Discovery: Sound of Thunder S2:E6

Last week Cora noted that once you thought about the episode it all fell apart. This week the fragility of the story is even more manifest. If you shut down any thought of the moral, social and political implications of what happens and just sit back and enjoy the ride, it’s not at all bad. Doug Jones takes the lead in a Saru centred story and he is always fun to watch. We also get the continuation of the Episode 4 story line as well as the pre-season 2 ‘Short Trek’ story ‘The Brightest Star’ (well worth watching prior to this episode).

Yeah, but. No. Sorry, this was bollocks. However, spoilers must be heralded, so do not click below unless you are prepared.

The show starts with a broad recap, catching up with Doctor Hugh, Saru and The Big Dead Sentient Planetoid thing from episode 4. Then, surprise the Red Plot Angel aka Mothman sends yet another signal. The twist being that it is Saru’s homeworld!

Episode 4 had already set the ground work for an interesting ethical dilemma about intervention in other cultures: in this case the Kelpians who are preyed upon by the technologically advanced & mysterious Ba’ul. From the Short Trek ‘Brightest Star’, the Kelpian/Ba’ul relationship appeared to be an Eloi-Morlock thing: the Kelpians living a peaceful, carefree pastoral existence aside from a regular cull by the Ba’ul which the Kelpians had been socially conditioned to accept.

Did I say ‘interesting’? Not so much. It would only be interesting if there was a dilemma for Star Fleet and some examination of how the heck the Prime Directive is supposed to work. Instead the story just bulldozers past this. General Order 1 becomes more of a guideline than a unbreakable rule. OK, I can tolerate that – surely most cases where it would be relevant would be edge cases such as this one (the Ba’ul have warp technology but the Kelpians don’t but then the Kelpian society is already in contact with a warp-tech level society).

Saru is a lot more radical without his threat ganglion and things escalate quickly. The Ba’ul, almost disappointingly, don’t turn out to be just cannibal Kelpians but weird monsters who live in dark pools. Meanwhile, Discovery learns from The Big Dead Sentient Planetoid’s records that the Kelpians used to be mainly like Saru post-ganglions and possibly the Kelpians were the predators of the Ba’ul.

Really, did I say interesting ethical dilemma? What a naive expectation. Willy-nilly and without any thought for the consequences or any discussion with any Kelpian other than Saru, Discovery initiates a planet wide biological change of all the Kelpians so they ‘evolve’ from the cowardly Kelpians into the more agressive post-ganglion Kelpians. Exclusive scene below:

You can’t just go around zapping a whole species into some sort of version of puberty without so much of a say so. There’s not even a pause for breath or a moments thought about it. The Ba’ul react by initiating genocide and Discovery say “Oh…that’s why we should have maybe thought about what we were doing a few minutes ago!” Luckily the red angel intervenes and everybody lives happily ever after.

Arrgggghhhhhh. With a bit of work, this could have been so much better. Discovery needs an ethicist in their writing room, just to think some of this through. For example, changing when the Ba’ul threat of genocide occurs in the order of events, making Saru wholly responsible for the species-wide change. None of that would make the plot preachy but would add creative conflict between the characters. Pike, Tyler, Michael, Saru all have different perspectives on events if we follow their characters but instead of seeing that within the story, it’s glossed over because nobody gets to challenge the plot choices.

Entertaining but Orville level degrees of starship crew thinking more than one step ahead with their interactions with alien cultures.

Rankings

  1. An Obol for Charon (e4) – Classic Trek on a magic mushroom trip
  2. Point of Light (e3) – season one Discovery is back for revenge
  3. Brother (e1) – an action orientated fresh start for the Discovery crew
  4. New Eden (e2) – The Next Generation of The Next Generation
  5. Saints of Imperfection (e5) – Let’s get the old gang back together!
  6. Sound of Thunder (e6) – Non-consensual medical procedures on a whole species

Bits and Pieces

  • Apparently, some ‘Spock’ character is in this series.
  • If you haven’t watched ‘Brightest Star’ then the episode is even more shallow, as we only get to see one other Kelpian.\
  • I assume the Ba’ul are aquatic.
  • The twist that didn’t happen was the Ba’ul being post-ganglion Kelpian-Morlocks, instead, they were drippy creepy things
  • The other twist I thought was coming was the original Kelpians being an eco-disastrous society that nearly destroyed their home world – hence the Ba’ul enforcing this ‘balance’. Instead, the Ba’ul are just dicks.


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14 thoughts on “Discovery: Sound of Thunder S2:E6

  1. It was probably the weakest episode this season, but even still, it cemented what I think is the throughline for the Red Angel plot, and ultimately what I suspect is the core plotline of the show itself.

    As before, they get a signal and find a humanitarian crisis when they investigate. They make the moral choice to do whatever they can to save the Kelpians, and this time the Red Angel appears to help. As if it were testing them to see if they would risk their lives for the sake of an entire species.

    With the inclusion of Section 31, this season seems to be about the Federation and Starfleet’s choice to be the moral and compassionate organization we expect it to be, and not descend into the morally compromised realm of S31. They were even heavy handed with this being about choice of good over evil a couple episodes back, with Georgiou loudly chomping on an apple in Pike’s ready room(how’s that for Yeoh ‘chewing the scenery’ 🙂 ), and Michael telling her to ‘go back to her snake pit’.

    Considering last season was about holding on to Federation values in the face of certain annihilation and contrasting the Mirror Universe to show the darker side of human nature, I’m quite convinced now that the central theme of the show is to show how the Federation became the organization we expect it to be. I’m really wondering now if they chose to call it Discovery for that exact reason – discovering how the Federation evolved.

    Which makes it a really clever bait and switch for all the haters. What if every season shows the Federation getting closer and closer to what we expect it to be, by showing it face moral quandaries and choosing the right path each time?

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  2. It was really hard to understand what the Ba’ul were saying, but apparently they set up the ‘culling’ to eliminate the older Kelpiens before they could transform into their aggressive predatory mature phase. (And yeah, the Ba’ul were black oil goop, but that was some damn good and creepy CGI.)

    To me, this just points out the idiocy of the Prime Directive/General Order 1 from the get-go, and I wish Gene Roddenberry had never included it in the original series. It’s just a Big Stupid Rule that sounds all noble and everything, but it ends up being something our characters have to pay lip service to while coming up with all sorts of clever ways to get around it. I wish it could be jettisoned entirely, but unfortunately it’s too late for that.

    And things are not going to be well for Culber and Stamets. I hope the writers don’t gloss over Culber’s post-resurrection trauma, as I think that entire relationship will have to be broken down and rebuilt from the ground up. I hope they have the guts to do that.

    Also: Actual Spock next week? Please pretty please? This Spock-tease is really irritating me.

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  3. The conversation in the writers’ room must have gone something along the lines of “We’ve set up one of our main characters with an interesting personal development here. How are we going to manage this arc through the rest of the season?” “Eh, we’ll just wrap the whole thing up in the next episode, no big deal.”

    Naïve optimism is all very well, and the original series had no shortage of it – but even they acknowledged, during the wrap-up after they’d blown up the evil computer and everything was going to be OK, that a certain amount of work had to be done, tidying things up. But the idea with this story seems to be that Kelpians and Ba’ul will now dance off, hand in goopy-black-talon, into a new and glorious future, possibly with puppies and rainbows. I’m not buying it. Especially as, from the viewpoint of the average Kelpian, the situation worked out as “Aah! The pain! Oh no, I have Superfluous-Apostrophes-Syndrome, I’m going to go mad and die in agony! Wait – all my friends and family are keeling over too! They all have it! This is the end! The end of the world! – Wait, I’m not dead. What happened?” You thought Culber’s post-traumatic stress was well handled? Well, they’re going to need someone with experience of the condition, because Saru has just given his entire species PTSD. Well done that Kelpian.

    (Well – his entire species, apart from those who were driving or operating heavy machinery at the time the signal kicked in. Oopsie. Never mind, can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and all that.)

    I’m disappointed by the Ba’ul not being cannibal Kelpians. Instead they turn out to be…. slimy black hunched-over emaciated corpse things, with lank dripping hair, huge skinny talon-like hands, sinister gurgling voices and scary light-up red eyes. I’m bloody glad I’m not doing their PR, I’ll tell you that for nothing.

    I think they ought to drop “Discovery” from this season’s title, and make it “The Search for Spock” instead… except I think that’s already been done, hasn’t it?

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    1. I actually suspect that many of the affected Kelpians may have tried to kill themselves, once the symptoms kicked in, just like Saru did. So Saru and the Discovery probably got a whole lot of Kelpians killed, gave the survivors PTSD and left them and the Ba’ul facing a potential civil war, which likely won’t go well for the Kelpians, since the Ba’ul still have superior technology.

      As for the Ba’ul being black drippy things rather than cannibalistic Kelpians, we should maybe applaud Discovery for not going for the obvious twist for once, considering that one of the many problems of last season was that the twists were too predictable. Though the explanation they came up with was actually worse than the obvious twist would have been

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      1. I suppose it might solve one minor continuity problem, namely the issue of why we haven’t seen any Kelpians in earlier (but chronologically later) Trek series. Because they were all wiped out in the Ba’ul/Kelpian mutual genocide that left the whole planet Kaminar a burned-out radioactive wasteland, that’s why. Bit of a grim solution, but it works….

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      2. When the Ba’ul started up their genocide machines, I actually thought, “Okay, so that’s why we’ve never seen any Kelpians in Star Trek before. Because Saru and the Discovery accidentally wiped them out.”

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    2. his entire species, apart from those who were driving or operating heavy machinery at the time the signal kicked in.

      There weren’t any, because the Kelpiens hadn’t advanced to the internal combustion engine. Their culture was a pastoral agricultural society. The only technology on the planet was the Ba’ul monitoring pylons (and their sunken citadel).

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      1. Well, OK, not driving… but I bet you somebody, somewhere, was up fixing the slates on a high roof, or negotiating a tricky river bend in a fishing boat, or generally doing something where the sudden onset of agony and approaching madness is a potentially fatal distraction.

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  4. Doug Jones’ performance was awesome, the episode was a mess and they keep doing weird, nonsensical takes on the Prime Directive. I’m not sure if symbolically the black, oozy, scary Ba’ul are supposed to be the black slaves revolting against their Kelpian oppressors to take control and killing them off as the scary black rulers when the Kelpians get threatening, or the Kelpians are supposed to be the Native Americans who killed the colonial invaders (Ba’ul) until the greater technology of the colonial invaders left them genocided and on reservations with no running water, but either way, it was uncomfortable. And at the end, when the red angel takes out Ba’ul tech with a giant EMP, after the humans violate the Kelpians with violent torture against their will, the Discovery just takes off and leaves them to a civil war of two panicked, angry species.

    Good luck getting the warp ships built back up and anyone from space helping either of the remnants, fellows! Discovery has places to be. They don’t even save the descendants of humans castaway on a planet with dying tech because Captain Religious thinks a cargo cult means they must be kept as an isolated tribe instead of rescued and given decent medicine. So yes, the Federation has the ethical and logical consistency of melted butter. The operating idea of most episodes seems to be that Discovery destroys anyone else they come into contact with, then goes chasing the tachyon signal McGuffin.

    On the bright side, we now know that the red angel is probably Michael in a time travel suit. I’m going to watch to the end of the season but I’m having my waffling on watching beyond that again.

    It’s very hard lately. A lot of the shows, the actors are great, the dialogue is often fun, but the plots are full blown messes. Does no one keep track of their own mythology anymore?

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