Well, this episode was… different. By most accounts from the marketing and promotion of the show, we’d been given indications that the first two episodes of ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Star,” were a vastly different story-telling experience than the remainder of the first season, which is to take place primarily on-board the mysterious USS Discovery. And what a strange vessel she is looking to be…
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: Picking up six months after the events of the previous episodes, the show opens with Burnham on a prisoner transport, headed for some type of mining colony – or so the prisoners think, until they are unexpectedly brought on-board the USS Discovery, a brand-new ship of unknown design. The other prisoners (and a few Starfleet officers on the Discovery) look to make things extremely physically difficult for Burnham, but she is twice saved from danger: once by herself, as she uses Vulcan martial arts to disarm a couple of her attackers, and secondly by being called into the ready room of Captain Gabriel Lorca, commanding officer of the Discovery. While a tribble cheerfully chirps away in the background (laying the ground, no doubt, for the upcoming Harry Mudd appearance), he
asks tells Burnham that she’s being put to work in Engineering while she is aboard.
Engineering and its head officer, Lieutenant Stamets, is less concerned with the warp coils and other day-to-day ship operations and more so instead with secretive experiments that require hefty security (and a lack of halitosis) to access. Burnham proves herself useful enough for Lorca to include her on a new mission: Discovery’s sister ship, the USS Glenn, has suffered a catastrophic loss of its crew, apparently as a result of the experiments happening on-board, and it’s now up to Stamets and a small team to go to the derelict vessel and retrieve her relevant data.
Once aboard the Glenn, however, Stamets and Burnham and their squad get more than they bargained for, as they do find the crew of the Glenn – strewn about on the deck, with their bodies twisted up and deformed like some outer-space version of a ‘Silent Hill’ nightmare. They also encounter a huge buffalo-sized beast who seems rather hungry for fresh meat! They manage to evade the monster long enough to gather a few important pieces of data and equipment, then it’s back to Discovery, where not only does Lorca give Burnham the chance to join his crew while explaining that they are working on experimentation focused on biological propulsion – he has also beamed the feisty creature from the Glenn to a contained chamber on-board his own ship, for purposes unknown.
- For all the complaints I have of the show choosing to ignore many, many aspects of Trek canon, I will say that tonight’s episode brought a really cool connection to the bastard child of the Trek universe, ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series.’ (I’m only referencing it as such based on popular opinion – I always enjoy watching TAS’s episodes.) Burnham both recites lines from and has a physical copy of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ series book, written by Lewis Carroll; in ‘The Animated Series’ episode “Once Upon a Planet,” Spock tells Captain Kirk that his mother, Amanda – who we now know is also Burnham’s adoptive mother – was particularly fond of Carroll’s writing. Well done, ‘Discovery’ creative team.
- We all heard it: Burnham references The Geneva Convention, essentially confirming whether or not Captain Georgiou committed a war crime by planting a bomb inside a dead Klingon soldier’s body, as I mentioned in last week’s review. Burnham accuses Lorca of doing things on his ship that are in violation of these long-standing accords – how, then, was she so ethically comfortable with being part of the Shenzhou’s plan to do the same?
- Seeing the Glenn crew all inside-out and mangled-dead was gross, but honestly pretty cool. I bet that felt right at home for Sonequa Martin-Green, after her several seasons of acting side-by-side with nasty undead excuses for human bodies on ‘The Walking Dead.’
- This giant beast that the Discovery crew fights while on-board the Glenn – that’s clearly some type of super-sized tardigrade, right? Am I the only one who hopes this to be the case?
- I still can’t get behind the Klingons. We are only exposed to a handful in this episode, and all are dead but one. The one living Klingon – member of the mightiest warrior race in the galaxy, who never back down from a fight and who see great honor in dying while engaging in glorious battle – is found hiding in the shadows of the Glenn and meekly holds a finger to his lips to “shush” the Starfleet officers before being ripped to shreds by the Mega-Tardigrade. #NotMyKlingon
CLOSING THOUGHTS: “Context is for Kings” is certainly a step in the right direction for ‘Discovery’ and its seemingly-uphill battle to win over ‘Star Trek’ fans. While I did enjoy this episode substantially more so than the first two, I do have to continue to say, though, that this show just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the 23rd Century of the Star Trek Prime Universe. As a sci-fi show in general, it certainly is engaging; as a Star Trek show set canonically 10 years before ‘The Original Series,’ however, it’s still hard for me to buy into it.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru
Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca
Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Cadet Tilly
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ features new episodes Sunday nights at 8:30pm online via CBS All Access.