Saturday, February 9, 2019

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Discovery' - Saru Faces a Fatal Disease While Trying to Save the Ship in 'An Obol for Charon'

CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery - Episode 2.04 "An Obol for Charon"

A mysterious sphere threatens the U.S.S. Discovery even as May, in her original form, implements a plan that puts Tilly's life in danger. Saru and Burnham's bond grows when Saru is forced to acknowledge a deeply unsettling Kelpien truth. Pike receives new intel on Spock from a loyal friend.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery.

"An Obol for Charon" was directed by Lee Rose with story by Jordon Nardino, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts and teleplay by Alan McElroy & Andrew Colville

This episode features a very emotionally manipulative story in which Saru is struck with an illnesses that appears to be fatal to Kelpiens. It's a familiar plot trope in the hopes of really bringing out the emotions in a specific character and their bonds with the rest of the ensemble. This episode puts Saru and Michael at the forefront. They have become family because of everything they have gone through together. They trust each other completely. They don't keep secrets from each other. It's hard to accept that Saru is dying. And yet, that's the only way he understands this disease. He is a unique Kelpien because he is the first to join Starfleet. He has become a commander and has logged his entire journey in the hopes that future generations of his species will follow his example. He has always been brave and a terrific leader. He has doubted himself. But here, he's the one who is ultimately able to save the ship from the latest threat that they face. He can fix the language translator when it distorts every person and computer. He implements the virus that slows down the progress of the mysterious sphere that has locked the Discovery in place. And he realizes that the sphere is simply trying to upload its legacy before it dies. It doesn't wish to be forgotten in a world that barely noticed its existence. Pike has to take a leap of faith that this sphere doesn't wish to destroy the ship and kill everyone onboard. And ultimately, it pushes them away so that they survive the blast of its implosion. Sure, that's a very simple and clean-cut resolution. It doesn't even cost the crew anything in the long term. They may have lost Spock's immediate location because of this detour. But the sphere also gifts them the way to continue tracking him. So, all of this could appear as nothing more than a brief distraction in order to pad the story out for the season. As such, it clearly has to resonate with the characters. The Discovery still feels very confined in its ensemble and its locations. More of the secondary characters on the bridge are getting personalities this season. That's quite enjoyable. Meanwhile, Jet and Stamets find themselves trapped together trying to save Tilly from May who has attached itself to her once more. That's very precarious. Though it too may just serve as an explanation for why the spore technology isn't common later on in the Star Trek timeline. All of that is mostly just setting up story for the future though. The truly engaging component of this hour is the bond between Michael and Saru. They work together to solve the problem currently facing the Discovery. They recover a ton of information that Starfleet can examine and study for generations. That was them executing the core mission of the Discovery. However, it's much more powerful when Saru and Michael are talking about finding a family with each other. There is the grief that comes from never being able to see home again or mend things with siblings. This story has weight because it truly does seem like the show could be killing off Saru. Now, that would be a mistake and it's great that the show doesn't go through with it. Plus, there are immediate consequences to all of this as well. It's not just an episodic story in order to manipulate the audience. There are going to be lingering side effects for Saru. His ganglia fall off which immediately make him feel powerful. He suddenly has a new understanding of his species. He believed he was fated to die. And now, he knows that they no longer have to be considered prey in the universe. That may empower him in a way. However, it also runs the risk of him course-correcting too much which could lead to even more devastating consequences at some point this season. That's very exciting to think about.