Star Trek Discovery: Lethe

Years ago, Sarek left a part of his katra in his adoptive daughter, Michael Burnham. Now, through that bond, Michael can sense that Sarek’s life is in danger. With Lorca’s blessing, Burnham, Tilly and new crewmember Ash Tyler head out to rescue Sarek.

I’m ambivalent about this episode of Discovery. It’s not actually Discovery’s fault – this goes way back. You see, I’ve always had a bit of a problem with just how magical Vulcan mental powers are – especially when it comes to the katra. Yes, I enjoyed The Search for Spock, but I always felt that the whole “Spock’s katra is in McCoy” plot erred on the side of the mystical. Star Trek is supposed to make me believe that its world is entirely scientific, not magical.

But if we put that aside for a moment, then Lethe is actually pretty good. I’m a bit sad that the Vulcans are busy being arseholes again – both in the present and in Sarek’s memory – but nonetheless this is a good time explore Burnham’s past. Like so many main characters, she has lived her life believing that her father is disappointed in her; in fact, the situation is a bit more complicated. Sarek chose his own flesh and blood over Michael, but ultimately for nothing – Spock spurned the career Sarek chose for him in favour of Starfleet. And we all know how that decision affected that particular relationship.

The B story of this episode sees Admiral Cornwell arrive on Discovery to chastise Lorca for basically doing his own thing and never following the rules. We already knew that Lorca wasn’t your average Starfleet captain, and here he manipulates Cornwell into walking into a Klingon trap just so that she can’t take away his command. Kirk broke the rules all the time, Sisko skirted moral grey areas and Janeway’s morals were often questionable, but Lorca is something else entirely. All the others were at least motivated by the ideals of Starfleet – Lorca seems to be acting from a darker place. And yet, he might be just what Starfleet needs in order to survive this war. Section 31 should recruit him.

Franchise nods

  • Burnham suggests that Tilly should try to get a posting on a Constitution-class starship such as the Enterprise. In this timeframe, the Enterprise would either be under the command of Christopher Pike or even Captain Robert April.
  • This episode not only marks the first on screen appearance of Amanda (in Sarek’s memories), but also provides additional insights on just why Sarek was so upset that Spock chose to join Starfleet.

Other points

  • Ash Tyler, who was rescued from the Klingons last episode, joins as a regular here. Lorca wants him for head of security, although he also seems to be an accomplished pilot. I’m a little worried about the lasting effects of Tyler’s captivity and repeated sexual violation by a Klingon, but as a damaged man himself, Lorca is willing to overlook potential PTSD and emotional trauma.
  • It looks like the show is going in the direction of trying to forge a relationship between Tyler and Burnham. I actually think Tyler has more sexual tension with Lorca – or maybe Lorca just likes to foster that kind of closeness with all his security officers.
  • There are still Vulcan extremists who think humans are inferior and who hate the Federation. What happened to infinite diversity in infinite combinations?
  • Is Burnham a human telepath, or does she just have some additional mental discipline and ability from her Vulcan training and the presence of Sarek’s katra? She does appear to initiate a mind meld with Sarek, but he could have been doing all the work.

Summary – Lethe: Not as packed as the last two episodes, and better for it.

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