TV Review Star Trek Discovery An Obol For Charon


Hey, no Klingons this episode, whoo-hoo!


WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ lie ahead, obviously.  If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!


RECAP: There are four main storylines being weaved around each other this week, to varying degrees of success:

  1. Spock is still out there somewhere.  This is the fourth episode in a row where we talk about Spock at length but don’t really get that much closer to meeting him.  The Spocktease is past tedious.
  2. There’s a gigantic space orb, hundreds of thousands of years old, that has snatched Discovery out of warp and starts to buffet their systems with a virus and seemingly random attacks.
  3. Saru falls ill and eventually reveals that the issue stems from the process in a Kelpien’s life where their bodies shut down in advance of being eaten by their predator race.
  4. The blobby spore thingy that was physically pulled from Tilly last episode is still hanging out, being generally blobby and causing quite a stir in Engineering.

In the opening scene of the episode, Number One stops by on a quick trip away from Enterprise to drop off some important Spock-specific information.  The rest of the episode is spent working towards resolving the above plot points; #s 2 and 3 get wrapped up neatly, with #4 being teased as a “to be continued” type of extension into next week’s episode, and #1 being the ongoing thread of the season.



  • While I appreciate the desire to have an over-arching plot theme to the season in addition to each week’s individual trials and tribulations, this episode felt unnecessarily busy to me.  The Tilly/spore-blobby story just seems convoluted and unneeded at this point, existing solely to give Tilly, Stamets, and Reno something to do.
  • The ancient space orb, while an attempt at a nice “classic” style Trek story, is never truly a threat, and ends up about as unemotionally an issue as you can get.  The giant space creatures in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ series-premiere episode “Encounter at Farpoint” at least had a sense of gravitas because they were “humanized” by having feelings, showing gratitude for being freed, etc.; the orb in this episode comes across as nothing more than a library that wants you to take its books home with you before its demolished.
  • Did anyone ever believe that Saru was actually going to die at any point in this episode?  ‘Discovery’ is not bold enough to kill off any of its main characters unexpectedly – heck, they couldn’t even let Captain Georgiou rest in peace for a few episodes last season before “replacing” her with an alternate-reality doppelganger.
  • Perhaps I don’t fully understand how the ship-board Universal Translator is supposed to work, but if characters natively speak Standard English, why would it make them speak another language?  Wouldn’t everyone’s words come out of their mouths in their native tongues?  And how did this malfunction force Pike and Burnham to be physically forming Klingon words in their mouths – and yet still understand one another?  This is another of the litany of examples that ‘Discovery’ has of big and intriguing ideas but very poor planning and execution.
  • The “new Starfleet uniform” thing still makes zero sense to me.  It’s clear that Discovery is bouncing around known Federation space, apparently relatively close to Spacedock is Number One is able to zip over for a quick visit… so why haven’t they been given the “new” color-by-occupation threads yet?  As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s been made blazingly clear that the ship has the ability to synthesize new clothes quickly and easily – feels like this is a changeover that could be done for the entire crew within one shift change.  Stop contradicting yourselves, ‘Discovery’ creative team – get it done, switch over all the uniforms already!
  • Once again, a prime opportunity to explore and learn more about the ancillary bridge crew characters as actual people goes completely to waste in the “briefing room” scene, save for one comedic line from Linus, who wasn’t even introduced as a true speaking character until this episode – and his one line is, day I say it, Orville-esque in its existence.  Hell, at this point I feel like I know Commander Nhan, the Enterprise transplant who didn’t show up until this season, better than these other characters who have been on the show since the very beginning.  Also, since when can the bridge crew call a briefing session and leave the bridge ostensibly unattended without the Captain even being present for said briefing?  It was almost like they were just all on lunch break at the same time and decided to sit at the same table and chat – but not about themselves, about work.
  • Pike and Numero Uno’s attempted canon-realigning chat about the Enterprise‘s technical issues stemming from their holo-viewers was a valiant attempt to help bridge the gap between “fancy-ass show made today that’s set a decade before the now-retro-styled show that debuted 50+ years ago,” but it still doesn’t work.  From this convo, we are to assume that the presence of holographic communications systems on-board Enterprise is to blame for the system-wide failure that the ship experienced.  “Enterprise is the only ship in the fleet that’s had any problems.”  HOW?!?!  Every other ship we’ve seen, Discovery included, has this holo-communication system in place.  Plus, in ‘The Original Series,’ we saw the interiors of several other Constellation-class starships and starbases, and none of them featured holographic communication systems.  This question has stood since day one of ‘Discovery’ but becomes even more glaring now: are we to believe that Starfleet completely downgrades the technology of their entire fleet sometime in the next 10 years?


CLOSING THOUGHTS: As I’ve spoken about before, ‘Discovery’ is, in my opinion, a show with plenty of flash but very little substance underneath.  It’s enough to keep the average viewer engaged, and I have to admit that even I get fairly well engaged with each episode’s peaks and valleys, and always am at least intrigued enough to come back for another week of action.  Would I feel the same way if it wasn’t my job to review the series here?  Hard to say…



Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru
Anson Mount as Captain Pike
Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Cadet Tilly


‘Star Trek: Discovery’ features new episodes Thursday nights at 8:00 pm online via CBS All Access.