Thursday, February 21, 2019

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Discovery' - Saru Returns to His Home Planet and Shakes Up the Balance in 'The Sounds of Thunder'

CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery - Episode 2.06 "The Sounds of Thunder"

When a new signal appears over Saru's home planet, Burnham and the crew embark on a perilous mission that puts Saru in danger and raises questions about the Red Angel's intentions. Hugh struggles to come to terms with his new reality.

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.

"The Sounds of Thunder" was written by Bo Yeon Kim & Erika Lippoldt and directed by Douglas Aarniokoski

This episode really should have been a slam dunk for Star Trek: Discovery. There was the understanding that there would be significant personality changes to Saru after the loss of his ganglia. He is losing his predominate sense of fear. The same is also true of Hugh, who has been brought back to life but feels out of place in his new body. It's an adjustment period for both of them. It's fascinating getting that brief moment of the two talking to each other about these changes. They are going through something no one else can understand. But then, the focus shifts completely to Saru returning to his home planet because that's where the latest signal appears in the galaxy. That's a consequence that can't really be a consequence in the grand scheme of the narrative this season. In fact, this episode presents evidence that the Red Angel may just be a time traveler trying to make their presence known throughout the universe. They appear to be a benevolent presence. And yet, Pike and Tyler are all too aware of just how dangerous this technology could become if used for the wrong purposes. Moreover, the Red Angel appears more as a mystery that needs to be solved or a convenient plot point to skirt any potential consequences. That's not all that exciting. Again, it should be meaningful that Saru is reuniting with his family. He no longer has to be the only Kelpian who is aware of the majestic universe. He can share his life with his species so that they can be just as strong and brave as he is. And yes, the family reunion does receive a lot of focus and attention here. However, Saru and his sister are the only Kelpians seen until the last few minutes when all of the decisions have already been made. As such, it's a little problematic that the Discovery is making a major decision in the hopes of bettering the environment on this planet without really discussing it with the species that will be most affected by it. Saru learned that the fatal disease that infects all Kelpians was a lie built by the Ba'ul in order to keep them oppressed. However, the show is also choosing to be very cagey when it comes to depicting that oppression. Most of the time the Ba'ul come across as mysterious and cryptic villains. They aren't really characters in this story who feel like they have their own distinct perspective. The twist reveals that Kelpians used to be the predators on this planet. There is the fear that once they go through the change they will only wish to attack those who are inferior to them. As such, the Ba'ul managed to condition that out of the Kelpians over many years. Saru wishes to restore the balance by reminding his species of what they are truly capable of. It's a decision that everyone on the Discovery is willing to make because Saru is their friend and the Kelpian who can speak to the truth of this transition. But Saru hasn't been a part of this environment in eighteen years. Nor is he going to stay to see how the consequences play out. As such, the Discovery and the Red Angel pop up in this world and essentially change the balance that may throw both species into a war with each other. They simply figure that it's the right thing to do. But it's also a massive influence that they aren't equipped to or interested in seeing how it plays out over time. They just figure that the species will learn to co-exist and be better than the past. But the show doesn't given anyone enough of a distinct personality to really make that seem like a goal that will actually be done in practice. That means this mostly seems like a wasted opportunity in a story that could have really been great if it was just refined a little more.