James Hunt

Oct 25, 2017

In Lethe, Discovery delivers a vintage Trek episode that's the antidote to last week's edginess. Spoilers ahead in our review…

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 Lethe

This, for my money, was the most Star Trek-like episode of Discovery yet, with a sequence starting out showing the everyday life of crewmen, someone going to bed just so the expectation of safety and comfort can be subverted, and a trite lesson at the end which reprises the intro. If that doesn’t feel like Star Trek in all its wonderful, trope-laden glory, I don’t know what to tell you.

That leaves me wondering whether this feeling is a one-off for the show, or whether Discovery is finding its feet. In any case, if you thought Discovery was too edgy for you in the last few episode, this might be the antidote to that. This is vintage Trek. The only way it could be any more Trekky is if next episode they visit a Cowboy planet (I cannot articulate how badly I want to see the hyper-serious cynics of THIS crew on a Cowboy planet).

I have to say, too, that anyone who hated Tilly in her first couple of appearances can back the hell off, because the more she appears the better the character gets. I am massively enjoying her pluck, enthusiasm and determination, but I also laughed my ass off at her being super-thirsty towards Ash and basically throwing herself at him. I’m also very fond of her roulette wheel of hairstyles, which defy all predictability from scene to scene. I already can’t wait for the inevitable trip to a future timeline where she’s Captain Tilly or whatever.

Since I mentioned Ash, I kept quiet about this last week because it seemed like it might not be obvious, but apparently the idea that he’s a Klingon – probably Voq in disguise – seems super-likely. It’s worth noting that the last time L’Rell spoke to Voq she told him he’d have to give up “everything” to get to Burnham, and to Voq, “everything” means being pure, undiluted Klingon. I wonder if Ash is Voq with the eugenics-augment virus we saw in Enterprise, which finally explained to the three people who cared how there could be human-looking Klingons in TOS and Klingon-looking Klingons thereafter.

There are clues, of course, like how he was, er, sexually involved with L’Rell, and how he “fights like a Klingon”, and how Voq disappeared the moment he arrived and we’ve never seen them in the same room together. Plus he keeps accidentally eating live worms and smashing coffee tables, probably. Anyway, at this point you can only assume the twist isn’t the end point of this storyline and if he turns out to be Voq, the writers will be aware everyone guessed it.

Which brings me to the thing that was the actual point about this episode: Sarek and Burnham’s relationship, and lack thereof. Sarek must have seriously been the worst Dad on Vulcan. He had three kids who were all screwed up by his parenting in one way or another. I enjoyed the revelation about his choice in this episode – I thought it was going to be simply that he asked for her to be declined – but that was a much more interesting reason for him to regret his choice.

And, lastly: Good episode for Lorca. Not content with being a borderline warmongering sociopath who voluntarily killed his crew rather than let them have a fighting chance of escape, he’s also suffering a pretty severe case of PTSD while being enough of a skilled manipulator to hide it. As I keep saying: this is the Star Trek series set on the kind of ship that the Enterprise would normally encounter virtually derelict in space with one gibbering survivor. I can’t believe there are people out there who don’t like this just because they use a holodeck too early.

Aaaand, time for some geeky bits:

Burnham mentions THE ENTERPRISE. That would be the original and fourth best to beat the name (C, D, A, original, E, NX, B. End of.) Apparently, it is the goal of Starfleet officers to serve on a ship such as this. It’s currently being captained by Christopher Pike and frankly, if it doesn’t show up before this series is out I will be amazed at the showrunners’ restraint. Although that might mean re-casting Spock, who is at this point serving on the Enterprise. Hmm. It feels like they’re gonna have to actually deal with Spock sooner or later, doesn’t it? (unless it’s going to be like those Buffy/Angel crossovers where they were on different networks and kept having off-screen meetings and phonecalls.)

Sarek’s memoryscape does contain Amanda Grayson, Sarek’s human wife, the biological mother of Spock and adoptive mother of Michael Burnham. She was first played by Jane Wyatt in TOS 2×15 (Journey To Babel) and has also been played by Majel Barrett (TAS 1×02: Yesteryear), Cynthia Blaise (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) and Winona Ryder (Abramsverse Star Trek).

The Vulcan “logic extremists” in this episode who reject non-Vulcans, or specifically humans, might be an offshoot or continuation of the Vulcan ideology that was ultimately overthrown by the Syrrannites in the Vulcan reformation, as shown in the mini-arc that ran in ENT 4×07-4×09.

In Sarek’s mindscape, we also see a Vulcan Lute, which first appeared in TOS 1×07: Charlie X. It seems a fairly common instrument as both Spock and Tuvok were able to play, as was Uhuru.

DIS WTF: I know mind melds and katras have always had a hint of Harry Potter about them, but I’m a little suspicious of just how much of this episode is basically magic. That said, the thing about this episode that really hits the WTF button is Admiral Cornwell being like “I’m going to remove you from active duty. Just as soon as I get back from this incredible dangerous mission”. Like… did she have to fill out some forms or something? Just send a quick email first!

Oh yeah, and we have to talk about the career ladder in Starfleet. So, what’s the path? You join a crew, work your ass off, and then the captain promotes two people he just met with very sketchy pasts right into the bridge crew while you’re still flushing out the Jeffries Tubes. That doesn’t sound very likely to incentivise good behaviour.

DIS LOL: Tonnes of good stuff in this ep. I absolutely loved Lorca whipping out his phaser in bed (ooh-er Counsellor) but the things in this episode that really brought a grin to my face were the t-shirts just reading “DISCO”. I haven’t checked, but I hope they say “VERY” on the back.

Also, genuinely laughed at Lorca cutting his Admiral off mid-transmission to go mount a gonzo rescue mission. All it was missing was an unconvincing shout of “HANG ON, WE’RE JUST GOING INTO A TUNNEL!”

Time to meeting: I’m starting to think Discovery doesn’t like meetings. Maybe the peace summit (sorry, “peace” summit) with the Klingons counts? But man, there’s a meeting the Cancri will regret hosting (or would, if they didn’t take 12 inches of steel-hard Bat’leth through whatever passes for their spines).

Who’s That Face: Amanda Grayson is played by Mia Kirshner, who was Mandy in 24. Has anyone noticed that Star Trek: Discovery has actual actors in, these days? Like, people you already know instead of cheap character actors with a small chance of becoming famous 20 years down the line? Imagine that.

Mistakes and minutiae: A friend points out to me that this may well be the first mention of a real-world mind-altering drug on Star Trek (during the conversation with Stamets). Can anyone verify? Alcohol, of course, doesn’t count (Romulan or otherwise). And does anyone want to put a number on how many episodes it’ll be until Lorca and Burnham are toking up on some Denobulan Mary-Jane?

Read James’ review of the previous episode, Choose Your Pain, here.