Star Trek Discovery: “Lethe” Review

An episode is recapped and The Angriest Fangirl rants about something long overdue

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By Jessica Stone and Alexander Reineke

This time on Star Trek Discovery: everybody was kung fu fighting. Also Sarek’s officially the worst dad ever.

This week, I completely enjoyed myself and didn’t notice until I was 30 minutes in that only a couple of minutes were left. I never really noticed I was “missing” the theatrical nature of old Star Trek, the way words had to compensate for a lack of visuals and cinematic storytelling. For a visual medium, Trek has always been rather wordy, and so is this episode. But is a sort of hybrid creature of the approaches. It’s a personal episode focusing on the relationships between Sarek and Burnham and Lorca and Cornwall respectively. And yet, the visual and serialized nature of the show imbues Trek’s tired storytelling with new life. Characters like Tilly and Ash Tyler, Saru, Stamets, they blend into the background a bit, they get their moments to shine, they add to the material. And because we see this growth in the relationships over the course of several episodes, it is much more organic. The crew of Discovery is already more comfortable with each other than the Enterprise-D or Voyager crews were after 7 seasons, or at least I buy it much more easily so. Point is, the show isn’t forcing itself to speechifying relationships. When we see Lorca get the news of Cornwall’s abduction, he doesn’t say anything, we don’t get an evil smile. We see the phaser tugged inside his trousers, non-verbally calling back to earlier in the episode, to Cornwall saying “I don’t know you anymore”. It is left ambiguous what his motives are. And that’s good. That’s called good storytelling. It is what television is evolving into and has done so for the last two decades. We are better off for it.

So much for me. This week though, I shall give the rest of the review over to Jessica “The Angriest Fangirl There Is” and her take on Discovery and fandom:

 

So I really enjoyed this episode. I am not 100% sure I am on board with the way Michael’s past has been retconned into Spock’s family, but it does make logical sense – it always struck me as odd that a Vulcan who married a human and served as an ambassador for Starfleet was so pissed off his son chose Starfleet over the Vulcan expeditionary force. But I can’t shake the feeling it seems like something I would read in a fanfic – though I suppose at this point all of Star Trek is basically fanfic, like all longrunning franchises.

Also I’ve completely gotten over my hatred for James Frain left over from when he played Theo Gallavan on Gotham. He does a wonderful job as Sarek, though not quite clearing the very high bar set by the magnificent Mark Leonard. Vulcan acting is very difficult and I’m impressed that he’s done it so well.

Tilly continues to grow on me. She irritated me at first but now I like her quite a bit, and by the end of the season I expect I’ll be ready to fight anyone that messes with her.

I am very onboard with the Ash Tyler = Voq fan theory. It’s too weird that Voq has just disappeared from the story, and that we’ve established more than once that Lorca has a pet tribble. I’m almost worried the set-up is too obvious.

I would like to say more about the episode, but something else has been weighing on my mind for a while, and today it was really boiling up in me.

I am … insanely disappointed in my fellow Trekkies. To put it very mildly.

In the extraordinarily unlikely event any cast members read this post, I am so sorry. I am enjoying Discovery so far, and even if I weren’t it wouldn’t be your fault. You’re all doing a wonderful job. Sonequa Martin-Green, thank you for your wonderfully nuanced portrayal of Michael, and I’m sorry that assholes, utter assholes, have heaped racist and sexist abuse on you, or at “best” hated you because your character had the audacity to start off making a big mistake that set her on a redemption arc and because your performance is subtle. Like, how dare you convey the character’s internal conflicts through facial reactions instead of long speeches? Even though that’s probably also down to how it was written? I don’t understand people. Jason Isaacs, God bless you sir for not only doing a wonderful job as the enigmatic and probably evil, at the very least very underhanded Lorca but daring to engage with the Twitter trolls most of us would understandably ignore and being absolutely hilarious about doing this. I gather from these Tweets that Trek has been important to you since you were smol (like many of us) and you are just as exhausted and fed up with these people as I am, probably moreso since I’m just a fan and you actually worked on it. I am so sorry that you have to deal with assholes saying you’re just in it for the money and calling you ugly names constantly.

Joe Menosky, sir, I am so sorry that a bunch of Trekkies are splooging over Brannon Bragga and other Trek writers contributing to Orville but ignoring your contributions to this show. Your episodes of nineties-era Trek were some of the most interesting, thought-provoking, and wonderfully weird, and your hand is very evident in this show. I’m fascinated to see where it’s going and have enjoyed the ride so far.

Eugene Roddenberry, I am so sorry that a bunch of entitled, myopic idiots think that they knew what your dad would have wanted more than you.

And now that I’m done being nice and starting with the apologies to all the innocent parties involved in this, I am just going to say I am mad as fuck. And yeah I’m going to say “fuck” a lot, and some other choice swears. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Get over it. It is simply mind blowing to see the same people who gleefully announced they were watching a show that opened with an alien ejaculating on a woman with their children clutching their pearls over two soft f-bombs. I have heard of Americans having weird priorities about what is offensive before, but this takes the fucking cake.

I take back everything nice I have ever said about Trekkies as a fandom. I have seen the most mind-bogglingly hateful behavior over this show. Not just on the part of those who hate it, but it sure seems skewed in that direction (then again I’m not an unbiased observer of this conflict). We are making the collective Star Wars fan bawl fest over how George Lucas raped their childhood look good.

To be clear I am not saying you have to like the show. If you know anything about me, you know I am the last person to ever say you have to like something just because it has an official stamp on it. Sometimes the official product is crap. It’s fine to say that. Criticism is good. Even though I am enjoying Discovery my contributions to these recaps, you will notice, are not entirely positive.

But for the love of God. Stop being a jerk about it.

I’ve been told I don’t really like Star Trek if I like this show. Well shit, guess I should just delete the two novel-length Star Trek fanfics I’ve already written almost a hundred pages for combined and throw out the cute Star Trek plushies my mom got me for Christmas then. I got banned from a Star Trek discussion group … well I deserved it because I was an ass, but in my defense I was standing up for a guy who was going to be banned just because he shared links indicating that Discovery is doing well in streaming numbers. The admin called him a liar when he said that it was, then threatened to ban him when he posted a link proving it and asked for counter-proof if the admin had it. Incidentally, this admin got really mad at me for saying “fuck” while pushing Orville on us (the guy who he was arguing with likes both shows but that didn’t even sink in for this dingus), in case you thought I was making it up about people’s weird hypocrisy about those shows. A previously popular Trek reviewer had people unsubscribe from him and call him an asshole just because he likes Discovery, and probably the most famous Trek reviewer of all, Chuck Sonnenburg, hasn’t stated anything about Discovery on his Twitter or anywhere else probably for fear of a similar backlash whether he loves it, hates it, or probably especially if he finds it “okay.” That is sad as fuck that probably the biggest Trekkie ever can’t state his opinions on a show for fear of backlash.

If this was just happening in neutral spaces, like general discussion groups and channels, that would be fine, but the people who dislike it are actively seeking out any mention of the show online to complain about it. The pro-Discovery fan groups on Facebook are harder to get into than Yale presumably in response to trolling. Even at my most virulent hatred of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I didn’t do that. That’s insane, and I haven’t seen that level of stupidity and hate boner-having since Twilight was out, and at least Twilight actually was omnipresent and being pushed at teens by their peers and sometimes even by teachers. It was in the school library and teachers would play the movies in class. Discovery is as easy to avoid as not subscribing to CBS All-Access and not pirating it – I haven’t even seen it advertised that much and I’m someone who’s actively watching it. Then again I use ad-blocker, maybe it’s on a lot of rolling ads? Even if it is, Jesus Christ this is so much. And it’s not just the location and the volume of the complaints, it’s the tone and the virulence. If you like it, you’re a fake fan and never loved Star Trek. It’s ruining the franchise that was dormant for twenty years. It’s “SJW bullshit” (because the fact the main character is a black woman has been important all of zero times, but she exists therefore SJW bullshit). It’s shitting on the actors who didn’t even take part in the direction of the script and anyone who likes it.

I wonder how lifelong Trekkie and more specifically Niner Seth MacFarlane feels about so many of his fans using his show to shit on actual Star Trek? I have no idea, as I’ve never been a fan, but I know I would feel really shitty about that. Especially since a lot of these complaints echo the bitching people did about DS9 (it’s too dark, it’s too cynical, it goes against Gene’s vision that we apparently know better than his own flesh and blood) and since Seth likes DS9 I doubt very seriously he shares those complaints. Idk, maybe he hates  Discovery and this is an amazing ego boost. I do know that constantly having Orville shoved in my face by assholes has killed any meager interest I might have ever had in it. Pro tip: Nothing makes someone want to watch a thing less than having it forced down their throat until they have to gag it out to avoid choking to death.

And I don’t want to spend too much time on this because it’s not the opinions themselves that bother me but the aggression with which they are expressed, but a lot of the complaints are incredibly unfounded. “Weak characters?” We’ve already had more character development than TNG did in its first two seasons. “It’s too dark.” They said that about DS9, dark =/= bad or even cynical. I do not believe Discovery is cynical – I believe it is very optimistic despite the tone. Michael and other Starfleet officers except Lorca are very principled, compassionate, and ingenuitive. They just have the misfortune of serving under one of the asshole captains we ran into all the damn time on the other shows but were never a challenge to Gene’s vision until they were a regular cast member, even if nothing about how he is portrayed indicates he’s anything else.. A lot of people are saying they’ll give up on the show if Lorca isn’t Section 31, and there’s a strong possibility he is but I’m gonna just bastardize a Harry Potter quote (that’s what it’s come to) here: The galaxy isn’t divided into good people and Section 31.  “It’s against Gene’s vision.” Again, they said that about DS9, and his son is an executive producer, and Gene was not solely responsible for everything we love about Star Trek as much as we try to boil the franchise’s legacy down to one man. But if you think I’m full of shit and the show still sucks, that’s fucking fine. But don’t you dare pull this gate keeping bullying shit.

I just … am so tired. I am exhausted. I am disappointed. And I am angry. I finally have something geeky to be excited about and the open hostility and divisiveness around it has put such a damper on it. If I have ever been rude to you about something you like, if I ever rained on your parade, and I know that I have, and I haven’t already apologized, just tell me, and I will personally. Because I am – I am sorry if I have ever been a tenth of the asshole these people are.

I am tired of the entitlement and bullying and the gatekeeping and close-mindedness. I am very tired of geek culture in general.Just because we were bullied as kids doesn’t mean we have the right to turn around and be hateful to each other. We don’t get to decide who’s a “real fan” and I hate that term whether it’s someone saying only true fans like Discovery or only fake fans would like it. And for the love of God, we have to acknowledge that these franchises need to breathe, they need to change and grow or else they will die. That doesn’t mean you have to like everything that is done with a franchise, sometimes it really will be an awful decision, but there’s no use crying over the very fact it’s changing!

Sometimes, I wish I was like my dad and didn’t know a Millennium Falcon from an Enterprise, because I’d probably be happier that way. Which I’m pretty sure is the opposite of the way fiction is supposed to make you feel, but it’s where I am today and I can’t put into words how much that saddens me. Especially since, once upon a time, Trek was what made me remember how much I loved being a geek. Man, fuck me for believing in this fandom, I ought to know better by now.      

Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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