Saturday, January 5, 2019

Short Treks: The Brightest Star Short Trek
The Brightest Star
Airdate: December 6, 2018
3 of 4 produced
3 of 4 aired

Saru and his fellow Kelpiens are subject to the depredations of a species called the Baul.

 The Kelpiens harvesting... kelp. A bit on the nose, don't you think?


Matthew: Hey, look! slowing down to build a world and dig into a character... actually works?!?!? Why hasn't any other science fiction television series ever done this? But seriously folks, the fact that is focuses on a character and the plight of his people for fifteen continuous minutes goes a long, long, LONG way towards making me care about the proceedings here. I cared more about this story than I cared about anything in the entirety of Season 1 of Disco. I liked the tension between faith and reason that was present here, though I do think Saru's rebelliousness could use a bit more explanation. With that said, there is still some of the trademark dum-dum writing of that benighted series. Saru's ability to decode and use an alien piece of technology makes little sense, Lieutenant George-Oh's (I'm done trying) logic and her willingness to break the Prime Directive after much "debate" is given no development. We learn nothing about the Baul and why they are doing this to the Kelpiens. Some of this owes itself to the truncated format of this experiment. But some of it is just plain writing. Surely there was time to cut some kelp farming and instead develop ideas further.

I also must make note of DISPENSING WITH SUBTITLES after 8 seconds of alien dialogue. We get it, Discovery producers. They're speaking in an alien language, but it's presented in English for us.

Kevin: Agreed on the subtitles. As with so many things, the Hunt for Red October is the best approach.

I see this as basically a hyper-compressed riff on Pen Pals. In a complete episode, we would have gotten twenty minutes of Georgiou (And come on, Matt, it's not that hard. There's not even an apostrophe.) making those arguments about the Prime Directive and if it applied. There's a solid argument that it doesn't. The 'natural' progression of a society can't really encompass being exploited by a different technologically advanced race, right? The cat is out of the bag, and Saru is asking for help, so minimally invasive help seems okay. At least, that's the argument on paper and it would have been fun to see that. Still, the outline of a very Star Trek story are here. Individual versus society; to what extent Starfleet can or should intervene. That's all fine. The singular focus on Saru turns it more into a character sketch that a complete story, but to that extent it works. It's an insight into how he is different from the norms of his culture and how that drew him to Starfleet, also a pretty straight forward Star Trek story. Unlike Runway, which left me wanting more to make it make sense, this just left me wanting more because all the paths it could take were interesting.


Matthew: Doug Jones does a great job acting through makeup. For that matter, so did Hannah Spear as Saru's sister. I believed their culture was real. Michelle Yeoh didn't get much to do here, and so this was just a basically acceptable performance from her.

Kevin: I guess being a graduate of the Guillermo del Toro School of Acting in Insane Makeup and Costumes really hones your craft. In a way that makes the Klingon makeup even more terrible by comparison, Jones is compelling under the makeup. In many ways, the features exaggerate a kind of fussy nervousness that defines the character. Saru, much like Dorn or Auberjonois has really found the means to make the makeup work rather that have to work against it.

Production Values

Matthew: I think this alien world and culture was fairly well realized. The tents and the harvesting all looked nice, and the makeup and wardrobe on the Kelpiens really worked for me. I like the floating vaporizer thingie. The device Saru found didn't make much sense, though. It can display five characters? For a species that can master antigravity and teleportation? Hmm.
I also renew my objection to shaking the camera during quiet, indoor dialogue scenes.

Kevin: I agree, everything worked pretty well. There is certainly no deficit of special effects on this show. The color scheme was pleasantly off-kilter rather than ridiculously so, as with the opening scene of, say, Into Darkness.


Matthew: I am between a 3 and a 4 on this. Most of the faults here stem from this being fifteen instead of forty-five minutes long. I think I will stick with a 3 here because of the lack of development even within the run time here. This would easily be a 4 if we were to get 45 minutes to flesh this out with a "Pen Pals" Prime Directive style debate and a more thorough resolution to the Baul story line.

Kevin: I think this gets a 4. In judging it for what it is, rather than what we would have made in its place, I think it's pretty good. To the extent these are commercials for season 2, I actually was surprised by the faith it inspired. That faith was destroyed by the trailer talking about red angels, but that's neither here nor there. At its core, it's a classic Star Trek story that well acted and produced. The brevity left me wanting more rather than scratching my head. That makes a total of 7.

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