Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Discovery 2.12

Critic’s log, supplemental.

If you’ve been watching Discovery for twenty five episodes or so, chances are you feel like Captain Pike in his bleep chair – immobile, irradiated and pained; a victim of locked in syndrome from which there is no solace and no escape. Life, you think, isn’t really worth living, and it’s unlikely that a group of telepathic aliens, gifted with the ability to change perception with thought, are going to turn up and save the say by freeing you to live as you were in land of pure imagination.

This week on everyone’s favourite Trek, Pike, who last time was told the future was bleak but ignored the tease, volunteered to visit the Klingon monastery on Boreth, home to Voq and L’Rell’s son, and now conveniently a repository of time crystals, the show’s literal maguffin, to learn what the future had in store. A red signal had appeared there, apparently left by a time traveller other than Mick’s mother (so Mick or Mick’s Dad) and consequently the crew was bounced into believing the site had significance in their fight against Control and its genocidal scheme.

It wasn’t clear what information could be gleaned from the sacred site, and in any event it proved pointless, as the crystal-induced flash forward turned out to be a very personal affair – but the mission did land the ship, now confirmed as a stand-alone repository for the Sphere’s crucial knowledge archive, which “cannot be removed or deleted”, with its own time travel fuel. At least I think so, as I got bored and lost the thread.

What was more interesting, in an episode made entirely from the sophomore season’s detritus, much of it incidental filler, was Pike’s Empire Strikes Back, Luke on Dagobah moment. He had a dark vision of the future in which he’d become the monster we love. The question was, why?

Even the people sleeping in a box under the Embankment know that Pike will one day have a horrific delta radiation accident, so bad that twenty third century medicine can do nothing, except consign the Captain’s scarred, immobile remains to a cabinet on wheels with a single light to indicate yes or no. This is the character’s iconic destiny, as shown in the TOS two-parter “The Menagerie”, and it was reprised here in gory, horrifying detail. But what purpose, other than underlying Pike’s selfless nature, did giving him foreknowledge of the accident serve?

Voq and L’Rell’s son, now a fully grown time guarding monk, thanks to the accelerating properties of the crystals, warned that if the stuff used to peer into the future was broken off and taken back to the ship, because you can do that with a literal piece of time travel, then the fate it showed would be sealed.

Again, it wasn’t clear why this should be, as crystal or no Pike now had foreknowledge that could surely be used to save him – like wearing a protective suit in all cadet training exercises involving nearby reactors, but perhaps Discovery’s hacks just saw an opportunity to rip off their favourite scene from their favourite Star Wars movie, while crowbarring in a beat that would underline how far Pike was prepared to go to save the day. If anything, the accident should have been a great comfort, because the fact he had moved on to training cadets and was in a relatively benign Starfleet set up, instantly suggested that he’d dealt with the current threat to the galaxy and life had moved on. Talk about spoilers.

So while “Through the Valley of Shadows” meandered along, attempting to generate pathos and intrigue using recycled material, Mick and Spock investigated radio silence from a Section 31 ship and had another run in with Control, who this time had “reconstructed” the body of a forgotten crew member from the Shenzhou – a bit character who, like most on Discovery, required a flash back to remind the audience he’d ever existed.

Did this encounter advance the plot any more than Pike’s mission (bearing in mind there are now just two episodes to go)? Not really. We learned that Control was ruthless – it ejected an entire crew into space, and when no longer able to manipulate a human body became a T-1000 inspired stream of nanites, that Spock immobilised by, er, magnetising the floor.

So what was the point? To emphasise, once again, how integral Mick was to foiling Control’s plan, as it had lured her there to kill her, Skynet style. Mick – the mother of the future, whose mother is in the future. But we remembered Project Daedalus, and Icarus, and sadly, once again, began to speculate that a time travelling Mick may yet appear to save the day, though we’ll need a whiteboard and a healthy suspension of disbelief to understand how and why.

The episode culminated with Control, er, controlling Section 31’s fleet of 30 ships, which bore down on Discovery in the hope of seizing her precious data. We ended on a cliffhanger, with the ship primed for auto destruct. It would have been great to think its destruction was a real possibility, but that Short Trek “Calypso” and the creeping certainty that Discovery may have to vanish into the future, put pay to that. Perhaps Tilly was already there, as she was nowhere to be seen the entire time, not even during lunch with the crew. No wonder this episode felt so inconsequential.

Anomalous Readings

  • No Tilly this week but sadly a bit of Stamets and Culber with Reno acting as a go-between. Culber’s resurrection was once teased as a prelude to something sinister or transformative. Now it’s starting to look like a cheap device to complicate this boring relationship. Please God let this subplot be going somewhere other than a commitment from both characters to give it another go.
  • The pillar of the past for me will always be the late Michael Piller – one of Star Trek’s best ever scribes.
  • Wait a minute, Section 31 escalated the use of Control to plan for war-avoiding scenarios following the Klingon conflict. So Mick’s indirectly responsible for this too, and all the deaths that have followed. Jesus Christ, can someone lock her up before she kills us all?
  • I hate the concept of time crystals. It’s literal and stupid. Yes, I know there was a Bajoran Orb of Time that was powered by some kind of crystal, but that was a crafted artefact, not a commodity that could potentially be mined and used to make the thing it describes ubiquitous. Trek usually deals with this using cosmological curios and warp field physics. Those were the days (and will be again).
  • Perhaps we can infer that Boreth’s crystal deposits will be destroyed or removed sometime between now and Worf’s visit a hundred years hence, as that TNG episode conspicuously didn’t allude to the monastery’s precious holdings.
  • So two episodes left and it’s an open question how this weird and uneven season is going to end. With Discovery consigned to the far future to protect the present, once Pike and Spock have safely alighted? As a space submarine with the ability to explore different periods and investigate the many events described in the Sphere’s archive? Or will it be something far more bland? Time will tell, I suppose. Oh fuck you, I’m tired.

Mick’s Second Crack at the Galaxy

The Maiden Voyage 

Foreboding

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