Discovery leans heavy into the history of the franchise in episode eight, and the result may please the many while disappointing the few.
At the end of last week’s episode, Burnham realises that Spock has been muttering planetary coordinates backwards we were in for a surprise. The destination was revealed to none other than Telos 4! The setting of the very first Star Trek pilot. For those new to Trek, the original pilot feature Captain Pike at the helm of the Star Trek episode, Number One as first officer and Spock as Science Officers. Unfortunately, due to network complaints, it didn’t air. Instead, the show was recast and reshot. Pike was replaced with Captain Kirk, and a new story was filmed. The only character that carried over to the original series was Spock.
But the adventure on Telos 4 wasn’t forgotten; instead, it was used as evidence at the court-martial of Spock. Spock had hijacked the Enterprise return his old Captain, now severely crippled, unable to speak and encased in a life-support wheelchair, back to Telos 4 so that he could live out his life with the illusion of health that the telepathic Telosians could provide.
With the inclusion of the Telos 4, Spock and Pike, we have grounded where Discovery sits within Spock’s timeline. But it is difficult to place how close we are to Pike’s fateful accident. With the inclusion of the original series uniforms, we are closer than expected to Spock’s timeline with Kirk. Perhaps this series ends with Pike encased in his life-support wheelchair.
“You really think that beard is working for you?”
There is more of Spock this episode, and while he is more lucid, he is still profoundly affected by his encounters with the Red Angel. It is only in the last few scenes that he begins to return to our expected version of Spock.
Not that this is at all a bad thing. The exploration of Spock’s troubled mind adds new depths and dimensions to this beloved character.
Of particular note is the sharing of the memory of Burnham and Spock’s destroyed sibling relationship. The scene was brilliantly played, by not just Ethan Peck and Sonequa Martin-Green but the child actors, who played their younger counterparts, Liam Hughes and Arista Arhin. And while Burnham was brought up by Vulcan, she did snap back into her stoic nature very quickly – perhaps a little too quickly. It was a jarring change that didn’t quite work, but the rest of their scenes more than make up for it, including the quip about Spock’s beard. It was a jarring change that didn’t quite work, but the rest of their scenes more than make up for it, including the quip about Spock’s beard.
My, what a big head you’ve got
After the much-maligned changes to the Klingon’s look, any returning alien species from previous Star Trek iterations come with an atmosphere of tense caution. But thankfully with the Telosians, the production team have pulled off a successful 21st-century update. The designs are respectful of the original with a few minor changes but are still clearly the same species from The Cage. They are more helpful as well but aligns their appearance in ‘The Menagerie’ continuing to reinforce how close we are to Kirk’s era.
The return of Vena worked, especially with Pike. Their attraction re-enforces Spock’s later decision to return Pike to Telos 4. Anson Mount once again displays some fantastic acting that effectively communicates Pike’s pain and loss at having to leave her behind. The scenes between the two really add even more depth to Pike’s character and even retroactively enhance Pike’s story arc from ‘The Cage’ and ‘The Menagerie’.
After an absence last week, there were some ramifications from Culber’s return from the dead. Wilson Cruz portrayal feels viscerally real. The sharp contrast between his Season 1 persona into a more distant, troubled and broken person. The gradual building of tensions Culber and his lover and leads to two very different but equally explosive confrontations.
Interestingly, Saru let the fist fight between Culber and Tyler continue which at first glance is unrealistic for this senior officer. But the subsequent conversation between Saru and Pike highlighted that very criticism and pointed to that his choice is a result of his recent evolution. The way this change in character and other elements of the serialised nature of the show are woven throughout episodes is a vast improvement on season 1.
If Memory Serves was one of Discovery’s strongest episodes to date. The writers fully embraced the history of the show adding details that created compelling story and development for some of our Star Trek’s oldest characters. Let’s hope this continues.