Star Trek: Discovery 4.04 – “All Is Possible”

If I were a Discovery actor, and they told me I had to go shoot in the Canadian snow for a few days, I’d start worrying about my job prospects…

I am so happy to report that last week was a blip. And surprised and delighted to report that, yes, I loved this episode.

I got spoiled, y’see, for Tilly’s departure — journalist Dawn Ennis started dropping hints last week that someone was leaving, and Tilly was the only logical choice. Then she teased this interview yesterday, and … well, I was in a Mood. I spent my commute on the verge of tears — just like when I got spoiled for Kat’s death in season 2! — and rehearsing ways to suggest to Anika that we should stop covering Discovery weekly because, well, maybe even-numbered seasons just aren’t very good? They’re ditching 50% of their female regulars in favour of … what, promoting Nilsson? Was Mary Wiseman fired for being fat?

Oh, I was furious!

Then I … had breakfast, because you should never have opinions on an empty stomach, and felt a lot better. I knew it was realistically unlikely that a character as popular as Tilly would be killed off, especially when her arc suggests a voluntary departure from the narrative.

Nevertheless, I was concerned. (And I reserve the option to riot if Nilsson is promoted to regular status, I’m still mad that the promo pics keep gaslighting us into thinking she’s significant.)

I was very happy to finally watch¬† “All Is Possible” and realise that it follows similar beats to last week — three plotlines, one very personal, following up existing threads — but this time they’re all executed well.

Tilly’s snow day

My predictions are almost always wrong, so I just wanna flag that I was TOTALLY RIGHT about Tilly having feelings about the loss of her mother.

I mean, yes, I was wrong that she missed her mother, more that she realised she had lost one of her motivations for success — and maybe realised it was never a good motivation to start with — but let me have this, okay?

The Academy cadets she leads felt more like sulky adolescents than young adults, but … well, they had to be sketched quickly, and, uhhhhhhh, ‘interpersonal skills have atrophied due to a major disaster cutting people off’ is a story I can relate to. (I mean, those who live on planets are still meeting new people, right? I can see how Adira, growing up on a generation ship, would find it daunting, but the others…?)

Devastated as I am to lose Tilly, I think that taking some time to teach will be great for her. You know who else taught at the Academy as a lieutenant? JAMES T KIRK. And you know who didn’t take the time to think about the motivations behind his ambition, and then spent ten years as a first officer while he figured it out? William T Riker.

Tilly’s subplot is fairly straightforward, hitting a lot of classic Trek beats, but I wouldn’t say it was devoid of tension. When she volunteered to distract the nice ice octopi, I was suddenly convinced that I was wrong, and she was about to die horribly. I couldn’t breathe for fear! I DO NOT TRUST THIS SHOW TO KEEP MY FAVOURITES ALIVE!

Anyway, phew, Tilly is alive, she’s hanging out with David Cronenberg, Mary Wiseman says she’ll be back — this is good. I’m still displeased that we’ve just lost half the female regulars in one swoop, but that’s … a different sort of problem.

(I learned, reading the new Star Trek magazine, that Gray was conceived as a cis girl, and rewritten when the producers loved Ian Alexander’s audition for Adira. Which was a good call, but the imbalance is still there.)

Welcome back, Michael Burnham

You know what I love? SPACE POLITICS. Yes, it’s a bit silly that Ni’Var would come up with this last minute record scratch of an exit clause. (A Ni’Vexit clause!) Yes, it’s somewhat improbable that Michael and Saru are the only captains in Starfleet who can deal with this situation, and yet Rillak still doubted Michael.

But I don’t care. It feels like the writers have remembered that Michael is Sarek’s daughter, and that however much she may dislike politics, she is very good at it.

(Even her dislike feels more in character — instead of being a kneejerk mistrust of politicians, it’s more of a need for clarity and honesty in communication. And why not, when you’ve been raised by Sarek and also spent time with Gabriel Lorca, Ash Tyler and Philippa Georgiou? This makes sense for Michael and where she is after her year away from Starfleet.)

I meant to say after episode 2 that having two captains on Discovery reminds me of the Enterprise-A, particularly in Star Trek VI (my first encounter with the TOS crew and my favourite Trek movie). And I think that’s particularly true here, where — like Kirk and Spock — they can use their complementary skills to deal with a situation as equals, without concern for a hierarchy.

Michael’s solution — a third party suggestion so the politicians and their parties can save face, and a neutral committee to assess member worlds’ position in the Federation — is a neat one.¬† I did kind of go, “Oh a committee? Excellent way to ensure that nothing happens and the status quo is maintained,” but that’s just me being a cynic (who has been on a committee or two in her time). Michael is the perfect person to sit on such a committee, and also smart enough to know that such organisations have a finite lifespan and should be disbanded before they enforce stagnation.

Saru and T’Rina keep having eyesex in public and it’s uncomfortable

That’s a lie. It’s super cute, and Michael agrees.

On the other hand, while I respect the make-up team’s attention to detail, I would rather not see the palms of Saru’s hands ever again.

Michael is developing healthy relationships with her mentors

With first Vance and now Rillak, it feels like Michael has entered a new phase of her life, where the people who are guiding her are no longer taking parental roles. (One may argue that Sarek and Gabrielle didn’t really want to take parental roles either, and one wishes that maybe Lorca had, but anyway…)

This feels healthy. Not that there’s anything wrong with having half a dozen parental surrogates; indeed, I love that Michael has a whole squad of mothers. But she’s at a stage in her life and career where collecting new ones would be infantilising. Her relationships with Vance and — now — Rillak feel like they could one day evolve into friendships between equals.

The final subplot is about Book’s grieving

I feel bad for saying this, because I think it’s really great to have a story about grief where the protagonist is allowed to go back and forth, to take a step towards healing then two steps back — but I’m kind of ready for the story to move on?

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed Book’s therapy session with Hugh, not least because Hugh is a character we mostly see through his relationships with his immediate family, and it’s great to break him out of that. Hugh’s non-traditional approach to therapy, recognising that he and his patients have relationships outside of treatment, feels emotionally true, even if that’s not how therapy works (or should work) in the real world.

But we’ve spent three episodes, now, with this prominent subplot, and I think I’m ready for it to move into the background.

GrudgeWatch 2k21

Another episode without Grudge, although Book claims his inability to sleep is due to her neediness. Bro, do NOT pin this on your cat.

Other observations

  • I’m pretty sure this is the second episode in a row where we haven’t seen Discovery’s bridge.
  • I really wish we had a series where we could spend time with the politics instead of having Ni’Vexit clauses thrown in at the last minute. It feels like the foundation is there, but Star Trek never gets into the weeds on internal Federation politics and that’s a shame.
  • Tilly’s snowglobe holds a little Enterprise NX, which is nifty — and the Enteprise callbacks this season make sense in a context where the Federation is rebuilding and people are learning anew how to connect with other species.
  • Speaking of ENT, it’s notable that Disco hasn’t had a renewal announcement yet — they usually come within a few days of the season premiere. Is Discovery going to match Enterprise‘s four seasons? I’m six eps into Enterprise‘s fourth season, and if this is the end for Discovery, at least it’s going out on a higher note!

In conclusion

A big step up from last week! Yet I’m starting to feel like the time has come for something to happen. Four snowglobes out of five.

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