a (somewhat delayed, and very long) review by the Crow.
Captain’s log, Stardate 95642.98: 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.
Captain’s log, supplemental: This will be a spoiler-filled review. Unlike my usual write-ups, I’ll be adding spoilers to the main text instead of a separate section at the end. Tonight, I’ll reserve that space for arguments relating to theories and where the show might take us in the near future.
Captain’s log, supplemental, Stardate 96641.43: This review, and the ones following it, were originally written in January — Februrary 2018, while Series One of Star Trek: Discovery was on the air. However, due to personal issues we were experiencing at the time, they were left unpublished. While this review has been left as-it-was, with only some minor updates added in and the “speculation” section cut out, the others will be combined into a “master post”. Apologies for the delay.
And this week, we continue our adventures in the Mirror Universe, and look for:
DSC-11 The Wolf Inside
Keeping Up the Act
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
The episode begins a few days after the conclusion of the previous installment. Burnham, Lorca, and Tyler are aboard the ISS Shenzhou, parading as their Mirror-Universe counterparts, and the
UISS Discovery is following them, maintaining transporter range. Burnham has accessed files relating to the USS Defiant, but cannot share it with the crew of the Discovery due to the Terran Empire’s paranoid-levels of secrecy.
We encounter mSaru (Note: “m” is the prefix I’ll be using for Mirror-Universe characters, to clear up any confusion), and as expected, he is little more than a slave. He and Burnham bond within just a few encounters, and Burnham gives him a name (slaves have no names in the Terran Empire, so she chooses “Saru”, in honour of “a respected friend”) — which might as well be taken as the first kindness mSaru has ever encountered.
Her relationship with Tyler is also accelerated in this new universe, where “even the light is different”, and all seems to be going alright for our leading couple (albeit, not as much for Uncle Lorca) until orders from the Emperor are sent to the Shenzhou.
And what are these orders? To “lay waste” (a phrase the writers of the show seem quite fond of) to the planet Harlak, where a rebel base has been identified. This base is of particular interest, because it is where the “Fire Wolf” — the Klingon who leads the resistance — is hiding out.
Burnham stops her number one (Commander mDetmer) from unleashing a barrage of photon torpedoes at the planet and getting it over with, and instead decides to go a different route. She says she’ll “infiltrate the rebel base” herself, to find intelligence to “bury the resistance once and for all”.
Seeing how this is the Terran Empire Fleet we’re dealing with, and how mBurnham sounds like a right bully, this is taken on-board by the crew.
Meanwhile, back on the Discovery, Saru and Tilly ponder over Culber‘s death (a fact which they decided to spare Burnham of until her return), and the possibility that it might be his lover, Stamets, who might’ve murdered him. In a scene which I initially found to suffer from a lack of balance (read: bad writing), but softened my stance on upon a re-watch, Tilly takes over Stamets’ care, correctly deducing the fact that Stamets’ condition is not a medical one, but rather a “spore issue”. As the second-best in Engineering, she is, after all, the best person for the job — she argues.
Burnham confers with a much-shaken Lorca in the brig. After a bit of chit-chat and a back-and-forth, it’s decided that only Burnham and Tyler will beam down to the planet to speak to the Fire Wolf — both to buy the rebels some time, and so Michael can discover what has united these diverse species under a single banner (as if it isn’t obvious).
[A COMPREHENSIVE] REVIEW & GENERAL THOUGHTS:
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Plagued by writing issues, still, Star Trek: Discovery continues to have one decent outing after the rest. As some of you might’ve noticed, I’ve been more lenient with my scoring for this series as compared to everything else, and that’s because I have the distinct feeling that the showrunners are having issues really settling into a flow of their own just yet. The writing issues mostly become apparent in two very distinct avenues:
- Dramatic pacing: The scene with Tilly I took umbrage with is a decent example: the speed and tone of the conversation simply doesn’t flow smoothly at all, soft as I have become following my second viewing. The pace at which it begins, and then ends, glancing by an “As You Know” moment right up front, just doesn’t match up. It’s an issue that’s getting less obvious with time, however. More important, is the matter of…
- The dialogue of Michael Burnham: Please can we have some improvement to her character’s lines? Martin-Green is doing what she can to sell the role, but while her character is interesting, and is well-crafted in the idea department, her lines are just so flat, sometimes. Maybe not restricting her to “bookend” lines while writing dialogue scenes would help. I know I’m nitpicking, but it’s high time I pointed this out again. It’s really hurting what could be a great character.
We see the rest of the original Federation member-species, here. Our boys in blue and the Tellarites make their first appearances in The Wolf Inside, and their designs are spot-on. The Tellarites have undergone significant design upgrades while in-keeping with their general look (and finally look interesting!). And the Andorians (click for a massacre) are updated in all the right ways following their meaty appearances in Enterprise.
To add to them, I’m convinced I saw at least one individual who might be from a different species, but then again: it might’ve just been a variant of Klingon armour and face-paint that threw me.
The Fire Wolf — as it happens — is mVoq (who we haven’t seen following Context is for Kings, and has been sorely missed by many — excluding perhaps my old Number One the Raven), and whilst he and mSarek pry out Burnham’s true intentions at their base camp, Tyler is under duress at the sight of so familiar a face. The previous episode confirmed the “A=V theory“, which I was personally a bit 50/50 on, and it comes to head in The Wolf Inside. Voq finally surfaces from within him, following L’Rell‘s attempts upon everyone’s arrival in the Mirror Universe.
The Ash-Voq vs mVoq fight is a short, terse affair, and comes out how it should: with the one who “remain[ed] Klingon” coming out on top. It wasn’t as well-composed as Burnham’s fist-fight from the last episode, but it was a well-created scene nonetheless. It’s been a while since we’ve had a bat’leth vs d’k tahg fight, and I’m all the happier for it turning out the way it does here.
This directly leads into a confrontation between Burnham and Tyler later aboard the ISS Shenzhou, and Shazad Latif’s acting remains on-point throughout. My countryman uses his four voices to great effect: he speaks both Klingon and English as two distinct characters, and makes each voice work as an independent entity. It’s certainly an impressive touch. However, this is where I have to point out something which I think has been left out of most conversations regarding Star Trek: Discovery:
Let’s talk for a while about mVoq, the Fire Wolf: mVoq leads the resistance against the tyranny of the Terran Empire, he’s long been at the spearhead of a quasi-Federation in the MU, leading the coalition of species’ alongside the likes of mSarek (and I hope we see more of mShakur, too). His ‘Lord’ mT’Kuvma fell at some point, just like his counterpart, and mVoq rose up. Oh, and he can also fight something fierce.
Now compare that to our Voq so far, from an objective standpoint…
- Gets beaten unconscious by Burnham after getting the drop on her
- Takes up T’Kuvma’s crusade following the big guy’s death
- Sits around for six months doing nothing but praying for guidance like a muppet
- Falls for Kol’s Academy-Award-level grovelling act
- Has T’Kuvma’s flagship stolen from him and is condemned to death-by-exile
- Ends up stranded aboard the remains of the USS Shenzhou
- Goes along with L’Rell’s plan of making him sacrifice “everything” since it’s obviously the best idea since sliced bread
- Goes through horrific surgery to make himself think and appear as a human
- Which is a true sacrifice, since it goes directly against T’Kuvma’s teachings
- At some point during all of this business, he commits himself wholesale to nothing but revenge
- Smuggles himself onto the Discovery by way of a convoluted plot
- Falls in love with the woman he’s here to kill (not a negative, in context)
- He kills Culber in a moment of confusion (again: not a negative, but just an example of bad Klingon bio/neuro-engineering
- And then, this episode (Ep. 11) happens…
And what happens? The mental struggle between his two personalities finally comes to a head when he sees mVoq, and we have our blade-fight. While Tyler performs well, he ends up getting laid out on the floor at bat’leth-point. Right: that’s a consequence of his nerfed abilities, but the man was also fighting like a madman. That’s never a good thing in a fight against a trained opponent.
mSarek and Burnham convince mVoq to spare him, and our Prime-Universe duo return to the Shenzhou, but only after Burnham asks for the most obvious answer (a greater evil) about how the species’ here united from mVoq. Aboard the Shenzhou, Tyler finally breaks into lunacy, flashing between his “tether” to Burnham, and memories of his old self, until it all becomes clear in his mind. Here he is: alone with Burnham, standing in the room where he swore vengeance upon her following Kol’s betrayal. He finally speaks his “[
an]other name”, is able to disarm Burnham, and is about to go for the kill in all his fanatic glory. And…
he fluffs it.
He allows mSaru to sneak up on him and toss him across the room like a ragdoll before being restrained by two Terran Empire officers. He is subsequently hauled off for summary execution via a rapid airlock-ing.
Okay, let’s face it: this man has failed at EVERYTHING. I’ve said from day one that he’s not very smart, but the plan he’s become involved in makes very little sense as well (L’Rell being as cryptic as she’s been hasn’t helped one bit, either). Was there no option to ensure that the high-stakes gamble Voq and L’Rell were playing would work out?
Now, let’s break this down:
So, Voq commits himself to vengeance against Burnham. He is betrayed by Kol because he’s quite dim. He betrays his Lord’s doctrine of “remain Klingon” and lets (I assume) the Matriarchs of the House of Mokai turn him into a human so that he can infiltrate the USS Discovery. I have one simple question: why?
There are a billion other ways to go about this. Why something so elaborate and confused? Why not go the L’Rell route from Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum? Defect to Starfleet, preferably directly to the Discovery, AS Voq, and work from there? Surely, he could’ve used his knowledge of the Ship of the Dead to great effect to curry favour. I’m not going to nitpick much farther, since one could write a million easier scenarios for Voq to exploit, but I assume my frustration at these choices is made patently clear.
Is this character just meant to be dim? Or is this just poor decision-making and/or bad writing? None of the Klingons have so far shown much mental acumen (T’Kuvma came the closest). It’d be a shame if their entire species is just meant to be dumb as rocks, here. But dim or not, the story could’ve evolved (and hopefully will, since Tyler is where I’d rather Voq had been in the first place) in much more interesting ways.
The only saving grace in all of this is the performance behind Tyler and Voq. I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed how the character has been played. It’s been top-notch. It just feels very rushed so far. Holding off the reveal might’ve been a better choice, but then again: I don’t know if they’ve got something better planned down the line. This could’ve been a far more interesting sub-plot if it was given more time, and thought out a little better.
Now: on to Stamets and his condition. Sure: he’s not dead, but I have to point out a glaring issue I have with the way his “coming back” was handled. Why, after the declaration of his ‘death’, was he left hooked up to the spore drive? Why couldn’t Tilly have just been spending a quiet moment with him in “Med-bay” when he ‘came back’ to life? It doesn’t really make much sense to leave a dead man hooked up to the equipment which helped kill him before clearing out from the room. Anyway, that’s a small nit-pick.
Now what about that Magic Mushroom Forest? And what’s going on with mStamets? Is there a council of Stamets’ who’re working on the finer nuances of using the mycelial network? This, I have little to speculate on, given the lack of concrete evidence. I hope the next episode gives us more to go on.
I’m not entirely sure where I stand on the Treknobabble about the many-worlds Mycelium network. Sure, they’ve made it sound passable, and it’s quite a strong idea. I just hope that they show a bit of restraint, lest the mushrooms spill over and the story becomes too weird to follow. So far, so solid. Hopefully, the Mushroom Kingdom of Paul Stamets’ is handled well.
To quickly touch on another point, here: we saw very little of “Captain Killy” in this episode. While I don’t think there’s too much space for her to manoeuvre, given current events, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a standalone episode featuring the crew of the ISS Discovery in ‘our’ universe.
And on the matter of other points: Tyler/Voq has unknowingly smuggled back the Terran data on the USS Defiant, we’ll get to see some new avenues of Treknobabble soon. I don’t expect the events from The Tholian Web to become a major plot-point again, since it’s already influenced a lot in the universe already, but I do expect some time-travelling hi-jinks to ensue in the coming episodes.
And finally: to the final few scenes. The Emperor’s flagship (is it the the Defiant? Will we finally get to see a Constitution-class in Star Trek: Discovery?) arrives, and strafes Harlak with photon torpedoes. And, we called it: the “faceless Emperor” is none other than mGeorgiou. The way she was played up as being faceless fell a bit flat for me, but the episode played her arrival, and subsequent ‘reunion’ with Burnham quite straight. Nothing about her arrival is out of place, I thought. Well, that is, until I noticed something no one seems to have pointed out.
It’s something that caught me off-guard, and prompted me to wheel back the last couple of seconds to take another look at (which I never do on a first viewing). The moment in question is one I cannot find a screen-cap of, but if one becomes available within the week, I will surely add it to this post. (Still, none are available; 2019)
It’s the expression on the face of one Gabriel Lorca.
Now, since this is something I might be over-thinking, and have nothing but a look to go on, I’ll be reserving my thoughts about it for the “Speculation and Hypotheses” section below (Section left out since it’s pointless). However, I would like to think that nothing framed with such significance during the scene in which Burnham and mGeorgiou meet is there by accident.
To cap off this section and stop myself from dissecting this episode any further, I will simply say that despite my nit-picking, The Wolf Inside is an enjoyable ride. It delivers a lot more than expected, and serves as a perfect bridging step between the Prime and Mirror Universes. I still find ST: DSC to suffer from pacing issues in general, and I’d it took its time between plot threads since everything seems rushed, but I like the show, overall. My final judgement on The Wolf Inside? It comes highly recommended.
Navigating the Parallel Universes
Before I proceed, I should apologise for how late this review’s been in getting out. If I could pick one word to describe The Corvid Review as it has been over the past few months, I would pick: delays. In this case, the delays have stemmed from conflicting schedules, and has led to this post being patched together over a variety of snippets from a variety of devices. Hopefully, by next week, everything will be back in order. But for now, let’s speculate about possible what-ifs that this episode has kicked up. First: Let’s talk about Tyler/Voq.
See you all
next week tomorrow. LLAP.
THE CROW: 7.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 5/10
THE RAVEN: 7.5/10
- Star Trek: Discovery — The Vulcan Hello & Battle at the Binary Stars
- Star Trek: Discovery — Context is For Kings
- Star Trek: Discovery — The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry
- Star Trek: Discovery — Choose Your Pain
- Star Trek: Discovery — Lethe
- Star Trek: Discovery — Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
- Star Trek: Discovery — Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
- Star Trek: Discovery — Into the Forest I Go
- Star Trek: Discovery — Despite Yourself
- Star Trek: Discovery [review hub]
— Crow out.