a review by the Crow.
and the Azure-Winged Magpie!
SPOILER LEVELS AT MAXIMUM
ᴛᴏ ʙᴏʟᴅʟʏ ʀᴇᴛᴜʀɴ ᴛᴏ ꜰᴏʀᴍ
Introductory statements by the Bridge Crew
Captain‘s log, Stardate 96643.78: As stated in the last report to appear on The Corvid Review, a series of posts had been written in regards to the final episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. However, due to the time that has passed, and with season 2 of the show about to debut on Netflix in a little under 48 hours from now, I’ve decided — with a heavy heart — to permanently shelve those reviews, despite all the good work that had gone into them. There were two arguments in particular that I had delved into that are the greatest losses resulting from this decision; one in regards to Armillaria ostoyae, and the other relating to one Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs). And about both of these, I was greatly mistaken. The show simply just didn’t go where I thought those ideas might guiding it, which had already (to be fair) become a matter of habit by that point.
To address a concern that has been pointed out to me, lately: Yes, I have been much, much softer on Discovery than I have been to just about anything else. And much of my being so kind to the show comes from my knowledge of the major upheavals that had been happening at the time behind the scenes. This is Star Trek; a franchise whose entries always start out a little weak. I could afford them some time. I’ve already been on record about how I had concerns in relation to the writing and the overall plotting of the show; and most strongly about how I felt the show was just touching on exciting concepts before discarding them in favour of something a little more suited to viewers with a knack for action. I’ve tried (and have) seen the good in Discovery, and wish it nothing but well, but…
The gloves are now off. In recent times, Number One and I have promised (and maintained) a more professional standard of work, now that The Corvid Review is on course for greater things. After all, we’re turning this little corner of the internet into an actual home. The Corvid Review is no longer just a curiosity to be found adrift on the web any longer. In light of that, all my reviews from this point onward will fall under the same scrutiny I usually offer my other reviews. And yes: this scrutiny will apply to the episodes in question in this review as well, short as they may be.
I’ll now hand the conn. over to my right hand woman. I’ll see you in the episodes that follow.
Terran Empress First Officer’s log, Stardate 96643.92: Hello-hello everyone! How are you lot?
I think this is the first time I’m getting to WRITE about the Star Trek: Discovery episodes and I’m all ready for it (I only really messed around with the old ones to make them a bit more fun, since Cap’n over here’s as fun as a wet sock)! I’m dropping my “character” for Star Trek Month. So if you think you’re going to miss my “nuttier” side, you’re just going to have to wait for March to come around. I’m the officer in charge of the Star Trek films that we’ve got lined up to go, but I’ll be bouncing in and out of the ST: DSC reviews whenever something I really want to talk about happens (starting today!).
One thing that’s a little bit annoying is I can’t find the Short Treks on Netflix. I’m not really sure how I’m going to review them if I can’t see them. I guess I’ll just have to leave them out if they’re not available in the UK.
And here’s something Cap’n Crow forgot! He’s not 100% happy with our older Star Trek reviews. I didn’t really do anything much on them, but Cap’n’s got it in his head that he just didn’t do that good when writing them up. I think they’re fine but we started all fresh in October, so let’s keep the shiny new reboot to TCR rolling!
And speaking of new things…
Isn’t our bridge crew picture awesome?! There’s a lot that’s going to happen on our Youtube channel in the next few months but for now we’re not really going to be posting anything on it. I just wanted a video done real quick for Star Trek Month, so the Cap’n made me one! ❤
(We’re totally good on that bridge. No one’s planning anything like stabbing the Cap’n and taking over or nothing…)
And one last thing! We’re doing Star Trek all the way up until the end of March, yeah, but we’ll be doing other things too! I’ve got a review of How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World that I’ve been sitting on for like a week. So it’s not like we’re going to ignore everything else that’s coming our way!
Now let’s get this show under-way and look at…
DSC012: Vaulting Ambition
The Azure-Winged Magpie: Right. So! Here’s the premise.
“Captain” Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) goes and delivers the “Notorious Criminal Scumbag” Gabriel Lorca (Jason Issacs) to Emperor Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh, who gets a nice grand Khaleesi introduction like she always should) and Mirror Universe shenanigans start up all over the place.
But! Before getting to how I felt about the episode, I need to talk about a few things that happen in it.
I don’t get how Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) just knows things all of a sudden. I mean… he’s always known things, but he just gets used to dealing with how the Mushroom-Universe works a little bit too quick. And I could have told you Hugh (Wilson Cruz) was coming back. You don’t just off someone that important like that (even though Discovery did that one time before). Anyway… there’s a lot of strange things going on in the “Mushroom Network” and Hugh’s in it (…somehow). Hey! I’m not asking questions. More Hugh makes episodes better. I don’t know what it is about the guy. But I think he’s always so upbeat that he makes Discovery better just by hanging around.
And then you’ve got the whole thing going on with AshVoq (Shazad Latif). The Crow already complained about this. But this episode has a LOT of things to say about what’s going on. And a lot of it doesn’t make sense. So what L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) says is… Tyler IS a human and that Voq was put INTO him. Or is she saying that… wait. Hang on. So Tyler was rebuilt into Voq. Okay gotcha. But why did Voq had to give anything up?! The surgery flashback bits show us that Voq was massacred into looking like Tyler (and having a nice new personality and everything). So who…? Wha…? This doesn’t make no sense. Y’know what? I’m going to roll with it. Both guys got messed up and they’re the same person now. That’s as far as I’m going with this. Any more, and my brain’s going to just go broken. We’re leaving it there. Right? Right? Oh… no. We’re not… We’re going to have more surgery! And… um… Voq’s dead? That was… terrible. That whole story was just really bad.
Now… Let’s talk about Lorca. Damn… is Jason Issacs good in this episode. He’s not even in it for that long, but every second he’s in it is so so so good. We ALL know who Lorca is. He’s a hard man who’s really got a heart of gold. But he’s up to… something. Right? Something about him just doesn’t add up. And in this episode, he kills the theory we all had that he’s really from the Mirror Universe. It’s in the little things like him going “who?!” when the big guy who’s got it out for him yells at him about his sister, and in the scene where the “soldier” is dumped in front of him and Lorca just doesn’t know who the hell this guy’s supposed to even be. (And just because I want to know… WHAT DNA does that?! Holy explosions Cap’n)!
The Crow loves the guy. I love the guy. And Mirror-Lorca sounds like a right proper scumbag when the Emperor starts talking about him. Like… seriously. Mirror Lorca sounds like the kinda guy who I’d f— waitaminute… Are you telling me… that Mirror people are… sensitive to… light…?!
No. Not our Lorca. He had a war injury right? He’s not this scumbag POS the Emperor’s on about right? I mean. It’s not like it matters because at the end he (our Lorca)… he…
(╥ _ ╥✿) …he ded
That ending sent shivers all over me! What an epic way to finish the episode! Great stuff!
Also… Michael eats Saru (Doug Jones).
THE CROW: 5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8/10
DSC013: What’s Past Is Prologue
The Crow: Personally, I was quite divided on the reveal that Lorca was a Terran all along. On the one hand, we have a great villain, on the other, we have a man I’d consider to be a near-perfect captain. While Picard remains the one-above-all in my eyes, Lorca isn’t far behind him in terms of how I rank my captains (although I dare say I rank them all quite close to one another). The Azure-Winged Magpie and the Swan(!) would both tell you that while I might aspire to be like Picard when in “command” of a given scenario, I probably act a lot more like Lorca. Add to that the fact that Star Trek: Discovery barely follows Lorca, and it’s natural to grow an uncertainty around the figure of authority that Lorca brings to his scenes.
That said, the Emperor might’ve been lying when it comes to Lorca and his past, although Lorca does little to lift the gloom that hangs over his head. This is, of course, delivered in a most cartoonish speech that references quite plainly over-the-top villains such as Senator Armstrong from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Gul Dukat from Star Trek‘s very own Deep Space Nine, et al, two of whom utterly mess things up in their pursuit of said “ideal” (hint: Cardassia looks as good as it can, I suppose).
But enough about that.
Star Trek: Discovery, like many productions these days, is a little ham-fisted in the way it explores political concepts, and Lorca as an out-and-out villain works well because of it. His lines have an aura to them of being right, up until one word he chooses to use appears and turns the idea dark. It’s similar to how I once described current-PM Theresa May, when she was talking about stripping suspected terrorists (my use of emphasis should be clear to all) of their British citizenship (I believe this was in 2013). I said that May — at the time — had said things I felt I could agree with until dropping that final statement, which rendered everything she said up until that point invalid. That is the kind of character Lorca plays here. And unlike that time I spoke about May; here, Lorca has enough baggage with him to make him the most despicable kind of villain (it’s important to note that I don’t consider May a “villain” by any means, even though my political disagreements with her actions are strong). Sure: it’s easy for me to say that the sexual angle between him and Burnham isn’t “confirmed” per se, right up until the end, but the show treats it as fact without doubt.
Note that I’m not addressing the science of this episode since I think they’ve pushed it beyond even the limits of Star Trek at this point. The Treknobabble continues to be incoherent, and much more so than in previous installments because now we’re dealing with tangible objects. I’m taking what we’re given at face value.
And the final confrontation is a fist-fight, as always. Lorca loses his grip on the situation (how he does this after the journey he’s taken is beyond me), and loses the ensuing battle like an utter moron. His “devotion” to Burnham makes him turn on his own — particularly Landry (Rekha Sharma), he is exceptionally terrible at weilding a sword, and turns out to be more bark than bite. Of course, he wins back some respect when he employs the tried-and-tested Star Trek move of balling both fists together and flailing around like a madman. But in the end “our side” wins, of course, with an assist from the Terran Emperor herself.
Not a bad episode, although it still adheres to the high action that Discovery‘s been veering into a lot more than I liked, good production values and a spectacular performance by Mr Isaacs. I’d have to commend director Olatunde Osunsanmi for this episode.
And I don’t have to tell you that Lorca will be back. If you don’t believe me, just think about where he went.
THE CROW: 6.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10
DSC014: The War Without, The War Within
The Azure-Winged Magpie: I just realised I cut our reviews a little bit too long. Okay! So! Ash tells Saru about what happened to Voq and I’m still confused. These two with Hugh are my favourite characters on the show, but I really kinda hate what they’ve done to Ash. Everyone’s picking up the pieces now that they’re back (to the future!) and then Sarek (James Frain) shows up and straight-up mind [BLEEP]s Saru to figure out what’s going on with the Discovery…
(ʘ っ ʘ✿) …!
Lorca’s ex and L’Rell’s yelling buddy Admiral Kat Cornwell (Jayne Brook) kills Lorca’s fortune cookies dead when she finds out about what was going on with him. The ISS Discovery was blown up so there’s no story there. And yessir Admiral! The Terran Empire Mirror Universe files are going into the Federation’s “naughty pictures” folder.
There’s a scene where Ash runs into Paul and I liked that scene. Anthony Rapp’s always been a little bit… blank? in this series. But here he gets to show off his acting chops. I originally thought that the scene was a bit short and off, but I think it’s fine now that I’ve seen it one more time (okay… three more times. I like looking at these guys.)
Admiral Kat goes into shell-shock mode when it turns out that the Klingons took over Starbase 1 (which is… Earth, no? That’s EARTH!) So Saru takes over and hoo boy!… I really want this guy to be Captain!
This episode’s got a lot of character explaining going on (which we needed for a long time) and yeah! The Emperor gets into the mix! The humans need someone who can “git’ it done!” to win this war they’re losing! So we’re off to Qo’noS!
But FIRST! We get a “terraforming” scene which is just (I’m gonna say it! I’m gonna say it!) really DUMB. I mean it looks pretty and all but did Q turn up the clock-speed of this universe for this series to get away with all this (stop Magpie! Stop!) …stupid stuff? I mean… come on. There had to be a better way to get more magic mushrooms. This whole scene broke what could have been an okay episode. I like the whole thing with The Emperor and Sarek. I like the whole Federation getting really desperate thing. I like Saru being Captain Awesome. But I don’t like that thing they shoved in there. Why is everything happening so quick in this show?! How long were they in the Mirror Universe?! How long has this war been going on?! How long were Voq and L’Rell stuck on T’Kuvma‘s (Chris Obi, still best bad guy) ship? It only felt like days.
The Crow doesn’t like the scene either, but I have this special kinda hate for it. I just think they got lazy and went… “let’s put a CGI scene in there and magic the story up!” I hate it so much I’m going to mark this episode right down when I get to my… my…
Okay. That final scene? That’s epic.
THE CROW: 2.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 5/10
DSC015: Will You Take My Hand?
The Crow: Will You Take My Hand starts with a monologue that ties straight into mGeorgiou‘s rather… “un-Starfleet” manner. She’s not doing a good job whatsoever, but the exchange with Saru about what I can only liken to myself explaining the qualities of a fillet of tenderloin, cooked to the only temperature that it should be cooked to, is one of the best darkly comedic moments Discovery‘s had in a while. However, the fact remains that mGeorgiou is doing a terrible job of leading the Discovery to Qo’noS. If a captain spoke like that whilst walking down the corridors of a starship after being sworn to secrecy, in a scenario where so many people aren’t in the know about the reality of the situation, it’d simply raise too many questions.
But matters of characters failing protocol aside… no, the Magpie demands I address this. Yes: L’Rell is correct. Meat without seasoning is meat inedible (thank you, Number One). Her “very small human” jibe is also one that I’ll be adopting, thank you very much, L’Rell.
Now, as to why I’m lingering on these points (interference patterns from Number One aside): I’ll be the first to say I admire the work put into mGeorgiou, here. She embodies the fighting spirit of humans driven to desperation to a tee. The only twist is: she manifests this id-borne rage at all times — even in her quieter moments. The subtle notes to her performance, and the scene of her turning around from her savage “introduction” to L-Rell without having broken a sweat, actually make her a character I greatly like. Discovery‘s done well in borrowing performances from veteran actors such as Yeoh and Isaacs, and the rest of the cast do their best to reach their heights.
And before I skip past this section: I will forever have a problem with the Discovery being underground in the scene that follows Tilly (Mary Wiseman) meeting mGeorgiou.
However, I quite like the scenes on Qo’noS. These scenes are chock-full of references and miss very few opportunities at reminding us of the scenes on alien planets from Star Trek of old. It’s always been “Earth + Object” in this franchise, and so it is here.
Tilly continues her “bad” streak, made doubly adorable by her the little resurgences of her underlying persona from the first few episodes. There’s even a line that (quite literally) goes “…bread and circuses”. All good pointers from the team as far as making the show feel a little more close to home considering the vast departures it has gone on so far. And just to drive the point further, Star Trek veteran Clint Howard makes an appearance.
There are some scenes fleshing our characters out a little more, and then a twist appears in the tale. And it’s a twist I quite like. It ties back into what I was talking about earlier: the fighting spirit of those who are driven to desperation. The confrontation between Burnham and Cornwell is an example of what keeps my faith (and I usually never give faith to anything) in Discovery. Many state that Discovery is “not Trek”, that it does things which are not true to the show’s ideals. And while they’re correct in that Discovery does do things you wouldn’t expect in any other Star Trek, I think it’s a weak argument to say that it makes Discovery a show that is “not Trek”. The resolution to Will You Hold My Hand is rushed, it’s silly, and it’s quite over-the-top, but it resolves the vastest conflict in the series with a scene of diplomacy. And said scene preceded by a show of ideals in the face of darkness. And it leaves the story incomplete (L’Rell, with her house behind her or not, is still “small game”). It’s also important to keep in mind Mr Roddenberry’s own views on the question of change when it came to Star Trek.
The DNA is here, and it has the capacity to be strong, no matter how many surface details annoy people. To make myself a little clearer: Star Trek: Discovery is not a good show; and to be honest, I’m more worried about Season 2 than I ever was about Season 1 — but it has all the bearings of becoming a good show. The team needs to find their feet, they need stronger plans moving forward, they need to make their characters smarter, overall — and they need to stop being so reactionary. There are problems with so many things, and yet, it keeps showing potential. I’d say, a good start would be to find ways of scaling back the budget, and not forcing a set piece into each and every episode.
Will You Hold My Hand is a decent ending to the series. And, of course, it ends with this:
THE CROW: 6.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 9/10
Star Trek: Discovery; Season 1 Summary
Shaky, spotty, and unstable — with a lack of identity and drive alike weaved through its veins — Star Trek: Discovery is nonetheless a good base to start from.
Personally, I’d like to see the series return to the 90s-style of episodes once in a while, for budgetary purposes (which the show has been having issues with) as well as to see the show stop their pandering to the chance of new viewers by displaying big, gaudy CGI creations on screen (these viewers rarely stay).
It had many ideas that would’ve made for interesting explorations as far as the plot went, but missed a good three-fourths of them, and didn’t push what it did have as much as it could — rather resorting to settling on fungal “magic” to fit the holes in its fabric. Unfortunately, a lot of the show ends up being forgettable, even, when considering it as a chapter in the incredibly expansive lore of the series.
It’s not great, and it has many poor moments, but it’s a solid foundation.
Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery premieres tomorrow in the United States, and on Netflix the day after, at which point you can expect us to return with our thoughts on how the show continues to boldly go, where (hopefully) no one has gone before.
Live long, and prosper.
— Team out
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