The Orville returns this Sunday, followed by Discovery on Jan. 17.
The first quarter of 2019 is going to hurt me. Either that, or there will not be as many reviews as I hope there will be.
The Orville premieres this Sunday (followed by a second episode on its regular night four days later), and then Discovery starts up on Jan. 17. I was able to somehow keep the wheels on in fall 2017 and early 2018 with my schedule and turn reviews out mostly on time (within a few days of episodes airing). Whether I can do that again remains to be seen. Finding time to write is not easy. I can already say it’s not going to be as easy to do this year as it was last year. I have more going on.
So here is the plan, until such time that the plan changes, which is always a possibility. I will continue to put up weekly placeholder posts for comments (with no review) that will go up with each new airing of each episode the night it airs. I will then double back and post a review as soon as possible (hopefully within a few days) after the airing.
There’s a good chance these reviews will not be as long, detailed, or thought out this time around. Almost certainly not as long or detailed, at least. I may have to sacrifice quality and completeness for my own sanity. I hate saying that, but it may be the truth. We’ll see. I predicted that last time around and I can happily say I think the reviews turned out better than I had envisioned at the outset. Maybe that will happen again. But it very well may not, so please be forewarned. Time is the fire in which we burn. I expect to get singed pretty good in the next few months.
We’ll see how it goes…
Ah, to be a fly on the wall in the writers’ room of Star Trek: Discovery. What really happened there? How much of this show grew from Bryan Fuller’s original ideas, and how much of it was scrapped or retooled? Did the writers change the fundamental course of the season midway through, and were they justified in doing so? Did they have to fix things on the fly and figure out ways to fit a patchwork narrative together into something supposedly coherent? Or was this the plan all along? I’m somehow guessing not the latter, at least for some of it.
I ask these questions after having watched "Will You Hold My Hand?" take a season-long arc about Starfleet’s war with the Klingons and solve it in five minutes with a plot device that brings new definitions to the word "contrived." I had hoped this finale would be more resolution than cliffhanger. It was. That’s a blessing, albeit a very mixed one.
“The War Without, The War Within” ends with the Mirror Universe version of Philippa Georgiou being named the captain of Discovery by Admiral Cornwell as an act of desperation to try to turn the tide of the war with the Klingons, which Starfleet is badly losing. It’s yet another episode-ending WTF moment in a season awash in them.
The problem with always dialing up the crazy to 11 is that the audience becomes conditioned to the environment until an 11 just starts to feel like a 5. Making MU Georgiou the captain — in a scene that goes out of its way to make clear that none of the other characters were aware this was happening until it happened (for no good reason except to keep it hidden until the final reveal to the audience) — is surprising, sure. But it’s surprising for perhaps the wrong reasons. We’ve reached the point where we expect some sort of last-minute episode-closing “shock” and the number of available variables in this episode seems to inevitably bring us to this conclusion. Rather, the reason it’s surprising is because it’s so ridiculous that this is alleged as the solution to Starfleet’s war problem.
“What’s Past Is Prologue” is an apt title given all that has happened on this season of Discovery. It’s ironic when considered in the meta-context of this season’s twists and turns, which render entire characters as discarded prologues. The more I look at this season, the more I think the whole thing must be a prologue to a more normalized second season, because this level of crazy just can’t be sustained. This episode is proof of that; after having spent 10 to 12 episodes setting up the pieces that lead here, we promptly close the book on a number of them, for good and ill.
This episode is simultaneously better and worse than I had expected. It makes a mockery of my concept of episodic star ratings, because serialized mysteries and deferred payoffs, while intriguing, are hard to grade from week to week with any sort of consistency. I enjoyed watching this episode probably as much as or more than any this season — and at the same time I was also more annoyed by it. Discovery has shown itself to be a compulsively watchable nuts-and-bolts plot-moving vehicle. And the writers surprise here with a visceral hour that burns through the rest of the Mirror Universe arc at an almost stunningly furious pace, leaving the last two episodes of the season to deal with other business. The writers should be commended for not prolonging this needlessly. It’s an efficient job, and frequently exciting.
The twists and reveals are coming fast and furious as we reach the home stretch of this first season of Discovery. “Vaulting Ambition” is another entertaining hour of an entertaining — albeit significantly flawed — season, and it dives right into the encounters between Burnham and the mirror version of her mentor, Philippa Georgiou. But it will probably most be most remembered and discussed for the reveal in its final minutes regarding Lorca, who, as many had theorized, is actually from the Mirror Universe and has been an impostor playing the part of his Prime Universe counterpart all along.
This reveal and its implications are likely to overshadow a lot of better material in this episode, including tense dialogue scenes between Burnham and Emperor Georgiou, and intriguing scenes within the mycelium spore network between Stamets and his MU counterpart — as well as some emotionally resonating scenes between Stamets and a spore-network presence (in whatever form) of Hugh Culber, who somehow talks to Stamets from beyond the grave.