Monday, November 16, 2020

Discovery, Season 3: Die Trying

Discovery, Season 3
"Die Trying"
Airdate: November 12, 2020
34 of 34 produced
34 of 34 aired


The Discovery crew finds Federation Headquarters and struggles to prove themselves in this new world.

Also, they struggle to figure out what the heck they're looking at.


So this story is divided into several parts. The first is Discovery's relationship with the remnants of the Federation. I found Admiral Vance and his security chick to be needlessly unpleasant, and the tone they lent the story was not enjoyable. It's like, "Oh great. Someone else has a nefarious secret. YAWN." But I guess the point of the story was that they don't trust Discovery, because they might be temporal agents or something. While debriefing the crew, they make light of the ridiculous nature of the last two seasons, summarizing them with incredulity. I'm here for that, to be sure. Then, some alien race we've never heard of and spend no time with has a disease. OK, don't care. So Discovery, having a mushroom drive, has to zoom over to a long lost seed ship to get a plant to make a cure. But why does Vance trust them with this mission after spending the whole episode distrusting them? I guess that was the big takeaway from the plot line, that his security chick would see them being good at their jobs, and report back, sort of like Remmick interrogating the crew in "Coming of Age." Except that was a better episode, because Remmick actually had extended conversations with the crew that were charged with emotion. Being charitable, this plot did allow the engineering staff of the ship to be good at their jobs. Being less charitable, the "science" they engaged in was gobbledeygook. Ultimately, the character interactions between the Federation remnant and the Discovery crew make little sense. They are suspicious beyond all justifiable proportion (in the absence of more scenes that would establish this feeling) and then they switch on a dime to basically trusting them. Overall, it just served to kind of harsh the buzz that seeing the Future Federation should have. 

Kevin: I think this plotline is emblematic of all the plotlines in this episode. The core structure is there, but it's not presented with enough room to breathe to really make things land. Part of the problem is that having some many threads crowds out each story. The idea that the Federation isn't throwing Discovery a ticker tape parade makes sense. But it seems like the broad strokes would be easily confirmed, carbon dating or something. They just pitch the distrust and dismissal so high, so fast that it makes it hard to latch on to. Even breaking up the crew felt like a forced decision for artificial tension. At a minimum, the crew has a bunch of unprocessed PTSD and they are all literally a millennium behind the times. If a ship full of soldiers of...I guess the army of William the Conqueror showed up, it's not like breaking that group up to join a bunch of other crews would really do anyone any good. 

Matthew: Then we have the "Seed Bank" story. Like most Discovery plots, something that could have been explored over the course of an episode and given real weight is quickly glossed over in the service of another separate plot (getting the Federation to trust Discovery because they don't for whatever reason). Is a seed bank the most scintillating sci-fi idea? Probably not. Could it be a platform for interesting storytelling? Probably. I could imagine the seed bank being constantly attacked or begged by impoverished people to share its resources, or the keepers becoming a legendary priesthood a la "Foundation" or something. But here, we get the idea that a family is guarding it and that they died because of a coronal mass ejection. And the dad is stuck between worlds because he happened to be beaming at that very moment. This story is not given much development, and comes off as hokey and pointless. There have been other Trek stories of being phased out of reality, to be sure. But this one is given all of one minute to percolate. I guess it's sad that this guy's family died, but he hardly says ten words, so it's hard to care. And then they get the seed. Nahn gets her Big Moment, in which she.... gives up her Starfleet career (does she really? Isn't she going to be relieved in a year or whatever?) in order to help the other Barzan guy die with dignity, and then she will guard the seeds. But I don't care about her, either, because I know nothing about her. She has had ten minutes or so of screen time in 3 seasons, and now she's gone. It's another Airiam situation (underdeveloped character makes big sacrifice that we're supposed to HAVE FEELINGS about). But even that is undercut by yet another "Burnham has to fix everything" scene, in which Nahn for some reason can't reach the Barzan guy because "she shares his ethos." So Burnham has to do it, just like she had to dive into the Trill pool, and she had to save the universe with the Red Angel suit, and had to end the Klingon War,. etc. etc. If they had givent he lines to Nahn, we might have learned something more about her that would have made her character's choice resonate more. But instead, we get another "Burnham is the Greatest at Everything" plot that snuffs out other characters' development.

Kevin: Yeah, if this were the whole episode, it actually could have been pretty good. I don't want to belabor any of the point you made, but I will add that at some point, it's clear that the writers think I care about people 's trauma when you traumatize at the same moment you introduce them, and, at least for me. It just doesn't work. You need to give me time with the characters at a 3 out 10 before I care about the 9 out of 10. Riker and Troi working on performance reviews or Bashir and O'Brien hitting the holosuite at the small moments that make me care about the big moments.

Matthew: The third section of the story is.... whatever they're doing with Emperor Georgiou. This story definitely has the feel of "we're setting up yet another spin off." Now look. I know that Gary Seven was a blatant setup for a spinoff. But that TOS episode worked on its own merits, and had a major role for the main TOS cast. This story was.... what again? Georgiou is being debriefed and uses her eye blinks to destroy some holograms. Uh... Then Glasses Guy drops some truth bombs on her, that the Terran universe is all messed up, the Terran Empire has fallen, and no one has crossed over for 500 years. OK? So what? Why would Georgiou care? She has been away for 900 years, "her" Empire is gone no matter what, and she has not been in charge of it for a long time. Then she is shell shocked or something. There's just not a whole lot of there there, and this feels like tiresome plot maintenance as opposed to a real scene inhabited by a real person with real internal feelings.

Kevin: This was just a great scene from an entirely different show. Other than the blinking, which whatever, the back and forth was surprisingly low key. Abstracted from the rest of the episode, it was pretty enjoyable just watching actors act at each other, but I certainly don't feel any of the things the music cue guy tells me I should be feeling.

Matthew: In a minor aside that will become a major factor in coming episodes, apparently the lullaby is something that PERMEATES THE GALAXY and that everyone hums, regardless of their life histories and contacts with one another. It's a CLUE, people! Oy, vey.


Oded Fehr was fine as Admiral Vance. I believed he believed things, even if he wasn't telling us those things, and he cut a fine figure in his Admiral costume. Vanessa Jackson was a little less good as Lt. Willa. It was just sort of a baseline "distrustful military type" without much depth. Doug Jones was excellent, especially in scenes in which he gently reprimanded Burnham for being a hotheaded twerp. Jake Epstein's Dr. Attis did nothing for me.

Kevin: David Cronenberg feels like stunt casting, but dang if he didn't do exactly what they asked of him. I really wish Rachel Ancheril got more to do. Her line readings were great, and she was clearly selling it for all it was worth. It was just unmoored from any larger story.

Production Values

"If you can't make it good, make it blue" has never been truer than in this episode. I can't fully express how disappointing the ship shots were in this episode. We are supposed to be seeing what future Federation starships and space stations look like, and I can barely make anything out. Detached nacelles? Where? Organic hulls? Where? Voyager J? Where? It was all so visually mushy. Maybe we'll see more of this in subsequent episodes, but that does not excuse this one from being an abject visual disappointment.

Kevin: It's the the fact that the background was the same color of the ship and sparkly. It made it soup. And bless the actors for trying, but a bunch of people trying to act at what they think they see on a blue screen is just...not great.

Matthew: The costume designs on the Future Federation people were pretty good. The vertical color stripe is attention grabbing but looks like a credible uniform. The insignias were a little less successful for me. The seed ship did not feel like a real place to me. It was another visually overstuffed place that lacked discernible geometry.


While this was by no means a manifestly unpleasant hour of television, it was neither memorable nor challenging. The prototypical perfunctory Discovery storytelling was in copious evidence, with ideas hinted at and then abandoned. Burnham was again centered at the expense of other characters. The effects also undercut the proceedings, obscuring things that I wanted to see. I'm at a 2 on this one. I don't think it rises to the level of mediocrity. It didn't offend me, but if I never watched it again, I would be no poorer for it.

Kevin: I agree with the 2 for a total of 4, but yeah this is an apathetic 2, not an angry one. At least so far this season, the basic story beats have been classic Trek, and that's good. But the show needs to slow down and do the supporting work to make those stories shine. The actors are clearly capable, and it would be nice to be allowed to arrive at a feeling organically than by ordered to feel it by the score.

No comments:

Post a Comment