Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Star Trek Discovery: Season 1, Episode 12: Vaulting Ambition

Let’s begin with a particular likely enraging element that i will never ever ever ever be forgiving this show for - Stamets and Culber.

Stamets is lost in the Magic Mushroom network which quickly dumps the glowing acid trip for a much easier set - the Discovery - in which he meets himself. This himself is, of course, Terran Stamets who is evil because he’s Terran. Terran Stamets has been stuck in the Magic Mushroom Network for some time and has been reaching out to Federation Stamets and giving him visions of his world which explains some of the moments F!Stamets has been having. It doesn’t explain why he was so loopy though so I’m going to put that down to good ol’ brain damage.

Another problem is the Magic Mushroom Network is dying and this is a terribad things, especially since it’s infecting T!Stamets already. But F!Stamets is distracted by the ghost of Culber

Which means he learns that Culber is dead and rthey have another romantic scene when they were at their best brushing their teeth in the… seriously guys? This oral hygiene fetish needs to end. Yes, I get the show has done very very very little to actually establish their relationship but there must be more than opera one of them doesn’t like and tooth brushing.

They have a big romantic moment I would be far happier about if it weren’t a goodbye

Hey, remember when they did gaydeath and a not-insignificant part of the LGBTQ fans they’d been marketing too said “what is this fuckery?!” and they hastily hit social media saying “it’s not gaydeath! They will meet again! Their best scene is yet to come! Their love is epic!”

I think this may be that scene. I think this is it. I dearly hope I’m wrong (and even if I am they’ve got a hell of a hole to dig out of) but this looks like it. Which honestly makes me even more angry with them - because if they saw our anger and deliberately deceived us with this? Then I am doubling down on my rage. I would say “fix this” Star Trek but I don’t think you can

Stamets does wake up but the mushroom network on the Discovery has been destroyed so the only way to get home is for Michael to succeed in her task. Also I think F!Stamets and T!Stamets may have swapped bodies?

Leaving this terribleness, let’s move on to Saru

Saru is dealing with Tyler who is completely melting down between Tyler and Loq and generally falling apart and suffering immensely. Saru goes to L’Rell to ask her to help him. She refuses because he’s a noble warrior who made an agonising choice and she will honour that choice in the name of war because this is what war means, weak Kelpian who has hidden super powers and can probably rip Klingons apart limb from limb. She does explain how they mushed an actual captive Tyler’s DNA onto the Klingon Voq hence the very detailed personality graft

This raises the possibility that they can change him into Tyler permanently - not that she says that but they have made it clear that Tyler’s fake personality isn’t just fake - it is more transplanted. Ish. It’s a show that has mushroom based teleportation so let’s not poke it too hard

Tyler continues to suffer massively and Saru throws this in L’Rell’s face. Because this is war - not honour, not glory, but completely pointless (since in the mirrorverse the war is irrelevant) suffering. Saru has not time for this bullshit as both a member of a non-violent species and a member of the Federation. He drops Tyler in L’rell’s cell and makes her witness her beloved suffering. She breaks and admits it can be reversed - but only by her

So Saru allows it - and Tyler/Voq becomes pure Voq

I know there’s a lot of eye rolling about this decision but I think this wasn’t necessarily Saru trying to restore Tyler as it was to stop suffering. Because even if Voq is an enemy, the Federation does not willfully cause suffering and does not allow suffering which they can alleviate. This is what the Federation is - even if that means saving Voq and losing Tyler.

Now to the main plot with occasional eye rolls

Michael and Lorca are heading to the palace spaceship to meet Emperor Georgiou to fake hand over Lorca but also because the data they smuggled out last episode is redacted and they need the original files. Along the way Michael injects Lorca with a pain killer to help him dealing with constant agony.

Michael is obviously having elven kinds of angst seeing the Captain she loved and was deeply loyal to - and then betrayed - is now back from the dead and thoroughly evil.

In the palace Michael is greeted as a long lost friend - and more - while Lorca is dumped in another agony box.

Being treated like family means the Emperor comments on how Michael used to call her mother. Yes, family history time: the Emperor raised Michael from childhood in this universe. And she even claims she loves Michael and is kind of upset that Michael wasn’t all trusting with her - because, y’know, Terran and evi.

Oh on that evil? Dinner is Kelpian. Yes, Saru’s species - they’re eating one of them. Michael’s nauseated attempts not to vomit is clear and painful.

At this point I’m not shocked or anything really beyond a kind of condescending eye rolling. At this point Georgiou needs to get herself an evil moustache to twirl and the corridors of the ship must be covered in puppies so her every step is accompanied by the yelping of kicked dogs. There comes a point when your attempt to make the villains properly evil just ends up looking rather cartoonish and makes the whole Terran empire just seem unworkable as a concept - it’s already on that ledge with everyone pretty much living in terror of random murder with their murderer getting a round of applause for being so appropriately murdery. We don’t need telling the Emperor is a bad person; she’s literally a fascist imperial warlord pushing genocide. We get it. Bad empire is bad. She doesn’t need to eat people. Bad empire is bad, it keeps slaves who aren’t even allowed a name - it doesn’t have to then eat those slaves.

She also brought in a father - Lorca was Michael’s adoptive father and the Emperor’s right hand man. And she was very very not amused that Lorca turned against her: and Michael sided with him

Yes Terran Michael supported her evil dad/evil lover (yes they were lovers and yes Michael looks even more nauseated than when she was nibbling on Saru’s cousin) over her evil mother.

Catch up with Lorca - an enemy of his who is pissed at Terran Lorca for doing something with his sister (I think we’re going with a rape/sexual abuse theme here just in case we’ve missed the oh-so-subtle hints that the Terrans are evil). Lorca of course professes complete ignorance despite torture and despite one of Terran Lorca’s loyal followers being brutally murdered. The man trying to avenge his sister turns the agony box waaaay up, then worries that he has killed Lorca by mistake - and lets him out

Back to the Emperor. Michael is hereby accused of treason and is due to be executed. Because Georgiou loves her, she will get a painless death. Yay, family love. Michael decides the best way out of this is to tell the Emperor everything about the Federation and who she really is and prove it with Captain Georgiou (F!Georgiou)’s badge.

The Emperor promptly murders all but one of the highest lords in the land to keep this secret and remind us, yet again, that the Terran Empire is a) evil and b) UNWORKABLE. You don’t just destroy 90% of your highest echelon of your leadership without causing chaos!!! How does this empire work?!

So, not shockingly, she actually knows about the Federation - after all they found the other Federation ship. But reveals all of that crew’s minds were duly melted by the trip so they’re not a lot of help.

Michael appeals for Georgiou’s help. Georgiou reminds her that the Federation and everything it is, everything it stands for and everything it believes is the very antithesis of everything the Terran Empire stands for. Basically WHY WOULD ANYONE THINK GEORGIOU WOULD HELP?!

Michael even offers to give Georgiou the secret of the spore drive and the power to lead her empire to their world to invade!? WHYYYYYY? And she trusts her! Really. Because Federation Georgiou is a woman of honour she assumes that Nazi Georgiou us as well?!

While Michael is busy handing Georgiou everything on a platter, she notices Georgiou is light sensitive. Georgiou reveals that this is a random biological difference between Terran humans and normal humans: Terrans have light sensitivity

Like Lorca

Cut to Lorca who isn’t debilitated by agony thanks to Michael’s pain killer - and kills the man attacking him. Then says the man’s sister’s name -revealing he knows it and, yes, he is Terran Lorca. We get some flashbacks of numerous scenes that now make more sense now we see that he was never Federation!Lorca. Yes, fan theory #5683 is correct. Lorca is evil, deliberately took them to the mirror world all so he could try to kill Emperor Georgiou

Star Trek Discovery has an addiction problem: Twists. TWIST: Tyler is a klingon! TWIST: our vaunted gay relationship is a tired gaydeath trope. TWIST: Evil Tilly is captain. TWIST: Georgiou is the Emperor! TWIST: Lorca is secretly Terran!

Thing is, except for the gaydeath trope for which they may burn in a thousand angry fires, none of these twists are necessarily bad (though the execution is terrible: their inability to keep their mouths shut about Shazad Latif’s casting completely spoiled the whole Tyler/Voq reveal as well as the whole dubious idea that Terrans are light sensitive -  and fans have managed to predict both Georgiou AND evil!Lorca. Honestly I dismissed these fan theories as being a bit too far fetched so… well, more fool me).

Twists are good. Twists are great. Any of these twists could have been awesome (except gaydeath). But you can’t built an entire show around your audience gasping “heavens to betsy, I never saw this coming!” every other episode. Especially when a significant portion of your audience apparently DID see this coming, repeatedly

As for evil Lorca - on the one hand I see the attraction: many people complained about the unnecessary dark, grittiness of Discovery which just doesn’t reflect the utopian nature of the franchise. I can see that - and Lorca being Terran kind of exposes why Discover is so far apart, why Lorca so far from what a Star Ship Captain should be (also, of course, it fits into some of his little behaviours - like sleeping with a weapon and being afraid of being murdered in his sleep)

In some ways Star Trek Discovery reminds me of a rookie GM for an RPG or a first time Urban Fantasy writer with an epic world: they have lots and lots and lots of ideas and don’t realise that they don’t need to use ALL of them right now.  That the Klingon war didn’t need the mirror world AS well, that we didn’t need this many twists and surprises, that you can put down that fancy advanced monster book you’re just dying to use and focus on the characters in front of you, building them and the setting (something Discovery could have done more of) rather than going romping around the psyonic underdark realm of werebadgers. I mean, there’s apparently a war with the Klingons? Because we kind of talk about it a lot without doing a whole lot of actual warring

I don’t think Discovery is a bad show - enraged though I am by the death of POC and LGBTQ people - but I think it could have been a lot better show if it had just been… more carefully and, perhaps, less enthusiastically, crafted