Star Trek Discovery S02E04 & S02E05: Two very different episodes (both middling)

If you’re following along, here are the previous entries in our reviews of Star Trek Discovery: Season Two…

Star Trek Discovery S02E01 – (oh) “Brother”

Star Trek Discovery S02E02 & S02E03: Its very best and very worst episode!

I think I see the pattern that Discovery’s second season has settled into.

The premiere episode was a messy one, laying the foundation for the storylines that will carry us through the year: Spock is missing, there’s some rocky history between he and Michael, also there’s these weird signal/alien/angel(?!) things that may or may not be the Iconians (but it’s totally the Iconians, come on), and Spock is somehow connected or at least involved with them.

The first episode did a good job explaining all of the varying elements and lighting the fuse to the season, but what it failed to do was provide a compelling hour of television. It’s one thing for a show like Stranger Things or The Crown to have episodes with no clear beginning or ending; they’re meant to be binge-watched in one or two sittings (depending on your level of fandom). You can watch those seasons all at once and treat them like one big ten-hour miniseries.

Discovery, on the other hand, delivers its goods piecemeal. You get an hour, then you get a week to digest it, then you get another hour, etc. In that case, you have to have a strong hour-by-hour show, with well-defined openings and closings and, most importantly, stuff actually happening that is resolved and moves the plot forward.

Episode one failed to do that…

Star Trek Discovery S02E02 & S02E03: Its very best and very worst episode!

Episode two did it to perfection.

The Johnathan Frakes-helmed hour had a stand-alone plot that offered a self-contained little sci-fi story, and even found time to advance the overall arc of the season in between some genuine discussions about sci-fi/philosophical-related things. It was *mwah.* You can’t see me but I’m doing that *mwah* thing where you kiss your fingers after a great meal. If the whole show was just that—great little sci-fi plots with the overall arc peppered in here and there—that’d be just perfect.

Instead episode three happened and everything just grinded (ground?) to a horrible halt.

The arc took center stage and everyone just spun in place for an hour, talking and talking about nothing, doing nothing, going nowhere. Everything ended and it was just such a chore.

Now we come to the next two episodes, and the pattern solidifies: stand-alone, then season-arc; stand-alone, then season-arc; good episode, then bad episode; good episode, then bad episode.

Only in this case the good episode wasn’t very good, it just wasn’t bad, and the bad episode wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.


My overall thought is this: The first half of the episode worked, but as it progressed it became more and more tedious and long-winded, to the point where it felt like the longest fifty-minute episode I’d ever sat through. There were two major stories, both of which were hindered by the other because both should have been given the center-stage and instead both were forced to be each other’s B-story.

On the one hand there’s a big giant thing out in space. It’s weird. It’s scary. It’s going to destroy the ship but SURPRISE it’s actually friendly. It can’t help that it’s destructive. It just needs someone to figure it out and help it. That’s about as “Star Trek” as Star Trek can be. Very good idea. The execution was a misfire but I appreciate the effort. More of that.

On the other hand there’s Saru who suddenly announces he’s dying because the big scary thing out there has screwed with his physiology and triggered a life-killing response common to his species. The trouble here is two-fold. First, no one believes Saru is going to die. Even in a show that has killed off more than a few characters (or so we thought), Saru is so obviously safe because he’s one of the few people on the show whose name everyone knows. I still don’t know the robot lady’s name, nor do I know how she exists in a universe where Data is a hundred years away and supposedly unique.

A story about Saru dying and instead evolving ought to be an A-plot and given twice as much attention as it got. Instead it was a B-story and not given time to breathe in the episode’s first half, and then rushed to a conclusion in the second half. The drama was unearned and unbelievable, ruining whatever effect the writers wanted to get out of it.

The episode earns a 5/10 – solely for the effort put into the Big Giant Thing plot.

Stray thoughts:

  1. Does Number One have a name? Is her middle name “One” the way Kermit’s middle name is “the.”
  2. In the future ketchup bottles will not require begging, pleading, and heavy tapping on the bottom of the bottle. Thank you Zefram Cochrane.
  3. These writers need to learn the difference between a “conversation” that progresses the story and “exposition” that recaps stuff we already know.
  4. Does Discovery really want to turn Dilithium into a global warming analogue? In a prequel series? It’s the stuff that’s going to be used in all future Star Trek shows. If anything needed to be painted in a bad light it should have been the spore drive, but I guess that part’s covered in this episode too, making all forms of space travel apparently mea culpa.
  5. Michael’s very breathy way of talking annoys me.
  6. Why is it the Big Giant Thing managed to knock out all the systems on the ship but we’re still able to lock torpedoes on it and (potentially) blast the thing into a million little pieces? Why do torpedoes still work? Nothing else works but the weapons work? Really?
  7. Again, the plot of the Big Space Thing is a good, old fashioned idea. It’s just held back by the persistent faults of the show: rushed editing combined with dialogue that either meanders or exposits but rarely debates or learns.
  8. The talk with Stamets about how the Jumps are killing the Network is exactly that; just a long string of explanations. It’s lazy writing.


My overall thought is this: The episodes that put the season-long plot front and center suffer the most because there’s just not enough compelling “there” there to keep me invested in the story. That’s it. That’s all I have to say in summary: It’s just a bland, meandering, nothingburger of an episode. It wasn’t offensively bad like Point of Light was, because at least it seemed competently shot and directed, but the meat of the story was hardly meat at all.

4/10 – I was bored.

Stray thoughts:

  1. Still no Spock. This has to be the biggest tease in television history. At this point I’m convinced he’s not going to show up until the final minute of the second-to-last episode of the season, and then we’ll get one full episode with him where he acts wildly out of character for 9/10ths of the episode before the big season-long problem is solved and suddenly he shaves his beard, does his best Nimoy impersonation, and that’s that.
  2. Super Secret Section 31 is back, and for a shadowy organization they continue to be all up in your business and loudly proud with all their cool and special logos that everyone seems to recognize. Remember when DS9 introduced Section 31 and like half of the intrigue was not even knowing if they even really existed? Apparently a hundred years before that, everyone knows they exist.
  3. The “season arc” episodes make me think the writers have about two hours of plot that they’re stretching across fourteen hours of TV.
  4. Why does Stamets need a bullet proof vest to plug into the Network?
  5. The first half of this episode features the same “talking about nothing for way too long” that I’ve come to expect from the show, while the second half switches gears to become RUN FAST BECAUSE LOUD NOISES: THE SERIES, which I’ve also come to expect from this show.
  6. With Hugh almost being forced to die all over again, we now have two episodes in a row where there is a big sad goodbye and then SWERVE it’s fine.
  7. Oh boy. Someone mentioned the possibility of Time Travel. Believe it or not, that’s a trope I would be happy to see Discovery embrace. If this show suddenly did a Battlestar Galactica time jump, and the ship hop-skipped to the 25th Century, I would be thrilled. This show needs to get away from the prequel era because nothing about its tech or its tone fits as a precursor to the Original Series.
  8. Hugh is back. Saved, apparently because the writers are fans of Disney’s most underrated film…

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