Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 13 Review – What’s Past is Prologue

star trek discovery what's past is prologue burnham lorca jason isaacs sonequa martin green mirror universe review

It’s difficult to say that the twist about Lorca’s identity works. Up to a point, that’s just a personal thing; I have long since gotten bored of identity reveals that rely on the idea that everything we know about a character has been a pretence. There’s a lack of nuance to it, and ultimately there’s a lack of nuance to the ‘real’ Lorca. He is, in the end, little more than a power-grabbing usurper with delusions of a destiny and a sexual obsession with Michael Burnham. It’s not so much that this casts a new light on everything we’ve seen already – it’s that everything we’ve seen already was entirely false.

Sure, there was interesting stuff that could have been done with this idea – but, at the same time, I’m starting to grow a little tired of that caveat. After a point, there’s little to be gained by focusing on what could have been done with the idea, when time after time Discovery makes the least interesting choice. Taking such a simplistic approach with this reveal diminishes Lorca’s character, and all the nuance and subtlety we’ve seen so far; it’s a waste of Jason Isaacs, to be frank, who gives a great performance but in the end is still limited by the constraints of the script. If all he’s given to do is sneering, snarling villain, the character can’t rise above that – and it’s a shame that such an interesting character as Lorca was reduced to this.

A much more negative review, because honestly, I was feeling a little frustrated at Discovery this week. I suspect my thoughts vis a vis Captain Lorca are an unpopular opinion, but I’m not sure.

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 6 Review – Lethe

Discovery is struggling to move beyond the Planet of the Hats. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, essentially it refers to a culture defined by a single ubiquitous character trait. Every single Vulcan is logical. Every single Klingon is a warrior. Every single person on the planet of the hats wears hats all the time. It’s a prominent sci-fi genre convention (or cliché, if you’re feeling less kind), and one with plenty of examples across Trek history – pick a random episode of TOS and you’ve got a good chance of finding one.

Discovery, up until now, is pretty much just doing the same thing. Vulcans are all dedicated to logic, Klingons to war, Kelpians are all fearful (or so we’re told); as ever, it’s only the human characters who have differences in aspirations and motivations and even personalities. Yes, certainly, there are differences within that limited scope; while both Sarek and the Vulcan suicide bomber are both dedicated to logic, they’ve clearly got differing interpretations of such. But even then – the Vulcan is a radical adherent to logic. Is that the most interesting thing you could have done with it?

Here’s my review of Lethe, which is the one with James Frain as Sarek. Well, one of them.

At times, I did find Discovery frustrating, even while actually quite enjoying it. This is one such episode, really; entertaining in a lot of ways, but enough little flaws to grate throughout.

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 5 Review – Choose Your Pain

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How much continuity is too much? The answer, of course, is the point at which it becomes alienating to new viewers – the point at which it’s so suffocating and self-reflexive that it’s offputting. That’s not to say there isn’t a value in developing a mythos, or a certain glee to alluding to wider continuity, but there’s a need to make sure it’s not overpowering. Star Trek: Discovery is managing to stay on the right side of the line – for now – but it’d perhaps do well to ask itself this question more often. At the moment, it’s got it just about right; those who know will enjoy the nods to Matthew Decker or Christopher Pike, while those who don’t won’t be confused or taken out of it by reference to the Daystrom Institute. (Indeed, it’s often the more dedicated fans who do understand these allusions that are more likely to get tied into knots about it!)

There’s an addendum to the above, though, which Discovery is running risk of falling foul of: Just what does the continuity add? Choose Your Pain is an episode worth interrogating on this note, given the inclusion of Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Mudd is a fan favourite character, albeit one I’ve never really understood the appeal of – he’s a human trafficker played for laughs, from some particularly poor episodes of The Original Series. Was he a necessary inclusion? Was there anything about his plot function that demanded he be Harry Mudd, rather than an original character in a similar vein? Admittedly, it might be too early to say; we know that Mudd is set to return later in the series, so it’s possible that in hindsight this appearance will prove to be important set up for a story that does demand his inclusion. Otherwise? I’m less than convinced.

I am very much not a fan of Harry Mudd, as you’ll no doubt remember from previous reviews, but he was… alright, I suppose, in Discovery.

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3 Review – Context is for Kings

star trek discovery context is for kings review michael burnham sonequa martin green jason isaacs captain lorca shenzhou

It’s not a unique observation, of course, but in a manner of speaking Context is for Kings is actually the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery.

The prior two episodes, The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars, form a prologue of sorts – the series finale of Star Trek: Shenzhou, if you like. Here, we’re picking up again with what’s almost a new pilot on its own terms, introducing us to the rest of our regular cast – Captain Gabriel Lorca, Lieutenant Paul Stamets, and so on.

Here’s my review of Star Trek: Discovery episode three, Context is for Kings.

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