Not a Klingon in sight.
Phew – last week’s episode might have been the exception to the rule. We’re back to the more interesting episode-of-the-week Star Trek: Discovery that so delighted us in the first two episodes of the season. While bookended by elements of the Spock story, this again was an episode that could largely be enjoyed context-free and again it means we’ve got something much closer to the Trek we loved than Season One.
An Obol for Charon sees the Discovery encounter a spherical object – and finding themselves trapped by what seems to be a virus taking over the ships systems. Saru is also taken ill with what appears to be a terminal illness that affects all of his people. Meanwhile Tilly and Stamets are joined by Reno, who makes a second appearance following her debut in the season opener to investigate the spore-based lifeform that had infected Tilly at the end of last year.
There are again lots to appreciate in this episode – and again it proves that dark Star Trek doesn’t need to be severed heads, sex and gore; it’s a story that expands what our ideas of what alien life might be and it features a resolution that doesn’t need a few torpedos to feel satisfying.
The trio of Tilly, Stamets and Reno could well be one of the best things the series has introduced so far. They play off each-other well – dare I say it, bringing a similar dynamic to the Kirk-Spock-Bones relationship of the original series. Their characters again provide logic, emotion and humour and their group feels right despite their differences.
Again we had a nice little easter egg that hints at things to come – this time Pike’s dislike of holograms coupled with the Enterprise technical gremlins gives a nice explanation view screens become the communication method of the future. We also had a brief introduction to Rebecca Romijn’s Number One – a character we’ve only seen a couple of times before in the live action series; in the original series pilot, The Cage and in The Menagerie – a two-part story that repurposed much of the footage from that pilot (in both instances she was played by Majel Barrett; Gene Roddenberry’s wife). While we only get a few minutes with her, Romijn’s take on the character shows promise and it also gives us another chance to enjoy the TOS-style uniforms from the Enterprise. Please make them a permanent feature on Discovery next season!
Saru’s story was touching – and (spoilers) it really felt like it could be the end of the character. There were some lovely moments between him and Michael; showing just how tight their relationship has become since it was so strained last year. While Saru might have survived his illness, the hints that it could have a big impact on his character going forward are promising and could see him more willing to bend and break Federation rules in the future.
The only downside of the whole story is it really didn’t progress the Spock mystery at all – they ended the episode in almost exactly the same place that they started and I hope that we get some movement towards explaining why this incarnation of the Vulcan is so alien to what we know from the last fifty years of Star Trek in both television and film.
An Obol to Charon was a great episode that benefits from working as a standalone. It features some wonderful interplay between the cast and is one of those Trek stories that works because it doesn’t get resolved by an all-out battle. It deserves kudos for the great TOS-style title.