A slight return to dangling Klingon plot threads and some magic crystals in this week’s episode – ‘Through the Valley of Shadows’ struggles at times but has some great moments hidden within.
If you’d seen the trailer for this episode you’d be forgiven for thinking the Klingon plots last seen in Episode three, ‘Point of Light’, would be taking a prominent place in this episode but surprisingly there is very little of it in this episode. L’Rell is back at the beginning of the story, and we see her again at the end. There is a small bit of dialogue between herself and Ash Tyler that feels like a closure to their relationship and we get to see that classic look D7 battleship for the first time. The Klingons on the planet might as well be any other race if not for one in particulars family links. Perhaps this is for the best though. The Klingon story arc has never been Discovery’s strong point.
Science Fiction or Fantasy?
From their first mention in season one ‘Time Crystals’ have felt more fantasy than Sci-fi, something you could probably get away with in a series like Doctor Who but that feels out of place in the world of Trek, which has always attempted more scientific-sounding explanations for the things that exist in their universe. They double down on this fantasy feeling here first with the revelation that the Klingon Monks call themselves ‘Time Keepers’ and then with Pike going on a kind of vision quest to be granted one of the crystals. However, this leads to one of the best moments of the episode so it can be forgiven.
Pike, confronted with visions of his future fate – horrific bodily mutilation in an accident that leaves him confined to a mobilised chair, paralysed and unable to speak – is given a choice to seal this fate by taking the crystal or to leave it behind. Of course, there is only one option for the man who so firmly believes it is his duty to protect others. It’s a powerful moment, and the scene is played brilliantly by Anson Mount. The nods to Star Treks past (or future from the character’s perspective) will also please many a fan of the original series.
The rest of the stuff on the planet feel like its dragging its heels somewhat, and the time-warping properties seem like just an excuse to dismiss the dangling plot threat of L’rell and Tyler’s baby by having him now be a grown man dedicated to a religious order. Not to mention the idea that the Klingon government would let this planet just sit there, in their territory, and not exploit its properties for the glory of the empire seems uncharacteristically un-Klingon like. Free from the need to include the Tyler/L’Rell child element perhaps this would have made more sense being some previously unknown species.
It’s the little things
Throughout the episode, we get some sweet little character moments that remind us about ongoing plot character arcs. Spock referring to Burnham as ‘Sister’ for the first time, Some small developments in the Culber and Stammets relationship and Saru exhibiting his changed, more bold attitude. These are all things that could quickly be forgotten or cut in the edit for the time in the ramp up to the primary season arcs conclusion. It feels appropriate given the serialised nature of the show that they are not.
The secondary plot focuses on Spock and Burnham’s pursuit of Control. The revelation that Control had… erm… controlled Burnham’s former colleague from the Shenzu – that they had found floating in space seemed somewhat predictable from the moment Burnham recognised him. What were the chances that the one person that survived just happened to be someone she knew if it had not been deliberately set up to be so? But there were some good action scenes and the nanite formed snake/claw thing felt particularly menacing as it advanced on Burnham, her phaser blasts completely ineffective.
Finally, we were left with a cliff-hanger that promises an exciting showdown next week as well as a reunion with the Enterprise.