Monday, November 19, 2018

Short Treks: Calypso

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlDiscovery Short Trek
Calypso
Airdate: November 8, 2018
2 of 4 produced
2 of 4 aired

Introduction

A man in an escape pod is saved by the computer of the long abandoned Discovery.

Craft and Zora share a lovely, whimsical dance, until he kicks the conn and destroys the ship, which ends up validating initial complaints about putting a movie system on the bridge.




Writing

Kevin: This is a definite improvement over the first effort in this series. The lines of this story are cleaner and easier to follow. The opening minutes are spent establishing a mood. I was actually kind of hoping they would stick with that rather than try introduce and conclude a story in the time allotted. I maintain that this format, like the difference between a short story and a novel, would be better served by trying for a quick character sketch or establish an interesting tone, and leave the plot elements out in a way that makes me think about them when it's over rather than think how the attempt at resolving them didn't succeed. Take for example the notion of the Discovery being abandoned for a millennium. We'll set aside for the moment the idea that we have jumped the gun on the series finale, but that idea alone is interesting, and it actually helps we don't learn what happened. It quickly creates an interesting thing to think about without worrying about not resolving it in the time allotted. I even liked the sparse amount of detail we get about whatever schism appears to happen in humanity. Again, it introduced a fun idea without getting bogged down in resolving it. If these are to ever rise above weirdly expensive commercial for season 2, I think they need to find a way to take advantage rather than merely survive the constraints of the format.

But back to the episode at hand. My only real complaint, aside from the fact that the length doesn't really allow the emotional moments to bake as long as they need to, is that a lot of this felt somewhat derivative. It's basically a mash up of Her and Wall-E. Both of those are good stories, so the one we get basically works. It gets from A to B to C too quickly, but it gets there. My only real complaint here is that Funny Face was an odd choice. It's a pretty deep cut for the old school romantic movie musical, and ever for a die hard musical fan such as myself, it's not one I go to when I think classic romance. (Sidenote: the opening scene is appropriately iconic in its own right.) I'm just saying there are about fifteen movies I could think of that would still hit the sepia nostalgia for the genre and also possibly resonate with the audience on its own.

So in the end, the story was fine. Not more than fine, but twenty minutes is less time that it takes to resolve a cookie-cutter sitcom plot. If it takes 23 minutes for one of the Tanner children to learn a moral lesson, it certainly takes at least that long to introduce and resolve an entire AI love story.

Matthew: Yeah, the background premise here is quite strong. In about 3 minutes, this episode does more to interest me in the characters and the settings than Discovery has done in 15 episodes.Can you imagine if the premise of the show had been a distant future, in which a diaspora of humans have forgotten that the Federation ever existed, only to happen across a drifting but still functional relic of that once great civilization? It give me sci-fi shudders of pleasure just to think about.

With that said, the overall character premise is interesting, albeit rather derivative (specifically, of "Her" directed by Spike Jonze.) It ends up raising more questions than it answers - how could a ship being adrift for a thousand years develop consciousness and sentience? One would think that a lack of interaction would actually retard that sort of development, not precipitate it.

This episode would be better if it had nothing to do with Discovery. The Federation obviously doesn't go South until several hundred years after Discovery's time in action (yet another indication of how foolish it was trying to shoehorn it in ten years prior to TOS), which just raises all sorts of practical questions as to how it could remain hidden but operational for all those years that the Federation was still active and dominant.


Acting

Kevin: Aldis Hodge was good as Craft. He acted like he was a complete person separate from whether the script gave him all that on its own. And Annabelle Wallis was good as the computer voice. She nailed that slightly lower register that reads as artificial but still interesting. I don't have much more in the way of specifics since the episode is so short. I would have liked to have seen both given the 43 minutes to expand on the characters. I think they would have done it well.

Matthew: I think both actors certainly showed enough charisma to carry a forty minute teleplay, and perhaps many episodes. That's saying something, since neither have any built-in history or appeal. So kudos on casting here.

Production Values

Kevin: Everything looked really good, and I enjoyed the early part of the episode where the hallway lights were following him in turning on and off. It contributed to what I thought was going to be a fun haunted house story. My complaint is the 3D projection of the 2D film. It's one of those ideas that sounds cooler than it would be on film. You're talking to a person who hates when widescreen movies get cut to fit a 4:3 TV screen. The computer has to be filling in information not on the film, so you're not actually watching what the person who made the thing wanted you to see. And how would watching a weirdly translucent version of something be better? Much like clear panels with light projected on them would make a terrible actual workspace, this would make a terrible viewing experience and it annoyed me.

Matthew: Yup. While in Craft's place I would lack the frame of reference to be incensed, were I a 23rd century connoisseur of ancient cinema, I would have gone apeshit. OAR or NOTHING! Anyway, we've always enjoyed deserted sets. Whether it's to save money on extras or it's really about atmosphere, it's neat to look at.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a 3. The acting is good and the ideas are interesting if not exactly unheard of. The story is resolved too quickly to have real emotional heft, but I can't deny that Michael Chabon managed to draw a self-contained story. It was certainly a step up from the incomprehensible story of Runaway.

Matthew: Yeah, from premise alone, I want to reward this. But a 4 or a 5 is really out of reach, because of brevity, its derivative nature, and the unfortunate tie this has to a weak show. So I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

2 comments:

  1. Are you guys gonna review Enterprise or stick with these failed, miserable attempts at reboots and revivals? I mean really, unless you are paid to watch this crap, there is no excuse. LOL. Just sayin':) (no really, I look forward to your review and discussion of Enterprise. Forget these reboots, they are going nowhere but down...)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Poppy,

      Kevin is in a rough patch at work and so we are just doing the Short Treks.

      We intend to finish Voyager and Enterprise. Discovery is a more open question? I think we'll do Season 2 anyway, and I am curious to see how they will destroy TNG-era continuity with the Picard series.

      I would also like to do Orville on a per episode basis.

      Anyway, we'll be back to more regular content soon.

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