At the Brink

The Battle at the Binary Stars—or How Star Trek: Discovery Tells Us It’s Not Playing

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.
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I am finally caught up with the second part of what honestly should have been a single, unified pilot for Star Trek: Discovery, and while my last thoughts on the series concerned the look of it, let’s take today to talk about plot since the next installment arrives on CBS All Access tonight. Michael Burnham having used the Vulcan Neck Pinch to disable Georgiou attempts to take over the ship and strike at the Klingons. Georgiou, being the badass she is, refuses to stay neck pinched and gets up to take her ship back before Burnham can carry out her mutiny, and off to the brig goes our series lead, and that’s just the recap before the credits.

Discovery not only has introduced us to new aliens but to new levels of space-crazy as well. Ethical protocols in the brig cells that will allow prisoners in danger of death to be released are now canon, which sort of sounds like a particularly Starfleet brand of stupid. Additionally, we learn that Sarek placed part of his katra in Burnham, which he noticeably did not do for his son Spock who had to experience his father’s spirit through the medium of one Captain Jean-Luc Picard. (The reference is fitting in light of the fact that yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: the Next Generation). Anyway, that tidbit of random information is why Sarek was able to manifest to Burnham from light years away to give her the world’s most Vulcan pep talk. The result of that tete-a-tete is that Burnham convinces the computer to free her, makes her way to the bridge where she gets read the riot act by Georgiou, and volunteers to hop over to the Klingon Ship of the Dead. If that sounds like a lot of action, it is, especially when compared with the previous installment.

As an aside, the Klingons still sound vaguely like they’re chewing rocks, but at least T’Kuvma managed some creditable English while he was deceiving the world’s most credulous admiral with a false acceptance of a cease-fire. My previous suspicion about the costumes being restrictive seems a bit borne out by the fight on the Ship of the Dead as while T’Kuvma appeared more agile than I expected, the fight is still a bit stilted, no doubt due to the thirty pounds of latex the poor man is carting around. That awkwardness undercuts the emotional impact of Georgiou’s death, which strikes me as a waste of Yeoh, but Sonequa Martin-Green’s agony as Burnham is palpable and gut-wrenching.

The episode ends with Burnham being sentenced to life imprisonment for mutiny, assaulting a fellow officer, and potentially sparking a war? I don’t remember. Anyway, if that seemed a bit excessive to other viewers, Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice allows for execution or any other punishment the court deems fit for any soldier found guilty of mutiny, so Starfleet is apparently being lenient with her. What does not sit well with me is that not only did the Klingons initiate the attack after Georgiou attempted to talk them down but after Georgiou had talked her First Officer down and retaken command of her vessel. Also, it’s perhaps a good thing that Georgiou died on the Ship of the Dead because otherwise she might have had to answer to Starfleet for boobytrapping the body of a dead Klingon soldier. That kind of action is frowned upon by current military standards, and I can only imagine that Starfleet would feel the same.
I do not want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy “Battle at the Binary Stars”. I did. I continue to believe that Discovery is beautifully shot and that Sonequa Martin-Green is fantastic. James Frain is still settling in as Sarek, and I’m really, really enjoying Saru. I am not particularly pleased at the transition from Philippa Georgiou heading the ship to Lorca, no matter how capable Jason Isaacs may be because the mentorship relationship between Georgiou and Burnham is well-developed and positive. Such relationships between strong women get precious little in the way of screen time, so it was refreshing to see it in Starfleet. I am equally disappointed in the death of Georgiou because it robs us of further opportunities to watch Michelle Yeoh dominate on the bridge, and that’s a crying shame.

With respect to Burnham’s mutiny, I’m looking forward to this week’s episode to see just what the writers have in store for us. I anticipate that it’s going to be quite the ride.

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