While we wait for season two to premiere in January, we’re treated to a monthly 15-minute “Short Trek.” Star Trek short stories. I have to admit, I sort of love the idea. Now that the first one has aired, I thought I’d offer my two bars of gold-pressed latinum.
As seen in the trailer, we get an episode focused around fan favorite Ensign Sylvia Tilly, newly upgraded from cadet at the end of the first season, and full of dreams of one day commanding a starship of her own. Where some bridge characters were relegated as wallpaper or slightly above (I’m hoping to see that change next season), a number of other characters on this series have grown dramatically throughout the first season, and Tilly is one of those who made some serious strides.
The episode opens as she deals with her overprotective mother, who believes that the very idea of her daughter in command school is a mistake. Using some rather familiar coping mechanisms regarding holding zero expectations about anything, Tilly finds herself alone in the officer’s mess when an unidentified life form makes it truly a mess. Food fight: Star Trek edition.
There are two ways to look at this.
The first is from the incredibly nitpicky side of things where the viewer is going to question things like “how come a systems overload of that magnitude triggered no alarm bells in engineering?” Or “how did Tilly manage to use a transporter without authorization and not set off an alert on the bridge that results in an override lockout?” I’ve learned the hard way from the first half of season one that if I ask questions like this when Alex Kurtzman is involved, I’m only going to end up pounding my head into a wall. Even so, I can’t turn my brain off just because he’s a lazy storyteller when it comes to detail work. As I said in my previous blogs, the back half of the first season had some heavy payoff for loyalty rewarded, so I’m willing to take things on a little faith, Kurtzman notwithstanding. His track record on all things, especially those things where he claims fandom and proves nothing, means that I hold him to a higher standard as showrunner of this series. That said, his track record here is already better than another showrunner who ran his otherwise venerable series into the ground because he wouldn’t step past his own ego. I demand better for Star Trek, and the likes of Steven Moffat is a very low bar for comparison purposes. Besides… Discovery is a top secret black-ops science vessel with all kinds of security protocols! C’mon!
*ahem* Clearly, I care. A lot. Back on point here.
If I turn off the detail-oriented side of my brain and engage with the character story — and this is most definitely a character story — the larger scope of the episode is a quantum leap forward in growth for Tilly, which is saying something considering she’s essentially grown up right in front of us. It reminds us she’s still got a long way to go. Even so, she spent the first season looking to authority figures. If she’s going to make it in command school, she’s got to make some decisions. This little spotlight gives her plenty of those in spades. In fact, I would actually see most Starfleet characters reporting the intruder and letting the command officer make contact. Not so with Tilly. Not only does she make contact, she earns trust in a big way.
As a sidebar, we also got a taste of what lies ahead for season two. We were promised after the “Star Trek for Game of Thrones audiences” that was season one, season two would settle into familiar morality plays more befitting a postwar era leading into the time of the classic five-year mission. Star Trek is at its best when it plays directly on current themes and events. This one introduces a new race with a curious relationship to her homeworld. It’s pretty unique, something that’s just begging to be further explored. These are subtle story points that might be missed if my “catch the details” mindset weren’t otherwise fully active. You can’t just pick and choose these things in Star Trek, which is why I find it so frustrating at times. But as I say, they’ve earned my trust, so I’m going to give it so long as they continue to keep it. And they did manage to pack a lot into 15 minutes. It’s actually kind of impressive just how much we got when you sit down and think about it.
It’s a fun watch. Mary Wiseman continues to win points in this role as her character develops.
And when it’s over, that’s when you realize the real story takes place after the credits roll. I want the rest of the story, where Tilly’s actions lead to questions from command personnel given that there’s a big mess in the mess, which includes alien blood from a life form that had a galactic-wide APB out on her. Instead of Tilly continuing to hide her actions, would the responsible thing not be to own up to them? And given how she handled it, would that not maybe fast track her into command school? But, no. Given that Enterprise was already right outside when season one left off, and season two picks up at that point, I’m still working out the details of when exactly this takes place, so I’m not entirely sure where they’d write the story’s aftermath either. Worse comes to worse, someone can write a novel in there and flesh it out. I’ve got nothing but praise for the Discovery novels so far, and it just so happens the next one due out is Tilly-centric, so… maybe it’ll happen. As I did with season one, I’ll reserve final judgment until all the pieces are in place.
The very fact that they keep leaving me wanting more is the highest praise I can offer, of course. Part of that is because they’ve done rather well so far. And the other part is because I’m just starved for new, high quality Star Trek. From an entertainment standpoint, it’s really hard to argue that combination.
One more month till the next Short Trek, “Calypso.”