Star Trek Discovery Ep 2.10

Star Trek Discovery Ep 2.10 - the Red Angel

With the season coming toward a close, the scriptwriters are going to try to write themselves out of the corner they painted themselves into.

*** Spoilers ahead ***

The opening was the farewell to Airiam who was lost at the end of the last episode. The cast and crew shared their feelings in their remembrances of her. Nicely done.

The story then took the first twist when Tilly barged into a meeting with the information she found about Project Daedalus and the identity of the Red Angel …… Michael Burnham. Dr. Culber than reports the bio-neural signature was a 100% match. Of course, all of this sets the audience up for the second twist at the end when the Disco team spring their mousetrap for the Red Angel and Burnham shouts in recognition, “Mom?”

Argh.

Would Burnham’s “bio-neural” signature be a 100% match to her mom’s?

Children have 50% of their DNA from each parent, so would that apply to their “bio-neural” signature? Somewhat dishonest by the scriptwriters to have the Disco science nerds speak so confidently of the “bio-neural” signature without giving any hint they could be completely wrong!

The episode pacing was a welcome break from the usual headlong action set-pieces allowing for more character interactions. One good moment was Nahn talking with Burnham about their final moments with Airiam. Still another was the conversation between Dr. Culber and Admiral Cornwell. And still another was the thaw of hostility between Spock and Burnham. And lastly, Mirror-Georgiou continues to beautifully deliver wicked lines.

On the whole, I think the Disco scriptwriters have done pretty well on characterizations in both season 1 and season 2. I do question placing so much of the story telling burden on one character. Although there are other characters in Disco, their roles are much smaller compared to Burnham. TOS had the big three and their interactions. TNG had strong leads and a solid ensemble cast as did other flavors of ST.

My main problem has been the scriptwriters very uneven track record on the big plot points. Last season there was the twist of the Mirror Universe and the way the Klingon war ended. This season the twists are that the Red Angel is technology from a Federation Section 31 secret project and the enemy in/from the future is the “Control” AI also developed by the Federation.

Time travel stories can work very well as in the movies Star Trek – The Voyage Home and in Star Trek – First Contact and various TV episodes like City on the Edge of Forever (TOS), Cause and Effect (TNG), All Good Things (TNG) and a number of others.

It remains to be seen how this season cashes out.

My immediate reaction to the whole Red Angel time travel suit and time crystal just didn’t work all that well for me. One would have to assume time travel would require a tremendous amount of energy transmitted from some fixed but distant power source through the micro worm hole into the Red Angel suit channeled through the time crystal. This would mean the Red Angel would have very little flexibility in its forays into various time points. But hand wave all of that aside, the biggest problem is the Red Angel is not omniscient. How would Mom know from whatever point in time she is inhabiting that Michael is in danger? She would have to be constantly checking the timeline!

Anyway, we are as always asked to suspend disbelief in sci-fi but I was left a bit dissatisfied with this plot development.

To end on a positive note, Jeff Russo’s soundtrack work remains top notch: ratcheting up the tension when needed and hauntingly beautiful at other moments.

#StarTrekDiscovery

Latest political news .......

The news of the Mueller report's AG summary seemed expected. Of course, it sounds like a scrubbed version of the full report will be released to Congress and the public at some point in the near future.

In following the story, it seemed to me that many experts thought the Trump campaign was so disorganized that they could not pull off such a conspiracy. Some have thought the run for the presidency was the ultimate Trump PR game and the campaign was just as shocked as anyone that they actually won.

Unless something else comes up fairly soon, I would think level headed Democrats will shelf any impeachment talk. The Constitutional method to remove a President is defeating the President in the next election. If the Democrats run anyone even sort of near competent and close to the center they should win a landslide and they will LOVE the electoral college once again! On the other hand, if they run a far-left candidate, they could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Mueller team found mostly financial crimes by the various members of Trump-team. There are tons of ongoing investigations on that front that were referred out to other entities. Are the financial crimes of sufficient magnitude that the impeachment process should be invoked?

In the end as been repeatedly said: not all crimes are impeachable and impeachment doesn’t necessarily require a crime.

The Clinton impeachment entailed clear wrong doing by Clinton but did it rise to the magnitude that the impeachment process should be invoked?

It failed and the GOP was hammered in the next election cycle.

The Democrats could take everything in 2020 – win the White House with a landslide, expand the margins of their control of the House, and take slim control of the Senate. A failed impeachment could backfire and cloud up their 2020 hopes. We shall see how strong the pro-impeachment faction is within the Democratic Party.

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Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get my head around the EU’s position on Brexit.

Does the EU actually want the negotiated Brexit deal?

I would think they do since they approved it and await the UK to approve it. They could be playing a game of chicken – offer the Article 50 extension only to the degree it makes the choice binary: Brexit deal vs. no-deal Brexit? And at the last minute offer a longer extension if necessary.

Does the EU actually want the UK to crash out?

I suppose it is possible. Are there any other EU nations considering exiting the EU? If so, the EU might find it is in their best interest to have the UK crash out so other nations will be hesitant to follow the UK.

Does the EU actually want the UK to remain?

I suppose it is possible. Again, their actions could be a form of chicken and they are hoping at the last minute, the UK will ask for a LONG extension and the EU will make the condition of the extension a new referendum with the EU hope that REMAIN wins that vote?

Within the UK, those who would want to remain in EU probably need to bring down the May government. If they can crash the government, all negotiations with the EU on Brexit comes to a halt until a new government is installed and the Parliament would HAVE to ask for a long extension giving time to set up a new referendum.

On the other hand, those who want a no-deal Brexit could also want to topple the May government and block any requests for extensions.

Seems a bit like the classic game theory of the prisoner’s dilemma?

Star Trek Discovery 2.8

Hats off to the script writers for how they integrated the oldest part of Star Trek with this current flavor of the show.

What I wonder about is how well do ST fans who do NOT know the story of The Cage (first pilot) and TOS The Menagerie (2-parter that recycled The Cage) feel about the latest episode? Was the “previously” enough to get them up to speed along with some of the exposition within the episode?

Anyway, some quick observations about the latest story. The “canon police” will note that the shuttle craft computer (voiced by Julianne Grossman) provided more information about Talos IV than you would think for a forbidden world. Perhaps, the writers felt that factoid would help those not familiar with Talos IV. On the issue of nitpicks, Starbase 11 is said to be 2 light years from Talos IV? Is there anyone in the writer’s room that knows even a little about astronomical distances?

The black hole visualization seemed to be a visual homage to the film Interstellar. On the planet, we got the same sound of the singing plants as was in The Cage. The make-up work on the Talosians takes advantage of the extra $$ The Cage didn’t have. The landscape above ground and the setting below ground is likewise a step up in quality yet still consistent with the feel of the old story. Double hats off to the actors’ work in the scenes between Vina (Melissa George) and Pike (Anson Mount). They really captured the emotions that felt true and honoring of the experience they shared in The Cage and how it would have affected them in the intervening years.

As for the exploration of Spock’s youth, they have drawn upon and expanded upon the animated series episode Yesteryear that established his difficulties as a child. This difficulty was also touched briefly and effectively in one scene in Kelvin-verse Star Trek (2009).

Will be interesting to see how the arc proceeds concurrent with the resolution of the Red Angel plotline. At this point have know idea how that is going to resolve!

#StarTrekDiscovery

Star Trek Discovery 2.9

At a micro or personal level, I thought this episode was top notch. At a macro or conceptual level, I have some lingering concerns.

*** Spoilers ***

*** Below ***



Will start with the micro/personal level and give a huge hat tip to Hannah Cheesman (Airiam), scriptwriter (Michelle Paradise), and director (Jonathan Frakes). One story motif in Star Trek history is the death of anonymous Red Shirt personnel. Disco turned that one upside down with a nearly anonymous Blue Shirt crashing into an asteroid in the season two opener. In this episode, we get a moving backstory that setup the poignant demise of one of the bridge crew members. The performance by the entire cast highlighted the sadness of Lt. Cmdr. Airiam’s death as we got to know more about her in this episode only to see her killed in the climatic act of this episode where her passage was in the tradition of Star Trek’s high ideals. The end credits rolled with the sound of ocean waves made me think of how 24 would honor the loss of a key character with the silent clock.

On the larger story arc level, it remains to be seen how it will pan out. It appears that the Red Angel is in a battle against some cybernetic entity (those destruction bots seem a bit like a reference to the Matrix movies?) in the far future. It also appears that both are raiding the past to help with their battle for the future. How it will shake out is unclear and it is clear that the writers room likes plot twists.

The key twist in this episode is that Section 31 that had been pitched as the hidden hand behind what ails the Federations turns out to be just a pawn of an AI run amok that the future entity is trying to co-opt. Section 31 in all other flavors of Star Trek was very shadowy and barely known by Star Fleet personnel. Will see how thing shake out so perhaps there will be some way in which Section 31 gets reined in by the end of the season. The inconsistencies are that Cornwell knew something was fishy about Admiral Patar being part of the logic extremists and yet Patar appeared to be a high ranking official without any questions asked. One would think Sarek and others would have blocked her rise. How big will Section 31 continue to be in the final episodes? And of course, how the AI in its current form connects to the future entity opposed by the Red Angel is to be revealed?

The big plot line of the destruction of all sentient life in the galaxy will also get wrapped up in the next 5 episodes. In my view, the writers have generally been making better choices this season. On the other hand, by raising the stakes so much (destruction of all sentient life in the galaxy is about as high as you can get) they may write themselves into a corner that isn’t going to be easy to get out of without some ridiculous plot moves. This was my major quibble with season 1.

Another quibble I have is the direction hinted by the final words of Airiam about Project Daedalus and how Michael is the center of the whole conspiracy. Am guessing we will get some exposition on Project Daedalus in episode 10. That part I’m looking forward to.

As for Michael’s role in the whole thing, it will get worked out over the last third of the season but I just hope it doesn’t get ridiculous! After essentially pinning the entire Klingon war on Michael, the scriptwriters seem to be again making her the center of all history by placing “the end of all sentient life in the galaxy” on her shoulders. As much as we all like the “great person” theory of history, as a plot device, the great escape by the end could involve wild plot twists that severely tests the “suspension of belief.” As for the writing of the conflict between Spock and Michael, it does provide some emotionally resonant moments that I’m sure many viewers can feel deep inside and is a tribute to the actors. However, if that tension only serves only as a prop for Michael’s character, then I feel that is a rather cheap use of Spock as a plot point given how beloved Spock is as a character in his own right. We shall see.

Writing some backstory for Captain Pike this season has been just fine to me as he is a fairly blank slate in Star Trek lore with only the general knowledge that he was one of the greatest in the field captains in history. On this front, they (the writers and actor Anson Mount) have done an excellent job.

#StarTrekDiscovery

How about a little “fan fiction?”

What would Captain Pike write in a letter to Airiam’s next of kin?

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Airiam,

It is with deep regret that I am informing you of the death of your fine and courageous daughter, Lieutenant Commander Airiam. I share your grief in your loss and know that no words can lessen your sorrow. Our shipboard family grieves as does your family. Our solace is the sweet memories of her kind friendship. I hope what I share with you about her would bring some warm feelings about the life of exploration she choose amidst the anguish you feel. On board Discovery, she was a vital member of the senior staff. She carried out her duties with excellence under the most difficult of circumstances. And in ordinary times, she enjoyed her crew mates and was beloved and now deeply missed.

I feel you should know that her death occurred in the line of duty while on an away mission. The situation was critical and her last thoughts were of the safety of her comrades aboard Discovery. She willingly faced her death to protect our lives. Though your current sorrow of her loss will be overwhelming, you should be proud of what she did with her life in Star Fleet and the courage she exhibited in the final moments of her beautiful life.

Please extend my condolences and regards to other family members and friends saddened by her loss.

Sincerely,

Christopher Pike, Captain, USS Discovery

Star Trek Discovery 2.7

It was a transitional and expositional episode. The scriptwriters had to advance the story line about the Red Bursts and the Red Angel on one hand. And on the other hand, they had to finally get Spock onto the screen. Both were accomplished but as a result the episode as a stand-alone entity didn’t feel like much happened. It serves as a bridge to the latter half of season 2 but that was about it.

*** spoilers ahead ***

Okay, so we have had hints the Red Angel might be a time-traveler and this episode seems to go headlong in that direction when Tyler and Pike take the shuttle into the spatial-temporal anomaly. The igniting of the plasma on the shuttle was an easter egg for TOS fans who remember that same move in “The Galileo Seven.”

We shall see how the writers room works out the Red Angel story. It is still not clear whether the actions of the Red Angel are good or bad for Disco and the inhabitants of their timeline. The whole idea of altering the past to change the future is well trodden territory in Star Trek. The TNG film “First Contact” had the Borg travel to the past to block humanity’s entry into the community of civilizations by sabotaging Cochran’s historic FTL (faster than light) spaceflight. This intervention prevents the formation of the Federation allowing the Borg to assimilate the Alpha Quadrant including Earth.

The Xindi arc in ST-Enterprise was about a future race making incursions into the ST-Enterprise timeline to prevent their defeat at the hands of the Federation in the distant future. Archer and company eventually figure out what is going on and manage to convince enough of the Xindi leadership to turn against their shadowy benefactors from the future.

Will the Red Angel motivations prove to be evil? Or is the Red Angel good and in its own battle in the future having to draw upon the past to assist in its battle in the future? The Disco timeline initially saw 7 red bursts and was able to only visit one of them (season opener). Thus, there are six other incursions into the timeline by the Red Angel we know nothing about as of yet. Since the initial 7 there have been two more that resulted in the rescue of the people of New Eden and the revolution of Kaminar. Where will the writers take us going forward?

As for Spock, we get some more backstory about his life and the cliffhanger moment is when Michael figures out that Spock’s numerical recitation is the spatial coordinates for Talos IV! For TOS fans, we know that Talos IV was in the first pilot episode “The Cage” that NBC didn’t like. Roddenberry and company retooled and made a second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” that green lighted Star Trek for its three year run on NBC. The material in “The Cage” got repurposed to very good effect in the TOS two-parter “The Menagerie.”

Will be interesting to see how the Disco writer’s room use Talos IV. Will there be a discussion of General Order 7 that says no one shall visit Talos IV, a policy advised by Captain Pike and Science Officer Spock?

The reliance on TOS ideas is a delicate balance. On one hand, it is fun to fill in details and use details from TOS to guide the show story lines. ST-Enterprise used this device in some story lines in season four. However, it could become too constraining and stifle efforts to world build on its own merits. ST-TNG, ST-DS9, and ST-VOY were set in the future and free to introduce newer story ideas effectively. The ST Kelvin-verse film “Into Darkness” had good moments but it was constrained in many ways by having to have touch points with ST-The Wrath of Khan. Disco’s creative team could run into such problems if they are not careful.

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