Paramount is an extremely clever and foresighted institution, which is why now part of the world has Discovery (sort of), while Americans get to squeeze it in alongside Thanksgiving. But Anika and Liz overcame the logistical challenges! And we are here to talk about…
- The anomaly’s name is Greg now
- We talk a lot about grief in this ep, but also how Liz thinks Michael and Book should have a baby, which is a totally legitimate solution to any problem
- Michael Burnham is allowed to cry, it is good that she is capable of crying, and the logic bros and manbabies of fandom need to get over it
- Star Trek is about grief and sex, and has been since “The Cage”
- Wilson Cruz is remarkable as both a person and an actor and we are lucky to have him
Anika: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext, and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. This week, we’re discussing Star Trek: Discovery, season four, episode two, Anomaly.
Liz: So at the end of this episode, as the camera pulls out and we see that the anomaly looks like the Eye of Sauron in space, my flatmate turned to me and said, “I like it. I think its name is Greg.” So in my head, the anomaly is now named Greg.
Anika: It just reminds me so much of Larry, from the last Prodigy. That we didn’t even discuss, but Rok-Tahk wanted to name the planet Larry.
Liz: Okay, okay, so I told you about my flatmate naming it Greg, and you pointed out Larry. And then I told Erin about Larry, also known as Murder Planet, and she was like, “Mm, I ship it.”
Anika: Oh, no! We’re just going to start the most amazing fanfiction. We just keep coming up with these terrible ships.
Liz: Excuse me, this is an amazing ship. It defies physics.
Anika: Since we’re starting with the end, what I saw when we pulled out, and yes, it did look like the Eye of Sauron, but it also looks like a cat’s eye. And, in fact, the Cat’s Eye Nebula has been called the Eye of Sauron. But it looks like a cat’s eye to me. So I was like, oh, it’s Grudge. The anomaly is Grudge. We are all inside her tummy.
Liz: Oh, but she would never do that to Book. She would never make him sad, because then he might get so depressed, he accidentally flies her into an anomaly and forgets to fly out. I mean, dude.
Anika: Yeah. you’re right. She was there, wasn’t she? Why was she there?
Liz: “Hello, Mr. Booker, I am here from the Federation Society for the Protection of Animals, and I’ve had some complaints.”
Anika: We made the person a hologram, but the cat was just going to … that’s fine. fine. No problems.
Oh dear. I guess I will point out that we also had the whole Zora thing being a big deal in this episode.
Liz: So sentience appearing where it’s not expected is maybe something we can look at as a recurring thing in the season?
Anika: Like a through-line, maybe? And that whole, like, that she chose [her name] herself. I was like, oh yeah. Like, the Doctor, and all that kind of stuff.
Liz: I liked that Discovery took less time than the Doctor to choose her name. I still ship Zora with holo Janeway, and I have no regrets.
I guess, as long as we’re talking about the anomaly upfront, one of the Slacks I’m in includes a physicist among its members. And she was like, “Yeah, that’s not how physics works, I think it’s sentient. And I think it’s attracted to, and destroying and responding to people with psychic or empathic abilities.”
I hope she’s wrong, because I want it to be a natural disaster, but also, prayer circle for Betazed.
Liz: And Ni’Var.
Anika: I was going to say Ni’Var, and they’re the ones that we’ve seen. [Multiple attempts to remember the Ni’Var president’s name]
Anika: T’Rina. Thank you. I was like, I’m saying her name wrong. T’Rina was in this episode in a small but important role. I liked how she was like, “We should all prepare for riots.”
Anika: I appreciated that. She’s the pragmatic one. But also she and Saru totally made eyes in the middle of the debriefing.
Liz: No, no, look, I want to say that T’Rina and Rillak were in the same room and therefore I ship it, but … T’Rina and Saru.
Anika: We were saying that last year, and it was just sort of blatant right there. When two people look at each other in Star Trek, that’s marriage.
Liz: Next thing you know, they’ll be touching hands, and we all know what that means.
So let’s go back to the beginning. I’m sorry that we’ve started — I’ve started us backwards.
Anika: It’s okay.
Liz: The ongoing shemozzle of Trexit continues.
Anika: They made a big announcement that they did get it in more countries, not all countries, but more countries, and on a wide array of different services. But the fact that they did this so quickly, like, within a week of the premiere, means they, they could have done that–
Liz: (singing) Backtraaaaaaack.
Anika: –to me, it seems really like they only decided to try when it became clear that the international audience was telling the truth about pirating everything.
Liz: Yes. Also, it’s so ridiculous that we have Discovery airing a week before Thanksgiving in America, it’s going to go through over Christmas. Like you were saying after we finished recording last week, shows go on hiatus around now for a reason. I don’t understand why they just didn’t hold season four back for six months everywhere and launch Paramount Plus everywhere.
Anika: And do it correctly.
Liz: Yeah, we did not need two seasons of Discovery in a year. I’m happy to have it, but it would have been completely okay to hold off a bit.
Hey, what if they also held off Prodigy, and didn’t have to have this last minute hiatus because the production team couldn’t make the schedule because it was too tight?
Anika: What is the rush? What are they afraid of? It’s really strange. They haven’t released anything that makes this rush make sense.
Anika: I don’t know why it’s necessary. And it was super annoying for it to be on Thanksgiving. I did not watch the episode until this morning
Liz: We’re recording a day late, because of Thanksgiving.
I’m just flagging well in advance that our episode the week after Christmas will be late. Because I recorded, I think, our first episode for season two of Discovery at my sister’s house, and it was bad. So I’m just going to hold off and we’re going to do it late.
Anika: I think that’s fair. We will put things off for it to be better–
Anika: –for our audience.
Liz: Take a lesson, Paramount.
Not that this episode was bad. I think it was really good. And I think this season deserves better than to be crammed up against all of the Western holidays.
Anika: Well, it’s a weird episode to be on Thanksgiving. Just putting that out there. I’m going to continue to harp on the fact that the second episode came out on Thanksgiving, because I just think it’s poor planning all around.
Last year, there was sort of an excuse, because we were not supposed to be doing Thanksgiving. So they were sort of like, “Here, instead of your family dinner, you get to have Star Trek. Congratulations.”
Liz: Totally acceptable substitute in my opinion.
Anika: But this year, there are fewer restrictions, and it’s almost more important for people to see their family because they didn’t get to. I hadn’t seen my brothers in two years, so.
Liz: And frankly, this is not an episode that you can just sit down and watch with your entire extended family. Even if, you know, Old Uncle Jeff really loved Next Generation back in the day.
Anika: Only my one brother who watches Discovery would even know who any of the characters are. And he has not been able to watch Discovery because Paramount Plus doesn’t work on his computer. So…
Anika: CBS All Access worked fine. It’s only Paramount Plus,
Liz: How interesting
Anika: He’s been chatting with multiple IT people. And they’re like, turn off your ad blockers. And he’s like, I don’t have ad blockers. And also, I pay you $10 to not have ads.
Anika: Poor customer service, Paramount Plus.
Liz: Really? But they seem like such a competent and well organized company.
Anika: This was just a strange episode to be on Thanksgiving, because it was very much tied into last week’s episode.
Liz: It’s chapter two of the story.
Anika: Yeah, it starts right up afterwards, and everything that everyone is talking about is directly related to the problem. Which is fine. It’s serial television. I’m not, you know, dinging it for that, but it just makes it a difficult family fare episode. And then it was about death on a massive scale. That is incomprehensible.
Anika: Not such a happy topic, again, on our first, pandemic light Thanksgiving. It’s not even post-pandemic–
Liz: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of it in the context of America.
Anika: –it’s just post vaccination Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Let’s watch Book’s PTSD on display.
Liz: You know, we’ve just lost hundreds of thousands of Americans to a disease, let’s watch this nice show about grief and depression and loss.
Anika: There is a school of thought where, you know, catharsis. And my take on this season, and I know it’s only the second episode, but my take on this season is that it’s very much reacting, partly, to all of the stress that we’ve been under. And I appreciate that.
However, it’s also, again, just not great, we’ve just eaten our happy dinner and, you know, turned off football for Discovery, and I’m going to go cry for three hours.
Liz: Yeah. But let’s talk about the episode itself. And you’ve put this wonderful graphic into our notes, which we will share in our Twitter. It’s the stages of grief, and it’s your standard Kubler-Ross. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and then reality.
Anika: Reality is all five of those things, all mixed in, fighting for dominance at whatever particular time. None of them ever really go away. None of them is dominant all the time. And they can creep up on you and you never – they say this a lot in therapy type discussions, that you don’t get over something. You get through something and you learn how to live with it.
Another one of these great graphics is one where there’s an empty bookshelf with just a big, giant book that says grief on it, and then the next one is a full bookshelf with all of the other things that have been added to your life, but you still have that big grief book on the shelf. It doesn’t leave. It’s just a part of your life, now, it’s a part of your personality. Now it’s a part of you, your story, as it were.
Liz: And I think this is the case for everyone on Discovery, but the first person I thought of was Hugh, who goes through this terrible loss of his own life, and in doing so, he comes back as someone who stops equivocating about what he wants, and what he wants to be. And so he takes this role of counselor and therapist and support person, and his grief becomes a tool to help others.
Anika: Yes. So there’s a book, I forget the author, but I will look it up. But it’s a book about goddesses, about assigning different goddesses to every — basically, it’s like every woman has a goddess inside them. And then it goes through all of them.
My therapist gave me the chapter on Persephone. And Persephone is someone who was victimized, often in childhood, who goes through a traumatic event of whatever kind, and lots of different things that can happen to a young woman. And they get stuck in the underground for a while. Some of them can’t ever escape, and others get out, and often become guides, like you were saying, with Hugh.
Once you’ve gone through it yourself, you are the best person possible to show everybody else how to go through it.
Liz: And on a larger scale, that’s almost how Discovery is the ship that needs to be the one rebuilding the Federation.
Anika: That’s a good point.
Liz: It’s why Michael is the perfect captain for this crew. And maybe not, as the president pointed out last week, the perfect captain for Voyager or any other ship.
Anika: Yes. And that’s okay. The entire TOS movies are about Kirk only being good at captaining the Enterprise, that every other job they try to make him do, he’s actually terrible at, because that’s not his strong point. I think that that would even extend to a different crew in a different ship. He’s the Enterprise. That’s his life.
Liz: I don’t think that it’s good to become that person forever, but I think that Michael is where she needs to be right now. And maybe in a few years, maybe at the end of this season, she will be ready to step foot into another part of her life.
Which is my way of saying that if I were a Michael/Book shipper, I would be writing so much babyfic right now. Like, you have no idea. I just think, you know, obviously we don’t want them to single-handedly repopulate Kwejion, but these are two stable people in a strong relationship in their thirties. And Michael’s mother is around. Ni’Var is around, I think Book would be a great full-time dad.
And, you know, this is a story that they would never tell with Janeway. So let’s tell it with Michael.
Anika: I like it.
Liz: And to tie it in with our discussion of grief, I think part of the reality is, you lose people, and then more people come into your life. Book has lost his family, but he also has this found family on Discovery. And, as with his relationship with Stamets, he only has to let them in.
Anika: And now, as we were saying, now he fits in with them, because they also lost their families. And so they can be each other’s family, and that community of choice.
Anika: And that’s a really strong foundation.
It was heartbreaking to see the kid over and over again. I liked how they never showed his face. It was like Book couldn’t bring himself to remember him exactly, you know, that that was too much. But it was haunting him.
And it was just really pretty in this really devastating, terrible way. But it was very pretty.
Liz: And also, for Book and for the audience, we can’t get our heads around the idea of the loss of an entire planet, but one child, one person, is always enough for the human mind to grasp,
Anika: Right. But that also does mean that Book is thinking about how — it’s kind of like with Picard, when he loses his nephew and brother. Weird how that came up again.
Liz: Life is just not safe for nephews in this universe, we’ve learned. This is why everyone in Star Trek is an only child. Because it’s not safe to be a nephew.
Anika: Not safe, not safe. Don’t do that.
Anika: But his immediate future after that was thinking about, I should’ve had a family, now this is taken out of my life. It’s not even just that I lost my brother and my nephew, but everybody lost my brother and my nephew. There’s that drive to want to fill the void in some way.
Liz: Yes. Picard, and I think Book, did it with service, but Picard also adopted the entire Romulan people. I’m not saying Book needs to go that far, but Ni’Var is right there and his mother-in-law is there. And they’re telepaths. I just think it would be nice for Michael to have a child who was raised by her partner on Vulcan
Anika: That’s kind of sweet. Because they had that one scene where she was on Vulcan. Echoes of family and what family means, and how you can build a family and, you know, all of the different choices that go into creating a family. I mean, that’s definitely been a theme of all of Discovery from the beginning.
Liz: Yes. And quite a lot of Star Trek before it.
Anika: Yes. I like the idea of, maybe by the end of the series, we have recreated the beginning, but in new and different ways. I know people are like, “Ooh, I don’t like going back and having the same things over and over again,” but I am the opposite. I think that’s how life works. And so I would love to see sort of A Force Awakens version of the beginning of Discovery. You know, the thousand years later.
Liz: I just like the idea of Michael getting to have a biological family, as well as a found family. And I think by this point, we can have a woman in command who is also literally a mother. It’s 2022, and why should we be afraid of that?
I would feel bad for Sonequa, having just, you know, had an actual baby, to then have to strap on the belly. Maybe we can do all of that nonsense off screen.
But I think for Star Trek, as a progressive show, to depict a full-time stay at home dad would be meaningful. I think it would be meaningful for the characters.
And yeah, if they don’t do this, I’m not going to, you know, chuck my toys out of my pram and have a tantrum. But if I’m correct that they’re laying the groundwork, then I’m very keen to see how it goes.
Anika: Yeah, that’s cool.
Liz: But also I am a person who responds to grief by writing babyfic. So yeah,
Anika: (mock gasp) Me too!
Liz: It’s like we’re friends or something!
Anika: Oh my goodness. I’m trying to think how I actually do respond to grief. And it’s like, I have no idea.
Liz: This is very shameful, but my aunt died unexpectedly a few months after Kat died, and I cried more for Kat. Like, I love my aunt, and I miss her and I – I wish she was around now, but I don’t cry except for fictional people. And that’s weird.
Anika: I don’t know if it’s weird. I think it’s a coping mechanism. If you put all of your – you know, that’s catharsis too, if you put all of your grief into something that is not actually as important…
Anika: You’re not creating a sad memory for your aunt.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. That’s true. Now I kind of do want to cry.
Anyway, on the topic. Let’s talk about Michael and her alleged teariness
Anika: Her alleged?
Anika: Oh, teariness. With a T
Anika: I was like, heariness? What’s heariness?
Liz: Oh, it’s just the new thing, haven’t you heard?
Anika: I was thinking Clint Barton’s hearing. I was like, where are we going with this? What is going on?
Liz: You know me, I’m all about Clint Barton. Just my favorite character ever.
Anika: You can tell what I’ve spent my day doing. Anyway. Michael Burnham’s crying or sobbing or alleged emotional state. ‘Soap operatic’.
Anika: Because people aren’t even using the nice euphemism of ‘melodrama’, they’re going straight for ‘soap opera’.
Liz: Which is, of course, bad.
Anika: Yeah. Which is, of course, bad, because it’s heightened, it’s mostly watched by women, although I don’t even think that’s true anymore.
Anika: It’s people showing their feelings.
Liz: Una McCormack had a tweet about this just this morning, saying, you know, ‘people are complaining Discovery is a soap opera, so I sat down and watched the episodes of Deep Spac, Nine about Worf and Dax’s wedding drama.’
Anika: Yeah. If Worf is a main character in a soap opera, then–
Anika: And he is! Every single Worf story.
Liz: Oh my goodness.
To put it in context, this is a complaint that’s been going around for a couple of years, now, that Michael is too emotional. As opposed to season one, where she was not emotional enough. She cries too much. She’s constantly weeping, and this is bad and makes Discovery a soap opera, which is also bad.
And I’m like, gosh, imagine if there was a genre, like, for operatic and melodramatic incidents, but in space. We could call it a space opera.
Anika: What, I just want to, you know, go on record as saying that I have always referred to all of Star Trek as space opera, and I have never referred to it as sci fi.
Liz: I mean space opera is a totally acceptable subcategory of sci fi, and I love it. There are so many great space operas out there that aren’t even Star Wars. And Star Trek has been a space opera since the very beginning. You know, you look at the early episodes. Kirk’s best friend just turned into a god, or the political stuff with the Romulans and the Klingons. This is the bones of space opera as a genre.
Anika: They even have evil twins!
Liz: Yes! So the idea that Discovery is too much about characters, but also we don’t care about the characters because they’re not realistic people. These are two diametrically opposed … anyway. And Michael cries all the time. It really bugs me.
And then, this week people were saying, “Oh yeah, I think it’s okay that Michael cried a bit this week, cause she was crying for her boyfriend.” And I’m like, oh, so the problem is not that she cries, but that she cries for her own losses. Michael thinks she’s a person.
Anika: Her losses don’t count because, I guess, she’s a woman. She’s a Black woman.
Liz: And wow. The racists have really come out of the woodwork this week.
Anika: Oh yeah, because Sonequa dared to call herself the first Black woman captain–
Liz: I don’t think it was even that.
Anika: Not even, actually.
Liz: Whoopi Goldberg called her that, a woman who also knows her Trek, and Sonequa was like, “Actually, there were these great women before me. I’m just the first to be the lead,” and Whoopi was all, “Right. Oh yeah, I totally missed that.” And then they had a conversation about being Black women in Star Trek, and the work that they do, and the shoulders that they stand on. It was wonderful.
And, you know, Whoopi Goldberg has some bad opinions about Roman Polanski, but at the same time she’s Guinan and I love her. And she was very important to Star Trek, and Sonequa knows it. And Whoopi knows how important Sonequa is.
And all of these white manbabies just hit the roof in this delusion that Madge Sinclair and other women who played Black captains in Star Trek had been slighted. And these guys, you know, they never gave a shit about Sinclair before today.
Anika: They just care about being right.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah.
Anika: That’s literally all they care about. It’s exactly the same as when they were bringing down and Gray and saying, oh, actually there was that random episode of TNG, and also all of the Trill. And it’s like, no.
Liz: Yeah, no,
Anika: You’re wrong
Liz: Actually it makes a difference to have nonbinary and trans actors and explicitly nonbinary and trans characters. And it makes a very big difference to have a Black woman captain as the lead of a series, and not just a very special guest star.
Anika: Without a name.
Anika: An unnamed captain!
Liz: I was actually reminded that back in season one, the same — not literally the same guys necessarily, but these same types of guys, were saying that Michael would definitely become the captain of the Saratoga played by Madge Sinclair, because they really didn’t like the idea that there might be more than one Black woman in a command–
Liz: Oh yeah, it was, it was really common.
Anika: I am distraught. I can’t even imagine being that person.
Liz: Star Trek fandom has always been racist. And the delusion that watching Star Trek makes you a better person or is in itself a progressive act – I know I’ve had this rant before and I’m probably going to have it again in the future, but it is entirely a delusion
Anika: Right. So just to be very clear, everyone cries on Star Trek. I can put up a picture of Kirk Picard, Spock, Sarek, Riker. Like who’s the most manly? Worf? All of them, they’ve all cried. And they’ve also all been insubordinate.
Anika: They’ve all broken rules. They’ve all not known what to do or which way to go in terms of a big decision. They’ve all leaned on their friends. They’ve all asked for help. Literally every single thing that people throw against Michael and say that she is not a good captain, character, or lead because of X, Y, and Z, all of those things, every other person in Star Trek–
Liz: Has done.
Anika: –in all of fiction has done these things. It’s called being a character. Fiction is made up of people crying, getting angry, needing help, making mistakes. That’s what drama is – not even just melodrama, but actual drama. You can’t have a story if people aren’t doing things and feeling feelings.
Liz: What bugs me is Spock, we know from, like, the third episode of TOS, is a messy drunk who cries because his mother loved him and he didn’t know how to tell her that he loved her too.
So, you know, the very first thing they did with Spock, they went, “Hey, if this guy has no emotions, what happens if he has a lot of emotions?” And with Michael it’s, “What happens if you raise a human to not have emotions, and yet she still has emotions?”
It’s almost the same story. They’re siblings. Of course it’s the same story, but also there’s no arguing with these people because they are not offering a good faith argument.
I don’t even think they’re necessarily interested in being right or changing anyone’s mind. I think they just want to take up people’s time, especially the Black women that they’re arguing with, and prevent them from doing anything more constructive or positive, because–
Anika: And also to also make them feel bad about being given this character, to actually have representation as a lead in this show that many of them have been watching from the beginning, or been raised up with, you know, it’s a show that’s just as important to them as it is to the manbabies in their comments. And the manbabies in their comments, all they want to do is make them feel bad about it.
Liz: Yeah. And it’s like, get a life, guys, listen to your hero, Mr. William Shatner, and get a fucking life.
Anika: I want to just block the manbabies, but I worry about them. Even if it’s only like five people, they are still getting in our way and making it hard to have fair and reasoned conversation.
Liz: That’s the other thing, it makes it harder to have a critical discussion about Discovery‘s failings, when you know that these guys are coming in to turn it away from a good faith discussion among fans.
I mean, you and I have had a lot of problems with Discovery over the seasons, but I would never discuss them with those guys because they would – first of all, I hate what they love.
Anika: And they wouldn’t listen.
Liz: No, like some of these guys thought New Eden was a good episode and to them, I say, good for you!
Anika: But yeah,I don’t like pretty much the entire second season, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to come in and – if anyone says, “I love New Eden, it’s one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek,” I’m not going to pop up and be like, “Actually that episode sucked.” It’s like, why would anyone do that? “You should feel bad for liking that.”
Liz: Yeah. ‘Well, actually that is an objectively bad episode. I know, because my opinions are facts.’
Anika: ‘I know because I object, and therefore…’
But the stuff about Michael is just blatant racism because the most celebrated characters of Star Trek – I’m going to go with Kirk, Spock and Picard – cry all the time, all the time, constantly crying
Liz: Data gets his emotion chip and almost the first thing he does, he tells some bad jokes and he has a little cry.
I also think a lot of Trekkies, particularly of this particular demographic of manbabies, sort of glommed onto The Original Series and Spock, and really took the ‘Logic is good. Emotions are bad’ thing to heart instead of recognizing the critique that was being made in those very episodes, and the fact that usually Spock was wrong and Spock had to learn better.
Anika: You mean Jedi bros.
Liz: Basically, yes. I call them logic bros and they are, and have been, dominant in the fandom. They’re just not a lot of fun because they’re the guys saying, “I don’t understand why Picard was all about his relationship with Data. Show me one piece of evidence that Data and Picard cared about each other.”
Anika: I have in my notes here that, you know, grief has always been a part of Star Trek. I think that the easiest way to explain this to someone is to say that in theory – and I’m not saying that this worked – when you want to take something … like, Star Trek is pretty niche. It’s this cute little sci fi space opera show. about all these weirdos who, you know, go around speechifying to solve problems and–
Liz: It’s what we love!
Anika: –and doing think good across the galaxy. Those guys.. And you want to make a mainstream movie that is going to appeal to – obviously these people didn’t exist back in the day, but the MCU fans of the world. Or I guess Star Wars, right? Like, The Motion Picture came out in ’79?
Anika: So that would be right after Star Wars. So if you want to appeal to those fans, then you’re going to take the weird little sci fi show and you are going to make it into something that is … the bones of Star Trek, the beating heart of Star Trek, and then you’re going to make a big adventure story around it. That’s what you do to make Star Trek, the television series into Star Trek, the motion picture. And I don’t actually mean literally The Motion Picture, but the entire run of Star Trek films.
Anika: So every single Star Trek film from The Motion Picture to – I’m going to go with Star Trek: Beyond – is about grief. Every single one is based in grief. And Spock, the super logical Vulcan we were just talking about is introduced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture being too emotional to become a Vulcan Vulcan by crying.
Liz: Yeah. It’s notable how much these guys don’t understand Star Trek, and it’s notable how much grief and emotion and connection are intrinsic to the very beginning of the show, you know? And sex, because you start with The Cage, which is all about procreation–
Anika: But it’s also about Pike’s ennui.
Liz: Pike’s grief. Yes.
Anika: Pike’s grief. That’s literally what The Cage is about.
Liz: No, you’re right, I totally forgot.
Anika: Where No Man Has Gone Before is also about Gary’s grief that he puts through as anger. He is stuck in anger.
Liz: Gary Mitchell is toxic masculinity.
Anika: And Kirk’s grief at losing his friend, which then [becomes] Kirk throughout the entire run of the series. His characterization is based in where he is at the end of that episode. It’s baked in.
And you can do this to all of them. Like, I mean, let’s look at Deep Space Nine. How does Deep Space Nine begin, Anika? Oh, it literally begins with Sisko losing his wife, and then being sad, like, the entire episode until he finds his purpose, which is sharing his feelings with gods.
Voyager is about losing home and trying to get back. Every show. Even Archer’s daddy issues fit into–
Liz: I was going to say, even Enterprise is about almost the grief about what humanity has lost in terms of the third world war and in being held back by the Vulcans, and then–
Liz: –the destruction of Florida in season three – no, the end of season two – is basically, you know, explicitly a 9/11 event. That is a loss so great that some of them cannot get over it.
Anika: How does Star Trek (2009) begin, Anika? Oh, wait. It’s with Kirk losing his dad, which then creates that Jim Kirk’s character through the entirety of his life.
Liz: But also that is a whole movie driven by Nero’s grief at losing Romulus.
Anika: Nero’s grief over losing his wife and family. Literally everything that happens in the Kelvinverse is about grief. I’m not even joking. That is Khan’s motivation. That is Idris Elba’s motivation. Every single bad guy is driven mad by grief. And, on the other side, we’ve got the main characters. Kirk and Spock both lose basically, you know, their foundation and have to move past that.
Liz: But it’s also notable that every single one of these characters and including, you know, the prime universe, Picard and Sisko, they only cry in extremis. They really repress their grief as much as they can.
And Michael doesn’t. She has learned that, trying to do so will eat her away from the inside. And she does cry easily. And it’s partially because she’s a woman and women are allowed to cry, unlike men, blah, blah, blah, toxic masculinity…
Anika: I’m going to put on my academics hat–
Anika: –and say, actually, it is a change in society. We’re not there yet, in that you’re right that women are allowed – but I really think – and also, I don’t think it would be difficult for me to go out on a limb and say that the people who are so upset about this are older generations, or are people who are raised by very specific older generations to not emote, I guess, whatever the opposite of emoting is.
But yeah, it is documented that as a society, we have started shifting towards, no, actually it’s healthier to show your emotions. And those shifts started in that middle of Enterprise, that 9/11 period. “Here’s all the. documentation about why it is more healthy and more important to you as an individual, to your relationships and to your community…” And our whole world is eventually a community, right? Like, bigger and bigger, in your communities – and to show your grief, to process your grief, to accept your grief, to have a reaction and not just in your room, but to have a reaction in front of other people, to ask for help–
Liz: Without shame.
Anika: Without shame. And, you know, that’s what the whole, mental health awareness push is for. Like, de-stigmatizing expressing your trauma.
And television evolves. You can see it, you can look back and say, “What if we took this story that was in Star Trek, and we brought it forward twenty years? How would it change? How would our reaction to it change? How would we write it differently?”
And those are interesting ways to look at the world, but anyone who thinks that Discovery is too melodramatic, like (a) I feel like we’ve debunked that, that it’s not true, but (b) it is on purpose.
Anika: It’s leaning into this idea that no, actually, we don’t want to hide our grief anymore. Because that is not going to give us a better society. That is not the way to go. We’re going to get a bunch of creepy tech bros, and they’re not going to care about…
You know, we’ve been through these different, big swings, the social media, boom, or the AIDS epidemic. I’ve lived through these different things, right? These have been things that have happened around and within my lifetime. And so I can’t really look at it with a historical perspective. Even if I try it’s, difficult to see that, but I can imagine that in fifty, a hundred years, people are going to look back and say, “Oh, that’s why things shifted. That’s why we changed.”
Liz: And it’s also worth noting that for example, Wilson Cruz lived through the AIDS epidemic as a gay man, and now he is playing this incredibly empathetic and kind figure who helps people process their grief.
And we’ve just spent 45 minutes – our timer went off, we spent 45 minutes talking about Michael–
Anika: Well, she’s the–
Liz: No, look she is the main character, but there’s actually a whole lot of characters reaching out for help in this episode.
We have Book making a connection with Stamets, and vice versa, these two men who were sort of wrapped up in their own thing and thought the other guy hated them, which just seems really real to me. And I love Stamets basically asking for tips on how to talk to someone who’s grieving, because that is also me.
And then we have Adira having an issue that they have trouble articulating, but when they do, it’s easier to deal with, you know, they’re afraid that giving Gray a body will–
Anika: I think that was a through line for all of these, that starting the conversation is really, really hard, but once you’ve started, it becomes phenomenally easier.
Anika: And that is very true to life.
Liz: And that brings us to Tilly. We kind of flagged last week that she might have something going on and here she reaches out to Hugh.
Tilly is really a character who has always sort of covered her feelings with a lot of talk and deflection, and I guess she’s reached a point where she can’t do that. I’m curious to see where that takes her and where that takes her friendship with Michael, because you follow a friend to the other end of the universe, you lose something in that process. And I think Tilly has not taken time to grieve for that.
Anika: I think so too. And I also feel like Tilly – you know, who does Tilly have, who isn’t Michael? She has a relationship with Saru that I think is actually very close, but that didn’t even really happen until Michael was gone, and Saru sort of took her under his wing.
Liz: When they became more than just mentor and protege.
Anika: And she has a relationship with Stamets, but Stamets also has Hugh and also has Adira. Tilly is sort of like everybody’s other person. She doesn’t have anyone that’s hers. It’s a weird way to say it, but…
Liz: Yes. And I love seeing her grow into a mentorship role with Adira but that is not a relationship between equals. You know, Tilly can’t unload onto Adira. And when she snaps, she realizes that because Adira is vulnerable, she’s in a position of power over them.
Anika: And Tilly might not have even realized. It did take other character saying, “Look, Adira really looks up to you, and that’s they’re acting like this.” And, Tilly’s just like, “What?” because Tilly was Adira.
Liz: Yeah, Tilly is accustomed to being the bottom of the hierarchy socially, if not literally, in terms of her being an acting first officer. You’re right. Tilly needs more people in her life.
Anika: Tilly needs more people that are peers and not mentors.
Liz: And now Michael is her captain…
Anika: She doesn’t seem as close with the rest of the bridge crew as she is with her mentors. Which is Stamets, Michael and Saru. She’s closer with them than she is with – and that could just be, because those people aren’t main characters.
Liz: I think it’s partially because she is such an awkward person. We know she didn’t have many friends before Michael came along. And as far as I can tell her best friend in the main ensemble was Airiam, who is gone.
And then, like, she really does seem very comfortable in the presence of the president, and I think the president reminds her of her mother. So I think this is a loss that Tilly might be feeling freshly.
It’s interesting. I’m keen to see where they go. And I don’t want her friendship with Michael to in any way be strained, but I think Tilly needs to have other people.
Anika: I think … yeah. I just think it’s hard, because now right now, Michael is the captain. So it’s just hard to have that transition. Like, when they met, Tilly had a higher rank than Michael, Tilly was in with Starfleet and Michael. was a pariah.
Liz: Also Michael has a partner now and that changes, you know, that simply changes the amount of time she can spend with Tilly.
Anika: Right. Michael has a career and a partner.
Liz: It’s that feeling of realizing that you’re on a different path or moving at a different speed to your friends. And it’s hard.
I know! What if Tilly gets a new BFF and it’s Nilsson. Won’t that make you happy?
Anika: Look, people have been needling me about my Nilsson hatred.
Liz: Because it’s hilarious!
Anika: So I say, if someone gives me a reason to like Nilsson – she had one line and it was, “No, that’s a bad idea.” And she still that terrible wig! Oh my God. It was somehow even worse than last time, because it was trying to be better. Like, they had that one little strand of hair that was loose, but it was like, no, it’s a wig where you artfully took one strand out. It makes me crazy. I do not know what is wrong with her hair.
Liz: The actress has dyed it dark brown for another role. But yeah, she was in, like, three of the promo photos for this episode and I really think someone is gaslighting us to make us think she’s a main character. And I don’t like it
Anika: It’s just weird. And can we just say that Bryce back with no explanation, and what was the point of that other guy? It was exactly like the fake Nilsson.
Liz: Oh, apparently he’s doing a movie and will not be around for the whole season. So I guess they wanted to introduce us to the idea that there would be other people on the bridge. But there should be other people on the bridge all the time.
Anika: That’s what I say. If they had not ever said anything, I wouldn’t – whatever, I don’t care. They’re not making the show for me, so I will just–
Anika: –put up with it. But I don’t understand any of that.
Liz: Let’s talk about the fact that Akiva Goldsman said that Picard wouldn’t be discussing how he has a synth body now. And Michelle Paradise is writing Picard fixit fic on the go, basically.
Anika: So any time someone in a Star Trek series mentions someone from a Star Trek series. I get this weird, almost second hand embarrassment.
Liz: It’s like, “You watch Star Trek? That’s so embarrassing!”
Anika: It’s just so funny. It’s like, obviously this is important, but it just never comes off as–
Liz: It’s never natural. Yeah.
Anika: It’s never natural.
Liz: I love that Hugh has never heard of Picard.
Liz: And he has heard of Soong but not Noonien Soong, Alton Soong. The shitty one.
Anika: Just before we go to Gray’s body, I just want to say that way back when you were saying that Wilson Cruz went through the AIDS crisis as a gay man, and now just to play this amazing character – Hugh was always sort of poised to be my favorite character–
Liz: You always love the doctors.
Anika: –but now I love him.
Liz: He’s so wonderful.
Anika: Wilson Cruz has rocketed to the head of Star Trek actors I actually want to have a conversation with, because he brings so much to, like, five minutes of screen time. And I love it.
This scene with Gray and Gray’s body … so Adira is the only one who can see Gray, and they are telling Hugh what Gray is telling them in a scene. But there’s this moment where Hugh responds to what Adira is saying, then sort of glances to where he knows Gray is, but doesn’t make eye contact. It was just this tiny moment of amazing acting, because the actor knows where the actor is, but they don’t align because one of them is invisible. I was just really impressed with that moment. And I think it is typical of Wilson Cruz, not atypical. So I wanted to point that out, because I really liked it.
Liz: Yeah. His attention to detail and the humanity and kindness he brings to a fairly small role – but every single episode, he brings more and more substance to the character who basically started out cameo. It’s wonderful. And I love him and I love Hugh. And I love that Picard’s dumb synth body is how we get Gray.
Anika: It actually crossed my mind. I was like, so maybe the whole Picard synth body happened so that this would happen, maybe it was shoehorned into Picard, and that’s why it was bad. Because it’s so bad.
Liz: It’s so bad. But I love that Discovery is the series that is going to grapple with implications of having a new body. And also, also, Hugh has a new body.
Anika: Yes, he has a new body!
I love that this is not the first time that Gray has gone through this process. And not even like, as a Trill. It’s almost like he’s gone through it as a trans man, as a Trill, and now as getting a synth body. It’s kind of cool.
And these kids are so young, Adira and Gray are so young. I’m just looking at these kids and being like, this is such an amazing story for this show to be doing for actual trans children to be able to relate to, because there’s so many layers of identity, and who you are and what you believe to be real and what you feel, versus what people are trying to tell you to feel. Those are questions for anyone, but especially for teenagers.
Anika: This show is like, we’re going to meet that head on.
Liz: So a few weeks ago, I was talking to a nonbinary friend of mine, and they had heard that in Star Trek … ‘transness’ is not a word, but it’s the word in my head … is detected in the womb. And so people are sort of transitioned before they’re born. And they were like, “This is terrible. I hate it.”
And they were really glad when I was like, that’s just, someone’s shitty headcanon, also, we have these characters, Gray and Adira, who are trans and nonbinary and played by trans and nonbinary actors. But I had to say that Gray was not explicitly trans. And now when enough time has passed that it’s not a spoiler for all of our mutuals, I can go, “Hey, hey, hey, he’s explicitly trans now. Yes, he’s an alien and, and an alien with a complex gender concept, but also he’s definitely trans and he talks about transitioning.”
Anika: Discovery was like, “In your face, haters!” They just keep doing it. And I applaud them every time. It’s brave and I love it. And as many manbabies that out against it, I’m willing to be as loud–
Liz: One hundred percent.
Anika: –saying that I am for it.
Liz: Yes. Should we wrap up? Our timer went off.
Anika: I heard it. Yes. I just want to say one thing about Saru. I really like that Saru is now Michael’s first officer. I feel like this is the way it should have been all along. Good job finally getting there, because Saru is really good at being a first officer – not so great at being a captain.
Cause he was so good this episode, he was exactly what Michael needed every single time. he was also like what Su’kal needed. That’s what Saru’s purpose or position is!. He’s that guy who’s being hero support. To use a euphemism from a random 2000s movie. Sky High. It’s good. Everyone should go watch it. It stars the guy who is in The Expanse.
Anyway, being hero support is important. Not everybody needs to be the hero. Some people are better at being hero support, and the hero can’t do what they need to do without that.
And Michael wasn’t as good last week because Saru wasn’t there. She needed that person who was grounding her, who was able to be her sounding board and give her a hug when needed. And it was just really good, so good job, Saru.
And my final point when they had their cute little tête-à-tête in her ready room and talked about Captain Georgiou, they indicated the telescope. To me, that means that Saru gave her back her telescope, which is all I wanted. Saru is my favorite. Complete reverse from last week where I was like, I don’t even care about you.
Liz: It is absurd to me that it has taken four seasons to reach the status quo that it was obvious from the beginning should have in place. Like, this should have been the case in season two. Halfway through season two, Michael is promoted, well done, good.
But now we’re here and I think it’s great. And you’re right. Michael does need that grounding, someone to help her remember when she should be a courier and when she should be a Starfleet captain. And that is not a ding on Michael! I think she’s a really good captain, but just as Janeway needed Chakotay to sometimes go, “Hey, you could be a bit Maquis here,” or, “Oh God, please be more by the book, oh God, oh God,” Michael needs Saru.
Anika: You could say about any captain and their XO, they need that person who is not them, who is going to look at it from different eyes. That is important. And that’s why it’s important to have a second in command who is different from you, who is not the same as you,
Liz: And they are almost always opposite personalities. Kirk and Spock. Picard and Riker, Sisko and Kira. Archer and T’Pol. And what’s interesting about Michael and Saru is that previously their opposition has led them into conflict and now they are finally complementing each other.
Liz: It’s late, but I’m glad we’re here. Much like our outro.
Anika: Very good.
Liz: Thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.com, including links to our social media, credits for our theme music, and transcripts of our episodes. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, all at antimatterpod, and write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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And join us next week when we’ll be discussing the next episode of Star Trek Discovery, Choose to Live, which I know is about the Qowat Milat and we’ll see Gabrielle Burnham, probably, but also I keep thinking of Choose Your Pain. You know, swings and roundabouts.