“When the people who are supposed to care about you don’t listen to you, it’s frightening, and it’s lonely and it makes you feel like you’re crazy or like you’re not even there.” -Tilly
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: We were introduced to the effervescent being of Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) who in the course of one season managed to do a handful of impossible things, such as teaching Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) what emotions are, managing to save her grumpy boss Stamets (Anthony Rapp) from dying from space mushrooms with the power of fucking cool science, playing beer pong on a 23rd century space ship while bopping to Al Green, and most impressively, managing to make my brain forget how to do higher functioning while channeling her mirror counterpart Captain Killy and purring lines like, “I’d cut out your tongue and use it to lick my boots”. She’s the wide-eyed, awkward, science-loving, snoring, surprisingly bad-ass ensign of our dreams and it totally makes sense that Short Treks decided her character was the best way to kick off their new experiment in continuing to force sad North American Trekkies to fork over money to CBS while everybody else fires up the good old Torrent machine.
We open on the USS Discovery‘s… turbo bay? Cargo bay? Some sort of bay? Bay leaves? Oregano? I can never remember. Anyway, the crew shuffles away leaving the oregano bay deserted, or so it seems! A computer starts up, doing some initializing and what not, opening up a storage container and a ghostly, alien hand snakes its way out of the container accompanied by ominous music only to cut itself and splatter alien space blood on the floor. Obviously, between the lighting and the music cues this here is a terrifying creature straight from the Black Lagoon, and I assume it will be played by Doug Jones.
Meanwhile, Tilly is having a lovely chat with her mom, a delightful woman who in the span of a few seconds manages to nag Tilly about her caffeine consumption, unfavorably compare her to her stepsister, remind Tilly of some random depressing shit from childhood that is not at all analogous to Tilly’s current situation, and completely stomp on Tilly’s confidence over her enrolling in the Command Training Program. I’m reminded so forcefully of my own mother that I remembered that I need to schedule a therapy session.
Proving that Tilly and I understand each other on a visceral level, Tilly immediately heads to the cafeteria and makes bad nutrition choices, deciding that injecting a quadruple espresso directly into her veins is definitely what her anxiety was missing. Also, that replicator needs to mind her business. Tilly recites to herself the least well known and also most depressing of Stuart Smalley’s Daily Affirmations, reminding herself to expect nothing, even from her espresso. Dark, Tilly. Dark.
While Tilly is trying to enjoy her hot beverage, the invisible alien is wandering around the cafeteria, making itself known by darting close enough to Tilly that it ruffles her hair, and then apparently making the replicators do their best Poltergeist impression. Normally, replicators throwing chicken pot pies at you while screeching “SNACKS! SNACKS! SNACKS!” would sound like a pretty good time, but Tilly is panicking and taking cover with what I assume is Alfarian hair pasta stuck in her ponytail.
Eventually the unknown, invisible alien loses invisibility and it’s a… girl! Zounds! She looks simultaneously kind of like the aforementioned creature from the Black Lagoon but also like a teenage girl who is way cooler than you who goes to pop-up punk shows of bands you will never hear of and occasionally gets into fist fights with the doorman. I love her immediately. Like Space Daria if Space Daria was also someone who belonged to an underground fight club.
Tilly comes to the same conclusion after getting some data from her tricorder, and then they bond over ice cream, because well, sugar is awesome! Ice cream and burritos are extremely effective diplomatic tools that are not fully used in our flawed society today. Tilly brings out the universal translator and is hit full force with the most devastating shade known to the universe, shade from a teenage girl. Luckily, Tilly used to be a teenage girl and is able to throw some back, earning her some cool points with Space Daria and a name. Po! Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip) is apparently wicked smart, on the run, and very scared. Tilly can relate. She’s supposed to report Po, but she doesn’t want to, especially after Po tells her that her parents are dead, and so is her brother.
A group of crew members walk in, inexplicably laughing like they aren’t on the USS Discovery, and take in the wreckage of the cafeteria. Po has disappeared, leaving Tilly to tell the most believable lie she can come up with on the spot which is that obviously a hormonal space rabbit did it. Because, you know, the mood swings.
Back in Tilly’s room, Po drops a bombshell after Tilly turns up a galactic APB that lists her as “strategically critical”. She’s from the planet Xahea, which mines dilithium. Turns out, when she was grounded she invented a dilithium incumbator, you know, in her spare time. She was trying to give back to her planet, whom she considers her twin sister, because the planet and the people were born at the same moment. Unfortunately, she opened a Pandora’s box with this technology and it upended Xahean society. You can really see in this scene that this is a young girl, who is trying to deal with her entire world shifting, and she is scared as shit about it, rightfully so. Tilly understand that feeling completely, as well as the way Po feels that no one listens to her.
Tilly reminds Po that she’s not crazy, she’s right. But also that Po can’t hide anymore, that her disappearing won’t save her planet from the changes to come. This is a lovely moment between them, because Po is upset that in the strive to make it to warp, her people have begun to kill her planet. And that evolution isn’t just about strides in technology, it’s about soul. Po feels like no one will protect her sister like she will, and that’s when she realizes she has to go back and do just that.
Tilly puts in coordinates to warp Po home, just in time for Po to casually mention that oh yeah, she’s actually about to be crowned Queen of Xahea. Tilly almost chokes on her tongue. Po has been being crushed by more than just her invention, she’s also not sure she’s ready to bear the weight of the crown and the future of her planet. She gives Tilly a dilithium crystal and prepares to go home and take on that responsibility. After all, if Tilly thinks she would be a great queen, obviously she will be. Tilly also realizes she’s holding on to her insecurity about being in the command program and let’s it go as Po tells her, “You’re going to be great commander.”
This was a lovely little short, even if part of me is a little resentful that they obviously released it to make us all sign up for CBS All Access again because everyone cancelled it while Discovery is on hiatus. That being said though, it was a self contained story with great characterization and instantly recognizable themes. Both Wiseman and Guevara-Prip turned in great performances, with Guevara-Prip especially managing to channel a lot of emotions through Po, creepy, scared, sad, hopeful, righteous anger. I really enjoyed this story of two women, afraid of their destiny, taking strength from each other to meet their challenges head on.
Next up is Aldis Hodge in Calypso and yeah. Yeah. I am ready as hell for that. See you next time!