Star Trek: Discovery S01E11 – The Wolf Inside
Star Trek: Discovery‘s second week back has again astonished viewers. And at the same time, it has propelled the series to the status that it rightfully deserves. The first half of its premiere season left many Trekkies with a sour taste in their mouths. Critics have been more kind in giving praise to this rather unorthodox version of Star Trek.
There are many skeptics who say this is anathema to Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of Star Trek. Many of those are right here at Word of the Nerd. There has been little interest in watching or even reviewing the series. But in just two weeks, Discovery got a shot of new life, with new developments to the story.
A Brief History Lesson
First, a little background for those who refuse to pay for CBS All-Access or in solidarity refused to watch. Unlike past Trek series, Discovery works on a serialized style of storytelling. Each episode is a chapter of the overall story. This has made for some extraordinary episodes so far, in spite of fan backlash. The series is set ten years before the original Star Trek, and the Federation is at war with the Klingon Empire. Read a review of the first two episodes.
The first nine episodes introduced us, albeit slowly, to characters and events of the show. This allowed slightly more character development in the early stages of the series. Not having to establish concepts and characters in the first episode has allowed Discovery to mature a bit more slowly than its predecessors.
The ninth episode, which led to the series winter hiatus, left the crew of the Discovery in an unknown part of the galaxy with no way of returning home. This all started to sound really familiar to fans, who again launched into tirades. But when the series returned on January 7th, everything about Star Trek: Discovery had changed.
The USS Discovery had been sent into the Mirror Universe. If you’re a Trek fan, you know what that is. A universe parallel to our own where humans are cruel and barbaric warlords. Distorted versions of our beloved characters are evil. Ironically, some of Star Trek’s most popular series episodes have been those set in the Mirror Universe.
Captain Lorca and his crew realize the only hope they have to return to their own universe is to infiltrate a starship. They need data on the USS Defiant, a starship that vanished into the Mirror Universe a century ago. It all seemed so easy, or that’s at least what they thought. Lorca, Burnham, and Tyler make it aboard the ISS Shenzhou but things do not go as planned.
The level of care the writers of Discovery have taken so far with this story arc has been remarkable. A two-part episode of Star Trek: Enterprise threw the Mirror Universe saga a curveball. The writers have not only included Enterprise‘s contribution to the story, it has become an integral part. Some recognized material has replaced the confusion of the first half of this season, and that seems to have put some skeptics at ease.
Apparently this trip to the Mirror Universe was planned all along, and not used as some sort of gimmick to boost ratings, which is reassuring. In spite of a split between fans and critics, Star Trek: Discovery has been a ratings success for CBS All-Access. The service has received a record number of new subscribers and Discovery is its most popular series.
Since its return, the acting in the series has improved. Not that it had suffered beforehand, and perhaps the winter break got us all used to the idea that Discovery was here to stay. Sonequa Martin-Green has grown into the character of Michael Burnham. Her once stiff and emotionless stature has become less practiced and flows easier now. It has been hard to determine whether the coldness of her character was intentionally written that way, or if she began to embrace the role.
Jason Isaacs‘ Captain Lorca remains a mystery. Isaacs portrays Lorca wonderfully, but the character himself is difficult to read most of the time. The past two episodes have shown some growth in Lorca, but it is hard to tell whether once back on the Discovery, he will return to his old ways. Lorca is clearly hiding something, from the crew and from Starfleet. He’s a complicated man to be sure, but he certainly breaks the mold of the typical starship captain.
One of the surprises in this new crew is Mary Wiseman as Cadet Silvia Tilly. Since arriving in the Mirror Universe, her character has been able to shine. Her counterpart is a successful and murderous Starfleet captain. She quite convincingly impersonates her doppelganger in order to keep the Discovery from being detected. Tilly herself is a green cadet, unsure of herself and her place in Starfleet. It has been nice to see her able to assert herself these past two weeks. Getting her out of the frumpy Starfleet uniform and into something that shows just how beautiful Wiseman is has also been a nice change of pace.
Ignoring all of the negative talk and giving Star Trek: Discovery a chance has been a pay off for this reviewer. It isn’t fair to condemn it entirely only eleven episodes in. Some new series don’t even make it to eleven episodes. “The Wolf Inside”, although not as immediately shocking as last week’s episode, survives on its strong writing and performances. Here’s hoping that the Mirror Universe story arc lasts for a while. The instant-gratification culture needs to calm down and relax when it comes to this series. It’s a good bet that the payoff will be well worth the time.