Monday, February 12, 2018

Quick Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Ep 15

Will You Take My Hand?

So we are at the season finale and they really end it in a way that can only mean they want to make absolutely sure people are going to return for season 2. But we shouldn't start at the end.

When we left off at the end of the previous episode, we'd just found out that evil-Philippa was made the captain of the Discovery and Sarek had made some deal with her that sort of hinted at the fact that he was going on a suicide mission? The reason I drew this conclusion was because Michael mentions she felt the goodbye with Sarek was very "definite" or something along those lines. Of course, like I said in my previous post we know that Sarek doesn't die until much later. And of course he didn't in this episode and what Michael mentions never seems to play any point in this episode at all. Everyone loves fake foreshadowing, right?

Few people on the ship know Philippa is from the other universe so Michael tries to out her at some occasion which doesn't really make sense. Clearly Michael has accepted Starfleet's decision, or she would've surely gone through other than petty means of trying to remove Philippa? This short transgression from Michaels side doesn't really lead anywhere either so I'm not sure what the point of it was.

There is an opening for an interesting dilemma here though, the choice between having to follow a leader who uses immoral methods or maybe losing a fight for existence. Is it ok to sink to your enemies level to stay alive? It'll turn out this is the theme for the episode as well.

And they look a lot like She-Hulk.

With the help of Tyler and his "Voq memories", they manage to find the best way to enter Kronos to drop their drone and map the cave system - the plan I mentioned was assembled in the previous episode. Turns out the place they need to drop the drone is now the Orion-ian embassy grounds. In case you've forgotten who the Orions were, they're the green slave girls from TOS. Philippa mentions they're basically pirates and slave traders in her universe and Michael says it's no different here. It seems the show creators have decided to not change the Orion species at all, so they're portrayed pretty much exactly as they are in TOS.

Philippa, Michael, Tyler and for some reason Tilly beam down to the surface to find the hole they need to drop down the drone into. Apparently a bunch of humans asking weird questions on Kronos in the middle of an all-out war between the Federation and the Klingons is no problem as long as said humans pretend to be a**holes. So humans that are not part of the Federation are such a common sight on Kronos that practically no one cares? Pretty sure that wouldn't work the other way at all. And all these humans are just A-OK with Klingons trying to wipe out their species? I have many questions here, but don't worry - there will be more.

They decide to enter a shady looking place with the mandatory stripping of Orion ladies, now also accompanied by men. We get a guy who looks just like Clint Howard as a sleezy Orionian trying (and eventually succeeding) in getting Tilly high on some sort of volcano ash (don't forget Clint Howard was a really annoying kid in TOS The Corbomite Maneuver, and also featured in other Star Trek episodes. I can't see him credited for the role in this episode though, so not sure.) . In the meantime Philippa walks off with two strippers to have some sexy-time and leaves the drone to be guarded by Tilly. Now we understand why Tilly was brought with the away-party;

Just picture this in green.

It would make more sense for Philippa to bring such an important item with her rather than leaving it in the hands of Tilly whom she knows little about except that she comes off as a klutz. Philippa mentions that she thinks Tilly is more like her evil-counterpart than Tilly thinks, but this still seems like odd reasoning from Philippa. Tilly gets high and maybe-Clint Howard tries to steal the drone that is chained to her wrist. By doing that he wakes Tilly up, she asks what they're smoking, he says volcano smoke which makes Tilly realize the volcanoes are still active and will destroy the drone, which prompts Tilly to look at the drone in the suitcase (for some reason) only to find out it's not a drone at all but a hydrogen bomb. Did any of that seem like it could casually realistically happen? I mean yeah, sure it could. But only if you decide to bring Tilly for no reason and then leave the most important part of the mission with her, alone in a bar, for no reason.

As soon as Tilly finds out that Philippa to no ones surprise has secret evil plans, she tells Michael and Tyler who have gone off to do some talking. This gives us a scene where we realize that even though Tyler isn't a Klingon anymore, he sort of seems like he wants to be.

Before Michael can come and pick up the hydrogen bomb however, Philippa is back. She has forced information about the drop-hole from the two strippers and goes to drop the bomb in there. Michael and the gang beam back up to the Discovery and calculate that the effect of the bomb would devastate the entire planet. They also realize this is not just Philippa's plan, but the plan of the Federation. Michael is not ok with that.

She talks to Cornwell and tells her that the Discovery will rather go to mutiny than break their moral code, Cornwell agrees to trying a different plan. That plan is to give the hydrogen bomb, which is now firmly planted in the belly of Kronos, to L'rell so that she can unite the Klingons by threat of destroying the planet. Philippa is given her freedom, in the sense that she is allowed to walk away. And here I have some more questions.
  • Why would L'Rell ever be ok with using a weapon like that? Even for the sake of achieving her life goal, surely destroying your entire home planet could never be an option?
  • Again - is planting a bomb that destroys an entire planet really that easy? Really?! Why have they not done this before?! Did they really need a Philippa from the alternate universe to think about it? I guess if you argue that it is so unthinkable for the Federation to do something like that, yet we're shown that they're clearly eager to try it out once it has been suggested.
  • And how is any of that really going to stop the war? The episode almost literally ends with Michael saying "L'Rell united the Klingons and the war ended". But why? Why would the Klingon desire to wipe out humans now be gone? And even if that is what happens by a stroke of luck, how can Michael be so sure that is going to happen when she hands over the bomb? She has absolutely no guarantees any of this will lead to anything good.

Tyler decides to go with L'Rell and that's probably the end of a vastly underused potential, I'll get back to that. Shazad Latif who plays Tyler is very good at looking like he is about to cry and he uses it in every episode he is in. Somewhat understandable given the situation he is in, but it gets a bit tired after a while.

It needs more smiles.

Michael gets pardoned, everyone gets a medal, everything is good. Then right at the end, the Discovery is escorting Sarek to Vulcan when they receive a weird message. It's from... the Enterprise! Captained by Christopher Pike! And there it ends.

I read an article (unfortunately I can't remember where) a week ago where someone said that a good thing about Star Trek Discovery was that it was very low on the fan service so far. Well, you can't get much more fan service that throwing in some actual TOS in the mix. Although, the only crew member from TOS that also had Pike as a captain was Spock and somehow I doubt he'll make an appearance.

They even made the outro, after this Enterprise reveal, to be the original outro song from TOS. Fun touch.

Now that we're at the actual season finale, how should I wrap this all up...? What I liked about this season is that it sort of blind-sided me by pretending to be about one thing and then coming out of nowhere with another or underlying story-arch. The war against the Klingons wasn't a fake storyline by any means, and it's apparently coming back for season 2, but as the beginning of the season was sputtering along I found myself thinking where they were going with this. At the time it didn't feel overly original or interesting. Then they had me confused by suddenly throwing them into the mirror universe. Then by the end of the season it all made sense and I feel like I've gotten that wrap up and connecting of dots that was needed to bring it all together.

I'm on to you...

Rewatching this some time in the future will be even more interesting, knowing Lorca's motives and being able to read them into every scene he is in. I feel that part of the series was probably done the best, because thinking back it was made very clear that something was off about him. It was hinted in everything he said and did, but subtly enough to not make it too obvious. Or at least that is what I felt watching episode 13 and thinking that was the season finale. The extra two episodes, which move things along way too quickly for comfort makes the actual ending feel a lot less refined. We get back to the Klingon war but everything gets resolved so fast you barely have time to take it in.

My critique would be just that - the series has a couple of ideas that could almost be their own seasons or half-season story-arches and they're not given enough time to breathe or do their work. Lorca actually being from the alternate universe? Cool! Gets two episodes (albeit a lot of build-up). Tyler actually being Voq? Cool! Doesn't really amount to anything useful that couldn't have been done differently. That entire subplot almost feels like it could be removed and it wouldn't change much. Evil-Philippa now in the prime universe? Cool! Gets 1,5 episode. Although she is now lose somewhere so she could still make an interesting return.

The dark tone though, that I know has irked a lot of long time fans, doesn't bother me at all. The fact however that we haven't got to see many "standalone episodes" makes me a bit sad. This is where the series has a chance to be comedic, let loose or develop its characters and I feel Discovery has had, or chosen, to focus too much on the main story-arch. The dark tone fits for the kind of story-telling Discovery has been doing, I just wish there would be more room for side-tracking in the upcoming season. Am I actually asking for filler episodes here? I guess I am. No one does filler like Star Trek.

All in all however, I am quite pleased with this season. I thought it was an alright series somewhere halfway, nothing special but not horrible. But looking at it all together now I would actually recommend it and think it is a pretty worthy contribution to the Star Trek universe(s). It'll be interesting to see what they do with season 2.

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