Star Trek #1470: The Brightest Star

CAPTAIN'S LOG: The Secret Origin of Mr. Saru.

WHY WE LIKE IT: First look at Kelpia. The special guest star.

WHY WE DON'T: Prime Directive concerns.

REVIEW: Instead of waiting around for a proper episode of Discovery to take us to Saru's home planet of Kelpia, Short Treks sends us back to Saru's days there to show how a member of a pre-warp, servile race was recruited into Starfleet. Kelpia is a beautifully shot, alien fishing village, bits of Kelpian culture showing through even where the plot doesn't need it. What's important is that the Kelpians have simple existences, serenely waiting for the "pain of Vahar'ai", a Pon-farr(?)-like state that apparently doesn't come to everyone (as there are elders in the village, like Saru's priestly father), and that signals it is time for that individual to be beamed to a race called the Ba'ul, in the name of the Great Balance. There's no doubt this is a culture that's been distorted by first contact with an unscrupulous race, but on a practical basis, the periodic sacrifices are meant to keep a massacre from happening. The Kelpians are in no position to rebel against an enemy that never comes down to the planet.

And then there's Saru, atypical of his species, who sees hope in the stars where others see death (do they think they are killed by the sacrifice, or do they know they are being sold into slavery? Or is it possible the Ba'ul eat them the way the Terran Empire does in the Mirror Universe?). He gets his hands on a piece of Ba'ul technology which falls off their ship (how does this happen, exactly?) and obviously a savant, manages to turn it into a beacon and a way to communicate with off-worlders. Keep in mind that this isn't just a pre-warp civilization, it's downright primitive. That makes Saru very special, and a good candidate for Starfleet. When a shuttle appears in the sky one night, you hope to see Georgiou, and you do. She's a lieutenant who pulled some strings to initiate contact, but the rules make it impossible to do more. Saru chooses to leave with her even if it means never being to return or save his people.

But he must, right? The primitive culture he comes from may never join the Federation, explaining why we never saw them in later eras, but this set-up really begs for a sequel. At some point, the cruel Ba'ul must be defeated and the Kelpian race freed. At Saru's hand. Who doesn't want to see his charming sister Siranna again? Has she been sold into servitude by now? What if he undergoes Vahar'ai, and that sends him back to Kelpia? There are ways. How long we have to wait is the question. While we've seen the sort of Prime Directive dilemmas suggested in this story before (in episodes like Pen Pals and Homeward), they are arguable interpretations of the Federation's #1 rule. If the Ba'ul are already interfering with the development of this culture, why is it wrong to interfere with that? I guess Starfleet can't meddle in the internal affairs of an independent world. Are the Ba'ul so powerful, it's not worth stopping their massive sentients' rights abuses?

In any case, The Brightest Star isn't about that. It's about showing how exceptional Saru is - and I probably like him for the first time - and realizing his father's prediction he would eventually understand that everyone has their place. It's just not the place he imagined. Cue Trek fanfare, the adventure begins.

LESSON: Stay on the line until you talk to one of our representatives.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High - Not without its plot holes, but this look into Kelpian culture is invaluable and makes Saru a more interesting character.


Radagast said...

Fun fact: the village was filmed upon an artificial set of headlands built for erosion control on the shore of Lake Ontario. It's now called Bluffers Park, in Scarborough

Siskoid said...

Wow, just looked at pictures and it's gorgeous. You would think it was a tropical location to look at it!

Ryan Blake said...

Concise review. Like it.

Siskoid said...

Concise comment. Lik--


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