TV Review – Star Trek Discovery: An Obol For Charon

TL;DR – This week we delve into a very classical episode of Trek, with an emotional punch that left me in tears.

Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars

Star Trek Discovery: An Obol For Charon. Image Credit: CBS Studios

When you watch a TV show there are many things that can draw your attention. There could be some cool effects, some nifty action, some big emotional moment, or something witty that makes you laugh. For me personally, I find myself focusing on the things that show off someone’s or in the case of a show, everyone’s talent. That can be that beautiful starscape that awes me to the core, or it can be an emotional moment where the actors with the help of the director, script and the whole crew bring words to life and make them their own. In tonight’s episode of Star Trek Discovery, we get several moments like this including one that ripped out my heart and made me weep.

So to set the scene, after last week’s episode Point of Light there was some more focus for the USS Discovery as they had captured the mycelium creature hitching a ride on Tilly (Mary Wiseman). At this start of this week, we get some more focus as Number Two (Rebecca Romijn) comes on-board for burgers and to let Captain Pike (Anson Mount) know that she has found the direction Spock took after fleeing the care facility and allegedly murdering three people. With this information in hand, they warp off to intercept him before someone less savoury finds him. All is fine, well bar Saru (Doug Jones) having a cold, which Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) can sympathise with, however just as they get near the warp trail the Discovery is ripped out of warp by an ancient being and held in place as all hell breaks loose. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.

Star Trek Discovery: An Obol For Charon. Image Credit: CBS Studios.
Rebecca Romijn makes a big impression in just a little screen time. Image Credit: CBS Studios.

Before we get into the big story movements of the show I did want to take a moment to talk about some of the smaller little touches throughout the episode. First, it is really good to see more scenes of the crew working as a crew. Since Lorca has left, they have become more and more confident as a team, and I really like to see that growth. As well as this, the set design for Saru’s quarters was just delightful, and I would love to see more personal touches like that in the show. Finally, it was nice to see a little touch like explaining how universal translators work on a ship like Discovery.

Another interesting moment we get in this week’s episode is the answer to a lot of people’s criticisms about how Discovery has handled canon. One of the big criticisms of Season One was that it held traditional Star Trek canon in disregard and did whatever it wanted. Now a lot of this was pedantic stuff that really does not make a lot of difference in the long run. For example, I might not have liked the artistic redesign of the Klingons, but this was by far not the first time or the most drastic change that has happened to them throughout the years. As well as this, a lot of the changes come simply from the fact that we have better technology than they had in the 1960s, and who is to say that they didn’t have forcefield emergency bulkheads on the Enterprise, just we didn’t get to see them. They also get a lot of the small details right when some of the other past shows have been at best inconsistent about, looking at you pink blood. When it comes to the actual important stuff I would say the three big ones are Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) being part of Spock’s family, the Spore Drive, and the use of holograms.

Star Trek Discovery: An Obol For Charon. Image Credit: CBS Studios.
The entity provides a very classical Star Trek problem. Image Credit: CBS Studios.

The first, well that is always going to be personal preference, for me in the show Spock clearly has a difficult relationship with his family so it kind of makes sense that he didn’t share much about his life. Then you have the holograms, this is something that they in-universe got working around the time of The Next Generation but here it is in the show. I think the first thing is that the more they show it, the more we see that the Discovery has the charade holograms, rather than the hard shell holograms of TNG. As well as this, this week they present it as a technology that is coming in and out of favour, which might line it up with how it is used and then dropped like a hot potato in DS9. However, the big issue is the Spore Drive, because no matter how you work it, there is no way it fits in the canon unless that is if it was a prototype that was found out to have severe repercussions so it was shelved and forgotten about. Which it indeed seems to be how they are approaching it, like the USS Excelsior’s transwarp drive before Scotty got his hands on it.

When we get to the heart of the show, there are two main plot threads going on throughout the episode, with the first being the interaction with the mysterious sphere. Here is where Discovery really harkens back to the style of a classic Trek episode, to the point where I almost expected a green hand to be the thing that ripped them out of warp. However, besides the tension of being yanked out of warp, you have the philosophical tension of show do you respond to it, do you shoot it, or do you try to communicate with it, all of this complicated with the issue of the mysterious entity actively damaging the ship via a virus.

Star Trek Discovery: An Obol For Charon. Image Credit: CBS Studios.
Doug Jones gives one of the most emotionally heartbreaking performances on the show so far. Image Credit: CBS Studios.

I think for me, what made this storyline work as well as it does is the fact that the episode had stakes to it. There was a very real feeling that some people would not get out of the episode alive, and you felt that weight as it progressed. But also, the reveal that it was dying and it wanted as its last action in life to pass on its story, well that is something that I think we can all relate to in some way. However, the real emotion gut-wrenching moment came through Saru. The entity had triggered the biological function in his species that determine when they are ready to be harvested by the predator species on their planet (which we watched a bit of in the Short Trek The Brightest Star). For Saru’s people, they have two choices when this starts, be harvested, or have your threat ganglia be cut off, which kills you but saves to from going mad.

Saru fights through the pain, even though he knows he is dying, and only stops when his crew is safe. Then he retreats to his quarters after getting a guard of honour from the bridge crew and asks for Michael to help him die before he loses his sense of self. This scene is something that will live with me for a long time because it hit across so many different emotions. You have the themes of assisted suicide, which while this is not the first Trek episode to work in this space, it was the most emotional one. It also showed the depth of the relationship between Saru and Michael and how that has developed since she first came aboard the Discovery in Context is for Kings after her coup attempt landed her in jail. This scene only works because Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones are truly fantastic actors, and they make you feel that pain in their souls. Then comes the final kicker that the disease is not actually terminal like Saru’s people think, in fact, it is more like a stage in their life cycle where they lose their threat ganglia and step into adulthood. This, of course, has huge implications because it is clear that the predatory species harvest them before they lose the threat ganglia and gain confidence.

Star Trek Discovery: An Obol For Charon. Image Credit: CBS Studios.
While I don’t think this story worked as well, but then I don’t think any other storyline would have worked when you had that much emotional weight to compete with. Image Credit: CBS Studios.

One area of the show I don’t think worked as much was the story of Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Tilly, and Janet (Tig Notaro) trapped in the Spore Drive room as the ship shuts down. It did have its moments, indeed I loved the banter between Janet and Stamets about their different views on the future of engineering. As well as this, Stamets districting Tilly with her favourite song was a touching moment. However, it did feel like this was more holding everything in place before the big story beat next week, and it did slip a little into Stranger Things territory, which was odd. Now it could also be that it is just that the other storyline was hitting so hard that in comparison nothing else they were doing should have come close, but you could see the plot beats and the future of this storyline coming.

In the end, do we recommend An Obol For Charon? Yes, yes we do. It hits all the big moments, there is the philosophical questions, the emotional heart, and also there is a little fun when everyone is speaking different languages to everyone else. Also, we found out that Saurians have six nasal cavities, so that’s cool all on its own.      

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you seen Star Trek Discovery yet?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.   

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Star Trek Discovery
Directed by –
Lee Rose
Written by – Alan McElroy, Andrew Colville, Jordon Nardino, Gretchen J Berg & Aaron Harberts
Based offStar Trek created by Gene Roddenberry
Created by – Bryan Fuller & Alex Kurtzman  
Production/Distribution Companies – CBS Television Studios, Roddenberry Entertainment, Secret Hideout, CBS All Access & Netflix. 
Starring in Season 2 – Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif, Wilson Cruz & Anson Mount with Tig Notaro, Rebecca Romijn, Rachael Ancheril, Bahia Watson, Hannah Cheesman, Emily Coutts, Oyin Oladejo, Patrick Kwok-Choon, Ronnie Rowe Jr., Raven Dauda, David Benjamin Tomlinson & Julianne Grossman


5 thoughts on “TV Review – Star Trek Discovery: An Obol For Charon

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