually. My guess is that they tried to attract younger audiences by giving the show more similarities with successful comic-franchises that are en vogue at the moment. Unfortunately, the price for that was Star Trek's soul. What I still do not understand is why they made it a reboot, when it is obvious that everyone involved felt restrained by the timeline. (Just for some namedropping?) One of the major problems of DIS for me is, that the show has nothing that makes it unique. I do not see a vision and I do not see an idea. Like all the other episodes I rate this one by the standards of a Star Trek-show because the producers strongly insist on it being a legit Star Trek-show that is not a reboot, even though what I see tells differently.
- The UFP-logo we see here is a bit problematic because it resembles more the movie-era's logo and has nothing in common with the UFP-logo we see in TOS. Though it is of course theoretically possible that both versions coexisted for a while.
- It is established that women cannot have a seat on the Klingon High Council and cannot lead it (examples are DS9's "The House of Quark" and TNG's "Redemption", where this is a central plot-point). It is possible that this policy was adopted later, although it pretty much sounds like women were never granted a seat on the High Council.
- So, the Federation planted a bomb into Qo'noS's core capable of destroying most of the planet and gave control over it to L'Rell. While this is morally as wrong as it can get on a Star Trek-show and strongly contradicts everything we know about the Federation and Starfleet, I wonder why it was never addressed later on. This is a big thing when you think about it. The Federation changed the power-structures on Qo'noS entirely but not even ten years later in TOS: "Errand of Mercy" it is not addressed?
- Many of the Orions seem "less green" than we are used to. I wonder what the reason for this is. I was also surprised to hear about an Orion Embassy. They are described as pirates. I never heard of pirates having an embassy somewhere (but the idea is a funny one).
- Paris looks very different from what we see later in ST:VI and DS9. The style strongly resembles the JJ-movies. Also, Starfleet Headquarters are in San Francisco while the President's Office is actually in Paris. A possible explanation would be that Starfleet Headquarters also has offices in Paris.
- The High Council looked like it is based in some cave-structures under the planet's surface. This is very different from what we saw in ENT and from what we will see in TNG. It is hard to find an explanation for that.
- What was the reason for mothballing the spore-drive again? We learned how easy it was to grow the spores last week and it seemed like Stamets was able to operate the thing quite safely. Maybe I missed something here.
- Burnham is now officially Discovery's science officer. Who held this important position before her? I mean, the Discovery is supposed to be a SCIENCE-Vessel after all.
- Burnham questions Georgiou on the bridge about her hometown in order to blow her cover. Is that wise? What did she expect would happen when Georgiou is exposed?
- We can see that the Klingon fleet very close to Earth during the episode. Obviously, no attack took place. I wonder why. How fast did the fleet learn about the incidents on Qo'noS? How did they learn of it at all? Even if they knew about it almost immediately, is it really realistic that none of the Houses decided to attack Earth anyways?
- Remarkable line: "Be good, Philippa." Sure, that is how you release a brutal dictator and ruthless mass murderer into freedom. Good work, Michael. You had a bad conscience about a mutiny that did not start a war (regardless of what the writers try to let us believe) but this doesn't give you second thoughts. Guess, crimes only count when they are committed in our universe...
Rating: 2 (Kilian T.)