Critic’s Log – Star Trek: Discovery 2.13

Critic’s log, supplemental.

“Discovery has to go to the future,” said Mick, as the crew caught up with the audience and realised the ship’s status as a secure Hard Drive for the data coveted by Control in its bid to become sentient and destroy all organic life for opaque reasons, meant it was just too hot for the twenty-third century. It’s almost as if the good ship Discovery did not belong, that it posed a threat to Star Trek’s continuity and its universe-at-large.

In this, “Such Sweet Sorrow”, though there was none, played like a deranged stalker telling you their thousands of phone calls and text messages represented the fact they “really needed to talk”. On some level Discovery’s hacks know this show, in its current form, is a ruination machine that’s poisoning the well. They just can’t bring themselves to come out and say it. But they know. They know what they’ve done.

Confronted by blogs like this one decrying their decision to abandon Bryan Singer’s anthology concept, with seasons set in different time periods, opting instead for the creative myopia and storytelling headache of an unwanted prequel, week after merciless week, they’ve engineered a scenario that allows the show to jump from prequel to far future sequel in a single bound, without the need to kill the cast. But because they know we hate the cast, this setup did at least include a little red meat for the horde – a flash forward in which Control-Leland murdered the crew with brutal efficiency, saving Mick for last. She was picked her up by the throat and phasered through the head. Whatever happens from now on, we’ll always have that moment of beautiful catharsis.

So Discovery will soon jump into the future, core cast and all. Said crew improbably gave up their connection to everything and everyone they know to be trapped in space with Mick in perpetuity. Even Spock wanted to go, which made us wonder whether Control had reconstructed him too.

We know the real Spock can’t leave, after all, not if we’re still pretending this show sits within official canon, so what will prevent the bearded Vulcan (coded thus as a doppelgänger perhaps – we know how Discovery loves those) from making the galaxy’s worst career move? If the show’s hacks had a sense of humour they’d end the season with the real Spock found bent up inside a storage unit, his nanite-inseminated double allowing himself a wry grin as the Discovery’s floating library materialised in twenty-ninth century Earth orbit – the equivalent of that scene in The Simpsons where the infectious Koala Bear clings to the landing skid of the family helicopter, looking malevolently to camera. But that of course would be a great joke and the writers of this show don’t do those.

Whatever the in-series explanation, we understand that the Discovery’s about to become a relic so the show’s aesthetic and sensibility can catch up with its content, and people can finally enjoy it as a series in its own right. In theory it will become an uncomplicated sequel to Treks past, in which every variant introduced can be marked as the plausible evolution of what’s come before, rather than a misjudged overwrite.

Trek, as we’ve discussed, was once unique in that it owned its anachronistic old future tech and canonised it – even joked about it, so that each era of the show could be enjoyed as one long legacy. Indeed, the people who owned Trek used to care about this enough to spend millions remastering TOS episodes with new effects that complimented the look and feel of those stories.

Discovery, whether for licencing reasons or because Secret Hideout, JJ Abrams’ TV production company, were obliged to follow the Bad Robot aesthetic, tore up that contract. Fine, we say, if you’re minded to vandalise the iconic don’t make a prequel. We begged them not to. They did. And we’ve had two seasons in which Original Series paraphilia has been dangled in front of us, to maintain our interest, while being subject to this policy of retrospective redesign. For this reason, if nothing else, can there be anyone who isn’t counting the seconds until Discovery disappears into that time wormhole?

But Discovery wouldn’t be Discovery without a final fuck you to Trekkies. So, having introduced the Enterprise in the dying seconds of last season, but keeping it at a distance for most of this one, so we could dare to imagine it was old enough to retain its original series’ aesthetic, the spell was finally broken with a full bridge reveal that indelibly and irreversibly confirmed the show to be a cast iron continuity breaker.

Yes, Discovery’s declared just at the point it might have avoided ever having to do so. Here was the Enterprise bridge – a sort of half-way house between the new and old, complete with historic sound effects, and whereas it was a lot closer to the old look than the 2009 movie, it nevertheless served to remind the audience that whatever future the Discovery ends up roaming in (here we assume something will go awry and they’ll end up somewhere unanticipated – a popular trope on the show) it won’t be an extension of the unbroken timeline of stories produced from 1966-2005. Thus, on the dawn of a new era for this oddball series, and ahead of its certain early cancellation, we’re once again forced to ask, do we care?

Caring about the Discovery’s crew, Mick in particular, has been hard graft for the audience throughout this second year, and “Such Sweet Sorrow” underlined this by asking us to shed tears for people and relationships that had been given cursory attention by the writing staff at best.

Did your mascara run when Mick and Clem Fandango bid a last, grasping farewell? Did your eyes get red and puffy as the show’s peripheral characters recorded messages for their families, trying to justify their inexplicable decision to give up their lives on a whim? Did you lose an erection when Mick embraced Sarek and Amanda, referring to their son, singular, with neither parent correcting her? Poor Sybok, he’s been forgotten by everyone. And what about Pike’s fond so long to a crew he’s mostly not fraternised with on screen at all? Well, actually here there was a moment. But this had more to do with Anson Mount’s solid and liable contribution to the show, rather than anything the writers have done.

For the most part these goodbyes meant very little, because after two full seasons we barely know these people. In truth, they were saying adieu to the show as conceived, readying themselves for a much needed soft reboot. We’ll watch the final episode to make sure phase one of the show is buried, but it’s really the following episode that’s going to either reignite interest or kill it stone dead.

Anomalous Readings

  • Mick’s easy acceptance of Spock’s decision to go to the future made very little sense given she’d just finished taking comfort from knowing that in her absence Sarek and Amanda would have him, and they would now have the chance to rebuild their relationship. Perhaps the multiple writers crafting this episode forgot to talk to each other. Or indeed check Memory Alpha to see if Spock had any other siblings.
  • Ship to ship evacuation took place via walkways fortified with forcefields. Seems odd and unduly onerous in the age of the transporter (and in an emergency), but maybe some just like to walk.
  • So Mick sent the signals – at least that’s Spock’s unproven thesis based on the similarity between Mick’s RNA/DNA and her mother. But with one episode remaining we still don’t know if this is true or what half of them mean. Let’s hope the hacks remember to explain it before next week’s finale ends.
  • Pike looked apprehensive when faced with Leland’s armada, but why? He’s already seen the future and he knows that both he and Starfleet will still be around years hence. Perhaps he should have reassured the crew.
  • Will Reno survive the trip to the future? She touched the time crystal and saw a flash forward to a bomb in the Enterprise’s saucer? The look on her face suggests she’ll tell someone which is more than Mick did when she saw the same thing in her apocalyptic vision. Might Spock break off to save his ship? As Discovery’s writers get 15% of their ideas from Wrath of Khan, it’s a safe bet.
  • When talk turned to planting antimatter bombs in stars to make them go supernova, the episode’s score referenced Michael Giacchino’s from Star Trek 2009. This chilled the blood because it suggested a connection between that series and this one, and also because it possibly foregrounds a plot point in the forthcoming Picard series, which if rumour is to believed, won’t be canon either.
  • I suppose Ash staying with Section 31 helps to set up that unwanted series. Will that be the show that picks up the Borg thread? Or can we hope that was just a tease – a sadistic in-joke from a coke fuelled writers’ meeting?
  • Next week the future begins! At last! But will the cruellest of all cruel twists be a final shot of the Discovery being caught in the tractor beam of an early twenty-fifth century starship, observed by a certain Admiral Picard? Could the writers really be that unkind? Have we dodged the possibility of Discovery ruining one era of Trek only for it to screw up another? You know the answer, so keep both cocks crossed.

Mick’s Second Crack at the Galaxy

The Maiden Voyage 

Foreboding

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