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.

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Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “Vaulting Ambition”

The crew of the Discovery has hit another snag on their attempts to return home: the files on the Defiant have been redacted of all useful information. Because Stamets remains out of commission and it has still somehow not occurred to an entire ship full of scientists that they could just make another pilot for the spore drive, Burnham has no choice but to infiltrate the imperial palace-ship in search of more information.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryThis is, of course, a monumentally stupid idea, and it ends about as well as you’d expect.

Meanwhile, Voq’s clash with Tyler’s memories begins to tear his mind apart, and Stamets finds his consciousness adrift in the mycelial network, where a dark force threatens to tear down all realities.

Now, there are actually some things I like about “Vaulting Ambition.” Stamets’ story, in particular, is really well done. It’s great sci-fi, with a real feeling of something epic brewing, and it also brings about some of the most heartfelt scenes in this series to date.

Also, the Terran Empire’s palace-ship is incredibly cool. It’s sort of like a cross between a Star Destroyer and the Spear of Adun, and it’s just all kinds of badass and amazing.

Everything else, though?

Errr…

Well, Tyler/Voq is still a mess. Last episode was all about how the conflict between Tyler’s memories and Voq’s personality was gone and only Voq now remained, but now all of a sudden the two sides are in constant war with one another. Because reasons!

This arc now seems to have found a kind of resolution; it’s terribly rushed and makes no sense, but really, what could they have possibly done to salvage this dumpster fire of a story at this point?

The Mirror version of the Disovery (or reasonable facsimile thereof) in Star Trek: Discovery.“Vaulting Ambition” also manages to give me an entirely new cause for complaint that I’ve never had about a TV episode before: It’s super short. Barely more than half an hour. I mean, I may not love this show, but at least give me my money’s worth…

My other big issue with this episode is another major spoiler. Well, not really, because most everyone saw this coming, but I’ll still give you a chance to leave just in case.

Obligatory dummy paragraph so you can go.

Okay? Okay.

So, yeah, Lorca’s from the Mirror Universe.

Much like the Voq/Tyler reveal, this takes an interesting character and makes them boring. I never liked Lorca, but I did think he made the show interesting. It was fascinating to see a captain so far gone from Starfleet’s ideals. I was expecting some kind of Section 31 twist or some other story of corruption within Starfleet, or some commentary on how war makes monsters of us all.

That, ironically, would have delivered on the themes that Discovery’s Mirror arc seems to have been trying (and failing) to paint. The idea that the seed of darkness exists in all of us.

But nah, he’s just from the evil universe. Who needs intelligent social commentary when you can have cheap shock value?

The titular ship in Star Trek: DiscoveryReally, that’s Discovery’s motto right there.

I’m also a little uncomfortable with the revelation he’s a sexual predator (maybe even a pedophile). In all fairness, I probably shouldn’t be. There’s no rule that says Star Trek can’t touch on such themes. It’s darker than the franchise usually goes, but there’s nothing necessarily wrong with going dark places.

I guess it just feels like, again, cheap shock value. Lorca was already evil enough. Did he really need to be a child-molester, too? Could this show be any less subtle?

And I don’t really trust Discovery to handle this properly, especially given the show’s massively insensitive handling of the topic of sexual assault in the past.

I do feel a little bad for trashing this show in every review. I know a lot of people are enjoying Discovery (somehow), and I don’t like raining on people’s parades. I should probably just stop watching — I’m basically hate-watching at this point — but I’m invested enough that I kind of want to see how the season ends. I very much doubt I’ll show up for season two.

I suppose I could stop doing the reviews, but I do find it cathartic to have a good rant after each episode.

Well, there’s only a few episodes left.

Overall rating: 5/10