Qué Será Saru: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ S2E6 recap
What happens when a Kelpien loses his threat ganglia? This is the question Commander Saru contemplates in another heavy-handed soliloquy for which Star Trek: Discovery is quickly becoming infamous. The answer, for the audience, is the loss of the show’s only watchable character.
ST:D’s lazy, superficial writers were apparently told no one cared about the show’s flat, annoying characters in season one. So, lacking all common sense and narrative skill, they decided extended voiceovers of inner monologue would somehow overcome a total lack of plot & character development.
Quite the opposite: those monologues only serve to delay action with unwelcome introspection. Turns out there’s no shortcut for good old-fashioned storytelling, something ST:D is totally uncontaminated by. “The Sounds of Thunder” doesn’t even have a semblance of pace, rumbling in a turgid, confused mess for the requisite forty-odd minutes.
Recent events saw Saru catching a nasty bout of Vaharai: losing the fear glands that were precisely what made him interesting before. So what exactly happens when a Starfleet Kelpien loses his sense of fear? He turns into an insubordinate asshole, of course. My worries about the show’s only Trekian character, Saru, turning into a chaotic neutral madman turned out to be very well-founded, unfortunately.
Commander Saru, unhappy with the decision taken by Captain Pike to disallow him to return to his home planet’s surface with Michael after many years away, confronts his superior officer face to face on the bridge in front of the rest of the crew.
Discovery doesn’t have a ship’s councillor like the The Next Generation’s Enterprise-D, but if they did Saru would be getting serious couch time – along with some replicated Xanax to quell his newfound Authority Defiance Disorder.
The problem here is not that it ain’t believable a guy whose glands used to tell him to be scared makes some errors in judgment after those organs fall off. It’s that Saru’s appeal as a character in this drama were his logic and conscientious demeanor – the model of a Starfleet officer. Now he’s just another unhinged, immature jerk among a host of other senior Starfleet unhinged jerks.
The entire misjudged attempt to make a character dynamic – no matter the cost to the narrative – boils down to an inability to instil emotional investment in the audience. We’re supposed to root for Saru and think “What a badass! He’s finally standing up for his beliefs.”
The detail the writers forgot? A little thing called the growth process: i.e., character development that makes the audience actually care about what’s going on.
Because Saru’s “transformation” was an autonomic biological process deus ex machina and not a challenge he had to overcome, it’s just another in a succession of irrelevant events that happen on a screen. I’d merely shrug (rather than write this diatribe) if it weren’t so sad that it happened to the show’s only redeeming feature, i.e. pre-Vaharai Commander Saru.
The Kelpiens’ predator species, the Ba’ul, have until now been portrayed as horrible controlling liars, murdering Kelpiens before they mature for millennia. The only Ba’ul we meet here is portrayed as a sludgy entity rising out of a pool of black liquid, a version of the creature who killed Tasha Yar who got up without his morning soy mocha latte.
Michael & Saru eventually find out the Ba’ul originally lied about the fear glands thing in order to protect themselves from the dangerous post-Vaharai Kelpiens. The Ba’ul guy in the tar pit explains they set up this system in the past because they were the prey being hunted by the cruel, dangerous Kelpiens.
We get a taste of what Kelpiens can become when Saru, responding to rough handling by the Ba’ul, shoots some danger spikes at the tar guy from the holes where his fear ganglia used to be. What else happens to Kelpiens after Vaharai? For all we know, they become homicidal maniacs. Saru certainly seems to be heading in that direction.
Those poor Ba-ul! We’re kind of on their side at this point. Confronted with the new information that Kelpiens are dangerous, a reasonable person (which Starfleet officers should be, right?) might shift gears and attempt to incorporate the new data into the plan – perhaps shifting to diplomacy. Nope – not for the chaotic neutral senior crew of Discovery!
Pike lets himself get convinced by a clearly psychotic Saru that they should trigger planetwide Vaharai on all Kelpiens just as the Ba’ul begin procedures for genocide using an array of gargantuan weapons.
The Cap was just arguing whether to send down a single Starfleet officer to the surface of Kaminar, as it might contravene General Order One, prohibiting interference with prewarp-technology species. Now Pike’s ready to trigger simultaneous puberty in a population of billions? The entire bridge crew is totally on board with this chaotic neutral middle finger to the status quo.
In a weak nod to the ongoing season plot we don’t really care much about (especially since it centers around a character (Spock) we’ve only once seen in Michael’s blurry memories from thirty years previous), the Red Angel comes along. The glowing being disables all the Ba’ul weapons, effectively rescuing the Kelpiens from their impending doom for reasons unbeknownst to us. Yay, another random event saves the previous random event from destroying everything!
It’s frustrating to see the showrunners & writers room derail a franchise like this, utterly wasting a significant budget and flawless talent in sets, costume, and VFX. They’ve set fire to every treasured shibboleth that informed the creation of the Star Trek universe and replaced it with an ugly, unfeeling monster prone to random recklessness.
But hey, at least those Starfleet handheld communicator units look really chunky & old-school.