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 third short "The Brightest Star.”
Baby it’s cold outside, it’s windy and the Christmas cheer has been chased away by those comedians masquerading as British politicians, but come dear friends, chuck another lump of coal on the fire and let’s escape to a land of hope, far from these deserted shores and get ready for my whistle-stop guide to "The Brightest Star", a fish-pun paradise.
This blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t watched “The Brightest Star” yet this review will contain spoilers, so look away now, this is your last chance! Ready, the review is below the picture.
Damn it man! Am I the only one watching Short Treks, apart from Alex Kurtzman’s relatives!!?
So Saru gets a back-story in a straightforward origins tale and my first impression of the third Short Treks was surprise in its lack of surprises. You could categorise this as "Solo Movie Syndrome" as it basically tells us nothing particularly revelatory from a story-telling point of view. We see Saru on his home world, Kaminar (like Calamari because Saru is like a squid, get it?) a pre-warp civilisation. Saru is living a simple Fisherman’s life, but his society has a dark heart as part of the Kelpian culture sees them willingly submitting themselves to sacrificing parts of their community to the mysterious alien race the Ba’ul, not to be mistaken for the Ba’ku who once offered Picard the chance of immortality, who seem to zap the Kelpian’s into the ether.
Saru is full of questions for his father, who is a holy person, responsible for the ritual sacrifices. Ultimately it is unclear what happens to the sacrifices, I wondered whether they might be being beamed away for use as slaves or food. This doesn't appear to be the mirror universe where the Kelpian seemed to be the slave or cuisine of choice to all the greatest despots but due to the passivity of their race it seems entirely possible that a prime universe species could be enslaving them. It begs the question that if the Kelpian’s are a pre-warp civilisation how did the Ba’ul stumble upon them and trick them into sacrificing themselves so readily?
Saru's quick desire not to meekly sacrifice himself and explore the stars at times felt a little at odds with the character we have seen so far in Discovery. Perhaps if we had spent more time understanding how he had gotten to such a counter-cultural viewpoint from that of his peers it would have made more sense or felt closer to the Saru we've come to know. We see that when the Kelpian’s get sacrificed sometimes alien tech is left behind and Saru is ordered to get rid of it by his druid-like father, so like all good teenagers he disobeys authority, and he turns the tech into a beacon, sending a message out into the universe. Handily the person who picks up his message in a bottle is none other than Philippa Georgiou, who makes it clear she has had a hard time convincing Starfleet to make contact in this way, she makes a cool reference to the prime directive (the most open to interpretation bit of legislation since the Kellogg Briand Pact or Teresa May’s Brexit Deal) and tells Saru if he comes with her, he will never return home. Saru of course leaves and the rest is history.
The episode does leave a few dangling threa(t ganglia)ds, who is really taking the Kelpian’s and why aren't the federation doing anything about it? And will Saru ever return home and reunite with his sister?
Beyond the Final Frontier
The episode is directed by Douglas Aarniokoski, whose biggest credit to date seems to be low budget horror The Day and it is written by Bo Yeon Kim & Erika Lippoldt (regular contributors to Disco Season One) and it features a strong turn by Hannah Spear as Siranna, Saru’s sister, a character I would be interested in seeing more of.
Doug Jones does a fine job as Saru, but I personally failed to connect with this iteration of the character and Jones has created a much more nuanced performance for the main series that somehow failed to show up in this formulaic short episode. The shortness of the episode may indeed have contributed to my feeling that this could have been something different and for the first time Short Treks felt like filler, like tracks 4 to 6 on a mediocre album, just passing the time until we get to the good stuff. This was a solid origins story, beautifully filmed, but for me it was the weakest Short Treks yet. Next up is everyone's second-favourite Trek trickster (Q's number one, obviously!) Harry Mudd.
For the first time in Discovery’s short history, apart from an early wobble in Season One, I feel negative about an episode, so I want to hear your thoughts and views. Was my assessment overly harsh? How are you feeling about Short Treks with one episode left to go? Am I and the Lower Decks Pod Crew the only ones watching? And what is your favourite piece of post WW1 legislation? (Let’s face it we’ve all got one.) Join me in the Claytemple Star Trek forum where the chat boldly continues, and thanks to all those who contributed great book recommendations to the AI forum chat last time out, I am hoping I will get the time to post a review of some of them when I get the chance. Be sure to check out the Lower Decks re-cap of this episode, which features some creepy cultish chat.
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. Live Long and Prosper.