Star Trek: Discovery ‘The Examples’ Episode Review | Comic Years
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Star Trek: Discovery ‘The Examples’ Episode Review: No One Left Behind

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BY December 20, 2021

In drama, the most often motive for a character to get into some action-thriller trouble is the intersection of justice and vengeance. For example, in Spider-Man: No Way Home yet another Peter Parker pledges himself to be a hero after the loss of someone he loves. Bruce Wayne, Frank Castle, and countless other characters often find themselves on the wrong side of that line. It’s not their fault, because our fiction reflects the real world, and humans really can’t seem to get it right either. In Star Trek: Discovery ‘The Examples,’ Sonequa Martin-Green’s Captain Michael Burnham personally risks her life to save a bunch of criminals.

Also in this episode, Shawn Doyle’s Ruon Tarka butts heads with Anthony Rapp’s Paul Stamets as they try to figure out what’s going on with the Dark Matter Anomaly revealed in the Star Trek: Discovery season 4 premiere. This storyline is interesting both because it has major implications for the rest of the season and raises some questions about their scientific process.

We do not see Mary Wiseman’s Tilly, who left the ship last episode, but we do get David Cronenberg. (They want me to call him “Kovich,” but anyone who knows what David Cronenberg looks like cannot help but think of him that way, first and last name.) Keen viewers of Discovery will likely anticipate his encounter with Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Culber. Though, exactly how it goes down will likely not be what you expect.

While Chelah Horsdal’s President Rillak doesn’t make an appearance, the recurring theme of “the Federation” being a character continues in this episode. Burnham and company find that even though they’ve recovered from “the Burn,” the galaxy is still skeptical of Starfleet.

Spoilers to follow.

Star Trek: Discovery, ‘The Examples,’ Sticks the Landing

Pictured: Sonequa Martin Green as Burnham 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

It is not uncommon, especially in the last eight years or so, for genre series to do a story talking about the value of life. Whether it’s life en masse or a specific individual, the trope of killing equaling justice seems to be on the decline. Yet, this is a sticky topic and genre stories have all sorts of weird details and metaphor going on already. So, mostly, we celebrate the attempt and not the execution. Yet, in Star Trek: Discovery, ‘The Examples’ in question are a group of people sentenced to life in prison for a variety of crimes. The people in charge of the colony being saved wants to let them die. So, naturally, Burnham and David Ajala’s Book personally go to rescue them.

Of course, they quickly learn that some of these people have been sentenced to life in prison for stupid petty crimes. They were “examples” to the rest of the community to not break the law, a holdover practice from the Emerald Chain gang, who the Federation defeated last season. Yet, they make a bold decision in that Michael Greyeyes’ Felix is a murderer who, arguably, deserves his life sentence.

Burnham is desperate to save Felix, but he decides to instead stay on the asteroid colony that was about to be destroyed. He would only accept release from his jailers. I think the juxtaposition here is a powerful one. Felix thinks he deserves to die, and Burnham knows that there is no better justice than devoting the rest of one’s life to service. Remember, she was a criminal when the series started.

Also, the chemistry between Book and Burnham as a couple and adventuring partners is great. I got Kirk/Spock/McCoy vibes from their banter during the rescue mission.

The Dark Matter Anomaly and Culber Meets Cronenberg

Pictured: Anthony Rapp as Stamets and Doug Jones as Saru 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

Most of the episodes of Star Trek: Discovery this season have been somewhat self-contained, but in ‘The Examples,’ the Dark Matter Anomaly takes center stage. Ruon Tarka is a mad-cap scientific bad boy trying to replicate the spore drive for Starfleet. He teams up with Stamets to figure out what the Dark Matter Anomaly is. This was the weaker side of the story, simply because there was no reason for them to do the experiment while this evacuation was going on. It’s used to create some extra tension, since there’s not really an antagonist in this episode. Yet, as fun it was to watch, the important stuff is what they discovered.

Stamets and Tarka confirmed that the Dark Matter Anomaly was not a natural space phenomenon. They identified a device at the center of it that implies someone created this thing to clear out massive sections of space. Since season 2, none of the antagonists have been “bad.” Either misdirect or accident, it will be somewhat refreshing if Star Trek: Discovery gets a real villain that the Federation can make examples of. Yet, given the quality of stories this season, I suspect it will be more than just a megalomanic. This show continues to surprise, impress, and improve their storytelling.

Lastly, David Cronenberg gives Doctor Culber some tough love therapy. Over the past few episodes, Culber shouldered a lot from Grey’s transition to a synthetic body to helping Book deal with losing his planet. And while it was only the C-story, so time was limited, it feels like it’s not resolved. I suspect things will get worse for Culber before they get better.

Pictured: David Cronenberg as Kovich and Wilson Cruz as Culber 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

New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery debut Thursdays on Paramount+.

What did you think of ‘The Examples,’ and/or the Star Trek: Discovery season so far? Who do you think is behind the Dark Matter Anomaly? Is Culber in more trouble than he’s willing to admit? Share your thoughts, reactions, and theories 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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