This week on Discovery we watched “The Sanctuary”. For the first time this season I cannot point to one thing and say this was magnificent. The action was good, but not great. Of the performances and character arcs, no one’s story really stood out. I can’t say ‘Oh, Burnham’s story was Magnificent’ or ‘They did great with this plot point’. Do not misread this as a criticism. In fact with episode 8 the best parts of the episode lay in its finer points.
One thing I have started paying close attention to is the director. Some name mean little. Others carry great weight. This episode was the latter. Directed by Jonathan Frakes again, I expected great things from this episode. By the end of the episode I could not name any great moments or happenings, but then I thought about it. The success of this episode came from all the little things that were done right, and that too is a Frakes trait. Jonathan Frakes gets it RIGHT! It can be the story points, or it can be the small things that endear the characters too us. These small things are what this episode did best.
It’s these little things that can really send an episode or series over the top. how the characters interact endears them to the audience and gives them that like-ability factor that becomes very important if a show wants to cement a fan base. So would someone PLEASE! For the love of all that’s Star Trek – Give Jonathan Frakes control of the MOVIE-VERSE!! He proves time and again he knows how to tell the big story as well as the finer points that make stories special. He is the Dave Filoni of the Star Trek Universe.
Finer Points – The Little Things Add Up
One of not only the funniest running gags also ends up being the most important. Well, at least for Star Trek. Every Captain coins a phrase over their careers. It can be for anything. Kirk ended up with “Beam me up Scotty,” and Pike used “Hit it”; However, Captain Picard made the command phrase a signature with his pointing and saying “Engage”. Saru’s quest to find his own phrase in some way breaks the fourth wall of story telling. It does not talk directly to the audience (ala – Deadpool or Harley Quinn), but it still talks directly to audiences acknowledging the importance of the ‘engage’ command. This is one of those small things only a Trekker like Frakes would do.
An enemy surfaces at last. Every show in Star Trek needs an enemy. Sure the Romulans and Klingons are the easy choices, but each show also brought in their own, unique enemy. TNG invented the Borg. DS9 had the Dominion and so forth. In a galaxy as shredded and in chaos as this one, Discovery and the Federation can call the whole galaxy a threat, but at long last we seem to be finding out who the true arch-nemesis will be. Osyrra and the Emerald Chain appear to be the thorn that will complicate the lives on Discovery. While going the crime syndicate route seems more like a Star Wars tactic, the thing I like about this choice is it takes a long established race, the Orions, and stands everything we know on their heads. This fight looks to turn nasty!
This episode also did a nice job of setting up the new Coalition. Starfleet and the Federation used to be names that carried great power and renown throughout the galaxy, but now they are names of disgust and disrespect. Discovery, by coming forward through time, preserves and reintroduces the founding intentions of the Federation. In demonstrating and living these principles, Discovery seems to be leading and modeling these ideal, and they restore faith in a name long disgraced. Discovery will be the driving force going forward that will unite the galaxy once more.
Finer Points – Crewmen Step Forward
No characters had great story arcs this episode, but the finer details of two crewman stood out in how they simply did their jobs. It does not take great depth for great stories. Some times in doing the simpler things well, excellence begins.
Tilly comes to mind first. Last episode Saru offered her the position of First Officer, and it seemed like the right move at the time. In Episode 8 Tilly proves she really was a great choice. She does nothing great. She doesn’t take command of an away mission or Discovery and lead them to a great victory. No. Instead Tilly does her job by listening to the crew and delegating tasks like a true Number One. Mary Wiseman does an amazing job making this believable. It seems obvious Tilly will be great through her heart and compassion. One thing. Can we please promote her?! She deserves to be ranked higher than an Ensign.
Then we have the storyline I’ve been calling for. Sort of. Lt Detmer has struggled in recent episodes. She appears to be suffering from post traumatic stress or some other mental affliction that interferes with her confidence and ability to perform. I was hoping for a bit more story behind her crisis point, but even though it was brief, it proved effective. The confrontation with Osyrra forces Detmer to face her fears and return to the pilot she used to be. I also liked how they et her do it in a a smaller craft instead of Discovery’s helm. She really let loose with her piloting skills in Book’s ship. I loved the scenes of her flying. Grunge continues to be a nice touch every time he pops up as well.
Finer Points – Okay, What the HELL?!
By biggest complaint left me screaming WTF! at the television. Of course it has to do with Georgiou. The trailer for this episode teased her conditioning worsening, so I hoped for some answers. Instead we get some tests, a whole lot of lip and sass, and the diagnosis that she is in fact dying. Dr. Culber pulls her aside to talk, and we find ourselves left hanging for the rest of the episode. Talk about COLD! The only redeeming point in doing this seems to be that the next episode will focus on Georgiou and her condition rather intently.
The last point is the most delicate. We were told this season Star Trek would introduce the first transgender, non-binary character and actor. Episode 8 finally brought up the subject when Adira objected to the usage of the he/she pronouns. Like it or not it’s a polarizing subject, but both Frakes and the writers did an amazing job handling it. They simply stated the issue and moved on instead of making it a major plot point. The writers continue to improve upon the Stamets/Culber relationship as well. They let these things simply exist instead of trying to drive home messages.