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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 1:16pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: LD S2: The Spy Humongous

Not a bad episode, but not quite as amazing as last week. As per usual with Lower Decks, I simply don't find the jokes to be all that funny, but the character work is pretty great.

This was the first true Boimler episode, insofar as it treated Boimler not as a punching bag for Mariner, but as his own character with independent agency. His experience with the "red shirts" told us something important about him - he might be eager to impress, but even he has his limits, and he's much more concerned with doing the right thing and helping his friends when push comes to shove. I'm not entirely sure if this is supposed to show his character growth across the show, or to reveal who he has been all along, but either way it works quite well here.

The B plot of the episode was basically about Tendi, allowing Rutherford and Mariner to needle her a bit about her perpetually chipper demeanor. Again, this was a step forward, as like Boimler she ultimately is shown to not just be a cartoon character.

The Pakled stuff was basically C-plot fare to keep the bridge crew busy. It was...fine. Jokes didn't land with me, but I was entertained. I think the issue I have with the Lower Decks humor is it tends to be fairly predictable, while gut-busting humor tends to be more absurdist things that come out of nowhere.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 9, 2021, 8:51am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: LD S2: An Embarrassment of Dooplers

That was a great episode. Easily the best of the season to date, though not quite at Crisis Point levels yet. It really is stunning to me how they manage to fit so much genuine character development into episodes with less than 30 minutes.

First, I loved the fact that this episode stands on its own without significant "memberberries." There were of course callbacks to lots of old Trek (lots of aliens from TAS were seen here) but the central plot elements did not rely upon any established Trek lore or tropes. It was pure Lower Decks, and rested upon the characters themselves.

And what good character work there was here - particularly the end. Boimler and Mariner had a great arc across the episode - arguably the conclusion of an arc which began with the first episode. Their relationship has transformed from one where Boimler is basically Mariner's punching bag to one where they both can admit they are genuinely fond of one another and show some vulnerability. Indeed, for the first time I detected a tiny hint of romance there...though I'm here for whatever in terms of what may happen.

That wasn't all though. Rutherford was given depth for the first time as well (similar to Tendi in the last few episodes) with some layers beyond a guy who really geeks out regarding Starfleet tech. Even Captain Freeman had a bit of an arc from wanting to be invited to the "grown-ups table" to accepting her actual place as being pretty good, all things considered.

Honestly, I couldn't ask for much more in an episode of Lower Decks.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 8:55am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

The number one flaw with Discovery this season is...there's basically no ideas any longer. Certainly no SF ideas worth mentioning. The scriptwriting itself is better than previous seasons, and the characterization is much, much better. But the writers can't for the life of them think of anything interesting to do with the characters. They just lazily throw them into scenarios that anyone who has watched Trek has seen done before 5-10 times - and in many of those cases quite better.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 7:51am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

It was...fine...much like the season as a whole. Not great, not awful. Acceptable.

Breaking up the episode into two parts:

I liked the quieter side of the episode with Saru and Su'Kal much, much better. The explanation for the Burn is still idiotic technobabble. But you know what - the idea of a childlike entity completely accidentally causing huge levels of destruction is very TOS. Doug Jones was fantastic in all of his scenes, and really elevated this section of the episose.

The stuff on Discovery was just a big dumb action movie. Everything was one plot contrivance after the next to save the day. Any sort of nuance to Osyraa's character went completely out the window. It was also a weirdly consequence free session, with no one on Team Good making the ultimate sacrifice. I suppose that was the one part of the finale that sort of subverted my expectations, because I had expected someone (Book, Ina, Vance, just somebody) to die - and no one did.

I don't mind seeing Michael in the captain's chair at all, because as I have said before, there's always been this weird dynamic to the show, because the writers want her (as the protagonist) to always be right, yet she isn't the one calling the shots, hence they have had to do things like having captains defer to her. At least they can write Season 4 in a more typically Trek fashion now.

I'm really not feeling Saru's probable exit from the show (at least as a main character). I am glad that he seemingly took a leave of absence of his own accord, rather than getting chewed out by Vance for being a fuck up and getting demoted. But why did they drop all those breadcrumbs about Vance doubting his choices and not follow up on them? Was it just to show us he's unfit for command?

Tilly didn't do much of use to redeem herself during the episode, as I expected, since she had to make way for the great Michael. I really hate how the show feels the need to sabotage the agency of secondary characters to make Michael seem more badass. Hell, you could argue Stamets' end-season descent into irrationality was pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, hopefully next season is better? Seems every season of Discovery is a soft reboot anyway.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 31, 2020, 8:32am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: There Is a Tide...

An excellent course correction after last episode. However, in a serialized show, there might be a bit of "too little too late" here.

I mean, the episode has a lot going on which is good. Osyraa (or as I say, Discount Seska) was finally given some depth as an antagonist. The scenes with her and Vance were the highlight of the entire episode, and notable because they were the only truly surprising part of the episode. We've been "treated" to so many shallow antagonists who just want to destroy...it's intriguing to have a villain who is instead seeking respect. That said, the trailer for next week suggests this is pretty quickly going to become undone.

The "Die Hard" action section involving Burnham (and eventually the rest of the bridge crew) was serviceable - no, it was done well - but it's something we've seen before in Trek several times. No new ground was being broken here. I suppose I did somewhat enjoy going into the Jeffries tubes (I was wondering if Discovery was all that funhouse open space with the turbolift roller coasters). But on the whole this was just perfunctory stuff you'd expect in a season finale.

There are numerous things which I liked but was like...why didn't we see it earlier in the season. It's nice to see Zareh again, but it would have been nice to see him before the penultimate episode. Did this need to be our introduction to Mitchell's scientist character? Why did they wait so long to flesh out the Emerald Chain as anything other than a group of slavers and marauders? This is a serialized show after all. They could have peppered random scenes involving the Emerald Chain POV throughout the entire season, which would make the payoff here much more compelling. But instead they farted around with mediocre episodic Trek before giving us something fairly emotionally compelling.

I'm glad they openly lampshaded what a bad job Tilly did in the previous episode. It will be interesting to see what happens next week. They should allow Tilly a crowning moment of glory to redeem herself, but given this is Discovery I would guess they give it to Michael, forcing Tilly into

I really did not like Stamets' turn here however one bit once Michael rescues him and they conflict about jumping back to the nebula. It was at least set up well in the previous episode, but the degree of conflict was really overplayed here. He's supposed to be a professional, and this is another example of the weirdly high level of drama in the series this year which results in my suspense of disbelief crashing down.

Still, overall, this was a good episode - even a very good one in isolation. It's just when it comes to seeing it as narrative payoff for the season as a whole that it begins to fall flat.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Dec 28, 2020, 1:44pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Su'Kal

I actually feel that while it's pretty likely they'll once again fail to stick the landing, at least it's a step up from the first two seasons.

Season 1 failed when they seemingly lost the thread of the plot because they were so enamored with the MU, and then only remembered in the final episodes the themes the season was supposed to be about.

Season 2 failed because they apparently scrapped the original season arc once Berg/Harberts were fired, pulled Control out of their butt, and spent way too long trying to tie the first half of the season together somehow into a narrative which no longer made a lick of sense.

If Season 3's arc fails it will just be because it's underwhelming. The Burn being caused because a Kelpien child has a sad is...dumb. But if it's really solved in the third to the last episode it was never the season arc to begin with. Hell, the first half of the season was spent trying to find the Federation, so this has only been the "quest" since around the sixth episode. The storytelling isn't ambitious, but it's at least a pretty cohesive, point-a-to-point-b narrative. It's just that if we really end on "must defend Starfleet HQ against Osyraa" they basically did in a season what could have been done with a mediocre Voyager two-parter.
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Karl Zimmerman
Sun, Dec 27, 2020, 10:47am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Su'Kal

There's a strange symmetry to the arc of writing over the course of Discovery, because it has gotten much, much better in some important ways, but significantly worse in the only ways which it was strong to begin with.

Basically, when Discovery started, the show was incredibly weak on characterization. In the first season, no characters ever even had discussions with anyone other than Michael unless it was to advance the plot. But the underlying concepts - although often flawed in execution - were at least big and bold. Say what you want, but the idea of a friggin network of fungus connecting every point in the multiverse is at least creative.

In contrast, the character writing on Discovery is now pretty good, all things considered. Even the secondary characters and former bridge furniture feel like genuine people. Even the mediocre episodes generally have one or two nice character moments which help lift the episode considerably. The interactions between Stamets and Adira, for example, have been a high note this season.

But conceptually, the show is now incredibly risk averse. Every single major plot point is something we've seen dozens of times over in Berman Trek. It plays it safe relentlessly, which is frustrating given the 32nd century allows for wide new avenues of storytelling. This is the reason I have said it now highly reminds me of Voyager - an original premise squandered in order to attempt to alienate as few viewers as possible after two highly divisive seasons.

I do think having some higher-concept sci-fi writers in the room would help - because it's clearly the story concepts, not the scripts themselves - which are lackluster. But it really seems like the lesson CBS learned from the mixed reaction to the first two seasons is that Trek fans desire familiar comfort food - not bold new storytelling concepts.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 24, 2020, 9:28am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Su'Kal

I didn't think this was a great episode, but looking around here and elsewhere, I think my reaction is a bit more measured than most.

There were aspects of the episode I enjoyed. There were lots of decent emotional moments - particularly in the first half of the episode. I was genuinely surprised by it turning into a "holodeck episode" as well - overall in a pleasant way. It was nice to see Doug Jones outside of his regular makeup, and seeing how he still was clearly in character as Saru. If you looked at the episode in isolation, I'd say it was fine, if a little heavy on the technobabble in a TNG sorta way.

People are hating on the origin of the Burn, but I am a bit more sanguine on it. As I said before, I always felt like there was no way to end this except with a damp squib, which is exactly what happened. I had hoped for something which at least built into some themes, but at the very least it didn't turn out to be some deliberate action from some antagonistic power, which would have been much more cliche. However, that means Osyraa is actually the antagonist of the season, which is incredibly underwhelming. I've been calling her discount Seska, but that might be an insult to Martha Hackett. She's strictly bush-league as villains go however.

I do not like what they are doing with Saru. They have been making it clear for several episodes he is unfit for command due to his emotional connection to his people. I believe now his choice of Tilly as his XO is also meant to showcase his incompetence. Hopefully he is being set up to fail in order to show character growth, not to make way for Michael.

It is pretty clear the way the dialogue was framed when Osyraa came in that there is a mole who has given away Discovery's position. I suppose it could be at Starfleet HQ, but unless it was Vance it wouldn't be good dramatically - since the turncoat wouldn't be someone we know. The way the episode was structured it made us believe the betrayer was Book, When Tilly was talking about how Osyraa could have possibly known, it cut to Book's face. Also, he was conveniently off the ship when the attack happened. And he installed Emerald Chain devices on the ship two episodes ago. It seems like a very long con might have been played here...or that Osyraa flipped Book for a price while he was imprisoned. It doesn't make much sense because the trailer for next week's episode shows him fighting the Emerald Chain, but they may be holding off the reveal until the end of that episode. We will see.

Another out-there prediction: Since Adira went down to the holo-simulation, Saru and Culber will be able to see Grey. Further, they'll find some technobabble way to have Grey survive as an independent holo-program so he can interact with the rest of the crew next season. I mean he said right at the start of the episode he was having a hard time not interacting with anyone but them. We will see I suppose.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 12:17pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Terra Firma, Part 2

There was no reason in terms of narrative or themes for Lorca to appear again. The MU character arc was all about Georgiou. Michael was important to Georgiou's arc. Lorca was not. It would just have muddled the episode.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 8:52am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Terra Firma, Part 2

Chrome,

The way the end of Season 2 was set up, the Sphere data means they can never return, because Control. Or, at least Discovery cannot return. I suppose they all could individually.

Yes, it's stupid, but it's best to move on and not consider the mistakes made in earlier seasons.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 8:00am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Terra Firma, Part 2

That was a bit of a roller-coaster in terms of an episode. Ultimately effective, but there were multiple times in the back half where my opinion of the episode veered widely back and forth.

The beginning section which took place in the MU was honestly great. Plotwise it was a foreordained conclusion of course - everyone other than Georgiou (including the viewer) could see the second betrayal coming a mile away. But it was set up as a dramatic tragedy in miniature, harkening back to the Greeks and Shakespeare. Tragedy is not a dramatic form we get to see often in Trek because the protagonists - by nature of the structure of the series - have to win.

When we end up back on the snowy planet with Carl, I was really worried for a little bit about the two-parter. The reveal Carl was the Guardian of Forever was cheesy and entirely unnecessary. But my real concern was that Georgiou was back in the 32nd century. Having a two-parter to see her off the show into her own series is self-indulgent, but not pulling the trigger and using the two parter solely for her own character growth (with an exit to come later) would have been inexcusable. Thankfully it shifted again, with Carl being vague enough that the Section 31 show could be set anywhere from the 20th century to the 27th. I'd say that while Georgiou's goodbye with Michael was a bit overwritten and overwrought, it actually mostly felt earned this time - because the two parter succeeded in making me actually feel for Georgiou for the first time. Indeed, I wasn't sad at all for Michael, I was sad for Georgiou, who just realized that her idealized adoptive daughter never existed except in her head, and she had to leave behind someone who was actually much closer to what she really wanted.

Once we get back on the ship, it's just rote, generic Discovery - which is fine. It is interesting to me they found an excuse to put everyone recurring who couldn't appear in the MU side of the episode (Stamets cause he died in the first episode, Book, Adira, Reno, and Vance) in this short section of the episode. At first I was really confused why Michael let everyone think Georgiou was dead, and then I realized that the writers wanted an excuse for a maudlin "funeral" scene where everyone toasts how awesome she was. While the scene with Michael and Georgiou on the planet was fine, this didn't ring true to me, and felt totally unnecessary. The writers (who obviously love the character) may have sold me on the character finally, but it stretches credulity that everyone onboard sincerely misses someone who largely hurled insults at them.

Still, the flaws of the episode were relatively minor. Three stars again I would say. Back to generic Discovery next week it seems.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 10, 2020, 7:38am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Terra Firma, Part 1

Well, that was surprising. And a big step up from the last few episodes. Though I still do have a few quibbles here and there.

Though I suppose the MU tell was right in the title, I still didn't quite expect this. More than that, I was surprised that after Georgiou passes through the doorway, the show stopped cutting back to the real Discovery. It certainly made narrative sense to do so, given the episode was framed from Georgiou's POV. It also made casting sense, because basically the entire main cast can may their MU counterparts.

I thought the episode was very effective for what it was. Obviously the MU is a good excuse for grimdark camp, and we saw that on display here. But there was a surprising level of depth in terms of Georgiou's character here as well. We get to see that even though she's way too comically evil to fit in with the Discovery crew, she's been changed by her experience there to the point she can't just slide comfortably back into her old role. SMG was incredibly effective as MU Michael. In contrast, Mary Wisemen disappointed as Killy. She was just...there. Not adorkable like Tilly, but not campy and evil either.

My main issue with this episode though is in a serialized show with a limited number of episodes this seems...kind of self-indulgent? They are using a two-parter to get Georgiou irrevocably off the show, but by nature of the story they're telling now nothing that happens in the MU will impact the PU characters at all. As far as the Discovery crew are concerned, the relevance of Georgiou ended when she passed through that door. In episodic Trek this would be fine, but here I don't get why you do it when you can write Georgiou out of the series with more economy. And while I enjoyed this episode, they're really just retreading Season 1 plot points (albeit in a better way than was done in Season 1). I think Georgiou going to the 32nd century of the MU would have been more interesting, but undoubtedly it would have been harder to deal with from a casting and set perspective.

I dunno how I would rate the episode overall. As a standalone story, perhaps three stars, though as I said, I have some issues with how little this fits into the Discovery Season 3 arc. Of course, a lot hinges on Part 2.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 7:58am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: The Sanctuary

Better than last week, but still not quite what I would call "great." Particularly given we're heading into the end-run of the season and this is still fundamentally a relatively low-stakes, episodic adventure.

So, really there were three plots this week. The A plot on Book's homeworld, and then little mini B/C plots dealing with the decipherment of the Burn signal/whatever the hell is happening to Georgiou. The main issue with this for me is they didn't really share any common thread thematically. They all just happened because they needed to at this particular point in the story. I actually think all of them would have worked better if they were teased apart into different episodes (or at least shunted into episodes they worked better with). Yet at the same time the B/C plots didn't really do much of anything? Georgiou still has some mysterious illness, and while a bit more of the Burn mystery is teased out, it's still nothing satisfying.

I am not entirely sure how I felt about the guest actors this week. Ryn was good again. But Book's "brother" felt unconvincing until the end of the episode. I understand that the script - and direction - called for unrelenting hostility, but made the supposedly fraternal relationship not feel...real. He just seemed like this dude who was really, really angry at Book. And Osyraa didn't have the needed gravitas for a recurring villain, IMHO. Indeed, she seemed a bit campy and corny. I'm also just not liking how Discovery is depicting Orions in general - the makeup just looks really cheap.

On the other hand, as has been the case with much of this season, I'm happy with the episode from a character standpoint. Book has made a full transition to Starfleet true believer to such a degree that even Michael looks askance. Detmer has what I would presume would be the conclusion to her PTSD arc. The Adira/Stamets scenes continue to be sweet.

Discovery is undoubtedly a much better, more consistent show now than in the first two seasons. Nothing has fallen apart yet into a dangling mess of hanging plot threads, characters feel like real human beings, etc. At the same time, the core story elements are pretty...bland I guess? Things we've seen 100 times over? The result is a show that has been nearly consistently somewhere between "fine" and "pretty good." It's good there are no real stinkers, but I'm still hoping the season has another Forget Me Not at some point. As it is I'm starting to get a serious Voyager vibe out of this.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Nov 26, 2020, 8:35pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Unification III

Better than last week, but similar to last week (and the week before) a mixture of good elements and awful ones.

As is normal, I'll start with the good:
I give this episode props for having coherent character arcs, particularly for Michael. She starts the episode conflicted and doubtful regarding her place on Discovery, but has her "faith" restored by the end.

I really appreciated that we another action-less episode of Discovery (lacking even a 30-second fight scene like Forget Me Not). It's been a long time since we had a courtroom drama episode in Trek (Lower Decks excepted) so this was a welcome change of pace.

Some of the individual character moments were great. I liked Michael's scenes with Book, and enjoyed seeing Mama Burnham actually act a bit like a mother this season, and not just an exposition fairy.

I appreciated that a bit of worldbuilding went into imagining future Vulcan/Romulan society, although I do wish we actually go to go to Vulcan. I understand that not every episode can have a true away mission.

Was it just me, or were Saru and the Vulcan President flirting a bit at the end of the episode?
Now, for the bad:
Tilly being promoted to "acting" XO is just dumb. Tilly is unprepared/unsuited for command, Oddly, the writers seem to understand this, given Tilly herself raises all of the issues, and Saru just waves them away. This is all being pretty transparently driven by Mary Wiseman being a main cast member, while all the likely candidates who outrank her are still only slightly jumped-up extras. Tilly made sense in the original conception early in Section 1 - as Michael's roomie to show how much she is really starting from the bottom. But ever since the "lower decks' conceit was dropped, I feel like the writers have struggled to find a way to make her relevant from week to week. This is just sort of the culmination of this - kicking her upwards to finally get rid of the issue of how a "lowly" ensign is always at the center of things. To be honest, I'd have no issue with this happening...eventually. But this is another case of something being unearned. Sure, she has played integral roles in solving various problems onboard the ship, but so have others such as Stamets. She should have had an arc where her leadership skills were put to the test, and she was shown to have grown before getting this promotion. If I viewed things from a within-show perspective, the decision here would really make me lose confidence in Saru's captaincy, but of course I can see the stitch-up job the writer's room did, so I won't blame him directly.

Secondary to this, the ending of the arc - the big group hug - was all wrong. I'm not in the "Starfleet is the military" camp, but it's a very military-like situation. Lieutenants and Lieutenant Commanders have every reason to be resentful of an ensign jumping to the front of the line. A group hug just seems wildly inappropriate. Now that she's XO, she's their fricking supervisor. Indeed, the job of the XO is typically to be more of a hardass with the crew than the captain himself. It's totally ruining her sense of authority to seem this vulnerable and unsure in front of everyone, and it's also really weird to see literally everyone beaming and saying "no really Tilly, I'm so happy you got this instead of me!"

The initial premise was really contrived, insofar as Admiral Vance pivots from his hostility to Burnham in the last episode to "we need you" at the drop of a hat. I honestly moved past this pretty quickly, but again, the show was showing its stitching.

They were so close to ending Michael's character arc in this episode in a smart way, and then they totally blew it. When Michael actually stepped back from her monomania regarding The Burn and said "you know what, I don't think it's worth it to cause a civil war in order to get the data, you keep it" I thought it was a tremendous step forward for her. Probably the most concrete one I have seen yet, because she seemed to finally realize just because she wants something to happen doesn't mean it's actually the best course of action, and that her duty to the Federation outweighed her messiah complex. Then the writers had to ruin it with the Vulcan President passing the data along to Mama Burnham anyway. This basically negates the character arc, because it means that Michael sacrificed absolutely nothing and got everything she wanted regardless.
More generally speaking, I still remain really hesitant regarding the season arc.

The show has done basically nothing to really sell to be that the Burn is actually worth all of this investigation. I honestly think the season would be better without this half-assed questline and just sticking to episodic adventures with character development.

Maybe 2.5 stars. If the Tilly stuff was excised, I would give the episode 3 stars, but it brings it down so much.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 7:38am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Scavengers

A pretty average episode overall. I'll go through the likes/dislikes this week:

Good:

Everything that happened onboard the ship or Starfleet HQ was great. I dunno if it was really enough to qualify as a "B-plot" - but it was a set of nice vignettes which provided some good character insights (particularly later in the episode with Stamets and Adira).

Michelle Yeoh was given something weightier to deal with when it came to the Georgiou character this week. I found her character halfway compelling for the first time ever. I'm wondering if maybe she was given some sort of "treatment" against her will at Starfleet which is reversing her psychopathy? Time will tell.

While I otherwise did not like what was done with Michael this week, I do appreciate that the series is becoming continually more explicit that her flaws are just that - flaws. If you read the episode closely, it doesn't even seem like Book needed a rescue. He and the Andorian came up with 90% of the escape plan on their own with just a few weeks of work. They would have gotten out on their own, and she would have gotten the "black box."
I liked the little Easter Eggs this week (self-sealing stem bolts, seeing a TNG-era phaser, etc.).

Bad:

Michael's whole adventure on the planet was completely forgettable. The grungy planet dominated by unsavory types is basically a complete retread of the first two episodes of the season, with the exact same antagonistic group as the first episode in particular. The villain this week was completely uncompelling, I mean, he was literally someone's nephew - I suppose he was mean to not cut an impressive mien - but it was a big mistake to have Michael and Georgiou up against someone who had kiddie-pool depth. Even Book seemed strangely lifeless compared to his first two outings - basically existing to be the damsel in distress and kiss the hero at the end.

I really, really hate where they are going with the Burn, and Michael's insistence that solving it is the key to the Federation being restored. The in-universe logic is really attenuated, as I've noted before - it happened a century ago, and hasn't repeated. There's no narrative urgency here whatsoever. I am really hoping this is all a red herring and when we get to the end of the season Michael discovers it was all an accident (science experiment gone wrong, Q taking a dump, etc.) because I think it kinda ruins what they're trying to say regarding her character if she's somehow prescient about the "One Big Thing" and it erases all of the mistakes she made along the way.

Michael's "we're just friends" insistence followed by a makeout session at the end of the episode was just so cliché. Mind you, the writers had no way of knowing at the time they composed the series that the scene of them kissing would be included in the trailers before the first episode even aired. But this little subplot was completely unneeded. They had chemistry starting in the first episode, and lived in the same friggin ship for a year. They would have boned already. Wil they or won't they is only interesting in terms of drama if there's some tension or extenuating circumstances keeping a couple apart. There was nothing like this between Book and Michael. The drama in this episode would have been better if it had been established they had an existing (albeit long-distance) relationship.

I'm okay with some contemporary language use in Trek, but Adira saying Stamets is "the bomb" was enough for me to break immersion.

2.5 stars.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Nov 12, 2020, 2:01pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Die Trying

@ Chris L.,

Yes, I don't understand the focus that the show (and some fans) have for the cause of the Burn. From everything we know, it happened once, a century ago. The dilithium which exploded is gone, as are the ships. The scarce dilithium still around works just fine.

Some people suggest that maybe it's a malevolent rival of the Federation that caused it - and it could happen again. I admit this is possible, but it's been a century and no one has rolled over the former Federation, so it doesn't seem like whoever did it would be that much of an active threat. So even in this case, there's no sense of narrative urgency, especially when compared with the silly overblown stakes of the first two seasons.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Nov 12, 2020, 7:17am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Die Trying

And, just like that, back to merely okay.

One of the major issues I had with this episode is there was just so much telling, and so little showing. Most of the first half of the episode was The Discovery crew explaining things to the uptime Starfleet officers that we, as viewers, knew already. The writers tried to make it a bit interesting by lampshading how ridiculous a lot of Discovery's previous adventures were, but it still dragged quite a bit. This stuff should have happened off camera.

Finally, around midway through, we get to the "real plot" of the episode on the seed ship. I thought this mostly worked better, but even here I had some concerns. If this was a 23rd century seed ship, why was there all this future tech? I guess it just kept being retrofitted? Why did Nhan have to stay back? I understand the dude wanted to die onboard, but couldn't they - like - tow it back to Starfleet HQ? Or just come back once he died a few days later with replacement crew? Nhan's farewell with Burnham didn't quite work right with me either. The two of them did not have a particularly close relationship - not to the point that I'd expect tears. Still, this was a "classic" Trek adventure with the crew working together cooperatively for a solution. I think it worked well overall, but it would have worked better hived into its own episode.

The stuff with Georgiou and Cronenberg's character was interesting, but it felt like it was an obvious vanity insert to have Cronenberg in the show. It didn't feel like it made much sense in the episode. And I'm really, really not liking what they're hinting about The Burn at all. I don't want "Michael solves The Burn" to be the season arc, and I particularly don't want it to be due to a "bad guy."

Maybe 2.5 stars?
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Nov 5, 2020, 7:38am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Forget Me Not

Wow. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't that. That was easily the best episode of Discovery yet. Hands down. Possibly ties with Calypso as the best-written thing in all of Kurtzman Trek.

While Discovery has been trying for unearned emotional beats since the middle of season 2, when Michelle Paradise came on, for the first time all the emotional beats rang true.

I really, really appreciated the A plot was told from the perspective of Adira, and that Michael was basically reduced to a supporting character in this episode. It was a tiny bit hokey Culber found some excuse to pawn off the away mission on her, but I understand why this was done in terms of "needs of casting." And Blu del Barrio is absolutely fantastic as Adira. I was really, really not expecting to find a sweet, tragic love story which legitimately made me a bit weepy. But there it was.

The B plot on the ship - while clearly a B plot, was also fairly gripping. In some ways it was a subversion of say TNG, in that the whole bridge crew got together for a meal, and instead of it being congenial, things fell apart. But it wasn't dark and cynical - it was just raw, touching on the frayed nerves of the entire crew. And the positive note of the ending with all of the crew moving toward emotional healing just felt right.

The only thing I'm not entirely sure on is the re-introduction of Zora. I'll have to wait and see. But I'm very happy they didn't go with the fanwank of having Adira's symbiont be Dax.

Four stars. Easily. And I'm someone who is usually Discovery-critical.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Oct 29, 2020, 7:30am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

Seems like some people are still reviewing last week's episode here. I don't think the big grassy field was in Iceland (giant tree was of course CGI) and the western stuff was last week.

Anyway, this week I think the show took a big step up. I liked it much, much more than the first two episodes of this season. I have no substantive complaints whatsoever. Few nitpicks even come to mind. Some of the emotionality of the reunion in the first half of the episode felt a tiny bit overwrought to me, I recall last season someone said "Discovery doesn't want you to think - it wants you to feel" and that was on display in a lot of scenes in this particular episode, which focused much more on a bevy of different emotions than setting up some interesting intellectual dilemma. Also I think some of the worldbuilding here was extremely, extremely shallow - more should have changed in the Solar System than we saw - but I chalk that up to lack of creativity in the practical/VFX departments rather than writing.

But really, it was good. I loved the classic Trekkian twist that the "evil alien raiders" were really just humans in funny outfits - a reworking of a Trek trope going back to the Cormbomite Maneuver. I liked that the message of the episode - that all we need is open dialogue to bring people together (though it was a little bit...shallow) - was also a classic Trek trope which was reworked. Essentially, it was a "normal" episodic Trek episode with a bit of extra heavy drama piled on. And even this drama was mostly well done. Michael didn't wear on me at all, and Georgiou was even used well in this episode (unlike the outing last week).

Still, I'd only rate this as three stars out of four. The basic reason being while there wasn't much of anything concretely wrong with this episode, it wasn't breaking any new ground either. It's good that Discovery can belt out an hour of semi-episodic classic Trek, but...it's very derivative of what came before. All of the incredible contortions of the first two seasons, and we land on...a normal Star Trek that could have been done to start with?
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Oct 22, 2020, 7:52am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: Far From Home

I enjoyed it more than last week's episode, but it still wasn't great...merely average.

What I enjoyed -

By far the best aspect of this episode is seeing the shipboard interactions between the Discovery crew. We get to "check in" with everyone who is still remaining on a ship, right down to characters like Bryce which were barely bridge furniture even in Season 2. Indeed, I feel like the episode peaked kinda early because the opening scenes of the crash and recovery were so strong, because we got to see a Starfleet crew working together to solve problems collectively. I wish we had a whole episode of that TBH.

Because so many characters were re-introduced - from Nhan to Linus to Detmer) - we really didn't get the chance to have a cohesive B plot this week. But Stamets got a nice mini-story regarding not being able to accept his medical limitations during his recovery.

What I hated -

Georgiou is just awful and nearly ruined the episode. Her hamminess as a character is just completely tonally off here compared to...everything else which is going on. Her early scenes were reminiscent of someone farting audibly in a large conference room - just embarrassing. This isn't of course because they're badly acted, but they just do not belong in this episode as scripted/portrayed, and result in a massive inability to suspend disbelief on my part. The worst part by far though was her explanation of why she came to the future. She didn't want to stay behind because they'd make her head of Section 31, and she hated bureaucracy??? She was the friggin Empress, she would do anything to get more power. Presumably this is a cover story because she doesn't want to admit it was due to her (weird) feelings for Michael, but it rang so hollow.

Star Trek has always been far from scientifically rigorous, but I never thought we'd see an exploded planet with a large chunk taken out of it...which somehow has not transformed into a molten ball and still has a breathable atmosphere. At least Tilly recognized how weird it was - presumably some future tech is involved. Again though, it kinda took me out of just "enjoying the show" early on and put me into nitpick mode.

Mixed feelings -

The bog standard western plot (complete with saloon doors and a bad guy wearing spurs) was...bog standard. It was a strange choice tonally considering this is supposed to be The Future and presumably the writers want us to think it's an alien place. But it did the job more or less.

Not sure how I feel about the "parasitic ice" thing. Trek has had worse science in the past, and I'd like a bit more technobabble to explain what the hell was going on, but I can live with it I suppose.

Finally, the baddie explicitly mentioned "V'Draysh" twice, which is presumably the word for Federation in the pidgin language he mentioned. This is the term that Craft used in Calypso, which means they are going to tie that Short Trek into continuity. My heart dropped a bit at that, because I've really not wanted that sweet standalone story ever really explained (and it has logistical issues which would require an episode of setup). On the other hand, if the uptime Federation is the V'Draysh, that at least means that Craft was really a "bad guy" - which I am happy about, because the idea that we had to make the Federation evil just because Craft was a good person was box of hammers stupid.

I'd still rate it - despite the slight improvement - 2.5 stars under Jammer's model. Not enough of an improvement for a three star episode IMHO.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Oct 15, 2020, 8:08am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 1

Overall, a resounding meh from me. Well, more a confusing mixture of things that I liked, and things which I did not.

On the positive side:

I enjoyed the change of story structure to focus on a single simple thread - the formation of the relationship between Michael and Book. As I said in another thread, I think that Kurtzman Trek has suffered from using essentially identical framing devices popular across serialized drama - the whole switching back and forth between different POVs omniscient narrator style. With the exception of the opener, this is basically told from Burnham's POV.

I thought the episode was well done in the VFX department, and they struck a good balance in terms of introducing futuristic tech/elements and giving a sense of what was lost. Michael was basically a stand-in for audience awe.

I instantly liked Book, and David Ajala really oozes charm as the character.

The last scene of the episode with Sahil partially redeemed what came before, as it packed an emotional punch that was missing earlier in the episode.

On the negative side:

Discovery's writers still don't seem to be able to understand naturalistic dialogue. Look, I realize that Michael is a fish out of water - and as viewers we need to be brought up to speed. But the way she spoke in this episode is simply not a way anyone actually talks. Worse, a lot of it was narratively unnecessary. A good example of this is when she first crashes on the planet, and immediately starts rambling to herself. It would have been better to just have the scene largely silent and rely on facial expressions. The later meet-cute with Book also didn't read right, in that she pivots from hand-to-hand combat to begging to tag along because...the story requires it I guess? The dialogue was bad enough that it broke my immersion in the story multiple times, which is really why I couldn't just sit back and enjoy the episode.

Separate from the writing, I don't think SMG was on her A-game here. I mean, she and Ajala are reading from the same script, but whereas his dialogue only feels a bit clunky, whereas she has many lines which cause a mental record scratch for me. She's fine as an actress overall, but IMHO has always been more suited to a supporting role, and has suffered a bit due to being paired with stronger actors throughout Discovery. Given this episode is more Michael-heavy than anything which has come before due to its structure, I feel like her limitations as an actor are even more on display than ever.

I did not think the combat scenes were well directed in this episode. The initial hand-to-hand fight between Michael and Book was strictly bush-league, and the later firefight was confusingly shot...just a mess of characters appearing and then being instantly vaporized.

Using Jammer's rating system, I'd say it's 2.5 stars. Just above average, and only that because the closing scene with Sahil redeemed the earlier flaws in the script and performance.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 20, 2020, 7:52am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: LD S1: Temporal Edict

The third episode is good, but not funny. IMHO this show succeeds more as a light drama than as comedy.

The good part of this episode is it inverts much of what was set up in the first few episodes. Mariner makes a legitimately bad call in this episode. Ransom turns out to not just be a dudebro, but a competent commander (if a bit full of himself). Boimler is shown to be able to thrive in certain situations.

However, I think a lot of people will have issues with how the Captain Freeman is portrayed. The central message (that she has high standards that she holds the crew to, which makes things much, much worse than before) is a good narrative core. However, in order to up the "comedy quotient" the show portrays the sleep-deprived crew without buffer time as constantly making mistakes. This means Freeman is shown to have a ridiculous level of obliviousness to how her own ship is falling apart. No Trek Captain other than Jonathan Archer has been portrayed in as negative a light as Freeman is here. Admittedly she "learns her lesson" by the end of the episode, but she's not new to command - she shouldn't be making rookie mistakes like this at this point in her career.

That said, it was a minor issue, because the episode itself worked from a dramatic standpoint, if not a comedic one.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 7:13am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: LD S1: Envoys

IMHO, Envoys is slightly better than the first episode. This is for several reasons:

1. They slowed the show down considerably. Aside from a few scenes, the episode's pacing does not feel that different from the average Trek episode.

2. There were coherent character arcs in both the A plot and the B plot this week. Not only that, but they both actually shared a common theme - the sacrifices people will make for the sake of their friends.

3. There were notably less attempts to make jokes. I only really laughed at one thing this week - the "Janeway protocol" - but it was way, way funnier than anything in the first episode. Aside from that though the episode was lighthearted but not trying to make us bust a gut. Which was fine, because it had heart in spades.

I'd also say the "memberberries" this time around are more visual than dropped in exposition, which would probably make the show a bit less annoying to people who hate that stuff.
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Karl Zimmerman
Tue, Aug 11, 2020, 8:14am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: LD S1: Second Contact

As I said upthread, I do think this should have been a "double feature" like most Trek pilots (meaning around 45 minutes or so). After all, the point of a pilot is to introduce you to all members of the main cast, and I think this episode failed at that, really only giving us insight into Mariner and Boimler.

Regarding the pacing, I felt it was a bit too rapid fire in a couple of situations as well. The opening cut with Mariner didn't work at all, and I wasn't really a fan of the ending of the episode either. That said, it's the pilot, and series typically get better as a season builds up steam. Hell, the first episode of The Orville was pretty painfully unfunny and one of the weakest episodes of the entire show.

Regarding Booming's point about the characters being kinda douchey - I agree. But if you want to show character growth across a series, you need to have them start in a somewhat unlikable place. Look at how Bashir and Kira were pretty unlikeable individuals for the first few seasons. So far the command crew seems competent, but with personality quirks and distant/uncaring about the individual ensigns (which makes sense, considering a fairly large crew and frequent crew rotations). I don't think we can say yet if they're going to stay douchebags or they will come to work together. I'd guess eventually they'll pivot to the latter, because there's only so much comedy you can get out of a static interpersonal dynamic.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:25pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: LD S1: Second Contact

As I said, I could see considering Boimler's arc an inversion/perversion of what we are trained to expect from Star Trek. However, in another sense it's the same as older Trek.

Trek, after all, has always basically said "respect the chain of command - unless it's someone higher up who is an antagonist, in which case, feel free to flout the rules, or openly defy them." From Decker in TOS, to Satie in TNG, to Leyton in DS9. Hell - wasn't the whole point of the TOS movie serialized arc from TWOK through TVH that Kirk chose comrades over duty?

Regarding the issue of the "simple plot" that CaptainMercer brings up - it's sort of baked into the concept of the show. If you follow around a bunch of ensigns they aren't going to be "saving the day" every week. Frankly I find it refreshing after two seasons of Discovery and a season of Picard with ridiculously high states (save the entire multiverse, then all life in the galaxy, then perhaps all life in the galaxy again) we have a show with very low stakes interpersonal drama instead.

Regarding this episode in particular, the zombie plague thing was really the c-plot of the episode, after Boimler's personal arc and Rutherford's date. And the spider slime thing was one of the funniest elements of the entire episode, because it was directly spoofing how frequently pat solutions to problems (often via technobabble) are suddenly discovered in the third act of Trek episodes.
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