Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Last Ship, Season Four, Episode Seven: Feast

Image result for The last ship season 4

We're in the last stretch of white able bodied Americans save the world (yes, I know it's longer than simply saying The Last Ship; however, it's a shit ton more accurate).

The seeds are now in Velleck's possession thanks to Fletcher's betrayal of the Americans.  The episode begins with a somber memorial to all of the people lost in Fletcher's theft of the seeds.  Master Chief is clearly injured and not doing well but gives Doc Rios a look when Doc asks about it. It's clear that Master Chief is ignoring his health in favour of hunting down the seeds.  I hope that this doesn't mean that Jeter's character is going to be killed off, we've already lost too many characters of colour this season. 

Velleck is pleased to have the seeds but recognises that because Fletcher's cover has been blown, this means that Tom will be hunting him down.  For her part, Lucia plays up the role of spurned woman to the hilt and vows to take care of Chandler himself. Has this woman never heard of a one night stand? Tom didn't promise her ever lasting love. Velleck orders Lucia to take Fletcher to his room but warns her not to get to friendly with him. Yes, you can and should read that as lowkey slut shaming. Velleck however is less pleased with Giorgio, who he sees as a continual fuck up and has no problems comparing him to his brother.  Unsurprisingly, Giorgio does not take his father's criticism well and decides to rush back to his home and throw a party. Giorgio is nothing if not predictable. 

As with every other episode, the characters all have to confirm that whatever plan of action Tom comes up with is perfect. This week, the task falls to Meylan, who admits that Tom was right about using Giorgio as a conduit to Vellek. It wouldn't be The Last Ship without a moment of Tom worship. Tom wants to kidnap Giorgio to steal his key to get into the room he snuck into earlier. Fortunately for Tom, Giorgio's place is located next to a 2,000 year old landmark and so they the crew of the Nathan James has no problem locating it.

Vellek, Lucia, Fletcher and Christos sit down for dinner.  Christos is not at all pleased by the fact that Vellek made a deal with the U.K. for the seeds and points out that Vellek wouldn't have made it this far without the help of the Greek navy. Vellek tries to argue that Greece now has a powerful ally in the British but Christos is only interested in getting food for the nation state of Athens. Yes, the world has regressed so far that Greece has returned to having nation states. It's left to Lucia to soothe the tension in the room, greasing the way with an obvious display for feminine wiles, as Fletcher watches without comment. Lucia and Vellek then encourage Christos to eat some bread and drink.  To anyone paying attention, it's obvious something is wrong with the bread. 

As the team prepares to storm Giorgio's, Tom take a moment to comfort Sasha, suggesting that she did nothing wrong. Sasha however feels that Fletcher's actions prove that she has terrible taste in men. The away team lands on the island, only to discover Giorgio's party in full swing. This means a direct confrontation is off the cards, because to do so would mean risking innocent civilians. Hmmmm what to do? Why have a female character just strip down to a bikini that she just happens to be wearing under her wet suit. Yes, Azima is a gorgeous woman but is it necessary to sexualise her in this fashion?

Azima sashays into the party and predictably gets Giorgio's attention. Giorgio leads Azima back to his bedroom where she plays nice until the team arrives, allowing her to end the ruse.  Giorgio's only comment is that Tom could have allowed him to finish, as if he actually had a legit shot with Azima. I seriously screamed at the television, "dude she is so out of your league". Sasha takes the key from Giorgio and gets to work transferring data to the Nathan James.  Even though he's clearly in a tight spot, Giorgio begins throwing weight around by invoking his father and reminding Tom that Lucia wants revenge for what he did to her.  Tom however will not be goaded into responding, even if Giorgio just blasted out his business to the crew. It's only when Giorgio brings up Fletcher's betrayal that he gets a response.  Sasha forces Giorgio's head against a desk and puts a gun next to his ear.  Giorgio loses a bit of his bravdo and calls out reminding Tom that they still need him and therefore cannot afford to kill him. It's clear that Tom sees Giorgio as the equivalent of a gnat but he does concede that for now at least, they still need Giorgio and so Tom calls Sasha off for now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Star Trek Discovery, Season One, Episodes One and Two: The Vulcan Hello/Battle at the Binary Stars

Image result for star trek discovery

Like every fan of Star Trek, I was anxious about the series premiere of Star Trek Discovery. Since Enterprise aired its last episode in 2005, there hasn't been another show in the Star Trek universe on television. Fans have had to content themselves with the rebooted movies.  Star Trek began by beaming itself into our home on a weekly basis and while television may not necessarily mean the same extensive special effects as the large screen, it encourages longer engagement with the universe and its characters.

I found myself surprised to discover that Star Discovery doesn't wrap itself around the captain of the vessel but around first officer Michael Burnham.  After watching Sonequa Martin-Green in action, I can almost forgive her for becoming zombie food on The Walking Dead. But how does Michael stand out as a human on a ship that has an inter stellar cast? It turns out that Michael was raised by Vulcans after being discovered in the wreckage of a Klingon attack.  Through flashback, we learn that she has never gotten over the trauma of this event and has struggled to maintain the false veneer of pure Vulcan logic, even as her human heart compels her to feel emotions she would much rather ignore; Michael cares despite herself.

Vulcans are meant to be emotionless - it is ingrained into their very nature and despite knowing this, fans always want some display of emotion be it love, anger or hate from a Vulcan.  It's why towards the end of The Original series, writers seemed to look for excuses for Spock to display emotions. Fans love their Vulcans but they also want them to step outside of the coldness of logic sometimes.  It's why having Michael be a human raised by Vulcans is something that fans are going to easily embrace.

Michael's past trauma becomes part of the plot when the USS Shenzhou, captained by Philippa Georgiou, are forced to confront the Klingons. It's worth noting that Start Trek Discovery takes place ten years before the original series and therefore, the Klingons are very much a threat.  Michael's sense of panic is so strong that she reaches out to her former Vulcan guardian Sarek, to learn how it is that the Vulcans and Klingons came to an agreement. Unlike the Federation, whose mission is "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before", the Vulcans already have a pretty good handle on space and by their nature, learn very quickly from each interaction. After being attacked by the Klingons, each interaction that Vulcans had with Klingons, they made sure to fire first.  It may seem counter intuitive to fire first if what you want is peace, but strength and aggression are what matter to Klingons.

After meeting with Sarek, Michael takes her suggestion to Georgiou, only to be shot down.  Georgiou refuses to break Confederation guidelines and be the aggressor. Michael makes the mistake of challenging Georgiou's decision in front of the crew and when that doesn't work, attempts to knock Georgiou unconscious using the Vulcan nerve pinch and order the crew to fire on the Klingon ship. Before a shot can be fired however, Georgiou stumbles onto the bridge holding a phaser and filled with rage. Georgiou's confrontation with Michael is cut short when the Klingons attack.  Even though Michael's experience would come in handy, attempting a mutiny is enough for Georgiou to order Michael sent to the brig.

As aforementioned, Star Trek Discovery takes place a decade before the Original Series and this means that not only has the Federation not made peace with the Klingons, the Klingons themselves are not exactly united either.  There's been much infighting among the Klingons and the ruling family's seem to have lost a communal identity, though they all believe in their superiority based in identity. T’Kuvma has a more inspired vision for the future of the Klingon race and believes that the path forward was set out by none other than Kahless, the first Klingon emperor, who created the codes of conduct and honour. We've seen Klingon death rituals before in the Star Trek: Next Generation episode Heart of Glory, in which Worf roars at the sky to let Sto-Vo-Kor know that a warrior is coming.  What is interesting about Star Trek Discovery, is that Klingons heavily honour their dead and even collect them after the battle.  T’Kuvma's ship even has caskets filled with rotting Klingons attached to his ship.

Fans of the Klingon language are surely thrilled by how much actual Klingon is spoken in the first two episodes. It's also exciting to see the beginning of how the different family's finally align.  It's not at all surprising that the Klingons find the Federation's standard message of coming in peace to be duplicitous and a call to arms. Klingons may not be able to agree with each other about a lot but they can however agree that battle is glorious and that anyone who isn't like them needs to be conquered. The USS Shenzhou presents the perfect target for T'kuvma to use to start a war.

Throughout the battle, Martin is locked up in the brig but Sarek manages to reach out to her again.  Sarek makes it clear that this is costing him greatly and that he is not doing it to make an emotional goodbye but to encourage Martin to be of use.  Sarek's visit is all the inspiration that Martin needs to make her way back to the bridge.  Unfortunately, when Martin arrives at the bridge, she finds that the battle is over and that The USS Shenzhou has been all but destroyed.  Georgiou begins to think about what to do next and actually quotes Sun Tzu, which btw had me rolling my eyes. For the record, The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise and Georgiou is Malaysian.  Michael is quick to advise against killing T'Kuvma because that would not only make him a martyr but something for the Klingons to rally around.  Georgious instead orders Saru to beam a bomb onto one of the dead Klingon's bodies.  Everything goes to plan and the bomb disables the ship and all that is left is for Michael and Georgiou to board the Klingon vessel and capture T'Kuvma.