Friday, November 10, 2017

Subspace Reviews: Star Trek: Discovery - Ep 5 - "Choose Your Pain"

We get a simpler title this time around, and am I the only one that feels this could be a song title for a heavy metal song? Come on, you can't imagine Saru and Burnham fronting a band, with Lorca in back on the drums in a glam rock wig? I can't be the only one that could imagine that.

As I'm a little behind on reviews, I decided to hold off on watching new episodes, so I am not too far ahead as I review. So I haven't seen episode 8 yet. So I have to hurry up, as I know I am missing some good stuff. Now, if only my Internet service will give me enough bandwidth to write, save, and have twitter open...

We return to Discovery having now successfully implemented the Spore Drive technology. This ship can jump anywhere instantly. And in a war, being where you're needed at a moments notice is quite the boon.

Ooo.  New tech. New place. It is a bit different for a Starfleet starbase, but that is partly the orientation, I hope see more of it later on.

Lorca has been called in by the admirals to talk strategy and planning for the future of the Spore Drive, and the war effort. He is quite proud of  what he has been accomplishing. Klingon supply lines destroyed, aiding Benzar. Routing enemy attack at places the Klingons thought would allow them to push deeper into Federation space.

But the admiralty has bigger issues. They need more Spore Drives on more ships.

One science ship leading the fight is risky. It could be lost. The technology could get taxed, and fail at a desperate moment. They need time to get more ships like the Discovery.

And while they are starting to build more drives, they have only a single tardegrade creature. Starfleet is scouring space for more, but is having no luck.

So Admiral Cornwell wants Lorca to back off for a while. They want the ship to have a lower profile in the war, until they know more ships are coming.

She's also worried, with this series of surprise Federation victories, that the Klingons are becoming aware of Discovery, or even know what it is.

Lorca is indignant. He thinks he and his ship should be pushing their advantage as hard as they can, and as deeply as they can. If they have the tool, use it.

Later, Cornwell talks more with Lorca. He needs to listen to Starfleet.

She also clearly has some history with Lorca. She chastises him for not just getting his eyes fixed, and he chides her back that he just hates doctors. (She is a Starfleet doctor who has risen to be an admiral.)

He is annoyed that it seems he was railroaded with his new orders. But she says he needs to show some restraint, as she is holding back.

Cornwell brings up Burnham. A lot of Starfleet is pissed that she isn't rotting on a penal colony. It feels, to some, she escaped justice for starting a war. Cornwell isn't as angry about that, but more that Lorca just quietly giving her a post on his ship, vital to the war effort.

Lorca is firm about the power he has been given by the higher higher ups at Starfleet. He gets to run the ship his way, no interference. And Starfleet already allows a wide latitude when it comes to captains who wish to assign new crew in a time of war.

Cornwell just points out that Lorca's history already puts strikes against him being in command. He doesn't need to start adding more of his own.

So Lorca heads back to Discovery.

But mid trip, and in Federation space, a Klingon D-7 battlecruiser appears overhead. And, at first I though it looked a bit different but might be close to the classic Klingon ship design. But no. It has the big red circle area on it (Somewhere, still hard to read the shape of the ship.). But it looks like it's a sensor dish instead of the weapons platform. And it seems to be on the bottom of the ship, and not on the front side. There are some familiar bits to the ship, but it still quite different.

The shapes stay so mysterious on the viewer's end. And since it's Trek, I feel like I should just know these ships, so it gets a little frustrating to know I am largely clueless.

They ship tractors in Lorca's shuttle. And he and the pilot prepare to fight off borders.

But that goes as well as you would expect. The pilot is bayoneted by the Klingons. (And that is a great addition to Klingon weapons. Why choose bat'leth or disruptor when fighting? Save the bat'leth for some good one on one combat.) And Lorca is disarmed and beaten.

The attacking Klingons look to be using T'Kuvma's house armor. At first I thought maybe other houses in the Empire were using something similar. But this seems to be clearly intended. In fact the ship's captain should be familiar.

When Lorca awakens, he finds  a man searching his pockets. He grabs and throttles the guy. Good instincts.

That's Harry Mudd. Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Trader. Fast talker. Prisoner of the Klingon Empire.

They are both, under duress, guests of the Empire for the foreseeable future.

Mudd presents himself as being rather amiable, and quick witted. He is annoyed with Starfleet, seeing their constant exploration and expansion as what provoked this war. And now he, poor Mudd, is stuck. He was just trying to do right by his beloved when he was felled.

But Mudd is a survivor.

Aboard Discovery, Burnham is troubled. She is having nightmares about the tardegrade. She is in it's place, and in agony. She knows that something is wrong.

So she goes to Dr. Culber for help. She explains her concerns and fear that they might be killing the creature.

He respects her worries, and agrees they need to know for sure.

The creature is getting slower and more sluggish. And it seems despondent.

This, and everything else, is making Burnham stressed and depressed.

But Tilly is around to pull Burnham out enough to at least discuss it, and not just repress it.

Burnham feels lost and unsure about herself. She has so little work she needs to do, so she can't lose herself in it. So she's stuck with her feelings. And that's something she's had years to work on avoiding.

Tilly tells her to just process them. For her, that's fun.

On the bridge, Saru is learning about what happened to the captain. Admiral Cornwell gives him all the information, and tells him that it was likely a targeted attack, to get information on Discovery. They need to find Lorca as quickly as possible.

And that means Saru is now acting captain of the Discovery. His first command.

But Burnham is around. And that always unsettles him. She creates uncertainty for him.

And now, just as they need to prepare to jump, once they work out the captain's likely location, she says they shouldn't go.

With the uncertainty of the tardegrade's long term health, she wants them to reconsider it's use.

But Captain Saru disagrees. No evidence that the creatures powerful regenerative abilities are lessening. The Captain Lorca is in immediate danger. The ship's security is at risk. And the war plan is in peril.

He won't give up their one advantage for a What If scenario..

But it all bothers Saru. He is not feeling as confident as he expected to be, or wanted to be, as captain. He is doubting himself.

So he comes up with a plan. He has the computer pull up the most respected and decorated captains in Starfleet history. And we get some shout outs. Robert April, the first captain of the Enterprise. Christopher Pike, second captain of the Enterprise. Jonathan Archer, the captain of NX-01 Enterprise. Georgiou makes the list. And Matt Decker, who will appear in Classic Trek also makes it.

Sure, it would be nice to expand the universe with some unknown names we could ponder. Garth of Izar didn't make the list. But it's just a quick shout out list, to acknowledge Trek history, confirm Enterprise isn't being omitted, and canonizes Robert April as an official character (He had only officially appeared in the animated series which is generally ignored.).

Saru has the computer consider what were the key attributes of these captains. Then he has the computer start a program to rate him against those attributes as he goes through this mission. He wants to see how he stacks up. If he lacks some quality he would like to know.

Back with Lorca, some Klingon guards march into the cell. And you can instantly see they have very different armor from the troops we saw earlier. And I like this armor. It fits well between the leather and fur look of Enterprise era armor and the more metallic design we see in the movie era.

This is a look I can really get behind.

Lorca doesn't understand what they are doing there. But Mudd shows him. Mudd points to a crumpled and beaten Starfleet officer in the corner.

The Klingons grab him and beat him. It seems they then kill him, and drag him away.

It's a way to divide and coerce prisoners. Choose Your Pain. Who will suffer next? Everyone gets to choose. Point away from yourself at someone, and they suffer because of you. And they will likely hate and resent you. It makes it harder for prisoners to work together.

Lorca notices in another corner of the cell another Starfleet officer. Lieutenant Ash Tyler. He tells Lorca he was captured at the Battle of the Binary Stars.

He's been held ever since, tortured and then healed up.

Lorca wonders how he looks this good for being beaten for so long. He questions and quizzes Tyler for a bit.

Tyler explains that the ship's captain took a liking to him, and has been taking it easy. But he is clearly troubled by what she's been doing to him.

As they talk about their situation, a little creature scuttles up and steals the small bit of food that they have, and races it over to Mudd. Mudd has made a little friend who helps him grab bits of food around them.

Soon it's time for Lorca to be tortured. The captain of the ship, and his torturer, is someone we have seen before. L'Rell, from the previous episode and pilot. She is in charge of this ship and leads interrogations.

She is aware that Discovery is getting around surprisingly fast, and seems to just appear where needed. She'd like to know more about it.

Lorca tells her off, and they throw insults at each other.

So L'Rell adds some pressure. Including targeting his sensitive eyes.

Back in his cell, Lorca is pissed. He tells Mudd and Tyler that he knows that one of them is feeding the Klingons information he is sharing with them in the cell. He grabs Mudd's little friend and pulls a transmitter attached to it off.

He and Tyler threaten Mudd.

Mudd then throws Lorca's history at him. How he lost his last command months back. The ship was lost with all hands. Except the captain, who fled in an escape pod.

Mudd implies that Lorca ran away and left everyone else to die.

Lorca challenges some of that. He says the ship was being overwhelmed by Klingons. He had a choice between his whole crew being taken and tortured, or giving them a quick death.

And it does feel like a story with a chapter or 2 missing.

So when Cornwell described Lorca's negative marks, it is most likely his loss. And his survival is odd. Not that a captain needs to go down with a ship, but why was he the only one to come back? Picard's loss of the Stargazer got him in trouble, and he saved his crew.

So there are lingering questions.

But he is in Klingon custody, talking to someone he thinks was spying on him. Why would he be freely honest? He is omitting things. But what?

What happen in his fight? Was he carrying vital information that Starfleet needed, and someone had to escape and ensure Starfleet got it? Was it information from an operative in the Klingon Empire? Was it some early spore samples?

We just don't have enough information to know. But we could prejudge him now, if you need that. Because that is all we can do. And, as a species, we love to prejudge. We love to give into our prejudices and assumptions. It makes the Internet what it is.

So for many people this will be confirmation about Lorca is. Whatever that is.

Of course it gives some added depth to how Lorca acts. He lost a whole crew, so he is loath to get too close to another crew. He lost a whole crew to the Klingons, so he wants his next one more ready. He wasn't ready himself the first time, so he's studied hard to prepare himself. New layers.

On Discovery, Burnham brings in Culber to help convince Stamets of the risks to the tardegrade.

He is cool to Culber's involvement, and wants him to leave. He is also annoyed, and wants to bicker some with Burnham about what's happening.

But he doesn't disagree with her findings.

So he, Tilly, and Burnham try and work out how they can work around the tardegrade. It's mind seems to be the key to the drive working in any useful capacity. You need a mind that can integrate wtth the spores, and also has the ability to comprehend travelling to other places.

It is wondrous. And Tilly slips and calls it fucking cool.

And, apparently, on the Internet this is disturbing. You don't swear in Star Trek! Trek is a swear free zone! Everyone knows that! I mean, really! Where is my fainting coach?

And I loved the people who explained, "Well this is why I never even started to watch the show." Yeah. Sure. Haven't seen the show. Refused to watch. But you want to lecture the show. How Internet of you.

Anywho. Stamets agrees with Tilly (as do I). It is fucking cool. What they are working with is fantastical even in the 23rd century.

But as they search for an alternative they can use, they find that few species match there needs.

Humans seem to be a close alternative. But to actually work, a subject would need to have his genetic structure modified to incorporate some of the tardegrade DNA. Then a human could interface in the device, just as the tardegrade can.

Saru finds them at work and is furious. They have deactivated the drive, and not told him. He wants to be able to leave soon.

He also is angry that Burnham is running these tests when he told her to wait. She's sneaking around behind his back. She is disregarding his authority. It feels like the past repeating itself to him.

Burnham wants to calm him, but she scares him. So he sends her to her quarters for the foreseeable future.

Then he orders Stamets to ready the drive to jump into Klingon space.

Stamets is now more closely watching the creature.

And it is impossible to not see the distress it has as they ready to jump.

And now the Discovery is deep in Klingon space.

And the tardegrade is in shock. It collapses and rolls into a ball. It then begins shedding water and shrinks into a ball.

Stamets and Culber try to explain to Saru the situation. The creature has collapsed into a survival mode. It is hibernating, trying to recover and cope.

Saru is uninterested. They need the drive to eventually escape. They need to just force it to wake up. Crack the creature open if they have to. Saru is focused solely on his mission.

It offends Culber, as it will likely kill the creature. But Stamets reluctantly agrees to get the drive working.

Back with Lorca, the Klingons return for another around of Choose Your Pain. They make Lorca choose. And Tyler asks Lorca to pick him. Lorca reluctantly agrees, looking like he's trying to protect himself.

But as they beat on Tyler, Tyler starts to fight back. And at that moment, Lorca jumps the second guard.

Lorca and Tyler quickly kill the Klingons.

Mudd is in shock. He didn't see this coming. The Starfleet officers explain that they needed two people to escape the ship. Tyler had been waiting for the right person to help him.

Mudd is eager and ready to go. But Lorca hits him, and seals him in the cell again. Mudd is pissed and swears revenge on Lorca.

It is a tricky question. Do you leave someone in the hands of torturers? Well, I probably would have. Mudd was duplicitous, likely in the pocket of the Klingons, and had made it clear he is out for himself. So many possible moments for him to betray them as they escape. Do you risk that?

They begin to fight there way out, using disruptors on attacking Klingons.

They keep fighting, but Tyler is hurt. He asks Lorca to leave him.

Lorca has Tyler get in some cover and tells him he'll scout ahead.

While Lorca is gone, L'Rell appears. She taunts Tyler about thinking he can leave.

Angered, he jumps up and attacks her. Lorca comes back and takes a shot at her, but just misses. Instead the shot hits a wall, and some of the energy hits her in the face. She is left howling in pain and rage.

The pair make it to the shuttlebay and steal a raider (Which seems like a fighter craft.). They fly out and are soon being chased.

Saru sees the flight of ships. Discovery goes to Red Alert, and the crew is ready to fight.

But Saru waits. He tries to suss out what the ships are doing. He sees an odd pattern to their flight.

It seems to him that one of the ships is actually being chased by the others.

He works out that the ship must have the captain aboard, and he has everyone aboard it pulled out via transporter. Moments later the raider is destroyed.

With the captain back, and the Klingons aware of them. Saru orders the Spore Drive activated. And Stamets works it.

But once they are home, Saru cannot get Stamets on the comm. So he races down to check, worried about what may have happen. (He knows he was pushing the Spore Drive team.)

He and Tilly find Stamets in the Spore Containment unit. He's unconscious, with stab points on both sides of his body. He used himself to activate the Spore Drive.

Saru is worried that it has killed Stamets. But he slowly wakes up. And he seems weirdly giddy and pleased that it all worked out.

Saru goes to talk with Burnham later. He is troubled about his first command. He even deletes the program he created to test himself, feeling he has lacked any of the needed qualities.

He feels like he's failed. He didn't find a simple happy result to make everything come together, while making it all look easy. (You know, the normal classic Trek, TNG, etc ending.) This was all messy. He fought with his crew. He lost his temper with her. And Stamets may have died doing something dangerous, and illegal (Screwing with your DNA has been very illegal since the days of Khan ruling much of the Earth.)

He admits to Burnham that he is upset with her and what she's done. But he also admits that it is mostly jealousy. He wanted to stand beside Georgiou, and learn. But it never happen, since the war took her. He feels incomplete. Unprepared.

Burnham challenges the idea that he failed as a captain. He got the Captain Lorca back. He got the ship home. He made hard choices. That is what a captain has to do.

But to bolster him, and probably relieve some stress and guilt from having it, she gives Saru the telescope Georgiou left her. So Saru can see what Georgiou saw. A connection of his own to her.

Georgiou wanted Burnham to know how important it was to look after your crew. Sharing this with Saru was a way to enact this philosophy.

Another way is that she is allowed to help and release the tardegrade. She figures that if they free it, and give it some spore, it will find it's way to a happier place.

So she and Tilly release it into space, and it slowly awakens.

It quickly accesses the spores, and sends itself home. (Hopefully, we'll see it again some day. Happier and at peace.)

And now we learn much more about Stamets. He's in a relationship. And his partner is Dr. Culber. They've known each other for some time and share quarters.

Culber is a little ticked at Stamets. Messing with his DNA and entering the Spore Drive could have killed him. That isn't okay with the good doctor.

Stamets explains he was trying to save the ship, and save Culber. He appreciates the thought, but isn't okay with these ridiculous heroics.

But Stamets is so pleased. He never thought he would ever connect to his spores like he has now. He's seen their universal view. He's seen the infinite. It was fucking cool.

But there may be some side effects, or consequences to what he's done. When he finishes brushing his teeth, he joins Culber, but it seems his mirror reflection is slow to agree to this. It lingers behind for several uncomfortable seconds. Then it follows his steps.

Something isn't right.

But what? People are eager to think it's Mirror Universe Stamets (as in Classic Trek "Mirror Mirror"). And that might be true. But Stamets has touched the infinite. It may just be a universe where he's a little more lost in though than our universe. One where he's more of a dreamer.

It looks like it's a different Stamets. But which one. We are all familiar with Evil Trek. But from places like TNG we've seen that many more timelines exist out there. The writers have many options.

Let's wait and see.

from Memory Alpha
So this week we got more ships from the Klingons. The raiders are interesting. It's another one with the pointy wing design. But the D-7 is stinging some show watchers. We've seen the D-7 before. We know the expected design.

And this is quite different. There are somethings there, like the red lit area. It also has the same kind of shape, in a sense.

I can see some slight ties. But it is overall quite different.

The show is free to try out new looks. I am okay with that. But it is just odd how familiar Starfleets ships are looking while Klingons ships are diverging more and more.

I just need more time to get used to them, and see more of them.

And we are seeing L'Rell again. I like to emphasize this as I completely missed that in the episode. I am not sure why.

I noted how her armor looked like L'Rell's, and she looked similar. But it didn't click until they spelled it out in After Trek.

The trouble was in part the changed lighting for this ship, the fact it's such heavy make up that the Klingons tend to blur a bit, for the first time she speaks English, and I was clearly not paying enough attention. It annoys me to miss something that obvious.

But it allowed the scenes in this episodes to play to different ways for me. The way Lorca saw them, and the way they really happen.

Kol and L'Rell out of make up.

Because this is L'Rell. And until recently, she was serving T'Kuvma and then Voq. And now she's a captain of Klingon ship? This must be relatively new.

Also, when I realized she was L'Rell I had a series of scenarios run through my head. And it popped out a question. Is Tyler Voq?

Previously, L'Rell warned Voq that he could only succeed if he could win the war. And to do that he would have to give up everything. And being turned into a human is to give up his Klingon identity. Voq is gone. In theory he's gone.

I mean, Tyler's story doesn't perfectly work if he says he's been her prisoner since the pilot of the series. Because she wasn't here then. Unless she did take a prisoner then, and kept him on the Sarcophagus Ship. Or, his memory and concept of time is shaky, and he doesn't realize how long she's been there. It could be human error.

But this scenario does make for a nice way to insert a Klingon spy beside Lorca on the Federation's secret weapon. Having Lorca save him, and bond with him, would be a way to con a paranoid man.

Still, the last episode ends on Voq and this one introduces Tyler. Is it that simple? Is it that the writers want to give us a shot to see it coming, and then reveal it later? Did a lot of us see it coming too fast? Or, is this meant to be too obvious a ploy? Are they trying to get us to chase a wild goose?

What if that wasn't L'Rell's plan. I mean, they managed to find a top secret Starfleet meeting and then jump a shuttle well inside Federation space? It seems the Klingons must have some impressive intel that they are getting.

Would they want Lorca to just get a spy in? What if...Lorca is Voq? What if they've made a switch?

What if...Lorca has been a Klingon since he lost his ship? What if that's why he was the only survivor? He was captured a replaced months and months back?

But then why would he still be fighting, and not turning the ship over? I think we may have similar questions about Tyler before long. 

Perhaps the Klingons have sleeper agents, who are submerged in the mind until needed. We will have to wait and see what arises then.

So much to learn and we are almost to the midseason.


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