Discovery‘s first half a season was certainly an interesting experience. It’s gone from a show I initially wrote off before it even started to something I actively look forward to watching each week. I know I am going to miss it the next two months that it’s on hiatus. But that doesn’t mean it’s been a completely satisfying ride. I’ve said more than once that Discovery‘s cast is the best Star Trek ensemble since The Next Generation. Their individual personalities as well as their chemistry with each other is off the charts. In fact, it surpasses other genre shows I enjoy like The Expanse, Supergirl, and Doctor Who. In that way it’s very similar to shows like Lost and the Battlestar Galatica reboot. But like those two shows, Discovery puts those characters into a lot of half-baked situations that I have a hard time wrapping my head around.
For instance, the first part of Discovery‘s finale, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”, is a complete and total mess. While I sort of got what was happening planet-side, the subplot on the Klingon ship was utterly indecipherable. I have no idea what L’Rell’s plan was, if she was really willing to work with Admiral Cornwell on an escape, or if Cornwell was even alive at the end. The second part sheds absolutely zero light on anything but the admiral’s medical status, and considering she’s paralyzed, the blow she received could well have been intended to be fatal and just wasn’t.
Even the more straight forward mission on Pahvo was a strange set back for everyone involved. I really appreciated that it was an old-school Original Series style first contact mission, even though the aliens were basically Final Fantasy VII‘s life stream that created a giant, magical Materia spire and look way too much like the star drive spores. The struggle over including a third party in a war and the discussion about the misuse of native people’s resources is a valid one. That’s colonialism 101, and Star Trek has always grappled with this issue. The Prime Directive is, at it’s heart, a direct reaction to colonial abuse. However, Saru’s turn was completely out of character. He’s been busting Burnham’s chops all season about the mutiny, and yet, with very little provocation, he beats up his crew mates in nearly the identical way to get what he wants. You could argue that there should be an understanding between Burnham and Saru now. He now knows that there are personal convictions that warrant mutiny, but it’s not addressed or explored at all. He’s just a big old hypocrite now.
As weird as the whole, Pahvo mission was, it opened up the opportunity for a non-battle related encounter with the Klingons in part two, “Into the Forest I Go”. IO9’s review saw it as a similar situation to the Organians’ peace overtures in “Errand of Mercy”, and I looked forward to seeing how that might play out with a different set of characters and circumstances. What would it have been like if the Pahvans had given Lorca and Kol the same treatment they gave Saru? What would their philosophy make of these two? Who would they have decided was the “good guy”? Unfortunately, the whole plot line was dropped in it’s entirety in favor of a complicated and empty technobabble solution involving algorithms, scanners, and blinky, Starfleet branded pedestals. Not that the technobabble completely took center stage. We did have some great character moments between the two romantic couples of Burnham/Tyler and Stamets/Culber. But, as Paul McCartney once said during a demo session where he was only half satisfied with the results, “It would be nice to have those bits AND the other bits.” Ah, Paul. He was the eloquent one.
“Into the Forest I Go’s” cliffhanger is also pretty low stakes and uninteresting. Sure, Stamets is all Gary Mitchell eyes and that’s something to agonize over. Did Lorca do this to him on purpose? Was the medal ceremony a Starfleet ploy, and is Lorca going to be arrested on Starbase 43? If not, is Admiral Cornwell still gearing up to strip his command? This is all tangentially interesting, but the big mystery about Discovery’s location is not tantalizing at all. They’re in normal space. There are some debris. And…?
Oh, and Tyler is totally Voq the albino.
Thoughts on the season as a whole:
• Lorca is the character I like least, and not in the way the show wants me to. I don’t get him at all. I don’t understand the logistics of him blowing up a ship under his command with all hands on board and surviving, nor do I understand how he could get a second shot at a command after such a horrible and unexplainable event. What crew would trust him enough to be effective?
• Through half the episodes I considered Sarek being Burnham’s adoptive parent to be pure fanwank, but the show actual made a good case for it. If you see Sarek as putting on a grand cross-species experiment with his half-human kid and now a full human raised in Vulcan society, he’s really the only Vulcan that would fit the bill.
• Between Commander Landry’s death, the interrogations and rape implications in “Choose Your Pain”, the disembowelled Klingons corpses in “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”, and the explicit torture/rape/surgery scenes in the finale, the violence on Discovery was off the scale in a bad way, and I really resent it. I was looking forward to some PG-13 level action with my kid in the first live Star Trek show of her generation, and I was robbed of it. I didn’t think any of the violence was necessary other than to capitalize on the on-line distribution’s lack of standards. It’s just not sophisticated enough of a show to warrant it.
• If you’re wondering if I care equally about the swearing, I would have to say “fuck no”.
• The Klingons are really stupid. Like really, really stupid. They aren’t an interesting or nuanced enemy, and I think the fact that they’re not even in many of the episodes is because the writers know this. Kol is a complete moron who’s bereft of any personality beyond the Klingon stereotype of a growling, knife wielding troglodyte that Klingons have all been since Gowron and Duras first butted heads. I mean, the guy completely lost interest in an intense space battle to have a duel with Burnham. L’Rell could have been interesting, but her subplot has been way too confusing to get excited about. And how could any of these mental midgets hold our attention when they talk…. so….. slow….. ly. Even in english their dialog is ponderous. This is another problem with late-era Berman Klingons. They grunt their language instead of speaking smoothly like the The Original Series film Klingons did. You can be harsh and guttural and speak quickly. Just look at Hebrew or German. You just need a good language coach to help you do it.
• “When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists. Now, I look at you. You are fierce warriors all,” is the saddest line ever uttered in a Star Trek production.
• “Dance with me… for science”, might be one of the best.