Originally, I debated whether to include these into the whole sort, but with the second season debuting in 2019, it’s clear this is intended as something of a Trek mainstay between the seasons of the full-length series. Sort of an amuse-bouche the Trek braintrust has decided to cook up.
And as befitting an unexpected treat from the kitchen, these shorts vary greatly in terms of what they accomplish. Some are clear set-ups for a main series like Discovery. Some are charming backstories that fill in some gaps you’ve always wondered. Some are wonderfully poignant. Many accomplish several things at once.
As none of them have (to date) gone past a half hour, they lack the heft of a really good episode or two-parter, but like any good short film, their treatment of the given ideas is often delightful. Just like an amuse-bouche, I look forward to the next surprise.
Note: Everything below may contain spoilers and definitely contains some snark.
10) “Ephraim and Dot”
Season 2, Episode 4
Taking Trek unexpectedly into the universe of Looney Tunes –and taking some inspiration from Pixar’s Wall-E— this lightning-fast ball of silliness is going to irk sticklers of continuity, but rolls along well.
9) “The Girl Who Made the Stars”
Season 2, Episode 5
Clearly designed to hit parents of young daughters right in the feels, this short builds backstory for a major character and aligns well with the quintessential Trek theme of searching for knowledge and continuing the human adventure. For those reasons –and despite the uncanny valley that is the animation of Michael’s Dad– it inches out “Ephraim and Dot” by just a hair.
8) “Children of Mars”
Season 2, Episode 6
A short clearly tasked with giving some teasers regarding the first season of Star Trek: Picard, the mainly dialogue-free story makes great use of visuals, however the sum doesn’t add up to something greater than the parts (e.g. I love the Peter Gabriel cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” but it doesn’t quite gel here).
7) “Ask Not”
Season 2, Episode 3
Yes, we continue the proud tradition of Starfleet (or at least Star Trek writers) where “tests of character” are really kind of messed up and often mean-spirited. At least this one has Captain Pike explaining the rationale in that way of his that makes everything seem reasonable.
6) “The Escape Artist”
Season 1, Episode 4
A welcome return of Rainn Wilson’s Harry Mudd, with a nice costume (and android) nod to the original series — which regrettably doesn’t set up anything for season two of Discovery.
Season 1, Episode 1
Your exact ranking of this short will likely be in relation to how much your like or dislike the character of Sylvia Tilly — and this first entry in the Short Treks series is so clearly added backstory to be drawn upon for a future Discovery episode, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
4) “The Brightest Star”
Season 1, Episode 3
Saru gets a poignant origin story which is pretty much required viewing prior to seeing Discovery‘s second season episode “The Sound of Thunder.”
3) “The Trouble with Edward”
Season 2, Episode 2
Alita and Archer face off in resulting in one of the silliest Star Trek episodes around. The disappointment of humans being involved in the Tribbles’ prolific reproductive abilities is somewhat mitigated by the bonkers faux commercial at the end.
Season 2, Episode 1
While Number One may never get a number one hit, this two-hander with her and Spock proves to be an insightful addition to both characters… and just a bit subversive (in a theater geek kind of way).
Season 1, Episode 2
Using the long-abandoned U.S.S. Discovery as a backdrop for a standalone story may seem like a cheat to some, but that would ignore the exceptional tale of love, loss, and what it means to be a sentient that’s right at home in the Trek universe. And here’s to the smile you get when you realize the reason for the title.