Star Trek Discovery Season 1 Mid-Season Finale

“’Inalienable’? You mean human rights. My very name is racist.”

Reviewed by: Alicia Glass
Published on: February 28, 2022

So many spoilers ride the mushroom highway too!

We all know where and when we’re supposed to be, so we’re just going to dive right into things. When we last left our intrepid scientist-turned-fighters aboard the Federation Starship Discovery, they had just come off coaxing the light aliens of the planet Pahvo to finally help the humans, unfortunately without fully explaining the situation, which of course led to the main Klingon Death Ship and its warriors to rendezvous at Pahvo for a showdown. After being ordered to flee to the nearest Starbase, and also because he has no intention of retreating, Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) informs his crew they have approximately three hours to come up with a final solution for how to stop the Klingons from winning this war!

The best we can come up with on such short notice Captain Sir, is to use the minute window of opportunity when the Klingon cloaking technology is down to beam aboard a crew on the enemy ship, to set up a relay that will send all the cloaking technology specs to Discoveryso the ships computer can make a work-around. Of course the new Security Chief Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) are the two-person crew most insistent on taking the infiltration job, each for their own various reasons. And while those two set up the relay on the Klingon Death ship, Discovery is going to play distraction and simultaneous data mining by doing, count ‘em, 133 spore-drive jumps in the surrounding space. Lieutenant Stamets (Anthony Rapp), or Spore-man as I dubbed him, has already started experiencing time hiccups in a rather alarming ‘Stargate’ kind of way, and while fear of discovery has prevented him from telling his husband, the one crewman with apparent mental issues figured it out already; if Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) can, it’s only a matter of time before everyone else knows. For the greater good, right?

So, the Klingon Death ship comes right on schedule and Burnham and Tyler make it onboard uneventfully, only to discover the somehow still-alive Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), which can only be good news, but then Tyler has to come into contact with the Lady Klingon L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) who cheerfully tortured him for months, and he has a completely understandable PTSD meltdown. So somehow once again, it’s up to Burnham to confront the Klingons, head-on and alone, like the badass she is.

Klingon Commanding Officer Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) picking his teeth with the Federation badge of Captain Phillipa Georgiou is disrespectful enough, but that fight between him and Burnham was anything but honorable. I expected much better from someone who was trained in Vulcan society and Suus Mahna, the ancient Vulcan martial arts, by Sarek himself even. And as far as the Klingons go, yes they thrill at one-on-one honorable combat, but from nearly every Star Trek fans’ POV, that was not it. Kahless would not be pleased. In the end it was technology, those damned transporters that gave Star Trek TOS so much trouble, that saved everyone, including a rather surprising Klingon prisoner.

Yay! We get to watch the Klingon Death Ship go boom, and Burham’s finally gotten the respect of her fellow crewmates! All it cost was, I’d wager, maybe a few hundred Klingon lives, no biggie, right? But Burnham, as she watches the ship burn on that giant screen, seems reluctant that it actually came to this, even as she rubs Captain Georgiou’s (Michelle Yeoh) badge that is now hers. Oh well. Burham and Tyler can now be survivors in love together, and rather than any kind of court martial Captain Lorca is going to get a medal for his actions in the Klingon War, and the Federation now has anti-cloaking technology to use – wins all around, right?

Except, we forgot about Spore-man. Captain Lorca needs just one more spore-drive jump to get the Discovery spit-spot-ted over to the Starbase, rather than wasting time using the boring old Warp drive to get there. They made a big deal about number of times the spore-drive was being used earlier, but hey, what’s one more, one last, time? As even the smarmiest Trekkie could’ve told you, that one final time is, finally, one time too many.

There was a promise after the mid-season finale of Discovery, for the return in January 2018 and a brief trailer of what our daring explorers are up to in the latter half of the season, but the bits shown didn’t look particularly stellar. It looked to me as though Discovery is stuck in another dimension for quite awhile, and while that might work for a two-part episode intro to the latter half of the season, it should not be the entire seasons over-arcing plot.

The show so far, being presented as set at the early stages of the Federation long before Star Trek The Original Series, is dark, dank, and dreary, incredibly racist and suffering largely from the Prometheus syndrome. Which is to say, trying to build a bridge between the stark and sleek filmmaking techniques of today and the 8-bit-equivalent computer screens and cheesy set-builds with absolutely NO CGI anywhere in sight of more than 30 years ago, and oh it fails miserably. The Federation insists they have only good intentions at heart, and yet wonder why the Klingons continually scoff at the introductory words, “We come in peace.” The desperation to make this gritty early-Federation world as awesome-looking as possible but still be as Star Trek as possible is also evident everywhere – yet again, that poor character hasn’t been abused enough, Sarek (James Frain) the legendary father of Spock himself, was of course the adoptive father-figure and tutor to our anti-heroine with the strong male name, Michael Burnham. Harry Mudd, that rascal of fond TOS memory, gets tossed in for his what are supposed to be comedic shenanigans, and yet seriously, this version of Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) makes me want to execute his smarmy ass. He played execution-style Groundhog Day with the Discovery crew for who knows how long, and in the end, Lorca let him go. It makes me smile to imagine Captain Kirk of long-ago memory, that cocky lothario who took no shit, putting two behind this version of Harry Mudd’s head.

The Klingons are presented in such a negative light, and I don’t mean metaphorically. The makeup and costumery for these proto-Klingons is so thick and so cumbersome, each scene involving the Klingons sounds like them trying to talk with entire mouthfuls of Novocaine, and the only way one can generally tell male from female is forehead jewelry. The speech problem was gotten around in the finale episode simply because Burnham, during her confrontation with Kova, happened to have a Universal Translator with her, and holy crap it was so much better to hear him speak plain if mildly accented English. Faster, too. These Klingons, they have their own version of racism in their ranks when the albino Klingon who served T’Kuvma, Voq (Javid Iqbal), tried to rally the families together, but even that seems like a pandering to the audience in an attempt to grab more POC geeks. Which is silly in my opinion, Star Trek has been for everyone of every skin color for a long time now, why dredge it all back up?

Which brings us back around to the main problem – why couldn’t this new Star Trek be a continuation of its own, in the future is where Star Trek is set after all and we needed something better than Voyager (sorry folks, it’s true) to soothe our little Trekkie hearts, so make it set after the events of Voyager and bring in all sorts of new Trek ideas then? This spore-drive nonsense is doomed to failure, we all know it, since such a thing has never been used or even mentioned in any of the other Trek series. In fact, I’d wager the spore-drive fails so spectacularly that the Federation had to sweep the whole thing under the rug, which effectively makes the entire new Discovery TV series a redacted chapter in early Federation history. Ironic, isn’t it?

This early model of the Federation has all sorts of humanoid aliens as officers, an openly gay marriage between two men on the Discovery (because, obviously, the Federation evolves backwards), actual Vulcan terrorists (/boggle), and a gigantic space mushroom highway no-one’s ever heard of til now to ride. I was really bummed that Captain Georgiou died in the first two episodes, but there had to be a setup for the first major mutiny in new Federation history, and in this dark new world of Star Trek, that meant a blood sacrifice. Everything revolves around Burnham, she is the determined if reluctant star of the show, and it shows in the writing. Burnham had Sarek for a teacher, was reinstated as an officer on the Discovery by Captain Lorca, roundaboutly talked Spore-Man into saving the Tardigrade, and as mentioned before, she was the last one standing in the fight with the Klingons. It’s a shame that all these periphery characters, who do appear to have fascinating backstories, are being used as foils just to keep the Klingon war going and keep Burnham at the center of it.

Okay, I’ve ranted enough already. There are enough Trek-like elements in the show to keep us watching, and I’m going to refrain from commenting at all about the whole CBS All Access fiasco. And I do forever love me some Doug Jones, whatever he’s in.

Star Trek Discovery rides the shroom highway back to us in January 2018 on CBS All Access!

Ride the shroom highway with back episodes of Star Trek Discovery on Paramount+!