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Star Trek Discovery: The War Without, The War Within

"Allow me to introduce you to the person who will chart your course: Captain Philippa Georgiou."

Oh boy, was I wrong.

This was very much a calm before the storm episode. Besides Stamets going all Carol Marcus on a barren planet, very little actually happened. It was an hour of people in rooms talking about how fucked everything is mingled with a lot of character drama and the odd bit of plotting and scheming that resulted in Emperor Phillipa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius, Mother of the Fatherland, Overlord of Vulcan, Dominus of Qo'noS, Regina Andor, and runner-up in this year's Ruler with the Most Excessive Number of Titles competition (Daenerys Targaryen won again for the sixth year straight) being named as the new captain of the USS Discovery.

I didn't think it was likely that Mirror Georgiou would end up in the captain's chair, but I clearly underestimated just how desperate Starfleet is to win this bloody war. As it stands, the situation is bad. Not as bad as last week's cliffhanger made it appear to be. The Klingon Empire doesn't control the entire Federation, they have only conquered 20% of it and destroyed a third of the fleet. That's bad, but not quite "We need to go back in time to fix this" bad. There's ten bars of gold pressed latinum I'll never see again.

Okay, so the situation is not time travel reset bad, but it is make a deal with the devil bad. Or, to be more precise, make a really dumb deal with the devil bad. Putting Mirror Georgiou in command of one of the most advanced starships around, seemingly without anyone to keep her in check, is a spectacularly terrible idea. But not one I'm actually surprised by. This is exactly the kind of questionable decision making I've come to expect from higher ups at Starfleet. After all, it's an institution comprised entirely of Starfleet admirals (there is a shocking lack of civilian oversight in the Federation) and Starfleet admirals are a notoriously dodgy lot. Being shady and slightly treasonous is pretty much one of the job requirements.

As much as I love Michelle Yeoh and both versions of Georgiou, I am worried that history is repeating itself here and not in a fun time loop sort of way. Is this a one episode deal or is this going to be the new status quo going into season two? Even if they are going down the redemption route, with Michael trying to help Georgiou's heart grow two sizes (scratch that, two hundred sizes), I'm not sure if another season of an evil Terran secretly in charge of the ship is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I want Georgiou to remain a presence on the show, but having her assume the captaincy just feels so been there, done that. Plus I was really hoping we'd get Captain Saru instead.

The captain Discovery deserves. 
I was surprised by how quickly Tyler was accepted back into the fold. I know Starfleet officers are meant to be more open minded and compassionate, but it just felt odd to see everyone sit down and have lunch with him like he'd just been busted for smoking pot on the job. Would they have been as quick to gather around him if Stamets had been in the room? Ash may be in control now, but that doesn't change the fact he is still a Klingon sleeper agent who murdered one of their shipmates. His Klingon personality might be gone for now, but there's still a chance it might emerge later. Shouldn't he at least be confined to quarters? Letting him roam the ship, even with restrictions, just seems careless. And what was with that scene with Michael? He's got some nerve accusing her of just using the fact he's not who she thought he was and tried to flippin' murder her as pretext for ending their relationship. Dude, in that situation I think it's more than fair to say that it's not her, it's most certainly you.

With only one episode left to go after this one, now is as good a time as any for some reflection on season one. Overall, I have enjoyed Discovery's debut season, I'd even go as far as to say that it has been the strongest first run of any Star Trek spin-off. I know that might sound like I'm damning it with faint praise since all the other spin-offs had really wonky starts, but I do think that Disco is good, and if they can iron out a lot of the rough edges it might even become as great as TNG and DS9 were at their best.

The roughest of those rough edges has to be the Klingon War arc. The arc hasn't worked for me for a multitude of reasons, but the main one is because the war has never felt real. It's something everyone talks about, but we rarely got to see it up close. This season needed more episode like 'Nor the Battle to the Strong', 'Rocks and Shoals', and 'The Siege of AR-558', a trio of terrific DS9 episodes that took us out of the starships and gave us a very grounded, very ugly look at the true horror of war. This war, however, has been as distant and impersonal as a game of Risk and as frustrating as a game of Monopoly. Next season they should just eschew all war stories altogether because it is clearly not where Discovery's strengths lie.

Notes and Quotes

— Cornwell vaporizing Lorca's fortune cookies was a personal highlight. I just hope she was more merciful to his tribble.

— The Mirror Discovery was destroyed by Klingons not long after it arrived in the Prime Universe. There goes my hope of seeing Captain Killy in the flesh, unless she somehow escaped her ship before it was destroyed. It would be the Terran thing to do.

— Cornwell speculating that Prime Lorca is really dead does nothing but convince me that he is really not. Same goes for Mirror Michael.

— Georgiou is going to spend the next episode dropping the most unsubtle subtle hints that she wants to eat Saru, isn't she? It's like Bryan Fuller never even left.

— Archer and his crew got a shout out. Nice to see that Enterprise isn't being treated like the black sheep of the Star Trek family.

— Keyla, who also served on the Shenzhou, was so happy to see Captain Georgiou again.

— Loving all the Andorian representation we've been getting lately.

Michael: "I just said goodbye to my father, and it felt different. Final. It won’t be, right?"
Tilly:" Did you ever think, when you signed up for Starfleet, that you'd be forced to see war and death?"
Michael: "Death found me as a child. So, yeah. I knew what I was getting into."

Georgiou: "Why did you bring me here? Truly."
Michael: "I wanted to show you a place of morality. Of hope."
Georgiou: "Let me tell you, daughter who is not my daughter, in truth, you wish to save me because you couldn't save her. This regret you have for what you did, it weakens you."

Cornwell: "Bastard!"

Tilly: "And I think the only way that w… we can stop ourselves from becoming them is to understand the darkness within us, and fight it."

Two and a half out of four vaporized bowls of fortune cookies.
Mark Greig will forgive and forget, if you say you'll never go, 'Cause its true what they say, it's better the devil you know More Mark Greig


  1. I guess I could forgive the countless implied genocies of Emperor Georgiou but not the cannibalism. So I hope she's temporary and only for the season finale.

    I also hope that Lorca Prime is alive, I noticed they did not remove Isaacs from the credits so there is still hope.

    The fact this was the 2nd to last episode cought me by suprise. I expected another break and some more episodes in the spring.

    About Ash: I think they drowned out his plotline too much by the reveal in the middle of the Mirror Arc where so much more was going on so It does not resonate with me a whole lot and I'd be ok with the writers writing him out next week.

  2. I am not a big fan of this episode. The colossal stupidity of having Mirror Georgiou impersonating Prime Georgiou and giving her the captain's chair is mind-boggling. I could understand if everyone on Discovery and the Federation was in on the ruse. Then it would be a strategy to fool the Klingons. But I simply don't understand keeping it from everyone.

    The slap on the wrist to Tyler was unbelievably stupid. They know so little of what went on... and understand it even less. Even if it turns out that Voq is truly gone and only Tyler remains, why would Saru not be more prudent?

    And Tyler's weakness and sense of victimization in front of Michael was cringe worthy. I'm glad she broke up with him. He's way too weak for her.

    The one thing I found intriguing was Michael's reaction to her farewell with Sarek. We know that Sarek doesn't die... and with time travel a subject that is floating about... I wonder if Discovery will somehow time travel to the future... beyond TNG, DS9 and Voyager? I adore the whole idea of the spore technology and wonder if this could be a way of somehow keeping this technology. Perhaps something happens that requires the Federation to bury the knowledge. Discovery ends up in the future and spore technology can be used without affecting canon. And this is why Michael never sees Sarek again. Of course, the nagging problem with that is... why have the first season be set in the time that it is in the first place? I don't have the answer to that one. Come to think of it, the whole first series could have been set in the future (without Sarek... Vulcans are long lived... but not that long. And of course, we know when he dies... during the Unification episodes of TNG). But the theme could have been that no matter how well established a civilization's ideals are, society can lose its way. And must struggle to remember what they stand for.

  3. Patryk, does it still count as cannibalism when the sentient species you're eating is not your own?

  4. It does in my book, but I don't know what language experts would say. Maybe there's a word for eating other sentient species that we're not aware of. Xenosapientilism or such. :)

  5. Heather1, I agree with your complaints. Although I could at least partially excuse Ash's accusations against Michael - he's under enormous stress and therefore probably not entirely rational. And letting him roam the ship, while extremely stupid, can be almost, barely, explained by Saru trying to be kind and taking it too far. But letting Emperor Georgiou impersonate the Prime Georgiou makes no sense whatsoever. If they think they need someone ruthless to command the mission then OK, fair enough. But keeping it a secret from the crew puts them at unnecessary risk and gains them absolutely nothing.

  6. I just got to this episode (it's been a rough couple of weeks and not on top of my shows) and -- wait, firstly, terrific review, Mark. I really enjoyed what you said, especially Dude, in that situation I think it's more than fair to say that it's not her, it's most certainly you. :) While I think that giving Ash an ankle monitor makes sense, and I get his crewmates trying their best not to shun him, emotionally I am totally with Michael here. There's no way she can simply adjust to what he is -- whatever he actually is -- when he turned on her that way. She wasn't in love with a Klingon, like he kept saying. She was in love with the facade, the genetic memory, of Ash Tyler. Whether or not he really is Ash, whether or not the Klingonectomy worked and Voq is actually gone forever, remains to be seen.

    About Georgiou -- I do kind of get why the Admiral put her in command. The Emperor destroyed the Klingon homeworld before, so hey, let's let her do it again. Trusting her, though, no way. I haven't seen the season finale yet, but I am hoping that the Admiral didn't just decide to trust Georgiou, that there's something in reserve, just in case. I like the Admiral. I want her to be a real Star Trek anomaly, a competent Admiral.

    Interestingly, my favorite scenes in this episode were all Sarek. Like Zachary Quinto, James Frain has taken on a much loved Vulcan character and made it his own. I enjoyed the Sarek versus Georgiou scene a lot, as he showed his pride in his adopted daughter Michael and kept one-upping Georgiou's memories of the other Michael. And the scene where Sarek said goodbye to Michael, his obvious pride in her and the way he almost but not quite said "I love you," was perfectly Vulcan.

    Heather1, I think you must be right that we're getting more time travel. We know that Sarek lives until Next Gen. If Michael is never going to see him again (and please, no! I really want James Frain to come back) then it's Michael who will be leaving this 'verse, not Sarek. Right?

    And now I'm watching the finale. Back with a finale comment in about an hour.


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