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Discovering Trek: Light and Shadows

Updated: Mar 25, 2019

This is my guide to Star Trek Discovery episode: Light and Shadows, spoilers ahoy so turn back now if you haven’t seen episode 7 of Star Trek Discovery’s second season.

The Search for Spock Concludes, the Search for Spock’s Brain Continues

The episode starts with Burnham’s personal log, “my mother taught me that the greatest mysteries come in threes, earth, life, death, the past, the present and future.” Surprisingly Burnham then tells us straight that the red angel is from the future, Saru was able to ascertain this by getting a good look at the angel at the end of last week’s episode. Burnham seeks Pike’s permission to visit Vulcan, she feels that Amanda might have a lead. Pike grants the request and the Discovery are sticking around Kaminar a little longer, they are tasked with examining the residual energy left behind by the angel’s appearance.

Tilly appears on the bridge, excited about the readings, she says “fricking amazing.” And Saru reminds her where she is, “I’m sorry sir, you know how I get around violations of causality, and you told me I shouldn’t curse when I’m on duty.” The technology to cause this level of energy doesn’t exist yet, so Pike suggests that they investigate beyond the fact that it is “fricking amazing.” Smiling at Tilly, it’s not the first time we’ve detected chemistry between these two, and it is adorable. Saru launches a probe into the anomaly to try and establish where in time the angel came from. Tyler appears on the bridge, and after winning the whiniest character in Trek history award last week, does nothing to relinquish this accolade. He demands to know where Burnham is and why he wasn’t informed. He then bratishly flicks his Section 31 badge at Pike, in a shocking display of insubordination, something you will all know had me in state of annoyance last week. Pike, being the calmest and coolest Cap on the block, says “Mr Tyler, the chair outranks the badge.”

Before things can get any more awkward a rift in space time appears ahead of them, and the bridge crew see past events playing out before their eyes. Pike decides to pilot a shuttle to get a closer look at the anomaly, he tells Saru he is the most qualified for the mission as it was his first assignment out of Starfleet academy. It was pleasing to see this well-worn trope, the Captain always going on away missions even though they are not supposed to, as it doesn’t make much strategic sense to risk the Captain. Tyler tags along and Pike asks him whether he has ever heard of the term bad penny. Pike lays out his worry that Ty/Voq killed a member of his crew and that is his problem with Tyler.

Pike and Tyler fly towards the anomaly but they get dragged into it and lost somewhere in time, the bridge crew band together to try and work it out, they are not moving through time in a linear fashion. They utilise Stamets because his tardigrade DNA means he is immune to the effects of temporal distortions. Meanwhile in the rift, Pike says they could be experiencing the past, present and future simultaneously. Pike and Tyler bicker about Pike’s decisions, Tyler accusing Pike of making decisions purely on the fact that he is trying to prove his bravery after sitting out the war, which is a harsh and unfounded allegation, particularly as Tyler doesn’t have any specific insight into Pike’s leadership. Pike finally loses it with Tyler, “that’s enough”, he shouts. Pike has a vision of the future where he appears to shoot Tyler. They follow his plan of leaving a plasma trail for the Disco to follow, like Ariadne’s thread or a trail of crumbs through the forest. He orders Tyler to do it and threatens to throw him in the brig for disobeying orders. Discovery’s probe returns to them with an upgrade, it now appears to be a mechanical squid and it tries to hack the shuttle’s database and destroy the shuttle. Its technology is advanced, and they say it has come from 500 hundred years in the future. The squid pierces the shuttle and attempts to strangle Tyler, Pike shoots at Tyler, but only to release him from the squid’s arms, his glimpse of the future coming to pass, not to harm Tyler but to save him.

Stamets, with Tilly’s assistance, beams aboard the shuttle, and Stamets reassures Tilly that the time distortion doesn’t look distorted to him, just anomalous. This is Treknobabble at its finest. Tilly is worried this is too dangerous but Stamets tells her to trust the maths and trust herself. He rather sweetly tells her “I wouldn’t let just anyone beam me in and out of time.” He transports to the shuttle and tells Pike he is here ten minutes from now, and he helps navigate them out of the anomaly. Once they get nearer to the Discovery though the squid then starts targeting the ships computers. They lose power and start to drift back towards the rift, but they manage to rig the shuttle to self-destruct and they are beamed out of there at the last moment and the shuttle and squid are destroyed. The squid is a great enemy, and despite its obvious origins as a probe, (a nod to V’Ger in the Motion Picture?) it seems to have a malicious intent and it makes screeching noises as it goes about its business. As the shuttle explodes it manages to send a code in the form of three red dots to Airiam’s console and we are left with the possibility that Airiam has been compromised by the probe. It has probably uploaded something into Airiam, which is bound to cause the crew problems in the future. Hopefully this also means we get more of an insight into the exact nature of what Airiam is in the episodes to come.

Burnham lands on Vulcan, and the landscape is beautiful, the pink trees outside Sarek’s expansive yet stark residence particularly evocative. Sarek has been practicing Tok’mar for days attempting to touch Spock’s consciousness. Burnham remembers her childhood and we see Spock as a child teaching her how to correctly perform the Vulcan greeting. It is clear then that they did get on at some point during their childhood and it was nice to see. It becomes obvious that Amanda is hiding something and after all this time we finally meet Spock. He is not in a good way, he seems to have gone insane, he is muttering lines from Alice in Wonderland and bits of Vulcan logic. He is also repeating a sequence of numbers. Burnham wants to take him to get medical attention, but Amanda won’t allow it, Spock does not acknowledge or appear to recognise anyone. Sarek turns up busting Amanda’s subterfuge, Amanda reveals that Spock has a form of dyslexia that caused him to be further isolated and discriminated against growing up, so she secretly read him Alice in Wonderland, to help him because the Vulcan tuition wasn’t helping. Sarek says “your obsession with a book about chaos has done our children a great disservice.” She says that he never truly respected humanity and it is their children that are on the other side of the looking glass. Sarek protests that he would not have married a human had he not respected humanity, Amanda says she is the one who gave everything up and he would never have moved with her to Earth. Sarek does not disagree with this assessment and says it doesn’t alter the fact that she has harboured a known fugitive, a flagrant abuse of his authority. Amanda though does not view it this way, she is his wife, they are partners.

“Oh, you can’t help that said the cat, we’re all mad."

Spock interrupts the tense exchange between Sarek and Amanda with more quotes from Alice. If Spock relinquishes all logic, then he is lost cautions Sarek. Burnham tells Sarek that it is connected to the red angel and Sarek is concerned that this yet again jeopardises her career if she does not hand Spock into Section 31, he believes they will help him, and it is his duty as Vulcan Ambassador to see that this is done. His mind contains the answers the Federation needs, it is logical that they will release him if he is innocent of murder and it is also logical for Burnham to carry out her duty. In a scene where he struggles to maintain his emotions, he appeals to Amanda saying he is not prepared to lose both children on the same day. I loved these scenes, the writers of Disco are delving deep into these characters revealing new aspects of familiar characters.

Burnham takes Spock to Section 31, which is probably the worst idea Burnham has ever had. Captain Leland proposes using a medieval looking head rack to extract Spock’s memories. He promises Burnham that Spock will be looked after, but it feels like a Venus fly trap proposing matrimony to a fly, it rings hollow. Help comes from an unexcepted quarter as Georgiou approaches Burnham to tell her not to trust Leland and warn that the procedure will be deadly to Spock. They stage a fight and Burnham and Spock escape Section 31, which promotes Georgiou’s ambitions, the more she undermines Leland the closer she is to the top job. I must admit I am starting to enjoy her Machiavellian attempts to undermine Leland, I am not sure though that the writers intended Georgiou to be such a comically villainous character, but you must find your amusements wherever you can. Georgiou reveals that Leland is responsible for the death of Burnham’s parents and she uses this as leverage against him. Burnham hides from the Section 31 ships and works out that the numbers that Spock has been reciting are co-ordinates to Talos IV.

Canon Corner

So, we’re off to Talos IV, what have the Talosians and the planet where Captain Pike ultimately ends up got to do with the red angel? There have been some interesting speculations around who the red angel might be. My bet is on Picard and this series linking directly to the new show. One of the most interesting theories online is that the angel is future Burnham; and if this is the case then the storyline bears a close resemblance to an episode of the animated series, “Yesteryear,” which sees Spock use the Guardian of Forever to save his younger self. If it turns out to be Burnham then she would have helped young Spock save a younger version of herself, from a very similar situation that young Spock faced in “Yesteryear.” Hey maybe the red angel is in fact prime Lorca? The angel is from the future as is the mechanical squid, so is the squid Borg technology? Or maybe it is something to do with the AI we saw in the Short Trek episode Calypso? What are your thoughts? It was only a matter of time before I recommended The Search for Spock, the third TOS movie and it feels apt to recommend it the week we re-visit Vulcan. There are so many little references to Vulcan culture and mysticism so to go back to this film might be informative to season two so far. The whole season has literally been the search for Spock anyway, so it’s the only logical choice, pop it into your VCR and check out what is canon when it comes to Katras.

Book Club

The Fire and the Rose by David R. George III is a trilogy of novels, covering an aspect of Spock, McCoy and Kirk’s lives that we may not have seen before. It ingeniously links them all to “The City on the Edge of Forever” but they also can be read as standalone novels. The Fire and the Rose looks at Spock’s lasting guilt about letting Edith Keeler die and depriving his closest friend of the love of his life. It follows Spock’s decision to purge himself fully of all emotions, but an old friend is on hand to call him a green-blooded hobgoblin for a final time, and to bring Spock to his senses. It is a deeply beautiful and literary novel and one of my favourite pieces of work for Star Trek Magazine, reading these books and interviewing David R. George was a highlight and I would recommend reading all three books in his Crucible trilogy.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the episode, my speculations and assessments so join me in the Claytemple Star Trek forum where the search for Spock’s brain is on.

John is a writer and clinically diagnosed Trekker. You can get the latest news about his published work and read about his work with Star Trek Magazine at his website at his website The World Outside the Window. Live Long and Prosper.

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