Streaming on UK Netflix from: Monday 16th October 2017
Story by: Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts and Kemp Powers
Teleplay by: Kemp Powers
Directed by: Lee Rose
“Glory must be earned from sacrifices… and PAIN!”
While the sets and lighting are as opulent and dazzling as ever this week, the showrunners behind Star Trek: Discovery are instead taking a different tack in their efforts to make this new prequel series darker and more mature by inserting scenes of brutal violence and random instances of foul language into what has fundamentally always been a family-friendly show set in an optimistic future striving for a universal utopia.
Seeing Klingon guards brutally boot stomp an “out to lunch” human captor’s head and hearing awkward cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and irritable science officer Stamets (Anthony Rapp) proclaim a workaround to avoid harming the tardigrade beastie ‘Ripper’ as “fucking cool!” are alien concepts to the Trek-verse. Both cases are also lazy fast-tracks to toughen up the franchise and superficially appeal to a ‘hipper’ demographic. I’m all for diversifying the fanbase, but these extremes are crude and hideously unnecessary.
Moving on to episode 1.5’s positive takeaways, the brewing tension between tardigrade advocate Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Acting Captain Saru (Doug Jones) results in a heated clash, followed by a more tender heart-to-heart after Burnham is confined to her quarters. The latter confrontation brings up their former careers aboard the USS Shenzhou and their individual pain at their last captain’s tragic fate. Interpersonal relationships married with philosophical introspection is Trek’s ace card and I’m pleased that this area of the show hasn’t been ignored in Discovery.
Elsewhere, the writers are not always quite so subtle in paying homage to what has come before, with a readout of Starfleet’s most distinguished Captains, a reference to eugenics (“Khaaaaan!”) and the appearance of an infamous rogue (now played by Rainn Wilson) all loudly reminding us this is the same universe Kirk and co. will go on to boldly voyage in.
Lorca’s (Jason Isaacs) “targeted abduction” upon leaving a meeting at Starfleet HQ does provide us with a telling insight into his up-to-now mysterious past aboard the USS Buran, even if his capture had to be squeezed hurriedly into “Choose You Pain”’s pre-credits prologue, just to fit it all into this sub-50minute episode. Ultimately, the very best moment in the episode came about with a look in the mirror in the closing moments; a tantalising tease of the surreal horrors that hopefully will be expanded upon next week.
CR@B’s Claw Score: