Star Trek Discovery: An Obol for Charon (S2:E4) – (initial reaction)

Wow.

This may take more than one post to cover. I was late up this morning, so I’ve only just finished watching the episode and I don’t know where to start.

How to describe it without spoilers? Well, we’ve had a TNG-like episode and a Season 1 Discovery style episode recently. This episode? A hefty dose of classic Trek both with the big-alien object and a paralyzed ship and overt connections (Number One cameo) pitches the episode into familiar territory. There’s a TNG feel with a more ensemble-cast approach to how the story is told, with different story threads and interpersonal dynamics. There’s even a bit of an Orville DNA with extra work-place banter from the guy with too many sinuses. But this is Discovery and that means freaky mushroom psychedelic action and Michael Burnham having to consider killing another Star Fleet officer.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you may end up speaking Welsh. Discovery may have just managed to integrate all its disparate parts into one episode and its a gloriously bonkers take on Star Trek.

Also, frickin’ emotionally manipulative. Bastards. How they knew that having Tilly sing Bowie’s Space Oddity would hit me in a vulnerable spot, I don’t know.

OK, that’s as far as I can go without spoilers. There’s a metric tonne of stuff to work out about Saru that is disturbing (although we’ve known for a long time the premise for Saru’s species is disturbing). [Spoilers OK in the comments]

Rankings

  1. An Obol for Charon – Classic Trek on a magic mushroom trip
  2. Point of Light – season one Discovery is back for revenge
  3. Brother – an action orientated fresh start for the Discovery crew
  4. New Eden – The Next Generation of The Next Generation

Bits and Pieces

  • So we get a quick bit of retcon continuity. Those cool holograms in Season 1 Discovery – they cause technical problems on the Enterprise which is why we’ve never seen them before. A no-prize to the writer who thought of that one.
  • Don’t try and think to deeply about how the universal translator works. It’s never made sense and I don’t care if the Tower of Babel bit makes sense, it was a genius scene and I loved it.
  • Chief Reno is a treasure and I hope she is a regular now. The perfect foil for Stamets.
  • We’ll just drill a hole in Tilly’s head. Sure, why not.
  • They are just teasing us with Spock now. He’d better be in next week’s episode.
  • I’m raising my opinion of Discovery to “it’s good actually” from “it has potential”
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18 thoughts on “Star Trek Discovery: An Obol for Charon (S2:E4) – (initial reaction)

  1. I thought this episode could easily have been an hour and a half long. It felt a bit overstuffed, but at the same time the character moments more than carried the day. That scene with Michael and Saru was the best scene Discovery has produced, bar none (and the “favorite song” scene wasn’t far behind). This is a definite reset for Jones’ character, and it’ll be really interesting to see what they do with him going forward. And yes, PLEASE have Jett Reno become a regular.

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    1. The emotional impact of the Saru scene was so strong, because I still didnt trust them enough to be sure tgey wouldnt just kill him off. Intentional? Who cares! I now suspect that he will turn into tge predator species of his planet.
      Tillys Space oddity: yay, David Bowie will still be heard in 200 years! Of course we knew! I still sometimes wonder why they dont.just make up some popsongs….

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  2. What can I add? This was a good one…. The universal translator is one of those deeply implausible but necessary plot devices (because otherwise every episode would be along the lines of “Picard must struggle with complex conditional verbs while agreeing a treaty, while Worf has an amusing misunderstanding when asking his way to the beach”, that’s why) – I suppose it’s nice they got some comedy mileage out of it, at least. (One of my fanfics contained a rubber-science “explanation” of the UT… I felt obliged to follow that post with an apology to the restless shade of Wittgenstein.)

    I agree there was a sense of genuine jeopardy about Saru – which you don’t often get, for a major cast member who’s up there on the opening credits and everything, but Discovery has no problems with killing off major players, and that does make it a stronger show, IMO. And it seems to have changed him, irrevocably, at the very least.

    What was it Pike called Airiam? Does she have a second name, or was it another officer with an identical head? (There’s at least one other cyborg like Airiam aboard Discovery – we saw her in the background, once, in the mess hall – but she has a different colour scheme, copper and black where Airiam has silver and white.

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      1. Which is both nuts and makes a lot of sense.

        You know, if the Discovery creative team and writers can capture this exact dynamic, they might be able to carve out a unique position in the Star Trek canon.

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      2. That’s one option or perhaps ear implants. Or, the ship has multiple and very clever directional speakers everywhere. These direct sound at each crew member in such away as to 1. cancel the actual sound being made when Bob says “xghehrhrhsjs” and 2. replace it with English so that Bob appears to say “reverse the polarity of the deflector dish”
        Or the ship can use some sort of electromagnetic beam to directly manipulate the auditory nerves of the crew. I like this option because 1. it’s horrific and 2. would explain how Trek holograms work (same trick but with the optic nerve)

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  3. When they told us that the power surge in engineering left “100 giga electron volts surging through the relays” I thought, “wait a second – ” and I paused the episode to look up how much that actually is in real money. Turns out it’s about 1.6 times ten to the minus eighth joules. minus eighth. I had to spend a little bit of time giggling before I could start back up again.

    Amazingly enough, the rest of the episode actually made up for that.

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  4. I liked this episode more than I thought I would because I’d had some spoiler info on it and it sounded overboard. And it was, but in an entertaining, Trek way that does show that they’ve really developed the characters.

    Tig is a regular guest star, at least for this season. She’s not cheap, so they’ll use her and she’s sort of their Scottie.

    The translator takes all the sound and translates it for everybody apparently directly to their brains, and it was assigning the wrong languages to people so they were speaking and understanding in languages they didn’t actually know, leading to the classic line, “Am I speaking in Arabic?” On top of that, the translator kept changing the language they were speaking/comprehending from sentence to sentence.

    But if that’s the case, then the translator should have been doing the same thing when Saru spoke that was happening to the bridge crew. He might attempt to speak in Russian for instance to answer one of the bridge crew being forced to speak and understand Russian, but the malfunctioning translator should have changed his Russian to another random language. So you could say that Saru, being the only one of his species in the fleet and able to speak and understand 95 languages, didn’t have the translator hooked up to his brain like the rest of the bridge crew, but this was not explained as reality, nor was it explained why the rest of the bridge crew couldn’t turn off the hook up into their brains. Because surely the equipment has had hiccups before, as pointed out by one of the non-human crew (sinus guy.) Basically it made no sense whatsoever, but was funny.

    So I’d say overall they’re doing better this season, largely because they aren’t at war and constantly trying to fight people. But I do hope they pick up Spock next episode because the “search for Spock” stuff is getting old.

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