One of the difficulties with creating serialized dramatic fiction in a large universe is that you’ve got a lot of different hands in the pot over the years. Star Trek has been produced for more than five decades, with writing staffs far and varied and wide. Hell, all four show-runners of the original series (Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon, John Meredyth Lucas, and Fred Freiberger) are now deceased, as is the one person who served as show-runner for each of the first three live-action spinoffs (Michael Piller). We’re talking about seven television series and thirteen movies produced by six different studios (Desilu, Filmation, Paramount’s movie division, Paramount’s TV division, Bad Robot, and Secret Hideout).
Given that, Star Trek has remained remarkably consistent. And their track record for addressing the inconsistencies has actually been pretty good.
I bring all this up because sometimes it just takes one slight makeup change and a line of dialogue. On “Point of Light,” it’s putting hair back on the Klingons and one line from Burnham to Tyler: “I heard that, post-war, Klingons are growing their hair again.” And just like that, one of the biggest complaints about season one is taken care of.
This is the second time Discovery has pulled that particular trick off this season, the other being a comment about how the Enterprise has the cool new colorful uniforms, thus explaining why Discovery has had a different uniform design from the original series. (And, in fact, the Discovery togs occupy a nice middle ground between the 22nd century Earth Starfleet uniforms of Star Trek: Enterprise and the original series uniforms of the 23rd.)
For that matter, they seem to be setting up Pike doing a considerable amount to rescue Spock this season in some way, since he’s now apparently been accused of murder. Since he later becomes first officer on a heavy cruiser, he obviously will be exonerated of that charge, and Pike will likely be involved. I bring this up mainly because Spock moves heaven and Earth and commits a large number of crimes to help out Pike in the framing sequence of “The Menagerie,” and Pike doing this for Spock retroactively makes Spock’s rather batshit crazy actions in the TOS episode a bit easier to take.
Sadly, that doesn’t extend to the revelation in the end about Section 31. Established in the Deep Space Nine episode “Inquisition” as a sooper-seekrit dirty-tricks organization that has no oversight, a secret agenda, and no accountability or mercy, it’s a covert organization that most of the galaxy is completely unaware of.
And yet, here we are a century before the time of DS9 with Section 31 being an organization with badges and ships and which Tyler—a lieutenant in Starfleet—has heard of and holy crap what is this?
Five hundred words in, and I’ve barely talked about “Point of Light” itself, and it’s honestly because there’s very little to talk about. There’s a lot of setup for future stuff here, but the only one of the three threads that has any kind of closure is L’Rell consolidating her power as chancellor-cum-mother of the Klingon Empire. The mystery with Spock deepens, the mystery with Tilly’s imaginary friend takes a step forward, and we get 90% of a good vehicle for Mia Kirshner’s delightful portrayal of Amanda Grayson.
The only one of those plots I really feel comfortable talking about in depth is L’Rell’s plot. For starters, yay, Klingons have hair! I like that it’s only some of them, and some only have very little. But these look a lot more like the Klingons we’ve come to know and love since 1979 and the advent of forehead ridges, but still giving the Discovery versions their own distinctive look. And hey, they’re finally letting the Klingons speak English—initially, they do so ironically to make fun of Tyler (and Tyler bitches about it), and then in the end, L’Rell starts her speech in Klingon with English subtitles, then she switches to English and the subtitles become Klingon, and then the subtitles fade and thank goodness, they can all talk English. Another first-season flaw fixed!
I just wish that the plot to turn Kol-Sha’s kidnapping of L’Rell’s infant son (oh yeah, L’Rell managed to squeeze a pregnancy in between episodes of season one) and subsequent attempted coup into a triumph that unites the Houses with her came from L’Rell herself instead of Emperor Georgiou. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to see Michelle Yeoh, but L’Rell is seriously weakened as a character by being, in essence, Georgiou’s lackey. And it’s all done in the service of getting Tyler away from the Empire and into Section 31 which is… not that compelling, frankly. The Empire thinks Tyler and the infant are dead, and Kol-Sha died a hero saving her, instead of in disgrace trying to seize power. It’s a good plan, I just wish it had been L’Rell’s. (I do like the continuity hit by having Tyler give his son to the clerics on Boreth, established back in The Next Generation‘s “Rightful Heir” as the planet where Klingons believe Kahless will return to them.) And now L’Rell has changed her title from chancellor to mother.
Speaking of mothers there’s that other 10% of Amanda’s part in the story, which I’m willing to reserve judgment on, but which I’m very iffy about. Up until her last scene, Amanda’s fantastic in this. She shows a dedication to trying to hold her family together despite the best efforts of everyone else, and she shows great love for both Spock and Burnham. And I love her and Burnham ganging up on Pike.
But in the end, when Burnham reveals that she drove Spock away years ago, Amanda’s response is to cut her off. Now if this is just an initial snit in anger at Burnham keeping this from her for fifteen years, I’m willing to be okay with it, but if Amanda remains pissed at Burnham, I will not be pleased, as it goes against the notion of Amanda being the one supportive member of this very dysfunctional family.
Meanwhile, Tilly’s hallucination of the grown-up version of a childhood friend turns out to be the spore bit that hit her shoulder way back in “What’s Past is Prologue,” which interacted with the exotic matter in the asteroid they have on board to finally communicate with Tilly. The whatever-it-is is now in stasis, and based on the trailers, we’ll find out more about it next week. Including, hopefully, why it thinks Stamets is the captain.
(Oh, and Tilly’s training for command school includes running a half-marathon, apparently. By the way, if four people run for thirteen miles, I guarantee that they won’t all be bunched up at the end like that. And hey look, a new design for the DISCO shirt so CBS can sell more merchandise!)
The first two episodes this season stood on their own while moving things along. This third one only does the second part. While the Klingon plot does have a beginning, a middle, and an end, it’s the C-plot of the episode. The A- and B-plots with Burnham and Tilly are just moving the pieces a bit further down the board.
Having said that, for all that the episode blows the landing on Amanda’s storyline and doesn’t really feel complete, it’s also fun to watch, mostly due to excellent acting work by everyone, from Yeoh, Mary Chieffo as L’Rell, Shazad Latif as Tyler, and guest star Kenneth Mitchell as Kol-Sha (who last season played Kol) on Qo’noS to Kirshner, Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham, Anson Mount as Pike, Mary Wiseman as Tilly, and Bahia Watson as the hallucination on Discovery.
And hey, next week we finally get to see Rebecca Romijn as Number One!