Star Trek Discovery: Context is for Kings

Six months after the Battle at the Binary Stars, and Michael Burnham is a pariah throughout the Federation. But on her way to a penal colony, she is picked up by the USS Discovery, an experimental new Starfleet ship. Despite the crew’s disapproval, the Discovery’s captain wants Burnham’s assistance – but what exactly is the ship’s mission?

Three episodes in, and Star Trek Discovery finally makes it to the titular USS Discovery. If last week was all about setting up the universe in which this series would play out, then this episode finally introduces us to the ship and crew.

Overall, it’s a decent episode, if still not Star Trek – in fact, the big away mission set piece owes more to Resident Evil – but not one without its flaws. Having spent the bulk of the episode building up some great and amazing secret that Burnham must unravel, how disappointing to find that the truth is – spores. And not just any spores, but super duper magical spores that let you instantaneously travel anywhere in the universe? Even by Star Trek standards, that’s pushing the bounds of ridiculousness.

Opening

Last week I forgot to discuss the opening theme. I really like the graphical style, but so far the music feels a bit understated compared to the more epic openings of the earlier series (Enterprise ballad notwithstanding).

Characters

This episode introduces several more of the regulars.

  • Captain Gabriel Lorca. He plays his cards close to his chest, and seems determined to get Burnham on side. But what exactly is his game?
  • Paul Stamets is a mycologist based on the living person of the same name. He is clearly very smart and confident in his abilities, but has little time or patience for Burnham.
  • Sylvia Tilly is a Starfleet cadet and Burnham’s roommate. She is clearly very socially awkward, and initially comes across as annoying. When she reveals her ambition and sheer belief that she will become a captain, however, I found myself quite liking her.

We also see Burnham develop somewhat in this episode. It’s sad to such an excellent officer brought low as a pariah, although we know that she must redeem herself somehow over the course of the series. This episode also gave her a bit more of an emotional spin, with Burnham explaining how having Alice in Wonderland read to her helped her to see the world beyond logic. To be honest, this felt a bit at odds with the strict logic we saw in the first two episodes.

Franchise Nods

  • Lorca has a pet tribble. Although somehow he has managed to prevent it from breeding – presumably fortune cookies are just not nutritious enough for a tribble to get pregnant.
  • Burnham mentions her adoptive mother Amanda, and also refers to her son (Spock), though not by name.

Other Points

  • The scene in the penal shuttle at the start of the episode really gives the impression that this show is taking place in a vast and complex universe.
  • We see Saru eating blueberries, so we now know he has a digestive system and doesn’t photosynthesise. Therefore his line about there being no food chains on his planet seems even more ridiculous.
  • What does Lorca want with the Resident Evil monster? Since he says “here kitty” to it, I’m going to imagine that it is the mutated form of the Glenn’s cat – at least until we find out more.
  • The Shenzhou’s helmsman, Keyla Detmer, is now serving aboard the Discovery. In the intervening months, she has been given a cranial implant, presumably due to injuries sustained at the Battle of the Binary Stars.
  • One from the last episode – in other Star Trek incarnations, Klingons have not cared about collecting their dead, because the corpses are just empty shells.
  • I hope that Landry appears often as chief of security.
  • Is Burnham’s first job on Discovery essentially resolving git conflicts?

Summary – Context is for Kings: I liked it overall, but magic spores? Really?

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