Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”

I have this scene in my mind. It’s the Discovery writers room, and they’re pitching episode titles. Someone quips, “Well, we’ll never come up with any titles as over the top as the original series had.”

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryAnd for some reason Neil Patrick Harris is there, and he leaps to his feet and declares, “Challenge accepted!”

It’s the best explanation I can think of for “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry.”

Anyway, four episodes in, I’m still not quite sure what to make of Discovery.

On the one hand, the main plot of this episode does have a nice Star Trek-y feel. Captain Lorca brings Burnham to his Bond villain lab and sets her to studying the creature they recovered from their ill-fated sister ship, dubbed a “Ripper.” It’s the sort of scientific mystery that Star Trek thrives on, with a nice undercurrent of moral quandary. So I like that.

Also, Stamets continues to be awesome.

However, there are also a number of things that are bothering me — about this episode, and about Discovery in general.

For one thing, the show is still favouring spectacle over good storytelling to an unhealthy degree, as evidenced by Landry channeling the spirit of Leeroy Jenkins, as well as a lavish CGI sequence of… a shirt being replicated.

Seriously.

A Klingon in Star Trek: DiscoveryI also remain very unhappy with Discovery’s portrayal of the Klingons. This episode once again takes every opportunity to make them as over-the-top craven and villainous as you can imagine, often in ways that run totally contrary to how Klingons have traditionally been portrayed.

Still having a hard time wrapping my head around their new look, too. Their make-up is so thick you can’t really see the actor’s facial expressions, so they can’t emote properly. Kind of sucks the personality out of them — what little personality is possible with such shallow writing, anyway.

Finally, one other thing that worries me is that after four episodes, this seems to just be the Michael Burnham Show. Every episode focuses on her, to the point where all the other characters are left by the wayside.

Now, I’m not just saying this because I’m not her biggest fan. She is slowly growing on me, actually — I like all her little Vulcan mannerisms.

But even if Burnham was the greatest character ever, it would still be problematic if the show focused only on her. There are lots of other really interesting characters on Discovery — Saru, Tilly, Stamets — but they’re just not getting enough screentime to be properly developed. There’s too much of a laser focus on Burnham.

Star Trek is at its best when it makes full use of ensemble cast. That’s a lesson Discovery would do well to learn.

Overall rating: 6.9/10

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Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “Context Is for Kings”

To watch Discovery streaming in Canada, you have to wait until Monday for CraveTV to put the episode online. That meant that I was already hearing some buzz about “Context Is for Kings” before watching it. The main thing I heard was that this should have been the actual beginning of the series, and that the first two episodes felt unnecessary by comparison.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryHaving now seen it, I very much agree with that perspective.

“Context Is for Kings” is where the story of Discovery really gets started. Now a prisoner, Commander Burnham finds herself suddenly transferred to the newly launched starship Discovery, where she is pressed into helping them with their research.

It’s quickly clear that Discovery is no ordinary Starfleet vessel, and when disaster strikes its sister ship, Burnham begins to understand just how far the Federation is willing to go to win the war.

As I said, this is where the show’s story really begins. We’re introduced not only to the series’ titular ship, but also most of the main cast members, Burnham and Saru being the only significant carry-overs from the first two episodes.

Those new cast members have done a lot to improve my view of the show. They add a lot of depth to what has so far been a pretty shallow story.

It’s too early to be picking favourites, but one who especially impressed me out of the gate is a scientist called Paul Stamets. He’s a bit prickly, but it’s clear he’s a true believer in Starfleet’s ideals of peaceful exploration, and his resentment at having been asked to fight a war is a great angle. He does a lot to bring the feeling of true Star Trek that Discovery has previously lacked.

Burnham’s roommate, the over-eager Cadet Tilly, is also an interesting case. Her awkward goofiness could potentially get old with time, but right now she provides a welcome dose of warmth and humour to counterbalance the show’s otherwise grim tone.

The titular ship in Star Trek: DiscoveryI was also pleased to see a familiar face: Rekha Sharma of Battlestar Galactica fame, who plays Discovery‘s chief of security. Always liked her.

I still don’t like Burnham, but her portrayal is softening. At least we can see that she regrets her mistakes, and that there is a limit to how low she’s willing to sink. Although she’s still reckless to the point of foolishness.

I’m also intrigued by the arc that is beginning to form around Discovery‘s mission. Again, it’s starting to feel a bit more like Star Trek, with some very inventive (if implausible) sci-fi concepts.

That’s not to say I’ve been fully converted as a fan. The show still seems to favour spectacle over logic more often than it should — that brawl in the mess hall was totally unnecessary — and as I’ve said, I’m still not very keen on Burnham.

But this is a big improvement over the first two episodes. If you haven’t tried Disovery yet, start with “Context Is for Kings.” This is a much better introduction to the series than the actual pilot.

Overall rating: 7.6/10 I’m actually looking forward to the next episode now.

Some random speculation before I go:

I don’t think Lorca is going to be Discovery‘s captain forever. I see him eventually being replaced. Probably with Burnham.

Also, who else thinks we got a Section 31 series without realizing it? Because at this point I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t turn out that Discovery is a Section 31 project.