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"


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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Heroes of Might & Magic 3 is Ruining My (Gaming) Life

It all started one fateful evening when the bf pointed out that to get time to spend together just the two of us, we'd probably have to schedule it because having two little kids just saps the life force out of you and when the evening comes we're too brain dead to think of anything and just end up playing separate games. Said and done, we decided that two evenings every week we'd try to do something together, like watch a movie or play video/board games. When our first scheduled evening arrived we were juggling a few ideas. Sega Mega Drive collection on the Switch? The Amazing Labyrinth board game? Vampire Hunter D movie?

I am still waiting for the full 3D HD remake.

I don't remember who first suggested it, it was probably me, but one of us threw out Heroes of Might and Magic 3. Why not? We both love it and we knew we were going to have a good time. A great way to start off the evening. You'd think after hundreds of hours of playing HoMM3 in the past, we should've known better…

We played all evening. The bf, who has to get up at 5 am for work, said it was time to wrap it up. He needed to go to bed. But there it was. Something happened. Just another turn. And then, just one more turn. An extra 30 minutes after we had said we definitely needed to stop playing, we finally managed to pull ourselves away.

The day after was a regular evening. Meaning we hadn't planned to play HoMM3, and had instead in fact plans to do other things. Play other games, read, watch things, write. But come evening, kids in bed, we looked at each other and said: "HoMM3?". There was only a moments hesitation, a quick thought to the things I had actually wanted to do that evening before we both agreed - let's play HoMM3. After all, we were right at the moment of winning, weren't we? And after that, we could go back to business as usual.

This guy hasn't picked up anything!

That entire evening went, and again it took us a lot more time to turn the game off than it should've. If we thought we were close to winning, we were at least a couple of hours wrong. But then it was so easy to get sidetracked. Instead of heading straight for the enemy castle, you see a resource you want or an artifact you know will make the fight a bit easier. Or maybe I should just head back and top up my troops, make sure I really kick the enemies behind real hard. How sure am I after all that 5 Black Dragons will be enough? And I just need a little bit more money to get that Portal of Glory.

The evening after that we again thought that we for sure were close to winning, so we decided to just get that done quickly and then move on to whatever we actually had planned, play all the other games we also wanted to play. We did actually finish the game that evening, but not before we yet again had to play just a little bit longer than we really should have.

After that we both decided that playing HoMM3 was probably not a good idea. Clearly we couldn't handle it and we should stay away from it. There were plenty of other games out there for us to play together.

On our next planned evening together we look at each other and said "well you know, if we just play this when we're supposed to, and turn it off when we're supposed to, then there is no problem, right?". Right. But this is HoMM3. You don't just stop playing HoMM3 whenever.

What were those wood elves thinking?

We had a repeat of the first session and realized that no, we really can't handle HoMM3. It's just too much fun, it's just too addictive. The reward-feedback is perfectly balanced to make you just want to play a little bit more, in a way I have not encountered in any other game. There is always something you need to do, something more to explore. A creature to build or a resource to gather. There is no lull in the pace for you to think "oh here is a good time to take a break". It's greatness can not be understood until it has been experienced, text and pictures does not do it justice.

The other day we were yet again pondering what to play that evening and yet again HoMM3 was mentioned. Yet again the argument of "we'll just turn it off when we should now". But this time we know, there is just no way to play HoMM3 moderately and we managed to stay away from it. For now.

Maybe we should play World of Warcraft together instead?

Friday, February 15, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E5 "Saints of Imperfection"


This was another episode that was alright. I think at this point I will enjoy any episode that doesn't give me headache-inducing editing.

In this episode they continue to tease us with promises of Spock, when Discovery finally catches up to Spock's shuttle only to find Philippa (Georgiou) inside instead. Philippa doesn't come quietly though, but tries to get away from Discovery at first but gets captured. Why she behaves this why isn't exactly explained, but brushed off as "classified", since Philippa now belongs to the super secret intelligence group called "Section 31". They are also trying to catch Spock and it turns out he had abandoned the shuttle already.

Alas, Worf isn't born yet to bless this series.

The whole thing about Spock annoys me a bit, which I already mentioned somewhat in my previous post. The only reason we even care about them chasing this person is because it is Spock, but on the other hand I don't personally care that much that it is Spock. I am not sitting on the edge of my seat, itching to see Spock again. I've never really cared for that kind of fan service, when one character from one ST series shows up in another for little more than a cameo (Worf in DS9 is a good example of where a character is crossed over in a meaningful way and not just as a recognizable face to increase interest in something that isn't all that interesting. In fact I prefer Worf in DS9 over TNG). But we still have yet to see where they are going with all this Spock-business, so I am going to leave my final verdict for now. At this moment it feels like they are waving a Spock-flag in front of our faces to make sure we keep watching. Just make sure your writing is good and you won't need to use big-shot names, mkay?

Anyway... Philippa meets Pike who immediately notices that something is wrong. He confronts Burnham about it a bit later and she promises to spill the beans eventually. There is also a scene with Philippa where she eats an apple, which literally holds no other purpose than to further the concept of her as being a bit of a prick (apple eating is screen-language trope for "bit of a prick). I like Philippa though, or maybe I just really like Michelle Yeoh. I hope they are going to use her wisely, her character is the only real joker-character in the series at the moment and the only one of whom we can't really make out the motivations.

In the last episode Tilly was eaten-ish by a spore-thing-blob (yeah, this is sci-fi alright) but Stamets is refusing to believe she is dead. He comes up with an idea that she is in the network somewhere and that he could put the entire ship halfway inside to have a peek and hopefully pull her out. Pike agrees to the idea which prompts a question I have with almost every episode of any Star Trek series. What kind of protocols are there for what constitutes a reasonable reason to risk dozens of lives to possibly save one? ST VOY that I just watched is a nightmare for this, where Janeway seems willing to risk all ~150 people on board for any one of the bridge personnel in a heartbeat and in the Delta Quadrant she's is somewhat free to write her own rule book. But surely the Federation has rules about this, and surely they can't be this relaxed regarding risking people's lives? It feels like the Federation wouldn't have many people left in it if everyone acted this way…

No one listens to Spock...

Turns out Stamets' guess about Tilly is spot on correct and she alive and mostly well inside the network where the spore-May has taken her to make Tilly help her kill a "monster" that has been roaming inside and killing everything it touches. Tilly agrees, not that she has much option not to. She also learns that the spores calls themselves "Jah-Sepp" for whatever that matters.

Tilly was in fact teleported via the blob into the network and this makes me think about another thing that I probably shouldn't be thinking about because there just isn't a good answer. The regular Star Trek transporters break down a person into atoms and then re-assemble them elsewhere. As I understood it, it doesn't physically transfer those exact atoms, but rather the information about how the atoms were assembled. Which means the "original" you is actually gone. Which also means the "original" you wouldn't even have to be destructed for the "new" you to be constructed, since there is nothing in the transporter that necessitates that one is "destroyed" for another to be assembled (beside ethical reasons), at least the way I've understood it. It is hinted at for instance when Janeway says that the replicators and the transporters are the same kind of system, and the replicators don't need to destruct anything to construct anything. As far as I can recall this is not something that is ever addressed in the Star Trek universe however, but I would love to see an episode themed around this. I guess it is a question the Star Trek writers don't really want to touch upon as the implications are tricky. The movie The Prestige has a similar concept going on.

So question is, would you use it?

Because Discovery found Philippa, they now get to meet the rest of the Section 31 big-shots, meaning Tyler and the guy in command. The guy in command is someone called Leland, which is a name that rings a bell to me but I am probably thinking of Weyland from the Alien franchise. Pike and Leland know eachother since before apparently. Also apparently, Tyler is now the Section 31 liaison to Discovery and that is how he makes it back to the ship. I can honestly say, I don't care for Tyler at all. I feel like everything we invested in his story-arch about Voq didn't really pay off, and I am not interested in making the same mistake again. His relationship with Burnham was also too halfhearted to make anyone care then or now about anything they have to say to eachother. Why was he even recruited by Section 31? Why is he here? Why why why?

Back to Tilly and the crazy plan to save her. Stamets takes the ship into the network and he and Burnham go out to find Tilly. In a matter of minutes, Saru has fixed up a way for them to be able to communicate with eachother though they're going to be in the network. And it's a common and always hilarious theme in Star Trek where they manage to solve seemingly extremely complicated problems in a matter of seconds just because it's convenient for the plot. Another good example is the five minutes or so it takes Stamets to fix new spores for the spore drive in Season 1.

Tilly and May see the ship and go inside to find help. May is sceptical at first but Tilly tells her to trust her, since she's been inside her head she should know it's going to be ok. Then the second after when Tilly goes to pinky swear, May has no idea what that is. It makes me wonder what exactly May does know from having been inside Tilly's head. One second it's assumed May knows everything Tilly knows and the next May's information about human things is very lacking, like the crying in the previous episode and the pinky swearing in this.

Either way, they find eachother inside the ship. And they find the "monster". Which turns out to be... Hugh? Yep, apparently Stamets boyfriend (husband? Were they married? Can't remember) is alive and mostly unwell inside the network and the spores are trying to kill him because he is killing them. He is using some sort of poisonous bark to keep them off him, which they see as a threat. But where the heck did he get the bark from in the first place? Unclear. He runs away from them anyway and Stamets runs after.

All the best monsters were in TOS anyway.

Meanwhile, Discovery is taking a beating from being inside the network and the Section 31 people show up to save them with their fancy technology. It makes me wonder why they aren't the ones with the spore drive?

Inside the network they finally gets Hugh to come along with them and hurry to get back to the "regular" ship. But first of course they need to have a scene in which they explain how Hugh ended up in the network to begin with, that they really don't have time with in that situation and that doesn't really make all that much sense. I'm not going to say that they are trying to retconn Hugh back into the story, because it has been somewhat hinted that he was inside the network all along... somewhat. It's vague and weakly explained though.

They get back to the spore-drive-cubicle that allows them to transverse between the network and regular space only to find that Hugh can't leave. Exciting twist! Hugh isn't really real and has to die anyway (because he is disrupting the spores). I was quite intrigued for half a second.
Except only no, they find a way to bring him to regular space using the spore-transporter that May used on Tilly.

Also right after the reveal that Hugh can't leave the network there was a long ass black pause of several seconds which made me think my ps4 had broken down. Scary.

May doesn't initially want to transport Hugh because that would mean she can't cross over anymore. Why not? Quite unclear. She does in the end anyway, because who can say no to true love.
The episode ends with Burnham voicing her concerns to Philippa about her hunting down Spock. Philippa tells her not to worry, which Burnham of course has trouble trusting. It is also unclear why Philippa is so eager to catch Spock except it being her Section 31 duty and maybe fun? We don't know anything about her agenda in this universe, and while that can be interesting too, I think I would prefer to see more character and story development rather than constantly getting twists sprung in my face. They did that with Lorca and while that was cool, it also didn't really give a satisfying pay-off in the end so no more of that please.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E4 "An Obol For Charon"


I actually really liked this episode. This was probably my favorite so far, counting both season 1 and 2.

The reason I like it so much is probably because they finally gave me three things I have been asking for many times - a backstory for someone else than Michael, a slowing down of pace in the story telling and editing that doesn't make me want to throw something at the screen.

I'm going to adress the last of those three points first because even though I might complain a lot about it, it's probably the least important one. In this episode, scenes were allowed to just themselves without all the make up, and it just proved to me how much more I prefer it. Scenes were shot straight on, without all of the cutting, jumping and spinning around we've seen in the first three episodes of this season and it is so much more enjoyable to watch.

It's difficult to say who has the worse day on the job in this episode, Saru or Tilly. In the end it is probably Tilly, but before we get there let's set the stage.

Discovery sets off after Spock and for once that is all the setup this episode needs. Another thing I am thankful for, as I've also felt that some episodes are trying to cram a bit much into the runtime. This episode turns out to be a big long excuse to build up Saru's character (with just a little bit added extra) and this feels like Star Trek to me.

So cool.

Actually, let me mention something that isn't big in the episode but big to me and big to Star Trek in general I feel, that happens just a bit before the episode sort of sets off. We briefly get to meet Pike's "Nr 1", or second in command. She is played by none other than Rebecca Romijn (the woman who plays Mystique in some of the X-Men movies), but I didn't recognize her! I only noticed it when looking up the credits. But anyway. Why does this matter? I've mentioned before that Cpt Pike stems from the original pilot episode of TOS. When they scrapped that pilot and re-shot a new one with Shatner, they changed almost everything. One thing they changed was Pike's second in command, a woman played by one of the biggest names in Star Trek, Majel Barrett (if you want to know why she matters, google!). One of the changes they made was to make Spock second in command instead and turn Majel Barrett into Nurse Chapel, because having a woman as second in command was apparently too outlandish for this space faring adventure. The irony is not lost on me nor many other people, so it was so great to see this character again. Majel didn't seem too salty about the whole thing in the end and I would like to think she'd be happy to see this revival of her character.  I hope this character will feature a lot more.

Chasing after Spock, the Discovery is suddenly stopped by a mysterious, and as it turns out very old, sphere that's just hanging around in space. What does it want? First thing it does is infect the Discovery computer with a computer virus, making the universal translators malfunction in a pretty hilarious scene where everyone is suddenly speaking a different language. Saru, who is sick as established in an earlier scene, is brought in because of his vast language skills. It doesn't take him long to fix the translator, but it turns out the computer systems are much more infected than that, and soon barely anything works on the ship. It also turns out Saru seems to be getting sicker along with the ship.

Definitely dilithium.

Meanwhile down in engineering, Tilly and Stamets have caught the blob thing. They get a visit from Engineer Jett when the computer systems start to malfunction. Jett and Stamets have a pretty funny scene trash talking each other and each respective propulsion system, ending with a nice environmental message a la Star Trek. At this point we have still to find a reason why the spore drive doesn't figure in any other, later, Star Trek series, but every ship is still being run on dilithium, but this episode will actually make a start at explaining that soon enough. I quite like the Jett character, she has a lot of personality and that is very much in line with other engineers in the Star Trek series. A sudden surge of something or other allows the blob thing to re-attach itself to Tilly again.

Saru notices that something is not right with him beyond a regular cold and as his health deteriorates, he explains to Burnham that he seems to have entered the dying phase of his species (could this also be interpreted as a parody on men who say they're dying when they have a cold?). This triggers a set of scenes where we get a lot more background information on Saru, his species and the culture of his home planet. These scenes are allowed to take their time, which I am so grateful for. This is exactly the slowing in pace I asked for in my previous post. Here, they're not afraid to give the character the time and space it needs, without something blowing up around it. Thank you, more of this please.

Michael is of course not too keen on Saru dying, but Saru assures her there is nothing she can do to change it. Burnham runs to engineering to see if she can help out. She finds Stamets and Jett trying to figure out what to do with Tilly and her blob thing, and gives Stamets the idea to try to communicate with it. Burnham then also gets the idea that the sphere is maybe trying to communicate with them through the computer virus. She goes back to Saru while Stamets and Jett set up to trepanate Tilly.

Maybe the same blob?

If you haven't come across trepanation before, consider yourself lucky. It basically means making a hole into someone's skull, and in Tilly's case it is going to happen with a regular damn drill because that is what they have on hand. The reason for this is to install the cortical implant they need to be able to communicate with the blob that has re-infested Tilly's body. While the trepanation scene is probably as gentle as such a scene can possibly be, it still pretty much gave me a headache just from watching it.

Talking to the blob they find out that it is angry. Angry with Stamets for invading its home, the spores. Stamets asks for forgiveness and says he is going to try to make things right. This short exchange gives us a big clue as to why the spore drive is eventually taken offline and never mentioned again. The blob-thing isn't happy with Stamets reassurances though, and starts to cover all of Tilly's body (poor woman). They manage to cut her out of there, but the blob thing responds by drugging them and kidnapping Tilly back again to... well it's entirely unclear where Tilly ends up but I guess we'll find out in the next episode.

In another part of the ship Burnham explains her idea that the sphere is trying to communicate to Saru who immediately catches on. At first I found it a bit odd that Saru wouldn't think of this first, but I explain it by the fact that he is actually dying. They try to convince Pike, who is increasingly losing his patience, not to fire on the sphere but rather let it share its knowledge with them. Eventually he accepts, the sphere explodes (but saves the ship) and the Discovery has 100.000 worth of space travel information to sift through.

Saru and Burnham go to say goodbye to each other and Saru asks Burnham to do the act of cutting his ganglia before his illness will make him go mad. Just as Burnham is about to do it however, the ganglia just fall off and Saru is still alive. Never felt better in fact. He tells them he now doesn't feel constantly fearful, and instead quite powerful. But he also questions what consequences this has on his species and homeworld, as it turns out their traditions and reasons for dying have been lies all along. It's actually quite powerful stuff, and it really makes me want to see what happens if Saru goes back to his homeworld to change things.

Pretty much swapped for Seven of Nine.

The whole thing with Saru also really reminds me of Kes from ST VOY. Kes is an Ocampa, and when she is taken to Voyager she is assumed to be of a fairly weak species. They only live 9 years on average and because their planet was barely habitable they hadn't accomplished much. It turns out though that the Ocampans possess some of the strongest mental abilities of any species in the galaxy and Kes can towards the end alter physical matter at will. I wonder if Saru will have a similar development and I'll be honest, I'd love for that to happen. If it turns out the Kelpiens, if left unkilled, turn out to be some sort of super-species and that is the reason they have been culled. You read it here first folks.

So overall a really good episode. While the whole sphere thing was, as mentioned, just an excuse to build on Saru's character (although it is possible this will have further repercussions along the way) I really couldn't care less. I want more episodes like these please, and I really hope they continue down both these story-paths. While the Tilly one seems like it'll obviously continue, now they've opened up a whole can of Saru and it was great.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E3 "Point of Light"

Spoilers as usual.

Another Friday, another DSC episode and it's another busy one.

This episode tries to deal with that thing that is going on with Spock, that thing that is going on with Tilly and the Klingons are reintroduced into the storyline. For which I am happy actually, because I was starting to worry that that wasn't going to be a thing any more. While these stories intersperse in the episode I am going to deal with them separately to hopefully make it a little bit more clear.

Burnham's foster mother, ie Spock's mother, comes to visit and tells Burnham she has tried to visit Spock at the psychiatric clinic, but when she wasn't allowed to she stole his medical file, because apparently that isn't difficult to do. Burnham asks Pike for help to open the encrypted file and at first he is against it. When Pike finds out that Spock is on the run wanted for the murder of three people he changes his mind however.

The medical file doesn't reveal much, it especially doesn't reveal any physical appearance of Spock. We would've seen a picture of this person long ago if it wasn't Spock, and in fact the whole thing is only half-interesting because it is about Spock. It makes me wonder if they retconned Spock into this storyline to make it more palatable. Impossible to say at this point, but I have some issues with trying to believe Burnham's relationship with Spock, considering of course that Spock never ever mentions her. They are trying to explain this by the fact that they have a really lousy relationship, and they talk a bit more about why that is in this episode without actually giving any details. Burnham mentions to Amanda (their mother) "hurting Spock deeply" when they were younger, apparently to protect him, and that he has never forgiven her since even though she has reached out. It strikes me as a bit un-Vulcan like for Spock to still be hurt about it, but since we don't know exactly what Burnham did it's difficult to say.

Maybe they are trying to explain the "original" Spock?

Apparently Spock has been seeing the "Red Angel" ever since he was a child, the Red Angel being the same "something" that Burnham saw on the meteor in S2E1. The Red Angel even helped Spock save Burnham at one point, so of course I am curious to find out what it is. An alien species?

At the same time Tilly is struggling with her own visions, as the ghost of May is not leaving her alone. After a breakdown in front of captain Pike, she goes to talk to Burnham about it and a throwaway comment from the May-ghost during this conversation (that she doesn't know what crying is), that Tilly of course has to mention to Burnham, gives Burnham the idea that the May-ghost isn't a hallucination but a real thing that's invaded Tilly somehow. They're forcing that revelation way too quickly, but it is what it is.

Tilly runs to Stamets who quickly finds out that Tilly has been infected by a spore or fungus or something, they suck it out of her and it is some sort of blob that they shoot into oblivion. Some way to make first contact. Thus, we have no idea what this thing wanted.

And then we have the Klingons. L'Rell is chancellor over all the houses, but is struggling to hold their allegiance. Because she has Tyler with her, they question her capability to rule and her loyalty to the Klingons. At first Tyler is struggling to show affection for L'Rell, then suddenly it's revealed they have a son together and everything changes. Now Tyler wants to be a family with L'Rell. It's also a bit comical that L'Rell explains to Tyler that she hasn't told him about their son, or even spent any time with the child herself, because it is a liability. About four seconds after they decide to unite, the kid turns into a liability, when it is kidnapped by L'Rells main antagonist Kol-Sha.

Must be so warm underneath all that hair and face.

He wants to trade the life of the child for the chancellorship and after a fight it seems like he is going to kill L'Rell and Tyler anyway. In comes a mystery person and kills Kol-Sha and his men. The mystery person is none other than Philippa (I still can't spell her last name, so won't try) whom I am happy to see again. She tells L'Rell that both the baby and Tyler will hinder her in her mission to rule the Klingons, although it is not explained why Philippa cares. She takes Tyler and the baby with her while L'Rell lies to the other Klingons about having killed Tyler for having killed their baby (and for spying on her), and that Kol-Sha sacrificed himself in this battle to save her. The baby is sent off to be a monk in some monastery, so unclear if it will matter any more.

Tyler finds out Philippa is part of something called the Black Badges, which I guess is some sort of MI6/FBI of the Federation? I have never heard of the Black Badges in Star Trek lore before, so not sure if they're made up for this series or just something I've blanked out on.

So yeah, a lot happens in this episode and while some parts feel forced or rushed, the overall story is pretty interesting. I am less interested in the Spock story arch, but I am curious to see how the Klingons, the Red Angel and the seven signals fit together.


Speaking of the Klingons, they have hair now. I am pretty sure they didn't in season 1? If possible they look even weirder, and it's just something about their huge heads that make them feel unreal and that is in a series that has some very odd looking aliens over the years. They've managed to make the Klingons look the most unrealistic somehow. Can you even say that about an imaginary alien species? I can only explain it by the fact that the Klingon were an established species with an established look before this.

Also, it seems like the different directors are having some sort of bet on who can make the more annoying shots. This episode might take the cake though, because it has so many almost nausea inducing panning/spinning shots it started to make me angry. Why would you ever want several panning shots that start from upside-down or sideways? Why does the camera need to move so much at all?! Stop that. Star Trek doesn't need artsy-fartsy, it is in fact hampered by artsy-farsty.

Gold star for using the authentic sound effects from TOS on the transporter though.