Star Trek Discovery: The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry

With the Klingons attacking Federation colonists on Corvan II, Captain Lorca is keen for Stamets to get the spore drive working over greater distances, so that Discovery can get to the colony in time to save it. Meanwhile, Burnham is assigned to study the creature that was retrieved from the Glenn, in the hope that it might be able to be turned into a weapon that could be used against the Klingons.

Remember when DS9 held the record for long and elaborate episode titles? Well, no more. Discovery is breaking new boundaries all over the place.

There’s a lot going on in this episode, perhaps even too much. It didn’t help that I ended up watching it in two sittings, which made things that happened at the start of the episode feel separate and more distant. Anyway, let’s get on with examining both the story and its characters.

Given the appearance of Harry Mudd in the pre-show trailers, I had assumed that there would be some one-off episodes alongside the big Klingon war arc, but so far everything has tied in with the main story – there barely feels time for anything else. This episode picks up right where last week left off, with a bunch of technology – plus a nasty looking creature – salvaged from the Glenn.

Burnham gets a brand new uniform, and a new assignment – since the creature killed a dozen Klingons on the Glenn, Lorca is keen to weaponise it. But as Burnham studies it, she discovers that it’s more likely to be a peaceful beast who only kills in self-defence. Her findings displease security chief Landry, who is both the typically aggressive security officer, and keen to please Lorca. There really seemed to be some sexual tension between Lorca and Landry that was waiting to be explored, but her violent death at the hands of the creature (now named Ripper) brings that possibility to a close.

In fact, Ripper proves to be key to the other main thread of this episode – improving the spore drive so that Discovery can rescue Corvan II. I was already at maximal suspension of disbelief with the whole “magical spore network spanning the galaxy” thing, but I had underestimated the writers’ ability to take things to the next level. Ripper is not only supposed to be a giant tardigrade, but it also has the ability to talk to the spores and navigate itself and the Discovery through the cosmos. It’s like the writers found some stuff on Wikipedia that they thought sounded pretty cool, and decided to work it all up into the semblance of a plot.

The Klingons

When we’re not following the characters on the Discovery, we’re back on T’Kuvma’s ship, where his successor Voq has taken over. Unfortunately, it’s taken them six months to not even finish repairing their warp drive, and everyone is slowly starving to death. Voq’s deputy and grand vizier L’Rell finally persuades Voq that it is not dishonourable to raid the wreck of the Shenzhou for the parts they need, but while they’re over there, another Klingon house takes over the ship and crew. It turns out that this ship is highly prized because it’s the only one in the fleet that has a cloaking device – presumably acquired from the Romulans.

The upshot of it all is that Voq and L’Rell end up stranded on the Shenzhou, but it’s all fine, because L’Rell has A Plan. What will that plan be? Stay tuned to find out.

Characters

Burnham’s curiosity is really pushed to the forefront in this episode, and although there are no more mentions of Alice in Wonderland, that’s definitely the sense I’m getting from her here. In this episode she both shows amazing sympathy to Ripper, and utterly manipulates Saru without remorse. I’m starting to feel like Saru and Stemets are the only people on the ship who feel like honourable Starfleet officers. By Star Trek standards, everyone else is pretty flawed and dark.

Burnham also receives a posthumous message and gift from Georgiou. Of course, the irony is turned up to max, as Georgiou’s message assumes that Burnham will have received her own command by now, and speaks of her pride in her former first officer. Way to unwittingly twist the knife, past Georgiou.

Speaking of flawed and dark, Lorca is really pushing the boundaries there. What other Starfleet captain would ever say “this is not a science vessel; this is a warship”? Remember when In the Pale Moonlight was amazingly dark and morally compromising for a Starfleet officer? I bet Lorca would do things like that on a daily basis and never bat an eyelid. He even plays audio of the suffering Corvan colonists throughout the ship, just to get Stamets to co-operate with him.

Franchise nods

  • Corvan II was mentioned in TNG’s New Ground.

Other points

  • This episode introduces Discovery’s medical officer. I love the sense of scale we get from only gradually meeting senior members of the ship and crew.
  • Who is that cybernetic looking person on the bridge? Are they meant to be a Bynar? I guess not, as Bynars usually work in pairs.
  • This episode explains the feathery things on the back of Saru’s head. They are threat ganglia, and their motion indicates that Saru is sensing danger.
  • Kol is a member of the house of Kor, possibly referring to the Kor who appeared in TOS and DS9.
  • L’Rell and Voq ate Georgiou’s corpse, both for revenge and out of sheer hunger. I probably didn’t need to know that.
  • How did Ripper get on board the Glenn in the first place? Does it come from another dimension? If it somehow warped in on the spore network, why can’t it escape its confinement on the Discovery?

Summary – The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry: Tardigrades in space!

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