Friday, October 23, 2020

Discovery, Season 3: Far From Home

 Discovery, Season 3
"Far From Home"
Airdate: October 22, 2020
31 of 31 aired
31 of 31 produced


Discovery crash lands on an unknown planet and its crew must effect repairs while also contacting the native life forms.


But you can't make a Star Trek without breaking a few necks...



Kevin: OK. This was better, to the point I wish this had been the first of the two episodes. The emotional tone was better and wasn't at an 11 the entire time. It focused on actual Starfleet officers approaching a situation in a very Starfleet way. Two officers going alone into the bar to barter with the locals had a very TOS-y feel to me, and this time, they landed it, to an extent. Saru and Tilly are generous with their resources with people who need them and refuse to countenance violence, especially for revenge. And they are really leaning into the idea of the Federation having taken on a mythical quality. It does push the tone more into Star Wars again, as Starfleet is getting talked about in the same tone as the Jedi, but I'm not overly mad at the decision, as at least it appears to be a clear and consistently applied one. I will say, I'm glad they tied up the crew finding Michael by the end of the episode. I don't think Michael's search for the ship could sustain another episode and jumping them forward a year allows for some fun opportunities to flesh out what Michael has been doing without making their reunion the narrative focus.

Matthew: This may surprise you, but I am entirely in agreement with you. When the lead alien guy (miners? colonists? slaves? whatever...) talked about the Federation and who they are, I got little nascent tingles of happiness (which were later extinguished, but we'll get there). Mainly, I loved that the ship and its crew were crashed and were competently addressing their situation. Saru called for options. People executed repairs. It felt like... well, like an actual Starfleet vessel stranded in a particularly grim universe. Why did the wormhole aim them at a planet? What are the odds? Parasitic ice? Whatever. They acted mostly like Starfleet officers. 

Kevin: The ship-side of the story was a little less effective, since again, it did try to keep everything amped the entire time. Hugh and Paul are apparently fine now and Hugh is totally over that pesky existential crisis, so...ok. I mean, I hated that whole plot so I suppose on balance I'm happy they finished it quickly. The Starfleet officer ignoring medical advice is a classic, but again, it doesn't quite land here. I like Reno as a character as her dryness does balance the room a little but none of that scene made sense. She wrenched her back, but come on. Take a shot of cortisone and fix the conduit. Also, Stamets is literally the chief engineer. He doesn't need to be talked through this repair. They were going for hero nick-of-time whatnot, and again, not the first time Trek has done that, but the dials on the tension were set so high for so long it made it not tense.

Matthew: I was sort of baffled by the Stamets stuff. It seemed as though the character was supposed to Learn A Lesson About Accepting Help Because That's What Starfleet Is About (see also various Worf stories), but then he just sort of got involved in more explodey things and ended up doing the work alone anyway. Um, OK? I also found the room he was taken into in order to clear a bio bed to be bizarre. Why is such a big empty room across from Sickbay? If this is a triage situation, isn't the "cellular regeneration chamber" something that would be in high demand? Why is there only one? Is it power hungry? So many questions, damned few answers.

Kevin: I appreciate academically the attempt to involve the other members of the crew, as I continue to believe that Trek is at its best when its an ensemble, so the crew working in concert to land the ship and then showing concern is all fine, but it kind of peters out. Detmer clearly suffers a concussion and then is ordered to sickbay to be told she doesn't have one and that's a wrap for Detmer for that day. Even Georgiou was almost well used in a way that almost gives her a viable role in this season. When she points out that the guy who shakes down 50-person settlements for scrap probably isn't high on the food chain and Disocvery will attract people who are, I was actually impressed. It had not occurred to me to think about that, because I was focusing on the action in front of me. Georgiou comes from a world a lot closer to this one than the rest of the Discovery crew, so in that moment, she displayed the potential for an interesting character: Discovery's Seska. She could be the pragmatist cautioning against letting Federation optimism causing them to fail. But then she is otherwise used as a quip machine and a showcase for Michelle Yeoh's martial arts skills, though the skills are excellent I grant you. Honestly, even if they had just used that to do a fun riff on the fistfights Kirk used to get into, I would have been fine.

Matthew: I found "Commander Georgiou" mostly annoying, and the way she was treated by Saru and Barzan lady was dumb. Why are they leaving her to her own devices on the ship? It is utterly transparent that she does not share Starfleet priorities and is willing to subvert the chain of command. I hate her dialogue, as well. It's Intendant Kira-level cheesy, and not in a good way. This is not to knock her martial arts skill. But I don't watch Star Trek for martial arts fight scenes. Those scenes are a chore that gets in the way of the Star Trek I do want. You know what could have happened in the 5 minutes of fighting of this episode? ANYTHING. We could have learned about the planet. We could have learned about the people of the... colony? Mine? We could have learned about their technology. We could have gotten exposition which developed the world. Instead, we got a pointless fight scene in which Georgiou murders almost everybody. Wait... which part of the Legendary Federation does this represent again? The neck breaking part?

And yeah, the Detmer story is dumb, in that it is exactly like the Airiam story last season. 4 seconds of teasing for several episodes leading to 3 minutes of conclusion at some point is not enough to get me invested in her character.

Kevin: I'm reserving my main critique for the end. The violent tone. Scooping up bits of Leland and the way that the dude in the bar died were too much. I understand they CAN show it on a streaming platform. It doesn't mean they should. Plenty of red shirts have died, so it's not the death that bothers me, it's the gratuitous nature of the death. I feel comfortable saying that the weapon that killed Kal was this show's take on the Varon-T inside-out disruptor, and its introduction in Most Toys is instructive. Varia's death was horrifying, and they managed to achieve it will pretty much only a small modification to the standard vaporization scene, and it was so effective because it was out step with the rest of the series' tone on the depiction of violence. This show is extremely violent already and I know that, so spending literally thirty seconds watching this man die was actually just tedious.

Matthew: Get out of my brain, Kevin. I found the villain character more tiresome than threatening, perhaps because I am certain that he will disappear and never return, as is the standard MO of this show. It's hard to care about him in the way one might care about a Dukat or even a Tomalok. And so not only were his scenes a slog (and interrupted an otherwise pleasant Trek-like interlude), but the death was gratuitous and pointless. We know he's bad. It didn't need to be demonstrated. Yet again, they spent the time giving a character a scene or two of development only to gruesomely murder him. To be edgy, I guess? Yet again, the overall moral of Discovery/Picard seems to be a meta-message to the world: just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something.


Kevin: Doug Jones and Mary Wiseman are a treat. When we let them have a normal conversation, actual acting and connection occur. I genuinely bought the moment when Saru says that Tilly is the ideal person to introduce this crew to a new world. I bought that Saru believed and that he should believe it and I bought that Tilly was genuinely touched. See what happens when you let the actors act and not just shout?

Matthew: I wish this show were about them. They are the best characters on the show. Why? Because they have actual character attributes. There is an old rule of drama that the story should flow from the character's attributes, not the other way around. Saru and Tilly are particular people, and they approach situations in the way their their character traits dictate, and the choices they make then alter the story going forward. You know, like real life. Whereas Burnham is yet another Space Jesus that things happen to for a while, and then she fixes things with her Amazing Abilities. Anyway, this episode was a very welcome respite from the Michael Burnham Crying/Whispering/Face Kicking Hour.

Kevin: Everyone else was fine. The down on their luck people in the bar, the thug shaking them down, all archtypes for a reason and everyone did their job fine. I liked Rachel Ancheril's Nahn this episode though she didn't get much to do. She has a serious energy that doesn't come off as dour and I would like to see her get more to do.

Matthew: Michelle Yeoh's Intendant Georgiou (I hate typing that name, argh) would be a wonderful character on an entirely different show. The performance is scenery chewing and snarling and would be fun if it weren't so hopelessly out of place and jarring and face kicking and neck cracking. 

Production Values

Kevin: The planet wide-shots were good. The camera work is a little less chaotic and there were even a few scenes of the whole bridge. The bar was appropriately run down. It's not going to stick in my memory, but I have no cause for complaint.

Matthew: Camera work might be my single greatest praise for this episode. Set designs and location shots have been a highlight of the show for most of its run - but in this episode we could actually see them. I don't know if there were any shaky-can shots at all (I tuned out during the fight scene, so I can't be entirely sure). Just shot after blissful shot of dolly pans, crane shots for exteriors, and static character closeups. Aaaahhhhhh. Like a warm bath. Apparently, both episodes were directed byt he same person, which is utterly baffling to me.


Kevin: This is a three. This episode was about something, the crew finding their way in this new world, and in that story, they remained consistently drawn Starfleet officers. I think Saru did a better job this week than Burnham has done over the series in articulating fealty to Federation values. There was a focus in this week's that really helped. There were A and B plots taking place near each other, and freed of having to serve the grand mystery, got to give them all room to breathe. So yeah, I'm happy giving this a three.

Matthew: It was still kind of dumb, the B plot was pointless, and it was way too violent, but I agree with the 3 for a total of 6. It was a mediocre hour of sci-fi television that was almost sort of like Star Trek if you squint real hard.

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