Let’s be honest: this is what it’s all been building up to this year. No, not an epic, paradigm-shifting finale, but us getting a proper look inside the USS Enterprise.
There was some plot going on this week, but as soon as the fabled Starship turned up again, that almost seemed to pale into insignificance. This season of Star Trek: Discovery has been accused of trying to be too much like its predecessors, having gamely carved out its own path during its first year; bringing in Pike and Spock has in some ways felt like it’s undone some of that distinctiveness (although having Pike as ship’s Captain has honestly been a real revelation, and given us a much needed closer look at this character), and almost relied too much at times of the weight of continuity.
However, there was definitely a frisson of genuine excitement when we got that first look at the Enterprise at the end of ‘Will You Take My Hand?’, right at the climax of Season 1. That money shot which we got of the two ships was enough to trigger a response from the die-hard Trekker right down to the casual viewer. It’s incredible just how well Matt Jefferies’ design stood up even after all this time, and it needed little modernisation for it to fit in with the Discovery visual aesthetic. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that the ship is one of the most iconic pieces of design seen on any TV series.
However, it’s felt like we’ve been rather poorly served in some respects, as we’ve only had glimpses of the exterior, but not a hint of the insides. Well, it has to be said that ‘Such Sweet Sorrow’ has taken care of that in a big way. Not only do we get lots of up close and personal looks at the ship as it links up with Discovery, but – finally – we get to go onto the bridge. And it is by no means a disappointment or anticlimax. In fact, the design team really have done themselves and the audience proud, as well as the late Matt Jefferies.
The trouble with J.J. Abrams’ version seen in his ‘Kelvin timeline’ movies is that the Enterprise bridge looked, well, too unlike the Enterprise bridge: too white, clinical, stark, brightly lit, and just plain sterile. It felt like you’d walked into an Apple Store filled with lens flares. Here, we see what is probably the best version that we could ever hope to get in Discovery: it manages to come close enough to the look of the show, while still feeling like the Starship Enterprise we know and love. The bright primary colour palate is understandably muted, but there’s still plenty of red (or orange, according to Georgiou), as well as the layout itself being largely unchanged. Oh, and we also get to see the Captain’s chair hasn’t been modernised, and is close to what we saw in the classic Star Trek. Design porn heaven, and worth the wait.
In some episodes this year, getting a look at the Enterprise might have felt like the only thing of significance to happen. But ‘Such Sweet Sorrow’ shows us just what a long game they’ve been playing, and we get to see where the trail of breadcrumbs they’ve left us has been leading. All this talk of time travel means that it looks like Discovery will truly be going where no-one has gone before in Star Trek terms: around 1,000 years into the future. It seems that the data collected from the sphere back in ‘An Obol For Charon’ has enmeshed itself fully into Discovery’s computers, and it will do whatever it can to protect itself, including overriding a self-destruct command.
As they can’t destroy the ship, Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) realises the only thing they can do to stop Control getting hold of the data is sending the whole ship through time to a point where it’ll be out of reach, using a version of the ‘Red Angel’ technology used by her mother. The only snag is that this will be a one-way trip, as the time crystal will burn out due to the massive power influx that’s needed. Cue lots of emotional farewells as members of the ship’s crew sign on to join her in a move which makes you feel as if the show would have been better off if it had been rechristened ‘Time Trek’.
This particular move shouldn’t be seen as having been an unexpected one, as we’ve already seen in the Short Treks episode ‘Calypso’ an abandoned sentient version of the USS Discovery in the distant future, without any explanation given as to what was going on. Well, now we know (or, at least, it seems like we do – they may prove to wrong foot us yet). It does appear Short Treks has been more significant than we thought, as not only have we seen what’s apparently the ship’s ultimate fate, but also learned about Saru’s backstory, and – in ‘Runaway’ – met a character who’s now become integral to sending Discovery into the far future: cue the return of Queen Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip).
With the ship getting ready to time jump with help from Po’s technical wizardry, we get a series of emotional farewells by the crew to their loved ones in messages home. Or, they would be emotional if we felt invested in many of the minor bridge crew we get to see here. Discovery really has poorly served its cast of supporting characters, to the point that I could barely name any of them, let alone tell you what function they have. Yet here we are, being told how to feel by seeing them preparing their potentially final messages to family and loved ones, while having no insight given previously into their backgrounds (or even who they are), so it rings rather hollow, and any attempt to connect with them on an emotional level just feels as if its very artificial and forced. It’s Airiam’s funeral all over again.
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Let’s not even get into the sheer absurdity of Sarek (James Frain) and Amanda (Mia Kershner) not only tracking down but also catching up with Discovery – even though all the ship’s subspace communications have been blocked by Control – just to do a big farewell moment with Burnham, and then leave again. This scene was not just shoehorned but crowbarred in, and made no narrative sense – you get the feeling that the writers have painted themselves into a corner, and had no way of making this happen plausibly, given the current scenario, but they just went and did it anyway, regardless of how dumb it was.
Overall, it seems like we’ve been set up for a huge season finale next week, and it’ll change Discovery irrevocably, maybe in just the sort of way that it needs, so it can be properly unencumbered by all of the show’s continuity, and forge its own dynamic path in an uncharted future far beyond anything seen in any Star Trek to date. The showrunners have promised we would get to see the issues with the series’ place in the franchise’s canon resolved, so it seems that they’re being as good as their word. No more worrying about just why Starfleet vessels don’t have spore drives as standard, nor why Spock never talks about having an adopted sister. Tying up those loose ends in a big – and hopefully – satisfying way.
If they drop the ball on this one, then it really will be such sweet sorrow for us.