Discovery has been doing a lot of amazing things lately. This time, they have put together three episodes from Star Trek: The Next Generation (the most recent and popular iteration) into one very interesting television experience called “All Is Possible”.
“Star Trek: Discovery” is the newest series in the “Star Trek” franchise. The show has been met with mixed reviews, but the quality of its writing and acting has not been lost on fans. What better way to celebrate a new season than by watching three episodes at once? That’s exactly what DISCOVERY’s “All Is Possible” is- three STAR TREK episodes in one! This set includes all of the third season episodes that are available now, including “The War Without, The War Within,” “What’s Past Is Prologue,” and “Lethe.”
We’ve got SPOILERS, my friends… right here in the heart of River City… It’s also the initial letter of STAR TREK, with a capital “S”!
THIS!!! This is exactly what I (and a lot of other fans) have been waiting for!
Season 4 of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY has unquestionably been their best start yet…though that doesn’t set the bar especially high. The first season was a train catastrophe. ANSON MOUNT as Pike rescued season two (so much so that his new Star Trek series is premiering in just a few more months). Season three got off to a brighter start, but dystopian futures have been overdone. Star Trek isn’t supposed to be about that. Even though there are obstacles to overcome, such as the Borg or the Dominion, Star Trek’s future is bright. Knowing that the Federation is there as a light of hope throughout the galaxy roots Star Trek in a foundation that guarantees that…well… “Anything is possible.”
This fourth episode of season four has that title. And it proves—proves, I say!—that Discovery is capable of doing Star Trek… True Star Trek, not something you can persuade yourself is Star Trek if you squint just so.
So, what went wrong?
The program hasn’t altered all of a sudden. Over the course of this season’s four episodes, the transformation has been gradual and steady. And it’s conceivable that the fourth episode was a fluke, and that the fifth, sixth, or seventh episodes (or all of them) will have the same — or new — issues. Alternatively, this may be the start of a string of excellent episodes that lead viewers to believe, “Hey, maybe they’re finally finding out how to do this show.”
But, once again, what was it about this episode that they got so right that they hadn’t gotten right before (at least not all at once)? Let’s look at it more closely…
REMOVING SOME OF THE BALLS
I’ve said in the last several weeks that the episodes are overly packed with conflict. All of this occurred two episodes ago…
- Book’s grief at the destruction of his world and the loss of his family is palpable.
- Michael has a difficult time reconciling leadership with emotional sentiments.
- The return of Saru to Discovery,
- Tilly’s difficulties adapting to her new life,
- Gray’s new Soong-synth body is causing Adira some concern.
- Stamets’ feelings of inadequacy and difficulties with Book are explored in this film.
- The personnel aboard the crippled space station are being rescued.
Then, in the previous episode, all of these plates were spinning at the same time…
- Michael’s mother, Michael’s mother, Michael’s mother, Michael’s mother, Michael’s
- Tilly’s existential struggle persists.
- Book is still battling with his discomfort.
- Stamets is attempting to find out what’s wrong.
- Gray’s mind has transferred to the new synth body, but he has yet to awaken.
- A renegade Romulan ninja nun with a kickass sword and an ends-justify-the-means philosophy.
Back in the “simpler” 1960s, TOS episodes usually included an A-story and a B-story if Kirk was down on a planet and Spock or Scotty was commanding the ship. Each episode of Next Gen nearly always had an A- and B-story, with the occasional C-story thrown in for good measure. Deep Space Nine, as well as Voyager and Enterprise, would sometimes (in later seasons) shift matters to a D-story if there was a huge two-parter.
D-stories seem to be the norm for Discovery, particularly this season, and we’ve even seen several episodes featuring E-stories! Even if it’s a somewhat “calm” episode, seeing so many balls being juggled at once may be tiresome! Even while Discovery’s broadcasts aren’t confined to 42 or 44 minutes like other “hour”-long network shows, they normally stay around 50 minutes. This implies that each storyline line in an E-story episode gets around 10 MINUTES of screen time to be conveyed. That’s not a lot of money (even the SHORT TREKS were usually 15 minutes).
This episode juggled three storylines while putting away a few of balls:
- After a crash landing, Tilly, Adira, and Starfleet trainees fight to live.
- Michael and Saru are attempting to reintegrate Ni’Var into the Federation.
- Dr. Hugh is attempting to assist Book in dealing with the death of his whole race as well as his home planet.
Each story could “breathe” with around 17 minutes of screen time, which is 70% longer than the 10 minute tales we’ve been receiving. Actually, the Hugh/Book narrative required less time, allowing the other two plots to take up even more of the episode…allowing the epilogue with Tilly’s major choice to take place without seeming hurried.
More time meant more chances to exhibit rather than tell (remember the writer’s lesson: “show, don’t tell”?). As a result, even though plot exposition was still needed—and there was some of it explaining the Ni’Var situation and why Book seemed to be doing better at the end of last episode but had slid back emotionally by the beginning of this episode—it didn’t feel like the exposition was taking up as much screen time for each story because there was more story time to have the characters DO things (even if it was just talking).
Similarly, even though we had a lot of it with Tilly, Adira, and the cadets on that planet, it didn’t seem like there was nearly as much technobabble. The authors didn’t have to hurry out a technological answer and explain it since they had more time to construct the plot. They must flee to higher ground in order to send a signal to Armstrong, who will support them. There are screaming beasts attempting to devour them. To survive, they must work together as a team. Is that clear? Let’s get this party started!
And, most of all, each of the three storylines HAD THE FEELING of a Star Trek episode. Let’s take a closer look at each of them…
TILLY’S “GALILEO SEVEN” IS THE A-STORY
ALAN McELROY and ERIC J. ROBERTS, the episode’s authors, admitted to director JOHN OTTMAN that the Tilly plot was a massive tribute to the TOS episode “The Galileo Seven.” The allusions were obvious—and I don’t just mean crashing on a needle-in-a-haystack moon while on a routine survey expedition. A member of the crew (in a yellow tunic, no less!) dies early in both the original TOS episode and “All Is Possible,” and the remainder of the crew is urged to let him go and concentrate on the immediate task of survival and rescue. Scotty removed a grate in the floor to drain the phasers for fuel, while Adira removes a grating in the floor to access sensors. The fact that the survivors are being pursued by screaming aliens who are attempting to murder them just adds to the drama, urgency, and danger in both episodes.
Of course, the story’s true “Trek”ness comes from the leader (Spock/Tilly) being put to the test in attempting to keep the squad together despite their reservations about their commander’s talents and decision-making. Also, the concept of a “youngster coming of age” by having to deal with a crisis alone is very Star Trek, as seen in episodes like TNG’s “Final Mission” (where Wesley has to save Picard after crashing on a desert world) and DS9’s “Valiant” (where Jake and Nog are rescued by Red Squad cadets who are the only survivors of a starship crew, and they’re taking on the Dominion alone).
This narrative also enabled viewers to see some of the myths that had been built up in this new future world. The Orion Emerald Chain, a mafia-like criminal organization that exploited and tormented many different extraterrestrial species after the Burn, was one of the villains last season. Now that an Orion has enrolled at Starfleet Academy, not everyone is pleased. From anti-Vulcan emotions towards Spock through Bajoran and Cardassian tensions, Klingon and Romulan tensions, Federation and Maquis crew members on Voyager, and even Andorians and Vulcans on Enterprise, taking on prejudice has long been a Trek theme.
Finally, this episode gave Adira the opportunity to do more than pine and worry about Gray, or merely perform complex math on the bridge or in engineering. Adira will appear on the program as the “new” Tilly, which is good. However, I now have a greater understanding of who they are.
DIPLOMACY BUILDING (ON) NEW CANON IS THE B-STORY
Diplomacy in the middle of state secrets, when a Starfleet captain either formally or informally intervenes in political concerns, has a long history in the Star Trek universe. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Captain Kirk served as a diplomat before to the events at the Khitomer Accords. Jean-Luc Picard rose to the position of Klingon Arbiter of Succession and became embroiled in the Klingon civil war. Picard later assisted in the rescue of Vulcan from invasion when the Romulan/Vulcan reunification discussions turned out to be a deception. Benjamin Sisko was active in Bajoran politics on many occasions, as well as assisting them in navigating the new “peace” with Cardassia. During the Dominion War, Sisko utilized deception to draw the Romulans in as allies. Jonathan Archer went above and beyond his captaincy duties by assisting in the reconciliation of the Vulcans and Andorians, negotiating with the Xindi coalition, bringing about Vulcan enlightenment, and even assisting in the formation of the United Federation of Planets.
So placing Michael and Saru smack dab in the heart of Federation-Ni’Var discussions was pure Star Trek. In addition, this B-story (nearly an A-story) served as a complement and supplement to Tilly’s narrative. Tilly’s survival narrative was described as “fast-paced action/adventure/peril.” Ni’Var’s narrative was laid-back and intelligent. These two plotlines perfectly balanced the program, allowing the viewers to catch their breath whenever things with Tilly’s Toddlers were too heated.
It complemented the A-story by further extending and developing the authors’ imagined future galaxy. While Tilly’s tale focused on rebuilding Starfleet and overcoming the after-Burn dystopia’s taught biases, Michael’s story focused on restoring the Federation and overcoming the after-Burn dystopia’s pervasive mistrust and paranoia. We learn more about the Orion Emerald Chain from Tilly, as well as what the rest of the galaxy thinks about them. We learn more about Ni’Var and what they think of the Federation from Michael. To put it another way, welcome to the future—some here’s extra context for the wiki pages.
The Ni’Var tale also allowed for the pleasant and hopeful development of two fascinating character interactions. Saru and Ni’Var President T’Rina were the first. Whether this develops into a relationship or just a profound connection remains to be seen, but the presence of the other adds to the intrigue of both characters. This will assist to further develop Saru and establish a Starfleet tie to Ni’Var beyond Michael’s upbringing on Vulcan.
And, speaking of Michael, she comes to the rescue once more (this is Star Trek: Discovery, after all), but we get a little extra in terms of her relationship with Federation President Rillak (who we now know is at least partly Cardassian…probably with a little Bajoran thrown in…maybe some human or other?). Rillak’s initial appearance in the season premiere had some fans suspicious that she would be a micromanager and maybe a foil for Michael Burnham, who didn’t trust the brash, newly-minted captain from another era to get the job done in the 32nd century. But now we’ve learned more about Rillak, and her burgeoning friendship with Michael is just as interesting as Saru and T’Rina’s blossoming romance.
One of the benefits of telling fewer tales with more time for each is that you can develop both Michael and Saru (along with two semi-regular recurring characters) in one B-story. The authors may include more people in the story and yet give them credit. This was also true of the Tilly A-story, which enabled Adira to grow as a character.
THE COUNSELOR OF THE SHIP
Star Trek did not begin with a single episode dealing with sorrow or tragedy. Kirk lost Edith Keeler in 1967, but was OK by the following episode. In fact, characters were not allowed to experience PTSD until the fourth season TNG episode “Family,” which featured a post-Locutus Picard, as well as Worf dealing with his discommendation (with a little help from his human parents) and Wesley getting the C-story hearing a message from his late father.
From that moment on, Star Trek enabled characters to experience loss at their own pace over the course of numerous episodes. To mention a few, we saw Nog coping with the horrors of war, Worf dealing with the loss of Jadzia, and Trip suffering with the death of his sister. There was no hurry.
Then came Discovery, and everything seemed to be rushed—at least for the first two or three seasons. One of my main gripes was that characters would go through horrible situations and then be rushed to the next important narrative point, with little time for them to emotionally respond to or cope with the life event that had just occurred to them.
Book is a fantastic illustration of how this season is finally altering things for the better. The man’s whole world has just vanished! Family, friends, and even a beloved tree have all vanished. That’s a lot to take in, and Dr. Culber is assisting Book in dealing with it in the same manner that Counselor Troi assisted Picard after Locutus or after Gul Madred tortured him in “Chain of Command, part II.” (I mean, the guy saw five lights in the end!!!)
In any case, Culber is trying his best—dammit, he’s a trained physician, not a psychologist. But he’s making a difference, and he seems to be dealing with some personal tragedy… He may even tell Book about it at some point (but not today). Good. We want more Saru/T’Rina and Michael/Rillak, just as we want more Michael/Rillak. Bravo!
TILLY, LET’S HAVE A CONVERSATION
I can’t help myself from mentioning the 800-pound mugato in the cave (no, that’s not a fat joke! ), so I’d like to speak about Tilly’s departure from Discovery—the ship, not the series… MARY WISEMAN will continue to appear on the program. Most fans were taken aback by the unexpected departure, despite the fact that the program had been hinting at it for weeks.
However, I’ve heard several people say that the move is illogical. After all, Tilly has always been the one who has been most motivated to ascend fast in the ranks from the time we first met her. And now she has—already she’s a lieutenant, with a short stint as first officer under her belt. Of course, there are still many levels before captain… So, why should we stop now?
Actually, this isn’t unheard of in the Star Trek universe. Wesley Crusher, who had always aspired to be an officer like his father and Captain Picard, opted to drop out before graduating from Starfleet Academy. Jake Sisko decided he didn’t want to be a part of Starfleet and instead pursued a career in journalism. Nog, on the other side, shocked almost everyone by joining Starfleet!
It’s also not unheard of for a young lieutenant to lecture at Starfleet Academy. Kirk was the one who pulled it off. Later in adulthood, Spock became a teacher at the Academy. As a result, I propose that we wait and see where Tilly’s new route leads her. And, to be honest, she wasn’t really developing as a character aboard the spaceship Discovery any more. Tilly is left to be the wunderkind and jester now that Saru is back and acting as first officer… Despite the fact that she is no longer either. That’s Adira now. Tilly has matured much, and relegating her role to completing rapid arithmetic in a crisis and offering a shoulder for Michael to weep on isn’t really engaging entertainment. Let’s pull you out of your comfort zone, Tilly!
MA, LOOK! NO F-BOMBS!
One of the reasons I like this episode so much (or more than one) was because of all the things it lacked. F-bombs and S-bombs were not present. Culber does mention “a long-ass time,” but maybe he’s referring to a huge donkey wearing a watch. Any repeated bursts of flame shooting out of vents on the bridge, nacelles being separated, or glimpses of the expansive expanse of empty space within the ship surrounding the turbolift shafts were also absent from the episode… In other words, everything that irritates me and over which I have no control!
Another element that is notably absent from the episode is darkness. Many scenes on this program are under-lit…often in locations that should be bright, such as the bridge (who wants to work in a gloomy, dismal office all day???) or the sickbay, where physicians need light to operate. Star Trek has always been light…not as bright and over-lit as Next Generation, but certainly not depressingly gloomy. However, the Tilly A-story and the Ni’Var B-story in this episode were bright, which made it physically and emotionally easier for me to watch. Only the moments with Culber and Book were gloomy since Book was in a dark, quiet place…which also worked.
THE ONE “WORSE” FACTOR
I’m going to go extra lengthy this time, so I’ll just sum up my biggest gripe with the episode: Michael is now much too precious to risk! Michael Burnham’s presence on the oversight committee is currently the sole thing keeping Ni’Var in the Federation (or whatever it is). So, if she embarks on a perilous expedition and doesn’t return, one of the Federation’s most crucial ties is jeopardized!
I know Michael Burnham is legally bound to rescue the day at least once every episode, but I’m going to be extremely skeptical and will have to suspend my disbelief anytime I see the Federation president authorizing Discovery to depart space dock.
Apart from that, I think this episode nailed it—totally Star Trek…at long last!
Watch This Video-
The “star trek: discovery screencaps” is a three-episode story arc of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. It’s a great way to get your Trek on, especially if you’re a fan of the original series.
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