Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 2 Episode 12 (Through the Valley of Shadows)

Having a huge franchise can be a blessing and a curse.  If you don’t draw on it, you are wasting potential.  If you do use it, it can come across as namedropping.  So far in Star Trek Discovery, we’ve seen Amanda, Sarek, Spock, Pike, Number One and the Talosians, not to mention The Enterprise and Boreth.

On the flip side are Control, which is a Skynet wannabe, and the Spore Drive, neither of which was mentioned in any other series or movie.  And there’s Michael Burnham, Spock’s foster sister.  That’s at least understandable, as Spock didn’t mention his parents or half-brother to Kirk.

What can I say?  It’s been a busy season.  Speaking of which, after this episode is the two-part season finale.

So, yeah.  This episode serves as a setup.

Control is bent on getting that Sphere data.  To do that, they need a Time Crystal, which means a return trip to Boreth, where the Chancellor will put in a good word so that Pike can beam down.  It’s not clear exactly what the plan is yet, but it’s got to be big.

Meanwhile, Spock and Michael check out a Section 31 ship that has gone silent.  That’s because Control killed everyone except for one person.  Coincidentally, that person served with Michael on the Shenzhou.  There’s no way that control took that person over.  Right?

By episode’s end, it’s determined that the only rational course of action is to evacuate Discovery to Enterprise and destroy the ship.  Given that a third season has been ordered, it can’t be that easy.  Even if we didn’t know that, there are still two episodes left.

I know I keep on about this whole Control/Skynet thing.  It’s not that farfetched.  Both are AI systems that become self aware and wipe out all known organic life.  Time travel is involved and there’s a parent/child team trying to stop them.  The child is seen as a threat to the AI and the mother has undergone a major personality shift trying to stop the AI.

So, part of the story is trying to change fate.  There’s also a part of the story that involves accepting your fate.  Pike has to accept his if he wants the time crystal.  Michael will also have to accept hers in the two-part finale.  So, there’s that.

It’s not clear what Pike intends to do with the time crystal, exactly.  He can’t get it to Michael’s mother.  It would seem that he has no plans yet to build another suit.  He’s doing this not really knowing why.  However, the alternative is letting everyone die.

The second season is almost as smooth as I’d have hoped.  There are a few parts, like here, where it seems like maybe it’s a victim of one too many rewrites, but I can forgive that.  It took me the entire season, but things are starting to make sense.


Friday, January 24, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 2 Episode 11 (Perpetual Infinity)

We were given a lot to process in the previous episode of Discovery.  It was assumed that the mysterious Red Angel was Michael Burnham.  The assumption wasn’t far off.  It turns out that The Red Angel is actually her mother, Dr. Gabrielle Burnham.  This is a big shock, considering that Dr. Burnham and her husband were killed by Klingons, leaving Michael to be raised by Sarek and Amanda on Vulcan.

Gabrielle has been living more than 900 years in the future.  In that future, Control has taken over and killed all organic life on every planet she’s seen.  She’s been making trips back to Michael’s present so that she might prevent this.  Unfortunately, Gabrielle can’t stay in the present for more than a few minutes.  She’s sucked back, making meaningful change difficult.

This is where Discovery comes in; they’ve found a way to trap the Red Angel.  The bad news is that this only delays the inevitable.  It becomes apparent that Gabrielle will eventually return to the future.  Even worse, she doesn’t want to talk to Michael, her only child.  That’s how focused she has become on preventing this disaster.

Control is after some important information.  The data can’t be deleted.  The best plan is to move it into Gabrielle’s suit and send it into the distant future, where it will be permanently hidden from Control.

With three more episodes left, one can assume that the plan doesn’t exactly work out.  Gabrielle does go back to the future by episode’s end, leaving the crew to find some other way to deal with Control.

It occurs to me that since Control is a computer program, it could effectively wait the 930 years.  But that would be 930 years for humans to deal with Control.  It might also have served as the impetus for Control to wipe out all life anyway.

We also learn that Gabrielle didn’t just make a few trips to the present.  She had logs for over 800 trips.  She even hints at Captain Pike’s fate.  It’s no wonder she’s so focused.

There’s also the question of whether or not Control will become The Borg.  Both seek perfection.  Both are capable of assimilation.  “Struggle is pointless,” as Leland puts it.  Gabrielle has invented time travel.  Discovery has a spore drive that can go anywhere in an instant.  It is conceivable.

Alas, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen.  I’ve already finished the season and it looks like Control will be dealt with some other way.  Then again, anything’s possible.  I’ve noted before that nothing ever truly stays dead in the Star Trek universe.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 2 Episode 10 (The Red Angel)

SPOILER ALERT:  I’m going to give away major surprises here.

There’s a line of thought that most mythology has some basis in reality.  Gods and angels could be powerful aliens.  Bigfoot could be any number of real-life animals, such as bears.  There’s even a word for it:  Euhemerism, which is the belief that actual events are distorted to the point where they become legend or myth.

In Discovery, there’s The Red Angel.  Spock saw it as a child.  The Red Angel even helped Spock.  He drew pictures of it, but it was dismissed as the product of a child’s active imagination.  Come to find out a few episodes ago that The Red Angel actually exists.  And it’s assumed to be a humanoid in a mechanical suit.

At the beginning of the episode, something comes to light:  The suit contains a bioneural imprint.  But it’s not any bioneural imprint.  It belongs to none other than Michael Burnham.  So, the crew sets off on the assumption that The Red Angel actually is Burnham.  It’s kind of a flimsy case, but whatever.

Here’s where the crew makes its next logical misstep, though.  They reason that since The Red Angel is Burnham, she’ll act to save Burnham.  Thus, putting Burnham at mortal risk will serve as bait so that they might capture The Red Angel.

Um, ok.  Is it really wise to have Burnham present during these discussions?  Wouldn’t it kind of give their plan away?  I would think they’d have her wait in the next room or something.

There’s also the cliché of having to possible actually kill her for the plan to be effective.  We all know that they’re not going to do that to such an important character.

Despite a few weaknesses, the episode serves as a good transition from Project Daedalus to Perpetual Infinity.  That may be its greatest weakness, in that the series had to get from one point to another and didn’t really have a great way to do that.  The Red Angel has to be drawn out somehow and there’s really only one way to do that with any certainty.  It’s not a great plan, but it’s hard to come up with a better one.

Dr. Culber also talks to Admiral Cornwall, who was a psychologist.  She doesn’t offer her a session, per se, but it is nice to finally see that he does recognize the need to reach out to someone.  I suspect it’s going to be a long road back for Culber.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 2 Episode 9 (Project Daedalus)

WARNING:  This review gives away plot details for this episode.

For those that remember Matlock, it seemed like every one of his clients was completely innocent.  This didn’t mean there wasn’t a pile of evidence that they committed murder.  The client would be found holding the murder weapon.  The client also had a heated argument with the victim hours earlier in which the accused threatened to kill the victim.  Of course, Matlock would prove their innocence.

This is what it’s like for Spock.  He left a psychiatric facility, which wasn’t a problem.  He was there voluntarily.  What is a problem is that he supposedly murdered several people before leaving.  There’s even a video of Spock murdering the people.  Spock maintains his innocence.

That’s not even Discovery’s biggest problem.  The crew wants to get to a Section 31 facility.  It would be easy except for all the mines around it, which are attracted to shields.  Oh, and the ship is hailed by an admiral informing them to stay away.

So, the ship goes in and manages to survive the minefield.  When they get to the starbase, they’re in for a surprise:  Everyone has been dead for two weeks, including the admiral that told them to stay away.  Well, that’s strange.  But it does provide clues for what happened with Spock.

The entire episode basically deals with Control, the information system that guides the decisions of Starfleet’s upper command.  It has become self-aware and wants more information so that it can become sentient.  Specifically, Baby Skynet wants the information Discovery got from The Sphere earlier in the season.

With most of the character development going to Burnham, it’s nice to see Airiam getting some background information.  I don’t like what comes next, and I should have seen it coming.  I should have known something was coming up.

To be honest, I disliked it mostly because the buildup was so intense.  I felt like it should have been spread out over several episodes.  I guess, in a way, it was.  Airiam has been getting more screen time, but it’s not really the same thing.

It’s a pretty solid episode, overall.  Spock, Airiam and other characters get enough screen time that it’s not entirely the Michael Burnham Show.  It also does nicely to progress the storyline and set up the next episode, in which we maybe learn the identity of The Red Angel.


Friday, January 17, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 2 Episode 8 (If Memory Serves)

On the one hand, I was really excited that Star Trek: Discovery went back to Talos IV.  This was the site of the very first Star Trek pilot.  It makes sense, given that Captain Pike has taken command of the ship and Michael Burnham has finally found her foster brother, Spock.  I mean, it would have been a minor disappointment if they hadn’t at least mentioned the planet.

Add to this the buildup of the fractured relationship between Spock and Burnham.  We know it was something serious enough that they haven’t spoken in years.  But what is it?

This is one of several storylines going on.  Burnham brings Spock to Talos IV to get him straightened out.  The Talosians make a deal:  If they help Spock, Burnham shows them what transpired between them.  She reluctantly agrees.

On Discovery, Ash and Culber are each still at a loss to fit in.  In fact, it comes to blows, as Ash was the one who sent Culber to the Mycelial network.  Both walk away from the fight and Saru has to explain why, as first officer, he allowed the fight.  But it’s all good.  At least for now.

To the show’s credit, they made the Talosians look like they should have, given the increased budget.  They’re true to the original show’s look while not looking as childish.  They have the menacing look you would hope for in a race that has extreme telepathic abilities.

I’m several episodes ahead of this, so I know that Culber starts to reach out for help.  Come to think of it, Ash is also in a difficult position.  Both have been isolated for a long time.  Culber is in a different state, mentally, but both really need someone to talk to.  Culber is distancing himself, though, whereas Ash is distanced because of his actions and what he is.

I still say that the show doesn’t really use this aspect of the story to its fullest potential.  I’m seeing the inner struggle, but not so much the potential for help.

The actual rift between Spock and Burnham seems to be a letdown.  I kind of get it.  We’re being shown what kind of person Burnham is.  It also might explain why Spock never spoke of Burnham.  This is done more to set up later episodes rather than to be a major lot element in its own right. 

Still, this is one of the most continuity-heavy episodes in recent memory.  At this point, it would be safe to say that you have to have a heavy understanding of Trek to appreciate what’s going on.  Yes, it’s true to the rest of the season, but to a lesser extent.  Overall, it’s a pretty good episode.