As Discovery’s second season reaches its halfway point, we finally get to meet our new Spock. Meanwhile Pike and the Discovery encounter what may well be a deadly new fiend from the future.
The new, or rather original, search for Spock has finally ended with new episode Light and Shadows. And as with the movie of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, of course he has been found. And just like in the film, Spock’s not entirely himself when they find him.
It’s actually a relief to have some forward movement in this arc. Though how Burnham ultimately tracks him down emphasizes the round-the-houses plotting this year. Because in the end she simply going to Vulcan and looks in his house. Or rather the ritual meditation grotto in the grounds. If you’re thinking this makes Section 31 look like perhaps not the absolutely brightest detectives to orchestrate a galactic manhunt you’d be right. Though at least Discovery put a figurative lampshade on it. Georgiou is tickled by the hash Leland has made of things, and the opportunities it presents for her own advancement.
It’s Spock, Michael, but not as we know him…
So what can we make of our newest Spock, Ethan Peck? Remarkably, Peck is the tenth actor to play the role in live action though Leonard Nimoy’s will always be the definitive performance. Whatever’s happened to him has left him babbling to himself in a cave, rocking backwards and forwards. Now and then he’ll scratch drawings of the Red Angel and a series of numbers into the walls.
There is some hope that Spock will be quickly cured and we’ll be properly introduced to the relationship between Peck and our archetypical Vulcan. Certainly the closing scene leaves us literally on course for a classic Star Trek location. One that might provide the cure Spock needs.
Tilly’s right: Time subplots are cooler than regular subplots.
Back on the Discovery, the game is also afoot at a swifter pace than before. Last week gave us the gigantic leap in logic that the Red Angel was a time traveller from the future. I’m not quite convinced that naturally follows simply from her (and it does seem to be female) simply wearing a space suit more sophisticated than anything the Federation has encountered before. But it’s seemingly confirmed now as the site of the last Red Burst becomes ground zero for a time rift. A time rift that threatens to either pull in everything around it or create a time tsunami.
The Discovery crew, and Tyler in particular, are quick to suspect the apparent hostility of whatever is on the other side of the time rift means the Red Angel’s intent isn’t as pure as they once thought. But Blogtor Who is more inclined to suspect another explanation. Perhaps the three red dots they encountered represent the Red Angel’s enemy in the future. An enemy trying to put a stop to her alterations of the past. After all, it immediately moves to learn about the Discovery things the Red Angel seems to already know. As with the Spock storyline, the final moments of this strand promise some meaty developments in the not too distant future.
After a few episodes of treading water, Light and Shadows signals Discovery is ready for action for the rest of the season.
Somewhat less successful is the interaction between Pike and Tyler. They go on a shuttle mission to the time rift but soon find themselves fighting to survive. It’s all tense and exciting and that aspect is well done but… Well, Pike’s revelation that he’s deliberately taking unnecessary risks to prove himself, out of guilt at having sat out the Klingon War, rings hollow. I can understand why the writers have taken that approach but, at the same time, complex and difficult choices and extreme danger is what the five-year missions far beyond the Federation borders were all about. The idea that the Enterprise was having a comparatively easy time of it continues to sit uneasily with me.
All in all, though, Light and Shadows is an episode which sees this season kick up a gear and promises yet more in the episodes to come. But it’s also an episode that features the classic Discovery formula humming away beautifully. We have big arc questions, very modern storytelling balanced by nods to the past (check out the Gallileo 7 reference), well-directed action sequences, simply beautiful visuals, and a nice line in character driven humour. (“Everything sounds cooler with ‘time’ in front of it.”) Marking the exact halfway point for the season, it’s a very positive sign that, after a few more lacklustre episodes, the show will be at its best from here on out.