Episodes 10 and 11 – Despite Yourself and The Wolf Inside Review and Comments

Episodes 10 and 11 – Despite Yourself and The Wolf Inside Review and Comments

In Spite of Myself

I’ve been expressing my disappointment with this iteration since the start. I wanted it to be good. The concept, as presented to us, had such promise. But it turned out to be a gross misrepresentation of what this show is actually about with the writing sadly pedestrian, uninspired, amateurish even, and never reaching the velocity necessary for take off. I’ve written before that I gave up on it somewhere around Episode 7 or so and my reasons why and that certainly remains true. This was about the same time that a Trekkie friend of mine took my hand as we were both bemoaning that ST:Disco, despite what they were saying about it in the press, it was just another lackluster show about men, and said, “M, this show is not written for you.” It had not occurred to me till then that I would ever live in a world where Star Trek was not written for me. But she was right and I knew way back in the first episode that any story where the writers let a character out on a 20-minute space walk with all the levels in her suit at “nominal” would not end well. Seriously, how did that ever make it to air? So, no, this show is not written for me.

Star Trek Discovery on Space
Star Trek Discovery on Space

Despite this, I keep watching because, well, it’s part of my cable package (so no additional cost), I’m a Trekkie so built-in interest (again, Despite Myself) even if said interest turns into masochism (I choose my pain).

I also decided to have a look at Episode 10 because I read it might be yet another reboot of this iteration. As hope springs eternal, there’s always hope that a reboot might mean that the writers have finally sloughed off the mess they inherited/created and were way too busy earlier on paying lip service to canon and praising themselves in sundry interviews to focus on the storytelling and bring this ship to safe harbour. But instead, these constant reboots are sadly having the effect of sucking me into an agonizer booth version of Inception. I keep hearing banana, banana, banana…but I still see an apple.

It’s still a story about the men, with minor forays into the worlds of the only remaining females – L’Rell and Tilly (Tilly’s growing on me now that she’s discovered a backbone – but that can’t be good for the future of her character if how the other strong women in this show were summarily dispatched is anything to go by). The diversity is there only to be killed off and disposed of or marginalized in some way so I don’t understand what the reported outcry at the diversity in this show is all about. As far as Burnham is concerned, she’s been in turn a whiny child, a victim of circumstance, a patsy for a male admiral’s and a female captain’s bad decisions, a damsel in distress forcibly rescued by a white male with a secret agenda to “use” her, a convenient tool to show us how f***ed up Tyler is, and even a jonah; in short, anything but a heroine. I’ve seen all those good reviews where Burnham’s character is still referred to as First Officer Burnham. Are these reviewers even watching the show? Banana, banana, banana…but it’s still an apple.

I keep lamenting on how engaging this show could have been with a more skillfully written story by writers whose attention span is greater than that of a gnat’s and with a bit less Star Trek inbreeding. Given the premise we were sold at the beginning, this show could have been SO good. And they certainly have the cast that could’ve carried it.

This MU is less Star Trek and more Flash Gordon

OK, I laughed at Lorca channeling Scotty in Episode 10, but it destroyed the life-and-death tension and immediacy of the moment.

Still standing - after a week in the booth
Still standing – after a week in the booth

But, as I watched Episode 11 (The Wolf Inside), I found myself enjoying it quite a bit, chuckling and giggling even and – I have to say it – enjoying the effects of the agonizer on our poor Lorca. Except for the suffering-induced slurring of his traveling Southern accent making his dialogue even harder to decipher than normal, Isaacs is a joy to watch when the material is good and a bit of a guilty pleasure when it’s not. Definitely guilty here.

With this episode, I finally stopped trying to distill even a drop of the true spirit of Trek (sorry but stuffing the screen full of Easter eggs and references to every single episode of TOS, not to mention Enterprise, is not taking Trek anywhere new or even interesting) and started to watch it through a lens, differently. I realized that with this episode, we find ourselves not so much in the Mirror Universe but in the world of Flash Gordon, complete with evil emperor (Ming by any other name is still another trope ticked off).

Members of the Terran Empire bow to their Emperor. (Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg)
Members of the Terran Empire bow to their Emperor. (Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg)

Can you see Dr. Zarkov (Lorca) tricking Flash Gordon (Ash Tyler) and Dale Arden (Michael Burnham) into an adventure to another reality to rectify whatever he thinks went wrong, confront an evil Emperor, avert impending doom and fix the universe? Yeah…

I don’t think that this is what the producers and writers intended for this show but I’m enjoying it now with this new perspective. I recommend this lens to anyone who wants to enjoy the ride but can’t quite get on board with this Trekkery. But, for the sake of Star Trek, we need to get out of Mongo ASAP before this iteration further devolves into the old Saturday afternoon B movies of the 60’s. The cast is too good for that.

Missed Opportunities

I had to give my head a shake at yet another missed opportunity to go where no Trek had gone before slipped through our fingers. Why is it that everyone in the MU is exactly the same sex as they are in Prime Universe? There are always subtle, and not-so-subtle, differences in nature and background, so why not in gender? Why not make at least Stamets’ mirror twin a female? That would have provided the requisite shock value without resorting to servicing irritating old tropes and would certainly have lit up all the forums with excited discussions (anyone ever heard of two-spirited beings?). Something new at last! And, what fun it would have been to have seen the physical and psychological dance some of the characters would have needed to perform to be convincing as their other selves.

Stamets and Stamets - an impossible meeting with so many possibilities
Stamets and Stamets – an impossible meeting with so many possibilities

And, since we’re on the subject of Stamets, he’s the only one who has met his Mirror twin face to face and it’s in the airy-fairy world of the mycelium web. Which can only mean that Mirror Stamets has the same access to said web but he certainly seems to be in better health. Forget the secrets of the Defiant, get me these guys.

You know too much Hugh Culber

Well, we all know Dr. Culber’s coming back in one form or another. Are we left to hope for some mystical, other-worldly reunion/marriage somewhere along the mycelium web with the tardigrade as witness as a heavenly recompense bestowed upon Stamets for getting Disco back home (maybe…if we take the title of the last episode literally)? So, why kill him in the first place. What possible service to storytelling will that do if the writers/producers and the actor himself right away say he’s coming back in some way. Are they going for a trope-hitting record for a series in a single season? Did they need to dispose of him so he can be in the ethereal realm when Stamets severs his ties to a single universe? Or is it their attempt at a Game of Throne homage with a twist that they just couldn’t resist, regardless of the ancillary damage? Jon Snow may know nothing but Hugh Culber knows too much.

It looks like we’re going to lose these two characters at the end of this season. Diversity is the new red shirt. Too bad. Stamets was my favourite character from the start. Rapp sank his teeth into the role and I believed every word he said, even if I didn’t buy the idea of the sporadic drive for one minute. Stamets was the character that hung on to what it meant to be Starfleet. I miss him already.

Good Lorca…Finally?

So, Mirror Universe Lorca tried to mount a rebellion against the Emperor? That would make him Starfleet Lorca by our standards, wouldn’t it? The story of the destruction of the Buran, both of them, is fishy in both universes and would fit better in the opposing universes. Hmmmm…. So, good Lorca is in the bad universe and evil Lorca is in the good universe? Or are they just scheming contrarians in both?

Let me hold your hand...oh wait, that's the title of the last episode.
Let me hold your hand…oh wait, that’s the title of the last episode.

Whatever. I am SO done with this game of hide and seek – I just want to know what he meant when he told Burnham, “Oh, I know who you are Michael Burnham; I know exactly who you are” waaaaaaay back in Episode 3. By the way, Jason, Keanu wants his leather coat back.

Thank God For Small Mercies

Thank you for dropping the pretentious episode titles.

And thank you for FINALLY confirming what everyone had figured out as soon as the Tyler character showed up. Seriously I could not have been the only one who knew that L’Rell could not have been in two places at once (starving in the sarcophagus ship with Voq or sexually torturing Tyler on the prison ship). I live in fear that Tyler’s only being kept alive so that the writers can further twist the Burnham character into trying to telling us that she’s such a superhuman lead that she will single-handedly redeem him through the power of her love.

Tyler gets activated, incompletely, by L'Rell
Tyler gets activated, incompletely, by L’Rell

A Prayer In Vain

I can feel the wheels of L’Rell’s snaky machinations coming through Chieffo’s eyes and body language despite all those prostheses. She a compelling character but, poor L’Rell, I guess her retro-brainwashing prayer doesn’t work in the Mirror Universe. Has she found out the sarcophagus ship is gone? Does she even know where she is? I guess they didn’t outfit the ship with agonizer booths when they mirror-versed it. Is there a point at all to her story now that the main reason for L’Rell’s scheme was destroyed at the end of Episode 9 and Tyler’s been found out? I guess she’s another character we’ll have lost by the end of this season. Too bad.

Killy With The Good Hair

I want to see how Killy got so powerful, so early on in the Mirror Universe. Was her first murder her mother who criticized her hair? There was a cringe-worthy moment in the series back when Burnham tried to put Tilly on a diet and exercise regimen (tick another trope) and now we have the hair thing – I guess Winona Ryder can relate, re. the hair commercial strangely airing during the Golden Globes that implied good hair can revive your career.

Captain Killy of the ISS Discovery
Captain Killy of the ISS Discovery

Regardless, Tilly’s growing on me and her first utterances as the Disco’s captain were bang on. I want to see her Capt. Killy swear like a sailor – let ‘er rip! But…oh dear…if she’s discovering a backbone, that can’t be good. One of ‘em’s sure to die. Hopefully, we’ll get a few more moments of Wiseman’s great comedic timing and incredible delivery before the ultimate dispatch. However, please stop giving her the huge mouthfuls of technobabble, just because she can do it so well and with a straight face.

Hoofin’ It With Saru

Doug Jones’ Saru is wonderfully nuanced and integrated, and he’s managed to find a way to convey subtle emotions through layers of latex. I do have a small problem with the conception of this character however. For starters, wouldn’t a species that is bred as cattle for food be a little bit…plumper?  And, since we’re living in an era where the politics of fear are so front and centre, what a missed opportunity not to delve into what effects fear has on hearts and minds of those who are prey to it (episode 8 didn’t address those concerns for me but Jones’ performance was amazing). It would be great if Saru rises to save our Disco by explaining how fear leads to xenophobia, among other phobias.

You Know You’re In Hell When…

I don’t really want to talk about goateed Sarek but, come on! He mind-melds with Burnham and he can’t tell she’s not from around here? And he didn’t sense his Mirror horcrux inside her? He doesn’t tell anything to Voq about where she’s from and just babbles kumbaya platitudes?

What was revealed? Had to be more than he reported.
What was revealed? Had to be more than he reported.

And what about Tyler? Would it not have been logical for the “prophet” to check his thoughts too? Oh wait, that would have meant that the writers would have had to work a little harder to make getting info to the Disco more plausible. I want to think that they had a secret mind meld chit chat on how to overthrow the Empire and establish Starfleet but that would go against precious canon since that seems to be Spock’s job a decade from now. So…whatever.

The Trouble With Burnham

The event that precipitated this entire series was the fact that Burnham was unable to actually mutiny and destroy the Klingon sarcophagus ship. That’s the event from which this entire “story” flows. So what does it mean to have it resolved? Or do they even care to have it resolved? Throughout this entire story, we’ve had more insights into the other characters’ inner motivations then we’ve had of the supposed lead of the show – Burnham (except for Lorca who’s been used as a constant, yet inconsistent, tease and it’s getting tiresome). We’ve consistently been told what’s happening to her and why; it’s inconceivable that she would not have been taught to deal with her humanity on Vulcan, then through 7 years on a Starfleet ship, etc.

She’s a weathervane connective tissue who develops facets depending on what the writers need her to be to tell the story of other people then promptly drops those facets to reflect whatever needs to be talked about next. Why did she accept so meekly to be blamed for the war (based on the story that was actually on the screen, it’s not her fault)? Why is she so passive about her fate? Is she suspicious of Lorca (I would be if someone told me that they knew exactly who I was in that creepy way)? Lorca told her that she likes to win but hates to lose more (again, we’re “told” who she is instead of seeing it for ourselves). Besides, if that were actually true, she would have put up at least an attempt at a defense, don’t ya think?!  When we’re told things without the benefit of discovering it for ourselves, we miss out on the emotional connection with the character.

Who is she? Is there anything motivating her or is she just said passive connective tissue? She can’t spend the entire first season as a passive-aggressive non-character and then be revealed as a great mastermind/saviour of both universes in the last episode. Who’s going to relate?

Burnham takes command of the ISS Shenzhou
Burnham takes command of the ISS Shenzhou

Kristen Berg is quoted as saying that the show will continue in Season 2 with it’s theme of “the discovery of oneself and the discovery of Michael Burnham, figuring out her path to redemption.” Seriously, Burnham is the victim of bad writing and story conception – she never committed mutiny, it’s a mystery to everyone as to why she took it so passively and is so easily manipulated throughout. Star Trek Discovery is not her story, she’s not believable.

I wrote above that I find the cast amazing in their ability to elevate the material above what it deserves but this unfortunately doesn’t apply to Martin-Green. I find the more honesty and genuine emotion she imbues her character with, the more she comes across as a disconnected with what’s around her and more like a piece of cork bobbing on a stormy sea. She’s demonstrated having questionable and flexible ethics despite her assertions that she’s Starfleet and lives by Its principles. Sorry, she’s not the lead. She’s not even an interesting character and frankly, she dangerous to be around.

Which Wolf Are We Feeding?

This is not an episodic show – at least with that, we would get consistent characters who would evolve with time. But it is certainly not a serialized show as advertised because the characters are all over the place, not consistent enough to display evolution but changing like weathervanes in the wind of whatever amuses the writers at any given time with little to no consideration for what went before or to the producers’ and writers’ pronouncements to the media regarding what this show is about or where they’re going with it.  And it’s gotten so bad and so far from what the fans were promised that it will go down in Trekstory as sci-fi’s version of The Room – but with far better acting than it deserves. I can hear the collective sighs of relief from all the Enterprise alumni.

Only 4 episodes to go and we still don’t know what the agenda is yet, and the best anyone can do is guess at what the real story is. Maybe they’re holding a Q-like character for a deus ex machina moment at the end to explain it all away. This is not a journey of discovery we’re all taking together, this is a game of hide and seek. It might work as a video game and, if the payoff is worth the investment, it might’ve worked as a series streaming in its entirety; it’s not working as a TV show broadcast in weekly installments.

Alex Kurtzman said a few months ago that Season 2 would deal with the aftermath of the war. Well that doesn’t augur well as that was probably the worst portrayal of a war in TV history. So a lot more talking about things we didn’t see then. And Aaron Harberts has more recently stated that Season 2 will deal with Faith vs. Science. Hmmm… That’s a weighty subject and, in the hands of the same writing staff…yeah…it’s hard to have faith. Especially since, when you really think about it, it’s not a question of “versus;” the search for Truth is the search for Truth, whatever you call it and however you go about it. As Einstein stated, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” In the end, if we grow up enough to banish these self-imposed disabilities, we’ll find that the two roads converge.

Reboot the show completely. Let’s pretend Season 1 never existed and give us the Star Trek you’ve been promising from the start. And if you can’t, then bow out gracefully and hire the people who can.

But, as I’ve said before, in another 50 years, it’ll be the sixties again…maybe then. In the meantime, I’ve found a way to enjoy this show.

Oh ya - I'm likin' where this is goin'...
Oh ya – I’m likin’ where this is goin’…

I wonder how Burnham’s meeting with Mommy Dearest will go – slow pan to Lorca smirking.

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About M Pilon

M Pilon is a retired TV Producer, Director and Writer who now spends her time developing and writing her own projects, satisfying her curiosity and trying to do her part to make this a better and more inclusive world. M Pilon credits TOS with influencing the course of her life, like thousands of other kids of her generation. She's maintained an interest in the franchise.