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Star Trek Discovery: The Galactic Barrier

"You are the Federation now."

By nature I love brevity: One of those transitional episodes where we move a bunch of the pieces around the board so they're in place for what's to come. This one succeeds by focusing on a key player that's been underdeveloped so far, although I wanted even more.

One of the things I've always loved about Trek is that as compelling as the main characters are, there are almost always a few supporting players that are compelling enough to fuel an interesting story. Discovery is no exception; heck, on this show, the Captain was a supporting character in the first two seasons. We've had a few supporting characters this season that have been just almost interesting enough to be compelling, but for the most part it's been the Burnham and Book show (not that I'm complaining). This episode started to look like it would fill out one of those characters, in a way that sets her up to be a pivotal part of the story as we hurtle towards the finale. But it didn't quite give me as much as I wanted.

But first, we get some long-awaited answers and development for Tarka. His flashback scenes reminded me a good deal of Miles O'Brien's traumatic false imprisonment in DS9's 'Hard Time,' a kind comparison since that's one of the best episodes of Star Trek of all time, in my opinion. I won't hold it up to that standard; very little could survive a comparison like that. I found Tarka's backstory compelling enough, although it wasn't super revelatory. I guess I thought we'd get more insight into who he is as a person from it. I'm pretty midway on this bit. It didn't blow me away, and it didn't leave me underwhelmed.

The opening got me pumped. It starts off like any episode of the show might, with a meeting of the Federation's top delegates. Burnham gets some information, and she pulls President Rillak and Admiral Vance aside. What sets this scene apart is that Burnham leaves, and the scene keeps going. This signaled a major perspective shift for the episode, suggesting that we'd be following Rillak instead of Burnham for an hour. And we... almost did. Certainly, Rillak took a more central role in this episode than she has in the last few. But everything she had here was still framed around Burnham. I think this scene at the beginning was the only time the entire episode that we saw her apart from Burnham. While the focus on their relationship and the development they both got because of that was welcome, I would have loved to get a full episode to really explore Rillak's perspective. Frankly, I'd take a whole episode to explore the perspective of any of the supporting characters. It's not that I don't appreciate the focus on Burnham, but there are other characters on the show that I'm very much interested in, and most of them I'm more interested in than Burnham.

One thing I really loved without reservation about the episode was an increased emphasis on the thing that has always made Star Trek, well, Star Trek: exploration. Don't get me wrong, I'm a major proponent of the redefining of exploration that the franchise has done since TNG. DS9's deep dive into exploring one location and a few topics and cultures is my favorite corner of the Trek universe. But I still appreciate the pure, unadulterated joy of exploring the unknown that fueled the early years of the show. This episode embodied that maybe better than Discovery ever has yet. Coupled with some smart visual references to The Motion Picture and an especially inspired score from Jeff Russo, this was a lot of fun to watch.

Strange New Worlds:

We've not hit any new planets yet, but we did exit the galaxy. That's something this franchise rarely ever does; I'll highlight a few of the other key examples in the Pensees.

New Life and New Civilizations:

No new species this time.

Pensees:

-I really like how this show uses Cronenberg's Kovich. Not too much presence, but enough to be consistent and entertaining.

-President Rillak transferred power to the Vice President. We haven't met the Vice President, have we?

-Turns out the mycelial network doesn't extend outside the Galactic Barrier.

-Hang on a second. They have programmable antimatter? How does that... work?

-Director Deborah Kampmeier hasn't worked on the show before, but I thought she did an excellent job.

-Did anybody else get strong Picard vibes from the score in the flashback scenes with Tarka?

4 out of 6 confirmation biases.

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CoramDeo has skin. Potatoes have skin. Is CoramDeo a potato?

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