This review contains spoilers.
IT’S ALL OVER. And by that, I mean the Klingon-Federation war that threatened the very fabric of the alpha quadrant. Who would have guessed that all you needed to solve your problems was to talk to the opposition? Admittedly with a planet-destroying bomb planted in the centre of their world. But mostly just talking. It’s the Star Trek way.
I don’t even know where to begin with this episode. I just had a great time. Sure, not everything about the plot was perfect and the war did end a little too comfortably – but then what fictional war doesn’t? Balancing out that, the character interactions were faultless and the fan service was so good it was practically illegal. It’s fair to say I was happy.
The thing is, if you don’t like Star Trek: Discovery then I wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise, but if you can’t see how the weight of this stuff – themes of forgiveness, compassion, empathy, mercy and pacifism – embodies the spirit of the show far more than the right wood panelling aesthetic or a trite moral quandary given a neat summation at the end of each week then I think you’re probably missing the spaceforest for the spacetrees.
Indeed, it was so good I almost didn’t even miss Lorca. Everyone got a moment, even the background characters as they took the time to stand up to Admiral Cornwell. Burnham receiving her commission back was the perfect recognition of the frankly superhuman levels of ingenuity she’s shown over this series, and I loved that Sarek (and Amanda) were there to share that with her. She even found resolution with Tyler, and I found his departure to be an unexpected twist – I was predicting he’d just be a regular crew member for Season 2. The next time he and L’Rell turn up will be interesting to say the least.
Quickly, I also have to praise the design of the Orion outpost, which looks more like an actual alien planet than virtually anything Trek has ever shown. I was expecting a budget-blowing CGI-fest ending, but it’s clear to me where the money for this season went. And it kinds of makes sense to spend the money there too, because Burnham realising that the Orion outpost was actually a home and community for its inhabitants, however sordid, was part of what made her so determined to stop the Federation’s plan. Smart move.
And finally, we have to talk about the ending. You could pretty much have called it in episode 1, but the Enterprise showing up in the final sequence is a GREAT way to get me excited for Season 2. Personally I thought the redesign looked fantastic, and I’m the sort of person who gets annoyed by things like the Enterprise’s nacelles looking too big in the Abramsverse movies. Which is to say, a complete dickhead.
Perhaps most interesting thing about this scene, though, was Sarek’s look to Michael after she announced that the ship they were intercepting was the Enterprise. You have to imagine the unspoken words between them were “Spock is on that ship”. It was inevitable that they’d be dealing with him eventually, but that’s a bold statement of intent for the next series.
In case you don’t know, Discovery is set slightly before the start of the original Star Trek series, so Spock is serving on the Enterprise under Captain Pike (as seen in TOS 1×15/16, The Menagerie Parts I & II). The question now is whether they’re going to dodge dealing with it (like when Superman “showed up” in Supergirl Season 1 as a CGI blur), get Zachary Quinto in as a guest (which will confuse the movie and TV timelines) or recast Spock with a THIRD main actor. I honestly don’t care which they do as long as we see a lot of exterior shots of the Enterprise.
And ASIDE from that absolute belter, here are the following references to canonical stuff that I take far too much joy from.
In the opening shot, we see a colonised moon (for the first time!) AND what is apparently Spacedock under construction. Spacedock first appeared in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock and is a huge space station in synchronous orbit around Earth.
Molor, an ancient Klingon who was the tyrant ruler of Qo’noS until he was defeated by Kahless, was first mentioned in TNG 7×21: Firstborn when Worf and his son attend a play depicting the confrontation. Firstborn also contains the first mention of the Klingon currency, the Darsek, which is used in this episode.
Giorgiou mentions that she and the Mirror-Tilly (KILLY!) subjugated the Betazoids together. The Betazoids are, of course, the race to which Deanna Troi belonged. Troi first appeared in TNG 1×01 (Encounter At Farpoint) as if you didn’t already know that, you nerd.
Killy also apparently wiped out the inhabitants of Mintaka III. This planet was the home to a pre-warp, proto-Vulcan (whatever that means) civilisation being studied by the Federation in TNG 3×04 (Who Watches The Watchers?). All things considered, you or I could probably wipe them out given a starship and 20 minutes so this isn’t actually THAT impressive.
One of the skillets shown cooking in the Orion outpost on Qo’noS contains what looks very much like a pair of Ceti Eels, the larva of which was famously seen crawling into Walter Koenig’s ear (and later back out again) in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Other background references in the Orion outpost include – a Trill being given a tattoo, a tent with the Romulan star empire’s logo on, and of course, plenty of Orions.
DIS WTF: I mean let’s not think too hard about plot mechanics but personally I think if it was possible to subjugate and control the entire Klingon empire by waving an iPad at them, they wouldn’t have gotten this far.
Oh, and I imagine everyone has noticed this by now but the simulation of Qo’noS blowing up was captioned “END SIMULTATION” which just goes to prove that even in the 23rd Century, software developers will still be writing copy. (That’s just a little UX joke for anyone in the tech industry).
DIS LOL: You should have seen my face during this episode. Basically everything Tilly did in this episode made me squeal like a fangirl. I think she might be my Sebastian Stan. Check it: her hasty Terran salute to Giorgiou. Her face when Giorgiou called her “Killy”. Spitting out the spacewhale kebab. Getting space-baked with Ron Howard’s brother. EVERYTHING. Please give her a spin-off. I will pay.
That said, the absolute high point of this episode for me was learning that the Klingons have a word for “croupier”. It’s presumably a loan word from the Klingon version of French.
Mistakes and minutia: Giorgiou beats up L’Rell and the Klingon bleeds red blood. At this point the amount of times Klingons have had red blood far outnumbers the single time (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) that it was millennial pink instead. But I, for one, will never let go of this.
Also, this is the first time Star Trek has shown urination occurring. Mark it in your diaries. This is like the Berlin wall coming down.
Who’s that face: Did you catch my tease earlier? That Orion bong merchant who Tilly smokes up with was none other than Ron Howard’s brother, Clint Howard, aka Balok from TOS 1×10 (The Corbomite Maneuver), aka Grady from DS9 3×112 (Past Tense Part II), aka Muk the Ferengi from ENT 1×19 (Acquisition). IMAGINE how happy I was to see him turn up. Spoiler: I was this happy:
Time to meeting: Ah, who cares at this point. Like I said, next season we’re doing Threat Ganglia all the way. Let’s meet back here next year (probably) for Season 2.