The story equivalent of a hotel room visit from Housekeeping, Point of Light suffers from a lack of focus or clear story to tell. But it plays its part in moving pieces of the arc to where they need to be for future episodes.
With Point of Light, Discovery returns to an old Star Trek standby, and I don’t mean the Klingons’ hair. Beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation, most episodes kept to a story structure known as the A/B plot. Each new A plot adventure would be counterpointed with a largely unrelated B plot. The B plot more often than not involves some of crewmember’s minor personal crisis.
With Point of Light, the A/B plot structure is back in full force, with the two halves of the episode set half a galaxy apart and having absolutely nothing to do with one another.
The half of the episode set on the Klingon homeworld of Qu’onos is clearly set out as the A plot here, even opening with “Previously on Star Trek: Discovery…” being voiced in Klingon by Mary Chieffo‘s L’Rell. It’s also the more entertaining part of the episode. It does feel, though, like the writers furiously rearranged all the story arc furniture for the purpose of future events. And so it never entirely becomes a story in its own right. At the end of last season, we left L’Rell as the new Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. A doomsday device at the heart of Qu’onos was the foundation for her new reign. And at her side was the Klingon formerly known as Voq, now physically and mentally transformed into a pseudo-human called Tyler. For reasons that I’m sure must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
It’s time for some good old fashioned Klingon court intrigue and (literal) backstabbing
The showrunners appear to have regretted this setup, as swiftly upending it is the entire purpose of the twenty or so minutes we spend knee deep in Klingon internal politics. It also acts as a transition towards the Klingons we know from previous versions of Star Trek. They’ve grown out their hair as apparently last season they’d simply been shaving their heads due it being wartime. Brace yourself for Klingons sporting top knots and man buns. But more importantly, L’Rell is stamping down on the old practice of each House maintaining its own battle fleet and creating a unified Klingon navy with an immediately familiar starship design.
The backroom conniving and (literal) backstabbing behind the scenes as factions jockey for power seems more familiar too. There’s a lot of emphasis on avoiding the appearance of scandal, and on ‘Your Great Aunt Sylvia Killed My Second Cousin’s Pet Hamster’ type motivations for antagonists. There is, however, a strange lack of mention for Chancellor L’Rell’s doomsday weapon. Among the various attempts at blackmail and assassination she and Tyler/Voq face, it’s never a threat she makes. Regardless, by episode’s final minutes the balance of power in the Empire has shifted. Its ruler has a new, and slightly disturbing, title for themselves. And we’re introduced to a wild card that will presumably soon pop up to make more trouble elsewhere.
Visually Qu’onos comes up to Discovery’s usual high standards and sets a nice balance in its aesthetic between the new and the old. There is one shot of a starship, however, that Blogtor Who can only presume was a very late addition. It looks remarkably unfinished and more akin to something out of Tron. The original Tron at all. And it’s all the more distracting because of how beautiful everything else looks.
Meanwhile, back on the ship, the show is actually named after…
The series arc plot takes instead a back seat this episode. Curiously, in fact, there’s little sense of urgency about the mysterious seven signals on Discovery. Captain Pike has settled in and is spending his days doing things like running mentoring sessions for junior officers. Amanda Grayson (or ‘Spock’s Mum’ as the Doctor would probably call her) comes aboard and has long conversations with Burnham about how Spock once claimed to have the same ‘Red Angel’ figure as a child, and how Spock and Burnham are no longer on speaking terms. We do get the revelation of exactly why Starbase 5 have been so cagey about Spock’s status. But it’s not much the viewer wouldn’t already have guessed.
It’s Ensign Tilly’s plot that really moves forward this episode, with us discovering precisely what has been causing visions of her dead school friend to manifest. As Tilly, Mary Wiseman continues to be the core of this season. The plot of a Starfleet officer experiencing hallucinations of some sort of ‘imaginary friend’ feels very familiar. Yet Wiseman brings a solid reality to these scenes. Her crumbling when she realises she’s been screaming abuse at Captain Pike is a genuinely affecting moment and a sign of how Discovery can often lift even pretty standard Star Trek material to another level.
Point of Light suffers from the rather thankless laundry list of tasks it needs to accomplish
There’s one minor gripe with these scenes, though. The DISCO t-shirt worn by the crew last season were a surprise hit with fans even creating a fonder shorthand for the show’s title than the rather unfortunate ST:D. So it’s a shame to see them replaced this season with a more intricate embroidered version, complete with Starfleet logo. It feels like a move deliberately gauged to make it harder for fans to make their own and so feels a little mean spirited.
Point of Light is not likely to be an episode many revisit for its own sake. It exists simply to nudge various plot points forward an inch or two. But viewers can probably trust that taking care of these storyline manoeuvres here are in service of more significant, more dramatic episodes later on this season.
CBS All Access carries Star Trek: Discovery in the United States with new episodes every Thursday. In the UK and Ireland, it’s available on Netflix, with new episodes appearing on Fridays.