Discovery brings us an episode in which stuff happens and Reddit looks down at the unwashed masses like us with an upturned nose and a sense of superiority. In other words: Monday.
A few weeks ago I read a Reddit post that, for once, didn’t analyze a weekly show that was written and plotted in one go, essentially telegraphing certain elements of story that won’t be as noticeable during a binge. In that post, a fan complained about Discovery airing on CBS All Access, essentially removing it from the cultural discussion entirely outside of a few people. What I have to say to that is: hahaha, now you know how we feel, American pleb!
In all fairness though, it is a valid concern, yet one that, for once, I cannot share. Discovery has been the first time ever that I am able to experience a Trek show as it airs and talk about it with friends and other “people” from around the globe. As a viewing experience it’s second to none and most definitely an experience that would have been lost on us by dumping an entire season on us three months ago. Our feelings on Discovery change and evolve as the first season is still airing, while the people behind the show prepare for season 2, and while events outside of nerddom influence our opinions.
In regards to Discovery, this most recent Mirror Universe episode has proven one thing to me if nothing else: Discovery doesn’t follow very much in the footsteps of DS9. DS9’s storytelling was very deliberate (that’s a nice word for slow), it’s a couple of episodes that advance the ongoing story, then a bunch of stand-alones that build on the premise and build character to influence the next series of events. That is not the storytelling of Discovery at all. This show does very much feel like a continuing serial. It takes a lot of the high concept storylines from the TOS era and gives them some time to breath. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this series of episodes. There is a consistent theme and we are given time to appreciate it. In many ways it’s an approach to storytelling that Enterprise showrunner Manny Coto pioneered. And like with most new approaches it took a while to get it right. Discovery has.
While I saw the big reveals in this episode coming for a while now, Tyler being Voq, Captain Georgiou being the Emperor, the possibility of Dr Culber getting revived by Stamet’s spores, I am just happy to see it unfold on the screen. It bears well for repeat viewings that I enjoy the simple storyline and character moments play out as they unfold without looking for the next big twist. While it doesn’t live up to the concise storytelling of something like Westworld, which very much suffered from the same problems of normal storytelling being immediately hyper-analyzed by fandom, both shows share that common thread for me where I don’t care as long as I get to spend more time in this world with these characters.
In a television landscape overcome with binge and clever twists for the sake of twists, dramatic reveals all the time, I appreciate a show that shifts a gear or two back. I watched back all the released episodes with my dad during the mid-season break and I was enjoying them just as much, maybe more so because I got to notice the little details more in the background. I can’t say I’ve done the same with most of the release-at-once Netflix shows without some timeline scrubbing. Of course, that doesn’t really excuse the obvious big hints at the Voq/Tyler story coming a mile a minute for two months or more. There should have to a middle ground in television storytelling between outright telegraphed to obtuse mystery boxes and fake-outs that ultimately lead nowhere and might even hurt the story cohesion in the long-term. Yet as is, that storyline was still the most obvious of all the ones there. It almost makes me wonder if that wasn’t actually the big twist but there is still one to come, almost like it was a decoy. Either that or the people behind the show still need to learn how writing for a weekly show with long breaks and an obsessive fandom works.
And now a word from our spons— err our resident Angriest Fangirl There Is:
I loved this episode. It was explosive. Despite the fact we all knew Ash was Voq, the emotionally payoff for it was great. Poor Michael! When they first showed attraction for each other I was like “No show you can’t make me root for them, I know damn well he’s a Klingon spy.” But they did, damn it. In one of the shots you see Ash’s hands shaking with fear, and Michael takes his hand and comforts him. And my heart melted. You don’t normally see male characters, especially ones as competent and brave as Ash, showing that kind of vulnerability and we need more of it.
All I could think during the internal reveal to Michael was “Someone get this man an Emmy.” Shazad Latif’s performance during that scene is incredible as he switches effortlessly between Voq and Ash. I have questions though … did we just watch Ash’s human personality die? Noooooo!!!!
Also, Michael risks her life and the mission to protect innocent people and there’s those Starfleet principals the haters say the show doesn’t get again. Someone should really let the showrunner know they don’t really understand Trek.
I was not super happy about Culber’s death last episode, and I was hoping for some kind of miracle this week. That may still be to come given the showrunners’ hints.
The pathos of Tilly struggling to save Stametz was palpable and can I just say how much I love Tilly? When we first met her I thought she was going to annoy the shit out of me but she is adorable and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. It’s like how Bashir went from annoyance extraordinaire to one of my faves, condensed to a handful of episodes.
Speaking of, I think the reason DS9 has so much filler is because it had to fill a whole season, and even the richest season story folds on itself over 26 episodes. As much as we might resent shorter seasons in the modern era, they produce leaner, more consistent storytelling, though perhaps the trade-off is losing some variety (I doubt DSC is gonna waste time on a comedy episode, and while those are hit and miss I will fight anyone who says “Magnificent Ferengi” is not one of the funniest things ever put on television and it is so satisfying seeing Keevan get his). I do wonder, if DS9 had been allowed to be only fifteen episodes per season how it would have turned out? Hell, even my noted nemesis Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would probably be watchable if it were a lean ten to twelve episodes per season instead of twenty something.
But back to DSC. I am so anxious for next week … what is Mirror Stametz like? Did any of the rebels survive? Is Georgieu descended from Hoshi or are we only assuming that because they’re both Asian? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.