Welcome to ‘Final Frontier Friday’! We’re doing something a little different this week and reviewing a new episode. The newest episode, in fact. I’m referring of course, to ‘The Trouble With Edward’, the latest installment of the second season (or whatever we’re calling these production blocks) of ‘Short Treks’.
Penned by Graham Wagner, ‘The Trouble With Edward’ functions as a prequel of sorts to the original series episode to which its title so clearly alludes. If there’s one thing that should be apparent after the first two seasons of ‘Discovery’, it’s that this can be sticky territory. ‘Discovery’, after all, is often at its best when it embraces the spirit of the original ‘Star Trek’ without trying to shoehorn itself into that show’s continuity. That being said, when those continuity ties have worked, they’ve actually tended to work quite well (case in point: any time Anson Mount is on screen as Captain Pike). But when it doesn’t work? It gets a bit rough. The first season, in particular, is replete with examples of the latter. So which category does ‘The Trouble With Edward’ fall into?
Well, it’s funny you should ask. Usually, when I end a paragraph like that in one of these columns, it’s a rhetorical question filling the role of clumsy segue. And while there have been times I’ve had a change of heart after writing one of these reviews (‘Star Trek 2009’ being perhaps the most dramatic example to date), more often than not, I have a pretty good sense of how I feel about an episode before I put pen to paper, with the review process sort of refreshing and formalizing my thoughts. It sort of goes with the territory of having watched and rewatched these shows as many times as I have. This, though, is a bit different. I walked away from my first viewing of ‘The Trouble With Edward’ with a lot of conflicting feelings, and I thought a review might help me to hash it all out. Or not. I guess we’ll find out together.
Lynne Lucero, a newly-minted captain, bids Captain Pike a fond farewell as she prepares to transfer to the Cabot to begin her first command. Once aboard the Cabot, Lucero meets with her staff in preparation for their mission – providing famine relief to the inhabitants of Pragine 63, a planet near the Klingon border. The meeting is fairly by the numbers until it’s time for protein specialist Edward Larkin to bring everyone up to speed on his own pet project: tribbles. Specifically, tribbles as a food source. The only problem, he says, is that they breed too slowly, but that’s nothing a little genetic engineering can’t fix. His colleagues are taken aback and Lucero asks if tribbles are intelligent. Not immediately realizing that it’s an ethical question, Larkin reassures her that they’re easy prey before adding that he can engineer some brain damage into their genome. Lucero orders the tribble project suspended and reassigns Larkin to climatology.
After the meeting, Larkin grouses about Lucero to anyone who will listen and begins genetically modifying his tribbles in direct defiance of her orders. Later, Larkin is summoned to Lucero’s ready room where the captain tells him that “someone” has been complaining about her to Starfleet Command. She further informs him that he will be transferred off the Cabot and dismisses him, though Larkin at first refuses to leave, starting a petty argument over whether or not Lucero can unilaterally end their conversation.
The Cabot’s crew scrambles to respond to a lab breech – Larkin’s augmented tribbles have gotten loose and begun breeding out of control. It’s instantly clear to everyone what Larkin was doing, though he merely points out that ‘it worked”. Despite their best efforts, the crew is unable to clear the tribble infestation which eventually begins to threaten their oxygen supply. Lucero eventually has no choice but to order her crew to abandon ship. True to form, however, Larkin continues to argue with her. Rather than board an escape pod, he insists that his own intelligence and the success of his work be acknowledged.
Instead, he is overcome by what can only be described as a tribble tsunami as the pods are jettisoned. Sometime later, Lucero stands before a board of inquiry. Admiral Quinn is stunned at how disastrous Lucero’s first command was: In the space of two weeks, she lost not only a member of her crew but her entire ship in a debacle that resulted in a genetically modified invasive species being released on Pragine 63, all of which she has laid at Larkin’s feet. When asked how she can blame all of this on one man, she simply states, “He was an idiot.”