Monday, 30 October 2017

Review: Discovery #6 - Lethe

Lethe, Discovery's sixth episode, is probably my favourite to date. It feels a little more self contained than previous episodes thanks to the Sarek and Burnham plotline, and that part of the episode adds to the overall Star Trek continuity in a surprisingly impactful way. Continue below for spoilery thoughts.

Sarek explained

If this episode is the sole reason for tying Burnham into Sarek and Amanda's family (and I'd be surprised if there isn't more to come giving Burnham's little moment at the end), then mission accomplished! This episode so smartly weaves a reason into the long held coolness between Sarek and Spock; Sarek felt guilty for not supporting Burnham's attempt to join the Vulcan Expeditionary Group more strongly, and so transferred that guilt to Spock when he refuses to take the path left for him by Sarek's choice to favour his son over Burnham. That's some damn good prequelling!

This whole episode was definitely enhanced if you've read the first tie-in novel, Desperate Hours, which also dives into Burnham's relationship with her parents and Spock. That book also started to explain that the incident's we've seen in Burnham's childhood were actually two attacks, and the episode laid that out; there was an off-world attack by the Klingons, that made Burnham an orphan and put her into the care of Sarek and Amanda, but later there was a further attack, a direct attempt at Burnham's life even, by the Logic Extremists, which is where Sarak saved Burnham using a mindmeld. Fascinating!

The Logic Extremeists are also another nice continuity nod, giving us a through line from the hardliners of the the Enterprise era, to the isolationists seen in TNG's Gambit. In this case they also add to Discovery's continued critique of the Federation, this time giving us an isolationist point of view echoing trumpism and brexit - Not dissimilar to the motivation of T'Kuvma, but this time from the inside the Federation. Perhaps most pleasingly as far as allegory goes, the position of these extremists is contextualised among the general isolationism and racial purity of Vulcan society, shining a light on how easy it is for broadly accepted social conservatism to bleed into extremism.

Also meshing nicely with previous depictions we got a beautiful view of Vulcan, and a new Vulcan ship gleefully continuing the traditional of the Vulcan ring drive.


Testing Lorca

Meanwhile the other compelling plot was all about Lorca, testing and tested. He seems willing to accept Tyler completely, throwing him straight into Landry's empty post as chief of security. But then he's also not entirely sure of him, testing him on the firing range, probing the details of his background, and pretty much threatening him not to come back if he doesn't take sufficient care of Burnham on the shuttle mission.

But the tables are turned on Lorca too in this episode, with Admiral Cornwell dropping in to psycho-analysis him, and, after pointing a phaser at her in bed (!), threatening to remove him from command. In this moment, where Cornwell isn't even sure what is genuine, we get what certain feels like Lorca's first real moment of vulnerability (and that comes after Klingon torture last week!), terrified he'll lose his ship.

Which leads us to a classic Lorca moment, when he refuses to dash off on a rescue mission. Is that really because he's taken the admiral's words to heart, and is waiting for authorisation, or is he willingly letting her remain in danger to prevent her revoking his command - Indeed, did he suggest her for the mission to ensure exactly that outcome?? Master of ambiguity, you really can't be sure what Lorca is up to.

Of course this all links back to Burnham. Her position, now uplifted to a formal posting as science specialist, is dependant on Lorca's sponsorship. So Lorca's fate surely determines Burnham's. Could this make her so far linear path to redemption a bit more contorted?


Wonderful design of Dennas
Further thoughts

  • First name drop of the Constitution class and USS Enterprise, as an aspirational posting. Cool.
  • Stamets is basically high now? Sure the eventually crash will be interesting...
  • The food slots are amusingly prone to providing too much information!
  • DISCO T-shirts, yay!
  • Dennas is such a beautiful design, really glad we got a clearer look at her this episode.

Conclusion

This episode really started to weave Discovery into Star Trek history, and was hugely satisfying as a result. In doing so is also bounced Burnham further along her path to redemption, and the entire peace talks plot moved the Klingon plot along too, with Kol now setup to lead the united Empire. More episodes with as much impact as this please!


Star Trek: Discovery will continue weekly, and it will be distributed almost everywhere in the world on Netflix, except for the US where is will be available on CBS All Access, and Canada where it will be on Bell Media channels and services. To keep track of all the latest details from the new show, visit my Star Trek: Discovery guide page.




1 comment:

Fox said...

I agree, this was definitely one of the better episodes so far. Such a shame that the weakest part of DSC seems to be the over-arching narrative. Oh well.

Gotta disagree on the Vulcan ship. Like many of DSC's designs, it lacks a strong profile. It's just another vaguely-angular blob. I suppose the ring drive is kind of there if you squint really hard, but for the most part it just looks like some random generic alien spaceship that would look right at home in virtually *any* science fiction television series or movie produced in the last half-century.