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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Star Trek: Discovery 1-04: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry (Quick Review)

Episode:4|Writer:Jesse Alexander & Aron Eli Coleite|Air Date:08-Oct-2017

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm watching Discovery's fourth episode, The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry... holy shit that's a long episode title.

In fact, at 38 letters it's the second longest episode title in all of Star Trek after The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky! It kicks the crap out of Doctor Who's recent The Pyramid at the End of the World with its pathetic 28 letters.

The episode was written and directed by a bunch of people I've never heard of, so instead of filling space with what I think about them, I'm going to get straight to the part where I say that this is going to be a really rushed scruffy review without the long recap I usually do. It'll still have SPOILERS for this episode, but I'll probably not be spoiling much else.

They actually did it, those maniacs! They made the Discovery's saucer spin!

I was scared they'd pull something like this when I noticed the thin horizontal gaps in the neck, but even then I thought it might be used to rotate the science labs to face a different direction for sciency reasons. Nope, the mushroom drive requires spinning. It seems that the Discovery producers follow the philosophy of Stargate: SG-1's General Hammond: "It has to spin, it's round. Spinning is so much cooler than not spinning." At least it's just parts of the outer hull rotating, not the rooms, so no one's going to get dizzy... until it does that weird computer glitch flip at the end. Man I hate the way this ship does FTL jumps.

Anyway, the episode has two plots, one with the Discovery crew and one with the no-fun Klingons, and both of them are about needing a crucial engine component found in a crippled Starfleet ship. They're also both about a character being reluctant to take an action due to psychological reasons now that I think about it, as Burnham tries to ignore her package and Klingon bloke doesn't want to scavenge a Starfleet engine part, especially not from the ship T'Kuvma's killer came from. He had no trouble eating her though.

So Captain Georgiou is confirmed definitely 100% dead... though that doesn't stop her from making an appearance in pre-recorded hologram form, to inadvertently twist the knife a little more by talking about how Burnham's probably got her own command by now. Though she did give her the telescope, which is funny because Burnham was probably the one who saved it from the Shenzhou in the first place, along with all the books named after Original Series episode titles.

On the Starfleet side of the episode, Burnham and Landry are assigned by Lorca to figure out how to use his devil in the dark to help the war effort. The ending of the last episode made it seem like his sinister trophy room was something he was keeping secret, but nah he invites Burnham in the moment she's got her new silver badge-less uniform on.

It's interesting that both Burnham and Lorca see something of themselves in the creature, with Lorca relating to its natural aversion to light, and Burnham relating to being misunderstood due to a single incident in its past where it freaked out over Klingons and got a Starfleet officer killed. Landry, on the other hand, considered Burnham and the other prisoners to be animals last episode, so she's less than empathetic when dealing with an actual animal.

This is where the title comes in, as Landry represents the dark messed up 'any means necessary' side of the Discovery crew who'd be the uncaring butcher's knife, while Burnham represents Starfleet Classic, who'd care for the lamb's cry (and for everyone else in her care). By the way, that pretentious title's not a quote from the episode, or anywhere else it seems; I guess the writer was just in a poetic mood.

Unfortunately Landry learns the painful way that doing the 'obvious but ethically flawed' thing isn't necessarily doing the smart thing, when she freaks out after Lorca pumps the distress call through the ship to get them motivated and decides that she has to cut the creature's claw off right now, without even shining a flashlight into the cage to check if the anesthetic gas has worked. Burnham disagrees with her choice, but allows her to go through with it without pulling a mutiny this time, so I think she's really grown as a person. Shame about what happens to Landry though; she wasn't very Starfleet and she chose to go out like an idiot but I liked how unlikeable she was. She seemed like a 21st century woman who'd gotten stuck in the future and was given a job by Lorca when he saw how much she was into guns and being a dick to people.

Burnham doesn't let tragedy cloud her judgement though and takes the time to study the creature properly instead of acting on her assumptions. Again she's doing a lot better than she did with the Klingons. She correctly determines its nature and in doing so comes out of the weapons lab with a navigation tool, earning herself maximum Star Trek points! At least until she learns that plugging it into the mushroom drive means putting painful nipple clamps on it and every time they use their super engine the creature has to suffer. You just can't get a clean win on this bloody ship.

Lorca's very much at home on the USS Grimdark though. I mean he doesn't really give a damn about the details of the sciency things going on around his science vessel, but he sure loves the 'winning at all costs' part of his job. He's not the ideal Star Trek captain, but after the last episode put so much effort into making him appear sinister, this one swings the other way. In this episode, he's the man doing what needs to be done to save the Federation while the people around him bitch and moan and fail at battle drills. I'm sure he's going to have to make some horrible Enterprise season 3 choices eventually, but right now he's the big damn hero who teleported in to save the dilithium mine and keep Starfleet in the fight.

It took some real nerve for Lorca to pull off an atmospheric FTL jump rescue like that... when a certain other sci-fi series already did the same thing in one of the greatest scenes ever shown on television. But hey it looked pretty good here too and it's so nice to get proper dramatic music on a Trek series again. I like how the series handles the bridge action as well, with Lorca posing up at the front with his arms out like a conductor. Shame about all those scenes of the huddled survivors though. If you end an action scene with a little girl asking her dad "Who saved us?" you're probably doing it wrong.

On the no-fun Klingon side of the episode, it turns out that Torchbearer guy and Klingon #2 have been hanging out by the binary stars struggling to repair that sarcophagus ship of theirs for six months now. None of the other Klingons ships thought to drop by to offer assistance, Starfleet hasn't sent a science vessel captained by a guy obsessed with new weapons technology to recover the game-changing cloaking technology they have, they've just been stuck there, alone, entirely left out of the war they started. And when a Klingon ship finally does turn up to check on them, the captain swipes the ship and crew from them! I have to say, I struggled to take these Klingons seriously in their first appearance, with their giant oversized rubber heads and costumes they can barely move in, but after the events of this episode... I've given up struggling. I don't think they work, other folks think they do, and that's just how it is. Though I can at least look up what their names are.

I did like how Voq the Torchbearer had to go over to the frozen Shenzhou for spare parts (and ultimately got his dumb-ass exiled there without a fight), but it doesn't say much about his intelligence when he thinks his second in command L'Rell has really betrayed him right after her 'I am from the house of deceit' reveal. C'mon, that was so obvious she was playing Kol. Plus I was a bit disappointed when they didn't have to fix the battered Starfleet vessel up with the help of some other exiled Klingons to use it as their replacement flagship. And telling the guy who just lost his sarcophagus ship with all his stuff on it that he'll have to sacrifice "Everything" just seemed weird. What's he got left to give, his clothes that turn into a spacesuit? His cool little oxygen box? He already surrendered his zealous commitment to spaceship purity.

My opinion on the episode overall is that it was pretty decent, with the same quality direction, writing, acting and production value displayed in the other episodes so far, and it seems to put the series on track to reaching some kind of Star Trek hopefulness before the season's over. It's a well made, good looking series with so much money squeezed into it that it keeps leaking out the side of my TV... which is why it's so frustrating for me that it's about the USS Pizza Cutter teleporting around the Mycelial network thanks to an indestructible creature with a star map in its head that can talk to mushrooms. I realise that warp drives, telepathy, transporters etc. are all bullshit, but the other Star Trek spin-offs typically featured sci-fi technology in a way that made me think 'didn't understand a word of that, but it seems almost plausible', and this is utterly failing at that. If there's one thing Discovery has in common with the Kelvin timeline movies, it's that it's making me work a lot harder to suspend my disbelief than I remember having to do in the olden days, and I don't like it. Leave the teleporting animals to the Inhumans and the magic Mushroom dimension warp pipes to Mario.

At least now we know why Starfleet stopped using this amazing Battlestar Galactica jump drive tech before the Original Series started: they were embarrassed by how daft it looks and how little sense it makes. Well, that and the animal cruelty.

Discovery will return with Choose Your Pain. Always a fun adventure on the USS Discovery. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm watching... The Orville probably.

Comments are always good, you should leave me some of them.


  1. Part of me wonders if Voq is going to have to sacrifice his Klingonness and become one of the human-Klingon hybrids from the Original Series, but that's probably just me reacting against these new Klingons.

    What surprises me most is that they got an English actor to play a sinister captain but he's not using an English accent. I'm sure that breaks some sort of rule.

    1. It's even more surprising because he's not just any English actor, he's JASON ISAACS, a man famous for playing sinister people in authority with English accents. Maybe they're saving it for a shocking reveal later. Burnham hears his accent slip and that's when she realises she needs to put her mutiny skills to use once again.

  2. I also have to say, it ruined a bit of the drama when one of the endangered colonists was named after a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy character. That was probably not the best time to slip in a reference.

    1. I couldn't take any of the scenes with the colonists crying out in distress seriously, so it didn't bother me. (Also to be honest I didn't even pick up on it on my first viewing.)