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Star Trek Discovery: Life, Itself

“I get it... mostly.”

As one of my favorite shows has so aptly stated, endings are hard. Bringing a season to a close is difficult enough. Creating emotional closure to a series is exponentially harder. This episode succeeded... mostly.

At the risk of repeating myself, my theory of criticism is that the work being reviewed should be judged on the basis of what the artist(s) intent was and how successful they were in achieving their goals. It should not be about the personal preferences of the reviewers.

This is why, this is such a conundrum for me. The episode’s, and more importantly the season’s, focus has been two-fold. One being the value of honoring differences, respecting other cultures, and the need for self-reflection. Two was how that self-reflection lends itself to an individual’s search for meaning and purpose in life.

Did the show successfully get its message across? Yes. We had episodes devoted to each of those values. And arcs structured around each character’s journey to find meaning. From Culber finding wonder in the mysterious, to Saru and T’Rina’s devotion to duty, to Michael’s understanding that though the mission is important, it doesn’t supersede the people her missions were meant to serve. Not only could I see how each building block was laid, I both agree with and appreciate the sentiments expressed.

And yet, I found myself dissatisfied with the final result. Some of the issues were execution based. The pacing seemed off, where the need to go out with a bang overshadowed the story. Michael starting the fight with Moll is the perfect example. It looked awesome. But what was she hoping to accomplish? The result left Michael begging Moll for a truce with nothing tangible to show for it.

At least there was a narrative purpose to the fight between the Breen and the Discovery. First, it kept Rayner from immediately retrieving the portal and saving Michael. And second, the threat to her crew was a motivation for Michael.

That said, it was mighty convenient that not one of the 40 Breen fighters peeled off to see what Book’s shuttle was up to, or that none of them fired on the Discovery while it was flying through the plasma but were willing to bunch up nice and close so that the Discovery could take them all out in one go.

That was my biggest problem with the episode. There were too many conveniences. There were tiny ones like the hurricane-force winds that just happened to blow Michael exactly where she needed to go. Or larger ones, like after reinforcing Moll’s lack of trust in anyone but L'ak and her determination to resurrect him in episode after episode, she acquiesced the moment Michael said L'ak couldn’t be saved?

Or The Federation having no issue with Michael’s plan to essentially destroy the Progenitor technology. I agree that it was the right thing to do. I’ve been making that argument all season. But I’ve never seen anyone in a position of power who willingly gave up that kind of power. In the grand scheme of things, wasn’t it more important to convince the President than Stamets?

Which leads to the conundrum I mentioned above. The Powers That Be centered the season around a technology that could create life. This allowed them to explore themes regarding faith, values, and finding one’s purpose. And for the most part, the tech was only discussed in terms of needing to be protected and studied.

The idea that it could also be used as a means of destruction was almost an afterthought. Sure, the possibility of the Breen acquiring it was a handy threat looming over the season. However, it wasn’t until the second half of the last episode that the topic of whether anyone should have the kind of power that the Progenitors’ tech represented was broached.

This leaves me wondering if this is a flaw in the show’s execution. Did it never come up because The Powers That Be never intended for the Federation to keep the technology? Or did I find this episode wanting due to my personal preferences? Am I being grossly unfair because I found the discussion of the potential use and abuse of that kind of technology more interesting than the story being told? I leave it to you to judge.

I will say that I was happy that the Progenitors did not turn out to be gods. To do that would have been presumptuous, even for Star Trek. Not that they haven’t made stabs at it before. I was also pleased that Michael got her happily ever after, though it would have been nice to learn what happened to more of the crew than just Tilly.

Discovery may not be my favorite Star Trek but it’s up there. I loved the long form story telling. I loved that in a constellation of shows that’s always prided itself in being diverse, they seemed to outdo themselves with this one. Finally, I found Michael’s journey to be one of the most compelling among said constellation. Most of the other captains were brilliant people continually showing us how brilliant they are. Over the past five seasons we’ve watched Michael fail spectacularly, only to pick herself up and meet each new challenge. Her vulnerabilities made her seem a little more human than some of her compatriots.

She and her crew will be missed.

Parting Thoughts:

Going into this episode, I was afraid that at least one character might not survive. I guess you could make an argument for that being L'ak, but dying and not being resurrected isn’t the same thing.

If Tilly is the longest serving tenured instructor, how much time has passed? Thirty years, Forty? I find it hard to believe that no one has done that before. Or maybe this is all since the Burn.

Why couldn’t the rest of the crew have joined Michael for Discovery’s final mission? They used the spore drive, so presumably Stamets was there.

And if you were wondering why Zora was being sent to an undisclosed place for an unspecified amount of time, it was to close the loop on a season one Star Trek: Short Treks episode.


Michael: “Someone nicked your femoral vein.”
Moll: “Yeah, well, I bashed his helmet in. So, fair trade, I guess.”
Michael: “Drop your weapon or shoot me and spend the rest of your life trying to get out of here. Your choice.”

Stamets: “Okay, so, you attach this to the deflector array and it’ll boost the shuttle’s built-in radiation protection. But the thing is, at a certain point, you just won’t survive.”
Book: “Thanks for the tip.”
Culber: “This isn’t a debate. Book is going to need me. I don’t know how I know this, but I do.”

Moll: “Holy shit.”

Tahal: “Ambassador Saru, are you insane?”
Saru: “Not to the best of my knowledge.”
Culber: “I know I’m a doctor and not a physicist, but… this will work.”

Saru: “Look into my eyes and tell me if you see even the slightest glimmer of doubt.”

Progenitor: “A brick is just a brick. It can create a home or destroy a body.”

Tilly: “Oh no. No no no no no no no no no no no. Absolutely, absolutely not… um, maybe.”

Rayner: “We have three minutes.”
Jemison: “Two and half, sir.”
Rayner: “But who’s counting.”

Michael: “It’s that simple?”
Progenitor: “Important things often are.”

Michael: “I heard you in there. Thank you for holding on.”
Book: “Always.”

Michael: “Why do I have the feeling that Action Saru came out today?”
Saru: “He may have.”
Kovich: “I have lived many years, Captain. And many lives. I’ve met few who have impressed me, but also aggravated me as much as you.”

Rayner: “Did you just call me crabby?”

Saru: “We are all, in the most fundamental ways, connected.”

“It has been one hell of a journey.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, the supernatural, and anything with a cape.


  1. Shari, a terrific review. I agree with nearly all everything you said.

    I should start with what I liked. I haven't been crazy about the Progenitors plot, but I liked how they resolved it -- with no gods. I read somewhere that it was in deference to Sonequa's faith, which is very important to her, but I am also tired of the Roddenberry obsession with meeting God. Whatever the reason, it worked for me.

    Action Saru, yes. :) I liked Culber helping Book. And I liked that Michael and Book got an HEA, with their son becoming a captain.

    I've thought a bit of how Discovery should end, and what would have worked for me was a repeat of their earlier jump, with the ship jumping ahead centuries to an unknown future with the Progenitor tech to save the galaxy.

    I also would have loved it if the rest of the original crew -- Saru, Detmer, Owosekun, got to do their last season together. As much as I love Callum Keith Rennie, there was really no reason for him. It should have been Saru.

    That said, I did cry during those last scenes. So I think that the emotion worked.

    Thank you again, Shari, for taking on this final season for us. *Hugs*

    1. Doug Jones wasn't available for a chunk of the season, which is why it was a bit Saru-Lite. Of course, at the time, they didn't know it was their last season.

  2. I totally agree, Billie. Another jump would have been perfect. Why has no writers room snapped you up yet? I didn't mind Callum, I've loved him since Nikita. I would have been perfectly happy with Action Saru on a side quest as long as we got to see it. But given the info Antony provided (Thanks, Antony!) alas, it was not meant to be.

  3. Just wanted to add a couple of other things. One, that I was very impressed with the Progenitors' corridor thing with all of the worlds strung out and accessible. It was gorgeous.

    And two, if you have a chance, watch the episode of the Ready Room that follows this episode. Wil Wheaton surprised her with a video of Patrick Stewart, Michelle Hurd and Jonathan Frakes talking about how they felt about Sonequa and her character, Michael. Sonequa was so moved that she cried. It was lovely.


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