Star Trek Discovery Light and Shadows Review

I think tonight’s Star Trek: Discovery episode was our first official filler episode for the season. Titled, “Light and Shadows,” I expected a lot more than what we got. Even though it worked a little like “Point of Light” in that it moved existing plot points along and set up some new ones, the episode ultimately left us with, to be crude, figurative blue balls (even as it added a fascinating new angle to Spock). Here’s why.

Spock’s coordinates

The episode itself is about Pike and Tyler getting caught up in a rip in spacetime, leaving them no choice but to work together to get back to Discovery (with the help of Stamets and temporal understanding). Cool. But the real reason for the episode was everything involving Spock, particularly the set of numbers he kept repeating.

Thanks to Michael’s smarts, she realizes that the numbers are coordinates Spock remembered backwards thanks to his dyslexia, a disorder he inherited from his mother Amanda. I’ll talk more about the importance of this later, but for right now, what I need to assert is that I wish we’d gotten to this 40 minutes earlier in the episode. In other words, I don’t know if this episode was necessary in order to get to the meat of the story.

As it turns out, the coordinates are to a far-off planet that has something to do with the Red Angel and its purpose. But instead of us figuring out why the planet is important, we have to wait until next Thursday! I get we have to build suspense and maybe pad out the season because of the number of episodes CBS ordered. But I wish the A story wasn’t the spacetime rescue. The B story, about Michael dealing with her family’s messed up dynamics and saving her brother from the clutches of Section 31, should have been front and center.

Sarek and Amanda

I hope we get more about Sarek and Amanda this season. I really need to know how they work together as a couple, because sometimes, it seems like they don’t understand each other at all. I mean, Amanda accused Sarek of not respecting humanity enough. How can a relationship sustain without something as fundamental as respect?

Of course, it could be successfully argued that Amanda only said that out of anger. It’s not as if she can yell like she can on Earth; she has to argue the Vulcan way. So, more than likely, she was letting her emotions take over a little. But, there could be a kernel of truth in what she said. Even though Sarek understands humanity’s relationship with emotions, he could never fully live the life of a human, so how could he know what Amanda and Michael go through as full-blooded humans? He definitely can’t understand what Spock goes through as a half-human/half-Vulcan.

Whether he ever decides to say it out loud or not, I think he eventually understood why Amanda read Alice Through the Looking Glass to her children. As she said, she read it to prepare them for a life in which nothing would make sense, even their own existence as kids trapped between two cultures and ways of being. This scene once again showcases why Spock (and now Michael) are great allegories for how people who are bi/multiracial or bi/multicultural can unfortunately sometimes feel like they can’t find their place in a racially and culturally binary society.

Spock’s dyslexia

I think it’s amazing that Spock gets the added layer of being dyslexic. As a whole, Star Trek has kept disability as part of its motto to teaching viewers to respect all people. From The Next Generation’s Geordi LaForge serving as part of Starfleet while being blind to Deep Space Nine’s Nog losing a leg to discussions about blindness in The Original Series, Star Trek has done their best to explore what sensitivity, respect and appreciation of others means.

Having Spock diagnosed as dyslexic adds yet another layer to an already deep character who means so much to so many people, including me. I personally haven’t seen many depictions of dyslexia on television or in film, so Spock’s dyslexia helps to fill a void in entertainment. It also makes Spock an even bigger role model than he already is. Here’s why.

I think one thing that someone could take from this episode is, “Wow, Spock has overcome so much, even his dyslexia!” But I’d challenge us to not view Spock as having overcome, because within that word “overcome” there’s the assumption that he’s closer to what we might consider “normal.” “Overcoming” is how the Vulcans, including Sarek, would frame Spock’s struggle, because if there’s anything Vulcans are intolerant of, it’s a deviation from what they consider perfection and logic. You see how Sarek talked about how Spock’s Vulcan teachers figuratively beat out any deviation in Spock, including Spock’s dyslexia (or so they thought).

In reality, there is no “normal,” since so many of us have something that makes us “different,” whether that’s a learning disability, anxiety, depression, or something. Case in point, me. I was personally devastated when I finally got anxiety medication. It can be called internalized ableism, but in everyday terms, I was upset that I was no longer presenting as “normal.” I felt like I was out of control and couldn’t hold myself together without medication, and that made me, a very mentally self-sufficient person, upset with myself. Wrongly upset, of course, but upset nonetheless.

Instead, we should look at Spock as someone who is on a journey towards full acceptance of himself. He’s someone who, like us, are figuring out that what we might deem as our defects are actually part of our gifts. Believe it or not, there’s a plus side to whatever you deem is your problem, something I’ve learned the hard way many times over. There is a silver lining to the cross you have to bear. We each have to discover what that silver lining is.

For me, my silver lining for my anxiety and depression is that I’m highly sensitive emotionally; I’m very caring, to my own detriment at times. I think that for Spock, his silver lining is that his dyslexia allows him to be more sensitive too. It probably helps him tap into his empathy even more than just being both human and Vulcan does. Because he knows the pain of being deemed different by society on three different levels, he’s bound to be more sensitive towards anyone in need, which makes him perfect for Starfleet. That sensitivity also made him the perfect vessel for the Red Angel to utilize, even though that same sensitivity made him go over the edge. The dyslexia also helped him retain those precious coordinates so Starfleet can get to the root of the mystery surrounding the Red Angel.

Leland’s past

The final thing I must mention is that Georgiou dropped the biggest bombshell of all; Leland killed Michael’s parents. Of course, we’re going to get this nugget out into the open, because I need to see Michael kick Leland’s butt. But maybe we’ll also get some answers as to why Michael’s parents were targeted. Why was Michael’s life ruined? And since Leland is the murderer, was he working for Section 31, or was this something he did all by himself?

But, as I wrote up top, I wish we had learned some of these very important plotpoints earlier in the episode. It’s like this entire episode was a buried lede, and it’s upsetting. But, that makes the wait for next Thursday so much better…right? We’ll pretend that it does.

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