You have to hand it to Star Trek: Discovery for setting up an episode like this. Voq, Son of None, has finally been revealed and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) — often sidelined by theories about Voq, Tyler (Shazad Latif), Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) — takes center stage. Her original “crime” once again becomes an issue as she makes a choice which goes against the Terran Empire. And, for the first time in a very long time, her emotional well-being is the heart of everything.
Which, to be honest, is a rarity for this show. When Martin-Green was first announced as the lead, there was the promise that the show would revolve around her and her journey to becoming a better officer. That’s certainly happened, but it never feels as central as that initial pitch made it seem. Stamets and Culber (Wilson Cruz) quickly stole the spotlight as the first committed gay couple on a Star Trek series fans could see week after week. Tilly’s (Mary Wiseman) troubled social skills and possible placement on the spectrum made her an instant favorite as well. Even Lorca, for being more ruthless than your usual starship captain, created a quicker bond than Burnham.
But maybe that was the point.
Since the show began, Burnham has been in a special sort of hot seat. She’s the first Star Trek character to actually pay for the sort of insubordination that was de rigueur on the other shows. And while Discovery tries to be on her side, it also never lets Burnham or the audience forget her mutiny. Additionally, her attempt to suppress her human emotions to impress Sarek led to a character which is often inaccessible. It makes her one of the most unique protagonists on television, but it also makes her tough to root for. Of course, I could be biased from watching the previous Star Trek shows and being quite versed in its grammar. From that standpoint, she frustrating to watch. Despite episodes detailing the ways she should be progressing on a ship filled with humans and emotionally attuned aliens, she resets every few episodes. Despite friends and a love interest, she always comes back to being that wannabe Vulcan.
Not that you can really blame her. It’s easier to shift back into comfortable patterns than actually grow. It’s true now and it must be doubly true when you’re a human raised in the Vulcan tradition … to say nothing of the prejudice she faced by being a human child on that planet.
And it’s important to raise all these issues again because they are central to Burnham’s actions in this week’s episode. Her difficulty in getting the classified Defiant files to the Discovery meant accepting orders to destroy a key Resistance base and its leader, the Klingon known as “the Firewolf;” who happens to the Mirror Voq, Son of None. Being Prime Burnham, she was reluctant to bomb the planet to bits, but she also had a logical and emotional interest in meeting with Voq. As she explained to Lorca, she wanted to determine how the Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites learned to work together in the Mirror Universe. In the end, it seemed to be a simple alliance thanks to a common foe. But Voq’s words even suggested a deeper change in the Mirror Klingons themselves. Their pride as warriors somehow made it possible to work with others.
Which, based on Tyler’s reaction to his Mirror’s philosophy, will not be much help should Burnham and the Discovery make it back to the Prime Universe. Regaining his identity as Voq, Tyler struck at his double for betraying the purer notions T’Kuvma espoused. Which, I think, made Burnham’s trip to the Resistance base something of a failure on that front. But back aboard the Shenzhou, Burnham used Tyler’s true identity and his betrayal to finally get the Defiant data back to the Discovery. Which is definitely a win for her primary mission. Sadly, it came at the cost of losing Tyler to Voq’s true personality. Which, for once, definitely read on Burnham’s face; particularly when the Emperor was revealed as Mirror Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). I doubt that turn took the audience by surprise, but it is absolutely fitting for Burnham to find herself in this predicament. By going on the away mission, she was — once again — defying Georgiou’s orders.
Maybe we really are just creatures of our natures.
Meanwhile, Tilly managed to get Stamets brain to work again, so he’s made contact with his Mirror counterpart. But he’s still unaware about Culber. Granted, I’m still not recovered from that death, so we’ll save that discussion until Stamets has to face the truth. Instead, let’s congratulate Tilly, who successful worked out that the spores would solve Stamet’s brain issues and managed to convey her ambitions for command to Saru (Doug Jones). Hopefully, he’ll honor his willingness to “consider” recommending her when the current crisis ends. It’s definitely the sort of good news Star Trek: Discovery fans could use right now.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Sundays on CBS All Access.