Star Trek Discovery: 2.12 Through the Valley of Shadows
There are some great things about Star Trek Discovery - especially this season. It's been a gripping journey so far but there are moments where the smallest thing can take you out of the moment - and one of those smallest things has cropped up in the last couple of episodes: Time Crystals. It's not the concept - Star Trek has played with objects that can do magical things before - the Orbs in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine included one that had very similar properties to that which we saw in this episode. The concept is fine - it's the name. Last episode I thought Time Crystals was just a dumbing down of some technical term - but oh no - they're now a thing that just happen to exist in quantity.
It's a shame as Through the Valley of Shadows is actually a pretty good episode - especially for one with something of a Klingon focus. It doesn't get weighed down in Klingon politics or talking heads, but again there's more exposition than we'd like to see.
Investigating the latest red signal appearance - and as we discovered last week, they're not something created by Michael Burnham's mother (or maybe they are but she just hadn't had that idea by the time we'd met her). This one appears over the Klingon monastery on Boreth - a moon that also happens to be home to the 'Time Crystals' that powered the Red Angel suit allowing it to travel through time. Pike heads down to the planet to negotiate the release of one of these crystals in an attempt to stave off the end of all sentient life.
The price - seeing his own future - and now we know Star Trek: Discovery is embracing Pike's eventually fate as shown in the original Star Trek. We now see the moment he's exposed to the 'delta radiation' that leaves him confined to a wheelchair and he takes this knowledge about as well as anyone could be expected to. It's actually a truly shocking moment in the episode and one that Anson Mount plays perfectly. He already looks haunted by knowing what is to come. A couple of things I noticed about that scene was the comm badge and uniform weren't the Enterprise standard, nor were they what he's wearing on Discovery; so when and how this eventually occurs is still in question - it could happen any time in the decade following the events in this episode.
While Pike is off ship, Burnham and Spock head off to investigate a Section 31 ship that has gone dark. They happen upon it and find the space surrounding the ship to be full of dead bodies; and one which just happens to be both alive AND someone Michael already knew from her time on the Shenzhou. Discovery has struggled with hiding its twists and given what we know of Control's methods it wasn't a huge surprise to find that Kamran Gant (Ali Momen) wasn't quite who he appeared to be. Even so the showdown onboard the Section 31 ship was thrilling and tense; and again there are huge hints that Control will eventually become the Borg. Not only did Gant's voice change and sound more Borg-like, the whole mechanism of turning people into Control's minions is near identical to Borg assimilation. It would be a cheap move of Star Trek: Discovery to make all of these suggestions and then not follow through.
Tyler and L'Rell's reunion wasn't as dull as it had the potential to be and the eventual fate of their baby, who by this episode was not only fully grown thanks to the effects of the Time Crystals, means that last dangling plot thread from the first season of the show has well and truly been resolved. There's a real sense that loads of ideas may have started out well intentioned but unrealised to their fullest this year, but unlike in previous Star Trek incarnations the writers are making an effort to offer them all closure even if they were seemingly pointless; the whole existence and closure of the 'Tenavik' arc is a case in point.
Once you get past hearing Time Crystals (it even grates to write it), there's a lot to like here. We also get a chance to see more of Tig Notaro's Jett Reno - it's a crime that she hasn't had a bigger role this season as every time we've seen her she's been a fantastic addition to the cast. It would appear she's permanently stationed on board Discovery now. OR, if events pan out in the way as they appear to be heading by episode's end, maybe that stationing isn't so permanent after all.
Next week it sounds like the Enterprise will be making it's reappearance and there's a good chance we'll get to see more of Pike's real command between now and the end of the season. Maybe Star Trek: Discovery is holding back the best twist of all - could Discovery be ending to make way for an Anson Mount-based Enterprise show. Now THAT has some promise and would go some way to explaining why Rebecca Romijn's casting was so high profile but utterly under-used so far this year. The fact that a big thing was made about Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn leaving at the end of the year felt odd as we already knew they were only temporary additions so maybe it's all a big bluff. (END FAN THEORY)