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Star Trek: Discovery -Stormy Weather & ... But To Connect - 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 “Stormy Weather”:

Stormy Weather took time to explore Book, Zora and Gray this week in an emotional episode that was a testament to the mostly solid season so far – a largely standalone episode that was still relevant to the plot, giving some significant character moments that do advance the arc in a relevant manner.

This has been a turbulent season for Book and he’s been pushed to the wire, but this episode allows him to slow down and breath when faced to an interaction with a ghost of his father, that may or may not be in his mind. His father is bringing out the side of Book that was left behind before he joined up with Michael and Starfleet, and that was a fascinating exchange where Book is told he will be pressed into a choice between his desire for revenge for his people and to get answers about what caused the DMA and his relationship with Michael, who is wrapped up with Starfleet and will put the organisation first and foremost. It’s been fun witnessing these two characters on the same page for now; but Discovery has been hinting of a split in their dynamic for some time now.

The faceless DMA has meant that this season is so far lacking a big bad of the likes of the Klingons or the Red Angel, but it’s found a way to replace that with memorable villains of the week. The story itself feels more like a classic Voyager with a problem that needs to be solved – how does Discovery manage to escape from the problem that it’s currently facing in the middle of the aftermath left by the DMA? They’re able to determine that its origin, as feared – exists outside the universe, but we’re still no closer to getting an actual answer other than ruling out familiar Trek villains. One thing that I really appreciate Discovery doing this season is not relying on the old aliens that we’ve seen so many times previously, it feels like it’s looking forward rather than Picard, which has been looking back for much of the first season. You want familiarity? That’s the show for you –whilst if you want a show that’s self-aware of the genre that it’s in with a lighter tone, that’s Lower Decks. None of the three shows – and hopefully Prodigy too someday, although that isn’t available in the UK yet meaning I haven’t been able to watch it – has its own voice.

Adira stepping in on the bridge was fun – their excitement was brilliantly conveyed, but it did leave Gray with a problem – everyone else on the ship is a Starfleet officer or has clearance like Book. Gray does not – and is left behind to solve the crisis on his own. He comes up with a novel solution using his training as a guardian, combining religious and science techniques to teach Zora how to control her own problems and wrestle with human emotions and feelings as any show with a central ship with an artificial intelligence that has a human-sounding voice must do at some point (see also: Legends of Tomorrow).

It was great for the series to finally give a significant amount of material to not only Gray with someone outside of Adira, Stamets and Hugh for a change, but also Annabelle Wallis, who – as Peaky Blinders fans will know – can sing, so got to deliver a rousing Stormy Weather to guide Michael on her solo mission. Stormy Weather has more of a connection to Discovery than you’d expect, as per the Memory Alpha wiki, Lena Horn, who sang her version of the song in the 1943 film, is the grandmother of writer/producer Jenny Lumet.

Jonathan Frakes has been a regular behind the camera and it’s no surprise that Stormy Weather is one of the better episodes of Season 4 so far, his episodes have always upped their game and writers Anne Cofell Saunders, Brandon Schultz deliver a solid effort. One thing that I’ve always appreciated is the time that Discovery takes to flesh out the crew of the ship – we’re four seasons in and any of these hints that establish who the regular Discovery officers are is always welcome. The montage of seeing the various crewmembers getting ready following the call to arms was welcome – and a highlight of a solid episode that did not skip on the character building.

Star Trek: Discovery 4.07 “…But to Connect

… But to Connect continued the Zora-centric duology that has bookended the middle of this season with a development that revelled in giving Annabelle Wallis more time in the spotlight. After being helped by Gray in the previous episode to understand and control her emotions, Zora now presents a threat to Discovery: what if she gets angry at the crew and threatens them? Stamets is part of the negative backlash against Zora’s newfound emotions – in part due to the relatively recent experiences of the AI known as Control. But what makes Control different from Zora is that Control had no emotions – Zora does, and she views the Discovery form as being something that she has always felt more comfortable with in the same way that its crew have felt the most comfortable in their forms.

She does – to ease their worries, propose a solution: a built-in fail-safe that would terminate the program should something go wrong but provides another shock: Zora’s core programming as stated by her is: to care for the crew of Discovery, something at odds with the core programming of any vessel. And one step further, there’s another shock: she gave herself those parameters. An early highlight here is Stamets trying to convey his fears of Zora without her overhearing by inviting Saru and David Cronenberg’s Kovich into a group hug – much to their shared confusion.

It’s still great, even two seasons in – that Cronenberg is a recurring cast member on this show that includes the occasional appearance by Tig Notaro (severely underutilised this season, likely due to availability) in addition to Annabelle Wallis’ voice-acting role, and bringing in these experienced talents gives Discovery an air of familiarity – although if we end the show without letting Cronenberg direct an episode that will be a severely missed opportunity.

Meanwhile the Federation, with Earth now a member represented by a familiar face – last season’s Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole) – has pulled together its resources to take on the unknown threat of the DMA. Ndoye, suggests an all-out assault on the DMA – but such an idea is quickly dismissed. A more feasible solution presented in a cocky, arrogant way comes from none other than the cocky, arrogant Ruon Tarka – back from All is Possible with a recreation of a isolytic weapon, in a callback to Star Trek: Insurrection. Tarka questions the Federation’s morals versus its need to act – in a strong corresponding thread with Zora’s arc. Once again – another perfect example of the A and B plots of the episode merging with one, even if this episode progresses the overall arc of the season a little more than the last few have.

The friction between Book and Michael keeps on coming as the two are split between each other on their methods. Book wants the more direct approach, and he calls Michael out on it – their differences as characters were pronounced in the previous episode and only become more apparent here – the tension only amplified by the fact that President Rillak abstains, but says that Michael has enough sway due to her status to likely sway the Federation one way or another. Whilst Michael talks with the more peaceful Rillak, Book exchanges words with Tarka – creating two completely different duos that now leave me wanting a Tarka/Michael and Rillak/Book episode to shake things up a little.

But it does pave way to present a fascinating look into Tarka’s true origins: a parallel universe, but not the mirror verse, one without the Burn. This inevitably ties him closer to the DMA than suggested given the DMA comes from outside the known universe and makes him suspect number one but gives him a past, with a scientist like him who was also held captive. Unfortunately – only Tarka was able to escape his past imprisonment, but it gives him an explanation for his harder edge whilst also showing a softer side that has reason to believe in optimism.

I do like that the writers are seemingly aware that the “threat causing the end of the universe” plot can only be employed so many times before it loses steam, and Discovery’s slower pace this time out comes with a welcome breath of fresh air. At this midpoint last time out, we were in the backend of it - Unification III and Burnham had been demoted from her position of first officer. Now, it seems as equally as forward moving – just approaching it from a different edge.

Book pushes the Assembly hard for Tarka’s plan on behalf of those who were lost on his homeworld, earning applause for his status as a speaker of the dead – manipulated cleverly by Tarka’s people. I hope this doesn’t backfire on Book, but Tarka has been a clever manipulator as any this season. But it places him into a direct conflict with Michael – who knows full well what she’s doing.

We also learn that there is a sector that has appeared as part of Zora that wasn’t there previously, and the answer is a flashback to the past – when Discovery first encountered the sphere and came to the future. Hugh realises that it’s Zora’s subconscious – dreams? The answer of course means that these images give Zora her core values and what she prioritises – the ship, the people and its crew. It’s a wonderful touch to give Zora more emotions like this – but Stamets voices an objection: she could be cherry-picking things that they want to see, and that trust goes both ways. Kovich on the other hand, believes that there’d be a tell. Connection and love are part of who Zora is, and this is why she kept the connection hidden – and they eventually come to an understanding about the coordinates that were kept hidden.

Kovich’s evaluation in turn is now complete – and makes a statement that Zora is in turn, a new-life form, meaning that Starfleet’s rule against AI would not apply in this case. It’s a get-out clause, but one that will hopefully only lead to a more active role for Wallis in Discovery going forward – and with all this forward momentum, I would like to think that Zora will have a key significance in the backend of the season. But she’s now a member of Starfleet – bound by the same rules that govern them all. The failsafe is removed by the end of the episode – not by Zora. Had Stamets not come to an agreement with Zora – he would be reassigned to a different ship.

However; after the increased material as of late it’s a shame to see what looks like another not-a-goodbye goodbye for Ian Alexander’s Gray. It was always inevitable that Gray would move to join the Guardians as was his dream, but it creates a space for Adira going forward without the character there – that Gray’s quick to ask them how they feel about a long-distance relationship. Alexander hasn’t always been given the most prominent of arcs on this series, but his presence will still be missed. Both characters and their relationship, whilst unique, has felt underdeveloped at times this season with lots of wasted potential.

But just as one connection is made clearer with artificial intelligence failing to define Zora, the core relationship of the past two seasons of Discovery is broken apart. Michael’s message is a core value of the Federation, arguing that those ideals should be guided by it and fear should not guide them in this moment, standing against Book’s violent approach. Down to a vote, Michael’s influence wins over Book’s speech – and Rillak hopes that those who voted for a more aggressive approach will work with those who voted pacifist. Discovery puts both characters in a difficult position where you can clearly see an argument for both sides being in the right, but time will tell here on how this plays out – it’s way too early for an answer yet. But Book isn’t one to take things lying down – he leaves Discovery with Tarka and Grudge on a mission of act first, think later. Where is Tarka headed off too? If not the Mirror universe, where is he from? It feels all-too tantalising the prospect that he comes from a familiar one – that of the original series for example, or the Kelvin timeline. So many unanswered questions still linger in this second half of the season, which we’re now well into. It's a shame we just have to wait unitl Feburary to find out what comes next.


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