Well, folks. That’s a wrap. The final episode of the half-season. And the last article I’ll be penning for Geekadelphia.
Somehow giving a play-by-play review of the last two episodes seems counterproductive. It doesn’t feel like a fitting ending to this whole magilla. So instead I’m going to keep my opinions big and broad and thematic. I’m going to forgo the details. You want details? Watch the episode.
I started writing these reviews for fun, back in the Game of Thrones days. And it was fun. Mostly because Game of Thrones is eminently writeaboutable. It’s designed to be written about, in fact, coming of age as it did in these golden years of TV writing, where brainy couch potatoes summon meagre livings by describing to you the many hours of TV you’ve already watched.
Sounds a little cynical. But it’s a blast. Even when you’re not making any money doing it.
Star Trek Discovery has been a little different, though. It’s more difficult to write about – predominantly because it’s more shambolic in its plotting, and sports opaque characters unfettered by the weight of dimensionality. But more than that – STD doesn’t invite much analysis either. Or, put another way, it’s not as welcoming to it. There’s just not a lot of there, there. For nine weeks, it’s been telling its audience to relax – take it easy – just sit back and enjoy yourselves. And looking back, I realize that that’s precisely what I don’t like about it: Star Trek Discovery doesn’t want you to think all that hard.
As a result, I’m often bored watching it.
It’s not a bad show. But it isn’t good, either. Nor does it seem all that interested in becoming good: crafting characters who behave out of well-defined psychologies… plots that adhere and react to those behaviors in a manner both conceivable and creative. I’ve mentioned how much I’d like STD to slow down. Pace itself. Spend a B-story filling out its characters a bit. Use the grand swath of the stars as a canvas to tell little stories about interesting people amid the pomp and grandeur and opera.
When STD has done this, it’s been mostly successful. It’s certainly when I’ve cared the most. When it hasn’t – it’s focused its attentions on the most unoriginal and boring tropes of violence, binary morality, and cheap and cynical story elements it clumsily packages as “darkness.”
It’s not that STD isn’t Star Trek. I don’t know what that means. But it definitely isn’t good Star Trek.
I don’t need it to be the progressive lecture it was in the 60s. Nor do I need it to be the oatmeal, PBS hope factory of the 90s. But I do need it to be the kind of story that doesn’t think those two impulses are dumb. Or boring. Or naïve.
The world is already dark and ferocious and cynical enough, filled with dimensionless bad actors driven by myopic and base impulses toward an uninteresting and violent conclusion. If Star Trek Discovery is going to traffic in these stories… let it have something to say about them. And if it has nothing to say… let it not say anything at all.
Indeed, there’s so much to be said. About its characters most of all.
Sonequa Martin-Green has met every challenge of her character – both her complexities, and the banal contexts into which she’s so often thrown. She is a remarkable actor who is shining brightly through an unremarkable series. I look forward to the rest of her career.
Stamets began as a slightly troubled character – yet another instance of a cantankerous genius, the mad-scientist trope, leavened with a dash of crisp sass. Thrilled as I was to see that Star Trek would be introducing its first gay character, I was concerned that his sexual identity would be the only identifiable badge to him. And that’s Stamets… he’s the gay one. That kind of othering isn’t helpful. Nor is it interesting. But STD managed to introduce his relationship with Culber with ease and grace – two sweeties brushin’ their teefs. Tender. Domestic. Boring. That’s what real life looks like: a bunch of shit you don’t feel like doing, ideally done with someone you adore.
But like I said, Stamets’ sexual identity is merely an aspect of his character. STD spends the majority of its time exploring Stamets as a scientist – fizzy and wonderdrunk on his narrow, bottomless corridor of study: space mushrooms. As clunky as the whole spore drive thing has turned out to be… there’s something utterly enchanting about seeing Stamets submit himself to his own experiment – accepting the dangers not only to himself but his relationship. He’s literally in the middle of a great discovery… and the costs to him are terrifyingly personal.
Anthony Rapp has, in recent days become quite the subject for scrutiny and study as well – his accusations against Kevin Spacey have helped to unearth Hollywood’s sick, criminal, rapine demimonde. This is vitally important, and his courage in coming forward should be commended. But as important as it is, I hope it doesn’t overshadow the good work he’s done on this show. Anthony Rapp is a joy to behold on screen – charming, buggy, irascible, and brave. I hope to see him in bigger and better stories in the years to come.
I’m not sure I’ll continue watching Star Trek Discovery, now that I’m no longer expected to write down my views on it. I’ll certainly continue writing about pop culture. Hopefully I’ll see you on some other site soon. But as for my days aboard Discovery, well… the next half-season will decide just how long I plan to serve. I’ve packed up my telescope. Just haven’t boarded the shuttle is all.
I hold out hope, though, that the writers and runners of the series will realize what’s working, and build up from that. I hope to see good stories told about real people in a morally opaque universe… working toward a greater notion of our shared humanity, and a more equitable, just, and ideal state for all.
I hope that for Star Trek Discovery.
Shit, I hope that for all of us.
Thank you all for reading.
It was… fun…*
Panebianco to Bridge. One handsome gentleman to beam out.