Star Trek: Discovery (Episodes 3-5)

Episode 3: Context Is for Kings

Synopsis

Six months into her life sentence, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green), is on a prison transfer when her shuttle is rescued by the USS Discovery during an emergency. After a few days onboard, Burnham is ordered by Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), to assist with a scientific assignment. Burnham overhears Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp- a Broadway darling), the officer leading the assignment, discuss an upcoming experiment with a colleague serving on another starship. Lorca is soon informed of an incident on the Discovery‘s sister ship, the USS Glenn, that has killed the entire crew. Stamets leads a boarding party to investigate and finds the dead crew w/ their bodies badly twisted; a group of Klingons were also killed. There is a frightening new alien onboard the Glenn which we’ve never seen before in the Star Trek universe. Lorca later asks Burnham to work for him, explaining that he organized the circumstances that led her to him; she could help develop a new propulsion system (spore-based) that could win the war (which she started by killing T’Kuvma). He also secretly has the deadly creature transported aboard.

Review

OK, trekkers (I prefer this term), this ep is where the series really gets started! We actually get to see the state-of-the-art ship (Discovery) and its enigmatic (some have used the terms “shady” and “warmongering”) captain. Lorca is named for the 19th century’s Spanish/openly gay poet (FYI: I did a report on him, in an advanced Spanish class in college, and got applause). What’s up w/ Isaacs’ Southern accent? Well, the British character actor made that decision (along w/ producers, no doubt) b/c he didn’t want to compete w/ the memory of TNG’s Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart). Suffice it to say, Lorca is NOT like any other Starfleet captain we’ve seen before!

Looks like Burnham is an outcast, esp. among her former Shenzhou crewmates (incl. Lorca’s first officer, Saru). She is referred to as “Starfleet’s first mutineer;” however, we can’t forget the rebellious acts of Tom Paris (TNG/Voyager) and Ro Laren (TNG). Michael has the logic and brains of her Vulcan upbringing (nurture) mixed w/ the emotion and daring of her human biology (nature); Lorca knows that these qualities make her a valuable asset. Some viewers have commented that by-the-book Saru will balance out risk-taker Michael.

Stamets is snarky w/ Michael when he first meets her; we learn that he is a ground-breaking scientist who resents being conscripted for war. What is the deal w/ Cadet Tilly? Some critics felt that she should’ve been on a CW show (if you like those, sorry).  

Episode 4: The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry

Synopsis

Lorca assigns Burnham to study the new creature, referred to as a “Tardigrade,” to find a way to use its biology as a weapon. Starfleet orders Discovery to the dilithium mining colony of Corvan II, which is under Klingon attack. Stamets is reluctant to make such a long jump using the spores, and when the drive is activated, the ship nearly collides with a star. Lorca sends Cmdr Landry (Rekha Sharma from BSG) to keep Burnham’s research on track. When she attempts to sedate the Tardigrade (which she calls “Ripper”) to cut off its claw, it kills her. Burnham believes that Ripper was acting in self-defense, and is drawn to the spores. Stamets and Burnham transport it to Engineering, where it connects to the spore drive and interfaces with the navigation system. The ship makes the jump to Corvan II and saves the colony.

On T’Kuvma’s stranded ship, the red-paint wearing Klingon leader Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) earns the loyalty of T’Kuvma’s desperate followers, and leaves the white-faced Voq (Javed Iqbal) to die in the wreckage of the Shenzhou. L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), secretly loyal to Voq, promises that there a way for them to win the war for the house of T’Kuvma. However, Voq will have to go stay w/ “the matriarchs” of her house and be prepared to “give up everything.”

Review

MANY viewers were disappointed to see Landry (a WOC like Michelle Yeoh) killed off so early in the series (a la Tasha Yar on TNG). Well, Denise Crosby wanted off TNG after one season; she thought it wasn’t going to stifle her career. I really liked Tasha as a character, as did many other critics/viewers. Others called Landry “the stupidest Star Trek character” (b/c she acted so rashly). 

Who’s ready for some (rather tame so far) Klingon romance? Hey, I certainly am (b/c the Star Trek universe has such a lack of love stories, in general)! Mary Chieffo (who I learned is mainly a theater actress) is doing a fine job as L’Rell, esp. considering ALL those heavy prosthetics and costuming. 

Episode 5: Choose Your Pain

Synopsis

After a month of successful operations, Lorca is ordered to protect the spore drive until it can be replicated for other Starfleet ships. As he returns to the Discovery, he is taken captive by the Klingons. Lorca is imprisoned with a captured Starfleet officer, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), and a criminal, Harcourt “Harry” Fenton Mudd (Rainn Wilson). Lorca eventually reveals that he killed his former crew during battle to spare them from the Klingons’ torture, but he escaped. Lorca is tortured by L’Rell, who wants the secret behind Discovery‘s new (faster) way of travel, but Lorca and Tyler escape before the Klingons can learn anything.

Burnham has grown concerned with the toll that the spore drive was having on Ripper. Along with Stamets’ partner, medical officer Hugh Culbert, Burnham convinces Stamets to find an alternative to run the drive. For the final jump needed to escape the Klingons, with Lorca and Tyler onboard, Stamets connects to the spore drive himself using Ripper’s DNA. Later, Burnham frees Ripper. Stamets’ reflection does not walk away from a mirror when he does. 

Review

The defining factor of Roddenberry’s vision is the optimistic view of the future… Once you lose that, you lose the essence of what Star Trek is. That being said… Star Trek has always been a mirror to the time it reflected and [the topical question now] is how do you preserve and protect what Starfleet is in the weight of a challenge like war and the things that have to be done in war. -Executive producer Alex Kurtzman on the balance between classic Star Trek and new elements in Discovery

OMG, why did they need to resurrect Mudd or ALL characters!? (For ALL the young/ newbie trekkers, check out Mudd’s Women in S1 of TOS. He dresses like a cowboy and ferries brides to miners on distant planets, BUT also has a sinister side.) At first, I thought that this Mudd would be funny, BUT he’s just a cowardly, self-serving jerk. I’m NOT a fan of Rainn Wilson (or his deadpan style of delivery), either, so that doesn’t help. However, Mudd does have a few good lines Starfleet sticking its nose into people’s business (quite true)!  

Hmmm… what do YOU think of the theory (circulating widely among viewers, incl. YouTube critics and podcasters) that Tyler is actually Voq in disguise? He certainly wins the trust and respect of Lorca VERY quickly, b/c he’s willing to put himself in the path of danger for a superior officer. Tyler says he has been imprisoned for 7 mos (since the Battle of the Binary Stars), BUT L’Rell has been captain of this ship for ONLY 3 mos. 

So, is this show set in the mirror universe? MANY critics/viewers think so! More on this later…

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Blade Runner 2049 (2017) starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, & Jared Leto

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from this movie (now playing widely in theaters).

“For me it’s very exciting… It’s just so inspiring, I’m so inspired. I’ve been dreaming to do sci-fi since I was 10 years old, and I said ‘no’ to a lot of sequels. I couldn’t say ‘no’ to Blade Runner 2049. I love it too much, so I said, ‘Alright, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.'” -Denis Villenueve (director) on his love of the original film

Denis Villenueve (originally from a small town in French Canada) has already been hailed as one of the best directors working today; he helmed Sicario (need to check this out on Amazon), Prisoners, and the Oscar-nominated Arrival. Roger Deakins (an Englishman) is the Director of Photography; he is a veteran who has worked on some iconic films (incl. The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men). Deakins also collaborated w/ Villanueve on Prisoners and Sicario

[1] Whether or not you find yourself enjoying your experience, the visuals alone should have you applauding, due to their incredibly detailed nature. I personally found the overall film to be magnificent, but when certain scenes were dialogue-free and asking you to gasp at the imagery, that’s exactly what I was doing, as I feel many audiences members will. 

[2] There are certain scenes where the movie wants you to really drink in the environment, but they could have edited it a little tighter. 

[3] …over time, this too will get more and more appreciation with age (and wisdom) for those who truly appreciate the art of film-making. It’s not perfect, no movie ever will ever to everybody, will it? But it is an amazing achievement and I look forward to my next viewing with different eyes, taking in what I may have missed because there is so much to see and overlook.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews 

I studied Blade Runner in a film appreciation class in college, BUT wasn’t that impressed. Two film majors  (one male, one female) who sat next to me were enthralled, esp. by Sean Young. She was then only 23, yet hers is a quite mature performance. I saw the film two times over the years; its themes are VERY interesting if you delve down into it. 

Ford (Deckard), Edward James Olmos (Gaff) and Young (Rachael) are the only actors to reprise their roles from the original Blade Runner. From the start, this film lets you know that main character K (Ryan Gosling) is indeed a replicant. He’s a blade runner for the LAPD (as Rick Deckard was in the original) who is growing dissatisfied w/ his job “retiring” (killing) the earlier generation of replicants. His human boss Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) clearly depends on and trusts him; of course, he can’t say “no” to her orders. Most of the humans who can afford to have moved “off-world” (to live a better life), but we are confined mainly to the cityscape of a dystopian, futuristic version of LA. 

You’ve never seen a miracle. -Sapper Morton says to K

The World is built in a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there’s no wall… You bought a war. -Lt. Joshi

We eventually learn that a replicant female gave birth via C-section (WHOA)! Lt. Joshi explains to K that this news MUST be hidden ASAP. In The Bible (Genesis), Jacob’s wife Rachael gives birth to Joseph, who is sold into slavery, and later becomes a patriarch of Israel. “Joe” is the name that K’s virtual girlfriend, Joi (Cuban actress Ana de Armas), suggests for K. 

When K goes to gather info from Wallace’s corporation, he meets Luv (Dutch actress Silvia Hoeks), who becomes a formidable foe. Luv shows K info re: Rachael, the replicant who gave birth. We even hear voices of Deckard and Rachael from the earlier film. I really liked Hoeks’ acting (as did MANY critics); she stole many of scenes (creating a compelling villain). Luv, who is right-hand to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), also shows emotion in certain scenes in the story. 

[1] K did NOT want that archetypal woman. SHE thought he did. He told her not to fuss. He wanted her to share his life with him, hence the emanator. 

[2] Though Gosling’s K appears robotic in his movements at times, in his relationships, especially that with virtual intelligence Joi (the lovely Ana De Armas), we witness how human he truly is, their romance been as inventive as it is beautiful. 

-Viewers’ thoughts on the relationship between Joi and K

Joi is one of the most interesting aspects of this film (as MANY critics noted); she is more than a mere computer, BUT less than a replicant. She wants to be more than she has been programmed to be. Perhaps Joi wants to get closer to humanity (like Data from ST: TNG)? To get closer to K, she invites streetwalker Mariette (Canadian actress Mackenzie Davis from Black Mirror S3) to join w/ her one night. 

K begins to think that he could be the child born to Rachael! K feels compelled to return to the place of his childhood (an orphanage inside an industrial plant). The best creator of memories, Dr. Ana Stelline (Swiss actress Carla Juri) tells K that his memory (of being beaten by a group of boys who wanted to steal his beloved wooden horse toy) really happened. I wanted to see more of her; she made an impact in her few scenes. 

“To be very honest with you, Harrison was part of the project before I arrived. He was attached to it right from the start with Ridley [Scott]. I met him and he’s honestly one of the nicest human beings I’ve met and is one of my favorite actors of all time, so for me it’s a lot of pleasure.” -Villenueve on actor Harrison Ford 

Sometimes to love someone, you got to be a stranger. -Deckard explains to K

Ford’s fans MAY be a BIT disappointed b/c Deckard doesn’t appear until half way through the movie. He is angry, bitter, disappointed, and living in an abandoned Vegas casino (complete w/ holograms of Elvis and Sinatra). Ford is in great shape here (note the fight scenes); he also does a terrific job w/ the dialogue! Wallace sends Luv, along w/ and a group of imposing men, to kidnap Deckard. Luv breaks the emanator, thus also destroying Joi. 

Mariette turns out to be a member of a resistance group headed by the mysterious Freysa (veteran Isreali-Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas). As one astute viewer noted. she  removed her right eye (w/ a serial number). Freysa reveals that Deckard and Rachael’s child was a girl (K is VERY disappointed). In order to protect that woman’s life, Freysa wants K to kill Deckard (before he reveals anything under torture).  

The big final fight of the movie MAY be tough to handle for more sensitive viewers. K and Luv have a rather long/brutal fight. As one critic said: “She wants to be the best replicant.” K’s purpose turns out to be rescuing Deckard, then taking him to reunite w/ his daughter, Ana. As the snow falls around him, K lies down on the steps outside the lab, his body relaxed and his face peaceful. 

 

Star Trek: Discovery (Episodes 1 & 2)

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from the first two episodes of this new Star Trek series (available on CBS All Access).

The Importance of the Star Trek Universe  

I recently learned that inventor of the cell phone was inspired by the communicators used by Kirk (William Shatner) and his Enterprise crew on Star Trek (the original series- TOS). MANY young people (incl. scientists) were inspired by creator Gene Rodenberry’s imaginative writing, characters, etc. The Vulcan nerve pinch was invented by Leonard Nimoy (who played the iconic Spock); Shatner went along w/ it and ad-libbed the fainting effect. Roddenberry loved it, so it became part of the canon. Though the newer J.J. Abrams films operate on the alternative (Kelvin) timeline, they build on earlier works. The power and influence of the Star Trek universe (starting in TV, then branching off into movies) is comparable perhaps ONLY to Star Wars.

As some of you (who follow me on Twitter) know, I’m a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), which I caught towards its later seasons, then went back to watch. I saw a bunch of eps w/ my younger sibs and (sometimes) my parents. FYI: My favorite captain is Picard (Patrick Stewart). I was a BIT disappointed that Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) never became more than friends; the actors had such great chemistry together. Riker (Jonathan Frakes- who directed some Discovery eps) was one of the few men who looked better w/ a beard. And who could forget the friendship between engineers- LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Data (Brent Spiner)? I saw Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) when it originally aired, though I haven’t seen the final season. I was excited when Alexander Siddig’s name (he’s British of Anglo  and Algerian heritage) popped up in the opening credits; I loved his character, too. Sisko (Avery Brooks) was NOT only a strong captain, he was a widower and loving single father to Jake. It was refreshing to see a different side of Worf from TNG (Michael Dorn) during his romance w/ Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) on DS9. My favorite romance  was the slow-burn relationship that developed between long-time co-workers and friends, Kira (Nana Visitor) and Odo (Rene Auberjonois). The bromance between Dr. Bashir and O’Brien (Colm Meaney) was one of the rare male friendships on TV (at that time). Unlike TNG, there were a FEW supporting characters on DS9 that operated in shades of gray. This show was NOT afraid to delve into controversial issues, primarily military occupation and religion (incl. types of worship and the existence of gods). 

My Initial Impressions of Star Trek: Discovery 

Some people were hating on Star Trek: Discovery (set 10 yrs before TOS) even before it aired; they feared that Star Trek’s legacy would be ruined (whatever that means). The main character is an African-American woman w/ a male name, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who starts off as “Number One” (First Officer) to Capt. Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh- internationally known, primarily in martial arts films) aboard the Shinzou, a ship of exploration at the edge of Federation space. They have served together for 7 yrs, so are NOT only co-workers, BUT share an almost mother-daughter relationship. I liked the chemistry between these two characters. 

The main antagonists in this show will be the Klingons, BUT they don’t look anything like Worf (or even those on TOS). The Klingons we meet here have no hair, different skin tones, and a LOT of ridges on their bodies (or just clothing). I think their costumes are unique, BUT it’s tough to see the actors’ expressions through so much prosthetic (which takes about 3 hrs. to apply). We hear a LOT of the Klingon language; this could put-off those who are new to Star Trek. Some critics compared these rogue/fundamentalist-type of Klingons to ISIS; others thought that their ideologies were similar to white nationalists. 

Michael’s birth parents were killed by Klingons during a battle. Now here is where some fans take issue: she was raised mostly on Vulcan by Sarek (played by one of my fave Brits- James Frain), who is also the father of Spock. Michael still adheres to the Vulcan way of thinking, though she has also has emotions that can’t always be suppressed. The banter between Michael and science officer, Saru (Doug Jones), was pretty interesting; Martin-Green said in an interview that these two characters were BOTH ambitious, so were competing to please their captain. Critics are saying that Jones is one of the strongest aspects of the show so far; he is of a (new) species that “can detect the presence of death.” Speaking of positive aspects, the special effects are VERY good (“like a movie,” as some viewers noted).

TV critic Matt Mira asked (in After Trek, the after-show following E2): “Where is the Discovery?” Well, you won’t see that spaceship until E3, as these first 2 eps were more like a prologue (as a few critics noted). We will meet more of the regular cast in E3, including Capt. Lorca (Jason Isaacs); the British actor got heat for his tweets re: Trump supporters. I saw on IMDB that there will be three South Asian actors (WOW)- one American (Maulik Pancholy, noted for Weeds, but also a theater actor), one Canadian (Rekha Sharma from Battlestar Galactica), and one Brit (Shazad Latif from The Second Best Marigold Hotel and The Man Who Knew Infinity). 

One of the main issues is that this series is behind a pay wall ($5.99/mo. w/ commercials is the plan I chose). As one critic (on Collider) commented, a Star Trek series should be accessible to ALL (free). Is the show taking advantage of its (already existing) fan base? Will it find an audience among those who are NOT “trekkies” (or “trekkers,” if you prefer)? The TV shows and movies on CBS All Access may NOT be appealing to everyone, BUT I was glad to see that The Good Wife was available.

Are you planning on watching this show? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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