Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Discovery 1.14

Critic’s log, supplemental.

Discovery isn’t just a mechanical twist factory; a show where you can hear the cogs turning and smell the machine oil; it’s also, we learned in “The War Without, The War Within”, a liar. The Klingons have not been victorious as billed – it turns out Saru was catastrophizing. In fact, the bastards have occupied 20% of Federation territory using their cloaking advantage (thanks Lorca!) and are apparently engaged in a scrappy inter-house competition to see who can enslave more humans. So much for our immoral hope, the ISS Discovery, for which we were prepared to turn a blind eye as sexy Captain Tilly laid waste to entire Klingon colonies. It was destroyed on entry to the Prime Universe (or something like it). Who destroyed it with the Klingon sarcophagus ship just atomised? The writers would rather you didn’t ask and just enjoyed yourselves.

This adjustment was welcome because it meant the Discovery would not, as feared in the aftermath of last week, have to travel back in time to undo a hopeless situation. There will, apparently, be no cheating. If the Federation wants to win this boring war, they’re going to have to do real donkey work – nothing less than a full-blooded assault on Qo’noS, the enemy’s homeworld. All of which was fine, but this being Discovery, the beats to facilitate this finale were wrongheaded and devoid of internal logic.

One can imagine the writer’s room salivating at the prospect of ending the penultimate episode with the money shot of Mirror Georgiou bestriding the bridge, pretending to be her counterpart, leading the mission. Starfleet had no choice you see, because evil Philippa, genocidal conqueror in her own domain, had already subjugated the Klingons and decimated Qo’noS back home. She knew that charred planet like the back of her blooded hands. If they wanted to use her intel, and have the crew respond to a mass murderer’s commands, Admiral Cornwell and Mick had little choice but to put a Starfleet uniform on the Emperor and spin some bullshit about Prime Georgiou being alive and undercover all this time. So having just got rid of a Mirror Commander, everyone’s favourite organic starship now had another. And all this for that scene. Except, unfortunately, it was complete nonsense.

Mirror Georgiou might have been the big tits where she came from, but she was still just a human being – a woman with a nice, pliable brain if you happen to be Sarek and can perform a mind meld on a whim. Sarek was onboard for some time in this installment and even performed a meld on Saru – the crew member noted for his pacifism and caution. But when he was introduced to the Emperor of the Terran Empire, and told by this bloodthirsty tyrant that she conquered Klingons for breakfast, and for her this was all old news, Sarek – a towering intellect, and one of the Federation’s finest strategic minds, forgot to stick his hand on her face and extract the topographical and tactical information that could guarantee victory, thereafter consigning this monster to the brig where she belonged.

Why didn’t he do this? Spock didn’t hesitate in The Undiscovered Country when Valeris was outed as a conspirator. Did he forget? Instead, Discovery’s hacks decided that the crew, for no discernable reason, would indulge their guest despot, going as far as to ensure she was kept comfortable in quarters. If you found this weird you weren’t alone. Mick, doubling down on the moral confusion, even went as far as suggesting that Philippa should be granted political asylum, despite the likelihood that the Federation constitution doesn’t recognize parallel universes as legitimate jurisdictions. This was in stark contrast to her attitude toward Tyler – the Klingon who’d been brutalized and brainwashed, and was therefore demonstrably not responsible for his actions.

Mick couldn’t wait to spend time with Georgiou, the woman who looked like her mentor but was, in reality, a deranged fascist with zero respect for the sanctity of life. Tyler, a broken man who was just emerging from an identity crisis, having learned his entire personality was a neurological graft and his body the result of forced species reassignment, in which, amongst other indignities, his bones had been smashed and his heart incised, had to make do with lunch in the canteen and Tilly’s pity. Mick, it seems, can forgive tyranny but not an ex-boyfriend who tried to kill her when his alternate persona was activated. When she finally deigned to see him, he was essentially told he’d have to work through his issues alone, and that her sympathy for the mutilated man only went so far. Georgiou, at least, had murdered Klingons – Mick’s bête noir, whereas he’d been one, and her innate racism didn’t want to touch that. Not again.

So once again Discovery’s hacks put on their oven gloves and mishandled the fallout from their own predetermined plot twists. This, you felt, is what happens when you lay out the cliffhangers first, rather than deciding where you want to end up and what’s the best character-centered route to your destination. It’s almost as if they feared the audience would get bored if they didn’t tug the rug every week, and you can understand that when US viewers have already paid a subscription to view the entire series, so would be inclined to watch it to the end regardless.

Next week, we finally arrive at season one’s disappointing climax. Knowing the writers as we do, we’re anticipating a big twist to take us into the hiatus. What might the contrived stunt complication be? Well, after the war’s been tied up and L’Rell, newly acquainted with the Federation’s pluralism and inclusivity, unifies the Klingons and decides that cold war is preferable to the real thing – keeping an eye on Starfleet while demanding they stay within their restored borders (with perhaps a buffer to make things easier, you know, like a neutral zone), we’ll need something to rouse us going into those end credits. It’s a given Mick will get her commission restored, possibly installed as Discovery’s first officer (or, gulp, Captain), but what’s our cliffhanger? Introduce Prime Lorca? Have the spore that landed on Tilly give her a window into an all new universe – one with Cage-era uniforms and ‘60s tech? C’mon you fucks, you know you want to. We’ve stuck with you. Don’t we deserve a bit of happiness?

Anomalous Readings

  • Saru learned that Mick dined on his species. Despite this, there was no major fallout. I suppose there just wasn’t time to explore this idea.
  • Stamets bumped into Tyler and the two briefly discussed the latter murdering the former’s boyfriend while under the influence. Despite this, there was no major fallout. I suppose there just wasn’t time to explore this idea.
  • Next season, the writers really must learn the art of the concise teaser. I think this week’s was a fifth of the episode.
  • The Mirror Universe is classified. Mark that down for continuity.
  • I was disturbed that the comic scene I imagined last week, in which an Admiral visited the brig and was introduced to Mirror Georgiou, the captured despot, and given some half-baked explanation as to why she was there, actually happened in the very next episode.
  • The Saratoga was listed as one of the Federation ships destroyed by the Klingons. You’ll recall this was, in name, the same ship that gets probed in the opening of The Voyage Home. That ship’s insignia suggested it was the first of the modern line of starships with that moniker. Is this a hint we’re in a different universe? Yes, I know – clutching at space straws. With an episode to go, I’m desperate.
  • “Conquer us or we will never relent,” L’Rell told Cornwell. Okay, but if Discovery can’t win the war without adopting the values of the enemy, what has this series been about? Next week’s make or break, kids.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. 6 MINS. I think you over presume what a mind meld can do.

    • Long before it was established on this show that a meld could be extended to have a conversation across space, Spock had used one to have a conversation with a whale, map the intentions and psychological disposition of a lifeform that had travelled across space accruing the galaxy’s knowledge, and got a full list of conspirators from a Vulcan traitor, so it can do quite a bit. Oh, and Spock also used one to effectively download his father’s memories and feelings after his death from Picard’s brain.

      All that aside, why didn’t Sarek try?

      • Also in this episode it was seen as proof that a ship had been to an “evil mirror” universe and was the first choice for a boarding starfleet away team rather than checking their logs, scanning the ship for the noted phase variance or just running some medical exams on the crew.

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