It was bound to happen eventually and it would seem that time has come with The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry (which, by the way, is right up there with Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night when it comes to stupidly titled episodes).
Frankly I’m impressed Star Trek: Discovery made it to the fourth episode before I had any serious gripes.
I’ve been loving the show so far. This week….not so much.
In fact, I spent most of the episode having to rewind because I couldn’t read the Klingon subtitles while my face was buried in my hands, and I might have missed something crucial (spoiler alert: I didn’t).
The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry is an absolute mess.
There is no unifying thread throughout the episode. The core theme (that we should learn about the unknown before we decide to fear it, and that one shouldn’t hurt ones caged kitty cat in the name of war) was lost in a sea of subplots and random tangents. They sort of related to each other, but not really. There was also a great deal of Klingon nonsense.
That’s the second time I’ve mentioned the Klingons, so we’ll start there…
The Trouble With Klingons
So apparently the late Captain Georgiou was eaten by the Klingons.
There’s nothing in existing canon to indicate Klingons would do this. It’s disturbing, weird, and seems to have been shoe-horned in to play up the theme of the episode…or at least tie into the ridiculous title.
It has a decidedly cannibalistic air to it, despite the fact they’re not the same species. They’re both humanoid and sentient, and given the Star Trek ethos that all species in the franchise are equal, it’s really quite bizarre.
And this is from a girl who makes a living analysing cannibalistic narratives.
I’m not sure if this was intended to be shown as their desperation caused by hunger, or if they’d have done it anyways out of vengeance/victory. I’m finding it difficult to argue for the former, given that the pasty-faced Torchbearer (I’m sorry, I’d don’t care about him enough to look up his name) ate her face.
I’m going to say that again, because it bears repetition: he ate Captain Georgiou’s face.
Whatever the intention, the result is that the Klingons are coming off as savages who eat their enemies for no apparent reason.
I didn’t find the Klingons engaging or pleasant this episode. The extended conversations in Klingon were draining. This was largely due to something I noticed in the pilot – the unnatural cadence some of the Klingon actors have when speaking.
They deliver their lines in one of two ways:
- As people who have learned made up words and have no idea what they mean, or
- People who are pausing and adding inflections to words because they’re thinking of their English meaning, and it doesn’t translate.
Language isn’t so simple as saying things exactly as you would in English, but replacing the words with different ones.
It’s forced, and quite exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they’re letting the Klingons speak Klingon, but they’re not doing the language justice.
Seriously, I know fangirls who speak it fluently without trouble.
The boys on The Big Bang Theory are doing a better job of speaking Klingon than Star Trek is currently managing, and I’m not even kidding.
I’m not at all keen on the new incarnation of the Klingons. They didn’t bother me so much in the pilot, because I was intrigued by them and the episode was well paced.
I’m no longer intrigued, I’m bored and frustrated.
I’ve never dealt well with any form of religious fanaticism, and the whole ‘Torchbearer/T’Kumva’ thing is now very annoying. It was okay for one episode. I was not expecting it to continue in this manner; I assumed it was going to be the inciting incident of the war, not a long running plot point.
None of this is helped by the fact the (lengthy) Klingon interludes this episode served absolutely no purpose beyond showing the Klingon army has recovered the cloaking device (which really, we presumed they would have done six months ago?), and setting up a pair of religious zealots as the underdogs on the side of the Klingons.
I’m sorry, I don’t care.
If Trek didn’t learn from the disastrous last season of DS9 that nutty religious causes are a bad idea, I’m really worried about where this is leading…
Thin Characters And Pointless Death
The main conflict this episode came from Michael’s struggle to get anyone to listen to her, while she stubbornly refused to listen to anyone else. I have no problem with this as a concept, but the execution was really bad.
Commander Landry was presented as an even more insufferable, arrogant, irritating, bull-headed, tunnel-vision, die-hard Captain Lorca fan that she was last week.
And she was annoying enough last week.
She butted heads with Michael, then predictably died for her troubles.
I love the fact there is now conflict between the Starfleet personnel. That’s never really been present before, except on rare occasions where people were visiting the ship – like Jellico or Shelby on TNG. Even in Voyager where the crew was half made up of Maquis there was hardly ever any conflict.
So it’s good.
What’s no so good is the fact they’ve decided the only way to introduce conflict is to make certain characters insufferable, and force Michael to deal with them.
When your conflict comes from a character with no redeeming qualities, who clearly exists to be nothing but a source of tension and annoyance, it’s hardly surprising the audience finds them annoying.
And it’s not like they’re incapable of writing two dimensional characters who provide tension. Saru is great, as it Stamets.
Saru’s issues with Michael are also present this week, and still completely understandable. Her behaviour towards him often makes us feel she’s the one in the wrong, or at least that both sides have a reasonable perspective and there’s no clear right side and wrong side.
Landry is presented as being completely unreasonable and cruel, without any sympathetic understanding for her motivation. She’s not depicted as being desperate to save lives, she’s just obsessed with Lorca.
Add to this the fact that Landry is killed off in the most pointless manner possible, and the whole thing was just a shambles.
It’s all well an good to have a host of extras with a great mix of gender roles, but it’s quite another to actually create strong female characters. I’m really unsure why her death happened at all. There’s no indication they’re intending to build on any of the supporting females introduced so far beyond Tilly.
Bad enough we were given a bait and switch in the pilot, with a female captain who didn’t live out the two parter and was replaced by a guy. Now we have to deal with one of only three women in the show I can actually remember the name of getting killed for the sake of proving a point.
And it wasn’t even a good point.
Or well executed.
Stamets And The Doctor
Last week I was speculating Stamets might be the first LGBTQ main character, this week I’m pretty much ready to call it. If I’m wrong I will be extremely pissed off that they’d tease us in such a cruel manner.
We were very briefly introduced to the doctor of Discovery this episode (Doctor Culber, played by Wilson Cruz), to find he’s a bloke, and human, and has (unless I’m totally misreading the situation) some sexual tension running with Stamets.
Are they involved, aren’t they, will they be in future?
Needless to say the only saving grace for making the doctor yet another man is the possibility we might actually get a bonafide gay relationship between main characters (you know, that isn’t excused as some weird Trill past-life thing).
Who Saved Us?
As if all of this nonsense isn’t enough to be dealing with, there’s also a mining colony under attack from the Klingons, a failed attempt at making the magical engine work, the first successful use of said engine we’ve seen, and the daring rescue of a lot of screaming people (many of whom are children).
I’m not dwelling on this much because it barely had any screen time, and the overly sentimental attention it was given was nothing but an effort to make us feel stuff.
Right down to the cute little girl staring up into the sky and asking the ether, “Who saved us?”, like Lorca is some avenging angel, rather than a grumpy sociopath.
I’m really not complaining that he’s a sociopath, that’s actually quite fun. I’d just rather they created the emotional climax of the episode through genuine plot development rather than cheap tricks.
The Good Parts
The creature is interesting and very cool, and there are some amazing visual effects throughout the episode, not least of which the creation of Michael’s uniform at the start. I’m still enjoying the fact Michael swears occasionally – it makes her feel more human.
For me the highlight of the episode was Tilly starting a ‘my mother used to say’ story, then stopping herself, recognising the stupidity of it, and admitting her mother never said anything of the kind.
Someone needs to put that girl in a room with Chakotay.