Star Trek: Discovery
"Choose to Live"
Air date: 12/2/2021
Written by Terri Hughes Burton
Directed by Christopher J. Byrne
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Choose to Live" is the best episode of Discovery in a very long time, since maybe "Die Trying." It works because it mostly keeps its stories grounded and straightforward, rather than excessive and overwrought, and puts forward sincere interest in them. Instead of shaking the camera for an hour while artificially employing emotional manipulation, it tells a reasonably good story and lets the emotional notes grow naturally from it. This is a major course correction that, while not a groundbreaking or stellar example of Trek, is a good example of it, and gives me hope that this season might be able to find its footing.
Stamets has a theory that the gravimetric anomaly, now dubbed the dark-matter anomaly or "DMA," might be a primordial wormhole, thereby explaining its ability to change directions spontaneously. I'm not going to pretend I think this makes any scientific sense, because I honestly don't keep track of the sci-fi minutiae within Trek beyond its most core elements. But as long as they convince me the details are being considered by somebody in the moment and they try to explain them, I'm game. In this case, they make the case that Stamets is lacking the key evidence he needs for his wormhole theory in the presence of tachyons (which were a key clue to DS9's wormhole, so hey, there's that). So he wants more scientific minds beyond the Federation's to look into the possibility.
This works as a means to an end to showcase problem-solving by our characters, who are in the middle of this, and to bring in others — most notably, the Vulcan and Romulan scientific minds on Ni'Var — who want to cooperate in the larger mutual interest. In what's a massive relief, at least for now, the DMA currently poses no immediate risk to nearby star systems, thereby making it the impetus for Federation and non-Federation members to work together to solve an urgent crisis, but without turning the season into an overheated ticking clock (again, at least for now). I think the DMA is far more interesting and valuable as a mysterious threat that spurs actions by our characters and speaks to the current interstellar political situation than something that artificially creates absurd galaxy-ending stakes. Bringing Ni'Var into the storyline — and using President T'Rina (Tara Rosling) as a key and well-played familiar face — is an important piece that helps with Discovery's much-needed world-building and credibility. This should not be discounted. By not having this episode so confined to the decks of Discovery, the episode opens things up considerably.
For our characters' part, this puts Stamets and Booker in the middle of the cooperative investigation, with Book again providing the primary emotional fulcrum as the only surviving eyewitness to the anomaly. He wants to provide any information that may be helpful, regardless of how reliving the trauma may affect him personally. Stamets, for his part, tries to keep Book out of emotional harm's way, but Book isn't having it, and it's good to see this getting back to basics (without losing sight of the characters) after last week's sentimental overreaches. The writers even manage to bring more meaning to Book's memories of his last moments with his nephew (with some mind-meld assistance) by actually telling an emotional story about it rather than getting lost in the superficial tragedy of it all. If they had done this from the start, I wouldn't have mocked it so much last week. There's a difference between hollow sentimentality and emotional character study, and this episode finds and understands the difference.
Meanwhile, in the main plot, a Qowat Milat nun named J'Vini (Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves) beams aboard a Starfleet vessel and steals its dilithium. In the process, she kills a Starfleet officer who refuses to stand down when she directs him to "choose to live." The Qowat Milat, created for Picard, actually turn out to be a more significant piece of world-building on Discovery, between this and last season's "Unification III." Burnham is assigned to track down the murderer/thief, since we certainly can't have dilithium piracy and the murder of Starfleet officers becoming a thing. This also means the resurfacing of Michael's mother, Gabrielle Burnham (Sonja Sohn, whose presence I will seldom argue against), who has a personal stake in this as a member of the Qowat Milat. J'Vini is not only one of her nun sisters, but the very person who, when Gabrielle emerged in this century, guided her into the life she now lives. Naturally, this increases the personal stake for Michael. This story finds the right balance between the personal and professional stakes.
Aside from the unnecessary (and frequently repeated) contrivance of making J'Vini into a heedless, murdering pirate in order to power the plot (if she's such a skilled fighter, why couldn't she find a way to stop the Starfleet officer without killing him, and why doesn't she try communicating with her pursuers rather than coming in with swords swinging?) this mostly works. Gabrielle's insistence that J'Vini must have a reason for what she's doing and that "reasons matter" is a much more interesting idea to engage with than the simplicity of hunting down a faceless villain. And the ultimate uncovering of her "lost cause" — something to which a Qowat Milat will commit unswervingly — is done with a not-trivial amount of Trekkian interest, exploration, and visual storytelling.
And, yes, there are some stupidly contrived things here. Like the idea of the team not arming themselves with phasers because that would send the wrong message (to the overcommitted zealot who comes in swinging anyway). Or putting Tilly in the middle of such a combat-heavy scenario when it's admitted up front that combat is her least-strong attribute (she should've been dead in that first attack). But it's hard to argue with the charm of Tilly's self-awareness as she frequently notes, "This is way out of my comfort zone." And this episode — and I can't stress it enough — tells an actual, effective story in the progress. Burnham & Co. ultimately help the "lost cause" by brokering a deal with J'Vini, fixing the alien technology, and awakening the alien population she's protecting, and allowing them to finish their migration. It's a good Trekkian resolution that is sincerely played all around.
In the C-plot, we have Adira and Gray and the attempt to put Gray in his new body. But don't groan, because the writers actually make this work too! First of all, while we don't have full details, they at least make it mostly clear that what we're dealing with in Gray is a rare effect of the Trill symbiont. They make this even more credible by bringing in Trill Guardian Xi (Andreas Apergis) from "Forget Me Not." So that's something beyond "Gray is a magic ghost." And at least we're dealing with the true risk of Gray's consciousness being lost forever if the transfer into the synthetic body fails. And thus a real risk for Adira. A betting person would not in a million years bet on this failing and ending in tragedy, but as these things go, this was pretty nicely done, and way better than what we've suffered through with Gray and Adira in previous episodes, including the one immediately before this ("Can you remove the mole from my hand?"). Now that Gray is here in the flesh, can this character become something more and better? Time will tell. For this week, I can get on board.
"Choose to Live" chose to tell three complete stories, and Discovery is better off for it.
"I wrote little haiku poems. I emailed them to everyone.":
- The political situation here is intriguing. J'Vini should be charged for her crimes, including murder, but it's unclear whether that will actually happen, because President Rillak agrees to have her extradited back to Ni'Var in the interests of greasing diplomatic wheels, because she really needs Ni'Var to rejoin the Federation and wants to do everything she can to make that happen. Rillak as a pragmatic political operative who is trying to work on the greater good is an angle of the character and the show that could be valuable.
- On the political maneuvering, Admiral Vance has something to say about it, in the form of a long, metaphorical monologue I thought was nicely done. Even nicer was the writers' self-awareness around the Meaningful Moment when Burnham notes the fancy metaphor and Vance replies, "They pay me by the letter." This guy is great.
- On the swordplay, I still find it silly that even in the 32nd century we're still dealing with this ancient tradition. The Qowat Milat may be great fighters, and it might make for more cinematic action, but let's face it — they should always lose their fights because of their inferior technology. Hence the plot's need to bend over backward such that our heroes don't bring their phasers to a swordfight.
- Saru is doing his Wise Saru Thing. Well, except for sending Tilly on a combat-heavy mission because she has a certain thing for diplomacy. That works okay when your enemy gives you a minute to talk, which J'Vini doesn't seem prepared to do, until she finally does. So maybe Saru is wisest after all.
Previous episode: Anomaly
Next episode: All Is Possible
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90 comments on this post
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:03am (UTC -5)
I'm not gonna bother to review this entire episode, but i choose one scene that to me stood out and resumed the entire mindset of these season. The Vulcan lady suggests a mind meld with Book, to uncover more data ( that could be crucial to understand the anomaly, non the less) and Stamets immediatelly intervenes, stating that he cant allow Book to be traumatised again! WTF! There is a galaxy destroing theat (of couse) that need to be understanded to be solved, and you're objecting to that so a guy doesn't have to feel the sorrow of losing people he loved again? How many million lives are at stake again?
And it's not like decades had past and Book's emotional wounds had healed, just to be open again. That literally hapened days apart. He is still grieving anyway. These people have no sense of priorities! In Star Trek VI, spock did a mind meld against Valeris will (a clear violation) to reveal the identity of the conspirator and i don't remember Kirk screaming: "Oh my god spock, you can't do that! You can't violate that woman's mind to prevent a war thar can end a civilization! And that act was in fact very questionable, but necessary.
For the rest, was the usual "officers" being over emotional and akward, as always.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:07am (UTC -5)
The A plot involving Michael, Tilly, and Michael's mom hunting down the "rogue" Qowat Milat was great almost all of the way through. Unlike the Qowat Milat cameo in Season 3's Unification III, it actually felt like there was some story purpose to including them here rather than just a Picard memberberry. The inclusion of Tilly was somewhat random, but I've gotten used to including Tilly in missions for random reasons - and her character works best when allowed to be the "comic relief" in an episode anyway. But the episode actually felt like it was interested in somewhat deepening the worldbuilding already done by Chabon. This focus on worldbuilding is somewhat of a rarity for Discovery, and was welcome - as was the introduction of a new species rather than just showing a familiar face in peril. The episode gets dinged a bit however because Michael's "why don't we just fix the cryostasis?" proposal is blindingly obvious. I understand that the QM warrior was not a scientist, but...really, she didn't think of that? Came across as the Idiot Ball trope - that the writers didn't know how to make the episode work without putting in an obvious solution to the viewers/everyone other than the antagonist. On the other hand, I loved the conclusion of the episode, where she is remanded to Ni'Var's custody and is presumed to have gotten off scot-free. I absolutely love it when Trek doesn't give us pat answers/conclusions, and this had some shades of DS9.
I have mixed feelings on the B plot regarding Grey finally being incorporated. I did appreciate the use of existing Trill lore, and seeing Guardian Xi again from Forget Me Not - both were nice uses of continuity. And although the episode didn't hit me the way that that one did (which is my favorite of the series so far) I did get genuine feels at moments for Adira and Gray's relationship - something which hasn't happened in ages. I'm also happy that this "arc" is finally over and they can move on to doing new things with the characters. That said, I didn't like how they stretched out the incorporation process for teh dramaz, even if the scenes in the interim with Adira and Culber were good, as the outcome of the process was never in doubt for us as viewers. I also...don't know what to think about the implication that there was some sort of "Grey soul" floating around before it connected with the synth body, which could actually sense Adira. Seems to fly in the face of the materialism of Star Trek.
The C plot involving Stamets and Book on Ni'Var initially seemed like a waste of air time, but the payoff was great with the mind meld scene. I am glad that they didn't have Book suddenly "better" when on the verge of suicide last week. This could work as a conclusion of the "Book is fucked up" character arc, though some additional scenes later in the series would be fine with me. Stamets didn't get anything to do other than be grumpy and shoot off technobabble, but that's Stamets 90% of the time anyway.
Aside from that there were various "character moment" scenes which didn't fit neatly elsewhere, like Tilly's discussions with Saru (which were pretty transparently put there so Saru had something to do in this episode). I found these less grating than last week overall, because there was at least a feeling that the characters are going somewhere rather than just spinning their wheels in an attempt to fill up air time.
I would rate this a three star episode personally. Good, but not great.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:25am (UTC -5)
The other plot strands of the episode were much better though, IMO. The scenes on Ni'Var with Stamets and Book had some very good things going on. Stamets now unfortunately finds himself with a theory about the nature of the anomaly that's not borne out by the facts, and feels guilty that Book had to relive the memory of Kwejian being destroyed to figure that out. Book assuring him that "it wasn't for nothing" is a heart-warming moment. He's not over his grief by any means, but he's starting to be able to deal with it healthily. Good stuff from Tony Rapp and David Ajala (and Tara Rosling as Ni'Var President T'Rina, TBH). It was a pity that the episode couldn't spend more time on this plot - it would have been nice to see the Vulcan scientists actually working on what the anomaly is rather than just shooting down Stamets' theory. Still, we were never going to get answers in Episode 3.
The Trill scenes, with the effort to reincorporate Gray into a synthetic body, kinda worked too. The reappearance of Xi was a nice "hooray for continuity!" moment. Blu del Barrio playing Adira with an appropriate level of panic when it looks like things haven't worked. Wilson Cruz continues to shine as Culber. I can see this plot dividing opinion (because oh noes, the LGBTQ+ agenda!!!111one :p), but I didn't particularly mind it.
As for the 'A' Plot, annoyances abound. The resolution felt unsatisfactory on many levels which I think is maybe what the writer intended - it mirrors Burnham's clear dissatisfaction with the deal. But it could still have done with not feeling quite so...trite. J'Vini murdered a Starfleet officer. Her actions led to several other deaths. And she gets to go back to Ni'Var to face an uncertain amount of justice just because the Abronians were saved? With all the time that the episode spent on this plot, it could and should have been resolved with a bit more weight than it was. SMG and Sonja Sohn both utterly murdered much of the material that the writer handed them, which didn't really help matters. Hopefully that's Gabrielle out of the way again for a bit. And the resolution to the actual problem (the cryostasis pods not bringing the Abronians out of sleep) got fixed a bit too easily for me. Chalk one up for Michael Burnham, Galactic Hero, Famed In Song And Story™ I guess...
On a brighter note, Doug Jones continues to impress as Saru. Oded Fehr got a bit more to say as Vance this week, which was enjoyable. And Chelah Horsdal continues to be good as Federation President Rillak - she's a lot more willing to compromise in the pursuit of the greater good (rebuilding the Federation) than Burnham is, which makes for a neat contrast.
But...man. When the whole 'A' Plot of an episode makes you want to throw things...
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:37am (UTC -5)
I'll be honest, I found Michael's demands for "justice" to be a bit antiquated and not fitting with the Federation ethos. Particularly because Michael brought up his partner and children. The implication is that we haven't grown beyond the desire to see that those who have wronged us suffer (even if presumably it's in a humane facility). There's also no real-world evidence that sentencing of murderers actually brings any sense of closure to the victim's families.
The rogue QM had been neutralized as a threat. She will no longer steal dilithium or put the lives of any Federation officers at risk. It also served as an example to others who might choose to do the same thing that Starfleet will investigate and apprehend them. Surely in the grand scheme of things that's enough?
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:52am (UTC -5)
How can you said that? Justice its one of the Federation pinnacles, justice is not vengeance. Yes, the rebel was apprehended but if she is set free, then what?
For the rest of the episode, I find boring as hell, same as the previous episodes.
And they cant even continue their on continuity, 2 of the QM that attacked the first officer, were males..
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 9:08am (UTC -5)
We don't actually know if she was set free. Michael implies that may happen, but it's more accurate to say the matter was taken out of the Federation's hands entirely.
Justice is a very fuzzy/subjective concept - and encompasses a lot more than just the criminal justice system. However, I really don't see other than (possibly) assuaging the feelings of the victim's family what difference it makes in this case if the QM individual is imprisoned in a Federation facility. For all we know, the culture of the spouse would seek to have the perpetrator executed - or even something more extreme, like their family executed - which wouldn't comport with Federation ethics anyway.
The beginning of the episode explicitly says the other individuals are mercenaries, even if they were wielding blades like the QM.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 9:12am (UTC -5)
Serves the purpose of putting away and even maybe rehabilitate a dangerous person, so you avoid that she/he kills again.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 9:51am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 10:00am (UTC -5)
What a thing for a social scientist to say! Needless to say this is not encapsulating of all the elements that are supposed to go into the criminal justice system. And that's to say nothing of the fact that "justice" may supercede and in fact have little to do with the criminal justice system. A bad criminal justice system, for instance, would not be considered "justice" by most people who live under a better system, so the particulars of the system do not in and of themselves define what justice is (unless you're a social constructionist).
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 10:01am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 10:25am (UTC -5)
I meant the criminal justice system which is impersonal societal vengeance or punishment. Justice in a broader sense can of course mean many things. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
I can even look away after Stamets got hysterically angy at the Vulcans for confirming what he already knew himself: his theory is wrong.
But how do you stomach the laugh out loud decision to assign Tilly to bring in J'Vini?
They're up against trained assassins who have already killed Federation officers. On the first joint mission of vital importance to the Vulcans and Romulans rejoining the Federation... And you pick Lieutentant Stumblebum? Of course it all worked out because the plot said it would. But with no relevant combat expertise she should have been a body on the deck in the first minute of the attack.
And don't get me started on their decision to simply release this unknown race from stasis. Let them leave the planet, we'll wave and hold each other as they spread out across the quadrant. I guess no one remembers the Vaad'waur anymore.
And did anyone doubt for a second Gray's transfer to the android clone wouldn't work? It's drama for drama's sake. And where do we go from here? Will we be getting a retread of the Culber/Stamets storyline after the good doctor returned from mushroom hell?
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 1:30pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
The QM aspect involving her mum is so convoluted it’s a waste of an episode. It was bad in season 3.
Now it’s just utter shite.
Watching Discovery is the weekly repetitive triumph of disappointment over hope.
If it stopped now I wouldn’t care.
But I’ll still watch the next one.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
1, 2, 3...
The Kuhwat Malat Lady's motivation for murdering a Starfleet Officer is BULLSHIT. That's shitty writing, for a character we have JUST MET and are TOLD to care about (they didn't even bother with a flashback) by having one character talk about her to another character.
This is bad writing, and it's been a running theme on this show, even from Seasons 1 and 2, up through the present. Stop telling me why I should care, and write a story that makes me care. I don't care, ok? You have not earned my caring about this story because of TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, Lower Decks, Picard, any of the Feature Films, none of it earns Discovery the right to just presume I will care because they tell me to.
This show has gone completely off the rails, and perhaps I'm just more stubborn than most people, because I am only now starting to realize, Discovery is never ever going to stop CHEATING with its writing this way. It's a problem that began on Voyager and has grown and metastasized in the franchise to the point where it's now a bloated zombified HUSK of what it used to be (i.e., usually pretty good drama).
You have not done the work of causing me to care. You do everything with either CGI or EXTREME amounts of impassioned and forced "emotional" dialogue. You have no grasp of symbolism or allegory or literary allusion, at all. You are telling me to care, instead of creating situations in which a person WOULD care. I bet all the actors on this show despise the writing staff, and I do too.
Good Lord. Can you not even pick up one piece of literature?!?!? Alice In Wonderland was a nonsensical fantasy written by a very ridiculous satirist. Do you read books at all, Michelle? Or is that too much work for you?
"It would pose quite a problem in logic. Forgive me, Mr. Spock, I sometimes expect too much of you."
Geez. I may just skip next week and wait for the review. This show is making me actively angry as a fan of good drama, even over and above being a fan of Star Trek in general.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:28pm (UTC -5)
Give up hope. That is the only way. :)
And hey you who likes this show. That is fine, too. Have fun!
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
I have a real hatred for plots that revolve around conflicts between two well-meaning parties who both agree on the same principles that would have been avoided by either one of the parties taking literally one second to talk to the other.
That Qowat Milat knows exactly what the Federation is about. The Federation knows exactly what the Qowat Milat are about.
There was no reason to steal the dilithium or kill that officer. She could have literally just asked. "I need this dilithium to save an alien race. I can't tell you the details. Verify I am who I say I am with Ni'Var." One thirty-second subspace phone call later and she's on her way with some dilithium. Dumb dumb dumb dumb DUMB.
. . .
Look! All you complainers got a (for all intents and purposes) stand-alone episode. Did you like it? Are you happy? :p
. . .
Guess they didn't feel like paying any of the recurring cast this week, eh? No scenes on the bridge. Barely any extras at all, in fact.
. . .
We never get to meet an Abronian? We get barely anything about them? Can you imagine TOS or TNG approaching this same basic plot setup in anything close to the same way? Exploring. Diplomatic contact. It's why you're out there. You didn't even try, Michael? It's just . . . not very Star Trek to wake up some aliens, watch them fly away, and then leave. I don't care if you promised (and when has THAT ever stopped you?). It's . . . *A* story that can be told about running across an alien race while exploring the galaxy, sure. It just really doesn't feel like a *STAR TREK* story to tell, to me.
Am I making sense? Am I alone in this?
. . .
I'm really tired of the characters acting like they're just smarter (well, scientifically) and more capable (in skills) versions of present day humans, too. I'm glad Book was like "no, obviously I've got to do this mind meld, DUH" when Stamets was all concerned about him confronting his "trauma." Listen. Miles O'Brien spent 20 years in solitary confinement in an alien prison after snapping his only companion's neck over a piece of bread and forty minutes later he was fine, okay? Nut up, Discovery. Jesus. Enough of everyone wanting to feel emotionally safe all the time and needing reassurance and validation. Come on. That was not the moment. The needs of the many, as Spock would say.
Has psychotherapy not advanced at all in 1200 years? What about prisoner rehabilitation? Kirk beamed down to at least two colonies concerned with the intersection of both (and, uh, things went fine both times!). Tom Paris's penal colony was basically a therapeutic work program in a tropical paradise.
Troi fixed Barclay. Book lost his planet and Stamets's response is "NO DON'T MAKE HIM THINK ABOUT IT YOU MONSTER." Burnham wasn't interested in turning the Qowat Milat into a functional, productive member of society. She wanted vengeance.
What's your vision of the future, Discovery? Did it even occur to you to ask how differently these things might be thought of and handled in the future?
No. It did not.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 9:41pm (UTC -5)
"What's your vision of the future, Discovery? Did it even occur to you to ask how differently these things might be thought of and handled in the future?
No. It did not."
I think you may want to consider the following proposition: what if it did occur to them how things would be in the future, and this is actually what they think it is? What if some people in the present believe they have finally solved what being a good human being is - an utter triumph of moral reason and sophistication - and the manifestation of this superior belief is that one day in the far future everyone will eventually subscribe to the exact belief that these few enlightened souls now already possess?
I am not altogether sure this proposition is far from the truth in the case of some people. To be fair, through history there have always been egoists who believe they have finally cracked the code of the universe and know all the answers, but with one difference: most people in history still believed *in* history and felt that they had built successfully on the wisdom passed down to them. The new intellectuals believe that everyone in history was stupid and immoral, so that only now can anyone have merit. As exhibit A of this theory, check out ST: PIC, where the TNG model of human enlightenment is shown to be an ivory tower entitled sham.
So let's say I'm right: imagine this, but THEN imagine this mindset being coopted by shallow Hollywood sycophants looking to cash in on a trend. So not only is it a theory you may happen to disagree with, but in addition it's a conspicuously vacuous portrayal of that theory.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
The Qowat Milat lady (Javeni?) who helped Burnham's mom is stealing dilithium to help some unknown species (scene reminded me of "Prometheus") gets off -- the FedPres says "justice will be served in time" after a Federation officer is killed is BS, but there are political reasons at play. Wish this felt more impactful somehow. The Federation needs Ni'Var I guess just because it wants to rebuild/reconnect, but for now basic justice can be dismissed... But this is not a first on Trek (reminded of Lester from "Turnabout Intruder" as one example).
The Gray/Adira subplot continues to irritate me -- what is the purpose? I feel like I ask this every DSC episode. Is Gray going to play some role in resolving the anomaly plot? That would appear to be a stretch. The whole thing about Gray in the body, Adira holding his hand -- was there ever any doubt that it would all work out? It's all arbitrary crap.
I think the best part for me was Admiral Vance explaining to Burnham about the FedPres being the conductor of an orchestra, how he is the rhythm section etc. Again the series is making an effort to impart wisdom to the brash Burnham. Really like Oded Fehr's acting.
But again this episode is weighed down by too much Maudlin. There's Culber with Adira ("we're all here for you Adira"), Saru with Tilly, Saru with Culber, Burnham with Book, Adira and Gray. So it is pretty clear that this is DSC's calling card -- excessive melodrama -- trying to force the viewer to believe something is extremely emotionally relevant instead of being able to impart it organically.
2 stars for "Choose to Live" -- not as annoying as "Anomaly" but still with plenty of the typical DSC flaws. The episode needed to be more focused and is trying to juggle too many balls at once. I'd really like these writers to simplify their own task by doing a somewhat standalone episode.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 12:02am (UTC -5)
now, its the everybody cries and everybody needs a safe space show. okay. you know, in principle i have no issue with such a show. its not for me, but i acknowledge my priviledge and say more power to that show and its target audience.
however: i cannot imagine a setting that is less compatible with such topics as the "dun dun dun, THE UNIVERSE IS IN DANGER" backdrop that DSC still clings to. i think thats why this feels so incredibly forced and out of place.
like, its not like TNG didnt have moments like these. personal stuff. it actually had lots and lots. but you know when they had stuff like this happen? in episodes where the enterprise was transporting a few diplomats to an upcoming archeology TED talk or something.
in THAT context, that felt natural.
now, imagine a barclay-troi scene in the middle of "first contact". or go straight to the top of the command chain, like DSC insists to do:
"captain, the cube is shooting quantum torpedo ish thingies at earth"
"that may be so number one, but you cannot expect me to go through my trauma again, you monster"
i thus have to fully agree with @MidshipmanNorris:
these writers simply do not have a clue. ah well, at least they have a cast of formidable actors that make even the most cringeworthy plotting digesta...oh, wait.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 12:51am (UTC -5)
Season 4 episode 3, Choose to Live
“This is our moment … to show why restoring the Federation is so critical. We cannot do that without Nevar. We also can’t do it if those who attack us don’t see our strength.”
- Federation President Laira Rillak provides a clear problem-statement for this episode
3 stars (out of 4)
I agree with @Karl Zimmerman that the clear A/B/C structure helps shape this episode into an actually enjoyable hour of TV. For that, kudos must go to the writer, Terri Hughes Burton, who has clearly done her homework. Most of what holds this episode back from being great boils down, as the hilarious @mosley says, to several mediocre actors. Ms. Burton can hardly be held responsible for that.
One of the great structural elements of this episode is the work on sussing out what the anomaly is. Last week @Jammer wrote "I wanted to understand what this anomaly was and how it kinda-sorta works, but that's beyond the scope of this episode,” and lo, here it is. Stamets has a theory. He has 4 out of 5 prongs of his theory satisfied with the data they collected last week. He really, really wants to jump ahead and assume that his theory is right. But there is a method here. Until we go through the process, we should be careful about jumping to conclusions.
I can almost see Geordi and Data nodding their heads in agreement.
@James Smith wants a little more time at the Vulcan Science Academy - oh sorry, they rebranded, its now Nevar - but the truth is that watching people sit around and think - well, that’s not exactly riveting TV. “Could we discuss the schedule for the day? Science first, nap later.” Finally Stamets gets an actually funny line!
Ms. Burton has written a few key scenes that convey the scientific method fairly well, which is a huge improvement from the ridiculous “This is the Power of Math” crap we’ve seen on Discovery in the past.
Now let’s get to the the A story. It is competently done. Clear problem of the week - rogue nuns robbing and killing. Decent procedural steps. Yes there are a few logical problems - if the Bene Gesserit are so powerful in the Navar political structure, why didn’t they just tell the government they needed dilithium for a lost cause? (h/t @Jeffrey's Tube). But then again, the writers are not really competent enough to set up a plot without these types of convolutions. I said the writing is better. I didn’t say it was actually great.
There seems to be a great hue and cry from @Norvo and @Rahul about including Tilly on the mission. @Karl Zimmerman chalks this up to no one on the show knowing how organizations actually work. Two points,
First, in actual organizations it was fairly common - and still a practice in some parts - to take along a young woman to big meetings in order to disarm and put the other side as ease. It used to be because they were hot. Now in Discovery’s progressive future, it is evidently because they are fat and bumbling and make everyone comfortable. Feminism! In any case, taking an unqualified young woman along is a tried and tested organizational behavior.
Second, I immediately thought of the scene back in Season 3’s “Far from Home,” where Suru took Tilly along. Back then, @Cody B had some pretty harsh words,
"Now Tilly. Tilly makes Neelix look like Einstein. They might as well just have Tilly walk around in a clown outfit and makeup. The schtick sucks. We get it. Just a fun and ditzy girl out here in space!"
Which I admit did make me laugh. But here is what I wrote in my 3-star review of that episode,
"Tilly did her Tilly thing. But Saru is right - she is disarming, and makes for a fine first impression, if the first impression you want to give is that we pose absolutely zero threat ;)"
Ms. Burton, as I said, has done her homework, and just about 6 weeks ago she retweeted that exact scene of Tilly and Saru from “Far from Home.”
So it makes complete sense that Saru would recommend her for the job. Saru is at least as good a first officer as Spock. Which is a good thing, given the quality of the captain.
Next, let’s talk about the ending. First of all, can we all give Thanks to The Great Bird of the Galaxy that the Big Speech this week was not from Michael, but the infinitely better Admiral Vance. Like @Rahul, I can only hope Burhnam takes the message to heart. She might be the young violist with a showy solo, but the adults are still in charge. Play when you’re told; play what you’re told; mind your own fucking business; and the show can go on.
I’m glad they didn’t actually conduct an extradition hearing. I think we’ve had quite enough of those with Riker (“Matter of Perspective”), Jadzia (“Dax”), Worf ("Rules of Engagement”), not to mention several times on other scifi shows (the Babylon 5 pilot was basically an extended extradition hearing for Sinclair).
@James Smith points out that for once Michael is giving voice to some members of the audience who have more rigid demands of Justice. I’m going to have to disagree with @Karl Zimmerman that Michael's feelings are out of place. This nun killed a Federation Commander. The lust for vengeance is real. Remember Kirk,
That’s why it is best that these decisions be left to the President.
As Admiral Vance said two weeks ago, that’s what politicians are for.
In two of the prior examples of extradition (Riker, Worf), the decision rested with a uniformed officer who was bound by the rules by which he or she was given a commission. In “Dax," it was an old Bajoran woman and only the Prophets know what rules she was following. Here the unease comes from the fact that the President doesn’t have to follow any of those procedures. She’s not a Judge and she’s not in uniform. She’s accountable to the folks that elected her. If they don’t like what she did, they’ll pick someone else next time. Laira Rillak is right, there are bigger issues at stake here. This isn’t a criminal justice decision. This is politics.
Starfleet officers are called upon to give their lives for the sake of larger goals all the time. Kirk and Bones at Rura Penthe. It comes with the job. If Michael doesn’t like it, she can sign up for therapy, like evidently half the people on this ship.
Finally the issue of Gray’s anatomy. Not too annoying. As @James Smith said, maybe this is all for the lgbt’s - who knows - but like @Karl Zimmerman, “Forget me Not” is my all-time Discovery favorite, and I appreciate the continuity. It is crazy to think that Discovery did both the Bene Gesserit and the Synth body better than Picard. Picard may truly be the worst Star Trek ever made.
Contrary to the doom and gloom emanating from Germany (surprise, surprise), I find myself looking forward to the return of Prodigy and the launch of Strange New Worlds in 2022. After a long an tortuous road that started 20 years ago with Enterprise, and fell to its lowest point last year with Picard, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It has been a rough ride. But scifi is back in the air. Sometimes it is not very good (Foundation). Sometimes it is a bit better (Dune). Sometimes it is pretty awesome (The Expanse). But as Book says at the end of this week’s installment in a quiet moment in bed with Burhnam, things are going to take a turn for the better eventually: “I realized someday, if I’m lucky, the grief will fade. And if I don’t want all my other memories to fade with it, I have to open myself back up to them. Good and bad.”
So maybe it is nearing the day when we can put those Starfleet insignias back on. “It’s been years since I’ve worn it.” Yes Book, it has. I’m trusting that 2022 will be the year we put it back on.
Jolan tru my friends.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 2:15am (UTC -5)
"like, its not like TNG didnt have moments like these. personal stuff. it actually had lots and lots. but you know when they had stuff like this happen? in episodes where the enterprise was transporting a few diplomats to an upcoming archeology TED talk or something. in THAT context, it felt natural."
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 5:22am (UTC -5)
I guess you are talking about the evil post modernists or relativists or post-structuralists. While I think that these theories are barren in a scientific way, they certainly had a very useful impact on scientists thinking about their position in society and how that position shapes their views. I'm at the preeminent social science institute in Germany and I think I have never met a post modernist there. Maybe a few post positivists but they don't reject objective truth, they just think that it is very hard to attain.
"The new intellectuals believe that everyone in history was stupid and immoral, so that only now can anyone have merit."
That is not how it is. We are talking about a fairly small group. Maybe they are more numerous in gender and media studies. Both very unimportant fields. Post modernists believe that there is no objective truth, meaning that there is no real merit or that the past was stupid or anything really. I wouldn't even call these people anything because that would band together probably 50 very diverse viewpoints. The only impact these people seem to have is as a bogey man for the US right. Until conservatives lost their mind about it I had never even heard of critical race theory and the liberals now have to defend it because the conservatives attack it. Politics.
"As exhibit A of this theory, check out ST: PIC, where the TNG model of human enlightenment is shown to be an ivory tower entitled sham."
I think you are aiming a little high here. To me especially ST:Picard was constructed in a way to crush Roddenberry's vision of the future. Earth and the Federation being all science, orgies and exploration where everything is wonderful and no interpersonal or societal conflicts exist. Why did they destroy that world, because writing stories in this set up is really hard. So they brought back poverty and racism, essentially turning the Federation into a slightly better version of the USA.
"So let's say I'm right: imagine this, but THEN imagine this mindset being coopted by shallow Hollywood sycophants looking to cash in on a trend. So not only is it a theory you may happen to disagree with, but in addition it's a conspicuously vacuous portrayal of that theory."
While I'm close to agreeing this still mixes up things. The fact that the US had to face it's still significant racial and sexual assault problem and it's discrimination of LGBT people is not a mindset created by a bunch of post modernist philosophers. That a lot of people have problems with this is understandable. Change is always difficult, even change for the better. The Simpsons explained it perfectly
But you are definitely right about these new Trek show being a laughably shallow portrayal of the issues the USA deals with. But it is not relativist or post modernist. Discovery wants to rebuild the Federation or maybe now does rebuild it. Why? Because they believe that it is better to rebuild it. That is not a post modernist mindset. Same goes for ST:Picard, they want to repair a broken Federation which again goes completely against a post modernist mindset. For a post modernist rebuilding or repairing the Federation would be pointless because it would just recreate oppressive power structures.
Do I have to post that Chomsky vs Foucault debate again ? :)
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 9:10am (UTC -5)
I have been aware of CRT and its many related movements for years - long before the US conservatives "lost their mind" and I live in Canada, not the USA.
CRT is just one head of the hydra. Anyone working for a major corporation, university, government or similar institution in North America would have heard of DEI (diversity equity inclusion) which is the corporatized implementation of CRT. Our own law society here in Ontario underwent a mini civil war in 2019 over this issue.
Maybe Germany is different, anybody in the Professional / educated class in North America knows about CRT even if they didn't know it by that name until more recently. And CRT won - it is entrenched as the governing paradigm for virtually all large corporate, government and academic institutions in Canada and the USA.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 10:31am (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 11:14am (UTC -5)
The overemotive characters of today feel samey, but DIS's first season didn't even have characters to speak of. No one was given any development at all outside of Michael (who was given a completely inconsistent character depending upon the episode). Every time a character talked, it was either solely to move along the overall plot, or because they were chatting with Michael. There were maybe two scenes of "pure character" I can think of - the burrito scene with Michael and Tilly, and the toothbrush scene with Stamets and Culber. And they ultimately worked the latter back into the season plot arc, rather than just letting it be a nice, initiate moment that a couple shared.
In terms of plot structure, Discovery has improved as well. Seasons 1/2 had basic arc failure (and a lot of the individual episodes didn't make a lick of sense either). Since Michelle Paradise has come on, plots trod along in a workmanlike manner. Occasionally they are even able to work themes into the episodes!
The problem is that all the creativity has drained out of the series. I don't know if this is because of Michelle Paradise herself (though she doesn't seem to have a ton of SFnal experience) or because CBS got burned by the frosty reaction to the beginning of the show, but all it does now is boldly go where Trek has gone before. It's Voyager-level comfort food television - extremely risk-averse, and just giving us more of what we've already seen. Season 1, in contrast, was big and bold. Ultimately a failure, but at least they reached high. And frankly, in some ways it's more interesting to see a flawed series with a mix of highs and lows than a series which is "fine."
I expect Discovery will put out some episodes yet this season which I consider four star - or close to it. But ultimately it's going to have to come from compelling character drama, because I don't expect much of anything interesting from either the plots of the week or whatever the overarching plot ultimately ends up being.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 11:58am (UTC -5)
I am not creating a "narrative". If you work for a big corporation, a university or in government certainly here in Canada, this ideology is baked into the organizational DNA now. It isn't a conspiracy- it is just the reality on the ground. Call it a fad if you want, but it is what it is.
Perhaps in Europe things are different?
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
In the U.S. it's probably more mixed, but it has certainly become the mainstream standard in Silicon Valley and the education system (from K to university). Businesses probably vary case by case.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
I read this article (Brookings) it is biased but the themes do not seem unreasonable.
How would it work at the micro, meso and macro level for companies?
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
"When people call a scientific theory a hydra and create a narrative about how the apostles of that theory are controlling "virtually" everything then I fear a debate would not serve any purpose."
Captain Picard would have said "everyone's viewpoint needs to be heard, but on this ship, the final decisions on course of action taken will fall to me, thank you."
I feel like people who get into all this conspiratorial flailing just want to try to clog the argument with irrelevancies until they're the only ones left in the control room. Sorry buckos, we got rules around here and you do not get to exempt yourself as "above" the nominal rules of debate and discourse because you've "heard things."
To such people, I would say, "If you can't prove it,
Stop talking about it, and talk about what you can."
If I were feeling really saucy, I'd add "you idiot." I would most certainly be thinking it.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
Nonetheless, I think there's a weird tension in a lot of filmed media right now. Actual critical stories which examine racism/sexism/homophobia are now considered to be a bit gauche. Instead the focus should be on "inclusion" - which means even in settings where it doesn't make sense (like fantasy settings, or even historic ones) you see color-blind casting, women in powerful roles, acceptance of LGBT individuals, etc.
Mind you, this makes sense for Star Trek, since the Federation was always a tolerant, inclusive place. But Trek could always look at these and other social issues through allegory with non-Federation cultures. Picard touched on this a tiny bit with the Romulan refugees, synths, and the XBs, but Discovery has steadfastly refused allegorical storytelling (a handful of swipes at Trump in Season 1 aside). They now really seem to believe just showing people as existing and being accepted is about all they need to say in regards to social issues. Which is pretty shallow compared to what we've had in the past.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 6:37pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 7:12pm (UTC -5)
No Trek was never woke it was liberal. Woke is antimatter to liberal matter. Woke detests liberal even more than conservative. They are as opposite as two ideologies can be.
Part of this confusion comes from the American right's tendency to label everything "left" as "liberal" which is a dated way of looking at the political spectrum.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 10:34pm (UTC -5)
I posit a minority view which says that Discovery breaks the franchise mold by having a strongest first season, by which the several next pale.
S1 redefined (better or worse) Klingons; drew in new and familiar characters and notions; introduced the Mirror realm and Section 31 as a players in an overall continuity that *could* have been shoehorned into a prequel setting with room to grow.
The Red Angel took forever to resolve and The Burn was crashingly McGuffin. Couldn't a Federation meltdown have been done with more political and dramatic nuance than Sad Kelpian Whoops? 😒
Now S4 has, for me so far, spent three episodes doing nothing that Picard or Janeway wouldn't have done in a third of this, less-ostentatiously, amount of time.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
I agree that Michelle Paradise has improved the, shall we say, stability of the show, and also agree that she had to jump a very low bar to do that. What's starting to nag at me now is a fear that she's taking us back to a lack of inter-character conflict, the bugbear of early TNG. The best character in Season 1 was Lorca, and why was that? He created conflict , and was satisfyingly defeated. I'm actually thinking of viewing that season again just for him, because I'm bored so far with this one. Book should be breaking down over his terrible loss, straining his relationship. Admiral Vance should assign some no-nonsense Starfleet lieutenant to Discovery in some important role (although that ship has probably already sailed). Tilly should become the ship's cook, or possibly the President's press secretary. Gray and Adira should become pirates or start a punk band. Saru should grow a spine.
Season 2 was a washout for me, even with the charming Anson Mount. Last season was better, largely thanks to Book and Grudge, but I really missed seeing the crew show the effects of literally being displaced persons. Two mentions of Detmer's stress were little more than a handwave. Unlike most people it seems, I thought the Sukal story was actually the best part of it. To my mind, that story would have fit right in on TOS or TNG or even Enterprise. What else is there to remember?
From various remarks she's made in interviews, I gather that Michelle Paradise does have a long-range, fairly coherent story line in mind, but as everyone notes, the actual execution of it is usually lacking. She plans character growth for Burnham, but damn it's just taking too long. I still see her as having the heart of a mutineer. I do see good acting from Sonequa Martin-Green sometimes, but she seldom has enough complexity of thought to need any. The one time she had to actually wrestle with her conscience this episode (about sending Book on the mission), I thought she did a good job of showing it. Let her grow up, please.
The other crew members are beginning to come alive, but barely. If Paradise can make them into whole people this season, I'll be satisfied with that.
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 9:51am (UTC -5)
My Dad (TOS fan since he was 12 in 1967) said that when the scene where Grey's synth body was being constructed, he started singing "MACHO MACHO MAN...got to build my body body!! Such a thrill, my body body!!"
And he remembered that he always used to ask us not to heckle new eps when they were airing for the first time, and now he's doing it lol
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 10:10am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 10:36am (UTC -5)
The lack of any interpersonal conflict any longer is notable. It's actually making me somewhat miss Georgiou, because one thing she was good at was "stinking up the joint" - not getting along with the other characters on Discovery. Now everything is a bit too congenial.
Hell, we haven't even seen Reno yet, who was at least good at arguing with Stamets.
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 10:47am (UTC -5)
The A plot felt a little contrived and I think it would have worked better if they spent some time fleshing out the details as I'm not really sold on why that Qowat Milat went rogue in the first place. I get that she was protecting that race because they had valuable metal in their bodies and wanted dilithium on the off chance the anomaly went through the system. It just seems like a lot of effort to prepare for a contingency that may not even happen (and not worth killing someone over). Why wouldn't she focus on trying to wake them up instead? Burnham was able to do it in 5 minutes so it wasn't that difficult, and now that they are on the planet they are at the mercy of the anomaly anyway (unless they can all high tail it back to the moon ship really fast).
I'm also not sure why the Qowat Milat lady wouldn't have just asked the Federation (or the NiVar government) for help, surely she must know the Federation doesn't care about latinum and would help out with something like that? The writers didn't do enough here. Also, I like the concept of the Qowat Milat as an organization but it's ridiculous they only use swords for their to day to day combat, esp when they go up against people with phasers.
I liked Tilly being on the mission for comic relief and chuckled at a few of her lines.
But the best part of the A plot was at the end with Vance's speech and tying it into NiVar and the Federation learning to trust each other as a first step to their inevitable reunification.
The B plot was the best of the three IMO but it might just be because I really like David Ajala. I thought tying that plot into Book getting closure was well done and also explains why he kept seeing that kid in the previous episode. But one thing that keeps bugging me is how ridiculous it is that Sammets is a commander. I'm fine with his character being a person who is irrational and has emotional outbursts, it kind of reminds me of Bashier, but a character like that who has growing up to do should be a lower rank or maybe even a civilian who was only brought in because of his spore drive expertise. Not only did this guy graduate the academy, he got promoted 4 times! Unreal.
The C plot was good in the sense that I'm glad we are finally past Grey being in Adiras head as the writers were really struggling with making that relevant. Hopefully now they can give him something interesting to do.
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
This is the problem with Discovery, if you think about the plot for longer than 5 minutes everything falls apart.
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 8:24pm (UTC -5)
Maybe I misread the scene, but from my understanding Stamets only agreed to Book coming to the conference with him to assuage his feelings in the first place. He didn't see a need or a benefit from having him there. He did it solely to be considerate. Why wouldn't he object to retraumatizing him unnecessarily when he initially didn't even see a scientific benefit to having him there in the first place?
Sun, Dec 5, 2021, 1:48am (UTC -5)
So is “Reasons matter.” another way of saying the ends justify the means? Is that the message here? Seems very much AGAINST the whole ethos of Star Trek. But then DIS has never cared much for 50 plus years of established ST canon or continuity.
Sun, Dec 5, 2021, 4:06am (UTC -5)
Wasn't that also true of TOS?
Sun, Dec 5, 2021, 6:08am (UTC -5)
There was an episodic feel to two out of three storylines and it worked well, that's saying something because unlike many here, I prefer serialized story arcs.
Sun, Dec 5, 2021, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 1:41am (UTC -5)
I can only imagine the excuses necessary to explain such dumb plotting.
Really, I can't stress enough how Star Trek: Discovery just isn't the same caliber of show as what has come before it. It's big, loud, flashy, and completely brainless.
This is a Star Trek show where the Science Fiction Nerds have been asked to leave the room so that the hipsters can have their fun making a space epic. Fuck you, too, Star Trek: Discovery. I've Discovered that I hate you.
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
Lorca was excellent - they should have kept him as a slow burning plot and revealed that he's actually evil a season or 2 later. Just because the character and actor were great if nothing else.
The characters are so flat and dull. Except Burnham who is deeply annoying.
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 7:38pm (UTC -5)
I dunno, I feel like the show just sort of got boring after S2. The emotional drama doesn't really work without the crazy provocative concepts to back it up.
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 4:56am (UTC -5)
What an insane move to kill off the most interesting and nuanced character in a "he's actually eeeevil" parallel universe "plot twist".
I can only hope that the actor wanted to leave. Or else the writers are even more clueless than I fear.
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 5:11am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 5:16am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 8:52am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 9:13am (UTC -5)
I just write down a few names:
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 10:21am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 1:31pm (UTC -5)
>Somebody had to post it.
I was just thinking of that movie. I tend to enjoy movies more with narration. Trainspotting, Goodfellas, Full Metal Jacket, Terminator 2, Taxi Driver, Fight Club.
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 3:29pm (UTC -5)
All great movies. Now wonder you like auld Star Trek. Always starts with narration.
And about Spock. too HUman...
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 6:44pm (UTC -5)
>To be fair, Spock's father was a computer. He is a traitor from a race of traitors! He belongs in a circus, not a starship; right next to the dog-faced boy!
BAHHHH bapapa BAH, bapapa BAH, bapapa BAH
Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 8, 2021, 3:40am (UTC -5)
Also, Jammer, I thought you weren't writing long reviews any more? Ha ha :)
Wed, Dec 8, 2021, 1:01pm (UTC -5)
I'm a Disco Fan but don't worry, I come in peace.
Wed, Dec 8, 2021, 1:47pm (UTC -5)
I see a lot of people just dumping all over every aspect of this show. I agree, overall this series has been a disappointment given the unlimited potential in such an established world and the decision to instead reinvent everything... but I don't really think it has been THAT bad and I've still been able to mostly enjoy the ride. I also have to appreciate that they seem willing to re-work what isn't working. As the show becomes more grounded, its very clear to me that the biggest thing the show is missing is simply the gravitas that characters like Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Leonard Nimoy, and Kate Muglrew brought to the table. Closest thing we have is Doug Jones as Saru. Enterprise suffered from this as well and I think we are at least on better ground than that show ever was.
Wed, Dec 8, 2021, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
@Booming, why didnt you think this episode was good sci-fi?
Thu, Dec 9, 2021, 4:05am (UTC -5)
When did I say this specific episode was bad?
Thu, Dec 9, 2021, 6:58am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 9, 2021, 8:10am (UTC -5)
I don't think the alien species should have been more explored but I would have liked more exploration of the Qowat Milat's motives in the episode as that part doesn't really hang together for me.
Thu, Dec 9, 2021, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 8:37am (UTC -6)
I'll be honest, I found Michael's demands for "justice" to be a bit antiquated and not fitting with the Federation ethos. Particularly because Michael brought up his partner and children. The implication is that we haven't grown beyond the desire to see that those who have wronged us suffer (even if presumably it's in a humane facility). There's also no real-world evidence that sentencing of murderers actually brings any sense of closure to the victim's families.
The rogue QM had been neutralized as a threat. She will no longer steal dilithium or put the lives of any Federation officers at risk. It also served as an example to others who might choose to do the same thing that Starfleet will investigate and apprehend them. Surely in the grand scheme of things that's enough?"
I just find viewpoints like these rather odd when placed against the backdrop of Star Trek lore. This is the same thing that Elliot used to complain about all the time. People either forget Star Trek lore or never knew it in the first place. Compare Burnham's rather mild objection to this episode's outcome to Kirk's out for blood attitude in the episode, "Arena." Not to mention, his "LET THEM DIE!" outburst in Undiscovered Country. Or Janeway's multiple lost her $#!% outings in Voyager, most extremely in "Equinox." God forbid we put Burnham up against Sisko's "You betrayed your uniform!" freak out on Eddington in "For The Uniform." (How aptly named. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°))
All throughout Star Trek history multiple points of view are presented in an episode. Not all of the viewpoints are resolved in that episode, but are instead considered as counterpoints to the episode's eventual resolution. Burnham's voiced opinion is to be taken as a counterpoint to the eventual resolution here. The Federation made its decision on the basis of modern sociopolitical realities. Burnham was simply stating a fact. This man's family didn't get justice.
In fact, she doesn't even belabor the point. The whole scene is resolved as a learning experience for Burnham as Admiral Vance explains the situation, to which Burnham immediately, if a bit reluctantly, acquiesces. I guess we are expected to conclude that Burnham, even when called to do a particular job, having completed that job, while obeying ALL the orders of her superiors, should not even fart against the political winds blowing away her efforts, less she be considered "not fitting with the Federation ethos." This despite having seen all other Star Trek captains voice similar musings under related circumstances. It's absurd in the extreme.
No. Justice is not just supposed to be about making criminals suffer. According to its definition it's about just behavior or treatment. And what does "just" refer to in this context? It's definition is "based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair." How is any of that against Federation ethos? How is giving a giant middle finger to the dead man's family morally right or fair to them or any other citizen or against the ethos of this supposedly enlightened organization?
Justice is also about keeping the public safe from criminals. It is possible to have a humane justice system where the focus isn't to make criminals suffer, but to keep dangerous people isolated from the public until such time as they can hopefully be rehabilitated. No. It's not enough that she will no longer steal dilithium. She's still a Qowat Milat. Her cool down period is only an intermission before her next lost cause. Burnham's mother even lampshades this in the episode with "This path is at an end, J'Vini. Your next path awaits."
If she is not somehow rehabilitated, forced into retirement, or otherwise neutralized, Federation citizens will not be safe. Clearly, her next lost cause may very well put her at odds against the Federation, at which point she will once again be stabbing and slashing Federation citizens and officers. And as no one actually apprehended her without her turning herself in, due to the constraints of the rules of engagement, no Federation citizen should feel satisfied with this so-called resolution. Burnham was not only justified in her tame objection, but she handled matters in the exact manner that Data suggested in his dressing down of Lieutenant Worf in "Gambit, Pt. 1":
Burnham keeps her trap shut in front of the Ni'Var delegation (including her mother, who already knew she would have a problem with the situation) until she is able to discuss her misgivings in private with Admiral Vance and President Rillak. And magically, she's somehow still wrong. It's hilarious the lengths people will go to to blame it on Burnham.
Thu, Dec 9, 2021, 8:21pm (UTC -5)
"Compare Burnham's rather mild objection to this episode's outcome to Kirk's out for blood attitude in the episode, "Arena." Not to mention, his "LET THEM DIE!" outburst in Undiscovered Country."
I don't know the context of this discussion since I haven't seen the episode, but I just wanted to comment on your mention of Kirk. What on Earth do you mean about his "out for blood" attitude in Arena? Do you mean how upset he is that the colony was destroyed at the start of the episode? Because the entire point of that episode is how he absolutely will not kill the Gorn in revenge, even when pressed to do so by the Metrons. He is understandably upset, and your example ironically demonstrates that he does not believe the revenge is an appropriate reaction to that feeling. Regarding ST: VI, the movie is essentially all about how him saying that is something he would come to regret, and that he had growing to do. So while he had a weakness expressed in that statement, it is not supposed to be some kind of acknowledgement that his sentiment is ok.
Fri, Dec 10, 2021, 4:36am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 11, 2021, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 9, 2021, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
"Compare Burnham's rather mild objection to this episode's outcome to Kirk's out for blood attitude in the episode, "Arena." Not to mention, his "LET THEM DIE!" outburst in Undiscovered Country."
I don't know the context of this discussion since I haven't seen the episode, but I just wanted to comment on your mention of Kirk. What on Earth do you mean about his "out for blood" attitude in Arena? Do you mean how upset he is that the colony was destroyed at the start of the episode? Because the entire point of that episode is how he absolutely will not kill the Gorn in revenge, even when pressed to do so by the Metrons. He is understandably upset, and your example ironically demonstrates that he does not believe the revenge is an appropriate reaction to that feeling. Regarding ST: VI, the movie is essentially all about how him saying that is something he would come to regret, and that he had growing to do. So while he had a weakness expressed in that statement, it is not supposed to be some kind of acknowledgement that his sentiment is ok."
Kind of hard to have a conversation about something you haven't watched. I'll post the transcript of what he was referring to here. Sorry in advance for the Great Wall of Text:
********Star Trek Discovery: "Choose to Live" Transcript********
Burnham: “The details of J'Vini's arrest are in her file. I would like to formally request that mitigating circumstances be taken into account during her sentencing.”
President Rillak: “Thank you, Captain Burnham, for your service. Your request won't be necessary. Admiral Vance?”
Admiral Vance: “President T'Rina. Starfleet remands the prisoner J'Vini to your custody for extradition to Ni'Var.”
President T'Rina “Peace and long life.”
Gabrielle: “Jolan tru, daughter. May you find peace with this.”
(The Ni’Var delegation leaves the room.)
Burnham: “Tell me she'll be held accountable.”
Admiral Vance: “It's up to Ni'Var now.”
Burnham: “You gave me a mission.”
President Rillak: “Which you executed admirably. Your role in this matter has now concluded, Captain. Admiral.”
(The President turns to leave and Burnham's words stop her.)
Burnham: “Patrick Fickett. First officer of the Credence. He had a partner, Ha'Ryl. He had two kids.”
President Rillak: “Krenn and Na'el. I know.”
Burnham: “Then you know they deserve justice.”
President Rillak: “I agree. I also know bringing Ni'Var into the Federation will benefit millions. Justice will be served, Captain. In time.”
(President Rillak leaves the room.)
Burnham: “You're really okay with this?”
Admiral Vance: “I'd have preferred a different outcome. But it's hard to argue with the president trusting in Ni'Var as we ask them to trust in us. Do you like music, Captain?”
Admiral Vance: “Think of us as, um, an orchestra. You're first chair violin, with the showy, challenging solos. I'm the drum section, setting the pace, providing backbone. She's the conductor. When she signals us, we play. It's not our job to know if the cellist is drunk or the woodwinds and brass are at war. We each have our part, and we must all trust that she knows the symphony.”
Burnham: “That was a lot of analogy.”
Admiral Vance: “Well, they pay me by the letter.”
( Burnham laughs )
Read more at: https://tvshowtranscripts.ourboard.org/viewtopic.php?f=843&t=48532
Been a decade since I last watched Arena, so It's possible I'm mixing it up with another episode. But as I recall his eventual decision at the end was quite different from his initial sentiment. Same with Undiscovered Country. He had to be TALK no Jutsu'd into helping the Klingons by Spock. Just read the post I replied to. Even musing about justice is supposed to disqualify you under Starfleet ethos. Tell me you can't recall Kirk doing a lot more than calmly questioning a certain outcome?
Because it's been so long since I saw the episode, I went and watched it. It's exactly as I remember. Spock and Kirk have two conversations within the first 16 minutes of screen time on the strategic response to the Gorn attack. In the first conversation, Kirk is convinced the attack and an subsequent trap set for the Enterprise is a prelude to a Gorn invasion. Spock is uncertain, but in light of the Captain's insistence he reluctantly agrees that they must pursue the alien vessel and "make certain the alien vessel never reaches its home base." Kirk states that he intends to keep them in the dark as to Starfleet's real strength so that they never dare move against them.
In the second conversation, Spock is surprised that Kirk wants to chase the aliens at maximum warp as it puts the ship in danger. Kirk dismisses his concern. Spock suggests that simply chasing them out of Starfleet space would be enough upon realizing that Kirk intends to destroy the ship. Kirk is insistent that if they "go unpunished they'll be back." Spock indicates that destroying them will not help the colony that was destroyed. He alludes to a respect for all life and Kirk shuts him down saying, "There's no time for that! It's a matter of policy. Out here we're the only policemen around and a crime has been committed. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Spock."
At the end of the episode it comes out that the Gorn attacked the outpost because the Federation was setting up near Gorn territory and they concluded Starfleet and the Federation were invaders preparing to raid their territory. Kirk only belatedly decides not to kill the Gorn after seriously wounding him. He's literally kneeling over the incapacitated Gorn with a sharp rock shard ready to stab him, when he starts yelling to the Metrons that he refuses to kill the Gorn. This is very clearly presented as a late 4th quarter last minute spur of the moment decision by Kirk. The Metrons are surprised that humans possess the trait of mercy after their earlier bloodlust during the chase. They declare humans only to be half savage, but their is hope and they perhaps will contact humanity in a few thousand years.
The scene in The Undiscovered Country speaks for itself. There are multiple parties who take issue with opening talks with the Klingons. It doesn't sit well with a lot of people. Kirk is merely presented as the most obvious face of this dissent:
Again, my point is no one claimed Kirk doesn't fit Starfleet Ethos... at least not among those people who don't automatically claim all of TOS is "unwatchable," as I've heard some on this site claim. And in my example Burnham acquiesces to the will of Starfleet with nary a peep and the scene resolves as a learning experience (read "growing to do") for Burnham as presented by Vance, so my example stands. Compare what Burnham says in the transcript to any disagreement Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, etc has EVER had with Starfleet's orders and you should instantaneously see how absurd the claim being made is.
Sat, Dec 11, 2021, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Admittedly, even from the transcript it's hard to tell whether Vance is implying that a realpolitik move has been made (i.e. a knowing injustice in exchange for political advantage) or whether he legitimately means that they will have to trust their new partners to see justice done, and that Burnham can't micromanage everything. So depending on the tone Burnham could be acting immature and controlling (justice is only done if *I* get it done) or else alternatively concerned that Starfleet is trading honor in for power. Based on that it would read differently, so I have no idea.
Re: Arena, I'm surprised you're reading Kirk's reaction as him wanting revenge on behalf of the colonists. His position here, while hot, is fairly consistent with the TOS format of considering Starships to be few and far between, and the job of a Captain to have massive importance as they sort out galactic affairs essentially on their own. Here Kirk is saying that if they don't set a firm boundary they will invite further attacks. This is a purely strategic consideration and has nothing to do with Kirk's personal feelings about the colonists needing 'justice done' and revenge taken. As the 'man of action' KIrk often needs to make quick strategic decisions, and in this case Spock is not necessarily disagreeing with the notion of setting boundaries, but in retrospect was correct in being more hesitant to make assumptions about what really happened. This was about needing more information and taking a cautious approach, rather than acting swiftly and decisively. In other circumstances Kirk might well have been right, and letting the hostile force go would indeed invite invasion. And to be honest, seeing what we see of the Gorn in the episode, I'm not so convinced they're all innocent and only acted because they were threatened. There was no need for their reaction to be so completely destructive, so that says something about their threat potential regardless of who 'started it.' The Federation wouldn't have wiped out a Gorn colony in the reverse situation.
So anyhow, in conclusion I disagree that this episode was about condoning revenge. Even if it is *about* revenge in the sense of asking whether it's ok, and since the episode firmly comes down on the side that it isn't I'm not sure why it's worthwhile to bring it up as an example of Kirk in general being ok with a vengeance motive. If anything a better example would be Sisko in the pursuit of Eddington. In that situation it's pretty clearly personal, with Sisko wanting to get that guy back for what he did by betraying Starfleet, and betraying him.
Sat, Dec 11, 2021, 7:37pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 11, 2021, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
I've done my best to accommodate you. I can't insert tone into text on a screen. I'd have to include my description of the tone, which you already don't believe about Arena. Go watch the episode. How can we discuss something you refuse to watch? It doesn't make any sense.
Kirk was out for blood, meaning violent justice. His own words say that he is. His own words say that he's going to "punish" them so that they will never dare attack Starfleet. The person I was replying to stated that "punishment" was not a part of Starfleet ethos. Did you read what he wrote? That's the argument in question.
Again. Go watch Arena. I just watched it. Kirk's tone is very clearly what I said it was. The Metrons lampshade it in the episode. Several of the other bridge characters are visibly surprised when Kirk is adamant about chasing them at warp 7 indicating this is an unusual order according to the episode. Scotty voices concerns about blowing up the ship at that speed. Spock is visibly taken aback that Kirk wants to destroy the alien ship and Uhura does a double take when Spock brings up reverence for life and Kirk shouts him down with "There's no time for that!"
No one said the Gorn were innocent. They're Klingons with scales. The Federation operates under a doctrine of proportionate response. The Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Andorians, and the Gorn wouldn't have such a doctrine. All those other races have been presented as sympathetic under certain circumstances, even with their often extreme and hostile stances. The episode itself presents the Gorn's actions as understandable, if not sympathetic by the end.
Go look at the episode. I'm recounting it EXACTLY as it was presented. Pay close attention to the tone of those scenes. Kirk's actions and orders are taken as extreme, not standard, by all the other characters on screen. His whole demeanor is vengeful, which is overzealous as we find out later. And the fact that Kirk makes a show of SUDDENLY refusing to do at the end what he set out to do at the beginning emphasizes this fact.
Sat, Dec 11, 2021, 8:44pm (UTC -5)
I'm not claiming this episode itself condones revenge. I'm not even sure where you got that. I'm comparing how different captains are represented with respect to how Starfleet's overall position is represented against how Burnham is represented. Kirk did indeed condone vengeance, even as others are telling him he's being overzealous, right up until the very moment he CHANGES HIS MIND. Kirk is his own point and counterpoint in this episode. Meanwhile, my point is others are indicting Burnham for a far less extreme position. I don't see how that's not a valid consideration. And yes, I already mentioned Sisko in my initial post.
Sat, Dec 11, 2021, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
Well, far be it for me to say that a show with as much going on as TOS has is only able to say one thing at once. There's enough humanity packed in that plenty of concepts and points of view can pass through the screen in very short order.
That being said, I'm watching Arena right now, and Kirk never for a moment, from the time on the surface until the scene you mention while pursuing the Gorn, shows the slightest hint that he's unhinged, furious, vengeful, or out for blood. Shatner just doesn't portray that. Now I agree with you that the director certainly was trying to portray conflict among the crew in the bridge scene, no doubt about that. But in the scene directly prior, when Kirk said it was a prelude to invasion, Spock said that in that case (as you quoted) they must not allow the ship to escape. It's puzzling, then, why in the bridge scene Spock should suddenly take recourse to reminding Kirk about sentient life. His opinion was based on the premise that it was an invasion, so the only logical reason he would doubt Kirk's choice here would be that he simply didn't think it was an invasion. The rest of the crew are initially alarmed that Kirk is taking the ship to warp 7; they don't seem to mind at all that he's going to destroy the Gorn. Uhura does show shock when Kirk says "there's no time for that", and it's a weird exchange because they've destroyed enemies before and obviously on those occasions there was also 'no time' for respect for sentient life.
I'll add in another detail that I forgot until this rewatch, which is that not only did the Gorn destroy Cestus III, but they went out of their way to lure a starship there for no other reason than to kill its crew. This was no misunderstanding or act of protection. I've really got to say that Kirk is right, it's hard to explain their actions in any other way than as a pure act of war. And as such, Kirk's determination to track down the ship before it reports in seems actually prudent. Kirk isn't omniscient here, but his logic holds, or else Spock would have said so in his quarters.
So between you and me, I'm happy to entertain the argument that there are mixed signals on the bridge, but I just don't see Kirk as being out for blood. It's not in the performance, and honestly one doesn't need to suppose that to explain Kirk's actions. You're free to guess that's his motive, but I don't see it; or at least if it's in there it's subtle and not a main feature of the story.
Sun, Dec 12, 2021, 12:43am (UTC -5)
My guess is that the Gorn are really not baseball fans and were driven to desperation by the antecedents of Kasidy's Cestus III league.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 27, 2021, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
"Kirk was out for blood, meaning violent justice. His own words say that he is. His own words say that he's going to "punish" them so that they will never dare attack Starfleet."
Agree completely. It was a strategic decision but taken while Kirk was hot. Spock counsels a nice slow exploration of the reasons behind the attack, and projects the idea that Kirk is behaving impetuously. At this point in the development of Trek, humans are still shown from a Vulcan perspective, i.e., generally always dealing with a thirst for blood, which from through Vulcan eyes is seen as an innate, almost insurmountable flaw of humankind.
@ Quincy Dec. 11,2021, 6:57 PM "He's literally kneeling over the incapacitated Gorn with a sharp rock shard ready to stab him, when he starts yelling to the Metrons that he refuses to kill the Gorn. This is very clearly presented as a late 4th quarter last minute spur of the moment decision by Kirk." Nicel presentation.
The episode is, in a way about being dragged down by the methods of one's enemy. Kirk starts out pretty happy and controlled. He is faced by the extreme barbarity on the part of the Gorn. No discussion and No quarter for Cestus III. His response is Eye for an Eye.
The sharp rock shard held at the Gorn's throat by Kirk after the cannon blast, is the same Acheulean-style hand-axe which the Gorn had been joyfully knapping earlier in the episode. Kirk defeats his human tendency toward violent retribution (primitive barbarity) by throwing away the Gorn's own primitive weapon. It's very much a last-second decision, influenced by Spock's earlier discomfort during the pursuit.
Wed, Jan 26, 2022, 11:33pm (UTC -5)
- A criminal investigation is headed up by someone who owes her life to the culprit, and her daughter is sent to reign her in. What could possibly go wrong?
- The "I need to TRANSITION and FEEL SEEN (hint, hint)" plot has finally wrapped up after much adieu and hand-wringing so I'm very interested to see what they'll do with Grey now. Hopefully the lesson of Ash Tyler has been learned.
- LOL @ Tilly being drafted into a combat situation without even a phaser. If this were Voyager, it would be like volunteering Neelix to duel with the Alien of the Week to win some resources. "Sorry, Neelix, but you did say that you were feeling bored and under-utilized. Well, here's how you can help!" After a bunch more people are killed and the space ninja promises to kill them all if they don't give up their pursuit, the sensible thing to do would be to return with properly armed reinforcements, maybe with a stun setting? But this is Star Trek and life is precious until it's not.
- "However, I do not sense his presence in this synthetic body"
Maybe because 1) You're not even in the same room with him; you're projecting yourself via HOLOGRAM from many lightyears away and
2) it's a SYNTHETIC body?
- Regarding Stammets freaking out at the possibility of Book getting re-traumatized (even though the fate of the galaxy may depend on it) I think that's written in as a representation of the show-runners' own priorities and concerns, as well as an anticipation of what they believe will be the overriding objections of DISC's core fans. Because there's a pervasive belief in many progressive circles that the very worst thing that can happen to a person is be made to feel uncomfortable feelings, and that reliving trauma does additional harm to a person. This, despite loads of psychological evidence that tells us that the exact opposite is true -- that the way out of trauma is through it, instead of seeking constant trigger avoidance through safe spaces which just make us more sensitive and fragile. Thankfully, in this episode, the aforementioned erroneous belief is balanced by demonstrating the wisdom of exposure therapy, albeit in a science-fictiony way.
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
Still, it’s hard to sense what the arc of this season or series is. It feels a bit like fourth season Enterprise, casting around for new stuff each episode in a hopeless effort to find a consistent theme. This plot about the dilithium stealing Romulan comes out of nowhere and has little to do with the rest of the show. And did Burnham’s mom join the Romulan warrior nuns as a human? So little is ever fleshed out, explained or developed on this series.
Tilly continues to be the Neelix of this series, constantly dropped into situations that don’t call for her simply because she is a main cast member. Boo.
Adira is taking up a lot of screen time, as is Booker. It’s interesting how this series constantly gives the weight of screen time to recurring guests tied to each season. That’s a classic Trek TV move, but it’s amazing how much more we learn about the guest stars each season than the regular bridge crew. And this series usually kills them off or makes it impossible to care about them at the end of each season. It makes it hard to develop an emotional attachment to any characters throughout the whole series.
Gabrielle Burnham is woefully underwritten by the way. Who is she, what does she care about? How and why did she change? This show didn’t take any time to develop her, it just molded her to serve the plot. But does she? This series is limping along between episodic installments and short-terms perils like Enterprise and Voyager did at their worst. It’s so dull, even when it’s well done.
Thu, May 19, 2022, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 19, 2022, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
Contrast everything in Discovery with the Bridge Officers Test that Troi underwent in "Thine Own Self." Spoiler - the ultimate lesson is that she must come to terms that part of her duty is sometimes to knowingly send her fellow shipmates (and close friends) to their death. What a powerful lesson.
Here, in nuTrek, Saru pushes for Tilly to go on an away mission because she's feeling out of place/depressed and needs a boost, even though she's wholly unqualified for the spot. And Michael approves! Stamets opposes Book's mindmeld because he'll have to relive his "trauma", even though it could help solve the mystery to save billions of lives. Just last episode, Michael tried to stop Book from spearheading the mission to get data inside the anomaly because he was "grieving," even though he was the best candidate for the mission.
None of this is Starfleet training, which is most closely analogized to military training, as TNG, DS9 and VOY understood. This is all nuTrek writers room code of conduct, where if someone has strong emotions about something, that takes precedence over all else. It's depressing to see.
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