Jan 24, 2019
Star Trek: Discovery "Will You Take My Hand?"
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: The Discovery traveled to the Mirror Universe and lost a captain but gained an empress, and Mirror Georgiou made no secret of how she considered Saru’s race to be nothing more than chattel. Tyler was Voq and tried to kill Burnham. Or maybe Voq was Tyler? I’ll let you know when I figure it out. Georgiou said that to defeat the Klingon Empire, they had to destroy them at the “source”, aka their homeworld of Qon’os. In exchange for this info, she was allowed to impersonate Prime Universe Georgiou and take command of the Discovery.
Also, this time around, the actor who says “Previously on Star Trek: Discovery” is Mary Chieffo, who plays L’Rell, and she says it in Klingon. Why? Because that’s funny, I guess? I think this pretty much sums up the whole series thus far: nobody knows what they’re doing and so they’re just trying whatever.
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But this episode is a testament to the skills of whoever edited together the preview trailer that aired last week. That preview gave the impression this would be an action-packed season finale, when it reality it’s almost entirely people standing around talking, along with a couple of dumb comedy bits (mostly involving Tilly getting stoned, if you can believe that). And as expected, that shot of Qo’nos being blown up in the trailer was a total bait and switch, but even I’m aghast at how shameless the episode is about it.
And the cherry on top is that even with all the plot threads that needed to be resolved here, this episode is only 37 minutes long, officially making it the shortest live-action Star Trek episode ever (beating the previous record of 38 minutes, also set by Discovery). So buckle up, kids, season one (and especially the Klingon War arc) is about to get the rushed, half-assed wrap-up it deserves.
There’s a shot of Klingon ships entering Earth’s solar system that zooms in on Earth, which then cuts to Qo’nos and a zoom out reveals Discovery entering the Klingon star system. Burnham gives a voiceover (we’ll find out later this is a speech she’s giving) that’s full of pretentious nonsense about how to identify and defeat fear.
On the bridge, Georgiou is impersonating Captain Georgiou, and doing a completely shitty job of it, upbraiding the Nameless Bridge Crew for inconsequential perceived slights, like referring to Qo’nos as a “homeworld”, which according to Georgiou is showing the Klingons too much “respect”, because they’re just “animals”.
Georgiou says that Saru seems afraid and adds, “Where I’m from, there’s a saying: a scared Kelpien makes for a tough Kelpien.” Wow, could she be any worse at maintaining her cover? So Burnham calls her out in front of the whole NBC, asking where exactly she’s “from”, and they have a tense verbal standoff, and somehow, the entire bridge crew still doesn’t catch on that Georgiou is actually Mirror Georgiou, and that includes the one crewmember who served under Georgiou on the Shenzhou.
Georgiou asks to speak to Burnham in private and warns her never to try to expose her again. She’s also read up on the Prime Universe Burnham and says, “You know your problem? No follow-through.” But enough about season one of Discovery. She says that Burnham should have taken her mutiny one step further and murdered her captain and attacked the Klingons. And she actually does have a point; if the Shenzhou had destroyed the Klingon Ship of the Dead before it sent out that beacon, the war never would have started in the first place. I’m not so sure about the murdering part though.
Georgiou says the Federation is losing the war, and the Klingons are about to launch an attack on Earth. Then there’s obvious dubbing where Georgiou says, “My knowledge is giving you a fighting chance,” while Michelle Yeoh’s lips say, “My knowledge is giving them a fighting chance,” Not sure why; it’s pretty obvious from the context that the “them” she’s referring to is the Federation/Earth.
They pay a visit to L’Rell down in the brig, who’s stunned to see Georgiou alive, because as you might recall, L’Rell and Voq actually ate her brain. Georgiou says she’s a different Georgiou, and L’Rell quips that regardless, “you require seasoning.” Groan.
Georgiou pulls up a holographic representation of Qo’nos, and demands to know the ideal cavern for Discovery to jump into. L’Rell refuses to talk, so Georgiou goes into her cell and starts beating her ass, and she does so easily, even though we’ve been told numerous times in this series that Klingons are so powerful that it’s nearly impossible for humans to fight them.
Eventually, Burnham calls a stop to this pointless violence and says there’s another way. And that other way is Ash Tyler, who has all of Voq’s memories. They go to his quarters and Georgiou has a dim view of Tyler/Voq, calling him a “half-breed” and also referring to him as “it”. She also scoffs at him “playing with string”, but Tyler says he’s tying a “bowline”, which is something he learned as a kid. “It’s the first thing that made me, me.” From all indications, you aren’t you. I mean, that’s literally what Dr. Culber told him right before Tyler killed him, but whatever.
In a briefing room, the three discuss the plan, which is to jump into a cavern and release a “mapping drone” to identify targets for future attacks. Tyler points out an area on a holographic map of Qo’nos that was given to the Orions, and says they built an “embassy outpost” over the ruins of various shrines. Georgiou notes that in her universe, the Orions are pirates and slave traders, and Burnham says it’s pretty much the same deal here. And it wouldn’t be Star Trek fanwank without Orion slave girls, would it? Apparently nobody learned their lesson from that terrible Enterprise episode.
Georgiou wants to bring Tyler and Burnham along on an away party to this Orion territory, along with one other person: Tilly, of course. She opens the door and Tilly is just standing there, and she still thinks this is the Prime Universe Georgiou, until Georgiou starts talking how about how she and Tilly “subjugat[ed] the Betazoids” together and wiped out the Mintakans (meaning, the alien race from “Who Watches the Watchers” who were basically just coming out of the Stone Age? Quite an accomplishment, Your Highness). Tilly quickly figures out she’s the “mirror emperor” and even starts to give the Terran salute until Burnham stops her. Okay, that was funny.
Cut to the four of them dressed in black leather, and Michelle Yeoh in particular is working this outfit. Down in Engineering, Stamets gets his one minute of screen time this week as he straps himself into the spore chamber and jumps Discovery into an underground cave on Qo’nos. And in an oddly suspense-free moment, it works.
The away party beams down, or beams up I guess, to the surface. And the Orion controlled part of the planet basically looks like Chinatown from Blade Runner, and we even see street vendors cooking up some of those mind-controlling ear worms from Wrath of Khan. Also, there’s a shot of some random guy peeing against a wall and he seems to have two streams of urine flowing out of him. Hilarious, no?
And despite being told last episode that no human has set foot on Qo’nos since Archer and the gang, nobody seems that surprised to see four humans strolling around in the open. They quickly make a deal with a random Orion woman to sell her “Nausicaan disruptor pistols” (shout-out to another obscure TNG race) so they can get money to bribe the locals into getting the info they need.
Tilly pulls Burnham aside as they buy some unidentified food from a street vendor. Tilly spits it out when Tyler says it’s “space whale”, AKA a gormagander like the one they brought aboard the ship in the “Harry Mudd, serial killer” episode.
They enter a seedy establishment where scantily clad Orion men and women are doing an erotic dance routine. Georgiou tells the others to start spreading money around so they can find a particular shrine they’re looking for. Georgiou then pays for some private time with the male dancer and one of his female companions.
Burnham and Tyler enter another area where men are gambling on a craps-like Klingon game called “t’Sang”. Tyler joins in and everyone’s stunned at the existence of a human who speaks Klingon. As they shit-talk each other, Burnham gets all stressed out and leaves.
Meanwhile, Tilly enters another area where she encounters an Orion played by special guest star Clint Howard. Being a prolific character actor, he’s of course appeared on Star Trek a few times before, most notably as Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver” when he was a little kid. He persuades Tilly to inhale some smoke which immediately causes her to get high and pass out.
In what appears to be a tattoo shop, Tyler finds Burnham and wants to know why she ran off. She finally reveals to him how her parents died. She says they were living on the human/Vulcan colony of Doctari Alpha, and they were supposed to take a vacation to Mars, but little Michael made them stay a few extra days so she could watch a star go supernova, which of course gives her a totally unnecessary added extra layer of guilt.
She says the Klingons attacked the colony, and killed her parents while she hid in a cabinet. And then after they killed her parents, she heard them casually sit down and eat her family’s dinner (Klingons eating human food? I seriously doubt it) while talking and laughing, and the scene around the gambling board reminded her of that. And yet, she still feels sympathy for the people living on this world, because once they identify those targets, things are about to get a whole lot worse for everybody.
Cut to Georgiou in bed with those Orions, and all three of them have apparently just finished having a great time. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned from previous Mirror Universe episodes, it’s that the more evil you are, the more bisexual you are. Then Georgiou pulls a weapon on them and demands to know the location of the “Shrine of Molor”.
Tilly wakes up to find Clint Howard trying to saw off the case handcuffed to her arm, the one that supposedly contains the mapping drone. She stops him, and then he says something that makes Tilly realize the volcano where they plan to drop the mapping drone is still an active volcano. She opens up the case and shouts, “Oh shit, that is not a drone!”
She gets on her communicator and tells Burnham that it’s a “hydro bomb”. A second later, Georgiou pops up out of nowhere and knocks Tilly out and presumably steals the bomb.
Cut to Burnham and Tyler meeting up with Tilly as she explains that a “hydro bomb”, when dropped into an active volcano, will cause a reaction that will make Qo’nos “uninhabitable”. We then see Georgiou dropping the bomb into a well, while Burnham realizes that this was Starfleet’s plan all along.
Then we get footage of Qo’nos being destroyed, after which a message appears over the planet saying “End Simulation”. Yes, it seems this was a holographic simulation that Burnham created to have something interesting to put in the previews… er, I mean, to graphically demonstrate to Admiral Cornwell what’s about to happen.
On Discovery’s bridge, Burnham argues with Cornwell (who’s here via holographic communicator), saying that total planetary destruction is not what Starfleet stands for. She threatens another mutiny to stop this plan, and everybody in the Nameless Bridge Crew stands up in solidarity with Burnham.
So Cornwell backs down, and Burnham beams down to the shrine to convince Georgiou to deactivate the bomb. After some rather unconvincing arguments, Georgiou agrees to turn over the detonator. And then it turns out L’Rell and Tyler beamed down too, and Burnham hands the detonator over to L’Rell. The idea is that L’Rell is going to use the hydro bomb as leverage to take over and unify the Klingon Empire, and Voq/Tyler is here to convince L’Rell that she can do it.
In some random location on the surface of Qo’nos, Tyler tells Burnham that he’s decided to stay with L’Rell. He realizes that he’s pretty useless now as a Starfleet officer, but he might be able to help broker the peace between the Klingons and the Federation. He gives Burnham a farewell kiss and leaves that “bowline” in her hands. Take care, Voq/Tyler, I sure won’t miss the vague nature of your Klingon/human existence or your constant gruesome PTSD flashbacks.
There’s one last Klingon-subtitled scene as L’Rell addresses all the Klingon houses, and says she should be the one to lead them. Initially, they all respond with laughter, until she reveals the detonator that could wipe out their homeworld, which immediately shuts them all up. So she’s basically blackmailing her race into unifying under threat of genocide? I guess it makes sense if you’re Klingon.
Cut to Earth, where several gathered Klingon ships immediately pull away. Just like that. Though I’m mostly amazed that Earth has no planetary defenses and no starships were deployed to confront the Klingons as soon as they entered the solar system. We zoom in on the Earth, and fly down through future Paris as Burnham continues her pretentious voiceover about defeating fear.
She meets up with her adopted mother Amanda Grayson, and also Sarek, who admits he played some part in the decision to destroy the Klingon homeworld. But it’s all good, because Burnham found another way, so he’s totally not a war criminal. He then reveals that Burnham has been pardoned by the president of the Federation, and he pulls out a Starfleet badge and affixes it to Burnham’s uniform, and says her rank of commander has been fully restored. Just like that. “Anticlimactic” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I think this episode spent more time on Tilly getting high than it did on Burnham getting absolved of her mutiny charges.
As I mentioned earlier, Burnham’s voiceover is really a speech she’s giving at a Starfleet ceremony, where all the members of Discovery’s crew are being awarded medals of honor. Cornwell, who’s also totally not a war criminal, reads off the list of commendations and promotions.
Tilly has now been made an ensign, and has also been accepted into the “Command Training Program”. Stamets gets a medal and is also holding a posthumous medal awarded to Dr. Culber. And then there’s Saru, who’s “the first Kelpien to receive the medal of honor”. And I guess this is all supposed to feel very inspiring, but mostly it just seems like a big rip-off of the ending of Star Wars.
Oh, and the best part is how the Nameless Bridge Crew, while all receiving medals of honor, remain nameless.
The Discovery is soon on its way to Vulcan to pick up their new captain, whoever that may be. But along the way, they get a distress call. And for some reason, Saru is very insistent on knowing who the call is coming from. A screen slowly starts to reveal the registry number of the other ship, and it starts with “NCC-17…” Someone finally identifies the call as coming from Captain Pike, and Burnham says it’s the USS Enterprise.
Sure enough, the Enterprise comes into view, while not looking terribly in distress, and the familiar TOS fanfare plays. Roll credits to what sounds like a brand new recording of the TOS theme song. Because when all else fails—and I think pretty much all else did fail in this episode—you might as well go for pure nostalgia.
And that’s the end of season one. To be completely fair to everyone involved, this season of Discovery was nowhere near as boring as the first season of Enterprise, or Voyager, or hell, the first season of any Star Trek show that’s not the original. But unfortunately, most of it was hollow spectacle, with admittedly fantastic visuals serving a shallow story.
You probably remember that when the series started, I was optimistic about it; it seemed to be making some bold choices to avoid the same traps that previous Trek spin-offs fell into. For the first time, someone other than the captain was the main character, and the actual captain was someone who was morally compromised in numerous ways. But it seems like the game plan was totally revised when original showrunner Bryan Fuller left the project due to creative difference with CBS. My guess is Discovery was originally meant to focus almost entirely on Burnham occupying low-level positions as she worked her way back up the ranks after a tremendous fall from grace, perhaps all culminating with her becoming an officer who has to face off against Captain Lorca.
Case in point: the presence of Cadet Tilly in almost every episode. When Burnham had no rank, it made sense that the people she’d be working with would be on the bottom rung of the Starfleet ladder. But then the character proved popular, and suddenly Tilly was everywhere: in Engineering, on the bridge, even in Sickbay, doing all the things you would expect the ship’s Chief Engineer to be doing, and she was only a cadet! Again, this is all idle speculation, but I have to wonder if the show’s central cast was supposed to change over time as Burnham got promoted, because the current configuration of main characters makes no sense.
Unfortunately, that’s only one of many elements about this show that makes no sense. The whole Tyler/Voq thing is total convoluted nonsense at this point. The same goes for an entire starship crew crossing over to the Mirror Universe, and somehow no one has heard of the place ten years later, even though the Terran emperor is now free to roam around the galaxy. And the series has yet to offer any sort of explanation for what happens to spore drive technology between now and TOS. In fact, I’d say the most confusing thing about this show is why they made it a TOS prequel in the first place, especially if they had no intention of sticking with the established canon.
And of course, there’s Captain Lorca and the utterly disappointing twist that he was an impostor from the Mirror Universe. I have a tough time believing this was planned out from the start. Why did we see Lorca so determined to win the war against the Klingons, if all he was doing was looking for a way to get back to his own universe? Again, it feels like Bryan Fuller probably intended Lorca to be exactly who appeared to be in those early episodes: a seriously flawed captain with a total lack of Starfleet ethics.
As far as I can tell, the original premise of Star Trek: Discovery was a disgraced Starfleet officer looking for redemption, while dealing with a morally compromised captain. But with Burnham having already earned a full pardon, and with Captain Lorca dead, I honestly have no idea what the premise of this show is now. At this point, Discovery is a total blank slate that can pretty much start season two like season one never even happened. I can’t say it was a complete waste of time—there were a few moments of entertainment, but I’m still wondering just what the point of this whole season was. I’m curious to see where things go in season two (currently set to premiere in 2019), but I’m definitely not optimistic anymore.