Kobayashi Marie ventures into the second season Journey that is Star Trek Discovery with Episode 4 – An Obol For Charon
I don’t think Enterprise will ever have a chief engineer more in love with his ship …
An Obol for Charonis, at its heart, a good old-fashioned ‘ship’s damaged episode’. A virus is spreading around the ship’s systems, and life support is failing. But the crisis also brings about a serious state of affairs for Saru (Doug Jones), while in an unconnected sequence of events, Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) gets closer to May (Bahia Watson) than she would like. There is a lot going on in this episode.
First, we get to meet Number One, played in this iteration by Rebecca Romijn. It’s a strange introduction, lasting for just one scene while she delivers some information and orders a burger. I’m guessing we will meet her again later, but … will we ever learn her full name? She still feels fairly anonymous to be honest. And we know from The Cagethat she has / had a bit of a crush on Captain Pike (Anson Mount) so she’s more interesting than just a messenger, surely?
A character who makes a second appearance, and whom I didn’t really mention when she first appeared, is Jett Reno (Tig Notaro). The reason I passed over her debut was (and this is probably going to earn me some foes!) because I wasn’t that keen on her character! She may be very good at her job, no doubt about that, but that dry repartee was just too much for me. I wonder if one is more familiar with Notaro from other things then perhaps it’s different, but although I knew of her, this is the first time I’ve seen her on screen. It looks like she will have a productive relationship with Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) though, so maybe I’ll come around to her eventually.
Speaking of Stamets, he has something of a role reversal with Tilly this week. Whereas in Season 1 Tilly was doing her best to look out for Stamets while he was struggling to deal with the mycelial network, this time it’s his turn to try to assist Tilly when the parasite that has become May just won’t let go of her. I think that Stamets’ time in the network has left him permanently altered by his experience, and I wonder if Tilly will emerge (as I’m sure she will eventually emerge) with a new perspective. In some ways that would be great, but in others, I like her just as she is so the balance will be a fine one.
But on the topic of character development, then surely Saru wins this time around. The issue causing the ship-wide failure is also having an effect on the Kelpien, and he is convinced that he has reached the end of his life. There are some incredibly touching scenes between Saru and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green); Michael deliberately didn’t allow herself to become so emotional where Ash Tyler was concerned, and so to see her so fragile at the thought of losing her friend/family in Saru is quite the contrast. The incident also causes her to rethink her relationship with her brother, and so I’m also wondering if this will bring about new opportunities for Saru and his sister (whom we met briefly in the Short Trekstory The Brightest Star). Because Saru was wrong, and his life is not over. But he undergoes a change which leaves him literally fearless. Which for a Kelpien is unheard of and will surely have consequences.
Something rather inconsequential, but for this language-learning geek something incredibly fun, was the moment that the universal translator on Discovery died. In the first place it was funny and pleasant to hear the various crew members speaking in different languages. And then brilliantly, Saru comes to the rescue with the question about why no-one else ever bothered to learn other languages. It’s so true! And one of the reasons why one of my favourite ever characters was Enterprise’s Hoshi Sato (Linda Park). A true communications officer who is actually an exo-linguist and speaks several languages (both human and alien), she often saved the day by being able to translate where no-one or nothing else could. Saru, we learn, can speak 94 different languages, and even while seriously ill, he was able to step in and restore Discovery’s computer systems when they began operating in languages the crew couldn’t understand (admit it, we’ve all got that one ‘friend’ who will switch your phone language to Greek or something when you aren’t looking).
Don’t ever take the universal translator for granted …