‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2, Episode 7: “Light and Shadows”
Finally. It took seven episodes, but we get our first extended look at Ethan Peck’s portrayal of Spock.
Here are the people who have played Spock so far in Trek history: Leonard Nimoy, Zachary Quinto and several children and young adults who barely had any lines.
But Peck will be the first to flesh out a younger version of Spock. In “Light and Shadows,” he is portrayed as either catatonic or repeating the same words over and over again. He also has a beard. And as it turns out, even though Starfleet has apparently placed a high premium on finding the Vulcan, he’s actually able to sneak back into Vulcan undetected. Not even Sarek or Section 31, who are supposed to be keeping an eye out for this kind of stuff, realize this.
Peck’s Spock seems to have more personality than previous iterations of Spock. He seems to lean in to his humanity a bit more, whereas Quinto and Nimoy shied away from it, perhaps as a result of playing an older version.
Amanda Grayson points out that Sarek is performing a Vulcan ritual called tokmar — which can “bring lost souls back home.” I don’t know if I spelled “tokmar” correctly so perhaps I am a lost soul as well. But the ritual isn’t working. Because Grayson, the mother of Spock and Burnham, knows the truth, which is that Spock is home, hidden in a sacred crypt that apparently no one else on Vulcan is aware of.
We see Spock etching the Red Angel into the walls of the crypt. We know, because of Burnham’s personal log at the start of the episode, that it is now believed that the angel is a humanoid being from the future.
“But whose future? And why?” Burnham asks. It’s the key mystery of the season, and finally, we’re making some progress in finding out, because we’ve found Spock.
The writers of “Discovery” keep hitting the point home that as children, Burnham and Spock were close. There are multiple flashbacks in this episode, which is directed by Marta Cunningham, showing them together. It throws more gasoline on the questions that Trek fans have been asking ever since before “Discovery” premiered: If they were that close as children, why did we never find out about Burnham in any previous iteration of Trek? More on this in a bit.
Grayson reveals, in an unusually tense conversation with Sarek, that as children, Spock had a learning disability, which made him an outcast on Vulcan. Sarek responds with dripping condescension. Vulcan gaslighting, one might say.
“You never truly respected humanity,” Grayson says piercingly. She has a point, considering the way Sarek looks down upon the way humans act.
For a race based on logic, Sarek’s decision to turn Spock over to Section 31 really makes no sense.
“Outside of this room, no one is more motivated to heal Spock than Section 31,” Sarek says. Really? The counterintelligence group with advanced technology that counts Evil Georgiou among its ranks and is currently chasing after Spock assuming he’s murdered multiple Starfleet officers? And why does Sarek think not turning over Spock to Section 31 would jeopardize Burnham’s Starfleet career?
Of course, Section 31’s intentions aren’t pure. Georgiou, as a good deed, warns Burnham that the group intends on extracting Spock’s memories, which would ruin him. They stage an elaborate fight. Burnham rescues Spock and now they’re on their way to Talos IV, the home of the Talosians and a reference to the first pilot episode of the original Trek.
The other story line in the episode is that the rest of the Discovery crew gets caught near a time loop anomaly of some sort. This story line is a bit derivative of some past Trek episodes, like “Cause and Effect” from “The Next Generation.”
Pike and Tyler go to investigate, for no real reason other than to serve the plot. The “Discovery” writers seem to be straining to give Tyler things to do this season, but the action sequences within the loop are compelling. Tyler openly defying Pike in a life-threatening situation where time is a factor? Unnecessary.
Back to Spock, because it’s no coincidence that the strongest parts of the episode involve him and the Red Angel mystery. This is my wild prediction, based on what we’ve seen so far: We seem to be headed toward some sort of time travel catastrophe that will wipe out entire timelines because of the Red Angel, which will explain why in future Treks, we never hear about Burnham. The “Discovery” writers have consistently showed a willingness to take ambitious risks and Trek has historically had no problem erasing timelines — hello J.J. Abrams!
All in all, I’m glad we’ve made some progress on the season’s central mystery.