STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Review: 2.03 “Point Of Light”

The Klingons return, with 100% more hair.

Spock still didn’t show his beardy Vulcan face in this week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery. In an episode where the main arc took a breather, we instead spent time catching up with our old friends the Klingons, checking out a brand-new variety of space mushroom, and teasing the next big title in the Star Trek series pantheon.

As for the main story arc - the seven signals, the Red Angel, and so on - “Point Of Light” mostly focuses on teasing out some backstory and setup. Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner, who I keep having to remind myself is not Amy Adams) arrives in Sarek’s shuttle to deliver Spock’s medical file, stolen from the psychiatric hospital on Starbase 5. Even Amanda, Spock’s mother, has been unable to see her son, a situation made yet more complicated by his apparently having murdered his guards and doctors and escaped. Nobody on Discovery believes that, so they're likely in for a race against the rest of the Federation to find their guy before the space cops do.

Guilt encircles Spock's friends and family this week. Pike feels guilt for Spock's current situation, as if he let him down as captain; Amanda feels guilt for having concealed her emotions for her son’s benefit; Michael Burnham feels guilt for having hurt him terribly many years ago. All of this has resulted in what Starfleet Medical describes as “extreme empathy deficits,” which is heartbreaking to hear about poor Spock. Obsessed with his Red Angel visions, he’s clearly suffering a great deal, and I hope that Amanda’s quest to find him proves fruitful emotionally as well as physically. The plot may not have advanced, but it readjusted its trajectory into something far more personal than the galaxy-spanning stakes initially suggested.

We also explore emotions on Qo’noS, where L’Rell is attempting to hold the newly united Klingon Empire together, despite widespread distrust. Genetic hybrid Tyler has accepted his role in the new Empire, but the old warlords have not, preferring to stay in their original house hierarchy. Believing the seven signals are an omen caused by the “dishonourable” peaceful end to the Federation-Klingon War, and distrustful of a woman being in charge, they test their new leaders at every opportunity.

For L’Rell and Ash, this is all naturally very difficult. Ash still has PTSD - and will likely never get over it - regarding his previous life as Voq and his brutal surgical transformation into his current self. The pair’s former romance no longer holds any weight to him - “that intimacy feels like violation,” even - and his only solace is found in Michael Burnham, the only person who understands how trapped he is between two lives. That complicates his relationship with L’Rell, getting further complicated when it’s revealed that she and Voq had a child, kept away from both of them (and even gestated ex-utero) for safety.

That baby, of course, is a powerful bargaining chip for power-hungry warlords, and naturally it's quickly abducted and ransomed for control of the empire. The leader of House Kor (House Kor!) confronts L’Rell and Ash, in a typically heavyweight Klingon fight scene, and Ash and L’Rell are eventually brought to the edge of execution - before Philippa Georgiou appears to do some black-ops manoeuvres to ensure continuity of government. This is some serious Shakespearean political manipulation - appropriate, given the original language of the Bard’s works - and the power-theatre that follows is some chilling shit. Publicly, L’Rell curses Tyler's name, calling him a traitor and apparently presenting his severed head - and their baby's - to her warlord subordinates. Declaring herself “Mother” of the Empire, “a fiercer title” than Emperor, she gathers the squabbling houses under her terrifying new order. Where this goes next will be very interesting indeed.

Naturally, neither Ash nor the baby are actually dead: the baby’s sent to be raised as a monk by devout followers of Kahless, while Ash becomes the newest member of Georgiou’s black-ops crew. In this manner, the episode functions as a tease for the upcoming Georgiou show. Georgiou has her own Section 31 ship, her own elaborate Section 31 bridge set, and her own Section 31 handler. She’s also got a half-Klingon in her crew now, which feels perfect for an espionage show. Best of all, though, is her line describing her crew - “the freaks are more fun” - which I pray is some kind of mission statement for her show and its cast.

Finally, after “Klingon political intrigue," the episode dives into another classic Trek trope, in the form of “an alien creature inhabits a crewmember’s body to speak through them.” That crewmember is Tilly, and the creature is a fungal parasite picked up in the Mirror Universe, manifesting to our command-programme candidate as former schoolmate May. “May” wants something from spore expert Lt.Cmdr Stamets, somewhat predictably, whereas Tilly merely wants to be free of her psychic passenger. Mary Wiseman acquits herself well, both in scenes engaging with May and particularly in her emotional confession to Burnham - there's something in her mind she wants to be rid of, and anyone who's been in a similar situation will sympathise. By the end of the episode, Stamets uses some dark matter to rather unscientifically extract the parasite from Tilly’s body, but it’s still hanging around, and we still don’t know exactly what it wants. Maybe a damp, dark place to grow?

Next week, it seems the signals return, and yet another Trek trope rears its head: the “alien crewmember’s congenital terminal condition” storyline, this time affecting Saru. We’ll also see more of the spore creature, and hopefully more of Georgiou and Ash’s escapades. This show keeps on giving us new twists on classic Trek ideas, and it’s building up a seriously rich cast of characters. More of that!

Stray observations:

  • Shazad Latif is really nailing Ash’s identity crisis, likely informed by his own mixed-race descent. Having a character with mixed DNA, who crucially can "pass" as one species only, is an interesting angle that hasn’t specifically been explored in Star Trek, even with B’Elanna Torres, and it's something many people will likely be able to relate to.
  • Communicating via viewscreens is seen as old-school in this timeline, apparently.
  • Ash and Michael’s holo-chat is extremely well put together, between the match-cutting and the blending of their two locations. Kudos to director Olatunde Osunsanmi.
  • Discovery’s course-correction towards classic Trek continues in its treatment of the Klingons, whose Season One baldness has now been somewhat amusingly retconned as a practice specific to wartime. They’ve now got hair and beards again, and though the underlying makeup appliances are still more elaborate than those of other series, they’re much more like the Klingons we know and love. And unless I'm hallucinating, they've a bit more facial dexterity under those appliances now, too.
  • “Your chancellors must reorganise their tiny little male brains.” Can we have a show where Georgiou and L’Rell go around the quadrant kicking the patriarchy’s ass? Can we?