Review: Star Trek Discovery – Episode 4

Michael Burnham continues to entertain as the human who tries to be Vulcan and is a bit messed up as a result. Partly (and only partly) this is the most Star Trekky episode yet. Sadly, the air of dark mystery established last episode basically vanishes this episode. This is not a plot whole as such – Michael Burnham is the main point of view and last week she was little more than a infamous prisoner being given a brief oppotunity to help out before being shipped back to the surprisingly regressive Federation penal system. This week Michael is a reluctant (and rankless) member of the crew and as a consequence people are more open about what is going on.

Spoilers below the fold…

Firstly the fungus-drive is something everybody knows about this week and the story focuses on the crew trying to get it to work for real because the Klingons are busy attacking the Federation’s key dilithium crystal mine. Secondly, Captain Lorca has given Michael the job of investigating the alien monster captured in the last episode – which undermines mystery two. The implication at the end of last week’s episode was Lorca had a semi-secret lab of scary stuff. This week, the lab isn’t secret, but it is still kind of creepy.

Michael makes the right calls, works out what the monster is all about and saves the day. Hooray…but…with enough moral ambiguity to imply there are reasons why the magical fungus drive is not something we see Starfleet using in the future.

The real innovation with this episode is not on the Discovery. In between Michael’s attempts to make friends with the monster, the plot shift backs to binary stars of episode 2.

Here the spaceship of the Klingon messiah T’Kuvma is floating in space without a functioning warpdrive. With T’Kuvma dead (courtesy of Michael Burnham in episode 2) leadership has passed to Kol – the houseless 2ic of T’Kuvma’s. With the spaceship’s cloaking technology a major asset for the Klingon’s, Kol’s leadership does not go unchallenged.

Here, we have the trickiest element of Discovery. Having made the Klingon’s physically more alien and having them speaking primarily in subtitled Klingon, the show has intentionally created a distance of empathy between the viewer and the Klingons. However, this appears to be for a positive purpose, as the episode uses a Klingon point of view to follow Kol’s character and his aspirations.

The Houses of Klingon are united for the purpose of fighting Starfleet but that unity is fleeting. Kol, following T’Kuvma’s dream, wants to create a lasting Klingon unity. And this works…By the end of the episode Kol has been set on his own story arc and we’ve been given enough reason to want to see him succeed.

So, overall good and Trekky.

Ranking:

  1. Episode 3: Context is for Kings
  2. Episode 4: Seriously stupidly long episode name
  3. Episode 2: Battle at the Binary Stars
  4. Episode 1: The Vulcan Hello

Bits and pieces

  • Sorry but the alien monster as the other ship’s secret sauce is just daft. Yes, it is all a super-secret developmental program but they would have told somebody. The two fungus drive ships were sharing information and the monster is not a minor development.
  • The saucer bit of the Discovery spins round which is fun.
  • I also don’t believe the force field to the monster’s prison/cave doesn’t have a safety hatch.
  • Only one redshirt death this week but it was a high ranking one. Having said that, that was a REALLY, really stupid thing to do. Implausibly so. The monster had slashed its way through a bunch of Klingons, not to mention sections of a starship. It had already shown that it was invulnerable to phasers – so the chief secruity officer will, almost alone, try and zap it with a rifle. She gets chewed to bits, which is awful obviously but hardly unexpected.
  • Saru is definitely fun.
  • Lt Samets is meant to be annoying and petulant. Knowing this makes him less annoying.
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6 comments

  1. Bonnie McDaniel

    The Chief Security Officer was Rekha Sharma, wasn’t she? (Tory from BSG) If that’s the person who died, a woman of color, then…damn. Between her and Michelle Yeoh, this is not a good trend.

    Like

    • Cora

      I don’t mourn the security chief at all, since she was deeply unpleasant and died of terminal stupidity, but that a show with such a very white and male main cast kills off two female main characters of colour and throws the third into prison is hugely problematic. And then there was that totally needless revelation regarding what happened to Michelle Yeoh’s character after her death.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark Hepworth

    I liked the way the two strands came together in some proper Trek-like science (okay, so trek-like means soft and fluffy, but it’s still decent), and there’s that underlying moral dilemma that could work out in a very interesting way. I think Lorca is going to discover that Burnham isn’t as onboard with his attitude as he thinks she is.
    Killing off cool security chief just to show that Lorca gets things wrong was a real waste though.

    Prediction: the space fungus network thingy ends up destroyed somehow, explaining why they don’t have the shroom drive in the future.

    Like

      • Mark Hepworth

        So, Burnham establishes that the network is inhabited by creatures that they are abusing, Lorca refuses to listen, then they go on a suitably dangerous long-range mission to defeat the Klingons, at the climax of which Burnham somehow burns out their connection to the network so that although they succeed they are stranded a very long way into Klingon territory, and the next season is sort of a combo of TOS and Voyager as they explore and/or fight they way back again.
        (Just hand me my Hollywood screenwriting dollars now, eh?!?)

        Liked by 2 people

  3. stevejwright

    Given the ethical implications of using a living, suffering creature as a plug-in computer upgrade, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team on the Glenn had decided to… sit on that news for a while. Just so they could work out the best PR spin to put on it.

    Or, of course, the captain of the Glenn might have been as tightly wrapped as Gabriel Lorca and kept that information to himself because the King of the Potato People told him to.

    The bridge crew of the Discovery appears to be fairly diverse, even though so far they have had little to do besides look terrified when Lorca gives orders. (Which is fair enough, really.)

    I’m interested in what’s happening with the Klingons. Given the (ahem) continuity issue, I’m wondering if the repeated slogan “Remain Klingon!” is dramatic irony, and if Voq will emerge from his time with the Mokai matriarchs looking a lot hairier than he does now. He is being set up as a nihilistic antagonist, I think – someone who has lost everything, and is therefore out for pure destruction. (Well, it’s a possibility.)

    Landry accepted the Idiot Ball like it was her long-lost sweetheart. In all honesty, that was not a very convincing incident. You don’t get to be security chief on a starship by being *that* darn stupid.

    Liked by 2 people

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