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Star Trek: Discovery - All is Possible & The Examples - Review

Note: as an international viewer, these reviews are written in conjunction with Star Trek: Discovery's premiere on Pluto TV rather than CBS All Access. The latest episode airs tonight on Pluto TV in the UK from 9pm - so I have not seen it as of writing and is repeated on consecutive days throughout Saturday and Sunday. Please keep all spoilers of the latest episode to the relevant discussion thread outside of this review.

Star Trek Discovery All is Possible – Review:

Star Trek: Discovery’s previous episode were exciting and very much classic Star Trek. Splitting the drama between a political heavy reunification episode and the academy cadets working together, overcoming their differences and saving the day was something that we’ve seen time and time again in The Next Generation, but for a reason - it’s a formula that’s easy to get right – hence why it has been so popular and get right they did, pairing up Tilly and Adira in yet another grouping of characters that we haven’t seen together much before with great results.

The action on the ground was pretty cool – Tilly and Adira worked together well and the episode proved to be a great learning experience for both – overcoming differences both internal and external was All is Possible key theme, and it do so marvellously with the storyline on the ice world mimicking the political power play. Adira and Tilly’s anxiety issues were both presented in different enough ways that made big leaps forward for the characters – Tilly got to experience more challenges as she worked out what her next step was – to the point where she was even offered a teaching position at the new Starfleet Academy, and Adira, now without Gray for the first time, faced the pressure of making friends. Turns out surviving a life or death situation together gives them good bonding material to go over and they pulled through admirably – the initially awkward differences between the group of Cadets aside. Having one of these Cadets be a former enemy is classic Trek – and bringing depth to Harral echoes plenty of past Trek veterans such as Seven of Nine and Worf, most notably.

This felt very much like an epilogue to the Burn fuelled storyline of series three, which did kill a bit of the momentum of the ongoing story arc of the main series but allowed for some good downtime (a team-building exercise is *very* different from my downtime, which at the moment consists of binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale and playing large amounts of Football Manager ’22) and an excellent episode that allowed Mary Wiseman to shine. The elevation to Lieutenant had been her goal all along – so what now, that she had her position? A constant over-achiever, Tilly has strived for more each time out – so the prospect of being an Academy teacher almost seemed too good to turn down. Being told that the crew of the Discovery was the right beacon of hope that this next generation of cadets needed to take the Federation back to where it belonged was an inspirational moment at the end of the episode that highlighted the show and its characters objectives – to see the best in people – and this was a great way to cement that trust in the crew had been earned by pretty much everyone across the universe – seeing such an inspirational figure they’ve become almost reminded me of The Last Jedi, with the Cadets witnessing Tilly and Adira in person echoing that of Finn and Rose’s first meeting when Rose believes she’s talking to a legendary hero when Finn is just trying to save his friend.

Of course, everyone else doesn’t remember a life before the Burn and still has those attitudes that they have to one another – there were some toxic attitudes going into the negotiation table this week, and it might just have been me but there were a lot of real-world comparisons especially in regards to the UK Brexit situation right now, with NiVar looking for a get out clause from the Federation so that they could leave at any time. The conflict between the two factions threatens to turn sour – but an obvious solution presents itself, even if the trust between President Rillak and Michael really should be in a better place by now otherwise why is the President even letting her be there in the first place? The consistent theme of togetherness worked here though – far too often Discovery’s A and B plots have felt disjointed with each other but that is not the case with All is Possible, they’re firmly aligned and on the same page. Working together by talking to each other has been the main theme of this series and Discovery has never tried to hide it, but this might be the bluntest example of that theme yet.

It’s really good to see that Mary Wiseman isn’t leaving Discovery. Tilly has been a fascinating character on the show and her growth has – like everyone, been excellent – although she may be gone from the crew for the time-being. Much of this episode felt like it could have been a farewell for Tilly which was what made it so worrying – it’s hard not to see the Academy playing an important part in this Season.

I really liked that more people are spending time with Culber this season and the scenes between Book and Hugh were quieter, but simpler moments that saw a shared bond between the two – the counsellor position suits Culber perfectly. Culber brings up the grieving process and the two share their past – whilst admitting that it will take a long time for Book to come to terms with what he’s lost.

Who’d have thought that Bajor and the Cardassians would be getting along and at peace, though? Time changes a lot of things, it seems.

Star Trek: DiscoveryThe Examples – Review:

The Examples was another classic example of the show following a more The Next Generation-style format, giving a problem in the episode for the characters to solve and having them solve it bringing the message of the Federation to a faraway world in the need of danger whilst raising plenty of moral questions. The Examples, penned by Kyle Jarrow – sent Book and Burnham along with a group of other Starfleet personell into the middle of a prison colony for an episode that felt very much like a side quest from Mass Effect, sharing similar visuals.

The episode itself was fairly straightforward, much like All is Possible, exploring the differences between Michael and Book make it complicated – the theoretical perspective of allowing a prisoner to choose his death or saving everyone weighs heavy on Book’s mind, especially after he’s just watched his own planet die. Making clear differences between our two leads is fascinating, and a welcome update to the Picard/Riker, Kirk/Spock dynamic of old. Michael and Book very much fulfil that role with Saru’s capacity reduced, Tilly off at the Academy and Pike left several centuries in the past. Their mission to rescue a group of imprisoned Akaali on a colony on the edge of the DMA’s path felt like a Mass Effect side-quest again, slowing down the main narrative to explore a key ethical dilemma about what to do with the titular Examples, criminals arrested for life for petty crimes. The Federation previously had no jurisdiction but now they do – and trusting Michael and Book is hard-won. Learning that the ring-leader, Felix, is a committed murder, makes everything happening on the planet so much more interesting – Discovery can easily let the other prisoners free, but Felix? Especially after what he did? It’s a lot harder – and it’s a problem that feels wrapped up by the fact that he’s staying on the planet where he committed his crime, knowing that there’s a chance he could die. But it raises a question: does he deserve to be saved? He’s certainly grown as a character, and he hands over a family heirloom of his victim so the child – now an adult, pregnant – can earn a place on her family tree that she has been unable to achieve until now.

The most crucial aspect to this episode though was the fact that the dark matter anomaly was essentially manmade – it raises the stakes in the form that the world-ending threat may have a purpose, and it may be horrifying. Who in the Trek universe could have created such a force though? Discovery hasn’t faced many of the traditional Trek villains yet since the Klingons and the Mirror Dimension, but we’ll see how that factor into its season going forward. I was enjoying the fact that it was an uncontrollable force of nature, but it wouldn’t be Discovery without raising the stakes every other episode. Admiral Vance though is quick to rule out some of the more powerful familiar faces, but he puts Ruan Tarka (Shawn Doyle) on Discovery, who very much fulfils the eccentric genius type – a hostile scientist is very much needed given that Stamets has lost a bit of his edge, showing perfect character growth, and if you ever wanted to know how Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock would get on with the crew of the Discovery this is probably the closest thing. I did like that he’s not completely one-dimensional and arrogant, and his bonding with both Saru and Stamets was a unexpected highlight, especially with the shouting match between both him and Saru where he pushed him to his limit. Doyle is great at getting the best out of the established cast members and is another addition that feels like he was at home all along.

Dr. Culber may be taking on board all the struggles of the ship’s crew but he’s only human and he’s starting to feel their shared collective weight with endless therapy appointments. This was good to explore Culber as a character as this season we’ve largely had him only really explore others – such as the talk with Tilly in the past. He’s a hard-worker and refuses to give in so easily – making him a perfect match for Stamets, the couple are both career driven and extremely professional and dedicated to their task. Culber is experiencing survivor’s guilt of his own in a callback to the earlier seasons following his traumatic death and resurrection, which would have been ignored in past Star Trek shows – especially Voyager. Here it’s fascinating to watch it still, multiple seasons later, take a personal toll on him. Especially when paired against Tarka – it shows what Stamets could have been had he not mellowed with that humanity, much like the exposure to his mirror self being a key transitional narrative for him.

We’re not quite done with Tarka yet and the shared conversation at the end between Book and Tarka was interesting – I love that David Ajala makes his presence felt in every scene that he’s in and arguably has been the best part of Discovery’s fourth season so far – Book’s character growth alone has been fascinating.


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