Star Trek: Discovery (Episode 11) – “The Wolf Inside”

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for the most recent episode of the sci-fi series streaming on CBS All Access. 

We are still in the Mirror Universe, where the black/gold uniforms are FAB, killing your fellow Terran officers is commonplace, and Saru’s race are kept as nameless slaves. Capt. Lorca is able to withstand torture and STILL keep it together. Here the Klingons, Vulcans, and few other races (who get new looks) are the resistance, fighting against the Terran Empire. This ep starts out a BIT slow w/ a voiceover from Michael Burnham, who is complaining re: how she has to struggle to get through the days. We see her and Tyler cuddling and talking together; he refers to her as his “tether.” What did you think about this? Was Tyler being TOO needy? Or is this a sensitive and romantic thing to say? 

Sarek is called a “prophet” by the rebels, which includes Voq (called “the Fire Wolf”). As Sarek (who has a goatee a la Spock in the TOS Mirror Universe) does the mind meld w/ Burnham, we see him become fascinated w/ the alternate world he glimpses. He declares that Burnham means no harm. When Tyler sees Voq, he gets flashes back to his past, then attacks Voq w/ no provocation. Voq wonders how Tyler knows the “forgotten tongue” of his people (the Klingons). This fight isn’t that well done; it also comes off as awkward and no one intervenes to assist Voq.

As MANY of us knew, the albino Klingon warrior, Voq, and the human, Lt. Ash Tyler, are the SAME person! Actor Shazad Latif played BOTH parts, too, as others suspected. (Latif ‘s middle name is “Javid” and the actor recently explained that “Iqbal” is his  Pakistani father’s first name). I thought Latif did VERY well in this ep, incl. w/ the Klingon language (which a linguist on Facebook noted has sounds found in Arabic and Urdu, the main language of Pakistan). 

What did you think of Tyler’s big reveal to Burnham? I was really hoping for more! I was expecting her to kill, or at least shoot, Tyler/Voq right away. After all, he was acting ;ike he loved her. I liked how Latif was able to do the quick, yet subtle, shift from Tyler to Voq at various points in this ep. 

The final reveal- Michele Yeoh is back (YAY)- was rather unexpected! It turns out that the mysterious “Emperor” looks exactly like Capt. Georgiou. How will this affect Burnham (who saw her first captain as a a VERY close friend/mentor)? This show keeps on getting better and better! 

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Star Trek: Discovery (Episode 10) – Top 10 Moments

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for Episode 10 (Despite Yourself) streaming on CBS All Access. 

10) Burnham (Sonequa-Martin Green- getting better w/ time) explains how the Terran Empire works, her description echoing what’s going on in modern-day U.S. (w/ the resurgence of white nationalists). 

9) In the Mirror Universe, Tilly (Mary Wiseman- nerdy/quirky/funny) has a few nicknames (incl. “Capt. Killy”)- LOL!

8) The Discovery (and its crew) go through a makeover to fit into their new surroundings. I liked the black and gold colors, esp. the bustier Tilly wears (hey, it’s great to see a woman w/ curves in the media these days).

7) Lorca (Jason Issacs) wears a leather jacket (V cool) and bloodies himself up (ouch!) to play the prisoner role.

6) Lorca speaking in a Scottish accent (a call-back to Chief Engineer Scotty from TOS) during the call w/ a Mirror Universe ship. 

5) Tyler (Shazad Latif) suffers (another) ep of PTSD while out on a mission, BUT it rescued by Burnham. 

4) L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Tyler face-off (and nearly kiss- ewww) during their argument in the brig. L’Rell says a Klingon prayer, which deeply upsets Tyler, BUT fails to activate his sleeper-agent personality. This (almost) confirms a  V popular fan theory- Tyler and Voq are the same! 

3) Culver explains to Tyler that his body was modified, incl. his his bones and internal organs. Ooooh, and his mind was changed, too! 

2) Tyler snaps Culver’s neck in sick bay, BUT is the doc really gone for good? (FYI: No, b/c actor Wilson Cruz has hinted that his story is NOT over yet.)

1) The fight between Connor (Sam Vartholomeos) and Burnham in the turbolift is really well-done (shout-out to this ep’s director, Jonathan Frakes, who MANY of us loved in TNG).

Re-watching Top Rated Episodes of Black Mirror (Seasons 1 & 2)

Season 1: Episode 3

The Entire History of You 

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on,” the diabolical Iago warns insecure new husband, Othello, in Shakespeare’s tragedy. In this ep of the British sci-fi drama series, Liam (Toby Kebbell), suspects that something more than just a fling before they met went on between his wife, Fi (Jodie Whitaker, the next Doctor Who) and her old friend, Jonas (Tom Cullen from Downton Abbey). Not unlike Othello (a military man), Liam (a lawyer) seeks justice. Liam almost violently demands that Fi rewind her memory chip (“grain”), so that he can see exactly when and what happened w/ Jonas. Liam doubts the paternity of his baby daughter, though a few astute viewers noticed that her eyes are blue (like Jonas’); both Liam and Fi have brown eyes.

Though this ep (like almost every ep of this show) has some element on futuristic tech, at the crux is the (deteriorating) marriage between Liam and Fi. Since he keeps replaying moments of his life, Liam is socially awkward and insecure (perhaps more so than Fi’s friends at the dinner party). We all know folks like this, right? Jonas (perhaps named after the main character in The Giver) is a catalyst; he holds the memories that could unlock the truth. Liam’s obsession and jealousy drives him to attack Jonas in his own home, then force him to erase all memory of Fi. What did you think of the ending? Did Liam pull out the grain b/c his (positive) memories were too painful? Or did he want to simply erase Fi b/c of her betrayal?

The proposed film version, which is being put together at studio Warner Bros via Robert Downey Jr’s Team Downey production company… is set in the near future, and it will centre on a widower who uses similar technology to reconstruct his relationship with his dead wife until he unwittingly uncovers a vast conspiracy.

-The Guardian

[1] While I enjoyed seeing the worst of humanity being magnified by the satire of the previous episodes, here it was done with sense of humanity – a heart rather than a sneer. The relationship drama is quite engaging and he use of the technology seamlessly becomes part of that.

[2] What makes this episode so painful, is that we witness the end of a once loving relationship, in all its sad, pathetic and all too human frailty and weakness. The technology that seemed so useful and essential now becomes a curse and enhances our cruel nature. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Season 2: Episode 4 

White Christmas 

This is the Christmas special (yet NOT cozy and comfy like a typical one) of Season 2 in 3 acts, all of which feature American TV icon, Jon Hamm.  On IMDB, it’s noted that this episode uses a similar concept as Inception (which I haven’t seen yet), layering realities making the viewer question if what the character is experiencing is actually real or not. We see a kitchen in a cabin where Matt (Hamm) is preparing dinner for himself and Potter (Rafe Spall), the nearly-silent man w/ whom he’s been living for 5 yrs. Matt tries to draw his companion out w/ his warm tone and friendly manner. Potter is very reluctant to talk, so Matt tells him about his past.    

You’ve heard of the PUA (pick-up artist) culture, right? In the first act, Matt was part of a futuristic version of this, helping socially awkward young men get a date or simply hookup. These types of coaches rely on cheap pop psychology and think they can read people’s minds. One of Matt’s clients, Harry, meets a dark-haired “outsider” woman, Jennifer (Natalie Tena from Game of Thrones) at a holiday party. At first, he’s comforted by the fact that Matt (and a group of other men) are virtually there (“inside my head”) to help him out. Later, as the night goes on, Jennifer misinterprets Harry’s words and moves much faster than he expected. At her apt, Harry learns (too late) that she does have voices in her head, and wants to commit suicide with him! Horrified, Matt and the other men watch as Harry is poisoned by a drink that Jennifer pours down his throat. When Matt’s wife finds out about this event, she blocks him, then leaves w/ their baby girl.

The first guess Potter makes about Matt’s occupation is “a marketing person.” This is a reference to his character in Mad Men, who works at an ad agency. In the second act, a young woman named Ash (Oona Chaplin- also from Game of Thrones), has her consciousness (“cookie”) extracted and put into a small egg-shaped machine which will run her home. However, this cookie is very disturbed by her new situation, thinking that she’s alive and real (though considered “only code”). Matt’s job is to break down this cookie’s resistance (torture is a word some critics/viewers used), so that she will perform the duties that she was removed for in the first place. Is this “slavery,” as Potter declares w/ disgust?

In the final act,  Joe Potter’s life story is finally revealed! He was a regular guy (though maybe w/ a drinking problem) who loved his gf, Beth, who became pregnant suddenly. She was distraught about this fact, which confused and saddened Joe. (It’s rare to see a modern drama tackle such controversial issues such as abortion and paternity rights.) Beth blocked Joe, w/o much discussion, yet decided to keep the baby. Joe became obsessed w/ knowing anything re: his child, even driving each Christmas day for 5 yrs to the remote cabin the the woods where Beth spent time w/ her father. This little girl was also blocked, since she was the offspring of Beth, until Beth died suddenly in a train crash. Joe went back to the cabin, saw the girl, who looked East Asian (so NOT his child)! He realizes that it was Beth’s married co-worker, Tim, who was the real father. Tim was in the background, or side of the screen, in several scenes (BUT you won’t notice until you see this ep twice). Joe went in the cabin, very distraught, and ended up hitting Beth’s elderly father on the head- killing him. May, the girl, was hiding upstairs; she later walked out into a blizzard and died (awww). Joe was captured, BUT refused to talk until he met Matt (who was helping the police get a full confession). Well, Joe’s cookie talked, as the real him was in a jail cell. Matt is released from his sentence, though he is blocked (from everyone)- whoa! He won’t be able to have basic human interactions. 

[1] The idea of cookie is appalling. I always believe that physical existence is not the way to describe a person-human beings are their memories and minds. …It is just utterly cruel, while this episode apparently succeeded in demonstrating how technology can dehumanize people. 

[2] The episode really makes you think, its such a chilling experience. Charlie Brooker really does create some crazy worlds.

[3] The most disturbing thing, in my opinion, is how easy the technicians are able to accelerate the time for the clones, which are not really human, but react like ones: suffering, getting crazy, locked for the eternity in an egg…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (NOW PLAYING) starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, & Oscar Isaac

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for the new Star Wars movie.

Growing up, mentorship, and the search for belonging (identity) continue to be themes in this sci-fi movie series. The Last Jedi is also re: growing old and regret (esp. when it comes to Luke and even Leia). Early filming began on Skellig Michael Island (off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland) in September 2015 w/ Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley. It was speculated by MANY fans that Rey is actually the long lost daughter of Luke. Being the prankster that he is, Mark Hamill made a comment, accidentally referring to Daisy Ridley as “my dau… I mean my colleague.” Luke wants no part of fighting, throwing his lightsaber over his shoulder (much to Rey’s dismay and surprise).

The island has some cute (new) creatures- the Porgs and “caretakers.” There are some touching moments (esp. for long-time fans) when Luke sees the Falcon (Han Solo’s old ship), reunites w/ Chewy, and bumps into R2-D2. Chewy can’t eat the roasted Porg b/c he feels guilty- one of the funniest moments in the movie. There is a good amount of humor in this movie.

There is more of lovable rogue Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)- YAY! He’s in the cool battle at the start, along w/ co-pilot BB-8, and also makes fun of Gen. Hux (Domnhall Gleeson). You can’t deny the great chemistry between Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a new character. Tran did not tell anyone she was doing a Star Wars movie, instead saying she was working on an indie film in Canada. She even got some maple syrup to bring back to her parents. Finn and Rose go to an island like Vegas (and Monte Carlo); this was a quite different world for Star Wars

“This movie introduces new stuff into The Force” (as reviewers on Collider noted), such as the connection between Rey and Kylo Ren- formerly known as Ben Solo- (Adam Driver). These scenes were quite effective, thanks to the sound design, and the acting skills of both actors. I watched Driver on Girls (HBO); the more I see, the more I appreciate his acting. He is an unconventional leading man, not just b/c of this looks, but b/c he is easily able to convey confusion and vulnerability. Rey thinks that Kylo isn’t totally lost, though he’s trying to pull her over to the Dark Side of the Force. And did you hear re: how Driver didn’t know what “emo” meant (until recently)? Social media was buzzing about this.

Leia (Carrie Fischer- in her final role) finally uses the Force- I didn’t expect that! She had begun training as a Jedi shortly after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983). Motherhood, and troubles in the Galactic Senate, caused her to cut that short. Fischer was also a writer; she helped Rian Johnson with the writing of the script for this film.

 

 

 

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…