This past weekend, Star Trek novelist Dave Galanter, whose work included the Voyager novel Battle Lines, as well as the recent Discovery novel Dead Endless, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 51. He was a valued colleague and a dear friend, and he will be sorely missed. This week’s rewatches and reviews are dedicated to his memory.
So this week we find out the truth about who Carl is, we find out what Reno’s been doing all this time, we see Booker making himself useful to Discovery, we continue our lengthy digression into the Mirror Universe, and we bid goodbye to Philippa Georgiou, at least until she gets her spinoff.
Lots going on here, but the big thing is that I was so incredibly wrong about Carl.
Several folks, both in the comments of last week’s review, and elsewhere on the intarwebs, speculated that Carl was the Guardian of Forever. Me, I was thinking he was a Q, as I was focusing more on character and personality than the fact that he provided a door.
Well, it turns out that everyone else was right and I was Mr. Wrong Pants. Carl is indeed the personification of the Guardian of Forever, having given up talking in stentorian riddles, as we saw in “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “Yesteryear,” and instead taking on the persona of an old white guy from 20th-century Earth. It’s also on a different planet than it was on before, and both those changes are given a good reason: the Temporal Wars. Apparently the Guardian was used in the fighting, and being used for such awful purposes was devastating to the Guardian. (Paul Guilfoyle plays the regret and sorrow at being so abused beautifully.)
As for what the Guardian’s doing with Georgiou, it’s “weighing” her. Deciding if she’s worthy of being saved. And what he sees in her trip back to her home universe is that she has changed. It’s not a complete 180 from who she was, obviously, but living in the Federation in general and on Discovery in particular has changed her. She makes several moves in the direction of making the Terran Empire a better place. They’re small, incremental moves—probably the most significant is in treating the Kelpiens like people instead of slaves and/or food. This proves useful on two levels. On a microcosmic level, when her attempt to bring Burnham to her side fails spectacularly and Burnham, along with Culber, Rhys, Airiam (and hey, Hannah Cheeseman’s back!), and Nilsson, stage a coup, the Kelpien slaves are fighting back alongside Georgiou, Tilly, and Owosekun.
Georgiou and Burnham wind up killing each other, but it’s enough to show the Guardian that the emperor is redeemable. That she’s worthy of a second chance.
I’m not entirely sure I see it. I mean, yeah, she’s not as nasty a dictator as she was before, but she’s still a nasty dictator who orders the death of Burnham and Lorca’s coconspirators by Burnham to prove her loyalty, culminating in her stabbing Detmer right in front of Georgiou. Her method of trying to get mirror Burnham to be more like prime Burnham is to torture her.
Plus, of course, none of this works, and she’s the victim of a coup.
Still, progress is a process, as it were, and she’s certainly better than she was before. (The speech she gives to mirror Saru about his potential is particularly heartfelt.) And it gets Georgiou sent back to the twenty-third century to have her own spinoff. Yay her. I will miss Michelle Yeoh on this show, but I won’t really miss the emperor.
Once that’s done with, we get to see what’s happening on Discovery. Reno returns for the first time in several episodes, and it turns out that she’s been refitting various bits of the ship with thirty-second-century tech. The weird part is that Stamets didn’t know what she was doing, which is—not good? Shouldn’t he be keeping track? In any case, it’s good to see her back, as she gets the best lines, as usual. Oh, and she likes black licorice, which automatically makes her fabulous. (Black licorice is the best.)
But the really cool bit is Booker using the Emerald Chain tech that he uses as a courier to help improve Discovery’s sensors so they can read the Kelpien distress signal they picked up at the top of last week. It’s a nice little touch that shows how Starfleet’s post-Burn isolationism isn’t really a good thing. Having Booker as a civilian advisor and helper shows how they can cooperate with non-Federation folk instead of keeping them at arms’ length.
The episode ends with the crew toasting Georgiou in an Irish wake. Everyone’s a lot nicer to her than she deserves, but they’re treating her as if she’s dead. (And if she’s gone back into the past, she is dead, and has been for eight centuries or so.) It’s a nice sendoff, but, again, it feels a bit too manipulative.
And I really have a problem with Burnham insisting that it’s Emperor Georgiou whom she loves and cares about, because that’s utter nonsense. This has always been about Burnham’s guilt over getting Captain Georgiou killed. And, truly, it’s been about the spectacular tactical error made three years ago casting an absolutely brilliant actor who had amazing chemistry with the lead as the fridged captain in the pilot, and realizing that killing her was one of many dumb moves made in the early days of the show. Looking back at “The Vulcan Hello” and “The Battle at the Binary Stars” (not to mention reading some of the tie-in fiction like David Mack’s Desperate Hours and James Swallow’s Fear Itself), I keep coming back to the notion that the adventures of Georgiou, Burnham, and Saru on the U.S.S. Shenzhou would have been a much better show than what Discovery was in its first season.
So, after contriving to bring Georgiou back by having Burnham ameliorate her guilt by saving her evil twin, they then contrive to get her off the show so Yeoh can get a spinoff. Which won’t be the adventures of Captain Georgiou on the Shenzhou like it should’ve been. Sigh.
I’m looking forward to next week getting back to the business of finding out how the Burn happened and the Emerald Chain and how Booker’s ingratiating himself to Discovery and Stamets and Reno snarking at each other and all that other stuff.
I will add that, as always, what elevates this show even on those occasions when the story lets them down is the acting. Yeoh magnificently plays a Georgiou whose newfound nurture is swimming upstream against the nature of her upbringing and job in a horrible timeline. Sonequa Martin-Green once again is brilliant as mirror Burnham, as she goes through days of torture, is seemingly broken, and then acts contrite only to be playing a long game against Georgiou. Doug Jones beautifully plays both mirror Saru’s joy at being treated like a person (not to mention his devastated happiness when Georgiou tells him the truth about the va’harai), and also Captain Saru’s mature, reasonable response to Admiral Vance’s challenge as to why he didn’t tell Vance right away about the Kelpien distress call. (Vance’s complaint is reasonable, but so is Saru’s response, and both Jones and Oded Fehr play it perfectly, as two professionals.) Mary Wiseman, Emily Coutts, and Wilson Cruz are especially good as their evil twins. And Guilfoyle is just brilliant.
Oh, and doing the credits upside down and in negative image was pretty damned awesome. Almost as good as Enterprise’s redone credits for “In a Mirror, Darkly.”
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s 2021 output will start with the thriller Animal, a novel written with Dr. Munish K. Batra; continue with Feat of Clay, the second book in his urban fantasy series following 2019’s A Furnace Sealed; and also include the short stories “Unguarded” in the anthology Horns and Halos, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail & John L. French, and “In Earth and Sky and Sea Strange Things There Be” in Turning the Tied, edited by Jean Rabe & Robert Greenberger; with more still to be announced.