TV Review: ‘Star Trek: Discovery – Battle At The Binary Star’ (Season 1, Episode 2)

 

Coming hot on the heels of the premiere episode, the second episode of ‘Discovery’ aired immediately following on CBS All access, as will all future episodes air only on the online-streaming service.  CBS still plans on doling the episodes out on a week-by-week basis, so fans who pay for the streaming service will still have to wait until each Sunday at 8:30pm before they are able to view the next episode in order.  Episode 1, “The Vulcan Hello,” left things on a fairly big cliffhanger, so let’s dive in and talk all about “Battle at the Binary Star!”

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:  The action opens on a flashback showing the audience how Sarek first brought Burnham on board the Shenzhou seven years ago – a bit of an awkward exchange, but to be expected given the various cultural backgrounds in play.  Things quickly cut back to present day, where two dozen Klingon ships seem poised to unleash the fury of the Empire on the lone Starfleet ship.  But will they?

Aboard T’Kuvma’s ship, he is working to sway the leaders of the other Klingon houses to fight as a unified Empire.  Their decision is made fairly simple when the rest of the Federation armada shows up – the battle is officially on, and the Klingons take the early advantage.

Both sides take casualties, including the Shenzhou taking heavy damage and being set adrift.  The USS Europa arrives carrying Admiral Anderson, just in time to save the Shenzhou from destruction; Anderson offers a cease-fire and T’Kuvma accepts – at least, he says that he accepts, but in reality it’s just a ruse, as he uses his massive cloaked ship to ram the Europa and cripple it.  Europa self-destructs and damages T’Kuvma’s ship as well.

The Klingons, content that they have won the battle, warp away, leaving T’Kuvma and his ship to collect their dead soldiers floating in space.  Georgiou and her crew see this as an opportunity to strike; they would like to capture T’Kuvma as a show of his weakness to the Empire.  They plant a photon torpedo charge in a dead Klingon soldier being collected via tractor beam, and the resulting explosion cripples T’Kuvma’s ship.  Georgiou and Burnham beam aboard, but in the fracas, Georgiou is killed, and Burnham shoots and kills T’Kuvma.

Once the survivors are rescued, Burnham is charged with mutiny and treason, and her fate is left to life in prison.  However, it seems that she may have a reprieve instead of going to jail, to serve aboard the mysterious ship Discovery instead…

OBSERVATIONS:

  • I mentioned this in the last review, but I was under the impression that Starfleet, at this point in their history, consisted either primarily or exclusively of a dozen Constitution-class vessels.  So where the heck did all these other ships come from (of wildly varying classes, based on the visuals we are given) – and this is a fairly big fight against the Klingons, so could no Constitution-class ships, always talked about as the “best of the best,” be bothered to show up?  It’s possible, I suppose, that they were all out in deep-space on their five-year missions… but this binary star is a deep-space territory as well, right?  On the furthest border of Federation space?  If all these other ships could zip over there real quick, surely the USS Constellation, the USS Defiant, the USS Excalibur, the USS Exeter, the USS Hood, the USS Intrepid, the USS Lexington, the USS Potemkin, or even the USS Enterprise could have been bothered to show up and help out, yes?
  • Why didn’t the Klingons just put the finishing blow on Shenzhou and blow her up when she was adrift?  Klingons have always found honor and glory in the kill of the battle, not the “eh, they’ll probably die, let’s just leave them be” mentality.
  • I have a few issues with Geogriou’s decision to make herself and Burnham the “away team” to the Klingon vessel in their attempt to try and capture T’Kuvma.  First and foremost, Starfleet intelligence seems to know fairly well that Klingons are warriors – both their males and females are big, brutish folk.  So why does the away team, then, only consist of two human females?  Yes, it seems that Georgiou and Burnham are both skilled fighters, but at least take some more big burly dudes with you for backup!  And if the counterargument is that Shenzhou’s rickety old transporter only can only beam two people at a time (unconfirmed as factual, for the record) – then send the security officers immediately after the first transport.  It ain’t rocket science.
  • Next issue with the away team mission: it was clearly stated that the objective was to capture T’Kuvma, as killing him would make him a martyr in the eyes of his fellow Klingons.  This was the plan, as expressly stated by Burnham immediately before they beamed over – and then she ends up shooting him dead!  The phaser she used was literally set to stun only moments before she shoots and kills T’Kuvma, as shown when she shoots and stuns another Klingon.  Did she get angry because T’Kuvma had just killed Georgiou?  If that’s the case, the show did an extremely poor job of explaining this in the moment.
  • Starfleet and the United Earth Organization/United Federation of Planets is supposed to be founded on principles of peace, honor, and justice – yet the decision by the command crew of the Shenzhou to defeat the Klingons by putting a bomb inside a dead soldier’s body is essentially a war crime.  Earth-based accords like the Geneva Convention expressly forbid opposing forces using the bodies of the rivals’ fallen soldiers for treacherous and ill treatment, and one has to assume that a show based on peaceful exploration would continue to hold these moral codes dear.  Georgiou and her crew willingly and knowingly violated these accords with their actions… and the Klingons, in turn, really do have every right to hate the humans now.  Who are the real “bad guys” now?

CLOSING THOUGHTS: This episode, to be honest, left me with just as many logistical questions as the first.  Sometimes it does take new series a handful of episodes to “find its legs,” as it were, so we’ll wait to see what the next episode has to bring us this weekend, and of course we’ll be reporting to you immediately following!

PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru
Michelle Yeoh as Phillippa Georgiou
James Frain as Sarek
Chris Obi as T’Kuvma
Kenneth Mitchell as Kol

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ features new episodes Sunday nights at 8:30pm online via CBS All Access.

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