Star Trek Discovery: Point of Light

Burnham: "Show me a teenage girl who's never cried. You can't. I should know, I'm a xenoanthropologist."

By nature I love brevity: After last week's primarily standalone 'New Eden,' 'Point of Light' jumps right back into the season's arcs, developing some stories and beginning others. Most of it works, but a few slight issues remain. All in all, a strong episode.

The Klingons last season were very divisive. Though some appreciated the differences because they helped the Klingons feel alien again, others hated the very different general look of a race that has been a Star Trek staple since TOS. Specifically, a few things bothered fans. The Klingons' lack of hair was one; likewise the differently designed ships (especially one that was called the D7 but looked nothing like the TOS design) were hard to get over. The sequences that took place entirely in Klingon with subtitles got very tedious after a little while, as well; it's much easier to follow when you're able to understand what they're saying.

The Klingon portions of 'Point of Light' felt like an extremely overt attempt at correcting these issues. From the very beginning with the D7 to the deliberate switch from Klingon to English in the final scene, the whole thing appeared to be designed for the purpose of showing fans that the show would be doing something different. And each change, such as the hair on the Klingons' heads, was pointed out deliberately to the audience through lines like 'So the Klingons are growing their hair again post-war?' While I appreciate the modifications, and the explanations mostly make sense, it was at times a little too on-the-nose. I like that they're going out of their way to fix the problems of Season One, but every time they point to their solutions and say, 'See? We know you didn't like it and it's all better now!' it somehow feels both cheap and heavy-handed at the same time.

As far as the other half of the episode goes, three of this season's primary storylines progressed, some of them substantially. The first story that got some progress here is that of the red bursts and the Red Angel. The only thing that we really learned here is that Spock really has been seeing the Red Angel since childhood, and that it helped him save Michael. At first glance, this seems like more of the same, but when you think about it it's actually quite revealing. The fact that Spock saw visions of the Angel that were clear enough for him to get a message is interesting enough, but the fact that that message resulted in Burnham's life being saved is remarkable. This means two things. First, it reinforces that the Angel is not some vague presence, but that it actually intervenes actively in people's lives. Secondly, and I think more importantly, this is the second time that an appearance of the Angel has coincided with the rescue of Michael Burnham. The first was in the pilot, when Pike saved her, and here it was Spock saving her. It says to me that the Angel has a specific interest in Burnham and her life, which may be very interesting to watch considering Burnham's reservations about believing in a sort of higher power.

The appearance of Amanda also led to revelations about the Spock storyline. We learned that his condition has developed to the extent that Starfleet is keeping it classified at the highest level. It's telling that Pike tries to follow the rules, but is all too happy to break them when the need arises. This simply further cements him as a classic starship Captain, perhaps even too classic. One thing you could never say about Lorca is that we've seen Captains like him before. He was new and different; Pike is not. While this may not necessarily be a bad thing for the show at this point, I hope Pike is given distinguishing traits that will give his character more depth. The other tidbit of information we learned was that Burnham hurt Spock intentionally and for his safety. One can very easily see a young Spock, curious about humanity and unsatisfied by the intentionally reserved side of his mother, following Burnham around and wanting to be involved in her life. It would be appropriately devastating to have a childhood idol such as that hurt you deeply and intentionally. I only hope the final reveal of what Burnham did to him measure up to what they've built. The other thing is that the Federation believes Spock murdered three of his doctors. Burnham and Amanda aren't certain, which is pretty scary.

The last storyline that gets developed, and this one much more than the others combined, is Tilly's Seeing Dead People plot. Over the course of this single episode, we learn that May's appearance is connected to the green spore that landed on Tilly's shoulder at the end of last season, discover that May is a parasite who needs Tilly for something and calls Stamets the Captain, and pull the parasite off of Tilly in a bit of a cliffhanger ending. While it does feel a tiny bit rushed, I'm glad they aren't dragging this out. There are a limited number of episodes this season, and if they have to drag out a storyline to fill some time, they definitely don't have enough story to write for it. The other thing is that the way it would be dragged out would be more scenes where Tilly looks crazy to everyone around her when she talks to someone they can't see. Scenes like this are very hard to watch, and they get progressively more annoying the more of them there are. Moving on right to fighting the parasite means that we have less of these scenes to sit through. I have to applaud Bahia Watson for her great performance here; after playing 'unsettling, but not aggressively so' last episode, Watson suddenly turns the creep factor up to eleven in a way that both shocks me with its suddenness and at the same time feels like a natural and not-at-all rushed progression of the character. It will be interesting to see what I can only assume to be the finale of this storyline next episode.

All in all, I liked this episode a great deal. Several of the reveals surprised me (L'Rell and TyVoq's baby; the new information about the Red Angel), and I liked the way that Mirror Georgiou is being used to bring TyVoq back into the story. Though some of the Klingon bits made me roll my eyes at their blatant 'we're fixing what you didn't like' tone, on the whole this was a good episode. It's a bit hard to judge the developments of the ongoing stories until they come to full fruition, but 'Point of Light' seems like a good arc progression.

Strange New Worlds: Q'o'nos doesn't count as a new planet, so we didn't go anywhere new this time.

New Life and New Civilizations: We learned this week that May is a new type of life form that we haven't seen before.

Pensees:

-I really liked Burnham and Tilly's relationship in this one. It really felt like a strong, healthy friendship, and the way Burnham solved the problem made sense.

-One of my friends is really turned off by the invasions of Spock's privacy this season. First Burnham entered his quarters, and now they're breaking into his medical files.

-Another director's credit for Olatunde Osunsamni. He did a fine job with this one.

-They're calling Lt. Owosekun 'Owo' now. Was that an intentional cultural reference? I bet it was.

-The reveal of Amanda worked well. If I hadn't known she'd be in the episode, I would have been surprised.

-I like the idea of using the D7 as a way to unite the Klingon houses. If we go with the Season One idea that the houses have been split and in disarray, which explains the vastly different ships we saw that season, the one standardized design works well.

-Kolsha, Kol's father, was played by Kenneth Mitchell. He played his own character's father, which works, I guess.

-Spock's been taking EQ tests. It's good to see EQ being used as an accepted practice in the future, even if it is a fictional future.

-I liked the use of the split-screen effect when Burnham and Tyler were talking. It helped sell their emotional distance.

-It appears Tilly is prone to both giving up and making rash decisions when she's stressed or embarrassed. That's a good trait to give a character.

-Why the heck does Georgiou need the holographic face disguiser AND the Black Manta mask?

-Severed heads, especially severed baby heads, even if they are fake, is darker than Star Trek's been before.

-The new Section 31 starship looks kinda neat. I like the multi-level bridge.

-Tyler sent the baby to Boreth, which is the only connection to this episode's title. The legend believed by the monks of Boreth relates Kahless' promise that he will return 'on one of those points of light,' referring to the stars.

-So, uh... I know why Tyler isn't shocked by Georgiou, but wasn't she, well, dinner last time L'Rell saw her? Just sayin'.

-I don't think Javid Iqbal Shazad Latif quite got the memo about the less stilted, more natural dialogue this season.

Quotes:

Burnham: "You didn't betray your friend, Captain. You followed protocol."
Pike: "That's easier to say than to believe."

L'Rell, to TyVoq: "You should not care what everyone sees when they look at you."

Georgiou: "The freaks are more fun."

4.5 out of 6 unnecessary Black Manta masks.

--
CoramDeo is climbing a mountain. Why is he climbing a mountain?

4 comments:

CoramDeo said...

Sorry this is getting out so late. I was on vacation, and I didn't have time to get it out like I wanted to. 'An Obol for Charon' review is in the pipe, too, and this one will be quicker.

Mark Greig said...

I didn't enjoy this one as much as the previous two. The Klingon stuff, like all the Klingon stuff on this show, was agonisingly tiresome. The only upside of the whole thing was that it looks like the show has finally put the Klingons to one side and focus on more interesting things, like Ash and Georgiou working for Section 31. I've always thought a Star Trek spy show would be a great idea so I definitely interested to see where they are going with this.

I'm becoming less interested in The Search for Spock: Part II. Except this is a prequel so technically this is The Search for Spock: Part I. Whichever Search for Spock this is (seriously, is there a single Enterprise captain that hasn't had to go looking for him at some point?), it's already feel a little repetitive. Seems like every week Michael is all "I hurt Spock, but can't say how because it is not dramatically convenient yet." I really hope we don't have to endure an entire season of this.

On a unrelated note, I really want one of those command training programme Disco shirts.

Patrick said...

Mark, I'm just tickled that the nickname for a 23rd century Federation starship is "Disco" :)

Corylea said...

I REALLY hated the direction of this episode. Having the camera in constant motion -- often for no real reason -- distracted me from the story. It was hard for me to pay attention to what the characters were saying and doing with the camera jumping all over like that.

Whoever directed this one, I hope he or she never directs another episode!