The strength of this book is it’s dive into politics. This book analyzes politics in the Star Trek universe in a similar way to The West Wing. We follow a campaign and election cycle as Nanietta Bacco and Arafel Pagro vie for the Presidency of the Federation. We see how their aides place them in situations to make them look their best and position them with the people who will get them the most votes. If you’re a fan of action, there isn’t a ton in this book, if you’re a fan of politics, you’ll love this book.
Rillak remands Jvini to Ni’Var’s custody. Neither Burnham nor Vance are particularly happy with this—Fehr’s body language especially makes his displeasure clear—and after Jvini is taken away, Burnham calls Rillak out.
I love every nanosecond of this scene, mainly because contrary to the clichés of television in general (and Star Trek in particular), it isn’t a case of the admiral and the politician being assholes and our hero being the only decent person. Burnham is correct in that there should be justice for the Credence first officer, especially for his partner and children. But when she mentions those family members, Rillak makes it clear that she knows he has a family, identifying the children by name before Burnham can. (She likely sent them a condolence call.) But she has to think of the greater good, and turning the Ni’Var citizen over to Ni’Var for justice will do the most good, especially if Ni’Var is to join the Federation. T’Rina comes out directly and says early in the episode that Ni’Var is working toward that goal, and they’re too valuable a world to lose.
Basically, the only reason anything bad happens in this episode is because Archer doesn’t listen to T’Pol. He’s impatient, he’s stupid, he’s moronic, he’s imbecilic, and what’s especially frustrating is that nobody actually points this out after T’Pol’s initial objection. The episode should have ended with Archer apologizing to every single person on that survey team, especially T’Pol (whose good advice he disregarded in a snotty and mean-spirited manner) and Novakovich (who nearly died).
“Anomaly” is chock full of consequences, and while the most impressive one is what is suffered by Book, I want to take a moment to talk about how very brilliantly we saw Tilly and Adira being affected by the death of Commander Nalas last week. Nalas is exactly the kind of guest character whose death moves the plot along but who is generally forgotten, often before the episode is even over much less beyond it. So it’s incredibly heartening to see that Nalas’ manipulative death was manipulating us for a reason. Tilly is having trouble processing it, and her conversations with both Saru and Culber are strong examinations of Tilly’s trauma at watching him die after trying to rescue him.
While I appreciate that Kenneth Biller tried very hard to address some things that had gone unaddressed, they half-assed it to such a degree that you kind of wish they hadn’t bothered. Plus there was a certain level of not thinking things through that was maddening. Like addressing the Maquis-Starfleet divide in “Repression,” but doing it in a totally absurd way that defies credulity and makes absolutely nothing like sense. Like finally acknowledging the number of casualties among the crew over the past seven years in “Repentance” and “Renaissance Man,” but not actually addressing it in any kind of logical, emotional, or interesting manner. Like continuing to not promote Kim beyond the rank of ensign and repeatedly drawing attention to it and trying to explain it away even though that explanation is inconsistent with both Tuvok and Paris being promoted at various points.
Speaking of lazy, we have Sato’s plotline, which has a completely foregone conclusion by virtue of Linda Park’s place in the opening credits. I do like how Park plays it: one of her talents as an actor is showing her emotions via body language, whether her tense apprehension while asking Archer for new quarters, her slump-shouldered depression after the first away mission, her sad frustration at Sluggo’s declining health and at her inability to communicate with the Axanar—and, most notably, her very obviously feigned confidence-boosting posture when talking directly to the Axanar.
It’s an interesting conversation the two of them have, with Burnham on the side of no-person-left-behind that most TV show characters follow, and Rillak with the much more practical and realistic notion that you can’t possibly save everyone. It almost feels like a TV Tropes discussion: Burnham will take the crazy-ass risks because she still remembers being “abandoned” by her parents when the Klingons attacked, and she always makes it because she’s the star of a television show. Rillak quite rightly points out that that kind of luck doesn’t always hold out.
Indeed, the show is trying a little too hard to capture an original series feel. The dynamic among Archer, Tucker, and T’Pol is so aggressively attempting to ape the Kirk-Spock-McCoy banter it’s almost painful to watch. And, since T’Pol is played by an attractive woman, we get the added “bonus” of focusing on how hawt she is in the decon scene. Yes, Connor Trinneer’s manly manly chest gets some attention, but the camera lingers quite a bit longer on Jolene Blalock’s torso and chest. This is exacerbated by the gratuitous Archer-Sarin kiss (which they very carefully only allow to happen when Sarin looks like Melinda Clarke instead of Clarke covered in pock-marked makeup and greenish skin) and the scantily clad butterfly dancers of Rigel X.
My favorite character, though, by far is Rok-Tahk, voiced by Rylee Alazraqui. The unsubtly named Rok is a Brikar, and she pretty much looks like the Thing from the Fantastic Four. She’s also the basis of the funniest moment in the two-part premiere episode, “Lost and Found.” The Diviner has forbidden translators in his mine, so the prisoners can’t talk to each other. When he’s sent to find Fugitive Zero, Dal finds himself paired with this giant rock creature who mostly seems to talk in growls and snarls. It isn’t until they get on board the Protostar, with its universal translator, that we discover that the big scary monster has a high squeaky voice and is, in fact, just a little girl. Rok is, at once, very sweet, very naïve, and very easy to love. She also has a temper, as we discover in the second episode, “Starstruck,” when we find out just how much she resents Gwyn for doing nothing to help the prisoners. (Gwyn, for her part, thought they were all criminals. Rok assures her that is not the case. Tellingly, the Diviner and his hench-robot Drednok refer to the miners, not as prisoners, but as “the unwanted.”)