Episode 14 Review

Star Trek Discovery Recap and Review Banner Episode 14

With possibly one of the best and tensest openings since “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II” or “The Year Of Hell, Part Two,” Star Trek: Discovery takes a deep breath before the upcoming season finale, but makes sure we don’t get too comfortable in this emotional and, once again, twisty episode.

The Facts
Episode Number: 114
Episode Title: “The War Without, The War Within” or “Cornwell Takes Charge”
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: David Solomon

Quotable
Saru: “Admiral!
Cornwell: “Where’s Captain Lorca?
Burnham: “Sarek… please!
Cornwell: “Stand down, specialist.  Now!”  Beat.  “Computer, initiate command level override.  Authorisation: Admiral Katrina Cornwell, pi beta six.
Computer: “Override confirmed.

Cornwell: “The Lorca I came up with was measured, he was reasoned.  I couldn’t have imagined…
Sarek: “That Lorca was an impostor from an alternate universe was not the most obvious conclusion.  We were all deceived.

Cornwell: “All evidence of your recent journey will be classified and destroyed.  We cannot risk the knowledge of this alternate universe leaving the confines of Discovery.”
Burnham: “I don’t understand?
Stamets: “There would be… too many possibilities.
Sarek: “Indeed.  Our people have suffered terrible losses.  What would you do if you thought that your dead wife, your lost child, your murdered parents might be alive on the other side and that the technology exists for you to see them again?  This knowledge must be buried.
Cornwell: “Command will want this locked down.
Saru: “Of course, Admiral.

Cornwell: “I want to be truthful with you.  Your side is winning.  When we met, you had nothing but contempt for the crumbling leadership of the Klingon Empire.
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma sought to strengthen and unify the Great Houses.  If he has succeeded in only this, it is cause for celebration.
Cornwell: “Your ‘Great Houses’ are carving up Federation assets among their factions.  A captured starbase bears the insignia of House D’Ghor, not of the Klingon Empire.  Is that the kind of ‘unity’ your messiah proclaimed.  They think nothing of the collateral damage caused by their brutal attacks.  They target civilians, hospitals, food conveys.  They slaughter innocents, and inspire terror across the quadrant.
L’Rell: “This is war, not a child’s game with rules.  We fight to preserve Klingon identity.
Cornwell: “No one is looking to destroy your culture!  Our laws are founded in equality, freedom.
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma taught us that the Federation cannot help itself.  It seeks universal homoginisation and assimilation.
Cornwell: “T’Kuvma was an ignorant fool, and your people are moving closer and closer to my home planet.  What are you looking for?  More territory?  Conditional surrender?  I mean, your people won’t even make demands.  Why?  How does this war end?
L’Rell: “It doesn’t.  Klingons have tasted your blood.  Conquer us, or we will never relent.
Cornwell: “Thank you.

Georgiou: “Your child is lost.
Sarek: “Do not confuse my ward with yours.
Georgiou: “My daughter was a singular example of brilliance until one foolish choice doomed her world.  Sound familiar?
Sarek: “If I understand correctly, my ward saw through the man who brought down not just your child, but your empire.  Perhaps best not to make comparisons.”  Beat.  “Why have you requested my presence?
Georgiou: “You were summoned, Vulcan, for one reason.  I want to help you end this war.

Sarek: “During my mind meld with Saru I learned of your attachment to the Klingon spy and what he did to you.  Such events are clearly troubling.
Michael: “I’m fine, Sarek.
Sarek: “I remain unconvinced.  There is irony here, of course, the man you fell in love with was a Klingon.
Michael: “He… I don’t know what he was.
Sarek: “There is also grace.  For what greater source for peace exists than our ability to love our enemy.
Michael: “I’ve made foolish choices.  Emotional choices.
Sarek: “Well, you are human.  As is your mother.  There is no telling what any one of us may do where the heart is concerned.  We are at war, logic dictates that each farewell may be our last.”  Beat.  “Do not regret loving someone, Michael.

Disco S1E14 Cornwell Brings Discovery Up To Speed

Moments of Interest
We know from Star Trek: Enterprise that mind meld’s are, in Vulcan years, still relatively new by the time we get to Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: The Original Series, but we also know, thanks to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and multiple TOS episodes, that they’re an intimate and private thing.  Forcing a mind meld on someone can be damaging for both the person undergoing the procedure, and the person initiating it.

In times of war and what sounds like the threat of extinction, it appears they also become a tool for quickly assessing a situation.

Sarek, at Cornwell’s behest, initiates an uninvited mind meld with Saru at the beginning of this episode.  It’s not something any of us would expect of Sarek, but I think it’s a device that’s being used by the writers to let every Star Trek fan know how desperate the Federation’s situation is it at this point in the war.

Another interesting moment is when Admiral Cornwell mentions Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the USS Enterprise NX-01 during the episode, reminding everyone that Archer’s trip to the Klingon Homeworld was the only time humans had set foot on that world.  Nice bit of continuity, and one I appreciated (being a Star Trek: Enterprise fan).

The Review
This episode is an acting tour de force for Jayne Brook and Michelle Yeoh in particular.  Both women are outstanding.  In every way.  They drive the plot forward, add remarkable nuance to every scene, and carry the episode effortlessly.

That’s not to say everyone else wasn’t good.  They were, as we’ve come to expect, and as per usual special mention needs to go to Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo and Shazad Latif.  They shine in every scene and Mary Chieffo in particular is electric whenever she shares the screen with Jayne Brook.

For me, it’s all of these performances and the little moments that make the episode something special.

Some critics have said they’re not overly fond of “The War Within, The War Without,” and that the writers “dropped the ball” because the episode slowed the momentum of the last third of the season.  I couldn’t disagree more.  This episode was not only necessary as the inevitable prelude to the season finale, it was necessary for our characters as they start to process what has happened to them, and to process the fact that the war has gone terribly in their absence.  I guarantee you that if the writers hadn’t explored some of these issues before the end of the season, many critics would have be up in arms about that.

“The War Without, The War Within” allowed us to see where Tyler and Michael are at after the horrific shocks of a couple of episodes ago – and it’s not a good place.  It also allowed us to enjoy seeing L’Rell and Admiral Cornwell go at each other again, and it allowed us to see more of Emperor Georgiou.  For me, the real pleasure in the episode was watching Georgiou.  Michelle Yeoh was electric and menacing and she owned every scene she was in.  Seeing the character interact with Michael, Sarek and Cornwell left me thinking no one in the Prime Universe would ever stand a chance against her if she chose to act up.

Another highlight of the episode was seeing Katrina Cornwell in the Captain’s chair.  She looks good in it!  Hey, sometimes it’s the small things that make a fan happy.

Disco S1E14 Cornwell Takes Command

The episode began right where the last one ended, with Saru somewhat shocked by the appearance of the Mirror Georgiou in his transporter room.

Georgiou, for her part, is far from impressed an alien is giving orders and quips to Burnham that yesterday they were eating a Kelpian, and now Burnham is taking orders from one.

Yep.  That’s one way to leave an impression!

A not too happy Saru challenges Burnham on her lie (in an earlier episode she had told him she had not seen any Kelpiens in the Mirror Universe), but quickly pushes through that without, thankfully, bringing up the eating bit!

Saru tells Burnham that Tyler is doing well, and that Voq seems to be gone.  Michael tells Saru she’s not ready to see the spy.  And then shit gets serious as phaser wielding Andorians and Tellarites beam aboard, followed by Sarek and Admiral Katrina Cornwell.

It’s a tense, wonderful scene where Cornwell takes control, literally, and brings the Discovery under her command.

Disco S1E14 Sarek and Cornwell Beam Aboard

We quickly learn that the Federation hasn’t lost the war, as Saru initially thought at the end of the last episode, but they are getting smashed.

Cornwell advises certain members of the crew that 20% of Federation space has been lost, and the Klingons have – without rhyme or reason, as Michael points out – slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents.

As the episode progresses, the action quickly subsides (without ever completely losing the underlying threat of the defeat of the Federation) to focus instead on meaningful character moments, with one of the most intense being the briefest.  Stamets coming face to face with Ash.

It’s a scene that I’m not sure I’m happy with.  Stamets responded in a very Stamets way, and Ash certainly looked upset, even devastated, but it didn’t resonate with me.  It felt somehow hollow.  I didn’t want Stamets to bop Ash on the nose, but a quick scene of Paul rounding the corner and leaning against a bulkhead with a lone tear trailing down his cheek would have made the moment work.  Hugh and Paul’s relationship has been played up as this great love story, but we haven’t spent enough time seeing the effect on Stamets and I think we need to.  Anything less diminishes that love and Hugh’s time on Discovery.

The majority of the remainder of the episode deals with Georgiou and her manipulations.

Before we look at that though, there were two other important moments where enough time was given to the characters and their plight, that need to be mentioned.

The first is between Michael and Ash.  After initially refusing to see Tyler, at the prompting of Tilly she finally goes to him.

Disco S1E14 Michael Wants To Trust Georgiou

Things don’t start well, and lead Ash to a moment where he lashes out at Michael, pretty much telling Burnham that she got frightened and all of this is a convenient way for her to back out.  She doesn’t take that and fires back, reminding him he had his hands around her throat, and that she looked into the eyes of the man she loved to see nothing but hatred there and a desire to kill her.

That puts him in his place.

She very poignantly ends everything by telling him that his road to redemption, much like hers, will be a solo journey.

It’s a beautiful scene.  I’m constantly astounded by how much meaning Sonequa Martin-Green can squeeze into one sentence, even one word, through a simple change in tone, an unexpected inflection, or the quirk of her mouth.  Shazad Latif is similar.  While Sonequa’s delivery is always very controlled, as you would expect from someone who is playing a character who has been raised by Vulcan’s, Shazad’s delivery is very open with every emotion crossing his face.  What you would expect from someone who is essentially Klingon, a species not known for hiding their emotions.

The juxtaposition of the two is perfect.

The other meaningful moment didn’t play as well.

Before all of this, Ash visits the mess and everything goes quiet.  He grabs his meal and sits down alone while people whisper behind his back and cast him sidelong glances.

Disco S1E14 Tilly Brings Tyler Back Into The Fold

Tilly, echoing how she befriended Michael, moves from her table to sit with him.  He tells her she doesn’t have to, and she sets him straight.  Then Keyla Detmer joins them, offering Ash a warm “welcome back.”  The scene would have been perfect if it ended there, or with Lieutenant Bryce (the Communications Officer) joining them right after Detmer.  But, after Bryce, a whole bunch of people come over and it all seems a bit much.  It crossed from special to corny in seconds.  I want Ash to be forgiven, because we all know it was Voq who did all of those horrible things, but would so many people so easily welcome him back that quickly?  How has he redeemed himself?  He hasn’t?  Has he?  Has the crew had time to process what he did and grieve Doctor Culber’s death?  I don’t think so.  That moment, for me, felt forced and false.

And now, back to Georgiou.

Starfleet in the Prime Universe doesn’t have a chance.  If they don’t keep a close eye on her she’ll be ruling the Federation inside a decade.

There’s not much more I can say about Emperor Georgiou in this episode that I haven’t already.  She walks circles around every character.  While they innocently and naively (and a little warily) attempt to understand her, she is calculating in every moment and looking for an advantage or a way to manipulate things to her will.  And it’s constant.

Disco S1E14 The Emporer Is Unimpressed

Michelle Yeoh is not just a ‘moustache’ twirling villain in this episode, though.  She also shows compassion and even, dare I say, a smidge of love, to Burnham.  It’s fleeting, but it’s there.  Michelle conveys it all perfectly.  Complex characters are so rewarding for the viewer, and they show good writing, and this Georgiou is definitely complex.

Like most people in the western world, I fell in love with her watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Now I’ve fallen in love with her all over again, first because of her portrayal of Captain Georgiou, and now because of her portrayal of Emperor Georgiou.

I think the joy here is that Georgiou is now a character who has represented the very best of Starfleet, and now the absolute worst in the visage of her Mirror Universe self.

I love how the writers have done that!

Out of all of the interactions between Georgiou and those characters who know she is on board, the best is her private meeting with Sarek.

Disco S1E14 Michael, Cornwell, Georgiou and Sarek

The first time we see her interact with Sarek is after Michael confesses what she’s done.  Cornwell and Sarek go with Michael to visit the Emperor, and Sarek is surprised (as much as a Vulcan can be) by how alike this Georgiou is to his now dead friend.

That quick interaction, though, gives Georgiou an idea.  She picks up on the bond between Sarek and Michael and logs that in her memory for future use.

She sets about setting her trap.  The first step is helping Michael formulate a plan.  Michael shares that plan with Cornwell, who is excited.  Cornwell convinces what’s left of Starfleet’s leadership it will work.

The second step is taking the plan to the next level.  A dark and horrible level.  Georgiou “summons” Sarek and shares her complete idea with him.  It’s something she wouldn’t tell Michael because she didn’t think her “daughter who is not her daughter” could handle it.

During all of this we learn that Starbase One has been occupied by the Klingons (House D’Ghor to be exact) and that all of the Starfleet vessels and personnel are gone, presumed dead.  It’s an horrific moment for Admiral Cornwell, and Jayne Brook plays it oh so well.  I felt terrible for the character.  She obviously lost so many people that she cared for, and in that moment was probably thinking she would lose the Federation too.

It’s this last act by the Klingons, I think, that pushes Sarek to take his next step.

All of this leads to another big twist.  Yes, another twist, because apparently that’s what modern television is all about.

Sarek leaves the Discovery to make some “arrangements” and then, in the penultimate moment of the episode, we see what those arrangements are.

Emperor Georgiou becomes Captain Georgiou and is given command of the USS Discovery for a risky mission to Qo’noS.

She is introduced to the crew of the Discovery as the recently rescued Philippa Georgiou, much to the shock and joy of Keyla Detmer, and the shock and worry of Saru and Michael.

This twist actually took me by surprise.  Of all the things they could have done with the character, this one I did not expect – though it makes so much sense.

Disco S1E14 The Emporer Becomes A Captain

The look that Georgiou gives Michael just before the episode wraps should make us all worried, and it should petrify Burnham.  It’s obvious Philippa is playing them.

This episode works.

It’s not the fastest paced or most action packed, but it is character heavy and full of remarkable performances.

While some of the scenes don’t play out perfectly, the episode is strong and it deserves to be thought of favourably.

Predictions
I don’t know if I can even hope to work out what the producers’ plan is for this wonderful new Philippa Georgiou, but I’d like to think they will try and make this work.  It’s a brand new take on “the outsider” looking in and commenting on humanity.

Logic suggests Emperor Georgiou won’t live for long, but I hope, in this instance, the logical conclusion does not come to pass.

In other predictions, I firmly believe L’Rell is still up to something with Tyler and that he’s not as free of the Voq personality as we would like to believe.  The producers of Star Trek: Discovery seem to like avoiding happy endings!

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

An excellent episode, an important breather between the conclusion of one arc and what, we’ve been told, will be the conclusion of the war arc, and a nice episode for character development.

I can’t wait for the finale, which, if the previews are anything to go by, looks outstanding.

Bring on ass-kicking Emperor Georgiou!  I loved Captain Philippa Georgiou, but am really coming to adore this slightly twisted version of her.  Someone give Michelle Yeoh her own Star Trek spin-off.  Now!

LCARS Interface

Episode 12 Recap and Review

Star Trek Discovery Recap and Review Review Banner 3

A good episode with some outstanding moments, some unnecessary ones, and far too short a runtime.

If I was allowed to write only one sentence to describe this Star Trek: Discovery episode, that would be it.

Of those three comments, the one that irks me the most is the “too short” one.  There was a single exceptionally weak scene in this episode that could have been fixed by another two or three minutes of dialogue and action, and I don’t know why they didn’t give us more?  They certainly had time to because “Vaulting Ambition” is the shortest episode yet in live Trek history, coming in at only 37 minutes.  Prior to that, the shortest live Trek episode had been “Battle at the Binary Stars” which was 39 minutes long.

What’s going on guys? Did the editor get slash happy?

But, as per usual, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

The Facts
Episode Number: 112
Episode Title: “Vaulting Ambition” or “They Eat Kelpiens Here”
Written By: Jordan Nardino
Directed By: Hanelle Culpepper

Vaulting Ambition - The Empresses Court

Quotable
Lorca to Burnham
: “What are you afraid of?
Burnham: “Georgiou.
Lorca: “You mean Emperor Georgiou.
Burnham: “Logic tells me she’s not the woman that I betrayed.  But this feels like a reckoning.
Lorca: “Your Georgiou is dead.  She’s a ghost.
Burnham: “Haven’t you ever been afraid of a ghost?

Tilly to Saru, about Stamets: “I know it’s subjective, but he really does look better.  I mean, just look at his skin, it’s so dewy.

Stamets to Mirror Stamets: “Is this the afterlife?  Are you some sort of narcissistic Virgil leading me to judgement?
Mirror Stamets: “Yes, Paul.  You’ve been wrong about everything.  There is a God, and She’s very very mad at you right now.”  Beat.  Scoffs.  “I totally had you for a second there, you can’t deny it.  You should have seen your face!  I mean, our face.

Saru to the Doctor treating Toq (Tyler/Voq): “Burnham said he claimed to be a Klingon, but… how could that be possible?
Doctor: “His genome matches the one we have for Lieutenant Ash Tyler in our Starfleet database.  His brainwave patterns, however, are highly irregular.  Unless someone can tell me how they put a Klingon inside a Starfleet officers body, I don’t know how we can treat him?

Burnham to Georgiou: “I earned my command on the Shenzhou.
Georgiou: “You were hesitant to use it back at Harlak.  Those rebels could have escaped, I had to dispatch them myself.
Burnham: “I had it under control.
Georgiou: “You’ve grown soft.
Burnham: “And you’ve grown cruel.  If you missed me, then say it.  Otherwise let me be.

Georgiou to Burnham: “I do love you, Michael.  I would never grant anyone else in the Empire the mercy of a quick death.
Burnham: “You don’t love me.  You don’t love me because you don’t know me.  Before today, you and I have never met.  I am Michael Burnham, but I am not your Michael Burnham.  I’m from another universe…

Burnham to Georgiou: “Our bond, it seems, is strong enough to cross universes.

Saru to L’Rell:I do not know where your Voq ends and our Tyler begins, but they are both in jeopardy.

Stamets to Hugh: “Are you caught in the network too?
Hugh: “No.  I’m gone.
Stamets: “Gone?
Hugh: “You don’t know, do you?  Paul, I’m so sorry… but I died.

Georgiou to Burnham: “Your people are dangerous.”  Scoffs.  “The Federation.  I know it well from the Defiant‘s files.  There is a reason why they’re classified.  Equality.”  Scoffs.  “Freedom.  Cooperation.
Burnham: “Cornerstones for successful cultures.
Georgiou: “Delusions that Terrans shed millennium ago.  Destructive ideals that fuel rebellions, and I will not let you infect us again.

Vaulting Ambition

Moments of Interest
The guys added to canon in the subtlest, most appropriate way yet.  It was a nice moment and added a little something new to the now 50 year history (almost 51 year history) of the Mirror Universe (“Mirror, Mirror” aired in 1967, in the second season and will turn 51 in October of this year).

What did they do?  If you remember back an episode or two, Michael was narrating her personal log and commented on how different the light was in the Mirror Universe.  Light has played a big part in this series so far, with Lorca constantly reacting to bright light, and with the Discovery’s corridors and work spaces almost always shrouded in shadow.  In this episode, Georgiou reacts to an unexpected bright light and tells Michael that its one of the only real differences between her people and the people of our universe.

This addition to canon does not detract from or contradict anything that has gone before it, and gives more substance to this ‘reality.’

If you look back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise Mirror Universe episodes, all of them were visually darker in both tone and lighting when compared with normal episodes.  It makes sense, and it makes you smile.  It’s just a real nice touch.

The Recap and Review
“Vaulting Ambition” is, in many ways, the calm before the storm.  Despite the short length of the episode, a lot happened in it.  Possibly too much.  Let’s take a quick look at everything our favourite heroes and villains were subjected to:

  • Michael and Lorca head off to the ISS Charon on a shuttle.  She’s going to present him to the Emperor.  On the trip, they learn that the USS Defiant information they thought would save them, won’t.  Heaps of it has been redacted.  They hope they can find the unedited version on the Emperors big palace-ship.  As they get closer, Michael zaps Lorca with a pain inhibitor so he can better withstand the Agony Booth.

Vaulting Ambition - Off to See the Empress

  • Tilly and Saru are monitoring Stamets, and Tilly believes he’s getting better.  He’s still in a coma, but instruments show a lot is going on inside his mind.
  • Is it his mind?  We cut to Paul and Mirror Stamets somewhere in the glowy mycelial network.  That quickly changes to the shadowy corridors of the Discovery.  In this scene, we learn that something is wrong with the network.

Vaulting Ambition - The Mycelial Forest

  • We skip over to the Emperors unnecessarily huge, small-star-powered palace-ship.  Michael presents Lorca to the Emporer, who promises him a lifetime of pain.  While there, Georgiou asks Michael to choose a Kelpien from three who are standing off to the side.  Unsure of what’s going on, she picks one who looks like Saru, but isn’t Mirror Saru.  Mirror Saru is still on the Shenzhou, waiting to scrub Michael’s finger nails.  As Lorca is dragged away after a beat down by Georgiou, Burnham is invited to dinner and called “daughter” by the Emperor.

Vaulting Ambition - Georgiou and Burnham

  • We visit with Saru and Toq (Tyler/Voq) in Sickbay, where Toq is loosing his proverbial shit.  For one brief moment, Ash comes through, begging for help.
  • Over on the palace-ship, Lorca is thrown into an Agony Booth.
  • We don’t spend too much time with Lorca and his screams, and instead pay a visit to Georgiou and Burnham at dinner.  We and Michael quickly realise that the Kelpien she chose back in the throne room wasn’t so a slave could be set free.  That Kelpien was dinner.  Because that’s how evil these guys are. This scene nicely echoes something Saru said many episodes ago, about his species being like cattle.  When Michael finds out what she’s eating, she struggles heroically to not vomit.
    Was it just me, or did anyone else think Georgiou was going to push the chopsticks through the back of Burnham’s throat when she fed Michael the threat ganglia?
    Apart from the unpleasantness of eating another sentient species, dinner takes an even worse turn when Georgiou accuses Burnham of trying to usurp her and sentences her to death.
  • Then we’re back with Stamets and Stamets.  We discover that the mycelial network is taking over Mirror Stamets because he’s been in there too long.  We also get a glimpse of a familiar person… Hugh is haunting the corridors of the mycelial created Discovery.
  • We jump to the throne room where Michael reveals she and Lorca are from another universe.  She hands over Captain Philippa Georgiou’s Starfleet badge and encourages the Emperor to scan it.  Emperor Georgiou quickly discovers that Michael is telling the truth, and to stop any information from leaking kills everyone in her Council, except for a guy called Lord Eling, with an evil flying fidget-spinner.  He is sworn to say nothing, and granted governorship of Andor for his troubles.
  •  Back on Discovery, Saru is visiting L’Rell.  He tells her what is happening with Voq and asks for her help.  L’Rell channels her Bond-villain self and tells Saru what they did to both Ash Tyler and Voq:
    • The real Lieutenant Ash Tyler was captured at the Battle of the Binary Stars.
    • The Klingons harvested his DNA.
    • They reconstructed his consciousness.
    • They rebuilt his memory.
    • They modified Voq to make him appear human, inside and out.
    • They grafted Voq’s psyche onto Tylers.
    • Voq gave his body and soul to Klingon ideology.

Vaulting Ambition - L'Rell

  • L’Rell refuses to help, telling Saru that this is war.
  • We go back into the mycelial network where Paul finds Hugh.  In a heartbreaking moment, Hugh tells his love that he’s dead.
  • After the loveliness of Hugh and Stamets, we return to the Emperor and Michael.  Burnham begs the Emperor to help them, but she’s not interested.  In a really unwise move, Michael discloses the existence of the DASH drive and Georgiou wants it.
  • Next we visit with Saru and L’Rell.  He shows her images of Toq trying to rip his heart out of his chest.  L’Rell appears unmoved, so Saru beams Toq into her cell.  As Saru leaves her craddling Toq, she screams out to him that she can undo what has happened to him.
  • We skip back to the Agony Booth and Lorca screaming.  He’s being tortured by the brother of a woman Lorca used to be with and discarded, and the brother ain’t happy.
  • We don’t spend much time there before we go to the worst scene, possibly, of the entire series: L’Rell removing the Voq personality from the Ash Tyler personality.  So, she kills Voq, even though it’s his body, and leaves Ash.  We think. The scene is too short, there is no explanation for the Klingon brain wipe device, and her actions make no sense.
  • Back in the mycelial network, we’re with Paul and Hugh again as Hugh tries to help Paul come to terms with his death.  These scenes are beautiful, and just make me miss Hugh even more.  And I was already missing him a lot.  The big thing to happen in this scene was that Hugh snapped Paul out of his coma.
  • The next scene confused me a bit, and that’s probably what the producers wanted.  I’m not sure which Stamets is where? It looks like our Paul woke up on the ISS Charon.  The Mirror Stamets, I believe, woke up on the USS Discovery.  That Paul rushes with Tilly to the cargo bay that holds the spores… to find they are dying.

Vaulting Ambition - Empresses Starship Palace

  • On the Charon, Georgiou insists Burnham bring the Discovery to her, and Burnham complies.  Saru is a little doubtful, but she convinces him it’s the only way.
  • We do a series of quick inter-cuts between Lorca and his torturer going at each other, and Georgiou and Burnham sort of facing off.
  • In one of these quick mini-scenes, Georgiou reacts to some bright light.  This shocks Michael as she realises Lorca has been lying all along.  He’s really from the Mirror Universe.  He was also Georgiou’s lover. To put the boot in, Georgiou pretty much says that Lorca groomed Burnham.  He feigned affection for her as a fatherly figure, then seduced her, turning her into his lover, all for the Terran throne.
  • We wrap everything up with Lorca over-coming his torturer and telling him that he liked the guys sister, but found someone better.  He then stomps the guy’s head in and we cut to black.

Vaulting Ambition - Lorca is Not a Nice Man

Like I said, a lot happened in this episode, and some of the plot points didn’t get the time they deserved and actually needed.

The big take aways: Paul is back, finally.  Lorca is from the Mirror Universe, which many of us had expected.  The Mirror Universe guys are so evil they eat Kelpiens.  Ash might be back, but he’s now Klingon body Ash.

Yes, I know that last one is a confusing sentence.

I enjoyed this episode, but one thing really annoyed me.  The scene where L’Rell removes the Voq consciousness.

First, where did she get the device that enabled her to do that?
Second, why would she essentially kill Voq?  And it appears that’s what she’s done.  She even gives the Klingon death roar to announce Voq’s arrival in Sto’Vo’Kor.  She loved him.  Why not erase Ash?

Those two issues above could have been resolved with a few simple words… “Voq would not want to live in this weak body…” or “The Tyler personality was too strong.  Voq was weakened by the surgery and now he has been usurped.”  Something like that.  It would have also made more sense if the device she had used to eradicate Voq’s consciousness looked like it had been jury-rigged out of Federation medical tools.  You wouldn’t have needed to explain that, because it would be obvious.  Now it just looks like she was carrying the personality-wiping device around in her space purse, and all Saru had to do was get someone to go fetch it from wherever they keep prisoners’ belongings.

With a 37 minute run time, they could have fixed that.

The brevity of the episode and these plot issues are why this episode doesn’t get a five.  The Mirror Universe episodes have been wonderful, but this one lets the season down by not using everything at its disposal to tell its part of the story.

The dialogue was great, the direction was great, everything worked – the episode just comes off as lazy and unnecessary in places because of the lack of explanation (shown, not told – not exposition) and time given to scenes that didn’t need to be there.  Speaking of which.  Eating Kelpiens.  Did we need to go there?

Burnham’s psyche is screwed up enough.  She lost her parents as a child.  She discovered her adoptive father lied to her, making her feel second class for no reason for at least seven years of her adult life.  She betrayed someone she loved in an attempt to stop a war from starting.  She lost an mother-figure because of her actions, and many other people she cared for.  She lost her rank and position in Starfleet, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.  She’s been isolated and hated ever since.  Now she’s eaten a sentient being, a sentient being that reminds her very much of someone she cares for and feels like she also betrayed.  How will she face Saru after this?

I don’t think that scene was necessary.  With the evil flying fidget spinners, Agony Booths and ruthless bombardment of planets, we already know the Terran Empire is ruthless and evil.  Eating a Kelpien added nothing to this but fucked-up-ness.

There is something some fans are taking exception to, though it doesn’t bother me too much.  It unsettles me, but I get.  It’s the “Lorca is a dirty old man” thing.

I think it’s in keeping with his character.  He will do anything to achieve his desired goals.  While it’s not insinuated he had an intimate relationship with Michael when she was young, it is distasteful that he even went there when she was older – especially after being a father figure.  Lorca has done heinous things throughout the run of the show, so this isn’t so shocking to me.  I’m better able to accept his manipulations than I am the magic brain wiping device, or feasting on Kelpien, because the groundwork has been laid for that reveal.

The one question that remains with Lorca is… does he love Michael?  We’ve seen his over protectiveness in almost every episode.  Was it because of love, or was it need?  Did he keep her safe because he knew that through her he could get the crown, and kill the Emperor, and was that the only reason he worried after her?

This episode raised one or two new questions for us, while revealing a twist or two and confirming at least one more fan theory, but it didn’t do much more.  It was good, but it could have been better.

Something the writers might want to remember as they prep Season Two: We the fans have been two steps ahead of you this entire time. We picked Lorca and Ash back in episodes three, four and five and have been patiently waiting. We love Star Trek. We don’t love Star Trek like a Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead fan loves their show. We love it like a football or baseball fan loves their sports. Like a sports fan knows the batting averages for a particular team back through the ages, we know Star Trek just as intimately. We’re intelligent. We’re educated. We’re passionate and we are devoted. As this series has shown you, we will get behind you if you treat us with respect, which you have. You do, however, have to work a little harder if you want to surprise us because we will dissect every frame and obsess over it if we need to. You guys have done an incredible job, but I think you’ve underestimated us a bit. This isn’t a challenge, twists for the sake of a twist are dull and disappointing so we don’t need them, but to your credit you did keep us guessing and wondering “are we right?” and we have loved it.

I really prefer this long story form version of Star Trek.

Thank you for what has been, so far, an exceptional first season of my favourite television series.

Predictions
At least one of my predictions was proven right with this episode, the Captain Lorca we know has been the Mirror Universe Lorca all along.  A few online reviewers have thought this for a long time, and with our suspicions now proven right what’s left to speculate on?  For me, it’s Lorca’s longevity.  As brilliant an actor as Jason Isaacs is, and as compelling and intriguing a character as Garbriel Lorca is, I still don’t think Lorca is making it out of Season One alive.  That’s prediction one.

Prediction 2?  Lorca and Burnham will have it out in a big fight next episode.

Prediction 3?  Lorca and Empress Georgiou will die at each others hands in an insane battle to the death.

Prediction 4?  I think Mirror Stamets is working with Lorca, and is part of the rebellion to unseat Emperor Georgiou.  I think he engineered Lorca’s escape to our universe.

Any more?  Yep.

Hugh has been “consumed” by the mycelial network and will only appear to Stamets when he’s hooked into it.  The supposed death of the mycelial network, as commented on by Mirror Stamets this episode, will impact significantly on Stamets’ loss because if the forest dies, he won’t get to see Hugh again.

They will leave the Mirror Universe at the end of Episode 13.

Episodes 14 and 15 will wrap up the Klingon war, and signal a few things for the coming season which I think will still be all about redemption, but also new beginnings.  New beginnings for the Federation post war.  New beginnings for Michael, who Starfleet has to think differently of now.  New beginnings for Ash.  New beginnings for L’Rell.  Perhaps even a new beginning for the Klingon Empire.  Most importantly, a new beginning and a new mission for the Discovery.

Scorecard
4 Deltas

Next week’s episode is called “What’s Past is Prologue.”

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes becoming available on Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET, also on a Sunday.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday at 8:00am in the UK and at 7pm in Australia.

See you next week for another review.

Live long, and prosper.

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