“Was she this bossy as a kid?”
Remember the movie Ghost? Remember Patrick Swayze essentially terrorizing Whoopi Goldberg by singing, “I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am” repeatedly until she agreed to go see Demi Moore? That’s basically what Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has to go through for over half of this episode’s running time. Bahia Watson notwithstanding, even the most banal or charismatic ghost can become something of a nightmare through repetition and perceived hallucination. This is a mini-arc for Tilly, and as evidenced, is played more for laughs than any kind of tension.
Even though I find her story more interesting than anything else, it’s been relegated to the “C” plot. We get a triple feature this time. Since everything must be about Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) at all times, she gets the “A” plot and part of the “B” plot. The “A” plot involves a reunion with her foster mother, Amanda (Mia Kirshner) as they attempt to make sense of Spock’s personal logs and also catch up a little. Amanda behaves in strict contrast to how both Jane Wyatt and Winona Ryder behaved in earlier shows and movies.
She doesn’t seem to want to stand behind her husband, nor allow him to boss her around. They’ve had their little marital skirmishes in the past, and she has noted her “sacrifices” to become his wife, which definitely puts the Vulcan ethos behind that of humanity’s by subjugating women. Even if Strange New Worlds tries to erase that history, it’s still present, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it—nyah, nyah—but I digress. For a proudly logical race as Vulcans, their beliefs are shockingly backward.
I had criticized the treatment of Spock in how he was described from the previous episodes. I gave it some further thought and now I believe if it had been any other similar character who suffered mental disassociation, it would’ve made more sense. With Spock, we know too much about a character, and any changes will be seen as tampering with an icon and a legacy. Truth be told, not much was put into the character when he was first created by Roddenberry in 1964.
Nimoy was given enormous latitude to create the character, even to the isolation and loneliness he felt as he drew on the Method. Nimoy should be considered the creator of the character. Ethan Peck (like Zachary Quinto before him), when he finally surfaces as this latest iteration, will be required to follow the directions of his writers and producers. He will be given no opportunity to formulate a new interpretation.
There’s something interesting about Amanda. She tells Burnham she had to withdraw emotionally because if she showed love to her son, it would confuse him. She decided instead to lavish any attention she had on her human foster daughter. She thinks this made Spock resentful. Does this sound like Star Trek? No. It sounds like Thirtysomething, for crying out loud. I know Vulcans have emotions. They’re just better at hiding them. Spock does not possess the gene for resentment, even when dealing with an attention-grabbing “slip-in” foster sister with whom he may be secretly in love.
Is it even possible the universe doesn’t revolve around Michael Burnham? Of course not. As she deals with Amanda, she helps Tilly through her problems with an annoying little poltergeist, and then finally receives a clandestine message from her little boyfriend, Ash Tyler (now with an annoying neck-beard and ponytail), who tells her L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) is looking at a possible insurrection because of a love child she gave birth to before Voq was transformed.
Because it is the Torchbearer’s child (and out of wedlock, to boot), she has disgraced her position. The child is abducted by her Uncle, Kol-Sha (Kenneth Mitchell), and L’Rell and Tyler (Shazad Latif) beam to his chambers and kill his guards before he paralyzes them. Does this sound like Klingons? They behave like criminals, and they have no honor. Evil Mirror Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) appears, kills the rest of Kol-Sha’s guards and rescues Tyler and L’Rell. Apparently, she works for Section 31, a secret organization that no one was supposed to know about, but everybody does know about, so it’s not terribly secret*. I’m assuming they intercepted Tyler’s message to Burnham.
Georgiou with Tyler and L’Rell create a story that the Chancellor killed her lover and her child and now demands to become the “mother” of the Klingon Empire. So I guess the lesson is if you want people to respect you, do something completely crazy. I have to say I do enjoy this tension and violence (even if it is a bit rich) as well as behaving like everything is so much more important than it actually is. I just wish there were better actors involved. Better actors would sell this much easier. Enough of this.
Let’s get back to the “C” plot. It turns out Bahia is not a ghost, rather she’s some kind of spore fungus that attached itself to Tilly, got into her brain, and created an illusion of her dead friend. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) uses a dangerous-looking contraption called a laser core sampler and forces it out of Tilly’s body. Once out and floating around, it looks like a colony of scrubbing bubbles. They do the work so you don’t have to! This was the most entertaining part of the episode, but as I said, it was treated as little more than a diversion to separate the other two subplots like episodes from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s later, weaker seasons. That’s bad news for a show just starting its second season.
*The first rule of Section 31 is: don’t talk about Section 31!
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