Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “The War Without, the War Within”

After last week’s refreshingly fun episode, we’re back to Discovery’s old tricks.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryLast week’s ominous statement that the war with the Klingons is over turns out to be yet another attempt at cheap shock value. “The War Without, the War Within” quickly establishes that the war is not, in fact, anywhere near over in any sense of the term. It’s not going great, but most of the Federation still stands.

As “Tyler” recovers from the loss of Voq’s personality, Starfleet’s leadership utilizes the expertise of Emperor Georgiou to plan a daring scheme that could win the war… at the cost of everything the Federation stands for.

Okay, so first we need to talk about Tyler again.

I am running out of ways to describe how monumentally, irredeemably awful this story arc is. It’s just… so… stupid.

Firstly, let’s discuss the fact that he is effectively Ash Tyler now. That makes no sense. None. At all.

Firstly, if one of the personalities had to be removed, it makes no sense for L’Rell to have chosen Tyler. It doesn’t make tactical sense, and it doesn’t make personal sense. There is no way in Sto-vo-kor a Klingon fanatic would doom the man she loves to what amounts to a dishonourable death just to save the stolen consciousness of a dead man from a species she despises.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham on Star Trek: DiscoveryIf we’re to assume that Tyler’s personality was the stronger, that also makes no sense. No matter how he looks, the man on Discovery is Voq. Why would the stolen memories he laid over his own mind be stronger?

It would also be ethically unpardonable to have extinguished Voq’s real self to save the false personality… if anyone cared about Voq, that is. But of course Discovery’s Klingons are just soulless monsters, so I guess that doesn’t matter.

The only way this makes sense is if this is just a long con from L’Rell, and Voq isn’t really gone. But having him go bad again would be pretty damn repetitive, so that’s not exactly an ideal solution either.

And then it just gets dumber from there. For no good reason, the crew of the Discovery lets him — a known enemy agent — have the run of the ship, and immediately welcomes him back as if he was an old friend.

Let me remind you: Ash Tyler is dead. The man on Discovery is a hostile alien with the broken memories stolen from a dead man. The story and characters treat him as if he was Tyler who was temporarily taken over by Voq’s personality, despite the fact the exact opposite has been explicitly stated to be the case.

And I freely grant that there is a reasonable chance that Tyler is no longer a threat. But no one in their right mind would take that chance in a time of war.

A Klingon in Star Trek: DiscoveryFor my part, any little sympathy I might have felt for him evaporated when I saw his treatment of Burnham. I actually missed some of the dialogue because I was too busy yelling at the screen.

I don’t recall any other TV show making me so mad I yelled at the screen before. Congrats, Discovery.

So at this point I’m not sure it matters if Tyler’s really a Klingon or not. Either way, he’s an asshole.

Meanwhile, the moral conundrum of the main plot also falls flat. It would be a great dilemma if we were still dealing with the Klingons of The Next Generation or any other modern Star Trek, but Discovery has consistently shown the Klingons to be, again, soulless monsters with no redeeming qualities. I don’t think anything you do to them would be unethical.

I mean, if it’s okay to murder Voq, I don’t see how anything can’t be justified.

Michelle Yeoh is still awesome. That’s the best I can do as far as silver linings go.

Overall rating: 3/10

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Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “What’s Past Is Prologue”

After doing an awful lot of brooding, it’s finally time for some action on Discovery. Lorca is loose on the palace-ship, and he frees his followers to stage a bloody coup against Emperor Georgiou.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryMeanwhile, Discovery, uh, discovers that the palace-ship’s core is what’s killing the mycelial network. It’s up to Burnham to evade the warring factions and sabotage the Charon so that Discovery can fire on the core and save the network.

But problems with the plan keep mounting, creating what appears to be a no-win scenario that fans have quickly and brilliantly dubbed the “Kobayashi Saru.”

In a stark contrast to the rest of the Mirror Universe arc to date, this is actually a very good episode.

Oh, it’s still dumb as hell. I love how people who’ve spent nearly two years being constantly tortured are immediately combat ready, with apparently no lasting negative effects. Stamets has also made a remarkably quick recovery from his boyfriend dying. If I was new to the show, I’d think Stamets was a sociopath, but I know it’s just bad writing.

But here’s the thing: Yes, “What’s Past Is Prologue” is a dumb episode, but it’s fun dumb. Popcorn movie dumb. Put your brain in neutral and just enjoy the ride dumb.

Yeah, Lorca has lost all his nuance, but (all credit to Jason Isaacs) he’s at least as entertaining as a hammy mustache twirler, if not more so. I will pat myself on the back a little for successfully predicting Lorca as the real main villain of the season, though it certainly came about in a far different way than I’d expected.

Michelle Yeoh as Empress Philipa Georgiou in Star Trek: DiscoveryThis is what the Mirror Universe is supposed to be: cheese. It’s far too much of a cartoon parody of evil to ever take seriously. Discovery’s been trying to use it for serious story-telling, but it’s far too ridiculous a scenario for that to ever work. You need to turn in to the cheese. You need to embrace it.

And that’s why “What’s Past Is Prologue” works so much better than most Discovery episodes, despite making a lot of the same mistakes. It’s a dumb episode, but it never tries to be anything else. “In a Mirror, Darkly” wasn’t exactly thought-provoking television either, but it’s (rightly) regarded as one of the best things Enterprise ever did.

“What’s Past Is Prologue” is pure, extravagant action, and it’s all just fun and exciting from beginning to end. That makes it easy to forgive the episode’s flaws. It’s just good entertainment, plain and simple.

And we get to see Michelle Yeoh finally show off her amazing martial arts skills, and the special effects are incredible, and we get a little more (though still not enough) of Rekha Sharma, and best of all the Tyler/Voq story is entirely ignored.

Overall rating: 7.9/10 Probably too little too late at this point, but at least something good came out of the Mirror Universe arc.