Kobayashi Marie continues its discussion of the first season of Star Trek Discovery with Episode 6 – Lethe
An episode which thrilled me, but one which I can fully understand may have been an annoyance to others. It’s a Sarek-heavy episode which opens up more of Michael Burnham’s back story and, naturally, suggests her family connection with Spock, without us actually meeting him.
Also in this episode is a very welcome opportunity to see Tilly’s character develop further, plus Burnham and Ash Tyler get to know each other a little better.
As far as the Vulcan side of things goes, the very opening of this episode is immediately with Sarek (James Frain) on Vulcan. He’s setting off on a mission, the reason for which he won’t divulge to his companion – who turns out to be a “logic extremist” (great description) who disagrees with Sarek’s attempt to integrate humans into Vulcan life and is on a suicide mission. Sarek is seriously injured and reaches out (“My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts”) through the katra which he shares with Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) – who sets off on a mission to save him.
Although the exposition was a little clunky, what intrigued me here was the attention to how humans (and half-humans) are viewed on Vulcan and how Sarek, who we know from previous incarnations as being supremely logical, is dealing with his feelings of shame, guilt and failure as a father. The other side to that of course is how this manifested itself for Burnham, and how she too has been unnecessarily carrying feelings of failure around with her for her adult life. Haven’t we all, Michael, haven’t we all. And who is the person she feels she can speak about her emotional conflict with? Why that would be Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), a person she’s met only once before, whose own background is a bit of a mystery, but who refuses to judge her. He tells her that her internal conflict is “being human.”
Tilly (Mary Wiseman), in the meantime, is struggling to pursue her ambition of becoming a captain, but has Burnham as a mentor now. With Michael actively requesting Tilly’s presence on the rescue mission, Tilly’s confidence in finding her own way is growing and they make a good, if unorthodox, team. It’s good for Burnham too to cultivate allies.
Meanwhile Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) is in a bit of bother. On the plus side, he has found himself a new chief of security in the shape of Ash Tyler, whose background he has checked thoroughly and of whom he has observed “You fight like a Klingon”.
However, mix together Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), a bottle of whiskey and a late night, and I imagine the last thing Kat Cornwell expected was her intimate friend Lorca waking suddenly with one hand around her throat and a phaser in the other. Worried he’s about to lose his ship, he turns Sarek’s injuries to his advantage, sending Cornwell off to meet the Klingons instead.
Predictably, this doesn’t go well. Her two security guards are immediately executed (funny, they had ‘red shirt’ written all over them even though they were dressed entirely in Starfleet blue) and Cornwell is now a hostage. And before you know it, we have yet another interesting female character (along with Captain Georgiou and Commander Landry) who ends up in a mess just as we’re getting to know her.
I started out by saying that this episode might annoy some people. That’s always the danger when something like Discovery begins to skate around – or even directly engage with – characters which are part of the history we know, such as Spock or Sarek. There’s always the chance that something in the newer storyline will contradict or ret-con an event or character we’re familiar with. But in my view this episode came at exactly the right time. We’ve had a chance to settle with our newest crew, and now we can tie them in with our previous experience and knowledge so that it properly feels like part of the Star Trek universe.
Which side do you fall on?
Kobayashi Marie will be back next Wednesday with an all new column continuing its on-going journey to (for now) recap Season 1 of Star Trek Discovery