“This is the power of math, people!”
Let’s be honest. There’s only one reason anybody would be interested in continuing to watch Star Trek: Discovery, and it has nothing to do with this assortment of characters, nor Burnham, nor Georgiou, nor visual effects, battle scenes, or Klingon sex. It’s about the promise of Spock. Spock. That’s it. Spock, over any other character, may be the most iconic in all of Star Trek. Spock is a visual touchstone, instantly identifiable even by people who don’t watch Star Trek in any form. In my first Discovery review, “The Vulcan Hello,” I defined the term, “slip-in.”
A “slip-in” (my words) is a character (preferably female) introduced late in the action (the action of established canon) and slipped in to a story and the roster of established characters with unlimited power, intelligence, and objective beauty. It’s like if I decided to write a character in Star Wars who was Princess Leia’s boyfriend back home on Alderaan, who is presumed dead after the Empire destroys the planet, but then he pops up to offer a friendly romantic rivalry with Han Solo. Where did he come from?
I suspect “Brother” is what audiences were waiting for—the introduction of Spock—as they were forced to endure the smug, sanctimonious (not to mention despicable) characterization of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who continues to grate on everyone around her, even though they’re required to worship her. Although the episode is titled, “Brother,” there is no Spock to be seen. It was a tease to keep viewers watching. Pretty sneaky, Sis! When we last left off, the Enterprise, commanded by Chris Pike (Anson Mount) had rendezvoused with Discovery. We’re still not going to see Spock.
I remember Mount’s casting and appearances on the show being well-received because, I suspect, we finally had a decent male character, strong and forthright, and there was no way they could pull a Lorca-style reversal with him. That’s all it came down to, and it was sad. Mount carried a confidence and air to him that was very similar to William Shatner. Unfortunately this show is all about Michael Burnham, as we know. Everything, everywhere … is ALL ABOUT MICHAEL BURNHAM.
She was adopted by Sarek and Amanda, led slowly up a flight of stairs to meet her new sort-of brother, Spock. We don’t actually see the little boy until nearly seven minutes into the episode. He doesn’t speak. He slams the door on her. End of flashback. Pike is ordered by Starfleet to take command of Discovery. I mean, do we have a shortage of captains? Apparently, there’s a signal with destructive power that almost killed Pike’s ship. It gets cringey in a hurry with Tilly fawning over Pike like he’s some kind of a rock star, yet Pike appears somewhat humble.
He even assures the bridge crew he won’t be like Lorca. Okay, great. It’s not really his responsibility. The captain’s word is supposed to be law, and not a measure of negotiation. We get some more cringe with a conversation between Stamets and Tilly, wherein Stamets tell her he’s leaving the ship because everywhere he looks, he sees Hugh. This is not an officer. I didn’t realize the 23rd century was the era of squishy feelings and morose sensitivity, but here we are!
Burnham is visited by Sarek (James Frain) and quickly figures out Spock is missing and may be troubled for various reasons that will probably irritate me. Here’s a clue for writers: it’s a good idea to watch a show before you start writing characters. Spock is nowhere near as complicated as you want to make him. Nimoy viewed him as a peaceful man, but also an outcast. He didn’t wear it on his sleeve. He was a talented actor. Start from there. Stop doing this tortured, emo thing for two seconds and write a character. While tracking the signal, Discovery finds an asteroid with an impacted medical frigate on the surface.
Pike orders a landing party to go over, courtesy of cute little bubble-like lander pods, and look for survivors. This episode hates mansplainers to a degree that as one such evil, dirty man tries to dress down Burnham during the mission, he and his pod are destroyed by a chunk of asteroid. In addition, Pike attempts to chew out Burnham for not offering solutions only to be corrected (or womansplained) by Burnham because that’s what she was trying to do in the first place. Burnham even rescues Pike when his pod malfunctions. Seriously?
They make it to the frigate, which resembles a dilapidated warehouse and are then confronted by Tig Notaro’s Jett Reno**, the most instantly unlikeable character in all of the Known Universe. She’s supposed to be an engineer, but she does surgical work too! Her logic is that the human body is like a machine, and this is where I begin to suspect neither engineers nor surgeons were consulted when the script was being written.
Reno and the rest of the survivors begin transporting back to Discovery and it takes forever because we need to get to at least an hour’s running time so that CBS All Access subscribers won’t feel cheated. Sad, really. Burnham gets left behind and has her leg impaled by asteroid debris. Shortly before she is rescued by Pike, she sees what looks like a “red angel.” Pike informs her he’s assuming “joint custody” of Discovery with Saru (Doug Jones).
Pike opens one of Lorca’s fortune cookies. The fortune inside reads: “Not every cage is a prison, not every loss eternal.” I know this is a reference to “The Cage,” Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek pilot episode, but the logic of the sentiment escapes me, as it surely did Dr. McCoy in the episode, “Dagger of the Mind,” when he said, “A cage is a cage, Jim.” Amen, Bones. Michael asks Pike for permission to go to the Enterprise to see Spock. He tells her Spock took leave and is not on the ship.
She still wants to go, because, you see, it’s all about her, and I know now this is going to be some kind of unrequited love or crush on Michael, and it makes me want to roll my eyes so far into the back of my head that I can see my spinal cord. She accesses Spock’s personal logs. Spock confesses that he has started to have nightmares. Burnham assembles a holographic map based on coordinates in his logs, and it’s one of those moments when producers want you to think something is incredibly important, but it isn’t. Kind of like Discovery.
*Original working title: “(Oh) Brother!”
**Even her name is annoying.
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