a review by the Crow.
(Apologies for the delay.)
These are the voyages of the blog-ship The Corvid Review. One of its continuing missions: to explore strange new episodes of Star Trek, to seek out new characters and plots, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
And this week, we go at maximum warp to the strange new episode of:
The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry
WACKINESS WITH WATER BEARS!
The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry is the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Despite it’s long and clunky name, it’s yet another step towards this new series finding its foothold.
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MODERATE SPOILERS
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) accepts an unranked position aboard the Discovery, following her conversation with Captain Lorca in the previous episode. She runs into Saru and shares some banter with him while heading to the bridge, where Lorca is running combat simulations with his bridge crew — to little success.
Following the frustrating simulation with his bridge crew, the Captain assigns Burnham to her new task: to work in his little “happy-room-of-horrors” and study the creature that the away team encountered on-board the USS Glenn in Context is for Kings. Some time after the previous episode was released, there was some speculation that the unknown creature might be a form of gigantic Tardigrade. This episode confirms it. While the question of why it’s so large is still left open, we are told to think of the creature effectively being one. And my money’s on it being a regular old Earth-based
waterspace bear (there’s a point I’ll touch on about this creature in my expanded “Thoughts” section below).
All the way over at the Binary star system, Voq (Javid Iqbal — a name, finally!) and his close associate L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) are ruminating over their misfortunes following T’Kuvma’s death. Their ship has been left adrift without enough resources to join the war effort, and their people are starving. Enter Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) from the house of Kor. He seems to be friendlier towards Voq (and by extension, T’Kuvma’s memory) in their brief exchange, all while the episode ham-fists us with foreshadowing.
The Discovery receives an urgent message from Starfleet, in which it is revealed — halfway through Captain Lorca’s delicious-looking meal (I want some! He can keep his fortune cookies) — that a dilithium mining facility on the planet Corvan II is under attack by Klingons. Corvan II is an important keg in the Federation’s supply chain, and if lost, nearabouts half of Starfleet’s ships will be grounded.
Thanks to its ‘unique’ propulsion system, the Discovery is the only ship with any hope of making it to the facility in time. Captain Lorca immediately accepts the mission, stating he is ready, before rushing to Engineering to demand his ship be at Corvan II on time, despite Stamets (Anthony Rapp)’s continual objection that the ship is nowhere close to ready.
He has no idea how the Glenn managed its incredible jumps, and hasn’t been able to piece together what his friend Strall (Saad Siddiqui) was working on, since all of Strall’s work seems to be missing a key piece of equipment. But Lorca will have his way. And he makes his stance clearer than day.
Aaand, cue the drama!
The episode cuts between Voq attempting to secure the Shenzhou‘s dilithium processing unit — despite his initial hesitation — and the Discovery attempting to perfect their “new way to fly” before the settlement on Corvan II is reduced to rubble.
There is tension on both sides, and both sides fracture. One more than the other. Whereas the Klingons suddenly decide to act very un-Klingon-like (with a few exceptions) once the dilithium processing MacGuffin is recovered, the crew aboard the Discovery lurch between the urgency of making it to their destination and questioning the choices they have to make along the way.
Captain Lorca stands out in this episode. While I’m a Picard man, and count the character as one of my personal fictional heroes, in the Star Trek universe, I’d be more like this guy (and I really want that meal he was having earlier). He’s really growing on me, and it’s great to not have him as the centre of attention, here. He’s best kept out of the way. This is a man (and I believe I’ve said something to this effect before) who has his compass set. There won’t be much to waver him from his destination, and that’d make for a relatively uninteresting perspective for viewers.
Aside from the two of them, Michael and Stamets are mostly on autopilot in this episode, as are the rest of the crew. I’m beginning to sense why Tilly is even here, and I’ve very happy to finally meet the CMO.
The two P.O.V. Klingons have some decent moments as well — moments I see as setting up a future which I’ll talk about more in my section below.
But lets whip back to the crew of the Discovery again, since I have a point to make about how a few things have been handled. I thought Saru had a few good moments (and continues to be my favourite new character), but he also suffers from the one continuing problem this show seems to have: writing choices.
The writing has been progressively better on DSC, but there are certain parts of it which still suffer. What caught my eye the most in this episode was not an “As You Know” scenario, but rather a continuity error. Saru and Michael speak at one point in the episode, and Saru says something which one would otherwise be alright with if it wasn’t for the fact that he was referencing notions previously set forth by Stamets and not himself. It’s not as simple as ‘oh, he always thought this way’, either. Every thing about this line would have worked for Stamets, but not for him. And all that was required to fix it? One line of dialogue at some point in the prior episode. That’s all.
Now, the show retains it’s high production value, and the action sequences are very pretty. The weird Klingon armour is finally revealed to be part of their space-suit (explaining away a lot of questions about their clothing), and we have some nastiness with a scared ‘little’ Tardigrade.
I quite like Ripper (the Tardigrade, played by CGI, cardboard cut-outs, and sound effects)’s angle, and everything to do with the adorable fungus-loving-person-killing mascot of a water bear. If anything, this episode really knows how to work the alien. It’s going to be interesting to see how they address it in the next episode.
I quite liked TBKCNFTLC (see how clunky that is?!), as you can tell, my issues with the writing aside. Now, like last time, I’ll leave our joint-scores here and proceed on to further spoilers (but I won’t say too much).
I highly recommend giving this episode a watch, but only if you’ve watched the previous one — otherwise, a good few things aren’t going to make sense.
THE CROW: 6.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10
Spoilers lie ahead. Please stop scrolling.
This is your final warning.
Failure to comply will result in your being spoiled.
Complaining afterwards is futile.
(MAGIC) MUSHROOM MASTERY!
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
So, let’s start with Landry. I cut out a section I’d written about her up above, but cut it out due to spoilers. She’s a total idiot. I really thought that — as a Battlestar Galactica alumnus — Rekha Sharma would hang around a bit longer than she does on Discovery. Her actions aren’t even really justifiable based on what we’ve seen of her so far. She goes full-on Terran Empire and gets herself killed by Ripper (who she names as such, funnily enough).
I didn’t see this coming at all. I expected her character to hang around for a while, acting as Lorca’s enforcer and slinking around in the shadows to make sure he has his way. But then again, I’m beginning to have the opinion that Lorca might not be at full-blown tyrant level just yet. And let’s face it: the man doesn’t really need a lackey. He’s strong enough where he is. Still, a shame as far as subplots go.
Now, let’s talk a little about Ripper itself. At Paleyfest, it was confirmed that the Tardigrade was meant to eventually become a crew member aboard the Discovery named Ephraim (most likely after the first man to describe the resilient little creatures). And come on, how awesome would that have been? Just I liked the science in the last episode, I liked everything about Riphraim (as I shall now call our dear water bear) in this episode.
I liked how Riphraim was given an inkling of a character to start off with. It’s connection to the mushrooms (along with the endless material to make “mushroom” jokes with, thanks to a choice line from Stamets’) and its role aboard Discovery are going to be key elements of the overall storyline, and it’s a welcome addition to the Star Trek lore.
Far as the Klingons go (I don’t really see any good Klingon photos from the episode online, so have a concerned Stamets instead), L’Rell is developed quite quickly, and we see that Voq hasn’t matured enough since T’Kuvma’s demise (and he is dead). Their team-up, while to me the least-rewatchable parts of the episode, is another interesting story arc that kicks off, here.
Now, don’t get me wrong: When I say least-rewatchable, it’s because I found the scenes adequate enough on a first viewing to be just skimmed over in my following ‘review’ viewing. While there are certain things about L’Rell and her devotion to Voq and the house of T’Kumva I find a little rushed (and a touch ham-fisted), she’s beginning to grow on me. I like where I see her character going, and she just might be a standout character as the series progresses. Voq’s really going to need her by his side.
I also enjoy how two unknowns have been cast in these two roles. It’s a step up for them, a cheaper option for the production team, and it helps one not constantly think about the people behind all the prosthetic makeup.
We leave them in a lurch, but we’re promised a lot more exploration into the Klingons of this series in the future, so that’s a big plus as far as I’m concerned.
Another aspect of this episode that’s kicked up a lot of discussion online seems to be Lorca’s actions at Corvan II (or, the “Lorca manoeuvre”, as some are calling it). I’m going easy on this part of the episode, to be honest. Not only does it make for a cool scene, but I can even explain Lorca’s actions away. Personally, anyone can think of any number of other options Lorca could’ve taken, but I think it works once you factor in that the mere existence of the Discovery must be kept a secret.
Now, finally, we come to the prevailing theory about where Discovery fits in with the overall Star Trek lore. And yes, I’m with it. I’ve been with it right from the beginning. Black badges? No mention in the future? No future use of the DASH (Displacement-Adjusted-Spore-Hub) drive? No names through the ages? Morally ambiguous decisions that fly in the face of everything Star Trek captains should uphold (albeit wont to break with regularity when necessary)? Simple enough answer, at face value. This is not your usual Star Trek crew. The Shenzhou might’ve been, but not the Discovery.
Yes, my fellow avians. We’re dealing with Section 31.
Now, here are the biggest pieces of evidence that people point out as stopping this hypothesis from being confirmed:
- The Discovery‘s registration (NCC-1031) is only what it is because Mr Fuller’s favourite holiday is Halloween (10-31 in North America and Belize)
- The Discovery‘s sister ship the USS Glenn is registered as NCC-1030, which cancels a direct reference to the clandestine organisation.
And now, allow me to make the case for the organisation’s involvement.
There are only two Crossfield-class ships confirmed to have been in existence: the identical twins the Glenn and the Discovery. Lorca claims, in Context is for Kings that the Glenn is the more advanced of the twins. Okay. Let’s go with that. There is no question that the Glenn was achieving far superior results with their experiments into their DASH-drive — which led to disaster when they crashed into yet-another missed plot opportunity — but here’s another fact I’d like to point out: they weren’t growing their own.
I propose that the Glenn was not as clandestine as the Discovery; rather, the Glenn was an experimental starship commissioned by the more-visible part of Starfleet. While its mission is to experiment with “new ways to fly”, it is more of a cover for the more clandestine Discovery, which is primed to be more of a warship. Now, while that might be speculation (and is), think about it this way: the more-advanced of the two ships would be allowed to take risks with its experiments, which is what the Glenn was up to when disaster struck.
Now, would you send a prototype into war? No. You’d fall back on a successor — one built to learn from the first and make use of its ‘discoveries’. Enter: the Discovery. An off-the-books ship that would make use of the Glenn‘s tactics while the Glenn stays out in the void, continuing its research.
And on that topic: the name Glenn is a sure reference to the late John Glenn, who was, among other things: a highly-distinguished fighter pilot, the first man to make a supersonic trans-continental flight, the first to take the first panoramic view of the USA on that very same flight, the first man to achieve orbit around the Earth, and the oldest person — at the age of 77 — to go to space (aboard STS-95; OV-103 Discovery, no less).
My guess is that Section 31 pushed the Crossfield-class through in order to arrive at the Discovery, using the Glenn as an experimental scapegoat to help them mobilise their hand in the war effort. Now, with the Glenn out of the picture, Starfleet has no option but to lie back on the help Section 31 can provide them with. And that makes for some interesting communication between Starfleet command and the crew of the Discovery in the upcoming episodes, especially when one factors in how Section 31 will deal with Starfleet’s more pressing demands.
And just to finish off my thoughts about the “original plan”, if the Discovery ever was seen and not-named, an easy excuse would be to reveal the Glenn and use it as an alibi for as long as it would last.
Okay, maybe my personal desire to see a Section 31 spearhead at the forefront of Discovery might be making me reach a bit, but in my mind, it’s as good as settled that we’re dealing with Article 14, Section 31 of the Starfleet Charter. But hey, we’ll see.
And just one little titbit about a question left open following the previous episode: did no one ever bring up the obviously-missing Klingon vessel around the Glenn?
I mean… How did the Klingons end up on the ship? Did their ship abandon their boarding party? Did I miss something? Am I over-thinking too much while wrapped up in my theories? Is that even possible?
Yes. I need to stop.
Sleepy-time, everyone. I highly recommend this episode, and I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.