Trekathon 742: Context is for Kings (DIS)

Star Trek goes ‘Alien’. Spoilers after the break.

Ouch, that was a bit more like I was expecting initially. A mess of an episode that did not feel like it was part of the Trek universe.

My big problem is the tone of the episode – despite a few throwaways everything is pretty bleak, particularly the POV character’s attitude to the world. Add to that mysterious conspiracies, ‘Black Alerts’, a Captain with some very serious ethical question marks, and the room mate from hell – what do you get? A fairly bad hour of TV.

A lot of the problems might actually be a question of pace. We barely know Burnham, so we have little context for her reactions (and weird energy) through this episode. An episode or two more before the mutiny would have helped with this. And while I appreciate not keeping it as a deep dark secret, plunging headlong into the new Captain’s strange black ops stuff means we have little foundation for what’s going on. The moment to moment pacing was off too – it was whiplash between ‘I most atone’ to ‘I must break through security and look in the mysterious room’.

It’s possible that what we’re seeing here is a transition between one vision of the show and another, but I felt like no one really knew what they were trying to do with the episode. The general vibe was not very Trek, especially the extended Alien sequence. So I feel less optimistic about the direction of the show now. Among other things the ‘fabulous new technology’ that will clearly be a major driver for things is dangerous territory for a prequel – why do we never hear of this again, even in rumours?

Fingers crossed they can get things back on track next week.

Quick thoughts:

– That was a nice hero shot introduction of the USS Discovery.

– What is up with episode lengths? So far we’ve had 43 mins, 39 mins and 47 mins. Bizarre.

– You get to keep a Starfleet emblem even after being courtmartialed?

– Was that a tribble??? Torn between ‘Yay, a tribble’ and ‘but that makes no sense in the timeline’.

– My desire to launch Cadet Tilly out of an airlock was instant and enduring. I imagine that was the point, but still not exactly enjoyable television.

– One small detail I like is the visible ‘mode indicators’ on the phasers – feels like a realistic thing to have on a weapon that can either be fatal or nonlethal. Of course this is undermined by the red lights being on for a full 30 seconds before anyone gets around to saying ‘set phasers to kill’.

– Yay, Jeffries Tubes! It wouldn’t be Star Trek without climbing around ridiculously large service ducts.

– Why does everyone blame Burnham? She never even really got a chance to put her plan into action, her mutiny for the most part failed. Sure, most people would blame her for the war. But there must be some on her side? Of course she did start a war with her poor reaction to the Klingon appearing, but they’d have found another excuse, and no one seems to mind about that anyway.

742 down.