Monday, October 30, 2017

Quick Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Ep 7

Magic to make the sanest man go mad
Spoilers as usual

The previous episode I felt like Discovery was finally picking up some interesting story telling. This time they are doing it again with a good old Groundhog Day-tale. Mudd returns and manages to cement himself as possibly the most annoying a**hole in the Star Trek Universe, rivaled only by Q.

It all starts off with a party, which feels very un-Star Trekky, not in a bad way but in that, in the older series people have come off as if they are only their on-duty characters all the time. It's a sort of stiffness to the character I would say and not really something I've noticed until I saw this party-scene that felt like it could've come straight out of any other TV-series. In the older Star Trek series, no matter what people were doing it always had this veil of Trekkiness to it that is difficult to describe. That made this scene feel odd but I didn't dislike it.

I think it might be the lack of casual-wear.

Michael and Tyler are called to the bridge because the ship has encountered a Gormagander, which apparently is an endangered species who likes to float around in space. For some reason there is a directive that says that whenever a Federation ship encounters one of these they need to not leave it be, but meddle as much as possible by aiding it - apparently preferably by beaming it straight into a cargo bay. How a creature that seems to live and (somewhat) thrive in open space can even endure being in a cargo bay I don't know but it's not impossible I guess (I mean, tardigrades can so why not these creatures too).

The Gormagander is big enough to hide a space ship in so Mudd basically uses it as a Trojan horse to trick himself inside the Discovery. Once inside he tries to steal the secret behind the spore drive so he can sell it to the Klingons, kill Lorca and when he fails he blows the ship up. Then he loops it all and tries again.

At first I was curious as to how Michael was going to figure out that there was a time loop going on, but turns out it's not Michael who does it at all, but Stamets. Which makes perfect sense seeing as he is "in tune with the Universe" and all. In essence he isn't affected by the time loop so while he dies his memory of the incident remains. Which feels like a pretty arbitrary difference in effect by eh, time travel works in mysterious ways.

Stamets finally manages to get Michael to believe him and Michael gets Tyler to spill the beans on what it could be that Mudd is using. I don't know why the episode feels like Tyler needs to trust someone before he can tell them about Mudd, since he despises Mudd, but I guess a random question about Mudd from a random person would seem odd. Either way this setup is used to force Michael and Tyler to acknowledge to each other that they "like each other". It is used for a decent purpose in this episode, but where they are going with it from here I don't know and I don't see it being particularly interesting either. I can count exactly zero love stories from Star Trek series in the past having interested me in the slightest and I doubt this one will either.

Not even this love story.

I love the look Lorca gives Saru when Lorca calls the Gormagander (sounds like something out of Harry Potter btw) a "fish" and Saru goes to say "technically sir, it's not a fish but a...". He doesn't get further, but that scene was instant Data reference to me, it made me smile.

Towards the end, when we think they might finally have turned the tables on Mudd, Stamets says he will give Mudd the secret to the spore drive if he promises not to kill any more people. As viewer we are not in on whether he does this because he is stupid or because it's part of a plan to trap Mudd so we (or at least I did) immediately thought the latter. Surely Stamets wouldn't go through all that just to give it all up in the end? Well... turns out that seems to be exactly what he does. So they're all screwed, thanks for nothing Stamets.

Fortunately Michael realizes she still has an ace up her sleeve, to force Mudd to loop once more so they can catch him. She goes and reveals to Mudd, who is just about to finish the deal with the Klingons, that she is the Michael Burnham who killed T'Kuvma. Mudd realizes that Michael is worth a fortune to him and in that instant Michael kills herself, forcing Mudd to reloop to capture Michael alive.

Which is obviously exactly what they had been hoping on and Mudd gets caught and... is sent off with his wife?!

This is pretty much what happens. They find out that Mudd needs the money because he owes his father-in-law a ton and so they send for him and his daughter (Stella) who pick him up and leave. Umm... so the whole trying to steal the most secret weapon in the Federation and selling it to the mortal enemy they are currently at war with, killing hundreds of crew members in the process wasn't an issue? Just... letting him go are we?

Yeah that ending leaves a lot of question marks. I knew of course that Mudd survives, since he is in TOS. And we know he absolutely hates his wife so it's more of a funny ending than a suitable one. I also know he's not very liked in the Federation, but considering what he has done he should literally be either in prison or banned from all Federation space forever. He has proven well beyond doubt that he is merciless lunatic that would do anything for a bit of money.

Even though it's the kind of episode where you know they're going to make in the end the suspense is in the "how" and this episode does a very good job with it. It keeps a good pace throughout and is very well edited, leaving in or adding just enough for every loop so that you don't literally have to rewatch the same thing over and over. It's yet another episode where we don't see the Klingons and it almost feels like the series is better off without them. The best episodes so far have been in their absence.

Has Kelsey Grammer been in every TV-series? (TNG Cause and Effect)

Of course this series gave me serious déjà vu for other reasons (no pun intended). The whole time through watching this I felt certain that something very similar has happened in Star Trek before. Of course, I was probably thinking of the TNG episode "Cause and Effect" in which the Enterprise is caught in a time loop where it is constantly destroyed. Data and Dr Crusher eventually figure out a way to send him a message to be able to stop it. Also a great episode that I am going to have to rewatch now. (On a side-note, the USS Bozeman that is also stuck in the time loop in that episode is originally from only 20 years after Discovery is set)

Overall I liked this episode and feel like the series is on a good track. Maybe the whole "war with the Klingons" thing was just an excuse to allow for this kind of story-telling. I would be ok with that, but I doubt that's the case.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Quick Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Ep 6

Lethe (I had to google what that meant...)
More spoilers than ever I think.

I think this was my favorite episode so far. It established a couple of very interesting things and was also finally going into some more of the crazy story-telling that we all know and love from Star Trek. In short, we get to experience mind-meldception. But before I get into that...

It should've been clear from the get-go to me, seeing as Michael is Sarek's other child trying to mix Vulcan and Human cultures, but if it wasn't this episode hammered it in. Whereas Spock was a logic man fighting (against) his emotions, Michael is an emotional woman fighting (for) her logic. They're similar in that they both value logic a lot higher than emotions, but that makes perfect sense seeing as they've grown up in the Vulcan logic-driven culture. Both Michael and Spock come off as rude and awkward in human company a lot of the time, this is a point that is often mentioned in TOS where people (mostly McCoy) are shocked by Spocks lack of emotions even in the worst of situations. They think not crying/shouting/cursing means you're not caring. Michael, just like Spock has had her issues growing up in the Vulcan society, trying to balance these two worlds - although of course the Vulcans would rather the human side was completely eradicated meaning they see no value in it whatsoever. Star Trek, and again TOS mainly, goes a long way to show that emotions have their time and place too. That is something this episode also tries to do, and I think it succeeds.

Speaking of Sarek, his ship has been blown up by an assassin Vulcan (apparently that's a thing) part of a terrorist faction who don't want Vulcans to work with humans. Sarek is drifting around in a nebulae that looks a lot like those 3d pictures I always failed to see back in the 90's and his Katra-meld with Michael is the only thing that can save him. In the end she basically does a mindmeld within the katra-meld. This story is just the kind of oddball that I love about Star Trek, especially since it is used for an interesting and rewarding purpose. Lorca immediately sets out on a rescue mission against the express commands of the Federation. Michael has to force herself into Sareks mind, which allows her to learn that when given the choice Sarek chose Spock before Michael for the Vulcan Expeditionary Force. Sarek had told Michael she had failed the test. I thought Vulcans don't lie? I know they do on several occasions, but it's still something they make a pretty big point out of in TOS.

Nebulae or 3d picture?

Also how does it work when Michael can see scenes in Sareks memory that he can't possibly have witnessed himself? In this particular case it might've been her memory mixed in with his memory, but eh /shrug.

A lot of people have been complaining about the anachronistic problems that arise when you make a prequel - in this episode we see that the Discovery has a very advanced holo-deck, something that of course wasn't present in TOS which is set after STD. I guess you can explain it that the technology existed, it just wasn't anything that was used on the Enterprise. It's not something that bothers me a lot, as long as it's not story breaking as in STD showcasing something that was actually invented/discovered as a plot point in another episode set after in time. I am sure this happens, but I haven't noticed any so far.

The guy Lorca escapes with in the previous episode, apparently named Ash Tyler, turns out to be one heck of a guy. So good in fact that Lorca basically offers him the Chief Security position on the spot. As we know, the previous security chief died a horrible death after an incredibly stupid decision to let loose the tardigrade on her own (well Michael was in the room, but unarmed), then aggravate it, although knowing it had killed several armed Klingons and torn through armed ship hull like it was butter. She was clearly not very good at her job. Also clearly, Lorca doesn't care who he pisses off in the ranking system that was actually in line to get that position, but that does seem in character.

I'm not sure what I think about Ash yet though... he seems pretty bland, but then again so did a lot of characters in other ST series (hello Dr Crusher, Harry Kim and actually come to think of it, almost everyone from NG).

I was in camp Pulaski. Yeah you read that right.

Speaking of Lorca, we get to learn a lot more about him. He is possibly, and probably, the only (main character) captain in Star Trek so far with a very dubious character and moral code. I would say he verges on psychopathic. Lorca gets another visit from Admiral Cornwell, they've bickered enough in the past to not make it come as much of a surprise when it turns out they've been some sort of couple-item in the past. Cornwell, who also seems to be a psychiatrist when she's not being an admiral, tells Lorca she thinks he has major issues (I am euphemizing here) and wants him to relinquish control of the ship. Lorca breaks down and pleads to her, as an old friend, not to ruin him. Cornwell answers, in what is a great scene and reply  -"I hate that I can't tell if that is really you".

The food replicators tell you everything you need to know about the dish you're ordering, making them effectively more annoying than Neelix.

Actually, I kinda liked Neelix.

Sarek was on the way to negotiate some sort of truce between the Federation and some break-off Klingon houses, but since he has been hurt he can't do that anymore. Lorca suggests that Admiral Cornwell does it in his stead, and the second he said that I knew that Cornwell was dead. That would solve the story "problem" of her threatening to remove him from command of the Discovery. Literally the last thing she says before she flies off to meet the Klingons is "we'll discuss how you are going to step down when I get back". Well, you ain't coming back obviously - Hollywood writing 101.

She wasn't killed though, to my surprise, but indeed kidnapped. Somehow I doubt she will be let off as easily as Lorca was, he seems to have been kidnapped by the only completely incompetent Klingon out there. What's very interesting though is that Lorca doesn't set out to immediately rescue her but instead tells a very surprised Saru that he wants to go "through the proper channels and wait for the command". Clearly completely against everything he has done in the past, and another sign that Lorca isn't above throwing anyone to the wolves if it fits his plans and needs. Very interesting indeed.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Quick Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Ep 5

Choose your pain
Spoilers beware...

Another episode where I felt not much did happen, but we did get a whole lot of throwbacking. I am definitely not the only one who will have noticed who was on that list of "notable captains". Christopher Pike and Jonathan Archer from The Original Series and Enterprise respectively. But speaking of that scene, I didn't see where that lead to? I guess it was to show Saru whether he had leader qualities or not but they never showed the results of the test (or did I just completely miss that?) so the point of it was kind of lost. And why would the computer talk back like that? Why does the questioner need to justify the question? If it's programmed that way I'd be really annoyed with it quickly. Just answer my dang question, will ya?

The more I look at those Klingons the uglier they get...

And also speaking of throwbacks, we got to meet Mudd, one of my least favorite characters from the TOS. When I rewatch that series I tend to skip the episodes he is in, except the Tribble one of course. He wasn't any more likable now, in fact he doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities. If he was supposed to come off as street-smart, looking out for himself they mostly just managed to make him look like a huge d*ck.

It also seemed pretty clear the whole kidnapping business was just an excuse to unfold the story about the tardigrade because even though they establish that Lorca has been kidnapped because the Klingons want to know why his magic ship is so awesome, this isn't pre-developed with any kind of hint about this motivation. We don't see any Klingons screaming in frustration as yet another battle plan is foiled by the Discovery, nor any discussion about the kidnapping going to take place. Where did they get information on Lorcas whereabouts exactly when he was at his most vulnerable? Was it that easy for the Klingons to sneak in to what I am assuming is Federation space and kidnap one, if not the most, important captain in the fleet? Heck, they didn't even sneak, they just showed up.

Apparently they also know that Lorca has an eye condition and use that to torture him. Then they just let him leave the torture room when they get nothing out of him, and Lorca doesn't even seem particularly bothered by the torture! It's like the Klingon captain just gave up on the idea almost immediately or the Klingons are just very bad at it because they tend to rather kill their enemies in the battle field. I guess they didn't have the mind reading machines used in TOS ep 27 "Errand of Mercy" yet because that would've made that whole business quick and easy (that would've also made for an interesting throwback and possibly a more interesting plot development).

Errand of Mercy is one of many TOS episodes with omnipotent beings.

The fact that the kidnapping was thrown in there without any kind of build-up, and then quite badly developed, makes me think it's not supposed to be an important part of the plot but just an excuse for the whole tardigrade thing and for showing what a douche Mudd is.

The episode is named after a practice among the Klingons to let the prisoners choose who will get a beating, the prisoner himself or another prisoner. This is how we are first introduced to Mudd, by understanding that he has had another prisoner beaten to death in his stead. But how does this work really? If there are only two prisoners and they presumably name each other, do they both get a beating? Sort of defeats the object.

We get a tiny bit of character development for some characters in this episode. For instance we find out that Stamets and the Doctor are a couple. I thought that Stamets and that guy from the Glen were a couple though? Maybe I misunderstood that and besides, since a couple of months have passed since then I guess new relationships could've been established.

Will we get to know more about Airiam for instance?

We also find out that Lorca blew up his previous ship, with crew and all, rather than have them become prisoners of war to the Klingons. We already know he is ruthless and cares more about results than lives so I am not entirely sure what this was going to add to his character though.

So this felt like yet another episode that didn't accomplish very much until the very last second, with the eerie revelation that there is now something very, very wrong with Stamets. I really hope they go somewhere interesting with this.

I am still having fun watching STD, I just wish I cared more about the characters.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Quick Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Ep 4

The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry
And yes, there will be spoilers.

I actually forgot to watch the episode yesterday and instead decided to finish out Fallout New Vegas. Not sure that is a good sign for STD. Yeah, I know it's a funny acronym.

I felt like not much happened in this episode and what did wasn't all that interesting to be honest. I also realized something that's bugging me but I'll get to that.

It opens up with an unintentionally funny scene when Michael walks into the elevator with Saru and tells the elevator to go straight to where she wants to go. What was Saru doing in the elevator then? Either he was going off on that floor and forgot or Michael just completely ignored that he might want to go somewhere else.

I'm suspecting more and more that the new look on the Klingons was because the producers, or whomever is in charge of those things, was worried that no one would be interested in something that has been around since literally the beginning of the series. With a whole new look and basically feel to the Klingons they can sort of be passed off as a new enemy. I'm not entirely sure what I think about it yet but I am still not all against it either.

They're pretty cute actually.

When they showed the "Ripper" (the name feels a bit like a metaphor for the series, simplistic and not all thought through) my immediate thought was "huh, that looks just like a tardigrade" and two seconds later they confirm that in fact it is a huge tardigrade. I was actually quite intrigued by the idea of turning a giant tardigrade into a weapon, considering they are the most sturdy animal we know of, even more so than cockroaches. Tardigrades are almost impossible to kill and can withstand insane amounts of temperature change and radiation. But no, apparently it is going to be tortured into being some sort of "navigator" or cog in the machinery. I would've preferred the weapon-path, but hopefully they'll go somewhere else with the tardigrade as well.

The whole attack on the dilithium-mining-outpost was just not well done... When the kid shouted "mummy, mummy wake up!" I was cringing at the bad writing. Add cliché yelling and crying children in the background. And then at the end they had the little kid who looked up into the sky and said "who saved us?". I was starting to wonder whether I was watching a 70's Superman movie. And why did Lorca need to endanger the entire ship with that "blow-the-Klingons-up-with-explosives"-scheme? It looked like the phasers were doing a pretty good job already so that entire tactic seemed really stupid.

Not that there is anything wrong with Superman.

In the meantime the Klingons can't agree on anything even when in full-scale war with the Federation. This doesn't surprise me, but that Kol (or whatever his name was) guy who comes and takes over everything from Voq says, and I paraphrase "well we won't stick together after the fighting anyway so we might as well not before the fighting". Yet again, seems like a bad tactic. Unless he is worried Voq will get too much power but we don't get to see the motivation behind what any character is doing besides Michael.

And here we come to my one biggest issue with this series so far. Every series of Star Trek so far has given many characters in the show the opportunity for some character development. There has been an overarching story, but also branching stories in which we learn more about someone else beside the main character. In Next Generation that was unfortunately characters I didn't care much about, like Troi or Crusher, but mostly this has worked really well and has made me care more about everything that happens to the crew. The Original Series probably does this the least but they still manage to give depth to more characters than just Kirk.

So far I see very little inclination that STD is going to give much character development to anyone but Michael, and when another character gets any development it is only to further the story around Michael. We get some exposition into Saru's species in the first episode, which comes in handy in this episode when Michael needs his "threat-ganglia". Tilly explains a bit of herself but that is only so that we will understand what a pain in the ass she will be for Michael. I didn't like every character of all the other series, but knowing more about them allowed me to make that choice! Now I don't even get to decide whether I like someone or not because they are barely even people to me, they're just dialogue-providers for Michael.

The biggest reason for this is obviously that STD so far is slated for way less episodes than any of the other series. Even Star Trek Enterprise, which I felt was short by Star Trek standards, is almost 100 episodes (TOS has 80, NG 176, VOY 170 and DSN 173)! Clearly they've either decided to go for a tight-knit, no excursions allowed, story-arch to test the waters for more episodes, or maybe this is it. I really hope this won't be it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Quick Thoughts on ST Discovery Ep 3

Context is for kings.
Spoiler alert!

Episode 3 starts out a bit confusing but it gets evident fairly quickly that was the whole idea. At first I didn't really get why no one on U.S.S Discovery adressed the fact that the captain of the shuttle had just been killed seconds before they rescued them. And where did those little electricity mites go when the tractor beam was used? And why would the "goons" attack Burnham in a mess hall full of personell? And why say stuff like "have you ever seen a black insignia before?" when Burnham is literally wearing one? But like I said, some of it was explained by the fact that it all seems to have been planned by Lorca.

Nice tribble in his office btw. I don't think you could even see it in the first scene, but you could definitely hear it.

Not everyone likes Tribbles.

I immediately liked Tilly, but I can sense that she might be a divider - people will either adore her or get annoyed with her. She felt like a cliché and realistic at the same time to me, either way I liked her.

I thought about it already in the first two episodes but it really strikes me how much Lt Saru (Doug Jones) is like Abe in Hellboy. Makes sense since it's the same actor, they might even have wanted that vibe when they hired him. I don't mind really, I think Saru is a good character also and I hope he gets more character development as the show goes on, we got some hints as to his background in the first two episodes.

The funny thing about setting a show in between other parts of the series is that you know how this show can end. The whole thing about basically instant teleportation through spores (?) is an interesting one but anyone who has watched ST knows that this can't get very far into fruition since it's not present anywhere else in the timeline. Like, Voyager could've really used that technology...

Obviously this is an issue that has been pointed out before. Site to site teleportation on the Discovery? Do they even have that in the Original Series? They might (I can't remember off the top of my head) but it's a fact that Discovery which is set before the Original Series still has technology that looks a lot more advanced. Not to mention, like I already spoke about a bit in my previous post, about the changed Klingons. They did explain away the Klingons in the Original Series with them being a mutated strain, maybe that is a way to explain these as well? Doesn't really hold up if you ask me.

It used to be all in the moustache.

What was the reference to Alice in Wonderland about though? Was that only a way for them to be able to get a Spock reference in there? Of which I am sure there will be many more.

In fact, the whole ordeal on the U.S.S Glen seemed a bit odd to me. Fair enough that everything else that seemed a bit odd up until there had in fact been orchestrated by Lorca to test Burnham, but I doubt the murderous monster and Klingon corpses were part of that. Why did they not bring more security? Lorcas treatment of the monster afterwards, and the room it is in with a menagerie of monster-skeletons or whatever it is, insinuates that this is not the first time he has encountered creatures like that. You'd think they'd expect some weird shit to come out of an experiment that brutally kills the entire crew of a starship, and so send more than one person with some combat training. Lorca almost lost a whole lot of important people.

All in all there was a bit of silliness but that's basically every Star Trek episode ever. This took a fairly different turn all of a sudden, compared to the first two episodes, which I was hoping for and I am hoping they go more into the scientific route than the fighting route.