[REVIEW] STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS “The Brightest Star”: What Are Little Kelpiens Made Of?

Star Trek: Short Treks “The Brightest Star” Review

The decision to make a mini-season of mini-episodes between seasons one and two of Star Trek: Discovery might have cast doubt on how well these episodes could function as storytelling devices. But the team behind these Short Treks have shown us that 15-minute installments can indeed work, and can in fact provide some excellent insight into new and existing characters. Saru, one of the most notable characters from Discovery thus far, gets his own spotlight episode in “The Brightest Star.” Not only is this a spotlight episode, but an origin story, likely delighting many fans of the timid Kelpien.

Fans are introduced to Kaminar, Saru’s homeworld, and various aspects of the Kelpien life. This includes the all-important Great Balance – the relationship between Kelpiens and their world – as well as their pre-warp culture and ritualism. Doug Jones settles back into Saru without effort, once again exuding emotion and personality through the subtlest motions. We also get an expansion of Saru’s character, with his curiosity and technical adeptness being the catalyst for him wanting to leave his homeworld – a forbidden thought, as Saru finds when he clashes with his father.

Doug Jones as Saru in “The Brightest Star” | Credit: CBS All Access

While still produced on a noticeably tight budget like its predecessors, “The Brightest Star” seems to be smarter with where it uses its resources. Fans are treated to a great wide-angle view of Kelpien settlements, and the fine detail in these settlements bring out the realism Discovery touted in season one. Few cast members share the stage with Doug Jones, but those who do strike a good balance between giving Saru some foundation and interactivity, while letting the story be totally his own.

Doug Jones as Saru in “The Brightest Star” | Credit: CBS All Access

“The Brightest Star” is a competent entry in the Short Treks season, and while it somewhat lacks the supreme economic direction of the previous Short Trek, “Calypso,” this latest addition to the Star Trek franchise shows that these short entries can perfectly fill a need in the franchise we didn’t realize we needed. Plus, the end of the episode tugs at the heartstrings of any Star Trek fan, what with the brief reprisal of the original Star Trek theme amid Saru’s first steps into a brave new world. And, who didn’t smile when that character made a surprise appearance? Knowing that we see Saru’s homeworld in the upcoming season two, hopefully we’ll learn more about how Saru’s family reacted to his disappearance, considering Saru has been unable to contact them in the years since leaving the planet. And, who exactly are the Ba’ul? In the years since joining Starfleet, has Saru learned who his people are sacrificing themselves to?

With three consistently good episodes under their belt, the Star Trek: Short Treks experiment is on a role. Let’s see what Rainn Wilson delivers in his own Short Trek, “The Escape Artist,” coming on January 3, 2019.

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