Star Trek: Discovery

"The Examples"

3 stars

Air date: 12/16/2021
Written by Kyle Jarrow
Directed by Lee Rose

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The Examples" continues the recent trend of Discovery success through straightforwardness, telling relatively crisp and effective stories in a very conventionally Trekkian way. Again, we're not breaking the mold or exhibiting excellence here so much as executing relatively well upon past conventions, and finding interesting details in the margins.

In the main story, we have the DMA threatening a non-Federation colony, so Discovery jumps in to evacuate the colonists. Among those needing to be rescued are the half-dozen or so inmates of a prison, which the colony leader calls "the examples," interned to serve as a crime deterrent. The colony leader thinks they should simply be left to die if the DMA rips apart the colony, but of course Burnham isn't having that. She leads a mission to get into the facility (no easy task because of perimeter force-fields and explosive robotic devices, etc.) and rescue the prisoners.

Upon encountering the prisoners, we learn their crimes were, for the most part, trivial infractions, which recontextualizes their long sentences and label of "examples" as those of the unjustly condemned. The prisoners don't particularly have a desire to be rescued only to be turned back over to the colony officials to be re-imprisoned, so Burnham works out an agreement that basically translates to their asylum request. Given the fact the colony's rescue is a Federation undertaking, she has some leverage to make the deal. One of prisoners, Felix (Michael Greyeyes), actually did commit a serious crime — murder during a botched robbery of a man who showed him kindness — which he deeply regrets, and wants to repent by not only helping the others negotiate their freedom, but by staying behind and suffering whatever fate the DMA may have for him. Burnham believes Felix should be able to have that choice, although Booker believes leaving him to die is wrong. There's some tension here.

The serviceable prison plot runs in tandem with a more intriguing plot aboard Discovery where Stamets continues to try to crack the mystery of the DMA. He has assistance from a Risian scientist named Tarka, played by Shawn Doyle as an arrogant uber-genius who knows he's the smartest guy in the room. These two together prove interesting and, ultimately, dangerous. They want to duplicate the DMA on a micro scale to learn more about it, using some brilliant experimental theory Tarka has developed. I have no idea how Tarka can duplicate a phenomenon that still remains an utter mystery, but it's played here reasonably enough as a Trekkian technobabble drama, with the quest for scientific discovery working to stave off the threat of the DMA's long-term destructive potential. Saru plays a key part here as the sane and competent leader who stops the crazy science guys from blowing up the ship in the process of conducting their wild experiments. This is entertaining and feels informative, even if it's mostly smoke and mirrors.

"He's fleeing the interview!":

  • The revelation at the beginning of the episode that the DMA must clearly have been intentionally created was way too hastily arrived at and felt like a corner-cutting jump to a conclusion not adequately earned. Wouldn't it have been both more credible and a better dramatic construction to have Stamets and Tarka somehow reach that conclusion in the course of their experiment?
  • The idea of Felix being genuinely remorseful and tasking Burnham with returning the orb containing his victim's family tree to the victim's survivors is a nice idea that plays pretty well. It's hopeful and non-cynical, and perhaps pays off in a way that's overly neat and tidy, but I can get on board with that.
  • Tarka is a breath of fresh air on this series because he's got some rough edges. As much as Georgiou grated on the nerves last season with her one-note asshattery, the thing this series lost when she left was a character who would voice some sort of skepticism or cynical selfishness amid all the earnest Starfleet teamwork.
  • The final scene between Booker and Tarka is intriguing with some hints of ominousness. Book isn't happy with how things went down on the colony prison, or with his life in general right now (what with the loss of his family and planet), and Tarka believes this anger might be useful in some way.
  • Tig Notaro makes her first appearance of the season here as Reno, doing her Reno thing. It's a welcome appearance, although I admit I don't understand the rhyme or reason for the appearance or absence of the main and supporting cast members on this show from week to week, or how they've decided who belongs in the opening credits.
  • I don't know what exactly Kovich's role is at Starfleet (his role on the show appears to be "presumed mensch who will tell the truths you need to hear"), but he's an enjoyable character as played by David Cronenberg in all his mysterious iterations. Here he talks doctor/counselor Culber through his own emotional crisis (having died and come back to life and wondering why he was provided this rare opportunity) with a no-nonsense approach that's, again, intriguing. (There are a number of intriguing things going on between the lines of this episode's fairly standard plotting.)
  • The ship's self-aware AI, Zora, informs Burnham that she's recently begun developing emotions. Are they finally going to deal more explicitly with the consequences of the sphere data merged with the computer?

Previous episode: All Is Possible
Next episode: Stormy Weather

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

73 comments on this post

🔗
Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 2:38am (UTC -6)
USS Janeway!

. . .

No contact with the Q for 600 years? Interesting. Well, that they let Starfleet know about, anyway.

Admit it, it would be kind of fun to have de Lancie show up and torture Burnham.

You know, I’m a pretty huge Voyager fan, but even I said “Who the f-ck?” when Vance name-dropped the Nacine as a possible responsible party for the DMA.

The Iconian survivors!!! That’s probably just a throwaway line, but it would be cool if they did something with that.

. . .

So we got a few of the recurring cast this episode, but not all of them. No Detmer, no Owo, no Bryce. We got Linus, Nilsson, Christopher (johnny-come-lately), and of course, Rhys. We got Reno, but we know those were scenes Tig Notaro filmed later and that were inserted into this episode (Canada quarantine regs).

So, budget cuts? Maybe? Then again, COVID increases the costs of a production, too. Zone A, zone B, etc. Might be the same amount of dollars, but they aren’t going as far as they used to.

. . .

There’s at least a chance Discovery is responsible for this anomaly, yes? That it’s a byproduct of their trip to the future? Is alternate, galaxy-destroying Control not as dead as it’s supposed to be? The show probably won’t go there, but it’d certainly be a sobering, effective slap in the face for a ship running around thinking it’s saved the entire galaxy and is the pride of the Federation now.

Still. Probably too dark. Kwejian did get entirely murdered, after all.
. . .

The prison plot because “Burnham needs to shoot something with a phaser this episode” was dumb on the face of it, and yet it wasn’t half bad once you look past how stupid the setup for it was. Still . . . we’d easily forgive it that if it was Kirk and this was a TOS episode.

. . .

Thought for sure that if anybody outside the Federation would be helping Stamets it would be Osira’s guy from last season’s finale. Whatever’s up with the thing on his neck, I didn’t catch that.

. . .

Book and Culber's arcs continue to be strong.

. . .

Did anyone miss Tilly or Adira/Gray this episode? I didn't.

. . .

Good episode. Maybe a bit of a spin-the-wheels episode on the whole, but it really didn't feel like it. Hid it well.
🔗
Mal
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 5:47am (UTC -6)
Star Trek: Discovery

Season 4 episode 5
The Examples


“You may not like me, but I love me.”

- Tarka, a.k.a., Undersecretary Errinwright from The Expanse!!!


2 1/2 stars (out of 4)


A perfectly competent episode, with all the story elements of a 3 or even 3 1/2 star hour, but the editing and lighting and score leave a lot to be desired.

All the non-regular characters were a treat. David Cronenberg has a very important session with Dr. Culber. Tig Notaro’s deadpan humor (“are you talking to yourself again, or are you looking for a response”) is especially welcome during the don’t-fuck-this-up science scenes. We got a scene with the always-welcome Admiral Vance. And oh, did I mention how awesome it was to have Shawn Doyle as a guest star - mad scientist Tarka!

With so much good, why the mediocre results? The truth is, the episode just dragged at several points during the prison break. Instead of 51 minutes, they could have easily left it at the more traditional 42 minutes, and been much better off for their efforts. Last week they hired an Academy award winner to direct. This week they didn’t. I guess they blew their budget on all those awesome guest actors?

Let me start with two mini stories that really worked well.

First mini story was Lt. Cmdr. Rhys, who totally stepped up this week to lead the evacuation mission. Again the episode leans on the reboot movies, as it has all season, with this particular beat reminding me a bit of Sulu volunteering because he had hand to hand combat experience (fencing - LOL). Rhys lived through a hurricane as a kid, and that disaster led him to Starfleet, and to this point in time when he can make a difference in these peoples' lives. Anyone who lived in NYC on 9/11, or was in Asia for the 2005 Tsunami, or Japan during the Fukushima meltdown, will tell you how such events can completely change your view on life. Nice to see that someone used that pain to make something good and beneficial out of his life.

Second nice mini story was Stamets and Culber. No wonder Culber is such a good shrink - with a partner like Stamets, he’d have to have the patience of Job! Their relationship was done fairly well in Season 1 (remember them brushing their teeth in “Choose Your Pain”? As @Jammer said at the time "I thought this was perfectly executed in its low-key, matter-of-fact way: Just two guys brushing their teeth, completely devoid of exposition.”). They’ve had their ups and downs since. If I learned anything from Angel, it is that being dead can be hell on relationships. So their two scenes together this week really were the right forum for them to express the various frustrations they are experiencing, and to get a little perspective. Culber has the key line, “Look at us, we’ve jumped a thousand years into the future, we helped solve the burn, and we can’t figure our own shit out.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Which brings us to the A/B/C stories of the week, and sadly, it is Michael’s B story that really drags us down.

The prison break background score is horrendous. So, so bad. The SFX are laughable. The dialogue is pathetic (“shit, they read my bio-signiture”). And from the moment it was just her and Book, it was absolutely clear that SMG simply cannot carry a scene.

I realize that they were trying to bring back some of the buddy-buddy camaraderie from the start of Season 3 ("That Hope Is You, Part 1”), but of course that too was only a 2 1/2 star episode, and this B story wasn’t nearly as good. Take the metallic insect mines. Burhnam doing some techno-BS to disable them is boring. Burhnam doing the same techno-BS a second time a few minutes later is excruciating. Cut out both techno-BS scenes and it would do wonders to improve this episode. Cut out Michael’s entire prison break/family tree story from this episode and I don’t doubt the hour would have been 3 stars easy.

In the prisoners' story, they were trying too hard to tie the murderer and Book emotionally together (one’s planet was destroyed, this guy’s colony is going to be). I can see the writers thought process: Book lost his world, and the prisoner is Native American and they lost their land - see they are the same! Or some shit like that. The end result is that they missed what could have been a real keystone for the series. Hello people, Michael used to be a prisoner because she was one of the Federation’s worst criminals. And hello people, she did not serve her sentence in jail, thanks to Lorca.

So Michael had every reason to empathize with this criminal when he said he just wanted to serve out his sentence or die here on the planet. After all, when Lorca brought Michael onboard Discovery, all she wanted to do was stay confined to her quarters.

But no. At the end of "The Examples” the murderer gives a long boring speech. It could have been an awesome speech - like Vance’s Orchestra Speech a few weeks ago - one more veiled lesson for Michael that she should have done things differently, and stayed in fucking jail, and saved us all the misery of seeing her on Discovery these last four seasons. But alas it was not. It was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

A genuinely enjoyable part of the episode was the A story, with Stamet and Tig and Tarka. Unlike the prison break, the SFX here were very cool and integral to the story - right from the opening shot of the DMA and the USS Janeway - all the way through the displays in Engineering. But they don’t lean entirely on SFX. The mashed potatoes were awesome :-)

Tarka has a ton of fun lines in the episode (“so much to admire… and improve upon”). And he and Saru get into a fun shouting match. Tig’s line hilariously sums up this thread, “That is the closest you’ve come to killing us all, and that is really saying something.” Tarka also seems to have a fascinating back story (he’s from Risa?!), and maybe some really dangerous insight into the DMA. There was a palpable edge to his scene with Book. Book wouldn’t shake his hand, but he didn’t mind drinking his booze. I hope they bring Tarka back from time to time. Shawn Doyle was a fantastic foil for Avasarala in The Expanse, and gosh darn it, I actually like his character on Discovery even more!

The C story was Culber working through what @Jammer last week described as, "Culber has something, all right, but he's not sharing.” As mentioned already, all three scenes - two with Stamets, one with David Cronenberg - were most welcome.

With so much good going on here, it is a shame that the episode isn’t able to rise above 2 1/2 stars. The fault lies not in our selves, but in our star, SMG. She drags down every scene she’s in.

SMG has resting constipated face.

That’s a shame. Kirk, Picard, Sisko - all three elevated by their mere presence. Even Janeway wasn’t terrible. Archer was the first lack-luster captain. And even Archer downright sparkles when compared to SMG. She’s like T’Pol on Prozac. In this episode, whenever poor Anthony Rapp has lines right after SMG, you can actually see him trying to downplay those lines so they don’t come across as insanely more charismatic than SMG’s.

Maybe they should just fire Michael? Suru can be Captain, and this show would take a quantum leap in quality. But then, hasn’t that always been true?
🔗
AMA
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 7:56am (UTC -6)
An okay episode. Not great; not horrible.

Unfortunately, the story of the prisoners lacked depth. The story could have further explored the concept of justice, but either the writer was not interested in doing so or the serialized nature of the show did not allow for as much. I wouldn't consider Voyager's 'Repentance' a great episode, but it certainly offered a far more thoughtful examination of justice systems.

The other story was engaging but generally unremarkable, save a few quips from Reno and Tarka. The episode hinted that Tarka may in fact be the one behind the anomaly, but that could simply have been a redirect. Time will tell.
🔗
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 7:58am (UTC -6)
A big step forward after last week, which really didn't do it for me. Easily the best episode yet this season. And the reason basically comes down to mature storytelling and the lack of clear solutions - a theme which cuts through the entire episode.

Starting with the A plot - Burnham and Book trying to save the five prisoners left to die on the asteroid - I really appreciated that while there were a number of smaller challenges they solved easily - like the robot bugs, and the force fields - there was one challenge they couldn't face down, which was saving a single man who didn't want to be saved. This actually harkened back to the first episode of the season, when President Rillak explicitly told Burnham that part of command was accepting there were some losses that were unavoidable. Michael Greyeyes (who I wasn't really aware of before as an actor) absolutely sells the character of Felix, giving the required pathos to someone who otherwise may have been a bit of a stock character. About the only thing I didn't like here was Booker believing that Felix had to be saved against his will. Trauma or no, it didn't really feel true to his character, as Book seems like the kind of man who would understand when someone wants to die on their own terms.

The B plot involving the investigation of the DMA made me initially nervous, because it seemed like they were again leaning into the whole "Stamets is a thin-skinned, insecure wreck barely in control of his emotions" but it surprised me in a very pleasant way. I knew from seeing him on The Expanse Shawn Dolye would be great, but he exceeded my expectations as Ruon Tarka: larger than life without becoming the butt of a joke, and a great foil in this episode. I liked the sudden pivot away from Stamets' insecurity regarding Tarka to the two of them "allying" in a way against Saru. And I loved that ultimately they failed - that no pat answer was offered at the end of the episode.

That brings us to the "C plot" which is basically about Culber facing down his continuing trauma he was in denial about. I have to say that I found his scene with Kovich a little too writerly and unnatural, particularly when he just guessed Culber's internal mental state perfectly. However, the scenes between Culber and Stamets were fantastic - the only time since Season 1 they've actually felt like a real couple who know all of each others warts.

In terms of minor notes, it is a shame that we didn't see some of the bridge regulars here, but my understanding is COVID protocols limited how many people could be on stage at any one time. Reno's scenes are very obviously just pasted in later, which kind of hurts the flow of the episode. It's no surprise to not see Tilly, but I was surprised to not see Adira or Gray at all - though I'm quite happy with them leaving out a character if they don't really have a story purpose.
🔗
Clem
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 11:17am (UTC -6)
The episode begins as a run-of-the-mill hour (conflict arises on a planet, rescue mission, introduction of a new character that makes couple of regular cast members uncomfortable, et cetera), but then somehow turns into one of the best hours of DSC, surely the best of this season.

The main reason being the guest and recurring characters' performances and the writers adding layers to their roles. Kovich, Book, Felix, Jett, Tarka, Admiral Vance all play meaningful roles in their respective scenes and each storyline ends up requiring more than just a black-n-white resolution, and not all get resolved in a pristine manner, or resolved at all. Good sci-fi stuff with Stamets and Tarka, Culber is more and more awesome, I loved Saru making the final call on the experiment to the dismay of Tarka and Stamets, Burnham smacking the Magistrate with her go-to-hell curt talk, as well as Admiral Vance putting Stamets in his place with a deadly glance at the end of the meeting in the headquarters.

"The Examples" shows (again) that the idea of holding bottle storylines while advancing the overall arc is very doable.
3.5 stars for me. Discovery headed in the right direction so far this season.
🔗
Norvo
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 11:57am (UTC -6)
The Burnham prisoners plot reminded me of TNG's Justice and VOY's Repentance. It would have worked as an episode of either series, which is good I suppose.

Of course, this being DISCO it couldn't end without Burnham dressing down the authority figure and reminding him he's nothing. I guess respect for other cultures ends when their colonies do? It tracks with Burnham's holier-than-thou'ing.

Ruon Tarka is yet another in a long line of snarky, antisocial know it alls :-) Tarka, Stamets and Reno in the same room would have me hollering like Saru as well. If you're this smart, you should see the value of social skills. Just ask Zora, she has feelings now (remember that Short Trek? Oh boy, we're headed there).

Speaking of Tarka... What was the deal with his simulation almost destroying Discovery? Back in the TNG era holodecks could simulate entire planets and exploding starships if need be. Now it can't feed power through a fictional thingamagig?

No Adira. No Gray. And it didn't slow the episode down one bit. No Tilly either. The show works either way.

So far Rhys has had less lines in four seasons than ensign Harry Kim in the average Voyager episode yet he's a commander already? Wow. Poor, dumb Harry.
🔗
Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
According to the season premiere they gave out blanket one-grade promotions to everyone on Discovery when they solved the Burn, apparently. Since in Discovery's original era there was no such thing as Jr and Sr Lieutenants, all the Lieutenants counted as full Lieutenants, and so they're all Lieutenant Commanders now.

Seems a bit unlikely, but we also have to remember this is a greatly diminished Starfleet in need of more senior personnel. Discovery's crew have all been to the real, actual Starfleet Academy, even if it was a long time in the past, and were part of Starfleet when it was at its best. They're what Starfleet wants to be getting back to. It makes a certain kind of sense . . . but then, all the characters just stayed on Discovery rather than filtering out into the fleet and taking that experience with them, so . . .
🔗
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
Oh yeah, I didn't mention - the scene at the end when Michael dresses down the station commander was...terrible. It was entirely appropriate to state that the prisoners had claimed asylum's, and he had no jurisdiction to claim them. Also would have been appropriate to remind him they just rescued his entire station's population.

But Michael went further, basically rubbing in his face that he and his people were now stateless refugees, and he was totally powerless. It felt like gloating/punching down, and I couldn't believe what I was watching. I mean, sure the imprisonment of the "examples" was morally wrong by our (and Federation) standards, but the station commander was a product of that culture, not some petty villain that needed to be taken down a peg.
🔗
Norvo
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 2:46pm (UTC -6)
@ Karl Zimmerman

Burnham taking on authority figures or reading them the riot act has been part of the character since season 1 (remember how she phasered Georgiou when she wouldn't go along with opening fire on the Klingons... *sighs*).

Most recently she reminded the Federation president of how brilliant and capable she is. It's part of her *cough* charm. Still, I gotta agree with you that this truly felt like Michael punching down. She was rubbing the magistrate's nose in his misfortune. Uncalled for, especially in her position and with her Vulcan upbringing. It's not logical.
🔗
Eric Jensen
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 3:00pm (UTC -6)
Possible ideas/spoilers ahead
Tarka is responsible, or links with someone who does.
Yep, very similar to Repentance on Voyager
USS Janeway lol
Rhys took the lead, good...
I really liked Culber's plot/story.
The prisoners stories could have been expanded upon more...
The Q continuum not in contact for 600 years?? What?
🔗
Tommy the Tribble
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 3:21pm (UTC -6)
Whackadoo Theory Corner:

The thing on the back of Tarka's neck...is that maybe an entry hole for the alien parasites from ST:TNG season 1 "Conspiracy"? We never did hear from them again. Did they create the DMA?
🔗
Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 3:31pm (UTC -6)
@ Karl

I concur. It came off disparaging and dismissive rather than an admonition to do better in starting over. Plus Starfleet would consider the colony to be its people, not the ground it's on. Its people are below decks. The colony isn't gone. He's still their magistrate. Starfleet would still recognize his legitimacy and authority to speak for a society that still exists.

That kind of admonition at the end of an episode is something Kirk would do at the end of a TOS episode, or Picard. Sometimes Janeway. It wasn't out of place, it was just wrong in execution. The thing is, when you think about it, it was probably only off by a few words. But those few words were enough to skew the tone and the message.

Kirk, Picard, and Janeway would have tried to inspire. Burnham tried to shame. It came off mean.
🔗
Mal
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
The dressing down of the Magistrate was so jarring that like @Karl Zimmerman, I too left it out of my review above (which was long enough already). But when I think back to how Starfleet captains treat leaders of other civilizations, I’m forced to agree with @Jeffrey's Tube that while what Michael did was not out of the ordinary, the manner in which she did it, was despicable.

Take the ur Trek refugee episode, DS9’s “Sanctuary.” Yes the Skrreeans are somewhat unreasonable to insist on settling on Bajor after the Federation finds them a lovely planet all their own. But can you imagine Sisko saying the Skrreean leader what Michael did:

“I need to remind you that wherever you find a new home, you’ll be arriving as a refugee, seeking shelter and grace. I hope you find a more just society than the one you had a hand in creating. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a ship to command.”

I mean no one had any particular affinity to the Skrreean society, but I cannot imagine Sisko rubbing that in the noses of those poor people!

Picard did get a kick out of screwing over the leaders of annoying societies from time to time. Remember how he left James Cromwell twisting in the wind surrounded by soldiers at the end of “High Ground.”! Hilarious! Of course James Cromwell was on his own planet dealing with his own issues, which he himself had insisted were internal matters. They were not refugees stuck on Picard’s ship with no where to go.

Same with “Symbiosis”, Picard refuses to give the drug dealers the engines as they are leaving his ship.

But that’s the thing, he waits till they are leaving his ship. All the while they are on his ship, Picard is nothing but courteous. Fuck, even in refusing to let them have the engines, Picard is unfailingly courteous,

T'JON: And Captain, we appreciate your gift of the coils.
ROMAS: Once our freighters are fixed, everything'll be back to normal.
PICARD: No.
T'JON: No?
PICARD: The coils stay here.
ROMAS: What about our freighters?
PICARD: You want to repair them, you'll have to learn to do it yourselves.
T'JON: We can't.
ROMAS: If you don't help us, our ships will soon be inoperable.
PICARD: Quite possibly.
SOBI: If you withhold those coils, you'll be disrupting the stability of both our planets.
LANGOR: And interfering with a trade arrangement that has lasted for generations! What of your Prime Directive?
PICARD: In this situation, Prime Directive prohibits me from helping you.
SOBI: That's absurd!
PICARD: You did not think so when it worked in your favour.
ROMAS: Do you want our world to suffer?
PICARD: Oh no, I don't want that.
T'JON: Without the freighters, there will be no more shipments of felicium. We will die.
CRUSHER: You must trust yourselves. There are other options.
PICARD: Ensign, prepare to beam our guests and their cargo down to Ornara.
T'JON: Captain, I hope you realise what you've done to us.
PICARD: Of that you can be sure. Good luck.

These are drug dealers, and Picard treats them with more respect than Michael can muster for the Magistrate of a set of refugees who have just seen their home destroyed by the fucking DMA!

Discovery this Season seems to harp on understanding everyone’s emotions, to the point where it becomes ridiculous - like having a long therapy session in the middle of phaser fight. But not one word here that maybe - MAYBE - a guy who just saw his entire home obliterated, and just barely saw his people evacuated in the nick of time, and who is now facing life as a refugee with nothing to call his own, might, oh I don’t know, cling to whatever rules and rituals he can - anything that might make him feel like maybe not everything he knows is completely lost?

So I 100% agree with @Norvo, who says, "I gotta agree with you that this truly felt like Michael punching down. She was rubbing the magistrate's nose in his misfortune.”

There is an old wisdom, don’t kick a man when he’s down.

There were times when I’m sure Picard wanted to punch the refugees on his ship (“Up the Long Ladder”), or when a society’s desperate gambit for peace offended his sense of morality (“The Perfect Mate”). But in the end Picard, Sisko, Kirk, always did their best to treat guests who were on their ships in desperate time of need, with all the respect they could muster. The closest Kirk got to such behavior was with the Dohlman of Elas, “the thing most feared and hated by my people.” If you can’t tell the difference between an autocratic leader from a world’s aristocracy, versus a magistrate of a couple thousand people of a colony destroyed a few minutes ago, well then, you don’t have the judgment to sit in the big Chair.

It’s not what she said. It was how she said it.

Michael’s actions were once again conduct unbecoming a Starfleet captain.
🔗
Sigh2000
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 8:31pm (UTC -6)
@Mal "Picard did get a kick out of screwing over the leaders of annoying societies from time to time. Remember how he left James Cromwell twisting in the wind surrounded by soldiers at the end of “High Ground.”! Hilarious! Of course James Cromwell was on his own planet dealing with his own issues, which he himself had insisted were internal matters. They were not refugees stuck on Picard’s ship with no where to go."

Just watched Picard stick it to Cromwell in "The Hunted." Cromwell got his. Deservedly so.

Enjoy reading your detailed, perceptive reviews.
🔗
Quincy
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 9:15pm (UTC -6)
Lmao!

People are calling this dude a magistrate. The Emerald Chain just collapsed last season. The Emerald Chain is a mafia syndicate posing as a legitimate organization. They're like the Lucian Alliance in Stargate SG-1. The power vacuum after the Burn gave them the opportunity to forcibly establish their territories. It's highly unlikely that someone legitimate moved into power that quickly on that asteroid colony.

Most likely he is an Emerald Chain leftover who came into power in the new vacuum left by the collapse. This is doubly likely considering that prison has been open for at least 30 years under Emerald Chain rule and he is continuing their policies. Anyone continuing the persecution of a crime syndicate might as well be a part of that crime syndicate whether it still exists or not. Calling a cockroach a magistrate doesn't magically mean that cockroach is deserving of respect whatsoever.

What are you people smoking?
🔗
The Queen
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 10:46pm (UTC -6)
There seems to be a wide range of opinions on this episode. Personally I liked it, although it did promise a little more than it delivered. The writing was mostly good, but the directing failed in a couple of places. This series insists on pushing the schmaltz at every chance in both the writing and the directing. I think Martin-Green could be a better actor with better material (especially if she quit with that coy little head-tilt and the WHISPERING).

I was thrilled to see Rhys step up for the rescue mission, but then we never actually saw him - a missed opportunity. They could have taken a couple of minutes away from the dragged-out prison plot ending to show Rhys's mission a little more. I was also delighted to have Zora come to the fore a little more, and thought that was well handled. A lot of other positives, too: Tarka in general, coming on all arrogant and setting off Stamets' insecurity, but then they worked together well. Tarka's pushing of Saru to the ROAR! was great fun. The Culber-Kovich scene was fantastic; unlike Karl Zimmerman, I didn't think it was too writerly, and I didn't see it as mindreading at all. Kovich's assumptions were entirely reasonable for someone with the trauma that Culber has had.

Now, the poorly handled prison plot. I was fine with it until Felix started resisting rescue. I couldn't really believe that, although I respect that it does ring true for other people. But either way, it was overplayed, and to have him just standing there facing the camera for what seemed like endless minutes was, in my humble opinion, poor directing. The followup scene with Burnham passing on the globe fell flat. And then, yeah, her lecture to the Magistrate was unprofessional, but of course that's what she is, isn't she?

Someone else said they didn't believe Book would try to force Felix to leave the planet, but I do believe that. He is still very much in PTSD/survivor guilt mode. I like that the writers haven't let him suddenly get all better like they did with Detmer.

Overall I thought this was good, elevated by some good acting and without too much distracting SFX.

Did anybody recognize the tattoo/scar on Tarka's neck?
🔗
Rahul
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 10:49pm (UTC -6)
Again, a lot to like about this episode (like "All Is Possible") and they dialled back the melodrama so I think this is best episode of the season thus far (just barely). What was great is introducing the genius scientist Tarka -- here's a nice change to not see some moody, emotional person but instead a supremely confident and singularly focused character.

The problem solving aspect and pushing the ship's power usage to the limit, Reno and her snark, Saru making a command decision -- this was the best part of the episode. It felt like it made sense, certainly within the Trek paradigm.

Burnham and Book and the prison rescue wasn't anything noteworthy but the one prisoner who stayed back as part of his penance was well acted. But again this didn't feel like anything particularly original and it was hard to care too much about it since these "Examples" don't have much history/meaning for us. Maybe a bit trite with Burnham returning the orb to the lady -- of course she would do this in some kind of feel-good moment.

So the DMA is created by some species -- I liked how they theorized that it could have been the Metrons ("Arena") or the Q. This triggers Culber who has his crisis of confidence -- good scene with Cronenberg's character in dissecting his savior complex. Culber has been trying to do too much and it's about time he needs help.

In general, I liked the parallels between the characters: Stamets sees the singular focus of Tarka in Culber. But also the final scene with Book and Tarka who had a great line - something to do with anger being a productive emotion. I think there was more going on here with little being said -- I don't think I fully grasped all of it.

3 stars for "The Examples" -- this is good DSC and making the DMA not a natural phenomena piqued my interest. Tarka is an excellent character and how he shook up Stamets/Saru was appreciated. I did not miss Tilly. Good character moments with some credible Trek-style problem solving and piquing one's curiosity is a reliable recipe for a pretty good episode.
🔗
Mal
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 11:42pm (UTC -6)
@Quincy, you don’t seem to have any understanding of the Magistrate or the Akaali people at all.

The Akaali have been victims of more advanced alien races since at least all the way back to Enterprise (“Civilization”). Last year they finally got free of their latest oppressors, the Orion Emerald Chain, after god knows how long. And yet through all that they managed to keep their culture (Magistrate: “Thank Draylan you’re here”).

The murderer had been in jail for decades. You’re saying that 6 prisoners for a population of thousands is excessive (Magistrate: “Six offenders chosen to demonstrate the costs of misbehavior”)? Well that’s just like your opinion, and not a very well informed one at that. If you think back to TNG’s “Justice”, the same punishment for any violation isn’t exactly a foreign concept to the Trek verse. And in “Justice" the punishment was death.

All the Magistrate was demanding was that the prisoners be confined for the duration of the journey. That is not unreasonable. The regulations that Michael quoted were fairly logical,

“OK I found something. I searched Starfleet general orders and regulations. Protocol allows a Captain to grant Political Asylum in extreme circumstances. That would bring you under Federation law. Your case would go under immediate review and your sentencing would likely be commuted.”

All 6 were admitted criminals. No one thought the Federation would suddenly find them innocent of their crimes. The only thing Michael promises is that their sentencing would likely be commuted after a Federation review.

But until their sentences are commuted, it is not unreasonable that they be confined, if only to quarters, some other holding area, or the brig, or at least kept in some other part of the ship, pending that review.

That’s what the Magistrate asks for, “We will not share space with them.” It is not unreasonable given that 1,200 people are cramped onto Discovery at the moment, to keep these criminals separate from the victims of their crimes.

I noticed Michael never told the woman where she got that family tree orb from,

“How did you -“

“- Helping someone keep a promise.”

Yeah, the “someone" who killed your dad. Your dad who was a good man, who gave a stranger shelter and a meal, and that stranger killed him in his sleep, when you were a little girl in the other room. And then he robbed you. Somehow Michael forgot to mention all that.

I’m guessing Michael didn’t want to be yelled at by the woman for letting her father’s murderer go free rather than being brought aboard and thrown in the brig to continue to serve out his well-deserved sentence. She might have even demanded that at least the other prisoners be kept away from her and her people - if Michael had any decency at all. That would have been damned inconvenient for the emotional mood (@Rahul calls it a “feel-good moment”) the show was trying to create.
🔗
Rahul
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 8:58am (UTC -6)
Didn't say anything about it in my initial comment but glad others have pointed out how terrible the scene was with Burhman dressing down the leader of the colony on the bridge after the rescue had been completed. @Mal rightly calls is "despicable". @Norvo and @Karl Zimmerman are also on point. SMG isn't a particularly good actress but how her character is written is one of the biggest failures of DSC.

I also felt it was jarring, totally unprofessional for how a captain should act. But we should also keep in mind the woke ethos of DSC. Here you have a black woman humiliating a white man. That's like one of the tenets of DSC. This episode did a whole lot very well, but DSC is DSC. You have to take the bad with the good -- fortunately, there wasn't too much bad in this episode, but this was the worst of it by far.

Oh, also, forgot to mention in my initial comment -- no Adira ad Gray! Woohoo! Another subplot that wasn't around to derail this episode. The simpler an episode is (structurally speaking) the better. Too many subplots is not good.
🔗
Jon Cockroft
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 12:37pm (UTC -6)
@Tommy the Tribble.

I thought the exact same thing!!
🔗
Dreubarik
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 2:08pm (UTC -6)
Nothing I particularly disliked about this one, save SMG's acting which is just atrocious (a bit worse every season, I'd say). Even that final dressing down would have been fine, I think, if the main plot had been more developed and the delivery had been properly executed by a decent actor.

My main issue is that there was no story I particularly liked either. The story was set-up as a potentially interesting "criminal justice system" episode, like TNG and BSG have done several times, and I was awaiting for some theme or payoff to come through. Yet there was nothing: all prisoners say the truth about being unjustly imprisoned by a society we have never truly seen (I assume Burnham has that information on her pad and she doesn't just take them at face value).

Usually, in these stories, either the prisoners are truly guilty of heinous crimes and the moral dilemma lies in the fact that they are still unjustly treated by an evil society with which we can't interfere, or it is the opposite and the prisoners don't deserve their punishment, yet the society has achieved some greater good through their imprisonment. If both the imprisonment is unjust and the society is evil, then where is the tension? And then the only guilty person to which some tension could apply decided to die to pay for his sins, so nothing there either. I guess it could have been an interesting character story if we had spent time getting to know the man and seen both his capacity for good and evil, so we could feel something when he chooses to end his life. Yet we also don't get any of that.

As a plot, I didn't hate it. But it was also meaningless: There were no coherent themes and the potential character moments are all told to the audience expositionally, rather than shown. I don't know, maybe if this was Season 1 I'd be hopeful that this has the potential for improvement. Right now, I just fear this is as much as we can get.
🔗
The Queen
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
"If both the imprisonment is unjust and the society is evil, then where is the tension? And then the only guilty person to which some tension could apply decided to die to pay for his sins, so nothing there either. I guess it could have been an interesting character story if we had spent time getting to know the man and seen both his capacity for good and evil, so we could feel something when he chooses to end his life. Yet we also don't get any of that."

Yes, this is exactly the problem with the writing, pretty much all the time. It's written for teenagers, really.
🔗
Chris Lopes
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
”It tracks with Burnham's holier-than-thou'ing."

The makers of this show have made no secret of the fact that Burnham is indeed the center of Discovery's universe. The character's experiences reflect that. So her arrogance and high mindedness are completely understandable. If your experience in life involved your every decision (no matter how impulsive) turning out ok and you always solve The Big Universe Wide Mystery (tm) you'd be an insufferable ass too. Unfortunately, that's how the character has been written.
🔗
MidshipmanNorris
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 6:57pm (UTC -6)
Harry Potter is the exact same kind of character, though. People adore him, though, because he's... I dunno why people adore Harry Potter honestly. I have read all 7 of the main book series too, and ... honestly Harry doesn't do a whole lot by himself for most of it. He's just lifted up by the decisions of other people into this semi-Godlike status cuz he didn't die when Voldemort zappity'd him.

I wonder why it's so hard to write a main character who has to earn their keep these days? Bilbo at least had to learn to steal stuff cuz Gandalf told everybody he was a burglar and he was freaking the f out the whole darn time.
🔗
Jason R.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 7:11pm (UTC -6)
Harry Potter being famous is an actual plot point in universe. He's famous *to the people in the story*. As for the readers / viewers I can only speak to the movies but as I recall Hermione, Ron and obviously Dumbledore do 90% of the heavy lifting. I don't think JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter to be a one man savior character.

Doesn't seem comparable to Saint Burnham and Discovery.
🔗
Saru's Ganglia
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 7:35pm (UTC -6)
Good mid-point episode, offering a lot to chew on, including Federation politics and Trekkian aspects with the evacuation of a doomed planet. As far as the Federation goes, I'm game for any scene with Vance in it. The guy can act. So can the actor who played Felix. He sold his role well. The part I didn't like about that storyline was all the superfluous action scenes with the ant-like robots (making them explode as they get close to the entrance was a petty writer's solution).

Most people seem to have a problem with Michael's dressing down of the Magistrate. The guy barged into the bride in an abrasive manner and the first words out of his mouth is "I demand...." in a confrontational tone with regard to the prisoners whose lives he had made clear earlier he cares nothing about. I thought Michael was well within her rights to say what she did, she was patient the first time around but after the last-second evacuation of the people on the planet and the planet's destruction, if the Magistrate's main worry is the non-well-being of the prisoners, he deserved every bit of it. Michael didn't even go out of control. I really thought nothing of it at the time and still don't but I thought I'd comment on it since some have.

The dialogue between Culber and Kovich was predictable but nicely delivered by Cronenberg. Overall, one of the best episodes of Discovery. I can also do without Tilly for a couple of more episodes, if it's not too much to ask.
🔗
Leif
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
NO NO NO NONWHY is tje anomaly now allegedly something created by someone?? I wantef itnto be a UNIQUE WONDROUS ALIEN PHENOMENON AND OR LIFE FORM..Like the Red Angel was supposed to be..and that too dissappointingly was a human..is anyone else disappointed and hopong the anomaly will still be a unique sci fi phenomenon even if artifical and not natural and that a unique new alien race cpmbined maybe with an old race like the Nacene and or Iconians would be great to see..not Q again...anyone else think Omega might be invovled??
🔗
MidshipmanNorris
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 9:52pm (UTC -6)
In particular I am beginning to wonder what Kovich's deal is. He seemed generally sinister and foreboding last season, and that hasn't really changed, but there's this whole other angle of him being a genuinely wise and knowledgeable guy, that makes me question his moral alignment. Interesting that he appears in the colors black and grey exclusively. There's something about him that I can't quite put my finger on, and I'm digging it.

He's really a triple threat. A character that looks cool, is written well, and is acted superbly. Where is this plot thread taking me?
🔗
Jeffrey's Tube
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 4:55am (UTC -6)
@ MidshipmanNorris

I think he was intended to be a 32nd century representative of Section 31, but the way they used 31 in the earlier seasons wasn't popular and maybe they changed their minds and saw 31 plots as baggage they could drop with the time jump. Especially once they mothballed the Ash Tyler-Georgiou Section 31 spinoff (mercifully). It's easy to see how the character might be a holdover from a different direction they were intending to go at one point.

Nevertheless, I like him. He's interesting. And for my money, I think it's pretty obvious he's a spook of some sort, whether the show ever elaborates on the exact nature of that or not.
🔗
Dreubarik
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 8:58am (UTC -6)
@Leif At least they are consistent in their heavy handed allegories, given that the pandemic was also (partially) man-made.
🔗
Chris from Canada
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 9:46am (UTC -6)
Did anyone else laugh when the holographic family tree with the tiny floating heads came out of the orb? 🤣🤣

This show has way to many unintentionally funny scenes and eye-rolling moments. The Tarka/Saru yelling scene was so cringy, stupid, and random I got cold shivers; took me right out of the show. But I did like the Tarka character for the most part.

Another eye-roller: giving characters that had little screen time the entire series a sudden, random "backstory" ie: Rhys saved by the Federation from a hurricane. It just really feels like forced, out of place, unnatural character development just to appease the fans who are asking for more from the bridge crew. The writers have done this many times before, in particular with Detmer in Season 3 when they were risking their lives to save Discovery. I can't remember the exact words but it was something like "I did this in the past" and Owo says "wow I didn't know that". 🙄🙄 lol so cheesy and super lazy writing. I find the writers do a lot of telling and not a lot showing when it comes these minor characters; makes it very unnatural and out of place, which I guess is partly due to short seralized seasons. Rhys taking command to help evacuate the refugees: "I can tell this is important to you". "It is". Then show us goddamn it! That would be interesting to see.
🔗
Norvo
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
@ Leif

Tarka is working on the next generation spore drive and we now know the anomaly is man made and able to instantaneously teleport across the universe. Hmmmm?

It's clear Tarka knows far more about the anomaly than he's letting on. He's also trying to charm both Book and Stamets, the only two people able to operate the spore drive. That's probably no coincidence.

I'm also reminded of the Short Trek episode Calypso that has the Discovery abandoned in the heart of a nebula/anomaly. I wouldn't be surprised if this season ends with Burnham leaving Discovery inside the anomaly so it can use its spore drive to control it.
🔗
Maq
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 2:58pm (UTC -6)
Again an episode that wasn't bad. But was it good?
Well,even if the scense with Vance isn't thrilling thea are well conducted.
Kovich's appearnce is enjoying.

But stop, these are these are just fillers. Somehow the substance is missing.

Burnham's solution of the prisoner problem was ok for me. But the plot itself and the acting was somehow "constructed". The legal situation and her way to find a compromise in the regulations was fine.
🔗
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 4:22pm (UTC -6)
@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi

"Harry Potter is the exact same kind of character, though. People adore him, though, because he's... I dunno why people adore Harry Potter honestly. I have read all 7 of the main book series too, and ... honestly Harry doesn't do a whole lot by himself for most of it. He's just lifted up by the decisions of other people into this semi-Godlike status cuz he didn't die when Voldemort zappity'd him."

I don't understand.

You say (quite correctly) that Harry heavily relies on the efforts of his friends and mentors. You say this based on what's written in the books.

So how is this similar to the situation with Michael Burnham?

@Jason
"I don't think JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter to be a one man savior character."

The funny thing is that Harry *is* - basically - written as a Christ figure. In the climax of the last book the analogy is pretty blatant.

Yet he still doesn't do everything himself. Rowling's tale is an ensemble piece, in which Harry's character plays a surprisingly (relatively) minor role. It's an excellent example, actually, of how to properly write a savior figure without sacrificing the story.

The writers of Discovery could have learned a thing or two from how Harry's character was written, when writing Burnham.
🔗
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 4:24pm (UTC -6)
Oops... The first part of my previous comment was a reply to MidshipmanNorris. I'm not yet that far gone that I'm replying myself... ;-).
🔗
Q-Less
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 8:00am (UTC -6)
Did the Kovich character ever get explained? Where is he coming from? He seems to be the head of Everything Psychology, but how does that include Starfleet? And why does he wear glasses?
🔗
philadlj
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 9:57am (UTC -6)
Another pretty decent episode! I hope the universe-ending threat doesn't take over the back half of the season.

As for Rhys'...er..."contribution" to the episode, this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in my comment on the last episode: this show can't do the necessary narrative legwork needed to bring characters like Rhys, Bryce, Detmer or Owo truly to life.

It's a shame, but there are too many characters and not enough episodes to do them all justice.

Not to mention it doesn't make sense to have so many high-ranking officers on a bridge in an experience-starved future Starfleet.
🔗
Dreubarik
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 10:15am (UTC -6)
@Q-Less I think I have an answer to your question: It's because they created a mystery box character that looks cool an eerie, but had absolutely no idea who we was, what his job was or whether he was supposed to be good or evil. So now they just deploy him at random to make scenes cooler.
🔗
Clark
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 10:27am (UTC -6)
Anyone else getting nervous the center of the DMA will be a ship piloted by Burnham's father?
🔗
Booming
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 10:34am (UTC -6)
I have an even simpler explanation for Kovich and also why he wears glasses. David Cronenberg wanted to be on the show and he didn't want to wear contacts.
🔗
Darin
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 2:33pm (UTC -6)
The thing I REALLY don't get about this episode - and this is the first time I've ever been so perplexed that I felt the need to comment (says a lot about what pushes my buttons, I guess), is that the discovery (ha) that the DMA is man-made (which seems like quite a conclusion to jump to so quickly) somehow has everyone SHOOK that "omg how could someone create this???" - like, has anyone ever experienced human (and in the case of Trek, non-human) history where people are always doing terrible things? Honestly I would think that this would be a relief - if this is man-made, that means it's likely more stoppable than if it were a natural phenomenon. To put it in stark terms: would you prefer a hurricane or a terrorist attack? One of those you can fight back against, the other one you just have to hope avoids you but your pretty much powerless to stop.

Also I didn't understand the IMMEDIATE NEED to set up the simulation in engineering (is that where it was?) like RIGHT NOW with hardly any real safety protocols in place. You've got programmable matter and all this other crap available, and you're telling me you can't set up a mobile lab on an asteroid or moon or wherever they did that silly torpedo business in ST:ID? Taking the dangerous stuff OFF SHIP so, you know, you don't absolutely kill everyone - especially right in the middle of a damn refugee relocation event. It seems rather silly.

Also not for nothing but I find the whole Gray/Adira subplot to be terrible and I rejoice every time an episode leaves them off screen.

Michael Grayeyes was great in Fear the Walking Dead and it was cool to see him here as the prisoner, even if his character was poorly developed and weakly written. That expository monologue at the end was weak sauce.

I was fine with Michael dressing down the Magistrate, that felt appropriate and totally in character for her. Appropriate for a captain? Probably not, but it's very "her".
🔗
mosley
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 5:59pm (UTC -6)
It's getting better.

Like most of the scenes that had no Burnam. Mysterious science guy is nice, his scene with book at the end was probably the first scene since forever that had my full attention and interest.

But the Burnam material and the whole "this is a show about our feelings" section is beyond repair for me. I hate the character, and I get constant eye roll from all of these scenes.

It's not like a have anything against this. The show I watched before this was "Anne with a E", arguably a show that is about nothing but strong female characters and feelings. I loved every second of it.

But this? They just can't do it. It's stiff. It's forced. It's cringe inducing. It's badly acted. And I am done with trying to blame the writers. SMG is just a bad actress. Like, really bad.

And before anyone pulls the race or gender card, I would be perfectly happy if she died in a tragic accident and pilot lady (whose name I still cannot remember, and half the bridge crew being off camera for budget reasons won't help) would take over.
🔗
The Starman
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 6:11pm (UTC -6)
Hmmm... I have read comments online that claim scifi is not about the future but is an allegory of the present.


It would seem both Discovery and Picard have taken that route and are willing to stake all upon that concept.

While it is true that TOS definitely did it's share allegory for it's time, they also included in my opinion the more fun concept of 'what if'.

Namely, what happens if this and that were possible? Star Trek at it's most creative has at times allowed us to 'test drive' technologies which may never exist as well as those it predicted correctly (mobile phones).

My point is that it seems that this new brand of Trek has lost sight of 'what if'.
🔗
Jason R.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 7:23pm (UTC -6)
"Namely, what happens if this and that were possible? Star Trek at it's most creative has at times allowed us to 'test drive' technologies which may never exist as well as those it predicted correctly (mobile phones)."

To be fair I feel that TOS and even TNG existed in a much less cynical time where new technologies were appearing left and right, where tech was still viewed as having a capacity to make our lives better.

I do think that the capacity to innovate in tech has truly slowed down as many of the low hanging fruit have been plucked. There just isn't as much in the big ideas as there used to be and what there is now requires so much more work to achieve. So we get the next flavour of the month in social media or we get a nifty new app but when us the last time someone invented a microwave oven or a Walkman?

Additionally, to the extent that we do envision innovation, it is often as much as a threat or a societal problem (eg social media corrupting our kids, drone wars, climate change, robots taking our jobs...) as it is as something that will make the world better.

Shows like Discovery can't envision technological innovation partly because the writers are bankrupt (in imagination) but also because we generally have lost the capacity to see technology as anything but a threat.
🔗
Booming
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 8:12pm (UTC -6)
@Jason
"I do think that the capacity to innovate in tech has truly slowed down as many of the low hanging fruit have been plucked."
Innovations that happened during the last 20 years:
- tablets/touchscreens
- flatscreens (I once had a 19 inch monitor. It weighed a ton)
- gps
- internet for the masses (were we even alive before?)
- skype and more (I can now call a person on the other side of the planet and it does not cost me a dime! How crazy is that!!)
- wikipedia
- electric cars (in Germany the infrastructure for those is already pretty good)
- several robots on mars
- the ISS
- The RNA vaccines (This stuff will save billions of lives over the coming decades)
and so on.

And concerning your believe that times are much more cynical today. Do you know how the young generation in western Europe was called in the 1980s? No future generation (now called gen x). Cold war, poison rain, the ozone hole, Chernobyl. I'm pretty sure there was also quite a bit of cyncism in the mid 1970s in the USA. Let's not view the past with rose tinted glasses.
🔗
Maq
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 4:15am (UTC -6)
@Q-Less
"And why does he wear glasses?"
He once said it makes him more interesting.

@Dreubarik
You migt be right. He very much seem like a joker that should be used carefully and rarely. He is there to tease, to confuse and somtimes to explain.

To me his appearance and role has similarities to admiral Vance but with a quite bizarre approach.

I like both charactes. And Kovich's glasses are really cool.
🔗
Jason R.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 4:49am (UTC -6)
@Booming I think that there have been some important innovations since TOS and even since TNG went off the air, but I do think that objectively the pace has slowed. This article by an electrical engineer does a reasonable job setting out some of the issues.

https://quillette.com/2020/12/29/the-future-is-already-here/

I don't agree with all of the conclusions of Dr. Schwartz but I do think truly revolutionary innovations on par with the birth control pill or television or the PC are going to be increasingly scarce as time goes on.

I look at a show like Discovery and what have they envisioned? Basically the same old tech as TOS but with holographic vomit everywhere instead of screens, and oh ya, magic mushroom spore drives. And you could say well ok they had an intellectual property and had to stay within its confines for a prequel.

But then they went into the 31st freaking century, as far beyond TNG and TOS as those eras are beyond us. And....? Well I have only followed the plots through these reviews but have they shown a single damned thing that's new, that you could actually envision a future society having as an everyday concept like a tricorder or a com badge?

And fine you can blame Discovery's writing. But to be fair could you have done better? I honestly don't know that I could have. Or to do better, I would have to delve into technologies that frankly would put us more into Black Mirror territory. Basically I would have to envision something like the Borg, except in a positive "Trekkian" way - and that ain't easy. I'm a product of my time. My generation grew up seeing technology, from TV to video games to nuclear energy, with equal parts hope and dread that they would ruin society / the planet. Social media has only upped the ante.

Watching TNG in the 80s as a kid might have been the last time scifi could show us something hopeful about the future and technology at least for me as a 40 something adult.

I don't think my perception is unique here.
🔗
Booming
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 6:06am (UTC -6)
@Jason
I read the article, I still disagree with the conclusion. The part about vaccines is pretty telling. He doesn't even talk about the RNA vaccines themselves but the rollout. The incredible innovation is the RNA vaccine. These vaccines are not only safer but also far more effective. The old flu vaccines barely achieved an immunization rate of 50%, often far less. It is a gigantic innovation. Corona is only still a thing because the nation states again show their inability to tackle global problems. As I said, these new vaccines will save billions of lives. But this engineer doesn't notice. He, because of his profession, only notices things that are made by engineers. Same with streaming, he doesn't even use the word. He just writes Netflix. I can now watch any movie ever made, at any time, at home. The thing is, most transformative technologies do not come from engineers anymore but from programmers. Then there is machine learning where stuff is happening that would explode most peoples brains. Did I mention 3D printers? Or wireless internet?
The text makes the argument that there will be less innovations but more improvement. I think that is just a certain way of seeing things. What is a microwave? It is an appliance that heats your food by exposing the food to a certain energy form. Is that fundamentally different from a hot plate? I would say no. Same is true for the washing machine and many other things.

But back to Discovery and TOS/TNG. Let's keep one thing in mind. The stuff TOS showed: Talking into a thing and another person hears it, a view screen, a scanner. These things were in sense already in existence at the time. The inventions that are still out there are replicators and transporters. What major invention did TNG come up with? Furthermore, most of stuff TOS showed already featured in sci fi that came before that show.

Now to Discovery. That show, as you said a while back, did not jump into the future to show us new tech but to get away from established Star Trek, to do it's own thing. It was essentially a do-over to start from an early stage of federation development. Building something up is always more interesting than maintaining something.

About the positive future. I think that is really more about what Max Weber called the "iron cage" of modern societies (he came up with it around 1900).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_cage

The problem is more about the fact that the fundamentals of western societies are not great. The rich become more powerful every year. Normal people are worth less and less and there is this believe that this is all inevitable or to quote an often used word by our former chancellor Merkel "Alternativlos". Sooner or later some kind of fundamental change will come. It always does and then artists will imagine a better world and most importantly normal people will believe that this better world is possible. To quote Spock:"History is replete with turning points,..."
🔗
Jason R.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 6:55am (UTC -6)
Well Booming you actually made some of the same criticisms of the article I did so I am not saying you are totally wrong. But just on the MRNA vaccine thing, I would point out that the jury is still out. Certainly with a fresh round of lockdowns happening where I live as we speak, I don't know that the technology is quite as miraculous as you state. The potential is amazing, but the current reality at least as far as slippery cotonaviruses isn't quite what we hoped.

But I digress.

I distinctly remember years ago reading about actual scientists who were inspired by Trek, both TOS and TNG, to not only go into science but also to invent new technologies like the cellphone (communicator) and VR (holodeck). Sure Trek was a bunch of fantastical nonsense too, but people watched those shows as kids and grew up to invent the very things they saw on screen claiming they got the idea from the show. That is a special thing.

That hasn't been true anymore for a long time. Something about the 60s and even the 80s made people open to a certain kind of message that Trek capitalized on - a message that really inspired people to see the future with positivity, to see technology as something that could change the world for the better.

It would be easy to blame Discovery for its shitty writing, but all I am saying is that I don't know that in 2021 anyone could really recapture the idea of Trek. Sure you could imagine a world where Mrna vaccines have cured disease but does it capture the imagination like a holodeck or a simple com badge? Not everything is engineering but engineering gives us tangible artifacts that we live with every day. I am not sure that the latest social media app or even a life saving vaccine has that visceral quality that fores the imagination quite the same way.

Whether or not you subscribe to the idea of the end of innovation that Schwartz does you have to concede that the world has moved on from Trek and my view is that it's not coming back, not with the best writing in the world.
🔗
Booming
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 8:06am (UTC -6)
@Jason
" a message that really inspired people to see the future with positivity"
Economic conditions for huge parts of society improved significantly in the USA. The last economic reform phase of which the majority of the US population benefited from were 1930s, since then all changes in the economic structure of the USA harmed the lower classes, with the considerable exception of mid 1960s.

It is my believe that TOS and TNG had a more positive spirit because the American Empire was still in ascend. It plateaued between 1990-2005 and since then it descends, exhibiting all the signs of a fading empire. While the groundwork for it's descend were laid between 1970-2000, these things only have become apparent around 2010. The USA, still being the leading cultural force, has filtered a lot of it's imperial malaise through it's media, including science fiction.

There are other reasons, of course, global risks like climate change, pandemics, pollution and a new even more formidable imperial opponent: China.
That is why the Expanse is more fitting for the times. Earth and Mars, the blue planet vs the red planet. Earth (essentially the USA) is incapable of solving it's own social problems. As long as that reality and the perception of that reality continues there will be no positive star trek.

"but also to invent new technologies like the cellphone (communicator) and VR (holodeck)"
Walkie talkies existed since the 1940s and VR is only recently becoming something the masses can use.
🔗
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 9:33am (UTC -6)
@Jason R.
"And fine you can blame Discovery's writing. But to be fair could you have done better? I honestly don't know that I could have. Or to do better, I would have to delve into technologies that frankly would put us more into Black Mirror territory. Basically I would have to envision something like the Borg, except in a positive 'Trekkian' way - and that ain't easy."

It's funny that you say "it can't be done" and then immediately proceed to give a compelling way of doing so.

Spinning Black Mirror style tech into an optimistic vision of the future is *exactly* the kind of thing that Star Trek should be doing. Yes! Show us a society where all this crazy tech is used for good rather than evil. Show us a society where progress is not being hailed for it's own sake, and technology is only a tool for the betterment of our lives.

Now you say this is difficult. But why should it be? The only difficulty I see here is getting used to the idea. We just need to let go of the crazy way our present society works, and start with a blank slate. Just like Roddenberry did in the 1960's when he imagined a world without racism, prejudice and povetry.
🔗
Booming
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 9:40am (UTC -6)
@Omicron
I think this is what you are not getting. Shows about the future are so overwhelmingly dark because people believe that the future will be dark. If you would create a show were the future is positive then the audience will probably not accept it.

@Mosley
You recommended Anne with an E. I'm laughing and crying the entire time. Thanks for the tip!
🔗
Jason R.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 9:55am (UTC -6)
I agree with Booming. People wouldn't accept a positive vision of the future. It would come across as fake and even sinister.
🔗
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:02am (UTC -6)
@Booming

"The audience" is not a monolithic entity.

There are plenty of people (including yours truly) who are sick and tired of all this grimdark stuff and long for a new positive vision of the future.

There's a reason why Classic Trek still has millions of fans, including a younger audience.

There's a reason why The Orville, despite its numerous flaws, amassed a fan club in the millions.

The claim that - somehow - there's no market for this kind of show is simply baseless.
🔗
Peter G.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:09am (UTC -6)
"People wouldn't accept a positive vision of the future. It would come across as fake and even sinister."

It's funny, because while the 60's had a certain glamor around futurism, notably seen in the Jetsons and in the Disney type parks, this futurism seems at least in part centered around what I would call household improvements: flying car, futuristic appliances, and so forth. That all of this happened during the threat of the A bomb didn't seem to register in terms of people being afraid of technology on an everyday level. But now that we have some of Trek's technology - viewscreens, PADD's, early version hyposprays, and even hypthetical models of the Alcubierre warp drive, we are currently experiencing technology as a threat more than a treat. I think this can largely be attributed to social media, and maybe to an extent to things like drone warfare and possibly bio research (hence the concern about the covid lab theory). So while I don't agree that people wouldn't accept an optimistic future, I think the current state of affairs is that the abilities granted to us by tech right now seem to make life more complicated and onerous, rather than freeing us up to do nice things. So to the extent that scifi might be seen as a projection of the present into the future, the 60's was an age of increasing ease whereas comparatively it seems that we're now in an age of increasing demands put on us, rather than ease. Productivity is up, but more productivity is required. It's not like using computers means we only need to work 15 hour weeks as 'full time'.

That said I don't think it should be that hard to write contemporary sci-fi that gives us new things in the future to look forward to. The only requisite is that the writer needs to be a bona fide sci-fi writer who is into that type of thinking. A hack Hollywood writer being tasked with a nominally sci-fi show isn't going to be able to write sci-fi any more than a sitcom writer tasked with writing for a mystery show is going to be able to concoct an Agatha Christy story.
🔗
Booming
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:32am (UTC -6)
@Omicron
Sure, I'm sick of grimdark and hunger for heartwarming and/or positive content but that is still a long way from me believing a positive vision of the future. One also has to keep in mind that sci fi shows are very expensive to produce. That further decreases the willingness of a streaming service to risk trying something that goes completely against the times and while the Orville is more positive than DSC, I wouldn't call it a positive vision of the future.
🔗
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:58am (UTC -6)
I don't really get all this desperation.

Star Trek has already told us that the 2020's are going to suck. TNG's utopia has risen from the ashes of some very ugly events in the 21st century, and I don't recall a single Trekkie who ever claimed that was "unrealistic".

So why do it now? Sure, it's more difficult - emotionally - to seperate the short-term and the long-term when we are actually living through this sh*t. But if you remember the way you felt about this storyline (say) 20 years ago, then you should realize that we have no reason what-so-ever to lose hope now.
🔗
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 11:13am (UTC -6)
@Booming
"while the Orville is more positive than DSC, I wouldn't call it a positive vision of the future."

I agree that the Orville is far from being an ideal example of the trope.

But it's still far more positive then what's happening in the real world (even before the 2020's madness started). If you told me humanity would look like that in 400 years, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.

Besides, do you seriously think that the Orville would have been less popular if it followed the formula more closely? Had they toned down the tasteless jokes and made everything more TNG-like (to a degree), would you have liked the show less or more?
🔗
Booming
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 11:44am (UTC -6)
@Omicron
"But if you remember the way you felt about this storyline (say) 20 years ago, then you should realize that we have no reason what-so-ever to lose hope now."
There is a difference between living in fairly good times and watching a show that tells us of a utopian future, while also mentioning that it was difficult to get there, then living in those bad times and imagining a utopian future. Paradise never seemed so far away during my lifetime.

"Had they toned down the tasteless jokes and made everything more TNG-like (to a degree), would you have liked the show less or more? "
The fact that they did tone down the creep humor after a while was what kept me going, otherwise I would have not watched the two seasons.
🔗
mosley
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 2:20pm (UTC -6)
@Booming

"You recommended Anne with an E. I'm laughing and crying the entire time. Thanks for the tip!"

oh, that makes me super happy! isnt it just wonderful, and heartwarming?

also, it kind of gives me peace of mind even regarding the topic discussed here. you know, from time to time a little self reflection does not hurt, so i try to always also ask myself, all the stuff you hear about people only disliking DSC for its female empowerment etc pp., is it true?

and then, whenever i watch a show that *does this well* (and boy, does anne with an E do this in most elegant ways), i come back to, no, thatts not it. i do not have a problem with any of these topics. i love the female empowerment narrative in that show. i love the Anne character, compared to which even tilly is a polished hollywood trope. the actress is simply amazing.

or the trans stuff. i loved sense 8 and how they just incorporated this into the story flow with a complete sorry-not-sorry attitude. there, this character is trans, end of story, deal with it or go away. not this dancing-around-with-metaphors schtick. as if anyone would still need a show in 2021 to dance around this with metaphors. grow a spine, DSC, goddamnit, have your trans character experience some interesting plots, instead of reducing it to the trans-ness.

its just not well done. thats the bottom line for me.

enjoy Anne with an E. its such a lovely show. right to the very end of the last episode. not a single drop in quality throughout the entire series, in my book. i havent been this sad when i had finished watching a series for many many years. such lovely, nuanced characters, and what a great cast that is, oh my.
🔗
Booming
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
@mosley
"isnt it just wonderful, and heartwarming?"
It is, it is. When Anne was stroking that little dead mouse, I was sobbing uncontrollably. I'm tearing up just thinking about it. All feels earned and natural. It is far too soon to say anything more about it. I had to open a bottle of wine.

About the whole trans issue. Discovery is not a smart show, so obviously this and other hot button issues are done in a stupid way. What more is there to say.

"all the stuff you hear about people only disliking DSC for its female empowerment etc pp., is it true?"
To me it sometimes looks like people dislike the Discovery in general and then pick their favorite topic. For a misogynist that will be empowerment, for a transphobe that will be the trans stuff. While keeping in mind that you can have a problems with how the show represents these topics without being either misogynistic or transphobic. I'm very much pro trans rights and even I was rolling my eyes last season when the whole pronoun stuff happened.

"enjoy Anne with an E. its such a lovely show."
Thanks again. :)
🔗
mosley
Wed, Dec 22, 2021, 10:55am (UTC -6)
@booming
"To me it sometimes looks like people dislike the Discovery in general and then pick their favorite topic."

That's a sharp observation. Convinced me right away.
🔗
Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 12:49am (UTC -6)
We can't really do it yet, but the things we will be able to do with 3d printers soon open up a world of possibilities so vast it is hard to parse. Wait until we can print a line of single atoms at a time. So much of what we want to do right now is limited by materials science. With 3d printers, we can make better materials. With better materials . . . yeah.

And I'm not just talking about better semiconductors, or perfectly smooth and symmetrical polished surfaces, or materials like carbon nanofibers--strong and light--space elevator, anyone?--but I'm also talking about organs. Need a new heart? I will print you a new copy of yours. It will have your own DNA.

It'll be really cool once we have artificial wombs. Roe v. Monsanto should be an interesting case. But don't worry, America. We'll still be America. We'll find something else to fight about. (Like guns. There's always guns.)

And the thing is, we already KNOW right now that we should be able to do these someday. The science we have right now tells us we should. We just need to spend some more time creating the things that will let us create the things that will let us create those things.

The future of innovation isn't all going to be mild iterative advancements and new applications of existing technologies to new use cases. There are leaps on the horizon.
🔗
Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 12:49am (UTC -6)
(Oh and you can add me to the list of Star Trek / Anne with an E crossover fans!)
🔗
OmcironThetaDeltaPhi
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 7:29am (UTC -6)
3D printers taken to their logical conclusions = replicators. Thinking about this, it's funny how unimaginative Trek's usage of these near-magical devices usually is.

Artificial wombs are also great. Keeping your fetus in a box is the surest way to prevent a "Roe vs. Monsanto" dilemma from ever arising in first place.
🔗
Sigh2000
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 8:55am (UTC -6)
@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
"it's funny how unimaginative Trek's usage of these near-magical devices usually is."

Unimaginative yes and not very realistically thought about.

The hype surrounding the capabilities of today's technologies is huge. You would think that 3D printing is just a snap of the fingers .'Let's 3D print a house' (I've seen). Much of that 'future is here today thrill' comes from the oft-misleading titles of news articles. Doing it is another thing. Reality is E.g., 'My ABS plastic didn't melt properly, so therefore I have to do the print all over again.' followed by an explicative (deleted).

Not to mention the fact that the printable area of most 3D printers is no larger than 27.94 x 43.18 cm (11 x 17 in). A lot of individual prints will be needed to build a house. Hard work. In other words, somewhere in the background of these "modern miracles" is a lone operator, dealing with tiny technical details of matter and machinery and possibly bored to death much of the time.

This is the same issue surrounding holograms. Holographic images are certainly possible ...but the image works in the way that it does, because the viewer's eyes look at the hologram from one position. It is not yet possible to interact with them around them. The viewer has been sold on the idea that holographic images are "easy" because that "easiness" is a special effect presented within movies and television (basically a photographic effect not a holographic one (and we do not enter the same space or time in which the filming editing and CGI was done)....then there is the Pepper's Ghost optic, effective as it is, it is not holographic.
🔗
OmcironThetaDeltaPhi
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 9:54am (UTC -6)
3D printing is in it's infancy right now. Like any technology, it will take some time too mature.

I have little doubt that in a few decades, we will have 3D printers that are as versatile and as easy to use as a Star Trek replicator. Just think of how computer tech has evolved in the past few decades: What started as a tool for professionals and a toy for geeks (including yours truly) is now an integral part of everybody's lives.

One wonders how future society is going to deal with a situation where every kid has access to a device which can create almost any object at will. The social, legal and economical ramification of this technology will be staggering.
🔗
Jeffrey’s Tube
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 10:20am (UTC -6)
I can’t imagine they will ever be as quick as replicators, but given a century or so of development, we shall see!

And it’s true, Star Trek mainly uses them to make chocolate sundaes for Deanna Troi. Though they did 3d print that shuttle on Prodigy a few weeks ago. That was neat.
🔗
Gary
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 11:49am (UTC -6)
@OmcironThetaDeltaPhi: "One wonders how future society is going to deal with a situation where every kid has access to a device which can create almost any object at will. The social, legal and economical ramification of this technology will be staggering."

Check out The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson, for an excellent novel that thinks about just that, among many other things. The replicators are more like printers than replicators: not instant, but fairly quick. And economic power comes largely from supplying them. (The "unlimited" aspect is not initially present in the story, with restrictions imposed, but is then considered.)

It's really great, and my daughter loved it too. A great gift for highly literate girls especially, but really for anyone who doesn't mind looking up some vocabulary! (I'm not getting a kickback, just loved the story.)
🔗
Robert
Tue, Dec 28, 2021, 12:26am (UTC -6)
So does anyone else think it's stupid writing that you have a dangerous experiment going on in engineering with your top engineers (creating a mini DMA), WHILE you have an emergency evacuation going on because the real DMA is approaching?

Don't you need said engineers (Stamets, Reno, Adira) on standby in case of problems with that evacuation? Especially when the captain goes to a dangerous area?

Would have made much more sense if the crew first did the evacuation, and THEN did the experiment with the mini-DMA. But may be they needed Saru to have something to do while captain Burnham was off again to save the galaxy?
🔗
Jammer
Wed, Dec 29, 2021, 5:27pm (UTC -6)
Review now posted.
🔗
Mal
Wed, Dec 29, 2021, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
Thank you @Jammer for taking time out from the holidays to get these up. Wishing you and your family a lovely new year.
🔗
StevenA
Mon, Jan 3, 2022, 9:02pm (UTC -6)
For those wondering about the scar on Tara's neck. I think this is from having a control device implanted by the Emerald Chain as he mentions being their slave. See similar devices used in Scavengers in season 3.

Submit a comment




I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2022 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.