Star Trek Discovery Review: “Scavengers”

“My sentiments exactly.”
–Saru, in response to Tilly losing her composure and swearing multiple times.

Burnham and Georgiou play action heroes in a serviceable Trek planet story while the rest of the crew adjust to upgrades and future realities.

Title: “Scavengers”

Directed by Doug Aarniokoski
Written by Anne Coffell Saunders

Cast
Doug Jones as Captain Saru
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou
David Ajala as Book
Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance
Vanessa Jackson as Lt. Audrey Wiilla1
Anthony Rapp as Commander Paul Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal
Rachael Ancheril as Cmdr. Nhan
Emily Coutts as Lt. Keyla Detmer
Oyin Oladejo as Lt. Joann Owosekun
Sara Mitich as Lt. Nilsson
Ian Alexander as Gray Tal
Noah Averbach-Katz as Ryn
Ian Lake as Tolor
Daniel Jun as Lai
Danijel Mandic as Regulator
David Benjamin Tomlinson as Linus the Comic Relief Saurian

Premise:

A message from Book takes Burnham and Georgiou on a rescue mission to a slave/prison planet which also holds a possible clue to the nature of the Burn.

High Point:

The Discovery receives the upgrades it would have, so I’m glad to see they’re playing by their own internal rules. As a bonus, their circumstances expressly and, within those rules, make them the go-to vessel for emergency missions. Captain Video! Master of space! Hero of science! Captain of the Video Rangers!

I do have some concerns, however, with how well or consistently they will explore the implications of this tech, which interfaces directly with individual crew-members. We can assume, of course, that a plot involving Detmer’s interface is forthcoming.

Low Points:

Why does Burnham and Giorgo’s mission have to be a rogue mission? As the Admiral notes at the end, he might well have approved of it. They’re taking a non-federation ship, risking only a couple of volunteers, and the payoff could be game-changing. It’s difficult to believe the Admiral wouldn’t have approved it, and I could have done without some extraneous drama. The story would have stood on its own, something that I always welcome in serial, story-arc-heavy shows. I grant that the series wants to explore the ramifications of her actions, but, seriously, Trek has dedicated enough time to this trope throughout its long history.

I do wonder if Adira shouldn’t be reporting her imaginary friend—or, since she’s young and an outsider, if Paul Stamets, the adult officer, shouldn’t absolutely be noting something that could affect the ship’s future missions.2

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 It’s a good episode, though it does little that is new, and people online have already noted that the situation on the planet, certain parts in particular, have been scavenged from other episodes, SF novels, and movies.

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 5/6 The acting is strong across the board, and I’m going to overlook some hurried performances on the planet thanks to the interaction among several of the principals. In particular, Blu del Barrio remains impressive as Adira. I was skeptical of the introduction of a teen genius, but they have the right performer for the part. The interplay among Martin-Green, Yeoh, and Ajala, meanwhile, keeps the fun but predictable main plot moving nicely. Yeoh proves particularly amusing playing her character playing an arrogant buyer.

Linus the Saurian and his trouble with the personal transport is amusing, but it needs to stop now. The gag has run its course.

Production: 6/6 Does anyone know where the filmed the planet scenes? It looks like an actual industrial site, augmented with a good deal of CGI.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Story: 5/6: The main story gives us an updated take on the classic Star Trek episode. In Kirk’s day, we would have had a lot more talking about the central issues (rules vs ethic, and the problem of slavery and its more PR-friendly but still vile equivalents) and a lot fewer explosions and effects. It also plays out in a slightly less simplified way. Kirk kept beaming down to the one place on an entire planet that set up the week’s thematic lesson. Here, that setting makes sense, and it unfolds in a messier, bigger-budget manner. The Discovery approach may be less classic, but it better-suits the realities of and expectations for contemporary television drama.

Of course it climaxes with a few heroes and villains trading punches.

All of the individual plot threads do not consistently work, but I found I enjoyed it more than some of the more-lauded episodes.

Overall: 5/6

In total, “Scavengers” receives 34/42

Note

1. She should really not be the up-to-date only crew member added. Perhaps there are others we haven’t seen yet. Since the missions all start from HQ, of course, the crew could be complemented as required.

2. Oh oh, Georgiou! Do her strange moments (which also should be reported) relate to the Burn? Or are they just setting up her return to the past future to star in her own series?

Lingering Questions

1. Is Grudge more than a cat? Will she turn into Gary Seven’s secretary? Is there some other Flerken secret yet to be revealed?

2. Will we ever find out what the super-advanced aliens of past series are doing during the post-Burn? Did the Q and the Organians leave to go to a super-alien convention that’s lasted a few millennia? How about the Metrons? And what ever, ever happened to Balok’s race? The Federation we finally saw is an earth-based one, and Balok’s people seemingly maneuvered out of the galaxy.

Maybe they really did all meet in a super-alien convention. An accident in the consuite caused the Burn. Now they’re all taking bets on how it will turn out.

5 replies on “Star Trek Discovery Review: “Scavengers””

  1. lost says:

    I think the point they were making with the rogue mission vs asking for permission and being sanctioned was not just about Burnham facing consequences for insubordination. It was also about Saru and his failings as an inexperienced leader.

    On the other hand, I don’t think Linus was actually accidentally transporting all over the place. I’m pretty sure he was doing it intentionally. That doesn’t make the gag any less “done”, though.

  2. I am convinced Grudge is a Flerken.

    As for new crew, I also wondered why everyone didn’t get modern uniforms. I expect when Discovery came forward only the crew who was willing to effectively commit suicide by leaving everyone behind in the past came with it, leaving a few vacancies in the crew compliment. New crew to flesh out the ranks could have modern uniforms, so the audience can tell the difference, but we didn’t even see that.

    Also, why does 32nd century Starfleet all wear really non-descript, drab grey pantsuits? Did color secede from the United Federation of Planets?

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