Star Trek: Discovery “Lethe”

Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Michael Burnham was Starfleet’s first mutineer, yadda yadda yadda, she grew up as Sarek’s “ward”, blah blah blah, Captain Lorca brought her to the USS Discovery which is the only Starfleet ship with a super-duper spore drive, etc etc etc—look, if you’ve seen any prior episode, you’re already extremely familiar with most of what gets covered in the previouslies, but at least we’re also reminded of General Kol who disrupted Voq’s plans to reunite the Klingon Empire, and we’re also reminded of how Capt. Lorca and Lt. Boytoy escaped from a Klingon prison vessel.

On what I assume to be the planet Vulcan, Ambassador Sarek and “Adjunct V’Latak” board a shuttlecraft. Though, if this really is Vulcan, I’m not sure what to make of the big moon in the sky. Unless this is that mysterious “Delta Vega” planet that Old Spock was marooned on in Star Trek ’09.

Sarek tells V’Latak to set a course for the “Cancri system”, and when V’Latak asks about the nature of their diplomatic mission, Sarek says it’s better he not know.

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Cut to Discovery, and another zoom-in on the ship brings us to a corridor where Michael and Tilly are jogging. And as they jog along, Burnham has a comical hopping gait. Is this how Vulcans run? Burnham says Tilly has to push herself if she hopes to reach her stated goal of becoming captain one day, and even dismisses Tilly’s suggestion that she can just move up in rank based on her “personality”.

To which Tilly replies, “That’s just something people with no personality would say,” but immediately realizes she inadvertently insulted Burnham once again. Also, I must admit the “Disco” shirts the ladies are wearing threw me for a moment until I realized they’re supposed to stand for “Discovery”.

And guess what just became available on the official Star Trek store, for 10% off! (I’m not kidding.)

Burnham says if Tilly improves her speed enough, she could earn a “physical commendation”, which could mean a transfer to a “Constitution class like the Enterprise,” which could then put her on the “first officer track”. Which seems to imply that at least at some point, Tilly aspired to become the Enterprise’s first officer. Just think: the Big Three on TOS could have been Kirk, McCoy… and Tilly. Only in my dreams.

Burnham adds, “Cadet to captain, just like that.” That’s odd. Why is she summarizing the plot of Star Trek ’09 for us?

Cut to Lorca and Lt. Boytoy fighting Klingons in a holographic simulation, which pretty much means the Discovery has a fully functional holodeck, 80-90 years before holodecks were treated like new technology on The Next Generation. Sure, I could use the animated series episode “The Practical Joker” to handwave this away (it depicts what’s basically a holodeck on Kirk’s Enterprise), but if I keep trying to rationalize all the tech on Discovery that’s more advanced than anything seen on TOS, that’s all I’ll end up doing in these recaps.

Once the two are done fighting holographic Klingons, it’s revealed that Lorca was able to kill 24 Klingons, while Boytoy was able to take out an impressive 36. Lorca starts asking Boytoy questions about his personal background, and since it seems this character will be sticking around for a while, I guess I’ll take the time to look up his character’s actual name, which is… Lt. Ash Tyler. Okay then. And yes, I realize there’s a lot of online speculation about who this character really is, but this episode only depicts him as a loyal Starfleet officer and doesn’t hint at anything else, so I’ll just stick with that.

Eventually, Lorca offers Tyler the position of Chief of Security, recently vacated after the previous chief satisfied her death wish by releasing a gigantic killer creature from confinement for no particular reason. Lorca says that he’s seen how Tyler is able to fly, shoot, and “fight like a Klingon” (hmm, maybe there is a hint, after all), so why not offer a senior position to somebody he met a week ago?

Back on Sarek’s vessel, he notes they’re close to their destination, and yet the ship hasn’t dropped out of warp. So V’Latak sticks a needle into his arm that causes all the veins in his body to start glowing. Which means he’s turning himself into a human bomb, much like in that episode of Enterprise where religious fanatics took over the ship by sticking needles into their arms and also turning themselves into bombs. But I’m guessing the inspiration here is more likely suicide bombers in general, mixed in with that Extremis thing from Iron Man 3.

It seems V’Latak is a fanatic as well, and he believes this mission is in conflict with “true Vulcan ideology”, and he’s blowing himself up to prove “logic” is the one true way and he belongs to some faction that wants Vulcan to withdraw from the Federation. He explodes and the ship is disabled.

In the mess hall, Tilly and Burnham have post-workout antics at the food replicators, with Burnham being all Vulcan-like and ordering the computer to synthesize a meal with the “correct ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fat” and Tilly reacts with, “Oh my god, you are so scary!” I slowly feel myself getting back on the Tilly bandwagon during this episode. And there’s a strange moment where the computer replicates the meal and announces these are “two appetizing and nutrient-filled burritos!” Like, what? Computer, chill. You don’t need to sell somebody on a meal that was made to their exact specifications.

Tilly then spots Ash Tyler eating alone and she’s already splooshing for him. She’s heard he was able to kill six Klingon warriors and “I kind of feel like that makes him even hotter!” She goes to sit with him, and Burnham is obliged to join them. Like everyone in Starfleet, Tyler has already heard of Burnham, the famous mutineer, but it seems he’s only interested in judging people in the “here and now”.

He offers up his hand, and Burnham shakes it, and she momentarily gets a look like her Spidey Sense is warning her about Tyler. Instead, it seems she’s getting a psychic vision of Sarek being mortally wounded, and she grabs her gut and collapses to the floor.

As established in a previous episode, Burnham and Sarek have a psychic link, due to Sarek passing on part of his katra to Burnham when she almost died as little girl. In Psychic Space, Burnham sees Sarek and goes chasing after him, only to end up in one of Sarek’s memories.

This particular memory finds lots of Vulcan parents milling about with their kids. Also milling about are Sarek, Burnham, and Sarek’s wife Amanda Grayson, previously played by Jane Wyatt and Winona Ryder and Cynthia Blaise (look it up), and now being played by Mia Kirshner, who 16 years later I can still only think of as Terror Mandy from 24. What’s that? She was on 6 seasons of The L Word? Pssh.

In the memory, Sarek breaks the news that Burnham will not be accepted into the “Vulcan Expeditionary Group”. Burnham is humiliated and apologizes for not being good enough, and Sarek assures Amanda that they can find a place for Michael in Starfleet, “where requirements are less extreme.” Which nicely explains the flashback in an earlier episode where Sarek pushed Burnham into a Starfleet career, whereas his previous appearances in this franchise made it clear he holds a rather dim view of Starfleet.

Then Sarek turns and sees the current version of Burnham in his memory, and yells at her that she shouldn’t be here, because this is “my mind!” He then flings her off into the distance like Agent Smith punching out Neo.

Burnham wakes up in Sickbay, and explains to Dr. Culber and Tilly and Captain Lorca about how she almost died when she was young, until Sarek transferred part of his katra to her, and now they’re linked. We also learn that the attack at the Vulcan Learning Center when she was a girl was actually the work of “logic extremists”, who wanted to kill Burnham because they didn’t want humans integrated into their culture, and this is obviously the same group behind the attack on Sarek’s ship.

Burnham thinks that Sarek is probably dying, which is causing him to form an involuntary psychic connection with her. She pleads with Lorca to help her find Sarek.

Cut to Lorca on the holographic horn with a Vulcan Starfleet admiral named Terral, who confirms that Sarek’s ship was attacked and lost in a nebula. Terral also explains that Sarek was heading to meet the Klingons, specifically two houses that are “independent” of Kol, in an attempt to make an end run around Starfleet to try for a peaceful resolution to the war.

Lorca says they’re going to rescue Sarek from that nebula, and Terral starts to complain about following proper “protocol” in the rescue, so Lorca just ends the transmission and grabs a fortune cookie from the bowl on his desk.

That means it’s Black Alert time again as the Discovery jumps to the nebula. Does this mean Lt. Stamets strapped himself into the spore chamber again? I assume so, but no one mentions it.

They don’t detect a signal from Sarek’s ship, so Burnham suggests using herself to locate Sarek. Down in Engineering, Stamets reacts to the idea of creating some sort of “synthetic mind meld augment” by calling it “Groovy!” He’s acting even goofier than usual, which is presumably an after effect of his experiences traveling the mycelial network all across the universe. He talks about how “this katra stuff is way cool”, but they would have to travel into the nebula for this mind meld machine to work. And they can’t do that because, and I quote, “[explode-y sounds with his mouth]”. It appears traversing the known universe is like getting hold of some really, really good weed.

Burnham says she can take a shuttlecraft into the nebula, as long as she can bring along Tilly for “moral support”. And no, she’s not being sarcastic. Lorca says she needs a good pilot to get her there, and he knows just the man for the job: Ash Tyler, of course.

Lorca then learns Admiral Cornwall is about to pay a personal visit to the ship. What? Wait a minute. The ship just used the spore drive to get to this nebula instantly. But the admiral’s ship was in the vicinity the whole time? Come on, guys, if you’re going to act like the Discovery is the only ship that can get to these remote locations in time, at least stick with that concept from scene to scene. Or maybe the Discovery was already so close to the nebula that it didn’t even need to use the spore drive to get there, which might be even dumber.

In Lorca’s ready room, Cornwall yells at him for launching an “unauthorized rescue attempt” using a mutineer as well as a prisoner of war who was just freed a week ago. She’s also pissed off about Stamets engaging in “eugenic manipulation” by injecting himself with tardigrade DNA to get the spore drive working again. Lorca defends all of this in the usual way, saying that “rules are for admirals”, and not for a maverick such as himself who’s on the front line fighting a war.

He then calls her “Kat”, and whips out a bottle of scotch. He brings up their personal relationship and says they should stop talking like Starfleet officers and “start talking like friends.”

Meanwhile, the shuttlecraft carrying Tyler, Burnham, and Tilly is flying through the very psychedelic nebula. Burnham is upset because she’s seen Sarek’s dying thoughts, and they’re all about how she wasn’t good enough to get into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. She was supposed to be his proof that “humans and Vulcans could co-exist, as equals”, but instead she’s become his “greatest disappointment”.

Tilly then hooks her up to the mind meld machine, which is of course some random prop that Burnham sticks to the side of her face. After a brief jaunt through Psychic Space, Burnham returns to the same memory, only this time she sees Amanda handing a book to the younger version of herself: It’s a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Continuity! Amanda makes Burnham promise she’ll never forget “that you’re human, too.” Too? Did they just copy and paste a conversation between Amanda and Spock? Because Burnham is entirely human. Also, isn’t it a little weird that this is supposed to be Sarek’s memory and we’re seeing things that only Burnham and Amanda could have witnessed?

Sarek comes over and again breaks the news that Michael’s application to the Vulcan Expeditionary Group was rejected. Amanda is heartbroken, but Sarek’s all like, hey, no human has ever served in the VEG before, so this was a long shot anyway, right?

Current-Michael calls out to Sarek in the memory, and he comes over to attack her again. But this time, she fights back with some Vulcan-Fu, and now the Matrix overtones are complete. The two have a martial arts fight, and in my head I’m trying to picture Mark Lenard circa TOS breaking out the jujitsu like this, and coming up empty. Back in the shuttle, Tilly gets some strange readings, so Tyler orders Tilly to take Burnham out of the mind meld.

At first, Tilly refuses, saying Burnham told her not to pull her out no matter what. But then Tyler says, “I outrank you,” and that’s pretty much all it takes for Tilly to pull the plug. Good ol’ Tilly, always coming through in the clutch.

Meanwhile, “Kat” and “Gabriel” are toasting each other with a “single malt, straight from the motherland.” They reminisce about old times, and a prior romantic relationship. Kat says she’s been worried about his erratic behavior of late, what with disobeying orders and such, and she knows he hasn’t been the same since the Buran. That would be the ship where he supposedly killed his entire crew to prevent them from being captured by the Klingons, but I’m guessing Kat doesn’t know about that. (Which makes it all the more bizarre that he would just blurt out that info in the previous episode in the presence of Tyler and Mudd, two men he barely knew.)

Kat reminds him he was being tortured by the Klingons a week ago, and now he’s already back in command. She asks, “How do you feel about that?” No surprise, Kat is a former psychiatrist, and Gabriel wonders if they’re “back in session”.

He adds, “Because if I have your undivided attention for 50 minutes, I can think of a whole bunch of other things we could be doing.” And while saying this, he puts his hand on her knee, and in case you don’t get what’s going on here, there’s even a sexy sax in the background. Though as far as the dialogue goes, I must admit I’m just going by the closed captions, because I was pretty sure he said “15 minutes”, which seemed like a strange thing to boast about. Regardless, Kat takes off her Starfleet badge, which I guess is the prelude to them doing it.

Back on the shuttlecraft, Tyler wants to take them back to the Discovery, but Burnham refuses to abandon Sarek. So Tyler provides the key to solving this mystery: He says he’s been near death himself, and he would have never fixated on how somebody disappointed him; instead, he says, when you’re about to die, you think about “what you wish you’d done differently!”

So Burnham puts the device back on and goes back in. She again witnesses the memory, and she and Sarek again have a big Vulcan-Fu sparring match, but this time, Burnham tries to reason with Sarek. She asks about the secret he’s trying to keep, and why he’s fixated on how she failed him. Sarek finally admits that he was the one who failed, and shows her the full memory.

She gets to see the conversation between Sarek and the guy in charge of the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, where VEG Guy points out that not only has Burnham excelled, but so has Sarek’s son Spock. VEG Guy worries that letting both Burnham and Spock into the Expeditionary Group would allow too many “non-Vulcan” members into its ranks. Sarek protests that Spock is Vulcan, but VEG Guy reminds him that Spock is “half-Vulcan”, and even calls him “another of your… experiments.” So it comes down to Sarek’s Choice: He can push for Burnham to be allowed into the VEG, or he can push for Spock, but not both.

And so, he chooses Spock over Burnham. Current-Burnham wonders why he didn’t just tell her the truth all along. He says it’s because Spock eventually decided to join Starfleet, meaning his heart-wrenching decision was ultimately for nothing. Sarek didn’t want to admit he done goofed, so he kept it to himself, even though it meant Burnham felt like a failure her whole life.

As he admits to feeling “shame”, he keels over with bright neon green blood pouring out of him. Burnham does the mind meld on Dream Sarek, which eventually causes Real Sarek to wake up on his ship and hit a button on a console that alerts the Discovery to his location.

In Lorca’s quarters, it seems he and Cornwall have just finished doing the deed. He’s asleep as she examines the scars on his back, including an odd triangle-shaped one. This causes Lorca to suddenly wake up in a state of panic, and he holds her by the throat and pulls a phaser on her. And according to previous episodes, that red light on top indicates he has the thing set to kill. Wow, what a guy.

He apologizes and grunts, “I’m not used to having anyone in my bed!” Hey, and so are most Trekkies, I would imagine, but most of them don’t sleep with guns under their pillows.

She freaks out, understandably, and finally realizes Lorca is totally fucked up, despite all the psych evaluations he’s passed. In fact, she calls him “pathological” and realizes this whole seduction was just an attempt to get her to “back off”. But now she’s realized that she’s can’t leave the Discovery, Starfleet’s most powerful weapon, in the command of a “broken man.”

After she storms off, Lorca gets word that Ambassador Sarek has been rescued. Down in Sickbay, Burnham tells Lorca that there’s no way Sarek can meet with the Klingons in his present, weakened condition. So Lorca suggests, you know, just off the top of his head, that Admiral Cornwall can go meet with them instead, and she can also bring a very small envoy so as to “not rattle the Klingons”, in an attempt at making peace. Hmm.

Lorca then offers a bridge post to Burnham, along with an official title: “Science Specialist”. Burnham accepts, and talks about how grateful she is to serve under Lorca. She then goes to talk to Sarek, who’s playing dumb about the big revelation from his memories. But she says sooner or later, they’re going to talk about it, because that’s what “families” do. Sarek replies, “Technically, we are not related.” Oh, Sarek, never stop being a bundle of joy.

In the mess hall, Burnham synthesizes a glass of green tea, which the computer voice chirpily declares to be an “exceptional source of antioxidants, alkaloids, and amino acids!” What the hell is wrong with this ship’s computer? It’s like it’s been infected by infomercials.

Ash Tyler offers Burnham a seat at his table, and she confesses to wanting to cry, but having to smile, and feeling angry, and wanting to love, and she feels hurt and also hope. “What is this?”

Good ol’ understanding Ash Tyler says, “It’s just… being human.” Burnham is touched, and oh man, I’m now 100% convinced this guy is going to turn out to be so very evil. She seems taken completely off-guard by this remark, as if in her (at least) seven years of serving with other humans in Starfleet, the concept of conflicting emotions never occurred to her. Finally, she reaches out to shake hands with him for real.

Meanwhile, Admiral Cornwall has traveled to Cancri IV, to meet with those Klingon leaders in Sarek’s place. To no one’s surprise, the Klingons turn on her, and slit the throats of the men in her envoy. Kol himself appears in holographic form to say in Klingon that he had hoped to capture a “high-ranking Vulcan… but she is so much better.”

Back on the Discovery, Saru informs Lorca that Admiral Cornwall was just captured. Lorca simply says to inform Starfleet and wait for further orders, which confuses Saru, because he’s used to “alternative thinking on these matters”, but eventually he relents and goes to notify Starfleet.

Lorca then looks out the windows of his cabin, and we pan down to that same phaser, now tucked into his waistband, making it clear that he basically engineered Cornwall’s capture to preserve his status as captain of the Discovery.

This is one of the better episodes yet, though it still feels mostly adequate. Frankly, it’s an episode that I hope won’t be remembered that well by the time the season ends.

I think it’s mainly because this episode hinges on a dilemma (Sarek’s Choice between Spock and Burnham being allowed into the Expeditionary Group) that’s not really worth all the build-up. After visiting and revisiting this memory from multiple angles, we’re led to believe something horrible happened. But instead, it’s just a dad deciding to give one kid a better career than the other. Okay, so Spock is Dubya to Burnham’s Jeb. And?

Also, any depth in this plotline is completely dependent on knowing about Spock and Sarek’s relationship, as well as Sarek’s disdain for Starfleet, which were both established long before this series was ever conceived of. So it feels like a bit of a cheat.

And yes, it would appear the ship’s captain is a total scumbag, a criminal, and mentally deranged. But is he really that much more deranged and criminal than the typical Starfleet admiral we’ve seen on most Star Trek shows and movies? Even though Lorca is captain, he appears to be occupying the Insane Admiral role on this show, while Burnham will presumably be taking on what’s usually the captain’s role of leading the charge against him. Which means it’s likely this series is setting up a situation where Burnham has to mutiny against her own captain, again. Which might be pretty interesting, actually.

I also appreciated how, other than the talk about the mind meld machine, this episode was pretty light on the technobabble; the solution to the crisis was Burnham trying to understand how Sarek thinks, instead of coming up with some silly invention at the last minute. Though, the reveal of Sarek’s Choice feels a bit revisionist. It seems to imply Spock was the first (or one of the first) half-Vulcan, half-human hybrid, which is really not the impression I got from TOS. After all, in “Journey to Babel”, Kirk isn’t able to immediately figure out that Sarek is Spock’s father, even after meeting his human wife, suggesting Vulcans hooking up with humans isn’t all that unusual. It’s a bit of a retcon, though mostly a minor one.

And finally, for those who are wondering why this episode is called “Lethe”, which is a word never spoken in dialogue: it’s a word that literally means “forgetfulness” and “concealment” in Classical Greek, which sums up Sarek’s memories in this episode.

Next week: Possibly a remake of TNG’s “Cause and Effect”? And possibly romance between Burnham and Ash Tyler? And the totally expected return of Harry Mudd? I’m there.

TV Show: Star Trek: Discovery

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  • I was thinking “Lethe” had already been used as an episode title, but I was just remembering that Lethe was one of the “rehabilitated” patients in “Dagger of the Mind”. Naturally, her name is significant there, too.

  • William Wehrs

    I have to give this show credit in that it continually finds new ways to bad. In this one, the show continues the Star Trek trend of painting the Vulcans as Xenophobes. Why is the direction that Star Trek writers want to take one of the most beloved species in all of Trekdom? This is especially annoying, as we already have xenophobic Klingons too. Yeesh, and the idea of logical extremists is just so stupid, its laughable.

    The other major problem was the characterization of the female Admiral. I don’t care if she had a prior relation relationship with Lorca. What she did and how she acted was highly unprofessional, and unfortunately continues the trend in media that suggests that women in order to do their job, they have to sleep with a man. Look at Iron Man or House of Cards as other examples.

    • ppi23

      Alex Kurzman hates Vulcan so much he destroyed it in one JJ-Trek. He was trying to go for a “Final Solution” to what he saw as the Vulcan problem in Star Trek. Now he’s going a different root, by giving them story-breaking super-powers. They have to be either gotten rid of, or used for everything because now I have to wonder why Vulcans with their communications super-powers are not on EVERY covert ops team. Think of all the drama that could be dropped from “Chain of Command” if the prisoner was a vulcan who can now say to another Vulcan who is safely aboard the Enterprise: “I have been captured by Cardassians. Here is my location, defenses that I’ve seen, and a list of the cardassian officers holding me prisoner. Oh BTW, it’s so convenient being able to communicate across the galaxy instantaneously, not having to rely upon or lug around any heavy communications equipment. That would be such a burden and would create tension or suspense for any spy storyline. Who would want that? I wonder how far from obtaining this super-power are our Romulan brethren.”

    • david

      I’m not sure it suggested a woman has to sleep with a man to do her job. After all she was his boss. But it was highly professional for her to do that with someone she commands. Also why is a psychiatrist an admiral in charge of combat units?

      • ppi23

        I read it as being she, in the past, was his psychologist and she was sleeping with Lorca, her patient

      • William Wehrs

        The suggestion to me seemed as if it was saying that her sleeping with him was an elaborate ploy on her as a psychologist. I could be wrong.

        • david

          It was definitely that on his part. It was still a dereliction of duty on hers to sleep with someone under her in the chain of command, something which can be a court martial offense in most militaries.

    • NameWithheldByRequest

      I don’t think Vulcan xenophobia is unique to Discovery. For instance, it was established in TOS that Spock was discriminated against as a child on Vulcan for his part-human parentage, and it was even established that some Starfleet ships had entirely Vulcan crews (in “The Immunity Syndrome”). As for the “logic extremists,” I don’t think that’s necessarily unique to this series either. In TMP Spock was shown undergoing the Kolinahr ritual to purge himself of all emotion. It’s not inconceivable that there are Vulcans who take similar or even more extreme positions. One of the reasons I have a soft spot for TMP is Spock’s character arc in that film, where he finally comes to understand that, as he put it in Undiscovered Country, “logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.” It’s possible that there are others who believe that logic should be supreme, which would certain qualify them as extremists, at least according to Spock, though maybe the correct term should be “logic supremacists”?

      • William Wehrs

        I agree with you about Vulcan xenophobia not being unique to Discovery, and frankly I am tired of that characterization. The show has blatantly ignored continuity and has reworked the Klingons, so I don’t see why they couldn’t rework the Vulcans as well. It won’t be the first time a species has been reworked. Just look at how Klingons have changed through Star Trek. Therefore, Make the VUlcans people who are trying to sue for peace in the face of illogical humans and illogical klingons.

        • NameWithheldByRequest

          I don’t know. I’m really not bothered by the depiction of Vulcans. Unlike the Klingons, Vulcans have been fairly consistent throughout the franchise’s history. Plus it gives the Vulcans as a species some conflict and tension in their interactions with other species. On the other hand, I hated what happened to the Klingons. They went from being Soviet analogues to space Vikings. It got really ridiculous near the end, although season 4 of ENT tried to walk Trek back from just how ridiculous the Klingons had become. They did a pretty good job, I thought, though at that point it was going to take a lot more than a few episodes to make the Klingons anything more than the caricatures they’d become.

          • William Wehrs

            I agree with you about the Kllingons becoming caricatures. God, I hated later representations of Klingons on Voyager for that reason. I would argue the Vulcans have become caricatures too though. They have now been portrayed as snobby jerks from DS9’s baseball episode to the early seasons of Enterprise to the first JJ Abrams film and now in this episode. I confess I am particularly annoyed because it seems to be part of a trend on television where anyone who is smart is either portrayed as socially awkward of a jerk. At the very least, they are someone who needs to loosen up. Sadly, all three types are present in Star Trek: Discovery.

          • NameWithheldByRequest

            God, I hated later representations of Klingons on Voyager for that reason.

            The less said about Voyager the better. I would expunge it totally from my memory if I could.

            I would argue the Vulcans have become caricatures too though.

            I agree that Vulcans have been increasingly portrayed as snobs and jerks, especially in the DS9 episode you referenced and the early seasons of ENT. But this portrayal really started all the way back in TOS. In “Amok Time” the Vulcans we meet are not exactly portrayed as warm or friendly, cold and aloof would be more like it. And in “Journey to Babel,” Sarek is not portrayed, at least at the beginning of the episode, very sympathetically. In that sense, I found Sarek in Discovery to be pretty faithful to TOS Sarek. While Vulcans have descended into caricature (in DS9 and ENT especially), so far I haven’t really gotten the sense that the same is happening in Discovery.

            I’ve said it before, the Abrams films are not Trek, at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s essentially Abrams’ demo reel to convince Disney to let him direct a Star Wars movie, because it has more in common with SW than with Trek.

          • William Wehrs

            Well, here’s the thing. I can buy that Vulcans might act prejudiced towards Spock or Burnam in the schools. What I can’t buy is that a Vulcan school would give Sarek a choice between either Burnham or Spock getting into the academy especially when Burnham allegedly had good test scores. If they let her in, but gave an extremely hard time of it. Ok, fine. Flat out refusal seems a step too far in my opinion.

          • NameWithheldByRequest

            But it isn’t such a big stretch to imagine institutions would want to exclude someone based on their ancestry. Similar things and worse have happened here on earth. Vulcans, compared to humans, seem to be relatively enlightened, at least when viewed historically. After all, Burnham and Spock were allowed to apply to join the VES. On the other hand, whether there’s one-and-a-half non-Vulcans in the VES or not seems a pretty meaningless distinction. There’s virtually no difference between a half and one and one-and-a-half. But I don’t think it’s so inconceivable that it couldn’t happen. I think we also have to allow some latitude for dramatic license. Having Sarek forced to choose between Spock and Burnham was pretty powerful stuff, especially since Spock later would join Starfleet.

  • Kradeiz

    I have to agree with your assessment that this is probably the strongest episode so far but still only adequate as far as overall quality. But hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

    I was glad that they chose to focus more on Burnham and Sarek’s past and troubled relationship since we know full well that Sarek is not going to die, it wouldn’t make much sense to focus more on the ‘Will they save him?’ story.

    Tilly was more on point this episode, being more quirky and optimistic rather than the awkward and annoying we’ve been getting from her the last few episodes.

    And the Admiral questioning Lorac’s mental health after all he’s been through was interesting, especially since Star Fleet has had a rather iffy track record when dealing with those issues. I mean, as much as I love TNG’s ‘Chain of Command’ (the “There are four lights!” episode), the fact that Picard could go through all that and just receive a debriefing before returning to command the fleet’s flagship is pretty questionable.

    • david

      What is there, one episode to go until the mid season break? If this is the best they have managed it is worrying. I could see there being a major drop off in viewers once it gets to mid season. I’m still not feeling attached to any of the characters yet.

      I’m not sure the Admiral’s questioning was anything more than basic concern. If Lorca has already lost a ship with all hands and now been brutally tortured I’d have expected him to be removed from front line service straight away.

      • Kradeiz

        There’s actually three more episodes until the break, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people stopped watching after that unless things drastically improve. Although apparently CBS has already approved it for a second season, so it’s not going anywhere soon.

  • Kradeiz

    In regards to the replicator’s health comments, I could see some comedic potential coming from that.

    Computer Voice: Microwave pizza. Dear God, do you even realize what you are putting into yourself?

    • Greenhornet

      “Share and enjoy”.

  • Kradeiz

    “It seems V’Latak is a fanatic as well, and he believes this mission is in conflict with “true Vulcan ideology”, and he’s blowing himself up to prove “logic” is the one true way…”

    Apparently V’Latak had never heard of irony.

    • ppi23

      Vulcan has a rusty look, so for them it’s “Iron-Oxidy.”

      • Kradeiz

        I can’t decide whether I should boo or applaud you for that. ;)

    • NameWithheldByRequest

      I don’t understand your point here. Sacrificing one’s life is not necessarily illogical. Its not unknown, for instance, for parents to sacrifice their lives to save a child, soldiers sometimes sacrifice their lives for their country, and so on. Their behavior is not necessarily illogical. After all, as Spock said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” and proved it by sacrificing himself to save the ship. The issue, I think, is V’Latak’s extremism. Again, as Spock said, “logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.” Extremist Vulcans like V’Latak probably believe that logic is an end in itself, rather than a means to an end, a useful means to be sure, but any system of thought, when taken to extremes, can have some pretty bad results.

      • Kradeiz

        I was referring to the guy’s extremism. While, as you said, sacrificing one’s self for a cause is certainly not illogical, the xenophobia fueling it is, especially as it seems to be causing him and others in the terrorist cell to value “logic” more than living people.

        But after rereading my initial comment I can see how my meaning could be unclear, so hopefully this clears it up.

        • NameWithheldByRequest

          …it seems to be causing him and others in the terrorist cell to value “logic” more than living people.

          The problem is that living people do not all necessarily have equal value. For instance, is it logical to let a million people die to save a billion? Arrived at logically, the answer would probably be “yes.” Which is why logic should be informed by values, just as values should be informed by logic. But we also shouldn’t conflate logic with morality and ethics. They’re not the same thing. V’Latak is probably an extremist in this sense, but he’s not all that different from Spock in “Balance of Terror” when he advised Kirk to attack the Romulan Bird of Prey in order to prevent a war. Spock, in this instance, valued living people less than the prevention of war. Logically, the value of the hundred or so Romulans killed is outweighed by the likely millions killed in a war.

          • Kradeiz

            Okay, good point. But though Spock’s logic was sound, I’m less confident in V’Latak’s and the terrorists. Withdrawing from the Federation may save them casualties and allow them to preserve their culture in the short-term, but if the war between the Federation and the Klingons got bad enough, it could cause significant long-term damage to Vulcan, especially since they used to be part of the Federation and the Klingons could still consider them a threat. Not to mention that having the cooler heads of the Vulcans involved could keep the war from getting worse and is more likely to lead to a peaceful solution than if they left.

          • NameWithheldByRequest

            Not necessarily. Remember Burnham’s and Sarek’s conversation in the first episode? The Vulcans learned how to deal with the Klingons on their own terms, by attacking every Klingon ship they came across until the Klingons learned to respect them. I think V’Latak’s logic may be that it may be more dangerous to stay in the Federation, because of the human’s “illogic” (from their POV). They probably concluded that the Federation, by putting ideology before logic (“Starfleet doesn’t shot first”), are responsible for the war in the first place. Despite all the complaints about Burnham from the fans, she was actually right in regards to how to deal with the Klingons.

          • Kradeiz

            Also a good point. Although if the Vulcans found that attacking first worked better against the Klingons in the long run, it does make me wonder why that isn’t more common knowledge in Star Fleet. I know no one’s supposed to have seen the Klingons for about a century here, but there’s still the whole thing with Burnham’s family dying in a Klingon attack 20-something years before, so I’m not sure what to make of that.

          • NameWithheldByRequest

            Well, the Vulcans have always been extremely secretive. In TOS, Kirk and McCoy didn’t even know how Vulcans reproduced until Spock told them! That doesn’t suggest a very open culture. It’s not much of a stretch to assume that the Vulcans kept their interactions with the Klingons a secret from Starfleet. Not even Burnham knew, which was why she had to ask Sarek, and Burnham had been educated on Vulcan, which again suggests that it’s a closely guarded secret, even among Vulcans.

            As for Burnham’s parents being killed by the Klingons, it’s possible that they were on a Vulcan colony-planet at the time of the attack or possibly stationed at a Vulcan research or scientific outpost. Or maybe the Vulcans were the ones who responded to a human colony’s distress call. That no one had seen the Klingons is a fairly ambiguous statement. It could literally mean that no one’s seen Klingons. I don’t know, but it’s possible that the Klingons have been too busy fighting among themselves for a hundred years to have interacted with outsiders until now.

          • ppi23

            Being modest or squeamish, and closed off to discussions about sex, is in no way related to being closed off to discussing defense policy or state secrets. I’m still not over the logical jump in conclusion to shoot first without asking about an important variable like “what were the relative force strength ratios in previous Vulcan-Klingon engagements where shooting first proved successful policy?” (And at the time it didn’t appear THAT successful since we are shown flashbacks of her under attack, presumably by Klingons, in a Vulcan learning pod) That seems like an important variable to logically consider. One part of respecting strength is to actually be strong. Without that variable, her conclusion for the decades old, tiny, science ship to shoot without a plan to kill the giant Klingon Warship is the same as advising an Iranian PT-Boat to fire 76mm pot-shots at the Nimitz because “then the Americans will respect you.” It was an absolutely insane (story-breaking) leap in logic, and would never be a good idea.

          • NameWithheldByRequest

            Being modest or squeamish, and closed off to discussions about sex, is in no way related to being closed off to discussing defense policy or state secrets.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “in no way related”? Being “modest or squeamish” about discussing sex I don’t think is the same thing as keeping secret basic biological facts about how your own species reproduces. An individual Vulcan not wanting to talk about their sex life is perfectly understandable. Hell, I get uncomfortable when people start talking about their sex life, and I’m not a Vulcan. But an entire civilization keeping something so basic a deeply guarded secret to the point where no outsider seems to have the slightest clue suggests a culture that is extremely secretive. If the Vulcans aren’t prepared to provide basic biological information about their species to outsiders, what makes you think they’d be more open when it comes to deeply guarded state secrets? How else to explain that the Vulcans encountered the Klingons over two centuries before the events of “The Vulcan Hello” and yet nobody in Starfleet or even Burnham who was educated on Vulcan knew anything about it?

            I’m still not over the logical jump in conclusion to shoot first without asking about an important variable like “what were the relative force strength ratios in previous Vulcan-Klingon engagements where shooting first proved successful policy?”

            It’s stated in the episode that when Vulcan ships encountered Klingon ships they always fired first, that is, they were “speaking a language Klingons understood.” Now, granted there’s some ambiguity here. It could mean that when met with aggressive violence, the Klingons would back off. It could also imply that the Klingons responded to violence with violence until either they or the Vulcans were destroyed. Or it could imply both. In this scenario, the Vulcans may be thinking strategically rather than purely tactically (that is, “relative force
            strength ratios”), and probably calculated that they could afford to lose at the tactical level (individual engagements) but that strategically the Klingons would eventually conclude that such an aggressively violent civilization wasn’t a “soft target” and they’d turn their attention to easier prey. And, don’t forget, the Klingons at this point in time aren’t united, they’re divided among themselves and constantly at war with each other. The individual Klingon factions would (rightly) calculate that getting into a fight with the Vulcans might seriously weaken them relative to their Klingon rivals. As long as the Vulcans didn’t threaten to conquer the Klingons (and they don’t appear to have done so), the Klingons wouldn’t have much incentive to continue to attack the Vulcans, especially since the Vulcans were acting so aggressively.

            That seems like an important variable to logically consider.

            I agree. But knowing the difference between the strategic level and the tactical level of war is also crucial. You can win every tactical engagement in a war and still lose at the strategic level. (See, for example, the French in Algeria, the US in Vietnam, the USSR in Afghanistan.)

            …since we are shown flashbacks of her under attack, presumably by Klingons, in a Vulcan learning pod

            No, it was by Vulcan terrorists.

            It was an absolutely insane (story-breaking) leap in logic, and would never be a good idea.

            Not if you’re thinking strategically. You’re right that the Shenzhou would probably have been destroyed. But that’s not relevant if you want to talk to the Klingons “in a language they understand.” Again, at a strategic level, it does make sense, but if you’re narrowly focused on the tactical level, you’re right, it seems like an “insane… leap in logic.” This is why strategy can seem so paradoxical. Tactics, by contrast, are relatively straightforward.

          • ppi23

            Thank You for your considered response. All three of your tactical vs strategic examples are counter-insurgency operations which is not the kind of “war” Vulcan is fighting with the Klingons. But you may be on to something in trying to persuade Klingons to turn their attention elsewhere. You effectively create a burnt Earth strategy where any ship and colony, no matter how outnumbered, is to fight first and to the death, not to win the engagement, but to raise the cost of engagement for the Klingons and to leave nothing left so as to persuade future Klingons to turn their attention elsewhere. I don’t think that was the advice given by Sarek or understood by Burnham. She never acknowledged or hinted that she understood her actions were to sacrifice their own lives now for future peace. It seemed it was a “punch in the nose” fire on them without any plan to kill. And given the mass variance between the ships, I think my PT Boat firing on the Nimitz analogy is fitting.

            As for Vulcan terrorist attacking the learning center: At the time the scene was presented, no hint of Vulcan terrorist is given. The scene is bottled between exposition of past Vulcan-Klingon engagements, and current visual depictions of Starfleet-Klingon engagements. At that point in the story, the only antagonist we have are Klingons. A fact powerfully presented as we are both told & shown the Klingons as the antagonist. To say weeks later “Well that was actually Vulcans” is terrible storytelling. Without first laying the foundation for the audience that Vulcan terrorist attacks was at least a possibility, it feels like a terrible RetCon job. It doesn’t matter if the RetCon occurred 6 episodes later, or 6 years later, the foundation had not been laid for it. We are shown a flashback of past violence, in context surrounded by past Vulcan-Klingon violence. There is only one possible excuse not to give exposition at the time telling us it was a Vulcan on Vulcan attack, and that is if we are taking a character’s POV (Burnham’s pov) and she had absolutely no idea and was investigating, and we learn about the attack with her, and realize with her that it was Vulcan on Vulcan. And for telling that kind of story, they showed us the attack in the wrong place in the narrative. It was terrible story telling and only makes Burnham look more nonsensical. From her POV at that point when she thinks of the attack, if she didn’t know the attack was by Vulcans, then she would assume, like the viewers, that the attack was by Klingons, which makes the Vulcan shoot-first policy appear unsuccessful from her own personal experience.

  • Steven5812

    “Is That A PHASER In Your Pocket…?”

  • Edgar Pinecone

    The TNG holodeck was a marvel due to the quality of the images, the credibility of the experience. They never said (or even implied) that holographic environment simulators were new.

    • Michael Weyer

      Yeah, it seems they were using more of a “training simulation” thing whereas a holodeck can create an entire city and make it feel real down to the smells, that’s a lot different.

  • Kenneth Morgan

    So, Cornwall decides that Lorca is unbalanced and dangerous and should be relieved of command right away…and she doesn’t tell anyone at Stat Fleet Command? Or anyone else on the ship? And she lets Lorca know what she’s going to do? Let’s face it, she was practically begging to get set up for capture, or an airlock “accident”, or “I was cleaning my phaser and it just went off while it was pointed at her, can’t understand how it happened.”

    • ppi23

      Especially if, as Lorca’s former therapist, she may have been privy to knowing about Lorca killing his previous crew

  • Jason Brainerd

    These are the best reviews of Discovery that I’ve come across. Very well done. Keep them coming!