Star Trek Short Treks (DST) Guest Reviews
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
"Discovery" returns with a new format. In so called "Short Treks" we witness 15-minute episodes that focus on one crewmember. I have to admit that I didn't expect much from the new concept and that is exactly what we got.
"Runaway" sports many of the problems DIS had in its first season. First of all, we are told a story here that struggles concerning its inner logic and coherence. As it is the case with the regular episodes, obstacles are not addressed by the writers but simply ignored. The parallels to many episodes of season 1 are striking here:
We have to swallow that everything that happens during the course of this episode is able to happen without anyone noticing anything. What happened to internal sensors or transporter logs to name only the most obvious ones. At least, we would have expected anyone to investigate what happened in the mess hall. This is quite similar to the unbelievable way Tyler was able to murder Dr. Culber, to name just one example. Such stretches of plausibility could easily be avoided with a little more thought and care concerning the scripts. The whole story would have been more credible if the Discovery would have been in orbit of Po's planet.
In addition we are supposed to believe that Tilly wouldn't call any of her superiors and thereby risk her career for a teenage girl that ran away from home? Why? She has no real reason to act like that, has she? She also is a trained officer, isn't she? Well, I can see what the producers tried to do here, but the try to create the impression that Tilly and Po are kind of in the same situation fails to convince. Tilly should be less self-conscious by now.
Also, the conflicts with her mother seem to be exaggerated to say the least. Using the bad mother who isn't able to appreciate her daughter's achievements in combination with a smarter stepsister who does everything better is such a boring old cliché that I, once again, have to wonder how it made into a contemporary show that takes itself so serious.
Po is quite unremarkable as a character. Of course, we have to take into account the limitations of the format, but I still don't see what her plan was and what she was hoping to accomplish. Also, she is another super-smart wunderkind, but still doesn't to cope with her emotions in a halfway reasonable way (and why did she crawl on all fours for the first half of the episode). Her connection to her home planet is only hinted but never really explained. Still, I have a real problem with the amount of esoteric nonsense DIS is producing all the time. Star Trek always tried to avoid stuff like that and for good reasons. DIS very often feels more like a fantasy show (or even worse: like cheap fanfiction)
As for the attempts of humor that inevitably come with a Tilly-episode I have to say that most of it failed to make me smile. Mary Wiseman sure is a capable actress, but here she is quite over the top. Her social awkwardness shouldn't be exaggerated to a point were she acts like a maniac. She comes across as a complete moron at times and is simply annoying.
Even though I know that the Short Treks should supposedly be taken with a grain of salt and should be watched with lower expectations than the regular show, I have to say that the writers missed an opportunity to give Tilly a bit more profile. We learn almost nothing new about her character and she is reduced to a mere goof which is quite alarming.
All in all, we are presented a paper-thin story here and a lot of things don't make sense which is saying something concerning the runtime of this episode. In addition, "Runaway" does nothing for Tilly except corroborate what we already know.
Finally, I didn't fail to notice that Short Treks are only available in North America. It is quite clear that the only reason why this thing exists at all is to force people to keep their subscriptions to CBS All Access. This time with cheaply produced mini-episodes that were advertised as if they would add something important to the story, which clearly isn't the case (yet). This maneuver is, once again, a slap in the face for the fans and just another example of what is wrong with modern Star Trek. I have nothing but despise for CBS and its policy.
- Remarkable absence: Again, Discovery feels strangely abandoned. Tilly is alone in the mess hall and her quarters and can even access the transporter room to beam Po away without anyone noticing.
- Remarkable transport: Speaking of which, where exactly does she beam Po. Discovery didn't seem to be anywhere near a planet or another ship. But then again, the producers obviously decided to transform the transporter into a magic-machine that can beam people all across the galaxy if the script requires it.
- Nitpicking: I have some trouble to understand the "Command Training Programme" Tilly is accepted in. Does it take place on Discovery? Who leads it then? Does it work like distance learning. Shouldn't Tilly be transferred for such a programme to a place where she attends it with other participants? (Just like Ro Laren did during her Advanced Tactical Training.)
Rating: 1 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main DIS listing
"Calypso" is not a very creative episode. It tells a story that was told many times before and that borrows, among others, heavily from "2001". The AI that evolved beyond its original programming trying to bond with a single human to convince him to stay aboard the ship is quite clichéd and worn out. But, even though there is a certain lack of originality in "Calypso" I found the execution rather charming and the twist at the end was touching as well. I felt genuinely entertained by this mini-episode and was left behind, wishing for more of it. A feeling I never had during one of the regular episodes of DIS. It was also a good choice to depict Zora as a likeable character who does the right thing by allowing Craft to leave.
I think Aldis Hodge gave a decent performance (as did Annabelle Wallis) and the script avoided being to melodramatic or cheesy. The fact that the backgrounds of this episode's story were kept as vague as possible felt like a conscious dramatic choice by the writers, that made absolutely sense concerning the limitations of the "Short Treks"-concept, and not like a negligence as it was the case way to often during season one and especially in "Calypso's" predecessor "Runaway".
I also liked how the overall atmosphere was supported by good lighting and music-choices. It added to the very natural and genuine feeling flow the episode had.
The biggest letdown of "Calypso" on the other hand is that it has no real connection to Star Trek at all. It is a nice short film for sure and I'm more than willing to take this back when the producers make use of the material presented here during season 2 of DIS, but I don't think that will happen. Some hints to the Star Trek universe would have sufficed to give the viewer the feeling that he's watching a genuine part of the franchise.
For reasons mentioned above "Calypso" is hard to rate, but I'm willing to give Michael Chabon credit for some right choices he made and for his good style of writing. I really hope he'll be able to keep up with this when working on the new Picard-series. And, most important, I hope he won't forget about more than 50 years of Star Trek history.
Rating: 7 (Kilian T.)