After nearly a decade off the air, STAR TREK has returned to television! ComicsVerse Trekkies Brian Long and Colleen Etman sat down to discuss the mid-season finale of STAR TREK DISCOVERY…

Brian Long: So Colleen last time we discussed STAR TREK DISCOVERY we spoke about the two-part premiere so we really didn’t even get a chance to talk about anything related to the actual… y’know… plot of the series. What are your thoughts on where the show goes (boldly) in these first 8 episodes?

Colleen Etman: Honestly while I’ve really enjoyed STAR TREK DISCOVERY so far, at times it feels like they are trying to do too much at once. For example, I really enjoyed the Mudd episode, but it felt a little out of place. DISCOVERY hinges on a continuous plotline type of set up rather than self-contained episodes, so to have one episode that didn’t have much to do with the larger plot felt a bit discombobulating.

Long: The plotting is SO different from what we’re used to in STAR TREK. I respect the show’s ambition even when it doesn’t always succeed. I agree that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for stand-alone stories. But I gotta say, that Mudd-hog Day might have been one of my favorite episodes of the first season. Speaking of structure changes, how does the show’s focus on one character sit with you? Most TREK shows are ensemble pieces, but this focuses a lot on Michael Burnham. Granted, Sonequa Martin-Green is more than capable of carrying the show, but it’s another element that makes the show feel different.

Star Trek Discovery
“I came here to kick ass and discuss logic. And I’m all out of logic.”

Etman: I feel like she’s such a fascinating character that if we didn’t focus in on her so much we’d be missing out on a whole lot. There’s so much to mine in her character. Her Vulcan upbringing, her uneasy relationship with Sarek, her inability to understand basic human reactions… these are all so fascinating. I especially love her relationship with Tilly, as they try to learn from each other (though unfortunately this has fallen a bit to the side as we focus on Burnham/Tyler).

Long: Absolutely. Burnham is a great character, and I really like the way the show found a way to make the “outsider” character fully human rather than an alien or a robot. However, I think the show has done a great job just giving us tastes of these side characters but I want a whole entree. I’d love to know more about Stamets, Saru, Lorca, and Tilly. I want a whole episode about what the bridge crew is doing when we’re not watching! I guess it’s a good thing that one of my complaints is that I want MORE of specific things.

Etman: Definitely! My biggest complaint right now is the whole mid-season break. I think that might end up being a mistake on CBS’ part. We’re here, we’re engaged, and we want to know what’s going to happen next. Why make us wait two months for the next episode? I want more STAR TREK DISCOVERY now!

Long: So here’s a question for you: how does this rank against other first seasons of Trek?

Etman: I think what STAR TREK DISCOVERY really has going for it is an already established fanbase. There’s much less need for world-building or establishing a plot. Obviously STAR TREK DISCOVERY does do these things, but it isn’t as necessary as it was in THE ORIGINAL SERIES. And STAR TREK is much less of a niche phenomenon now. Earlier series were relying on an established fanbase but that base was narrower. I think this allows STAR TREK DISCOVERY to play around more, have more fun with what they’re doing. They don’t have to be as self-conscious or hesitant.

Long: Agreed. Though one of the major complaints I see about the show is the way it doesn’t show as much of the optimistic, Roddenberry future of previous TREK shows. I wonder if the series sometimes takes for granted that we all know it’s a utopia so it doesn’t explore that as much. Is relying on that audience knowledge robbing the show of what makes it such a beloved series?

Etman: That is a good point. STAR TREK DISCOVERY does have a much darker tone, but I don’t think it suffers for it. I think it reflects a lot of our current cultural dissatisfaction and uneasiness.

Long: I agree. I think it would be a mistake to call TREK a pure work of escapism. In fact, I think the one thing that justifies making it a prequel is that so many original series episodes dealt with inter-crew turmoil (that one dude who was suspicious of Spock in “Balance of Terror” because Vulcans look like Romulans) or even the various captains who went AWOL. One set up a Nazi planet for crying out loud! To quote the great Benjamin Sisko “it’s easy to be a saint in paradise” and the Discovery is a pretty long way away from the paradise of the Federation.

Etman: Both literally and metaphorically.

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Long: Absolutely. I think it’s a better first season than a lot of the TREK shows, but I don’t think any one episode has quite hit the highs of the other TREK shows.

So while we’re on that topic: any major stand out episodes for you? Things that were great or even disappointing?

Etman: Side note: most of the episodes of STAR TREK DISCOVERY are rating around a 7.5 on IMDB ratings, with the mid-season finale an outlier at 8.5.

Long: The People have spoken!

Etman: Like I mentioned earlier, I really liked the Mudd episode. The GROUNDHOG DAY sort of premise had the potential to be really cheesy, but it came across well. I think having Stamets bond with Burnham in this episode was fantastic. The episode was dark (repeated murders) but still had fun. I could have done without the weird interactions between Burnham and Tyler (I’m coming right out and saying I do not ship it) but the rest of the interactions were great.

Long: Oh we’re gonna talk about Tyler. We’re gonna have that talk.

Etman: Good.

Long: Yes, big fan of Mudd-hog Day, also a big fan of Eternal Sunshine of the Sarek Mind where we went through his memories. #WokeBaeSarek. I really enjoy the glimpses we’ve gotten into Captain Lorca as well. For all of his unstable saber rattling there’s still a part of me that wants to see the guy come out on top, but also wants Burnham to get thousands of light years away from him.

Etman: I see so much potential for Lorca, but also yeah he’s definitely a creeper.

Long: Though I gotta admit, few things made me laugh harder than his first appearance in the series where he talks about the dim lighting for his weak eyes and he says “I think it makes me kind of mysterious.” At least the guy is self-aware.

So who’s the MVP of the season for you?

Etman: Tilly, 200%. I love Tilly, she’s a precious human cinnamon roll but she also kicks ass when she needs to. I think she’s great for Burnham, I love the way she interacts with the rest of the crew (especially Stamets), and I hardcore want to see her captain her own ship someday.

Long: Ha! Great pick. I really love that her role as comic relief doesn’t diminish her competence. She’s still a Starfleet cadet! She should kick ass!

I’ll have to take the easy answer and say Michael Burnham. I’m so invested in her story and that finale gave me a lot of “hell yeah” moments for her. Though runner up would be Saru. Doug Jones continues to show why he’s such an incredible actor. You get so much emotion from him even underneath the make-up. He is the character that I want to know more about. I wanna see his home planet and find out how we went from the lower end of the food chain to Starfleet.

Etman: You know, I really do legitimately like Saru but I just did not like the episode on Pahvo. That really undermined a lot of what I feel about Saru. But I do love his relationship with Burnham and their tense back and forth. I think that seeing them resolve this conflict will be one of the better aspects of STAR TREK DISCOVERY.

Long: That episode only kinda worked for me. Which lead me to feel like if the show were more episodic it could have had a more satisfying conclusion. Hopefully going forward they’ll find a better balance between the standalone and serialized stories.

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Okay let’s talk about the finale. Spoiler time. What were your thoughts?

Etman: Honestly? I’m not sure why the finale had such a higher rating than other episodes. It wasn’t bad, of course. But I didn’t think it was such a stand-out. There were too many issues raised that weren’t, in my opinion, properly dealt with. Again, this is a consequence of it being a mid-season finale. A massive cliffhanger isn’t really all too surprising. But it was pretty annoying to have put in all this time and effort watching the show and then pretty much being told to sit around and wait two months for answers.

Like, what happened to Stamets? What’s the deal with Tyler? What is going to happen in the Klingon Empire now that their second leader has been killed in this war?

Long: So that’s a big criticism I have in this show. The Klingon hierarchy is very confusing. I think T’Kuvma was more of a religious zealot rather than an official leader and Kol was sent in to clean up his mess.

But that’s a flaw of the show because I’m just guessing over here.

Etman: I didn’t read it that way, necessarily. I agree that yes T’Kuvma was definitely a religious leader, but he was also very set on uniting the Klingon Empire and that’s a pretty political move. And Kol seems less like he was sent in to mop up after T’Kuvma and more like he’s taking advantage of the sudden power vacuum to accumulate his own power.

But now that they’re both dead, who’s next? Who’s to say the Klingons would even continue their attacks?

Star Trek Discovery
Who even is this guy? We just don’t know…

Long: (The fact that we don’t have a clear understanding of their roles really highlights how vague all of that is.)

Well that brings us to what happens at the end. Where did the Discovery end up? Alternate dimension?

Etman: Mirror Universe, maybe? Or I did kind of get a time travel-y vibe from the conclusion. It would be interesting to see STAR TREK DISCOVERY play around with a time travel aspect. This was a big part of the plot in ENTERPRISE (as well as the repeated rebuttal that the Vulcan Science Directorate has decreed time travel to be illogical) so I think it would be fun to bring it back up. Then again, the Mirror Universe has also played a major role in past series, and Lorca’s discussion with Stamets about the points in space that may link to alternate dimensions seems to point heavily in that direction.

Long: I’d be down for either! Okay so now we gotta talk about Ash Tyler. Double spoiler alert if you don’t want to read a theory that’s probably true. Colleen, what’s your opinion of the Ash Tyler character?

Etman: I am really torn on Tyler. I am a huge fan of the actor and I really liked him… until they started pushing the Burnham/Tyler thing. I think that he had the potential to be really great, but for whatever reason — lack of chemistry, maybe, or something else — he just really does. Not. Go. With Burnham.

And of course you shared that theory with me (NOTE: a popular fan thoery is that Ash Tyler is actually the Klingon Voq in disguise), so I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It’s hard to root for him when you think he’s secretly a Klingon… which seems to be what the finale was hinting at, if possibly in a different way than I expected.

Long: Yeah it initially seemed like they were going to the direction of “The Trouble with Tribbles” where a Klingon was disguised as a human, but it seems like we’re going for a Manchurian Klingon scenario (and that’s three movie title puns. Nailed it) where Voq’s mind is hiding in Tyler’s subconscious. You’re absolutely right though: they have no chemistry. The only thing saving it is that the relationship is likely not long for this world.

Star Trek Discovery
Ash “definitely not a Klingon” Tyler

Etman: I think it’s going to end up killing Burnham (hopefully metaphorically, since we know there’s a Season 2, but I’m not ruling anything impossible). But the fact that she has opened herself up to human experiences, is willing to experience her emotions in this way, is really important to her character. To have that then be undermined with a huge betrayal will be heartbreaking. And I think it’s going to be a betrayal, because I think Tyler is going to not openly address the issue until it’s too late.

Long: Ah, the classic “I’m not going to talk to anyone for dramatic reasons” TV plot. Exciting.

So what are your final thoughts on this first half of season one?

Etman: There have definitely been ups and downs. There have been some great episodes, I really enjoy the interactions between characters (particularly Tilly and everyone, but also Burnham and Stamets, Lorca, etc.). Yet at the same time it has dragged at points. I noticed after the Mudd episode that I really enjoyed not seeing the Klingons for an entire episode, which is telling since they’re the main antagonists of the series. It’s not encouraging when I enjoy not having to deal with them.

But in general I have enjoyed STAR TREK DISCOVERY. I was excited to see that Season 2 has been approved, and I will be eagerly awaiting the second half of Season 1.

Long: Hopefully starting with a new slate in terms of the show’s meta plot will help with that Klingon boredom. Definitely one of the better TREK first seasons, but I’m still waiting for it to reach those great TREK heights. Hopefully that is still to come! CBS you get my money for another few months ya sons of Gorns.

Colleen: I have to wonder how many people are going to cancel their CBS All-Access passes over the break? I just can’t get over the mid-season break, what an annoyance.

Long: Hmm? Sorry? Can you repeat that? I was temporarily cancelling my CBS All-Access because of how annoying this mid-season break was.

Colleen: What a dork.

One Comment

  1. Nick J Livingston

    Nick J Livingston

    January 7, 2018 at 7:40 pm

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