Phillipa Georgiou is the problem

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As I stated on the home page, this blog exists just as an outlet for some random thoughts, and this week’s random thoughts just happen to have to do with Star Trek.

Star Trek: Discovery just wrapped up Season 2, and let’s just say that the Internet has some feedback. A lot of what I’ve been reading has been along the lines of “why didn’t they use the spore drive to …” and “why didn’t they just …”, probing plot holes and inconsistencies with characters or continuity. That’s all well and good, but I wanted to talk a little bit about bigger picture, “what were they thinking?”-type questions. It seems to me that some of the creative decisions that have been made along the way have been such complete flops that it’s really hard to believe that the people put in charge of such a valuable franchise could not have planned any better than it seems they did.

I have several topics I’d like to cover, and I’ll break it up into several posts so this isn’t just one long rant (instead, it will be several shorter rants!) I don’t necessarily feel equally strongly about each item, but if I’m including it here I have at least some degree of frustration with the way the characters or plots have been developed. I have sort of cheekily titled this post “Phillipa Georgiou is the problem”, but you’ll learn that she’s not the problem, just a problem.

I will be discussing some events of both seasons, including the finale of Season 2, so be warned: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Phillipa Georgiou: What were they thinking?

Let me dive right in with what I find to be the single worst element of Discovery, and that is Terran Phillipa Georgiou. Georgiou was empress of the known galaxy in the cutthroat mirror universe, and now she’s on staff on Starfleet in our universe (ain’t nobody got time for me to explain all of that, so you’ll need to do your own review). This is already almost unthinkably problematic. Evolved 23rd century sensibilities aside: even in our own, comparatively barbaric time Georgiou is nothing short of a complete sociopath. For example, In the season finale she casually suggested that Discovery cause a star to supernova, destroying at least one complete star system to further their goals. Her suggestion is quickly voted down, but imagine actually sitting at the table when a co-worker suggests perhaps killing millions or billions of people (it wasn’t actually stated whether the star system(s) in question were populated, but Georgiou has established that genocide is a valid tactic in her worldview). That would seem pretty awkward, I’d think. Yet not only is her behavior tolerated, but someone thought it a good idea to make her a high-ranking officer in Section 31! (You can believe I’ll have a whole post on Section 31 later).

Georgiou wears black leather, of course, to let you know she’s a badass. It is as though her behavior isn’t enough of a clue. In the last episode of the season, when she locks Leland in the spore chamber and kills him in what clearly an extremely painful way, she takes the opportunity to taunt him and laughs as he dies. Yes, I understand that it’s been established that Leland has been consumed by a malevolent computer system and is a thoroughly evil character at that point, but it disturbs me that a “good guy” character is celebrating the death of an adversary.

If you’re new to Star Trek (an you’re not, because why would you be reading this rant if you were?), you need to understand that if there is one idea that anchors everything in Gene Roddenberry’s vision, it’s the perfectibility of the human race. Roddenberry’s humans are not perfect, but they are more perfect than we are, and they strive to be even better. This belief in perfectibility is so pervasive in Roddenberry’s universe that it created a huge problem for the early seasons of Next Generation. In those first couple of seasons, all problems between people/aliens/civilizations were just misunderstandings, and getting to see one another’s perspective was always the solution to every problem. Pity poor Worf, whose role on the show was to demonstrate that fighting was never the answer (though he kept trying!). The Next Generation had trouble creating drama because there really was no conflict, and the shows were boring! In my humble opinion, that show didn’t even really get off the ground until “Heart of Glory,” but I suppose that could be it’s own blog post.

Humans’ perfectibility didn’t really seem to be a concept in the first season of Discovery. Rather, the tone of the show seemed to me to be much more like the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, which is almost the opposite. The central theme of the new BSG seemed to me to be that civility, principles, and tolerance are all luxuries that we afford ourselves and that, under enough pressure with stakes high enough, we’ll abandon in order to survive. On BSG, our favorite characters lost their nobility, one by one, as their circumstances became ever more dire. It’s a plot line that only Jack London could love.

Even if the idea of future humans being more evolved than ourselves fell by the wayside, it’s still a long drop to the point at which a character like Georgiou could be part of Starfleet. So, how exactly did this happen? How did such a thoroughly sinister character come to wear a Starfleet badge and be put in a position of power? I’m not entirely sure, of course, because I’m not an insider here, but I think that Michelle Yeoh’s star power probably has something to do with it. When Discovery was launched, she was the biggest name in the cast, and once they killed off the Starfleet Georgiou, the almost comedically evil mirror-universe version was the only one they had left. My guess is that someone decided that Yeoh had to stay, and this was the best they could do.

Alas, Giorgiou survives the season finale and will be with us in Season 3, no doubt. It’s probably too much to ask that we see her get a Worf-like comeuppance when her complete lack of morality comes back into play (which will probably be in episode 1).

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