Star Trek Discovery Review: “Despite Yourself”

The most recent incarnation of Star Trek returns tonight—with some familiar names behind the camera.

Titles: “Despite Yourself”

Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Written by Sean Cochran

Cast
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca
Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler
Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
Doug Jones as Saru
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Kenneth Mitchell as Kol
Mary Chieffo as L’Rell
Jayne Brook as Vice-Admiral Katrina Cornwell
Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly
Emily Coutts as Keyla Detmer
Clare McConnell as Dennas
Sara Mitich as Airiam
Patrick Kwok-Choon as Rhys

Premise:

The Discovery finds itself in the Mirror Universe, where they grapple with the realities of their other selves’ lives. Meanwhile, one character may already be someone else….

High Point:

I’ve occasionally mocked the forced edginess of many reinvented/remade shows and stories, but I give Discovery credit for going to some very ugly places this week, as clear parts of the story and a broader story arc.

I just hope these won’t be the only places they go.

Low Point:

The secondary plot would end fairly quickly if Discovery’s brig had any kind of security monitoring.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Although Trek has visited the Mirror Universe in other incarnations of the series, this version seems especially disturbing, and a major character dies.

Another soon may want to die.

Effects: 5/6 Discovery continues to have the most impressive effects of the franchise. They try to do too much this week, and the space shots, in some cases, feel like passable videogame outtakes.

We do get a great opening shot, however, to bring us back into the show after its hiatus.

Acting: 5/6 The cast have to stretch themselves this week. Sonequa Martin-Green remains strong. Shazad Latif plays his torture(d) scenes effectively. Mary Wiseman still feels uneven, for reasons other than her character’s awkwardness.

Production: 6/6

Story: 5/6 The episode moves along nicely. It’s difficult to assess the story, because we don’t know how it will end.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The setting actually functions as a critique of deliberate edginess and darkness, though I do not know to what degree the show will develop that critique.

Overall: 5/6 I continue to make my usual gripe: the notion that an earth with an entirely divergent history—one which encourages murder—would have the same people in every era who would then end up working together seems preposterous. One dialogue briefly lampshades the implausibility, but, really, we have to just accept the Mirror Universe in order to have these kinds of stories

In total, “Despite Yourself” receives 34/42

Lingering Questions

Will we finally see the Terran Empire? And is Ian McDiarmid available?

While I was never a big fan of Ryker, I’ve always been impressed by Jonathan Frakes as a director. But Is the ep’s writer the ancestor of another Trek character?

5 replies on “Star Trek Discovery Review: “Despite Yourself””

  1. We just watched season 2 of Enterprise, and coming from that to this, there’s a level of intensity that’s like going from watching Xena to watching Game of Thrones.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      This is definitely Trek for people who grew up watching the more complex and often intense “prestige” shows. I have no doubt that, if they re-invented Xena, it would feel a little more like Game of Thrones. Or perhaps Orange is the New Black.

    • zocalo says:

      It is definitely “Trek for Grown-ups”, but I’m concerned that within the first ten episodes – despite have two major story arcs to cover – they’ve already used such follow-up season filler-episode staples as the Groundhog Day and Mirror Universe episodes (or arc in the latter case). I’ll give them points for bringing a somewhat original spin to both, but still.

      Also, in another instance of how dumb see-through screens are, did anyone else notice that the Discovery’s have their content orientated towards the camera rather than the actual user? I suspect they’ve been that way all along, but it was particularly noticeable this week given then number of camera angles where you were basically looking through the screen.

      I actually think we *do* know how this is going to end, although there may be a twist or two in the interpretation (pure speculation, but spoiler protected anyway): they’re obviously not going to heed Stamets’ outbursts about “The Palace”, and no prizes for guessing the honorific of the individual we’re going to find there. Feel free to place your bets on the actual personage though – I’m guessing Philippa Georgiou, just because that’s going to put Burnham through the largest wringer. Plus she’s no longer in command of the intact Mirror Universe version of Shenzhou…

  2. Karrde712 says:

    When the episode started and it became clear that they were in the Mirror Universe, my first thought was “Oh, shit! What if we’ve been watching the Mirror Universe this whole time and they just jumped to the PRIME Universe!” It would have been a fantastic twist and could have justified a bunch of the exceedingly spartan decisions of the crew up to this point.

    The rest of the episode felt like a let-down to me after that.

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