"All Is Possible" is evidence that Discovery is trying. It's trying to build out the universe, develop and empathize with its characters, and adhere to a storytelling philosophy that relies on dialogue rather than overblown action. It's also, as I've said previously, trying to be the Trek show most in touch with its feelings. If you look back at the first season versus this one, that's the most notable shift in priority. In order to be at peace with the universe, our characters must first be at peace with themselves.
That can make the show cloying and treacly at times, and this episode has its moments of that, but at least its heart is in the right place. "All Is Possible" focuses on three main storylines, with two of them being about a central character dilemma, and the third one being the most interesting and series-impacting with its focus on Federation politics.
Let's start with that one. Discovery has been dispatched to observe the meeting between the Federation delegation and Ni'Var, which is on the verge of rejoining the Federation, but with some serious sticking points around Ni'Var wanting an exit clause (a precedent Rillak can't endorse, lest everyone demand one) that threatens an impasse and possible collapse of the talks. Burnham and Saru attend the conference, with orders not to interfere, but those orders are not what they seem to be at face value. In fact, President Rillak wants them there as back-channel negotiators — with Burnham negotiating for Rillak and Saru for Ni'Var's President T'Rina.
This is kind of fascinating, and plays to some of the subtleties of Trekkian diplomacy that I enjoy. Everyone wants to get this done, but it's not as simple as that, because other requirements must be met for both parties, and these requirements come into conflict. The fact that Ni'Var's reasons for wanting an exit clause tie back into the threat of the ominous DMA is another point in favor of the idea that — for now, at least — the DMA is working better as something that impacts political policy rather than providing a ticking time-bomb for the season arc. Yes, the solution to the diplomatic problem makes one slightly roll one's eyes (must all narrative roads inevitably flow through Burnham, and do her connections to the Vulcans really still hold water when they are more than 900 years out of date?), but aside from that detail this is pretty solid, well-articulated material.
The B-story involving Tilly's fateful leadership mission to accompany some Starfleet cadets and assist them with their team-building — only to end up in a Shuttle Crash™ and a desperate survival situation — is a pretty standard affair. Nothing really to write home about here. There's snow and ice and a mountain ascent and a couple giant spider creatures and a bunch of cadets who don't like each other and who come from different backgrounds and we all have to learn how to listen and accept one another and get along before the spiders eat us. Fine and good, although I love how there's time for a big heartfelt discussion where Tilly has everyone get to know one another as a team-building exercise just as the spiders conveniently decide to slow their previously furious attack.
The unexpected headline here is that this experience gets Tilly invited to a permanent teaching position at Starfleet Academy, which she accepts. There's poignancy in the idea that Tilly worked so hard for her promotion to lieutenant only for it to ring hollow because she was doing it to appease a mother who is 900 years in the past and will never witness her achievement. Why did she bother, anyway? She's not sure. Kovich's offer to teach gives her a fresh start to try something else, and why not? Life is short.
The C-story continues Book's grieving arc, which works here because it's part of a legitimate healing process that deals specifically with Book's Kwejian culture (while acknowledging how that culture has been annihilated, which means Book will never be the same and his acceptance of that fact is the first step). Culber, who now doubles as the ship's counselor as well as doctor, helps make a lot of this work, with insights into the grieving process that have an authentic ring to them.
"All Is Possible" does enough right without being riveting such that I can endorse it. It mostly keeps its focus on what's important, seems genuinely interested in what the future of the Federation might look like, and it doesn't make any major missteps. A low-key win.
"A, always. B, be. C, closing. Always be closing":
- Even though Tilly accepts Kovich's offer and is leaving the ship, Mary Wiseman is not leaving the series. But unless we're going to be spending a lot of time with her at Starfleet Academy, I have to imagine her role will be significantly reduced. This means other cast members (and there are plenty of them to pick from; please do so, show) will need to fill the void.
- Speaking of Kovich, wasn't he Starfleet Intelligence? Why is he at the Academy now?
- Did I detect some hints of flirtation between T'Rina and Saru? Heh.
- Gray has this new lease on life and a new body, but still seems trapped in the role of being an inner-dialogue accessory to Adira. Honestly, what's the point if he's only going to interact with Adira and remain cooped up in their quarters? Shouldn't Gray be using this newfound freedom to interact with other people on the ship? Let's broaden this character, please.
- Hoping to return a favor of healing, Book asks if Culber has anything personally painful he wants to share. Culber has something, all right, but he's not sharing.
Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.