Star Trek Discovery: Lethe

"Klingons don't normally extend party invitations."

I'll be up front about this: I'm not sure how I feel about Michael Burnham as Spock's human stepsister.

Spock is, and justifiably so, the most popular character in the original series, and many of the Star Trek series that followed tried hard to bring Spock, his family, and Vulcan culture back. I'd probably be happier with Discovery if they'd set it in a completely different time period instead of jamming it in ten years earlier than the original series. Give us something new, please.

That said, how lovely are James Frain and Mia Kirshner as Sarek and Amanda? I've already been enjoying Frain's spot on interpretation of Sarek, a character that's been played by several actors by now but most memorably by the late Mark Lenard. I've always wanted to see more of Sarek and Amanda and their lives together, and voila, they just gave it to me. Loved the human-Vulcan parental conflict at Michael's graduation in front of that gorgeous white Vulcan building with the red plantings.

While they're pretty much replicating Spock's core duality and his struggle with logic and emotion in Michael, I was feeling weird about them also inserting the katra thing, which was a plot point from the original series movies The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home. Here, they explained it by telling us (but not showing us) that young Michael was attacked by logic extremists, she was dead for three minutes, and Sarek gave her part of his katra as a "soul graft." Okay. Spock never mind-melded with his father (okay, technically Picard did after Sarek died, but still) so that gives Michael something relationship-specific with Sarek that Spock didn't have.

Michael was rejected from the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, a crushing failure for her. Except that she wasn't. Sarek was given the choice of Michael or Spock for the Group, something of an educational Sophie's Choice, and he chose Spock. Except that we all know that Spock rejected Sarek's choices for him and wound up in Starfleet. This was apparently one of Sarek's biggest regrets, and why Michael kept seeing him reliving that point in their past as he was near death after the assassination attempt. Lovely that Michael pretty much had the last word, calling Sarek "Father." She knows who he is in her life, and if Sarek can't acknowledge his strong emotional connection to Michael, she just showed us that she most certainly can.

Speaking of assassination attempts, I have been enjoying Jayne Brook's Admiral Cornwell, who has been coming off as a lot more than a disposable admiral at a distance. Here, she showed up in person and, delightfully, was revealed to be a psychiatrist who was seriously and justifiably worried about Lorca's mental state, especially after what happened with the Buran. And well she should. So why on earth would she rekindle their previous relationship and hop back into bed with him?

(Not that I'm objecting to sex in Star Trek. It's way past time we had more sex in Star Trek.)

Admiral Cornwell may have made a fatal mistake telling Lorca that she was going to deal with his bizarre behavior and probably remove him from command. I honestly thought for a moment that he was going to kill her with that handy phaser that he sleeps with and carries everywhere. But then Lorca suggested instead that the Admiral replace Sarek on the diplomatic mission... and she was captured by the Klingons. Did Lorca know that was going to happen? He can't be a Klingon agent, so maybe he was just hoping that by sending her into danger, he might be removing his problem. Pretty darned cold, if that's true.

I'm a combination of disturbed and intrigued by Captain Lorca, who may be going where no starring captain has gone before. (Guest starring captains have gone nuts and turned evil before, but not our lead characters.) I'm happy that they're giving Jason Isaacs some truly challenging acting to do, though.

All this, and we started getting to know new character Lieutenant Ash Tyler. During the hologram battle simulation, Lorca was vetting Ash for the open position of security chief. (Ah, a brief sigh for the loss of Rekha Sharma.) Time wise, holodeck-like technology doesn't fit in pre-original series, but I'll let it go because this was an enjoyable scene.

But then right before the shuttle mission to rescue Sarek, Lorca said something that bothered me: he told Ash to bring Michael back, or don't come back at all. Why is Michael so much more important to Lorca than any other member of his crew? Particularly Ash, who just got Lorca out of that Klingon prison ship?

At the end of this jam-packed episode, Lorca gave Michael the position of science specialist on the bridge. I knew she'd eventually join the crew in some official way and am glad it took several episodes for this to happen. It would have been totally unbelievable if they'd done it sooner. Good thing the Admiral isn't around to stop this craziness from happening, isn't it?

Bits:

-- This week: Cancri IV, Yridia Nebula.

-- "Lethe" is a mythological river in Hades that makes drinkers forget their pasts.

-- Ash is from Seattle. Correction, near Seattle.

-- The events surrounding this mission appear to have formed a friendly connection between Ash and Michael. I thought that there might be romantic vibes, too.

-- I haven't even mentioned the delightful Michael and Tilly jogging scene, the shirts with the word "disco" on them (what does that mean?), the replicator scene with the green juice and the salsa, and the lovely bit of fan service when Michael mentioned transferring to a Constitution class starship like Enterprise. And I liked that Michael told Tilly she would find her own individual way to a captaincy.

-- Admiral Cornwell seemed surprised that Lorca has a scar on his back in the shape of a triangle. Must be important.

-- Since this is my first Discovery review, I'd like to complain that the music in the opening credits keeps reminding me of the Star Trek animated series. That's not good.

-- If they decide at any point to bring in Spock, is there any way that it could be Zachary Quinto? Pretty please?

Quotes:

Sarek: "In times of crisis, ignorance can be beneficial."

Lorca: "I like to split hairs."

Stamets: "Now, that's my kind of crazy. You're talking about building a synthetic mind-meld augment. Groovy."
Lorca: "Clearly, your trip down the mycellium path has lightened your mood, Lieutenant."
Stamets: "Once you're past getting stabbed by needles, it's pretty great."
It's also wildly out of character. Something weird is happening to Stamets. Plus there was that mirror thing that they still haven't explained.

Ash: "How's your Vulcan dad?"
Michael: "Stubborn and impenetrable, as always."

Really enjoyed this episode. Three out of four salsa replicators,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Small side-note, Michael was attacked by Klingons as a child, not Vulcan extremists.

Billie Doux said...

Sorry for the lateness! I'll do better this week.

And congratulations to Star Trek: Discovery for getting a second season!

Billie Doux said...

Thanks, Anonymous, I'll fix it.

Mark Greig said...

I thought Michael's family were killed by Klingon which is how Sarek adopted her and then she was caught in a terriost attack by Vulcan extremists when she was a child.

Billie Doux said...

Mark, I haven't watched the episode a second time yet, but plan to soon, so I'll check when I do. Clearly, I thought it was Vulcan extremists, too.

televisionandotherrantings said...

I'm pretty much certain that DISCO is meant to be a short form for Discovery. (Someone on AV Club joked on one of my comments over there that the crew had some other shirts with VERY). I once had the idea of having Discovery for the name of a Trek series a while before they had actually announced it. Got to say I never thought about shorthands like STD, DIS and DISCO before now.

Billie Doux said...

Of course it's short for Discovery! Geez, how stupid am I? I can't believe I didn't think of that. :) Thanks!

TJ said...

Another very good episode! And great that you are reviewing this Billie!

I am really enjoying this new ST, but am now convinced that it can't (or shouldn't) be compared to previous ST shows. Tabula rasa...

"I'm not a Borg"

Kathy said...

I know how I feel about Michael being Spock's adopted sister--I don't like it.

What I'm not sure about is how I feel about Discovery in general. I love Jason Isaacs as Lorca, and he is what is keeping me coming back. Well, he's one of three, actually. Also really like Anthony Rapp and Doug Jones in their roles. I also get a kick out of Tilly.

But, I don't care much for Michael. And I really wished that they would have just left the connection between Michael and Spock alone. I rolled my eyes when I found out that Sarek is Michael's adopted father (although James Frain is knocking it out of the park as Sarek). But I really wish that the familial connection to Spock wasn't there.

Although, there is precedent to Spock not talking about family members, although that is assuming Star Trek 5 being a canon movie, and I don't like the idea of Star Trek 5 being a canon movie! (Although I'm a defender of Star Trek 5 for being hilarious, it's still not a good movie and can easily be taken out of the continuity without losing anything.)

In fact, I still have a hard time remembering that this is supposed to be before TOS. The technology is just too advanced for it to be 15 years in the future.

But, that's just me.

Billie Doux said...

I just rewatched this episode and yes, the katra thing happened after Michael was attacked by Vulcan extremists.

Patryk said...

Stamets is probably not Stamets and the real one is stuck in some mirror dimension.

I don't know if Lorca sent the admiral on purpose, but he definately doesn't want to save her now that she was captured. You talk about guest captains going evil, so that got me thinking. What if Lorca is a decoy protagonist and the Discovery is ment to be Michael's ship all along and season one is just one big prologue.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, they DID have a holodek in the original Enterprise: they could not show it in the live action show because of cost, bt it appeared in the animated series a few years later.