STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A SURPRISE PROMOTION AND RETURN OF THE VULCANS … SORT OF …
Oh. how the future surprises us!
Not only do they have matter that moulds and adapts itself to your unique physiology and transporters that beam you where you, and you alone, want to go – though they take a bit of work to master, ammirite, Linus? I’m right – but now they have the Vulcans and Romulans kumbayah-ing (well, mostly) on the planet Ni’Var, the rebadged and rebranded planet Vulcan, now with added Romulan-ness.
Not only that, but in the midst of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) heading home and trying to get important information about the source of the Burn, we had Tilly (Amy Wiseman), dear, sweet, brilliantly capable Tilly, an ensign no less, being offered the plum post of Acting First Officer.
Take your protocol and shove it where the dilithium doesn’t burn and fuel warp speed, my friends!
While that element of the story was a little weak and emotionally overblown – though only a Star Trekkian grinch could surely have begrudged the “Say Yes” scene led by Stamets (Paul Rapp) in engineering – it didn’t bring home how much things have changed in the brave and sometimes, nay often, uncertain world of the future.
By definition, everything has changed, and while Saru (Doug Jones) and the others stick closely to the fact that the Federation still exists and still stands for roughly the same vaunted morals and ethics, the truth is that the crew of the Discovery are 930 years out of their previously allotted space and time, and not everything will stay the same.
Like never promoting ensigns, even ones in officer training, far above their current station.
So, here we are, with Michael demoted, and using her offtime now to have sweet, romantic sex with Booker (David Ajala) with whom she says she feels totally at home and to which he responds with the same sentiment; I am totally shipping BoMi or is that BoBu? Let’s work on that, shall we? – and Tilly, who has saved the day more than once, being offered the gig of a lifetime.
Again, not the strongest of B-stories – one of the few weaknesses of season 3, which is mostly uniformly excellent and consistently strong, is that the writers aren’t entirely sure what to do with everyone when Michael has a BIG story which is often – but it struck an emotional chord because who doesn’t want Tilly to succeed?
The continuing closeness of Saru and Tilly as fellow officers, friends, and almost a father/daughter, mentor/mentee, is one of the more heartwarming aspects of the current season, especially poignant given that when they all volunteered to come to the future, they left all their friends and family behind and now only have each other for real succour and support.
The A-story might have looked at first like it was going to be one of those classic Star Trek courtroom scenes where great truths are enunciated and revelations abound, all of which happened and happened in impressively august fashion, but it also turned out to be deeply, emotionally resonant.
With Burnham, with lots of help from, yes, Tilly, discovering that the Burn happened to ships slightly independently of each other, suggesting a point of origin and thus a well thought and executed plan to cripple the Federation and the galaxy as a whole, it was off to Ni’Var to get some super secret squirrel data from the Vulcan/Romulans on SB-19, a program that had been dedicated to finding an alternative to lithium by creating an instant spore-like drive until it was shut down when the Ni’Varans feared it has caused the Burn.
Burnham doesn’t think that but she needs the data they hold from their data gathering posts scattered extensively through space to fully triangulate in 3D space where the Burn started its gruesome, civilisation hobbling work.
Unfortunately, even though Burnham is welcomed warmly because of her membership of the Spock family, President T’Rina (Tara Rosling) of Ni’Var is disinclined to hand over the data because #reasons.
Turns out those #reasons have a lot to do with the fact that Vulcans and Romulans are still not playing entirely happily in their now centuries-old sandpit (literally; have you seen Ni’Var?) and there are starkly differing ideas on what should be done with data which could change the galaxy once again and might mean Ni’Var rejoins the Federation, something not everyone is sure is a good idea.
Dismayed she’s hit a dead-end, Michael, a graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, invokes T’kal-in-ket, a “philosophical process designed to unearth deep truths” which means everyone has to essentially argue themselves into the ground until the truth is agreed.
Ah yes, but what is the truth? No, it’s not that Trump has somehow found himself in 3189 and is corrupting things there too, but that there are three quite different Ni’Varans on the assessment panel, all with different and complicating perspectives.
Throw in the fact that Michael’s advocate is her mother (!!!), now a member of the Qowat Milat, which you will recall from Picard, is an order that “live[s] and die[s] by the precept of absolute candor”and you have the recipe for a forum in which all kinds of truths will have to be faced, not least the fact that Michael feels “lost” right now, save for Book, unsure if she’s a free spirit or a Starfleet stalwart.
Turns out she’s both, and while too much is said in the T’kal-in-ket to summarise here, suffice to say that Michael deals with some shit, Qowat Milat style, she bonds a little with her mother and the Federation gets the SB-19 data!
That’s a lot of character exploration and narrative arc momentum in one episode, but it works and works very well, the perfect marriage of character, morality and mystery-solving which has been the mainstay of Star Trek since the start and which continues to be strongly and evocatively expressed in Discovery‘s invigoratingly engrossing third season.
SPOILERS AHEAD … AND DOUBLE LIGHTSABERS AND YET ANOTHER PLANET TO SCHLEPP THE CHILD TO …
There’s one beautiful moment in this action-filled episode where surprise, though strongly rumoured, guest Jedi, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) asks Din Djarin (Pedro Pacal) aka the Mandalorian of the title to get the Child (who now has a name! More on that, later) to do something.
In a gently exasperated reaction with which parents everywhere will able to identify, Din sighs and says he’s not sure how that will work since the Child hasn’t really heeded him up to this point so why would he start now?
Ahsoka persists in that soft but firm way of hers and so Din sets out to see just how extensive the Child’s powers are, following on from some pretty big revelations by one of the last Jedi in the galaxy who clearly links the Force-full kid with a Jedi legend by the name of Yoda.
You might have heard of him?
Turns out that the Child’s name is Grogu, that he is ridiculously talented when it comes to using the Force, hence the rump Empire’s interest in him, and that he fled into hiding when the Emperor came to power and has spent years suppressing his powers to avoid being detected.
While the whole not being found out schtick hasn’t quite worked out for him, he is now safe with Din and so Ahsoka, who is wise enough to know that Grogu has (understandably) major trust issues, asks Din, who she knows the Child trusts implicitly – they can’t exactly talk but they can share thoughts and emotions – to be the one to coax him to do something like move a rock.
We have, of course, seen him do far more than that, but Din has put those occurrences of mysterious into the “WTF” basket and it’s only when Ahsoka is able to communicate with Grogu that he learns about exactly what his adopted charge can do and what his power might mean.
All those revelations aside, and they are very cool and illuminating, “The Jedi” succeeds superbly as an episode because it brings home how important the relationship is to both Grogu and Din.
Din might sigh and ruefully laugh about his “son’s” behaviour but it’s clear these two have bonded, and bonded profoundly, and the episode brought that to the fore, affirming how much it matters to both of them and to Grogu finding his way back to his full potential.
And also how, with Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) in hot pursuit, Din and Grogu may find themselves fighting hard to stay alive, stay together and fulfill the mission to get the Child home.
All of these revelatory exchanges take place on the planet Corvus, a forest planet whose culture bears many Japanese-Sino hallmarks, and whose people in the city of Calodan are enslaved by the Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) who Den of Geek describes “as one of the chief architects of the Empire’s war machine, helping build the Imperial Navy that the Emperor used to subjugate the galaxy.”
The cultural influences on Corvus are no accident; it’s well known that one of the major influences on George Lucas in creating the Star Wars universe were Akira Kurosawa films, many of which, like “The Jedi” concern a battle by underdog forces against entrenched evil.
This is partly why Ahsoka is on Corvus, although it appears she is mainly after information on Admiral Thrawn which Elsbeth has and which the Jedi is determined to get for some unspecified mission.
While all that intelligence gathering doesn’t quite go to plan, she does manage to battle and best Elsbeth in battle – the fight scene is impressive with Ahsoka’s dual white lightsabers meeting (almost) their match in Elsbeth’s strong beskar spear which eventually ends up in Din’s hands.
The battle to free Calodan is a quietly stirring one, mainly main of the two fights between Ahsoka and Elsbeth and Din and Lang, who is the Magistrate’s second-in-command who learns the hard way that you can’t outsmart a Mandalorian.
With battle droids, darkness and reflexes of lightning all the mix, this is a rousing battle to watch but more so it feels like Star Wars of old where great evil is taken by determined forces of good and the people who are liberated are immensely and heartwarmingly glad.
Alas for Din, after working to help Ahsoka fulfill her mission, he finds himself played once again – why do people keep doing that to him? He’s such a nice, trusting guy and … oh that’s why – with Ahsoka refusing to help train Grogu although she does tell him to head to a ancient Jedi mountain temple on the planet Tython where a seeing stone may reveal all about Grogu and his destiny.
Yep, Din has yet another planet to fly to and is still not close to returning Grogu to his people – though you could argue that Din is now Grogu’s people; I can’t see them being parted easily – but so much has been revealed and so much momentum added to the overall narrative arc that you almost don’t mind since, with three episodes remaining in the season, there’s a lot still to learn and a lot of revelatory action still to come.