Star Trek giveth, and Star Trek taketh away, and this week Star Trek leans pretty heavy on the givething. Explanations! Meaningful follow-up! Weirdly inert daddy-daughter hand-to-hand combat by an inexplicable infinity pool!
This week’s episodes highlights include:
• Various shots of Vulcan that confirm, at least to me, that Sarek’s actor definitely insisted on having the least-pointy eyebrows possible in his contract. They sort of taper over the ends of his eyes, but they’re essentially flat and human-looking, while all the other Vulcan actors are stuck with the old-school diagonal design that climb directly into the hairline.
• The Discovery is the most advanced piece of technology in the entirety of Starfleet but does not have a running track, so Tilly and Burnham just jog through the halls while everyone around them is trying to work.
• Way more jokes at the expense of green juice than I anticipated, plus a replicator that doesn’t just hand you your meal, but offers a bland comment or two about its nutritional value, like those Snapple Facts they print on the underside of bottle cops or something. “Two…nutritious…breakfast…burritos! This … green … tea … has … antidioxidants!” PLEASE TELL ME THE FUTURE IS NOT A COMPUTER HANDING ME MY LUNCH AND MAKING CUTE LITTLE ASIDES ABOUT WHETHER I’M EATING SOMETHING HEALTHY ENOUGH!
This is possibly more spoiler-y than usual, but if you’re not already familiar with the theory that Ash Tyler is Voq in disguise, it’s worth investigating, because there are numerous heavy suggestions lobbed around this dude over a single 40-minute episode. (Remember, the last we saw of Voq, he was being taken to a house of deceivers and liars and told he would have to give up “everything,” which is sort of an odd thing to say to a dude who already very clearly lost everything.) It makes a certain sort of sense! Everyone on Discovery is totally astonished that Tyler was able to take out six Klingon warriors in hand-to-hand combat after seven months of torture, while Lorca brings up a couple of easily hand-waved questions about Tyler’s backstory — he says he’s from Seattle, but Lorca points out that he’s actually from a town 24 miles outside of Seattle, which in fairness, I always did something similar when people asked me where I was from, because it’s a lot easier to say “Chicago” than it is to say “Hoffman Estates, from the northwest suburbs of Chicago, it’s like Schaumburg but isn’t, it’s got the Portillo’s in it, it’s near where all the John Hughes movies were filmed,” and I’m not a Klingon — that seem clearly designed to reassure the characters onscreen but leave the viewers at home wanting to know more. Lorca and Tyler run through a re-creation of their escape from the Klingon ship on Discovery’s holodeck and Tyler so baldly underestimates his kill count that Lorca would have been an idiot not to double-check his score. “Because he’s Voq,” I squealed from my couch, “and he’s playing you like a fiddle! Or, more correctly, like a HurDagh!”
Lorca immediately upgrades Tyler to chief of security, because the theme of this episode is “Lorca staffs the Discovery almost exclusively with people whom he considers personally loyal to him rather than Starfleet.” Tilly calls it exactly what it is: a professional sort of “adoption” that started with Burnham and is heading straight down the line.
Hopefully it works out better for Lorca than Burnham’s last adoptive father, because hoo boy, do we get to revisit some Insufficient Fathering Moments tonight. After a “logic extremist” who looks like Taran Killam turns himself into a human torch to keep Sarek from attending a preliminary peace talk with the Klingons, Burnham finds herself repeatedly drawn to his fading consciousness, and we finally get a little more explanation as to how the whole shared-katra thing actually works between them. Which is to say: not great, as you might imagine! The first sign of trouble comes when Burnham tries to shake Tyler’s hand and simultaneously experiences the first of several flashes to Sarek’s mind. It’s apparently a coincidence, but I don’t think it’s an accident those two moments are set up together: It’s clearly suggestive of Vulcan touch telepathy, and is meant to associate Tyler with something big, something not-yet-understood. (Also, the dude is drinking a big honking green juice of his own, mere seconds after Burnham tears the concept of green juice a new one for being nutritionally unfit to replenish hard-working Starfleet officers, a little moment I found adorable and delightful.)
Also: Amanda Grayson, a.k.a. Sarek’s human wife and Burnham’s foster mother, is played by Mia Kirshner, who will forever be Jenny Schecter from The L Word, so I blacked out from sheer Emotion at least four times during tonight’s episode.
Every time Burnham tries to get closer to her father, he literally chases her out of his own dying thoughts, which really sets a tone for the episode. Their fights are almost in slow motion and totally inert, and for some baffling reason are set by an infinity pool, which I can only imagine some set designer threw in there because “infinity pools are pretty chill, and Vulcans seem chill.” During a subsequent trip to Sickbay, Burnham reveals that she actually died for three minutes when Vulcan extremists bombed the learning center, that Sarek revived her by linking his katra to her — and that what he did is incredibly uncomfortable and strange by Vulcan standards, which was such a relief to hear after thinking I was going totally bananas for the last four episodes.
It’s further revealed, as Burnham explores her father’s memories, that the reason Sarek keeps reliving the day she failed to get into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group is not because he’s thinking about how she failed him (“I’ve been close to death,” a suspiciously helpful Tyler points out. “You don’t think about people who disappointed you. You think about people you love, and what you wish you’d done differently”), but because he can’t stop thinking about how he failed her. The council made it clear they were willing to consider humans as potential equals slowly, and one at a time, meaning that they could either accept Michael now or Spock, Sarek’s biological half-Vulcan son, in ten years. Guess which one Sarek chose? Guess how satisfying Burnham’s attempt at having an emotional resolution with Sarek is even after saving his life!
After some back and forth, Burnham says, “You could talk to me about it,” and he tries to pull the “technically, we’re not really related” card, which is just the lowest, most cowardly possible blow. You’re very good at guessing.
This week’s other subplot was, as best as I can make out, The Big Chill featuring Captain Lorca and Admiral Cornwall. (I have never seen The Big Chill.) Every time we’ve seen sad-eyed, competent, and frustrated Admiral Cornwall in this series, I have uttered a single prayer at my screen: Please don’t let her and Lorca hook up. Please don’t let her and Lorca hook up. Anyhow, tonight they hook up.
What’s worse, after realizing that Lorca is even more paranoid and unhinged than she’d feared, Cornwall grabs the Idiot Ball and runs with it by promising directly to remove him from command, failing to mention her plan to literally anyone else in Starfleet or on the Discovery’s crew, then steps up as Sarek’s replacement to an extremely volatile peace talk with the Klingons, where she is, naturally, immediately betrayed and kidnapped, and no one in the entire Federation is any the wiser about her concerns, re: Lorca’s fitness for command. File a report, Cornwall! The Klingons murder everybody. OBVIOUSLY.
Lorca performs the command equivalent of stuffing his hands in his pockets, whistling innocently, and wandering away. He then offers Burnham a position as science specialist on the bridge, which she immediately accepts. Between this and the Tyler hire, Lorca is that much closer to having a private security team around him at all times.
Before I leave, I want all of you to promise me that if you ever suspect the nearly invulnerable captain of a uniquely strategic ship heading up the Federation’s entire war efforts of being unfit for command, you will do the following, in the following order:
1. You will not tell him you suspect him without at least four other people in the room present.
2. You will not have sex with said captain while you are evaluating him for said fitness!
3. If ultimately you determine he has lied on his psych reports, you will tell your immediate superiors and at least two of your peers, preferably leaving behind a written record, before embarking on any dangerous missions.
4. You will only attend a Klingon peace accord if you are on an episode of DS9.