Star Trek Discovery: Through the Valley of Shadows (S2E12)

In the original series the Klingons were a generic threat, mixing aspects of cold war fears and aspects of orientalist prejudice to create a foil for Starfleet. The later movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation reworked the Klingons into something else – essentially creatures that have wandered in from a fantasy novel, mixing elements of Tolkienesque dwarfs and orcs and in turn helping reshape fantasy ‘warrior races’ in fantasy novels and films. Symbolically they fight with bladed weapons in a universe of hand held phasers.

Discovery’s writers stray into epic fantasy tropes on a regular basis, all of season 2 has aspects of a quest narrative. Season 2 Episode 3 “Point of Light” had a diversion to Qo’noS and struggles for the throne. Episode 12 brings back L’Rell with an episode title that pairs of the “Light” names of Episode 3 with a “Shadow” name. This time the fantasy genre intrudes into Star Trek with a visit to what can only be called Klingon Hogwarts.

This is not a great episode. It’s another plot coupon story with a dead-end diversion for Spock and Michael and a kind of spirit-quest story for Captain Pike. It’s not lacking in entertainment but it feels lazy and the twists are so heavily telegraphed that the only work as twists because you assume the writers don’t understand their story well enough.

It’s overall a mediocre episode filling out a space in the series. There are mandatory Discovery check box elements all checked off (including the overt referencing of original series continuity), some action and some interpersonal stuff. As always the acting is excellent and it’s often in weaker episode where you get to see how the cast copes with weak dialogue and poorly constructed plots. I did like that the L’Rell, Voq/Tyler, Michael triangle was handled by the characters as something that had emotional pain but which didn’t require any of them to act like idiots. Michael’s reaction to hearing about Tyler’s son was to show empathy rather than adding some out-of-character jealousy or conflict


  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. Perpetual Infinity (e11) – Mistakes were made, repeatedly
  5. The Red Angel (e10) – the cast gets an episode to catch up with the plot and trap the Red Angel
  6. If Memory Serves (e8) – A sequel to The Cage and a prequel to The Menagerie
  7. New Eden (e2) – The Next Generation of The Next Generation
  8. Saints of Imperfection (e5) – Let’s get the old gang back together!
  9. Project Daedelus (e9) – Airiam we will miss you, though we barely got to know you
  10. Light and Shadow (e7) – Michael goes one way, Discovery goes another
  11. Sound of Thunder (e6) – Non-consensual medical procedures on a whole species
  12. Through the Valley of Shadows (e12) – Pike visits Klingon Hogwarts to get a plot coupon

Bits and Pieces

  • A Tilly-lite episode last week and ZERO Tilly this week. Next week presumably negative Tilly as her mirror universe version comes seeking revenge.
  • Klingon Monasteries are all built in the style of Victorian faux-Gothic. Saint Pancras Railway Station in London? Klingon Monastery dedicated to T’Rain, the Klingon warrior dedicated to express services to Sheffield.
  • The lack of Tilly means she hasn’t had an opportunity to point out that “time crystal” is a shining example of her previously stated rule of adding “time” in front of things to name something cool.
  • Pike chooses his future but the gods of continuity had already chosen it for him.
  • Control is becoming less like the Borg and more like the techno-virus Phalanx from the X-Men.
  • Pike’s space-parka has a black Starfleet symbol in the style of Section 31? Are they the only section of Starfleet equipped for cold weather?
  • Do you wonder if there is a struggle for power within the Discovery writing room? L’Rell & Voq having a secret son hidden away on a remote planet, felt like a plot strand that a writer had placed there to be revived later for a whole Klingon dynasty twist. This episode effectively shuts that down for no particular reason.
  • Cora wasn’t happy with this episode either and has a good dissection as to why it seemed so hackneyed

10 thoughts on “Star Trek Discovery: Through the Valley of Shadows (S2E12)

  1. Yeah, the Victorian/Gothic stonework jumped out at me too, or rather, I’d call that style Canadian Academic.

    My actual immediate thought: Wow, that was clearly shot in a university building somewhere in Toronto…


      1. Whereas the aesthetics of most German universities, at least the ones I have experience with, are “post-apocalyptic concrete brutalism with bonus graffiti”. Which might actually work as a Star Trek set.


      2. Star Trek Discovery is filmed at Pinewood Toronto Studios, so without having seen more than a few stills I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was the U of T. (Wasn’t one of the Klingon extras played by Jordan Peterson?)

        The great thing about the U of T campus is that we have brutalist monstrosities within walking distance (Robarts Library, which oddly enough is supposed to have been the model for the secret library in The Name of the Rose).

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  2. I can’t help feeling there must be a fair amount of Bond villain included in Control’s programming. Mr. Suspiciously Not Dead Guy (I’ve forgotten his name already) sits around talking and talking until he gives himself away by a Control-like turn of phrase, just like Borg Garibaldi did in the previous episode. And then we get the big fight scene, and he tries to inject Control nanobots into Michael, and so on and so forth…. He could have jabbed her with that needle any time in the past half hour, there was no need for any betraying small talk. Heck, he could have stuck both Michael and Spock with the thing while they were still on the shuttle. Bah, I say, bah.

    Also, were I in Control’s virtual shoes, I would be pursuing other avenues of research. Sure, the sphere data offers a path to full awareness and galactic domination, but it can’t possibly be the only way to do it, surely? Control should be raiding Federation AI research facilities, or trying to make contact with all those other sentient computers we know are out there in that time period. At the very least, it should be trying to kidnap Dr. Richard Daystrom. (He says, proving he knows his TOS continuity.) But no, it’s the sphere data or nothing. Control has only one preferred outcome and will accept no other. Part Bond villain, part Brexiteer.

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  3. I did not like the episode much. Yes, there was great acting and some bice themes – Michel and Tyler, Hugh and Whatshername and Pike getting to grips with his future.
    But this whole story of Kamar (?) surviving control was deeply unconvincing – “There was no time to react!” and still he had time to climb into a suit – but no time to do warn anyone else? And its the one guy Michael knows personally? On the other hand, people do believe Tilly when she says there is a ghost or Stamets that he is a timeloop.So people tend to err on the side of their fellow crewmembers I suppose. But it was all so predictable… (And space monks were never Star Treks greatest thing).

    My main beef is the villain though. We know that Control will not evolve to destroy all Life. We have seen the future. This antagonist doesnt make any sense. Mirror-universe Lorca worked much better (despite all problems), because it was a possibility that he does at least some damage. And now that Pike knows what will happen to him, he would be able to at least know, that he wont be assimiliated by control either.
    The cliff hanger was just annoying – there will be signals, of course they will resolve something. Discovery will not be destroyed either. So its not that we think “Gosh, Will they all die???” This is not lost, not season 1 – everybody will just be fine.

    (My biggest fear is that control will be some sort of genesis for the Borg. The Borg were invented to show that the universe has evolved very different life forms, that we can not understand. If they are rooted in Disco, that would diminish that. Plus it would further relegate Discovery to a *wink*wink*nudge*nufge*-show of subtile and not-so-subtile glimpsed on events later in the timeline, instead of making it its own thing).

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  4. Klingon Monastery dedicated to T’Rain, the Klingon warrior dedicated to express services to Sheffield.
    I’ve visited a Japanese train station that has a shrine in its roof garden where you can pray for safe journeys.

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