Short Treks: How ‘Q&A’ elevates two classic characters…

Away from 'Discovery', Spock and Number One get the spotlight in the first of this year's 'Short Trek' mini-episodes...

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery got a mixed reaction from fans… the general opinion being that it veered between getting things very right in certain respects to getting other things… less so. One consistent comment was that the main story itself was stretched way too far. However, almost everyone seemed to think that  – somewhat against the odds –  the threads and elements involving Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and the original Enterprise were the most successful, proving stylish and nostalgic. There’s even been call for a Trek series that has its focus on that pre-Kirk crew – including Ethan Peck’s impressive turn as a younger version of Spock.

If that’s actually being considered – and one suspects that at some level it probably is –  the suggestion just got a major boost with the opening installment of this year’s Short Treks, the mini-episodes (each running to around fifteen minutes or less) that are scattered ahead of the main series returns and have proven effective in telling nice vignettes without the padding.

Q&A is set on Ensign Spock’s first day on the Enterprise, where he first encounters Number One and Pike. A majority of the short running-time sees Spock and Number One stuck in a turbo-lift and exchanging questions about each other. The strained formality is funny, revealing and touching – largely in-character but adding some subtle nuances as they get more interested in each other’s outlook.  These are performers quickly growing into – and being comfortable in – their characters and the script by by Michael Chabon – who will be show-running Picard with direction by Mark Pellington, is never less than entertaining.

Die-hards may argue that Peck’s fledgling officer is just a little too emotional (though the Vulcan points out that it’s not that his race don’t have emotions, it’s that they usually suppress them in favour of logic) and that  the overtly-formal Number One opens up about her love for Gilbert and Sullivan operas a little too quickly… but while both views have merit, on a creative level the segment still feels in tune with the basic truths of the characters, albeit a slightly different interpretation. Mount’s screen-time amounts to around thirty seconds at the end of the episode (spoilers: Spock and Number One do get out of the turbo-lift jam!)  but he’s already proven a commanding presence. The minimal effects needed for the brief story are good and though the inner network of turbo-lifts is a nice visual in and of itself, the layout makes no real sense with vast caverns of empty space within the Enterprise hull that speak to indulging production designers whimsy rather than working it all out pragmatically.

The myriad Short Treks and the Enterprise’s inclusion could both have been opportunistic dead weights, but instead they are proving a delight – streamlined ‘stories’ stripped of unnecessary baggage but dripping with obvious affection for the show’s mythology. It’ll be interesting to see if the other Short Treks and the third season of Discovery can reach that impressive benchmark…

Short Treks are available on CBS All Access in the US. There are no official release details for international territories as yet…

'Short Trek: Q&A'  (streaming review)
'Short Trek: Q&A' (streaming review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Fan appeal