Thursday, October 18, 2018

Short Treks: Runaway Short Treks
Airdate: February 11, 2018
1 of 4 produced
1 of 4 aired


Tilly, while drinking a quadruple espresso in the mess hall, happens upon a stowaway with strange abilities and and even stranger backstory.

And the food slot spewed stuff for some reason.


Matthew: So this was fifteen consecutive minutes of things on a screen. What was I supposed to take from this? Someone stows away aboard Discovery. She acts like some sort of bestial creature at first, has glowing orange blood, but then ends up opening up a dialogue with Tilly. All right. But the dialogue is about... her inventing a dilithium regeneration device? And how people reacted badly to it. Or were going to use it to destroy her planet's biosphere. Or which made her the most strategically significant person in the quadrant. Because of the war? Who knows. Oh yeah, she's also a queen!

This seems like an episode pitch that had exposition and character work stripped out to make it fit in 15 minutes. Very little made sense, and there wasn't much of a plot. Tilly didn't really overcome anything, Po didn't learn anything, and after some inscrutable dialogue, Tilly says "There's your answer, kid," and Po agrees, going back to her world blithely. The answer to what? Did some words get exchanged that alleviated Po's concerns about environmentalism, or her social status, or something? The story just ends up feeling like gobbledeygook.

I felt slightly better about this episode, but maybe I am focusing on the positives through sheer force of will. I think I can muster more optimism because I think this episode is a good story stripped of necessary intermediate exposition. It's a fine hair I'm splitting but go with me for a second. At its core, we have the one of the more archetypal Starfleet officers on this show encountering a new life form and they respond with curiosity and empathy, and ostensibly learns a lesson they can apply in their own life. That is some classic Star Trek story right there. Since a lot of our complaints about season 1 stemmed from the sense that they weren't telling Star Trek style stories at all, seeing even a truncated one feels incrementally better.

That said, you have to judge the thing for itself, and sadly, everything just gets no time to play out. Honestly, I don't know how you do more than a more snapshot emotional piece as opposed to a full story in the time allotted. I was annoyed that the thing she invented was 'recrystallizing dilithium' given that Scotty says they can't do that in the 23rd century. I'm normally not this militant about smaller continuity stuff, but it just reminds that no matter how many times they say it's in the prime universe and not upsetting canon, I don't quite believe them.


Matthew: Mary Wiseman ended up being one of the standouts of Discovery's first season. Here she kind of regresses to early season form. Were we to take this as an indication of where this story sits in the timeline? Does anyone care? Eventually, she settled in and committed to some good bits, like growling at Po. And I definitely believed her tension with her mother (who we didn't really see, only heard, which was a shame). Yadira Guevara-Prip was fine as Po. Her dialogue was really, really bad, so it's hard to assess her performance in a vacuum.

Kevin: I liked her throughout the episode, actually. When she said "I've learned to expect nothing, even from this espresso. Espresso...I release you," I legit cracked up. Even if we were slamming past the needed intermediate scenes, I bought her reactions and acting choices throughout, which is a weird compliment. She acted like she acting in a completed story. So well done. I agree that Guevara-Prip was fine, but without a little more to go on, it's hard to really form an opinion. I will say that the actresses managed to find rapport very quickly.

Production Values

Matthew: It looks like Discovery, which is to say it is slicker than a brand new smartphone doused in Elbow Grease. We got an extended look at he mess hall, which was nice enough for what it was. There were a number of pointless lens flares. Tilly's quarters were given a tad more life, but only a tad.

Kevin: I'm still not a fan of the insertion of holographic communication, as aside from the canon problems, it just will always look like Star Wars, and as much as I enjoy Star Wars, these are two great tastes that don't taste great together. I also don't understand why the food dispensers started spewing food. Was it some malfunction caused by Po's presence or was Po doing that under her Jem'Hadar cloak? When you only have 15 minutes, why spend on doing that?


Ultimately this is pretty mediocre. It has a mostly charming lead performance, an inscrutable supporting performance, a threadbare and borderline nonsensical story that doesn't establish the parameters for what it expects us to find dramatic, and then it just ends. It looked nice. I waver between a 2 and a 3, but I think given its lack of substance, a 2 seems like the best fit.

Kevin: I, almost reluctantly agree with the 2. I kind of want to give this a 3 on the strength of Wiseman's acting, and the skeletal core of what I genuinely believe is a solid Trek tale, but the finished product just lacks the necessary finish to really work. When they announced the shorts idea, I was dubious. After this, I am not sold that these are doing more than being commercials for season 2, but I am not totally convinced none of them will be good. The trailer for the next one seems to be doing a riff on 28 Days Later or Walking Dead, and like I said, if they focus on painting a single emotional scene with some depth and dispensing with trying for a half-hearted plot, I think they could be quite fun.

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