STAR TREK DISCOVERY – Reviewing S02E06: “The Sound of Thunder”

FIRST IMPRESSION

This was a pretty good episode. I enjoyed getting a firmer introduction to Kaminar, and I thought the revelation about the Ba’ul and the Kelpiens was worthwhile. Although I take some issue with the way that Saru et al got the job done, one can’t argue with the results. It’s good to see the show’s creative team trying to walk the fine line Trek shows always have to: Trek should be adventurous and fun, but the heroes need to be motivated by ethically unimpeachable pursuits. Needless to say, this can be a hard row to hoe. I also liked that the Ba’ul, who seem categorically evil at the beginning of “The Sound of Thunder,” turn out to be motivated by their own will to survive. The problem is how far they’re willing to go to reduce the perceived threat. This is good fodder for a Star Trek show because these kinds of questions tend to fuel ethical debates among viewers.
“The Sound of Thunder”

Instead of focusing on the story-line that STAR TREK DISCOVERY’s creative team have been promoting since the beginning of Season 2 — the connection between Spock and the “Red Angel” — in “The Sound of Thunder” viewers were treated to the conclusion of a story arc introduced during one of DISCOVERY’s SHORT TREKS, which aired in the months leading up to the Season 2 premiere.

The specific short trek that the creative team expanded upon in “The Sound of Thunder” was “The Brightest Star,” which told Saru’s backstory.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY – “Saru! Be cool!”

Having learned that everything he knew about his people’s development was a lie, Saru wants to return to his home planet to help make things right. Lucky for him, Saru’s home-world Kaminar just happens to be the most recent place where the Red Angel, which Discovery has been ordered to investigate, has appeared.

It’s always fun to learn how captains deal with bridge officers who lose their cool, and in “The Sound of Thunder” Captain Pike proves just how democratic he can be. Just three weeks after watching Tilly melt down on his bridge, Capt. Pike has to deal with backtalk from his first officer. Although the confrontational attitude Saru takes with Capt. Pike is understandable — after all, Saru’s experiencing the effects of an unprecedented change in his physiology — few would call his approach respectful.

When Discovery drops out of warp, Saru explains with uncharacteristic aggression that their ship is unlikely to get a response from his people, the Kelpiens, because a dictatorial alien race that the Kelpiens share Kaminar with, the Ba’ul, control all access to the planet’s communications equipment.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY – “Saru, do you just want to give the orders?”

Pike orders Burnham down to Kaminar’s surface to investigate, but another outburst from Saru, and some deft captain handling from Burnham, convinces Capt. Pike to send Saru and Burnham together down to Kaminar.

Shortly after they arrive, Burnham and Saru find a Kelpien priestess who turns out to be Siranna, Saru’s sister. After their initial meeting, Siranna invites Burnham and Saru back to her hut. Saru tells his sister about his life since leaving Kaminar, but after asking about his late father, the easygoing family reunion turns political.

Siranna reprimands Saru for leaving Kaminar. She tells Saru that his absence upset Kaminar’s Great Balance. Siranna tells her brother that she and the other Kelpiens lived in fear of retribution from the Ba’ul after Saru’s departure. Then, as if on cue, an alert klaxon sounds.

Their arrival on Kaminar having been observed by Ba’ul sensors, Siranna warns Burnham and Saru that the Ba’ul are coming for them. A quick beam-out solves the problem, and after a few seconds a shaken Saru and Burnham are safely back aboard Discovery.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E06: “The Sound of Thunder” – Goo Gone Wild

The Ba’ul are hailing Discovery, and they don’t seem happy. An audio-only message reveals that the Ba’ul want Saru “returned” to them. Saru, again ignoring Starfleet protocol, overrides his captain and responds directly to the Ba’ul. He answers that he is a free individual, and the Ba’ul have no say in what he does or where he goes.

The argument goes on like this for some time, but after the Ba’ul threaten his family’s village and send ships to attack Discovery, Saru takes matters into his own hands. Seeking the most peaceful resolution possible while again defying his captain’s orders, Saru beams himself over to the Ba’ul ship.

After running some scans on Saru and beaming Siranna aboard, a tar-like creature with red eyes rises from the deck. Saru instinctively fires a few post-Vaharai barbs at the creature, but the Ba’ul deflects them with ease.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E06: “The Sound of Thunder” – Look Like Anyone You Know?

First, a comment on the way the Ba’ul look. Aside from the red eyes and the relatively passable animation, the Ba’ul look quite a bit like Armus, the tar-like entity from Vagra II who killed Tasha Yar in the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episode “Skin of Evil.”

However, whereas Armus is a concentration of all of the negative emotions of an alien race once native to Vagra II, the Ba’ul are, like the Kelpiens, native to Kaminar. This information, along with another shocking revelation comes thanks to the information sphere that Discovery encountered in “Saints of Imperfection.”

STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E06: “The Sound of Thunder” – Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

By way of said information sphere, Tilly and Burnham learn that the Ba’ul and the Kelpiens have been sharing Kaminar for eons. The state of affairs, with the Ba’ul on top and the Kelpiens on the bottom, is only the current situation. In eons past, the Kelpiens were the dominant race, subjugating and hunting the oppressed Ba’ul.

So, the genocidal nature of the Ba’ul’s actions is explained. And in order to reset the actual balance of things, Saru determines that Discovery must trigger Vaharai in the entire Kelpien population. The transformation will force the Kelpiens out of their complacence and make them worthy adversaries of the Ba’ul.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E06: “The Sound of Thunder” – Divine Intervention

Saru and his shipmates are able to trigger the global Vaharai, forcing the Ba’uls’ hand. Seeking to prevent the Kelpien transformation, the Ba’ul start a reaction that will eradicate all Kelpien life on Kaminar. A surprise appearance from the Red Angel puts an end to all that though.

Just before the Ba’ul energy weapons detonate, the Red Angel appears to Saru aboard the Ba’ul ship, stops the Ba’ul attack, and the Kelpiens finish their transformation.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E06: “The Sound of Thunder” – The Red Time Traveler

Thanks to Saru’s Kelpien vision, the crew of Discovery learn that the Red Angel is actually a humanoid in a mechanized suit. Apparently, the Red Angel is a time traveler, but the question of who the time-traveling “angel” is gets no closer to having an answer.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY S02E06: “The Sound of Thunder” – Final Thoughts

All of these Spock-teases have created a serious Spock-block. But if the preview for “Light and Shadows” can be believed, viewers will get their first real DISCOVERY glimpse of Spock in this coming episode…finally!!

From a narrative perspective, although one could complain about Starfleet’s lack of concern for preserving the technological development of the Kelpiens, the fact that the Ba’ul discovered warp drive and introduced the Kelpiens to advanced technology in the first place makes Discovery’s intervention acceptable. This resetting of the natural balance has appeared in previous iterations of Trek, so one has to give Captain Pike some leeway here.

It’s always fun to speculate on who might be traveling through time but, although the Red Angel could very well be a time-traveling General Worf from the year 2390 or “Crewman” Daniels, I think it’s more likely that the Red Angel will probably be a character new to the Trek franchise.

Or, maybe viewers are in for another SHORT TREKS crossover featuring “Craft,” a 33rd-century man who encountered an abandoned Discovery in “Calypso.” Whatever the case, I look forward to the inevitable reveal.

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