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Star Trek Discovery: ...But to Connect

Burnham, trying to justify the title: "For generations, the Federation has sought out new life, new civilizations, not to destroy, but to connect, even in the face of uncertainty."

By nature I love brevity: Really strong stuff top to bottom. It's episodes like this that remind me why I'll still watch anything Star Trek.

You know how a few weeks ago, I said I really like when Star Trek presents its characters with complex moral dilemmas, and how Discovery was almost there but not quite? Yeah, this is the payoff for that comment. '...But to Connect' -er, the episode... It's...

No. Nope. I gotta get this out of the way first. I'm sorry.

This is one of the worst titles for an episode of a tv show I've ever seen. It's the back half of a quote from the episode that was already awkwardly phrased in context. Out of context, it's even more awkward and more confusing. Starting a title with ellipses is bad enough. Ellipses followed by 'but' is a big no-no. This is the sort of title that I look at and go 'Oh no, that episode's gonna suck.' Well, it didn't suck. In fact, it's my favorite episode of Discovery this season and one of my favorite episodes that the show has put out. ...But to Title it Something Different.

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest; moving on. 'Connect' gives us not one, but two really well-thought-out moral dilemmas that: 1. Don't have easy solutions; 2. Spring naturally from the characters and the scenarios they find themselves in; and 3. Have been built steadily over the entire season to reach the boiling point they've reached here. Typically, Discovery tends to throw more storylines into each episode than are really necessary; almost every single episode of the show has at least three plotlines to follow. Here, they stuck to two, and both of them were executed brilliantly.

Let's start with Zora. In my review of 'Stormy Weather', I mentioned that I was pretty skeptical of Discovery's treatment of AI storylines, and that I doubted they would do something novel with the genre. My doubts were shattered. While grappling with the morality of AI is certainly not a new concept, it's one Trek has only explored using other angles. And the way the different characters reacted to the moral quandary Zora presented made perfect sense given each of their individual experiences, their relationships with technology in general and Zora specifically, and even who else was in the room influencing them. Simply put, this is uncharted territory for Discovery, so it's uncharted territory for these people. Has the question been asked before in other stories? Sure. But when each character's response is so well-written, I don't care. There's a small misstep early on when more subtlety is asked of Anthony Rapp than he seems capable of maintaining, but other than that, these sequences are brilliantly written, produced, and performed. Bravo.

The solution they arrived at makes perfect sense, too. It's sound reasoning, works from a character standpoint, and makes sense in a way that the audience can understand and follow along. Just really solid stuff.

I liked the sequences in the Federation Council, too, although slightly less. I thought it was a good decision to rely on the characters we knew and understood, and it paid huge dividends when it came to Burnham and Book's relationship. Their conflict has been expertly built since the first episode of the season, and it's almost poetic how slowly and inexorably their positions and ideals have driven them apart. The dilemma itself here comes kind of out of left field, although it does stem from one of the TNG films, but what really matters here is the character dynamics.

All the slight issues with execution I might have had faded away in that moment that Book looked at Burnham and knew that she was going to speak for the other side of the argument, and that she was going to win. Book gave a great speech, but everyone knows Burnham is extremely persuasive. And her expression as she did what she knew was right despite her knowledge that it might drive Book away from her was absolutely perfect. I'm not always Sonequa Martin-Green's biggest champion, but she absolutely killed it here. Without a word between the two of them, I knew exactly what both characters were thinking and feeling. That's a huge props to both Martin-Green and Ajala.

It was great to see Shawn Doyle's Ruon Tarka again, too. Tarka is great at jumping in and upsetting the status quo, and Doyle plays him with just the right hint of unpredictability to set all the other actors in his scenes on edge. Here he's employed perfectly to unsettle Book just enough to push him into action.

Strange New Worlds:

Only two locations for pretty much the whole episode today: the Disco and the Federation multi-level meeting room area.

New Life and New Civilizations:

Today we truly have the discovery of new life – a completely new form of it, no less. I'm sure in future episodes the show will unpack what sets Zora apart from sentient computers of Trek past, most notably Data.


-Zora's reasoning for not revealing the location of Species 10C is that everything they know about the species in that location says they are incredibly dangerous. That makes it sound like they are a preexisting canon species. The only species in Trek history I can think of that came from outside the galaxy, however, are the Kelvans from the TOS episode 'By Any Other Name.'

-Lee Rose directs this episode impeccably. She was responsible for 'The Examples' earlier this season, as well as 'Choose Your Pain' and 'An Obol for Charon' previously. That makes her one of the more reliable directors on the show in my book.

-Ndoye, the commander that was defending Earth in 'People of Earth' last season, has been promoted to General and is now representing Earth in Federation matters. Earth has not yet rejoined the Federation, but steps are being taken, and United Earth now represents Titan politically as well.

-The meeting of the Federation assembly did... an okay job distinguishing itself from the Galactic Senate from Star Wars.

-We saw that the Alshain, the moth species from the premiere, were participating in Federation matters, and may have joined the Federation.

-In addition, several other key species can be seen, including the Lurians (think Morn from DS9), the Ferengi, and the Trill.

-We first learned that subspace weapons were banned by the Khitomer Accords in Star Trek: Insurrection, when the Son'A broke the accords openly.

-Adira is going with Gray to Trill so they can help him settle in.

6 out of 6 problematic failsafes.

CoramDeo can't seem to face up to the facts.

1 comment:

  1. CoramDeo, an excellent review, and I totally agree. I thought the moral question of attack versus first contact was handled beautifully by Burnham and Book and it is also the type of thing that I love about Star Trek.


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