Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Where's the Episode Reviews At?

For those of you who are regular followers/trolls/etc of this blog, you'll be familiar with my weekly episode updates.

But I've come to the realisation that everyone and anyone is doing them and, in all honesty, they're not the most widely read of posts. Even I've noted that I've reduced their length into more bitesize territory of late. With both Discovery and Prodigy now running at the same time it just isn't feasibly possible to write reviews and also do other discussions, opinions and those lovely item reviews plus a full time job.

So I'll be more or less covering a series of episodes and events within a piece on a more regular occasion and get away from being a) a pure episode review site and b) a pure ship review site that I fear I may have started to go down.

Let's move straight on though to a couple of things. One is of course the wonderful news that outside of the US and Canada, Discovery season four will be available on Pluto TV FOR FREE during what Paramount is describing as a "transitional period". Episodes one and two; Kobayashi Maru and Anomaly dropped last week if you happened to be off world at the time. Plus, yes, I was totally wrong that fan power would make a difference. It actually jolly well did.

It's going to be another slow burn (yes, intended pun) of a season. Burnham hasn't convinced everyone that she's amazing and the Federation president Laira Rillak even bypasses her for command of the Voyager-J. Burnham certainly has her issues in wanting to save everyone and saving no-one. For once we have a captain who isn't perfect and doesn't make the best decisions. I believe it's called "On the job learning".

But as we would suspect from an arc-based series, it's not all great news because the Discovery is called out to deal with a research station that is being affected by a gravitational wave. 

As an opening to a fourth season I was expecting something with a bit more weight to it and Kobayashi Maru didn't totally live up to its namesake. The Big Problem of the season is another huge threat to the galaxy that might be something we've seen before or it might not be. First thoughts were that it could be V'Ger and I swore I heard a few bars of it's ominous theme but it's got to be something else entirely.

Adira is still a great addition to the ship and has slipped into the "inexperienced" role which Tilly filled for seasons one and two with her storyline and the ever nearing rebirth of Gray providing one of the seasons standout narratives already. There's even a hat tip to the procedure's previous success with some Starfleet admiral named Picard.

David Ajala though is leaving me slightly cold. His relationship with Michael feels disjointed while it should be more endearing yet the time he spends working with Stamets to gather data on the anomaly turns out to be a great piece of writing.

Discovery has to be the most inconsistent of all Trek series. Whether that's down to the overriding arc structure or the very generic background bridge crew, it never seems to live up to its potential. There are a few too many sideways glances, odd humour moments (Tilly's funny voice one with Saru in Anomaly for instance) which feel jarring and totally out of place in this format and also at this far flung point in the future.

Episode three did ramp it up a bit into more action territory with the return of Burnham's mother, no tears from the captain and a rogue Quwat Milat nun. Of the three so far it's a step forward but once again the Gray/Adira story was far more interesting and even managed to reference a certain Starfleet admiral being reborn in the same synthetic manner.

Choose to Live got it right for once. The character moments weren't forced, Tilly's motivations seemed clearer with her wanting a challenge. Even Book and Stamets' partnership is developed and we seem to have a more defined heading for the season. Yes, the gravitational anomaly was still in the background but this time the main plot line came off a lot stronger. 

A society in stasis is nothing new (Dragon's Teeth) yet this was much more in line with Star Trek's basis of helping a people and not misunderstanding them. J'Vini's cause is true to her beliefs and although it's completed with the death of a Starfleet officer from the USS Credence, it remains close to the Needs of the Many. Wonder where we've heard that before?

But Discovery still misses a beat. In Choose to Live it's come very close to the origins and core nature of original Trek but there's a lacking of depth overall. The arc nature ay well be making it feel exhaustive but once more we are on a path towards a penultimate episode reveal which will, undoubtedly, reveal Burnham to be the saviour of the galaxy even if the Federation President doesn't rate her.

Then there's Prodigy. A series that has really taken me by surprise and is currently on a mid-mid-season break after five episodes. My word how this has come out of nowhere. I'm still not super thrilled with the animation but at present it's the best Trek out there. Exploration, new frontiers, a ship that actually looks stunning and a not over-complex arc that allows the show to breathe and dive into its characters. The Murder Planet does something similar to The Naked Time/Now in that it cuts into the core of these five aliens and gives us a hook into each of them.

Bet you can name all five already. Designed for the younger generation, it has a lot of merits from the Michael Giachinno title score through to the lickable planet vistas and all points in between. The reveal of the protowarp drive leaves a dramatic and jaw-dropping cliffhanger and I cannot wait to see where the show heads now.

I;m aware I've skimmed that in two paragraphs. Let me expand. This show actually has an ensemble that works. All of them have distinct personalities and, you might surmise, different agendas. Everything is new to all of them with the fulcrum of Holo-Janeway as their balancing point. I really think this series is working at a great pace and right out of the dockyard.

More thoughts on the way... but how are the two shows comparing for you?

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