Star Trek: Discovery‘s “…But to Connect”

It’s a talking-heads episode! The latest episode of a Star Trek show that is often dinged for its overuse of action and big ‘splosions gives us an hour of people having conversations. It’s glorious, and a great reinforcement of Trek‘s ideals, through some of the franchise’s tried and true tropes: emotional humans disagreeing with rational Vulcans, conversations about AIs and sentience, and whether or not problems are solved with compassion instead of violence. My review of Star Trek: Discovery‘s “…But to Connect.”

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The two conversations come together in a beautifully written and filmed sequence, and much credit to writers Terri Hughes Barton & Carlos Cisco, director Lee Rose, and the editing crew for this. Because Rillak, as the person who called the assembly, must remain neutral, it’s left to Burnham to plead the case for an attempt at contact and gaining knowledge rather than going in with guns blazing. At the same time, Stamets is trying to find a way to trust Zora, and needs help getting there. Stamets’s emotional response to Zora’s growing sentience is one of fear, borne primarily of his experiences with Control, and he wants to find a way to get past that fear and choose to trust her.

The two speeches are masterfully intercut, with Burnham pleading for the assembly to make the very same emotional journey that Stamets is also struggling with: to not let fear rule the day.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Stormy Weather”

Discovery investigates a subspace rift left behind by the DMA and things go horribly wrong. Zora is developing sentience at a really inconvenient time. And Book was already not doing well before he started hallucinating his dead father. I don’t know why there ain’t no sun up in the sky in my review of Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Stormy Weather.”

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It’s been fascinating watching as the show slowly works things toward the 2018 Short Treks episode “Calypso,” an episode whose time frame has to be completely rethought in light of the events of the show since it aired. (It was assumed to be taking place in the thirty-third century, a thousand years after the present-day of the show when it aired, but now the show’s “present” is the thirty-second century. So now maybe “Calypso” takes place in the forty-second century?) First the computer gets the Sphere Data, then she takes on the name and personality that Annabelle Willis gave the computer in “Calypso,” and now we’re seeing her show the emotions that she displayed when bonding with Craft.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “The Examples”

It’s the triumphant return of Tig Notaro as Jett Reno and David Cronenberg as Kovich, plus Stamets has mellowed enough that we need a new asshole scientist, and we get one in Shawn Doyle’s Ruon Tarka. Plus Book and Burnham engage in a prison break of sorts. My review of Star Trek: Discovery‘s latest, “The Examples.”

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We also see Culber and Stamets together, which has been rare this season, as Stamets both bitches to his partner and also expresses concern for his mental health. It’s the first time we’ve seen Culber really be vulnerable in a while, and Wilson Cruz plays it beautifully, showing the broken person behind the helpful façade that he presents to his patients. I hope we get more of this—I know that both of them have different roles on the ship, but Stamets and Culber are such a great couple, the best and sweetest of the three couples in the cast, and we need more of them. (Nothing against Burnham and Book, who are a delight, or Adira and Gray, who are fabulous, but we’ve gotten lots of those four and I want more of Stamets and Culber, dagnabbit. The teeth-brushing scene in “Choose Your Pain” remains one of the loveliest and most romantic scenes in Trek’s five-plus decades, and we need more of that, please and thank you.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Choose to Live”

The Qowat Milat are back, including Burnham’s Mom (yay, Sonja Sohn!), as one of their nuns has been stealing dilithium, and also murdered a Starfleet officer. Stamets and Book visit Ni’Var’s Science Council, under the auspices of President T’Rina (yay, Tara Rosling!). Plus Tilly deals with her issues and Gray finally gets a body! My take on Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Choose to Live.”

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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.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Anomaly”

Actions having consequences — who’da thunk it? We get forward movement on the season arc but also see how the characters deal with loss, from Book’s response to his homeworld’s destruction to Tilly’s reaction to the deaths she was present for last week to Stamets’s trauma from the events of the end of last season. And Saru’s back, which is good, as first officer, which is bad. My review of Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Anomaly.”

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“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.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Kobayashi Maru”

We get some familiar faces (more Oded Fehr! more Bill Irwin! Blu del Barrio now in the opening credits!), some new faces (a Federation President! and she’s not a dude!), a diplomatic mission gone horribly wrong at least in part because of the cat, and a rescue mission, plus an interesting conversation about insane risks and plot armor. My review of the Star Trek: Discovery fourth-season premiere, “Kobayashi Maru.”

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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.

Star Trek: Discovery Third Season Overview

I take a look back at the third and so far best season of Star Trek: Discovery, as the ship vaults into the future and the show moves forward in many an entertaining manner. My overview of Discovery season three is now live!

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Season one was a show written to be binged that was then released in two sets of weekly drips and drabs over five months, thus utterly spoiling the flow of the narrative. Season two started out as a show about one thing, and very obviously became a show about a different thing at the end, as the writing showed the seams of the behind-the-scenes turmoil.

Season three, though, provides a nice balance of standalone episodes with moving the plot along. It’s less serialized than the prior two, but still with a continuing narrative. For one thing, this gives Discovery individual standout episodes, which have been rare in the prior two seasons. “Su’Kal” and “Unification III” and “There is a Tide…” are all particularly strong.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “That Hope is You, Part 2”

It’s a slam-bang season finale, with some of the crew working to take back the ship from Osyraa and some more of the crew trying to save Su’Kal and learn the cause of the Burn. My take on Star Trek: Discovery‘s third-season ender, “That Hope is You, Part 2.”

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I thought the bizarre alteration of people to a different species was a bit odd, but it does give us one of the best moments of the episode. The fear that Su’Kal needs to face in order to banish the monster and finally shut down the holodeck is the fear of being alone. He was just a child and the last one left alive, and he saw everyone else die—including his mother. We see the final recording of his mother dying, an event that so traumatized Su’Kal that it caused the Burn. (The reasons are given by Culber in a bio-technobabble infodump involving the radiation affecting him in vitro and dilithium and subspace and other such nonsense.) Su’Kal is reminded that he’s alone, but then he turns around and, for the first time, sees Saru as he really is: another Kelpien.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “There is a Tide…”

The 800th installment of Star Trek as a franchise is Trek‘s latest Die Hard pastiche as Book, Burnham, and the bridge crew fight to take Discovery back from Osyraa’s Regulators while Osyraa herself is negotiating with Admiral Vance, and those diplomacy scenes are some of the best such in Trek history. My review of the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Discovery‘s third season, “There is a Tide…”

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And then negotiations break down, because Vance hits her with a stipulation she obviously wasn’t expecting and won’t go through with. Osyraa’s own history as an antagonistic force to, y’know, everyone means she can’t be the head of the new allied-with-the-Federation Emerald Chain. While she’s willing to step back, she’s not willing to commit to a ruler who isn’t her puppet (she claims to be, mind you, but Eli, the lie-detector hologram played with hilarious blandness by Brendan Beiser, calls her on it), nor is she willing to be arrested and tried for her crimes. Vance insists on that point, because Federation ideals still mean something, and they’re not just going to get into bed with a criminal who claims to have reformed unless she puts her money where her mouth is with regard to that reformation.

These sequences are quick-witted, intelligent, and compellingly played by Fehr, Kidder, and Beiser. From the negotiations themselves to the discussions of Eli (putting a human face on the lie detector was more comforting than red and green lights) and of the food (how it’s pretty much recycled shit), and they’re just as captivating as the action sequences aboard Discovery.