In what was the most thrilling episode of Star Trek: Discovery to date, the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery came together under the leadership of Commander Saru (Doug Jones) and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) managed to disobey Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) again. But, it seems, she may be better off this time for doing so.
The conclusion to the Mirror Universe story was the best pay off so far in the show’s short history. But it’s amazing to consider how much of it was set-up from the get go with Burnham and Georgiou back in first episode. Seeing the two of them work as a team against Lorca’s (Jason Isaacs) troops was not only emotionally fulfilling — considering how Burnham’s last field op with Georgiou went — but one of the great fight scenes in Trek overall. Okay, maybe not as great as Kirk’s fight with the Gorn, but pretty close.
Come to think of it, that Gorn fight resonates with Burnham’s ultimate stance in the conflict. Finally getting Lorca dead to rights, she refuses to kill him because, ultimately, she is a Starfleet officer. It’s an affirmation that the Prime Star Trek universe is a place of compassion. As she puts it to Lorca, Starfleet would have helped him get home. Even in the midst of a growing conflict, they would’ve used some resources to help him get to a place where the light isn’t so bright and, one presumes, Edith Keller was a vocal proponent of the Terran Empire. And they would do it even if they understood Lorca’s intentions in that nightmare world.
Which, naturally, meant Georgiou had to put a blade through his heart and drop him into the micilial nexus Mirror Stamets built for some ill-defined superweapon.
Looking at the shape of things, it’s clear Lorca had a destiny. It just wasn’t the one he assumed it would be as his role in an interconnected tale of two universes was to bring Prime Burnham and Mirror Georgiou together so Burnham’s act of defiance could save the Emperor’s life. Which, if that preview is to be believed, will in turn help Starfleet defeat the Klingons. Well, maybe. Burnham’s whole point to both Lorca and Georgiou is that there is no destiny. A struggle which may yet play out in the remaining two episodes of the season.
But on the personal level, it is interesting to see that Burnham’s emotions and attachment to Georgiou means she cannot help but disregard her wishes in all places and times. And, I imagine, that will be something to two will confront next week because the show manages to find time for those sorts of character moments even as galaxy-shattering events are taking place.
Speaking of which, Saru’s ultimate transition into commanding the Discovery was everything it needed to be. His speech to the crew was letter perfect and I hope he gets promoted (becoming Star Trek‘s first series regular alien captain) in favor of the show digging up Prime Lorca somewhere.
Although, that does lead to an interesting question: does a Discovery with Saru in command and Burnham as his Number One make for the best possible outcome in this situation?
Thanks to Saru’s leadership, we finally got a sense of the other bridge officers working as a team. Also, for the first time, I want to learn more about people like Airiam (Sarah Mitich), Detmer (Emily Coutts) and Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo). Hopefully, next season will have the time to flesh them out beyond reaction shots and bursts of technobabble. But in the context of this week’s episode, they really came together in the traditional Star Trek bridge crew with the attack on the I.S.S. Charon. In fact, it’s interesting to note how much like props they were under Lorca’s command and how they suddenly and vividly came to life with Saru in the center seat.
Similarly, it’s interesting to see Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Tilly (Marie Wiseman) in sync at last. She found confidence during the recent crises and for as much as we’re unsure if Culber’s (Wilson Cruz) death was a fridging, Stamets at least found a level of compassion he definitely did not possess when Burnham first arrived in engineering. In retrospect, Discovery‘s character work with the principle characters was very strong because this week’s climax would not be effective without the layering of characters, motivation and circumstances behind their actions. And it’s probably fair to say if you don’t like at least one character on the show, it just won’t work for you at this point.
But that’s really where this show has been going with its distant Klingon war and Mirror Universe adventure. The plan, it seems, was to make these characters compelling or at least interesting before Star Trek can return to its primary mission of exploration. It also needed to prove that a truly novelistic approach to Star Trek can work as well as its time-honored episodic format. Based on how edge-of-your seat the Discovery‘s final run against the Charon and Stamets attempt to jump everyone back to Prime space were, it would appear the show succeeded in its main goals.
Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, the program has two more episodes left in its premiere season and a major moral quandary to resolve. Will Starfleet, nearly defeated during Discovery‘s nine-month absence, accept Georgiou’s ruthless tactics to defeat the implacable Klingon Empire? Will it commit evil deeds to secure the continuation of the Federation and its humane ideals? Certainly, it sounds like a Section 31 debate, but it is also very much at the heart of Star Trek as a whole. I cannot wait to see how this cast of characters resolves the dilemma.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Sundays on CBS All Access.