Really enjoyed this one, here's my random thoughts...
They will never please the Star Trek community, lol. It's like they cry about everything, doesn't matter what they do with this show.
[6.9/10] “An Obol for Charon” combines one of my favorite tropes from traditional Trek, and some of the worst excesses of Discovery. The result is a mostly functional episode of the show, that gets by on sheer pace and momentum for much of its run, but then drags to a screeching halt in its final stretch.
Finding some strange being or alien creature or unknown phenomenon and learning to communicate with it is a Star Trek classic, from the energy being of “The Metamorphosis” from The Original Series, to V’Ger from The Motion Picture to the famed “Darmok and Jilad at Tinagra” situation in The Next Generation. To that end, Discovery could do a lot worse than centering an episode on people learning to bridge divides and communicate with one another, with plenty of alien wildness mixed in.
“An Obol for Charon” signals that early with the way that this week’s peculiar space creature mucks with the ship’s universal translator causing the crew to spit out Klingon, Arabic, and a host of other languages, making what Captain Pike acknowledges is a “Tower of Babel.” That same theme of learning to communicate well stretches to include the U.S.S. Discovery and the interstellar maw that has it trapped, the ship’s scientists and the eukaryotic critter that has Tilly, and even the different-minded Lt. Stamets and Lt. Reno.
These stories are all functional at worst, if a bit rote. Any Trek fan worth their salt has seen some ship’s crew struggle over whether to blast some unknown life form out in the reaches of space who’s threatening the safety of the crew, or to make some kind of contact or achieve some kind of understanding with it. There’s nothing particularly unique about the big pit of Mordor in space that Discovery runs into until the payoff, but the way it screws with the ship’s systems creates enough (literal and figurative) fires for the crew to put out to keep the episode moving.
The same goes for the story of Tilly and the magic mushroom. The parasite thing isn’t new for Trek, but this is a solid-at-worst rendition of it. For one thing, the combative dynamic between Stamets and his snark vs. Reno and her dry wit is an utter joy. There’s a lot of good tension and problem solving as the two of them have to figure out a solution, when Tilly is clearly not well. In particular, the moment where Stamets and Tilly sing “Space Oddity” (while a little on the nose) as he has to drill into her skull is the right combination of sweet and scary, and foreshadows the difficult act Burnham has to perform later in the episode.
Still, as with the other storylines in the episode, I’m more interested in what this portends for the future than what was delivered in this episode. For one thing, I’m interested in the parasite’s warnings about Stamets as an “alien invader” as a fix for why we’ve never seen the spore drive later in the timeline. For another, the mystery of Tilly being caught in the mycelial network has some juice to it. This initial scrape between Tilly and “May” is good enough as a self-contained story, but it doesn't really wow in the here and now, and it’s a little too familiar for folks who’ve been following the franchise for a while.
And I mostly like the finishes to these stories! The scientist character finding ways to talk to the weird species and save the friend who it’s attached to as a classic Trek bit for a reason. Stamets’s “I should have known” reaction and the parasite’s anger are intriguing. At the same time, the reveal that the space pit’s ship-screwing up signals are actually the thing trying to communicate its own epitaph feel very true to the spirit of the series and its “explore and learn rather than destroy and escape” ethos.
Hell, I even like the parallel with Saru’s situation. It’s signposted too much for my taste, but the idea that Saru and Burnham recognize the space pit trying to give its last words because Saru is trying to do the same is a solid bit of mirroring and inspiration for the reveal. And you can tell where the budget for this episode went when watching the impressive blast sequence of the entity dying and pushing the Discovery way.
But man, there’s so much emotional exposition here. I care about Saru. I care about his and Burnham’s relationship. But I was skeptical that the show would really kill him off, and if that didn’t dampen my ability to be moved by the situation, the clunky-as-hell dialogue between the two of them definitely did.
This show just cannot escape from these overwritten, too long conversations between characters that take a “more is more” approach to trying to convey feelings and mood, and leave the whole thing feeling more overblown than human. The ham-handed lines given to Saru about Burnham reaching out to her brother just as Saru wishes he could do for his sister land with even more of a thud, though at least it gives Burnham an arc in this episode.
It’s the thing that sinks what’s otherwise a perfectly competent episode of Discovery. The show spoon feeds us a little more detail on the season arc chasing Spock (replete with the first appearance from Number One!), and it gives us a solid theme that permeates all the crises of the week.
But at the same time it wants us to (a.) buy into a major character potentially dying and (b.) buy into the emotion of the scenes where he says his goodbyes, but it’s just not convincing in either. As with the other bits in the episode, I’m intrigued to see where a new, more fearless, more aggrieved Saru goes after learning that his species’s society is founded on a lie, but that doesn't do much for right now.
One of the best things about Star Trek as a franchise is its devotion to exploring themes like connection and communication, with the high concept thought experiment trappings that a sci-fi setting can provide. But one of the worst things about Discovery as a show is how it can do that traditional spacefaring material well enough, and then devolve into overwrought sequences where the emotions just do land. “An Obol for Charon” is half-well done traditional Trek, and half-painful attempts at ginning up real sentiment. The episode’s passable when it’s doing the former, and exhausting when it’s doing the latter.
Really going in the right direction, with more classic Star Trek plots, space anomalies, unknown species, and some indications of recovering TOS canon. Also: no boring Klingons and we are now officially "In Search Of Spock" ;-)
More of THIS please and this show might actually become a decent Star Trek series some day!
Minus that anoying "old school" engineer and her exchange with Stamets I liked this episode. I think that conversation, althought it's topic was valid, was a little bit to imposed.
And they are trying now to explain things like how Kirk's Enterprise hadn't all that shiny techy stuff. And my guess is that ultimately they will abandon the whole jump drive and forbid it's use ever again. Which could explain why it never was used later but would still leave an explanation as to why no one ever talked about it.
Saru's story does interest me a lot more now than what happened to Spock. I think it's a bit annoying they dangled Spock in front of the audience like a carrot and it now seems he will be a ghost possibly up to the last (couple ?) episode (s). And it would be nice if they do a follow up to the Sphere and it's possible origins.
In any case, I recognize the effort they are taking.
Wish there was less dialogue & more action.
Saru's backstory was interesting, but they devoted too much time to it in one episode. Too much Tilly, too, and that doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon, unfortunately. I want more Spock- and Pike-related content, but the writers here clearly want to spend more time on their own characters than on legacy ones.
Tearing out the holo communicators. That's a step in the right direction. A few more changes and we may yet get a real Star Trek show.
This was a pretty standard anomaly in space episode. I found the whole thing with the translators to be more annoying than clever. I also find it unlikely that the majority of the crew didn't speak Federation Standard.
There were 2 smaller plotlines running. Tilly and the Slimer in the fungus room and Saru drops his fear dangles. Up until now I was finding the Tilly story interesting. I'm not sure where they lost me this episode.
As for the Saru story, that fell flat for me as well. I have never found him very compelling. For me he barely rates above the rest of the bridge crew who's names I'd have to look up. Losing Saru would have about the same impact as losing Wesley Crusher. I liked mirror Saru better. They should have saved (pickled?) the dangling bits for the Emperor.
In truth I'm not sure why this episode bugged me as much as it did. I probably should have given it a 6.
Some quality emotions are in this episode, I bit you won't hold your tears specially if you are a hardcore fan like me :)And I am happy that Saru is okay and not dead .
On the other hand, they are finally providing an explanation why the spore drive is not featured in the rest of the star trek series and movies .
Seems like the retconning continues: this week the replicators have been replaced by a more timeline suited version like TOS, the hologram com system apparently sucks so they're gonna stop using it and sneezing aliens in elevators sucked... Though they still use holographic images for briefings. Hell even Mary Burnham Sue seemed so insecure in that scene... I bet it's one of the reshoots they did for the season. And quite frankly these reshoots seem to be the best of the episode.
Jett Reno acts like an ass and is pretty much the condescending man-hating lesbian I guess? That whole conversation seemed a bit stupid... World War 3 happened Stamitz! Earth was blown to pieces so where were your solar panels? Also who the hell is Prince in that century?
Burnham still is the sore thumb of it all. Why is she even at the head of the ready-table. We have a captain and a number one , who apparently doesn't have much to do, but a mutineer who started a war killing thousands gets to be in charge? Miss know-it-all undermining professionals at every turn. Thanks Burnham for all the wealth of knowledge you have given us!! ALL HAIL BURNHAM! And here was me thinking Sisko is a god.
The music is becoming annoying... it doesn't need to be there ALL THE TIME.
The whole deathscene with Saru fell flat since I didn't actually believe it was going to happen. How stupid would they be if they kill of the best character in the show... The emotions in that scene didn't affect me cause of this and so it was a pointless scene. And loo behold... it was. But at least we know that Burnham has feelings for Saru and Saru isn't scared anymore... Which might not be a good thing. I like the effects it might have on "General Order One" and his homeplanet though.
I applaud that the people of CBS appear to be altering course but again: you have alienated and attacked your fanbase who have been in love with your product for most of their lives and gave it into the hands of people who only want their power (whether in the form of cash or their own political bias). Save Star Trek, save all our shows.
"Ground Control to Major Tom - Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong - Can you hear me, Major Tom?"
I'll take a whole episode where Reno, Linus, and Number One are sent on a shuttle mission together, please. Suddenly, this show is cranking out one solid supporting character after the other.
I love that Pike effectively gifted Kirk a ship that was gutted to be more old school than the rest of the fleet because he was sick and tired of all the new tech malfunctioning. And because he was scared of ghosts.
This was the "most STTNG like" tv experience since Voyager.
The science part was mostly questionable, the plot doesn't represent writing at its best, but the episode felt like coming home. <3
So I guess the so called fans got what they wanted - 90s quality dialogue and fake drama thats leads nowhere, episodic plots that amounts to nothing. Even Burnham started overacting. Say what you will about first season, but they had clear vision where they're going with this.
Aaaand here we go with an episode ruined with a bunch of bloody green PC propaganda! Also way too much boring dialogue and too little action. First season was much better so far. The drawn out sentimental crap at the end was so boring.
Not wanting to miss what you have learned
We need to see more of Rebecca Romijn's Number One. She's awesome!
Except for too much dialogue that was a quite good episode, felt like Trek again.
Some characters seem to die slower than Trinity only to miraculously stay alive.
Remember Voyager 2x06 "Twisted" ? The main plot is basically the same.