Monday, November 06, 2017

Subspace Reviews: Star Trek: Discovery - Ep 4 "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For the Lamb's Cry"

Wow. That's a title, isn't it? Reminds you of some of the titles from Classic Trek, that funneled their way into later series on occasion. But for what the crew of the Discovery are working against in this episode, it is rather apt.

Welcome back to my Subspace Reviews. I do apologize for these starting up again so late. But it has been the glorious Halloween season, and for that time, if I'm not ahead of schedule, some things end up being delayed.

But it is time to return to the Trek Sector of space to find out if the Spore Drive can finally be successfully implemented to take the crew places never gone to before.

This episode continues with what seems to be the central story of this season of Star Trek: Discovery. The Fall and Rise of Michael Burnham. She's reached her lowest point, disgraced and jailed. Now she's been offered a path to some form of redemption.

"Six seasons and a movie. Six seasons and a movie..."

It's just neither she nor us know where that path will be taking her.

As well, she's not sure who she is anymore. When she discovers that Captain Georgiou has left her something personal in her will, it troubles her. It was something Georgiou decided on well before Burnham had mutinied and been courtmartialed. So it's a stark reminder of who she was, who Georgiou saw her as, just as she's trying to work out who she is now.

"I. Am. Your Singing Tillygram! Your Singing Tillygrame!"

What she does know is that she's been given duty in the science division on Discovery. Temporary duty. And she wants to make the most of it.

And not everyone is pleased with this. Saru was not told about her transfer until now. It troubles him as it's another thing that the captain is doing and deciding without any conversation with him.

Also, his threat ganglia is provoked (I mentioned them last review.) by being with Burnham again. But she wants him to know that she just wants to keep her head down and work. No surprises.

This early scenes also give us an interesting moment where it looks like were seeing a strange world. But it is actually the synthesizing process for building a uniform. It's interesting to see this process from the molecular view.

When Saru and Burnham arrive on the bridge they see the bridge crew in the midst of a Red Alert. The ship is under attack by a wing of Birds of Prey.

This is a simulation, but Captain Lorca is angrily trying to get the bridge crew to beef up their reaction times and accuracy.

It seems he is playing out scenarios where they make use of the Spore Drive to appear in the midst of Klingon ships, and then quickly take them out.

But the results are dreadful. They take out one Klingon ship. But before they can handle another, they are hit and destroyed. Discovery is a science vessel, so it isn't built to dish out or take a lot of damage. So they need to take every advantage they can to win a fight.

So Lorca is pissed. He needs better...if they every get the Spore Drive to work.

It is nice now to also get a better look at the bridge crew. I hope we get to see and know more about them as the series continues. Though as this show is following a non-bridge officer, the show may never go there.

Still, it is nice to Lt. Keyla Detmer again. And the interesting mix of people that run the ship.

For now, Lorca has other issues to focus on. He takes Burnham with him. They gi down to his secure lab. This is the lab we saw at the end of the last episode, with the bones, weapons, and other creepy oddities.

A lot of us wondered if this was going to be some big dark secret of Lorca's. If this would be hidden and revealed later in the series. That it might hide some dark truth.

Next episode, he's showing it off to Burnham. So, no. It's not a dark secret. It's not proof that Lorca is secretly evil. He wants to understand and master war, so he can end this war. He wants to find some trick that will do the job.

It reminds me slightly of the command officers in WWII who would replicate the offices of Nazi leadership, to try and get in the mind of the enemy. Lorca is trying to become something he wasn't before.

Then he shows her the creature they found in the previous episode. She's shocked at this. But he tells her that he wants her to study it. It killed a squad of Klingons with no problems. It shrugs off phaser kill shots. And it can tear apart the hull of a starship.

It must have some use.

And to help her, Security Chief Landry.

Elsewhere, we now return to the Klingon side of the story.

T'Kuvma's flagship is still adrift in the field where it was crippled by Georgiou in the show's second episode. It has not found it's way home.

They've managed to make almost all the needed repairs finally. But they can't go to warp. And they have no food. That sucks.

I think it is a valid question as to why the ship has been left unattended for so long by the Klingons. It could be useful.

It is clear the Empire knows that T'Kuvma is dead. And they are pissed about that. But they left his remaining ship and crew to fend for themselves.

For consideration, it may be that the Empire decided, once it had it's unifying war, they had no need for cloaking technology. They can beat the Federation with their own ship. They are Klingons!!!

Also, T'Kuvma's house was considered pathetic by most of the other Klingon houses. They may have decided to shun a crew that failed their messiah and was bested by a beaten Federation enemy. And, T'Kuzma was a rallying point. A martyred messiah without a group of disciples lecturing you on how to live and act is easier to make use of. 

Granted, if the war proves to drag on...Maybe some forward thinking Klingon might reconsider.

But the crew of this ship is in trouble. Voq has been leading them since the death of T'Kuvma. He was the Torchbearer, and now he's captain. Once he was an albino, a runt, and an outcast. Now he leads. But his time has been a mess. Without food, they have had to scavenge. Without warp they've had to search for Klingon ship debris for usable materials to make their ship functional.

They even reached a point where they ate Captain Georgiou's remains, which sounds disgusting. And some have chosen to read this as Klingons being turned into cannibals (of sorts). But I read this as they are all starving, and have since reached that dark point of needing to eat something to survive. Like infamous stories from history where boat and plane crews have to make horrible choices to live. There is no real evidence yet that it was just normal.

What is vexing is that they do have access to warp technology they could likely use. The Shenzhou is intact nearby. And they have not made use of it. And to me, this puts Voq is a bad light. He's stubbornly refusing to go and get the technology they need so they can get home at last.

H yammers on about Klingon on purity. It's a close-minded, one-sided, and stupid view. It is a lousy lesson he took from T'Kuvma. Yeah, Voq, your purity gets you scavenging for dead bodies while waiting to die in a graveyard. How wonderful.

He is being assisted by L'Rell, a smart and skilled officer who has grown very fond of Voq.

She wants Voq to see the bigger picture. She uses the example of her parents' 2 houses. Her father was related to T'Kuvma. Her mother was of House Mokai, a house of spies. Her mother tried to make her choose between the 2 houses when she was young. But she chose instead to be a bridge between the 2, to serve both houses. Voq needs to see the larger issues they face.

Voq will need to move quick, as they soon have company, after over 6 months. Kol of House Kor has come. H was the one who dismissed T'Kuvma, and walked away from that first fight. But now he returns with praise for T'Kuvma.

Voq is happy to welcome him. Kol explains that Voq's ship has the one edge no one else has. The cloaking technology. Voq continues to repeat T'Kuvma's teachings and says the ship will be at the service of the Empire, once they finish the last repair.

Voq really doesn't recognize the danger he's in. He loves his teachings so dearly it doesn't occur to him that others may not adhere to them as closely.

And some have complained about Kol. Klingons are all about honor! Yeah, they are...until they aren't. Klingons are happy in the future to use cloaking devices to hide near damaged enemy ships so they can sneak attack rescuers. Klingons are happy to use subterfuge trickery, torture, poisoned grain, etc to win. 

The simplified honor bound space vikings is a very simplified view of this species. They know honor. They know deceit. They know arrogance. They know humility. So, I like them not being one-dimensional.

Voq is a lot like Worf, with a simple view of Klingons. H will learn a lot about how much more complex they are.

So Voq and "L'Rell head over to the Shenzhou to acquire the needed piece of technology. It's time for them to return to the war.

The whole time it is clear L'Rell knows what is up. Even Voq sees that she is smarter than him about so much. But she wants to help and guide him. She sees his potential. And she likes to work in the background.

But all of this is at risk when they head home. They see the ship is now laden with food. The crew is happily eating.

Kol belittles Voq now. He brought food over from his ship. With some friendly banter, good food, bloodwine, and the promise of glory, the whole of the crew has turned on Voq.

They will serve Kol now.

And again, some want to complain how this isn't Klingon. But that suggests that Klingons are all really stupid. The idea is that Klingons love war and honor, Kol would have just come, taken over the ship, and been done with it.

But, what about the mysterious new technology? He doesn't understand it. He needs this crew intact. He needs them to pilot the ship. He needs them to explain the cloak. He needs them to not betray him and sabotage the technology before he can replicate it for his other ships.

So he gives some praise. And then he offers them an alternative to the spectacular failure of Voq's leadership. It's cunning. It's effective. It keeps Kol from having to unnecessarily spill Klingon blood.

I think Kor would approve.

And then even L'Rell turns on Voq.

Kol is ready to kill Voq, as he knows he will just cause trouble. But L'Rell suggests she has a far more suitable end in mind for become an angry and debated rumor for the rest of the season...BWHAHAHAHAHA!!!...No. We'll get to that shortly.

On Discovery, we get a mix of Burnham's scientific inquiry and Landry's bullheadedness.

Burnham determines that the creature is a tardigrade. Normally, they are microscopic and harmless. This isn't. It hates bright lights and phasers. It also seem to react to the Spore Drive, as when the spores were being released in a test, it seemed to react and call out.

None of this is good enough for Landry. She tries to just figure out the creature the hard way, and the results are as expected.

It is almost silly seeing the creature treat Landry like a rag doll, before scuttling back into the safety of the dark. But it has seriously injured the security chief. In fact, much to my surprise at the time of the episode, it's killed her.

I wasn't expecting her to be exiting the show this early. (And she beat Tasha Yar's exit time.)

This adds to the stress the crew is under.

The captain is looking from results, now. It seems that one of the main mining colonies of dilithium (which every starship needs to run) for the Federation is under bombardment. The Starfleet ships in orbit have been destroyed, and the remaining Klingon ships are continuously hitting the colony shields. They have only hours left, and Starfleet can't get there in time to help (Nearest ships are days out.). But Discovery could get there, if it gets the Spore Drive working.

So Lorca tells the admiral that his ship is ready, and it will be there in time to help the colony.

Except, the ship isn't ready. And his engineer, Stamets, doesn't know how they could get there in time.

They can avoid what caused their sister ship to be lost. But they still have their old issue, the further they jump the more uncertain where they'll actual arrive is. They can't guarantee where they may land.

Stamets shows Lorca the new technology they recovered of their sister ship. It seems to help compensate, but it isn't fully functional, for some reason. They just aren't ready.

But Lorca demands that they try. So they begin the process. Black alert. Secure engineering. Spore drive activated on the bridge. And, we learn why the saucer section of the ship is built like it is. So it can spin, as part of the Spore Drive process.

It is awesome to see the ship finally do it's thing. The Spore Drive at work is beautiful. It's weird and different for Trek. We know this technology isn't going to be around a decade later, so that's not surprising.

But it's thing nearly kills everyone on board. They reappear from their jump just off a star's surface. They start to get pulled in, but they manage to escape the pull and get to safety. The drive isn't ready yet.

And it is odd that they have to drop their shields to jump. I would have thought the shields would help contain the effect range of the spores. But it seems to be the reverse of that.

Lorca is pissed. And Stamets is in sickbay, as after the jump he was thrown into his console. His nose was seriously mashed, and his skull fractured, by the impact, so he was rushed to a doctor.

He is stubborn and annoyed about the state of things, in particular a rushed Spore Drive test.

Lorca isn't interested in this. He wants results. They loose that colony, the war will soon be over. And then Stamets can ask the Klingons about how best to test his technology.

In this scene we also get to meet another of our reoccurring characters. Dr. Culber. He's not the medical chief, but one of the ship's other very competent and opinionated doctors.

As Stamets walks out of Sickbay, Lorca starts to play the recordings of the last communications with the colony. They are begging for help. They and their families are going to die soon.

It places added stress on Stamets, and the whole crew. (It's largely the reason that Landry went in so head strong to test out the tardigrade.) But Stamets is at a dead end. He doesn't know how to pass the technological hurdle he is at.

Playing the recording is a very harsh thing for Lorca to do. He is desperate. He has made promises, and sees the war on the verge of loss. This is a moment they need a result. So he plays cheap games, and it's had a cost of one life.

Burnham continues to study the creature and becomes convinced that the tardigrade is not a threat. It only acts in self defense. So she tricks Saru to come to the lab to test the creature against his danger senses.

He has no reaction to the creatures presence. But the pretense and trick by Burnham hurts Saru. She used him to her ends. Just like the captain does. Means to an end.

You get a sense that Saru isn't as happy with his post as he might have hoped. The captain keeps secrets. Everyone is pushing boundaries. And all of their ethics are precarious. It is not the career Saru sought.

Burnham continues to test. With Tilly, she opens the containment field, and offers the creature some spores. It slowly approaches, and sniffs up the spores.

It than even sniffs and licks her. It acts like a cow who gets a little affectionate after you feed it. (You know, you give a cow an apple or some sugar cane and they assume your it's best friend.)

Burnham takes her theory to Stamets. All the damage on the sister ship suggest that their Engineering was holding something that escaped.

The tardegrade must have been used in some way with the Spore Drive.

Slowly, Stamets realizes something. Burnham is sharp. Worse, she might be right. (And there is nothing like the look of Stamets slowly coming to respect you.)

Thankfully, he isn't close-minded or stubborn, and they further test the idea out by moving the tardegrade to their spore forest.

And it seems ecstatic to be in there. They scan and they can see the creature is interacting with the spores. They are connected.

Stamets is jealous and in awe of the creature. It connects to his research in a way he thinks he never can.

This may be the key to the drive. They need a way to see the path to their destination, and keep their vector from straying. The tardegrade is built to do just that. It can explain to the spores what needs to happen.

The device they recovered injects the tardegrade, and allows the ship to set a course to anywhere they want to go. So they can go, and Lorca isn't one to wait.

And then they are there.

In the midst of a Klingon attack force. This time it isn't going to be a simulation.

The Discovery jumps in and destroys 2 of the attackers.

Then Lorca orders the ship to stay still.

The Klingons begin pounding Discovery, and the shields start dropping.

All of the remaining Klingons converge on Discovery.

Lorca is timing a maneuver to catch the Klingons off guard.

He then has the ship jump out, leaving some powerful explosives behind. The explosives detonate, and take out all of the Klingon ships.

Now this strategy seems a little odd. Stand still, and get pounded. But Lorca likely wanted to try and take out all the Klingons fast, without an extended battle. In atmosphere against 4 Birds of Prey? It would be tricky. And the crew was already not impressive in simulation. And their shields clearly would not last long in a fight where the Klingons started dodging and weaving around. They needed the Klingons to be bold and cocky, so they'd slip up.

Perhaps Lorca wanted to improvise something the first time the Klingons saw the Spore Drive, to make it clear that things had changed.

So Lorca and the Federation have a desperately needed victory. But Burnham notices the tardegrade is in distress.

It is sluggish once they are done jumping. And it seems rather fearful of her once they let it go rest.

It seems to be traumatized.

Burnham also finally is pushed by Tilly to face the message and gift from Georgiou.

Georgious congratulates Burnham as she guesses that while she has died, Burnham is likely a captain. She wants Burnham to know how proud she is of her, and that her most important duty is to look after those under her command.

She then sees that she has been left Georgiou's telescope, handed down in her family. (Yes. It does seem to be the one that had been aboard the Shenzhou, so it was somehow removed. Maybe some items were gathered when they evacuated the ship. It is not impossible.)

This message from the past puts a challenge to Burnham. She isn't a captain, but she has a moral center she has to stand up for.

Back with Voq, he sees his punishment. He is dumped onto the derelict remains of the Shenzhou. His failure seems complete. 

But then L'Rell beams in behind him. He is enraged at the betrayal.

But she tries to calm him. She explains that she knew Kol would kill him, so she had to move to save his life.

Now she can help him.

He wants to run off and just retake the ship. But that isn't happening. The crew rejected him. He has no support.

She tells him that he has to start thinking bigger. He has to do something legendary to win back his crew, the Empire, and the Klingon people. He has to win the war.

Her mother's house can help him do that.

But he will need to make a sacrifice first.


And then maybe he can make history. (And we can start speculating on what he'll do.)

This has been a fun, intense, and interesting episode. Characters died. Lives have been upended. And people have found new chances and complications to deal with. It continues the forward movement of the series. We have much to learn about these characters.

Plus, we slowly get to know characters better, secrets aren't kept, and the new technology that wasn't working does now.

But not without a serious question or two. Like, is it killing their animal pilot? Or is it torturing the creature?

The creature was a welcome find in the last episode, and the first half of this episode it's a monster.


And then, by the end...


The one issue I have is the Klingons. There are a few problems.

Language. I like the heavy use of Klingon. It's a trick tried in a couple of mediums in the past. But it is tricky. Almost everyone doing the Klingon is dealing with the new heavy makeup and trying to pronounce Klingonese. The result is that a lot of them sound like people speaking a second language while on vacation. You know, it's very slow. So every single sentence can go on a bit, dragging out scenes. Maybe it's a quibble of mine.

The other issue is the ships. We have gotten great shots of Shenzhou and Discovery. Our hero ships. Every other ship is at a distance or in darkness. It's hard to make them out and get a feel for how they look and work. It's frustrating, for me. I am use to clearer looks at ships in earlier Trek.

Slowly, we are gleaning things. But it is a little frustrating to not see them better. Particularly since we have so many odd new designs. At least in the past, if you knew a couple of ship looks, you could imagine the others. But the Klingon ships are taking time to get used to.

But I give the show time to work on me. I would be happy to fall in love with these new ships. But, so far, this show seems to have a different take from the previous shows.

So, with the Spore Drive now working, I look forward with how they start to use it, and address it's downsides.


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