the story: A cadet faces an awful test when faced with an impossible decision.
review: Finally, a Short Trek that isn't mediocre or great, just comfortably somewhere in the middle. This is the seventh one now; the format itself has been tested and its creators generally know what's possible. This is the third one, of the past three, to give the Discovery Enterprise a little more breathing room, and the first to feature Pike directly. As he was throughout his appearances in Discovery's second season, Pike remains eminently watchable, so "Ask Not" has at least that going for it. But there's more.
Ever since Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Wesley Crusher's early experiences in The Next Generation, fans have been given glimpses at the sorts of things Starfleet recruits might expect in their initial training. The 2009 Star Trek movie was built around the idea, too, but for the purposes of this Short Trek, I'll dwell mostly around Wes.
"Ask Not" feels like an attempt to give us something far better than what Wes got to experience. It doesn't give us strong character work so much a great grasp of the scenario. We get some fun details, including an unexpected callback to The Motion Picture's hilarious "reserve activation clause" that Kirk used to bring McCoy back, another sign that Discovery's creators have been far closer attention to franchise lore than some fans have been willing to admit. (The longer a franchise goes, the more old fans like to claim that the new stuff "just isn't the same." But Star Trek fans have been making that claim since at least the first season of Next Generation. And really, since The Motion Picture.)
This is the sort of experience that's fun just to watch play out. Like a lot early Next Generation, Wes's experiences feel fairly primitive. "Ask Not" is vivid, as Discovery tends to be, without being needlessly flashy (these productions are always by definition minimalist, operating on budgets befitting their brief running times; this one's the shortest of the Shorts so far).
It's another real treat.
- franchise - Good use of Starfleet lore, in familiar yet fresh ways.
- series - If it doesn't give us fresh insight into Pike necessarily, it does give us a welcome return visit with this version of him.
character- With such a brief run-time, it's a welcome relief that this Short Trek didn't try to hamfist character development, as some of the earlier ones did.
- essential - For its kind of story, yes!
Anson Mount (Pike)
Ethan Peck (Spock)
Rebecca Romijn (Number One)