Saturday, February 24, 2018

Despite Yourself

*** (3 stars out of 5)

You're back for Chapter Two, Despite Yourself? Or should that be Despise Yourself?

ST:Disco has learned the lesson of previous series: when in doubt, there's always sex and violence to be had in the Mirror Universe!

The Mirror Universe humans of the Terran Empire are especially insular and bigoted today. I mean, they're never been bastions of sweetness and diversity but we've previously seen their "Humans Only" policy wasn't in place 100 years ago or 12 years from now. Still, there's every possibility this is "A" Mirror Universe just as the first half of this season is clearly in "A" Star Trek universe, one of the expensive-looking and morally dodgy ones. More evidence? The Imperial logo has Earth's continents mirrored, a fine idea which also wasn't the case before this.

This Mirror Universe had a technological goose in the bum with the arrival of the Defiant. They've had a century to put little wing breaks and hull grooves in just in case any of us were wishing it was the same design as last time.

Still, can't complain: with our crew pretending to be baddies we get a raft of new little pins, and giant gold breastplates to cosplay in for ages to come! (Or just put your head in a purple pumpkin and "Klingon" away.)

Giant defector L'Rell can still wreak havoc from her bonds (did she bring those with her?). She activates her Super Secret Surgically-altered Spy!

Are you shocked and appalled to learn that Ash Tyler is the albino Voq who vanished just before Ash showed up? Perhaps you have not been watching television enough. Although I will tell you that although the Internet had guessed this one months earlier it is a fine development indeed! It's probably best if you binge this all at once and then you don't have time to think about it.

Not thinking about things is also how you get Dr. Culber, discretely telling Ash his truly horrifying medical findings (namely, that Ash had his skull belt-sanded down and a new personality implanted) without ANY kind of witness or, say, burly back-up nurse present or even anyone to hear the inevitable snap of his neck.

Oh, Doctor Culber. It's a good thing gay guys are so plentiful in Star Trek that we can spare one.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Into The Forest I Go

** (2 stars out of 5)

Shall we hug plants with Saru or have a drawn-out bloody brawl? Well, continuing to take our cues from Battlestar Galactica, Admiral Cornwell has NOT had her throat slit Baltar-Style or been killed by L'Rell's bug zapper. Nope, still alive!

"Klingons" have the weird abilty not to notice that L’Rell & Cornwell aren't corpses when dumped in the corpse room. (Yes, of course, "Klingons" have a Corpse Room. Maybe it's a larder?) Where's their sense of smell? What are the four nostrils for? Or, failing that, where are their life signs scanners?

The clueless and quickly ignored Pahvans have called both Starfleet & Kalesh's Finest to Pahvo trying to talk peace without the strength to back it up. Our heroes are all that can save them and supply us with enough space explosions to get us through the next 8 weeks until episode 10.

Captain Lorca talks Stamets into a fiendishly complex series of 133 mushroom jumps to get location data on their opponents. It taxes Paul to the utmost and leads to an explosive victory and a strange reversal.

“When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists” speechifies Lorca. Not quite following it up with 'Today, you’re a bunch of self-serving assholes and I couldn’t be prouder!'

Because her track record with the enemy is the best, Michael Burnham is the only one sent to sneak aboard the Big Bad Corpse Ship. I mean, Ash the very trustworthy Chief of Security tags along, but he freezes up immediately, so Michael is mainly responsible for recovering the Admiral and L'Rell. Also a sword fight. As usual, there is nothing Michael Burnham cannot do. But as Dylan Hunt could tell us, you aren't the Gary Stu if it's your story. (Your enjoyment may vary, my limited research suggests this is a well-regarded episode.)

25 minutes into all this Michael’s universal translator proves “human ingenuity” by saying the Klingon version of “human ingenuity” several seconds before SHE does! Autocorrect has gotten positively telepathic!

Ash’s PTSD flashbacks are a strobing intercut of being flayed alive & a questionable coitus scene cribbed from Species.

Having broken a Star Trek barrier earlier this season with an F bomb, we are treated to the first (official) on screen Star Trek gay male kiss for Stamets and Culber. Only twenty-five years too late to be ground-breaking anywhere else. Also Trek's first female nipples, maybe. It's yet another moment when NuKlingon prosthetics & jarring tone get in the way of any possible enjoyment. Without upcoming context, some even claim L'Rell is raping Ash, and they still might be right for all I know. Even IN context, grotesque is not a sufficient word.

At least the dudes kissing was pleasant!

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

** (2 stars out of 5)

Starfleet finds the planet of the Good Vibes and Discovery is tasked with finding a way to make it War Useful. "Pahvo, eh? Pretty Planet of the Placid Blue Lava Lamps? Makes strong vibrations, all Wakanda style? It's sort of Pandora if Pandora was Vancouver? Cool, cool, can they send sonar pings? Get them busy pinging these invisible damn enemy ships!"

Starships Gagarin, Hoover, & Muroc are destroyed. Stamets calls Sylvia "Captain" because he's full of 'shrooms. That's the whole "C" story. I wish I had a joke. Here's an observation instead: Owosekun is at ops and Airiam has the conn! I wrote them down from the subtitles but I still couldn't tell you their names with a gun to my head. 

Over in story "B", Kol of House Kor is doling out invisibility screens. These are the bad guys' main advantage and yet another way THESE 2250s are not unfolding as they did in the Trek timeline I grew up with. L'Rell pretends to be torturing Cornwell and instead has a "nice" chat with fake screams. As soon as she hears “The Federation has no death penalty." L’Rell says she wants to defect, like a true follower of Kalesh. I think that’s Kahless here?

Incidentally, why did the "Klingon" guard leave his post just because his prisoner is screaming? How do you even have that job?

Michael Burnham & Lt. Love Interest, Ash, continue their twitterpatin'. 

But this is Saru Day! Doug Jones does beautifully in (sorry) the dullest tale of the year. Saru can top 80 kph on those hooves of his and his senses are more acute than human. He crushes communicators with his bare hands. That's not our focus, however: it's the bodiless, voiceless, Pahvan peaceniks and how Saru converts overnight when they take away his fear. 

This decompressed tale could use a bit of compression. The title means: "If you want peace, prepare for war". Prepare for a nap, more like.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

**** (4 stars out of 5)

had to use the picture above because it's a screencap of me watching Discovery.

Harry Mudd is back with time to kill. It's one of those episodes with a little of the old chronic hysteresis, or Time Loop if you're nasty.

Speaking of nasty, Tilly claims to have exclusively dated soldiers. The Federation death toll is up to 10,000. I'm not blaming Tilly, it's probably Michael's fault, somehow. Although we'll hear all about it today at the disco. Let’s party like its 2009!

All trauma and no kiss make Michael a dull girl. She's never been in love, she doesn’t interact & now, thanks to all the mushrooms, Stamets is suddenly a hugger. 

The party is pooped by the arrival of a lonely space whale. The Gormagander is endangered because it is so focused on eating it does not mate- I'm finding it easy to sympathize over cookies. 

Mudd pulls a Space Jonah in what I was happy to imagine is an Andorian helmet. Also he has a handheld Groundhog Day device to perfect his for-profit starship hijack & Lorca-killing spree by using infinite repetition. It's the same device used to generate most television scripts.

Sensitive Stamets is also retaining memory of these 30 minute time loops, and recruits Michael to help stop Mudd killing Lorca another 54 times. 

It's pretty easy to love Stamets when he gets lines like: “Never hide who you are. That's the only way relationships work.”

Destined to forget it ever happened, Ash kisses Michael. Michael, in return, kills herself painfully with Harry's dark matter capsule to force Mudd to reboot Ash. Ah, l'amour!

I'm glad that even after multiple repeats, Mudd, like me, has no idea who the rest of the bridge crew is. "Random communications officer man."

It's feeling a LOT more like Star Trek around here today. Even the Stardates make no sense! Also we don't have to look at any "Klingons". Thank you, episode.

Mudd’s skipped out on his impending nuptials to Stella, daughter of fabulously wealthy and utterly humorless arms dealer Baron Grimes.

Does the sadistic multiple mass murderering Mudd seem like the pimp & roguish cad from TOS? No? Well, apparently he not only is, Discovery crew is fine with punishing him TOS style- with a marriage yoke. Uh, joke. It IS just barely possible that on that last loop he may not have had time to do anything horrible except tormenting the whale. No, not Grimes, the Gormagander.

The title, it seems, is a quote from The Iliad? Homer?? Read a BOOK!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


*** (3 stars out of 5)

On a diplomatic mission to Cancri, Ambassador Sarek is attacked by his co-pilot: a Vulcan supremecist suicide bomber. It never rains but it pours... is something you never hear on planet Vulcan.

Specialist Michael Burnham is coaching Cadet Sylvia Tilly in the command skills of jogging and a balanced computer diet, and in return Tilly is coaching Michael in advanced theoretical boy kissing.

Boys such as Little Orphan Ash Tyler! Captain Lorca bonds with Ash over some laser tag. Quizzing the stressed torture survivor about his background, Lorca is mollified to hear he is from the normal human city of See’Attl. Lorca, popping every eye in the audience, immediately makes Lt Tyler his security chief. SECURITY? CHIEF???

Dying Sarek’s katra calls out to Michael for rescue & pulls her into his dream- his version of the events of Michael’s graduation day. The Vulcan Expeditionary Group (their minds as open as their arseholes) would only let ONE of Sarek’s weird kids join- so he chose Spock. Michael, top of her class, was forced into her Starfleet safety job. And it turned out great! Seven lonely years of moping up the command ranks followed by seven months moping in jail.

Does Captain Lorca’s ever increasing pile of odd choices seem like something that should maybe, just possibly, come under review? Well, Admiral Cornwell is his boss, and the words “come” and “under” ARE used when they pause to review his bedroom.

Cornwell discovers Lorca is quick to whip out his phaser & yes, he is happy to see her. He begs her not to take away his ship just because he's riddled with PTSD. But not to worry- he lies, stalls & schemes until she quite fortuitously is caught by the enemy while trying to finish Sarek’s task herself. Lorca rushes to her rescue... oh, no, not so much.

Michael is full of feelings & unlike Tilly she doesn’t "love feeling feelings". She goes to Ash Tyler for advice on being human. What a fine idea! He is THE SECURITY CHIEF!!!

Choose Your Pain

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Michael has a sense of empathy for Rippy the Gator, and who wouldn't? It was clearly a very discerning creature when it mauled Chief Landry. But now EVERY Starfleet ship has been ordered out to hunt these giant tardigrades to stuff into their mushroom engines. Discovery has had 3 weeks of success popping up out of a haze like Alice's Caterpillar and drowning the enemy in bong water.

Admiral Katrina Cornwell tells new fleet darling Captain Lorca he shouldn't have the mutineer on his crew, but she's not complaining very hard because Lorca is a dreamboat.

Dreamboat finds himself in a brutal Klingon prison. His cellmates are handsome Lt. Ash Tyler and Dwight Scrute, as an amazingly good Harry Mudd. Well, by GOOD, I mean a good performance. He picks who gets kicks & Mudd, plainly, never picks himself. The cynical civilian and his spider Stuart are squealing to the guards. But Ash is holding up handsomely, too, for a guy who's been captive 7 months. Lorca is suspicious, but not to worry- Ash is alive because he's been having human-on-pinecone relations with L'Rell the torturer.

Unsteady as Acting Captain, Saru asks for the most decorated Captains living & deceased, so a fanservice screen pops up. We’ve heard of EVERY one, they’re all human, and unless there’s a crammed page 2 of Q-Z you could count them on one hand. Nice diversity, Starfleet.

Oh, yeah, so, Tilly and Stamets drop the f-bomb. Amidst all this deadly serious joylessness, it was kind of a great moment! Not for kids. But I'd be more worried about the prison guards kicking a guy's fucking head in than whether your teens use curse words. This ain't your grandfather's Star Trek, old man!

Lorca is also an inspiration to your kids with his hints at Klingon anatomy, or the thrilling tale of how he blew up his entire crew on the USS Buran to save them from degradation at the clawed hands and doubled anatomy of the enemy, and was, obviously, rewarded with Discovery.

Overworked Tardy the Engine Bear squeezes itself out like a sponge & curls up. With 134 souls to protect, Saru insists on working it to death. Dr Culber tries to stick up for the possible sentient. I thought it goes: To seek out new life & stab them with needles until they aid our war effort.

Lorca & Ash make their escape, and in heroic Starfleet fashion they leave that wailing sellout Mudd behind to suffer as he swears revenge. Morally, it’s a garbage decision, but, hey, it's tactically very questionable too. Ash pummels L’Rell & Lorca melts her, uh, face, I guess you'd call it? Again, these are very ugly Klingons.

Not as ugly as the abomination they're calling the D7 battlecruiser now! You know, there are a lot of numbers and letters in the alphabet- call it the D4 and I wouldn't get to whine so much!

Paul Stamets saves the day with illegal eugenics to take Tardy’s place. So good news all around: Lorca & Ash are back aboard, and now we have a new action figure: Stigmata Stamets!

Saru mends fences with Michael, admitting his anger & jealousy of her mentorship. He orders her to save the tardigrade, so Tilly prays over it and they free it. Very laudable morally, & again, strategically bonkers.

While brushing their teeth, Dr Culber frets over his lover Stamets- neither notices that Paul's reflection is not behaving. Uh-oh!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry

** (2 stars out of 5)

We open on an electrically-blasted region of some twisted hellscape... wait, it's just an extreme close-up of a uniform synthesizer. Even getting DRESSED on Discovery is a nightmare!

If the episode has a theme, it's settling in. Mr. Saru is forced to admit that saying nice things about Michael and giving her blueberries along with the stink eye was slightly hypocritical last episode in that he didn't think she was going to be sticking around. She makes his threat ganglia wiggle in fear but in these desperate times we have to be friends with monsters. Captain Gabriel Lorca for example.

Apart from his dissection chamber and gung-ho security chief Landry who gets herself torn to shreds by literally poking the space bear, Lorca also motivates his scientists with the screams of the dying from the Klingon attack on Corvan 2. What a guy!

What's Lorca trying to motivate? Dr. Hugh Culber's BF Paul “I always wanted to converse with my mushrooms" Stamets is trying to finalize his life's work to allow a starship to bounce on spores like plumber Mario from one world to the next in an instant. Yes, really.

Only Michael Burnham, who's barely heard of spore drive technology, can recognize that the macroscopic tardigrade-like creature they found on the Glenn was less Shardik with a touch of Freddy Kruger and more Super Computer with a touch of Dune's Guild Navigator.

The upshot of which is we get our first shot of the USS Discovery twisting inside out like a Go-Bot!

So what are the "Klingons" up to, apart from winning the war for galactic supremacy? Well, starving. Torchbearer Voq has seemingly been trying to get his highly advanced Ship of The Dead to budge a single kellicam for SIX MONTHS, during which time they've eaten Captain Georgiou's corpse, if we can give them the benefit of the doubt, because they are hungry rather than for shock value for some unseen audience. Interstellar conquerors, everyone!

L’Rell flirts with Voq but then seems to sell her loyalty to Kol for a hamhock. Apparently, though, she has a better scheme in mind when told to kill Voq the son of none...

So, hooray for humans- the last handful of folks on Corvan 2 are saved and all it takes is imprisoning & tormenting the dancing bear.

“Keep your eyes & heart open always.” says Captain Georgiou's last will and testament. If this story were set in Trek's future, we might look back on the way Captain Janeway was appalled by Captain Ransom's very similar use of tossing living, thinking creatures into his engine to make it go faster. Fortunately, that ain't happened yet and nobody's learning nothing.