Sunday, 20 October 2019

Short Treks: Q&A and The Trouble with Edward

After successfully keeping our attention on the franchise between seasons one and two of Discovery, Short Treks returned in October to satisfy our hunger for new content ahead of Picard in January 2020.

What better way to kick off this series of six 15 minute stories than with one of the most popular elements of Discovery’s sophomore year in Ethan Peck’s Spock and Rebecca Romjin’s Number One. 

The premise covers Ensign Spock’s first day on the USS Enterprise, reporting to Number One - and then proceeding to get stuck in a turbolift. Ok, its an old story trick - confine two characters in a small space and let them talk and in this case it’s even more interesting because Spock took on a lot of Number One’s emotional character traits for the second commissioned pilot and beyond back in the 1960’s. 

These two characters have a lot in common and this is played out almost straight off the transporter pad with Romjin’s character pushing Spock to ask questions. Her computer-like mind is akin to the Vulcan’s and their confinement in the turbolift gives the pair a chance to see the similarities and realise for a moment that Number One might have bitten off more than she can chew. 

Spock is certainly thorough in his line of investigation leading to both characters in fact acting out of character for a moment. While welcoming back Spock and Number One was something we were clamouring for (as well as Anson Mount’s exceptional Chris Pike), the inclusion of a Gilbert and Sullivan rendition might have just been pushing us to the limit - and there are many of us still in counselling after Insurrection’s HMS Pinafore

Here’s the thing; at this point the two have realised how they are both in control of their emotions, exuding logic at every occasion and remaining absolutely to the letter on rules and regulations and at ease with strict routine and organisation. For one minute in the presence of the other they are able to have a release that can never be spoken of and sort of explains Spock’s apparent emotions during The Cage

Number One at this time is more in control, more heavily restricted and potentially provides support to the young ensign in terms of emotional control. This is the youngest we have seen Spock; Q&A is very effective, simple and straight to the point but that musical rendition still, even with me trying to justify it, seems very out of place. 

Released on 12th October, The Trouble with Edward is a huge Marmite of an episode. Pike is back to send Captain Lynne Lucerno (Rosa Salazar) off on her first command aboard the USS Cabot

What appears to initially be a routine science mission is turned upside down thanks to Lieutenant Edward Larkin (H Jon  Benjamin) and his discovery of the Tribbles. Initally there is the suggestion to use them as a food source however Lucerno redirects Larkin’s efforts towards the mission. 

This however drives the scientist against the captain’s wishes as he increases the Tribbles’ reproductive abilities, leading to them, unsurprisingly for us veteran Trekkies, overwhelming the ship and leading to the end of Lucerno’s first command after just two weeks.

The Trouble with Edward is played for humour with Larkin’s head to head with Lucerno being a particular highlight. H Jon Benjamin is excellent as the insubordinate lieutenant. I can see where the hints of Reg Barclay have been suggested with Larkin disobeying orders to work on the Tribbles rather than the work that the crew is meant to be pursuing.  

He’s not your typical Starfleet officer, attempting to spread discontent and believing his own self-importance and brilliance above everyone else.  His incompetence ultimately destroys the Cabot, but its not without a bit of tongue in cheek humour to line up aside this shoehorning origin story.   Advances in technology definitely help to emphasise the Tribble menace with their final, explosive breeding expansion right to the doors of the escape pod being particularly effective. 

However.... the explanation of their origin as just pretty boring if cute balls of fluff with a meaty core is a bit puzzling. How did Kirk and the Enterprise crew not know about them and their appetites and reproductive agility? How did they not know that this was a creature that could breed at such a ridiculously alarming rate that had been meddled with by Starfleet?  This makes absolutely no sense given the severity of their offspring-popping. 

It’s an entertaining 15 minutes and one of the most comedic segments of the latest age of the franchise but don’t look too deeply as it doesn’t quite make sense why Starfleet would bury all information on them (unless they were just damn embarrassed that one of their number was responsible for their genetic alteration!) I thoroughly recommend sticking around for the post-credits advert set aboard the USS Ravenous - a highlight without question but one more piece to 100% take with a pinch of salt...but not a Tribble (and read the small print in the pic below...)

Strangely both of the most recent Short Treks have chosen to travel a more light hearted path than anything we have seen from the franchise in the Kurtzman era. Perhaps a respectable choice in hindsight to the rather serious and at times almost pitch black first two seasons of Discovery.

Picard too appears to be treading a similar serious path and its refreshing to see that Star Trek can still afford not to take itself far too seriously. On many occasions the franchise has nearly disappeared up itself in heavy political statements and instalments like this remind us that it does have a heart after all. Honestly, it does and its here for us all to see.  

A good pair to kick us off into the next phase of Star Trek’s evolution which makes me hungry for more...content that is and not Tribble cereal even if the fun never stops...!

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