Sunday, March 17, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E9 "Project Daedalus"

Spoilers!

For some reason I had gotten it into my head that the last episode was a mid-season finale? Did I not do this last season as well? What the heck is wrong with me? Two little children, that's what... But either way, I noticed that I was wrong and here we are.

This episode was a whole lot of good things, baked in between two less good things.

The first not so good thing is how the episode pretty much starts. Admiral Cornwell (I keep thinking it's Cornwall) visits the now fugitive crew of the Discovery and tells them they have a big problem. Well yeah they do, they are on the run for harbouring a murderer, but what did you need help with Cornwell? Apparently some person called Patar has been taking control of a system called... eh, Control, and is misusing it. What is this Control you wonder? Glad you asked - it's something thrown straight in our face this very second for the sake of bad writing. It's also a huge computer system that the Federation uses to aid it in its tactical decision making. Cornwell needs the Discovery to get there and retake it. And since the Discovery has nothing better to do... (?).

Meanwhile Spock and Burnham are trying to understand what the Red Angel wants with Spock specifically and with showing up in general. The animosity between them is clear and actually played out pretty good. I've mentioned before that it hasn't been very well established exactly why they are so bad at getting along (the whole thing about Burnham being mean to Spock as a kid at one point seems like not enough for this kind of bad blood) but through the dialogue it becomes more clear that there is a whole lot more going on and it makes more sense. In essence, Spock is angry about being half-human and angry with Burnham for being a bit of a busybody and a martyr. He ain't wrong though. But it's also pretty classical Spock stuff.

So many Spocks.

In fact, after having complained for pretty much every post so far that I don't particularly care for Spock being in this season, I feel like my opinion of him is a bit more nuanced now that we've gotten to know him a bit better and seen him interact with people. I actually like this Spock. Or let me rephrase - I like this character. It feels like a Spock, sure. But it doesn't feel like the Spock. Zachary Quinto's Spock felt like Spock. This guy is called Spock, and he's a good character but I don't get Spock from him. That is not to say he's bad, but maybe too different. He's interesting though and I don't mind him being in the series anymore, at least for now.

Burnham tries to help Spock figure out what is going on and suggests they play that Vulcan chess game because it is "based in logic". I thought "Kal-Toh" was the go-to logic game for Vulcans though? Mid-game, Spock does the Vulcan version of rage-quitting and they have a good scene where they duke it out (verbally, mind you) leading to the above-mentioned further understanding of the difficulties between them.

Maybe it hasn't been invented yet.

We also get a bit of background story on Airiam and I was getting my hopes up that we'd finally get some more character development. Unfortunately this would all come crashing down with big flaw number two, but there is still some things happening before then. Her background story anyhow is that she is a sort of cyborg, think Robocop, who was in a shuttle crash in which her newlywed husband died. So she used to be human but was cybernetically enhanced because of the accident, presumably, it's not flat out told which I actually prefer.

On board the Discovery, Airiam and Tilly are trying to find out who has been sending the secret messages. Since it is Airiam who has done it, she tries to make sure Tilly doesn't find out. We get to understand that Airiam is only "possessed" by the malicious software/virus intermittently and sort of "wakes up" from it whenever it is done with its deeds. It seems to worry or at least confuse her but why she doesn't tell anyone is anyone's guess. Nahn, Pike's assistent or whatever she is that he brought over from his previous ship and who has been absolutely useless as a character so far, is suspicious of Airiam and keeps an eye on her. Why she doesn't tell anyone is anyone's guess.

Cornwell gets the Discovery to go to Section 31 secret hideout and as they get there they notice it is completely surrounded by a great variety of mines. Slicing mines and scramble mines and magnetic mines and I'm just making names up at this point... While travelling they look at the tactical data on the big viewscreen, with all the stars rushing past in great flashing light as a background, making it virtually impossible to concentrate or make anything out of the information on the screen. Surely there must be a way to remove that star effect if you want to use the screen as a computer screen rather than a window?

Imagine text on that thing and you can see my problem.

Cornwell tells them to lower their shields (because it attracts mines) and use a special route that she has and they'll be fine. Of course that fails almost immediately when they are being attacked by the mines. Detmer shouts something about "the ship being upside down" and what does that even mean in space? Then something happens that makes no sense - possessed-Airiam transmits some message to somewhere and the mines stop attacking. Admiral Patar starts talking to them, telling them they are all going to be arrested for treason. Cornwell tells Pike that they need to sort out the Control system anyway, which he agrees with. They decide to send in Burnham, Nahn and Airiam.

While in the base they find a lot of dead people. Burnham asks Nahn to go find some way to turn environmental controls back on and so she is left alone with Airiam. "Ruh-roh!" as some dogs and people might say. Airiam pretends to start Control back up while instead actually submitting some sort of data. Nahn gets the gravity back on and she and Burnham find Admiral Patar, dead. Uhm? Pike asks the right question when he says "so who was I talking to then?". Saru has the answer, that Patar was actually a hologram. Who made it though? Tilly has the answer. While everything has been going on, Tilly has figured out that Airiam has been acting weird and checks her station. She sees that Airiam has been downloading information from the Sphere that they encountered a couple of episodes back. Pike tells Burnham and Nahn to stop Airiam from uploading that data to the Control system, because the Control system is the actual villain. Think Skynet from Terminator. It turns out it needs the data from the Sphere to become fully sentient, at which point it can exterminate all sentient life in the Universe. They seem to realize this is what Spock has been having visions about all along. So now all that stuff that didn't make sense earlier is supposed to make sense.

Ok so hold it here, I have a lot of questions.

  1. Firstly, what constitutes as "sentient"? Are we talking dolphins and whales? Robots? Mushrooms? I guess if nothing else this will be a way to find out what that means. This is the same issue as the one I had with Thanos killing "half of all life". What counts as life?
  2. And why would Control want to do that? They seem absolutely sure that is going to happen. How can they know, besides assuming this is what Spock's visions is about?
  3. It's credible that Control, which seems to be interlinked with every Federation system, would know about the Sphere. But why doesn't it already have the knowledge of the Sphere? Instead it needs it transferred to it manually? Surely there must've been a better way to do that than to hijack a cyborg and then get it all the way to the main systems by impersonating people and setting them up (Control is what got Spock accused of murder). It's an extremely elaborate scheme that could go wrong in so many ways. Like maybe how about just asking for that information? Until just now, no one has suspected that Control is actually a maniac, half-sentient program.
  4. To do all this scheming and wanting to be sentient it already has to be quite sentient. I mean what does it really need that Sphere information for anyway? They say it's to make it fully knowledgeable and unbeatable, essentially, but the Federation also has all that information.
  5. Why did it attack with the mines? I understand somewhat that Airiam sending that message was for Control to realize that it shouldn't attack, but didn't it know that Discovery was carrying Airiam with the information? What other ship was it expecting to show up at this exact time?
  6. Wasn't Airiam infected by something from the probe which was from the future? Is Control from the future? Or was Control in a future where it was in... eh, control, and sent back that probe to make that future come true?

I could go on pretty much forever, but it's getting boring and I know I won't get any answers to any of this so let's move on instead.

Another guy who wasn't being very clear with his annihilation plans.

Nahn and Burnham attack Airiam, Airiam quickly renders Nahn useless (surprise, surprise) and has a fight with Burnham, who somehow manages to not completely break her hands when punching Airiam in the face. Must be something about the Vulcan fighting technique. Or maybe all that metal looking thing in her face is actually soft? Anyway, Burnham manages to lock her in the air lock and Airiam briefly gets her senses, but not her motor control, back when Tilly talks to her weepingly. Airiam pleads for Burnham to throw her out into space or Airiam will kill them all by being possessed. Airiam tells Burnham that she is the reason Control is acting this way and that Burnham has to remember about Project Daedalus. Burnham hesitates but before Airiam can say anything more Nahn turns up to do the dirty work it for her. That Nahn character has still to prove her point of being in the series for me though.

But yeah, Airiam dies and we don't care one bit because they just started her character development 40 minutes ago. Good job there guys, it's not like you've had over 20 episodes /facepalm.

So in the end we have an episode that has some pretty good scenes between characters, but everything else is so poorly established it's like they've just decided to go this route with the story at the last minute. Control isn't mentioned (at least not to my knowledge) at all until this very moment and Airiam has only been seen in the background basically until this very episode. And this episode is all about us caring about those two things. It doesn't work like that DSC. In VOY (which I am talking a lot about mainly because I am rewatching it simultaneously as I am watching Discovery) they can elude to things tens of episodes before it comes to fruition, like Tom Paris interest of everything vintage (this isn't always true though, as with Seven of Nines and Chakotays sudden romance in season 7).

I'll be honest, I can't even remember how the episode ended, but maybe things will make more sense in next weeks episode.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek S2E8 "If Memory Serves"

Spoilers ahead!

So this was apparently the season finale (or is it just a mid season?), which I never realize until after I've watched the episode. As such I'm not sure what to think about it, so I am just going to look at the episode at face value. It sets up some interesting premises that I can only hope get expanded upon as we go forward. We've got a huge change of character for both Saru and Culber (I'll get to more on that) and of course, the possible destruction of a whole bunch of things unless something is fixed.

Stuff is gonna explode.

Going into this episode I was actually mostly curious as to how they would handle the whole Talos IV thing. I'll be honest, I hadn't really understood where they were in the timeline regarding Pike and Spock's previous visit to Talos. Was this their first or second one? We get a very nice flashback with original footage to their previous visit to set the stage. The interesting thing about it is that unless you've seen that specific episode, I don't think the flashback would do much to help you understand what happened there. For us who have, it was very nice (and dare I say needed) to see.

So when Michael and Spock set down on Talos, it's after Pike and Spock have already been there. It turns out Spock has taken them there because the Talosians are the only ones who can help him. The writers let this be an opportunity to let us see what Spock knows about the future and also what happened between Michael and Spock to make their relationship so strained. The first one I find to be quite clever writing. They find a good way to get Talosians into the story that also makes sense and isn't just fanservice. The other one however... the Talosians tell Burnham that in order to help Spock they require one of her memories as payment, and it has to be that specific memory. It just makes no other sense than to serve as exposition and quite frankly it's a bit stupid. But ok. We get to see Spocks future memory and Michaels past memory (you know it's Star Trek when you have to differentiate memories like that).

In Spocks memory we get to see that some sort of alien beings are destroying planets. They remind me of the Reapers from the Mass Effect series? Can't say for sure what they are. We also get to see that he did in fact not kill anyone at the mental facility he was at, but rather just stunned them. So who killed those people to set up Spock? Hopefully we'll find out.

In Burnham's memory we find out she was being very nasty to little Spock to make sure he wouldn't follow her when she ran away to keep them safe from anti-human Vulcan violence. Kind of when someone throws rock at an animal to make sure they walk away. After rewatching the memory Spock tells Michael that he understands why she did it, but he is for some reason still angry with her? Even after telling her that he is grateful it happened because that meant he left his humanity behind and focused on the logic, which also should mean he can't feel anger towards her anymore. It's a bit unclear why he is still unhappy with her, but in the end they get back to Discovery together.

So what has Discovery been up to? 

Mostly been bossed around by Leland and Section 31. They tell Pike to stop looking for Spock and Burnham and instead collect debris from the futurized probe from the previous episode. Pike decides to do both. They find loads of debris from the blown up shuttle, but absolutely none from the probe. Mysterious!

Then Vina (a woman Pike met on Talos) shows up through projection and tells Pike that he needs to go get Burnham and Spock, so he does that. He at first intends to use the spore drive to jump there and so get rid of Section 31 who are on his tail, but someone has sabotaged the spore drive. Someone who has also sent highly encrypted messages off the ship. Mysterious! Tyler is basically set up as the culprit, but it's very heavily hinted that Airiam is the real crook. We know she was infected by the probe in the previous episode so it's likely she is the enemy at the moment.

Not Pike's Vina

Because they can't use the spore drive, they have to get there the conventional way, which means they get Section 31 to come along with them. Section 31 try to steal Burnham and Spock from under them by teleporting them but it turns out those are only projections. So you can apparently teleport those now or was that all just a big hallucination? Either way, as mentioned Spock and Burnham end up on Discovery instead.

We also get to see a bit more on what is going on with Hugh Culber at the moment. It turns out he is being super weirded by the whole technically being a clone thing and is lashing out at Stamets. It essentially boils down to that he doesn't want to live with Stamets anymore and even though not said out loud it is clear that he doesn't want to be in a relationship with Stamets anymore and maybe doesn't even have feelings for him anymore either. Ouch, poor Stamets, who deals with it like a boss to be fair.

What is he thinking?

There is also a pretty good scene where Hugh confronts Tyler in the mess hall and they have a fight. There is no way in hell that Culber fights better than Tyler unless there is something about them both we don't know. So Tyler is basically letting Culber lay in to him for a bit, which would only annoy me more if I was Culber I think. Meanwhile, Saru stands by and lets it happen, telling everyone not to interfere because as he says it "it needs to play out". Afterwards he gets told off by Pike for not following regulations, and Saru is being well snarky about it. Saru is definitely evolving and changing into something completely else and it's interesting to follow.

We don't know what this all means for Culber as a character though, what will his role be in the forthcoming series? I am actually also curious about this simply because he seems like he doesn't really fit anywhere, so I am hoping he will come a bit out of left field and surprise us.

The episode ends with  Discovery on the run, the world possibly coming to an end, a spy on the ship and two very unstable people going through their own transformations. They've definitely set the stage for greatness, and I hope they will deliver.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E7 "Light and Shadows"

And yes, spoilers.

My first thought after finishing this episode is that this season feels like every other episode is a set-up episode, and every other gives you the delivery of that set-up. It's not exactly like that, but that is the feeling it's giving off right now. And this would then be another set-up episode.

Off the back of what happened on Kaminar, Pike and Michael now seem certain that the "Red Angel" is a humanoid and clad in some sort of futuristic get up. They are still completely in the dark as to the motivations of this person/entity and Michael mentions that she wonders "whose future" this thing comes from. I'm not sure what she means by that, isn't the future everyone's?

Anyway, she goes on to tell Pike she needs to speak to her parents (which she briefly alludes to at the end of the previous episode if I remember correctly) because, as she says, she hasn't "spoken to her mother for a long time". Yeah about four episodes or something? And let us go back quickly to when we last saw Sarek actually. The last time we saw him was in episode 14 of season 1 where I at least got the feeling that he was going on a very dangerous mission (if he's popped up since then I have completely forgotten about it). There was just something off about the way he said goodbye to Michael. But we haven't seen anything come out of that, unless all of that had something to do with Section 31. I can't say that I can piece it together yet, but that goes for a lot of things in Discovery. Overall I feel like whatever happened in season 1 is very disconnected to what is happening in season 2.

I guess Michael dies young because she ain't in any family pictures..

Either way, Michael heads back to Vulcan to talk to her mother about where Spock might be. When she confronts her, she gets the feeling that she knows where he is and Amanda eventually agrees to tell her. She has in fact been hiding Spock in a cave temple of sorts and by bringing Michael there she also inadvertently makes Sarek find out where Spock is. Spock, by the way, is a rambling mess and not really with it. This entire way of revealing where Spock is feels a bit forced, to be fair. Why would Michael suddenly get an urge to speak to her mother, again actually. Despite what Michael says she did talk to her about Spock not long ago at all. Why would she have reason to think that Amanda knows where Spock is suddenly? We also get no explanation as to how Spock managed to get to Vulcan from the shuttle he abandoned in space, without being detected.

Sarek thinks they should hand Spock over to Section 31, and his logic is that they want the information in his head (regarding the Red Angel) the most so they are the least likely to hurt him. He is also not worried about Spock ending up in prison because, as he puts it (and I paraphrase), if he did murder people he should be in prison and if he didn't he wont end up in prison. Great Vulcan logic there. They do hijack the scene to give us some Vulcan vs Humanity quarrel between Sarek and Amanda, something that of course is a big part of Spocks identity but honestly feels a bit out of place right there.

So we "finally" get to meet Spock. I say "finally" because personally I am not particularly interested, as I have said before. I wish they would let this series stand on its own feet and merits rather than try to live off other ones. While I don't mind "intermingling" of series if it's done with a purpose, which I have spoken about in a previous post, this just feels like they are trying to use fan-service and the love of one of the biggest characters in Star Trek to breathe more life into Discovery. We'll see if the decision to make this makes more sense further on and maybe I will warm up to Spock.

Space time anomalies are always a blast.

While Michael is on Vulcan, Discovery finds a space time anomaly. I love space time anomalies, while they can often give you a headache with their internal logic, they are almost always loads of fun so I was immediately hyped for this episode.

Pike decides they need to find out more about this anomaly, because it might be related to the Red Angel, and wants to pilot a shuttle closer to it. Saru correctly points out that sending the captain of a starship on such a dangerous mission isn't exactly protocol, but since when does any captain in the Star Trek universe care about that? Tyler tags along, because he thinks he needs to.

The episode starts out with a lot of animosity between Tyler and Pike. Pike doesn't like Tyler because he killed Culber and because Tyler is sort of Voq in that odd way that doesn't entirely make sense. There is a brilliant scene where Pike asks Tyler about it and Tyler says "I'm sorry, there is no way to get rid of him". Pike answers with "I know the feeling". Oh snap.

While in the shuttle, they of course get sucked into the anomaly and need to be rescued by the Discovery. I love how the shuttle interior show both analog and digital components. Like they have actual switches that they throw to do things in there. I know they build the Delta Flyer in Voyager with switches on purpose because Tom Paris likes things to be analog, but otherwise I'm not sure how common they are. But maybe they just look analog.

In case you'd want to build your own.

While in the anomaly Pike and Tyler continue to bicker about everything. Suddenly they get attacked by some big tentacled robot looking rocket and they realize it's a probe they sent into the anomaly earlier that has been altered somehow. Their shuttle computer tells them the probe is now 500 years older and for some reason it is trying to kill them by breaking their shuttle apart. It manages to get a tentacle or three into the shuttle and attacks them, and also tries to download information from their computers.

Meanwhile on Discovery, Tilly realizes that someone with Tardigrade DNA can probably locate the shuttle inside the anomaly because that's how that works. Stamets to the rescue yet again. Stamets is in Discovery what the "deflector dish" is in Voyager. Every Star Trek series needs that one thing that they can go to, to solve any problem. Stamets not only locates them, but also beams himself on board the shuttle while in the anomaly and pilots them out of there. Or at least close enough to the Discovery for them all to be beamed back. They put the shuttle on self destruct to destroy the violent probe, but the probe manages to not only attack the Discovery computers first, but also seems to infect the bridge resident robot-thingy Airiam with a virus or something. We don't know much about Airiam yet, in fact it's not entirely clear that she is a robot or what she is. Hopefully we will find out more about this soon.

After their ordeal on the shuttle, Pike and Tyler suddenly go from not trusting each other with making a cup of tea to being best friends. Pike now agrees with Tyler that the Red Angel could be hostile, because the probe came from the future and it was hostile, but that is pretty much the only thing speaking for that theory so far. It's a bit like not liking food because you had this thing once that didn't taste good. Talk about generalizing much, Pike.

More Philippa please.

Meanwhile, Michael has taken Spock to Section 31 and is assured that everything will be fine with him. Leland tells her to go to a starbase to get some rest. Philippa tells Michael that Leland is lying (so much for Sarek's logic), Michael asks her why she cares and Philippa answers what surmounts to "I care because you care". Michael and Philippa have a fake-fight for the cameras to make it look like Michael is overpowering Philippa to free Spock and off they go. Leland tells Philippa he doesn't believe that she was actually trying to stop Michael but Philippa says that she knows he killed Michaels parents so Philippa has him under her thumb unless he wants her to spill the beans on that. I'm not sure what that is going to amount to, but the easiest guess is that Philippa will oust Leland as the captain of the Section 31 ship and become captain of it herself.

Philippa is easily the most interesting character in this season so far, although Saru comes a close second. We know very little about her motivations. Her actions are generally egotistical but occasionally seem somewhat compassionate to keep her a multi-faceted and fascinating character. It's definitely keeping me intrigued and I want to know more about what her plans are and how it all ties into the bigger picture. She has basically replaced the Lorca character in that we don't really know if we can trust her and it means all her actions have several possible outcomes. Star Trek characters have a tendency to be a bit black and white so it's a lot of fun to see these more gray area people. Hopefully they won't let Philippa down with their writing.

Red angel?

Michael is hiding with Spock in a shuttle and manages to crack that one of his delusional ramblings are coordinates for a planet. That planet is Talos IV. Sounds familiar? It sure did to me. That is the planet of the Talosians from the The Cage and The Menagerie episodes of TOS where the captain Pike character originally figures. Are they basically tying in the Discovery with what happens in those episodes? That could turn out really awesome if they get it right.

Except for producing Spock it doesn't feel like a lot happens in this episode. It sets up a lot of things that could be really great if they pay off, but that is a pretty big if. While this season has proven it can do some cool things, season 1 had a lot of set up that didn't pay off if you ask me. Hopefully this season won't repeat that.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

VGM Highlights - February 2019

I almost forgot that February only has 28 days, but only almost. So here we go!

First off I've got a double entry from the excellent VGMpire podcast. I am so far behind on this show I would be sad but it also means that I have loads to look forward to so I am kinda happy instead.

In their episode 70 "Indie Game Music Showcase 2" they've picked out a whole bunch of really great indie game tracks, some I had heard before (like Hotline Miami OST) and a lot I hadn't. One I hadn't was the music to Luftrausers. I could've sworn they were talking about a game called "Love Trousers" throughout the episode and it wasn't until afterwards when I went to search more information about the game that I figured out it was actually the Luftrausers game they had been talking about... I'm unfortunately not making that up. I just love the crunchy, gritty sound of the Main Theme, that is right up my alley.



In episode 71, "20 Years of Breath of Fire" we get a track from the game Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter. Dragon Quarter is the only BoF game I have played to any extent, and it was good enough though I didn't finish it. It plays out entirely (or at least for the duration of my game time) indoors and sublevel and it made me feel claustrophobic somehow. Hearing the "Lift" track from this game made me nostalgic and even made me want to get back to playing it again however. It's a pretty un-assuming but nice track that you hear quite a lot of in-game;



Then we're off to the Battle Bards Podcast which highlight the OST of World of Warcraft: Battle of Azeroth in their episode 135. Anything World of Warcraft is basically like catnip to a cat to me. Though I haven't played WoW since 2013 or something, it has played such a huge part in my life that I think about it almost every day. Sounds crazy, but it's true. The theme from the Motherlode Dungeon is a very long one, but it's rewarding and fun to listen to. It's the kind of music that you should put on while you're cleaning or something, it'll definitely make it more enjoyable. I would love to hear it in-game while playing through the dungeon but I'll have to just settle with watching someone stream a run of it some day I guess…



The KVGM The Last Wave podcast specializes on some really chill tunes for when you just want to relax (which is always, amirite?). I often listen to podcasts when putting my baby daughter to sleep and trying not to fall asleep myself while having this in my ears is impossible. But the Metro City Night track from the game Astro Boy: Mighty Atom in episode 2018-11-25 is so sleek I can't help but love it, it's also the perfect way to end your day if you do fall asleep listening to it, take it from someone who knows;



That's it for tracks in February, but just like last time I want to leave you with an episode highlight. This time it's the Alberto Gonzáles episode from Retro Game Audio podcast. The only thing it is missing is Alberto Gonzáles himself, but otherwise it is absolutely filled with not just awesome music but loads of interesting tidbits, anecdotes and solid information about this amazing composer from people who have met and interviewed him themselves. Gonzáles is definitely one my favorite composers so this episode was a treat. I'll also leave you with one my favorite tracks of his, which basically just means randomly choosing any track he's done;

Friday, February 22, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E6 "The Sounds of Thunder"

Spoileeeeers!

Aw yeah, now this is what I am talking about. This is Star Trek at its finest. This episode has a lot of what I have been wishing for in the past, a focus on one of the side-characters (ie character development) and better pacing. This time it doesn't feel like they're trying to cram in three stories in one episode, but this one is all about Saru.

While it still is an episode that feels like it deserved a bit more time and setup, I am not going to complain. I was fully invested and intrigued in what was happening on screen and I enjoyed pretty much every second of it.

Discovery is still trying to catch Spock in the hopes he can give some insight to the odd signals they have been following, when they receive another one. This one is from the planet Kaminar, the homeplanet of Saru which he swore he would never return to. What with what happened two episodes ago however, Saru is more than eager to go down there to liberate his people from the Ba'ul, the species that has been essentially preying on the Kelpiens for centuries.

Let me just interject myself here and say that I consider the Short Trek episode that preludes Saru coming to the Federation almost essential watching before this episode. It explains how Saru ended up on the Discovery and I am lucky I found out about them and watched them before this episode. I find it odd that they would make such important information something of a side-story that is easily missed (although they are probably betting on that no Star Trek fan would miss out on these short-stories) but I guess they didn't manage to bring into a regular episode somewhere.

Kelpiens farming kelp.

Either way, Captain Pike and Burnham agree that the urgency of finding out what the signals are all about means they can set aside both the Prime Directive and Pike's legitimate worry that Saru will fudge everything up so that he can get revenge on the Ba'ul. They agree that the odds that the signals would come from Saru's homeworld by pure random chance are infinitely small, so probably whatever is sending the signals wants Saru to be involved somehow. So Saru and Burnham go down to Saru's old village to see if they can find some more information about the "Red Angel" that has been seen accompanying the signals.

There are some good scenes with Saru before then however, that help to further make clear the changes that he has gone through. The first one is a scene he has when he tries to comfort Hugh Culber (the fact that he is back on the ship is briefly dealt with in this episode). Hugh tells Saru that he doesn't really feel like himself anymore and Saru says "in feeling less like you were, you're becoming more like you were supposed to be". This quote is clearly more to illustrate what is happening to Saru and to set the stage for what is to come in the episode, it's great.

He's angrier now.

The second scene is just after when Saru almost has an altercation with Pike on the bridge, when Pike says he doesn't think Saru should go down to Kaminar. This entire scene perfectly shows that Saru has changed from the gentle, conflict-avoiding person he used to be into someone who is about to punch Pike in the face if he has to. Of course Doug Jones who plays Saru really sells it too.

Down on the planet Saru meets his sister Siranna who, after a very emotional reunion, tells them that they have seen something. Before they can talk much more about it though, they're found by the Ba'ul and have to get back to the ship. The Ba'ul immediately demands that Saru returns to them or they will destroy his home village. Pike refuses but Saru teleports himself over. And this is where things get really interesting.

I'm going to interject myself again here. I had already made a guess about what the nature of the Kelpien transformation and relationship with the Ba'ul would be. It looks like that guess was correct, but I wouldn't say that was a difficult guess to make. About a third into this episode I made another guess, inspired by the Isaac Asimov novel "The Gods Themselves". Without going too much into that book (read it though and spoiler alert here if you haven't), in it we find out that the "stronger" species that is taking care of the "weaker" species is actually the "weaker" species in its next form. I had an idea that maybe that could be the case here as well, where the Kelpiens essentially evolve into the Ba'ul and this has to be hold secret for some reason. It doesn't look like that guess was correct, but it's a pretty cool idea right?


In the Ba'ul complex, it's a bit unclear exactly where Saru is, he also meets his sister Siranna. We get to see a Ba'ul for the first time, which/who basically looks like if an oil slick turned into a human. They definitely don't come off as a very nice species. Meanwhile, as Saru is having a conversation with the Ba'ul, Burnham and Tilly are scanning through the records of the big sphere from the previous episode to see if there is any information on the nature of Kaminar. It turns out there is. A couple of millennia ago, it seems like the Kelpiens were the ones killing off the Ba'ul, until the Ba'ul introduced the culling method of the Kelpiens they have kept up until present day. It seems that when the Kelpiens go through the Vaharai unkilled, they turn into something vicious that the Ba'ul don't want to keep around. We get a glimpse of this when Saru shoots some sort of spikes from his head towards the Ba'ul.

Saw someone posted this on Twitter, and that is pretty much what the Ba'ul look like.

This is where the episode goes into "suspend your disbelief a lot here people because things are going to get rocky on the realism". The Ba'ul leave Saru (shackled to the wall) and Sarinna to be killed off by some drones. Saru of course breaks his shackles and destroys the drones, and manages to reassemble the drones into a communication device to contact the Discovery. But why don't the Ba'ul notice that their drones just got splattered and that Saru is talking to the Discovery? They do nothing to stop him anyway.

On the ship, Pike agrees to use the signal from the sphere that put Saru into Vaharai to put every Kelpien on Kaminar into Vaharai, to help them rise against the Ba'ul. Firstly, talk about breaking the Prime Directive! Secondly, Pike has literally no idea what this will do to the Kelpiens. Sure, Saru survived it but Pike is using technology he doesn't understand on a species he knows almost nothing about. It might just as well just kill all of them.

What instead happens is that the Ba'ul decides to use their technology to kill off every Kelpien on Kaminar before the Vaharai is done. Also something that Pike should've seen coming. While Pike tries to prevent this from happening, what does save the Kelpiens is the mysterious "Red Angel" that destroys all of the murder-pylons that the Ba'ul has set out in every Kelpien village. So now every Kelpien has gone into stage 2 and... we're not entirely sure what will happen from that.

The Ba'ul hint that the Kelpien turn into monstrous, preying beings when they're in their stage 2 but Saru thinks the Kelpien can go above that behaviour. It'll definitely be interesting to see if that is the case, since Saru himself said that Kelpiens who undergo the Vaharai and don't get culled go mad. Maybe this is what he meant without knowing it?



A very disturbing scene if nothing else.

Also, considering how much evil-Philippa was eating Kelpiens back in the mirror-Universe, she could possibly know a whole lot about them. Clearly she also disturbed the great balance that the Ba'ul were so keen to preserve, although maybe they were ok with is since she also killed them. I hope they acknowledge this fact at some point.

I enjoyed this episode so much. I mentioned that I feel like they could've done more with the build-up, but what they have done is definitely enough for me to feel invested enough in Saru and his people to care. The whole concept is just so cool, and while it feels surprising, it's surprising in the right way. It doesn't feel like an impossible plotline, but like this is where the character of Saru was going all along. It feels like what they were trying to do with Kes (which I also mentioned in my previous post) but they've actually done it much better here.

We still have to find out what the "Red Angel" is and what motivations it has for sending the signals and meddling in planet affairs to begin with. We also have to find out what connection Spock has to it. So far it all feels very disjointed and it is difficult to see the bigger picture. But that only means that it could be all the more satisfying and impressive if they manage to bring together all the threads to a satisfying whole. If they manage that, this season could be absolutely spectacular and possibly one of the best within Star Trek.