STD: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”

I’m starting to hate most aspects of this show. Last Sunday’s episode revealed that the USS Discovery is propelled by a ‘Spore drive’, a sort of instantaneous jump system fueled by the spores of magic mushrooms. Unfortunately the crew hasn’t yet figured out how to chart a course with this system, so they rely on the alien creature from the previous episode, which is put into a nipple clamped electro-shocking bondage chamber, and ingests the spores until it gets high enough to guide the ship safely to its destination. No, I did not make that up, and yes, it’s ripped off from ‘Dune’.

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‘Discovery’ suggests there’s an energy field that surrounds us, and penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. It sounds like a familiar concept. I can’t quite remember where I’ve heard it before. Once upon a time Star Trek’s fictional science was attached, albeit flimsily in many cases, to our modern understanding of physics, astronomy, and quantum mechanics. Writers on TNG corresponded with people doing actual scientific work at JPL, NASA, and other labs, in order to ground their stories in some degree of plausibility. No longer. STD is just another action adventure show filled with ‘space magic’ and JJ Abrams-style MacGuffins: ‘Red Matter’, ‘Augment Blood’, ‘The Abronath’. It’s the same boring playbook.

Sticking with the ship’s ‘spore drive’, what is going on with the spinning saucer section? That part of the ship has windows, so we assume there are people in it. Do Starfleet ships now have such fine grained control over gravity and acceleration that individual parts of the ship feel no effects from the movement of others? The torque necessary to spin such a huge object so quickly must be insane. Aside from those nitpicks, the concept itself implies that Discovery, and her Sister ship, the Glenn, were built around Spore Drive technology. It’s what they’re designed to do, and yet, the crews have no idea how to get it working properly. So Starfleet designed and built two massive Starships around an experimental technology that they’ve yet to figure out? Come on!

Still worse is the behaviour of the characters. The catty sarcasm and veiled insults are dialed up in this episode, to the point that one officer walks out on their Captain giving them an order, and Michael spends an entire scene giving the silent treatment to someone talking directly to her. Almost every line spoken by a person on this ship is so unprofessional that it would get them pulled into the HR office of any modern workplace. Captain Lorca has to replay the transmissions of Humans dying under Klingon attack just to convince his crew they should help. These are Starfleet officers? Disgusting.

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The Klingons continue to be an absolute chore. The actors are clearly struggling to perform in costume and makeup, their body language and facial expressions lacking any sort of the intensity and pride one would expect. It must take all of their effort just to remember their lines, and it shows. There’s a laughable scene full of romantic subtext between two of the main Klingon characters. It was written as if they’re two office workers flirting by the water cooler.  Klingons do not flirt. They do not hint at desires. They conquer.

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All of this leads to a battle near the end of the episode, where the Discovery ‘jumps’ in to defend a Human colony from Klingon attack. The scene is a confusing mess of directionless animation and rapid fire editing, never letting us figure out exactly where things are or what’s happening. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate choice, to show the chaos of battle, or plain old incompetence. Neither worked for me. The sequence ends with the ship jumping away from the area, a little girl looking up and asking ‘who saved us?’, in a laugh-out-loud moment straight out of a parody of a Michael Bay film. Apparently this crew is content to stop the attack, but leave the remaining civilians defenseless, certainly injured, and possibly dying.

This show has the emotional intelligence of a teenager, and just as much subtlety.

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