Boy, this one, huh? It’s like we’re watching Star Trek, again. I’m not going to make any assumptions about what’s going on in the writer’s room, but I will point out that the story was by Jordon Narido and Berg and Harberts, who… how can I say this politely? Haven’t historically delivered satisfactorily entertaining episodes, in my estimation. Not my thing, which is fine. If you don’t like this one, you’ll like the next one, right? The teleplay this week was by Andrew Colville and Alan McElroy, and I have to say I sort of actively hated Colville’s episode last week but that was mostly the Dungeons and Dragons Klingons than any structure thing I could quibble about. Catch the next bus, right?
Which leaves Alan McElroy, and it’s not hard to see that it’s a team effort, proud we are of all of them, but it looks like the usual suspects took the dog out for the walk and good ol’ Alan cleaned up after everybody and gave ‘im a bath, because this episode was all Star Trek, all the time. If this show had been like this from the beginning, I wouldn’t be contemplating launching a class-action suit against CBS All Access for not delivering value on their idiot streaming service last year. Let’s review, shall we?
Rebecca Romijn beams in and does a cute intake of breath as she completes the transporter process. As you kidding me? Is there anything more Star Trek than that? Even with the SFX available in the Sixties, Shatner used to do a little weight shift thing to sell the shot. I loved that so much as a kid, and now, as an adult, seeing that attention to detail in a subtle movement by an actress who seems to know she’s on Star Trek and honors the past with a little bit of business like that? Are you kidding me? The rest of this episode could have been Burnham playing Mario Kart at her bridge station and I would have loved it just for that little actor thing she did. But it doesn’t stop there. How Star Trek is this? She briefs her captain on the status of his former command, has a quick comment about not being able to picture an engineer like Chief Bouvier loving the Enterprise more, which gives the audience an oblique shout-out to Scotty. Swoon. She orders a cheeseburger defiantly in the face of Pike’s good-natured weight-shaming as she cues new viewers she’s from Pike’s former ship by wearing that command gold while passing exposition off deftly in a few lines of dialogue and a discrete push of the iPad.
All of this happens in the first ninety seconds of the episode. If that’s not Alan McElroy’s firm hand on the storytelling tiller, I don’t know what is. Number One’s command gold uniform, alone. Just as this bit of visual storytelling is as important as Ron Tracey’s Exeter insignia, so does the gold uniform show an important demarcation of crew serving Starfleet but upon different vessels. You know what else is an important demarcation for audience involvement? McElroy’s virtuoso screenplay. Too soon to tell, of course, but hope springs this is the episode we can point to and say that’s when Star Trek: Discovery started, for realsies.
Just as a little palate cleanser, here, between insignia and uniforms and please let this be STD going forward, I have to note new bridge officer Commander Nunn from the Enterprise. So, yes, she’s wearing the idiot STD blue uniforms, but somebody like Cooley will point out the dorky rigmarole about how even though she is 1710 based, she assigned to 1031 and as such has to wear the uniforms that no one has heard about yet even though subspace communication still works and failing that there’s a Starfleet vessel off the starboard bow… and oh my God even I am getting sick of myself talking about this. Just give us the gold blue and red and we’ll stop pointing out how your uniforms suck. But “Commander Nunn” as a name for a character we won’t be seeing much more of? None better.
huff huff huff what can I do to get back on track? Point out Linus the Snot-Sneezer is an Orville character? No, that will make apologists’ eyes bleed. That this episode was a balls-out action movie version of “The Inner Light”? No, same thing. Burnham being literally and figuratively behind a door each scene this episode improved everything? People will get angry.
How about Jet Reno? Now, I am an absolute sucker for characters who are in the story but not of the story, you know? Jack Burton, Han Solo, Captain Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Characters like that are shining gemstones, because they are the bringers of truth, the observers of the hard cheese, the audience-in to the story. I can’t wait for Jet and Stamets to give each other McCoy/Spock shit forever. Tig Notaro is a welcome, needed member of the team. Nothing like giving the writers another arrow in the quiver.
Doug Jones, too. He slays every scene he’s given with pathos and joy and regret and wonder and he elevates the dumbest scene in a way that will be ignored because he’s doing it behind a rubber face and funny shoes. If there is any justice in the world, though, this guy will win all the Emmys. He may just need to be content with the admiration of those paying attention. And an episode like this, where the room gives him something to play? Come on.
Give us more of this, every week, CBS.