a review by the Crow.
Captain‘s log, Stardate 96822.15: We find ourselves still struggling to return to The Corvid Review; but it isn’t for lack of trying. While I have been away, the Azure-Winged Magpie has been hard at work on very in-depth review of Star Trek: Nemesis. While we are still a few days away from the completion of her utter destruction of the movie (a treatment I would have thought more appropriate for Star Trek: Insurrection), I’ll be releasing a review of Jordan Peele’s latest movie, Us, tomorrow evening.
With that out of the way, let us finally meet the entity who’s been sending the crew of the USS Discovery on their many quests, in:
The Red Angel
SPOILER LEVELS at MODERATE
The Red Angel is an episode of let-downs and twists-in-the-tale. Last week (while my review was cut short), I — like so many others — had thought that Cdr Ariam 2.5 (Hannah Cheesman)’s body, in addition to the memories she left behind on the USS Discovery (NCC 1031) would amalgamate into the entity we’ve come to know as the Red Angel. And it would have been a good story, albeit one missing the core element of us not really ‘knowing’ Ariam for too long. There were callbacks to the Short Trek episode (Calypso) featuring a far-future version of the Discovery‘s computer, and I was sure we’d cracked it. But it’s only moments after Ariam’s funeral — punctuated by an oddly-well-renditioned “song” by Cdr Saru (Doug Jones) — that the theory is dashed. It turns out weve gone the obvious route, with Cdr Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) herself being identified as the person in the suit by Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman), based on Ariam’s memories.
Ever since An Obol for Charon, I was convinced that Ariam would be the Red Angel, despite her lack of development (at least I know she’s a fierce Kadis-Kot player after the first match). In light of this latest episode, I have to hold up my hand.
I was wrong. And gravely so, at that.
Section 31 — embodied by Captain Leland (Alan Van Sprang) and Empress Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) — returns, and they’re actually rather helpful, this time. Spock (Ethan Peck) continues to grow on me, and has his best outing yet in this episode. Dr Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) share a moment which leads me to think that the Culber/Stamets (Anthony Rapp) storyline might actually become a strong subplot for this season, as silly as the manner in which it has returned might be.
But as fine as all this is, let’s cut to the beating heart of this episode: the matter of Burnham’s origin.
It’s revealed that Michael Burnham is intrinsically connected to the Red Angel (or “Project Daedalus”, as it’s otherwise known). Project Daedalus was a Section 31 operation intended to explore time travel-related defence, in response (as many great scientific leaps are) to the Klingons’ exploring similar technology. And as it happens, Burnham’s parents, Leland, and Burnham herself are connected to it by a great many strings. The death of Burnham’s parents act as the focal point for the emotional weight of the episode, and I doubt anyone didn’t find a great deal of satisfaction for the “punctuations” Burnham leaves Leland with following the revelation of the truth. It truly is a shame Spock missed it, but we all know he’ll be entertained later down the line. (Of course, it must be stated that in the very next scene of Burnham venting her frustrations, it becomes very clear that Ms Martin-Green’s “form” is sorely lacking.)
I’ll return to Project Daedalus once I’ve gone over a few other things.
There are a good number of character moments in the episode, but most of them play out as set-up for larger arcs. The scene involving Georgiou, Stamets, Tilly, and Culber is just… strange, yet entertaining. It involves some choice acting and perhaps the worst line ever dropped in an episode of Star Trek so far (and there have been many over the years). I don’t think I can emphasise just how bad this line is, so I’ll just quote it and let it sink in.
Don’t be so binary. In my universe, he was pansexual,
and we used to have DEFCON-level fun together.
And you too, papi.
— her most Imperial Majesty, Mother of the Fatherland, Overlord of Vulcan, Dominus
of Qon’oS, Regina Andor, Emperor Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius
Where is the Azure-Winged Magpie when I need her? That middle part needs her touch.
Forget Stamets. I need medication after that line.
Stamets’ “neurotic” defence of the scenario is simply hilarious, as is Tilly’s teenager-style reaction to the situation. But that line. That line is burned into my mind, now. I’ve let go of complaining about Star Trek: Discovery‘s “choice” writing for a while, but moments like this (and the general “density” of characters) makes me want to burst into whichever room the team uses to write in and teach them a few things about writing.
In other news: Mr Cruz continues to grow on me, and apart from Shazad Latif (whose range has not been explored much this season)’s Ash Tyler/Voq, and Anson Mount’s Captain Christopher Pike, he might be my favourite performer on the show. He falls into the same boat as Mr Mount, showing off a more ‘naturalistic’ shade of acting when compared to the more explosive performances of Mr Latif. Cdr Nhan (Rachael Ancheril)’s little arc of character is put to bed adequately, and Sonequa Martin-Green oscillates between having a good performance, and a strangely subpar one. While I’ve had my issues with her performance in the show throughout its run, she has been settling in with each episode. In The Red Angel, she at times shows brilliance, before lapsing into moments which could very well be hilarious if the context was skewed even in the slightest. I don’t know what went wrong, but she brings it in strong at the very end, and I’m averaging her performance up to a “decent” as far as this episode is concerned.
Sara Mitich (formerly Lt Ariam 2.0) returns to the Discovery — repackaged — as Lt Nilsson, for which I am nothing but glad. I was a little disappointed that she had left the show after Season 1, but her job was admirably picked up by Ms Cheesman. The fact that she’s back might mean that there are plans for the woman in that station, but that might just as easily be a stretch. Hopefully, something comes of it.
Now, to return to the matter of Project Daedalus. A plan is concocted (one that makes sense, Treknobabble aside), and as has been happening with increasing regularity, it comes together without any real trouble. However, there is one element that bewilders me. What exactly happened aboard the NCIA-93? Don’t tell me that was just comeuppance of some form. Tell me that’s the version of CONTROL we’ve been long-fearing. If it’s a throwaway scene, I’ll be quite upset.
I won’t spoil the ending, of course, but I will say that I did not see the bait-and-switch that Discovery just pulled coming. This IS unexpected.
After all the thinking I did about Ariam 2.5, Zora (Annabelle Wallis), the Discovery‘s shipboard AI, and time travel. After the way the episode set Burnham up as the “golden child” around whom the universe revolves (technically, everyone acts as this, from the frame of their own perspective — just ask your local physicist), the reveal hit me out of nowhere. It was a moment that made me lean into the screen to try and make out what they were going for until Burnham breaks the moment with her final line.
This is a twist done well. A round of applause is deserved for this moment alone. Where they’re going with it, I can see a little, but I’ll leave it up to the team behind Discovery to surprise me. (And don’t worry, Burnham is still the centre of Discovery‘s small universe.)
All-in-all: The Red Angel isn’t a very strong episode, but it’s a very good one. There were some things I would have done differently, especially when it comes to the pacing of the first third, and one scene transition that might earn the editor the sort of treatment poor Captain Leland receives in the episode. It’s yet another significant step in the overarching narrative, and is definitely the “hinge point” for the season. Whatever happens in the next episode (Perpetual Infinity) is going to set up the final conflict.
It really is the ending which makes the episode, and I can forgive the mistakes it made because of it. For the first time in a long while, I can say that I’m excited to see where the show goes next.
Midly-related, but it’s something I should mention. I let something slip in one of my previous reviews about a certain “writer’s group” and “ideas” that have appeared in Star Trek: Discovery. It was quashed a little over a year ago, and I thought that was the end of it. However, it seems that it’s returned. I can’t talk at length about it at the moment, but perhaps (and it’s a big perhaps), a few years from now, we’ll have a lot to talk about. In the meantime, I’d like any and all Andorians to raise their hands.
Until next time. LLAP.
— Crow out.
THE CROW: 5.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: TBA/10
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- 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
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- Star Trek: Discovery — Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
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- Star Trek: Discovery — Into the Forest I Go
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- Star Trek: Discovery — The Wolf Inside
- Star Trek: Discovery — Episodes 11 — 15 Round Up
- Star Trek: Discovery — Short Treks
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E01: Brother
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E02: New Eden
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E03: Point of Light
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E04: An Obol for Charon
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E05: Saints of Imperfection
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E06: The Sound of Thunder
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E07: Light and Shadows
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E08: If Memory Serves
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E09: Project Daedalus
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Star Trek: Insurrection
- Star Trek Beyond