Star Trek #1467: Will You Take My Hand?

FORMULA: For the Uniform + The Undiscovered Country + J.J. Abrams' Star Trek

WHY WE LIKE IT: The world-building. That cliffhanger.

WHY WE DON'T: Too early and somewhat anti-climactic a resolution. Didn't need to know Klingons have two pee holes.

REVIEW: So there's this crazy plan to jump under the surface of the Klingon homeworld, right? And add to that an EVIL plan sanctioned by a desperate Starfleet to let Empress Georgiou throw a bomb into the planet's core and blow it UP. The board is set to reveal how the characters react to fear and desperation. Will the ends justify the means? Mirror Georgiou would argue this isn't a no-win scenario, but Burnham, Saru, etc. would. The Federation's soul is at stake. And if you complained about Discovery being too pragmatic, too devoid of the Star Trek philosophy you cherish, then look at this first season as a crucible, an arc that puts those principles to the test rather than present them as a given. And who's going to save the Federation? A mutineer, a Klingon sleeper agent, and Starfleet's most awkward cadet. With Georgiou, they make for a Dirty Quartet. And Burnham gets to threaten to use her shtick again, except this time, her crew's got her back, and Admiral Cornwell gives in. Is she touched, convinced, or shamed? Starfleet's desperation made them turn to war crimes, but a desperate Burnham instead thinks outside the box. That's who she is and why she makes a great protagonist. Her final solution is elegant and rooted in diplomacy, and that's "who Starfleet is". The tension of the episode comes not from action scenes, but from ethical dilemmas, and that's "what Star Trek is". Of course, it does mean that things are resoved with talking scenes, and with 15 minutes to spare after the denouement, it feels a little anti-climactic, especially since Georgiou lives to fight another day.

So after this, the Klingons will unite under L'Rell and become the Empire we know from the other shows. A Cold War replaces the carnage. And the theme of unity is prevalent in the episode. Discovery's crew unites in Burnham's cause. Tyler makes knots that bind him to his human past, though his ability to conjure Voq - this UNIFIED Tyler-Voq - is disturbing to Michael, whose ties to her own past are difficult, Klingon laughter triggering traumatic childhood memories. Her ties to the evil Georgiou must also be examined, and in that case, rejected. In the end, characters stand united, but these unions are morally ambiguous. A unified Klingon Empire just represents another kind of danger. A unified Tyler is unable to stay with Discovery and chooses to leave with L'Rell (as a bridge between the two worlds? - wish this were clear). Joining with Georgiou on the mission is another unholy union, one that promises to unleash Tilly's dark side, but doesn't. Maybe it's meant to show that Georgiou is completely wrong about Starfleet, but it feels like a moral dilemma orphaned from another version of the script. Instead, Tilly gets accidentally stoned on volcano fumes. Oh well.

One promise fulfilled, but with a twist, is that the Away Team gets to see Q'onoS, but in addition to the Klingon world-building (you'd think after 11 seasons of Worf, we'd know all there is to know, but no), the away team has to infiltrate an Orion enclave. I'm guessing these guys are expelled from the Klingon homeworld after reunification, but I hope not. Alien planets need more "Orion towns" to make them more believable. Turns out the Orions aren't all musclebound pirates and slinky dancers!

So an interesting setting, ethics winning the day, and then... lots and lots of epilogues. And cheesy ones too. The Amanda and Sarek scenes don't seem necessary, and though I like the idea of ending the series on a big Trekkie speech, Burnham doesn't make any points that weren't made in the episode itself. It's the sort of thing that does make me tear up, and it did, but the revelation that she's essentially making a sermon to Starfleet, facing her crew rather than the assembly, is a little awkward. No surprise, Burnham gets a full pardon, though less believably, her commander's rank reinstated. Everybody gets a medal - Culber a posthumous one, which is sad - Tilly make it to ensign, etc. Saru gets the shaft though. After proving himself as acting captain, it looks like he's not necessarily even going to be first officer to the ship's next captain, who they have to pick up on Vulcan. Who that is is left up in the air though, because a distress call pulls the ship off course.

As soon as the numbers started appearing on the computer monitor, I know, and my heart lept up. The series ends on a shot of Pike's Enterprise. I guess a lot of recasting is in order (though it might be fun to get Greenwood and Quinto), but who doesn't want to check out the next season now? (Although, and this is my Doctor Who fandom talking, it would make a great one-off Christmas episode before actually getting to Season 2.) Beyond this cliffhanger, there's a celebratory feel throughout. The "Previously" voice-over is in Klingon. The end credits roll on the original Alexander Courage theme. Mintaka III and Betazed are name-checked.  Orion food stalls offer Ceti eels (and more internally, space whale on a stick). Clint Howard (formerly Balok) shows up as a drug dealer. There's plenty for the fans, who I hope, by this point, are on board with Discovery's vision. Because though it seemed to stand at a distance from the rest of Trek at the onset, it really does prove itself true to its spirit eventually.

LESSON: The Mirror Universe is sexier than the Orions.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium to Medium-High:
Perhaps by the nature of its more novelistic approach, the structure is clunky, but between the world-building and the celebration of what Trek is about, I think we can call it a winner.


De said...

Any speculation on the captain they’re picking up on Vulcan? Given the “small world” tendency of the series, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the new captain be Prime Lorca.

Siskoid said...

Would be my guess too.

LiamKav said...

I've not seen it yet apart from some online images, but it did make me realise something about myself: I've no problem with the more modern looks of the prequel shows, the different uniforms, different alien make up, or anything else like that, but having the NCC-1701 look different has genuinely upset me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just after 30 years of modern Trek saying "yes, Constitution class ships really did look like how you saw in the 60s", suddenly pivoting away from that seems a bit sad.


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