Star Trek Discovery: Will You Take My Hand?

Admiral Cornwell has entrusted Discovery’s mission to Qo’nos to mirror Georgiou, the only person ruthless enough to carry it out. Despite her misgivings, Burnham goes along with the plan, but can Discovery really bring an end to the war?

It took me a while to get around to the finale of Discovery’s first season, for one very good reason – the Winter Olympics. It was only after I stopped spending every waking hour watching people slide around on a variety of icy surfaces that I could turn my attention back to my other hobbies. By this point, my occasional viewing companion was so keen for me to watch this episode that I felt sure I must be in for something special. In fact, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.

Discovery season one was meant to be all about the Klingon war, but the fact that the series then spent several episodes dicking around in the mirror universe didn’t give us much time to wrap the whole thing up. Nonetheless, this episode takes on that duty, with the mission to Qo’nos ultimately resulting in a détente between the Federation and the Klingons. How is this feat achieved? Why, through the usual Hollywood measure of planting a really big bomb. For once, the bomb doesn’t actually have to go off to achieve the desired outcome, but still, it’s quite a heavy-handed way of resolving a complex situation.

As a teenager, so inspired was I by Star Trek and other franchises that I wrote some scripts for my own sci-fi TV series. Season one was all about a war between my equivalent of the Federation and the Klingons, which I then wrapped up in the final episode. Twenty years later, and I’ve stalled on my third or fourth rewrite of that idea, because my story arcs felt too simplistic. I’m both heartened and disappointed to see an actual commissioned show with a massive budget and a professional writing team doing pretty much the same thing. I guess I’d hoped, that with its commitment to a darker and more gritty realism, Discovery might come up with a slicker and more mature progression and denouement for its own war arc. Sure, we got some good things out of the mirror universe arc, like awesome Tilly and evil Georgiou, but at what cost to the main plot?

Notes, observations and questions

  • We can’t go any further without mentioning the cliffhanger ending, in which Discovery comes to the aid of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. My occasional viewing companion warned me that I would find the ending ridiculous, but actually I find myself excited. This is Captain Pike’s Enterprise, so it won’t be about spoiling the legacy of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, but rather exploring an era we’ve never seen much of. I really hope we get a 21st century take on characters like Number One.
  • Does handing the detonator over to L’Rell really ensure the end of the war? Yes, it helps L’Rell to unite all the houses with the threat of their destruction, but once she’d done that, she could easily turn their combined power against the Federation. Will she hold back because of her love for Voq/Tyler? And besides, what’s to stop the Klingons from finding and disarming the bomb? It might take a little time, but presumably it is achievable.
  • Why does Mirror Georgiou think she can torture information out of L’Rell? I bet that level of pain is pleasurable to a Klingon.
  • It seemed like the bridge crew were all supposed to believe the lie that Georgiou was the prime version, even though they had just spent several episodes in the mirror universe and knew that mirror duplicates existed. Some of them had even served under Georgiou, and should have known her well enough to realise that the Emperor was not the same person as their former captain.
  • Stamets and Tilly both receive a promotion in this episode, and Culber posthumously receives a medal of honour.
  • The spore drive is retired “until Starfleet can find a non-human interface”, which presumably never happens, since it isn’t used in any other series. Presumably all the information about it was classified indefinitely, because otherwise surely Janeway would have tried to build a spore drive to get Voyager home.
  • Who is Discovery’s new captain going to be? Someone new, or the surprise return of a known character? Surely it can’t be prime universe Lorca.

Franchise Nods

  • Mirror Georgiou was responsible for the destruction of Mintaka III. In the prime universe, this planet was home to a proto Vulcanoid culture who accidentally made first contact with Starfleet observers in Who Watches the Watchers?
  • Mirror Georgiou also subjugated the Betazoids.
  • Orions – both male and female – are seen on their outpost on Qo’nos. For once, it’s not just the female Orions who are scantily clad, nor the men who wear sensible clothes.
  • We see what appears to be a flash of Trill spots at the Orion outpost.
  • The Klingon tyrant Molor has previously been mentioned in TNG, DS9 and Voyager.
  • Ceti eels are on sale at the Orion outpost.

Character summary and development

Now that season one has concluded, let’s re-examine the characters and where they’ve ended up.

  • Michael Burnham has had her rank restored and is ready for new adventures. I really like Burnham and find her a brilliant and identifiable main character. I may not have been raised by Vulcans, but I certainly grew up admiring them and wanting to be like them – only later coming to terms with those pesky human emotions.
    My secret hope for season two is that we find out Burnham is bisexual, as that would be the icing on the cake for me.
  • Gabriel Lorca: since the Lorca we thought we knew was actually the mirror version, there’s still the question of what happened to the original. We’ve been told to assume he died offscreen, but as we all know, that just leaves the door open for a later appearance.
  • Saru is currently acting captain of the Discovery. I’m not especially attached to his character, but I appreciate what he brings to the show. He’s honest and pragmatic, and the Kelpan species are an interesting new addition to the Star Trek universe.
  • Stamets has been awarded the Starfleet Medal of Honour and promoted to Lieutenant Commander. What will his role be now that the spore drive is offline. Again, not a character I especially like, but an important step forward for getting LGBT+ characters into Star Trek. I still think Culber’s death was a bit too “tragic gay” trope for my liking, though.
  • Tyler: who even is Tyler? He acts like Voq is an extra personality inside him, rather than his true and original self. How is this going to play out going forward? Will he slowly settle back into the role of Ash Tyler as the audience is encouraged to forget about Voq? Will he repair his relationship with Burnham, or was that whole trying to kill her thing a deal breaker?
  • Tilly: I have to admit I found Tilly annoying at first, but I swiftly came to admire her ambition and self-belief – it definitely came across as determined and inspirational rather than arrogant and off-putting. Tilly in her mirror guise was amazing, but I have hopes for further development of her prime self.

Summary – Will You Take My Hand?: Full speed ahead to season two!

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