Friday, April 5, 2019

Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery S2E12 "Through the Valley of Shadows"

Discovery soldiers on with its break-neck speed. I actually had to quickly read through my previous post to recap what had happened last week because things fly by the screen so fast it quickly gets jumbled. Stamets driving the Discovery halfway into the spore-world feels like centuries ago. Was that even this season?

Discovery finds another signal, this time over the Klingon planet of Boreth. Remember that one? Neither did I, but apparently that is where Tyler left his son in the care of some monks. What are the monks doing on Boreth you might wonder? They're guarding time crystals, the most Deus Ex Machina, the-writers-really-needed-something-simple-to-move-the-plot-forward-crystal in all of Star Trek and there are plenty to choose from there.

But we still don't know what the signals mean and who is sending them, because in the previous episode Gabrielle denied knowing what they were and also she doesn't have the means to be doing anything timey-wimey anymore anyway. Michael gets annoyed at all the speculation and says she really just wants to set after Control-Leland. Everyone else correctly remind her that putting the sphere data, which is all inside the Discovery, any closer to Control-Leland is probably a bad idea. Michael reluctantly agrees.

Instead, Tyler gets into contact with L'Rell to allow the Discovery to make contact with the monks on Boreth. At this point both Michael and Pike have found out that Tyler has a baby on Boreth. Michael and Tyler do some more reconnecting in this episode, are they about to go back together again? Do I feel like we need this love-story? It might have held some purpose in the first season, because it turned out Tyler was actually some sort of Klingon and tried to murder Michael and that was a bit interesting, but do we need them to continue this? A love-story that doesn't seem to fill a purpose in the bigger picture yet but that they handle well is the one between Stamets and Culber though, which they give some time in this episode and also allow us to see and get some more backstory on Reno. Reno is a great character that they should use more in this series to be honest. Reno basically tells Culber that he's got a second chance with Stamets by coming back alive and that he shouldn't waste it. But maybe he doesn't have feelings for him any longer, talk about putting pressure on someone who is already feeling bad about his situation, Reno?

Do they only have one mess hall? Where do they all fit?

Anyway, Pike decides they are going to try to get a time crystal to fix Gabrielles suit (somehow) and Tyler wants to go down to see his son. L'Rell reminds him that he is supposed to be dead and that he'd just ruin their entire scheme from episode 2 or whenever it was if he did that. Pike volunteers instead. It's interesting that Klingon monk architecture looks a lot like any generic Hollywood we-are-supposed-to-be-in-Tibet-now-architecture. To be fair, the go-to Star Trek monk-architecture always seems to be badly lit caves, and this isn't far from that either.

When Pike comes down to Boreth he is met by a monk with an uncanny resemblance to John Travolta from Battlefield: Earth. Every time I see a Klingon in this series I scratch my head as to why they felt the need to completely change them like this and still call them Klingons? It's like they wanted the cake and eat it too, because I realize at this point in Star Trek time the Klingons were still the biggest threat to the Federation. At the same time the writers of Discovery, as I have speculated before, probably felt like the Klingons were old hat and that something "cooler" was needed. They wanted something new that wasn't the Klingons, but were bound by lore to call them Klingons. While I can understand it on some levels, I think they went a bit far. To be fair, this isn't the first major overhaul the Klingons have received but I still wish they would've kept more of the TNG/VOY/DS9 style.

Couldn't they've been Nognilks instead?

The monk that helps Pike turns out to be the son of Tyler and L'Rell, apparently an adult now although only months have passed, due to the influence of the time crystals. Tenavik, as he is called, explains to Pike that acquiring a time crystal requires a sacrifice and the second he said it I knew where this was going. That's right, we're getting the backstory on how Pike gets to be where he is when we see him in the TOS episode The Menagerie, which is completely disabled in a wheelchair with severe damages to his face. I've probably said it before, but in that TOS episode they had to have an explanation as to why they didn't have the original actor from the pilot episode The Cage that Pike originally stars in. So they make'd him up to be almost unrecognizable so they could use a different actor and said he had had some unspecified accident. Here we are 50 years later and Star Trek writers have had to fit that quick-fix into their storyline somehow. It's pretty impressive actually how they've done it, because it doesn't feel forced but like a fairly natural progression and part of the DSC storyline. Pike gets to see that this is his future if he decides to take a time crystal, and as we know, he does it.

It's interesting though that the Klingon are in possession of a planet that seem to hold a great quantity of something as awesome as the time crystals. You'd think half the galaxy would be on that planet like flies to poo to get their grubby hands/paws/tentacles on some, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The fact that it isn't harder to receive a time crystal from the monks than basically asking for one might be part of it. But still, if they are even half as dangerous as they are made out to be, why aren't they hidden or destroyed or... something?

Meanwhile, Michael has been informed that a Section 31 ship has failed to report on time, so basically disappeared, and she feels compelled to go investigate. She tells Saru that she will take a shuttle to the last known coordinates so that way the data on Discovery won't be in danger. Spock decides to tag along, and we get some more good sibling-banter between them while they travel on the shuttle to their destination. As they get there they see that the ship is intact but all the people have been shot out into space and... well, died. All except one. Lucky! They find someone who happens to have had the presence of mind enough to get into a space suit and can give them a quick rundown of what went wrong. Bad writing or suspicious? This someone also happens to be someone Michael used to work with on the Shenzhou, Kamran Gant. Apparently, the Section 31 ship just suddenly decided to shoot all its personnel into space but now it's just floating around in space doing nothing. Also suspicious?

You'd also remember Kamran from the mirror universe.

Indeed very suspicious. For some reason Michael insists that they get onto the ship to find out more about what happened there. Kamran says he doesn't want to first, but gets talked into it by Spock and Michael. Then they come up with some plan of how to purge Control from the computer so they can access the data or something, to be honest they kind of lost me here, but the important thing is that they argue about who has to go to the control room and they finally settle on it being Spock. When Michael and Kamran are alone, Kamran reveals himself to actually be a nanobot Kamran version of Control, just like it did with Leland. Control-Kamran tells Michael it lured her there to be able to make a version of her body to be able to get access to the data on Discovery. So here we have another extremely convoluted plan that is dependant on so many factors going exactly right from Control. It kills the crew of a Section 31 ship in the hopes of getting Michael interested enough to going there to investigate in person. Then it realizes Michael didn't come alone so needs to get her on her own but bets on Spock volunteering to go to the control room, then it reveals itself to her before it attacks which of course puts her on the defence. Now why would you do that?

Spock also manages to find out that Kamran is in fact control and hurries back to help Michael who is now under attack. After a shootout billions of nanobots eventually pour out of control-Kamran and go for Michael but Spock manages to magnetize the floor which renders all the nanobots harmless. Seems like a giant magnet would be a pretty good defence against any dealings with Control in the future? Or something like a suit that magnetically repels the nanobots?

They manage to flee back to the Discovery where they discover that they're suddenly under attack by all the Section 31 ships there are. I swear, by the way this season has been going it feels like there are no other ships than Discovery and Section 31 in the entire galaxy. And also, are the Section 31 ships out in the open? Do everyone know what ships they use? Are they not a secret organization? I guess they could have the information because they are in liaison with them. Either way, Michael says that if they can't protect the data by destroying it, they have to destroy the Discovery. The episode ends with Pike giving the order to evacuate the Discovery.

No Tilly or Philippa in this episode. 

Things are moving quickly as usual in the Discovery-verse and as I just started re-watching DS9 the other day it's interesting to compare the two. I am ten episodes into DS9 but we've already received a basic backstory on most of the main characters (at the moment Dr Bashir is the only one without yet). Kira, Odo, O'Brien, Quark and Dax have already had episodes of their own to further their backstory and character development. The worm hole, which makes out the raison d'être for DS9 is mentioned in most episodes but has only had one focused episode so far (the pilot). Things are allowed to take their time, characters are allowed to be expanded and explored just as much or more as the main storyline. I know I am repeating myself and I think Discovery has a fun and interesting storyline in season 2 (more so than in season 1) but I do miss these in-between episodes that flesh out the world and just make everything fit together better and most importantly matter more.

Still, I am curious to see whether they'll actually destroy the Discovery and as this season comes to an end will they make off with yet another captain? I'd be sad to see Pike go, he's been very good and I liked Lorca too. I guess that is a way to ensure the series doesn't become too focused around one captain, since it seems they're really trying to not make it about the captain this time around.

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