As I was watching "Anomaly," I realized we've reached the Hallmark Greeting Card stage of the Trekkian technobabble episode. This episode is overly earnest Touchy Feely Trek taken to a level of near self-parody. It wants so badly to engage on an emotional level that it does so to the point of extreme pushiness, while failing to engage on the level I really wanted to meet it on, which was pseudo-intellectual. I wanted to understand what this anomaly was and how it kinda-sorta works, but that's beyond the scope of this episode, which is more about how everyone feels about everything that's happening.
Oh, sure, it pretends like it's all about the data and the research and the science of it all, but is it really? At one point, the anomaly causes all artificial gravity to go haywire and makes everyone float above their stations before being slammed back to the deck. That's a kinda cool visual, but most of the episode is the usual camera-shaking and sparks exploding that we've come to expect in Star Trek jeopardy shows for decades, and this episode pummels us with it relentlessly.
This is also a story that at one point, I think, alleges that black holes are not detectable, making the heading of this 5-light-year-across behemoth impossible to predict, which seems to fly in the face of both science and fiction. I could be misunderstanding what was actually said here, but that's precisely my point: This show bulldozes through the details so quickly to get to the next personal/emotional crisis (amid the camera shaking) that it can't be bothered to describe the supposedly important mechanics of the anomaly at hand. In the TNG days, the anomaly would've been explained in a conversation where the crew all talked it over, and we might even have gotten a nifty Okudagram. I miss those days. Now everyone is too busy dealing with their (and everyone else's) baggage to deal with the task at hand.
We've been moving in this direction for years with Discovery, and "Anomaly" pushes it into melodramatic and arty pretentiousness. This is the most sentimental hour of this series since Burnham said interminable goodbyes to her parents and Ash Freaking Tyler in "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 1." Most of the soul-searching is focused on Book. And, yes, he has a pretty good case for being emotionally compromised, what with his brother and nephew and homeworld being destroyed by the anomaly. But after about the third time Book was haunted by the image of his little nephew running through the corridor of his ship, I had reached my eye-roll breaking point.
This isn't awful so much as excessive. Or, I don't know, maybe it's kinda awful. I could get behind the idea of Stamets trying to connect with Book, and this tying back to their shared duties of piloting the spore drive, but some of this is so ham-handed that it becomes downright corny. There used to be a time when I wanted Star Trek shows to deal with their characters more. Now I just want them to deal with the sci-fi problems more. That might not be the case if the emotional journey weren't constantly explored in the middle of a crisis in such a contrived and superficial manner, while the music swells and the episode acts like the very universe hangs in the balance of these people's shattered lives.
Come to think of it, it might. If Book can't pull it together and navigate his ship out of danger and return with the all-important data that explains the galacticataclysmic anomaly, all will be lost. After all, Burnham announces at the outset that Discovery will study the anomaly and will figure something out, such that the fate of Kwejian doesn't happen ever again. After all, We Are Starfleet and We're Here to Help. Because, sure, maybe in the face of a tornado we can simply will the tornado out of existence with our good intentions — or at least study the tornado enough to invent an enhanced warning system that can save the lives of hundreds of townsfolk and allow Helen Hunt to finally get over the loss of her dad.
I know. I'm being mean. It's more fun at the moment than wading through this dirge-like exercise in earnestness, something which proves self-defeating because the characters stop being relatable and feel like avatars for the script's self-importance. After the lengths the crew goes through to retrieve the data, they learn that it won't help them predict where it's going, because it simply changes direction on a whim, against all known laws of physics. So, mission not accomplished. Not yet, anyway.
We thought you was a toad:
- Saru's back, and he takes the place as Burnham's first officer. Fine and good.
- I love how everything shakes and the bass rumbles amid the crisis, except when we slow down for Really Important Heartfelt Dialogue, like when Burnham speaks to Book while inside her privacy chamber (LOL, eye-roll). Then everything gets deathly quiet, and the seconds the characters supposedly have to react stretch into decades.
- The initial shot of the anomaly is a major disappointment. Everyone looks at it in serious, amazed, hushed tones, but it's a bunch of white sparkly things with no context for scale or whatever the hell we're supposed to be looking at. The final pull-back, fortunately, is much more impressive and ominous — although it hints at an Armageddon scale that this show frankly doesn't need to be repeating, especially if it's all filtered through the characters' emotional journeys anyway.
- I did laugh at Tilly's awkward mood-breaker after asking for Saru's professional ear. The show needs more self-awareness like this to break through its ever-seriousness.
- The fact the anomaly moves at apparent random apart from any sort of sensible physics — and the fact it has an energy cloud around it that sensors can't penetrate — definitely has me suspecting some sort of intelligent superbeing lies at its center, not unlike V'Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
- Color me impatient with Gray's quest for a synthetic body, mostly because the show still hasn't bothered to explain what Gray actually is, and Gray himself is pretty lame/annoying as a would-be character so far, as evidenced by his concern over a mole on his synthetic body's hand. Is Gray merely a piece of Adira's psyche/symbiont, or an actual lifeform that somehow exists separately? (If the latter, then how?) Culber says he will be able to transfer Gray's consciousness into a synthetic body, and he even name-drops the sister-show example of Picard doing it 900 years earlier, but it's not exactly the same thing, is it? Picard was actually a living person in a living body. Whatever.
Previous episode: Kobayashi Maru
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