Women of colour passing the bechdel test!
I have so many (only slightly spoilerish) thoughts about the fourth episode of Star Trek: Discovery that I almost don’t know where to begin. Sceptics, begone! Surely this is the episode to show us that the new show can be everything we want it to be?
Words have been written elsewhere about the choice of perspective, with our sole viewpoint character being Burnham, rather than the full ensemble of a senior crew. It is indeed refreshing to be introduced to a Starfleet vessel from the lackey’s perspective, but it also serves to highlight an important thematic point: the crew of the Discovery, and perhaps Starfleet itself, have lost their way. While Burnham alone continues to want to seek out new life, in the form of Ripper, everyone else is focused only on “weaponising” it, or seeing it as a threat. She alone treats it as a possibly sentient being, and she alone embodies Starfleet’s ideals. I love the affinity she has with it, and the parallels between the way she views it and the way others view her. Burnham’s eyes swim as she describes it as just wanting to defend itself, and as, ultimately, peaceful and misunderstood. If the rest of her is Vulcan, Burnham’s eyes are still human- all her emotion is there, and Sonequa Martin-Green is brilliant. During the six months of Burnham’s incarceration, the galaxy seems to have gone mad, and we share her disorientation as we adjust to this version of the Federation.
I know some people wonder why this had to be another prequel (especially to TOS), and feel that this restricts the show. Usually I’m the first to bemoan such decisions, and when I first heard about the new Trek I too was hoping we’d get something post-Voyager. But this episode has won me over, because of the existence of the spores. Something is going to go wrong; hideously wrong. That’s why we don’t have this method of travel in TOS or beyond. Now the threat of what will happen hangs constantly over our heads, and I am sure that the usage of the spores will increase, as will Starfleet’s reliance upon them, and as the stakes rise, so does the tension, and tension (not context- sorry, Episode 3) is king. I was reminded painfully of the usage of Star Whales in this episode of Doctor Who, and I just hope that poor Ripper isn’t put through too much… I don’t think my heart can take it.
I love a good antihero, and I already love Voq. So. Much. Pathos. And again, more parallels- both he and Burnham are outcasts, despised by their peers. Both have lost their beloved mentors, and each has the other to blame for this. I can’t wait for them to meet. The show ended with Voq contemplating Burnham’s image, as the architect of his downfall, and with Burnham receiving a poignant reminder of what Voq has taken from her. I look forward to Voq becoming the crazed Klingon despot he is surely destined to be.