This is my guide to Star Trek Discovery: Short Treks, the short episodes that are set to bridge the gap between now and the launch of Discovery Season 2, now slated to begin January 2019. This is the second short "Calypso.”
So, chuck some dollars into my Kickstarter campaign to fund LorcaCon, in Liverpool, hosted by Glenn and Valerie and get ready to delve deep into "Calypso", a tantalising glimpse into the far Trek future.
This blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t watched “Calypso”, yet this review will definitely contain spoilers, so look away now, this is your last chance! Ready, the review is below the picture.
Damn it man! I’m a Pulitzer winning novelist not a TV hack!!
I made this point last week but not making the shorts available as part of the Netflix deal in the UK seems like a real own goal, come on CBS (or whoever owns this as part of their job description), do you want a wide audience to watch and engage with this brilliant show or not?
This short is excitingly written by Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ,Wonder Boys), a Pulitzer winning author who is also taking a prominent role in the Picard series. Hiring a writer of this calibre is a call back to TOS days when such literary luminaries as Harlan Ellison and Richard Matheson wrote episodes of Trek and if this short is anything to go by it bodes very well for the sort of thoughtful episodes, Chabon may provide when writing for the upcoming Picard show.
Calypso is a clever episode based loosely on a tale from Homer’s The Odyssey, but I am not going to delve deeply into that as the scholars of the Lower Decks podcast are infinitely more qualified to boldly explore this territory. I had a blast listening to Glenn and Valerie talk through this and they have spotted a lot of allusions that I missed, my favourite being the cyclops owl. This highlights the great strength of Trek, and indeed all good science-fiction, in that it can speak on many different levels to different people.
Considering that this episode has one actor, and another disembodied voice, it is a compelling episode. It features a new character called Craft played by Aldis Hodge and a sentient computer called Zora, voiced by Annabelle Wallis, (The Tudors and Peaky Blinders), and here is a fun fact she was born in Oxfordshire and her Uncle was Richard Harris (the best Dumbledore). The setting is a thousand years in the future and the Discovery, under control of Zora, who appears to be an evolved form of the ship’s computer, who has been given orders to maintain position until the crew return. We do not know which crew left it but we know from the registration it is the same ship previously crewed by our Disco heroes.
Craft, not his real name, is from Alcor IV and has escaped from a conflict gravely injured. Zora heals him and throughout the 15 minute run of the episode we see the human and AI form a bond, with the lonely AI thinking of ways to keep her companion long after she probably should have. Zora’s favourite film is Funny Face starring Fred Astaire and in the best scene of the episode, Craft and Zora sweetly recreate a dance number from the film, it is odd but rather moving. The whole episode is sombre and has an air of melancholy, Discovery is a ghost ship, and we don’t know the state of the Federation. But there is hope; the episode ends with Craft revealing that on his world a lover chooses a person’s name. Zora declares she has already chosen his name and the shuttle door closes revealing Funny Face has been sprayed onto the door.
Beyond the Final Frontier
I thought it was refreshing to see a relatively benevolent AI, instead of HAL, the house from hell in Demon Seed. Or even the murderous bot in Ex-Machina. I have set up a post in the forum to discuss our favourite depictions of AI in film or literature so feel free to get involved in the conversation.
As regular readers know I like to speculate on what the show's writer’s long game may be, looking at hints towards the bigger story arc. Things I guessed right from season one was Section 31, Tyler's identity and Lorca's evilness (although I think we all got that one). My less successful efforts included a Gary Seven storyline and a Wil Wheaton cameo. I got no strong feelings from this episode as to what Disco Season 2 might bring us but I have a couple of conspiracy theories I'd like to share. One is the Picard series could be based on the David Mack expanded universe novels Star Trek Destiny, Mack hinted as much himself on social media. My second theory is that we will see Riker appear in season 2 and/or on the Picard show. I think this because recent Disco set photos show him looking fit and lean, as if he's working out for something... What do you think?
I want to hear your thoughts and views. How are you feeling about Short Treks? For me this was a strong and compelling entry into the Trek-verse. Either way if you want to delve deep into Discovery, join me in the Claytemple Star Trek forum where the chat slingshots round the sun to rescue whales.
John is a writer and clinically diagnosed Trekker. You can get the latest news about his published work at his website The World Outside the Window. His first poetry collection, Poems & Sketches from the Holy County, is out now. For readers in the U.S., you use this link to get John's collection.
Live Long and Prosper.