Star Trek Short Treks: The Brightest Star

Siranna: "Look down every now and then. There's beauty there as well."

By nature I love brevity: Meh. It was fine. The filmmakers made some decisions that are all too common and completely understandable, but that made this story less than, well, stellar. It's a shame; Saru deserved better.

Doug Jones' Saru is a fan favorite character from the ranks of Star Trek: Discovery, and one of the few characters that has managed to dodge the extreme backlash from people who hate on DIS so much you'd think its sole stated purpose is to end all life on Earth. (Disclaimer: I am fine with anyone disliking the show. Just don't act like both the show and the act of liking it are an affront to human decency.)

Anyway, Saru is one of the show's most popular characters, loved and enjoyed even by those who dislike the show itself. He's also from a species that's entirely new to Trek, and that we've heard precious little about thus far. This makes Saru the perfect subject for a Short Trek. One slight problem, though: how do you develop his backstory and motivation sufficiently, while also creating and displaying the culture of his species and maybe even giving us a compelling story as you go? Oh, and it all needs to fit into a short film less than twenty minutes long. The answer is that you can't do all that, of course. You can't give us all of that in such a short span of time, not if you want to do all those elements well.

The solution they used here is not the one that I would ideally have chosen, but I understand it and in practice may have made the same decision. Rather than cut out one of the elements in the film entirely, a little bit was drained from each of the elements present. The good thing about this is that now we get to see all of those elements, still largely intact. The downside is that each element feels just a little bit lacking, because of what's been taken from it

This is true of every single element in 'The Brightest Star.' Take Saru's relationships with his father and his sister. The dynamics could have been interesting, but as far as we saw these were just stock family relationships, borrowed from every story ever. Had there been more time to explore them, we would no doubt have seen the intricate details that make specific family relationships unique. But there wasn't enough time, and so we have to settle for the generic relationships that, while they serve their purpose adequately, are not terribly interesting.

Or what about the story? Saru acquires a piece of technology from the predator species to the Kelpiens, and instead of discarding it as he is supposed to, he hides it and uses it to send a message to the stars. We could have seen some tension as Saru's device is almost discovered. We could have seen  Saru reveal to his father what he plans to do, and then watched their conflict come to a boil. Maybe could have even gotten a quiet acceptance from his father, though he would never have gotten approval. There was so much here, but there wasn't time to explore it.

Every part of 'The Brightest Star' had a whole lot of potential. But because so many elements were at play, none of them had the space for that potential to be realized. This comes back to the decision I mentioned earlier. Instead of keeping all these elements and making them less, the filmmakers could have cut some elements down to nothing or almost nothing, allowing the remaining ones room to breathe. If they had done that, what was still there could have been amazing. But one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to cut something you love. It hurts to take out a sentence, or a plot thread, or a theme that doesn't belong, because you become attached to what you're making. I get that, and it's really, really hard to do. That's why I don't blame the makers of 'The Brightest Star' for loving their story elements too much to let them go. I understand. But it would have been a better film if they had.

Strange New Worlds:

Saru's planet is called Kaminar. One of those rare Trek planets not named after their species.

New Life and New Civilizations:

The Kelpien culture got a little bit here, but nowhere near what we'd have hoped for. It's a shame.

Pensees:

-'The Brightest Star' dropped on All Access in December. Coincidence? I think so. It's cool, though.

-Could anyone other than Georgiou been the officer to come get Saru? Absolutely not.

-The pre-warp status of the Kelpiens makes it unlikely that the Disco would visit Kaminar without a really good reason. Since this is unlikely to be the last we see of the Kelpiens, that tells us a bit about whatever story might bring us back to them.

-Are the Kelpiens called Kelpiens because they farm kelp? Because that's kind of strange.

-Hannah Spear and Robert Verlaque did respectable jobs portraying characters that felt like unique individuals of the same species as Saru.

Quotes:

Saru: "I saw hope in the stars. It was stronger than fear. And I went towards it."

3.5 out of 6 bright stars

--
CoramDeo finds hope in more than the stars.

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