Star Trek Discovery: Into the Forest I Go

Lorca: "We have to win this war... but then..."
Stamets: "Then the journey continues."

There’s a lot to unpack here, and that’s a good thing. Starting where last week’s cliff-hanger left off, this episode focused on two narrative threads that have been building all season: Burnham’s redemption and Stamets' journey into the unknown.

I'll start with Stamets. His arc this season has been interesting in that the show has not fully defined what's happening to him. Clearly something is happening to his mind due to the Tardigrade DNA and travel through the mycelium. We knew from the last episode that there were some side-effects and it was presented as a potentially life-threatening danger to Stamets, but I never felt he was in that kind of jeopardy. While the "one more time" cliche was a little obvious, I'm really intrigued by the direction they're going with him. Is he now going down the road of people like Gary Mitchell? Or is there something totally different going on?

His relationship has also brought Doctor Culber a bit more front and center, and gave us the first male-on-male kiss in Star Trek history. Stamets' interactions with his husband were tense because of the lie he revealed to Tilly in the last episode, but I liked how the resolution of that lie showed their love for one another. Especially Stamets sacrificing an evening to an opera he actively hates. I also liked Stamets' interactions with Tilly in this episode, which were mostly nonvocal.

While Stamets and Culber represent a relatively healthy loving couple, Tyler and Burnham are at the beginning of what could be an interesting relationship. Their interactions revolving around Tyler's PTSD and rather graphic depictions of torture through memory flashes was a good way of portraying a strong person that has a weakness, which is sort of Burnham's defining characteristic. It made me like both characters even more, although now I'm a little worried about Tyler because of L'Rell's reaction to him confronting her.

Is Tyler Tyler? I got the very distinct and rather disturbing impression that Tyler might be in fact Voq who we haven't seen since "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry" when Kol took over the Ship of the Dead. If that's the case, eww. I have no other words. I hope I'm wrong, and it's just that L'Rell's infatuated with him, because otherwise this could get really ugly. Speaking of which, we got the first female (Klingon) nipples on Star Trek in that icky sex nightmare!

As far as Burnham goes, this felt like the culmination of her redemption arc, by saving the Admiral and destroying the Ship of the Dead, also recapturing Georgiou's Starfleet insignia, (though I might run it through some hot water cycles, since Kol was picking his ugly teeth with it.) I loved the Discovery using the spore drive 170 something times to triangulate how the Klingon cloaking device worked, although as far as props go, the beacons were ridiculously big and super obvious.

Burnham's journey this season has been more of an internal one. She made a horrible choice (although in retrospect it might've prevented war), and has spent all season trying to come to terms with that choice. She is determined to carry out her sentence, even though she has found a new home on the Discovery and potential love with Tyler. Her choices in this episode showed what kind of person she is, a Kirk/Spock-like hero with the capacity to do the right thing regardless of personal consequences. I'm just curious what Lorca's interest in her is. Does he see her as his real second in command?

The next question I have is, at the end, when Stamets made his final jump, what coordinates did Lorca program? Was it to Starbase 46? Or did Lorca finally decide to take the ship where literally no one has gone before? That cliffhanger basically set up the question of where this show is actually going to go. Up until this point, it has been presented as almost a war story between the Klingons and the Federation. But what if the giant plot hole that is the Discovery is solved by them going all TARDIS? Wouldn't that be neat?

Bits:

Lorca continues to be the most interesting and layered character on a show where every character has some significant layers to them. I don't know what his true motivations are. Is he the real villain of this series or the hero?

Eyes seem to be an important visual storytelling element. Lorca's eyes are damaged, Stamets just lost his eyes, and during Tyler's flashbacks, eyes played a big part of this torture (including distinctly male Klingon eyes).

Speaking of Lorca's eye condition, I loved him using the eye drops to watch the destruction of the Ship of the Dead. Lets hope that is the end of the Klingon scenes for the foreseeable future.

The cliffhanger was oddly non-specific. The Discovery is in a place where their sensors are going nuts, and there is a large debris field of apparently Klingon ships.

In the background of one scene, there is a call for a Cadet Decker which may be a reference to Will Decker from Star Trek the Motion Picture (since Matt Decker was already mentioned as one of the most decorated Captains in Starfleet in an earlier episode).

Quotes:

Lorca: “When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists. Now, I look at you. You are fierce warriors all.”

Stamets: "There's a clearing in the forest, that's how they go."

Somehow, this show just keeps getting better. The stakes, characters and writing are continually ramping up, and for me, this was the best episode of Discovery to date.

4 out of 4 Cryptic mutterings that are probably important to the plot.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I wasn't sure if I liked Star Trek Discovery at first because the pilot episode was so iffy and full of Klingon gargling, but I'm really into the show now. While I think Sonequa Martin-Green is doing a great job as the lead, I am especially into Anthony Rapp's character Stamets and Jason Isaacs as Lorca. Okay, and Tilly, love Tilly. And I absolutely don't want Ash Tyler to be some sort of secret Klingon weapon, poor guy!

Terrific review, J.D.

WhyMe said...

Billie, I agree with you. For me the start of this show was more than a little iffy. I actually stopped watching after the first episode and returned after reading the review of the 3rd episode.

That said, I too had way too much Klingon for a while.

Great review, J D.
See you all Jan.

Patryk said...

I guess the show pulled a double prologue on us. It lulled us into believing that after the Shenzhou we were already watching the show as it's ment to be, but we were watching a 2nd prologue. I say this because I think they traveled into a paralell universe. Lorca even used info on them to convince Stamets to do the jumps. So the Discovery was never metioned in Star Trek because it was lost and never found again.

Of course I could be wrong and the 1st season will end with yet another series defining change.

Tyler must be at least a manchurian agent. At worst, yeah I haven't considered it but You are right. He might have Voq downloaded into his brain or even be him. Those torture scenes might have been plastic surgeries.

But is that even important if in the alternate dimension the Klingons already apparently lost the war?

J.D. Balthazar said...

I think you are both right, this does feel like a new chapter to the story. Possibly explaining why the rest of Star Fleet doesn't use spore drives in the Original Series era. Easter Eggs like Cadet Decker, and the whole Michael Burnham is Spock's adoptive sister could be explained away that the Discovery is lost in time or space. Pushing the boundaries of "where no one has gone before" to a whole new place.

I was thinking plastic surgery, but it doesn't account for the fact Tyler has all his memories and none of Voq's. You'd think she would have just prepared Voq with Tyler's history.

I nearly lost interest after those first two episodes as well, but I'm glad I stuck with it. Stamets, Lorca, Tilly, Tyler and even Saru and Burnham have all become favorites but I'm not fully attached to any of them yet. Hopefully after the next six episodes I'll settle on who I love and who I could loose.

Henrik Bennetter said...

I too am now all-in.

As Patryk said, it almost feels like the show is only now starting properly after a 2nd prologue.

I'm totally hooked and intrigued as to where this'll go but am reasonably sure, now, that the absence of the discovery in "my" ST-timeline will be adequately explained.

Heather1 said...

Count me among the fans who feel Discovery is now hitting its stride. I really loved this last episode. There has been so much speculation about Discovery taking place in the Mirror Universe. But I wonder if it has been part of the multiverse instead. As we saw in STNG, the multiverse is a thing, with all possibilities displayed. This would explain the spore drive, Burnham's place in Sarek's life, Lorca, Discovery... even the way the Klingons are.

In terms of Ash really being Voq... I have been looking for clues in Ash's behaviour for a few episodes. But when he asked L'Rell, "What did you do to me?"... and when I saw that the nightmare could be showing scenes of torture and/or surgery, I thought... Oh No! He is Voq, but he doesn't remember that he is! Personally, I would love to see this played out, but I am apprehensive because once it does, what happens to Ash? So, there's a part of me that hopes they have something else in mind. I like Patryk's Manchurian Candidate suggestion. We could have a reveal but somehow Ash will be saved from going through with anything. However, if that is the case, where has Voq been all this time? With L'Rell's people still?

And like my constant worry over losing Jodie on Supernatural, I realized this episode that I was worried about Stamets. I don't want anything to happen to Stamets. I didn't think of Gary Mitchell -- the eyes weren't the same.

I also agree with you, J.D., that the cliffhanger was not specific enough. The idea is fantastic, but I was reminded of the wonderful Fringe episode, "There's More Than One of Everything" (featuring, of course, Leonard Nimoy). The pan out shot to reveal the World Trade Centre in the other universe was shocking, unsettling and... specific.

But I'm excited about Discovery. I know many people feel it's not Star Trek, that it's not true to Gene Roddenberry's vision of how we advance and deal with issues in a new, more evolved way. And while this is certainly true, there should be room for a different storytelling as well, especially if we are enjoying it so much.