Sunday, 14 April 2019

Joining the Dots: Through the Valley of Shadows S02 E12

When Kenneth Marshall shows up as another Klingon you know you’re in for a good story.

And back he is for only our second Klingon episode of the year taking us to the fourth signal of seven which points Discovery in the direction of the monastery on Boreth.

Quick reminder - that’s the place where Kahless (or Kahlesh depending on your pronunciation) indicates he would return to in the future and for Klingons to wait for him there. Flash forward to The Next Generation and that kind of comes to fruition but for now it’s the location of two fairly significant things; the time crystals and the son of L’Rell and Voq.

Through the Valley of Shadows starts off incredibly understated and a lot easier paced than the last few weeks. Leland has absconded with Control still running through his veins and Burnham decides to pursue him/it alone rather than risk the programme getting its claws into the sphere data which is locked into Discovery’s memory banks. Spock offers up some assistance and the pair head off to find a Section 31 ship which failed to report in on schedule. 

The emotional juggernaut and canon machine step into fourth gear with all the Boreth links plus one of the biggest Captain Pike nods you will ever see in the franchise. Seriously, it’s huge and puts a brilliant new perspective on events in the captain’s life. Mind blown, totally, Gone. 

Anson Mount is unquestionably the key to this episode, sealing his own fate to save the galaxy and all life there in. It’s the ultimate sacrifice and he plays the emotion and realisation of what he has to do in acquiring a time crystal to tee. Mount has turned the ‘one ep’ Captain into a rounded character who may well be one of the franchise’s greatest creations and starship commanders - and all in the space of just 12 episodes. Pike does all he can and carries the weight of the universe on his shoulders more than we have ever seen before - and keeps it all locked away to himself. Incredible. 

Away from Discovery, Burnham and Spock find the Section 31 ship with the whole crew spaced. There’s one survivor; xxx xxx former officer aboard the USS Shenzhou. Saving him from space, the trio board the empty ship to find out what happened only for there to be an unsettling reveal.

Control is a right devious opponent taking over the body of another Section 31 operative and trying to eliminate Burnham once more. Seems that she’s been lured there and my hypothesis is that she is the one responsible for defeating Control hence the obsession to kill her. Another rough and tumble fistfight this week and one that lacks the grace and finesse of Michelle Yeoh and Alan Van Sprang’s martial arts foray last week. It’s much more guttural and survivalist with Burnham even double phasering at one point. Now that’s a skill. 

While both the A and B plot are linked to beating Control, the Pike piece is outstanding while it feels Spock and Burnham are left to clean up the dirty work. Their encounter with Control is a reminder that it could be anyone or anything but this narrative lacks the emotional kidney punch that we get from seeing Pike as we know him from The Menagerie. Honestly, that point when we see the out of focus wheelchair roll into view just sent chills down my spine and the makeup from Mount is spectacular. Bravo to all involved.

Thirdly - yep, there’s a tertiary plot here has Jett Reno back for her third appearance to remind Doctor Culber that he has another chance to sort his relationship out with Stamets. It’s tightly packed in around the other two huge chunks of story yet it works because it feels like a natural continuation of this piece of the series’ arc. Second chances? It’s a will-they-won’t-they situation and we have to acknowledge that this Culber 2.0 May just not want to go back. It would be very Star Trek for him not to and strike out on his own but the fan feeling may well drive them back together. 

Through the Valley of Shadows is a dense episode with lots to take in from the opening seconds. The Control story is excellent and powered in no small part by the ever awesome Sonequa Martin-Green and my second favourite Spock of all time but Anson Mount is out of this world here and there’s nothing that can top it. Each week he amazes and has truly got fandom right behind him - and we didn’t think he could do it.

You have to admit that the combination of sterling script and an actor of his calibre make the time crystal story incredibly poignant. This episode quietly closes down the Son of L’Rell/Voq story for now which seemed to be going nowhere at the beginning of the season. Thinking back a lot of these later stories have shored up the weaker parts of the year and this is definitely one. Top marks all round but whether or not you regard the other segments, you’ll only ever remember The Valley of the Shadows for ONE thing...

Shaping up for a killer season finale? What's your predictions?

Trace the journey of season two with SKoST's episode reviews

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