With ‘Choose To Live,’ Discovery Makes A Play To Be The 'Best' Star Trek
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With ‘Choose To Live,’ Star Trek: Discovery Makes A Play For ‘Best’ Series Iteration

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BY December 1, 2021

Often when we talk about Star Trek: Discovery, its inauspicious beginnings are typically what’s brought up. In our own coverage, I talk about the beginning a lot. Not because I didn’t like it, quite the contrary. The first episodes of this series, the first new Star Trek show in more than a decade, were shocking and unlike anything that came before. (But, even I think they were wilding out with the Klingons.) Yet in episode 3 of season 4, “Choose to Live,” I can see fans in the not-too-distant future citing Star Trek: Discovery as their favorite series in the canon. Perhaps this was always the plan but putting the cast far into the future of the universe put them right where they belong.

To get back to my Star Trek: Discovery is the future fan-favorite series argument, let’s just discuss how it looks. Each hour-long episode of this show looks just as good as any big-budget feature. The series is massive in scope, and it feels like any episode of this series would play really nicely on the big screen. In ‘Choose to Live,’ we get a variety of Star Trek locales, as the Discovery must bring a fugitive to justice. It’s a simple episodic plot, with the season-long arc about the Dark Matter Anomaly being relegated to the C-story.

There is also a big change for Ian Alexander’s Gray this episode, with a touching, slow-paced story. Obviously, Blu del Barrio’s Adira is the other part of that story, with Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Culber assisting. From cinematic quality to big action to heartfelt and representative character stories, this Star Trek has it all.

Light spoilers to follow.

Star Trek: Discovery Is in the Conversation for Best Series, and ‘Choose to Live’ Is Exhibit A

Pictured: Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham, Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance, Chelah Horsdal as President Laira Rillak and Tara Rosling as T'Rina of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved. Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive

Star Trek: Discovery always was a very good series. The only debate was whether or not its tonal and story departures made it ‘Star Trek’ or not. Well, with ‘Choose to Live,’ the storytellers underscore how this new era of Trek fits perfectly in the ideal-shaped hole left by the previous iterations. Let’s just focus on the main story, where the episode title comes from. The Qowat Milat. created for Star Trek: Picard, are a semi-religious sect of Romulan (and Vulcan, in the future at least?) fighters who swear oaths to ‘lost causes.’ The title comes from when facing one of them, before they kill you, they give you the option to “choose to live.” It’s both a badass thing to say before slicing and dicing someone, but also suggests an aversion to death crucial to Trek.

Yet, another character this season is the Federation itself, personified by President Laira Rillak (played by Chelah Horsdal). From the season 3 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, the mission of the ship and crew was to rebuild the Federation, which faded after a disaster. Now that it’s rebuilt, they are trying to keep to the ideals of the organization while navigating a quasi-realistic political environment. Typically, when politicians show up in Trek, it’s bad news. Yet, this season seems to be making an argument for why absolute candor doesn’t always work.

Ultimately, this tense violent and political situation is resolved with some quick science. The ultimate result is that everyone involved protected life, and the ‘baddie’ is only that because she didn’t take time to explain and ask for help.

This was also a standout episode for Mary Wiseman’s (now) Lieutenant Tilly. She’s still a quirky, awkward character, but she’s shedding her fear. She also gets the best line in the episode when at the blade of the baddie she says, “I choose to live. I absolutely choose to live.”

The Emotional Heart of Discovery Is When Characters Find Themselves

Pictured: Blu del Barrio as Adira, Wilson Cruz as Culber and Ian Alexander as Gray of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved. Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive

Both the B- and C-stories in ‘Choose to Live,’ focused on newcomers to Star Trek: Discovery, Adira, Gray, and David Ajala’s Booker. This is the episode where Gray is finally given a corporeal body. Up until now, he’s existed in a sci-fi way in Adira’s mind. Yet, Culber is able to create a synthetic body for Gray. And, since he’s familiar with dying and coming back to life, he makes the perfect guide for the two of them. It also feels like an allegory for the experience of transitioning or simply coming out. There is a sadness to this event and tension, with Adira worried that they will lose Gray for good. Either the sci-fi magic will fail or it works, and Gray just isn’t the ‘same person.’ Yet, the story ends with a moving and joyful scene as Gray emerges whole and himself. It’s beautiful.

Similarly, the Best Pals journey between Anthony Rapp’s Stamets and Booker continues. As part of the political situation with the Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA), they consult with the Vulcan science bigwigs. Stamets’ sense of urgency is near-manic, and Booker stays active to avoid being consumed by his grief. While they don’t get any scientific answers, a good-old mind-meld helps Booker take the first steps to understanding his place as a man without a homeworld. The memories of what he lost begins to become a comfort rather than a burden. Again, beautiful.

From Tilly to Gray, all of the characters on Star Trek: Discovery are as much on a journey of self-discovery as they are boldly going and all that. It’s a great time to be a fan of Trek, and ‘Choose to Live’ is a perfect single-episode example of why.

Pictured: Tara Rosling as T'Rina and David Ajala as Book of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved. Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive

Star Trek: Discovery debuts new episodes on Paramount+ on Thursdays.

What did you think of ‘Choose to Live,’ and this season so far on Star Trek: Discovery? Share your thoughts, reactions, and theories about what’s behind the DMA in the comments below.

Featured image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book of superhero short stories, Tales of Adventure & Fantasy: Book One is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.


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