Episode 2 falls under our group scrutiny this week, with some mixed feelings but hope for the rest of the season. As usual, you may find spoilers throughout…
Let’s start with Vedran, our newest and very welcome member of the team, who found much to praise.
When at the end of the first season USS Discovery went to Vulcan to pick another captain, I was positively thrilled. Vulcans (after Romulans) are one of my favourite Trek races. But it was not to be. Instead, we were presented with Captain Pike. Initially, I was suspicious, as one of the things I like the least, in any sci-fi, is the small galaxy syndrome. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded, and like many other fans, I was left wanting for more. But I digress. With Discovery jumping in the future, it became obvious that the ship would need a new captain.
Having watched this week’s episode, I can freely say that we have him.
Saru is one of the few Discovery characters whose journey was truly interesting to watch. He was also one of the few characters who got enough screen time for the journey to matter. He is probably the only character that embodies the cardinal values of Trek: compassion, curiosity, intelligence…and now leadership. As this week’s crisis clearly shows, this makes him an ideal candidate for the captain’s chair. And it seems that the show’s writing room thinks the same.
On the other hand, we have Tilly. She’s a sympathetic character, who, while the ideal Starfleet material, still embodies Federation ideals and, more importantly, brings the much-needed warmth and a bit of humour in this bleak alien future world. Saru was right to take Tilly for the First Contact excursion instead of Mirror-Georgiou (can we simply call her Georgiou from now on?) who is probably the last person you want to bring to a diplomatic meeting. But although Saru is the leader-in-making, he is still learning the ropes. One can hardly blame him. His career promotion happened in the most unusual circumstances. And I am generous here. The world that Discovery crashed on is a lawless place, reminding me of the futuristic wild west. With the Federation gone, others have filled the vacuum, including the people like Zareh, who flourish in this grey space. Adding a parasitic ice countdown was a nice touch that not only increased the stakes but made Zareh even more dangerous. In the end, Saru has shown that although diplomat first, he can also resort to violence if it is for a good cause. And with the world turned upside down, this will be not an exception but a rule.
What also made me happy, is that for the first time since Discovery left space-dock, we got a bridge crew episode. Yes, Burnham is mentioned many times, but she is not the star of this episode. Keyla Detmer, Joann Owosekun, Rhys and Bryce, are finally people, not just names. And at least in the case of poor Detmer, we might be in for a story that will deal more with that side character. On the other hand, although touching at first, I think that we could do without badly-wounded Stamets suffering in the narrow Jeffries Tube. But his chemistry with Reno is working. Also, more of Reno is always welcome. And then there was that final scene, which reunited the crew with Burnham. A year has passed since Burnham’s own arrival and it will be interesting to see what she did while waiting/searching for Discovery. Also, Burnham is sporting a new look, which could imply that she is changed too?
All in all, this was a great episode, introducing us to a different aspect of the far-future, but also giving us an opportunity for character growth for Saru and the rest of the crew. I should not forget to mention truly amazing vistas, which only Iceland can provide. I would have preferred Discovery to have been lost for an episode or two more, so we could see them trying to find their place in this brave new world. But taking into consideration serialized storytelling, the reunion could probably not be postponed longer. Also, this does mean that we are seeing Grudge again in the next episode. On Discovery! About that, I cannot complain.
Next up, Dave airs his thoughts, briefly suspending his disbelief to see beyond any potential shortcomings this episode may bring…
‘Far From Home’ started off in similar fashion to the plight in which we found Michael Burnham in ‘That Hope is You, Part 1’.
This time it’s the USS Discovery herself emerging from the wormhole that propelled our protagonists 900 years into the future. That was not the only similarity however as this episode could be seen as a mirror to last week’s opener. Crashlanding on a planet in an unknown section of space, needing help from some locals in order to repair the ship with the aim of finding their missing crewmate, and ultimately having to fight off some bad guys in order to escape the said planet. It’s curious that the title to the first episode was dubbed as part 1 as according to the list of titles for this season, there is no ‘That Hope is You Part 2’. It does seem to me, however, that this episode is very much that elusive part 2 in all but name.
After what can only be described as a spectacular crash landing sequence that sees the already battle-damaged Discovery bury itself in what is later revealed as crushing ‘parasitic ice’ (can’t catch a break can they!). Saru played by the ever-amazing Doug Jones fully takes charge, assigning repair crews and assessing priorities, one of which is to seek out the inhabitants of a local mining colony to get help repairing a component of their communications system. Straight away in this episode, you can see Saru’s character arc reaching its full potential as he finally becomes the captain in every way except having the official rank (which will apparently come later).
This week’s episode was part science fiction and part western as Saru and Tilly found themselves in a scene that would not have been out of place in a John Wayne movie. Our two heroes enter a saloon complete with swinging doors. Later, when Zareh, the villain of the piece, played with real menace and intense intimidation by Jake Webber, arrives, a classic troupe of western cinema is used as we focus on the boots of the men walking in, complete with sounds of spurs echoing in the bar. At this point, Saru and Tilly have struck a deal with some local Cordanites and Zareh’s arrival throws a massive spanner in the works. He is looking to broker a deal for himself. In both cases, Dilithium is the resource they want. If it wasn’t clear from ‘That Hope is You Part 1’ then this episode reaffirms the rarity of Dilithium and makes it crystal (!) clear how sought-after it is by the inhabitants of this future. Saru and Tilly are saved by Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou who rocks up and does what she does best: kickass. Beating down the bad guys, she saves the day in a well-choreographed fight scene that again throws back to classic westerns.
Kal (Jonathan Koensgen), the Coridanite that strikes a deal to help Saru and Tilly fix their broken part reinforce my feeling that is part 2 to last week’s episode. Not dissimilar to Sahil, Kal has also been waiting for someone from the Federation to come along and help him and his people. He wants to be saved from the tyranny of Zareh and his obvious delight that his belief has been vindicated, going so far as to say, “I knew you would come.” This is a future that yes, is damaged, violent and nothing we have seen before in Star Trek, but it is a future that is crying out for some hope and for salvation. It is a future longing for the Federation.
One thing that has always amazed me about Star Trek – and was a reason why I was so against Star Trek: Voyager at one point – is how quickly the ships can be repaired. Every week Voyager would get its ass handed to her but the following week it was like new. Okay, they had replicators, instant access to tools and metals, but I don’t see how the USS Discovery, that only a few hours earlier had been in an epic battle with Control followed by a violent crash landing, can be flight-ready in little under a day. This is my one gripe with this episode, but it did lead to some fun interactions between Stamets and Jett Reno as, both injured, rush to repair a key part of the ship. So I’ll let it slide.
A suspension of disbelief later, the ship is trying to break free from the ice which now has a firm grip. Then from the stars, another vessel locks a tractor beam onto the Discovery and pulls her free. Considering everything they have been through it seems perfectly reasonable that the crew are expecting a hostile interaction, but they need not have worried: Michael Burnham has saved them. It’s a wonderful scene and I actually got choked up a little bit as we learn that Burnham had been in the 32nd Century for a full year already, searching for them all that time. It was raised in the first episode that the time difference emerging from the wormhole could have been many years apart and is something we have seen already in Trek in the Kelvin Timeline (Spock emerged 25 years after Nero). Whether we see the events of that year I guess we will have to wait.
I really liked the second entry into the season as it hints that a lot of the characters have had little to do except push buttons and respond to questions, might get a bit more of a look in and some actual development. Already we have seen Detmer (Emily Coutts) suffering from possible PTSD and so could be an overarching story for her character as the season develops. Roll on next week.
Elliot seems a little more jaded, though, but neverthless has dawning realisation moment…
I have to admit I wasn’t feeling the love at first this time around. Which is odd because I really missed Discovery and her gallant crew last week.
I get that we’re in the future, that we’re in highly unfamiliar surroundings, but this felt like run-of-the-mill sci-fi and wasn’t easily identifiable as Star Trek. Then the penny dropped (I may be many things, but slow, I don’t think I am).
54 years ago we were presented with a utopian future, where humanity had settled its differences and headed out to the stars to seek out new life and new civilisations. It may have been under the guise of 60s tropes and clichés, but it was a vision of said future that we aspired to and why we are Trek fans.
Now we’re presented with the future of the future, and the utopia has long been erased. Gene Roddenberry’s wishful prediction no longer exists in canon. We are now presented with a crew out of time. One held together by the Starfleet Charter, bound by Federation ideals, completely at odds with the rest of the galaxy. This then doesn’t ignore the Roddenberry stance, it enforces it. As with the rest of the franchise, we are witness to everything that is wrong in our own world by way of sci-fi story-telling, given the opportunity to see a dedicated and passionate crew doing all they can to bring order to a (fictional) failed society. No, the Discovery crew isn’t a belligerent force, a despotic gang out to force others to it’s will…it’s still a peace-loving, accepting society. It’s in a new world, a new galaxy, a new time. They are discovering and uncovering. Seeking out new worlds and new civilisations. They are fighting for a better future. And that’s what Star Trek is all about. For the first time since its launch, Discovery truly deserves the Star Trek moniker.
With that realisation in mind, I saw exactly what this episode and the whole of Season 3, is trying to do. Find hope in chaos. Yes, it falls under the wayward Wild West town scenario and all the baggage that comes with it, but this is a lawless future. Heck, if TOS had ‘Spectre of the Gun’ and TNG ‘A Fistful of Datas’, why can’t Discovery do its own spin on the oft-repeated formula?
The simultaneous plot of the USS Discovery’s saving was, however, all-too-quickly wrapped up. This is a series that has established long-form story-telling works in Trek and long gone are the episodes where everything and everybody needs to be back in their regular places before the end credits roll. The main plot, of Zareh and his tyranny, was merely a filler, a way to show us how awful the future now is. It was a way to show us, too, that Georgiou is potentially a loose cannon that will push Saru’s mettle to the limits before we’re done with this season. But it also gave the supporting cast a bit more to do, away from Burnham’s Greek-tragedy performances. Worryingly though, we’re now three years into the franchise’s new flagship show and I still can’t fully recall everyone’s names. If that’s a slight on my general information retention (well, I am getting on a bit now) or that Discovery is taking its time in rooting itself into my subconscious, I don’t know. This is an ensemble cast, and its one helluva long list, so perhaps I can be excused. That said, any scene should be driven by a lead character, with the ensemble responding and stepping up in turn, but Discovery seems to struggle to give anyone outside of Saru, Burnham and Tilly a true crack at the dialogue whip. Detmer’s (hurrah! I remembered a name!) struggles following her head wound are more than we are led to believe, I feel, so I do hope we focus on her plight more. I like her character and she’s quickly becoming one who stands out for me. I’ve always been fond of Stamets so was disappointed that he became the butt of Reno’s jibes. He’s worth more than that, so while I think the series does need more characters bouncing off one another, get the balance right!
But all in all, I do really believe that Discovery is finally getting its own identity. Oh, and one last thing before I finish. The Burn? The burn… The Burnham?
Last but by no means least we have Jack’s thoughts, who is looking for a missing moggie.
First thing is first: for something called ‘Far From Home’, I was left very deflated. This is because, despite the name, Spider-Man was nowhere to be seen. However I’m a kind man, so I decided to give it a fair shake despite this. In short, I’m glad I did but why was that exactly? Happy you asked.
Overall, I felt this was an episode which could have been better served if it was released simultaneously with last week’s episode ‘The Hope is You Part 1’, akin to the effective prologue to Discovery, ‘The Vulcan Hello’ and ‘The Battle At The Binary Stars’, just two years ago. This is because that if last week’s episode and this were taken together, ‘Far From Home’ would have come off as a virtual companion piece, virtually silencing the people who criticised last week’s lack of any appearance from the Discovery regular cast.
Personally, I think that once all of Discovery season 3 is released, this will be negated somewhat and many will gladly take this piecemeal approach. However, I feel there is a good case to watch this episode directly after ‘The Hope is You Part 1’ just for the companionship between the episodes. I feel Sonequa Martin-Green must have been somewhat relieved when, after an episode focused highly on Burnham, she only needed to film two shots for this entry. But after last week, I don’t see how anyone can call her lazy.
I am quite interested in the character of Lieutenant Keyler Detmer and felt the prolonged focusing on her injuries in the episode’s teaser would mean the episode will revolve around her character somewhat. Perhaps dissatisfied is too strong a term as it really was not. In fact, I don’t think she even appears in the episode after the teaser at all but, as a person who has had head injuries himself, maybe I was hoping too much to see an episode about her injury. The fact is, we still have eleven more episodes of the season to go, so it is likely this will be still picked up. With the possible exception of certain elements of ‘Choose Your Pain’, Discovery has established well that it is a solid bet for a great show, so even if it is unceremoniously dropped, I’m certain it will be to make more room for absolute class storylines this show is synonymous with.
With the last two episodes being given the unenviable task of establishing the show’s place suddenly nine centuries in the future (and post-Burn), it is forgivable to defer resolving this story beat for a time.
I found it somewhat of a relief to find out that there is a year gap between this episode and the last as while I have just said Discovery is synonymous with quality, if any show is going to do a year-long search, well, I’d trust this one. However, one of my few criticisms of the two-part movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was that, while justified, there was a large emphasis on the main characters just wandering for hours. I am relieved Discovery has seemingly side-stepped around this potentially dangerous flaw.
My only real criticism? The fact that Grudge was not included! As I mentioned last week, the cat is now my favourite character and while there would have been absolutely no place to put her, the fact is she resembles my neighbour’s cat, thereby potentially ruining for me Discovery as a show itself, I’ll reserve judgment on this matter until season 3 ends.
To conclude, once again Discovery has made us discover (see what I did there?) that the agonisingly long wait for season 3 was well worth it. Like last week, I still think these episodes are a very good jumping-on point for either fans new to Discovery or even lapsed Trek fans and above all, like last week, left me desperate to see the next episode.
When a show does that, it’s a sign that in NFL terms, it’s a great touchdown. A solid 8 out 10 from me.
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