Star Trek: Discovery goes bananas in a violently lurid spinoff showcase
Here’s one thing I like about Star Trek: Discovery‘s second season: I really don’t know what to expect every week.
The season premiere offered a new serialized mission, and promised to “have a little fun along the way.” Last week’s episode offered an old-fashioned away mission, complete with a debate about the Prime Directive. Both adventures represented a pivot, I thought, away from some of the grim excess of season 1: No Klingons, no fighting, no florid romantic subplots about alien love triangles.
And here comes “Point of Light,” a pulpy, blood-slashing tale of man buns and fungal glorpghosts. I’m no expert on the franchise canon, but I believe that after this episode, the number of Dead Baby Heads in Star Trek history has officially risen to [Count von Count voice] One, One Dead Baby Head, Ah Ah Ah! (Or rather — spoiler alert for all information about decapitated extraterrestrial infants — one fake dead baby head.)
“Point of Light” is probably best understood as a backdoor pilot for Michelle Yeoh’s Trek spin-off, which explains the uneasy narrative balance. The Klingon/Georgiou plot features a whole Game of Thrones season of plot: the secret love child and the secret spy agency, metaphorical political backstabbery and literal political frontstabbery. Meanwhile, on Disco, Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) talks a lot about Spock, and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) finds out her Space Madness is just (sigh) more Spore Stuff.
It’s an episode directed with visual fire by Olatunde Osunsanmi, one of the best genre stylists working in television now. Osunsanmi previously helmed “What’s Past is Prologue,” the exuberant conclusion to last season’s Mirror Universe plot.
That episode plus this one might lead you to think he’s the show’s Designated Fight Scene Guy, but Osunsanmi (who’s also an executive producer this season) has a playful eye for scene construction, and a gift for infusing conversation scenes with kinetic wit. The first bridge scene in “Point of Light” features a long camera movement twirling around Disco‘s officers. When Michael goes to the transporter room, Osunsanmi sends the camera over her shoulders directly into the whirrrring transporter beams — and as the motion continues forwards, we’re suddenly moving in the other direction, back toward Michael’s surprised face.
Unfortunately, most of the action onboard Disco this week is blah serialized water-treading. Mia Kirshner shows up as Michael’s big sister, errr, I mean mother. (I know, I know, Mark Lenard was only a few years older than Leonard Nimoy when he first played Sarek. Still.) And look, if I had to identify one foundational bothersome Disco idea, it’s the ongoing suggestion that Michael can’t go, like, two weeks without her parents checking in on her.
Kirshner’s Amanda is here to talk Spock. Revelation No. 1: He has (apparently) killed some doctors in his Space Rehab facility. Revelation No. 2: Amanda worries her half-human son’s emotionless upbringing left him a wee bit psychopathic. Revelation No. 3: From a very young age, Spock was visited by that angel butterfly entity, which he called the Red Angel.
Now, I’m all for canon-tweaking. If Disco has decided that the Secret History of Spock is he was a teenage psycho killer driven mad by a crimson butterfly spacegod — well, fine, then can we just get there already? So far, the grand plot of this season amounts to people talking endlessly about Various Red Things. We also get another tease about What Burnham Did To Make Spock Mad, which pleasepleasepleaseplease don’t be anything romantic.
Meanwhile, L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) is leading an unsteady alliance of the various Klingon houses, uniting everyone under T’Kuvma’s motto to Remain Klingon. I admit that I’ve lost track of some of the philosophical concepts powering L’Rell’s reign. “Remain Klingon” vibes like a nationalist knives-out eugenics platform. But L’Rell’s chief lieutenant and public sidekick is Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), the not-quite-Klingon-anymore sleeper agent, who’s grown an indie rock beard. And L’Rell and Ash both struggle against what they see as an older coalition of Klingons, dedicated to fading ideals of intertribe warfare.
Making things more confusing, Ash and L’Rell are assisted on various levels by Starfleet. Ash calls up Michael for help, in a tremendous sequence that puts a marvelous visual twist on Disco‘s beloved holograms. Osunsanmi films Michael and Ash in their respective locations — and then pulls back for a long shot that seems to clash both locations together.
Then everything goes just crazy. It turns out that L’Rell and Voq had a child that Ash didn’t know about, and it also turns out one of the other Klingon grandees had sensor implants embedded in his facepaint that he knew Ash would wipe off. This all means that a lot of politicking leads to a fight climax full of gore explosions and one confirmed sighting of Klingon intestines. “Point of Light” ends with L’Rell firmly in charge. We can maybe say farewell to the Klingons now, yeah?
It’s a lot of fun to see Yeoh, back again as the galactic dictator-turned-“security consultant.” And “Point of Light” ends with what looks like a tease towards her Section 31 spin-off, recruiting Ash Tyler into Space Suicide Squad. I dunno. The prospect of watching a show about the Federation’s version of Blackwater leaves me feeling like Star Trek will be the last franchise left riding the “dark and gritty” wave. (Tired: Doing your franchise’s Dark Knight. Wired: Doing your franchise’s Ragnarok.) I’m all for a show about the moral ambiguity of spacefaring on the frontier, but that show was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and I don’t remember seeing any vividly filmed alien intestines on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Like, Emperor Georgiou — based on everything we saw in the Mirror Universe — is a bad person. Not bad like Deadpool, bad like Stalin. But Michelle Yeoh is great! Let’s call this a draw.
What Airiam said this week: “No other propulsion signatures in the sector.” B-