Tuesday, 26 March 2019

TREK REVIEW: Discovery 2-10 - "The Red Angel"


So, there's no way of reviewing this one without dropping some clunking SPOILERS about the ongoing mystery of the series. Well, it's in the episode title. I'm going to hit the spoilers straight away, so I've hidden the review under the page break.




So, the Red Angel's identity is finally revealed, and to be fair, they handled it pretty nicely. Their were a couple of other candidates – Airiam could have been the Angel, and I'm still expecting her to be revived at some point – but Michael was pretty obvious. I should really have seen it coming, though, that her outing as the Angel was a red herring. It's was so perfunctorily announced, right at the beginning at the episode, it just had to be a fake-out. Still, while I was expected some kind of twist at the end, I didn't anticipate that Michael's mum would turn out to be the Angel. All the clues were there in the episode, though: biologically similar enough to Michael to appear to be her on the scans, with a clear reason to keep intervening to keep her alive, and responsible for creating the time travel technology in the first place.

The revelations are handled pretty well generally throughout the script, which is an exposition-heavy as Discovery has been so far, yet well-delivered. Now that the truth of Control's takeover of Section 31 is common knowledge (due to a bizarrely easy job convincing the organisation offscreen), Leland is far chattier than he has been in the past. While it's a bit of a cheat for him to suddenly reveal that the Angel spacesuit (time-suit?) is down to Section 31 R&D, it's exactly in keeping with their ethos to keep it to themselves, and explains why they were so keen to recover the Angel before. Another revelation is that it was Michael's parents who were responsible for that research, which explains why Leland considers himself responsible for their deaths. I am so relieved that he didn't have them bumped off, or anything as transparently villainous as that. Having them die due to a simple oversight while they worked on a mission for him – with the Klingons coming after them for their research – is far subtler and more believable. Still, you can't blame Michael for smacking him in the face.

Of course, Mummy Burnham isn't as dead as we thought, although exactly where and when she comes from is still a mystery, so who knows what lies in store for her. I'm enjoying the time paradox at the heart of this series: the machine race that controls the galaxy in the future seemingly develops from Control, which is only able to reach full sentience due to the future machines' involvement. To begin with, it looks like the Red Angel is the same, ensuring her own existence by saving Michael in the past, but then it turns out it's due to nothing more than maternal protection.

Or is it? While Spock (with prefect deadpan comedic style) ribs Michael on her martyr complex, it turns out that the universe doesn't revolve around her after all. She wasn't responsible for her parents' deaths, she isn't the Red Angel, and to be fair, she wasn't really responsible for the war with the Klingons. Even Spock forgives her for what happened back on Vulcan (finally). But the Angel is still following her throughout history, and there might be more to it than motherly love. I will precisely 0% surprised if it turns out Michael is the one who is destined to save the future.

Although I failed to mention it in my last review, one of the highlights of the last few episodes is the interaction between Michael and Spock. Martin-Green and Peck have excellent chemistry, and while Spock is a bit of a dick in this iteration, we've mostly seen him interacting with family, which doesn't always bring out the best in people. It makes the scene in which they finally reconcile all the more touching and believable. (Weirdly, I kind of want Sybok to show up and add another element to this disfunctional family unit.

I'm not so keen in the more peripheral parts of the episode. It starts with a funeral for Airiam, and again, we just don't know or care about the character enough to make a complete Starfleet send-off impactful. It comes across as overblown and unearned. It does, however, lend a more serious atmosphere to the episode, and for the most part this tone is maintained. Even Michelle Yeoh tones down her performance. Then again, Evil Georgiou is at the centre of the worst scene of the episode. While it's refreshing to have Star Trek characters talk frankly about their sexuality, the bizarre conversation between Georgiou, Tilly, Culber and Stamets is crassly scripted and delivered. They might have gotten away with it on The Orville, just about, but this was just poor. It's also clich├ęd beyond belief – shifty Mirror Universe characters are always bi/pansexual, and I'm pretty fed up with that being a shorthand for weird and/or evil. Anyway, it would have been much funnier if Mirror Stamets had just been straight. Also, isn't Georgiou's identity meant to be a secret? Pretty much everyone seems to know who she is now, except for Pike.

There's a nice scene between Culber and Admiral Cornwell, although I struggle to listen to Jayne Brook lisping her way through sincere dialogue. Still, it's about time Hugh got some sort of counselling. But let's be honest, this whole episode is about Burnham, up to her ludicrously over-the-top attempt to almost kill herself so the Angel shows up to rescue her. I almost hoped they cocked it up and she actually died, that would have screwed things up good and proper. However, it worked, with the Red Angel ghostbusted into containment, which leaves us four episodes for the Disco crew to work with her to save the galaxy. Should be a walk in the park.


General observations:

  • Michael's father theorised that technological leaps are the result of time travel. Well, Riker and co. helped Zefram Cochrane make his first warp flight, and the computer revolution in the 20th century was due to the crash of the 29th century timeship Aeon, so he may be onto something there.
  • Starfleet and the Klingons were in a time travel technological arms race twenty years ago. In the final episode of Voyager, it is a Klingon who finally cracks controllable time travel.
  • Lt. Nilsson takes Airiam's position on the bridge... so actress Sara Mitich takes back her old post.
  • What the hell came out of that retina scanner at Leland? Jeez, that was nasty. They'd better not kill him off, he's about the only thing that can make a Section 31 series worthwhile.
  • Glad to see they still wear suits and shirts in the 23rd century, and Culber looks amazing in his.
  • Somehow, Ethan Peck makes a spacesuit look hot.

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