Friday, March 29, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E11 "Perpetual Infinity"

This was a good episode, despite things happening and flashing by the screen so fast you barely had time to breathe before it was all over. But overall it was enjoyable and interesting.

So here we have it, backstory on whatever happened to Michael and her family that day when her parents died. Except they didn't. Or at least her mother didn't seem to. We see the mother, named Gabrielle, suit up and jump away when they get attacked. Only I thought in the previous episode it was mentioned that they died from the super nova, but now it seems they were indeed attacked by the Klingons, like Michael had always said. So now I am not really sure which it is, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter.

What matters is that we see Gabrielle use the suit with the intention to jump back in time just an hour to get her family out of there before they get attacked by the Klingons. Something goes wrong and she ends up 950 years in the future instead. Now that's a mistake if I ever saw one! Reminds me of that decimal that was wrong somewhere and ended up costing some company billions... For some reason that is never explained, she has no problem jumping 950 years into the future, but every time she tries to jump back from there, she gets thrown back into the future again. Basically she is stuck there, and this is why she's only made short appearances here and there so far.

I still don't understand the angel-design.

Maybe it's because you can jump forward but not backward with the same ease? I don't know, like I said it's never explained or addressed in any way. I can picture the writers getting the question - "but why...?" and answering "just shhh".

I will give them credit for casting a woman (Sonja Sohn) to play Michael's mom who really has pretty much the exact same mannerisms and way of talking as Michael. They are very similar and credible as parent and child.

Next up we get to see Michael waking up from the shock of what she went through in the last episode. She's only been out for 5 hours, which is pretty strong for someone who literally died. At first she thinks she only hallucinated seeing her mom, but the people around her (the usual gang of Stamets, Tilly, Saru, Pike, Tyler) tell her that it wasn't a hallucination. The Red Angel is in fact Michael's mom. During this scene it's like the person handling the camera has had too many Red Bull or something, because it is shaking all over the place. I wrote down in my notes "what is UP with the shaky cam?!" because it was really annoying. I understand that it's probably a deliberate choice to give more effect to Michael's shaky and unsteady feelings upon hearing that her mother didn't in fact die 20 years ago and also is the Red Angel. I mean, it's a lot to take in. And she did just die and get resurrected. But it ends up being more distracting, although I don't know enough about cinematography to give any advice on how that could've been better. Maybe just trust the skills of your actor and not shake the screen all over the place like there's an earthquake?

I know there was a lot of guessing about who the Red Angel was going to be. I think Spock himself was the hottest contender. Who guessed Michael's mom? Probably no one. But it works, I think it makes sense in the story and I'm buying it. In fact I think I even prefer it over the more lavish choices of Spock and what we thought last week, Michael.

Obviously Michael is very keen on meeting her mom, who has yet to wake up from being unconscious. While she is waiting for her mom to wake up she watches a lot of data and footage downloaded from the suit and this is when we get the information that Gabrielle can't come back to her "own" time anymore. We also find out that Gabrielle finds a desolate universe where everything has been destroyed and I guess she somehow finds out that Control is the culprit? This is also not explained, but suddenly Gabrielle talks about how she has tried to prevent the annihilation event from happening hundreds of times (or at least very many times, can't remember exactly how many she says) but failed every time so far. We get to see how Gabrielle sets up camp on some M-class planet, but it's not explained if that is also desolate. Presumably not or Gabrielle wouldn't live for very long, without food and water.

Planet sets are always some of my favorites.

We move to a scene with Leland who has been captured by Control. He's strapped to a chair while some holograms looking like the main cast walk closer to him, talking about how it needs a body. But wait a second here, did I miss something? Am I having a blackout? I have no recollection of Leland getting captured by Control. It probably happened at some point in the previous episode, but in that case I have completely blanked it out. My last memory of Leland was Michael punching him in the face after he came clean about his involvement in her parents death.

But ok, Control tells Leland that it needs his body to be able to seem more human. It tells him that the reason it used a Vulcan (admiral Patar) and a cyborg (Airiam) previously, was to not have to fake human emotions, which it can't do credibly. I fail to see how taking over Leland's body will solve that problem though? If it takes over his mind then surely it would still have the problem of not being able to fake human emotions, and if it doesn't then... Leland is still in control? But no, apparently having a human and real body is all Control needs. It injects Leland with loads of some sort of nanoprobe-looking things, which means Control has access to some technology that I had no idea the Federation had. I mean, mind-controlling nanoprobes. As far as I know, the first time the Starfleet get anywhere near nanoprobes that can alter the body is when Seven-of-Nine enters the show, which is set after Discovery.

At first I thought maybe Control had taken this technology back from the future, but when and how? But I guess if Section 31 can produce a time jumping suit they could also have this kind of technology up their sleeves. Leland isn't happy about it but can do nothing to prevent it from happening so neener-neener.

No one liked Leland anyway.

Control in control of Leland immediately sets off to get hold of the data from the Sphere. Control-Leland tells Tyler something about how he doesn't trust the data with Discovery and wants Tyler to transfer it over to the Section 31 ship somehow. Tyler isn't too keen on the idea and asks "you want me to commit espionage on another Starfleet ship?". Control-Leland answers "that is the line of work you've chosen" (paraphrasing). I mean, yeah Tyler. That IS what Section 31 is about, among other things. Tyler agrees to do it.

When Gabrielle wakes up she doesn't want to meet Michael. Pike tells Michael that he wants to honor Gabrielles wishes and Michael is royally upset about it, since she really wants to see her mom. Instead she gets to watch the conversation Pike and Gabrielle have over a datafeed. It essentially boils down to Gabrielle saying that she has tried pretty much everything there is to try, and asks Pike to simply destroy the data from the Sphere. Reluctantly he agrees. Saru is upset about it at first, comparing it to the burning of the Alexandrian libraries but realizes that the fate of the Universe is at stake. They have a lot of faith in Gabrielle's ability to judge what is the right course of action, considering she clearly doesn't have a clue and has just randomly tried everything she could think of so far. Why would this now be the right thing to do to get rid of Control if all the hundred ideas she had before didn't cut it? Turns out though, the data from the Sphere is undeletable. Just like the Sphere tried to save the data in the episode where it first appeared, the data is now protecting itself and encrypting itself to prevent it from being destroyed.

Michael goes to Gabrielle to tell her this and they have a pretty emotional scene where Gabrielle tells Michael that she's dead to her because she's seen the Universe and everyone in it being destroyed so many times. She says that them reconnecting now is meaningless and to wait until Control has been neutralized. Michael thinks her mom is callous and cold, but I can definitely see what Gabrielle means. To her time has become a fluid thing and that moment with her daughter is just a drop in it, that holds no significance if they can't prevent the Universe from being destroyed.

Gabrielle also explains why she has been showing herself to Spock. At some point she figured out that Spock was the only one able to comprehend her, with his special blend of emotion and logic and apparently because of his... wait for it - dyslexia. His dyslexia has primed his mind to be able to understand the time displacement and... I don't really get it myself. I think this could easily sound really stupid, even as some Star Trek ideas go, but I am going to be the Devil's Advocate here for a bit. Clearly, if you have dyslexia, your brain is wired a bit differently. We're supposed to believe that that same wiring allows you to see time-visions and I mean yeah sure, why not? Michael even tells Spock that "your dyslexia wasn't a failing, it was your advantage" (again paraphrasing). Personally I like the idea of seeing the brain not as something that is black or white (works or doesn't work) but rather as something that is useful in some areas and less useful in other areas. With certain things we might just not have figured out what they are useful for yet. An analogy could be how a disorder like sickle-cell anemia can help you fend off malaria. So something that usually is just a debilitating disorder becomes something of a benefit under the right circumstances.

Speaking of something completely else, how about some more animated Star Trek or what?

Meanwhile, Stamets tells them that the suit will soon snap back into the future with Gabrielle (whether she is in it or not) because that is just how time works. They won't be able to keep it in their time frame much longer. Spock comes up with the idea of transferring all the sphere-data to the suit which would then mean all the data would be 950 years into the future, where presumably Control wouldn't have access to it. They also device a plan to beam Gabrielle out of her future-timeframe and into the present one. Gabrielle says she wants to go with the data into the future to make sure Control can't get it, but Michael doesn't want her to go.

Before they set their plan in motion however, Tyler tells Control-Leland he's changed his mind and doesn't want to help him transfer the data anymore. Control-Leland just lets this go, presumably to not arouse too much suspicion about him not actually being Leland anymore. Instead he asks Philippa to help him and appeals to her vanity as "the most powerful woman in the Universe" to get her in on the idea. He tells her that Gabrielle has infinitely more power than Philippa, because even though Philippa has the knowledge of two Universes, Gabrielle has the knowledge of all of time. She knows what is going to happen to all of them. Philippa agrees to help Control-Leland to transfer the data to the Section 31 ship. She goes down to Gabrielle under the pre-tense of wanting to have a chat, while using some sort of sneaky device to transfer the data from the suit.

They too have a good scene, since they are both mothers to Michael. Gabrielle says she's seen Philippa sacrifice herself for Michael many times throughout the timeline and Philippa says she must be talking about her prime-self. But Gabrielle smiles and says that she knows more about Philippa than she thinks. Gabrielle says something that suddenly makes Philippa suspicious about Control-Leland, and decides not to help him anymore. She tells Tyler on a secret channel about her suspicions and when he goes to confront him, Control-Leland stabs him in the stomach. Things happen very quickly here so I might not get the order entirely right, because it's a bit jumbled in my memory.

They haven't even given her access to lavatories...

Gabrielle is about to snap back into the future with a suit full of sphere-data, Control-Leland has managed to download about a third of the data already. He teleports himself to where Gabrielle is being held to finish the data download that Philippa has interrupted, but Philippa attacks him. While Philippa holds him off, impressively considering Control-Leland seems to have super-humans strength now, Michael very reluctantly says her goodbyes to her mom. Then Control-Leland shoots the suit and the time crystal in it breaks. The machine holding Gabrielle also breaks and she and the suit is sent back to the future, presumably without any means of using the suit again. Then Pike quickly beams everyone out of there, except obviously Control-Leland, and shoots the site to kingdom come with some well placed torpedoes.

Control-Leland of course manages to beam to safety on the Section 31 ship with about half of the sphere-data with him. Tyler, who is still alive, has escaped the ship on an escape pod and gets picked up by Discovery. Control-Leland flies off and masks his trail so that they can't follow him.

So to conclude - Gabrielle is back in the future with her broken suit, Tyler is alive and on Discovery, Control-Leland has run off with half the sphere-data. There seems to be three more episodes to this season, so I don't have a clue what will happen now. I think that is a good thing, they've really got me intrigued for what will come and how this will all play out. While the story-telling has been jerky so far, to say the least, with revelations coming in about 15 minutes before they pay off or get resolved or get thrown out, the story as a whole is actually pretty good. I know I've been nagging about this since the start of this series, but I really would like more padding, or filler if you like. Star Trek is all about the padding. We need the episodes in-between all the seriousness, for character and world building. That is how we end up caring so deeply about the things that then happen to these characters and these worlds.

But other than that, I'm definitely enjoying this.

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