Star Trek: Discovery
Look, anyone who knows me even slightly knows I’m not one to whine about the canon. By all means, please race-bend, gender-bend, queer every sacred inch of pop culture — in an era dominated by franchises, that’s how we’re going to get to greatness. It’s how we got Into the Spider-Verse.
But I’m afraid one element — or glaring lack thereof — of this week’s Discovery simply cannot go uncriticized. Because nearly half of our time this episode is spent on Qo’noS with the Klingons, witnessing their internal political struggle to establish a new, united government under L’Rell. We’ve got espionage via nanosensor paint! We’ve got secret albino heirs gestated ex-utero! We’ve got a sneaky coup, full of mood-lit mek’leth bloodbaths, that, for better or worse (likely worse), would have been successful in unseating L’Rell from her chancellorship! Yet in all this time, not a single Klingon — not one! — mentions the word “honor.”
I get that leaning solely on the one absolutely crucial element of Klingon culture might have made L’Rell’s road to victory over the dissident House of Kor more complicated, and would have made some (if not most) of Georgiou’s meddling in Klingon affairs unnecessary, but come on! Honor is literally all Klingons ever talk about! How many times did the Enterprise crew go out of its way so Worf could fight somebody in order to defend his honor? Once, a blackout-drunk Klingon died trying to fight Quark, and Quark actually had to marry his widow to not be honor-killed by the dude’s brother! Even if Kol-sha’s spying on L’Rell and Ash didn’t bring dishonor on his house, letting his minions fight and die in his stead — and then paralyzing the two with some sort of electric device rather than fight them himself — was, without question, the most casually un-Klingon string of decisions I’ve ever seen a Klingon make on a Star Trek show, including marrying a Trill. L’Rell could have campaigned on that alone and won the other houses’ loyalty!
That said, I’ve gotta admit that Emperor Georgiou’s surprise entrance, like some sort of avenging Enfys Nest/Boba Fett hybrid, was positively delightful. She’s “consulting” now with Starfleet’s CIA, Section 31, because “misfits have merit” and “the freaks have more fun,” both definitely code for “this was the most viable avenue for me to violate the maximum number of rules in this repugnant universe.” Despite the absence of all things “honor,” her rationale that L’Rell can’t possibly unite the Klingon Empire as a woman with a human Torchbearer, even if he was Klingon at one point, much less one with an illicit albino heir with said human, can’t be ignored. Her plan: spirit away Tyler, whose identity means he’s certainly about to be groomed as a Section 31 spy, and the baby, who they drop off at a Klingon monastery to be raised as an orphan and a monk, and create a theatrical lie to cement L’Rell’s leadership.
L’Rell parades the (counterfeit) heads of Tyler and the baby, claiming her human Torchbearer killed her baby (why would he do such a thing? Who can say!) and came for her as well; she says that Kol-sha gave his life defending her; that she killed her human lover to defend her people; and that she would never again bear children. It’s all copied and pasted directly from the Terran Emperor’s playbook and it’s terrifying how well it works — especially when she declares that they must all call her “mother” now. (If only honor could have played some part in the campaign!) I fully support every decision this franchise needs to make to keep Michelle Yeoh around; from her smug gaslighting to her flawless secretly-loves-babies-but-would-rather-die-than-let-someone-see reaction to Tyler’s infant, every moment we get with Mirror Georgiou is a gift.
In other news: It is with a heavy heart that I must report that Ghost May is not, in fact, gay for Tilly — she was actually a dark-matter-juiced eukaryotic parasite living inside Tilly. I know that Tilly’s own anxieties and self-doubt are the reason she didn’t figure this out on her own, but girl. Why wouldn’t you immediately ask Stamets about seeing Culber in the mycelial network the second you realized you had a ghost of your own? Instead of allowing it to chase you through an entire half-marathon (barf) and into a mortifying, career-ending incident on the bridge, in which you appear to scream at the captain, while sitting in his chair! Girlllll. Thankfully, Burnham is avoiding her own problems, so now we have the big blob in a containment field. It needs something from Tilly, and I’m sure she’ll eventually figure out what.
Speaking of Burnham’s problems, her foster mom is here with Spock’s encrypted medical file, which she stole. (I gotta say, Amanda Grayson looks amazing for her age. I assume skincare and plastic surgery have reached incredible levels in the 23rd century. Is that the ultimate illogical human conceit? Or — galaxy brain — is it actually extremely logical, given how little respect Amanda seems to be afforded on Vulcan as it is?) Pike makes an official call to check on Spock, only to discover that he’s now suddenly on the lam, I guess? From his voluntary admittance? After allegedly killing a couple of doctors! Definitely smells fishy, so Pike goes full-Cool Stepdad again and orders Burnham to crack the file. Inside, they find a doctor insinuating that Spock is a “psychopath,” which is actually a pretty legitimate psychiatric concern for a half-human raised on logic-ruled Vulcan — legitimate enough that I’m actually surprised that particular concern hasn’t (to my knowledge) been broached on Trek before.
Oh, and lest we escape the “Red Angel” for five minutes, the image is in his medical files, too — and now that Amanda is here, we know that it first appeared to Spock when he and Michael were children, the night Michael attempted to run away after she was “nearly killed” by some “logic extremists,” (the euphemism for “racially motivated” in Vulcan, if you will). That seems to suggest that these “angels,” whatever they are, are manifesting at the exact moment when certain people need saving. Almost like they’re preserving a timeline — like the Federation is a pre-uber-warp society which can’t be contacted directly. Hey, I’d be into it.
Personal Log, Supplemental:
• Now, I’m not saying L’Rell should have disemboweled anyone that chose loyalty to an ancient house over the new united Klingon government, but I’m not not saying that. I couldn’t help thinking of The 100’s Octavia and her brutally effective unification strategy from last year. (“You are Klingon Empire, or you are the enemy of Klingon Empire — choose!”)
• Oh my God, somebody, please, cut this ponytail off Shazad Latif in his sleep. It’s hurting me. Physically. Through the television. It’s like a handle. He looks like Hare Krishna Pebbles Flintstone. The DP won’t stop backlighting it. Help.
• The future-tech in this episode — nay, this season — has been fantastic. Handheld dark-matter vacuum! Hologram-enabled tablets for children! Genetically identical forged body parts! And L’Rell’s baby having been successfully brought to term ex-utero is a spectacular dunk on Star Wars, intentional or not.
• That whole incident on Vulcan is why Spock and Michael aren’t speaking — to protect him from the racists, she did something to make him hate her, I guess? It must have been pretty horrible, since even as a dutifully logical adult he’s been uninterested in her apologies.
• Wait, I just realized Georgiou said she got a wet nurse for her baby — unless she picked up Mirror Burnham in the delivery room, does that mean she has another child out there?