Star Trek: Discovery (DIS) launched in 2017 on the streaming platform CBS All-Access (an ironic name if ever there was one). I waited until it came out on DVD then, to kill time waiting for season two (to be released on DVD), I watched all of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine (DS9), Voyager (VOY) and the fourth season of Enterprise (ENT). By this time, DIS season three is out on DVD and I have yet to watch season two. Frankly, I wasn't all that impressed with season one... at least not as the prequel it is purported to be. As a reboot of the franchise, I liked it fine, yet the showrunners insist it is in continuity, despite the fact it seems to violate canon in a major way. I came to the show knowing that there would be no visual continuity with the original show and I was prepared to accept that, but I did expect there to be story continuity. (When I say "visual continuity," I am referring to the ships and uniforms, not the Klingons.) Honestly, I could have gotten to this discussion much earlier, I really just didn't care to. I am told that season two takes steps to reconcile the continuity differences. We shall see. I plan to start over with season one. Here's a look at what's ahead.
1. The Vulcan Hello
2. Battle at the Binary Stars
3. Context is for Kings
4. The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry
5. Choose Your Pain
7. Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
8. Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
9. Into the Forest I Go
10. Despite Yourself
11. The Wolf Inside
12. Vaulting Ambition
13. What's Past is Prologue
14. The War Without, the War Within
15. Will You Take My Hand?
2. New Eden
3. Point of Light
4. An Obol for Charon
5. Saints of Imperfection
6. The Sound of Thunder
7. Light and Shadows
8. If Memory Serves
9. Project Daedalus
10. The Red Angel
11. Perpetual Infinity
12. Through the Valley of Shadows
13. Such Sweet Sorrow
14. Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2
1. That Hope is You, Part 1
2. Far From Home
3. People of Earth
4. Forget Me Not
5. Die trying
7. Unification III
8. The Sancuary
9. Terra Firma, Part 1
10. Terra Firma, Part 2
12. There is a Tide...
13. That Hope is You, Part 2
If they want to make them some other race, I'd be fine with that. Similarly, if they wanted to set the "spore drive" and the advanced tech in the largely undocumented time after the movies but before ST:TNG, that would be cool (although some of the tech is more advanced that we've seen in the 24th century as well). No, ST:DIS has gotta be a reboot.
BTW, we went out last night so no new episode today. I'll be back with "Choose Your Pain" tomorrow.
CHOOSE YOUR PAIN: Captain Lorca (first name "Gabriel" BTW) is ordered to the nearest Starbase and ordered to limit the use of Discovery's spore drive so as not to risk losing the only other one in the fleet. This is yet another example of the lack of discipline in this version of Starfleet, as the whiney, petulant Captain Lorca throws a little hissy fit in front of Admiral Cornwell and several others. Later, Admiral Conwell discusses her concerns about bringing a mutineer aboard Discovery, so evidently Starfleet is not 100% okay with that decision. On his way back to Discovery via shuttle, Lorca is kidnapped by the Klingons and imprisoned with a Starfleet lieutenant named Ash Tyler and the criminal Harry Mudd.
Back on Discovery, Burnham theorizes that the spore drive is having a detrimental effect on the tardigrade (i.e., "Ripper"), and that it is sentient. Sghe takes her concerns to Acting Captain Saru, who dismisses them without hard proof in favor of using the spore drive to find the captain. Saru's career track had been to succeed Burnham as the the Shenzou's first mate when she was offered a ship of her own and learn at the feet of Captain Georgiou. He resents the fact that Burnham's mutiny effectively forced him onto a different career path.
Burnham approaches Lt. Stamets about incorporating the tardigrade's DNA into a different organic host, such as a human, as an alternate solution. That's okay with Stamets because he never intended to hook the spore drive into a living creature in the first place. When Saru orders the spore drive engaged and finds it offline, he confines Burham to her quarters. The jump so damages the creature that it goes into stasis mode. Saru orders that the tardigrade be revived for another jump. At this point, Stamets injects himself with the tardigrade DNA and hooks himself to the drive.
Back on the Klingon vessel, Lorca and Tyler discover that Mudd has been spying on then for the Klingons. they escape, but leave Mudd behind. As they are being pursued by the Klingon ship, Discovery arrives and beams them out. Stamets collapses after fleeing to safety, but soon recovers. Saru orders Burnham to help the tardigrade. She sprinkles its inert form with spores and blows it out an airlock where, free in space, it recovers. When Stamets walks away from the bathroom mirror (the regular, not the 3D kind), his reflection remains behind.
I should mention the title refers to the Klingon method of dealing with their prisoners. Each day, they come in to beat one of them, but the prisoner has the option of taking the beating or passing it on to a cellmate. This is to keep the prisoners from forming bonds. Harry Mudd is remarkably free from cuts, welts and bruises.
Characters: When Stamets, Burnham and Tilly are about to engage a test organic drive, Tilly becomes overly excited and gushes, "This is so f*cking cool!" Stamets gives her a look and says, "This is f*cking cool." Stamets is starting to grow on me as a character (as I remembered that he did when I watched this season before). Dr. Culber and Lt. Stamets are revealed to be lovers.
We learn that, in a previous battle, Captain Lorca did not go down with his ship. (He was the only survivor.) what's more, he killed his crew to prevent them from falling into Klingon hands.
Easter Eggs: Mudd's wife is Stella and, at this point anyway, he is devoted to her
A list of the most decorated Starship Captains, past and present, includes Robert April, Jonathan Archer, Matthew Decker, Philippa Georgiou and Christopher Pike.
How did the actor playing Harry do? I think anyone would havw a hard time living up to Roger C. Carmel.
LETHE: I didn't mention it before because it didn't seem relevant (at the time) but it is now: Michael Burnham carries a part of Sarek's Katra. When the Vulcan Learning Center was bombed when she was a little girl, Sarek used a mind meld to save her, but the process left them bonded. The practical upshot of this is that they can link minds across great distances. (This last happened during the Battle of the Binary Stars.) As this episode opens, Sarek and his aide are enroute to delicate Klingon peace negotiations. But the aide is a Vulcan extremists and injects something into his arm which turns him into an organic bomb. Sarek survives the explosion, but is grievously wounded and the shuttle is adrift.
Burham and Stamets devise a neural enhancer which intensifies her mental connection to Sarek so they can find him. In his weakened state, however, Sarek rejects Burnham's attempt at mind meld. Burnham takes this as a personal rejection of her, but the problem lies with a secret Sarek has been keeping from her for years. I had forgotten the nature of this secret from the first time I watched this episode, but it was incorporated into The Autobiography of Spock which I read recently.
Michael is older than Spock. In her youth, she applied to the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. She easily qualified, but Sarek told her she was not accepted. In fact, she was accepted, but the board was making a huge exception allowing a non-Vulcan to enroll. the chancellor made it clear that, if Sarek's human ward were allowed to join, his half-human son would not be. Sarek chose to reserve the spot for Spock and lied to Michael that she had not been accepted. Then Spock chose to join Starfleet rather than the Expeditionary force, anyway, compounding the problem. and, no, I don't know why they decided not to call it the Vulcan Science Academy as per canon.
Meanwhile, Admiral Cornwell has arrived on Discovery. She has doubts as to Lorca's ability to command. He hits on her, she smiles and removes her insignia, and the next thing you know they're in bed together. He is sleeping and she notices some symbols scarred into his back. She lightly touches one, and he snaps awake and points a phaser at her. She is appalled that he took a phaser to bed with them and states her intention to remove him from command for psychiatric evaluation.
Lorca has assigned Ash Tyler (Lorca's co-prisoner from the previous episode) as the new security chief, replacing the one who was killed by the "Ripper." He pilots Burnham and Tilly on a mission to rescue Sarek. (They succeed and Michael learns the truth about Sarek's lie.) Admiral Cornwell has been assigned to replace Sarek at the Klingon negotiations, but it's a trap. When Saru informs Captain Lorca of her capture, he decides to wait for orders from Starfleet, despite the fact that any delay could cost the Admiral her life. (At this point, he is the only one who knows of her decision too remove him from command.)
Characters: Ever since Stamets hooked himself up to the spore drive, he's been using phrases such as "way cool" and "groovy."
Michael and Tilly jog together around the decks in the saucer section, she helps her choose her meals for maximum nutritional value, and generally become her mentor in all respects.
Technology: Early in this episode, Lorca and Tyler ran through some maneuvers in Discovery's holodeck (yes, holodeck).
MAGIC TO MAKE THE SANEST MAN GO MAD: This episode is a classic "time loop" story, quite similar to TNG's "Cause and Effect". The Discovery is caught in an artificial loop of 30 minutes duration, each of which ends with the ship being destroyed in an explosion. But that's where the similarities end. Whereas the Enterprise-D crew reasoned their way out of their loop, the Discovery crew "action" their way out. Also, each "loop" is different from the last due to two characters who retain memories of the previous loops (over 60 by my count) who try to manipulate events.
It's been only two episodes since "Choose Your Pain." but Harry Mudd is already back. He has escaped (somehow) from the Klingons, has acquired (somehow) a time crystal, and has secreted himself (somehow) inside a "space whale" in order to gain access to Discovery. He has made a deal with the Klingons (maybe that's how he escaped) to sell the Discovery to them. This version of Mudd is utterly remorseless, destroying the ship time and again to achieve his ends. Mudd retains his memory of each loop (due to the time crystal), as does Lt. Stamets (due to the tardigrade DNA).
At one point, Mudd mentions that he has killed Captain Lorca 58 times, then there are several more loops after that. Stamets is trying to save the ship, but it has been taking too long to convince Burnham and Tyler of the situation each time. Eventually, Burnham tells him a secret he could not possibly know so as to speed the process along: she confides to him that she has never been in love. Burnham and Tyler are mutually attracted to each other, and their relationship is fast-tracked through this succession of loops. They dance and share a first kiss, although not in the timeline that averts the disaster.
Working together, Burham, Tyler and Stamets manage to "out con the conman," and as "punishment" (a mild one considering his crimes, if you ask me) he is reunited with his wife Stella. He is perhaps not as "devoted" to her as he pretends. He said that they were separated because of the war, but actually he ran off with her dowry. This episode has a lot of plot holes, but it moves so fast I almost didn't notice them.
SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM:
[Translation: "If you want peace, prepare for war"]
The Klingons destroy the U.S.S. Gagarin and Discovery is unable to prevent it. Saru, Tyler and Burnham explore the planet Pahvo, where they encounter an alien species with a unique method of communication which would help the war effort if they can make allies. Saru becomes "possessed" by the planet's non-corporeal inhabitants, destroys the others' communicators and decides to stay.
Aboard the Klingon ship, L'Rell vows allegiance to Kol, the new leader of the Klingons, when in fact she plans to defect. She is assigned to interrogate the captured Admiral Cornwell and they form an alliance. They are discovered while trying to escape, and L'Rell says that Cornwell escaped from her, and kills her. While disposing of the body, L'Rell discovers the bodies of former friends and vows vengeance on Kol. Kol was not fooled by her pledge of loyalty, however, and has her drug away.
In a subplot, Stamets reveals to Tilly (after addressing her as "Captain") that he often becomes disoriented after using the spore drive, but does not want to tell Hugh Culbert because it would put him in a compromising position. (I wonder if Stamets might not be mentally "tapping in" to a future in which Cadet Tilly achieves her dream...?)
Meanwhile back on Pahvo, Burnham and Tyler have managed to contact the aliens and communicate their war with the Klingons. The aliens determine that the best way to resolve the conflict is to bring them face to face, so they contact the Klingons.
I was reading the opening credits and I think I may have determined the problem with the show. It has three "producers," two "consulting producers," six "co-executive producers" and eight "executive producers" for a total of 19 (!) producers in all.
Also it occurs to me that, ironically, the character with the best grasp of command structure is the convicted mutineer.
INTO THE FOREST I GO: This episode serves as the midseason finale. It is also the episode upon which I hung my hopes for smoothing out the differences between this series and established canon. More on that after the summary.
Vulcan Starfleet admiral Terral orders Discovery away from Pahvo so as to protect the spore drive from the approaching Klingon "Ship of the Dead." (The Klingon ship has a cloaking device, another continuity contradiction, although it is referred to as an "invisibility screen.") The order to abandon the Pahvans to the Klingons does not sit well with either Lorca or the crew, but Lorca orders his ship to proceed to Starbase 26 at warp five rather than use the spore drive. This trip will take three hours, during which time he hopes to have a plan to defeat the Klingons, at which point he will use the spore drive to return to Pahvo.
In order to explain why he's using conventional warp drive rather than the spore drive, he plans to tell Starfleet there's a problem with the Stamets' reaction to the implants and orders a full battery of tests to cover his tracks so there is a plausible "paper trail." Little does Captain Lorca know, but Stamets is suffering side effects from using the spore drive, which Dr. Culber's tests reveal. (Cadet Tilly inadvertently spills the beans that Stamets had been keeping them secret from Culber.)
Saru and Burnham devise a plan which will allow Discovery to pierce the Klingons' cloak. It involves planting two transmitters at specific places aboard the Klingon ship, then making 133 (!) micro-jumps around the cloaked vessel in order to gain enough information from the transmitters to pierce the cloak. It is decided that Tyler and Burnham will secretly beam aboard the enemy vessel during the brief window when it decloaks to fire. This is the same ship upon which Captain Georgiou was killed (so Burnham is familiar with it), and Tyler was held captive aboard it for seven months. In "Choose Your Pain." Lorca was originally suspicious that Tyler was able to stay alive in Klingon captivity for that long without turning traitor. We're about to find out how he did so.
Burnham and Tyler beam aboard successfully; so far, so good. They make there way to the room where all the corpses are, and Burnham discovers Admiral Cornwell's body. she gives it a shot of something in the neck and Cornwell revives (evidently not so dead as we were led to believe), but she has lost the use of her legs. Also in the chamber is L'Rell, alive, which is where the Klingons dragged her off to at the end of the previous episode. L'Rell happens to be Tyler's torturer from the time he was imprisoned, and seeing her sends him into a PTSD-induced state of shock. It turns out that Tyler was forced to trade sexual favors with T'Rell during his captivity, and that's how he managed to stay alive.
Burnham must leave Tyler and Cornwell behind to complete the rest of her mission... on the bridge. The transmitter is discovered and she reveals herself to distract the Klingons. Kol is using Captain Georgiou's ID tag to pick his teeth. Burnham points out that T'Kuvma faced Georgiou in combat, and she demands the same of Kol. Meanwhile, back on Discovery, Lt. Stamets is enduring 133 micro-jumps in rapid succession. Once they are complete, discovery pierces the Klingon ship's shield and beams Burnham, Tyler, Cornwell... and "L'Rell aboard. Burnham manages to grab Georgiou's ID tag before being retrieved.
Discovery targets the Klingon ship and blows it to bits with a photon torpedo. Tyler confronts T'Rell in her cell and we learn that he is still under her control to some extent, a form of brainwashing, I suppose. Privately, Captain Lorca tells Lt. Stamets that Starfleet wanted to give him (Lorca) a medal, but Lorca insisted it go to Stamets. They are proceeding back to Starbase 26 at warp speed because Lorca cannot bring himself to ask Stamets to make one more jump. Stamets says he doesn't mind, but that it will be his last jump ever. After that he will report to Starfleet Medical for thorough examination.
Discovery makes the jump and something immediately goes wrong. Stamets collapses in pain and Discovery finds itself in unknown space, surrounded by destroyed Klingon ships.
During a private conversation between Lorca and Stamets (before he agrees to make the 133 jumps), Lorca reveals to Stamets a trove of data collected from previous jumps. Some of the data indicate that the spore drive might be used to travel to parallel universes. BAM! That was the hook I was looking for my first time through season one. DIS and TOS are alternate realities, both as "real" as the Mirror Universe. But... I watched the rest of the season and no such revelation was forthcoming. (Maybe it will be in later seasons.) Actually, I would be satisfied with that explanation. I have adopted it as my explanation until such a time something else is established (and maybe even then).
To tell you the truth, I am enjoying this season more the second time through than I did the first. The first time, I kept waiting for the explanation of how DIS and TOS could be part of the same continuity. Now that I know that explanation is not forthcoming (at least not during this season), I can sit back and enjoy it as the "Star Trek" of a parallel dimension.