Geek Fridays – Disco & Mando

Spoiler warning. In fact I’m going to assume not only that you’ve seen these two shows but that you’ve seen all the Star Wars and Star Trek stuff that I have. This is basically going to be a stream of conscnerdness.

While we were glad to see it come, it is fair to say that the end of 2020 has been a bit crap. Since the end of October though geeks like me have had a wonderful weekly double treat with new instalments of both Star Trek and Star Wars dropping on Netflix and Disney+ respectively.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 started airing its thirteen eps on 16th October in the UK with The Mandalorian Season 2 following on 30th. The latter wrapped up the week before Christmas and Michael Burnham and the gang were then left on their own for three more weeks as they, in turn, closed their story. For eight glorious Fridays though we got both and it was wonderful.

It’s hard to say which of these two shows I enjoyed most as one week I thrilled more at the adventures of Mando and his little green buddy but the next I’d be gripped by the crew of the lost starship designation NCC-1031. Din Djarin and pygmy Yoda were a fine pair to spend time with but I have to say that I feel greater affinity to Burnham, Saru, Stamets, Rhys, Bryce, Nilsson, Culber, Tilly, Owo and Detmer – especially those last three who have really developed as great characters over this last season. What has always been great about Star Trek is the ensemble casts and the crew of the USS Discovery are properly gelling and coming into their own. They might even challenge Picard and co in my affections. I like the fact that they’ve operated under a range of captains as well but we’ll get to that later, other than to note that this single Trek show has had as many as all the other ones put together. I will commit to saying the The Mandalorian had the greatest single episode, probably the greatest single episode in the history of TV, but I swung back and forth with my preference for these two shows, normally indicated only by which my gut told me to watch first each week.

Discovery started well having reinvented itself at the end of Season 2 and we saw how Burnham and the rest of the crew adapted having leapt nine hundred and thirty years into the future, getting separated along the way. It was a credit to the storytelling that it was such an emotional moment when they were reunited at the end of only episode two. Then in week three they linked up with the much changed Federation just as we linked up again with the not at all changed Mandalorian.

The Disney+ show had gone back to its format of having Mr. Mando travelling around and helping people before moving on, just like the Littlest Hobo. It had exciting moments and aspects that merited much discussion online, such as when Baby Yoda ate that nice frog lady’s unfertilised ova but it wasn’t presenting anything new. All the while, Discovery’s cutest character Tilly was showing that she was prepared to break a few eggs as well, as she grew in confidence and stood up to bad guys and reckless friends alike. Burnham was promoted and demoted faster than Lady Jane Grey and the Mandalorian made new friends and lost them again even quicker because he didn’t like it when they took their helmets off.

Then in week seven we got two magnificent episodes as Burnham met the new Vulcans and Djarin met an old Jedi. I have to say that in forty odd years of being a fan, neither Star Wars or Star Trek had made me cry. Not ‘I love you, I know’ and not ‘I am and will always be your friend’. That changed on 27th November. First it was the image of Leonard Nimoy that got me, then it was Michael seeing her mum again and realising what Starfleet meant to her and as if this wasn’t enough there was the bridge crew’s endorsement of Ensign Tilly’s selection as First Officer. All were beautiful moments. The Mandalorian also had some beautiful moments, mostly involving lightsabers.

There is so much that we love about Star Wars but nothing gets our geek hearts beating like the Jedi and their magnificent weapon of choice. This is still best in moderation though, as the prequel trilogy showed. One Jedi, or Sith come to that, entering the room and taking on all attackers with their awesome laser sword skills, punctuated by the occasional force push, is just so cool. Think about Luke on the skiff in Return on the Jedi, Obi-Wan in the Mos Eisley cantina, even Darth Vader at the end of Rogue One. Here we had previously animated Ahsoka Tano coming out of the fog with her duel white blades and it was brilliant. We might have all said that we loved how The Mandalorian explored different aspects of the Star Wars world but we were lying; this was what we had all been waiting for.

This kicked off a superb run of episodes for Din Djarin and the newly named Grogu. Following this we had the arrival of Boba Fett and the destruction, gasp, of The Razorcrest. Fett’s return had been teased since the first episode and when it came it was all that we’d hoped for. It was so good seeing him taking out Stormtroopers with the gaffi stick he had clearly nicked off a Tuskin Raider and taught himself to use whilst fending off enemies on the desert sands of Tatooine for five years. I’m not sure why he hadn’t gone to retrieve his armour from the Marshall who was openly parading around in it but he was here for it now. Having only seen Tano turn up last week, seeing Slave 1 fly in overhead felt like too much reward.

One cool spaceship came into play as another was taken out though. Poor old Mando; he’d spent so much money and effort to keep his motor going, after it was ripped apart by spiders and then fell in the sea but just as he’d got it all fixed, kablooey! We all felt his tears, hidden behind that steely beskar visage.

Then of course in the penultimate chapter the mask came off. Baby Yoda May not have been in this episode (a taste of things to come) but his presence was strongly felt when we saw how far his guardian was prepared to go, disregarding his most firm beliefs to get the information he needed to find where the little guy had been taken. This episode where they sneak into an old Imperial base aboard a truck, fighting off pirates on the way, also gave us a great little story for ex-con Mayfeld wrestling with his past as a Stormtrooper. He had the arc they should have given Finn in The Rise of Skywalker, which brings us neatly on to that amazing series closer. Now that’s what I call the rise of Skywalker.

I cannot tell you how deliriously happy I was watching that final episode. It wasn’t just the last ten minutes, the whole thing was exciting as Mando, Fett, some cool cartoon characters, Alderaan’s second most famous daughter and Melinda May fought their way through Moff Gideon’s sky fortress to save Grogu from his enemies and from himself. (Did you see him throwing those guards around the room before? We all know what anger leads to in this universe.) Those last ten minutes though. There was every indication that the Jedi who had responded to Grogu’s hilltop reach out was someone we knew; the X-Wing, the gloved hand (couldn’t he have got that fixed by now?), the green lightsaber, that octagonal brush metal belt buckle. Still though I gasped as he pulled down that hood to reveal the mostly effectively rendered young face of Master Luke. I immediately went back and watched his entrance again now that I knew who it was that was slicing his way through the impossibly formidable battalion of dark terminators and it made it even better. Refer to my previous ‘so cool’ statement and then multiply it by ten.

Then right at the end, as the superb score set the tone bringing old and new themes together, The Mandalorian managed to give us as much joy from the dynamics this show has set up by itself as we’d got from revisiting elements set up in the original trilogy. Bye bye baby, baby bye bye.

In the meantime Discovery had had some fun back in the mirror universe but their powerful season close was still to come. The moment where they found that the burn that had destroyed intergalactic civilisation was caused by an out of control kid infused with some malfunctioning mystical science magismo was so very very Star Trek. Then we had Osyraa blasting in like a cross between the Wicked Witch of the West and Khan Noonien Singh, snatching the titular space ship and really pushing our new favourite crew to the edge. I loved the ill fated negotiations between Osyraa and Admiral Vance (and that he didn’t turn out to be corrupt, I was worried), I loved Tilly and the captainless bridge crew fighting back as their air ran out, I loved Burnham and Book racing around in the turbo lifts, I loved the final battle with alien Elphaba and I loved Stamets screaming at Burnham as she blew him to safety out of the window. I also loved that Michael Burnham was finally made Captain. The ship has had some great people at the helm (metaphorically I mean – Lieutenant Detmer is actually the helm officer). Lorca was brilliant in Season 1 and Pike was able to follow his hard act in Season 2. Saru has been worthy but I never quite bought into him as the boss. We have been heading toward Burnham getting the top job though and I think she belongs there. Since the start this series has had members of the following under represented groups in charge; Asian women, racially othered alien races, people with Aspergers and now a black woman. They’ve had a couple of middle aged white guys too which is fine as it all adds to the message that anyone can. Let’s not forget that the federation is run by an Israeli too and that this is one of the first shows to heavily feature a non binary character.

I can’t wait to see where else both of these shows boldly go. God, I have enjoyed them so much.

WandaVision has it all to do.

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