Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Terra Firma: Discovery S03 E09/10

David Cronenberg will be back for season four but now he's helping sort out the conundrum of Philippa Georgiou's mystery illness.

Terra Firma opens up with us having the fact that Discovery is in the Prime Universe thanks to the holographic arrival of Vor. He's a time soldier from 2379 who didn't survive the time and universe jump due to being out of sync. 

Vor is from a timeline created by the incursion of a Romulan mining ship and wears a TNG season 1/2 uniform with a First Contact combadge. Ok, I can hear the grumbles now, but in that timeline this uniform might have been used from the 2360's through to the 2370's rather than just a couple of years before it had the piping removed. Let's just roll with this because it's not as odd as things get.

Georgiou is indeed dying thanks to her displacement in time and space so she needs to go to Dannus V where there's a 5% chance she'll survive. Under approval from Admiral Dance, the Discovery spore jumps to the planet with Georgiou and Burnham beaming to the surface.

It's a nice mirror to the desert scene that introduced both characters in The Vulcan Hello and leads them, inexplicably to a well dressed gent in an armchair reading a newspaper. The door by which he sits is the 5% chance and of course, Georgiou takes it.

Who is this Carl? A Guardian of Forever? A Q? Will we find out? Probably not and it's got to be up there among strangest plot moments in the whole of Star Trek, yet this is on the start of the Terra Firma story. 

The other side of that door is the Mirror Universe. Only a couple of episodes before we were told the gap between the realities had widened but now Georgiou is right back there and at a point just before Burnham turned traitor.

Terra Firma is, very clearly, a full on Georgiou two-parter and once she's into the Mirror Universe that is all we see until the cliff-hanger. All the regulars are back as their alternate selves including Hannah Cheesman (Ariam v2) in human form. 

With her knowledge of the future of this timeline, Georgiou is prepared for the treachery ahead and makes some drastic changes to her actions. The return to the Mirror Universe isn't what I expected to see half-way through the season that's taken us deeper into the future of Star Trek than ever before yet it is completing a circle and more than likely setting everything up for the announced Section 31 series. 

Clearing her Discovery account we are getting a very clear presentation of how Mirror Georgiou has been changed by her experiences on the other side. She shows a glimmer of kindness towards the servant Saru, spares Burnham and perhaps most controversially, accepts a hug from Prime Tilly. 

In that sense, Terra Firma is not your usual run of the mill Mirror story in which we get all the bad things, moustache-twirling and evil spins, this is serious look at how the Emperor has become a different person. She's not quite the homicidal, stone cold dictator of season one and has been smoothed by the passage of time in the Prime time. 

There's nothing particularly flashy either about this one. We know what's going to happen, Georgiou even telegraphs it if you've forgotten but once that choice to imprison and not kill Burnham is taken, the story is in new territory.

Part II doesn't break its stride either, imprisoning Burnham and focusing on the parallels to Georgiou's relationship with Michael in the Prime Universe.

Georgiou is very clearly changed, offering herself new choices to old problems. That's not saying that the answers are what she wants or expects. Her link to Burnham is key and breaking her is key to destroying the plot to remove Georgiou from her throne. 

The removal of the conspirators is nice and swift but you just sense it's not going well. Philippa's change in attitude towards Kelpiens also rises to the fore; explaining to Saru that the vaharai is not an end but a start - nor is ganglia on the menu. 

It's not that Georgiou has become any less brutal in fact she chooses to make Burnham's suffering prolonged to break her and is easily prepared to go hand to hand when the occasion arises. With her experiences in the Prime Universe though, her judgement is now more balanced and open. She is capable of seeing opportunities and variations rather than a simple A to B.

As for Kirk's later plea to Spock to reform the Empire, Georgiou sees a chance to change her era. A common theme again because this isn't a timeline where such things sit well or will ensure the longevity of the Empire beyond the 24th Century.

Ending in Georgiou's death at the hands of Burnham, the second part reveals that the whole experience back in the Mirror 22nd Century was a test to see if the emperor would make the same decisions or has changed. Of course it's the second but the bigger and more burning question is, who has been causing this.

Georgiou's medical device indicates that she's gained three months worth of memories while only having been unconscious for a matter of a minute. In what may be ne of the most jaw-dropping fan service moments of Discovery's history it comes to pass that the bowler-hatted newspaper reading Carl is...the Guardian of Forever.

Returning for a third appearance - City on the Edge of Forever and Yesteryear - the Guardian has been hiding out at the edge of the Gamma Quadrant on Dannus V to keep out of the way of the Temporal War. The sphere data lodged aboard Discovery located the portal in an attempt to save Georgiou.

This links back to Saru's belief that the sentient data is now looking after the ship just as they saved it from Control. While there's no cure, the Guardian does give Georgiou the appropriate send off into a time where the two universes are closer together and won't kill her...just in time to prep for Section 31.

Yet with all the Mirror Universe excitement, there's something missing from this two parter that leaves a sense of disappointment. The reveal of the Guardian is incredible and suitably upgraded for 2020. It could have been absolutely anything from a Q to, well, the Guardian, and it's easily the highlight of this hour. The Mirror scenes are over-snarly, revenge-fests that, by the end, feel unfulfilling. They are a clear vehicle for Michelle Yeoh's show and a way to separate her from Discovery and the 32nd Century.

It does leave us non-the-wiser as to when she'll show up again and you can guess it'll more likely be in the 22nd, 23rd or 24th Century to link into one of the older shows or even Picard.

Slipping almost under the radar is the continued research into the Burn. Thanks to Book, Stamets and Adira are able to link into the KSF Khi'eth's sensors and as such be able to find out what's been going on in the Verubin Nebula. Not a lot to add to this part of the arc however the Kelpien ship has been there for 125 years so it might not even still be there...

Terra Firma Part II  doesn't fit well with the overall structure of this season. It's a necessity to relieve the show of Georgiou and counter The Vulcan Hello in showing how this Burnham/Georgiou relationship has flourished but it stalls the season and offers only a tiny insight into the overall season arc.

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Friday, 18 December 2020

The Sanctuary: Discovery S03 E08

Try beating Unification III will you?

Then perhaps best not to and Discovery makes the wise move to turn in another direction. Taking a slight jump back a couple of weeks, we're back on the trail of the oft-mentioned Emerald Chain and in particular, Osyraa, their as-yet unseen leader.

But first a word from our sponsor: The Burn, because we have to get this in. Turns out this week that the cataclysmic event emanated from the Verubin Nebula and from a precise point. That music we've been hearing? Once it's been rinsed through the sensors it is revealed to be a Federation distress call. Yes, a Federation distress call. If this ends up being the time-displaced Burnham/her mum/the Discovery I will not be surprised.

At the same time, Adira opens up about her decisions on identity and no longer wishes to be referred to as she/her but rather they/them. In terms of there being two personalities within her body it works as well as the more important gender neutral identification. Great and understated performance again in a very short set of scenes for Blu Del Barrio and Anthony Rapp. Their piano/cello scene is wonderful as Adira opens up about how she is dealng with the multiple pasts swirling around and gives a better sense of how a Trill joining might affect the host.

Wisely we don't spend too much time dwelling on this the Burn and instead the Discovery is
dispatched to Kwejian. Book has news that the Chain are planning to collect a debt from his homeworld. The Chain had provided a repellant to make the sea locust plague retreat to the sea and traded the planet's trance worms as payment but have now returned for more. He wants the Federation to help out and take the pressure away however since Kwejian isn't part of the organisation, they can only go along as observers.

The great thing with the spore drive is that we can now avoid lengthy warp trips across the galaxy but on the flip side we do lose something of the character moments from the series which tended to drop into these points of the episodes.

Osyraa it transpires is a rather lovely lady. Her first scene sees her executing her nephew (from Scavengers) for losing the Andorian Ryn and she's later not too concerned with firing on the planet. Osyraa is nicely slimy but does go completely against type when it comes to Orion women we've met before.

Also in the background of this episode are the continuing issues with Georgiou's health. Now,
I'm thinking this is going to be the start of a path which will see her depart Discovery before the end of the season so that Section 31 can finally get in front of the cameras. Lots of flashbacks and, if you read some of the other commentaries out there, it's apparent that the excellent Die Standing is going to have some form of tie in to the Georgiou story. Have to say if that's the case then well done to CBS et al for some pretty serious forward planning.

There is a family aspect to the story this week, with Book being reunited with his (not biological) brother. There's been some bad blood between the pair but hey, you'll be sure it'll be rectified in the next half hour. The story on the Discovery around Ryn as well as how Tilly and Saru are working as first officer and captain is potentially the more interesting element.

Ok, Saru looking for his own "Make it so" is a tad on the cringeworthy end of the scale but Tilly genuinely seems to be sinking her teeth into the XO role. It does appear to be a lot more of a paperwork role than anything else at this point, however there's a telling point when she dresses down Ryn for incorrectly addressing the captain.

The Sanctuary isn't an episode that will set the franchise alight anytime soon. It has some good performances from David Ajala and from Sonequa Martin Green (no tears this week) while they are on Kwejian. Book's "brother" is ncely shady and backed into a corner by Osyraa but it's all a bit foreseeable. So is his choice to side with Book rather than the Chain. 

What does make a pleasant change is Detmer piloting Book's ship manually. Ths is the highlight of the episode and suggests that the writers have found a member of the crew who they can explore a little further. Detmer is the least bland of the background ensemble if we're truthful. Here you can tell Emily Coutts is enjoying every minute of her scenes as she weaves around Osyraa's Viridian starship. Her attacks are effective with the Chain retreating... for now.

Book and Kyheem are then faced with the locusts that will lead to the population starving
since they now have no repellant and the bugs have moved even further in land. their combined powers plus a boost from Discovery does the job and offers a sense of hope for Kwejian. Again, it's all very nicely set out but gives nothing new to thr story except for the reveal of Osyraa.

The trouble with this week is that it lies in a bit of a dead zone. The big hitter was last week and now we're on the build up to the finale. The Emerald Chain have repeatedly been mentioned as the big villain of the season, turning up since episode one at the market and then returning even if just in a mention throughout the season.

But they just don't seem that great a threat. Orions in Enterprise and The Original Series seemed a bit slimy, dangerous and if truth be told, a little bit sexy however Discovery has turned them into slightly unbelievable thugs. Time has moved on but I'm not feeling the threat. I'm much more invested in Georgiou's story or seeing more of Detmer or Tilly being XO. The makeup for the Orions is still troubling me and I can't see pas them as much more than caricatures with their smoothed out features. The Dominon was a real threat. You felt that they were going to be an issue but with the Chain they come across as more of a minor irritation.

The makeup, as said, doesn't help but maybe they are a reflection of the time. No longer is it that there are any huge galactic powers but instead its the era of the opportunist. Travel is more restricted than ever thanks to the Burn so it might be that my expectations for this season's nemesis was overstepping the mark. What would once have been dealt with in an episode by Picard and the Enterprise-D now present a clear danger because of how the galaxy has "scaled down".

Maybe rightfully so in keeping with the theme of the show but it's not on a par with anything that we've had previously and I'm even including Control and the Klingon War. This season has offered up a lot but now at episode eight it's feeling a little out of steam and in need of a bit of a kick. Unification III was a big dice roll that did pay off. Aside from the news that the Chain are running out of dilithium - which is why they want Ryn "disappeared" - this week felt redundant and sadly, quite forgettable.

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Thursday, 3 December 2020

Attack Wing: Cardassian Connections

The powerful
Keldon Class was a late addition to Attack Wing, but added a great deal of weight to the Dominion fleet.

In fact the Dominion is fast becoming my go-to faction with a good range of ships from the fighters and attack ships right up to battleships. 

The Keldon Class Cardassian starship certainly sits more towards the latter category, acting as the most powerful vessel from the annexed race.

The model itself, as became of the later expansions, has a good level of detail and a fairly accurate, sandy paint scheme. The panel definition is quite impressive given the scale and there's some space for grey highlights although the blue window markings are a bit blobby.

Running a five for attack, one defence, four Shields and three Hull, it has the potential for greatness and could well act more as a capital ship than a cruiser. The Koronak can Action Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battlestations with open slots for two Tech, Two Weapons and a Crew upgrade. 

Spending your Scan token, if in play, you can spend it and perform a three dice attack against two separate ships. Probably a feature I should have used more actively following a rather brutal defeat to the Romulans recently. The Koronak costs 26 points to put on your fleet while the generic Dominion Starship version drops a Weapon slot the Unique Action and a Hull point for 24 points.

Movement could be restrictive unfortunately but it's not when it comes to speed with a top of five. However, the bank turns are available at ranges two to four with hard rights and lefts at ranges two and three incurring that wonderful Auxiliary Power Token penalty.

Gul Dukat leads the command options for the Koronak expansion and costs five points. His skill of seven is average at best but he does offer a free Evade or Battlestations in addition to your Action on each round with no disable or discard in sight. Dukat can also field an Elite Action but the main ability here makes him essential for any Dominion fleet.

Gul Evek, one of the few characters to appear in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, costs just two points and has a skill of four. He too is a solid option for your fleet, allowing you to re-roll all your blank results when defending. What you might want to do is pair this up with a card (or another ship) that rolls more than one die as the Koronak does.

Coming in for your lone Crew slot is a lone Crew offering but one that is super effective when lined up with Gul Dukat. Boheeka (two point cost) allows you to convert a blank result over to a Damage as long as you have the Battlestation token in play. It's a combo that I've seen mentioned on a few sites and one that doesn't involve discards or disabling. This pack could have done with at least another option for your Crew as this solo entry is disappointing from a numbers point of view.

Enhanced Weaponry is this pack’s version of Photon Torpedoes as its disabled to work and requires a Target Lock in place. Costing a cool five points, this one kicks in at ranges two and three with a roll of five attack dice. If it’s used on the Keldon Class itself then you can make this six which does make it a touch more exciting to use than standard torpedoes. 

Dorsal Weapons Array is slightly less powerful with a three dice attack in any direction although it’s not in continuous use as you find with the Enterprise-E’s dorsal phaser array. Three points will add this to your ship and it’s effective at any range which does mean those attack strafing runs can be fully utilised. 

The Koronak also comes with a couple of Tech cards. Tetryon Emissions is a big help especially on a ship with just a single defence due to counter your opponents. It does. It does as you would expect, need disabling  it adds three defence die to each encounter that round and costs three points to place in play. With this and the Cloak ability you might have a bit greater survival chance.

Cloak does cost four points itself but does offer the standard increased defence plus that Sensor Echo shuffle that can make a big ranging difference. The card itself is disabled so you’ll need to choose when to decloak and engage wisely because you then might not be in a good place just to use and Action to re-enable the ability. This one’s also very specific to the Keldon Class given that it will cost NINE points if you put it on any other ship.

Last up is Captured Intelligence, the Elite Action for the Koronak expansion. It’s one of those chances to correct an error or counter an unseen attack by throwing this card in to place an Evade token by your ship AND it allows you to add in a defence die for each time you come under attack that round. 

For three points it’s a great card that enhances tour evading ability but I would definitely stick it onto any ship with a single die for defence...pretty much like this one then!

Tying the Koronak into one of the Keldon Class' few appearances, the included mission is born from the Defiant episode of Deep Space Nine and sees a 120 point Dominion fleet take on an 80 point Federation team. The aim is for the Federation ships to scan the Cardassian base and "find out" whats going on while the Keldon fleet is there to stop them from getting the data away.

The Reklar Cardassian Galor physically takes up almost all of the Keldon class characteristics physically except for the rear unit added to the top of the Koronak.

The colour seems way off, coming in as a dark brown rather than a sandy desert colour that’s not exactly, but more like, the shade on the Koronak. The yellow and blue highlights are a bit gawdy against the brown and unfortunately the bridge module - ironically the same error I had on the Eaglemoss version - is set at a kinked angle. 

The stats make this ship as viable as the Keldon Class with four in attack, one defence, four Hull and four Shield. This makes it come in with exactly the same cost (26 points) as the Koronak but with a slightly more balanced card although you'll still need to work on building a solid defence. 

Luckily its Unique Action does just that. Place a Battlestations next to the ship and when defending you can roll an extra die. At least it's a bit more balance. As you'll spot, the Battlestations is missing from the Action Bar and there's still the usual Evade, Target Lock and Scan. Two Crew slots are open here plus one for Weapons and one for Tech. The generic version minuses off a Crew slot, the Battlestations Unique Action and one of those Hull points for 24 points. I actually would keep away from this one since it does eliminate that Battlestations option and that could be costly.

Able to achieve the same top speed of five as the Koronak, the Reklar is a little less maneuverable, dropping the banking turns at speed four and it retains the full and bank curves at speeds three and two with the sharper ones incurring the Auxiliary Power Token handicap.

Spun towards the classic The Next Generation two-parter, Chain of Command, the Reklar includes the two key Cardassian figures from the story in its command options. The seven-skilled Gul Madred can also be flipped as a Fleet Admiral and costs five points on either side. Having him able to deploy will be useful for those outlying attacks since he can target a ship within ranges one to three and if the Captain has a skill of six or less then both Madred and that card are out of play. If it's over or equal to 7 then the captain of the opposing ship rolls two Defence dice and if at least one Battlestations comes up then nothing gets discarded. It's a bit of a gamble as an Action either for the Fleet or on a single ship.

Four-skilled Gul Lemec had to deal with Edward Jellico and that cost sort of reflects his loss. Costing three points, Lemec likes to pick on the underdog as seems to be a trait here started with Madred. Any captains his ship takes on with a captain skilled less than his own is hit with an additional attack die making him fairly lethal on small opponents. It also offers up a thread of more underhand methods perhaps employed by the Cardassians and their Dominion masters.

Gul Ocett, taken from The Chase in season six of The Next Generation was the first female Cardassian we encountered in the franchise. She's carrying a skill of three here (unfair in my opinion since she was more effective than Lemec) and costs only two points. She's a ruthless card to have in play since critical Hull Damage will lead you to dig out Power Disruption or Minor Explosion from the Damage Deck rather than pick a card at random. Note as well she's continuously usable - no discard or disable which would make her a real asset.

With two Crew slots, the Reklar comes with two Crew to fill them. Glinn Tajor is a three pointer who takes the comfort out of a long range defence with any opponent fired on at range three not having the benefit of the extra defence die. It's a one time deal as he's a discard but might offer a nicely sneaky way to finish off an enemy ship.

Corak (two points) can be repeatedly called on as an Action and increases the Captain's skill by three until the end of the round. This will give you an early attack opportunity potentially against some bigger fish and not having to disable or discard means you can step in earlier more than once.

The Aft Weapons Array (four points) gives more chances to give fire from every angle. The full 180 arc already available is a big advantage but this provides a full 360 window. Offering four attack dice and an unusual chance to use this over the full three distances, the Array has to be disabled to be used and is limited only to ships with four Hull points or more. Given the gravity of the weapon's ability it does mean that the primary weapon value of the ship it's on will be four at a minimum. Firing all around is always a good advantage but having to re-enable this might kick some of the wind out but one shot could be all you need.

Subspace Carrier Wave punches out at range three only and rolls four attack dice. It's an Action and for each Damage or Critical Damage rolled you can disable the Captain or a Crew upgrade. It offers a chance for some disruption of plans rather than reducing a direct attack.

The Reklar's first of two Elite Actions, Coded Messages, unusually works on another ship in your fleet that's outside of ranges one to three and it can perform a move of speed three or lessas a freebie plus both ships gain a Battlestations token for the round which we know with both this and the Koronak pack are items to be prized and can be used very effectively by a Cardassian ship.

With Coded Messages costing five points, it's a big outlay for a one off use as I'm fond of noting and it's also sort of true when it comes to the Standard Attack Formation costing four points. This one's also a discard and very, very, very situational, relying on you keeping a very tight knit fleet as you'll need two other ships from your own battlegroup to be within range one. Also the ship that you're attacking will need to be in all three ships' forward firing arcs. Now, for a Cardassian ship that's not a big ask since they have 180 degree windows but it's a lot to ask just to get an additional two dice for a single attack. I'd suggest it's worth combo'ing this one in with a Target Lock for a super re-roll to ensure maximum damage.

The accompanying scenario takes us into the McAllister C-5 Nebula with a large portion of the standard 3x3 playing area acting as the nebula itself with the Federation starting along the southern edge of the board. Ships in the nebula also have the advantage of adding an extra three die when attacked, not being able to be Target Locked, only roll one die at range three in defence, can Sensor Echo and have to use two attack dice whenever there's an ability used that involves Scan - if the result includes a Battlestations then it's failed.

One more thing - each round, the ships in the nebula take one damage to the Hull and for each Damage card present that vessel rolls an attack die  and can suffer Critical Damage if the relevant symbol comes up. 

The core of this is for the Federation to place Anti-Matter Mines (so you'll need that card) ideally as they add an extra die in attack but ultimately it's a straight-forward fight to the end.

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Saturday, 28 November 2020

Unification III: Discovery S03 E07

Using the tertiary moniker for an episode of Discovery is a ballsy move especially from a series that has divided fandom so strongly.

Unification is a classic piece of The Next Generation; the reappearance of Spock, the death of Sarek and the possibly coming together of the Vulcans and Romulans after centuries apart. To use Unification as the title means you have to do it right and respect the franchise’s past like no other moment, maybe even more than returning to Talos IV.

Well-known and highly regarded Trek novelist Kirsten Beyer is the one on writing duty for this one and I believe that is the wisest decision that may have been made in the three seasons Discovery has existed. Beyer has an immense knowledge and understanding of Star Trek which comes out in every second of this week’s instalment. 

Turns out that Burnham has been right after all, the Burn wasn’t an instantaneous event across the whole galaxy but something that had a distinct origin point as alluded to in Scavengers. She also happens to have found out that there was an experiment underway with numerous reference points across the galaxy called SB-19. At the moment Burnham can calculate to some degree the X and Y of the origin point but the enhanced data that would come from SB-19 would triangulate that down to a specific location. Thing is, Vance isn’t in a position to provide the data because SB-19 is locked down by the people who were conducting it.

The experiment was a way of finding a new way of traversing space due to the ever shrinking dilithium resource that was only confounded further by the Burn which the originators of SB-19 believe may have been caused by them. 

Who did establish SB-19? Well it came from the planet Ni’Var or as we all know it in the 22nd, 23rd and 24th Centuries...Vulcan. Like Earth it too has seceded from the Federation and there has been no contact for about 100 years. The other thing is that - and you might guess this from the title of the episode - Ni’Var is also home to the Romulans, the culmination of the process begun by Ambassador Spock 700 years in the past.

Yes, Discovery has absolutely blown the doors off on this one and a trip to Ni’Var is on the cards to bring Spock’s sister back home in the hope that she can convince the Vulcans and Romulans to part with their research data from SB-19. Of course they’re not super keen on passing it to the Federation and so Burnham invokes T’Kol Unket, by which she has to prove her case for the Burn not originating with the Vulcans and Romulans without question. No big ask then.

Powerhouse is a word that I don’t use lightly but jeez, this episode is unreal and there’s not a fist fight or phaser blast for the whole hour. If anything, this episode encapsulates Star Trek and specifically Discovery at its very best. Well written dialogue, solid performances and a believable story that has a big impact on the overall story of the year.

The return of the Romulans and Vulcans to Star Trek and the 32nd Century should not be underestimated and just seeing the two races on screen and working together is incredible to see. Ok, some of their views might differ but this is a natural progression of a story that has evolved since Balance of Terror in 1966. Its 54 years in the making and worth every second. Spock of course makes a return even if it is through a flashback to season two and also back to Unification thus linking the two series and two stories furthermore. It’s an emotional point to see Leonard Nimoy once again as Spock and because the excerpt from Admiral Jean-Luc Picard’s log defines the episode and the journey. Who knew that those few lines would come to fruition on screen 29 years later?

But that’s not all this episode owes to Picard or should I actually italicise that to Picard. Remember those warrior nuns from Absolute Candor? Well they’re back as well and it turns out that Burnham’s mum didn’t die but instead ended up far from home, taken in by the group and became one of their own. Now she is reunited with her daughter to act as her advocate during the T’Kol Uket. 

The reunion is as touching as you could hope for but as with all parental visits in Star Trek it’s less than perfect with Gabrielle Burnham now ardently practising the ways of the Qowat Milat right down to the letter in regards to Absolute Candor. 

The sequence of Burnham reviewing Spock’s legacy in relation to the Romulans is more than effective to prod at a few feels and make even the most Vulcan of fans try and wipe that speck of dust out of their eye and avoid a true Burnham Blub but the whole episode is an emotional ride because of the importance brought on this moment and this need to review the SB-19 data. It’s a very, very talky episode that you will need to pay attention and follow to understand the logic to the endgame but it does pay off.

As a character piece on Burnham it’s excellent and some of her best development for an age. Yes, there’s a few years but for the most part we get to know her a bit more deeply when it comes to the relationship she has with her mother and Book although strangely the two never meet and Michael never discusses either with the other. How odd.

The president of Ni’Var has some exceptional interactions with Saru particularly at the end when she reveals that she would like to develop the relationship further however she is also a huge fountain of in-universe information - the Romulans were the ones who didn’t want to leave the Federation rather than the  Vulcans as well as the choice to step away from established phrases and stuck-in -the-mud beliefs  since it seems that the Federation should have been focusing on the needs of the few rather than stretching itself ridiculously thin and attempting to work at the needs of the many. The Federation thought it could cope and it couldn’t which meant that the Burn was even more catastrophic.

Another thing with the three menbers of the quorum - we have three very different attitudes on show. A Romulan pro-Burnham, a Vulcan anti-Burnham and a second Romulan on the fence. The Vulcan(s) for one seem a lot more emotional than ever before although I suspect that might be the Romulans rubbing off on them and also freeing themselves from a binder full of catchy phrases for every occasion. The Romulans too now seem more thoughtful and, dare I say it, as calculating as ever so it looks like they've come off better from this new relationship however did we catch the note of the uprisings in the Romulo-Vulcan settlements? Seems like there's still some work to be done out in the regions...

As if the main story won’t kick you in the nuts enough, then Saru is in the process of choosing his new first officer and in the style of Pokemon, he drops it on Tilly that ‘I choose you!’ ... as a temporary stand in while he balances the books. Before you all fly off the handle and point out that Sylvia Tilly is still an ensign, yea that is addressed as is the fact that she’s not even passed her command training programme although I don’t know how she’ll be able to nip back and hand it in before the deadline passes.

Saru’s points for choosing her are fairly sound but there is a vast gap when it comes to experience that others on the bridge would be far better suited for. Tilly will remain an ensign but her position on the ship will be elevated. Discussing it with Stamets helps to iron out some of the kinks but in turn he has to include the bridge staff to reassure the ensign that accepting Captain Saru’s proposal is the right thing to do.

I’m not convinced that this is the right choice but I respect the show’s decision to give Tilly a shot and who knows, maybe this will be the further making of the character and provide Mary Wiseman with more to do than help everyone else out. This promotion is a big thing on the ship and running it along side such a huge Star Trek moment as the return of the Romulans and Vulcans is a risk but it hasn’t diluted the episode in fact it’s helped balance the hour and keep both lines on track.

But let’s. It lose sight of the bigger picture here. Burnham now has the data from the SB-19 experiment which indicates that, with a bit of technical fandangling we should have a firm answer as to where the origin of the Burn was and who is behind the state of the galaxy.

Unification III is a worthy sequel to The Next Generation’s 25th anniversary two-parter and while time wise it doesn’t directly follow, it does honour and continue the legacy from the story. For me this has been the high of the season so far. 

How did you rate Unification III?

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Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Reconnection: The Return of the Trill

With Forget Me Not returning us to the Trill homeworld, there's been much rumbling about how Discovery has treated the joined species we last visited 26 years ago.

Which means that there are only really three avenues that we could go down to explore the "truth" behind that so why join me to discuss The Host from The Next Generation and Equilibrium and Facets, both from Deep Space Nine's third season.

Equilibrium is a biggie and being all of 14/15 when I saw this one the first time round I completely missed all the nuances, the depth of the story and all the machinations therein. It was too talky and at no point did anyone even hint at drawing a phaser. Ok, I know Star Trek ins't all about that but it was coming off the back of The House of Quark which, while it's slightly Klingon is one of those episodes that attempts humour and doesn't quite succeed with this British viewer.

Yet Equilibrium now is a real head-turner and underappreciated with its exploration of the Trill joining process and just how it is "sold" to the indigenous population.

As you will know (yes, potential spoilers here), it turns out that Joran received the Dax symbiont after Torias and not, as Jadzia believed, Curzon (although it would eventually end up there). The revelation that approximately half the population were suitable for joining is a huge bit of news since it would relegate something very special and prestigious to incredibly average in a blink of an eye and has the power to destabilise the Trill.

Joran wasn't the perfect choice for the symbiont given his rather violent tendencies but let's not get too bogged down with the narrative because there significant points here that Discovery has absolutely nailed.  

The Caves of Mak'ala for one are back here with the breeding pools for the symbionts revisited (stretching for miles beneath the surface). In Equilibrium these aren't specifically named and we would have to wait until season seven's Afterimage for that. The insular Guardians seen in Equilibrium don't make an appearance in Forget Me Not while we do see that the pools can be used to communicate with the symbionts more directly and in a sort of visionary state. The new piece is that non-joined non-Trills seem to be able to do this as well and while you might offer up a frown and a few grumbles, Burnham is our guide to the series and it makes sense in that respect to allow her to be our eyes into this cerebral realm.

What does bug me a little is the non-Trill joining with the symbiont. Is this biologically possible given the difference in species? Maybe over 900 years there has been some evolution within the symbiont as I can't see how a human would decide that trying to join would be a great choice to make in life. In fact there has to have been some jump forward because if you recall in The Host, Odan cannot survive in Riker's body and has to be transplanted into a full Trill host. Would making Adira a Trill have worked? Yes, but it would have cut out that element of surprise when we discovered that she was the one who could link Discovery to Admiral Sena Tal because she was the host of that symbiont.

But Discovery's Forget Me Not is actually a far superior demonstration of gender biase and the like since in The Host Beverly cannot comprehend that the new host for Odan is female. It's perhaps in character for the role and the time but both this and the season five The Outcast are almost cringeworthy when it comes to their attitudes towards transgender and gender neutrality. Ok, I'm no expert on either and nor would I ever dare to be but Discovery has made both of these concepts understandable and relatable and if you've got a problem with it, go somewhere else. The Host was groundbreaking for its establishment of the Trill, the way in which the symbiont could be passed and to anyone yet it rudimentally seems to avoid accepting that people come in all shapes and sizes and that, y'know what, sometimes you have to look further than skin to see the real individual. With Forget Me Not this is certainly the case in no small part to the excellent casting of both Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander as Adira and Gray respectively.

Facets, which crops up at the other end of the third season also supports some of the actions from Forget Me Not. While the appearance of the previous Tal hosts isn't the zhin'tara ritual we experience on Deep Space Nine, it does bring together and connect the past lives to the present host who is accepted even though they are not a Trill themselves. Indeed, the choice to use them/they as opposed to he/she etc may initially be from the actors themselves but it suits the part perfectly and describes that two-part relationship in a more specific manner than it was ever done through Jadzia or the later Ezri on Deep Space Nine.

The echo of a previous host - Gray - seems to have fluttered a few people but Jadzia was haunted by Joran if we recall. In that instance his memories had been repressed and still pushed through while Gray's were allowed to rise to the surface after the completion of the joining of minds. Yes, if we follow the lessons of Rejoined from the fourth season of Deep Space Nine then there's an issue since Trill are not permitted to continue relationships from previous lifetimes. Tal isn't pursuing that because it's not physical, this is a mental connection and five episodes n it doesn't appear dangerous (give it time...). Jadzia was often quoting the experiences of her previous hosts as Deep Space Nine progressed, sometimes helping overcome a problem and in fact her friendship with Sisko is borne from his friendship with Curzon.

If we look closely into all that I think there's more to contend with on that station than we're looking at with the echo of Gray in Adira's head on Discovery. This is a closeness to a previous host that we've not seen before. Curzon wanted to be close to Jadzia because he was in love with her and that is superficial if compared directly to this intimate bond that exists with the former and present hosts of Tal. Adira has absorbed the qualities from the symbiont's past as we see from them playing the cello. But this partnership comes across as more even and trusting than the wayward - no, reckless - Curzon was in Facets. Adira seems to be in tune more with the past running alongside her in the same body while Jadzia absorbed it into herself and made it one more her own but this could be a side effect of this less than approved pairing.

Perhaps like the connection to a human host after 900 years, Discovery has demonstrated its own changes within the structure of the Star Trek franchise with the very open manner in which it has tackled key, current matters at the heart of its stories. The inclusion of the Trill is a clever way to spin it into a science-fiction environment but crucially the show hasn't shied away from its responsibilities and this latest episode and visit to the Trill homeworld has not just revisited some old stomping grounds from the beloved Deep Space Nine but it has added facets and changed the equilibrium of Star Trek at its very core. My god, this is potentially the biggest franchise shake-up since The Animated Series had Uhura in command of the Enterprise

The universe has moved on and the "inconsistencies" that are being thrown around by so called fans seem almost idiotic. Nine centuries have passed, things change and like Star Trek itself, the Trill have evolved. Perhaps its time to actually watch and listen to this show rather than passing judgement on everything that's different - after all, isn't that one of the core pieces of the franchise - to celebrate the unique?

What do you think about the return of the Trill? Handled well or a misfire from Discovery?

Track back on our season three Discovery reviews HERE

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Sunday, 22 November 2020

Scavengers: Discovery S03 E06

Halfway through and nothing is any clearer - but at least Book is back this week!

Having located a blackbox which we must assume is from a Federation ship, Book has disappeared and without much thought, Burnham conscripts Georgiou and the pair use the trader's own transforming ship to break him out of an Emerald Chain work camp along with his stolen information.

But let's first of all send all our calls to voicemail and take a break here because the opening few minutes of Scavengers is all about change. New funky Starfleet badges with built in transporter tech, head-up display, communicator and tricorder are the rage plus the ship has had its controls flipped over to that programmable matter to become more intuitive. The nacelles are now detached and someone for some absolutely batsarse crackers reason has slapped an "A" on the registry.

Ok, in a convoluted way Discovery from the 22nd Century is classed as destroyed so adding the "A" sort of recommissions it if we stretch the truth a little. Aside from that grumble it's amazing to see the "old" ship adapted to its new environment with the recurring Linus transporter joke running through the episode.

Michael's thinking behind disobeying Saru's orders and gong after Book is fairly sound but there's a severe lack of communication between the chain of command which just highlights how risky it is having Burnham as an officer and let alone, Number One. She's very high maintenance and although her plan and end goal do result in a positive outcome, it's all done the wrong way. You'd have thought by now Michael might've learnt lessons from her past but apparently not - even Georgiou reminds her and Saru comments on it so there's no hiding from the facts.

The return of Book was inevitable given the importance placed on him in episodes one and three but some might be happier to see his cat, Grudge than they are of David Ajala. 

Captured and under virtual slave labour conditions he's scavenging through ship parts from a vast wrecked fleet in orbit of the planet which is a remnant of The Burn that Burnham has encountered all over the shop. The big news this week is that her findings have discovered that the moment it happened was not precisely the same for everyone indicating that there was an epicentre and it wasn't a galactic event. Something caused The Burn but where exactly is still undetermined.

Some of this week does seem a bit cliched - the work camp, the fleeing prisoner (a Bajoran no less) who is there as the example and even Burnham and Book's bit of passion all seem very signposted. There's even a (SPOILER AHEAD) moment of action movie self-sacrifice that made me wince when it's telegraphed. Indeed, after the opening five minutes of "Q Time" where the Discovery's new tech is all displayed it descends into a very average hour.

Ok, not true because the B story surrounding Adira's acclimatization to the ship and crew are well handled and you can see that the writers have already hooked onto the relationship they are building with Stamets. Good too in this arc that Adira's conversations with Gray aren't being handled as some form of mental breakdown but instead being understood and welcomed. It's something different which Stamets acknowledges and he himself is more fascinated with the closeness with their boyfriend following the joining and unfogging of memories in Forget Me Not.

Blu del Barrio's performance is once more incredibly understated and downplayed which plays well against the drier Stamets and I hope that this pairing is continued across the season.

As a sub-plot to the main line as well there is more going on with Georgiou but this feels a little bit like a re-tread of the Ash Tyler plot with some suitably bloody flashbacks to what I assume is the Terran Universe. There isn't any direct correlation to anything but it all seems to have stemmed from the interrogation conducted by David Cronenberg in his unnamed role last week. Bets have to be off that this is to do with Section 31 given what we know of the imminent Georgiou spin-off from Discovery that is planned post-season three. Clearly it's causing her some anguish even leading the former emperor to collapse at a crucial moment.

Scavengers however probably falls at the bottom of my preference order for Discovery this year and I think it makes some horrible, horrible mistakes that changed my feelings towards the show and one person in particular. Burnham's insubordination may be for what she sees as the greater good but there's no communication, she borrows a ship (that no-one notices for some time apparently) and takes a known Terran with her on a foolish(?) rescue mission and for the second time in her career (with a 930 year reoffending gap) once again gets a well-deserved slapdown. 

Is this what Star Trek is coming to? Is this really who we want to see as a lead character? I get that we should be there understanding the complexities of humanity, our fallibility but Michael has learn precisely zip and even after recommitting to Starfleet can't hold her end of the bargain. Thing is we get our weekly show of tears but in this case I don't believe that Michael is sorry. She would have done it whatever and the chain of command can go do one. In previous series we've had an exception where a main character has bent or broken the rules for a greater good but in Discovery I'm starting to expect it on a weekly basis. Maybe it's a way of analgising current events and showing that the Federation (the US?) is no longer that big, solid force with that slightly smug sense of arrogance and self-belief. Instead it's crumbling and can't even control what's going on inside its own ranks.

Vance is coming across as one of the best admirals we've seen in any iteration of the franchise and to get this from Burnham is unacceptable. Perhaps as he himself notes she had actually communicated what's going on then the reaction might have been different but crucially Burnham didn't. He makes a sound explanation of what he expected and didn't receive from Burnham but ultimately places the decision on her punishment to her captain - I've warmed to this guy after last week and on reflection he was doing the right things then too.

In comparison to this, the "A" suffix and those wifi nacelles are a drop in the ocean. Season three was about offering up some optimism and while there are cracks showing through with the Stamets/Adira arc that's building nicely, the Georgiou and Burnham threads seem to be pulling us further into darkness. 

This is in no way me berating Discovery because I like the show and the direction the story has headed and the choice to jump into the distant future. What I am questioning (not hating on) is how these threads are being played out. Is Discovery adhering to Star Trek's principles and motivations because in its formative years and for many after it offered both an optimistic view on humanity plus social commentary within the sci-fi framework. In this show right now it's feeling very much that the social commentary is overwhelming that positive future...but then isn't that the point.......???

What are your thoughts? Has Discovery struck the balance right with Scavengers or is it seriously derailing? Is this the right direction for the 32nd Century?

Track back on our season three Discovery reviews HERE

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